When Ong Shunmugam founder and fashion designer Priscilla Shunmugam first decided to create “a dedicated line of ready-to-wear cheongsam” 10 years ago, she was attracted by the duality of the traditional Chinese garment. She says, “To some it represents sophistication; yet to others, backwardness. Fashion as an instrument of identity negotiation and symbolic profiling — I’ve always been drawn to this.”
So have many other of the brand’s ardent fans (who include personalities such as Janice Koh and Paige Parker), clearly. This year, the Singapore fashion label marks a decade in the business, during which it has gone from strength to strength. To celebrate this milestone, Shunmugam looked back on her archives in creating her brand’s latest collection, Cheongsam 2010-2020.
The range commemorates 10 key cheongsam silhouettes created by the brand over the past 10 years. “Designed, prototyped and produced by Shunmugam and her team across London, Singapore, Malaysia, lockdown and quarantine”, the collection’s pieces are made in Singapore.
When asked for an example of how the team reimagined one of the brand’s classic silhouettes, the designer refers to the very first cheongsam launched by the brand in January 2011: “The Meena was distinct for incorporating sleeves that originate from the kimono, a shorter mandarin collar and an impeccable fit. Over the years, we have refreshed it in countless ways. For this collection, we’ve reimagined the Meena by challenging it — taking away its signature sleeves and mandarin collar. Ironically, it’s a reminder of what has made it so special over the years. Sometimes, you need to lose something before you really appreciate it.”
If this collection seems more thoughtful than ever, it’s because the designer has been contemplating “the relevance of being a fashion brand in these troubled times”. Says Shunmugam, “With Ong Shunmugam turning 10 years old this month, we feel the need to recognise and celebrate this milestone by evoking a sense of accomplishment and contentment, but at the same time, we want to do that with respect to the new realities we live in.
“Fashion, now more than ever, should be about acquiring pieces that you value, respect and cherish. Things that carry meaning and will make memories with you.”
Each of the pieces in the Cheongsam 2010-2020 collection are available for pre-order on a made-to-order basis. Pre-orders can be placed physically at Atelier Ong Shunmugam or online, and must be placed before Dec 18 for delivery before Chinese New Year 2021. Send enquiries to or make an appointment at firstname.lastname@example.org. Prices range from S$488 to $888.