Olivia and Amanda Lin, the sisterly duo behind young bespoke label INVENTORY, are stretching the role of traditional bespoke tailors. It was a childhood dream. “We started INVENTORY in June 2016, but we’ve been talking about doing this for 14 years,” 27-year-old Amanda quips. Beyond custom shirts and suits, the label offers made-to-measure workwear and streetwear pieces.
Her older sister, Olivia, draws a parallel between the classicism of a three-piece suit and the longevity of streetwear: “I was interested in how and why they attain cult status, with people obsessively collecting them...and I think the functionality of [these] items played a huge role in making that happen.” For that, she’s been meaning to sell well-designed wardrobe staples that are made to last. Amanda echoes her sentiment, adding, “We find that it’s always hard to find something that fits just right – and that has been a common problem not just for us, but for many of the people we know as well. Coupled with the fact that Olivia has always been keen on pattern cutting and tailoring, it was an obvious decision to come together as sisters to start a bespoke and made-to-measure label.”
Shortly after they brought up a collaboration with friends and local musicians, Cherie Ko and Ted Dore of TOMGIRL, which set in motion a series of creative projects. “We were interested to see how different creatives interpret the classic shirt, what they might come up with, and how they might bring something new to the table,” Olivia explains.
After their first collaboration, the sisters reached out to Darren Loke of local leather accessories label Omitir, illustrator behind Oak & Bindi Lydia Yang, photographer and Managing Editor of Vulture Magazine Clifford Loh, founder of Elementary Co. Charmaine Seah-Ong, stylist and fashion editor at August Man Chia Wei Choong, founder of design strategist Foreign Policy Design Yah-Leng Yu, Marilyn Yunjin and Djohan Hanapi, brains behind printing and publishing studio Knuckles & Notch, and an upcoming project with Theseus Chan of design agency WORK.
All nine assignments are strung together by the classic white shirt. “With all collaborations, the intention of the project remains the same – creating shirts that meet everyday needs,” Amanda explains. Yah-Leng Yu’s shirt, for instance, features pen loops to hold her various stationery when she attends work meetings. Olivia echoes, “Day to day, [the white shirt] is one thing that sits on your back for the longest [time], yet it’s almost invisible because it’s forgotten.”
How the collaborations materialise – the sisters first dissect the garment into solitary ingredients, like they would when a client walks in for a bespoke shirt to be made. “A shirt typically consists of a collar, placket, sleeves and cuffs,” Olivia lists. The creatives are then invited to refashion these components’ functionality and style.
From left: 27-year-old younger sister Amanda Lin is the business brain to INVENTORY, while 29-year-old elder sister Olivia Lin the pattern cutter and maker.
“There are many ways to approach it but I would say that function decides the way shirts may be designed and cut. Some people might prefer to build their product around a concept,” Olivia continues.
All that creative friction has fuelled their appetite. The sisters don’t plan for their bespoke shirt project to end. Amanda adds, “It will always be an ongoing initiative…Collaborations push us to create more exciting things, and they are loads of fun."
Pham Quang Tung
INVENTORY is nestled in a two-storey shophouse along Club Street.
On the ongoing trend of fashion collaborations at large – recently Supreme and Louis Vuitton, and brought a notch higher by Vetements with a myriad of fashion brands – the sisters explain the phenomenon. “Collaborations serve to push everyone forward when ideas are exchanged,” Amanda muses. “I think it’s a good thing, the meeting of art and fashion,” Olivia adds. “It’s important that the collaborations defy conventions and cliches, such as Helmut Lang’s advertising campaigns featuring Jenny Holzer’s Truisms, or Cindy Sherman’s portraits for Comme des Garçons – there is more than mere logo placements.”
Olivia looks to Sterling Ruby’s collaboration with Raf Simons, Craig Green and Björn Borg amongst other, while Amanda looks to Alexander Wang with H&M, and Uniqlo with Christophe Lemaire. "I like clothes that are more 'wearable', stuff that can be worn on a daily basis and most probably for all occasions, therefore the Alexander Wang collection for H&M and Lemaire really stood out to me."
And at the heart of creative collaborations is excitement, otherwise loosely known as "hype". Amanda concludes, “People are excited to see how two can come together to create [an] interesting product.”
INVENTORY is located at 21 Club Street, Unit 02-08 by appointment only.
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