Chances are, when you were a little girl, you'd have at some point or another, played dress up in your momma's shoes, clothes, bags and yes, red lipstick - it was, after all, all the rage in the 80s and early 90s when you were a wee one. It was probably a lot of fun, and the habit stuck around if you were lucky enough to have older sisters and fashionable moms whose stuff you'd regularly borrow. I am a regular raider of my sister's wardrobe. It never gets old (how can it? The stuff is always new to you!)
Now what if I told you that three brilliant young women decided to do this en masse?
Yes. It exists ladies. That fairytale wonderland of raiding the wardrobes of a hundred (or more!) fabulous women at one time. We're talking the Shabnam Melwanis of the world, and the Cindy Chuas, and the Erika Swans. Want access to their wardrobes? Well look no further than the wonder that is Robe Raiders.
Founded by Resham Melwani, Claudia Sondakh and Sarah Tan, Robe Raiders brings you fashionable finds from past and present seasons fresh from the wardrobes of stylish women across our tiny island. I know this sounds like an incredible sales pitch - but I'm not lying to you. It's true.
I recently had the privilege of private raiding in the comfy confines of the Robe Raiders HQ. Combining the concept of consignment with a private shopping experience - it takes the everything to a whole new level. Add in Resham's personal touch - she picks outfits she thinks will go well with your existing wardrobe - and you've got the equivalent of first class when it comes to shopping (at super discounted prices).
Yes, the stuff is second hand, but it's so gently worn you can't even tell. In fact, some items still have the tags in tact (!!??!?!?!!) - the result of impulse buying on the part of fashionable folk. On top of that, Resham's eagle eye watches over all the merchandise that comes in to the store, and this lady's got some high standards, so you know you're going to score a really good deal when you go there.
You're also going to do more than just one good deed. Think about it, when we shop we contribute to this wasteful cycle of endless consumption, we buy fast fashion and with the snap of our fingers it's out the door, sometimes the quality is too poor for more than a couple of wears. Buying someone else's pre-loved pieces means giving gorgeous, high quality pieces a second chance, and reduces (in a small way) the amount of waste we generate. It's a little bit of going green and it's good for you.
The goodness doesn't stop there. With each pop up, the trio picks a charity to which 10% of the proceeds will go to. The last one benefited the Bone Marrow Society. So you can feel good about shopping with them when you have the urge to spend.
I sat down with Resh to talk about the concept and how she came up with it.
What gave you the idea to start up Robe Raiders?
It came to me while I was lounging by the pool in Bali and reflecting on my own life and how cluttered it was. Our world is one where most people are into endless consumption (myself included), and it really isn't sustainable in the long run. I love fashion and I love to shop, I think the way we dress and how we style ourselves speaks volumes about our personalities. I wanted to do something that brought the two together and suddenly it came to me in the form of Robe Raiders.
I know so many women who wear things just once, and then never again. It seemed like such a waste when those beautiful pieces could go to other folks and get significantly more wear.
You know how women are, we love to hoard things, we have a hard time letting go and de-cluttering. But it's so important to de-clutter, it's not always about more, more and endless more, simplicity is key sometimes.
So I called up Claudia and Sarah, we've been friends for ages and we have a very similar view on these things, and I asked if they wanted to embark on this little project with me, and Robe Raiders was born.
We collect pre-loved pieces and help to re-home them.
There's a saying that One Woman's Trash is Another's Treasure - Robe Raiders fits in with that completely. Could you tell us a little more about some of the pieces you've collected and perhaps about the women that contribute?
Sarah, Claudia and I are very fortunate to be part of a network of women with really wonderful wardrobes. So pieces we get are in tip-top condition (and when they're not, I send them back, we're not apologetic about that - just because it's a second hand concept, doesn't mean the stuff can look like complete rubbish), and usually only a couple of seasons old. With how quickly fashion moves these days, it's very hard to "date" a piece - and that's a good thing for a concept like ours.
If I had to pick a couple of pieces to share with you, I'd say the beautiful gold-and-gilt-and-feathered cocktail dress that you picked out, this lovely barely worn tweed and leather classic Chanel jacket, and the strappy gold Lanvin sandals. There's also a really lovely maxi dress by Matthew Williamson, the skirt darkens into the most incredible shades of purple, it would be perfect for someone attending an outdoor wedding.
We've also just received a classic Bottega bag in beige, it makes for a great weekend bag, or for work if you've got a lot of stuff to carry. It's only $2,500 and it's practically new. I took it into the shop to verify that it's authenticity (we do this for all the bags that come in to ensure we don't get any knock-offs), and the sales girl told me it was $7,500 originally. I was stunned.
What's it like being able to work with friends?
When you work with friends, you've got to find people who compliment your strengths and make up for your weaknesses. I'm glad to say that Sarah, Claudia and I have managed to strike that balance with each other. Sarah, for example, used to be the editor at Female, she's responsible for the Robe Raiders editorials - she writes all the pieces and styles the shoots. She's excellent at showcasing products, and mixing and matching everything. Claudia is our PR and customer contact person. Whenever we put together pop ups, she's in charge of getting the word out, and getting people excited about it. She works with our customers. I'm in charge of inventory. I work with the people who want to consign with us, I collect all the items, QC them, negotiate prices, tag and track them through the sale.
We've each got a role to play, and that's how we make it work. When you're working with friends, it's really important to have clarity, otherwise you'll get into unnecessary arguments.
Your husband's also in fashion. How does that work?
I am so fortunate to have met and married Suraj (more fondly known as Suri). I'm Sindhi (as is Suri) and our community is really conservative. I lived in London on my own for a long time, studying fashion and then working on my own label, ReshamM, I was very independent and followed a path that isn't frequently traveled by most Sindhi girls. Because of that, I always dated outside the community as I couldn't find someone within it who understood me, what I was working on and trying to achieve.
And then I met Suri and everything changed. Here was someone from my community who was trying to achieve something similar, who understood where I was coming from, and didn't judge me for taking the road less traveled. It was wonderful. He's wonderful. We dated for 9 months before he proposed, it was that fast and I was taken by surprise, but it was right.
Suri is one of the co-founders of the label Sifr, and runs Know It Nothing with a group of partners. They've recently opened a co-op space at Orchard Central called PACT with the people behind Kilo and the salon, Less is More (LIM). I really love the concept, and I like that there's so much collaboration going on in Singapore these days.
AT: Paul's always been a huge fan of Sifr's stuff, and I recently found out that my best friend Min's boyfriend shops there everytime he's back from London which was a surprise for me! It says a lot if someone who doesn't even live in Singapore makes it a point to pick up the mens basics available there. It speaks volumes about the product, because the marketing sure as hell wouldn't have traveled as far as London!
Finally (and this is the part people are most interested in), how do we RAID THOSE WARDROBES?
The best time to raid is during one of our pop ups, which we hold once every quarter (about 3-4 times a year) because that's when you'll be able to come down and view all the pieces at the same time. We have these pop ups in conjunction with brands like Curated Editions, so that in addition to the pre-loved pieces, you can shop for other things if you want to.
We've also got an online store that just went live! We're really excited about it and we're so happy with the way it turned out. The easiest way to keep up with our new arrivals is to follow us on instagram (@RobeRaiders) - we update it as new things come in.
We can also arrange for a private viewing for you and a few friends (ideally, 5-6 people) at our Robe Raiders HQ. You can contact us directly via email or through our facebook page to arrange a viewing.
Credit where it's due: Pictures courtesy of yours truly. Products by Robe Raiders.