If you think the cheongsam – or qipao, depending on your preference – is for an age long past, you couldn’t be more wrong.

With more modern and forgiving silhouettes, now you don’t need to be pencil-thin to wear a cheongsam well. Adding an eclectic mix of prints makes the cheongsam a fashion-forward pick; as evident in this new Ong Shunmugam collection.

There’s been a resurgence of Oriental influence again on the Italian runways for Spring Summer 2013: Gucci decked its satin dresses with Japanese wallpaper, Emilio Pucci went wild with gold dragon embroidery, while Prada even introduced Japanese “tabi” socks as shoes.

But the Southeast Asian presence is hardly as prominent; something that Singapore designer Priscilla Shunmugam clearly hopes to change, by integrating traditional textiles and other Asian-inspired designs for each new collection.

Ong Shunmugam does mixed-print cheongsam for Spring Summer 2013Ong Shunmugam Spring Summer 2013
Ong Shunmugam Spring Summer 2013

In late 2012, Singapore label Ong Shunmugam made the news when it showed its Spring Summer 2013 collection at Paris Fashion Week; Priscilla has described the achievement as an “oh my god" moment and as “one of the best things to happen to our label”.

Her Spring Summer 2013 line taps into Southeast Asian architecture as an inspiration for her designs, in both attention to form and the imaginative use of geometric prints.

The cheongsam may be the predominant shape for this collection but the designer veers away from the overused features; there’s no slit skirts or a bodycon silhouette in sight.

Unlike the skin-tight cheongsam popularised by films like In the Mood for Love, these designs are figure-slimming, without being unforgivingly clingy; great for days when you’ll want to eat more than a nibble.                                               

Ong Shunmugam Spring Summer 2013Ong Shunmugam does mixed-print cheongsam for Spring Summer 2013

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          As evident in this collection, Priscilla’s discerning use of prints has also become part of the distinctly “Ong Shunmugam” aesthetic. In celebration of our region’s ethnic diversity, her designs too, are stylish multicultural patchworks.

Priscilla sections her cheongsam with a myriad of prints: On one design (above left), its batik bodice is matched with lace on its cap sleeves and skirt; then a geometric print on the skirt holds the look together.

While Priscilla opted for bolder and louder colour combinations in her last collection, Prints Charming, the SS13 collection features softer shades and smaller prints. It’s a move that makes these designs very wearable and quite elegant; it could even last beyond the mixed-print trend.   
                                  
Contrast panels in block colour create a flattering hourglass shape, like on this cheongsam with a print reminiscent of the jali lattice (above, right); an intricate, almost calligraphic-like pattern that you’ll see in the windows of mosques and Indian-style architecture.         

Ong Shunmugam does mixed-print cheongsam for Spring Summer 2013Ong Shunmugam does mixed-print cheongsam for Spring Summer 2013

Other key designs of this collection include a lace cheongsam that ends with a pale blue pleated skirt; something that would be great to wear for tea. Another demure look appears almost like a lace skater dress, save for its mandarin collar.

There’s even a peplum samfoo — the traditional loose pantsuit in matching prints — that has been modernised with a peplum and matching shorts instead of the usual longer trousers; so weather-appropriate for Singapore.

The dramatic cape on Ong Shunmugam’s floor-length silk cheongsam, is another favourite from this collection; it’s a regal show-stopper for a fancy soiree.

If you’re looking for an Ong Shunmugam cheongsam in time for Chinese New Year you may have to settle for a ready-to-wear piece since bespoke cheongsam take between six to eight weeks to finish. But the wait is worth the while, since the choice of fabrics used is yours to pick too; a chance to make your Ong Shunmugam cheongsam truly one of a kind.

Who knows, that new cheongsam could become more indispensable than your current little black dress.

The Ong Shunmugam Spring Summer 2013 collection is now available in stores; prices start from $428 for the ready-to-wear range. Ong Shunmugam is located at 16 Raffles Quay, #B1-36, Hong Leong Building, Singapore 048581.


Call 6223 4804 to make an appointment for bespoke; from January 14 to February 8, 2013, walk-in hours have been extended to 12pm to 7pm . Go to http://shop.ongshunmugam.com for more information.