The Heart Behind - Dear Samfu
THE HEART BEHIND is a series of interviews where we get to know the founders and the heart behind what they do.
A fashion label bringing back Grandma's values of thoughtful consumption and sustainability into our wardrobes. We ask Trixie, the founder of Dear Samfu, more about her unique brand.
What inspired you to start this grandma fashion statement? Was there a particular moment that sparked the idea?
I’ve always been interested in having a unique yet comfortable style regardless of whether I’m dressing up for work or down for the weekend. The ah-ha moment came about when I started working in an office job a few years back and realised that I was buying loads of cheap fast fashion, until organising my wardrobe became a struggle. I then “Marie-Kondo-ed” my wardrobe, read up and found out that the fashion industry is one of the most polluting and wasteful industries in the world, because of the advent of fast fashion. One day while visiting Grandma, she showed me her very simple but stunning wardrobe made out of her favourite Samfus which she wore since I was little… till today! And the Samfu was so versatile that she wore it to the market, at home while doing household chores and even dressed it up to attend for her grandkids’ weddings! To me, this is sustainable fashion at its best.
Building a brand is hard work, especially when the idea is so out of the ordinary. Did you face any setbacks?
Yes of course! My first, and one of the biggest challenges was finding a fabric supplier and manufacturer that shared the same values as me. I wanted to create with as little environmental footprint as possible by working only with deadstock fabric, which are remnant fabrics that are left behind in the supply chain by larger brands. Also, I wanted to find a manufacturer who is transparent about their working conditions. Hence, it took a few twists and turns before finally finding the right partners!
Is there any particular brand or personality that you are most influenced by?
Not a personality per se, but grandma of course! My mother, grandmother and women of the generation before us serve as a great inspiration for me. Their diligence, prudence and humility are what keeps me going and I hope to be able to translate these values into my designs and aesthetic.
Tell us more about your design and sourcing process. How do you go about it?
As I work with deadstock fabrics, I get inspired by the fabric that’s available, alongside my growing trove of old family photos and online archives. Looking through family albums helps me dream up what my mum and grandma would wear for different occasions. After coming up with a silhouette, I design the tech pack before developing patterns and samples in Singapore and Thailand.
I then work with our fabric partner’s factory in Thailand for the grading and manufacturing of the pieces. I'm grateful to be working with partners who not only commit to ensure ethical standards and payment of living wages for the makers, but also share my vision to address textile waste and value quality over quantity.
"I hope that through Dear Samfu, more young women will understand the importance of making wise fashion choices and consider sustainable alternatives when buying clothing."
Social and environmental issues are big problems that often seem impossible to tackle. Do you think it’s your responsibility to address these issues?
As much as it is hard to quantify how a small brand like mine can make a positive impact on issues ranging from water pollution and overproduction to poor working conditions, I believe in collective action and that a little can go a long way. Of course, there’s no end point towards addressing social and environmental issues.
What do you want customers to know about sustainable fashion?
Sustainable fashion need not break the bank! I think the #1 misconception, at least what I hear from those around me, is that choosing to shop sustainably means buying expensive clothing.
Apart from choosing to buy from sustainable brands, which might come at a premium because of the smaller quantities made, materials used and fair wages paid to workers, there’s also thrift shops, fashion swaps and even Carousell. Everyone can find alternatives depending on your comfort level. And before buying new clothing, perhaps it could be simply reorganizing your current wardrobe and you might be surprised that there are some items you have never worn before! My Grandma keeps her closet so minimal and organized that she knows where to look for a Samfu for the right occasion. That’s how she gets so much mileage out of her Samfu collection.
What‘s your dream for Dear Samfu?
My dream is that the Samfu Squad (the term I use to describe my followers and community on social media) will continue to grow and expand internationally. More importantly, I hope that through Dear Samfu, more young women will understand the importance of making wise fashion choices and consider sustainable alternatives when buying clothing.
Last but not least, in Chinese we have a saying “饮水思源”, meaning when we drink water we remember its source. I hope people remember the hard work and prudence that transpired from our Grandma’s generation when they wear the pieces! And just like how Grandma cherished her clothes, they too will cultivate a beautiful and long lasting relationship with their Dear Samfu clothing.