Little variety for plus-size women leads to big dreams
Her clothes usually sell for about $20 and range in size from small to six extra large
Big, bold and beautiful.
Miss Nur Syahirah, 20, hopes that is what women will feel when they wear clothes from her online shop, Syeracloset.
Finding clothes has always been a headache for Miss Syahirah, who is plus-size.
She told The New Paper: "I found it hard to find apparel in my size. (A few months ago), there was a sale at Forever 21 and I asked the salesperson if they carried a plus-size collection, and he said yes.
"But the biggest size he pointed me to was a large, and my size is a six extra large, so I walked out feeling very disappointed.
"I had to get a top for my internship and remember buying one for $60, and I thought it was overpriced. (I'm not rich) so why should I spend so much on daily wear?"
The final-year Republic Polytechnic student, who is doing a diploma in customer experience management with business, said finding clothes that cater to larger people is hard, especially here. If she does find it, the material is usually jersey, which hugs the body unfavourably.
And so Miss Syahirah started Syeracloset in September 2014, when she was a first-year student.
"I was selling viscose shawls at the start on Instagram at $9.50 a piece, and it was more meant for those wearing the hijab," she said, adding that she invested $150 to bring in the stock.
"After a while, I thought I should... include clothes for plus-size women, so I spent 1½ years doing research, and finally found a supplier in Shanghai for plus-size casual wear.
"My main aim is to make it affordable, and the sizes start from a small to six extra large. The clothes usually retail for about $20."
A year later, a proper website - which is now being revamped - was created, and Miss Syahirah also designed a Hari Raya line of baju kurung in songket fabric.
"I find songket to be very elegant for Hari Raya, and it'll never go out of style. I realised most Malay women are still wearing skirts, so I thought why not design pants (as part of the baju kurung)?
"I'm not a girly person and I thought pants were easy to come up with. It's different but simple, and can be worn for other occasions," she said.
The clothes were designed with her size, shape and preferences in mind.
Miss Syahirah found a textile supplier on Instagram, while her tailor contacted her on Facebook, knowing she was selling plus-size clothes.
Miss Syahirah said: "I have no background in drawing. But I knew what I wanted and came up with sketches for the tailor, and she would settle the measurements."
Using her designs and textiles, the tailor would stitch the clothes.
Said Miss Syahirah: "I designed the whole collection in two weeks."
She added that the baju kurung were designed as a set, but buyers could mix and match.
On juggling school and her business, she said: "I've managed to maintain my grades, and my friends and family are supportive.
"I usually head home in the evening, complete my school work and pack the items from 8pm to 2am, in time for mailing."
Stress got the better of her once.
Said Miss Syahirah: "I was hospitalised for a week in May 2015 due to heart palpitations caused by stress. I had to learn to prioritise and find time to do my own things."
Since Syerascloset started, its Instagram page has grown to 3,950 followers, and Miss Syahirah could not be happier.
She is taking a break from her business to focus on her final-year project and exams, but will launch her revamped website next month.Another Hari Raya collection designed by her is also in the pipeline.
Miss Syahirah said: "The first two years were tough. Business grew at a slow pace with no profits. I had my first customer only after a month." She wants to empower women to be confident, no matter their size.
Miss Syahirah said: "I want to inspire people to think positive and be comfortable in their own skin. They should always feel as powerful as Beyonce."