Sisterhood Studios create beautiful handmade goods from intricately embroidered masks, to fashionably cute Bianca halter tops, thread by thread. While they only produce in small batches at a time, each drop has no problem selling out as their famous embroidered face masks are wiped out in minutes (yes, minutes!) in their online store. Below, we speak to Sarah J. Gomes, one of three sisters behind the brand on sustainability, working with family and more.
What is your brand's creative direction and artistic approach? Why have you decided to go down this route?
I’ve been told by some people that I have “grandma hobbies” like knitting, sewing, various hand-embroidery, quilting fabrics, fixing up my old or torn clothes etc. And yes, I also happen to love collecting plants. I think a lot of the ‘artistic approach’ stemmed from these slow handicraft hobbies, with a mixture of our three aesthetics. Our mom taught us some of these crafts growing up but it was also through personal interests that got the ball rolling. We often approach our garment making with these values in mind - Wearability, Necessity, Comfort and Style. Minimizing wastage; Maximizing function such as reversible where it can be worn on both sides.
Please share what has been the brand's most admirable achievement thus far!
It’s always a joy to see customers wearing our garments repeatedly! It feels like all the hard work is finally paid off when we receive positive feedback. In addition, we often belittle how much we can achieve in a day, but looking back at what we’ve managed to accomplish within a year is definitely something we celebrate. It's the small victories that encourages us to push forward.
What hardships have your brand gone through?
The Hand-Embroidered face masks alone take about 2 hours just to stitch….each! Although yes I very much enjoy what I do and am grateful for supportive parents, the hours are long - I work beyond a typical 9-5 hour job and often work on weekends too.
Which brings me to my second point, sometimes it’s knowing when to take a break especially since currently I work from home in a spare room we call our studio. A little self reminder is that rest is necessary for better mental health and focus, also to prevent creative burn-outs; I’m learning to do what I can and do my best at the pace I was graced for, hence we always appreciate when customers are patient and don't mind waiting.
How are your products sourced and made?
Our products are made in house, locally! The whole production process of being designed, toile and test fitted magic happens in our tiny studio. Since we’re all people and people come in all sizes, we test fit on different body types when we can and get measurements from friends to get a more realistic gauge. Materials are sourced both locally and globally - finding the best of both worlds. We currently work with a family of tailors who were also affected by the pandemic, providing them a more stable source of income.
One of our current collections, ‘Reloved’ is a carefully curated collection of pre-loved garments in good condition or in need of repairs (mostly knitwear at the moment) that are cleaned, repaired and reworked. Sometimes they just need some sprucing up and they are good as new.
What is your brand's creative approach?
For us we always keep our values in mind so that we don’t stray too far from the purpose, some of which as mentioned earlier would be to minimize wastage, maximize function, fun pieces to style up or to wear everyday. Our products are labor intensive as they are handmade. We are intentional when it comes to picking the colors and mixing patterns, even if they are patchworked pieces that involve mixing fabrics of different weight and texture so that they come together harmoniously. The stories are in the details.
Handpicked ingredients, a dash of creativity, spoonful's of care and a whole lot of love made into small batches of goods ready to serve its purpose.
How did your brand come about?
I graduated in fashion design in 2020 mid-pandemic, things were very uncertain and as we would recall disposable surgical masks other than toilet paper, were flying off the shelves quickly! So I decided to experiment making protective fabric masks to use as a more environmentally friendly option, since it could be washed and used repeatedly. It all began with batik and embroidered face masks, and at that time I was only selling to friends and family.
Sandra and I have always wanted to start something but never thought it would begin this way. Never in a million years would we have guessed face masks to be our first products either!
What was your inspiration for your brand?
There's many different sources, sometimes it can be as simple as a tune or song, or a color palette from local kuihs. Nature is full of surprises! Or everyday objects and things, the environment we grew up with. A patchwork blanket my grandma made entirely from Men’s shirt fabrics, for example. Sometimes it's culture, an era, or a fashion icon from the past. I guess we can say It’s a melting pot of different elements and our stories that are often woven into the process.
Our reversible Bianca Halter for example, is actually an ode to the flower power / disco era in the late 60s and early 70s as well as a fashion Icon Bianca Jagger. While various styles of halter tops were common in the summer, we decided on an adjustable double ‘tie-back’ for our Bianca to accommodate more body types.
What are your brand creative values?
Making sustainable clothing is a value that drives us everyday, it certainly is a wide topic to discuss and dissect. We aren’t doing it perfectly 100% but we’re constantly seeking out how we can improve. It’s important for the life of garments to change from a linear life cycle where it ends up in landfills to becoming a circular cycle, where they are repurposed with new lives.
There’s a climate crisis and I think it’s a wake up call for us, because what we do today will echo into the future. Earth is the only place we got, we’re just doing our bit to keep it clean. Moreover, we always make sure local makers we partner with are always paid fairly for the work they do and treated with respect, in hopes they benefit from better living. But most importantly, it’s walking the talk and making sure our works always align with our values.
What advice can you share with other local business owners out there?
Okay, get ready for some cliché but very real bits!
Venturing into this may sound attractive but the reality is long hours and blood-sweat-tears.
I’ve learned over this past year it isn’t just about doing what you love, but choosing to put love in whatever you do. Finding passion in the everyday tasks that could seem mundane.
Letting go of the fear of failure. Remembering it's okay to make mistakes and you're going to have to do a lot of things you don't necessarily like. A lot of stepping out of comfort zones here.
What are your goals and vision for your brand in the years to come?
Creating jobs that will contribute to the economy, be a blessing to the community.
That our garments are worn over and over, and get passed down from generation to generation or given a new life. That precious moments will be lived in these garments we make.
A dream someday to have a proper studio space and physical store where we can meet familiar faces and new friends in person!
We don’t have all the answers right now but with values, goals and purpose, we believe it will be found along the way.
Lastly, what makes your brand and product unique?
Most of our products including our Bianca tops, bags, and most designs of our embroidered masks are one-off pieces. We want each one of you to be and feel unique (as you should), hoping it will make you feel extra special because you're the only person in the entire world to have that piece!
I think ultimately it is the personalized touches and attention to detail we put in every step of the way - making each product right down to the packing process before it is ready for delivery. Perhaps it is also the heart and intention behind why we do what we do. Handpicked ingredients, a dash of creativity, spoonful's of care and a whole lot of love made into small batches of goods ready to serve its purpose.