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.

Marie Claire (Malaysia) - - Contents - By Daphne Ng

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.”

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