Founder of Reckless Ericka, Afton Chen, on her fashion label and how to have a joyful heart

Fashion label Reckless Ericka is definitely no stranger in Asia’s fashion scene. Established in 2009, the label has showcased at numerous renowned platforms including Singapore Fashion Festival, Kuala Lumpur Fashion Week and Singapore International Festival of Arts just to name a few. SAINE spoke to the label’s founder and designer Afton Chen about her latest collection that is inspired by Singapore food and the wise words from her mother on happiness.

Tell us a little bit about Reckless Ericka and why did you start the brand? What drew you into the fashion world?

I started the label 1 year after I graduated with Bachelor of Design (majoring in Fashion Design) awarded by Raffles College of Design and Commerce in Sydney and delivered by Raffles Design. I was interning and working for some local fashion labels in the year after I graduated and decided to just take the plunge, be reckless and start my own label.

I was born in Singapore, spent a few years of my childhood in Kaohsiung Taiwan. We almost migrated there but my dad missed Singapore too much and we moved back, and I have been based in Singapore ever since! Living in Kaohsiung did shape my interest and my love for art, theatre and fashion. When I was in grade school, we had to present skits every Friday and we will take turns to be director, casting, actors, costume designers. I love dressing my classmates and my love for fashion began from there!

What do you love most about what you do?

I am a dreamer, doodler and I love creating. I am very grateful I get to do all 3 everyday.

You were a finalist of the Young Designer Contest in 2007. How do you think fashion in Asia has evolved in the past 13 years since you participated in the contest? How do you think it will further evolve in the next 5 years?

So much has changed since then. When I first started out in 2009, the only fast fashion labels in Singapore were Mango and Zara. The Singapore fashion designer scene then was thriving and there was a lot of support from local customers. As the years go by, more fast fashion labels and Singapore wholesale/drop-shipping labels enter the market and it has become really price-competitive. Consumers are open to more choices and brand loyalty has fallen.

However, I feel that fashion will reach a point of reset. The fast fashion business will no longer be sustainable, and consumers are beginning to be more conscious of how their clothing is being made. I feel that the appreciation to the craft will grow and what we have to do for our label is to stay true to our roots. Our collections are designed in-house, with emphasis on craftsmanship, and are produced in ethically sourced factories using quality materials. This concept is a constant narrative for our brand in creating a more sustainable and mindful business that offers an alternative voice to fast fashion.

Reckless Ericka stands out due to its adventurous and fresh designs. Your latest collection features inspiration from Singapore food like Chilli Crab and different types of durians. What made you decide on this theme?

I decided to dedicate our first designed textile print series to the theme of food because eating is undoubtedly Singaporeans’ obsession, and most Singaporeans, like me, are very passionate about protecting and preserving our food culture. It is our collective memory and evokes strong emotions tied to culture and identity.

I have chosen the chilli crab because it is one of Singapore’s national dishes and possibly Singapore’s greatest culinary creation.

Then I felt that the next collection had to be durians, simply because I love it and it is probably the most divisive fruit in the world, which will be great talking points when people discover the thorny fruit on my prints.

Stay tune for our next print series: fish head curry!

We are definitely looking forward to having fish head curry prints our dresses! How would you position Reckless Ericka? Is it a label that transcends culture or do you wish to use it to promote/awaken Asian culture and heritage?

We are a very young nation, consisting of a mish-mash of cultures and there are no traditions that we need to strictly abide. I think this is what makes us unique and I would like to present it in my collections.

What is your favourite Reckless Ericka piece to date?.

The silhouette I love best would be our Fit and Flare Maxi because it is retro-feminine and universally flattering.

Who is your inspiration?

Movies are usually my source of inspiration. Now it’s Tilda Swinton in “Only Lovers Left Alive” and “Orlando”.

Have you ever thought of working on something else, besides your fashion label?

Costume designer for movies.

Is there an age-old Asian beauty tip that you got from your mother or an older woman?

My mom always reminds me to have “喜乐的心” which means to have a happy and joyful heart. Beauty radiates from the inside out!

Lastly, what are your future plans for Reckless Ericka?

This season we will take things one step at a time. As we are a small company, we are nimble and can make changes on the go.

Visit Reckless Ericka here

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