By Eimear Elkington
Fashion trends are nothing but fleeting, and even Singapore’s most stylish fashionistas struggle to stay ahead of the curve – it’s pencil skirts one day and peplum skirts the next.
But one trend keeping alive and well in Singapore is turbands, a half-turban, half-headband that soared to popularity after gracing the heads of the Olsen twins, Blake Lively, Solonge Knowles and the Kardashians.
The beauty of the turband lies in its marriage between the traditional and the contemporary, a historic headpiece that has been reworked from a bygone era into a modern bohemian accessory. It’s a fashion trend that can be sensible and grounded one moment and wild and free-spirited the next.
The creative energy behind turbands in Singapore comes from 25-year-old Aqilah Zailan, founder of online turband shop, Gypsied. After drawing inspiration from a girl in IKEA wearing a “really cute headband”, Aqilah set to work trying to recreate the unique look in her dad’s makeshift sewing workshop in their apartment. What started as a side project fast became a fascination to take the iconic, traditionally male turban and rework it for the contemporary Asian woman.
Under her philosophy of Live, Love, Laugh, Aqilah aims to empower women to express themselves and show their free spirit. “Singapore is a haven for safe fashion. We don’t want to look like each other but we all end up dressing like each other — and somehow that’s comforting. So that’s how I feel the turband is unique. Because it pops. It’s the symbol of rebelling, for the lack of a better word. That ‘hey, this is my personality, this is my quirk’. I enjoy being different, and I embrace that.”
Despite having no background in fashion or design, Aqilah jumped headfirst into starting her own business. “I began in 2011 when I was halfway into university. I was also attending an entrepreneurship workshop at that time and started learning the meaning of phrases such as ‘passive income’ and ‘rat-race’. I remember the workshop instructor telling us to ‘pick up a new skill’. It could have been anything, but I chose sewing. Prior to this I have never touched a needle in my life. But once I did, it got really addictive. I realise how comfortable I am with the act of sewing. I felt like I could make a fabric come to life.”
Diving into the world of online retail, Aqilah first began selling on the handmade web marketplace Etsy.com and then launching her own website, shopGypsied.com.Her collection grew organically and her designs stayed true to her Asian roots and bohemian style. “I feel that turbands sell an idea more than just fashion. Gypsied is about creating a life that is authentically yours and focuses on a spirited, carefree feel. Our manifesto is Live, Love, Laugh and is about the city girl who, despite living in a concrete jungle and enjoying progress, also craves for a slower pace of living and a healthy dose of adventure.”
Aqilah aims to help women express their identities through fashion – and is committed to using strictly Asian fabrics. Her seasonal collections have been influenced by her travels around the region. For Fall/Winter 2013, shewas inspired by her mountainous trek in Nepal and for Spring 2014 her influences came from the emerging creative city of Bandung. All of Aqilah’s turbands are handmade and are shipped Singapore-wide, as well as to far-flung destinations in America, Europe and the UAE.
Aqilah handles all aspects of the business herself – from selection to production, photography to marketing. Not bad for a girl who is only recently out of university! While we’ve seen many fashion trends come and go, it appears turbands are here to stay. And stories of success from businesswomen like Aqilah only serve to foster confidence in other young Singapore entrepreneurs to realise their potential.