I first met Jessica Tham (@tippytapp) about two years ago for an article on Blogger Boyfriends (yes, we called it first – suck on that, Instagram Husbands) and for as long as I’ve known her, she’s always been impeccably dressed. Whether she’s wearing high-street, designer or even Taobao clothes, Jessica somehow always looks put together. Just scroll through her Instagram and you’ll see that she’s been endorsed by brands like Coach, Michael Kors and Repetto.
With her eye for style, it’s not surprising that Jessica finally launched a fashion label of her own last year. Sure, it’s easy to pass it off as Oh, just a blogger starting yet another online store – but really, there’s more to it than just that.
Local online fashion has come a long way from the days of Livejournal blogshops. From cheap Bangkok clothes and Taobao knockoffs, the industry has shifted towards a business model that focuses more on quality and design – but at an affordable price, too.
Jessica launched her label SOIGNÉ (pronounced swan-yeah, in case you were wondering) last year and so far, she says the response from customers has been positive. She even has a pop-up space at Wheelock Place, where customers can shop the pieces in person.
The brand’s aesthetic is clean and modern, with the same feminine elegance that Jessica’s OOTDs often showcase. SOIGNÉ is a French term used to describe someone who is well-groomed, polished and dressed elegantly – which embodies the exact traits that Jessica wants the brand to be.
“The idea is to have timeless pieces that can transcend seasons, and be dressed up or down for different occasions,” says Jessica.
It’s no secret that Singapore’s retail market is highly competitive, especially when it comes to online stores. Just scroll through Instagram or Facebook, and you’ll probably come across an ad for an online store. So how do you stand out from the crowd?
“As a new brand, gaining the trust of customers is the hardest part,” says Jessica. “Many customers who shop online tend to be loyal to the brands that they have been buying from for years, so we try to differentiate ourselves by focusing on details that define our brand.”
Take the customer experience, for example.
From the packaging to the workmanship of pieces, SOIGNÉ places great attention to detail. Even little things like how a dress fits, or if it feels comfortable on the skin (“I can’t deal with itchy dresses, seriously!” says Jessica) are thought about carefully. Design-wise, the brand focuses on timeless silhouettes, rather than trend-based styles that tend to be fleeting.
SOIGNÉ The Label Wrap Front Pencil Skirt and Halter Neck Top
To keep things exciting, SOIGNÉ also launches new collections regularly and organises events for customers.
“With online stores, it’s easy for customers to forget your brand if you just stagnate,” says Jessica. “So you have to keep improving and innovating, without compromising on quality, design or customer service.”
SOIGNÉ will also be launching a more premium collection that focuses on dressier pieces.
SOIGNÉ The Label Drop Waist Tulle Sleeved Dress
As with most online stores that first start out, Jessica is pretty much a one-man show. From designing the clothes to managing the logistics, Jessica does it all with some help from her husband Silas (who, as you may remember, magnanimously sacrificed closet space for her #truelove).
In some sense, Jessica’s situation is a parallel of what most budding entrepreneurs face – having to run every aspect of the business, but without the glitzy office, experienced team or fancy equipment at your disposal. These are the people brave enough to strike out on their own, yet often receive less recognition – or respect – than they deserve.
In a culture where career success is often associated with climbing the corporate ladder, it’s refreshing to see entrepreneurs like Jessica making a mark in the industry.
“I started SOIGNÉ because I felt that I was outgrowing the brands I used to shop with, yet the labels that I liked were out of my budget,” says Jessica. “So I wanted to produce quality clothes that were also affordable. Pieces that I would actually wear regularly, and not just for an Instagram photo.”
As a social media influencer, Jessica is no stranger to being in front of the camera. But what is it really like to be behind the lens, doing all the mundane or tiring tasks that no one ever Instagrams about?
“The backend processes are definitely not glamorous at all, and the process from conceptualisation to the final product actually takes months of hard work and tough decisions,” says Jessica. “I actually kind of enjoy it though, because honestly, there are days where you just don’t want to be photo-ready or posing for a picture you know?”
Jessica oversees every aspect of the business, from processing orders to fronting the brand. “I’m a bit of a micro-manager,” she admits. “I need to have my nose in everything.”
And any advice for budding entrepreneurs or business owners?
“There will be obstacles along the way and you’ll have to put in a lot of hard work, but don’t be discouraged by it all. Remember why you started it, persevere and celebrate every small achievement.”
Jessica wears the Off-Shoulder Maxi Dress and Irregular Hem Colourblock Dress from her label. SOIGNÉ The Label is available online and at Revolte x SheShops #02-02/03, Wheelock Place.
Photos shot at the very Instagram-worthy Open Farm Community, an innovative dining concept that celebrates local farming and sustainable agricultural practices. Feature photos by Vivien Tan for scene.sg, studio photos by SOIGNÉ The Label.