Streetwear right up Eliot’s alley

Models showcasing the outfit during the “No Boundaries” streetwear fashion show at Zinc restaurant and bar in Kuching.
By Neville Timothy Sanders And Jacintha Jolene
Co-founder of Eliot, Kimberly Le.

KUCHING: Eliot Malaysia, a Sarawakian clothing brand based in Kuala Lumpur, has been making waves in the fashion scene ever since it was founded in 2019.

It is known as a clothing brand with a belief that a multi-hyphenated individual is closer to achieving excellence and perfection with a good range of basic, wardrobe essentials, and it features boxy shapes and raw hems of clothes that are considered vintage in this day and age, with each piece being versatile, effortless and yet intentional.

New Sarawak Tribune sat down and interviewed Kimberly Lee, one of the co-founders on the idea, inspirations, her thoughts on streetwear culture in Kuching and their future with the clothing brand, in other words, what is next for the brand.

The Foundation

Lee revealed that the idea has been around since 2018 and that she wanted to start a women’s wear in the first place.

“Then I realised that the market for women’s wear is too convoluted and there is a gap within men’s wear because for men, if they are educated enough to buy a top that suits them, they will buy multi colours and if you teach them how to match with other outfits, it will be easy to convert it into sales.

“So I got my business partner who is Gairus Gilbert and he helped me to design it and that’s how this partnership has been birthed. It’s been three years and it is still going strong,” she said.

Lee (left), alongside her business partner and co-founder of the brand, Gairus Gilbert during the press conference for the fashion show.

Streetwear according to Eliot

For Eliot’s type of streetwear, Lee said that the brand can be a bit more rebellious, with no boundaries, and customers who buy it can pick and choose however they want.

“For us, we go with something that everyone can relate to. For example, it is unisex. At first we thought that many men will buy but based on our sales data, a lot of women buy our outfits as well.

“Whether it is for them to wear as a boyfriend type of tee, plus they have an influence in their partner’s wardrobe so a lot of them actually buy and to our surprise, we have tons of repeat customers as well,” she added.

She explained that they go for something that is truly versatile because they understand that it is really hard to pair something together if customers are not really educated in styling.

Some of the outfits by Eliot.

“That being said, we created a very good range of options with some like prints and our silhouette that is very boxy as well, so style however you want.

“A lot of people like oversized as well and some of them always wear comfort but with style. So we want someone that juggles a lot of things in their life to be able to wear something from day to night,” she added.

She also said that their target market is college students, explaining that they can work, go to college and party with the same outfit.

“We do have college students that wear this for their presentation then they also wear this to go for their part time jobs, go party and even gym as well. And don’t worry, this also applies to working people as well,” she said.

Challenges in running the clothing brand

Lee shared that one of the challenges in running the clothing brand is sourcing for manufactures.

“Last time we actually scoured the whole of Kuala Lumpur and Klang Valley and there are a lot of manufacturers that don’t like to do customised things.

“They just like to print t-shirts and that’s it. And they turned us away because it’s too much work. I admit that it’s very difficult to find suppliers/manufacturers who will sit down with us and listen to our design, inspiration. That’s why you see a lot of designers go overseas.”

She also explained that customers are turned off by the price the moment they see it due to the economic inflation and other issues in the world.

“As much as online is really helpful during Covid-19, when we do bazaars, we do a lot of bazaars or our consignment stores, and when the customers tested our garment, they realise that the quality is good and eventually people will buy it.

“The challenge for us is as much as online is an efficient way, a new way to communicate with our customers but still needing a sense of touch,” said Lee.

She said that they are actually trying to see how to increase points, managing their cost, and with rentals getting higher, she is indeed concerned about it.

“So we are trying to find innovative ways to sustain ourselves and the brand as well,” she said.

Opinions on streetwear culture in Kuching

Lee said while the culture is growing, there’s a gap within the culture and that is why they are here.

“In Kuala Lumpur, they are much bolder but of course in Kuching, we do see a rising number of people who actually want to dress out of norm and they want options.

“We want to explore and head into Kuching market because there is opportunity. Not only generation X, generation Z but also even the older people in their 30s and 40s, they are actually quite hip,” she said.

She explained that their main target market is still generation Z.

“Over here we see a lot of people are dressing more bold from what they have bought over in west Malaysia or overseas. So why not we try? Sure there’s a gap and we should bridge it from there,” she added.

What Eliot has learnt so far

Lee explained that there have been times they needed to pause and try to re-calibrate which direction they should go next.

“Before this, we always thought “new collection, new design” but a lot of times we didn’t take a break or tried to listen to what our customers really want as well as take a break to educate ourselves.

“So we learnt from overseas, we read a lot, watch tons of YouTube videos to learn what the westerners are doing. Even in Korea and Japan as well and try to combine all these inspirations into something of our own,” she revealed.

She added that they don’t have to be in a rush because they want to make something the people really love and will actually wear.

Cheers to the future

Lee revealed that they want to do more streetwear fashion shows in the future.

“Brand awareness is very important so that we can convert it right and we try to more things where we get to handle events like this where we can listen to what people want.

“When you ask yourself, it makes you think about it you know. And of course there are new designs in mind, but as I just said, we are going to take our time because do have tons of options,” she said.

She also emphasised that if they don’t continue to educate and raise awareness about streetwear, it is not going to reach a lot of people.

“We just concentrate on what we have right now while we still continue to educate ourselves and design something really meaningful, lets see where it takes us.

“Who knows if we are going to come up with new designs soon. Whatever it is possible for us now. Sky’s the limit for us,” said Lee.

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