Priscilla Shunmugam, 36, is the creator of the made-in-Singapore label Ong Shunmugam, which is made after the surnames of her Chinese mother and Indian father.
The label has slowly and steadily dominated the Singaporean fashion scene with its contemporary, never-before-seen interpretations of the traditional Asian garb.
The label was launched seven years ago and has become a favourite with hipster-heritage types as well as society ladies and VIPs’ wives who don’t mind forking out S$1,000 (RM 3,114) for an off-the-rack frock, and more for bespoke pieces.
Her background as a multicultural person sets the platform for her label’s unique identity.
She grew up in Taman Tun Dr Ismail and was exposed to both Indian and Chinese cultures at home. Her father, a Hindu who converted to Catholicism, took her to Hindu temples and Sunday school. Her mother, a Buddhist, took her to Chinese temples.
The designs are a modern take on Asian dresses. Cheongsams come with playful peplum details, cropped tops feature sweeping kimono sleeves, and modern jumpsuits are made from batik.
Since the brand’s launch she has focused on the Singapore market, with foray into Kuala Lumpur. While she has built a loyal following, the market is small.
They are all made in Singapore by her four seamstresses in her atelier which produces two or three pieces a day. Three of her dressmakers are also in their 60s.
Fashion designing wasn’t always a childhood dream of hers. After studying her way through the National University of Singapore in law, her heart wasn’t fulfilled.
After a year long visit to London in 2008, she finally found her true calling and worked on her womenswear label in 2009 in her rented apartment with S$20,000 (RM 62,284) from close friends.
She launched her first collection in 2010. Through word of mouth, her clothes started selling and she broke even within a year.
On preventing the fashion brand from taking a downfall, she believes that the high quality clothes and unique designs that her brand offers will sell.