Singapore is often seen as a city of contrasts: a place where East meets West. So perhaps it’s no surprise that duality is a constant source of inspiration for Chelsea Scott-Blackhall, founder and designer of emerging local label Dzojchen (pronounced doh-jen). Of British descent, Scott-Blackhall was born and raised in Singapore, and when asked if the city-state has inspired her, the answer is a resounding ‘Yes’. It is, she feels, ‘a melting pot of paradox. It’s modern yet classic, metropolitan while still being earthy and green.’
Reflecting the fascinating components that contribute to modern-day Singapore, Scott-Blackhall has coined the term IndiviDUALITY to describe her label’s approach. For her, designing is about creating a balance between seemingly opposing ideas, whether they are contrasting cultural influences, practical versus philosophical ideas, masculine and feminine forms, or simply the difference between two fabrics. The result is bold and modern clothing that has garnered attention across the world as well as in Singapore.
Fashion and passion
Scott-Blackhall launched Dzojchen in 2013 as a way to incorporate her various passions – from travel and culture to the arts and fashion – into one project. ‘I hadn’t studied fashion, so in all honesty I went in very blindly and idealistically,’ she recalls. But what she lacked in formal training she made up for in clarity of vision. ‘I felt I had a voice, and a point of difference, and it was a question of whether I could cross each hurdle and build something beyond an idea.’ Despite the inevitable difficulties of launching a brand, Scott-Blackhall’s distinctive aesthetic soon won fans, and small successes at the start spurred her on. ‘With each turn of the corner, I found myself being more passionate, inspired and driven to bring justice to the brand that I created,’ she says. Today, Dzojchen has numerous stockists in Europe and America as well as across Asia, and has shown at fashion week events in Paris, New York, Seoul and, of course, Singapore.
Sense of identity
A strong brand identity has certainly helped Dzojchen. Offering men’s and women’s collections, the label focuses on premium tailoring, attention to detail and experimentations in luxury fabrics: a leather might be manipulated to echo brocade, for example. Aesthetically, there is a strong androgyny to the collections, and an air of simplicity which belies a highly thought-out design process. And although a strong sense of unity runs through the men’s and women’s apparel, Scott-Blackhall and her team are careful to create points of difference. ‘While the brand’s DNA must stay true in each collection, the methodology in design is adjusted depending on whether we’re designing for our men’s or women’s collections,’ she explains. ‘Our team must be able to identify not only “the Dzojchen person”, but also “the Dzojchen man” and “the Dzojchen woman”.’
This season’s style
The spring/summer 2017 collection ‘truly captures the brand’s DNA’, according to Scott-Blackhall. Dzojchen excels at creating pieces which seem simple – and are classic enough to fit seamlessly into the wardrobe – but feature finishing touches which make them stand out. For women, relaxed tailoring is key, and this season beautifully tailored trousers are finished with braces. A classic white shirt features a tuxedo-style collar, and silky garments in soft beige – from shirts to jumpsuits – are artfully folded to reveal bright coral linings. For men, Scott-Blackhall has perfected the art of smart-casual dressing. Box-fresh pleats find their way on to jeans, shorts and sweatpants as well as trousers; crisp tailored jackets, trousers and shirts are shot through with print and colour; and loose, elastic-cuffed pants are contrasted with button-down shirts. These are ‘effortless yet captivating styles, allowing for co-authorship between the wearer and the pieces,’ the designer explains.
Dzojchen’s global appeal has taken Scott-Blackhall all over the world; travelling from trade shows to presentations to meetings she is rarely in the same place for more than a couple of weeks – a situation that she embraces as it allows her to continue gathering ideas from different countries and cultures. Yet, although Dzojchen is a product of all the places she’s been, Scott-Blackhall is proud that Singapore is Dzojchen’s home, describing the city-state as the origin and the identity of her label: ‘It began in this very space.’
So, has she any advice for others looking to follow in her footsteps? ‘Passion and tenacity are the key ingredient for success’, she says. ‘While there will never be an easy route to birthing a company or executing an idea to its fullest potential, as long as you pick yourself up with each setback or knock down, you will always find your way. Belief in yourself and your abilities is the truest form of learning.’