I recently sat down with the duo behind Etrican – a Singapore-based fashion label, working exclusively with organic and eco-friendly materials!
Their philosophy is really quite special: Wearing eco-friendly fabric should be the norm and needn’t dictate the style. What you will find here is a clean modern look, with a bit of edge.
Yumiko is the designer and Dragos manages the business – and together what they have created is something completely unique – their new collection, Madison Blvd, is the first woven organic cotton clothing line ever available in Singapore!
Read on to find out how they got started, what their inspirations are and how this girlfriend and boyfriend team manage it all.
Little Green Dot: How did you meet and come to start your own fashion line together?
Yumiko: We studied in the same Uni and had common friends. Then I went to Japan where I worked for a fair trade and organic British label and Dragos followed me soon after.
Dragos: I was one year behind her in school, so I had to stay to finish, but then I moved to Japan and worked as an executive recruiter for technology companies. We were there for 4 years and pretty much settled so it was a bit of a leap when we left. We moved to Singapore specifically to start this company. We spent 1 year and a half looking for best place to start it and we decided to start it here.
Little Green Dot: Why did you decide to be eco-friendly?
Dragos: That came before the idea of starting a clothing label. We wanted to start a responsible business. It stems from our own personal beliefs, our up-bringing. It’s what we believe is right.
Little Green Dot: How is it working together?
Dragos: It’s hard! Especially with a small company, you spend 24 hours together. We’re 50/50 and all the decisions are made together. We have different skill sets that are complementary which helps. We have so much of ourselves invested in it and we always consult each other. It’s a challenge, but it brings us together as well.
Yumiko: It makes us stronger.
Dragos: Yes, with us, we have the design element and the business element. We wanted to do things differently and the fact that we come from different angles helps us quite a bit. Designers by nature are creative people – business people are analytical people, so it’s very important to have both components.
Little Green Dot: What is a normal day for a fashion designer like?
Yumiko: I have a pretty healthy lifestyle. I take my dog out every morning. In the normal working day – I do a lot of research, looking at people a lot, I look at what’s happening now.
Dragos: It’s funny how this thing changes your perspective. I find myself looking at people a lot now too!
Little Green Dot: Can you tell me about your line – your inspirations, walk us through the process?
Yumiko: I try to design things that are comfortable with the silhouette. I also have very sensitive skin, that’s why I like organic clothing, because I can feel the difference. The fabric is soft, quite breathable.
I was just telling him [Dragos] yesterday I want the clothes to be wearable but with a twist. It’s effortless but adventurous.
Dragos: We wanted to step away from the idea that ethical clothing is only for Greenpeace activists – we want it to enter the mainstream and make it normal, I mean we’re normal people. This ethical lifestyle is something that will become normal in the future.
We do have the challenge of working with a much more limited design supply of fabric. Only 3 or 4 percent of cotton production is organic. And we only source fabric close to home so it’s challenging. We have to check certifications and they [suppliers] have to be willing to work with small quantities. We want to keep our prices competitive so we also have to find reasonable prices – It’s like Mission Impossible!
Little Green Dot: What can we expect to see from you in the future?
Dragos: We have too many plans! We are preparing a few new collections –
we are going to expand our accessory line more, do bracelets. We are expanding abroad over the next year into Australia. We’re looking at the possibility of having our own store.
Our Little Green Dot: Where can readers find your designs?
Dragos: Online. Around town. At Choose – actually they were one of the first retailers we started working with. We have a few more coming up, but decided we will work predominately with eco-friendly retailers. When you work with clothing retailers, they don’t care about the message – we care about the message more than just wanting our clothing to sell.
Thanks Yumiko and Dragos!
All images copyright of Etrican, all rights reserved