Designing Elly's CNY2016 collection

Designing Elly's CNY2016 collection

Posted by Audrey Ng on

Every year, designing and launching Elly's CNY collection is both the most exciting thing we do and yet also the most stressful. It certainly feels like just yesterday when we were furiously packing CNY2015 orders. Back in 2012 when we first launched our distinctive cheongsams, we started out by buying fabrics from the US. Later as sourcing fabrics became more common, we started designing our own fabrics for CNY 2013 and we have continued to do so ever since.  

Every year, we work hard to come up with new ideas, new themes or new details to make each collection different. Especially for those of you whose children have grown up wearing our CNY clothing, we want to give you a reason to keep coming back with a different look each Chinese New Year. This year, we didn't want as strong a red colour as we have had in the previous Horse Parade 2014 and Home 2015 collections.  
Our fabric designer (a wonderful lady who has had the tough task every year of having to dream up prints from our email instructions) started us on our whole collection with these two red and yellow geometric prints.  Intuitively, both Carol and I immediately wanted it in our collection.  It was a break from the strong red/white and red/orange colour theme in the past two CNY collections. This shade of red is more subtle and yet retains the festive spirit. BUT our last CNY collection with the Japanese fans was also about geometrics.  So we decided we still needed something different to make this a truly special collection. So this year, we asked our designer to design a placement print as well. We both knew we wanted a vintage, classic look, so we asked her to design this gorgeous set of blooms.
But to print this over a strong geometric print would have been problematic because it would make the material too stiff (with the additional colour layers) and the design of the flowers would be drowned in the geometrics.  So how could we make this beautiful?
We decided to take it vintage all the way - by using embroidery. You can see the result yourself! I love the finishing of the embroidery on the dress. Enlarge the picture of Lil' E above to see how the flowers are carefully stitched onto the base print. Custom designed embroidery! Something we have never done before.  That's a two-stage process just to get the fabric!!!
CS Red Geo Flowers LARGE
I'll bet mommies of boys are wondering whether something like embroidered flowers would work for shirts? Well, we thought it would work if we toned down the flowers for the shirts and the little baby cheongsams so the flowers wouldn't be over-powering. And here's the final effect.
AW16_Flower_Placement_1b TSL_4112
(And yes, you may have noticed we added Chinese knots for the boys' shirts!) This look - the sunshine yellow geometric print with the subtle floral embroidery - has become my personal favourite of the whole collection. For siblings, we added a second embroidery option. The blooms were mainly red embroidery against a red geometric fabric.  We wanted a contrasting embroidery and decided on lanterns!  We thought this was more "traditionally Elly" and would be perfect for siblings to mix and match across the whole collection.
elly lanterns
That's 3 designs! We wanted to add 3 more to complete the Elly prints. So the next 3 prints comprise umbrellas and a mosaic print. Why umbrellas? Because we were looking for something oriental that could be turned into a modern print and umbrellas turned out perfect! CS Red Umbrellas 1
If you like the red umbrellas, wait till you see the turquoise! The mosaic is a modern take on what is essentially a vintage look (think of those traditional ceramic tiles on our kitchen walls). tween cheongsam
We wanted this year to be about bringing together the old and the new - mixing the traditional with the modern. When I think of embroidery, I always associate it with traditional frocks and smocking which sometimes can be old-fashioned.  But mixing the embroidery with a geometric print gives this year's cheongsam a modern look.  Mosaics and umbrellas could also be seen as traditional but, with the right design and colours, becomes the modern prints we put together. Modern yet traditional. Everything Elly is all about. Rather than describe it more, I'm proud to present, our 2016 CNY fabric designs: 2016 fabric designs
The collection turned out to be really varied and took longer to produce because of the number of new elements we introduced!  There are a lot of details in our collection that made it stand out - each Chinese knot on the shirts and baby cheongsams had to be individually hand knotted and, together with the jade buttons, painstakingly hand sewn onto the cheongsams. The best part is that although we are adding all these intricate details, we are keeping all our prices exactly the same. This year, we have a new flare baby cheongsam with Chinese red knots to replace our baby girl onesie. I think the turquoise lantern embroidery is a gorgeous contrast with the red. Baby CS Red Geo Lantern 3 We never forget the boys! We also have a new baby boy romper (without embroidery) with Chinese red knots (as promised to some customers who asked us to look into it during this CNY2015)! Boy romper mosaic 1 Boys have a new casual option of a mandarin-collared polo red t-shirt for Day Two! Red Polo 2.jpg We also have new tween sizes for the girls' cheongsams - we have added 8 years, 10 years and 12 years. CS Tween Turq Umbrellas Large Last but not least, we added a mommy's top because we think this collection is subtle enough to create matching sets. Mother daughter pair Mother and son To complete our collection, we've brought back our clutches for mommies and slings for little girls. Red Geo pair.jpg
As with previous years, as part of CNY 2016, we have a capsule collection of cheongsams, shirts and other dresses in fabrics purchased from the US (although these won't be available in the mommy's top and baby collection).  The Red and Gold flower fabric with its shimmery gold detailing on the fabric and the more pastel Rose Squiggle fabric will bring our CNY2016 collection to a total of 8 prints for boys and girls!
2016 other fabrics
OK I admit - from today till Saturday in-store, I'll be having sleepless nights worrying what everyone's thinking of the collection, the prints, the styles, the pictures etc and it'll be torturous.  I guess all that stress is part of the excitement. 2015 was a turning point for us - for finally figuring out how to get the balance between running a business as a family right.  My takeaway from 2015 is that you just have one life, live it and live it well; keep your head down and chase that dream and work your butt off to get to where you want to go; don't spend too much time mulling how things will work out cos they just do. With our new re-designed store, it feels like we're back on that path we wanted to be on when we first began this journey and boy, has it been a roller coaster ride! So this whole collection actually has parts of both of us (whenever we look at a fabric, it's either "very Carol" or "very me". I tell some customers that once you get to know us, when you look at the fabrics in our store, you'd probably be able to tell who chose it!).  Sometimes I worry if having two completely different characters within a creative concept is the right thing to do.  But if you look at the outdoor shoot - you can see the style and colours which I like and when you look at the studio shoot, the pastel and calm and artistic vibrant flowers and brollies is everything Carol. And with that, with our two strong and different characters, somehow, we have made it work.  So whilst I named this collection "Blooms and Brollies" because I wanted to add some fun into this classic collection, it was my sister's creative vision that ties it through.  We hope you love it as much as we do!

blooms and brollies blog post
x, Audrey

Photo credit: These pictures were taken by the talented Maryann of The Studio Loft. In all the morning craziness, she and her team did a fantastic job shooting our collection again. A Big Thank You to The Studio Loft!  xx

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