THE process of starting out from scratch and working your way to establishing your clothing line is not a fairytale story. In the fashion industry, there is no fairy godmother to grant you overnight success.
Those in the industry will know that landing a coveted fashion internship position can often be as competitive as getting your first job, but fashion internships are indeed an invaluable resource for any fashion student.
I was lucky enough to be chosen as the winner of the Singapore Young Designers Contest and Asian Young Designers Contest in 2007.
The awards jumpstarted my career as I subsequently won a once-in-a-lifetime internship opportunities with fashion gurus Alexander McQueen in London and Vivienne Tam in New York as well as a scholarship to pursue my fashion degree at Raffles Design Institute.
The internships offered a glimpse of the real world and also served as a wake-up call about the stresses and challenges of this career path.
Schools are a good source to look for internship opportunities. For example, each year, the Raffles Design Institute awards a six-month internship to one student from its graduating cohort to work under local designer Desmond Yang, owner of Abyzz.
Nonetheless, I also have a friend who landed an internship at renowned Belgian fashion designer Raf Simons without any connections.
She managed to snag it by sheer determination and by following up with the company repeatedly. This is the kind of persistence aspiring designers need to have.
The fashion industry is colourful, crowded and competitive. The best way to make it big is to get noticed. Hard work is important too, considering the sheer number of young budding designers out there.
It is also a tedious process as there are many stages, from sketching to designing to fabric selection and fittings, before your final design and product is presented to the consumer or client.
It is a real test of persistence and determination. You need to believe in yourself and, most importantly, in your designs. Having your own point of view and confidence definitely helps.
For my label, Antebellum, I design classic men’s wear with a twist, playing with proportions and details.
The look is slightly out of the ordinary and bold, but I think this is part and parcel of what it takes to become a designer who stands out. It is about daring to be different and to bring great ideas into reality.
Most people have the impression that the fashion industry is full of glamour and fun but that image is not entirely indicative of the real business of fashion.
Of course, it is a rewarding and desirable field. However, the truth is, with the good comes the bad and the hard work as well.
You have to be prepared to devote much of your time to your career because a good designer should be fully involved from the beginning to the end.
As a designer of my own label, I adopt a hands-on approach, from researching on trends to reviewing customers’ feedback.
You will also have to bear in mind that you will be investing a fair bit of money before seeing any returns, so it has to be something you really love to sustain your drive.
If you have the skills, a great eye, some luck and a big ego, the designer dream is definitely worth the chase.
Chia Wei Choong, 25, is a student at the Raffles Design Institute and owner of the Antebellum label.