WOMEN WE LOVE: YOKIE THEAM
We speak to Yokie, one half of Malaysian footwear label Yoke and Theam about the shoe-making gene that runs in the Theam family.
Yokie of local shoe brand Yoke and Theam tells us how it all began
“IT ALL STARTED FROM OUR GRANDFATHER WHO WORKED AS A SHOEMAKER IN CHINA”
The idea of Yoke and Theam came when the four Theam sisters were lying in their beds, casually chatting about their day. “I shared the idea of starting our own shoe label, given our family background and experience in the field,” said Yokie. When the idea took root, brand names were brainstormed and ideas for the logo were sketched. In the end, she decided to honour her family’s shoe-making legacy and kept it close to her heart: ‘Yoke’ is her middle name while ‘Theam’ is her family’s surname.
Though the brand is just two years old (it made its debut at KL Fashion Week just two months ago), Yokie is hardly a stranger to the shoe-making business. “It all started from our grandfather who worked as a shoemaker in China before he settled down in Malaysia,” shared the 30-year-old who grew up in Ipoh.
Yoke Sin, the eldest of the four siblings, is the other half of Yoke and Theam. Their second sister, Yoke Yee, helps with their father’s shoe-making production plant in Ipoh. While Yoke Sin oversees the production of the shoes in the Ipoh factory, Yokie plays a different role in Kuala Lumpur. Back in 2015, one of the biggest challenges she faced when the brand officially launched was the extremely small and limited team she had to work with. Now, her usual day includes multi-tasking and proper time management – she juggles retail operations, marketing, designing, production liaison, department store visits, talking to contractors for new store openings and running around for meetings and sourcing.
Yoke and Theam boasts shoes with bursts of colour and pleasing designs – with strappy sandles and chunky rubber soles, it’s the ultimate marriage between extreme comfort and style. With the vision of Yoke and Theam being a globally recognised brand, Yokie puts a lot of effort into researching the perfect design for all feet types. “The European foot is long and slim whereas the South East Asian foot tends to be wider and shorter... All of our shoes are designed from scratch and locally handmade in our factory.”
Her inspiration comes from a myriad of places (she claims the best fashion inspirations come from the street: “Always has been and always will be”) but she also looks to her childhood for unique, timeless, versatile design ideas. From her school bag, to her parents’ vintage photos and even RM5 rubber slippers, Yokie wants her brand to inspire women to look beyond common trends or specified gender images.
With more than 30 designs that pepper the pages of the brand’s online store, which pair does Yokie find herself reaching for most frequently? “The Zeus sandal!” Yokie exclaimed. “Everyone is amazed with the unique design and how comfortable it wears.”