Probably the buzzword of the future, the sustainability conversation has found its place on almost every front in existence — and we think rightfully so. Amidst the buzz, our universal need for an endurable planet, clothing and their complex interconnectedness means a new global fixation on the sustainable fashion pulse. That said, perhaps conscious fashion in popular imagination remains very much stuck on a hippie one-off designer collection, maybe avant-garde (or conversely, too bland) with an exceptional (see: epic) price tag to match. Like a singular, bohemian experience. So we want to bring you something different.
Reclaiming the spotlight once more, we’ve put together another special edit. This time for the dream makers pursuing a new, more sustainable fashion chapter on home soil. We bring you 9 sustainable fashion labels from Singapore led by women with vision. Labels that are slowly transforming the local fashion landscape with their commitment to responsibility, accessibility and empowerment. It’s time to get in the know and get excited. Presenting: The Local Sustainable Fashion Edit 2020.
Behind the label: Jae Tan & Serena Chan
The Bare philosophy is stark and most certainly bold, born out of a discontent with the environmental impact of fast fashion. Bare was started on the shared vision of its founders Jae and Serena who met in university and in their own words, got right down to business. The young label is currently run as a two-woman team (alongside Jae and Serena’s own jobs). But the arduousness of their intensively hands-on work and slim profit margins have had nothing on the passion-based label. Their unapologetically fuss-free approach is redefining the thrill (and combating the perils) of fashion fads by ticking everything that should be necessary and omitting everything that’s not.
Durability from form to function is key. Bare is about classic pieces that you can invest in and keep on endless rotation. Think clean, intuitive lines and subtle, universally-flattering accents that are easy to wear everyday, but versatile enough for much more. In the true spirit of slower fashion, Bare does not operate on seasonal or trend-based collections. Everything is designed in-house (helmed by Serena) and launched whenever they are ready to go. Also forget mass production, the label’s pieces are produced entirely in Singapore using only natural dyes and with an express focus on workplaces that honour collaborative craftsmanship.
2. Dear Samfu
Behind the label: Trixie Chua
Dear Samfu is quite the singular label. It pays homage to an endearingly simple style: a grandmother’s samfu. Started by Trixie after realising the unsustainability of her shopping habits, Dear Samfu is devoted to the timeless wearability of a samfu’s frugal form. The label’s fashion rules revolve around a few staple pieces and nostalgic design inspired by modern cuts that you can alternate seamlessly.
Trixie is the brainchild behind all of Dear Samfu’s designs (and predominantly a one-woman team), where conscious production begins with sourcing dead stock fabric (made only from natural fibres) from Thailand. The ofttimes unique cloth patterns usually inspire Dear Samfu’s original designs. The label has even released samfu-inspired scrunchies, which are hand-sewn by Trixie’s (and Dear Samfu’s) biggest supporter, Theresa, also Trixie’s twin sister! All that aside, if Dear Samfu strikes you as yet another addition to “hippie” fashion, you might want to hold that thought. The label invites you to see its gently reinvented, humble samfu as an everyday stylish fundamental for a contemporary and conscious wardrobe.
3. The Kint Story
Behind the label: Elisa Goh
The Kint Story is on a slightly different path from the other labels here. Deep-diving into the slow fashion revolution, the platform is dedicated to rescuing preloved clothing and giving them new life. Inspired by kintsugi (i.e. the Japanese art of putting broken pottery pieces back together with gold), Kint Story’s beginnings were motivated by fast fashion’s buy-and-throwaway culture.
Elisa, who now runs the platform as a one-woman show (alongside her full time job), tenaciously believes in the beauty and viability of second-hand clothes; little imperfections and rich backstories included. Although it’s no romantic task working an online thrift shop, since Kint Story also painstakingly picks the second hand treasures it sells. But bigger dreams carry the label. Elisa hopes to make normal the exciting, valuable and mindful culture of thrifting in Singapore, beginning from Kint Story’s dynamic second hand shopping experience.
4. Mind The Label
Behind the label: Janice Tee
Mind The Label minces nothing. It is 100% plant based, 100% transparent and with vibes to beat. The ethical label with an edge was founded by Janice, birthed from her passion for sustainability and love for California-living (where she grew up). The aim? To fill the gap of sustainable fashion being expensive and often inclined towards more minimalistic styles. Expectedly, design is at the heart of Mind The Label where fashion is the medium. Janice lets her sunny, Long Beach inspired pieces do the talking first. Because it’s all about clothing that is superlatively sustainable, ethical, transparent but also charming enough to spark interest on their own.
The label sources materials from and produces in Indonesia, where Janice is adamant about meeting the people behind her clothes and sharing all about the whos (who made your clothes), wheres (where the materials comes from), hows (the impact of your clothes) and whats (the meaning behind the price tag). Taking it one step further, Mind The Label also plans to donate 5% of its profits to a charity they and their community believe in. It is evident that education remains the label’s soul (a conscious commitment and charismatic styles aside), as it pursues mindful fashion loud enough to spur important conversations about sustainability, diversity and values it stands for.
