#3EIGHTHCONVERSATIONS: SARAH SWEE, FOUNDER OF THE WORLD AT YOUR FEET
#3EIGHTHConversations was started as a little project to celebrate people who dare, and support the brewing communities of women and everyone else in between. We hope to bring these heartfelt stories of strong, independent individuals who are living out their own beliefs and never backing down in challenging situations. After all, everyone loves an underdog and, at 3EIGHTH, we’re all about people who try, and give themselves an allowance to be.
As we celebrate National Day, we throw focus on local label, The World At Your Feet. On this instalment, we speak with founder, Sarah Swee on her thoughts on running her own business, its evolvement and moving towards a more sustainable model.
At 3EIGHTH, we believe in the magic of collaboration and this time round, we’ve teamed up with local label, The World At Your Feet (TWAYF). For those who aren't familiar, The World At Your Feet is helmed by Founder and self-taught Designer, Sarah Swee.
TWAYF was born out of her love for nature, design and patterns. After taking the plunge to quit her job in an PR agency, Sarah launched her label's debut collection of shoes in 2016. Since then, The World at Your Feet has now grown from a shoe brand to a slow fashion goods maker that highlights its sustainable processes.
We are glad to bring forth a #3EIGHTHConversations feature with Sarah of TWAYF, and a gift, specially for clients who are making purchases this August! Thank you for giving us your constant support to make things possible! Read on, only the good stuff from us, we promise.
Featured: Sarah wears Custom Stretch-Cotton Shirt Dress in Multi-Colourblock. Custom-fitted to her height and length specifications.
Paired with her own jeans. Sidney Headband and Canvas Sneakers from The World At Your Feet.
— 1. So how did the idea for The World At Your Feet come about, and what pushed you to start this label?
Sarah: Before TWAYF, I was in Public Relations which is about telling stories for your clients’ brand. And after telling my clients’ stories for about 2 years, I wanted to tell my story. A chance encounter with a designer who saw some of my early sketches gave me the encouragement I needed to take the plunge and start The World At Your Feet.
I’ve always been intrigued by cartography and the idea of the early explorer. We tend to romanticise them – their bravery, courage and the excitement of an uncharted adventure. We often forget about their low points – suffering from scurvy, battling rough seas, being chased by cannibals, never seeing home again. I believe we are all explorers, each on our own journey – whether it’s self-discovery, building your career, starting a family or finding your own tribe. And if you have any fear or doubt, with the world at your feet, nothing will hold you back. That was how the idea for the brand was born.
Of late, my desire to be sustainable has pushed me to pivot away from footwear, and to focus on products that are small batch, locally made and made using sustainable, compostable materials.
— 2. Giving up a stable career in PR and then taking the plunge to start your own business - what was that like?
Sarah: I started my business when I was 27. I felt there was less on the line to lose, and I didn’t want to live with the regret of not starting this journey earlier. If you are thinking of starting something of your own, my advice is to just go for it. If you don’t try, you’ll never know how it’ll turn out. Trust your instincts and start your own adventure.
— 3. What inspires you and propels your brand forward?
Sarah: I derive a lot of joy from working with my hands and gravitate towards various forms of crafts – from simple things like drawing, painting, to jewellery-making and sewing. This year, I pestered my mom and grandma to make “ba zhang” (rice dumplings) together – which is another form of craft to me.
There’s something very powerful and magical about working with your hands, I believe you learn to appreciate the world more. You’ll learn to appreciate how much time, skill and patience goes into creating everything – just like a shirt (or shirt dress!).
I’m inspired by nature, science and a little bit of pop culture. I love listening to podcasts while I’m sewing and also enjoy reading National Geographic. When I travel, I seek out opportunities for ‘forest or nature bathing’, it calms my mind and feeds my soul. I love visiting cultural sites, natural history museums and meeting old trees – I get ideas from places like these. All these ideas and inspirations are channeled into the label, and I am thankful that there are people who have found my brand and come on this journey with me.
Above: Tri-coloured Buttonholes featured on Sarah’s Custom Shirt Dress
— 4. In terms of direction, what do you see TWAYF evolving to? Are there things that you’re gearing towards at the moment or see yourself working towards in the long run?
