Isabella Choi is one of the most admired designers in Macau’s flourishing fashion scene. It started a few years ago when what would have been just a shoe venture instead launched her first boutique and fashion collection in Macau.
She now oversees her Nega C. Fashion boutique on the bustling street of Rua de Francisco Xavier Perreira. You feel the creative energy the moment you step inside her shop and see the unique pieces on display.
How did you start your brand and your first collection?
Some of the shops in Hong Kong were interested in my shoes and I was able to create my own RTW collection. It took me a couple of years before I was able to launch my own brand but I wholeheartedly did it—that is why this boutique is truly meaningful.
Where did you get the name for your brand?
Nega C. came from my Chinese name. I was nicknamed Nega as pronounced in my Chinese name and C is my surname. It’s sort of a mesh of my names.
What is the concept behind the clothes you create?
I’d like to believe it’s more feminine now. After I opened my shop, I used to favor quirkier designs but realized some pieces were hard to carry and too abstract in certain ways. I slowly realized that I wanted something that is wearable and easy to mix and match. So, color and cutting of the structure are of paramount importance—that was eventually included in the concept of the brand. I can say that it’s more girl-friendly now.
What are the values of the brand in three words?
It’s feminine, colorful and trendy! We experiment with a mixture of fabrics and we keep up with what’s happening all around the world in terms of style.
What’s the age group your designs are catering to?
I want all my designs to be wearable by everyone and not just fashionable people. I think our market ranges from ages 25 to 45 so it has a wide range.
How does your heritage influence your design?
I definitely think my heritage has a tremendous effect on my design. I still think I’m traditional even though I have studied abroad. Being conservative is not a bad thing. For example, I don’t usually have stuff that shows a lot of skin. I still think it’s trendy and fits in the Macanese culture, and I grew up in a conservative family from a designer’s point of view.
Tell us about the challenges of being a designer and entrepreneur in Macau.
I would say maintaining the balance between creative and sales. I do a lot of research and keep everything modern and up-to-date. I like discovering design elements that I can actually sell and oftentimes it’s difficult. Running a business in the region can be tough but I feel blessed as well. We have loyal customers who keep us inspired.
Tell us about a memorable moment since you opened the store.
We are living in a fast forward trading market and lots of people buy seasonally and discard stuff from previous seasons. When I see my designs from last year, I feel really happy because this means that the style lasts and it’s not just for the momentary trend and that’s really special for me.
What do you love most about Macau?
I love the people here. It’s a friendly place and it’s my home. Everyone knows each other and that connection is always special for me.
I think Macau is a great starting place for designers. It has a much slower pace. There are a lot of art exhibitions to explore. We are close to mainland China and Hong Kong which makes for easy access to fabrics, materials and see other things to explore.
What’s the best fashion advice you can give us?
Stay true to yourself. When you’re reaching a certain age and you get a sense of what clothes you like then that’s how you grow your fashion sense. Try different colors and style. Don’t be scared to experiment.
What inspires you to wake up every day and do what you do?
I want to say—people around me. I have a great support system comprised of friends and customers. I am thankful for that. They always give me a lot of really good advice. I would actually listen to people who come to the shop and observe and see what they like and don’t like and different body types and get inspiration when I design.
What advice would you give to a young designer or a younger version of yourself when it comes to fashion and business?
I would say this path is not easy but if you really love it then you have to give it some time. You’ll eventually find a way on your own path. Find your own strength because being a designer is not easy. Fashion design is not yet a strong industry in Macau so innovate, explore, and stay true to your path.
Nega C. Fashion GF, Tak Chun Building, 131 Rua de Francisco Xavier Perreira, Macau,
+853 2855 1922, www.facebook.com/NegaCFashionShop