5. NOST Loungewear
Behind the label: Felicia Toh & Tessa Weiher
Behold, a label that has — quite literally — elevated a sleep category in the form of cosy, breezy and statement loungewear with a purpose. The founders of NOST, Felicia and Tessa (who currently run the label as a two-woman team while holding full time jobs) are architects by training, with the discipline being an essential source of inspiration for their creations and philosophy. NOST’s production process is a riveting one: beginning with prints that are designed entirely in-house, remarkably detailed and architecturally-inspired by paying tribute to iconic landmarks in Singapore. Easy cuts, fine detailing and cosy fits also make for endlessly wearable pieces that are never too intimate, so you can slot them into your out-and-about wardrobe too.
Importantly, NOST believes in people. The label partners with heritage craft artisan families and vulnerable communities to make its pieces. In fact, Felicia and Tessa believe that it is the traditional methods and skill of their makers which allow them new ways of seeing fashion. In doing so, the label remains committed to preserving traditional, more sustainable handcrafting processes like woodblock printing, batik-printing and handloom. Returning to the brand’s value system centred on its makers, their dignity and art form, Felicia and Tessa pose quite an unforgettable question: everything has a cost, but who bears it?
6. Our Bare Hands
Behind the label: Chanel Go & Germaine Lye
Behind Our Bare Hands’ collection of delicately handcrafted pieces — from woven sandals and clutches to beaded earrings — lies a whopping mission to empower small-producing communities all over the world. Our Bare Hands is a collaborative platform that partners with small artisan communities around the globe. They endeavour to uncover the potential in their maker’s art form, to connect them with resources and a market for their creations: thoughtfully crafted lifestyle products, that speak to both its makers and buyers.
The label’s founders Chanel and Germaine (who now run Our Bare Hands full time) stand firmly for enabling sustainable livelihoods. This means helping the communities they work with (e.g. the Wayuu Tribe in Zulia) to create possibilities for themselves and pursue their own dreams, by their own hands (henceforth, “bare hands”). The sustainable agenda remains very much driven by the communities they partner. Bearing in mind that it is often those who contribute the least to environmental degradation that end up suffering the most — which is what propels the label to reduce impact at every turn.
7. Paradigm Shift Label
Behind the label: Audris Quek
Fashion led by and aspiring to incite a transformative perspective is the engine of Paradigm Shift Label (which found its name exactly from a vision of change). For Audris, the founder and one-woman show behind Paradigm Shift, sustainability is all about making the more conscious choice. Her label is a love song to the modern, modest minimalist in the form of responsible wardrobe essentials. Investing in quality means enduring pieces; while caring for makers and working with ethical manufacturers brings everyone together in the responsible fashion revolution.
Beyond its neat, everyday silhouettes, Paradigm Shift also strives for an unmatched authenticity both in production and its belief system. Apart from replacing obscure “made in” tags with instead, answering the question of who made your clothes, the label also ensures inclusivity in their size range. For collections that truly value organic beauty — from Paradigm Shift’s artisans, to its everyday customers.
8. The Soleil Girl
Behind the label: Fadilah Kasmani
There’s always something inexplicably alluring about billowy holiday cuts, rippling hems and earthy hues for island-living feels. That’s exactly the wardrobe of The Soleil Girl, but with a conscious twist. The resort-inspired label delights in relaxed, free-spirited pieces that speak of sun-drenched weekends, summer energy and above all, a kindness to the planet.
The Soleil Girl was founded by Fadilah, whose impulsive shopping habits were forever changed after an encounter with “The True Cost” and is an embodiment of her dream to make ethical fashion accessible and relevant. All of the label’s pieces are hand made in small batches by a family-run factory in Denpasar, with uncompromising attention paid to workmanship and fair workplace practices. It is also where The Soleil Girl sources its natural and biodegradable fabrics, while constantly seeking to do more for the environment with progressive changes (including slowly transitioning from batik to natural plant-based dyes).
9. Whispers & Anarchy
Pictured: Vahbiz, the Communications & PR lead of Whispers & Anarchy. (Sarah was not able to join our shoot as she was in Spain at the time.)
Behind the label: Sarah Ortiz
At the core of Whispers & Anarchy’s riveting collection of flowing silhouettes, ruffles and ethereal hues is a bigger belief that beautiful clothing should be thoroughly fairly made. Drawing on Sarah’s Spanish roots, the label prides itself with flattering and transitional pieces that tell a sustainable story.
All of Whispers & Anarchy’s pieces are individually hand made in a small family-run craft workshop based off Bali and employing locally-sourced natural fabrics including BCI-certified cotton (the Better Cotton Initiative is a non-profit behind the largest cotton sustainability programme in the world). It is also committed to addressing the pressing issue of female labour exploitation in garment production, beginning with empowering its own. From sourcing to design, production and marketing, Whispers & Anarchy is powered by an all-female team who work in environments that value their dignity and skill. It’s the slow fashion of the future!
We’re putting the spotlight on local fashion brands chasing new sustainable frontiers on home soil and beyond. There’s much to be excited about; watch this space and hop over to our Instagram for more from our Local Sustainable Fashion Edit 2020.