Tell us a bit about your journey to launching your fashion line. What made you want to become a fashion designer?
My career path is rather unusual. It started when I inherited my grandmother's fashion company and archive. I then studied at Parsons School of Design so I could run the company properly but before I'd even graduated, the legendary Mary Mcfadden decided to retire and she offered to give me her team of sample makers. It was a great opportunity so I accepted the offer and started operating from the ground floor of my townhouse in NYC.
I started off making suits for Nancy Reagan and then branched out with other private clients. Joan Rivers lived right next door to me and she passed by my shop all the time and would buy little gift items just to support a young talent. I would have been happy working from that basement and operating on a small scale indefinitely but Ms. Rivers encouraged me to set up my first bricks and mortar store on Madison Avenue. The whole experience has been a happy one, the tiny retail space required minimal maintenance and I am lucky to have a great sales team which freed me up to pursue a tailoring apprenticeship in London's Savile Row. The store turned a profit and with the funds I launched my first runway show during New York Fashion Week.
Later this year, my store is moving to Fifth Avenue. I managed to convince The Sherry Netherland to lease me a prime retail space based on the fact that I'll be the first Asian designer label to launch on Fifth Avenue. My journey has so far been a miracle.
When you were younger, did you envisage fashion as your future? What did you want to be when you were a child?
I chose to do what I love so I'll never have to work a day in my life. I love fashion.
Who is your biggest inspiration and is this inspiration reflected in your designs?
Chanel and Armani are two of my greatest inspirations. They are both revolutionary tailors who have invented their own cut. Tailoring is my passion and I've been developing my own signature cut in the past decade. My signature cut is rooted in traditional Savile Row tailoring, but softer, more feminine and completely natural.
Why do you only use cruelty free and natural fabrics?
Sustainable and natural fabrics are more comfortable to wear, they are soft, supple and breathable.
What are some of the key challenges you have faced by being cruelty free and natural?
Sustainable and natural fabrics are more expensive and require a lot of handwork during production but fortunately I cater to a clientele who value comfort and craftsmanship above everything else. I am in the process of becoming a vegan brand and the main challenge is to steer my customer away from cashmere, which is considered a luxury status symbol. I currently use upcycled cashmere which is a sustainable cruelty-free practice but ideally I'd like CHOCHENG to become a vegan clothing brand in the near future.
Why is sustainability important to you?
As far as I can remember, I believed in conservation and sustainability, ever since I was a child, it comes naturally to me, almost like a basic instinct. Most children care about the environment, it's just a matter of preserving that innocence. I talked to flowers and animals as a child. I still do that from time to time, just not in a crazy way! I am very good at preserving my innocence.
Tell us about your SS2020 collection and the inspiration behind it.
The inspiration behind SS2020 is the 1960 film Plein Soleil and Jacqueline Kennedy's love of headscarves and sunglasses.