Co-founder of Cloop
Now, I'm obsessed with having less. If less is more, perhaps nothing is everything.
Tell us your story, how did you get here?
I’ve always been somewhat eco-friendly and have been mindful not to waste any material since I learned about the term “recycle” back in polytechnic. I’ve been separating my wet waste and recyclable waste for the longest time. I shop and sell second-hand and also organise flea markets. However, my fashion overconsumption outweighed what I was doing.
I was a shopaholic. I’d buy anything and everything. It came to a point where my loved ones around me had to beg me to stop.
It didn’t help when I started my own fashion concept store in 2008 – I started shopping in my own shop!
Often, I’d spring clean, sell clothes at flea markets and would use the money to buy something new. Passing on clothes to my family and friends, and donating to the Salvation Army made me think I was doing something good (that wasn’t the case). I used to own a room full of clothes, bags, shoes and accessories, yet I thought I had nothing to wear!
After a series of unfortunate events – an unhealthy lifestyle from partying, failed relationships, getting over depression, a near-death experience, and the closure of my retail store on the day of my grandmother’s wake – I began questioning my true purpose in life. I wanted change. When my business folded in August 2013, I was left with nothing but a lot of time and clothes. I decided to spring clean my life for good.
Fast forward to 2015, I was offered an opportunity to live and work in Malaysia. From a walk-in wardrobe, I downsized to a single rack. I left Singapore feeling light and free. But the currency exchange got me excited about shopping all over again. I was sucked right back to the very vicious cycle I just got out of!
At the end of 2017, I met a Zero Waste group in Malaysia. That’s when I was introduced to the 5R sequence of sustainable living: Refuse, Reduce, Reuse, Recycling, Rot or compost the rest. I knew that was the kind of change I needed. I added “Rethink” in front as I believe everything starts from the head. I also committed to zero shopping on new fashion items, especially fast fashion. More so after I watched “The True Cost” documentary. I can’t unlearn the facts.
It hasn’t been an easy ride, but it’s been exciting for me to exercise my creativity to a whole new level. It’s like getting to know myself all over again. Now, I’m obsessed with having less. If less is more, perhaps nothing is everything.
Today, I run a circular fashion initiative called Cloop with a mission to reduce fashion overconsumption and waste in Singapore by collecting, curating and circulating good fashion items within the community. Putting my skill to good use sparks a lot of joy. I also work with a charity called Zero Waste SG as a marketing associate director, focusing on social media content and outreach programs. I think I’ve found my ikigai.
What impact have you made in Singapore?
To be honest, I don’t think I have made an impact in Singapore except by radically changing my wasteful lifestyle habits and inspiring others to rethink theirs.
I’ve shared my zero-waste journey on social media since the beginning. I also give talks and conduct workshops to spread awareness to the various communities.
I believe life is too short to make all the mistakes or learn everything. We can learn from one another through sharing. It always brings a smile to my face when friends share with me how they’ve started decluttering their wardrobe and shopped a lot less because of my story. Friends entrusted their good clothes to me to circulate, women have come forth to lend support through volunteering with us, friends have shared articles or videos about fashion pollution or the zero-waste lifestyle and thought of me.
I remember travelling to JB once to give a talk at an #AIESEC Green Camp. One of the regional students told me she wanted to be like me when she was older. I was so touched.
When I joined forces with Cloop in 2020, we strove to provide alternative ways to enjoy fashion sustainably. It’s done through swapping, our curated bag service, or shopping at our Open Wardrobe, which is Singapore’s first communal walk-in wardrobe that’s self-service and operates on trust.
We started with only 10 swappers signing up for our very first Fashion Swap! pop up. Today, we’ve had around 100 sign up for recent events. I believe that’s a ripple effect! It reminds me of Mother Teresa’s famous quote on changing the world: “I alone cannot change the world, but I can cast a stone across the waters to create many ripples.”
What does 2022 look like for you?
I’m grateful to do what I love. But at the same time, it can be overwhelming when my work, passion, and life revolve around the topic of sustainability. Sometimes, I need to pull the plug and find peace and balance in solitude with nature – walking, breathing, and appreciating the beauty of nature surrounding me.
This year, I hope to connect with people and nature more, with less screen time. I want to plant more of my own food and add more greens and fruits to my diet. I also want to have less! I’m still working on having that dream capsule wardrobe, and towards minimalism.
What do you love most about Singapore?
I’m surrounded by nature parks and green corridors. I’ve been discovering amazing green spaces since I’ve been back for 2 years. Some I have yet to step foot on! I’m definitely excited about Singapore’s City in Nature vision – bringing people closer to nature, improving quality of life and well-being, and preserving nature and its biodiversity.
What’s the one thing everyone can do to protect our home planet?
Say “no” to the things you don’t need. No need to give so much rice. No plastic bag. No straw. No disposables. No freebies. No thanks.
Try spending more time with nature, less time in malls. Saving our planet’s finite resources is as simple as shopping less and using what you already have. Try freecycling, try BYO (bring your own container, bag, water bottle, cutlery or cup). Try growing your own greens – eating them fresh from your corridor and balcony is the true convenience in life.
Who is your Local Legend, and why?
My multi-talented bestie Ginette Chittick. She’s a powerful force who never fails to amuse me with the 1,001 things she’s doing. Besides being a good old friend, a wife, a mum, a program leader, a riot girl, a singer, a bassist, a deejay, an artist, a rockstar, a superwoman, a role model… and God knows what else! I’m so blessed to have a sister from another mother, a friend, and a teacher like her to constantly inspire me, give me moral support, and kick me in the butt from time to time when I need it.