People

FIELDTESTED | Melissa Tai

When we first began, we knew that we wanted to celebrate people and provenance. That meant having products that were not only bold and filled with stories, but they also had to be unisex, and inclusive to fit multiple sizes. Two years into the journey, we realized that our dreams were bigger than our business and it was not operationally possible for us to continue to offer a multitude of sizes in all of the styles. Now that we’ve grown, we’re doing what we wanted to years ago – committing to a range that celebrates multiple sizes in our community. It took us a while to get here, but we added some of our signature prints and styles to our Petite and Size 3 range. To celebrate these new sizes, it seemed befitting to ask our #mattertribe to join the photoshoot and be a part of this feat. 

Tell us a little bit about yourself.

I am the co-founder and editorial director of Public Culture, a Singapore-based editorial experience studio that helps small brands grow with intention. I also co-organise trade school Singapore, an alternative learning space that runs on barter.

Share a story that inspires you.

I am endlessly inspired by Elizabeth Suzann, who runs her namesake slow fashion brand from Nashville, TN. She’s a self-taught fashion designer who is not afraid to break time-tested moulds, whether that’s about business model, leadership management, production systems etc. I’m inspired by her honesty: her brand’s staggering growth has been entirely through word-of-mouth and while the product itself is far superior, I think she’s been able to grow a brand that people genuinely connect with because of how open and transparent she’s been with everyone. I think that a lot of times, there’s a lot of secrecy surrounding processes and systems and prices in business. People want to support each other but are guarded about numbers. Elizabeth Suzann has time and again discussed numbers openly and powerfully. I’m so inspired by her vision to lead on her own terms — she’s a walking example of how you seamlessly marry people, profit, sustainability, and meaning in work. We’re in entirely different industries, but her work always makes me want to be better at mine.

What is the relationship you have with your clothes?

Is it too much to say I love my clothes? (I love my clothes!) I’ve always seen clothing as an important means of expression: I used to wear a lot of vintage pieces when I was younger because I hated the idea of someone having the same thing I did. As a result I shopped often and bought a lot to always make sure I had something new in my closet. A couple of years ago I became aware of how much I was consuming and decided to experiment with a 30 item wardrobe for three months. That permanently changed my perspective on shopping and sparked an interest in conscious consumption. I still love my clothes, but I try very hard to collect items that will become workhorses in my everyday wear. And because clothing remains an important means of expression, I try to align what I wear with what I believe in by supporting smaller brands that put people, process, and the environment before profit.

What does the way you dress say about who you are?

I had to ask people around me how they would describe the way I dress and they said: PJ chic. Which is totally fine by me! Honestly though, I think the best type of clothes are pieces that I don’t need to be mindful of once I’ve put them on, so I tend to prefer pieces that give me the space to get on with my day. I like easy, classic pieces with a touch of drama: anything that catches the wind when walking (drapey jackets, billowy trousers) gets my thumbs up because I believe in making an impression, but doing it subtly. I also wholeheartedly believe in paying for quality: as a small business owner, I’m entirely used to people negotiating fees, and it’s made me realise it’s so important to respect how other people value their work.

What item of clothing makes you feel most like yourself?

Pants. I look specifically for pants that are high-waisted so I can bend and move easily on photoshoots, roomy in the leg so I can sit for a long time without sore knees, and at a slightly cropped length so I don’t have to worry about it dragging on the floor. Even better if they have deep pockets so I can have my phone on me but still go hands-free. I totally just described the Sideswept Dhoti, btw: I own four pairs and wear them at least three times a week!

What does sustainability mean to you?

I feel like sustainability is such a loaded word that gets thrown around a lot, especially now that social responsibility is in vogue. At its core, though, sustainability to me is about being responsible for our environment: supporting products that are part of a circular economy wherever possible, or choosing biodegradable, natural materials that are grown with as little impact on the earth as possible. Small, everyday decisions like using a re-useable bag or refusing straws are easy ways to practise sustainability.

#ChangeBeyondTextiles is…

Fundamental to our future. It’s about understanding that we live in this big, beautiful, complicated world where every decision has a consequence. We are all a part of this ecosystem and have the responsibility and power to make a difference. 

What is one thing you stand for and believe in, and why?

Animal welfare. I think how we choose to treat those that have no voice of their own speaks a lot about who we are. Animals love and trust us wholeheartedly, so it’s our responsibility to make sure we don’t abuse that privilege.

How would you like to be remembered?

OMG you guys ask such tough questions!! As someone who works hard, plays hard, and gives a damn.


We are proud to have Mel as a Fieldtester, a group of inspiring individuals that test MATTER products in their everyday journeys of passion, to help us improve durability and design. Mel is 160cm and usually wears US 0, for MATTER items she wears size P for jumpsuits and most of the pants styles, with exception of the Sideswept Dhoti which she wears in size 1.  She is wearing our Modern Monpe + Handloom Denim and Classic Jumpsuit + Rana in Size P. 

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