an Chong (pictured above) is the designer behind the new, rising contemporary fashion label Self-Portrait. Launched in September 2013, Self Portrait is going from strength to strength, and don't let the beautifully intricate pieces fool you: The prices are extremely reasonable.

Graduating from the womenswear BA course at Central Saint Martins, the Malaysian born designer has been a resident in London for almost a decade. Chong also studied art classes back in Malaysia and where his work was also exhibited in the 2009 Venice Biennial. The co-founder and creative director of Three Floor, Chong proved his extraordinary talent for designing mid-price womenswear of high quality before launching his own label – Self-Portrait – in 2013.

With celebrities including Reece Witherspoon, Kendall Jenner, Miranda Kerr and blogger Man Repeller all regular Self-Portrait clientele, Buro 24/7 Middle East sat down with the creative to discover his inspirations, and find out how on earth does his produce such beauty at such a pleasing price point...

 Self Portrait interview

How did the brand come about? What's the Self-Portrait story?

I already dreamed about working in a creative business, when I was kid. I didn't necessarily imagine that I would become a fashion designer, but I always loved the idea of visual creativity. At Self-Portrait, it isn't just about the clothes, but pushing the entire brand aesthetic in the right direction and since I am still relatively young, it is important for me to follow my dreams. 

How do you get the price point so reasonable, when the pieces look far more expensive? Was this a conscious thing?

I knew from the start I wanted to create a brand that offers luxury fashion pieces but not with the price tag that comes with it.  It's really important for me to create something that can make women feel extraordinary but doesn't break their bank balance. You just need find new ways to produce and source your materials and work a bit harder on finding alternative solutions, like re-thinking the manufacturing process, and then of course, being less greedy when you calculate your profit margins. We put a lot of effort into finding the best sewers and in researching for the right fabric sources and suppliers – all this in order to make sure we get the best qualities available and that the prices are still workable. 

 Self Portrait interview


 Self Portrait interview

What inspires you?

There are multiple sources of inspiration for me but mostly I actually get inspired by films, art, style history, stuff I read or what I observe in the street. Your visual memory then makes all these impressions into new patterns and suddenly ideas start to pop up.  

What was the inspiration behind this new collection?

When I design any collection, I always think about what the woman wants from her wardrobe and how she wants to feel in the clothes.  I go to a lot of galleries and exhibitions and absorb everything around me, for inspiration. In this collection I'm going for more a fuller silhouette. In summer, I like using transparent and sheer fabrics. The fabric comes first, and then I think about the most suitable and fitting silhouette. I also look back at previous collections, I like there to be an evolution to my designs. Getting dressed, whatever the occasion, should be fun and I like to reflect that in the collection. I like there to be a playful side to the clothes so you can really style the pieces and make them your own. 

 Self Portrait interview

Which designers do you personally admire?

There are many designers I admire not just one, I find other designers' work inspiring for various reasons. I have great admiration for Prada, for their constant innovative design and continuous experimentation. I love what Nicolas Ghesquière has brought to the Louis Vuitton brand. But I also think a brand like Acne is really inspiring, embodying a day to day utilitarian approach to design and working with minimalism in new way.

Who would you most love to see wearing Self-Portrait?

There is no one person in particular, I am always honored when someone does wear it though. I remember when a friend of mine first time told me that she had been to a private party and that there was this girl wearing my stuff and I felt so proud. 

 Self Portrait interview

What's your goal for 2015?

We want the base of the brand to be perfect and solid. It's our goal and extremely important to us to maintain the brand's aesthetic that we've built up so far and grow organically, this is definitely our goal to focus on for 2015. 

What has been your career highlight to date?

The Spring/Summer 15 collection has gone a bit mad, especially considering we are a very small team. We are truly overwhelmed by the positive response that we have received in this last year. 

What is the best advice you have ever receieved?

My first college tutor in Penang, Jing Ooi who graduated from Central Saint Martins, totally opened up my eyes for design and inspired me to continue my studies in London at CSM ten years ago.  

What is your favourite piece from the new collection?

The Liliana dress (pictured below) I love to play around with texture, silhouette and mixing diverse fabrics and materials. The Liliana dress is a of kind signature dress for that approach. 

 Self Portrait interview

The Liliana Dress, Chong's favourite piece 

How do you select the materials? How do you source them? Talk us through the design process...

It's always important to source great fabric to start off with. I travel a lot, I go all around Asia, Korea, Japan and Shanghai and other parts of China, looking for new fabrics in order to keep my designs current. When I'm designing, I always think about the sculptural qualities of the design. But the aesthetics of the design also depend on its utilitarian purpose; in what context it will be worn and experienced. I try to think about what women want and need their wardrobe to be.

When are you happiest?

Doing what I do now!

What do you have up your sleeve for Autumn/Winter 15?

In our next Autumn/Winter 15 collection, we've chosen to expand and develop our knitwear and outwear ranges. We have also designed and developed new fabrics for this collection, to reflect the exact energy and style we want to create around the brand.  

What's your favourite song right now?

Money's song Good night London.