The Woven Yard
by Pauline Chan
The Woven Yard is Michelle Lee’s answer to an alternative experience in womenswear tailoring. Tailoring is a big part of the Bruneian culture. In the months leading up to Hari Raya Aidilfitri, tailors and seamstresses will be measuring up men and women for traditional wear for the festive celebrations, their shelves will be piled high with fabrics from their customers and the sewing machines will be whirring and buzzing until the festive holiday. Even then, there is no rest until all the dresses and suits are picked up during the month-long celebrations.
Most tailors in Brunei offer purely cut and sew services as the styles and fabrics are usually provided by the clients. While custom-made ensures a good fit at the end of the day, clients may not always pick the right fabric for a design they have in mind or they may not choose the right design for their body type. On the other end, there is ready-to-wear fashion, which is popular because of its lower-priced point from mass production, and one can easily buy them off the rack or online. Unfortunately, it’s less exclusive and doesn’t always fit well. Michelle believes that custom-made is still key in getting that perfect fit and looking your best.
In comes Michelle’s initiative to bridge that gap in the market with her elegant boxes she calls fabric kits. In each kit, a hand-drawn design is provided (with option to tweak slightly) with all the required fabrics, trimmings and embellishments corresponding to the design. The design specifications for your tailor are also listed. Everything you need for a new dress is in the box and all you need to do is take it to your tailor and have it made to your measurements. You will also receive design suggestions from Michelle personally and if need be, she will liaise with your tailor to clarify any details regarding the design and production.
We got Michelle to tell us more about her thoughtfully curated fabric kits and her Woven Yard journey.
BiG: Where did you learn your craft?
My BA(Hons) Fashion Design and training is from Raffles Design Institute, Singapore, which is validated by Northumbria University, U.K. At the Institute, I was able to learn the principles and technicalities of my craft in a very hands-on approach. Their extensive curriculum and the dedicated mentorship of Associate Professor Giuseppe Spinelli ensures that you are well-versed with the whole design process: from research & design down to the very core production process – drafting, draping, cutting and sewing, and finishing techniques. At graduation, you are required to design and produce eight looks for your fashion show.
BiG: What is your experience in design and tailoring?
After my studies, I stayed on in Singapore for over a year working at a uniform design & production company and interned with local brands Woods & Woods, Song + Kelly21. In 2010, I went to London and interned at Giles Deacon’s brand GILES in preparation for London Fashion Week.
The bulk and best part of my experience though, is acquiring my custom-made skill from working with my mother for over 4 years at Sharlene, our family-run tailoring shop in Kuala Belait. She ran a tight ship business for 22 years. Quality and workmanship were the core values behind the business – good cutting is crucial and even the inside of the garments we produced should be as neat as what you see on the outside! Most of our orders were for women’s baju kurung/fesyen but we also did customised bridal and eveningwear.
BiG: Where do you source your materials?
For our Debut Collection, all the fabrics and trimmings were handpicked from Seoul, South Korea. We aim to provide quality fabrics from all over the world and ensure exclusivity by having one set per design/ fabric combination. Which means, you are the only one with your chosen look!
BiG: Can the kit be customised to suit customers of various sizes and shapes?
The whole concept behind The Woven Yard is around customisation. With each fabric kit, the design and fabric yardage are based on Asian S, M, L sizing. To elaborate further, design for a large size client for instance, will focus on ‘busy’ fabrics with textures or prints strategically placed to downplay problem areas. On top of that, design elements like colour blocking panels work to minimise a fuller figure.
In the case of a disproportionate body type, e.g. a pear shape figure where the hips are wider than the top, a wider neckline and horizontal details on the top would create an illusion of a wider shoulder which balances out the hips.
At The Woven Yard, we value quality fabrics and a well-fitted garment that compliments your body. There is always so much hype around the latest trend but we should take a step back to assess if what’s currently in fashion will suit your body type. As such, we hope to reduce waste and provide an avenue for garments that will last.
BiG: Can people find The Woven Yard online?
Currently, we are available on Instagram only. Our Debut collection started off with a small range to test the market’s response. In due time, we hope to engage other social media platforms to promote our products.
BiG: How can one preview your products in person and make purchases?
We’ve participated in festivals by The Collective, so follow us on Instagram for updates on our future appearances.
To make purchases, first, identify your size (Small: UK 6-8, Medium: UK 10-12, Large: UK 14-16). Second, under your size category, pick a design and fabric kit you like. And finally, contact Michelle for purchasing and delivery arrangements.
In future, we’ll consider selling our fabric kits on consignment at selected boutiques in Brunei so clients can have a feel of the fabrics. As for purchases, get in touch with me on WhatsApp (HP number is on my Instagram page @thewovenyard) and I will guide you through the process.
For more updates and information, follow The Woven Yard on Instagram.