Photo Credit: Eileen Yap, Singapore Fashion Runway and her team of models for a Ngee Ann Polytechnic show.  

Butterfly wings. Tummy rolls. Thunder thighs. Muffin tops. No. This is not a menu of any sorts. Just some description customers have used on themselves that I have collected over the years. Guiltily, I share this sense of self-doubt regularly too. As a post-partum Mum myself, and who is not naturally slim, staying in shape has always been an uphill task for me too!

I do not run a gym or a slimming centre, but I am very aware that the right clothes can slim us down 5kg and vice versa. Other than being obsessed with batik, I am constantly observing how others dress. Learning through the samples I design to create the kind of clothes that will look good with different body shapes. Like how off-shoulder blouses or structured shoulders can even out a pear-shaped body. How a v-neck can slim and elongate the neck. Shift dresses with right print placement can camouflage the paunch. Contrasting prints and solid hues strategically can also add height.

Fabrics also play a huge part in the design process. I usually use light fabrics like cotton and rayon that is breathable in our humid climate as I believe looking good starts from being comfortable. Even our body contour dresses are made to be body friendly. I sometimes add embroidery or line the garments at strategic spots to add structure to the design. These have been some little tips I have picked up over the years by talking to our pattern makers and very experienced manufacturers. There are many tricks of the trade and that is the difference between a $25 mass produced item, and a $150 detailed design. It is always the details that count in the design and production process. Listening to customers €™ feedback over the years have also helped a lot in my design process too. Thus, until today, I still try to interact a lot with many customers despite my schedule. Utopia customers are my inspiration and through our interaction, new ideas spark and I get inspiration for another design.

I design for real bodies, and real personalities in mind. I always feel more challenged dressing a room of people that come in all shapes and sizes, than a group of standard fit professional show models. Making individuals feel good about themselves when in the right fit and clothes, far outweighs any sense of satisfaction I get as a designer. Perhaps, that is why I am still doing this until today!