2013.021.007 Oral History with Melinda Eng
Melinda Eng is a Hong Kong native who pursued a thriving career in fashion through her initial love for illustration. Her persistence and her dedication landed her opportunities that many young fashion designers would never expect to have so early in their careers. Her strong work ethic constructs her ability to go above and beyond not only in the fashion industry but in life, as she was constantly encouraged to do greater things as she grew. New York has constantly been a theme that seems to be an inspiration for her work, and continues to be throughout her career.


MELINDA ENG: I was born in Hong Kong and when I came here I went to a high school it was in art and from there I went to Parsons School of Design.

MELINDA ENG: Originally I came to this country I loved sketching. I loved painting. And I was planning to be a painter. Just being you know Chinese and my--from my parents, you know, hard work will get you a long way, wherever you want to get. And, um, aside from that I, I, have a wonderful mentor -- it was my grandfather. He always encouraged me, you know, whenever I do a fashion sketch, or any sketch, he will give me encouragement and then say 'Oh, that's wonderful!', even if it's like a little circle with a face, 'Oh, that's great, you should really pursue you know sketching or painting so that's really comforting to know at a young age to have someone keep encouraging me that, you know, go for it. You could do it.

MELINDA ENG: I been working for a long time for other company and also for China distribution to European countries and I always wanted to design my own collection. Uh, the first attempt I did it when I just got out of school. I designed a small collection and showed it to Henri Bendel and they would have open to all the young designers. Uh, I didn't know the season then so I bought my collection really excited, you know, went up there showed it to buyer. She was really nice and she was saying "Melinda, the seasons over. You need to come back again next season.'

MELINDA ENG: And then after a while, I keep thinking well I want to design my own collection again so that's about ten years later, I started my own company in my own apartment with my own savings : $50,000.

MELINDA ENG: So I started doing, um, simple dress bias cut and from there I evolved playing with different shapes and I recall when I was uh young I can go to my mom's closet and she have a beautiful collection of cheongsam in the closet. I kind of said 'Wow, what if I do something different to it, like keep it in velvet or strapless? I took my mom's dress, uh, cheongsam, I start draping it, studied style line and then translate into a strapless velvet dress. It actually has a little train in the back so it looks really, um, modern and glamorous.

MELINDA ENG: I think all of us, I mean, --for most, I mean I know I'm Chinese but for all of us designers, we, we consider ourselves a designer first because we all have different way of pursuing our passion, you know. Some designers do sportswear, some designers doing dresses. But that's a way of expressing ourselves. Artists express their medium through canvas, through oil painting, and as, you know, the bunch of designers -- Asian designers -- we express ourselves in, in fabric, in cutting, in the shape.

MELINDA ENG: Um, throughout my career I traveled all over the world. And New York is my home and when I step out of my apartment, there is so much exciting, uh, stuff going on in the street. I mean, it could be people walking around and the way they dress in a, in a coffee shop - the way they carry themselves. There's a lot of um detail going on if you're looking at it. It's my major influence. I mean, I could see a chair and say 'Oh my god! That would be great for my blouse, the shape of the chair', you know? It's just--my brain is always on 24/7. When you walk out the street, it's like looking at stuff, you know? See what inspire you or interests you; So New York City is the best place to be because, you know, it's a kaleidoscope of everything you could want and imagine in one place.

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