In the Philippines, fast fashion brands are the most accessible options for clothing nationwide, with branches and pop-up shops in malls scattered throughout the country. Fast fashion brands are known for their ability to mass-produce the same style of clothing for their consumers to keep with current trends in the industry, but discourse on this industry’s harmful effects on the environment, such as its contribution to global carbon emissions and impact on waste, has now brought consumers to be more conscious of their fashion choices.
As a reaction to the fast fashion industry, slow fashion has become a growing counteract for consumers to stay sustainable when it comes to clothing. Founded just two days before the March 2020 lockdown, Turners is a clothing brand that advocates for slow and sustainable fashion. And it’s run by a one-woman team.
This slow fashion brand was started by an 18-year-old.
In senior high school, then-Accountancy, Business, Management (ABM) student Vanessa Gayle Tiong longed to make a difference through her love for fashion. After attending a Corporate Sustainability Conference hosted by the Ateneo Management Engineering Association in 2019, Tiong took everything she learned about sustainability and business and turned it into an opportunity for newly-founded Turners to be as sustainable as possible—from the choice of fabrics, the design process, to the packaging.
Its branding is very personal.
Now a Management Engineering major at Ateneo, Tiong stressed the intimate and personal aspect of Turners as a translation of her own growth as a person. The slow-fashion line, founded on her 18th birthday, initially began with 18 pieces named and designed after the people closest to her heart.
“Because I’m very inclined with the slow fashion direction, I’m not going to be designing new pieces until I sell out all the pieces that I have now. I wanted to show my transition throughout life, so it’s very personal branding… [And] I guess that’s my motivation, I’ve always seen fashion to be a personal sentiment, not just it being a place for me to express myself, it’s always been a part of me.”
With the tagline, "making heads turn your way," Turners’ overarching design mission is to tick all the boxes at once: be functional, comfortable, accessible, and fashionable. Early on, Tiong found the underlying commonality in the very few existing slow fashion brands in that they mostly consisted of basic staple pieces alone, and while she found the importance of basics, she took the opportunity to not only sit down with the 18 people she named her pieces after to discuss design but to ensure that these pieces functioned as wardrobe staples as well.
Turners is operated by a one-woman team and had to adapt to the new normal.
As a 19-year-old sophomore, Tiong oversees every aspect of her slow-fashion brand: from operations, production, to marketing. Being a student and founder definitely has its challenges, and Tiong is no exception, especially after founding a brand that was greeted by the pandemic only a few days after its launch.
In the year since its establishment, Turners has expanded through partnering with other small local and sustainable brands to make use of all its excess fabric to having a physical space in SM Aura.
Being a student entrepreneur doesn't mean you have to fall into the hustle culture.
When it comes to balancing priorities, Tiong emphasized the importance of recognizing when one aspect of her life needed to wait. “I’m definitely not the hustle culture type, I’d really have to zero in on a couple of things that I really care for, so I really had to be very conscious of what I’d put my time in… So it’s really just knowing how to complement your commitments to one another so that even if you’re expanding in different areas, you don’t feel like you’re being held back.”
For fellow students that may face hesitation when it comes to starting their own brands, Tiong stressed the importance of returning to their core motivation for wanting to begin in the first place.
“It really boils down to your motive and why you’re gonna go for it… If you’re looking for a long-term brand, you really have to hone in on why you’re doing it in the first place. It really has to come from a place of, ‘this is my passion, this is where I’ve always found inspiration in,’ so that you don’t die out. Find that balance and don’t push yourself when it becomes too crowded in your headspace. Recognize that you’re human and there will be lapses when you go into the process, [but] just be kind to yourself, and it’s gonna be hard, it’s a process, but you’re gonna make it.”
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