If anyone thinks Singapore and Singaporeans are uninspiring, this one’s for you: Ren’s fashion label MATTER – which launched just five months ago – has already been featured in Vogue Italia. Oh and, in case that’s not impressive enough, Vogue India too.
The brainchild of Renyung Ho – or Ren as she also goes by – and her business partner Yvonne, MATTER fabrics are beautifully cut, clothes are deliciously wearable and all furnished with brilliantly unusual, striking prints. All the prints are designed by artisan communities around the globe, some of whom have been practicing their craft for generations. The MATTER mission? To help make textile artisanship a sustainable practice. They also hope to inspire consumers to value provenance – i.e. where clothes come from and the stories in fabric.
I first met Ren through a friend and instantly loved both her and her brand. I was thrilled when she agreed to do a Day in the Life for changmoh. I own two pieces from the current collection, both of which I have hardly taken off. Find out which ones at the bottom of the post.
Ren, over to you:
These days the days stretch really long – I’m about five months in from our official launch of MATTER and on our third batch of editions, and it’s been nothing short of a rollercoaster ride of ups and downs and a steep learning curve to boot. Of course, I chose it, and love it. I work in a studio in the ground level of our shophouse home that we moved into last year.
7.15: I’d love to make this an everyday routine. We roll out of bed (still not morning people, I’m afraid) and walk over to our neighbour’s for a yoga session to start the day right, and centred.
8.30: Morning walk with Hobo, our adopted three legged dog in the green space behind our home. We’re usually stopped once or twice by curious passersby and other dogs, and the husband and I take this time to also talk about our week and upcoming plans.
8.45: I wasn’t ever a breakfast person but I find it helps with ongoing energy in the day. Right now I’m obsessed with newly discovered Milo Granola from Eastern Granola. Cannot get over it. Otherwise its toast with local brand Hunter’s almond nut butter, or just eggs on toast. Coffee, for sure.
09.00: I usually create content like blog posts or newsletters in the morning before the buzz of the day sets in.
10.00: A quick update meeting with Jo, our Community Catalyst heading up Marketing and Ops. She chose a cactus as her welcome plant for her desk when she joined – it kind of fits her personality in a weird and wonderful way.
We talk about customer enquiries, orders, inventory at the warehouse, incoming stock, upcoming events, campaigns and collaborations. We usually do a social media campaign for the week prior to launching on Instagram and Facebook. Our new editions just launched on 22nd September.
10.15 I like to use my calendar as a to-do and priority list and spend a little time each day working out the kinks in the week and when I should be doing what. I work with a lot of different people and my calendar shows me at a glance where I need to follow up. I also use an excel sheet for my monthly priorities. It seems a bit much but, to be honest, these tools keep me sane and productive.
10.30: One of the things I am really keen on is working collaboratively – there is so much good that can come out of that approach and it’s really heartening to work with people that have the same values. We’re working on a scarves collaboration right now with a local textile printing studio, and exploring a possible accessory edition with an organization in Africa.
In the future we hope to expand to become not just a brand but a community and network of artisans, designers and travelers, bound together by a common love and appreciation for the handmade heritage we share. MATTER would then evolve to become a platform that showcases the results of these collaborations. Step by step!
11.30: Time to review some prototypes with our designer Lisanne Stoop for 2015’s editions where we will be focusing more on unisex styles as we’ve had a number of men complaining that women have all the fun options! In the same vein as this year’s editions, we take inspiration from traditional pants like the Japanese monpe and Burmese longyi.
13.00: A quick lunch to go from my new favourite haunt, Chef Icon – the sambal and tofu ham sandwich is a winner.
13.15: Time to review the designs for the next artisan technique we’re working with, ikat, a globally dispersed tie and dye technique. The intricacy of it is pretty mindblowing. These editions are inspired by five countries’ along the silk road and motifs taken from their histories. First is research through books and from talking with the artisans, then curation of the main motifs to be used. I then hand paint the design repeats which are digitized in the computer to scale. We put in key measurements and voila, off it goes for a first look.
15.00: As everything is online, the way we communicate and reach out to our community is through content. I take some time in the afternoon to go over our content calendar and discuss with Jo the different ways we can communicate our message. We review the latest social media videos for the #seasonalindustry campaign, and go over the collaterals for our cross-marketing initiative, #livewideawake.
16.30: We head out to set up the Nomad Cart in a new location and meet our PR and setup support team, Public Culture, there. This week it’s at nana & bird, a boutique in Tiong Bahru. The Nomad Cart was our traveling launch party which popped up in Wanderlust Hotel, PACT, kapok and now nana. The next place will be Keepers@Orchard. It fits into the back of a van and takes about 20 minutes to unpack and setup!
17.30: My co-founder Yvonne (below, left) is based in Shanghai, and so other than meeting for field sourcing trips and photoshoots, Skype is our best friend. Today we go over the styling and itinerary for the upcoming photoshoot in Bali for the next editions #seasonalindustry.
18.30: Time to stretch the legs and walk Hobo, catching up with the husband as well on his day.
19.30 Dinner together, which can either be Thai takeaway or something rustled up in the oven. Bottles of cider are often opened.
21.00: We catch up on a few emails at the end of the day to make sure we start the next day on the right foot. I prefer to reply to emails not as and when they come in but at the end of every day.
22.00: The time difference means that I usually skype with Anjali, our field manager, in the evening. One of the main issues in artisan production is delivery on time – this last season our prints were delayed by fog and heavy flooding, and we discuss ways to still meet the deadline by a closer mark, as well as the buffer time we should keep for the next round. Artisan production is closely tied to the weather as prints and dyes need constant sun and humidity for constancy. It’s bound to space, time and context.
23.00: Time to unwind and have some quality time with the loved ones.
00.00: Lights out, and another day begins.
As promised, here are details of my MATTER wardrobe.
I am the proud owner of these:
Mobi Midnight which are ridiculously comfy (make sure your pleats are gathered around the front and not the sides – much more flattering) as well as these:
the Hitched Hikers. They have a very handy adjustable side button so depending on how much cake you have eaten, they can be loosened or tightened as required. My absolutely fave pair of shorts to sling on and go.