“Fashions fade, style is eternal” so goes the famous quote by Yves Saint Laurent, one of fashion’s famous names.
With a philosophy of incorporating trends with timeless pieces, local online store, maryjulian, delivers vintage styles through their contemporary clothes that aim to make women feel and look beautiful wearing them.
Fever Avenue interviewed Jade Seah, local celebrity host/actress and owner of maryjulian, to find out about the fashion entrepreneur and story behind the store.
1. You were previously seen on TV as a host and entertainer of several programmes. What made you decide to set up an online store selling clothes?
I love fashion, and it has always been a dream fof mine to establish a fashion label. I enjoy coming up with designs, and the greatest satisfaction is when customers tell me they love wearing my clothes, or when I spot ladies looking fabulous in my designs.
2. Your grandparents are your store’s namesake. Can you tell us more about your grandparents and how they have inspired you to branch out into your online venture?
maryjulian was inspired by the love of my grandparents, Mary and Julian, and their sense of style. Designed for the independent woman who likes to create her own style, maryjulian is stylish but never lavishly follows trends.
While from a simple background, my Peranakan Gran, Mary, has always stressed the importance of being neat and presentable. You’d never catch her or my Grandpa going to the nearby shops or market dressed sloppily. There has always been a sort of minimum standard, like combing one’s hair, wearing clean and neatly pressed clothes, and putting some thought into mixing and matching one’s clothes.
It was not an easy start for them, but my grandparents were very much in love and in true love story style, they managed to overcome the odds and were married for more than 50 years. It was this ‘never-ending love story’ that inspired me to create maryjulian.
3. Do you design your own clothes?
I do design clothes for maryjulian and also stock some designs I find on my travels.
4. Where do you get inspiration for your designs? And what are you doing to constantly gain more inspiration?
I take inspiration from my travels and from people and things around me. There is so much beauty in the little things that surround us each day, and I have the luxury of meeting so many interesting people all the time that I’m thankfully not short of inspiration!
5. Who is your target audience?
maryjulian is designed for the independent woman who likes to create her own style, at pocket-friendly prices. maryjulian hopes to let ladies find dresses that can easily be dressed up or down to suit various occasions, separates ripe for layering and instant wardrobe updaters that will go with and refresh your current wardrobe.
6. What do you hope to offer your customers through the clothes from maryjulian?
We hope to offer what we consider ‘great buys’ – versatile pieces that fit and flatter that can be worn again and again in different ways; quality pieces that will not easily go out of style and that can last through seasonal fads.
The dream is for every woman to not only look gorgeous, but to truly feel and believe that she is. The quality of a garment, its cut, the way it drapes and falls, the feel of the fabric against the skin, are all factors that affect one’s final look. Quality is key and the devil truly is in the details.
I hope ladies will fall in love with the way a maryjulian piece makes them feel, and of course, to fall in love with maryjulian originals in general!
7. Your grandmother, Mary, is of Peranakan heritage. Have you ever thought of incorporating elements of Peranakan style in your clothes?
My gran is Peranakan, and we are very traditional in some ways – for example, she frowns upon the kebaya being used as outerwear with jeans. Peranakan women are very ‘proper’ and take pride in their appearance, and it was this element that was a key influence growing up, and a huge inspiration to me for maryjulian.
Nyonya elements are in my style and brand, albeit not always in the most literal way like a kebaya top or a sarong bottom. Prints and colour abound in the pre-fall collection, for example. Nothing is ever low-cut or cleavage-baring for maryjulian. It’s just not ‘proper’. We do have tops that are slightly sheer and a lot of florals; a nod to the kebaya and how traditional Nyonyas wear their sheer, embroidered kebaya tops.
8. How would you describe your personal fashion style? What are some of the must have items in your wardrobe?
The maryjulian philosophy is very much a mirror of my own personal style. I love juxtaposing elements when dressing – modern pieces with vintage elements, classic cuts with unconventional details, tomboy shapes with girlish details. Quality is key, good material is king, and interesting details excite me.
I do like to borrow from the boys – men’s shirts, tee-shirts and slim-cut pants and berms – but I always mix these with a touch of feminine style. Men’s slouchy tops are great for balancing out short, fitted bottoms, or tucked into a form-fitting pencil skirt. T-shirts are my ‘mainstays’ and ‘go-tos’ for days when I’m uninspired or need to pull something together fast and perfect as a ‘run errands’ outfit when paired with a pair of well-worn jeans or shorts.
I also love dresses as they are great for those ‘I-don’t-know-what-to-wear days’. It’s all the better if they are dresses that can easily be dressed up or down to suit various occasions; with sneakers and a casual duffel for day, with sexy, strappy sandals and a tiny clutch for events and dinners. Similarly for separates, I look for clothes that can be layered and pile on the accessories, and also for instant ‘wardrobe updaters’ for each season that will complement with and refresh my current (and ever-expanding) wardrobe! I also have some favourite and most-worn pieces I have kept and worn for years.
9. What are some outfits that you think a girl should absolutely not wear?
In general, I always say, never say never! Fashion is supposed to be fun. If you are not sure, try it at least once – it’s your personal style and how you work it that really ‘makes’ a look.
A practical tip would be to find the fine line between being honest and aware of your body shape, and beating yourself up for your figure flaws. When you have found this space, you’ll know instantly if you should try something or if it will probably not flatter; you’ll be more willing to experiment – you’ll be fearless in playing with fashion, and have a lot of fun dressing up!
10. What were some of the challenges you faced in branching out to be an entrepreneur and setting up your own online store?
All entrepreneurs face the same challenges, no matter whether you are in e-commerce or if you open a vegetable stall. The learning curve is steep, and especially if you have no business partner, you learn the ropes very quickly and how to get things done yourself.
Finding a trusted supplier was a huge challenge and I got burned a few times before I stumbled on a few reliable ones. For e-commerce, finding a good web team which understands your needs and design aesthetic is also an issue. It’s all worth it at the end of the day though; when customers tell me they love wearing my clothes, or when I spot ladies looking fabulous in my designs, the satisfaction I feel is amazing.
11. Are there other future business plans you may have and what are they?
We have exciting things in the pipeline to be revealed in good time. The best day to shop is Monday as we put out new stuff at the beginning of the week.