Cover Ken Zhou and Lyn Kua, the co-founders of Assemble

We look at three homegrown brands specialising in products with discreet details known only to the wearer or owner, but with the power to lift spirits and keep heritage alive. In the second of a three-part series, Ken Zhou and Lyn Kua shares how Assemble is one of the first tailors in the region to offer custom printed linings

When it comes to tailoring, the possibilities for customisation are endless. Just ask Ken Zhou, the co-founder of menswear tailor Assemble, who is happy to accommodate any client request, such as a flamingo-printed suit they were once commissioned to make.

“An experienced stylist or tailor is key to guiding you towards the suitable fabric for your body type, and the right shade and pattern for your skin tone and physique,” explains Zhou, who went from working in a bank to fitting clients in public restrooms when he first started in 2014. The former banker, who is accustomed to tailoring his clothes, saw a need for tailors who emphasised modern contemporary styles. He roped in his then-girlfriend, now-wife Lyn Kua to join him in the business.

The three important elements of a well-made suit, according to Zhou, are “balance—to balance a suit on an asymmetrical shoulder or posture; proportion—to establish an ideal dividing line between the upper and lower torso; and fit—to achieve a generous yet gentle fit in a suit that doesn’t appear too heavy on the shoulder pad, yet creating a slim silhouette.”

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Besides the choice of fabric and cut, clients can also choose the type of construction, lapels, pockets, vents and linings that they want. “We are always looking for new customisation and personalisation services to offer to our clients,” shares Kua. “What kind of details can we add to a client’s suit so that it would be uniquely theirs?”

Assemble is one of the first tailors in the region to offer custom printed linings. Its in-house lining collection features artworks designed in collaboration with homegrown creatives. “Even though the lining is covered most of the time, it gives the wearer freedom to choose any design or print they want, which truly brings out the character of an otherwise formal suit,” says Kua.

The latest collaboration with illustrator Lee Xin Li (@xinli29288) comprises three original map-inspired artworks showcasing Singapore culture and food. Meanwhile, those with a penchant for ink art would appreciate the nine-piece collection by tattoo artists Keith Yeo (@AngMohKeith), who was inspired by classic American tattoo flash, Japanese ukiyo-e prints and anime series Naruto Shippuden; Gillian Toh (@Gildebeest), best known for her split-head designs; and Julian Chia (@TheBoldFox), whose nature-inspired artworks come with a touch of local culture.

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“We want to shine a light on local artists and partner brands who share the same beliefs as us in supporting the local community. We are also on the lookout for international brands, artists and designers to work together to bring different cultures and art into our suits,” shares Kua. New linings and fabrics are released every quarter. Working with in-house tailors and seamstresses, the entire process to customise, measure and fit a custom suit takes approximately six to eight weeks. An express service is also available.

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“We are always looking for new customisation and personalisation services to offer to our clients. What kind of details can we add to a client’s suit so that it would be uniquely theirs?”
Lyn Kua

After stints as “mobile tailors” and participating in pop-ups such as Boutique Fairs Singapore, the pair opened their own store at Orchard Central in 2018, and expanded to a bigger space last September to include sister label Accent dedicated to off-the-rack, made-to-order and made-to-measure tailoring for women.

Quite the bold move considering how many people have swapped formal shirts and trousers for loungewear while working from home, to which Kua counters, “There’s a wide variety of casual clothing that you can tailor too. Additionally, the demand is robust on the wedding scene. As weddings are scaled down and become more intimate, clients are beginning to invest in more timeless, practical suit fabrics.”

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For Zhou, style meets functionality at Assemble and Accent. “For example, our safari shacket is crafted like a shirt yet behaves like a jacket. It comes with four pockets for storing all sorts of small items,” he says.

“So, from the array of 50 different colours to choose from, I can decide to pull off a formal aesthetic by wearing a navy blue safari paired with a nicely tailored work trousers. Alternatively, I can also render an informal, casual look by pairing a cream safari with a pair of patina denim jeans.”

  • PhotographyDarren Gabriel Leow
  • Art DirectionJana Tan
  • HairBenedict Choo
  • Make-UpBenedict Choo
  • GroomingBenedict Choo
  • ImagesAssemble Singapore