Sean Sheila is a fashion brand created by Sean Loh and Sheila Agatha with a dedicated focus on empowering women with high quality fabrics and dramatic silhouettes. The designers both graduated from Singapore. Since the brand was established in 2011, the brand has received multiple awards. Being a luxury label for both men and women that embodies eastern traditional cultures with strong, structured and modern silhouettes of the west. Sean Sheila's DNA lies in its application of hardware materials, along with the signature embroidery techniques. These details add a touch of prestige and uniqueness that elevates the value of each piece.
Along the label’s journey, the duo has crafted collections that broke conventions while, at the same time, preserving traditions. Informed by exceptional materials and excellent sartorial savoir-faire, their creations have been showcased in various presentations, both locally and globally, including at Paris Fashion Week. On the home front, Sean Sheila is also known for their focus on empowering individuals with disabilities in Purbalingga Regency, Central Java; the brand’s DNA lies in its application of hardware materials, along with signature embroidery techniques. These details add on a touch of prestige and uniqueness that elevates the value of each piece.
Tell us a little bit about yourself as a fashion designer and when was your first approach with fashion?
As fashion design students, we share a passion for creativity and innovation. Hailing from Malaysia and Indonesia respectively, we began our journey at Raffles Design in 2011. Upon graduation, we were both honoured to receive the Harper's Bazaar New Generation Award for our respective countries. It was this recognition that fueled our drive to launch our own brand, Sean Sheila.
Sean's love for fashion started during his childhood when he would spend hours customizing video game characters instead of playing the games themselves. On the other hand, Sheila's first encounter with fashion was during high school when she watched the popular TV show, Project Runway.
Together, we bring our unique perspectives and experiences to the table to create a brand that reflects our passion for fashion and design.
Everyone somewhere or another has been influenced by their childhood. Could you please walk us through your own progressing years? How was growing up for you? Was it certain for you what you were going to do growing up?
Sheila's upbringing in a small town with traditional values instilled in her a fear of pursuing fashion design. The prevailing belief was that tailors were not a respected profession, and this discouraged her from pursuing her passion for arts and crafts and fashion. Despite this, her love for the creative world remained, and she ultimately followed her heart to study fashion design.
For Sean, his fascination with clothing began with anime and video games. He was drawn to the unique designs and characters. However, it wasn't until he worked in retail during his teenage years that he realized how much he was interested in fashion. Interacting with customers and seeing the impact that clothing had on their self-expression sparked his desire to pursue fashion design more seriously.
How did you decide to collaborate with disabled people? Introduce us to your daily challenges regarding this and how the process design is elaborated.
When we started our brand, something amazing happened quite naturally. We were fortunate to have a close relationship with one of the teachers from a disability school in our area. We learned that many talented tailors had graduated from the school but were struggling to find employment.
Inspired by their passion and dedication, we decided to collaborate with them and reteach them the techniques we had learned in fashion school. The experience was incredibly rewarding, and we were thrilled to see the quality of their work and their enthusiasm for the craft.
Our biggest challenge is communicating with our tailors, who each have unique ways of understanding instructions. To solve this, we developed a sign language system for different techniques, seams, and stitching.
Since then, we have continued to work closely with the school and actively recruit their graduates to join our team. Not only does this help us meet the needs of our business, but it also provides meaningful employment opportunities for members of the disability community.
We believe that fashion has the power to bring people together and create positive change in the world. It is an honour to be able to make a difference in our own small way.
Your work encourages innovation and makes the knick-picking style a trend of its own. I wonder what kind of challenges you would have gone through when it came to approaching digital art as well?
At our brand, we value curiosity immensely. We believe that exploring new ideas is critical to our growth as a brand and as creative individuals. However, we recognize that it can be challenging to strike a balance between innovation and commercial viability. To that end, each season we aim to push ourselves creatively while remaining true to our design philosophy. We strive to educate our customers about new trends and encourage them to step outside their comfort zone, all while preserving the unique aesthetic that defines our brand.
How is your brand philosophy manifested and interpreted in the garments themselves?
Our brand philosophy is rooted in our passion for combining the things we love with the unique techniques and cuts we've developed over time. By applying these learnings to our garments, we create a distinct and recognizable signature style.
How do you face challenges in such a complex industry and how do you approach potential customers/stores? Are you stocked in some retail stores? Where?
One of the biggest challenges we face as a brand, and perhaps one that is shared by many others, is finding the right balance between creating what we love and what will sell. Sometimes, we get lucky, and our creations that we're passionate about will resonate with our audience and become popular. However, this is not always the case, sometimes people need time to appreciate something.
Our brand is available online at www.cultmia.com, and we are also proud to be stocked in several Middle Eastern countries, including Indonesia, and Singapore.
You’re both the creative and the business head of your company. How do you balance your time between the two?
Navigating the design aspect of a fashion business is often enjoyable since many of us find it a natural creative outlet, with ideas flowing easily during our daily routine. It's crucial to jot these ideas down or make a quick sketch to ensure they aren't lost. However, designing the collection is just a small fraction of the work involved, typically only 15%. The majority of the work goes into producing the garments and managing the business operations, which is a full-time job. It's important to have a deep passion for fashion to stay in the business because the fun and creative part is only a small portion of the whole process.
How do you see your brand growing and evolving in the future?
At our brand, we firmly believe that collaboration is key to our growth and exploration. Moving forward, we are eager to collaborate with like-minded brands that share our values and vision. Through these partnerships, we can not only learn from each other but also try new and exciting things that push the boundaries of our creativity and innovation.
A letter to your future self. What would you write?
Remain true to your roots and never forget where you started.