Twenty3 Founder Opens Up About How Depression Led To The Shutdown Of Her Activewear Brand

In a recent interview with us, she openly shares about her struggles and what led up to her decision.

Cover image via Sherlyn/Instagram

Earlier this year, Sherlyn Tan founder of Twenty3 decided to cease their sportswear line Move by Twenty3, after having been in operation since 2016

Move by Twenty3 collection

Image via Twenty3

From her humble beginnings of owning an online blogshop selling pre-loved clothes, she decided to take it up a notch by producing her own clothing designs women can wear and feel confident in.

She has definitely come a long way since then. Her clothing store Twenty3 - named after the age when she first started her company - currently has three different branches in Malaysia and has since expanded to Australia.

In their first year alone, the small team of three including her, raked in close to RM1 million. By their second year, the numbers increased to USD1 million in sales.

The news was well-received by fans and friends who sent their support and well-wishes

It wasn't all as easy as it sounds. Before starting her sportswear collection, Sherlyn shared that she went through one of the lowest points in her life. The final straw hit her when she contracted dengue and fell into depression, even to the point of becoming suicidal

"I would hibernate for weeks and cut myself. I would hear lots of voices in my head, telling me to go die and kill myself."

Image via Twenty3

Despite her struggles, she persevered and found a way to rise above her misery - through exercise.

Sherlyn often shared about how often social media doesn't portray the reality of someone's life - only revealing the good sides and not the bad.

Image via Sherlyn Tan/Instagram

In an attempt to help beat her depression, her boyfriend took her to a workout session and she soon became hooked on getting fitter

“My biggest gripe was the horrible neon clothing from the big athletic clothing retailers and their uninspired designs. I took it upon myself to create my own cute gym gear that I could wear outside of the gym as well, which became MOVE,” she said.

“Exercising is as much a mental activity as it is a physical one."

Image via MovebyTwenty3/Instagram

"People were slut-shaming me, complaining that I shouldn't be modelling for my own clothing brand because I'm fat. They shamed me for my fat armpits and thunder thighs," she said.

Her aim was to create a brand that empowered women to live a fitter and healthier lifestyle and to be able to feel good about their body - no matter what size they had.

Image via Twenty3

She achieved that goal as Move eventually grew to become more than just gym clothes; it became a community of MOVErs that guided and supported each other through communal workouts and sharing sessions

“Our largest workout event managed to gather 100 girls determined to break their limits!”

A large part of MOVE was the community of fans that grew together.

Image via Twenty3

“Many of them joined along for the ride purely because of my enthusiasm to help people make a change in their lives and to break their limits. When my mental health took a decline last year, I could no longer provide the encouragement and support that they needed.

On top of her battles with anxiety, the rising production costs and influx of cheap activewear in the market forced her to make the difficult decision of shutting down the business

Back then, Sherlyn felt that her sportswear line was worth taking the risk and would succeed because ‘there weren’t many big sportswear brands in the country making affordable athleisure at the time.’

“However, I couldn’t let go of my principles of maintaining good design and quality construction, but it became apparent that the industry and consumers were moving in the opposite direction,” the 31-year-old confessed.

It has been a difficult journey through the ups and downs, but Sherlyn hopes for a better future.

Sherlyn with the Twenty3 team at KL Fashion Week

Image via Twenty3

As for her future plans? “I’m taking a bit of a hiatus this year to rediscover myself and to regain control of my mental health,” she said.

“... during my therapy sessions with my psychiatrist, we talked a lot about my childhood, which spurred an impulsive idea to create a t-shirt collection centered around our childhood, with a good portion of the sales going straight to the artists. It sounds like a risky, loss-making project on paper, but it’s what’s inspiring me right now: to get back to my roots.

“Similarly for Twenty3, I want to bring it back to its roots, to make the experience of shopping online intimate again, like how it was when it was just me running a little blogshop from my boyfriend’s bedroom.”

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