de­sign­ing lin­gerie

Free­lance de­signer likes Hong Kong en­ter­tain­ment but loves the life in Paris.

The Star Malaysia - Star2 - - T PEOPLE - By WONG LI ZA

Al­though Paris is home, a free­lance de­signer har­bours hopes of es­tab­lish­ing his own la­bel for teenagers in Asia.

PACK­ING his bags for Paris at the age of 20 came as a shock to Saw Hooi Keng’s fam­ily. Af­ter all, it was al­most half­way around the world and he had yet to com­plete his stud­ies.

How­ever, Saw knew what he wanted to do and that was to be a fashion de­signer.

Born and bred in Taip­ing, Perak, Saw stud­ied at St Ge­orge’s In­sti­tu­tion un­til Form Five. He then went to Tay­lor’s Col­lege in Se­lan­gor for his A-lev­els but quit mid-way.

“I knew I only wanted to draw and be­come a fashion de­signer,” re­called Saw, 51, who was back in Malaysia to visit his fam­ily re­cently.

Head­ing to France’s fa­mous fashion hub to pur­sue his dream was thus in­evitable.

Once in Paris, Saw en­rolled in ES­MOD, an in­ter­na­tional fashion de­sign school, for a two-year course. How­ever, af­ter a year, the prin­ci­pal sug­gested that he could gain more head­way by learn­ing on the job and got him a po­si­tion as as­sis­tant de­signer at a styling of­fice in Paris.

Saw spent five years there be­fore mov­ing on to be­come an as­sis­tant to a Ja­panese de­signer of a ladies’ wear la­bel based in Paris.

Three years later, he be­came as­sis­tant de­signer with an up­mar­ket lin­gerie la­bel, Chan­tal Thomass, stay­ing a year un­til 1990 when the com­pany faced fi­nan­cial prob­lems.

Saw was then forced to free­lance as a de­signer, some­thing he has con­tin­ued to do un­til to­day.

He works mostly with styling of­fices, for whom he cre­ates trend books. (Styling of­fices do mar­ket re­search and group to­gether ideas and trends ac­cord­ing to themes, mar­kets and con­cepts in the form of trend books, which they then sell to man­u­fac­tur­ers.)

Saw also has clients in Hong Kong who are in the teenage lin­gerie mar­ket. In ad­di­tion, he has been il­lus­trat­ing for the horoscope sec­tion of Elle mag­a­zine Singapore for the past three years. A year ago, Saw also de­signed a range of T-shirts for the Elle fashion la­bel (Asia mar­ket).

Re­cently, Saw de­signed three tops for French la­bel Jen­nyfer in its Sum­mer Col­lec­tion 2010.

“The de­signs started as a sketch meant for a cock­tail col­lec­tion but my clients loved it so much they de­cided to print them on T-shirts in­stead,” said Saw.

To date, Saw’s biggest project has been with Bla Bla Bra, a Hong Kong teenage lin­gerie la­bel, for which he de­signed an en­tire col­lec­tion of bras and briefs two years ago. This year, he also de­signed a py­jama col­lec- tion for the same la­bel.

Saw hopes to build more con­tacts with peo­ple in the Hong Kong fashion in­dus­try. “Hong Kong stars are very trendy, very in­ter­ested in new trends and more ready to try out new de­signs.”

Saw’s lat­est clients in­clude Her­mes in Paris, for which he il­lus­trated dif­fer­ent ways of wear­ing Her­mes scarves. These il­lus­tra­tions ap­peared on spe­cial play­ing cards.

He will also be de­sign­ing a scarf for Her­mes’ Win­ter Col­lec­tion 2011.

Nev­er­the­less, Saw’s fo­cus is on teenage ca­sual wear.

“I pre­fer the teenage mar­ket be­cause there are more pos­si­bil­i­ties for change and new ideas. Teenagers are al­ways look­ing for new things so there is more room to play around in terms of de­signs,” he said.

“My biggest chal­lenge as a de­signer is to sat­isfy and know ex­actly what my clients want. De­sign­ing is quite easy. Once you have the ideas you can start cre­at­ing but you have to find the right per­son to ac­cept your idea.

“These days, it’s all about mar­ket­ing my­self and my de­signs. If I do not do that, even with a great col­lec­tion, I will not go any­where.”

Saw’s long-term goal is to start his very own la­bel in Asia of­fer­ing in­ti­mate wear for teens.

“My pas­sion is in de­sign­ing lin­gerie. My la­bel will be very colour­ful, with lots of graph­ics to put my cus­tomers in a fun and happy mood.

“My style of de­sign is very French chic but fun and play­ful, with more of a fan­tasy side to it rather than clas­sic,” he added.

Away from work, Saw is into Hong Kong­based movies, mu­sic and con­certs. Even though in fu­ture he in­tends to set up his own la­bel in Asia, he has no in­ten­tion of re­turn­ing to live in the re­gion, al­though he vis­its Malaysia ev­ery two years.

“It’s great liv­ing in Paris. I never feel bored and there’s in­spi­ra­tion ev­ery­where. I just have to walk out of my apart­ment,” he said.

French flair: ‘My style of de­sign is very French chic but fun and play­ful, with more of a fan­tasy side to it rather than clas­sic’, says Taip­ing-born Saw Hooi Keng.

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