With a keen eye and passion for menswear, Sarah Soon brings a distinctive spin to formal wear.
Being a female tailor in the male-dominated industry didn’t deter Sarah Soon from pursuing her dream of changing up the local fashion scene. With her insurmountable passion for her craft, she was determined to not let even the scepticism from others stand in her way.
The 29-year-old recalls that she “wasn’t very good in (her) studies” as a student, leading her to pursue fashion design instead. It was there that she fell in love with the subject, particularly menswear, and the rest is history.
Today, she is the co-founder and creative tailor at Sakal, a tailoring business that was inspired by the style and outfits in Peaky Blinders – a British period crime drama television series that aired on Netflix.
Through Sakal, Sarah curates both bespoke and made-to-measure pieces for her clients. These include suits, shirts, trousers, and unique pieces such as safari jackets.
Adorning a sophisticated navy blue blazer herself during an interview with Youthopia, Sarah’s passion for her work and formal wear is evident. It is this passion that spurred her on to kick start her business and create such pieces for a larger market.
“My personal belief is that everyone should at least own a suit in their cupboard,” Sarah tells Youthopia.
As part of her goal to design and create formal wear for males and females alike in Singapore, she endeavours to make her prices and services affordable and accessible for all.
For that reason, garments such as shirts and trousers are usually made-to-measure, while full suits are bespoke. This is how Sakal keeps their prices as low as possible to cater to customers who might have a tighter budget.
“In comparison to many old school tailors we are very young and fresh, so we do want to bring something new to the industry,” says Sarah. “We really wanted people to feel like they can wear their outfits anywhere instead of just going to a very formal event or meeting. So our style of tailoring is more casual as a whole.”
Tailoring a piece for a client tends to start off with understanding what they are looking for. Sarah walks her clients through an intricate process of finding the right fabrics and going through specific details, which she painstakingly notes down.
“Their posture and the way they walk really flows in a garment and is different for every client,” she says, adding that even a client’s dominant hand can make all the difference in the final product.
Following this, Sarah works on the garment. Clients can then try on the final product to ensure that they are happy with the end result. In pulling out all the stops to help customers achieve their best look, this arduous process can stretch from eight to 10 weeks.
“We really respect our customers in terms of their opinions and we don’t force our style on them. In return, we’re rewarded because our customers love our designs,” says Sarah.
As a business which launched just before the COVID-19 pandemic hit, Sakal had to overcome many hurdles to stay afloat. Sarah shares that through innovative designs such as safari jackets and denim trousers, they gained a following of like-minded Singaporeans who sought to change up their everyday wear.
Starting Sakal in her 20s came as a surprise even to Sarah as she was not expecting to own a business so soon. Nevertheless, she expresses gratitude for her parents’ support, despite their concerns for her financial stability.
As a female tailor in this traditionally male-dominated industry, Sarah reflects that some might have doubts about her technical skills and ability to follow through with her dream. However, she’s gone above and beyond to prove them wrong.
Sarah counters that as a female, her keen eye for detail has helped her to pick up things about her clients that play a big part in how she designs their outfits.
“I tell them things they don’t notice… their proportions, I’m a personal stylist for my clients as well,” she says confidently.
Further down the line, Sarah is certain that Sakal will have to adapt their future designs based on how Singaporeans dress post-pandemic.
She feels that since many are used to wearing comfortable clothes while working or studying from home, dress codes for events such as weddings might start to become less formal.
Besides expanding her line to include more items such as ethnic wear, polo shirts or custom-made pieces, she also hopes to create clothes that are a perfect balance between comfort and style. Most of all, she hopes Singaporeans can start to appreciate and don these outfits as well.
For those hoping to embark on their own entrepreneurial journey, especially girls who are interested in entering a male-dominated industry, Sarah has this to say:
“Don’t be afraid to try. Just put yourself out there, and if you really want to do something, don’t think, just do it.”
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