Asian-inspired designs for budding local athleisure brand

SINGAPORE – What started out as a hobby for Ms Diana Chang, founder of Yumi Active, ended up as a way to help her both personally and professionally.

Ms Chang, who was facing fertility issues when she first picked up yoga over five years ago, said the exercise not only helped her emotionally and gave her more energy, but it also made her aware of a gap in yoga wear for women.

“I felt that a lot of the major sportswear label didn’t represent the Asian woman, it didn’t connect with the Asian culture and heritage,” says the 38-year-old, who is one of the latest entrants to the Singapore athleisure market.

The chance to create her own all-women’s brand catering to the modern and fashion-savvy Asian woman came when she quit corporate development job three years ago and moved to Jakarta with her husband, an insurance professional.

She began sourcing for factories in Indonesia and China, but could not find any that were able to produce designs and quality materials that lived up to her standards.

“A lot of the factories I approached would give me subpar work. I must have tried over a dozen factories overseas,” says Ms Chang.

Eventually she found a factory in Singapore which would manufacture her pieces and is now one of the few brands here that manufactures athleisure wear locally.

She officially launched the brand this month after moving back to Singapore with her husband at the start of the year.

Her brand’s signature line of workout tights – Blooms Of The East and Heritage Of The East – are sewn and printed locally.

Both lines feature distinctly Asian prints conceptualised by Ms Chang and designed by a team of designers she found both from Singapore and overseas.

Blooms Of The East collections showcases the famous flowers of different countries with Singapore’s national orchid Vanda Miss Joaquim being one of the most popular designs. Prints like the Japanese sakura and the Vietnam lotus are also available.

Heritage Of The East carries printed exercise tights with designs inspired by Asian culture such as Peranakan tile motifs to Indian henna art.

The two signature lines offer capri-length tights at $95 and full-length ones at $98 online and at her studio space in Joo Chiat Road.

“Many of the first reactions I got were ‘Hey, these tights are really expensive’ and I know that,” says Ms Chang.

But she is not worried that her higher prices will turn customers away.

“If I sell for cheaper, my material will be of lower quality. So what’s the point?

“I’m targeting the financially independent, savvy and modern women. I believe they know quality when they see something. I’m confident that when they try my products, they will know that it’s worth buying.”

Ms Chang also orders custom-made fabrics for her brand at a Chinese fabric mill. The fabrics have several features like the standard four-way stretch and moisture-wicking for most performance fabrics but it is also very soft to the touch because of the high quality polyester yarn used.

There is also an anti-microbial finishing, which helps to prevent the growth of bacteria on the fabric after sweating.

Her pieces are made so that outfits can “last an entire day” and women can head out in them after their workout or just wear them out for a meal, she adds.

She plans to expand into skirts and shorts as well.

One unique element about her clothes is also a designer’s name printed on the garment’s tag.

“I want consumers to know that there was someone, a real person, behind the piece they receive,” she says.

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