Minimal, conceptual and modern — these are the words that Sabrina Goh, the brain-child behind Singaporean fashion label, ELOHIM, keeps coming back to when describing the essence of her design aesthetic. "Our brand identity is minimal and structural, and it reflects a lot in the design range," Goh says. "I also prefer to create collections based on concepts instead of following trends." It is this rigorous vision in creating sublimely conceptual yet wearable clothes that has earned her a coveted spot in the newly announced Fashion Futures program, started by Singapore Fashion Week to promote design talent in Singapore on the global stage.
Case in point: Her fall/winter 2015 collection draws on the theme of substances that shape our world. More specifically, she was inspired by the vermillion rock formations of China's Danxia landforms, found predominantly in the south and northwest. Playing on the landform's textural variances, the collection pieces together material contrasts. For example, sports mesh with solid black neoprene, or layered neoprene with cotton coding on top.
ELOHIM started in 2009 after Goh spent a few years gaining experience in the wider fashion and media industry: first, as a stylist intern at Mediacorp, before taking part in the Singapore Young Designer Contest in 2006 and 2007, where she emerged as a top 10 finalist in both years. After that she worked for various Singaporean labels as an in-house designer until she decided to strike out on her own to launch ELOHIM. "We were very fortunate to showcase our collection at the Audi Fashion Festival (the predecessor to Singapore Fashion Week), that really kickstarted our brand journey," Goh says. "Since then, the doors opened up and showcase opportunities came up. In the following years, we were able to bring our brand to New York, Korea, Hong Kong, New Zealand and the United Kingdom."
I think perseverance and belief in your own designs and the spirit of overcoming is what really inspires me in THE Singapore fashion scene.
Despite her success, Goh readily admits that it has not always been smooth sailing. With the proliferation of fast fashion brands in recent years, young designers like Goh are finding it difficult to compete in terms of production and, more importantly, price. "Singapore is a small city that is dominated by many fast fashion brands and blogshops that offer very affordable clothing but they often compromise on quality," Goh says. "There is absolutely nothing wrong in offering affordable clothing, but the ripple effect generated is a concern." She feels that a compromise on quality and de-emphasis on details and craftsmanship is slowly but surely nudging consumers towards a market that looks at price rather than the quality of construction. But ultimately, Goh prefers to keep a positive outlook for the future. "Sometimes, when you really want to give up, you will meet different customers who encourage you and give you a pat on the shoulder," says Goh with a smile. "I think perseverance and belief in your own designs and the spirit of overcoming is what really inspires me in the Singapore fashion scene."
So what about her upcoming trip to New York for Fashion Futures? Goh says that she is looking forward to the opportunities to learn from the network and foundation that the CFDA has established in America. "I think it is such a blessing because the Fashion Futures program is aligned with our plans to internationalise our business. This opportunity will help us to understand the American market on a deeper level and build strong connections," she says. "I also hope to tap on the experience of the more established American designers to help elevate our brand to an international level."