Photo: The Straits Times
Clothes label a creative outlet and reprieve from busy lives
By day, Ms Ng Ping Ching, Ms Sheralyn Tay and Ms Jassica Lee are busy corporate types holding stressful jobs with tight deadlines and long hours. Ms Ng and Ms Lee work in the banking sector and Ms Tay runs her own editorial consultancy.
By night - and all through weekends - the friends delve into a different kind of work: running their local women's clothing brand, Tria the Label.
Tria - which translates to "three" in Latin - was launched in August 2016 as a passion project borne of the trio's love for fashion.
They met in 2015 while practising yoga at the same studio, bonding when they realised they shared a sartorial aesthetic for pieces that are classic and timeless, with interesting details and a slight vintage twist.
Ms Ng, 37, marketing director at Bank of Singapore and a self-confessed shopaholic, said the idea for Tria took form in 2016 when she realised her wardrobe was bursting with ill-fitting items bought on a whim. Similarly, Ms Tay, 36, was moving houses in that year and realised how many clothes she had that she had barely ever worn. Both are married and do not have children.
However, Ms Lee, who is single, had taken another route. Fond of unique and fitted pieces instead of mass-market designs, the 36-year-old who works in private banking at Citibank had been tailoring pieces with a local seamstress for over a decade.
"It was only when we started talking about the benefit of having wellfitting, classic pieces that I realised we might have an idea on our hands," says Ms Ng.
"There was a market for women like myself who appreciate good fabric or a well-designed piece, but might not know a tailor to get clothes made. And that's where Jassica's experience tailoring pieces and her long-standing relationship with her seamstress fit in perfectly."
The trio say it took only three months for Tria to go from idea to conception. Their concept is not to produce dresses wholesale, but to source unique fabrics, create timeless designs and sell them on a preorder basis. Once ordered, their dresses are tailored locally.
This, they say, keeps the business sustainable and helps manage time, cost and wastage. Prices range between $200 and $300 for a dress. It takes between three and six weeks for a piece to be made, depending on the complexity of the design.
To keep the pieces unique, they buy interesting fabrics found on their travels to places such as Japan, Bangkok and Europe - sometimes lugging home 90kg of fabric at a time - and release designs as limited-edition collections.
Their varied skill sets have come in handy in keeping the business running smoothly, despite their hectic day jobs. Ms Ng handles marketing, Ms Tay the operations of the site and the content production as chief financial officer, and Ms Lee the finances and logistics.
They meet every weekend to discuss ideas, consult with their tailor and quality-check their pieces.
"It can be a toll to run a business while working full time, but in a way, it has helped that we can split the workload three ways and each work to our strengths," says Ms Tay. "It's our reprieve from our busy lives and a creative outlet for each of us."
Since its launch, Tria has released 30 designs and the trio have held trunk shows so customers can see the clothes, feel the fabrics and try on the pieces. Besides their growing local following, the brand has also shipped orders to Malaysia, Hong Kong and London.
For Ms Lee, what keeps her going is being able to work with her friends and making pieces she can be proud of.
"We've been lucky that we've been able to work together so well and keep things professional, despite being close friends as well," she says, adding that they are open to pursuing this full time in the future. "At the end of the day, when we get compliments and see people wearing our designs, it makes the long hours and hard work worthwhile."
This article was first published at The Straits Times.
READ PART 1 OF THIS STORY: DITCHING LUCRATIVE CAREERS IN PURSUIT OF FASHION: FOUNDERS OF THE MINDFUL COMPANY