Here’s one reason why we’ll gladly relinquish our trend-led fashion habits and head back to basics. Contemporary high fashion label – biro, delivers a strong yet silent manifesto on the value of timeless, functional wear. The anti-thesis of fast fashion, biro intervenes against a disposable material culture with a collection of elevated basics that emphasise quality and craftsmanship. Founders and siblings of biro company, Keng How and Kage have spared no expense in realising their vision of well-designed everyday uniforms. For that, they’ve returned to traditional methods and machineries; Belgian linen and loop wheeled tees are yarn dyed using techniques typically applied to kimonos, lending them a deeper, fade-resistant wash while premium selvedge is sourced from the most well-known mills in Okayama Japan, and accented with handcrafted Horween leather patches from Chicago. The result: clothes that are minimalist, yet far from standard issue.
We speak to Keng How of biro company, fresh from his SG X NY Designer Mission 2015 win on the journey so far.
We grew up in Singapore. I am from the multimedia design industry and Kage has a background in dance.
Back in 2007, we had an online store selling streetwear brands that we imported from the States. We were intrigued by the streetwear aesthetic and wanted to start our own streetwear brand in 2009. However, as time passed, our taste and direction evolved into something more mature. We realized what we wanted all along was to make something of good quality and design, which we found lacking at that point.
We spent about 3 years doing continuous research & development before we launched biro. It involved a lot of trial and error. We have visited and dealt with several factories and some of them delivered poor results. Hence the sampling took longer than usual and led to timeline issues. We were very stringent with the results and most of the time, there will be a few rounds of corrections and that will eat into the production time as well. We also faced communication issues dealing with the Japanese. Getting the market to understand biro, its value and what it’s about was also tough at the beginning. Putting the word out there to the press and media is a challenge for a new label as well.
We love having our ideas come to life and representing them in products we can share with the world.
A typical day
Our workdays are usually filled with work emails, meetings, brainstorming for ideas, sketching, magazines, coffee, drinks and more meetings.
The creative process
We start by sending out requests to the various mills to obtain the fabrics that we want. Next, we move on to discuss the styles in the collection – which style would suit each of the fabrics that we have shortlisted. Then, we sketch the styles out and work on measurements and cutting. After a few rounds of meetings, when both of us are agreeable, we will proceed with sampling. Once the sample is in, we make more modifications (i.e. cutting, proportions, details, stitches, etc) till we are satisfied and that will result in the final product.
Inspiration can strike anywhere. It could be anything from our everyday life, TV, magazines, travelling, music etc.
“Made in Japan”
The development and perfection of craftsmanship is of paramount importance in all age-old traditions of Japan. Uncompromising efforts of every artisan, with meticulous attention in the entire supply chain during production deliver products of the highest accuracy down to the finest details. A strong sense of attachment to the products is also build. From sourcing premium fabrics, to cutting, sewing and putting on the finishing touches, the clothing ateliers blend the traditional with the revolutionary to form clothing that gives wearers a style of their own. The result: products that invigorate our daily life.
In your wardrobe
A good range of raw denim – mostly indigo. Some vintage workwear and minimally designed t-shirts.
Won’t leave home without
A proper attire, wallet and phone
Dream creative project or collaboration
We would like work on various other forms of creative projects. For instance, we would love to go into furniture and spaces.
We are working on some collaboration pieces while staying focused on getting biro into the regional market.
View biro company’s latest collection online.
Also available at Tangs Orchard Road, Manifesto, Colony Clothing and Atomi (from late July 2015).