Sean Sheila is a unique fashion brand that manages to be both traditionally Asian while also being sharply contemporary. It’s all about how historical techniques and skills like the brand’s signature embroidery techniques, are mixed with modern hardware and modern tailoring.
Established in 2014, Sean Sheila has steadily grown via its core group of dedicated fans. The brand is now stocked globally, including in Egypt, Indonesia, Japan, Singapore, the UAE and the UK.
“We actually studied together in Singapore at Raffles Design Institute and have been together since then,” explain Sean, who is from Malaysia, and Sheila, who is Indonesian.
“After graduating our professor Joe Spinelli suggested we join Harper’s Bazaar New Generation Award which was held in Southeast Asian countries. We ended up winning this award in our own countries! After winning that award we used that momentum to start our brand Sean Sheila.”
From the instigation of the brand Sean and Sheila have stuck together; everything from the company’s creative direction to the intricate details of each unique garment is a team effort.
“We work on the business side and design together, because the team is small, everyone here does a little of everything,” they say.
Signature embroidery and community
One of the most outstanding features of Sean Sheila’s designs is the integration of traditional embroidery techniques according to the designers: “The embroidery you see in our collections is part of the signature of the brand.”
“It started with our obsession with textures and details in our garments. Our signature embroidery is a mix of hand embroidery and machine embroidery. It is all made in house by our team of tailors with disabilities.”
This nod to tradition appears not only in the use of the embroidery, but also in some of the silhouette shapes say Sean and Sheila: “It has a lot to do with studying the cut of traditional uniforms, we study the patterns see how it is made and try to replicate them but [also] adding a modern twist to the silhouettes.”
“We also had the idea of adding hardware to our pieces to add a juxtaposition to our garments that are too classic or traditional.”
Our favourite piece would be our signature embroidered kimono, It has been in every collection we produced since our first. This piece is the perfect balance of what we stand for as a brand.Sean Sheila
Sean Sheila only produces a limited number of their garments each season, and while they do reproduce certain signature items, each seasonal version is updated in new fabrications or embroidery motifs, explains the team.
The limited number of items produced is part of the brand’s sustainability strategy, alongside the use of biodegradable and recycled fabrics.
“I think that sustainable fashion needs to be improved,” explains Sean. “We [the fashion industry] are far behind compared to where we need to be. There aren’t many options for brands to be fully sustainable. We can only try our best to include fabrics that are biodegradable and recycled fabrics. We have been including recycled nylons and triacetate [in our collections] since our SS18 collection.”
“In my opinion, overproduction is the main reason why fashion is not sustainable and harmful to our environment because fast fashion brands produce too much and too fast. We need to produce clothing that is not meant to last and consumers need to learn to buy better instead of more.
“At Sean Sheila we justify producing clothing by creating high-quality clothing that can last and is also biodegradable.”
Plans for the Sean Sheila brand are focused on increasing their access for fans of the label by sourcing more international stockists, as well as an exciting collaboration with a local jewellery brand for Spring Summer 2023.
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