The pandemic may have hit the bridal and evening wear market hard but designer Celest Thoi is undaunted. She has created a new capsule collection of white shirts that is perfect for all occasions, body shapes and personalities.
Options: You are famed for your bridal designs and beautifully embellished gowns. What prompted your decision to venture into a capsule collection of white shirts late last year?
Celest Thoi: I’ve always favoured white for the dresses I design, and I even wear the colour a lot in my daily outfits. Designing a classic white shirt has always been in the plans. So, with weddings taking a backseat during the Movement Control Order (MCO) period, I felt it was the perfect opportunity to launch it.
As you know, there haven’t been many weddings since the MCO started last March. Many of my brides-to-be also reside overseas and thus cannot fly in for fittings. Many clients have postponed their weddings — some until 2023 — while others have even cancelled their weddings and gone on to start families. This has unexpectedly freed up my time to create and launch the collection, which I have named Coterie, inspired by my passion for the simplicity of white shirts and designs that I think my friends and I will enjoy wearing.
And why the white shirt, specifically?
I love white shirts and am known to wear a lot of them myself. Very often, I can’t find unique designs for such a classic staple. They look either too ‘uniform’ or like a rip-off design of some other fashion house. In the light of this, I decided to create my own, for which I often received compliments. [This] gave me the push to produce a ready-to-wear white shirt collection. After all, being a bridal designer known for designing white dresses, why not white shirts? I like the synergy: If you think white, just think of Celest Thoi!
Tell us about your decision to name it Coterie, as well as the six diverse women you chose to model the debut collection.
Coterie connotes a small group of people with shared interests or tastes, especially one that is exclusive of other people. However, my version of Coterie is a celebration of style and friendship coming together in harmony. My ‘models’ are friends: a group of strong women, effortlessly stylish, confident and career-centric in their own right. Zena, for instance, is an established producer and a mum of two teens. Aisan is an entrepreneur and mum of four. Vanessa is a well-known television host/producer and a mum herself while Vasenta is a talented writer and stylist. Then there is Norish, a artiste and restaurant owner and mum of eight! One of her children, Amanda, even joined in on the group shot. Lastly, there is BingYu, an award-winning actress/producer and pet lover whose doggo played model too.
How did you select the women?
I wanted to portray Coterie as muhibbah and multi-cultural and I wanted to express this spirit through my beautiful friends, who come in different sizes and are of different ethnicities and cultures. They embody charm, creativity, confidence and camaraderie. These friends are always a call away whenever I need anything. For example, I have known Norish since I was 15 years old. We have seen each other grow from teenagers to the women we are today, and that’s really special to me. Each of these women showed me friendship, love and kindness when I first relocated to Kuala Lumpur 11 years ago. I will always be grateful to them.
Tell us a little about the different designs and how you would personally wear and style each of them.
I named my designs Love, Peace, Joy, Hope, Faith, Grace, Pure, Bliss, Star and Light as these are often in my prayers — even more so given today’s situation. They are simple pieces, each made from fine shirting cotton, designed for everyday wear. Different shirting textures are used so as to give each piece an identity. You may pair them with denim for a casual look or jazz them up with nice tailored pants or a smart long skirt for a more formal look. They are also good for online meetings these days. Just wear them over a pair of shorts and you’ll look presentable and yet feel comfortable at the same time. Flexibility and comfort are key for Coterie. You may wear the shirts differently for day and night — just accessorise them according to the theme.
This article first appeared on Jan 25, 2021 in The Edge Malaysia.