Ms Goh Ling Ling, accessories designer.
Accessories designer Goh Ling Ling, who founded the Ling Wu label, remembers when python-skin bags were favoured only by older women, back in the 1980s when she was growing up.
The designs were often dowdy; even so, the bags would cost $3,000 to $5,000, which only older customers could afford.
Ms Goh, now 40, who studied graphic design at Central Saint Martins in London, says she wanted to turn that dowdy image on its head by coming up with contemporary yet functional bags in python skin.
Her label, which was started in 2010 and includes python-skin bags, is now stocked at upscale stores in cities such as New York, Tokyo, Paris and Zurich.
Since the spring/summer 2010 fashion season, the brand has exhibited each year at the Tranoi trade show, as part of Paris Fashion Week.
For spring/summer 2014, it took part in the accessories focus show at Premiere Classe Paris during Paris Fashion Week.
When she went to her first Paris show, Ms Goh had just given birth to her third child, a boy.
She says, with a laugh, that she was breastfeeding him at the booth.
“I couldn’t miss out on the show because such an opportunity might never have come again.”
She adds: “Through the exposure gained from these trade shows, we have drawn in buyers we might never have had otherwise.”
The label has won over buyers from the Middle East, Hong Kong, Japan and the United States.
Ms Goh notes that help in the form of grants from the DesignSingapore Council since 2010 has kick-started her efforts to take Ling Wu overseas.
She says: “The grants helped us take part in trade shows. Each show costs us about $20,000 a show, when you factor in air tickets, the hotel, prototyping and the booth.”
In August last year, she took part in Accessorie Circuit, her first New York trade show.
The response from the US market was good, she says.
This month, she will be at another US trade show, Edit, owned by online fashion retailer Net-a-Porter. With help from a DesignSingapore Council grant, she has been able to break barriers in prototyping.
“Prototyping with exotic skins is very expensive. Crocodile skin costs US$30 (S$40) per sq cm,” she says.
“Singapore is a great market but it’s small. If you have a brand, you should take it overseas.”
This article was first published in The Straits Times, 2 February 2015.
Source: The Straits Times © Singapore Press Holdings Limited. Permission required for reproduction.