Beatrix Ong MBE is a renowned London-based British luxury accessories designer. A triple alum, Beatrix has studied at Central Saint Martins, London College of Communication and London College of Fashion. She has recently launched a collection inspired by SpongeBob SquarePants in collaboration with Nickelodeon and Viacom. We spoke with Beatrix to find out more about the collection, as well as her journey to becoming one of the UK’s most successful designers…
You’ve not just studied at one of our colleges, but three (CSM, LCC and LCF)! What was the most important thing you learnt during your studies with us?
I learnt about self-motivation, the huge variety of thoughts and ideas people can have and what not to eat in a canteen.
You’ve also studied in the US - What was it like compared to the UK?
I did a semester at Fashion Institute of Technology in New York as a result of a competition we had at LCC. The courses in FIT were technically brilliant, computers played a huge part of the students’ lives, so they were really advanced in using computers as tools. I learnt all the apple mac short cuts I know while in the US.
One brief we had was to design a poster for a 3D movie. When it came to presentation, everyone had put standard sized full colour CMYK posters on the wall with perfectly kerned typography, amazing quality print and imagery, and I had built a three-dimensional wall hanging made out of form board, photos and paint. And that I guess that was the main difference to me between what I took from my UK and US education…
You’ve had an amazing career in the fashion industry and worked alongside some incredible names. How did you get started?
Lots of work experience; I would take whatever opportunity came my way in internships, even if it wasn’t what I thought I wanted to do. Each experience allowed me to discover what I really wanted to work in. And in every role I had, I did my best – tea making, photo-copying, whatever it was, I tried to learn how to do it the best I could. As a result, I can make an excellent cup of tea.
When I was at college I wanted to be a graphic designer, I got offered an internship at Harpers Bazaar, but in the fashion department. I took it anyway, and that was the beginnings of what is now my career.
Graduation week is soon upon us, what is the best piece of advice you would give our graduating students wanting to follow in your footsteps?
Be malleable, open-minded, treat everyone with respect and make your own footsteps.
How does it feel having your work included in the V&A’s prestigious permanent collection?
The V&A is one of the few places I would visit when I first came to London and still do, to be inspired, to be amazed or just to sit to soak it all up. I can’t put into words how I feel about my work being there, but physically, it would look like a yoga ‘child’s pose’…
You’ve had the pleasure of meeting Her Majesty the Queen to collect your MBE. That must have been an amazing experience…
It was a really magical day at the palace. What struck me was her charm and strength and the whole while I was thinking ‘you are AWESOME’.
You have recently collaborated with Nickelodeon and Viacom Consumer Products to produce a range of SpongeBob SquarePants accessories, homeware and apparel. How did this relationship come about?
A friend of mine recommended me to someone in the group. When I got an email asking if I would consider collaborating with a character, I wasn’t sure but asked for more information. When they came back saying it was for SpongeBob, I wrote back straight away and said yes. I’m a MASSIVE SpongeBob fan. Since working with them I’ve learnt of other fans, Karl Lagerfeld, Marc Jacobs (who has a tattoo of SpongeBob) and Pharrell Williams. SpongeBob is also what I spoke to Jeremy Scott about when I met him recently.
What can we expect from this range? How can we buy it?
Expect subtlety but with humour on clothing, shoes and a skateboard. It is sold exclusively at Colette in Paris. It is a five year deal, so there is much more to come!
Tell us more about the New Concept collection…
The first edition shoe has just been launched, which is the result of my thoughts and experiences of the fashion industry. I have made the choice to make the product and the practices more sustainable without compromising on the aesthetics of the design. It is only available on the website www.beatrixong.com and at Colette Paris. The first shoe is named after my Great Uncle, as he favoured white plimsoles. A pair from this new collection has been added to the Victoria and Albert Museum’s permanent collection, as is another pair which is currently on exhibit in Shoes: Pleasure and Pain.
What other upcoming projects are you working on?
I’m working on projects with the Historical Royal Palaces and the Design Museum, with whom I’ve launched the new collection with. In the Autumn, the luxury slippers I have specially created for the Shangri La Hotel will be available in their deluxe suites. And in 2016 – well there’s loads more happening in 2016…
What would you say your biggest achievement to date has been?
Being able to enjoy everything I work on.
Where do you find inspiration?
Everywhere – people, animals, our surroundings. That’s why I think it is imperative to leave as much as we can for the following generations to enjoy. Some activities are more preventable than others – an example is illegal wildlife trade, which is pushing some animals to the brink of extinction. Add your voice to raise awareness, and hopefully we’ll have many more generations of inspiration to enjoy.