If you clicked on this article thinking you might find the source of your new favorite source for basic white T-shirts or plain black pants, you might want to stop reading now. Designer Grace Ling does not do simple or average — although if you’re looking for a slinky, J.Lo-worthy ensemble (more on that soon) or a sleek, urn-shaped handbag, she’s got you covered.
“Before I [worked in] fashion, I was creating a lot of wearable sculptures,” Ling tells TZR over the phone, harkening back to her time in the 2010s as a part-time model, erstwhile performer (fun fact: she had a cameo in Crazy Rich Asians), and fine arts student in her home country of Singapore (she later went on to study design at Parson’s New School and Central Saint Martins) as the bedrock of her career trajectory. “I would say now that I’m still making wearable art, just a more commercial, culturally viable version of it.”
Culturally-viable is certainly an apt way to describe the way Ling’s surrealist-yet-sultry line of ready-to-wear and accessories, which has completely won over the fashion crowd with its sly wit and sensuality. Since its 2020 launch, the has appeared on mega-influencers like Karlie Kloss (she wore a sheer, sharp-shouldered blouse and side cut-out trousers at the 2021 Wall Street Journal Innovator Awards) and Emma Chamberlain (she’s been seen carrying Ling’s mesh bag in the silhouette of a person). Perhaps, most notably, was Jennifer Lopez, who requested a custom all-white version of Ling’s curve-skimming bra, skirt, and cropped blazer — complete with striking silver metal plate details — to perform on The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon Jimmy Fallon in February. (The multi-hyphenate performer first fell in love with the look after wearing it in black for a shoot promoting her 2022 movie Marry Me.)
For Ling, however, a desire for popularity has never been the driving motivation behind her craft. “I don't think I really cared about whether people would want to wear it,” she says. “I just think that as long as the work is authentic, people can appreciate it.” In her case, that authenticity stems from finding unexpected inspiration (dystopian films, biomorphism, science) and incorporating computer-aided design and 3D printing into production.
“Our Butt Bag, for example, is 3D-printed aluminum and then lined with leather,” she says, referencing her best-selling derrière-shaped minaudière. “I like to think that combination of traditional methods of craftsmanship and technology — along with a sense of eccentric elegance — completes a Grace Ling product.”
The aluminum, Ling goes on to explain, is also an eco-friendly choice. “It’s a metal that’s infinitely recyclable.” She also is mindful in taking the sustainable route wherever possible with her pieces, such as using a sampling process that creates less waste. “Though with computer-aided design, we can make many different interactions [of the same thing],” she says. “We can see how it looks like without actually making the product. But traditionally, you would make a ton of samples and the ones that don’t get purchased go into the PR closet or landfill.”
Of course, high manufacturing standards and celebrity buzz are not always enough to keep a brand afloat — the real challenge comes in keeping all that momentum moving forward. But, so far, it appears that Ling has a promising plan for her company’s growth. She just signed an exclusive deal to sell her pieces on luxury e-tailer Net-A-Porter next season — and, meanwhile, she’s starting to put big ideas about new products into motion.
“We’re definitely expanding more on the variations of our metal pieces because they are unique to our brand and so chic,” she tells TZR. “And we’re expanding into more categories with things like a biomorphic key chain and hair pin — and I definitely want to do shoes and eventually menswear.”
As for diversifying her line’s overwhelming monochrome palette? “There's a lot of subtle neutral colors,” Ling says with laugh, admitting she does tend to lean into moodier shades — something that’s right in line with her self-described sense of intelligent femininity. “In the previous collection there was some navy and burgundy, but I think because everyone buys the black pieces they don’t realize there are other colors” She pauses for a moment in consideration. “Oh yeah, and there’s grey!”
At the end of the day, it’s likely this unwavering sense of self that will keep Grace Ling’s label on its path to the top: She know exactly who she is designing for and what they want... and it’s probably not a frilly dress in neon pink. “My aesthetic has a sense of eccentric elegance; it’s about being sexy but also sophisticated,” she says. “That’s how I want to dress — and how I think [other] people want to dress, too.”
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