Entrepreneur

Sherlyn Tan On Her Fight With Depression And How She Built Her Fashion Brand Twenty3

What were you doing at 23? If you have yet to attain this age in life, what would you see yourself doing when you finally do?

How about registering a company without having an inkling of an idea about what sort of business it would wind up being?

That was exactly what Sherlyn Tan did and she even named it after her age at the time.

Young and brass, the lass had registered the eventual fashion line Twenty3 as it was borne out of her own desire to create a company she could call her very own. “I just wanted something that could financially support my dream of being a performing artist. I had sold pre-loved clothing through my old blog and had a good eye for what Malaysian girls liked, so I decided to turn Twenty3 into a fashion e-commerce store,” Sherlyn told Vulcan Post.

Image Credit: Sherlyn Tan
Image Credit: Sherlyn Tan

In the early days, Sherlyn had worked on Twenty3 during the day, and sung at bars at night just to support herself. Three years later, Twenty3 had grown into one of the biggest fashion brands in the country, with a total revenue of RM10 million so far.

Building From Ground Up

For those who may not be accustomed with the brand, Twenty3 has since amassed close to 400,000 likes on Facebook but it was not an easy feat indeed, and it certainly did not happen overnight. From girly dresses and separates that Malaysian girls can doll themselves up in daily, to special occasion pieces like bridesmaid and Registrar of Marriage dresses, Twenty3 has carved a name for itself in the fashion industry.

Sherlyn herself did not graduate with a fashion degree but her experience helped her to become the entrepreneur that she is today. “I graduated with a degree in finance and I was working in Groupon, and had worked my way up to becoming the Business Development Director.” She enjoyed the process of creating businesses and hence, Twenty3 was the natural order in life.

Meanwhile, Sherlyn’s early roots in fashion helped shape the sort of business she wanted to run when she first registered Twenty3 as a business all those years ago. “I used to dress up and experiment with my outfits a lot more when I was younger, but these days, I’ve settled into gym clothes all the time! It helps motivate me to workout.”

Image Credit: Sherlyn Tan
Image Credit: Sherlyn Tan

What motivates her to build her brand is the principle she believes about clothes. “The right outfit, coupled with the right brand philosophy can imbue the wearer with a real sense of strength, confidence and power. That’s why we aim to be more than just a clothing brand; we want to stand for our philosophy and our ideals – to keep fighting, to see the beauty in perseverance – and we hope to inspire women everywhere to never give up on their dreams,” Sherlyn said.

Nourishing Body, Mind And Soul

Image Credit: Sherlyn Tan Instagram
Image Credit: Sherlyn Tan Instagram

For Sherlyn, she never loses sight of her dreams by relying on fitness and her loved ones to keep her in check, as she has her own share of battles with depression. “Fitness helped me overcome my depression, and it’s what continues to drive me. The last 5 minutes of every workout are the hardest, but push through it and you’ll see that anything is possible. I learned to see every obstacle in life as those last 5 minutes.”

She also owes it to her partner who has stuck by her and took her to her first real gym session which kickstarted her fitness journey. “It’s absolutely vital to have someone who understands you and whom you trust together with you on this journey,” Sherlyn said.

Image Credit: Sherlyn Tan Instagram
Image Credit: Sherlyn Tan Instagram

Her depression stemmed from an ingrained lack of self worth since childhood and it had been driven into her that whatever she does will never be enough. As such, she works doubly as hard to seek recognition that will never suffice. As crazy as it seems, this has helped her somewhat with her journey in entrepreneurship. “I work very hard at my business, but I could never see the value in it or in myself. It was a double-edged sword in my case,” Sherlyn echoed.

Her eventual process of healing had stemmed from her sharing her experience and journey with others and though coming out of it felt like a near-death experience, her perspective on life changed completely. “I began seeing the beauty in everyday objects and experiences that I’d never noticed before – I only began appreciating the gorgeous landscape of my condo a year after I moved in! – and I realized what I truly wanted and didn’t want out of life.” These days, Sherlyn focuses on what’s important – and that is life.

Working On Self First

Image Credit: Sherlyn Tan
Image Credit: Sherlyn Tan

It is this principle in life that helps push Sherlyn to greater heights, be it in her business or personal life. “It’s easy to get discouraged at the beginning, when no one believes in you, and no doors seem to want to open for you. You just have to keep persevering and have faith in your vision,” Sherlyn said.

She admits that the business takes up as much time as raising a family as it is after all her baby. However, she enjoys the sense of accomplishment. Instead of running around building something for someone else, she notes that the sense of ownership in entrepreneurship is rewarding and it is akin to watching your own child grow up.

Image Credit: Sherlyn Tan
Image Credit: Sherlyn Tan

With all the efforts she has poured into her business all these years, Sherlyn is proud to say, “We just opened our biggest store in Atria in January, and we’re looking around for our next outlet. We’ve just launched a new basic line called Tea, and we’ve got a couple more lines from our new designers coming up. We’ve also started preparing for KL Fashion Week – it’s going to be huge this time!”

However, even with all of this, Sherlyn is looking to pursue something which is near and dear to her too, and that is the subject of depression. “The overuse of the use of the term “depression” has led to it being trivialised, so much so that few people take it seriously when one is actually suffering from depression. On the other hand, our culture is so afraid of mental issues that it’s such a taboo to even discuss it with your family.

This is why she makes it a point now to keep talking about the issue in order to break the barriers surrounding the issue. She wants to help other people realise that it’s a real problem, and that it is completely okay. If helping others helps her at the same time during this period of her life, then Sherlyn is all for it. After all, it goes in line with what she has been pursuing all this while and that is to spur everyone on to live their dreams out loud.

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