Goodbye Fast Fashion, Hello Local Designer Wear

6 March 2019

Tired of the cookie-cutter mass-produced clothes found on the racks of your typical fast fashion store? Or perhaps you’ve opened your eyes to the negative impacts of fast fashion, from the exploitation of workers in developing countries to environmental damage and high levels of waste.

So, what’s the alternative?

Try “Slow Fashion.” It is a movement that encourages mindful practices at every level in the fashion industry, including sustainable manufacturing, fair worker rights, the use of natural materials and making garments that last.

If you’re among the rising number of fashion-forward, yet conscious consumers who not only want to look good, but also want to do good, here are our favourite local brands from Singapore and Malaysia that will help you build wardrobes that transcend easy-come-easy-go trends.

Lark & Peony

A clothes rack of cheongsams from Lack & Peony
Lark & Peony constantly releases new collections that are sure to turn eyes.

For unique and modern takes on the cheongsam, look no further than Lark & Peony. Founder Junie Yeo was inspired to launch the brand after hearing a friend lament about how difficult it was to find cheongsam that were both beautiful and affordable.

As one of our esteemed Prima Donnas, Junie’s flair for fashion can clearly be seen in her designs, which are a refreshing mix of textures and prints, drawing inspiration from different cultures.

Each design is also exclusive, as there are fewer than 30 pieces made. Be sure to quickly snag an invite to one of her trunk shows so you can get first dibs on the latest designs.

Website: larkandpeony.com


An Asian lady pairing a Kimono with a white shirt and jeans
The Ivory Kimono collection adds a breezy touch to a simple get-up. Photo from Real.m

Real.m is a Malaysian-based lifestyle brand focused on offering high-quality products made from real materials such as natural cotton and bamboo fibre.

Their items are also coloured using vegetable dye, rather than toxic chemical dyes. For now, their clothing collection mainly consists of breezy tops, kimonos and kaftans.

For every purchase, the brand donates RM1 to Tropical Rainforest Conservation and Research Centre, an NGO that works to conserve, protect, and restore tropical rainforests throughout peninsular Malaysia and Borneo.

Website: realm.com.my


A lady in black shirt and red printed pants climbing up a flight of stairs
The unique Mobi print, combining clean lines and an organic pattern, is one of MATTER’s most popular prints. Photo from MATTER

Believing that prints tell stories of where and why they are made, MATTER’s mission is to “foster designer-artisan collaborations, inspire customers to value provenance and process, and pioneer industry change and sustainability for rural textile communities”.

They work closely with artisans and designers from around the world, like India and Indonesia, to create stylish and comfy apparel featuring vibrant colours and bold patterns.

Artisans use traditional techniques such as block printing and handlooms to create textile prints, which are then translated into modern designs.

Website: matterprints.com


A caucasian model in a laced black dress
Aijek’s sensual Caroline Embroidered Pencil Dress, using bonded lace. Photo from Aijek

Established Singaporean womenswear label Aijek was conceived in 2010 by Danelle Woo, a self-taught designer.

Since then, it’s rocketed to international acclaim for its designs that celebrate femininity – you’ll see plenty of floral motifs, lace and sleek silhouettes.

As much as possible, Danelle chooses to work with sustainable fabrics over synthetic fabrics, such as silk, wool, rayon, tencel and viscose, which are breathable and feel good to the touch.  At the end of the day, Aijek’s goal is to create classic, long-lasting pieces for the everyday woman.

Website: aijek.com

Rumah Gareh Pua Project

A red hand woven scarf
Beautiful handmade designs like this are one-of-a-kind. Photo from Rumah Gareh Pua Project

Rumah Gareh Pua Project was initially created with the mission to help preserve the traditional arts and culture of the Iban tribe in Sarawak, specifically the craft of weaving textiles.

However, the store has since expanded to include items sourced from Orang Asli communities across Malaysia and the world.

Learn more about this Malaysian chocolate maker that sources cocoa beans from local Orang Asli tribes.

Acting as a platform for local artisans to display their work, Rumah Gareh Pua Project features gorgeously hand-woven, naturally-dyed Iban pua kumbu textiles, which also come in other forms, such as shawls and clutch bags.

Best of all, profits made from the sale of the textiles go directly back to the people who made them.

Website:  Rumah Gareh Pua Project


An Asian lady in a grey romper walking on the beach
Fans of airy apparel and neutral tones will fall in love with Esse’s designs. Photo from Esse

Designer and founder Alicia Tsi decided to create her own fashion label out of a desire to change the “disposable” mindset towards fashion that has led to unnecessary waste.

The brand’s garments are made from sustainable, breathable fabrics like lyocell and organic cotton, resulting in lightweight, flowy pieces that you can comfortably wear in the tropical weather.

Beyond producing timeless designs made to last, Esse believes in building a progressive supply chain that reduces waste and champions transparency.

In an effort to build a solid relationship of mutual respect between the brand and the seamstresses who make the clothes, Esse regularly visits their factories in Ho Chi Minh City and Chiang Mai.

Website: essethelabel.com

Now that you’ve mastered the art of Slow Fashion, how about changing the way you travel?

Discover ‘Slow Travel’ – travelling with the intention to deeply connect with a place and its people, and taking your time to do so.

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