Fashion is the ultimate form of self-expression.
As American fashion designer Rachel Zoe succinctly said, “Style is a way to say who you are without having to speak.”
Caitlyn Lim of Twistrek shares similar sentiments. She channels her desire to promote inclusivity through her company.
Twistrek is a fashion eyewear brand that champions inclusivity and self-expression through its sunglasses.
An economics graduate from the National University of Singapore (NUS), Caitlyn fused her love for fashion and hope for an inclusive society to launch Twistrek in 2019.
Tun Yong: What inspired you to start Twistrek?
Caitlyn: Twistrek was inspired by my love for bold and unconventional fashion – from wearing leather jackets and high boots to dyeing my hair in all seven colours of the rainbow!
Entrepreneurship has always been my passion growing up in a family of entrepreneurs. I love creating something unique and making a difference in the world.
Personally, I’ve always been a strong advocate for perspective and learning from every single person I come across without judgement.
I’ve learnt so much from so many beautiful people around the world – from the homeless in Australia to volunteering in various organizations.
An experience that was especially impactful was from volunteering in Very Special Arts in Singapore. Through these experiences, it reinforced in me the importance of creating an understanding and inclusive society.
Thus, I’ve combined these loves into creating Twistrek.
Tun Yong: Why did you decide to focus on sunglasses as a medium to promote diversity and inclusivity?
Caitlyn: There is a saying that goes “your eyes are the windows to your soul”. Twistrek sunglasses are a playful twist on this saying.
Sunglasses have many different tints, and with each different lens, you see a different view of the world. What you see changes. What you feel also changes too.
Similarly, we hope to offer a different perspective on the world through our lenses.
Also, sunglasses can be really fun, bold and quirky! It is a prominent fashion accessory that someone would definitely see when they first look at you.
Tun Yong: How do you select specific causes (eg. feminism, mental health, discrimination in the insurance industry etc.) to champion? Are there common values these causes hold that made you choose them?
Caitlyn: Thus far, most of the specific causes that we have chosen are based on the personal experiences and passions of my team and me.
My team consists of a diverse group of individuals that are passionate about various causes.
I have 3 other people on my team: Larabella Myers (Marketing/Operations) She is a female weight-lifter born in Italy and currently living in the UK. Matej Majesky (3D Modeller) is from Slovakia and had previously faced financial challenges and cultural issues. Jessica Ho (Art Director) is a mental health survivor and advocate, having struggled tremendously in those areas previously.
For me, I’ve been a strong ally for the LGBTQIA+ community since young, and have worked closely with persons with disabilities and special needs children. Also, we have great advisors that have strong social causes Aparna Saxena and Ricky Lim.
Ultimately, the main message is to facilitate understanding and perspective in society.
Tun Yong: How do you get the inspiration for the different sunglasses designs, especially when the goal is to be unconventional?
Caitlyn: We have gone through many books, the history of eyewear, Pinterest, physical stores and conducting focus groups to understand people’s experiences with their sunglasses.
We draw inspiration from various artistic elements. More importantly, we reflect upon our core message and think about how we could incorporate these deeper meanings into our designs.
Tun Yong: Are we on a positive track towards an inclusive and diverse society in Singapore? If not, what more can be done by the different stakeholders (govt, companies and general public) to promote that?
Caitlyn: I believe the many movements that have been going on and the proliferation of information technology, it has facilitated the exchange of perspective amongst more people, especially across the technologically savvy generation.
Through social media platforms, it joys me to see more people part of the marginalized communities sharing their life journey and educating others. (Examples include Special Books by Special Kids and This Trippy Hippie on Youtube and more)
Therefore, an increasing number of people are now able to better understand how people from marginalized communities feel, experience and view certain things.
An inclusive and diverse society ultimately starts from the individual. It can be greatly facilitated by the different stakeholders. Hence, a bottom-up approach is what I believe would be the most impactful.
In my personal take of Singapore, I believe it has been slowly but steadily becoming more inclusive and diverse. I do notice a change in perception of people – companies accepting more people based on their capabilities rather than innate biological characteristics.
However, there are still many areas that can be improved to increase understanding and support.
I can’t speak up for every single group of people but from my experience of working with persons with disabilities and special needs. I believe more can be done especially in terms of awareness and support in Singapore (not only for the persons with disabilities but also the people around them) in terms of educational needs and enabling them to live a quality life.
Brands also have a part to play in reinforcing this message of inclusivity as they have huge followings. This gives them the ability to start a ground-up movement and make a change rather than perpetuating outdated perspectives that stemmed from a lack of knowledge.
For Twistrek, we believe that society’s standard of beauty is not inclusive and this is something we want to change.
We choose to do this through fashion and self-expression. We hope to empower and spur people to create, experiment and explore new creative expressions and show their authentic self.
Tun Yong: What are your future plans for Twistrek?
Caitlyn: Twistrek will be launching a new collection of our designer range within the last quarter of this year.
We will also be introducing a custom fit service on our platform. In the long run, we hope to delve deeper into 3D printing to create customized quirky sunglasses for each individual uniquely and also comfortably.
We want the people who wear our sunglasses to feel comfortable, confident and creative. We also want to feature more unique individuals and give them a platform to share their voice.
Interested in learning about Twistrek and the work they do? Check them out here.
This interview is part of our “Founders X EDGE” series where we seek to hear the insights of youth entrepreneurs to demystify the scene and empower youths to turn their ideas into reality. Do reach out to us if you are interested in being featured alongside other great young minds!
Tun Yong Yap
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