Over the last eight years, designer Jo Soh has built a mini fashion empire creating impossibly chic, incomparably stylish creations that have become the darling of women here and around the region.

The bespectacled and much-lauded designer has seen her label Hansel stocked in over 10 Australian boutiques in cities like Queensland and Melbourne since 2004. Her sartorial journey has seen the designer, more often than not, taking the clichés of retro glamour and injecting them with a dose of eclecticism. The result? Fun and flirty pieces, the quintessence of fashion modernism. After opening her first flagship boutique at Mandarin Gallery last year, Soh impresses again with her new line Hello Hansel which sees the designer taking on casual wear chockfull of the quirks and whimsies that Hansel is known for. The celebrated designer behind your Favorite Local Fashion Brand in the Reader’s Choice Awards 2011 gives us an intimate insight into her design eye.

It’s been eight years since your debut at the Mercedes Australian Fashion Week. How has the journey been?
It has been a steep learning curve full of ups and downs! It has also been a very fulfilling experience.

How would you describe your style today?
With the recent launch of my casual wear label Hello Hansel, I have found a happy balance with Hansel being the more dressy and sophisticated label and Hello Hansel carrying the fun pieces with Hansel’s signature bright, graphic prints.

Tell us more about your new collection “The Geometric Swan.”
The whole collection’s theme and direction sprung from a single vintage button with a graphic swan motif that I came across during my sourcing trips in Hong Kong. I envisioned dresses with plump ruffles and gathered, fluttering sleeves and knew straightaway that the theme had the potential to become a whole collection.

Previously you’ve sold your creations only online and through consignment, but you’ve opened a boutique just recently. How is that coming along?
With my new shop, I have been able to present Hansel merchandise in an environment that showcases Hansel’s style, thus creating a much stronger brand identity. I have also been able to meet more of Hansel’s customers and learn firsthand about their preferences and needs. It has also been a terribly exciting challenge to run the shop, keeping me on my toes everyday! I am constantly thinking of ways to improve our product and our service. Also, ever since we had our physical shop presence, we have been approached by several large companies for project collaborations, which is fantastic for the brand! Opening my own shop is something that I should have done a lot earlier!

Singapore-designed fashion labels have fared quite well overseas but are still quite unknown here. What does it take for Singaporeans to have a piece of local fashion in their wardrobe?
Continued and consistent publicity on the local and international successes of Singaporean fashion labels will help to change the mindset of the general Singaporean public. For an industry that is a lot about status, Singaporean labels would also need to gain more publicity like international celebrity endorsements to really grab the general Singaporean's attention and alter their perception about the capabilities of a Singaporean label. I am hoping that the Audi Fashion Festival and Blueprint events will carry on for at least the next 10 years as their continued presence would greatly develop the general public's view on the local fashion industry.

What for you is exciting in fashion now?
The acceptance by consumers of all labels from all market levels, from the mass, to the indie to the high end. It is now seen as being smart to mix pieces from labels from different market levels.

Finally, do you have any fashion advice or styling tips you could give to our readers?
If we invest in one thing this season, what should it be? A Hansel dress with a signature Hansel print.

Hansel is located at #02-14 Mandarin Gallery, 333A Orchard Rd., 6337-0992.


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