Made (It) in Singapore

Home-grown brands. They may have foreign-sounding and exotic names, but they are as reassuringly Singaporean as chicken rice.

They are also the bold ones, the passionate ones, the ones who go against the grain. You may not think much about it, but if you consider the perceived safety of a day-to-day job, the achievements of these individuals who set up their own shops are all the more impressive.

Made (It) in Singapore

The Singapore Way

In many cases, the reason for starting their own businesses is simple – to do something unique – which is so Singaporean.

Some saw a need for something original. Elyn Wong, who started Stolen, was struck by the lack of stylistic diversity in the fashion scene. “It started with me being dissatisfied with what was in the market. It irks me to see the whole street wearing a similar style to one another.”

For others, the impetus came from providing services that others don’t. “There are many furniture shops but not many of them do their own designs, retail especially, and have their own manufacturing capabilities.,” says Julian Koh, of Commune. “We are coming up with an experience centre. So you can go there and do your own moodboards. We have materials and samples all over for you to play around with.”

So, let’s turn our attention to the inspiring individuals behind some home-grown brands that have made their mark, and hear from them some words of wisdom to the secret of their success!

 

Grafunkt

“We believe that whatever you want to do, you have to do it differently from your competitors. You have to stand out among the crowd. To know how to stand out, you have to know the market you are operating in and work your way around that. There are no fast rules, you have to be really good in the area that you are differentiating.”

They Are

A forward thinking lifestyle brand that aims to provide good design and good quality products in a creative environment. They travel the world for the best furniture that they feel suits the personality of customers living in a modern urban city like Singapore.

Founded By

Nathan Yong and Jefery K, who were an industrial designer and an IT specialist respectively before embarking on their own.

Known For

Creating a personal touch for their customers right from the storefront, even offering beer while they browse the shop. Every piece is personally sourced by Nathan and Jefery, a reflection of things that they love and which are value for money. They want their showroom to be an inspiration, even if the customer may eventually buy from others.

www.grafunkt.com

A
Mags Soft Sofa by HAY
B
Aura High Sideboard by TREKU
C
Primary Desk by Folks
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Stolen

“I am not trained in fashion so everything was self taught. It was a long and tedious process. Lots of leg work, lots of mistakes, lots of disappointments. But when it comes to nurturing and growing your own ‘baby’, naturally every obstacle and problem seems surmountable.”
A
SPACES, Stolen ‘12 collection
B
SPACES, Stolen ‘12 collection
C
DIMENSIONS, Stolen ’13 collection

They Are

A fashion boutique offering designs that stand out from the usual off-the-rack selections, inspired by the raw, simple lines of the Brutalist architectural movement.

Founded By

Elyn Wong, who was initially a successful creative in advertising. Elyn started Stolen in 2007 as an outlet for her personal creativity by designing a small range of clothes to be sold at her friends’ stores. After seven years of juggling between her day job and her passion, she made the leap of faith and committed full-time to Stolen.

Inspired By

To Elyn, challenge is an understatement, but it is also relative. After years of procrastination, she finally realized her passion for fashion. Once she started, everything seemed to run on adrenalin and there was no holding back. Without any formal Fashion training, she honed her skills and knowledge along the way. After having used so many wrong fabrics and made countless “embarrassing pieces” as she puts it, she started using that “lack of knowledge” to her advantage by exploring fashion in her own perspective. Working with more experienced drafters and seamstress has helped turn her creations to reality. The journey may have met its fair share of obstacles and problems, but she has since stopped calculating the pain and started enjoying the process instead.

www.stolenstolen.com

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SCENE SHANG

They Are

A lifestyle and design brand offering homeware and furniture that combine, in new ways, contemporary with traditional, and East with West. Their philosophy stems from a desire to dig deep into their roots in an immerse search for stories within our Asian culture, which is the impetus driving their designs – modern, relevant, and at the same time highly personal and relatable.

Founded By

Pamela Ting, previously VP of an American bank, leads business development and marketing for SCENE SHANG. Jessica Wong, who used to teach design as an adjunct lecturer in SP. Leads the creative and design for SCENE SHANG, chases memories and shifus to create spaces and objects that are emotive.

