Photo: Courtesy of Shannon Lee

Shannon Lee sometimes has trouble finding seamstresses to make his women’s shirts. That’s because the designs for his brand, Shirt Number White — which specialises in unusual silhouettes that “push the boundaries” of the classic shirt — can take up to four times longer to make than a regular shirt.

Last year, the designer, dissatisfied with the quality of work produced by a factory overseas, began working with a small team of local seamstresses. While producing his designs here can cost “40 to 50 per cent” more than doing so in regional factories, it allows him to keep close tabs on the manufacturing process. Production, however, remains a challenge. He says, “It’s difficult to find people who can and want to do that level of work.”

Good thing, then, that Lee, a fashion-design alum of Raffles Design Institute, can also make them himself. Aside from drafting and cutting the patterns for all his designs, he also personally sews the brand’s made-to-order (MTO) pieces. MTO is one of the product segments of Shirt Number White, whose main offerings comprise ready-to-wear collections released in small drops throughout the year. The brand was launched in November 2019.

Unique cuts with flowy yet sculptural silhouettes

Featuring unique cuts with flowy yet sculptural silhouettes, and made from fabrics such as cotton shirting, Lee’s designs reveal a blend of womenswear and menswear influences.

Having previously worked for local fashion brands Alldressedup and Al & Alicia (now defunct) as well as menswear brand Benjamin Barker, he brings a unique perspective to his design ethos: “I want to reinterpret the notion of a shirt, and combine the endless possibilities and pattern-making of womenswear with the craftsmanship and clean finishing of men’s tailoring.”

Related: Meet the next wave of Singapore’s fashion designers

Attracting the attention of industry players

Shannon Lee, Shirt Number White
Shannon Lee of Shirt Number White

The brand’s unique proposition has seen it growing steadily. Aside from local stockists such as multi-label boutiques Nana & Bird and Society A, it is now also carried by retailers in the US and Greece. Its striking but still very wearable designs have also attracted the attention of industry players such as a major high-end Japanese department store that has expressed interest in collaborating.

The final question for Lee is, are there that many different ways to make a shirt? “Yes,” he replies with quiet confidence. “There’s still a lot to discover. I want to look at asymmetrical styles, find a better way to design a wrap shirt, and break more shapes in the process.”

Related: Guiding local fashion talent through uncertain times

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