SABRINA GOH: Psyched up for the future (The Straits Times)

REBECCA TAN HUI SHAN meets Sabrina Goh, one of the designers selected for the 2015 Fashion Futures programme, which grooms local labels for the global stage

For six years, fashion designer Sabrina Goh, 30, has dedicated herself to building her original label, Elohim. “From the moment I open my eyes, to the moment I close them, Elohim is what is on my mind,” says the designer.

However, she does not find the work overwhelming. “The brand has taken over my life, but I enjoy every bit of what it brings me.”

Founded in 2009, Elohim by Sabrina Goh has grown exponentially in the last couple of years. Since opening her own concept store at Orchard Central and winning the ELLE Awards Designer Of The Year in 2010, Ms Goh has consistently been invited to show at local and regional platforms.

These include the ASEAN+3 Thai Textiles showcase 2012 and Vogue Fashion’s Night Out 2013, both of which were held in Bangkok.

More recently, Ms Goh has piqued the interest of industry watchers further away. Last year, she showcased her spring 2015 collection at Coterie TMRW, New York. Earlier this year, she did the same with her fall 2015 collection.

Yet, for all her achievements, Ms Goh believes that being selected for the 2015 Fashion Futures programme is her most exciting opportunity to date. This is a talent programme by Mercury Marketing & Communications and SPRING Singapore aimed at smoothening the transition of local fashion brands to global labels.

A key initiative has been to partner with Singapore Fashion Week 2015 and the Council of Fashion Designers of America, one of the most influential institutions in the fashion industry, to provide greater exposure for Singapore’s fashion talent.

Ms Goh received news of this programme seven weeks ago, and had to pull together a new cruise collection in time for her showcase at Singapore Fashion Week last week.

The designer, who graduated from Lasalle College of the Arts in 2005, remarked that it was not only pressurising to come up with the designs and lookbooks, but also to mentally prepare herself for such a major exhibition.

Fortunately, Ms Goh, who is married, had the experience of her last two seasons to draw upon.

“There are many technical differences between designing for Singapore and the United States. For example, Singaporeans prefer fuss-free materials such as polyester, whereas Americans prefer natural fibres such as cotton or silk,” she noted.

When it comes to design, however, Goh maintains a consistent aesthetic regardless of market. The strength of her visual direction stems from the close relationship she shares with her customers.

“Opening our brick-and-mortar shop in 2010 was one of our best decisions. It allowed us to meet the people who were buying our clothes instead of having to imagine who they were,” said the designer.

During the three years she spent on the sales floor, the feedback she received from customers prompted her to balance avant-garde creations with more wearable designs.

Even now, as she assembles her Cruise 2016 collection, remaining relatable to buyers is a key consideration.

This new collection is an extension of Elohim Fall 2015, which was inspired by the erosion of red-coloured sandstone in southern China.

These sedimentary rocks, which are known as Danxia landforms, change naturally in form and composition over time – a process which Ms Goh evoked through overlapping silhouettes, digital prints in red hues and the use of contrasting textures such as sports-mesh with neoprene.

At the time of this interview, Ms Goh had yet to showcase at Singapore Fashion Week. She was excited about the exposure, but knew that there was still work to be done.

“Even after we go to New York in July, there will still be a lot that we need to do to penetrate the American market. Going forward, funding will be a big consideration,” reflects Ms Goh.

With the maturity befitting a self-made designer, she adds with a knowing laugh: “I don’t think it will be so easy.”

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