Clare and Mag Chan are setting out to be major players in the fashion industry.
In only seven years, the sisters catapulted their blog shop, Her Velvet Vase, into Singapore’s number three fast fashion brand, rallied a customer base of more than 150,000, sell an average of 3,000 garments a week, and host upwards of 6,000 shoppers at their yearend sale. Oh, and did we mention that they started the company when they were 19 and 14, respectively?
While you probably haven’t heard of Her Velvet Vase Stateside, all that is about to change. This month, the sisters launched e-commerce in the U.S., so now you can get you hands on the duo’s tailored work pieces, adorable denim jumpers, and on-trend accessories—all at super affordable prices.
Clare came up with the idea to start the brand when she got back from studying at Monash University in Melbourne, Australia and found that, comparatively, all the girls back home in Singapore looked similar; wearing the same pieces from major fast-fashion retailers. With $5,000 from her mother, she tapped little sister Mag to helm the design side and the rest is history. Today, Mag is a junior at Parsons in New York, while Clare manages the marketing and business side from Singapore. We spoke with the sisters, now 26 and 21, respectively, about how they launched the brand, their style ethos, and what they hope to bring to American fashion.
AMSFTV: You had no background or contacts in the fashion business. You were 19 and 14 [respectively]! How did you start Her Velvet Vase?
Clare Chan: “I was in Australia studying psychology and at the time the shopping scene back then was conservative [in Singapore]. Every time Zara would have a new design, you’d see everyone in the streets wearing it. So, in comparison to Melbourne, there weren’t more alternatives and more options. I thought it would be exciting if we could bring that influence back to Singapore. So we started with a few pieces. We were really lucky at that time, because in Singapore there were only another five to 10 competitors.”
AMSFTV: What’s your point of view on style?
Mag Chan: “We wanted it to be something simple at first. After a while as it evolved, it became more about the passion. Seeing people wear our clothes, seeing their passion, it gave us confidence [to get trendier].”
AMSFTV: Did you always know you would work in fashion?
C.C.: “She started drawing at three! She would scribble on the walls, the floors, she would scribble on me! I’d wake up with flowers all over my legs. My parents were horrified, scrubbing the scribbles off the walls.”
M.C.: “I used to vandalize our family pictures.”
C.C.: “She did! She destroyed photo albums.”
M.C.: “I think I always knew I was going to do something in the creative industry. I love ideas and I love executing them. I love that fashion can be used to express yourself.”
AMSFTV: Mag, what’s it like being a fashion design student at Parsons, while you’re already designing for a sizable brand? What do your peers and professors think of your business?
M.C.: “[Her Velvet Vase] is something we launched on our own, but now being able to go to school for [design[ is amazing. The professors and the speakers that have come, like Victoria Beckham and Diane Von Furstenberg…it’s not something you can really get anywhere else.”
AMSFTV: Who do you look up to in fashion?
M.C.: “Mickey Drexler of J.Crew.”
C.C.: “It’s not really fashion, but Jack Ma, creator of the Chinese version of eBay, Alibaba. He doesn’t [believe in] failure. He believes you learn from thing and you figure out new ways of doing [business] by making mistakes.”
AMSFTV: What’s it like working with your sister?
C.C.: “My mom used to have this rule and we still follow it. We don’t go to sleep angry. If we have a fight, we toss a coin before going to sleep and the loser apologizes.”