Glamour is not always found in the world of fashion design.
Just ask Singaporean fashion designer Liu Weiling.
Early last year, the 29-year-old found herself wearing a construction hardhat and attending building safety courses — all in the name of seeing her first boutique Trioon take shape.
She had hired a contractor to oversee the shop’s renovations at Mandarin Gallery, and she wanted to play an active role in seeing her first boutique come to life.
“It was a rare opportunity for me to be a part of the boutique’s construction from start to finish,” she says, adding that she often went through the design plans with her contractor.
“The journey may not always be pretty, but each experience gained is worth the effort,” she says.
Taking a detour
Ms Liu is no stranger to the turns in one’s life journey. She took a three-year detour to complete a computing science degree before she returned to the path of fashion design.
Her interest for designing clothes, she said, started to take root when she was a child. She would sketch dresses in her notebook then.
This interest blossomed into passion as she entered her teens. The fashion magazines she read opened her eyes to the colourful world of couture.
“I voiced my aspirations to my parents, but they had their reservations,” she says. They were concerned that she would not be able to make ends meet.
She respected her parents’ wishes and completed a computer science degree at the National University of Singapore (NUS).
However, her love for clothes was never forgotten. With her parents’ support, she continued to take night classes in fashion design.
When she graduated from university, she received her parents’ blessings to pursue her first love — fashion design. She enrolled for Raffles Design Institute’s diploma in fashion design, and promptly started tailoring clothes for her mother and friends.
“Once I set my mind on something, I want to see it through,” she says.
She is quick to add that the time spent in NUS comes in handy today as she is able to apply her knowledge from her computer science studies to manage her boutique’s website.
Upon graduation from Raffles Design Institute, she worked as a designer in a fashion house for two years before leaving to start her label in 2008.
She sold her designs from a borrowed shop space housed in Bukit Timah Shopping Centre before moving to her present location.
Her days are busy. At the start of each three-month fashion season, she puts together about 30 fresh ready-to-wear designs. She also comes up with 12 new designs each month.
She offers a make-to-measure service too, where dresses are designed and tailored for the individual.
Trioon’s designs are clean, minimal and feminine with a little edge to them, she says.
To produce the clothes, she first creates a sample piece from a design and tests its fit on a person, making modifications, say to its length or cut, in the process. Once satisfied with the final fit, the sample is sent off to her tailors for production.
Only eight pieces of each design are produced to maintain exclusivity, she says.
The current bestseller, she said, is a sleeveless cowl-necked cotton jersey dress, highlighted by gentle drapes that fall from the waist to the hips.
“It flatters the figure. The drapes hide the tummy and create a slim silhouette. It’s versatile too – one can wear it to work and parties,” she says.
Still, there are also some limitations in turning design into reality.
Once, she says, she tried to re-create a popular cotton dress using satin. However, the dress could not come to life because the new fabric was too heavy for the design.
“Sometimes the design doesn’t turn out like how I envisioned.
“I feel sad because it is after all, my hard work. But I have to let it go,” she says.