Meet CLEO Hot Shot 2019: Nicole Wong

Nicole Wong, 34, Co-founder & Head of Product of Sometime by Asian Designers

Sports bra, Pink Soda; and sneakers, Reebok, all from JD; watch, Fossil; leather jacket and denim; Nicole’s own

Having a keen eye for bag designs, Nicole Wong co-founded her own bag company, the much-loved Sometime by Asian Designers brand. When designing her bags, she keeps in mind that every bag needs to be practical and look fabulous. The ultimate goal? Making signature designs so that you know a Sometime bag the moment you see one. The brand’s name holds up as they have worked with huge names in the local fashion industry. Her fave way to stay inspired is travelling to get a different perspective from the everyday.

Please describe what it is you are; and/or what you do.

I am the co-founder and currently the Head of Product of Sometime. I oversee the design and product development of the brand, as well as brainstorm and work with collaborating designers and my team. I also lead the prototype department and product production team.

What has this journey been like for you? How did you make the transition from your previous career to launching your own bag company?

It has been an exciting journey for sure with plenty of challenges. It’s a creative plus realistic industry where there’s no barrier and the sky is the limit. Design can be anything and can come from anywhere. My job is to put things together and make them into reality. The transition wasn’t a huge paradigm shift actually. I was the design and product advisor to designers of luxury brands. My previous job required me to meet with designers in different parts of the world to help them in their design and production. So I’m basically doing the same thing now. The only difference is that the product now bears our own brand name.

How do you stay inspired?

Travel and going places. Travelling expands my horizon. I see design and get inspiration in architecture, buildings and culture. Design inspiration can come from anywhere and everywhere. Apart from that, we collaborate with fashion designers. Working with them gives different perspective and inspiration. They have creativity of their own. Combining the effort and ideas can spark new creations.

Can you tell us a bit about your collaborations and how you came about to work with some big names in the industry?

We have collaborated with the biggest names in local fashion landscape – The number one designer Rizalman, the number one fashion icon Neelofa and the super sophisticated designer Alia Bastaman. We’ve also worked with Jason Wu who designed for Jessica Alba, Meghan Markle, Michelle Obama and many more. These are huge names in the fashion industry with solid reputations and they don’t just work with anyone. I credit this to our brand’s reputation in terms of craftsmanship, creativity and resources that gives the confidence to our collaborating partner and show that we can uphold their brand and reputation.

“Travelling expands my horizon. I see design and get inspiration in architecture, buildings and culture. Design inspiration can come from anywhere and everywhere.”

How would you describe your leadership style?

To be a good leader, we must learn to listen and follow first. Do that long enough and you will be able to learn the ins-and-outs before trying to be creative in creating your own direction. Being a leader also means upholding a lot of responsibilities. The future of your team is in your hands. So before one can make a good decision, he or she must be able to help execute decisions.

What are the most important lessons you’ve learned in building your own brand? 

The most important lesson I’ve learnt is to always stand up for what you believe in. We shouldn’t be swayed from what we believed in and distracted by external forces or factors. Many times, there are many things that happen around us that can distract and confuse us. Be focused and always remember why you started in the first place and what it stands for.

Tell us the things about your brand that you hope sets you apart from other people doing the same thing.

What sets us apart is the uniqueness of our creations that we co-design with our select designers and icons. We ourselves are selective with who we collaborate with. We don’t just work with a celebrity or designer because he or she is famous. He or she must have a certain uniqueness and individuality that we believe can contribute to the creativity of the collection. And the result speaks. Yes, there are only 20 over types of bag structures in the market. But when you happen to pass by a Sometime bag, you know it’s a Sometime bag without needing to notice the logo at all. Apart from that, our workmanship is top notch. Our team is made of veterans that formerly produce for luxury brands in the market.

What advice do you have for women entrepreneurs or women who may be in the position that you were in and wanting to start a business?

There will be a lot of challenges that will come your way but if you choose this route, be prepared for what may come. Take every challenge as a learning curve. Most importantly, before you start, learn and follow as much as possible first. I worked for more than 7 years before I started on my own. The working experience gives me more stability emotionally and knowledge-wise. Failure will be least expected.

Special thanks to Tropicana Gardens Property Gallery for venue assistance during the shoot.

Official sponsors: Biotherm MalaysiaJD Malaysia and Fossil Malaysia