Oh we do love a jumpsuit, and Diana in particular just can’t get enough of them. So when we came across MATTER and their fabulous range of clothing and newly launched jumpsuit collection we just had to get to know a bit more about them.
The philosophy behind Matters follows these 3 key principles
Slow Style – Seasonless Classics
Slow Production – Quality over Quantity
Slow Design – Intentionality in Process
We are so excited to share our exclusive interview with founder Renyung Ho. It’s always so inspiring to learn more about a brand and it’s founder. We hope you enjoy this little snippet into story behind MATTER.
What was your “aha” moment? What made you decide to create your amazing brand?
Thanks for thinking its amazing! You know, there wasn’t actually just one aha moment. It was a combination of a few. I’ll name 3. The first was in University. My thesis was social entrepreneurship and it showed me the power of combining purpose, profit and impact. I realised that my version of success was an equation combining what I love, what I’m good at and what positive impact I could make in my lifetime. Second moment, was on a solo trip in Sapa Valley, Vietnam. Two girls came up to me to sell my embroidered bookmarks, and they explained in halting english that they were saving to fund their education. The embroidery on their bookmarks was taught to them by their mother who was taught by her grandmother, and is unique to their hill tribe. This was the first lightbulb of working with generational craft skills to commercial and social impact. Third moment, completing a 3500km road trip in an auto rickshaw across India. It was a fundraising trip that also opened my eyes to the beauty and chaos of India, and ultimately what catalysed me to return to start sourcing forMATTER. It convinced me that small things can go a really long way.
What were your biggest hurdles when starting your business? Did you simply pole vault over the issues or knock over a bunch of hurdles along the way?
Oh wow. Every business owner will tell you that there are a million hurdles and sometimes you pole vault but most of the times you face plant it. On lucky days you find a way to walk around the hurdle and avoid it altogether!
One of the biggest hurdles was production and QC. Not being from this industry meant not knowing the amount of detail required in design and production and the first batch was honestly, a far cry from what we have today. And we are still improving. The first batch arrived a few days before my wedding and let’s just say there were a lot of tears involved. Investing in someone you trust and who is excellent and far more experienced than you is key.
Other hurdles are of course, financial planning given the uncertainty of the business when its first running, but placing parameters around risk (i.e. how much you’re willing to lose on x experiment or venture for y amount of time) helps as well as working your heart out of course. A hurdle that continues now is the one of doubt and uncertainty – you never know what really is the best decision to take, because there is no boss other than you and no one else will tell you. So you just take it.
How long has your brand been going? And how long did it take for you to muster up the courage to take the big step?
We started in May 2014, so about 2 years now. The idea has been kicking around since 2009 though, when I met my co-founder Yvonne in Mexico and we worked together there. So it took 6 years of meeting up for sourcing trips amidst our day jobs, conversations and daydreaming for this to finally happen. I think when you’ve thought about something long enough and it continues to sit on the back burner stubbornly refusing to fade away, you know its something you have to try or you’ll regret it.
Where are you based and which countries/cities globally do you partner with to manufacture or sell your product?
We are based in Singapore mainly, with some members of the team in Amsterdam, Thailand and Delhi. In terms of artisan partners, we have 5 community partners in India across Jaipur, Bengal, Hyderabad, and our production house for garments is in Delhi. We’re excited to be exploring Indonesia and Thailand next for artisan partners too.
In terms of distribution, online is our main channel and we have shipped to over 35 countries so far. We have retailed to stockists in Switzerland, Amsterdam, Hong Kong, Miami and New York, on an ad hoc basis, and are stocked in 5 stores in Singapore.
This is the age of connectivity, and what’s exciting is this ability to be in one place but work with likeminded people all over. Like you!
Do you think people actually care about ethical fashion and/or responsible consuming?
There’s two ways I want to answer this question.
First, is that people do care, but people respond to positivity in terms of action rather than negativity, which can be numbing. Celebrate the good, like how we talk about the positive impact of creating artisan employment and the beauty of the craft rather than emphasising mainly how the artisan industry is continually under threat.
Second, is that people care, but in order to elicit a positive action from them, for example buying a product, it is imperative that it benefits them as well. One of our key emphasis is on quality, and I strongly believe that a product must stand on its own and be attractive first, and have a social or environmental benefit, second. In order to make responsible choices more mainstream, we have to make them more convenient, and more attractive.
What would you say is the ‘Ethical’ element of your brand? (i.e sustainable, organic, handmade, vegan etc.)
I actually prefer not to use the world ethical or sustainable in our language, and you’ll notice in terms of describing ourselves, we use the phrase ‘socially motivated’. The reason is that many people attach their own understanding to these words which actually represent very complex concepts. For example, just ascertaining what is a sustainable fabric requires a conversation around each part of the process from yarn to fabric to post care, and for example bamboo silk which has been touted as a sustainable fabric because of its source composition, actually requires a lot of chemicals and energy to produce and extract.
For us, we focus on one thing, and that is furthering the sustainability of the textile artisan industry. In this sense, what we care about is demand generation for the artisans, raising their incomes and economic opportunities, ensuring that they are fairly paid and treated well, and elevating the value of their craft through designer collaborations and consumer education.
Are you a crack of dawn kind of person or burning the midnight oil?
Both, depending on my mood. I used to be an entirely midnight oil person, but then started loving the feeling of getting my day started really early with exercise and feeling energised for the rest of it. I’d say for creative thinking and doing I am a midnight owl and for strategic thinking and planning, I’m a dawn robin.
Where are your favourite places to travel to and why?
I don’t have a favorite destination actually, and love the discovery of travel for its own sake. You can travel in your own home town, and I believe that it’s a mindset of getting out of your context, doing things out of the ordinary and embracing spontaneity and adventure. In this sense, it’s the serendipity of travel, the coffee with an old couple by the tea house next door, the unexpected vista when you’re lost on a trekking route, the deer that crosses your path or child that asks you to play with them in the street, that is my greatest inspiration. Moments of connection across such different worlds that reminds me of the wonder, beauty and pathos of our diverse humanity.
To find out more about Matter, check out their website here. Be sure to check out more of their videos on their page. It’s just so amazing to be able to learn more about how your favourite garment is made. Happy shopping folks.
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Wishing you a beautiful week ahead, lots of love, the Saiint Sisters xxx