- Eileen Tan and Eden Tay started Vintagewknd, a vintage and reworked clothing brand, in 2015.
- The Singaporean brand turns waste textiles into new clothes inspired by the ’90s and Y2K fashion.
- The real-life couple turned this side hustle into a full-time job with just $1,500.
Tucked away along Singapore’s Haji Lane — a funky street of shophouses, graffiti murals, and boutiques — is a pastel-pink storefront that’s hard to miss.
A repurposed bus-stop bench sits out front, next to three convex traffic mirrors meant for selfies. Above the rainbow-colored store sign are wind spinners cleverly placed to hide two jutting aircon vents.
It’s a bright and playful scene full of recycled materials, and I can’t imagine a more fitting place for Vintagewknd — a homegrown vintage and reworked fashion brand — to open its new store.
I met the brand’s cofounders, Eileen Tan and Eden Tay, both 30, at their new store in March. They were both dressed in the brand’s signature reworked jeans, although Tan paired hers with a pink-striped tank top, while Tay had on a coral-patterned button down.
Thrifting has been an “in” thing in recent years, thanks to the younger generations who have been championing sustainable shopping. But Tan and Tay told me that when they launched Vintagewknd in 2015, there was hardly any vintage scene to speak of in Singapore at all.
Turning $1,500 and a hobby into a business
If you’re a Gen Z in Singapore who loves fashion — like me — you’ve probably heard of Vintagewknd, come across their social media accounts, or seen their clothes being worn on the streets.
Tan and Tay first started selling curated vintage clothes on Carousell, an online marketplace similar to Craigslist, as a side hustle eight years ago with a seed capital of 2,000 Singapore dollars, or $1,500, from their own pockets.
Tan was working as a marketing specialist in the oil and gas industry, while Tay was still in college studying economics and finance.
At the time, there weren’t many vintage stores in Singapore, and even fewer that targeted a young demographic. The duo would jet off to Southeast Asian countries, Japan, or Korea every few months to source vintage apparel for their store.
In 2018, Tan quit her job, and Tay, fresh out of school, decided to go into the business full-time. They also started working with textile factories to repurpose scrap materials across Southeast Asia and Japan into new clothing.
“We thought we can do something to these textiles to make them usable again,” Tan said. “Not everybody wants to wear the item as it is, so we try to update the style, like cropping them or turning them into dresses.”
That same year, they rented a warehouse space in Serangoon, in the northeast region of the country, that doubled as an office and a physical store that opened during the weekends. However, they’ve since shifted their operations to the new shop.
To date, Vintagewknd has recycled 50 tons of waste and rehomed and recreated about 100,000 items, their marketing manager Divitra Gaanasagaran said.
Tapestry corsets, Sailor Moon, and My Little Pony
Tan creates the brand’s designs but outsources the sewing outside of Singapore to textile factories and smaller workshops to produce the final pieces.
“They help us figure out how to turn the reworked designs that we think of into a production line,” Tan said.
Some of their most popular items include tapestry corsets, patchwork jeans, and reworked halter tops.
The brand is active on social media: Vintagewknd has over 37,100 followers on Instagram and another 20,000 followers on TikTok. Each post gets hundreds of likes, with comments of heart-eye emojis and even terms like “Slay.”
It’s also common for customers to tag the brand in their photos on Instagram. Hesti Agustin is one of them — the 22-year-old student told Insider that she’s been following Vintagewknd since their Carousell days and owns about 20 pieces of clothing from them.
“I loved the vintage blouses that they were selling and it was affordable to me as a student. Back then, there weren’t many stores that sold vintage items at an affordable price,” Agustin said. “Only recently were there more stores in Singapore that focused on sustainable production and on shopping slow fashion.”
Gen Z is leading the way
In July, Tay and Tan opened a concept store called Superwasted along Haji Lane. Tan describes that store as a place where “wasted ideas” that don’t end up being used under the main Vintagewknd brand come to life.
While the duo preferred to keep their financials private, they said the rent for their Superwasted store increased by 50% from 2022 to 2023 as the country’s pandemic restrictions were gradually lifted.
Monthly rental for commercial spaces in Haji Lane shophouses ranges between SG$2,900 and SG$7,100 depending on their sizes, per real-estate platform CommercialGuru.
Tan sees Gen Z as the force propelling the sustainable fashion movement forward. Even the Vintagewknd staff is primarily made up of Gen Zs, some of whom have been following the brand for years, she said.
The internal team currently consists of 10 full-time staff, Tan said. On the retail side of things, they have a rotating roster of 10 part-time staff.
“A lot of our staff were actually our customers first, and then they wanted to work here. So we also get to see their interpretation of what we’re trying to do,” Tay added.
Tan and Tay aren’t just business partners — they’re a couple in real life too
“We have to sacrifice a lot for what we’re trying to achieve, in that we don’t have a lot of extra time,” Tay said of the couple’s relationship. “It’s like we have an eight-year-old child who’s in primary school. It requires a lot of attention.”
It’s all about maintaining a balance, Tan added, and purposefully creating time where they can be together without dealing with work.
They have big plans for Vintagewknd, including partnerships with bigger corporations. Earlier this year, they collaborated with Prudential to film a video featuring Tan’s grandma, showing how the duo reworked her old clothes into a new apron — in time for the Lunar New Year.
But the end goal is always the same, he added: “What we’re trying to do here is to basically make use of as much textile waste as possible.”