Fair Trade Intimates, Activewear & Swimwear with Stephanie Vermaas: Founder, THIS IS A LOVE SONG

“Growing up in Indonesia as a mixed race kid was interesting because I felt like I neither belonged to my Indonesian or Dutch side. I grew up trilingual and celebrated both Christmas and Ramadan since my family were both Muslim and Christian. I always felt like the odd one out because mixed race was rare back then and I only had two other friends who were half Indonesian like me in the Dutch elementary school. When we had to move to middle school, I ended up going to the American international school which is how I adopted an American accent. This confuses people when they meet me as they think I was born and raised in LA although I did not visit the States until I was 24 years old. I embrace my colourful background now and appreciate all the different facets of it and it’s also great to see that diversity is being embraced everywhere including the fashion industry. 

I always knew that I wanted to be in the fashion space. When I was a little girl I would create my own outfits which is why I thought I wanted to be a fashion designer. My mum had a lot of magazines and they were my bible until Fashion TV came in the picture and that became my obsession. I would watch the Versace, Calvin Klein, Gucci, Chanel runway shows and was addicted. I think this is why my style always goes back to the 90s. Then when the internet came, a whole new world opened to me and I remember shopping Delia*s through their catalogue religiously. When I graduated high school I applied to several fashion colleges but I wanted to learn the whole industry first before getting into design and therefore chose Fashion Business as my major and discovered I loved the problem solving aspect of it because someday I knew I wanted to have my own brand.

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Career

I launched THIS IS A LOVE SONG because I couldn’t find anything to wear at the time in Bali that I liked and was casual. It started as a small batch of tees that we sold in the store along brands my friends had back then and we were all producing in Bali. It was really fun and I was even in the store everyday for the first year so I really interacted directly with my customers as this was the pre e-comm era (lol I feel old!). I grew bored of just making and selling tees and decided to design a full collection. We shot the first season and made a catalogue which I used to reach out to some sales agents I found on the internet. Then one in NYC responded - they loved it and set up a meeting. Coincidentally, I had my first US trip planned and my first stop was NYC so it was almost like fate. We met in person, looked at all the samples and one month later we got orders from Urban Outfitters, Nastygal, Revolve and all the stores that I ever wanted to be in. That’s when I knew we had something good but then the production challenges came with having to fulfill these orders. That’s when I knew this business wasn’t going to get easy. But after each challenge there is success and you have to celebrate that whether the victory is big or small.

We met in person, looked at all the samples and one month later we got orders from Urban Outfitters, Nastygal, Revolve and all the stores that I ever wanted to be in.

Every day is different but it usually starts with an early morning call with my LA team because it’s their end of day when it’s 7am/8am in Bali. If it’s the days where we don’t have a call scheduled, I’m tending to my urgent emails/Whatsapps with suppliers, clients, and Bali team before I get to the office. Then I get my yoga session in to clear my head for the day so I don’t really get to my studio until 11am or noon. When I am in the studio I’m either working with my pattern and sample maker, in a meeting with my production manager or working on my laptop. I  feel super productive when I am in my office and I feel really inspired when I am close to my team because when a design pops in my head I would just go to the fabric room and create something that day with my pattern maker. Lately I have also been shooting a lot of our own content which I enjoy doing and gives me a break from ‘the daily routine’ and gets me back into photography which was my first passion. Right now I’m opening a showroom/store in Bali so I’m busy getting everything ready for that which is exciting but doesn’t matter what I do everyday, I try to wrap things up by 5pm so I can squeeze in my sunset run before dinner and my last round of emails or social media work of the day.

Style

My day to day style is Garconne with a sporty twist and a lot of 90s styling. I love the juxtaposition of loose and tailored shapes and combining that with sneakers for every day. I keep it business casual with a statement bag and sunnies and keep my overall colour palette pretty simple. When I am in Bali I am a little bit more casual with the accessories and I wear a lot of denim shorts with vintage shirts. I love Danish fashion and think the girls are super stylish but effortless at the same time and they really get the balance right. I do base THIS IS A LOVE SONG on my current personal taste - simple and functional whereas TIALS is based on my 24 - 27 year old self that loved loud prints and going to music festivals which is why I joke that TIALS is now the younger sister.

I find myself inspired by 90s fashion a lot and it is the era I gravitate to the most.

I never stop experimenting and I like to keep it fresh. My style has definitely evolved a lot through the years and has become more refined and simple. I  used to fall into trends more when I was younger but now I invest in timeless pieces and silhouettes that really work for me. I find myself inspired by 90s fashion a lot and it is the era I gravitate to the most. I think what is most important about finding your look is making sure you feel comfortable and find pieces that compliments you and your lifestyle. Don’t try too hard. And when you’re stuck on inspiration open a magazine or go on Pinterest or instagram!

I am really into linen pants at the moment and wearing that with a crop top and sneakers. It’s a comfy outfit to run around in especially in the Bali heat when I am on the bike. I have been wearing the Piper Bra a lot with this look. I also love wearing oversized shirts for an easy outfit with the Ida Bra peeking through. And I have been hitting the beach in the Ayla Swimsuit or the Capri suit all summer long. 

Accessories

Everyone should have “a good pair of jeans, designer sunnies and a signature scent. To jazz up any look I love to add little gold hoops, red lipstick and as of late a black blazer. In terms of my most worn pieces they include my Mercii Astrology Necklace, Black Diamond ring from Kobelli, and my Rolex DateJust.

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Sustainability

I think it’s about time that brands focus on integrating sustainability into their practice. It is definitely becoming more of a trend but as long as the brand is genuine and creating a positive impact I am all for it. At least they are making consumers more aware of the issue which in turn creates a conversation and influences consumers to make an informed decision that hopefully alters their buying habits positively. 

I would rather support a local brand, buy vintage  or invest in quality pieces that are going to have a long life instead of ending up in a landfill.

At THIS IS A LOVE SONG, sustainability means that we use eco-friendly materials and that TIALS STUDIO maintains a safe workplace environment for our employees in Bali, Indonesia; they are paid fair wages and provided with health care and retirement plans for their future. Although this means that the prices of our products are less competitive than other mass produced brands, we find it more important to create products that are high quality and thus give back to the community that supports us. The fashion industry is the third most polluted in the world and we try our best to minimize our impact which I have also discussed in an article I have written here. 

Advice for people just getting into sustainability, I would first recommend to stop supporting fast fashion brands; because those are the big players in the industry and are the most harmful and polluting. It would be really hard to, of course, eliminate these brands completely but at least you can be a more mindful shopper and only purchase items you would really need. Don’t get me wrong - I still purchase socks from H&M from time to time and the occasional piece from Zara but I’m not buying clothing unless I really need it or if I only have the intention of wearing it once. I would rather support a local brand, buy vintage  or invest in quality pieces that are going to have a long life instead of ending up in a landfill. My other advice is to try to step away from the consumer society and the hypebeast culture because overconsumption is not only bad for the environment but also doesn’t do your soul and your pockets any good. Learn to be happy with less! Lastly, a lot of brands are actually implementing more sustainable practices so do your research on the ones you like and choose which ones align with you. “