Sensuality in a woman comes different to everyone–from intelligent conversations to well-tailored cuts that flatter her favourite features. When it comes to local womenswear label Stolen, you can rely on their signature backless details to provide tasteful silhouettes for the contemporary woman.
We spoke with founder Elyn Wong, a Visual Communications graduate and former Creative Group Head at Ogilvy & Mather, about her unconventional route into fashion and the ethos behind the brand:
Stolen was founded in 2007 as a product of art and fashion for the architecture-influenced creative. As a self-taught designer who moved from advertising into the creative arts of fashion, Elyn poised to challenge herself to offer alternate sexiness by marrying her creative inspiration from art and fashion to create the popular local label Stolen with its signature backless design.
How would you describe Stolen?
I’d like to break the mould and say that we’re not just garment designers; Stolen has always been an extension of me as a person, so I’m pretty close to the heart of the matter. We’re very much a fashion label, but we like to challenge the status quo. I see Stolen as a hybrid studio that explores cross-disciplinary creations with non-fashion art projects through StolenAlliances each year. When it comes to our fashion shows, every aesthetic, detail, and experience from Stolen is not conventional, but more open-minded and experimental.
Strip away the unnecessary, and keep things pure — that’s the ethos behind Stolen that’s inspired by Gandhi’s famous teaching of “those who keep more than what they need are thieves”. From that minimalistic attitude, it translates into the designs we create to feature the sensuality of a woman’s back, and the quiet confidence we hope to instil in every woman who wears our pieces.
We craft our collections with the Stolen woman in mind; she covets the piece not because of how it looks, but because of how it makes her feel. No one needs another dress or fashion label to follow, so every piece in your wardrobe space counts. That has guided me to create timeless pieces that are accessible yet experimental.
For someone who has dabbled in a few disciplines of arts–from architecture to installation art, how did you land in fashion?
I have great respect for all the arts as they require years of training to master, and I humbly explore them out of passion and interest without formal training. Why drives me, even without being classically trained, is the honest and sincere understanding of human psychology. This has motivated me to construct garments that are both comfortable and empowering. Much like majestic buildings built beyond the function of shelter but to facilitate and enable community and connectivity, our designs at Stolen are also at the heart and innovation of our pieces.
Why pursue fashion?
After being in advertising for 16 years, I wanted a new challenge as it’s quite a draining industry. Yes, it was nice to enjoy the glitz and glamour of social events, great food and travel opportunities in the advertising world, but being stripped of that previous material enjoyment is offering me a happier life now, which can only mean that I’m doing something right. However, the financial payout is strikingly different and I had to adjust my financial contribution to my family for many years, and that guilt did follow in pursuit of building the Stolen brand.
It has been almost 18 years since we built the brand and I’m proud of our achievements with my team today. I attribute the brand’s success to the foundations I’ve built from my advertising days: work through my problems, persevere, and network. For new designers, I would recommend you work for someone before starting your own brand so you are familiar with the hard knocks of the working world that will help you build your business in the future.
As both the designer and founder, how do you resolve conflicts between creative and business aspects?
It’s all about striking a balance; pursuing fashion doesn’t eliminate the opportunities for me to explore other creative projects. In fact, it has always been a part of my life to enjoy fashion and merge it with business. With my business hat on, it forces me to be a lot more organised and disciplined; I consciously put aside time to spend with my family and friends, and it pays off with a higher quality of life.
I enjoy the creative projects — in fact, the creative portion never leaves me! We keep our first love for the arts alive through our hybrid studio arm. That’s where we started partnerships with brands on other art projects, and the perfect avenue to inject our design beliefs in non-fashion projects.
How does Stolen remain relevant to your audience, especially in a post-pandemic world?
From social media conversations to direct sales via trunk shows or private visits to our atelier, intimacy with our clients has always been our selling point. We find that we are also able to do better without conventional commitments like annual releases. We take pride in our smaller exclusive releases that are timeless as they are accessible to style.
The fashion game is changing and we’re proud to have Stolen join our Style Theory family of local designers. What are your expectations from Stolen’s partnership on Style Theory’s platform?
Empowering confidence: We’re excited to encourage more women to try our brand with a new platform that offers lower commitment through rental. More women who never tried our backless styles or are afraid to own a piece can now try it from Style Theory and fall in love with how versatile and comfortable our designs are before committing their precious wardrobe space for a piece from Stolen.
Doing our part: With fashion being the second largest contributor to pollution, participating in the circular fashion movement will reduce the carbon footprint as a brand and as an industry. We’re proud to be affiliated with brands that support the green movement. We believe that the future of fashion can indeed be circular and sustainable.
Who do you envision to be the Stolen x Style Theory woman?
The ideal Stolen x Style Theory woman is worldly, open-minded, and intrigued by new original ideas and sustainable lifestyle. She exudes quiet confidence — when she walks into a room, all eyes can’t help but be on her. She’s formidable, and that’s her superpower.
We want to introduce a new kind of sexiness with our backless designs; tastefully made and expertly tailored for real women. We want to offer women a new aesthetic that can inspire them to layer across casual and formal events. All it takes is a simple change of footwear or accessories to still look elegantly put together and feeling comfortable, like a second skin.
Rent your first Stolen design and try how their intelligent backless construction feels: