The Heart Behind - Orejas
THE HEART BEHIND is a series of interviews where we get to know the founders and the heart behind what they do.
"Inspired by real people for real life", Orejas offers practical, versatile and low-impact everyday wardrobe essentials. We find out more from Wenjia, the founder of Orejas.
Tell us more about your background, before you started Orejas!
Before starting Orejas, I was an engineering grad student in the US. After graduation, the ebbs and flows of life brought me to Singapore in early 2019. With the clean slate of a new life chapter, I decided to pursue the idea that had been brewing in the back of my mind for the last few years - to make great clothing that is light on the environment.
So what made you start Orejas?
Mostly a passion to just create something, to realize my ideas into tangible products that can be shared by people all over the world. Even though I was trained as an engineer, I am passionate about art and have been drawing and painting my whole life. I see Orejas as another one of my creative outlets. Also, with my background in environmental engineering, I’m always thinking about how everything should be made more sustainably. Learning about how clothing is made has been an interest of mine for quite some time.
Do you take inspiration from any particular brand or personality?
My personal style has always been simple and minimalist, sometimes tom-boyish. I’m very inspired by brands that make durable, high quality items that are free of fashionable elements and will never go out of style. I’m a fervent fan of A.P.C and Margaret Howell. At the same time, I’m also drawn to a few streetwear brands, mostly menswear, that have a retro color palette, boxy cuts and use heavy and durable materials, like Noah NYC and Aimé Leon Dore. Sadly I’m too petite to wear their menswear. In real life, I’m mostly in Muji and Uniqlo, when I’m not wearing Orejas ;)
Your clothes are made-in-china. That might raise some eyebrows especially with what is going on with China in the media right now. Tell us more about the factory you work with.
Made-in-China has had a bad rap for some time, which to some extent is understandable, but I believe most of it stemmed from stereotypical assumptions. On an industry level, China has been a leader in textiles for decades, with both strong technical capabilities and much better work safety and salary benefits than many other developing countries. In fact, the industry is so competitive that factories in China have to compete for workers with attractive benefit packages. The factory that we worked with for Orejas’ first collection is a small workshop in Shandong Province, in eastern China. All of the workers there are from the local village, meaning they can go home to their family and children every day after work. And they are paid around 100% higher than the local minimum wage.
As a young brand, what is your approach toward sustainability?
I’m quite reluctant to call Orejas a sustainable fashion brand, because first of all, sustainability has become an umbrella-term buzzword; secondly we do acknowledge that our supply chain is still far from the ideal. However, I do believe it’s important for sustainable fashion brands to put forward clearly-stated and thoughtful sustainability principles that the brands opt to adopt. For Orejas, it starts with the design - we only want to make practical designs over fashionable styles that you wear once or twice for an Instagram photo. Then, with the materials, we use as much organic and natural materials as possible. Last but not least, we would like to offer an avenue for customers to resell, reuse or recycle the garments at their end-of-life stage, which is something we are still working on. You can check out our full sustainability guideline at: https://orejas.co/pages/our-sustainability-guideline.
What do you hope to see in the fashion industry?
I do want to see more and more brands incorporating recycled content into their products. Materials like cotton, wool, cashmere, or even leather, could be recycled and made into new products. I think this trend is already happening right now with more and more customers becoming accepting or even supportive of products with recycled content, which is very exciting!
Where do you hope to see Orejas in the next few years?
So far, Orejas has been a one-person operation. Although it’s been quite challenging running the label all by myself, I’ve been very much enjoying seeing customers’ most wonderful feedback and love. Right now, there are still so many things I want to design and make for Orejas, and I want to push myself to make those happen!