Local designer Susanna Soo, a Parsons graduate and the founder of fashion label S.Nine, talks about being inspired by Diane von Furstenberg and the challenges of running her own brand.
What did studying at New York's Parsons School of Design teach you? "I learned to only stay in fashion if you are crazy about it. This industry is not for the faint of heart. Although I enjoyed going to school, it was not easy. You really need to put in 250 per cent, because there are so many creative people who won't give up."
What are your fondest memories of studying at Parsons? "I really enjoyed fashion sketching with my teacher, [Kichisaburo] Ogawa. He didn't just teach us sketching techniques, but also imparted practical knowledge. He had been a classmate of [Japanese avant garde designer] Yohji Yamamoto, and would tell us stories from that period [in his life]. He also invited interesting guest speakers into his classes. One of them was Maria Cornejo, the Chilean fashion designer who owns the brand Zero + Maria Cornejo. She taught us about the hardships of running your own brand."
What was it like working for Diane von Furstenberg in New York? "Eye-opening! I had the opportunity to see the inner workings of a ready-to-wear brand, from the designing, sourcing and sampling to the production, editing and preparing for New York Fashion Week. Diane's way of running a fashion business has definitely influenced me and set the guidelines for how I run my business."
What do you most admire about Furstenberg? "She focuses on what women want, making pieces that empower them, like her signature wrap dress."
Your creations are favoured by a string of Hong Kong celebrities. What is the secret to your appeal? "I have always stayed true to what modern women want, while keeping in mind what luxury feels like."
What advice would you give to aspiring designers? "You have to know who you are and believe in what you do. It's easier said than done, but knowing who you are is about constant discovery. For me, I like things that are abstract, romantic and modern. I also currently like garments that are tailored with a lot of draping, though tastes can change over time."
How has your company evolved? "Though I have been in the industry for five years, the company operations are still very tight. I'm still pretty much where I was two years ago in terms of staff count; I'm still the only designer and running everything on my own. That said, the brand has grown in efficiency and that has allowed me to create bigger collections, establish an evening brand called Susanna Soo Atelier, and open a retail store in PMQ."
S. Nine by Susanna Soo is in PMQ, 35 Aberdeen Street, Central, tel: 2803 2815; snineonline.com