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Designing our Chinese New Year collection

Posted on January 11 2013

When I first decided to start Elly in 2009, I sourced fabrics from US, UK and Japan from designers and manufacturers who weren't so well-known in Asia yet. I guess I started buying fabrics way before I started Elly. Before I knew it, I had accumulated a huge stash of fabrics in my cupboard for no real reason other than that they so gorgeous to feel and touch and had the most vibrant colours. I would buy fabrics from literally everywhere I went - John Lewis London, Liberty London, Berwick Street, Lavendar Hill, Goldhawk Road...and we even ventured to Birmingham for the Quilt Festival (where we singlehandedly reduced the average age!). These fabrics became the beginnings of Elly's distinctive print designs. Well, I knew good stuff couldn't be kept under wraps for long and since we started Elly, more and more businesses now use similar fabrics to make various children-related goods. In June 2012, we decided it was time for Elly to embark on a new phase. Our store had been opened for over 4 months and we wanted to keep our ideas constantly fresh and to be innovative as a brand! So we decided to create a special Chinese New Year collection with fabrics designed exclusively by Elly, for Elly. First step - Finding a fabric designer, and then, deciding on a theme. This was harder than we thought. When you think of Chinese New Year, so many things come to mind - lanterns, flowers, Year of the Snake etc. Because Elly designs matching dresses and shirts, we wanted the print designs to appeal to both boys and girls. Carol and I bounced ideas around for a long time - girls wouldn't like snakes; snakes and ladders were too childish; we had lanterns in last year's collection; flowers were too girlie. You can imagine how these discussions went! Finally, after much debate, we decided on:

solid fish

Why fishes? Fishes are associated with "abundance" or the wish for "more" (yu 余) i.e. more good luck, more fortune, longer life and more children! What better way to start the New Year than with abundance of everything! Then, we worked with the fabric designer to come up with a brief to create something we thought was "Absolutely Elly".

What does that mean? We discovered over the past year that customers loved our bright and colourful, prints and at the same time, they also loved our classic prints. When we tried to do a fully pastel collection last year, some were disappointed at the toned-down colours. So, we came up with two distinctively Elly looks - the fishes and the birds. The fishes represent the colours and vibrance of Elly whilst the birds represent the more traditionally elegant and classic side to Elly.

CNY fabrics

We were lucky to have worked with an extremely talented designer who understood us very quickly. In all, it took less than five drafts to achieve the final design. Of course it was a learning curve for us as well - there were a lot of details in fabric designing and printing we had to learn from scratch in the past six months. It wasn't easy - our first stab at finding a printer resulted in disastrous results and at that time, we just wanted to hang up our socks and give up. But having ploughed on, and seeing the photographs from our first shoot, I'm glad we didn't. Because it's one thing to say we source our fabrics from all over the world. But it's quite another to say, well, this is entirely Elly.

CNY Fish Set

Just as icing on the cake, we brought in six other prints so we have 10 (yes 10!) new cheongsams in two different designs this year (that means 5 in each design!). We brought in gorgeous geometric designs and a signature Elly elephant fabric. I can tell you that we are more proud of this collection than any of our collections last year! That's why we are proud to call this collection "Absolutely Elly". It's everything we believe in and stand for here at Elly, and we hope you love them as much as we do.

"Absolutely Elly" launches at 10 am on Saturday, 19 January 2013 at the Elly Store, #02-29 Cluny Court. See you there! x, Audrey

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