You've probably seen them - the classic baju kurung Kedah, the knot skirts and the colourful tote bags. But do you know the story behind the brand? Whimsigirl started as a kids' clothing brand and has now turned into a popular women's wear. The classic and timeless clothing line was founded by architecture graduate Syazana Sukiman and we recently sat down with the mum of two to chat about the brand and how it has expanded to where it is now. Check out the interview down below!
How did you get into the fashion world?
I actually studied architecture and going into the fashion world was a surprise. Whimsigirl started as a kids' clothing brand and that happened by accident. I was making baby clothes as a hobby and then from there, I started getting so many requests from women to make clothes their size as well. They were saying things like “That’s something I’d wear too!”. So it was more, the fashion world chose me, I didn’t choose fashion.
You started Whimsigirl by selling children’s clothing. What makes you move to make women's clothes?
Credit: @whimsigirldsgnon Instagram
I started making kids’ clothes when I graduated from university. It was one of those “What do I want to do with my life?” situations. Even though I had an architecture background, it wasn’t something I wanted to pursue. I’ve always been a creative person, and I’ve always wanted to learn how to sew, so I took the time to teach myself how to sew. From then, it involved from just a hobby to a career. So, I always say, don’t just find your passion but also go out of your comfort zone so you’ll find something that you’d never ever think of.
Who is your biggest inspiration?
I found that I learned so much from every person that I surround myself with. I picked up my work ethic from my dad. He always said that no matter what you do, do as best as you can. So, it’s ingrained in me to do anything the best I could. I don’t go halfway and I always do my best. And I learned to give people the benefit of the doubt from my mum — to always see good in people. Combining those two lessons, I applied them to the company as well. I’ve also learned a few things from my husband. That you can serve without expecting anything in return. Like how your purpose in life can serve others and that’s okay. From my kids — to not take little things for granted. There are pieces from everyone in my life that I carry with me.
Whimsigirl had started making baju burung Kedah trendy again and your knot skirt has been copied by other brands. Do you see this as a challenge and how did you overcome that?
Oh gosh. I don’t even know that when we were producing the baju kurung Kedah that it’d be a trend again. People always perceived baju kurung as a special occasion outfit when you go to weddings or during Hari Raya. It’s not something young people would wear on casual days. I understood that baju kurung was something traditional. When I started Whimsigirl, I wanted to make baju kurung something wearable, something that you can wear every day. I also want to produce clothes that are timeless and that everyone from different walks of life can wear.
I can’t say that I owned the knot skirts. I always say that “Rezeki is everywhere” so I can’t say why these people copied me, but we always have to believe in ourselves — what we’ve developed, what we’ve grown is something really good and that we’re providing solutions for our customers and they feel good in our clothes. They’d always come back to us because they feel connected to us. We try to make our products high quality, so the pieces would be comfortable and timeless so they can be passed on as heirloom pieces. And they can even be shared with the women in your life because everyone can wear it!
Your husband also works with Whimsigirl. What’s working with your partner like?
Let me be honest: there are no boundaries when it comes to working with your partner. I’ve known him since we were both 17-year-olds, and there’s nothing we don’t talk about. Alhamdulillah, we are at the phase where we have a strong team to support us and carry the weight with us so that we can take a break when we need it. He’s also one of the smartest people I know and he’s the biggest advocate, he champions women and he’d take a backseat and let us shine. He’s that kind of person and I’m very grateful even though there are highs and lows but that’s life.
We loved the Everyday Role Models initiative. What inspired you to start it?
When I grew up there was no representation of people who looked like me. I didn’t really fit in and even now I don’t tick any boxes — I make clothes but I’m not really in the fashion crowd, we’re an e-commerce brand but we’re not really that, I’m Malay but I look Malay. So finding representation or anybody that I can relate to was really hard when I was growing up.
When it comes to clothing brands, all the women representations were models. When I started Whimsigirl, I want to showcase the everyday girls. I want to bring them forward and I want to make them stars. We’re all stars! I’m so glad to see that other brands are showcasing the same thing too. We need to be the role models that we want to see in the world.
When I had a baby, that was a grounding moment for me. I gained so much weight and had to relearn how to love my body. I don’t think I’d be able to create Whimsigirl if I didn’t experience all that. I understood the struggle of wanting to fit in certain clothes but you don’t look good. I wanted to create something that makes women feel good when they wear our clothes.
As a woman-led company, what would you say is the best thing about working at Whimsigirl?
I was talking to a friend recently about the pandemic and how it reset how we see the workplace. It’s the kind of reset that we need to happen as well. Everyone works hard during working hours and they don’t bring work home. A lot of your time is spent at work and it has to be meaningful.
As a woman, business owner and mum, what is your fashion style?
My father has the best style and that’s how I learnt to appreciate good clothes — quality, material and cut. I also learnt that timelessness is also important. Even with Whimsigirl, we don’t do anything super trendy because we sell clothes that you tend to go back to and can be worn for any occasion. I’m more mindful of the money I spent on clothes so I’d choose clothes that are timeless. I prefer wearable clothes that I can enjoy for a long time.
You recently travelled to the UK with your family. Can you share some tips about travelling with kids?
It was the first time that we travelled abroad as a family of four. It was a learning curve for us. Travelling with two kids, it’s quite challenging but one thing that I’ve learnt is to go with the flow. The whole idea of the trip was quite a coming-of-age trip where we try to fulfil everyone’s dreams.
We took my son to watch two football games, then we visited the Natural History Museum for my other son and husband. For me, it was more to explore popular brands in Europe, how they look like, and how’s the shopping experience. We made sure there was something for everyone and we try to be supportive.
I learnt that when we travel with kids, despite having a schedule and places to visit, we’re also open to breaking it. There was also a point when we didn’t plan anything and decided to drive and see where we were going. In the end, we stopped in Oxford and spent the day there. So it was fun to keep your schedule open so you can do something spontaneous!
P.S. We love hearing stories of women from our community breaking barriers to becoming the cool, amazing person they are today! We have loads of them, so read them and get inspired to break your record ?
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