Joyce Wong

06 january 2014 / editor’s picks / words adele chong

01-07 Duo Mode’s "The Eclectic", S/S 2014 Collection; 08 Joyce Wong.


Friday Q&A: Joyce Wong


Up to speed on both code and couture, Malaysian fashion designer Joyce Wong offers an inspired take on functional fashion.


Joyce Wong isn’t one to play it safe. While an unanticipated career change might prove daunting to some, the Kuala Lumpur-based Wong clearly relishes the notion of herself as an “unexpected” designer. Having made the perilous leap from deciphering code as a computer science major to the comparatively unpredictable arena of womenswear by way of Singapore’s Raffles Design Institute, Wong, who launched her label, Duo Mode, last spring, is well underway to becoming a bold new talent to watch for in local circles.

Brandishing what she calls a “feminine yet unfussy beauty,” her designs – eye-catching pieces that play up conventional patterns with punchy color combinations – reflect her taste for pragmatic formats and lively details, as much as her vibrant cultural heritage. While wearability is keenly emphasized in Wong’s approach, her shining moment undoubtedly lies in the sense of daring that permeateseach creation – be it a modified bomber jacket edged with traditional embroidery or a sharply formulated silhouette softened by delicate scatterings of lace, wearers of her work are prompted to embrace a more liberated attitude towards daily dressing. In every piece, we are aptly invited to take the plunge – just as Wong once did.


Why did you name your label “Duo Mode?”

As a Malaysian-born Chinese designer, I wanted my label to reflect my connection with these two cultures. The Malay term for “two” is dua, which is phonically similar to “duo.” In Chinese culture, we believe in the idea of “double” happiness.


How did your most recent collection come about?

My Spring/Summer 2014 collection, “The Eclectic,” was inspired by a Malaysian fabric production technique known as kain menenun. The collection puts the focus on traditional weaving techniques and kebaya (a traditional blouse-dress) embroidery methods. The designs combine contemporary silhouettes with colorful palettes, resulting in a mix of traditional elements and modern styling which gives the collection its sense of fun and energy.


How do you want your work to affect people?

I would like to think that my designs have the power to speak for themselves. I would like people to feel proud when they are wearing my creations.


What is your greatest challenge as a designer?

As a young designer, the greatest challenge for me is funding. At the moment, I have a family-funded business. In the near future, I think there will be a possibility for me to look for external investors. I am always on the lookout for opportunities to expand my label in overseas markets. Currently, we are trying to push for this by applying for a few trade shows in Paris, specifically Tranoï and D&A.


What do you consider your greatest creative success so far?

My label just launched in March 2013, and I am so lucky to have already gotten buyers from Singapore and the Middle East within the space of my first two seasons.


What are your thoughts on the Malaysian fashion scene? Do you think the designers here are gradually getting the attention they deserve?

In terms of the local fashion scene, we are still slowly finding our way. Global recognition will take time and we need more support from the government, media, domestic consumers as well as more platforms like the Mercedez-Benz Stylo Asia Fashion Week. We have a good group of fashion people – it's a small community that is still growing. That said, not a lot of Malaysians are really aware of what is going on in the international fashion scene and this is something that needs to be worked on.


Where do you currently work?

I have a comfortable and quiet workshop in Desa Sri Hartamas [a Kuala Lumpur suburb] which also serves as a home base. I like my workshop because it's a cozy escape just for me.


If you weren’t a fashion designer, what would be the alternative?

I think I would still be doing something creative. Wedding planner, florist, or a shopkeeper in an arts and crafts store – all these possibilities come to mind.


Who wears Duo Mode? Is there anyone specific that you are designing for?

I design specifically for today’s woman. I am inspired by strong women who are both confident and feminine.


What projects are you currently excited about?

I am currently working on my Autumn/Winter 2014 collection. I plan to continue with the ideas that I have been exploring with the earlier collections. The designs for this range will also focus more on the female silhouette, particularly in the shoulder area. You can find out more when we launch. This is my third collection and it is really important for me that my consistency as a designer is evident in the new designs. I’m really looking forward to this collection.


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