Known For

Unique lifestyle pieces that fuse opposing styles – contemporary/traditional, eastern/western – to tell compelling stories.

www.sceneshang.com

A
LEGEND MAY mug inspired by traditional thermal flasks
B
Brass Bat Hooks with bat carvings symbolising luck
C
YUAN Loft side tables with signature hexagon and plum-shaped table tops and brass legs
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Commune

“When we design any piece of furniture, firstly it’s all about research: trends, materials, the functional and aesthetic purpose of the piece, and we’ll focus on getting it right for the target market.”
A
Dualtone Collection by Commune
B
Cas Ret Sofa
C
Dualtone Collection by Commune

They Are

A furniture design and lifestyle company that believes in forging deep relationships with their customers. The team of craftsmen are dedicated to the highest quality control in every step of the manufacturing process, from conteptualisation, to design, to production. Commune run their own manufacturing plant.

Founded By

Julian Koh, Creative Head

Known For

Simple and sturdy solid walnut and oak pieces designed under three categories – Minimalist, Scandinavian, and Industrial Modern. Their furniture is currently exported and sold in the US as well, where they are enjoying a fast-growing base of customers.

www.thecommunelife.com

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Ed Et Al

“We believe that whatever you want to do, you have to do it differently from your competitors. You have to stand out among the crowd. To know how to stand out, you have to know the market you are operating in and work your way around that. There are no fast rules, you have to be really good in the area that you are differentiating.”

They Are

A full service men’s shoes boutique offering ready-to-wear shoes, as well as bespoke shoe-making services. They also provide recrafting and refurbishing to complete their suite of offerings.

Founded By

Edwin Neo, who started out as a shoe repairer. He realised one day that there were no real options in Singapore for a pair of Goodyear Welted shoes, and decided to do something about it. After years honing his skills in Europe, he returned to Singapore and began crafting bespoke men’s shoes for discerning customers, before finally setting up his own brand.

Known For

Stylish made-to-measure designs, prestigious customer service, quality craftsmenship.

www.edetal.sg

A
Black dress shoes that will complement any outfit, formal or otherwise
B
Orange Brown patina on a pair of wholecuts from our new Prestige range
C
A "Kovan" from our 5th Collection in our Burgundy Italian Calf
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Ling Wu

“When my dad started his own manufacturing business in 1978, he had very little money. He told me that I have to enjoy what I do to do it well. This has inspired me not to give up when times get hard and when you enjoy what you do, you will have to never work a day in your life!”
A
FW’15, LINGWU collections
B
Navy Alexis with strap, LINGWU collections
C
Large Olive Rubber Iggy, LINGWU collections

They Are

A fashion handbag shop offering leather bags with designs inspired by the London street scene.

Founded By

Goh Ling Ling, previously based in London as a Fashion PR. Her stylistic influences stem from her time in London, when she was first exposed to the distinctive flavour of vintage fashion and the various market towns.

Inspired By

Having been raised in an entrepreneurial household inspired Ling to launch her own line, following in her parents footsteps with their garment manufacturing business built from scratch in the 70’s. Her interest in design started at a young age, where she gradually picked up sewing skills and learnt to appreciate the subtleties of beautiful and functional design. Her passion in designing bags also emerged from collecting vintage and rare bags. Hailing from the prestigious Central Saint Martin’s College in the UK, where she studied Art & Design, Ling also worked as a Fashion PR in London. Gaining valuable insight to the fashion business after managing her own shop for 4 years.

Ling plans to build a solid team and stock her brand, LING WU in 50 countries and eventually hope to set up a factory in Singapore.

www.lingwu.sg

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Mr. Bulli & Sons

“Attending to wedding couples getting suits are usually memorable and funny because usually the bride and groom have different taste in what they want. Finding the balance in between is always fun.”

They Are

A two-year old business comprising a team of tailors and related craftsmen offering bespoke shirting services. They believe in giving the best service they can for their customers and to provide them with products suited to their tastes.

Known For

Unique prints and quirky designs. With a wide selection of fabrics from Italy, UK, Turkey and Japan to make their shirts, eye-catching and distinctive pocket squares, and suits that are highly detailed.

www.mrbulliandsons.net

A
Store interior with a library of fabric books to choose from
B
Ready-wear linen shirts from Colony Clothing
C
Italian cotton shirting from Liberty London
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The above mentioned shop(s) can be found at:

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