MR Cheah Wei Chun does not choose fashion magazines when it comes to bedtime reading.

"Fashion magazines spin my head into work mode," explains the 39-year-old fashion stylist and designer, whose work has been widely featured in fashion and corporate publications as well as advertising campaigns.

"I start analysing the pictures and text - they definitely do not help me relax."

Mr Cheah set up his fashion and design consultancy Clanhouse two years ago, after a seven-year stint as the first creative director of a local magazine publisher, then called MPH Magazines, which produced publications like Female, Nuyou and Men's Health.

He worked with Ms Pang Siew Moi, then group editor of MPH Magazines. "We had a great working relationship," he says. "She welcomed my opinions not just on the creative side, but also on the overall business. She really helped me gain a deep understanding of the publishing business and its complexities."

As the publishing house's first creative director, he was in charge of about 18 designers and photographers, as well as several regional offices. He recalls: "I asked Siew Moi, 'What's a creative director supposed to do?' She replied, 'You figure it out!'"

Sensing the need for change, he overhauled the company's titles, people and processes, resulting in a more dynamic, competitive magazine house. He says: "It was painful and slow but eventually we put in place many new, efficient ways of working."

In 2005, Mr Cheah decided to strike out on his own and now works from home.

He says: "Starting my own business was pretty easy actually. All you need is a good computer, a good colour printer, some talent and you are good to go.

"Most of my clients come to me for fashion imagery. But beyond the art direction and styling, I also design the magazine cover, fashion spread or ad campaign."

His passion for the business is apparent. "It's great fun combining something as personal as a look from a music video that you like with the current season's new designer clothes, and creating a fashion spread that works, and is fresh and new," he says.

"I also like the reaction that you get from doing magazine work - it's gratifying when the client tells you that store visits have increased since your new ad campaign, or a magazine issue is sold out because of your work."

His work today utilises all the skills acquired from a fine arts degree in typographic design and his years on the job. "My strong typographic background was helpful in spearheading a new slickness for the magazine designs," he says, adding that magazine work taught him about "visual entertainment" - using images, colour or layout to excite the eye and retain reader interest.

These days, his work includes designing a magazine cover, re-touching a fashion spread, planning the next campaign for a client or making arrangements for, and executing, photo shoots.

Being one's own boss has its pros and cons. "I like the idea of being a one-man show after taking care of such a large department," he says.

"On the other hand, I have to do every little thing, and if I am away on an overseas shoot, all other work comes to a standstill."

The key, he says, is to remain organised. "E-mail is essential for me. Most of my clients are in Kuala Lumpur and appointments and shoots are all arranged through e-mail. I've even designed a number of magazines through e-mail!"

Having carved out a niche for himself, Mr Cheah has his sights set on accomplishing more. "I have plans to put together an instructional book on fashion, and eventually I am quite sure I will go into teaching.

"From my experience heading a creative department and also teaching designers and editors how to revamp their magazines, I've realised I really enjoy motivating and sharing with creative, motivated people," he says.