After the success of our first Super Styler feature, we’re back this month with the fabulously stylish mama of two, Kaitie Manani from local fave, Vamastyle. We grill Kaitie about how she got started in the fashion industry, her top tips for staying stylish in the Singapore sun, and how she single handedly runs her own business while raising two little boys!
How did you get started with turning a love for fashion into creating your own brand?
Vamastyle began in Hong Kong 5 years ago (where our production still continues today). I started out designing a limited range, and small quantity of dresses, in different colours and prints. I would sell them from home via drop-in appointments and open house days. From these events I could observe the fabrics and prints that suited most people and were the most popular. I got a lot of feedback from so many different women of all shapes and sizes who were trying on my styles. This ‘testing ground’ gave me the confidence I needed to expand the business. When we moved to Singapore 4 years ago it was the turning point, I either turned it into a fully fledged business, first focusing on online, then expanding our wholesale area or leave it — I chose the first option! Luckily for me it was the perfect time to start an online business as social media boomed and became such an important tool for marketing and branding of the label.
Did your style change when you became a mama?
It got better! I had an extra boost of confidence to experiment further with colours, prints, and accessories. My style has always been relaxed, colourful and fun with a feminine touch… I definitely ramped it up a bit after I had my boys, as I love the everyday fun of fashion!
Who do you have in mind when you are designing? Who is the Vamastyle woman to you?
Of course, I have myself in mind with all the designs. If I don’t love a design then I don’t think it comes across as a strong piece in the collection. I always make sure my younger sister loves the designs and prints too — we have a youthful edge to the label so I need to make sure I am connecting with the twenties age group too. Rather than specific people, it’s more about body shapes. I always try to include a few designs in each collection for each body shape. The Vamastyle woman is energetic, colourful, and fun and loves to wear bright colours and interesting prints in some shape or form.
What are the biggest misconceptions about working in the fashion industry?
That it’s all fun and glamorous, because it most certainly is not! 70% of the time it’s pure hard work and determination. But you need the other 30% to have fun with it and enjoy the hard work you put in!
How do you manage your time effectively as a mama and businesswoman?
I most certainly am getting better at this juggling act now that I have two boys to look after. 9am-2pm is my set hours to get my work done each week. Naturally it runs over these hours, but I now put really tough guidelines on myself to not work past 9pm, no matter what. And to never work on weekends (unless it’s a pop up event). I used to do loads of the work in the evenings and not schedule my time enough in the day. This new routine helps me really enjoy the time I spend with my boys in the afternoons and evenings and across the weekend because I have set my work boundaries.
What is your style advice for Singapore mamas?
Mix it up. The weather is always the same but your fashion doesn’t have to be. Wear heels with relaxed shorts and t-shirts or add some bold statement necklaces to your everyday basics to give a casual look a little lift and put your own signature on it.
We’d never catch you dead in…
I love Celine, but I would never wear those fluffy slides they released last season.
What is the one clothing item you can never get enough of?
This is one that I can’t limit to only one piece. My top three right now is playsuits, cullote style shorts and silk tops.
What has been your greatest style discovery in the past year?
A bold orangey-red lipstick seems to suit my complexion and completes most looks I wear!
Can you describe obstacles and setbacks you have encountered that have made you stronger?
I was let down severely by the first factory that I used. After many tears of frustration and tearing my hair out it forced me to find a good production manager who could speak the language fluently and be my eyes and ears on the ground in China. I found this woman by chance and it opened up so many more opportunities for me. We now use three new factories for clothing, swimwear, and accessories. Thanks to my production manager I would never have had access to this quality of service and professionalism. I guess the moral is as scary as it is to change critical elements of your business, the potential for new contacts and possibilities is always worth it. Don’t settle for second-rate service.
How do you rock your mummy shorts?
Usually with a little fun leopard heel and a silk shirt or cami top for a more formal setting or a t-shirt for a more relaxed vibe. Zara’s Spring/Summer collection has the best range of summery sandals and heels at such affordable prices and is bang on trend too.
What is your beauty routine and how long does it take you to get out of the house in the morning?
Ha! I spend way too long in the morning with my beauty routine, but I love the ritual of getting ready and have accepted that I will never be a get-out-of-bed-and-go kind of girl! My beauty routine starts with a primer sunscreen, foundation, bronzer, blush, mascara, and a natural lipstick or gloss . I normally use NARS products – their Orgasm Blusher, Laguna Bronzer, and “Cruising” everyday lipstick (all available from the NARS counter at TANGs beauty hall). I also love Hourglass foundation from NET-A-PORTER, mascara from YSL, and gel eyeliner from Bobbi Brown.
What should we all be trying out wearing this summer?
Our new Lounge Lover printed pants — this relaxed style suits all shapes and sizes (if you’re shorter ruche them up a little so you can see the ankles). You can wear this style so many ways…
1. Over a one-piece swimsuit for pool parties or Sunday brunch at Tanjong Beach Club.
2. Tucked into a casual t-shirt for every day errands.
3. Teamed with a silk cami top or crisp white shirt and wedges for evening and special lunches.
Any tips for pre- and post-natal chic?
Luckily summer clothing is the easiest to wear when you are pregnant! I think a simple tank dress or singlet dress looks super chic when you’re pregnant or you can even define your waist with an empire line dress, like our Batu Batu bandeau dress. Accessories (bags, statement necklaces, shoes, and sunglasses) are a fun way to add colour and prints to your outfit. Post-natal you want to start with a clean slate and never wear the clothes you wore when you were pregnant (well at least I didn’t!). Choose some new colours or prints that you never wore when you were pregnant — wear a pair of low heels, a new lipstick, or get a haircut — change things up is my motto so you feel fresh and current.
Lovisa (ground floor of Wisma Atria) has the best affordable statement necklaces in town; also edit lifestyle (near Tanglin Mall) has a beautiful selection of bright shoes from KOOM, and amazing neon tote bags, tribal necklaces and accessories.
Do you have a secret seamstress in Singapore?
I don’t really have a good reliable one in Singapore; I do in Hong Kong (Ann & Bon in Melbourne Plaza)! It’s a bit hit and miss here it seems with tailoring. For basic tailoring I recommend the lady on the second floor at Jelita Shopping Central on Holland Road.
A super huge thank you also goes to the fabulously talented Martice Milton from Martice Milton Photography for taking these stunning photos!