With catalogs and measurements for the latest styles at shoppers’ fingertips, shopping online is as easy as a click of a button, but this may also mean that shoppers are quick to jump on trendy items without factoring their longevity.

GINLEE is one Singapore-born-and-bred fashion retailer that aims to upend this shopping behavior, by creating thoughtful pieces that are meant to be mainstays in people’s wardrobes.

Hear from the Brand

This National Day, we celebrate Singapore’s people, one of its most precious resources. Hear from GINLEE founder, Gin Lee, on how her brand is inspired by the charm in everyday sights: old-school shophouses, buzzing neighborhoods and modern buildings.

Portrait image of Gin Lee and Tamir Niv
GINLEE Studio was founded in 2011 by husband-wife duo Gin Lee & Tamir Niv.

1. Tell us about yourselves. How did you venture into fashion for a career? 

Between Tamir (my husband) and I, we have lived in several different countries and experienced diverse cultures, but home is where we’re always drawn to. From our backgrounds in Fashion and Industrial design, design is, and always will be, at the core of what we do. In designing for the modern, confident Singaporean woman, we strive to achieve the perfect marriage of aesthetics and function with our passion for good design and our interpretation of style – that is how we got started with building our business in Singapore.

2. Can you tell us about how GINLEE Studio came to be? 

Here at GINLEE Studio, we want to make fashion that matters, and that means designing for the real body, and not the perfect body. We want to create clothes that can flatter a myriad of sizes so everyone can access good design. Besides accessible sizing, we want to create beautiful, thoughtfully designed pieces that are mainstays in people’s wardrobes — pieces born out of a laborious process deemed as a luxury in today’s pace of fast fashion. Today, we’re so proud that our apparel is available in-store at Great World City and Raffles City. Shoppers can also find us at TANGS @ Tangs Plaza, Design Orchard and online.

Designing is an avenue for Gin and Tamir to create something new and refreshing together, inspired by fashion trends, graphics, nature, street photography, and more. Gin explains that GINLEE apparel infuses 3D elements that flatter the female form, which are also practical for day-to-night wear in our city. Singapore’s influence on their designs extends beyond the weather; the GINLEE signature pleats are inspired by the collapsible gates of old shophouses and x-ray photos of plants.

Pleated cloth strewn across a table with drawings
Merging form and function, GINLEE’s signature pleats are designed to drape beautifully on the wearer.

Gin delves deeper into the motivations and purpose that influences GINLEE’s direction for their clothing to live long lives in customers’ wardrobes, and how interactions with customers achieves that. Notably, GINLEE’’s sustainability initiative and interactive in-store experience_/\/\/\ake (‘make’) lets shoppers create their own pleated bags, tops and cushion covers. With this on-demand, on-the-spot production antithesis to fast fashion, GINLEE aims to balance supply and demand, and minimize waste.

3. Why was it so important to incorporate a sustainability approach in your designs? Is that what sets you apart?

Fast fashion makes up a major part of the fashion industry and tends to encourage shoppers to buy more and waste more at the same time. We want to divert our customers’ mindsets towards slow and thoughtful fashion so we carefully consider their experience wearing our apparel when we design. Just as we want our products to be worth making, we want them to be worth keeping for our customers. Besides bringing home a piece that’s more long-lasting and that was made with the environment in mind, it is more personal and memorable. With increasing awareness towards sustainability, more customers have started to come around.

4. Tell us about how GINLEE aspires to make pieces a mainstay in people’s wardrobes.

When customers get to choose the styles and colors of the item that they want, they are more likely to treasure their unique piece and keep it for a long time. If you have something you are eyeing in store, just inform our friendly staff of the color and style of the bag, top or cushion cover you’d like and watch as it gets created, pleated and steamed in real-time.

Multiple fabric pieces is placed on a table
_/\/\/\ake by GINLEE modernizes the age-old craft of pleating by allowing customers to select styles and colors before the entire process of pleating and steaming is done in-store.

As with any entrepreneur starting out, Gin experienced her own share of headwinds before accumulating the expertise she has today. She shares some of them, and her hopes for the future.

5. What were some of the challenges that GINLEE faced when you started the business? 

Like any other entrepreneur starting out, our worries varied from cash flow to stability to production issues — anything you could think of. When we started, we needed more confidence in what we were doing, because I was totally new to designing. At times, I thought of giving up because I did not see our efforts bear fruit; weeks spent deliberating over patterns that I thought were appealing to potential customers were not translating into the sales that we wanted to see. Besides designing and producing clothes, demand for our designs was another hurdle we had to figure out how to nurture.

6. How did you overcome these hurdles? 

We had to think as fast as we could, and at the same time try not to lose our souls. Personally, I learnt by observation, from feedback, and competitive research on what others were doing and how our prices compare. I had to figure out quite quickly how people respond to every product that we put out there: whether they liked it or not, whether we hit the right notes. When we found our footing, we began to explore building upon our existing customer base to reach people who have not heard of us, and Amazon has always had a diverse product offering, so it made sense for us to come onboard to reach a bigger and varied audience.

Gin is seen folding pleated cloth together at the GINLEE store.
Currently at GINLEE’s store at Great World City, the on-demand, on-the-spot _/\/\/\ake experience is done under a relatively short waiting time, where customers can wait among lush foliage.

People are starting to be more conscious of how fashion is produced and consumed today, and Gin hopes that one day, each company in the fashion industry, big or small, will put in the effort to make things sustainable in their unique way to make steady progress for a better Earth. For the brand that she co-founded, she does her part with _/\/\/\ake.

7. What’s next for GINLEE?

We will continue to explore and expand our design project of _/\/\/\ake, marking our efforts to bring more _/\/\/\ake in-store experiences to customers, so we are really excited about the new unit opening at Raffles City in October this year. We also hope to easily communicate with more customers who not only enjoy our designs but also share the same values as us, both locally and internationally, by offering the_/\/\/\ake Experience through Amazon Global Selling. As we recently launched on Amazon.sg, we will be focusing on building the local store first. Meanwhile, expanding to Amazon.com and other international stores is definitely an option we have our sights on.

8. Before we let you go, any tips for local brands in Singapore? 

Take risks and challenge yourself further. Don’t be afraid to try something new!

This National Day, shop GINLEE’s catalogue here.