Sven Tan (below, right) and Kane Tan of In Good Company on their design processes, their first foray into accessories, and how they’re keeping things affordable.
They’re young, but Sven Tan, 35, and Kane Tan, 33, already have more than 20 years’ experience between them when it comes to fashion design. They founded local fashion label In Good Company in 2012, along with their friends Julene Aw (who handles operations) and Jaclyn Teo (who’s in charge of sales and marketing).
Nearly three years later, In Good Company has become known for its crisp, clean yet feminine silhouettes. And while prices are kept accessible (currently, the most expensive the label has ever made costs $399), the use of high-quality fabrics make for solid investment pieces. Sven explains that this comes from working directly with textile mills to customise unique and quality fabric. He adds: “We also design and product-develop every single piece in our studio to ensure complete control and efficiency.”
In February, In Good Company launched its first accessories collection – an assortment of ceramic-bauble necklaces that took six months to get exactly right. “The round baubles didn’t sit right against the body without a flattened base,” Sven explains, adding that they even had to modify the kiln so that all the baubles could be fired at an even temperature. “This was further complicated by the fact that different coloured glazes resulted in different shrinkage degrees. Glad it worked out in the end!”
Female interviews Sven and Kane about…
The design process
Sven: I have always been most inspired by the nature and processes of my job: designing a product from start to end-product and the imagination through it all. The ways ideas develop and evolve, the realisation of these into a unique product that a customer will like – I find that most exciting and that’s what drives me.
Kane: The modern woman inspires me. Who they are, what they want, how they live their days, and what they want to wear doing what they do. A lot of my design ideas start from the stage of working with fabric and not from a design sketch. I feel the fabric, form ideas when I cut it; I think about what shapes could come from the weight, drape it on a mannequin and then take it from there.
The challenges of the local design scene
Sven: I find it most challenging for independent designers like us to compete against global fast fashion brands. They will always be cheaper and faster, so we just have to be better. The high cost of operations and lack of resources (unique fabric, haberdashery, hardware, etc) in Singapore makes it a bigger challenge for local designers to sustain research and product development. But we’ve found a niche with In Good Company, meeting somewhere in the middle with our prices, designs, quality and delivery times (four to five collections a year) and not adhering to international delivery calendars.
Kane: It’s quite challenging to come up with something fresh in a very limited time, and with looks that we know our customers would like. It’s something that we are very conscious of – it always goes back to the customer. But we’ve been quite lucky that we’ve found a balance without us sacrificing creativity.
The latest In Good Company collection
Sven: For the capsule collection we launched in February, we had new prints that were designed by a good friend and frequent collaborator, Kuanth. We’ve worked with him for three capsules now, and the prints of dashes and strokes for this collection are minimal but also boldly graphic. They’ve worked really well with this collection, which plays a lot with pleats and folds. These are differences that have evolved from the last capsule. In Good Company capsules tend to do that – one style could retain its key silhouette but evolves through new proportions or a fresh detail.
On the standout pieces in the collection
Sven: The standout piece for me is the Emma fin pleated cotton skirt (below). We wanted movement in the pleats as one walks but we also wanted the pleats to be crisp and razor-sharp. So we opted for fin pleats, where every single pleat is individually heat-bonded by hand. Each piece is quite labour-intensive and (at $399) it’s one of our more expensive piece to date, which is still relatively affordable judging by industry standards!
Kane: My other favourite piece is the Lizo necklace (below), which features the ceramic baubles and coiled powder-coated hardware. I love the juxtaposition of a classic natural material against a simple yet modern design.