Spending extra time in isolation can sometimes lead to the birth of something beautiful. Just ask Fiona Ng, who discovered the regenerative properties of nature during the circuit breaker period last year to create a range of mini hand pouches and bags under her homegrown label Stilnook.
The former fashion design student at Temasek Polytechnic grew fascinated with the different textile manipulation techniques of natural dyes and eco-printing. The process is at times, painstaking. “One small pouch takes five hours to complete,” she says, but she is buoyed by the sense of fulfillment she gets with creating each item. In under a year of working on Stilnook full time, the 22-year-old has had a pop-up at Japanese hair salon itto+lim, and takes in custom orders on her growing Instagram page.
Were you always a creative person? Stilnook’s name actually came about from my childhood. As a kid, I had a mini corner in the house, and I would do a lot of DIY projects, such as mixing flour and food colouring, eyeshadow palettes, mixing and playing around with things. As I grew older, I did more DIY projects, like making notebook covers out of old jeans material. I always knew I liked fashion, and I grew to love working with textiles. So that little corner from my childhood is part of my safe space, and what I’m doing now is an elevated version of that. Stilnook means “safe space”.
Why natural dyes and eco-printing? The idea of using natural resources such as plant dye, flowers, bugs, and different resources we can find in nature was what drew me to it, and the fact that you can use food waste gives it extra meaning – I started out with onion skin, avocado pits and skins to create colour. There are a lot of plants and fruits you can play around with.
What is the process like? It is a very tedious process. When you work with natural dye, you have to take in a lot of consideration – such as the weight and type of the fabric, and pH level of water… But I have not explored that yet. I’m mainly working at the beginners level, with dyes and plant fabrics, like cotton. The entire process is therapeutic, but tedious because of all these considerations.
Future plans for Stilnook? My ultimate goal will be a full grown brand, where I will also expand to apparel. It’s still a process because everything is done by me. So to head towards that direction of mass production goes against my ethos. I’m still experimenting with what it will be like, so it is an experimental space for now.
What is it like being a young female artist in Singapore today? Personally, it’s tough. People around my age are either studying or working full-time. This hobby of mine led me to an eight-month break, mainly focusing on Stilnook, which I just started on immediately upon graduation. I’ve only just started on an internship with local fashion house Graye. It’s also hard to explain to my parents or relatives, because the older generation doesn’t get things like that. But I feel like there is a passion behind this, I love doing what I’m doing. I’m happy with where I am at, though I would love to do this properly full time in the future. On the other hand, I say, it’s tough in Singapore. Singapore is fast paced, and what I’m doing now is the opposite. I feel like ever since the circuit breaker, I’ve noticed a lot of upcoming brands. It seems more of the younger generation is doing their own thing now. And I hope this contributes to the fashion scene in Singapore.
Find Fiona at @stilnook on Instagram
Photography JOEL LOW
Styling GREGORY WOO
HAIR Junz Loke using KEVIN MURPHY
MAKEUP Wee Ming using NARS
PHOTOGRAPHY ASSISTANT Alfie Pan