By Emmanuelle Khoo – Nee Hao Fashion Correspondent
Only three words come to mind when describing the collection from Shevie Leong’s online boutique, The Guest List Label: (1) Bold (2) Empowering (3) Confident. In fact, these three words may as well be applied to the young owner and fashion blogger herself.
Graduating with a Bachelor of Laws (LLB) from the University of Aberdeen, Shevie has decided to take a leap into the world of fashion and pursue her dream of setting up an online boutique that defines her own personal style.
From that dream, The Guest List Label (TGL) is born. TGL is an online boutique that mainly caters to the Southeast Asian crowd but this brand has generated much interest outside of the region as well. I had the pleasure of collaborating with this young, passionate and intelligent entrepreneur whilst in Malaysia – the tropical paradise in which she currently resides. The brand celebrates local talents and models (like Melissa Tan from Asia’s Next Top Model Cycle 3) as well.
In celebration of TGL’s two-year anniversary, Shevie talks to Nee Hao about studying in Aberdeen and how living in the UK has piqued her interests in fashion and business. With much enthusiasm, Shevie also tells us more about the importance of social media in promoting her online boutique and the big step she will take for her future collection. With a host of beautifully curated statement dresses and killer pieces up for sale, Shevie hopes her clients may express their inner diva and their personality.
What made you decide to pursue LLB in Scotland?
Back then, I was set on becoming a lawyer and wanted to climb my way up the corporate law ladder in the UK. It took me an extremely long time to convince my parents to allow me to pursue my studies overseas and when they finally did, I was adamant on choosing a city with as few Asians as possible in the hopes of getting the fullest extent of the international/foreign experience, hence all the way up north in Aberdeen, Scotland. I was determined to succeed in Scots Law even though I was fully aware it wasn’t applicable back in Malaysia and I had to take an additional conversion course if I wanted to practise back home after I graduated. A do or die/all or nothing choice, really.
Why switch to fashion? How did this interest in fashion come about?
My interest in fashion didn’t come about until my second year in university. As Law school became more stressful and demanding the further I advanced, I constantly found myself on style.com during my free time when I wasn’t studying, browsing runway shows and couture collections and marvelling at the forms creativity could take when it wasn’t constrained. I loved the boldness, the theatrics, the aesthetics, everything. I then started feeling stifled in Law school and looked for ways in which I could express myself more fully and freely. That was when I started freelance modelling part time as well, working with a creative team of photographers, makeup artists, and occasionally wardrobe stylists to come up with compelling concepts for photo shoots and seeing them through from start to finish. It was much more fulfilling, to say the least.
What makes The Guest List Label unique? Tell us more about the story behind The Guest List Label.
In my third year, shortly after I developed an interest in fashion, entrepreneurship started piquing my curiosity. My holidays were spent attending business and motivational seminars in London, which I ended up loving so much more than Aberdeen. By that time, I no longer desired to be a lawyer nor did I want to continue my corporate path – these events taught me about glass ceilings, boundaries, and limitations and I never looked back since. I wanted to start my own business, but I didn’t know how to at the time. After university, I came back to Malaysia (given the change in plans) and started working for an e-commerce start-up for experience and exposure. After a year, I moved to Valiram, a luxury and retail conglomerate in Southeast Asia, for more relevant experience. Another year after that, I finally decided to take the leap to start The Guest List, a boutique e-commerce business/online store importing labels from the West and making it accessible in the East. While everyone back home was importing clothes from other Asian countries, I loved the clothes from the UK, US, and Australia, and wanted to bring them to Southeast Asia.
Describe your personal style and how we can see this in your boutique?
I love embracing and experimenting with different styles but if there’s something I always gravitate to, it’s boldness. I love finding different and unique pieces you don’t see around every day, pieces that require a certain confidence to pull off, and this is reflected in the clothes I choose for The Guest List as well. I’ve always loved and celebrated strong, independent women who knew their worth and what they wanted, women who weren’t afraid of owning their power and being who they truly are. It takes a lot of courage to do so, and The Guest List is also a celebration of that.
Why start an online boutique?
When I was studying in the UK, e-commerce played such a huge part in my lifestyle. Since I was constantly indoors studying, I didn’t have much time to venture out to the shops, and online stores were where I seeked solace during my breaks and those late nights spent with the books. Online shopping was already popular in the UK then (even more so now), and it naturally assimilated with my life at university. I wanted to continue having that experience when I came back to Malaysia as the concept was still relatively new here, so I saw it as a bit of contribution I could possibly provide, which people would hopefully welcome. The trend of online shopping is picking up here now though, fortunately!
Being an online boutique, digital marketing and social media play a huge role in sales. Do you see this as an advantage or disadvantage?
With everything in life, there are always pros and cons – technology and its advancements are no different. It’s a glass half full or half empty kind of thing. I personally see it as an advantage. I love social media and I think it has opened up a lot of doors and broken down a lot of walls for us – today, you can do things you couldn’t possibly do years and years ago. It’s all about adapting and making the most of the current times. Yes, it can get more competitive given the lower barriers to entry but it’s exciting and a learning experience nonetheless. I personally rely a lot on Instagram to drive sales, it would be so much harder without it!
What is the most valuable and transferable skill you’ve learned from your time in the UK?
There are so many! But if I had to choose, it’ll come down to these two: adaptability and having an open mind. Sometimes (or dare I say most of the time!), things don’t go according to plan. When that happens, you can either stay rigid and stuck, or be willing to adapt to the current situation and find ways to make it the best journey yet. You might even be surprised at how much better things might turn out to be in the end. Be open to new ideas, concepts, and experiences – it’s how we learn and continue growing. The UK opened my eyes to a whole new different world (not bound by geography) simply because I chose to look.
What are your plans for The Guest List in the future?
I would love to grow The Guest List into a thriving, multi-labelled online store, stocking beautiful, unique, and carefully-curated pieces from all around the world. I’m also thinking about doing collaborations with other brands or people – supporting each other in our respective businesses and creative work. Whichever route it may take in the end, I’m excited for the journey and what’s to come!
And for yourself?
I’m looking to design my own clothing line eventually as well, and potentially venture into the beauty industry in the future – maybe a makeup or skincare line. I love creating and curating essentially. My Instagram gallery is probably the prime example of that right now. Aside from that, I’d definitely love to do more environmentally-conscious work, perhaps something to do with the conservation of animals and the natural world.
The Guest List Label:
Facebook Page: https://www.facebook.com/theguestlistlabel/
Instagram (personal): @vieleong
Photographers: Jane Lee (@janethecrazy), Luke Ding (@lukedls) and FYi Photography (@fyi.photography)
Makeup Artists: Mimie ZR (@twmakeovers) and Yee Leng (@yeeleng926)
Models: Melissa Tan (@melissatanlh), Gloria Memar (@golrizmemar) and Adelina Chan (@adelinacyl)