Forbes honour 'hasn't sunk in yet': The Singaporean fashion designer whose creations are worn by J Lo
- Ms Grace Ling is 25-year-old Singaporean and an alum of Sota, Central Saint Martins and Parsons School of Design
- She was recently featured in the Forbes 30 Under 30 Asia list for the arts category
- Her high fashion, quirky designs are created with 3D technology to reduce the wastage of materials
- Pop singer and actress Jennifer Lopez wore Ms Ling's outfits, which caught the attention of fashion magazines and Singaporeans
SINGAPORE — When Ms Grace Ling started her eponymous fashion label at the height of the Covid-19 pandemic in 2020, she chose to base her business in the fashion capital of New York, thinking that her clothing line would not gain much traction with Singaporeans.
After all, the 25-year-old Singaporean questioned whether her compatriots would want to part with close to US$1,000 (S$1,390) for a pair of wool gabardin pants, or quirky accessories like a tiny human-shaped metal mesh bag.
Ms Ling said her high fashion creations are generally targeted at people working in the creative industries and is someone who is “informed culturally and wants to have a dialogue between art and fashion”.
She describes the style of her products as “eccentric elegance” inspired by the surrealist art movement.
But the School of the Arts Singapore graduate eventually caught the attention of Singaporeans when it emerged that she was the designer of the outfit that pop singer and actress Jennifer Lopez, or J Lo, wore while performing on The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon earlier this year.
Fashion magazines such as Vogue Singapore and Harper's Bazaar picked up on it and this led to a “significant order” from Singaporeans for the products of the alum of Central Saint Martins in London and the Parsons School of Design in New York — both institutions renowned for producing famous fashion designers.
“That was exciting… knowing there are people who appreciate (my work),” said Ms Ling, who has outfitted other celebrities like fashion model Karlie Kloss, singer Charli XCX and YouTube personality Emma Chamberlain.
Ms Ling is no stranger to showbiz herself. She began a modelling career at the age of 16, and can even be spotted making her way down the aisle as a bridesmaid in the spectacularly shot wedding scene in the 2018 movie Crazy Rich Asians.
RECOGNITION BY FORBES
In any case, the recognition for Ms Ling’s work was made official by Forbes on May 26, when the business magazine featured her in its 30 Under 30 Asia list for the arts category.
The annual list, now in its seventh edition, featured 300 young entrepreneurs, leaders and trailblazers across the Asia-Pacific region under the age of 30 in 10 categories.
Forbes described them as individuals who were “inspiring change and driving innovation in their respective fields amid the challenges brought about by the Covid-19 pandemic”.
Aside from Ms Ling, there were 33 others from Singapore, including non-citizens based here.
Forbes lauded her use of 3D technology, which features heavily in her work, as a means to reduce material wastage.
In essence, Ms Ling's designs are first fine-tuned to specification on a computer-aided design software before she puts the pieces together.
For accessories that use metal, she prints them out with aluminium powder, a material she called “infinitely recyclable”.
“We view sustainability as a design process,” said Ms Ling. “The way we design and create means we don’t have to make a tonne of samples to get to the correct one.”
The daughter of a make-up artist mother and an entrepreneur father said she felt both honoured and grateful to make the Forbes list, and that it has always been on her bucket list of achievements to attain.
Ms Ling recalled receiving the news from Forbes on the same day the announcement was made, just as she was about to end a long day at work.
“I was just chilling out with my assistant when I got an email (from Forbes). It was very surreal,” said Ms Ling. “My assistant was jumping and congratulating me… She was so happy.”
But for Ms Ling, she had been so busy with work that the news “has not sunk in yet. I just need time to sit down and process it”.
Indeed, when TODAY spoke with Ms Ling during a cross-continental phone call on June 7, she was in the midst of coordinating movers who were helping her set up furniture in her office in New York.
The hustle for Ms Ling has not stopped since her label was launched in August 2020, immediately after graduating from Parsons.
As a newcomer to the scene, one of Ms Ling’s first priorities was to “get the brand out there”, which she did through a three-minute-long fashion film that featured products from her Fall Winter 2021 collection titled Mimicry.
The plan worked. Snippets of the video were reshared on fashion-themed Instagram accounts, and it just “took off from there” which gave her a reason to launch an online store.
While Ms Ling has no plans for any physical shops at the moment, she said her brand is getting picked up by many physical retailers, “so they will be in stores soon”.
For now, she will be getting ready to launch her next collection in September.
“We're doing it with new fabrics, new lengths and new colourways… There are just so many (ideas) that have yet to be explored.”