Han Chong Of Fashion Label Self-Portrait On The 7 Things That Matter To Him

By Jessica Liew

Self-Portrait is one of those contemporary designers loved by celebrities and digital influencers, to even Kate Middleton. It's also an accessible label loved by regular fashionistas, that doesn't cost an arm and leg. Penang-born Han Chong established Self-Portrait in London in 2013, weaving an empowering ethos into his characteristically edgy, lace designs. In 2016, the Generation T lister’s talent won him the Emerging Talent Award at the 2016 British Fashion Council, a proud accomplishment for an individual striving to make luxury wear accessible.  What singled Han out was a determination to design an inspiring label. Propelled by the creative influence of women who raised him, his meaningful efforts shone through in his designs. “Strong women inspire me. My design progress usually begins by taking a little bit of each of these women to build a character for our Self-Portrait girl,” Han explained. “I was determined to make pieces that women could wear and feel they could achieve anything.” We talked origins and purpose with Han, centred around everything from childhood and happiness, to even superpowers.

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1. The trigger that launched his foray into fashion.

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Above  Photo: Han, on a rare visit to his hometown. Courtesy of @mrselfportrait

"Growing up in Penang, my aunt was a local artist. She opened my eye to new ways of viewing art and design, teaching me to never stop looking at the world around me. It’s part of the reason why I’m obsessed with details. I naturally gravitated towards fashion from a young age and began working in various positions in the industry to gain experience. I always knew I wanted to have my own brand so those experiences allowed me to gain invaluable insight into the industry."

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2. Bringing out the best of the people in his team.

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Above  Self-Portrait spring/summer 2018. Photo: Courtesy of @mrselfportrait

"We are a small team so it’s a little like a family and I need to have complete trust in the person. That said, I have a lot of respect for the talents and experiences of the people I work with and believe in the freedom to express yourself. If you have a crazy idea, I don’t want anyone to be afraid to bring it to the table. We want to try new things, keeping away from stereotypes and innovating the new."

3. The thing that stands between him and complete happiness is…

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Above  Leading digital influencer, Aimee Song, is a fan. Photo: Courtesy of @mrselfportrait

"The inability to stop working. I am a little bit of a control freak and workaholic so I find it hard to take some time off. However, I have an amazing team to support me so I am slowly learning to let go of the pressure."

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4. His definition of success.

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Above  Alessandra Ambrosio in Self-Portrait's Wave Trim mini dress. Photo: Courtesy of @mrselfportrait

"I am a perfectionist so I feel there is always something to learn or develop. I think success is a process of evolving and improving yourself to be the best person/designer you can be. I would like to be able to inspire and help the people around me to achieve their goals too."

5. His one, proudest achievement.

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Above  Photo: Courtesy of @mrselfportrait

Building Self-Portrait from the ground up was a learning process. It was crazy in the beginning, you definitely have to be able to put on a lot of different hats and be able to deal with any situation.

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6. On choosing a superhuman power, and how he will use it.

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Above  Han's work takes him around the globe. Photo: Courtesy of @mrselfportrait

"Probably teleportation. I have to travel so much for my job and spend too much time on planes. It would save so much time. I could teleport home to London or somewhere exotic for a mini vacation over the weekend, or even home to Malaysia for a bowl of wonton noodle soup if I’m hungry. That would be amazing!"


7. Building a meaningful legacy.

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Above  Learning from the locals: The making of traditional Thai Hill Tribe textile. Photo: Courtesy of @mrselfportrait

"I am always excited by the idea of bringing something new to the industry, and enjoying the challenge of breaking down walls to create new markets. In today’s world where information is so accessible, originality can be easily lost. I try to switch things up by taking something that’s existing and reinventing it so people view it in a new way."

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