By: Susannah Jaffer
She’s garnered international acclaim for her work with top supermodels and Hollywood stars, and now French celebrity stylist Ines Ligron has settled in Singapore and launched her very own boutique fashion and beauty concept styling studio, Dream Factory by Ines Ligron. In an exclusive interview, Susannah Jaffer finds out more.
On paper, Ines Ligron’s credentials are pretty formidable. Having helmed the prestigious IMG modelling agency in Hong Kong as its Asia-Pacific Director from 1995 to 1997, and worked for 13 years as the National Director for the Miss Universe Organisation in Japan, she’s well known for discovering and developing top modelling talent across Asia.
On my way to this interview, I found myself imagining what she’d be like. Someone like Meryl Streep’s character in The Devil Wears Prada, picking up on my incessant slouching and habit of chewing on my pen while taking notes?
You’ll be as happy as I was to find out that this wasn’t the case. Despite her Facebook fan page surpassing an eye-watering 47,000 likes, Ines is very down-to-earth, not to mention welcoming. Sitting down in her modern and airy studio space – situated on the upper floor of a beautifully renovated shophouse on Peck Seah Street – we talked fashion, confidence and styling.
Tell me the story behind Dream Factory by Ines Ligron.
Having my own consultancy has always been one of my dreams. I’ve worked with many successful women who’ve earned a living from their looks, but I’ve always been drawn to working with individuals outside of the modelling industry – those who wouldn’t feel comfortable on the catwalk, but still want to look and feel good.
It must have opened up diverse opportunities for you.
Definitely. I want to work with women of all shapes, sizes and backgrounds. I find my job is more fun and varied now – every day is different from the previous one. I now work with mature women up to the age of 60, and my youngest “client” so far has been three years old. Ultimately, I believe what makes you feel beautiful, both inside and out, is developing a sense of personal style and carrying yourself well. These are some of the main things we aim to teach here at Dream Factory.
Three years old! So you offer kids’ classes too?
Yes, for girls and boys. Valerie Lim – who holds the title of Miss Universe Singapore 2011 – joined our Dream Team when we first started. From her competition experience, she understands a lot about the power of confidence, but she is also a graduate in child psychology and very passionate about children. She runs our kids’ classes, and infuses them with that positive, confidence-boosting attitude and skills she learnt from the pageant world, including everything from walking tall to introducing yourself properly and having good manners.
And what do your classes for older age groups cover?
Our style-transformation classes for teens and adults tend to be varied, because everyone has a different goal in mind. Some women are stressed about their post-pregnancy image; others want to boost their self-confidence in order to spruce up their love life. Ultimately, my goal is to help women of all ages learn to express themselves and define their unique style and identity.
What sorts of issues are facing the teens who come to you?
They don’t necessarily aspire to be models; many of them just want to learn how to put clothes together, or to discover tips for looking great at their graduation ceremony. The teenage years can be such a stressful time, due to raging hormones, skin problems and lots of physical changes. When young ladies visit our Dream Factory, we demonstrate how they can be positive about themselves and their self-image – we nurture their bodies and their minds, and discourage continually picking out their flaws in the mirror.
If you could send a message to your younger self, what would it be?
To be very careful what you put in your body. When I was younger, I was on an eternal diet, instead of focusing on all the nutritious things I should’ve been eating, like fresh tomatoes, yoghurt, dates and nuts. Nutrition is so important, especially when you’re still growing and developing.
Women today have the tendency to develop such a negative body image – they want to look like the skinny models in high-fashion magazines and on television. That, to me, is completely wrong and not healthy. You’ll never hear me say to a woman that she needs to lose weight. I focus on being healthy, and any advice I give is constructive and positively reinforced. At the end of the day, I think that is what we women need to feel empowered.
You spent 13 years in Japan; have you noticed many differences between the women there and here?
They are very different. In Japan, women tend to be conservative and very conscious about how they look. In comparison, ladies in Singapore are more self-confident, casual and laid-back. I would say that quite a few of the expat women I talk to here don’t see the point in doing their makeup, or wearing heels or the nice leather shoes that they brought from back home, because so many people here shuffle around in flip flops on account of the heat. I’d like to help these women change their mind-sets, and to get their sense of personal style back on track.
Is this something you focus on in styling sessions?
Yes, I demonstrate how to put outfits together, and I’m very hands-on. Everyone needs a wardrobe that functions; but often, when we make our purchases, we don’t look at the bigger picture and so we end up with lots of clothes but “nothing to wear”. I can advise you on how to make more informed choices. We’ve also brought in a curated clothing and accessories collection from Europe that is exclusive to Dream Factory, and we often arrange closed-door shopping events with drinks and nibbles for ladies who prefer to browse and get styling advice privately.
Have you ever considered launching your own clothing label?
Yes, in the future I hope to expand towards that, but not until the company is more established. We’ve recently had two successful pop-up concept spaces in Isetan – now we’re looking into ways to offer the Dream Factory experience on a more public level.
Finally, what are your top tips for feeling beautiful inside and out?
Simple things: eating healthy, nutritious food, and drinking lots of water to keep your skin hydrated. I’m now a big fan of coconut oil – just taking a spoon a day is great for the digestive system and for fighting off bad bacteria and it’s also a fabulous moisturiser for your hair and skin. Another super-food is turmeric. It’s anti-inflammatory, can help boost your mood and even has cancer-preventing properties.
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