There are not many mother-daughter tag teams in the business of fashion. The usual case would entail a succession or a takeover by default because of multi-generational family affair. Think along the lines of the Fendi sisters who went to work for the business with their mother at a very young age — obviously, there were obviously really not much choices for women in the 1940s. But in the 21st century, the role of women has changed tremendously and it is inspiring to see how young girls are making their voices heard in their respective fields.

Maria Grazia Chiuri, creative director of Christian Dior, has her twenty-something daughter Rachel by her side on show days and whom she credits with expanding her horizons to see fashion in the various context from cultural appropriation to millennialism. It is further testament to how the young can inaform the older generation on issues that are often overlooked and it helps create the dynamic teamwork in a mother-daughter partnership.

And in the case of Soo Shea Pin and daughter Teh Wenfei, the decision to work together feels like nature taking its course. The muscles behind the franchised brand Anya Hindmarch and Halcyon Days in Malaysia have since been an admirable force — one for their extremely harmonious working relationship, and two for inspiring other women in the cut-throat fashion business.

Celebrating their first year of working together, the power duo speaks up on family values, redefining roles and inspiring the next generation of women in business.

(Photography by NZP.)

Shea Pin has been responsible for bringing the Anya Hindmarch brand to Malaysia.

Tell us something we don’t know about you.

SP: You’re probably aware that I was a lawyer for 20 years before pursuing my own business. One little thing is that I’m actually Chinese educated all the way from primary to secondary school — very ingrained with Chinese culture although I live a rather westernised way of life.

TW: Like my mom, I read law (with a Master’s Degree in Law) and was called to the Bar at Lincoln’s Inn, London in 2016 where my mom was also called to more than 30 years ago. But one thing that many don’t know about me is that I’m a feminist. I’m very conscious that although people are now more aware of women’s role in society and family, there is such a long way to go until women are treated and appreciated the way they deserve. I hope to play a role in this movement of equality and women empowerment throughout my life.

Shea Pin, you’re a successful businesswoman in the industry. What have been the biggest challenges women face in the fashion business?

SP: I never consider myself as successful but I just feel like I’m working my best everyday to be better. But I guess I don’t take challenges as challenges anymore at this age. When I was in the legal practice, I felt the constant pressure to achieve high professional standards to deliver the very best I could. I was always pushing boundaries, so much so, that it has become part of my life. It’s now simply a way of life for me, to work hard and improve my own standards. I believe it’s crucial to have this attitude for better things to come.

Starting the brand years ago, I was often sceptical of my approach in luxury fashion which has always been dominated by the very established International labels. Was I doing the right things, I wonder sometimes. But I soon realised that I can have my own way to promote the brand — so you have to listen to yourself. I also have a business partner (Anya Hindmarch herself) who makes me feel like a friend always; so that’s a big bonus for me.

And Wenfei, how has it been working together with your mom in the past year?

TW: It has been an eye-opening experience to join a business like Anya Hindmarch, which I have grown up with since I was ten. To be fully immersed in the running of the business was definitely challenging but I enjoy it more that I thought I would. My mum understands the business very well and with her wealth of experience, I couldn’t ask for a better role model. As a lawyer herself, we have similar understanding and skills that we implement in day-to-day operations. We make a great team.

SP: I’m very lucky to have her in my business and can’t wait for the exciting journey that lies ahead.

Has the dynamic changed at home or at work?

SP: As a mother, I never expect my children to be part of my business as I believe they can do far better things out there. But life can sometimes bring beautiful surprises. Now that we’re working together, it is truly enjoyable. We understand each other so much that sometimes we don’t even need to say anything to convey what we have in mind.

TW: After a year in, I’m still learning and making mistakes but this is where the most valuable learning comes from. As Jack Ma puts it, “you should make mistakes early on in your career.” But we work very well together as we understand each other and appreciate our individual qualities. We have disagreements that we work it through together and then hug it out.

When it comes to business matters, what are your biggest no-nos?

TW: We both do not believe in being a dictator at work. It’s always best to be kind and thoughtful to our team. Everyone comes from different walks of life with varied personalities so we always try to understand all members of our team.

Wenfei: “My mom has always taught me to be kind.”
What’s the best and worst advice that your mom has given to you?

TW: Be kind and create human connections. In days where Instagram reigns supreme, emotions sometimes get lost in translation and people forget to create real relationships with each other in a kind and sincere way.

SP: I am a strong believer of kindness as it encompasses all important factors in everyday life — love, compassion, friendship, understanding and more. Everyone has a story, so always give space for consideration and forgiveness. Don’t be quick to judge.

Why is it important to leave a legacy and what is the legacy you’re planning to leave behind for your daughters?

SP: Many people I know have amazing achievements and huge successes, but I still have a long way to go. Only then I can think about leaving a legacy. But I feel that it’s more important to know how to live a considerate and respectable life, how love and kindness to other people, and success will always follow. 

Martin Teo
Content Editor
Martin loves traveling the world to see ancient ruins and classical architecture. He enjoys the culinary experience of various cities but (still) refuses to eat anything insect-like. On a daily basis, he finds time hitting the gym to compensate for the amount of food he needs to eat just to write an article.