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In The Press
We have been very fortunate to have received encouraging support from the print media. This has been vital in creating much needed awareness among potential clientele. And our sincere thanks go out to them. Check out what they say ...


As Appeared In The Sunday Star, 18 April 2004
AFTER diamonds, clothes are a girl’s best friend – we all want to be the belle of the ball; we want the perfect prom dress and a magical bridal gown that will make our wedding guests weep for joy.

Owners of That Special Occasion boutique in Desa Sri Hartamas, Kuala Lumpur, Kris Wong and Anna Lee Rajakumar, make every little girl’s dream come true with their collection of custom-made gowns for “any occasion you deem special – a prom night, an anniversary, a wedding ...”

When they first started the service, every gown was individually drafted, cut, sewn and beaded by hand. They now have seamstresses and cutters to help with the workload but are still very much involved in designing, drafting (drawing out the pattern on which the fabric is to be cut) and putting in the finishing touches.

For both Kris and Anna, doing the hands-on, behind-the-scenes technical work is just as important as the creative side of designing.  

“I’m quite creative and I really like doing everything from beginning to end. I even hand-make corsages to go with the gowns. Being involved at every stage also means that you do not have to depend on anyone,” says Anna.

She adds that designing is not just about putting fancy ideas on paper. A thorough understanding of the technical work behind the finished product is essential for the construction of the actual garments: “When you put a design on paper, you have to think what it’s going to be like when finished – how it will fit, where the zips will go, how it will flow, how the person will get into it.”

Kris says: “If you know the basics of drafting and cutting, it will help you determine how much fabric you need and to cut down costs. You can tell seamstresses how you want it sewn and finished so as to minimise work should you need to make alterations later. No matter how big the business gets, we will still do the drafting as that is what the whole construction of the garment is based on.”

Both Kris and Anna also tend to the business side of things – they deal with everything from publicity to writing out cheques and negotiating with dealers. They do their own website, take photos, write press releases and, when they first started out, even went around putting flyers into mailboxes.

At the end of the day then, That Special Occasion is special not only for the occasions it caters for, but also for the highly specialised, and personalised finish that both Kris and Anna invest in each and every one of their creations.

What kind of training did you have before setting up your boutique?
Kris was working in advertising for seven years, and Anna was in the secretarial line before they both decided to take study part-time for a Diploma in Fashion Design. It took them two years to complete the diploma.

Kris: We were taught fashion design, how to draw sketches and put detailing on paper. We were also taught how to draft, cut and construct a garment entirely on our own from scratch.

Anna: It means we can both sew zips properly!

Kris: It is also important to work with someone who has a business background. I had the advantage of being in the corporate world before this, so I was trained in things like business administration, how to set up a business, inventory control etc.

Where do you get your inspiration from?

Anna: From watching MTV and Channel V, and looking at people’s party-wear when I go to pubs. Obviously, people don’t wear gowns for pubbing but I incorporate party-wear motifs into my gowns.

Kris: I keep track of the trends – colours, cuts, silhouettes – from surfing the Internet, and by reading a lot of foreign and local magazines. Normally, we do our best work when our clients leave the designs up to us, though we can’t be too crazy with the designs.

How do you compromise creativity with the technical side of fashion?

Kris: It is usually not so much about creativity versus technicality, but rather creativity versus commercial viability and whether it is suitable for your target market.

We do get to exercise a lot of creativity. Every gown is a one-off piece and we cater for different events and people – annual dinners, proms, brides, wedding guests, ballroom dancers. Once we had the challenge of making a tattered bridal gown where we had to rip the bottom to shreds. We’ve also designed gowns for a wedding based on the English tea party theme, and a prom night themed A Midsummer Night’s Dream.

Anna: A lot of people don’t realise that what you see on the catwalk is not actually wearable. Catwalks are really the chance to express creativity; the garments usually have to be adjusted to be suitable for everyday wear.

Is it very glamorous being in the fashion industry and getting to mingle with other designers?

Kris: It’s a lot of hard work, sacrifice and commitment. Actually, we hope that other designers don’t think we’re snooty because we don’t mingle with them, and we don’t attend society events. We don’t feel the need to be with the in-crowd – you won’t see us in The Tatler.

How far could you go just pursuing the technical side of fashion – drafting, cutting, sewing etc

Kris: You could make a very good career out of being a good cutter, drafstman or seamstress; you have to have good workmanship and technical skills. You could be so good, you could be indispensable!

What’s your advice for aspiring fashion students?

Kris: You have to identify which market you want to cater for and where you want to place yourself. We decided to enter a segment of the market which is between the top designers and the department stores. It is tough to compete – for example, with top designers such as Bernard Chandran and Rizalman Ibrahim, so we don’t try to compete with them. It is also very important to know about both the business and fashion aspects. If you are planning to start up on your own, you have to know about the business side. And possibly expect a drastic pay cut!

Anna: Service is also very important. All of us can come up with and do the same stuff, but human relations are still what will make you stand out. You must be very focused and personalised. For us, we sit down with all our clients to discuss what they want and to brief them on designs. We want to give 110% of our attention to our clients.