Singapore Artisan Spotlight: Vanda Fine Clothing
Singaporean artisanal accessory-maker Vanda Fine Clothing crafts timeless ties and pocket squares. The company may be humble — its products are anything but.
“It was a happy accident,” said Gerald Shen of Vanda Fine Clothing’s inception, as he exchanged a knowing smile with his then-fiancé (now wife) and co-founder, Diana Chan. The couple never planned to make a living from tailoring. Inspired, however, by independent outfits they came across on a fateful graduation trip to Portland, the pair decided to leverage on the following they had unwittingly built online, where they had been selling their pocket squares ad hoc, purely as a hobby. Several months later, fresh out of university and with hardly any capital to speak of, Vanda Fine Clothing was born.
Considering this modest start, it is hard to tell at first glance that Vanda Fine Clothing’s unassuming atelier, nestled in the heart of Singapore’s largest industrial estate, is responsible for some of the best neckties and pocket squares on the market today. Still more astonishing is the fact that its proprietors are largely self-taught, having learned their trade by a combination of trial and error, and deconstructing dozens of pocket squares and neckties.
Shen and Chan are guided by a simple-yet-powerful ethos: to make world-class, classically inspired accessories with their own hands. To this end, each product is cut and sewn by hand from the best materials money can buy, entirely in Vanda Fine Clothing’s atelier. Every stitch on every meticulously hand-rolled edge is painstakingly made with nothing more than a needle and thread. If a tie or square does not pass muster, it is not sold. The fruits of their labour are amply evident in the quality they have become known for.
With the amount of time and effort that goes into each of their products, one would expect them to sell at the prices of top European makers. It is a pleasant surprise then that they do not. “We want to be a simple, honest business, making the things that we enjoy making,” Shen remarks, when quizzed on why the brand does not intend to increase its prices, engage PR and advertising firms to boost revenues, or procure a snazzy storefront in a swanky part of town.
Although the label initially made a name for itself with its superlative offering of pocket squares, it has since expanded its repertoire with a range of six-fold neckties and, most recently, bespoke shirts — all made with the same simplistic designs and artisanal philosophy that underpins the entire operation.
Never resting in their quest for sartorial nirvana, Shen and Chan continue to be students. Working on a coat we later learned he was making for his own wedding, Shen tells us he had found a master tailor from whom he and Chan take lessons on their days off. When asked why the pair work so hard for a small prize in comparison to the promising corporate careers they gave up, Chan says in reply, finishing off Shen’s sentence, “simple in virtue, steadfast in duty”. Fitting words indeed, for a humble atelier that continues to surprise with the not-so-humble quality of its products.