The funky brainchild behind successful fashion stalwarts The Society of Black Sheep and Carhartt WIP talks to Crystal Lee about dancing her way through life.

As a kid, I was dreamy, nerdy and spent most of my time with books. I love reading fantasy and sci-fi genres and I’m not ashamed to admit that I still read young adult books, even though I’m possibly 30 for 40 years older than their target audience.

I can talk about Percy Jackson with my 12 year-old nephew and I know Harry Potter backwards to front.

Fashion for me is every day; it shouldn’t be high-end or low-end. It’s a silent expression of your personality, without having to say a single word.

I’m not a devoted slave to any label, I would appreciate a piece or a collection that a designer does at any one time.

When I was a legal journalist, I spent many hours listening to court cases, from molest and divorce cases to trademark issues. Property disputes are the ones that seem to capture the most attention. We’re in a country with a remarkable penchant for figures and it’s fascinating how people can remember to the last dollar what the valuation was.

Ballet is something that I’ve been doing since I was little, but I still have the worst balance in the world and fall during my classes. It’s terrific exercise for anyone interested in fashion, though. It gives you tremendously good posture.

Part of what makes you look fabulous is the way you carry yourself and how you move.

All the spare time I have—even during holidays—is dedicated to dancing. Nowadays it’s lindy hop, which I’ve been occupied with in the past 10 years. I even took part in a dance competition in Korea with a bunch of my friends—all in their ‘30s and ‘40s. We abandoned our kids for weekends on end to rehearse, and came in third.

I have the worst memory in the world, and to be a good dancer you need to remember all that choreography. I think the reason why I love lindy-hop so much is because it’s impromptu.

Singaporeans are a very practical lot. They dress appropriately for the weather, yes, but I can’t say we’re a style capital. There’s a cultural mindset that Singaporeans have in terms of valuing comfort and convenience over style, and we have a higher threshold for dressing more casually. But there’s a greater nod from the younger folk to wear things that are unusual.

The education system here kills your brain by stuffing so much into your head, making you feel like running a frantic race to learn facts. This whole grading system, where you’re rewarded based on how well you do, stops people from taking chances if it isn’t worthwhile. But it should be worthwhile if you’ve tried, or you’ll never know.

People should dare to make mistakes more, and not be afraid to say what they mean even if they’re wrong. It irritates me when they give some kind of a tentative answer, fishing around to see what you’re going to think.  

There was hardly a week that went by, during my time as a journalist, without someone questioning why I gave up being a lawyer and that was how I was introduced by colleagues in the newspaper. It bugged me that people in Singapore care about that, like it made me more respectable and elevated my status.

I’ve always had a soft spot for nerds; they belong to a certain breed. Big Bang Theory guys, baby!