Sarah: From the beginning, I wanted TWAYF to be about sustainability. When I first started, I locked onto the trend of veganism as a means to live light and create less impact on the environment. However, I do feel that any overly-hyped trend in the name of sustainability, inflates demand faster than is realistically sustainable.
For instance, leather products contribute to deforestation, as land needs to be cleared to raise cattle for their hides. But even if one switches to a vegan lifestyle, I think we make a false assumption that the cattle farmer will convert their land to grow quinoa or kale. Instead, perhaps more forest is cleared to create a kale farm. Of course, this is merely an example, with my point being that I started with an over-simplified assumption about sustainability.
I sometimes find myself in a dilemma as I struggle to find the balance between creating both the products and the demand for it. While continuing to prioritise being a responsible business owner and to keep the business dedicated to sustainability, I’m now focusing on the idea of a circular economy – to use materials that are made of natural fibres, aren’t overly processed.
— 5. As you work on your own business, I’m sure there are struggles across various aspects – some times people don’t take design seriously and think your items are easily made, does that deter you from feeling like 100% all the time?
Sarah: There are always challenges, and I take them on as they crop up. Like educating customers about the time taken to create items, and justifications for the costs of sustainable materials.
Another challenge as an independent small business owner, is with the brainstorming process or having a sounding board to test your ideas. I don’t think it’s good for your own sanity to work in a silo all the time. Lucky for me, I have reliable group of friends with whom I can bounce ideas off with. Am I’m not sure where I’d be without them.
— 6. Do you wish that more people can be in touch with the beliefs and what you stand for at TWAYF, seeing that there’s now more awareness on sustainability and the appreciation of craft now?
Sarah: Not necessarily, I don’t expect everyone to jump onboard the sustainability wagon and ride off into the sunset together. Even within the zero-waste community, for example, I think there is validity in each person’s zero-waste journey looking different from one another. Just like what TWAYF stands for, everyone’s journey, experiences and exploration through life will be different. And I think that is what makes the world interesting and beautiful.
— 7. Lastly, how would you describe your sense of style?
Sarah: I think I look best in structured looks - simple pieces with clean lines. In some sense, The World At Your Feet is an extension of what I’d like to be dressed in daily – casual, fuss-free gear. As it is, I think we’re all such busy people, with places to go and many things to accomplish. I don’t want my attire or footwear to get in the way.
That said, I do also like dressing to my mood. Some days are monotone – full black ensembles, other days it’s a bit quirky and colourful.
Oftentimes, people dismiss fashion as a frivolous pursuit. However, when you watch makeover programmes, you can see a person’s self-confidence change when they are put into different clothing. And I love the transformative power that comes from wearing a beautifully made shirt or suit, especially one that is tailored exactly for you.
3EIGHTH x THE WORLD AT YOUR FEET
We've teamed up with TWAYF for a really special giveaway to customers who have purchased with us from 9 Aug - 9 Sept!
For purchases of 2 garment pieces and above, or a suit set, you may be entitled to a TWAYF item of your choice - head scarf, bandana or drawstring bag, lovingly made in Singapore.
Of course, these items are also available for purchase, so feel free to drop in on WhatsApp and/or DM us on Instagram for your very own! Pick up in-store option is free, and islandwide delivery available, at a top up of SGD 3.50 per item.
1. 3EIGHTH Exclusive - Pinstripe drawstring travel case - SGD 22
Pack your garments or shoes in this neutral drawstring bag. Or throw all your airport/airplane essentials together in this catchall case. Size has been customized to fit up to 2 - 3 shirts and/or trousers comfortably. Machine washable.
30.5cm (width) x 41cm (height)
Polyester Twill, Cotton Satin
2. FINLEY Bandana - SGD 20
Available in assorted prints
Tie it around your neck or use it as a Furoshiki wrap cover!
Machine wash in cold water. Do not bleach. Tumble dry on low setting or air dry.
57cm x 57cm square head or neck cover. 100% cotton.
3. SIDNEY headscarf - SGD 20
For days you want to dress up a little more without having to really fuss over your hair. Accessorise with a headscarf! Alternatively, dress up your bag handles for a day.
100% Viscose. Machine wash in cold water. Do not bleach. Tumble dry on low setting or air dry.
Colour: Tan and light olive
Dimensions: 150cm x 6cm