In this month's edition of Haute Topic, Young Hungry Free founder Winnie Ong chats with us about the ins and outs of owning an online store and her favourite ‘90s trends
It takes a certain amount of chutzpah to stand out in the overly saturated local blogshop scene. Plenty hawk the same wares shipped from the same source, and either cater to the average teen, or corporate woman. To unearth one with original designs and a tenacious identity (and at affordable prices to boot) is much like striking gold.
So for the bold and the badass, Young Hungry Free needs to be on your radar, pronto. The four-year-old brand is much like Singapore’s very own Nasty Gal – it’s as edgy and style-conscious, and born out of a desire to be different. In this edition of Haute Topic, we caught up with founder, Winnie Ong, on the brand’s identity, her favourite trends of the moment, and pulling together a ’90s-inspired look that never goes outta style.
Hey Winnie! First things first, tell us a little about yourself. How did you get started on Young Hungry Free?
Well, I’ll be honest. When I first started, it was ’cause I didn’t have much of a choice. *laughs* I flunked my A levels then and, looking back, I’m glad it happened – it was the start of my life! I’ve always known from the start that I wanted something to call my own. Plus, I’m allergic to office hours… even though my team and I now put in more time than the usual 9-6 stint.
But at least it’s on your own terms.
Yes precisely! The motivation is different too. I’ve never followed any usual rules of life, school or education, which is why I’m so thankful I was a failure at studying. *laughs again*
What did you have in mind when starting YHF?
Plenty of local online stores cater to corporate women, with ladylike or prim and proper outfits for the office. There was a gap in the market for the type of woman I wanted to dress and brand I wanted to represent.
Could you tell us a little more about YHF’s name?
Young here isn’t literal – it’s more of a youthful personality, and a desire to continually grow. Hungry refers to a constant need for more and a desire to be better. As for free, it’s about being limitless – not so much reckless in a YOLO sense, but knowing that what you want is within your control.
Yeah, we see how some might take the “young” in your name literally.
Truthfully, when we began, our crowd was pretty young. But we’ve grown with them. We’ve learned to adapt our styles to their new needs. For instance, we know that some of our outfits aren’t suitable for work, so we do what we can, like adding less slits or changing a neckline to be more work-friendly.
We take it that you’re very interactive with customers?
Very. We run surveys to get customer feedback, and we’re big on social media. Customers message us to bring items back or make tweaks like refining the cutting. We listen ’cause there’s no way around it – if you want to grow, you have to listen to your customers. If they don’t like what you’re offering, there’re plenty of other options for them.
Describe your shoppers in two words.
Risk takers. Rule breakers.
Talk us through a day in your work life.
People think it’s all fun and games here, but trust me when I say it’s not as glam as you’d think. I mean, the only exciting thing about my day today is this coffee in my hand! *laughs* But plenty of what I do here is dealing with data – looking through order lists, checking traffic to see what people are buying and not buying, and loads of planning. I make it a point to be five steps ahead of everyone else in terms of planning – my right hand oversees everything else.
Let’s talk fashion. Where do you shop?
Truth: I haven’t shopped in the last four years. Starting YHF might’ve killed my inner shopaholic. *laughs* Anything that I like in stores can be designed and made in-house.
We can’t say we’re not envious. What are you into right now?
I’m big on materials at the moment – satin, velvet and suede. I love slip dresses… though we might have overdone it a little bit here. I’m also loving the whole ’90s vibe.
Could you pick three 90s trends you’re obsessed with?
Bomber jackets, band T-shirts, and ’90s-style bell bottoms.
How would a YHF girl pull off those three items?
I think bomber jackets go with everything from short dresses to jeans and even minis – all you need are accessories to dress it up. For band T-shirts, you need to DIY it a little – cut up the sleeves, or trim the hem. It doesn’t matter if it’s oversized either, since the pyjama look is so hot right now. Pair it with arm accessories and heels (the higher, the better) and throw on a leather jacket. As for bell bottoms, my personal take is to team it with an oversized crop, a couple of chunky necklaces and heels to make your legs look crazy long.
Any particular tips for someone who’s updating their wardrobe?
Start with a statement piece – it could be outerwear or accessories – then style around it.