Sure, investment banking might have been her forte, but playing safe wasn’t enough for Ellie Norman, founder and fashion designer of My Apparel Zoo.
PHOTOGRAPHY YONG KEEN KEONG MAKEUP DIVA PRODUCTION HAIR BIBIAN LEONG
FEMALE: Tell us about your background.
Ellie: “I was working as an equity analyst in an investment bank for more than two years. Although I loved my job, I felt something was amiss and wanted to pursue a different passion. I resigned in 2013 to start my own fashion label, curating a collection of unique dresses and skirts. What started off as a hobby eventually grew bigger as I began designing and sourcing fabrics globally. A year later, I opened my first boutique in Publika.”
FEMALE: Did you think you were destined for this industry?
Ellie: “No, I didn’t think I would end up in fashion. Growing up, I was encouraged to venture into the corporate world, but I wanted to be in the creative arts and do something more entrepreneurial-based instead. I enjoy designing clothes and making women feel happy and confident in what they wear, so that’s how I went into fashion.”
FEMALE: Were you worried about taking the plunge?
Ellie: “Yes. At 22 or 23, I was very fresh and perceived the fashion industry to be catty and critical. Having to meet new people who will judge my work, and to grow my brand in such a competitive field, was definitely daunting.”
FEMALE: What advice would you give someone who wants to be in fashion?
Ellie: “Your clothes are your canvas and they are your artwork on display. Without a doubt, it will be critiqued by a lot of people, but you just have to be true to what your brand represents and means to you. Eventually, your work will speak for itself. Despite the obstacles, there are also people who are supportive.”
FEMALE: Did you ever think twice about the route you picked?
Ellie: “In the beginning, I used to wonder if leaving banking was the right choice because banking was so comfortable for me. Plus, I was worried whether my label would be successful after several months. I wouldn’t say I didn’t enjoy investment banking – I was good at it to be honest – but if I were to trade it for the hardship that I go through now, I don’t think I would.”
FEMALE: How did you persevere when things got rough?
Ellie: “It’s always a learning curve; I don’t expect people to like every single piece in any fashion label. There’ll always be things you like or dislike, but what’s important is the support I got from my family and friends as well as the respect and credibility from colleagues and clients.”
FEMALE: Are you happy with the way your brand is growing?
Ellie: “My brand has been around for almost three years and it took me three years to get on KL Fashion Week (this year), not because I couldn’t get in but because I’d rather have a good base before I showcase on the runway. Having said that, I think there’s always room to grow and soar to greater heights, so I’m happy where I am now but I also can’t wait for what more I can do with My Apparel Zoo.”
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