It was her own experience with the restrictive cheongsam that inspired Josephine Ho to start her own qipao label.
The 45-year-old, then a stay-at-home mother, started by making a cheongsam for herself using a linen-cotton material.
The result was a cheongsam that had a straight-cut from the waist down and was so comfortable that it made moving around in it a breeze.
The mother of three boys, aged eight to 15, went on to create bespoke cheongsam and launched her own label, Qiqing Qipao, with a ready-to-wear line of cheongsam, in November last year.
Since then, comfort has been her No. 1 priority. Her customers – mainly professional working women aged between 25 and 50 and stay-at-home mothers – she says, want cheongsam that are not restrictive and have versatile designs.
“The idea was to make something comfortable while retaining the elegance and beauty of the cheongsam,” says Ho from her showroom at Choon Kim House in Upper Serangoon Road.
Her collections include dresses with loose silhouettes from the waist down, made from materials such as a linen-cotton or linen tweed blend in solid colours, such as black, white and red.
Others have flowy skirts made of a high-quality stretchy knit material that does not pill.
While Ho, whose husband is an architect, declines to share sales figures, she says that business is good and that she is fully booked for bespoke orders for this month.
There are plans to launch an e-commerce store by early March.
Her clothes are made in Singapore and customers schedule appointments to view collections or order a bespoke piece. Prices start at $79 for a top and $88 for a skirt.
Her ready-to-wear cheongsam range from $169 to $268. Prices for a bespoke qipao start at $350.
To update the cheongsam and give it a modern take, Ho replaces the frog button, typical on Oriental-style clothing, with unique buttons sourced from overseas – some embedded with stones, others shaped like flowers.
Soon, she will be launching a cheongsam collection without mandarin collars and with a focus on gem-like buttons.
She says: “I create cheongsam that are relevant and attractive to the modern woman. “Buttons are one aspect of appealing intricate detailing and might seem like a small aspect of the whole cheongsam, but it can make a lot of difference in the overall look of the dress.”