Frustrated with the lack of tailoring options for women, Frederieke van Doorn decided to throw caution to the wind and start her own brand – Frey was born from a desire to dress women to fit their bodies, not the other way around.
It was certainly a bold venture, tailoring was – and still is – a male-dominated sector in the fashion industry, but van Doorn hopes to change women’s mindset towards tailoring and offer better fit and better quality for all. Nothing boosts confidence more than a perfectly fitted jacket or suit, and at FREY the options are endless.
A visit to its flagship store on Ice House Street starts with a digital body scan (this could also be done at home) to get your precise measurements before you take your pick of the many looks available. There’s a wide range to choose from, power suits for a boardroom meeting, to flowing skirts for a long saunter by the beach. Every clothing option is fully customisable, you can pick and choose from a range of patterns and fabrics available in the store. Each order takes about three weeks to create, and fittings are arranged back at the store to refine each and every outfit.
Name: Frederieke van Doorn
Profession: Tailor / Womenswear Designer
Industry: Fashion Design
Company Size: 7
Startup since: September 2020
Read on below to see how Frederieke van Doorn started Frey to bring our attention to women’s tailoring.
When was Frey started and how much has the team grown?
I started Frey in September 2020, the first thing I did was hire a designer, Yulia Tlili. The store opened at the beginning of September 2021, we are now seven, including myself.
What is your own background in fashion design and what led you to tailoring?
I studied Fashion in Amsterdam and I worked in men’s tailoring for the last 20 years. I lived and worked for 12 years in China where I produced high-quality men’s tailored suits.
When did you have the idea to start your own women’s tailoring brand?
I was always a bit annoyed by the fact that there isn’t a good woman’s tailoring brand available for women. Jackets and suits are a side business for a lot of brands, so the options are quite limited, and the quality level is mostly poor. Men have much more options in terms of tailored designs and better quality. Since we couldn’t travel anymore in 2020 the idea of starting a tailoring brand grew on me and I decided to go for it.
What are the challenges in your industry?
To expose and grow the brand socially, tell my story, tell what I do. The world is so fast now, you only get a few seconds of attention, you need to tell the whole story in just a few seconds when there is so much more to tell and show.
Describe a normal day for you.
I usually get up very early to do my workout, then I can be back in time to bring the kids to school. I am in the office around 9 o’clock where we do all kinds of things. We are a very small company, so I am involved in all aspects, design, marketing, sales, merchandising, finance, so my days are very different from one to another.
Tailoring has been the domain for gents for so long, how do you make it less intimidating for women to get into it?
I think it is a bit new for us women, which is strange since we do wear jackets and suits since the 40s and 50s, and it is required for many jobs nowadays. We offer pieces which fit very comfortably, in the best fabrics and in classic styles. In Hong Kong, men have their own preferred tailors, they go there for fittings to find the perfect fit, unfortunately, these tailors are not attractive for women. We would like to become known for the perfect female tailoring place with a modern flair and exquisite fit.
Is it quite different when designing for a female body versus a male body? Do women look for different fits and details?
Designing for the female body is more complicated but this is not only for my brand, but this is also for all the brands. Apart from the body, we have more options and choices out there, as well as more fashion orientated desires.
Your collection is also designed in a much wider range of sizes beyond what’s standard in the industry. Was this important for you?
The industry is slowly changing but I still cannot understand why you would have a sample size EU 32, and you grade that up till EU 42, that just doesn’t work. Especially in Hong Kong, the stores here hold such a small range of sizes, and so many women say I cannot shop in Hong Kong, they don’t have my size.
Frey’s personalised tailoring service is done digitally. How accurate is the technology and is this the future of tailoring?
I have been working with this app for a long time now. After doing some tests measuring by hand versus the app, sometimes the app was more accurate.
Can you tell us about the sustainable measures at Frey and why that is important for the brand?
It has become clear to all of us that whatever we do, we need to think about sustainability. This doesn’t happen overnight, but all decisions should be made with this in mind. We need to shift away from fast fashion and make better choices. That is why I choose natural materials because they are just better for life and last longer.
Using dead stock is sustainable but does it compromise design or style?
Not at all, we see this challenge as an inspiration. The design process starts with fabrics, it often dictates the shape, silhouettes, and design details, which together makes the collection.
What is your own personal favourite look for every day?
I really like to wear a good jacket that is tailored or a nice, oversized piece.
Are tailoring and suits for business only or do you dress women for different occasions?
Not only for business, but we also think of the process from day to night. Why not have dinner after a workday in a powerful suit, kick off the heels and put some sneakers under it?
Do you think owning and wearing a well-fitted suit can be empowering for women?
Absolutely, nothing is more annoying than wearing clothes you are not comfortable in. If you feel good in your clothes you feel freer and more empowered.
What advice would you give to other people who want to start their own business, especially girls and fresh graduates?
Be creative in finding solutions, never give up. Never stop learning, remember everyone’s path is different. Invest in good relationships with manufacturers and suppliers.