Tina Lim Long

She Was One Of Singapore’s Coolest Fashion Entrepreneurs

“I opened a small retail space in our house and, while it was initially by-invite-only, it gained momentum among friends, who then brought their friends. It sold objects that I sourced on my travels to far-flung places such as Pakistan, Zimbabwe and Chile, or that were designed by me. When I first started in 1990, (my focus was) bags and evening dresses, and my first order – 25 handmade bags – came from Spain. Our bags were also sold at (local multi-label retailers) like Club 21. Later on,
I added vintage bags dating from the ’40s to ’90s.”

She Does Island Chic Inspired By Vintage High Fashion

“I wore a lot of Dior, Valentino, Yves Saint Laurent and Chanel in my younger days, and that remains with me in my design, patterning and cut. After moving to Bali, my designs (weekend separates with a fun, tropical spirit) have become more about movement. A lot of the pieces are cut on the bias, giving a swish to the way they fall. (To do that) I don’t stint on the amount of fabric used. We have skirts that are made with up to 5m of fabric. The movement that’s created when one walks is amazing.”

She Works Like A Courtier 

“I’m only interested in batik cloth (the main fabric that she uses) that is hand-drawn, hand-blocked, or a combination of the two, on silk or 100 per cent cotton. (We also offer an) atelier service where customers have to try on our existing pieces for fit. Measurements are taken and all modifications are discussed. It takes a month to get the garment ready, laundered, then couriered. One thing that I do is to let the finished garment hang for a few days to see the way it falls, and then again after laundering. For customers in Bali, there’s a minimum of three visits to fit the garment at various stages.”

The Strangebutcool atelier is like a bohemian curio store.
Her designs typically boast bold, colourful, hand-inked prints.

Metal link sling bag, circa 1960s, Walborg

Her Vintage Bag Collection Is To Die For 

“I own close to 1,000 vintage bags. In the museum (located in the seaside town of Sanur in South-east Bali and opened three years ago), we have over 450 of them from more than 50 designers. Only five are still in existence today: Chanel, Gucci, Timmy Woods, Coach, and Whiting & Davis. All the bags date anywhere from the ’20s to the ’90s.”

Satin bangle purse, circa 1950s, Koret
Her vintage bag museum is the first of its kind in Asia, stocking over 400 pieces at any one time.

Next Up: The Return Of Her Colourful & Exclusive Business

“I would like to bring Strangebutcool to Singapore for a trunk show, and possibly launch a pop-up store in April. I’m currently looking for a stockist, as I find that the line is very different from what’s available locally. We’re also looking to launch menswear in the second half of 2018.”

This story first appeared on Female’s February 2018 issue. 

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