This week, we had a chat with the founder of Connected Threads Asia and SWAPAHOLIC, Raye Padit. With two successful projects under his belt, this fashion designer is dedicated to providing Singapore with an outlet for sustainable fashion. He shares his thoughts with us about his journey so far.
You’ve started projects in the fashion sustainability sector such as Connected Threads Asia, SWAPAHOLIC, and now ‘The Fashion Pulpit’. What inspired you to begin this journey into fashion sustainability?
I love fashion. I started as a fashion designer with my own label for about 8 months. Back then, I didn’t know that the fashion industry is the second most polluting industry, so I told myself that I need to do something on a bigger scale to help the community.
It all started from the discovery that no one was doing much about sustainable fashion here in Singapore. That’s how Connected Threads Asia came about - I wanted an organization that highlights sustainability and the businesses that were already being sustainable. Then, I wanted to create a tangible action for the community to take, and that’s why I started SWAPAHOLIC. SWAPAHOLIC then evolved from just being a swapping platform, which eventually led me to creating The Fashion Pulpit.
Was Connected Threads Asia your first project towards fashion sustainability?
My bespoke fashion line was the first project towards that. I used to buy new fabrics in Chinatown or Arab Street for my clients. After my awareness for sustainability grew, I’d go to fashion houses in Singapore to collect older waste fabrics instead and asked my clients if it was okay to upcycle them. Some clients were very interested, so that was essentially my first project: a bespoke upcycling service. If you explain the concept of sustainability well and at the same time create a beautiful product that looks and feels good, your clients will hold a lot of trust in you.
Can you tell us more about your new project The Fashion Pulpit?
The Fashion Pulpit is built on the cumulative experience I had since I started my career. I noticed that different type of customers have different needs. Not everyone will swap, not everyone will do upcycling, and not everyone wants to learn something about sustainability. Every step of what I was doing was focused on one alternative for them to be part of that change. I would want to incorporate everything I’ve learned, so The Fashion Pulpit is an open space for that. There’s going to be swapping, upcycling, mending, and exciting workshops. The idea is to provide different platforms for people with different values, all in one place, and presenting them the alternatives they can take. It’s basically a one stop shop for sustainable fashion.
What is the one thing you’d like people to know about sustainable fashion?
I understand that it sounds intimidating, but sustainability is beautiful. People will always think it’s huge, but it’s basically it boils down to clothes being produced in a responsible way, and as a consumer we have to use it in a responsible way. It’s as beautiful as conventional fashion.
What is one step everyone can take towards sustainable fashion?
Knowing yourself better is the most essential part of becoming a more conscious and responsible consumer. If you know your style and if you know what you want to wear, you will know what to buy and when to buy it. If you are just drifting to where chance is taking you, you will be running towards every trend. You’ll never keep up because it’s changing every week, so you’ll keep buying and buying. It’s not that you can’t explore or try different styles, but in a way, you’ll already know what to buy and you’ll be more conscious of how these items are produced. You know how long they will last you. It also helps to have a relationship with the brands that you buy, because then you can ask them how it’s made and why it’s priced as such.
What is the biggest challenge toward sustainable fashion that Singapore still has to overcome?
People perceive sustainable fashion as something altruistic, something that they can do once a month so they know they’ve done their part. But it should be an everyday practice. That’s the reason why I focused it as a business as compared to a non-profit. If you put it as a lifestyle brand or business, it becomes a part of everyday life. One of the challenges is to overcome this perception of sustainable fashion.
What is the most valuable thing you’ve learned so far from working on all your projects?
It’s the idea of just simply getting something done. We always have this thought: “What can I do as a person to shape the future that I want to see?” We think that this big question requires a big answer. When I was starting, my concern was that I don’t have experience, I don’t know people, and I don’t know this industry. If I had listened to those concerns and fears, I would never have started anything. I also learned to take things one step at a time, and bring people into it. I’m a big fan of collaboration. I’ve seen how it works and seen how it impacts the community. It’s the same for consumers. You think being sustainable is big so you don’t know where to start. Just start with the simple things.
Are there any favourite moments you’d like to share from working in the industry?
There’s one particular swap that I organized where a Malay lady swapped a kebaya. It was a red kebaya, about M-L sized, that could still be trendy with some tweaks. I had my own judgment, I thought, “Oh dear, this item would never be swapped.” On the event day, there was a Chinese lady who was about an S size with a broad shoulder, and it fits her perfectly! She swapped it in the end! One of the things I learned on that day was that fashion should be without judgement regardless of race or size. Fashion is for everyone.
Can you share with us some of your personal style tips?
I used to be adventurous with my style. Now, I try to make life easier for myself. I examined my lifestyle and work, and the type of outfit that would go with it. So I picked a uniform that’s good for work but it’s also presentable if I have a meeting or if I go out at night. It’s basically a white long sleeve shirt that I wear every day so I don’t have to think. Being fashionable and looking good is important, but for me there’s more to life than how you look. At home and on off days, I wear t-shirts because it’s comfortable. It’s easy and you can just pair it with a jacket if you want to dress up.
Learn more about Raye’s latest project ‘The Fashion Pulpit’ at his Kickstarter campaign here.