What does God have to do with avant garde dresses and torn black tights? Sabrina Goh explains how both came to be closely intertwined for her, along with her ambitions for her brand.
Contributed By Elizabeth Low
|CN PHOTO: Michael Chan
“It’s not easy being a local designer in Singapore,” sighs Sabrina Goh, 26. It is rather ironic, as she is fresh off the back of her latest triumph as Elle magazine’s Designer of the Year. This is not a carefully crafted response to a media interview, but rather, a very realistic challenge she has had to grapple with. Resources and finances seem to come in short supply in the local design market.
Sitting in her gleaming new shop in trendy Orchard Central, this seems almost hard to believe. But Goh talks about how she had sourced out many shops, looking in more affordable places like Haji Lane and Stamford House, and how the rental space in Orchard Central had came as a surprise, opening up at a very affordable price. “It really was a miracle,” says Goh.
Set for its official launch early next year, Goh explains that her shop will be part of a local designer enclave the mall is aiming to create. She describes her shop as having a stark white, minimalist-industrialist concept, which emphasizes her edgy dark and muted pieces, targeted at 21 to 40-year-olds. The shop also features interesting pieces such as leather necklaces and bags from other designers.
The brand name of Goh’s label, “Elohim” has been a source of bittersweet experiences for her. “I named it after God because when people ask me, I want to tell them these designs have been inspired by the God of creativity.” This is why some of her designs are made to allow room for creativity. For instance, designing a dress that can be worn in six different ways.
However, Goh relates how this has been badly misunderstood, with many overly zealous Christians calling up to protest that her brand was not “worthy” of bearing God’s name. Initially, this shook her badly, to the point of making her doubt her vision. She attributes her turnaround to messages of faith by Kong Hee, founder and senior pastor of City Harvest Church. “It gave me faith to start the label. It would be almost like a sin to stop here, since I’ve already fought for two years (for my label), and I decided not to change the name.”
Far from struggling to keep her vision afloat, Goh seems to be bolder than ever, outlining international plans for her brand. Goh will be focusing on refining the operations of her new shop in terms of finances and marketing next year. She will also be pushing the brand further overseas. Fresh back from a trip to Paris in September this year, her aim for next year is to take part in the Tranoi trade show in Paris—the biggest trade show which will have all the major buyers from America, Spain, London and more trawling the show for designers to take up. It will be a strong platform for her to showcase her works to the rest of the major fashion markets.
There are plans to launch a more design-savvy range for the European market as well, targeting high end buyers like Selfridges. Pointing out the different demands of the various markets, she says, “Some of the feedback I got is that Elohim is overly avant garde, and not wearable in Singapore. But in Europe, the comments I got was that it was too simple. The European markets want a label that is more high-end and has a wider range. Therefore, while I see Elohim fitting into Asian markets more, I will try to achieve a balance as I want Elohim to be more of an international brand.”
It is clear Goh has her mind set on breaking the curse of obscurity for local designers in the international scene. And her plan for breaking through is surprisingly simple and secure. “We have our own vision and designs and marketing plans. We don’t want to compete with anyone else, but we want to focus on what we are doing,” she shares.
181 Orchard Road