It may seem odd for a tailoring business to launch ready-to-wear, but then again, womenswear brand 3Eighth has its roots in rebellion. Founder Sheryl Yeo, 30, started her label in 2018 to help women like herself who felt they were left out of the ready-to-wear market.
“There was a gap for adapting menswear to women’s bodies,” says the self-confessed tomboy. “I was done with overly feminine styles then. I was unhappy seeing women in certain dresses; I felt they were dressing for the male gaze.”
So last month, she launched Staples – an online capsule of four shirts ($119 each) in three predetermined sizes for each gender. There is still some custom aspect. Customers can choose from three to seven colourways and indicate their preferred sleeve and shirt lengths before checking out. Shirts are made to order and sewn only upon purchase.
Rebellion aside, the collection was born partly out of struggling to stay afloat during the pandemic, which at its worst brought her sales down to almost nil. It has helped her take her trade online and reach out to new customers, she says.
The model benefits people concerned about safety (by reducing physical contact between tailor and client) and those “who are just uncomfortable with meeting people in general”.
Sheryl Yeo, founder of 3Eighth
“I think made-to-order is the best of both worlds, whereby you get (your privacy), but still get to make choices. It’s a first foray for people into custom-making clothes,” she says.
Some customers who bought her pieces online ended up doing custom ones with her. She has become more adventurous since the pandemic.
A teacher contacted her during the circuit breaker to ask for a dress in a certain cut. Over virtual fittings, they ironed out fabric choices and styles. The happy customer – whom Yeo still has not met till this day – ended up tailoring seven dresses.
Moving forward, Yeo will offer more casual styles, joking that she has lost the demographic of female lawyers who once made up half her clientele.
And she will be expanding Staples.
“I think Staples was a reclamation of what I wanted to wear as a female – it could still represent what was feminine enough by my standards,” she says. “I started the brand with a bit of angry feminism, which I think I’ve grown out of. Every woman deserves to dress however they want as long as they feel empowered by it.”