Fashion in Hong Kong and China

Price-sensitive luxury helps London-based label Self-Portrait build global following

Malaysian-born Han Chong’s combination of inspired designs and accessible price points have proved to be the winning formula with clients including Lady Gaga, Katy Perry and Beyoncé

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 24 May, 2016, 12:31pm
UPDATED : Tuesday, 24 May, 2016, 12:30pm

It’s the price point that has made Han Chong’s fashion brand, Self-Portrait, resonate so much and so quickly in the two-and-a-bit years of its existence. Take the label’s first eyewear collection, produced in collaboration with Australian brand Le Specs: each pair of sunglasses is priced at just over HK$1,000. The glasses - five models, each available in three colours - are sharp and unisex, as befits Self-Portrait’s youthful, contemporary look.

The sunglasses collection is part of Malaysian-born Chong’s expansion of the brand to capitalise on the spectacular reception its signature, cool girl lace dresses have had, which also includes a bridal collection and an exclusive, all-white capsule collection at Lane Crawford.

The collaboration between Self-Portrait and Le Specs began when Chong was introduced to the eyewear brand’s designer, Hamish Tame.

“I thought that he was doing something different in the market in terms of positioning, price point and the level of detail [in products],” recalls Tame. “That’s why it felt like a cool match for Le Specs.”

Chong, who has a collection of glasses at home, had always wanted to design sunglasses.

“And so when the opportunity came up, I was like ‘let’s do it!’ I wanted to create sunglasses that were feminine, romantic and at the same time modern.”

Born in Malaysia, educated at Central Saint Martins and now based in London, Chong previously co-founded Three Floors, a mid-tier online fashion brand whose products have been seen on Hollywood actress Amanda Seyfried. But Chong eventually left the company.

He says: “There were many factors as to why I decided to move on, but what I learned is that it’s important to be true to yourself. There were too many cooks in the kitchen, and I couldn’t really do things that I believed in – I think that it’s so important for a young designer to do what they believe.”

Since then, Self-Portrait has amassed a cult following with celebrity customers like Katy Perry, Beyoncé and Lady Gaga. More importantly, at a time when customers are looking more at the price tag along with the clothes’ intricate detailing, Chong has hit the mark. Prices start at around HK$2,000, and go up to HK$8,000 for formal gowns.

“I think the timing is right for the brand,” he says. “Women want new things all the time now – especially with social media, people get bored quickly. Many of them don’t want to be seen in the same dress, but they also don’t want to pay a lot as well.”

Self-Portrait’s clothes are stocked by 250 fashion retailers, including Net-a-Porter and Amid the rapid success, Chong wants to ensure his business runs smoothly and consistently.

“I’m taking it one step at a time. There’s a big assumption that all designers want to have a show and all those fancy things, but that’s not my priority and style. I just want to deliver a good product,” he says.