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Exclusive interview: Sabrina Goh

Sabrina Goh has made her name creating bold, structured pieces for independent women. Verity Hogan meets the Singapore-based designer

Verity Hogan
Verity Hogan,

With her architectural design aesthetic, Sabrina Goh proves that she is her father’s daughter. Growing up as part of a draughtsman’s family meant that she was exposed to creativity from an early age – her childhood memories include helping her father meet an urgent deadline by colouring his drafts in different colours. Today, Goh is known for creating strong silhouettes that strike the perfect balance between symmetry and asymmetry.

Born in Malaysia, Goh became passionate about fashion design as a teenager and moved to Singapore in order to attend the prestigious Lasalle College of the Arts. After graduating and gaining experience at several local brands, Goh launched her collection, Elohim by Sabrina Goh, in 2009 and opened an eponymous store at Orchard Central shortly after. Since then, she has gone from strength to strength, winning Elle Singapore Designer of the Year in 2010 and introducing a diffusion line, Light by Sabrina Goh, in 2011.

Being based in Singapore has presented her with many opportunities as well as some challenges. ‘We face problems like limited resources and craftsmen to produce your samples,’ Goh admits. ‘But competition remains strong among brands. Consumers have very high expectations and Singaporean designers have no excuse not to produce good, high-quality designs.’

Goh describes her design aesthetic as ‘minimal, structural and experimental’ and she is known for creating silhouettes that convey sensuality as well as strength. Inspiration is found in the most unexpected places; for autumn/winter 2015/16, her collection takes its cues from the stunning Danxia sedimentary rock formations in south and north-west China. The collection celebrates the instability and constant atmosphere of change seen in the environment; its colour palette is modelled after the vibrant crimson and vermillion rock layers of the Danxia formations while different textures and tones – mesh with neoprene, abstract print with stripes – are layered to mimic the process of natural erosion.

Despite its high-fashion credentials, Goh’s autumn/winter collection features a surprisingly wearable mix of separates, all worn with black patent flatform lace-ups and uniform grey mid-calf socks. A statement skirt with asymmetric hem and waves of colour flowing horizontally across its panels is paired with a soft grey sweater, complete with elbow patches; the black knee-length duster coat would be an ideal winter staple, while a metallic pleated trapeze dress represents Goh’s take on evening party dressing. Her personal favourites are the red digital print Danxia pullover and Gia asymmetric skirt.

Goh’s work is diametrically opposite to her sartorial pet hate: fast fashion. Her clothes transcend trends with the kind of quality that ensures they can be worn season after season. The designer’s collections are filled with pieces that could easily fit into the eclectic wardrobes of her style inspirations, Kate Lanphear and Leigh Lezark. In fact, the style of these two fashion icons perfectly reflects the kind of clothing that Goh produces – pieces that encourage the wearer to be confident of herself, both outwardly and inwardly.

It’s telling that Goh’s own wardrobe staples are a far cry from her more flamboyant creations. ‘My wardrobe must-have? A little black dress and pair of blue jeans,’ she reveals, proving that with the right amount of confidence even the simplest clothing can make a statement.

Perseverance and a commitment to overcoming all obstacles through dogged persistence have been instrumental in Goh’s success. Her determination is paying off: she was selected to take part in the Fashion Futures programme at Singapore Fashion Week 2015 and attended the induction programme run by the Council of Fashion Designers of America in New York, where she met industry heavyweights, including Diane Von Furstenburg, Thakoon, Victoria Beckham, Net a Porter’s vice-president of global buying Sarah Rutson, and the buying teams from ASOS and Fred Segal. ‘We were able to present our collections to them and get their immediate feedback, which is so valuable for the creation of our next collections,’ Goh explains.

It’s no surprise that Goh has aspirations for the future. ‘We plan to continue to build on our business here in Singapore and Asia and to internationalise our label. The US will be our first stop!’

And, given Goh’s track record so far, it certainly won’t be the last.




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