A shoe-making factory in Ipoh has evolved from only making shoes the traditional way to also creating stylish shoes with strong and independent character led by the Theam sisters. Brought up in a creative family environment, sisters Yoke Sin and Yokie were exposed to the workmanship of producing footwear at an early age. Memories of observing their father at work, watching him spend hours cutting out that perfect shoe pattern and seeing the whole process of making a shoe from scratch has become more than just a fascination as they founded shoe label Yoke & Theam.
As brand designers and founders of this homegrown label, Yoke Sim and Yokie preserve the original Theam family tradition of making high quality and comfortable shoes. Yoke & Theam shoe designs are all about self-expression and empowering personal style. Playing about trendy masculine and feminine styles, Yoke & Theam collection offers chunky rubber sole sandals that are crafted to suit all feet types. To cater to both local and global clientele, Yoke & Theam shoe sizing are molded at its own factory.
Yokie (left) & Yoke Sin (right)
Strappy sandals that come in soft pastel colours of baby blue and pink, as well as all-black are among the label’s newest collection. The Picabo shoe collection features sandals with strappy glossy leather with a small covered toe, making it complementing with both socks and stockings. Another interesting design is the Zeus Leather collection that features premium matte leather straps with typography designs on the front and an edgy all black out rubber sole. Slip into a pair of these to exude that tough-luxe boldness, it is also a definite upgrade to the label’s previous season bestseller, the Zeus.
Both the Theam sisters share strong personalities, but this sister duo team is revamping the footwear scene with style and poise. A confident woman is never afraid to take risks and carves her own identity. This resonates with the brand’s confidence and identity. We recently got together with the sisters for an interview and a photoshoot session, as the sisters style Yoke & Theam sandals with some of their FABSPY favourites.
Stoned Elite Crop Top Black – FABSPY.com
KOZO Cait Overalls Available at FABSPY, Mid Valley
Shirelight Lunar Wooden Watch Available at FABSPY, Mid Valley
Yoke & Theam Ivy Sandal Available at FABSPY, Mid Valley
KOZO Evy Asymmetrical Cropped Top – FABSPY.com
Stoned & Co Stoned Genetic X UIP Sweatpants Black – FABSPY.com
Supercrew Syndicate Bomber Jacket Available at FABSPY, Mid Valley
Anfersand Premium D-Tach Cuff Matte Black Available at FABSPY, Mid Valley
Anfersand Genuine Inter-lock Leather Bracelet Rose Gold – FABSPY.com
Describe your personal style.
Yoke Sin: My personal style is simple but always along with one statement item. I love the simple t-shirt and I tend to wear a t-shirt every day, but I would style it in my own atypical way – with a bomber jacket, cropped jeans, statement accessories or eye-catching shoes.
Yokie: My everyday style is casual comfort with an edge. I like basic tops like plain white tees and shirt. I usually pair them with statement shoes and structured layers and bottoms that will ‘unbasic’ the look. At times, I also like the ‘unmatched’ look, like pairing a graphic T-shirt with a pair of tailored pants.
Tell us about yourself. What do you like?
Yoke Sin: Growing up in an environment whereby creativity is positively welcomed, it nurtured my passion for art. After furthering my studies at Middlesex University, I worked as a graphic designer in London for over 10 years. I love collecting beautiful and special work of arts like paintings, drawings, kitsch, basically any object that captures my fancy.
Yokie: Since I was young, I was always passionate about fashion and art. After getting my Business & Commerce degree in Melbourne, I decided to pursue my underlying passion for fashion by getting my Masters degree in Fashion & Textiles. Both these background has helped me in starting up Yoke & Theam. I love anything related to art and could easily indulge myself at random things, even by the street. It could be a wood piece, a wooden door, or a wall. I guess this is how I get all my design inspiration from.
What do you love about fashion?
Yoke Sin: I love fashion as it allows me to express my individuality. It’s like a way of presentation that allows a person to show who you truly are. Everyone can be unique with fashion and that I think is really fun.
Yokie: Fashion is freedom, a medium to express yourself through an art form. I also think that fashion is like a time travelling machine that allows me to experience many different eras at one time. It’s not only about being able to create your own look, but to now also able to design our own shoes, it’s like a dream come true and it has definitely been fun!
As a shoe wear creator, what is the most crucial factor when picking out shoes?
Yoke Sin: Shoe picking is not difficult, if you know exactly what you want. I think everyone should look for shoes that not only look good but are also very comfortable to wear.
Yokie: I’m more design oriented when I’m picking out shoes so I tend to favour shoes with unique designs first. Then, I would consider the comfort level and wearability of the shoes.
Describe your personalities and how do both of you work together?
Yoke Sin: I think I have a very complex character. (Laughs) We both have very strong characters, just like our brand image. I am base in Ipoh while Yokie is in KL but we travel frequently in between to work together closely. We have a little studio in KL where we always have our brain storming sessions. If any disagreement arises, we will always come back to what is best for the brand.
Yokie: We both have strong characters but as sisters and family, we understand each other well and at the end of the day, teamwork outweighs individual desires. It is inevitable to have disagreements but it always come back to what is best for the brand. However, I do believe that challenging ideas at times bring excellent outcomes. As Yoke Sin said, we travel between two states frequently to have meetings and communicate frequently through email and Whatsapp. Our personalities do reflect on Yoke & Theam’s brand message and DNA – ‘Shoes for the strong independent woman who value greater emphasis on self-expression and personal individuality.’
Yoke & Theam plays about with masculine and feminine styles for women's footwear, any future plans on men's footwear?
Yoke Sin: We never limit ourselves on women’s footwear only. Men’s footwear, handbags or even accessories is definitely in our plans in the future. But now we want to fully focus on women’s footwear as we are still very new. We are still learning.
Yokie: We are keen to come out with a men’s collection soon, as many male customers have expressed their interest about it. Many people have also said that our shoe designs are very ‘current’. In addition, with our ‘genderless’ approach, it did attract many male prospects.
How can the Malaysian shoe making industry grow further? Is there enough support for local brand development?
Yoke Sin: With the help of Malaysian Footwear Manufacturers Association (MFMA), shoemakers and shoe designer can expand and grow in the international market. I think that joining international trade fairs is the next step for Malaysian shoemakers in the industry to enter the global stage. The Malaysia International Shoe Festival (MISF) will be a great international platform for local entrepreneurs.
Yokie: In order to have the local shoe making industry to grow further, I personally think that designers should strive to have their own uniqueness to compete at an international level. On the other hand, I think that more effort is needed to boost the local footwear export sector, by creating stronger local brand awareness that would eventually become a great visitor and tourist attraction.
The Theam sisters are great entrepreneurial tastemakers who are always with an A-Z plan whilst striving to bring their label to greater heights. Yoke & Theam shoe designs strike a good balance between hard and soft styles, a uniqueness that gives this brand an edge. Ladies, express yourself in Yoke & Theam sandals; Men, as to when will Yoke & Theam launch its men’s collection, stay tuned!
Shop Yoke & Theam – available at FABSPY, Mid Valley & SOGO KL