5 Minutes With Han Chong, Founder And Designer Of Self-Portrait
Whether it's at a friend's wedding or on the many style stars on Instagram, you've most likely seen the iconic Self-Portrait lace dress. Marked by beautiful, structured lattice-work lace in dramatic feminine shapes, the dresses are the brainchild of designer Han Chong. We sat down with him at Fashion Asia Hong Kong to talk about the brand's meteoric rise and where it's headed next.
How did the idea for your first lace dress come about?
I was always attracted to texture and with social media, clothing nowadays needs to be photogenic. We don’t just do lace, we do all sorts of textures, but the lace dress really took off and became a part of our signature style. It’s a very crowded market so you have to have a signature and lace just happens to be ours.
Why was relatively affordable pricing a part of your philosophy since the beginning? Will your prices go up at some point?
I was a poor student once and I’m sure I wasn’t the only one. When we had special occasions or wanted to dress up, a lot of my friends couldn’t find pieces that were special that didn’t break the bank. So I always wanted to do something that catered to the normal-income girl.
Fashion is not just for the girls who have tons of money. Normal people still have to look good and that became my mission; it just doesn’t feel right to spend £2000 on a dress when some people are still struggling to get food.
Do you feel that the popularity of your lace dresses limits you, since it's become what customers and buyers are expecting from you?
I'll always be grateful because the lace dress is still our bread and butter, but every season we do try to introduce 30 percent new products. Last season it was velvet. We always have an element of something trendy in there our collections, but we’ll put embroidery on the velvet to make it look like lace or introduce lace-inspired prints.
You’ve moved into footwear recently—do you think you’ll go into handbags next?
We just started collaborating with Robert Clegerie and last season we did our own capsule collection. Ultimately I want to be a lifestyle brand, to have our own shoes and handbags—that would be the dream. I want to be able to dress a woman head-to-toe.
See also: 10 Questions With The Queen Of Hermès
What does the Self-Portrait woman look like?
When I design, I think of a modern woman who knows what’s going on in the world and is constantly looking for what’s new. She doesn’t have time to go back home to change and she travels a lot—so she needs dresses that don’t crease and that she can wear to work then put on heels and lipstick to go for a night out.
Any New Year's Resolutions?
My 2018 goal would be to have more time to myself. The past four years have been so crazy, I haven’t really been on a holiday. I always go to Thailand because they have great food and good energy. I always stop by home in Penang, Malaysia during Christmas where the food is just as much a reason to go home.
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