I’m thrilled to come across this up close and personal chat with Velda Tan, one of the owners of Love, Bonito, who has now started on her new journey at Collate. Its a long read, but truly inspirational. Enjoy!
PS: This article belongs to http://www.hnworth.com/. They have kindly allowed us to repost this article with proper credits. I’ve extracted some parts of the article for quick reading pleasure – for the full version, please visit here
Well, this is a first. Velda Tan has somehow managed to turn the tables on me, and is asking a slew of questions before I can lob one over. I have now become the interviewee. Not that I mind, but I am pleasantly surprised and slightly caught off guard. Wait. This is not the scenario I had envisioned. Singapore’s much-feted social media star who has successfully played an influential role in making blogshops the zeitgeist in fashion or rather the woman-that-everyone-probably-style-stalks, is taking a keen interest in getting to know me? I had braced myself for a veneer of icy aloofness and perhaps some self-absorbed antics. Instead, Velda is warm and engaging, making even the most bashful person feel at ease. As I judiciously answer each question, she listens intently, yet maintaining strong eye contact in an unblinking manner. Her sincere curiosity is most endearing. Is this what fame does to someone? Usually, it’s quite the contrary. But how Velda has kept herself grounded and is seemingly unfazed by the whirl of glitz – even to the point whereby she doesn’t know how the general public perceives her, is somewhat of an enigma.
“I really don’t know what people out there are saying or thinking about me,” confesses Velda, “And I don’t try to find out because I don’t want to know either.” I am trying to parse what she is telling me, but she slips so readily into a degree of candour that I simply acknowledge the veritas. There is no uncertainty on Velda’s end, however, as she is conscious and mindful of the potential implications of social media gone awry. “Sometimes, it can be quite pressurising because I have to be very careful about what I post. I’m aware there are many young girls who follow me since my Love, Bonito days and I want to be a positive influence. Hopefully, I can inspire them too.”
As Velda sits opposite me, her quiet charisma and poised demeanour are outlined by her strong-boned features and lush feathered brows. Yet, there are moments where I catch glimpses of her vulnerability. “When I left Love, Bonito, it really crushed me.” Her supple, full lips part ever so gently to reveal a slight gap in her front teeth, when pausing to reflect. “I had a hard time adjusting… I made the decision with no regrets, but I did not understand why my inner voice was telling me to leave.”
This bold move cements Velda’s position in the fashion industry as someone who is fearless and isn’t daunted at starting from scratch in order to create a different kind of impact – the appreciation for local designers. And her Pre-Fall debut of her new label, Collate, could not have been a more emphatic distancing from the former. It’s no surprise Velda is wearing the best-selling piece from that collection: a black double peplum knit dress, which also comes in two other colours. “I put on this business-like dress for you actually.”
<For full conversation click here>
WY-LENE: It’s admirable how you took the path less travelled. Unfortunately, in Singapore, people still judge one another based on their academic qualifications.
VELDA: But that’s how society works right?
WY-LENE: I’ve never believed that good grades are a measurement of success. You started out with Bonito Chico/ Love, Bonito and now, you have taken it to the next level with a more upmarket label: Collate. In these 8 years, what are the valuable lessons you have learnt?
VELDA: The key is to listen and understand what your customers want, and provide something meaningful for them. This is how people will stick to you and relate to your brand. So I try to apply the same philosophy of putting customers first, which I established at Love, Bonito, over at Collate.
WY-LENE: How has the industry evolved?
VELDA: When I was 18, nobody bought online – it was like taboo. I think even my parents were scared when I bought something from the US. They were sceptical and made comments like: “Why did you give your credit card to people so arbitrarily?” But I saw a gap there, and all it took was for us [Love, Bonito] to gain the trust of our customers and be a consistent brand. That was how people started to shop online. It was quite a big shift from the offline to online scene. Over the past few years, the boundaries between online and offline shopping have blurred further, as bigger brands have established their own e-commerce websites to provide value-add to their customers.
WY-LENE: Do you find it challenging to move away from being closely associated to Love, Bonito now that you’re redefining yourself?
VELDA: The association of being a blogshop owner has always been there and it is part of who I am. I didn’t set out to redefine myself. It is a progressive step in my career and I’m excited to be able to build something new. Nowadays, people are very discerning, and I think they can tell the difference between Love, Bonito and Collate. I feel very strongly about my new brand and I hope to make an impact in the fashion industry. I want Singaporeans to appreciate and support local designers. Unfortunately, we are still not so keen right?
WY-LENE: Yeah, it’s always about big brands or fast fashion. The awareness is not there, and the general perception tends to be that anything local is inferior.
VELDA: I think it will take a lot to change Singaporeans’ perspective. But with all the SG50 initiatives to imbue a sense of local pride, I recognise a shift and would like to be part of it – that is also why I started Collate.
<For full conversation click here>