A suitably stylish addition to an up-and-coming area

From left: Este Bartin's co-founders Barry Lim and Justin Loy with their tailoring assistant Benedict Teo. There are plans for another store, also in a heartland area.
From left: Este Bartin's co-founders Barry Lim and Justin Loy with their tailoring assistant Benedict Teo. There are plans for another store, also in a heartland area.ST PHOTO: LIM YAOHUI

Business partners Justin Loy, 33 and Barry Lim, 35, met as teenagers and bonded over computer games like Redmoon.

But they had another common interest - dressing well. This led to them setting up door-to-door tailoring business Este Bartin in 2013.

For two years, they would go to people's homes by appointment and take measurements. But the duo soon found themselves searching for a brick and mortar outlet.

"We wanted a store front so people could come to us and there would be more of a walk-in crowd," said Mr Loy.

They found a space at Block 128, Toa Payoh Lorong 1 last year, and rented the partitioned unit for $1,300 a month.

The rest of the unit is occupied by a massage parlour and a salon.

It may be a modest shop which sees only about two to five customers each day, but the young entrepreneurs are content for now.

Popular dessert cafes along the same stretch of shops, such as Creamier and Frozen, help get the tailors noticed, especially by nearby residents. "We wanted a heartland location so that customers find it more convenient to drop by," said Mr Loy. "Why go to the malls and fight with the big boys?"

While the men are offering a traditional service long a staple in HDB estates, they present a youthful twist. Their shirt designs, with flowers and paisley, cater to the trendy, and their tailoring assistant Benedict Teo is only 23.

But they can be old-fashioned too. "We consulted a fengshui master who said east is a better direction for us, so we added 'Este', the Spanish word for 'east', to our name," said Mr Lim.

The second word Bartin is a portmanteau of Barry and Justin.

Insurance agent Andy Lim, 46, learnt about the tailors on Facebook last year and has since had five shirts and two pairs of trousers made at the shop.

Mr Lim lives in Choa Chu Kang but does not mind the commute. "The service here is very personal. These young people are brave to start their own business and I want to support them," he said.

Mr Tan and Mr Lim plan to open another store, and are adamant that it will also be in the heartland. Said Mr Lim: "HDB neighbourhoods are getting more neglected. We should come back and make them more lively again."

Yeo Sam Jo

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 12, 2016, with the headline 'A suitably stylish addition to an up-and-coming area'. Print Edition | Subscribe