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Photograph: Reckless Ericka, Baju by Oniatta, Love Bonito

Made With Passion: Shop local in style

Local designers and Singapore-based labels that won’t go out of style

Time Out Singapore in partnership with Made With Passion
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Singapore is home to a talented bunch of fashion designers and unique labels – with a whole repertoire and collection of bespoke and ready-to-wear pieces that stand the test of time. From beautifully handmade batik fabric and delicately sewn kebaya tops to whimsical and colourful prints that pay homage to the food-crazy country that we live in. 

Creativity is the key when it comes to these designers who have put in much time and passion into their labels. Love, Bonito have worked hard over the years to create a line that is both stylish and practical for the busy Singaporean woman. As the name suggests, Reckless Ericka is a brand that embraces a bold and adventurous spirit when it comes to fashion. Baju by Oniatta on the other hand is dedicated to reviving batik by reinventing the way it is worn and appreciated.

So if you're feeling a little out of sorts when it comes to looking your best, turn your eye to these local labels for a little inspiration. There has never been a better time to explore and get onboard with homegrown brands – and the Made With Passion initiative puts the spotlight on these local lifestyle brands. Together with the Singapore Brand Office (SGBO), Singapore Tourism Board (STB) and supported by Enterprise Singapore (ESG), the initiative hopes to inspire aspiring brand owners to turn their passions into reality. Take the time to recognise the local brands championed as part of the Made With Passion initiative across many different pillars, but here are the names that exhibit a passion for fashion in Singapore.

Baju by Oniatta

Batik might not be the first thing you might think of when it comes to local fashion. Besides the fabric used for the uniforms of those working in the national airline, not much is known about this fabled cloth. But all that changes with how the local label Baju by Oniatta honours this ancient artform. 

Baju by Oniatta is a clothing line founded by Oniatta Effendi. After three years of purely functioning as a pop-up, she finally found a physical home for her beautiful pieces. In her picturesque shophouse in Kampong Gelam, you will find one-of-a-kind batik pieces, tailored kebayas, shirt dresses and her signature Utama pants. It's all about balance with her collection – the batik cloth is prepared using the traditional method of wax-printing but you also find modern elements in her line like hidden pockets on the batik kain or a bold sash (obi) to be worn around the waist with a classic kebaya top.

The batik in the store is handmade by a small community of artisans in Indonesia who work directly with Oniatta. For her, the label was about building a strong relationship with our neighbours. Oniatta also believes in strong narratives and is committed to supporting batik as a thriving ecosystem alongside educating consumers on the work behind each piece of fabric.

"One of the challenges was making sure we stayed true to the brand value – of championing batik as a traditional textile. There are many brands that use batik without realising what batik really is – in that the technique of batik-making is hardly acknowledged nor recognised," she says. This is also exactly why batik is not cheap. Handcrafted pieces need to receive far more appreciation and Baju by Oniatta have always been strong advocates in sharing knowledge and information about the work their craftsmen do.

And this storytelling element carries on the buyers themselves. Oniatta explains, "To have clients share with others about the batik pieces they have taken home from the store. They have acquired vocabulary about batik and speak about this with flair, and love for batik."

WHAT TO BUY The signature Utama pants ($199) was the item that kicked off the label. It can work in both formal settings and casually, the extra flap in the front gives the pants an elegant look to it. The unisex Merdeka jacket ($409) may come in traditional batik motifs which symbolises wisdom, strength and power but the kimono sleeves and reversible function gives it a modern twist.

Reckless Ericka

Inspired by creative Paul Arden’s book Whatever you think, think the opposite, the label is for anyone who embodies the enthusiastic and adventurous spirit – for those who love wild and fresh ideas, and for the ones who do what feels right and fearlessly refuses to conform. The best part? When you see the clothes, you'll quickly realise how it all translates to the bold prints, modern cuts and unexpected draping in the pieces.

While the unique prints – like the ones from the Singapore Food Series – are the first thing you'll notice about the label, you'll fast realise that the clothes are also just as functional as they are fashionable. Think pieces that are suitable for the workplace and after work hours, hidden pockets and roomy but flattering cuts. According to the founders, customers are always pleasantly surprised when they see the products because of the attention to details and workmanship – and it justifies the price.

The brand was established in 2009 and have faced different kinds of challenges over the years – because fashion is such a fast-paced industry. But instead of churning out new collections to keep up with trends, Reckless Ericka persevered and kept to what they do best – individuality. 

The collections are designed in-house by a talented team, with a strong emphasis on craftsmanship. Clothes are also produced in ethically sourced factories using quality materials. The label is also constantly mindful of practising a more sustainable business that offers an alternative voice to fast fashion.

WHAT TO BUY The Fit & Flare Maxi ($289) dress may look ultra-feminine with the flattering A-line silhouette, V-neckline and cinched waist but the vibrant Masala print contrasted with grey and black tones give it a little edge. Even if you're not looking for clothes, take home a Limited Edition Durian Mask (from $25) from the Singapore Food Series. www.recklessericka.com

Love, Bonito

Born out of necessity, the popular womenswear label started when founders Rachel Lim and Viola Tan found that they struggled to find designs that would fit the Asian physique well. Everything that was available on the market catered to European and American women who have different body proportions, skin tone – and even climate from us. After all, do we really need a turtleneck in this tropical weather? This problem turned out to be an inspiration to the two and they went on to pursue a fashion line with their own designs specially tailored to Asian women.

Through Love, Bonito, you can expect designs that fit well and are comfortable but do not burn a hole in your pocket. Because fashion itself is a form of self-expression, you can shop according to the occasion on its site – the office edits will focus more on versatile and practical pieces, while the bridesmaids' dresses is where you find all things lace, pastel-coloured and more. There is truly something for everyone.

Looking at the success of Love, Bonito, no one would've guessed the challenges the brand had faced in its early days. Online shopping was in its nascent stages so naturally, getting a loan – and in this case, it was from Rachel's mother – was going to be difficult. Because Love, Bonito were practically pioneers in the online shopping scene then, there wasn't a model they could follow. Rachel and Viola had no business or fashion background and learned everything on the job, including how to lead a team and grow a company.

Ultimately, the brand aims to encourage women to live to their fullest potential. As Rachel puts it, "I believe that when you look good, you feel good – you stand a little taller, speak a little louder, shine a little brighter."

WHAT TO BUY Exude girl boss vibes with a power suit from Love, Bonito. Pick out the Meisel Shawl Collar Blazer ($51.90) and Meisel Crossover High Waist Pants ($43.90) combo in Vermillion or stick to romantic and trendy silhouettes like the Elyn Puff Sleeve Midi Dress ($53.90). www.lovebonito.com

Now that you've met the labels like Baju by Oniatta, RECKLESS ERICKA and Love, Bonito who are dedicated to make you look your best, get to know about the other 45 highlighted brands under the Made With Passion (MWP) initiative, a joint venture between the Singapore Brand Office and the Singapore Tourism Board, supported by Enterprise Singapore.

The campaign celebrates local brands across lifestyle categories like fashion & accessories, beauty & wellness, homeware & decor and packaged F&B – and also hopes to inspire other brand owners and Singaporeans to pursue their dreams and passions. Get to know more about the brands and the people behind it via the Made With Passion website, Facebook, and Instagram page, or browse the exclusive Shopee microsite. Whether you’re shopping online or in-store, be sure to look out for the Made With Passion brand mark to identify items that truly embody the Singapore spirit.

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