Is romance dead? Not by a long shot, if you ask Priscilla Shunmugam of Ong Shunmugam. The designer recently presented her Cruise 2018 collection under a row of rattan ceiling fans to an intimate crowd of friends and media at the cosy Violet Oon Satay Bar & Grill.
Titled 'Love Letters', her latest collection was inspired by her exploration of the written word. Gone are the signature cheongsams, which have been overhauled in favour of sleek separates, plunging necklines and monochromatic offerings that showcase romantic scrawls across the fabric.
"Love is one of those things that you can try as hard as you want but you're never really able to define and explain; usually the best things in life can't be explained. When I write to someone that I love, I want to do it without using the four-letter word, choosing to express my fears, my hopes, my dreams, in a way that is raw and authentic and at the same time also universal," Priscilla shares.
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While working on the collection, the designer wore her heart on her sleeve, and it shows. "When that happened, the words flowed very naturally and I knew instinctively that I was going to be able to make this work in the most authentic way possible." Across her social media platforms and on her clothing, phrases like 'When I look at you looking at me, I feel exactly how you feel' and 'I'll always let you in, sayang. You can search me anywhere and everywhere. I want you to solve my mystery.' (Priscilla's favourite, by the way) is all sorts of romantic.
And don't fret if you've always been a fan of her prints—they haven't entirely disappeared. They're still boldly used on flowy dresses, pencil skirts and smart cropped pants. The custom batik print from Yogyakarta took a back-breaking six months to make, says Priscilla. "We spent months in front of the computer with the digital editors to design our custom prints, tweak the colours something like 500 times, and print, and reprint. The cost went up but we were just obsessed with getting it right. It's why we work in fashion."
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This is also the first time the designer is showcasing a runway show on her own, funded independently in its entirety. For a relatively young homegrown label, it's an astounding feat. "It couldn't have come at a better time. Seven years is what it took for us to be mature, become this confident brand, label and company. The energy in the studio is palpable. We're not trying to be anything we're not. The team I have now is the best team I've had and when you have a team like that, the opportunity to translate your mind to hand to object is amazing. What you saw today is the product of teamwork."