Creation Care, Inspiration, Issue 42, Sustainability

Fashion With A Purpose

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Fashion With A Purpose

Interested in sustainable or slow fashion? Perhaps you are a budding creative yourself hoping to start a business in Singapore. EUNICE SNG speaks to some of Singapore’s fashion up-and-comers to find out just what it takes to lead a purpose-driven business.

In the first year of operating Paradigm Shift, we were blessed with a growing audience and brand momentum. Thus, I was eager to launch new products. I was about to send out an email to our manufacturer requesting to begin production on the next product when the Lord convicted me. He asked me, “Who designed that dress and who decided to go ahead with production?”. I was dumbstruck and could not answer Him because I knew it was all me and God was not even given a chance to have a say in it.

He later gave me instructions to only sell the long black dress for a whole year. I was in shock! How would that sustain us? Then He convicted me, “What paradigms would you be shifting if you ran your business like everybody else?” At that point, I really did not understand, but I obeyed. One year later, I see the fruits of obeying Him above all logic and business sense. Because we only sold one item for that whole year, the brand can now speak with credibility and authority when it comes to talking about slow fashion and production because we walked the talk! It was an almost unheard of “business model” but hey, if the King says, it goes.

A challenge of identifying ourselves as a sustainable brand is that it automatically limits the kind of materials we can use. But this is always exciting because it forces me to work with what we have and to make the impossible possible, with God, of course! Sometimes it looks like charting new territories where others have yet to, and exploring new methods and ways of running a sustainable fashion business.

I wish to see Singapore’s fashion industry change from domination to empowerment, a shift from brand’s self-obsession to customer-centricness. Instead of brands influencing the masses in the fashion decisions that they themselves dictate, my hope is for brands to make decisions based on the customer’s needs. What good does fashion have if it is only about self-elevation? I believe in fashion for good; empowerment throughout its supply chain from start to end.

The name Will & Well came out of the Lord speaking to me about the idea I had to design inclusive and functional fashion for all. He said, “If you have the will to do it, then I will make it well for you.” With that comforting understanding, I found the meaning for the brand as well. In the same vein, for our clients (who can range from stroke patients, to people with disabilities, to the able-bodied), if they have the will to live a good life, regardless of their age or physical situation, then we will make it well for them too through inclusive clothing so that it is easier for them to get dressed.

Everyone wants to look good, so the clothing needs to be attractive as well, not just functional. An example of that is our Unisex Drawstring Front-Zip Pants! We designed it as a customised piece for a lady who had a hip surgery, but I wear it too, and an 80-year-old granny does too! I think it’s really fun like that, when a garment is being worn by different age groups. People wear it all for the same reason, for the ease of us, for the comfort, for its classic look. Our Front-Zip Midi Dress is another piece that was birthed out of a conversation that I had with an elderly lady who lives alone. She was telling me that she couldn’t wear dresses anymore because she didn’t have anyone to zip the dress up for her and she can’t stretch that way. It just goes to show that regardless of age and physical ailments, fashion can still accommodate and beautify each customer.

Every single morning, I spend some time reflecting on what I have — everything is a gift from Him and He can take it away at any time. It can be business opportunities, family, church or friends. It’s a good reminder that nothing belongs to me and it helps me not to cling on to anything in this world too tightly — it’s an approach for living that allows us to make decisions based on His will and His values and His principles. Then, He will make whatever He placed in our hands well for us to fulfil!

My brand is called Elizabeth Little — named after my daughter because she was really tiny compared to her brother. She is definitely my inspiration! Children have endless ideas and they are not restricted by the same things adults are, so it’s really great fun to create with her! For example, she’s turning six and is currently into fairy princesses — thus, all the sleeves I do now have to have sleeves that puff up!

I started a slow fashion brand because I wanted to leave a legacy for my children that encourages them to value quality over quantity. Slowness has a negative connotation, but to me, ‘slowness’ also means taking time to just wonder, admire, and appreciate what other people make with their hands! I suppose it also ties in with biblical values because it’s really about being contented with what we have, and also about patience.

As a Christian in the creative industry, social media is extremely powerful. There are so many negative influences these days, thus, as a Christian, it is important to post positive messages. With every social media post, I take time to think and pray that it will be uplifting. We also try to incorporate Christian messaging on our packaging. With every dress order that we get, we send out a postcard with penned down Bible verses for every customer — Philippians 4:4 is my favourite. Sometimes, we get feedback that the recipients were encouraged — even if they weren’t Christian — because everybody loves being blessed!

When the COVID situation happened back in March, three of my stockists closed down and I had a whole office filled with extremely expensive Liberty fabric shipped in from Italy. Thus, I was stuck with a super high inventory cost and there was no way we could utilise the fabric because all the fairs I was supposed to participate in got cancelled. Thankfully my mentor prompted me to start making masks and when I posted pictures of the samples, the feedback was phenomenal. However, I didn’t want to profit from something like this during this period, especially because masks had become an essential item. God gave me the idea of donating one mask for every mask sold, and that was what I did! To date, I think we have donated about 15,000 masks!

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