Let Loose, Go Crazy, Spread the Love!: A chat with Ernest Seah

Ernest_SeahEarlier this year in June, local designer Ernest Seah opened an exciting new retail branch-cum-design den at Duxton Road. But the designer is not new to the business at all; Ernest Seah Design Den is not his first store.

Ernest, who has been around since 2004, has established his name and expanded globally to countries including New York, LA, Italy and Japan. He has also been commissioned by local actress Michelle Choong to make 3 gowns to be featured in her upcoming movie ‘Almost Famous’, expected to be released later this year.

Today he offers a wide range of creations under his name such as accessories, bags, skin and body care products as well as a collection of unique fragrances such as Sky and Flame Elixir. Where the designerʼs philosophy stands, Ernest Seah’s creations are known for their flamboyance, quality and vibrant colors.

In this interview, Ernest Seah tells us more about himself and also shares with us some of his thoughts on being a designer in Singapore.

Could you tell us a little about yourself and how you came to where you are as a designer today?

I made up my mind up and decided that I wanted to be an artist and designer after I saw a trench coat by Claude Montana at the age of six. After army, because of my incompetence in the mandarin language, I left Singapore and flew over to Toronto where I started designing bridal gowns.

After 4 years, I went to New York City to pursue my other love, which is in performance arts. While in New York, I supplemented my income by designing clothes, gowns and accessories for my clients. Then, I ventured into fragrances and skincare.

Did you start designing in Toronto right away? Did you go for internship or get any training?

Yes, I showed my work to a boutique and was hired. I think it’s important to know how to sell your talent with your work.

Who were your clients then in New York? Isn't it tougher as a designer in a foreign land?

I was designing as I was performing on Broadway and was able to meet people from all walks of life who appreciated unique and custom design works. I was lucky that people in the US did not treat me as a foreigner, but as someone unique and different. It also helped that I spoke English.

What are some inspirations and influences to your design and style?

People are my biggest influence and, particularly, I take note of their body shapes and characters, which often surprise me. Colors and shapes also inspire me to create. I love to travel because different cultures give me inspiration too.

Any specific examples on how they inspired some of your works?

Being in US was the first time I met people of really different skin tones and hair color. The shape of American women was also very different from the Asian form. There was a collection inspired by platinum blonde women and another by the blood red lipstick they commonly wore. I also remember a collection inspired by autumn leaves and the bright lights of Las Vegas.

Are there are designers or artists out there that you look up to?

My muse is actress Cate Blanchett. Besides being a fabulous actress, she is also somewhat like a chameleon… she could always look different.

I also admire designers like Tom Ford, Christian Lacroix, Elie Saab and Azzedine Aliaia. I admire their design sensibility. Their creations are feminine and luxurious. They make full use of the feminine form… they don’t follow trends but instead create style.

Are there any unique features of the local design scene, as compared to those of the other countries you have been to?

What I find unique in Singapore is that Singaporeans don’t really support their local designers. They still have this idea that designs from overseas are always better.

It must then be a challenge pursuing such a career path in Singapore. Could you tell me more about the challenges that you have faced here?

Just like everywhere in the world, I face the nicest and also the meanest clients. But the biggest challenge would be getting good, reliable and honest staff.

Why is this unique to Singapore?

I did not seem to have a problem finding people to work with me in the US or Canada, but it seems that people here in Singapore don’t like to do retail hours especially having to work weekends. I also think the passion for couture and custom design is dying here, as everything now is mass-produced.

What do you enjoy most about being a designer?

There is no right and wrong in design; taste and beauty is also up to the individual. Fashion is always changing and the world of design in limitless!

What advice would you offer to an aspiring fashion designer in Singapore? What are some important skills or traits they should possess?

Hard work is important… and don’t give up! Design is something that gets better with experience. It is good to have a keen eye for details and patience is important. It also helps if you learn how to "sell" your design ideas.

Any last words?

Let loose, go crazy, spread the love! Ernest Seahʼs new store can be located at 16 Duxton Road, and more information could be found here: www.ernestseah.com

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