Elyn Wong

Harper’s BAZAAR Singapore is privileged to partner with Chanel once again in nurturing fashion students with the knowledge needed to succeed in the business of fashion. The series of masterclasses—held from Oct 29 to Dec 3—sees fashion insiders and industry experts share their advice and top tips for success.

For the third instalment of the BAZAAR Academy Masterclass series, founder of Stolen, Elyn Wong, chats with Creative Director, Windy Aulia, about building a brand beyond just products.

Founded 18 years ago, Stolen has managed to stay ahead of the curve by establishing the brand as a unique hybrid of fashion and art, with cross disciplinary collaborations and other creative initiatives. She says: “I was very clear right from the start that Stolen will not be a conventional fashion brand.”

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Elyn’s projects outside of fashion—termed Stolen Alliances—include a notable art project with Villeroy & Boch, a family-owned European tile company, for Wallpaper* Handmade 2018. It was Stolen’s first entry into Milan Design Week.

Elyn’s lack of training in fashion design certainly didn’t stand in the way of Stolen’s success. She says: “Because I wasn’t trained in fashion, I designed everything from a graphic designer point of view. I discussed drafts with drafters from my own understanding, and presented all the collections in an artistic manner that I envisioned in my head, which is never a runway format.”

It was a steep learning curve for Elyn. “Tons of mistakes were made,” she admits. “But I also realised that it allowed me to pave my own way”

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Photo: Stolen

It wasn’t until six years ago that Elyn embraced her title as a fashion designer. “Just like architects and doctors, I feel that fashion designers need years to hone their skills, and I feel that I didn’t deserve to be called that—I had always wanted to go to fashion school in Antwerp so I can call myself a fashion designer,” she says.

Of course, the success of Stolen didn’t happen overnight. “After building the brand for a while, I realised I quite like this ‘No man’s land’ that I’m on—not an artist, not quite a fashion designer, just a hybrid studio that creates good work. And my ‘weakness’ has now become my ‘strength.’”

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Photo: Stolen

Elyn wanted Stolen to be a brand beyond a garment; the brand had to push boundaries by marrying fashion with other art forms; fine arts, architecture, dance. At its core, Stolen celebrates the unconventional and shifting of mindsets—this is evident in everything Stolen does, from branding and marketing to design.

“No one needs another dress,” says Elyn. “There are enough awesome fashion brands out there. Why do people need Stolen? What can Stolen offer that is worth their time of day?”

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Photo: Stolen

She continues: “I was very clear right from the start that Stolen would not be a conventional fashion brand because that is not my strength and style. I’ve always wanted Stolen to be an extension of me as a person. I’m not one-dimensional. I love architecture, I love art, I love great design. In fact, I love fashion the least out of these creative forms of expression. But what I really love about fashion is the extreme attitude that everyone embraces—I wanted Stolen, as a brand, to be able to be express that in all these manners, beyond a dress.”

So what are her top three tips on creating a successful brand?

  1. “Your brand starts with you. Before anything else, be a human being with solid values.”
  2. List down your brand values and put it up on a wall. “Make sure that you refer to it all the time, for every decision you make—be it how you treat your supplier to how you design, or how market the brand.”
  3. Finally, be nice and be real. “Stay away from typical trending topics to anchor your brand. Your brand should not be created to please the crowd. It should be something you truly believe in. It’s the only way the brand will last.”