singaporean-designer-gin-lee-makes-her-mark-with-clever-pleats

Singaporean designer Gin Lee makes her mark with clever pleats

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Forget mass-made replicas. With GINLEE Studios customisation service, GINLEE MAKE, you don’t just get to put your own stamp on pleated bags; you’ll also get to watch it being made to your exact specifications right before your very eyes at the on-site pleating workshop in the brand’s concept store at Great World City.

“GINLEE MAKE modernises the age-old technique (of pleating) by allowing customers to select their choice of designs and colours for accessories, before the pleating and steaming is done entirely in front of them,” says designer Gin Lee, who co-founded the label in 2011 with her Israeli industrial designer husband Tamir Niv.

Making it all good 

GINLEE MAKE is a follow-up to the brand’s first initiative, GOOD, which stands for Get-Order-On-Demand. Launched during the first month of the Covid-19 lockdown in 2020, it rewards customers who choose the pre-order option for the brand’s apparel (this encompasses a three- to five-week wait for the finished product) with a 15 per cent discount.

“This not only allows us to move closer to our aim of being an experiential and on-demand brand, but also makes us design in a different way,” she says.

Lee says GOOD and MAKE not only benefit the customer, but these initiatives also let the brand produce on demand, which helps minimise waste for a sustainable process she calls “slow fashion”.

She continues: “I feel that sustainability is a bit of a buzzword in the fashion industry right now, and I think it’s good because it brings awareness and attention to this topic. I don’t feel fashion can go any faster or cheaper. In fact, I think we need to think very carefully, how we design, produce and retail and how we think about the future of the industry in general.”

Lee adds that GINLEE Studio will be ramping up its sustainability efforts in the future, to strengthen its make-in-store concept because she truly believes in it.

“We hope that we will be able to push our limits, and do more projects that are interesting and inspiring,” she says.

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Pleating for success

To add structure to lightweight fabrics such as silk, Lee employs clever pleating techniques and uses translucent fabrics, sheer panelling and slits to create movement while incorporating a celestial feel to her delicate designs.

“A well-designed garment should look good even on a simple-form presentation such as a hanger,” says Lee. “It should be able to stand on its own without any form of packaging, marketing or advertising. At the same time, it should look—and most importantly—feel good on our bodies.”

GINLEE Studio prides itself on creating beautiful, thoughtfully designed pieces that are mainstays in one’s wardrobe. Its wearable pieces of art combine aesthetically pleasing elements with functional silhouettes, creating womenswear that is at once sharp and stylish yet fluid and comfortable.

From continent to continent

Despite that fact that Lee’s cultural roots lie in Singapore and her fashion education was in the UK, GINLEE Studio was—surprise, surprise—first launched in Israel. The brand took off in the Middle East and only made a splash in Singapore a few years later.

After graduating from Central Saint Martins, UK in 2002, where she studied womenswear design, Lee worked for British fashion house Karen Millen for two years before moving to China to become a lecturer at LaSalle-DHU International Design College (now known as Raffles Design Institute, Shanghai) in Shanghai.

In 2008, she was headhunted by Li & Fung, one of the world’s largest trading companies. As its design manager, Lee serviced major British high-street accounts and worked with European customers such as ZARA, Bershka and PULL&BEAR.

While travelling in China, she met Niv, himself a graduate of the Bezalel Academy of Art and Design, who would become her business partner and spouse. They spent five years together in Shanghai before moving to Israel in 2010.

It was there that GINLEE Studio was born in 2011. When Lee found herself at a crossroad—to either continue working for someone else in the field of fashion merchandising or strike out on her own—she decided to take a leap of faith and launch her own business together with Niv, who became the brand’s visual merchandiser.

“Israel offered me a great advantage,” she says. “There, shop owners are happy to take designs on consignment from someone new. I wouldn’t have got a foot in the door if I had even thought about doing this in London or Shanghai.”

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Finding the way back to home turf

As Lee and Niv’s business partnership took off, so did their romance. Making it official by putting a ring on it, the couple tied the knot in Singapore in March 2013.

The following year, GINLEE Studio’s entry into Singapore happened at “KEEPERS: Singapore Designer Collective”, a showcase for designers and artisans that helped the brand break into the local scene. “It was a really good platform to test if our designs would work in the Singapore market,” says Lee.

No doubt they worked, for GINLEE Studio not only gained popularity and found a retail avenue through renowned department store TANGS, but also took home the Emerging Designer Of The Year (Fashion) award at the 2016 Singapore Fashion Awards.

What makes a visit to GINLEE Studio even more experiential is its surreal 592sqft concept store at Great World City, a shopping hub just outside Singapore’s city centre. Designed by the architects at Wynk Collaborative, the unique space is characterised by soft lines and diffused light while reflecting a sense of being outdoors, with its open courtyard spaces and lush, verdant greenery amidst the cacophony of an urban mall.

We wanted to incorporate our brand’s Mediterranean roots, reflecting both our respective home cities of Singapore and Tel Aviv, hence the ‘outdoor’ tropical elements, where one can relax and feel at ease while shopping and waiting,” says Lee. “We also wanted to expose our workshop, which was why we incorporated the pleating workshop, so customers can see for themselves how the pleating is done.”

Visit GINLEE Studio at:

#01-145 Great World City Shopping Centre, 1 Kim Seng Promenade, Singapore 237994 / #02-35 Raffles City Shopping Centre, 252 North Bridge Road, Singapore 179103 / Level 2 TANGS at Tang Plaza, 310 Orchard Road, Singapore 238864

Alternatively, visit the GINLEE Studio/Showroom (by appointment only) at #03-05 National Design Centre, 111 Middle Road, Singapore 188969.

Tel: 8200 4347 / 8949 4154

Email: info@ginleestudio.com

Website: ginleestudio.com

This article was originally published in Harpers Bazaar.

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