The designer of modern qipao label Fuchsia Lane saw a gap in the market and rushed in to fill it.
Vivienne Lin, who created the brand in 2007, started out re-engineering T-shirts by adding mandarin collars and see-through lace organza for an Oriental twist. She also designed made-to-order qipao.
Things changed in 2009 when she noticed more customers asking for chic cheongsam to wear to work and formal events.
To meet this demand, she began designing ready-to- wear qipao in 2009. Prices for her ready-to-wear tops and bottoms are between $200 and $400 while her dresses cost between $400 and $800. Prices for a bespoke qipao start at $500.
The 36-year-old declines to give sales figures, but says there has been an increase in demand for her qipao in the past two years. Sales have also been so good that she opened a pop-up store at Mandarin Gallery last month and is considering continuing the store beyond June if demand is good.
"Women here want qipao that are not just for Chinese New Year," says Lin, who adds that her label is Asian-inspired and has a Peranakan influence - her maternal grandparents are Peranakan.
"Many are looking for ways to show off their heritage, but not in a tacky way. When women dress, they want to be seen as modern and not too traditional-looking or like they are wearing a costume."
Her qipao designs range from an off-white mandarin-collar cocktail dress layered with European Guipure lace with flare skirt to one with lace applique and hand-sewn buttons.
Fuchsia Lane customer Toh Chern Yi, who has five qipao from the label, likes its cheongsam because she finds the designs simple and elegant. The 36-year-old accountant, who is single, says: "The material used is comfortable and of good quality. I also like that the slits in the qipao are not too high."
Lin, who is married and has no children, believes that using different fabrics helps to modernise a cheongsam, which is why she puts a lot of thought into finding suitable fabrics for her clientele - professional working women in their 30s and 40s who are constantly on the go and need to look presentable at all times.
Cheongsam in full silk brocade are a big no. She also keeps the use of frog buttons on her designs to a minimum as she does not want the look to be too traditional, and replaces those with lace applique instead.
She uses soft fabrics such as European linen tweed, Japanese crepe with a slight sheen, as well as French and Japanese lace.
"Qipao should be classy. Overly shiny fabrics can be very unforgiving on the figure because the lines crease easily at the tummy and hips," says Lin, who has an atelier in the Ubi area where the clothes are made. "I also prefer to use stretch lace and fabrics that fall well on the body and allow ease of movement."
Inspired by the bold use of colour in the Peranakan culture, such as turquoise and pink, her qipao have similar bright hues, but also come in more feminine pastel shades. She also designs separates such as tops, skirts and pants with an Oriental twist.
The designer, however, says there is still some way to go before the qipao becomes mainstream as there is a misconception that the dress is uncomfortable.
She adds: "People also think that cheongsam are for old women, but that's not true."