What do you do and how did you get into the industry?
I am Christine Pamela Chandrakasan, and by profession I am a RF Microwave Engineer with experiences in manufacturing, new product development, product enhancement, electromagnetic wave lab international and military regulatory testing and lab setups, as well as end consumer consultations and have conducted various trainings and seminars in Asia. Mestrae started off as an engineering services company focussing on RF & Microwave Engineering service provision, but being a niche business, sustainability and expansion was a challenge. I learned very quickly though that if I want to grow businesses, I need to explore further. I took on various other business opportunities such as market research, digital strategies, and while there were continuous income, scaling it was difficult.
I was at a juncture contemplating going back into workforce when I was on my heels, in a train heading for a meeting. I thought to myself this was the most painful walk I ever had to do. Right after the meeting, I looked for the cheapest pair slippers I could buy and slipped it on. It was then I thought to myself it would have been so much easier if I can remove the heels as and when I wanted to. What started of as engineering curiosity led to me tearing apart shoes in front of my house porch and realising that it works. Every women on the go that I spoke to loved the idea. It was then I realised this business had a huge potential and it will solve our day-to-day fundamental need.
Why high heels?
Every women who loves her heels has a love hate relationship with them. You can’t live with them (for too long on your feet), you can’t live without them. Take Sarah Jessica Parker (Carrie Bradshaw, from Sex and the City) or even Victoria Beckham for that matter. Both swore by them, and now both gave up hope on them completely. The question then would be, can fashion and comfort go hand in hand? Those who love fashion would have a nightmare with “comfort shoes” and it is vice versa! I love fashion, but I am also an engineer and this was a challenge I took to heart, and today, fashionable high heels can be comfortable.
Share with us an interesting story from behind the scenes.
I love being able to work with 30-40 years experienced shoemakers and watching them work with patience and diligence. It wasn’t easy convincing shoemakers of the ages 60 onwards that something they have been doing, the exact same way decades, can now be done differently. We spent a lot of time with them, sitting down and watching them working on each piece of the assembly of the shoes with patience. The shoe making process is a bit like dominoes. One mistake and everything will fall flat. It took several months and lots of convincing and persistence. Lots too got lost in translation due to language barriers before they agreed to take it up and try. Towards the end, they were more than excited to assemble the design, providing multiple suggestions and process improvisations. It was indeed one of the biggest feelings of satisfaction to see the first shoe being produced to perfection.
What’s the best/ worst part of your job?
I love being able to continuously grow this business, as I am not limited by processes and rules set in an organisation, but I also understand it better now and I believe SOPs and processes should always raise anything from ground zero to a constant, but when they hinder from growing further and excelling, then they need to be looked into.
What’s the most popular shoe in your store?
What’s your own personal favourite?
Liza – so classy
A day in the life of an entrepreneur is…
Probably what it might be like to be in a food processor, or being swiped away in a hurricane. You have a million things hurling your way, and you have to address each one as if it’s the only thing you have on your plate. And you have to continually think 10 steps ahead to set the vision of the company.
The perfect day off would be…
By the beach, cold drink, incredible book, no worries in the world.
What do you do for fun?
When I do get some time for myself, I explore healthy cooking and spend great time with my friends.
What’s something you’d like people to know about Mestrae?
We have big goals in being trend setters, and yet want to be close and connected to our consumers.
Heavy or light travel packer? What shoes are always in your bag?
Light packer. I’m between Liza or Kaley, depending on the occasion and need to be formal / casual. Good thing is that now I just need a pouch with a bunch of heels to switch through different moments in a day.
What’s your view on the fashion scene in Kuala Lumpur?
There has been a lot of emphasis on it in the past few years, noting our local celebrities capturing the international eye as well so many local brands are now expanding internationally. I think Kuala Lumpur has definitely opened up to many movers and shakers with welcoming arms. However we still have a long way to go if we want to bridge the gap between us and fashion capitals in the world. I am certain we will get there.
Where do you see the industry headed?
One thing about fashion is that trends are continuous, as opposed to the economic slowdown. While an economic downturn can definitely impact purchasing power, a great fashion business would be able to support in the economic uplift. In recent years there has been a lot of call for sustainable goods and vegan products in the fashion industry and that is something we definitely want to look into. On an individual front, fashion statements have become a reflection of personality, centering around one’s life, one’s travels, etc and the social media boom has definitely enhanced it. I believe there is a great opportunity for the industry to continuously grow and expand.
What’s in store for you in the upcoming months?
We will be rolling out many designs and expanding worldwide. Stay tuned!