We caught Lay Hiang not too long before she went on an a long holiday, and she already seems to be holiday-ready in this ensemble. She says that picking outfits for work isn’t as easy for her as it is for most as she has to shuttle between her parents’ place and in-law’s house, where her clothes are. “Weekends are wardrobe-picking days. Sometimes I get mad with myself for the missing pieces that I cannot find.” She copes by going back to tried-and-tested combinations. “I believe everyone has this checklist of favourite outfit combinations, like “This top must go with these particular pants” for some reason. 60% of my outfit choices are made from this checklist. They are like muscle memories, helping me get through my lazy fashion days,” she says. “As for the 40% of creativity, that’s probably 15 minutes of umpteenth changing in front of my mirror just to get everything right.” We find out more when we speak to her.
1. Do you have any problems with the dress code at work? How do you personalize your outfit?
There are basically no attire rules at GOODSTUPH. We dress like who we are, what we like. Friday is dress-down day. And yes, you can wear shorts to a client meeting on a Friday if you dare to. Sometimes I get mad with myself for the missing pieces that I cannot find. My wardrobes are arranged by colour and length. I pick my outfit according to colours, and match bottoms and accessories. It’s usually simple jewelry like ear studs or a leather wraparound bangle. Flats are a must for me.
2. Do you have any fashion pet-peeves when it comes to work wear? Or do you have any advice for dressing up for work?
Despite working in a creative industry, fashion to me should be simple and timeless. I stick by these rules: cut over prints; solid colours to define a style or theme; the use of materials and sewing techniques to create textures; comfort over everything else; and thank god for wrinkle-free materials. What I end up having in my wardrobe is mostly: asymmetric cut pieces (my mum can’t figure out whether are they tops or bottoms); lots of black and white (also, grey is now my new black and new white); colours only in the unique and seasonal pieces; basics — the must haves; looser-fitting bottoms (I don’t like skin tight pants); and wrinkle-free apparel. I guess what is important to me is that observing fashion trends is one thing, but wearing what suits you is another.
3. How did you come to start working in your current industry? Was this something you’ve always wanted to do?
I’m not a natural artist. I’ve never liked art, but I have good crafts and I like to create stuff. I remember vividly one of my secondary school seniors who was studying Multimedia back then. I was introduced to the possibility of using media to create content, and that’s how I started. I did a bit of programming, video production, audio production, animation and graphic design, but didn’t major in school at all. A lecturer who had industrial knowledge of printing opened up my eyes and set my path. I know what I don’t want in my career is a 9 to 5 office job, doing sales talks and crunching numbers. Ironically enough, my job requires me to be desk-bound. I don’t come into the office as early as 9am, and I am definitely not leaving my job on the dot at 5pm. But I am lucky enough to skip the numbers bit.
4. If you weren’t working in your current profession, what would you be doing? Or, if you could do anything you wanted to do, what would it be?
Physics is my strength. It just comes to me naturally, like logics, so I could possibility be a scientist? Working in NASA seems to be a faraway dream. If I do have the chance, I would like to work as a cleaning aunty in NASA when I retire.
5. What would your dream workplace be like, in terms of the actual physical space and working environment?
I believe most people’s perceptions of a creative’s working environment would be something highly decorative, loud, and fun. But I feel that the brain needs to take a break somewhere, so my ideal working space would be functional, minimal, and clean. I believe I’m under the influence of my geeky husband, so I probably wouldn’t mind some techie stuff in my office. For example, a voice-activated A.I. with a glass panel projection, showing my calendar, to-do list, and important things happening.
6. What is one thing you think you should be doing more of, or that you wish you had more time to do?
I have this electric organ that was passed down from my grandfather. I can play some notes but have never attended any formal lessons. This organ is likely to move into my new house, so I guess I should spend some time learning how to play that.
7. Could you tell us about a personal project that you’re working on right now, or that you would love to undertake?
I’m not working on anything at the moment, but I’m looking forward to moving into my new flat, probably in the first quarter of next year. I will be taking up the interior design of the entire place on my end, customizing furniture and fixtures. I have been collecting mood boards on Manhattan’s loft theme — I guess this keeps me busy for a while.
8. As Singaporeans we often struggle with our national identity and sense of common culture. Do you think we have a Singaporean identity? What do you think it should be built on, and why?
National identity encompasses many aspects of our daily life. Language, the way we speak in context, set us apart from people from our neighbouring countries. What makes a Singaporean a Singaporean is not merely by displaying the national flag or Merlion merchandise, but by recycling FairPrice plastic bags for overseas trips, for example, and the spirit of trying to conquer good food all around the world. “This queue so long, confirm good” needs no more explanation. I guess there is no one form in which our national identity can be represented. The sense of culture actually comes from living here and breathing the same air.
9. Can you name us something Singaporean that’s close to your heart? It could be your favourite local dish, homegrown musician, particular location, etc.
I missed Teochew porridge while I was in London recently. I can’t decide, but this is definitely food related. I guess I will miss the accessibility to the many varieties of food. We can conveniently order chicken rice, carrot cake, and much more in just one place. It need not be Michelin-starred, but food is something that can make you feel like home.