Zhai

Ms Danielle Champagne is the creative and managing director of Zhai, which produces bamboo fibre clothing such as this cowl-neck dress.
Ms Danielle Champagne is the creative and managing director of Zhai, which produces bamboo fibre clothing such as this cowl-neck dress. PHOTOS: ZHAI

Known for making clothes from bamboo fibre, home-grown eco- clothing brand Zhai is an extension of its eco-conscious team.

The seven-man group regularly use recycled paper bags and energy-saving light bulbs at the company's office in Ubi Avenue 3. They prefer to use computer tablets instead of printing documents, and have cut their paper usage by 70 per cent over the past two years.

The brand was founded in 2009 by Ms Kim Rose Allen, an Australian, and her business partner Eric Polfliet, a Belgian.

In 2013, Zhai was sold to the current owner, Ms Danielle Champagne, a former primary school teacher from Canada who moved to Singapore nine years ago and is now a permanent resident.

Zhai, which means "presence" in Chinese, makescardigans, dresses, skirts, pants, tops and socks from organically grown bamboo fibre certified by organisations including the United States National Organic Program, which certifies only fibres that, among other criteria, conserve biodiversity.

Ms Champagne is the brand's creative and managing director, while her husband, Mr Daniel Cossette, is its chief finance officer. They are both in their 40s.


Ms Danielle Champagne is creative and managing director of Zhai, which produces bamboo fibre clothing such as this cowl-neck dress (above).

She says: "I have eczema and being from cold Canada, I used to suffer from skin issues."

In 2011, she turned to bamboo clothes because they were soft and ideal for sensitive skin. She recalls: "One day, I chanced upon Kim's store, decided to buy something and immediately got hooked on the concept of using bamboo fibre to make clothes. Eventually, I bought the shop itself."

Bamboo, she says, is a sustainable resource. It is fast-growing and can be harvested multiple times without causing environmental degradation.

"It also has no natural pests, eliminating the need for chemical pesticides. Bamboo apparel is also biodegradable."

Zhai started with one store and now has three in Singapore - in Haji Lane, Tanglin Mall and United Square. It also has a store in Malaysia.

It is focusing on expanding online and aims to triple Internet sales before the end of the year.

Among its most popular items is a $109 cowl-neck dress made from 95 per cent organic bamboo fibre and 5 per cent spandex, available in rhubarb and black. Its customers are mostly women aged 27 to 45.

One challenge, however, is reaching out to the masses, says Ms Champagne, a vegan and avid cyclist: "The green conscience is only starting to reach Asia. Not many people prioritise eco-friendliness. But I think people here are becoming more curious and informed about eco-friendly practices, which is a good start."

Benson Ang

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 06, 2016, with the headline 'Zhai'. Print Edition | Subscribe