Meet Vincent Siow – a leasing officer for a shopping mall by day, and fashion designer by night.
WHEN we met Vincent Siow during a break from his day job, he was wearing paint-stained jeans and his hair in a perfectly tousled mess. If someone told us he is actually a leasing officer for a shopping mall, we’d assume he is also an artist by night. We would be correct.
Just last October, Siow launched Comoddity, his very own menswear fashion label which he had been working on after work.
“I did everything myself – the designs, setting up the website, shipping the orders and even maintaining the social media accounts, which is like a full-time job in itself,” said the 25-year-old Siow.
The groundwork he put into Comoddity paid off in spectacular fashion (pun intended) last week when Siow received a government grant by MyCreative Ventures (an investment arm under the Finance Ministry) – and an audience with Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak.
Despite having pretty much zero experience in the local fashion industry, Siow managed to impress the panel of industry experts enough with his business plan to beat some relatively established designers to the grant, which he will be using to launch Comoddity to the next level.
“He said ‘I think I could wear some of these (clothes)!’” said Siow of his meeting with Najib, where he presented his collection. “He also said ‘You really like zippers, don’t you?’, because quite a few pieces had zippers on them.”
Despite having designed all 30 or so pieces in Comoddity’s collection, which consists mostly of smart-casual tops, Siow doesn’t see himself as a fashion designer just yet. “I wouldn’t compare myself with the likes of Melinda Looi and Zang Toi. They actually do the designing and sewing. I send my designs to tailors who do it for me.”
Even before receiving the grant, Siow had taken a leap of faith by getting regular tailors to produce his designs in small batches, which he would sell via the Internet.
“I was preparing to (launch the business) anyway, using these small-scale tailors. It would’ve been less reliable, more time-consuming and more expensive. With the grant, I can mass produce now, which makes everything cheaper.”
Running Comoddity from his bedroom after work takes up a lot of Siow’s time – not that he minds one bit.
“My room is so messy these days. There’s fabirc all over the place,” he said with a laugh. “Although it’s very tiring, I’m still happy to do it because this is what I love.”
It’s hard to imagine that Siow’s background is actually in accounting and finance, which he studied at the University of Kent, in Britain.
That’s why one of his biggest challenges so far has been in coming up with a good business plan, but in breaking into the local fashion scene.
“It’s such a tight circle in Malaysia. I’m only just starting to meet some people in the industry now thanks to the grant,” he said. “I don’t really care about getting invited to fashion shows and all that, It’s just important to know other people on the scene.
And while he has some concerns about local consumers’ faith in Malaysian brands, Siow believes the trends among young people are slowly changing in the designers’ favour.
“People think that if it’s local, it should be cheap. But around the region – like in Singapore and Indonesia – local brands are much more expensive (than name brands) because they are not mass produced, so you usually get better quality.
“The good thing now is that young people are starting to buy local streetwear. It’s good because it’s starting to change their mindset. If they start buying local T-shirts now, hopefully they will move on to other outfits later as they grow up.”