By Carla Thomas
Photography by Abdela Igmirien
March 22, 2023
Working as a lawyer in Hong Kong, UK native Rebecca Ling watched her closet grow and grow until it seemed to burst. Like many of her friends and colleagues, Rebecca had amassed multiple wardrobes to suit her busy, multifaceted lifestyle. Business attire for the office, smart casual for after-work drinks, and more relaxed outfits to wear with trainers on weekends.
But what if her clothes could suit all aspects of her life? Sensing an opportunity, Rebecca set out to design a collection of classic, versatile pieces that can go from work to play with minimal effort. And that’s how Parallel 51 was born. Established in Hong Kong in 2021, Rebecca’s slow fashion brand specializes in capsule collections – a minimalist approach to building a wardrobe with a handful of classic, versatile, high-quality items that can be mixed and matched to suit the occasion.
Over the past two years, Rebecca’s clothing brand has taken off, attracting a devout customer base of women with busy lifestyles who prize the convenience, simplicity, and sustainable nature of capsule dressing.
We sat down with Rebecca to learn more about her motivation, creative process, and what it takes to launch a sustainable fashion brand during a global pandemic.
As a lawyer, what inspired you to launch a fashion brand?
Rebecca Ling: Fashion and law don’t normally go hand in hand! But I’ve always been interested in putting together outfits. And with a corporate day job like mine, I looked to fashion to find a creative outlet.
After working at a law firm, I realized there weren’t enough brands designing clothes that could be worn to the office just as easily as after work or on weekends. I’d buy pieces for work, which would look great with a pair of heels but weird with trainers.
When I spoke to my friends and colleagues, they had the same issue. We all had different wardrobes for different occasions – meaning we had way too many clothes, most of which were just sitting there unused. That really niggled at me, and it’s ultimately what motivated me to launch my brand, Parallel 51.
How would you describe Parallel 51’s vision?
RL: We provide classic, everyday essentials that you can keep for years. They’re designed to mix and match easily and restyle for different occasions. The goal is to stop buying new styles all the time and instead re-wear and reuse what you’ve already got.
Our designs are also about making women’s lives simpler and easier. As a working mom with a 1-year-old son, I don’t want to overthink what I will wear each day. With our versatile capsule collections, Parallel 51 makes it easy to get up, get dressed, and get on with your day.
What’s a capsule collection? And what makes it sustainable?
RL: Capsule dressing simplifies your wardrobe to just 10 to 20 key pieces that can be seamlessly mixed and matched. They should suit your body type and style, and adapt to your everyday life. Capsule dressing makes life easier because you’re not looking at a mountain of clothing, wondering how to pull it all together.
Not only is this a more sustainable approach to consuming less clothing, but it’s also a more conscious approach, which is great. It’s also more sustainable financially because it means you don’t buy new pieces every month or chase new trends.
The goal is to stop buying new styles all the time and instead re-wear and reuse what you’ve already got.
What was it like launching Parallel 51 during a pandemic?
RL: I was really new to the fashion industry, and that year was just like an absolute baptism of fire. I was kind of muddling my way through while still doing my day job, so the biggest challenges were just finding the time and the right contacts – who to speak to about sustainable manufacturing, for example – in a new industry.
Covid-19 weirdly helped, in a way, because I wasn’t traveling as much as usual. My friends and family were also more available to help me with the brand, which was huge. It was definitely a big challenge, but also fun for me as a creative outlet. I’ve really enjoyed the process, even in the more stressful, tiring times.
How does Parallel 51 balance convenience and sustainability?
RL: Of course, using more natural fabrics to be more sustainable is ideal, but those tend to crease more. So we have one line that is made with 100% sustainable natural fabrics, as well as another line that’s made with semi-natural materials that don’t crease and can be easily thrown into the washing machine.
Regarding color palettes, we’re not following trends or fast fashion cycles. We keep everything mostly neutral, with pops of color and bespoke patterns – all things people can mix and match with their existing wardrobe.
We also try to keep it super timeless. Sometimes we do a twist on a classic silhouette. But overall, we create things that people can wear for years.
We keep everything mostly neutral, with pops of color and bespoke patterns – all things people can mix and match with their existing wardrobe.
What are a few of your favorite pieces if you had to choose?
RL: I’m so biased, so of course, I will say everything’s my favorite piece. The pieces I’ve worn the most are the Kira bodysuit and the Lexie trousers from our original collection – they are easy to style up for the office but go equally well with trainers and more relaxed looks on weekends. I hate wearing heels, and I always wear trainers, so it’s super important to have styles I can wear for work that will look good with both.
And then, in terms of our new collection, I am obsessed with the Noa blazer and the Willow wide-leg pants. The Noa blazer looks awesome with jeans and a basic T-shirt, while our Willow pants have a nice relaxed tailored look. For the office, you can pair them together to create a power set, which makes me feel confident and ready for the day.
The Emily dress and Marnie midi skirt are two of our best-sellers. They’re flattering, comfortable, and easy to style with anything else. And one more: The Samme tee is a classic T-shirt with a boxy fit and sturdy fabric that looks put together for work and can go with jeans and skirts.
Any new initiatives you’re excited about this year?
RL: Right now, the thing that drives me is designing garments that make women’s lives easier – that help other busy women like me get through their day feeling good, put together, and ready to take on any challenge.
I’ve also been speaking to a social enterprise to empower young women from underprivileged backgrounds who are trying to break into corporate professions but don’t have clothing for interviews or day-to-day work. So we are looking into how we can provide clothes to them and support more women worldwide.
You can find Rebecca’s versatile and effortlessly chic designs online or in person at Parallel 51’s first store on 63A Peel Street in Hong Kong. The shop also stocks our debut collection of Fullup. Infinity sneakers so that you can try on your favorite styles in person.