As Chinese New Year is approaching, I had the opportunity to style and shoot some amazing Cheong Sums. Whether you are shopping for new outfits for the new year, or wish to add a piece of traditional garment to your collection, I hope you'd consider the pieces I'm about to show you.
I think Cheong Sums are so beautiful and I believe there is no garment out there more precisely constructed for a Chinese woman. When I was younger, my mother – born and raised in Shanghai, China – described the Cheong Sum as the quintessential clothing item for women in her family, particularly in the 1930s. For a lady then like my great grandmother, the Cheong Sum was typically paired with dainty jewellery, roller-curled hairdo and silk stockings. Cigarrettes were common. Without saying, poise and elegance were key qualities to embody, especially in a garment so snug and fragile.
Unfortunately, in a modern and cosmopolitan city like Singapore, Cheong Sums seem to have a hard time staying relevant for its time. Fashion come and go. Maybe it's inevitable for so-called progression. But it upsets me when beautiful things lose their place in the society. For many people, including myself in the past, have the misconception of it being an old-fashioned look reserved for mature women. However, as I study its history and observe the works of some Asian fashion designers, Singaporean designer Ong Shunmugam for example, I began to see the Cheong Sum in a different light. We have to cherish what makes us. It is knowledge and identity.
My personal favourite piece – a silk midi-length Cheong Sum with floral print
Thankfully, some make their lifelong mission to keep the tradition alive. The clothing items I'm featuring in this lookbook are sold by Lucia Chiang, a kind and bubbly elderly lady. However, due to rising rental fees, Lucia was 'forced' to move out of her boutique La Vie (originally at Orchard Towers) last August. Since then, Lucia has been struggling to continue business in her little 130-year old heritage shophouse at Spottiswoode Park Road. During our conversation, I learnt that she's had more than 30 years of experience selling and tailoring Cheong Sums.
Through my friend Kai Xin, I came to know Lucia, and together with Yun Jing, we created a little fashion look book hoping to show you some of the gems you will discover at La Vie. I had so much fun wearing the pieces, from the ones made of delicate silk to those with intricate embroidery, I can tell you they are all exceptional in design and workmanship. They’re very reasonably priced with comes with complimentary alteration service!
Instead of the mass-produced styles this CNY, why not pick out your tailored Cheong Sum with an experienced lady who knows ‘good fit’ better than fast fashion brands would?
Interior of La Vie Spottiswoode Park shophouse
Lucia and store assistant Janet
La Vie Spottiswoode Park
Address: 5 Spottiswoode Park Road, Singapore 088632
Business number: +65 84116729
You may go down to Lucia's place to have a look, try out some of the outfits, or simply have a chat! Walk-ins are not allowed due to government regulations so it's best to make an appointment via a call or a text if you are heading over.
We are also working on increasing Lucia's online presence so it would mean a lot if you would like her page! You will also find information on product offerings and contact information.
P.S. Thank you for the positive response and kind messages on Facebook and Instagram! Some of you told me that you'd love to meet Lucia. If you do go down, remember to share with me your experience and what you got! I'm sure Lucia would be overjoyed for all the support. Please continue to spread the word!
Photos by Yun Jing
Photos by Yun Jing