Jo Soh is the brilliant mind behind the quirky and playful designer brand hansel.
Launched in 2003, hansel is a Singaporean womenswear label that has been described as whimsical, yet sophisticated. Its sister diffusion line, hello hansel, was launched in February 2011.
Trained at London's prestigious Central Saint Martins, Jo Soh returned to Singapore in 1999 and has been winning a loving fashion following ever since.
You will find hansel on level two at the Mandarin Gallery, 333A Orchard Road or you can shop online at whereto.com
Jo Soh spoke with Brian Crisp about what’s driving fashion in Singapore.
What does Singapore mean to you?
Singapore means to me “my home”. I was born here. I grew up here. It gave me my first start. I love the weather here and it feels like I’m on holiday every day.
What is Singapore fashion?
Singapore fashion is finding its voice. We are a tropical urban city that is experimenting with fashion. But as the years go by we are finding our voices, getting more confident and finding our identity.
Where does the name Hansel come from?
Hansel is the name of my family dog. He was a stray puppy that we found in an industrial area and we brought him home.
What type of puppy is he?
He looks like he has some Jack Russell in him but we are not totally sure.
You have used Christmas lights as the theme for this season’s collection, so does Singapore ever inspire your designs?
Every collection we do has a theme and one of the collections that we did recently was inspired by Singapore public housing, but not every collection is inspired by a Singapore theme. Although this year is 2015 - 50 years of Singapore - and we definitely have something coming up.
Bring your family along. Singapore For Families
Save more money for shopping. Singapore On A Budget - Top Free Attractions
So what about shopping suggestions for Singapore?
I think when my friends visit me in Singapore, apart from taking them to my own store, I would send them to Keepers pop up store (on Orchard Road). There is about 20 to 50 different designers from Singapore for menswear, womenswear, accessories, food, even art. It is the one stop shop to go.
Singapore Tourism wants travellers to “get lost and find the real Singapore”. Where do you suggest I get lost?
You can’t get lost in Singapore. It’s too damn small. I would love to get lost in the nature in one of the nature reserves. Whether its walking towards Labrador Nature reserve or Bukit Timah (The hill at 163.63 metres is the highest point in the city-state of Singapore). It is beautiful and right at the doorstep of this concrete jungle. It’s is the perfect balance of living here in Singapore.
Do you have a favourite restaurant?
I have many favourite dining places. I would love to go right now to Balanced Living Café on Bukit Timah Road. They serve raw cuisine, they have a raw chocolate cake that I am addicted too, so that would be my favourite.
What do you do on a typical Sunday morning?
On Sunday mornings I get up at around 6am and go for a long walk and I would have my breakfast at a local kopitiam. Probably poached egg and toast. That is the perfect way to wake up.
More Shopping Tips
Orchard Road is the most famous shopping strip in Singapore. Ion Orchard and Ngee Ann City are the best for luxury brands. Other malls worth checking out include Paragon and 313@somerset. Raffles City, in the Civic District, has big department stores like Marks and Spencers and luxury stores including Tommy Hilfiger, Victoria’s Secret and Coach.
Singapore’s largest shopping centre, VivoCity, is in the Harbourfront precinct and has stores like Cotton On, Espirit, H&M, Topshop and Zara.
If you are on a budget, head to Bugis Street, which has a large range of shops selling clothes, shoes and accessories. Nearby Haji Lane is the place to go for boutiques selling vintage and clothes by up-and-coming local designers.
Images by Luke Wheatley and Alastair Emmett