Matter

Travel wear label Matter, co-founded by Ms Ho Renyung, works with artisan communities in India to create the clothes.
Travel wear label Matter, co-founded by Ms Ho Renyung, works with artisan communities in India to create the clothes. PHOTO: MACKEREL

The signature traditional block prints that adorn the garments produced by home-grown travel wear label Matter do not come easy.

Its co-founder Ho Renyung, who set up the company with her friend Yvonne Suner in 2014, searched for craftsmen in Rajasthan, India, to produce her designs made from fabrics including hand-loomed cotton and natural materials such as silk and linen.

The pair met six years ago while working in Mexico in hotel operations.

Each pattern on her designs is hand-printed by a craftsman using a block made of wood, with the grooves carved by hand.

Matter works with more than seven artisan communities in India to create the clothes.

Each community is made up of 30 to 50 people who are involved in various aspects of the production process, including colour-making, block-carving and block-printing.

Matter's garments - scarves, jumpers, pants, shorts and boxy tops - are biodegradable, which means they will break down over time as opposed to taking up space in a landfill for decades, says Ms Ho, 30.

Azo-free dyes, which are non- toxic and better for the environment, are used.

Matter also cuts down on fabric wastage by using offcuts from its clothes to make smaller items such as pouches.

There are nine styles of pants, known for their zipless designs, and prices range from $159 for a pair of long cotton linen pants to $279 for a pair of long wrap pants made of silk. Scarves retail for $110 to $200 and shorts are about $110.

Ms Ho - whose parents are Mr Ho Kwon Ping and Ms Claire Chiang, founders of resort group Banyan Tree Holdings - chose to make her label in India after "falling in love" with the country's artisans and textiles during a fund-raising road trip along the western coast of India in 2014.

Since Matter's launch, sales have increased by 15 per cent month on month.

Its customers are mostly women aged 25 to 50, who are "less brand- conscious and more mindful about where their clothes come from and how they are made", says Ms Ho, who is married and has no children.

It is a segment she thinks will grow.

She says part of the reason for the brand's growth has been its bold designs which have made eco-friendly wear alluring and stylish.

"For a long time, the public perception was that sustainable good and goods made by social enterprises are either brown or made of hemp and for hippies only. We have debunked the myth."

The label, which can be found at stores such as department store Tangs and multi-label boutique Kapok, ships to more than 40 countries, including the United States, Canada, Australia and the United Kingdom.

It also has an online store matterprints.com.

Though the Singapore retail scene has been a challenging one this year, Ms Ho, who declines to disclose exact figures, says sales for the label are still expected to grow because of a niche and loyal customer base and overseas sales.

She says: "What is important for us as consumers to remember is that everything we buy makes an impact and is a vote in that direction. Buying from companies with values that we respect means those companies will continue to grow."

Melissa Heng

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