Cover image photography: Jared Ryan Rezel
When we first met sisters Amanda and Olivia Lin on a weekday afternoon, work had already begun. Amanda welcomes us into their space and shows us to our meeting spot – a cosy corner of the studio where two racks of clothing to our right stood neatly.
The atelier reflected their branding style – clean and straight to the point. Unlike the usual white walls and brightly lit studio that shout minimalism, theirs was simply decorated with comfortable lighting. The fabric table was tucked comfortably in the upper section of the atelier kept to the privacy of Olivia, who handles the cutting before sending each piece of clothing to the master tailor.
Their partnership seems balanced. While Olivia handles the fabric work, Amanda works on branding and marketing for INVENTORY. Building the label out of active examination of consumers’ behaviours and the fashion industry, the duo adopts a purposeful approach towards their craft.
What motivated the both of you to start a label?
O: We noticed that people were increasingly more style-conscious. What we also realised was that people didn’t actually need many things and tend to fall back on the same few pieces. For our made-to-measure pieces, we came up with 13 go-to pieces for day-to-day activities and travelling. These are clothing that will take you from a meeting to a gig. Our name was based on the desire to create clothes that people could make an inventory of—clothing that is able to last for a lifetime and beyond.
A: We create bespoke and made-to-measure clothing for men and women. The pieces are more or less made for every day wear. We make sure that the designs are always ready to be packed in a suitcase for travel. A lot of people are very trend-driven but we aren’t aiming towards that. We don’t follow or focus on trends.
There's a rising awareness around bespoke clothing although the general population in some countries (and sometimes our own) may not be brought up to appreciate or understand the usefulness behind it. What are your thoughts about this form of conscious consumerism?
O: There’s a huge tide of people who are becoming more quality conscious rather than placing all their focus on being trendy or ‘relevant’. The people who come to us understand that we use very high quality fabrics. The beauty of it is that you get to choose the fabrics that you want and receive a garment that’s made in your size.
Everything is manufactured locally. I cut the fabric in the studio and send to the tailor to finish off. We ensure that the end product is the best we can produce in Singapore. Of course, a certain sort of income is needed to be able afford such services. That being said, we still manage the price points such that it’s affordable for the average working adult.
What sparked the idea for the Bespoke Shirt Project?
O: We felt that a shirt is the only item you would really, really need if you had to strip your wardrobe down to a single item. If you had to wear one thing all the time for the rest of your life, what would it be? We wanted to find that out from the creatives we worked with.
The designs were based on their needs and how the details would complement their daily activities. For Clifford Loh of Vulture, he prefers rolling up his sleeves instead of letting them fall down his wrists. With that, I came up with the idea of having straps that secured the sleeves so he wouldn’t have to worry about it for the rest of the day.
Amanda used to be a product designer. She thought that a sofa was one of the most basic and boring things to create. I felt that even though it’s such an ubiquitous object, there were many alternatives for creation. The idea was to transcend a common look—by actively reinterpreting an object, you might create an item that might prove to be even more beautiful and functional than its existing counterparts.
Image by Anton Lim
The idea behind Lydia Bindi’s shirt was centred on her new project called ‘Die Hard Lover’. The design was inspired by the DHL print used in one of Vetements’ collection. We thought she would enjoy something more street wear-oriented. The output was a Cuban collared shirt that she incorporated graphics onto. There is a strong aesthetic to her art and at that point in time, she was interested in creating a label that reflected her ideas. We wanted to be there for her and work on something that could help her stir these ideas.
A: The entire shirt project was created so that we could give them a blank canvas and come up with something that we haven’t thought about as clothing makers ourselves. It was interesting to witness how those ideas pushed a shirt’s boundaries and be part of that process.
It was eventually exhibited at the National Gallery of Singapore.
A: We wanted to share the output of this collaboration with other people. Gallery & Co. has always been a platform that showcased the works of local artists and so we felt that it was the best place to exhibit this project.
O: They are very supportive of local designers and works and that’s something that we stand by as well. There’s a new wave of talent here that needs to be seen.
We’re just glad to have met fellow creatives who share the same mindset, such as Yah-Leng Yu (Foreign Policy) and Darren Loke (Omitir Concepts) and the people at Knuckles & Notch, a risograph studio in Singapore.
How does such a pool of efforts contribute to a greater level of individuality among creatives?
Image by Maria Clare Khoo
O: It helps people build conversations and gels creatives who are individualistic in their own ways. For example, when working on the Bespoke Shirt Project with Theseus Chan of WORK (WERK Magazine), we found that he has his own unique ideas and processes them in a very specific way, which we admire. When working with other people, it’s always about creating that positive alchemy between two or more individual styles and ideas.
At the end of the day, what are you most fuelled by?
O: Often, I’m most inspired by music. I’m always looking for new music and I buy a lot of books. Most of these in the studio are mine—from cookbooks, vintage menswear books to art books like Elmgreen & Dragset. My collection spans various areas of interest. There’s also Fashion Scandinavia because I’m crazy about the way Scandinavians look at clothes. There’s Bompas & Parr that creates fun jelly works. There are advertising books too!
The aesthetic vision of these books is one thing but the ideas are what inspire me ultimately. For example, Damien Hirst might not be the best artist in the world but he has some pretty interesting ideas that are translated very well in this book created with Gordon Burn (who’s one of the best art critics globally, by the way) called On The Way To Work.
A: For me, it’s being able to help someone come up with a garment that they like. For instance, most people come to us with an idea of creating something that they cannot buy elsewhere. It’s interesting to listen to what they need and be able to solve that.
More about INVENTORY here