International Women’s Day Edition: The ’90s—Ms. Dorothy Loh

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This is 1 of the 11 interview features as part of our International Women’s Day Special Edition.

By Elizabeth Paulyn Gostelow (21A01B) 

Turning one’s beloved hobby into a career isn’t a common path for many. But with her lifelong passion in fashion design, Ms. Dorothy Loh has deviated from this convention with style.

Making the switch from her banking career to fashion entrepreneurship, Ms. Loh founded her two fashion labels Dotted Line and Dote. Founded in 2006, Dotted Line is a contemporary cheongsam label which sells cheongsams for modern, everyday wear. Three years after establishing Dotted Line, Ms Loh founded Dote, a maternity line.

  1. What guided your decision to start your fashion label Dotted Line and to design full time?

I’ve always liked creating things—I did a lot of craft growing up, [including] knitting and learning how to sew. I later developed a love [for] fashion and style so this was just a natural direction I leaned towards.  I was working full time in finance at [that] point, but had been studying dressmaking on the side as a hobby. As it was fairly early in my career, I decided that I should take a chance and do a mid-career switch.  If it didn’t work out, the opportunity cost wouldn’t be too high and I could find a job again relatively easily.

2. How did your family and friends react to your decision?

Some could not understand why I chose to trade stability for something so unpredictable, some were very excited for me as it was a huge change and seen as a more “glamorous” job. My husband was very supportive—that was really all that mattered and I’ll always be grateful that he gave me room to pursue my dream.

3. Both your fashion labels Dotted Line and Dote are notably designed for women. What inspired you to design clothes specifically catering to women? 

It was just natural—being one myself, I understood the needs of the market, and therefore was able to incorporate that into my designs. I look for what I feel are gaps in the market and design to fill those gaps.

4. What is your design process like?

It usually starts from the fabric—I source for fabrics, decide on a few colours/patterns that I would like to work with and build the collection around them. I sketch, pulling together fabrics and accessories. A prototype sample is [then] sewn, [after] which [it] will go through several rounds of refinement. This is followed by a photoshoot and preparation of all [the] marketing materials. The designs go into production and we work on the launch of the collection for [the] market.

5. Were there any challenges during the process? How did you overcome them? 

Quality control is always something that we have to [be] on top of, making sure expectations are communicated clearly with our vendors to ensure that we deliver a consistent and quality product to our customers. Social media is another challenge—it’s become a full time job in itself—making your presence known and to be heard in a crowded marketplace. It takes time and effort to create quality content that allows us to engage with our target customers. 

6. What are some valuable lessons you have learnt from managing Dotted Line and Dote?

Execution is everything. You may have a fantastic idea but whether it is a success depends on the execution—the devil is in the details. And it always is much harder and will take a lot longer than you expect. 

7. What can we expect from Dotted Line and Dote in the future? 

I would like to focus more on custom designs and push my creative boundaries to explore new interpretations of the traditional cheongsam. There is an immense sense of satisfaction in creating designs around heritage wear that modern women gravitate towards.

8. What advice do you have for aspiring fashion designers in Singapore? 

Do sufficient research to position yourself well, and solid business practices are just as important as delivering great designs. Where possible, work for someone else before starting your own line so you know exactly what to expect going into your own business.

Ms. Loh is certainly an inspiration to all of us with her adventurous attitude in pursuing her interests. We are all excited to see where she goes with her future endeavours, and wish her all the best!

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