Future in Fashion: An Interview with Dahlia Mohd & Wei Yeen

This may be a generalisation, but I know I speak for many when I say that seeing fashion bloggers travel the globe, attending fashion weeks feel like the absolute dream job. After a little look-see through the Instagram profiles of Gala Gonzales (@galagonzalez), Yoyo Cao (@yoyokulala) and Ki Eun Se (@kieunse) filling front row seats at shows – you start thinking to yourself, “How do I get from where I am now, to where they are?”.

You aren’t alone, and what you are thinking may lead you towards your first steps into the industry.

Expressing an interest to pursue fashion as a career after graduation may seem slightly daunting. Your Asian parents might give you a disparaging expression, but if it’s something you believe you will exceed in, giving it a go won’t hurt.

Doing some homework on the industry will give you a good head start to a career in it, but there is an extremely frustrating lack of information about it on the internet. Taking inspiration from British Vogue and fashion blogger, Aimee Song, who have done their own renditions of this topic, we followed in their footsteps by interviewing two insiders from the local fashion industry to give their insight from a Malaysian perspective.

 

Dahlia Mohd is an ambassador for the local fashion scene in both Malaysia and Singapore. The mother-of-two co-founded En Pointe, a boutique in Singapore that carries Malaysian brands, like Syomirizwa Gupta and Ezzati Amira, to the Singaporean crowd. Although the brand caters for the residence of our neighbouring country, a quick visit to Dahlia’s Instagram will inspire you to fill your wardrobe with nothing but local designers.

How did you first enter the fashion industry? Was your degree related to your job now, or completely unrelated? 

My degree was in Business Management, majoring in Finance and Law. I had always loved fashion but figured it was best to get a job that would allow me to afford the things I see in the pages of magazines, then be an editor/writer for one. But it only really started when I moved to KL after marriage. I met Min Luna through my husband and was also bridesmaids for 3 of his female friends and that was when I got acquainted with Malaysian designers. Coincidentally, a friend of mine back in Singapore was thinking of setting up her own bridal business so I suggested working with the Malaysian designers. So, we were the first to bring in Malaysian designer bridal wear into the Singapore market.

In 2015, Fizi Woo asked if I could help launch their first ever Raya collection. I did, and the rest was history. It started the ball rolling and I saw a market for contemporary modest-wear. I found a business partner, Natasha, and we set up En Pointe & Co, to create a platform for Malaysian designer RTW collections.

What would you identify as the biggest struggle you faced throughout your entire career in fashion? 

Balancing profitability with credibility. We positioned ourselves as a curated designer store that designers themselves would love to be a part of and shop at. However, this meant that production cycles are longer. We can’t get new things to the store monthly and so, especially on quiet months, we hardly have new collections. This affects business and traffic to the store.

If you could change one thing about the South East Asia fashion scene, what would it be?

I would like future generations to know that the scene is diverse and exciting. Production techniques and quality are also evolving. Expect more in future.

If someone were to aspire to pursue your current job now, what would your advice to them be in terms of working and personal experience?

Do it only if you are first to market something or if you are different from the rest or if you are the best at what you do. Otherwise, you will be a ‘Me Too’ product and you won’t survive.

What is rewarding about working in the fashion industry – are there any benefits or advantages of your career thus far that you would like to highlight? 

Fashion, like any other creative field, is full of interesting personalities. I have been lucky to work with passionate designers who always have strong narratives and original ideas. That invigorates and inspires me to do well for them. I genuinely feel a strong mission to get their designs out there so people can see how talented they are.

You may have seen Wei Yeen’s name stamped on the bottom of many Buro 24/7’s articles, as she is behind all their fashion and beauty features. Buro 24/7 is a fashion and lifestyle digital magazine that covers everything, from all you need to know about the remake of Dior’s iconic J’Adore L’Or, to the anticipated Anna Dello Russo collaboration with Tod’s. It has become every fashion lovers go-to for instant, around-the-clock news in the fashion world.

How was your start in the industry – were you pursuing fashion in university, or was it a decision to start after graduating?

I graduated with a degree in journalism from the University of Oregon, USA, and I knew that I’d always wanted to write. My background before my current job was mostly lifestyle-centric, but I was mildly interested in fashion—mildly is the key word here. I think that that sliver of interest was the only reason I took up the job. Back then, I was only interested in red carpet fashion (because, celebrities.)

I actually applied on JobStreet for the position of a writer at Buro 24/7 Malaysia before the site officially launched in 2015, but they were looking for a fashion & beauty writer instead of a lifestyle writer (my first pick), so I thought, “Sure, I’ll try it out!” Never say never, anyway.

What would you identify as the biggest struggle you faced throughout your entire career in fashion? 

Probably the first few months of being a digital fashion writer. It took some time getting used to the pace, along with memorising all the important names and to sift through the history and most notable collections of major brands, especially since I had no clue about this industry at all. It always helps to know about the brand you are writing a collection review on. There’s so much more than just “It was a beautiful collection!”

What are your hopes for the local fashion scene?

That the future generation will be able to carve their own niche and unique aesthetic, and that the local community will be more supportive of these designers and their work.

What is a typical week like for a fashion writer like you? 

A combination of scheduling and creating content on a daily basis for the site. There is also the attending of events, press presentations, meetings and the occasional coordination, styling and loaning of clothes/accessories for photoshoots. It gets busy, but it’s always fun.

For those aspiring to one day be a part of the local fashion industry, what would your advice to them be, based on your personal experience?

Be prepared to work your butt off. Don’t act entitled; the world doesn’t owe you anything. Always be kind!

Also, taking up internships will help with gaining experience and contacts in the industry, and to find out what you really like to do (whether it’s styling, creating content, or even the marketing/sales side of it). Never be afraid to take opportunities – you never know where it’ll land you, be it in a few months or 10 years. Lastly, arm yourself with more than one skill set – it’ll come in handy.

 

Written by Tania Zainuddin

Ratchet pharmacist and local fashion slut.

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