Tell us a bit about yourself! Where did you grow up?
I was born in Singapore and am blessed with a close-knit and supportive family, all of whom have had a part to play in building Carrie K. We also have very strong women in our family. My mother instilled in us a “can-do” attitude, belief that anything is possible.
I have always loved to design and make things with my hands. When I was younger, I wanted to be an interior designer but my mother suggested that I get a “proper” degree in order to get a “real job”. It look me a while but I have become what I always wanted to be – a designer and a craftsperson. Fortunately, the long route has helped me tremendously in building Carrie K.
My mother has since come round to the idea of me being a designer. In fact, she has become one of my greatest fans.
After a career in advertising you made a big change and launched the Carrie K brand, how was that transition for you?
My journey to becoming a jewellery designer and launching Carrie K. was a happy accident and a fulfilling one.
In 2009 after 5 years at the helm of advertising agency M&C Saatchi Singapore, I took a year off the corporate race to travel and do all the things I promised myself I would do one day.
When I was travelling in Italy I was introduced to a talented silversmith who taught silversmithing. After I made my first ring in Florence, I knew instantly that I wanted to be a silversmith and jewellery designer and Carrie K. Artisan Jewellery was born in July 2009. After returning to Singapore, I enrolled myself at NAFA to study jewellery fabrication. In the meantime, I started to host private showcases to sell my designs.
Who do you design for? Is there a particular person you’d love to see wearing your pieces?
We design for individuals who seek uniqueness and appreciate contemporary design with a sense of humour, combined with traditional quality craftsmanship. Our designs cater to their eclectic taste and desire to express their individuality through what they wear. They span a range of ages but share a common joie de vivre.
Getting our “Gender Bender” bow-tie on Ryan Gosling, would be my definition of having “made it”.
You won the Elle Awards “Jewellery Designer Of The Year” back in 2010 and now have stockists around the globe, but when did you first think you had “made it”?
I definitely don’t believe that we have “made it”, but a big milestone in Carrie K.’s history was being personally selected by Yuji Yamamoto, the son of Yohji Yamamoto in 2012. Yuji has been representing Carrie K. in Japan since 2012. In February 2014, we launched our first international shop-in-shop at Shibuya, Seibu, Tokyo. We also have a strong fan base in Seoul. And Carrie K. is now stocked in Hong Kong, U.S., and Italy.
How would you describe your personal style? Does it evolve and change?
Carrie K. designs reflects my quirky sense of humour and eclectic style. I enjoy spotlighting the extraordinary in the ordinary and celebrating things that are not usually admired. I see beauty in imperfection and disorder and my designs convey that in the stories I tell through our jewellery. I have an eclectic style so I design for similar individuals who appreciate quality craftsmanship and humour. The aesthetics and material continue to evolve, but my tongue-in-cheek personality is consistent.
What are your favourite spots in Singapore? Any hidden gems we should know about?
Until mid-February 2015, my favourite hang out is KEEPERS. It’s a treasure trove of Singapore designers from fashion to furniture. Because most Singapore designers are hidden in little nooks and corners of the island, its hard to find them. And the KEEPERS: Singapore Designer Collective pop-up situated opposite H&M Orchard, has curated a strong representation of the diverse range of Singapore designers. And when ideas people get together, we can’t help but collaborate. In fact, I will be collaborating with the duo from Wit x Folly to develop WORD jewellery designs that are hand scripted by them. This will launch 29th November at KEEPERS.
Walk us through your average work day
My day starts at about 6am with a walk to the park with my dogs. It’s the perfect time for me to let my mind wander and dream up designs. Then I go through emails before I head in to the atelier. I usually catch up with my team in the morning and the afternoon is when I schedule meetings with customers or potential collaborators. The evenings are when I get my real work done. At the moment, because I am also running the KEEPERS pop-up, the evenings are sometimes spent there, meeting and chatting with customers.
Where in Singapore do you live? How did you make your place your own?
I live in the East, in a corner terrace opposite a park. I love green, open spaces and taking my dogs, Timone and Pumba out for walks. My husband and I love entertaining, so our home centers around our open kitchen and dining table. We usually cook for a “village” of friends so our table seats at least 14 guests. Our home is filled with a mixture of industrial vintage furniture like our 1940’s Tolix chairs shipped from Paris, to our hand made light featuring photos of our feasts.
What are you favourite dining spots?
I am a real foodie so my favourites range from hawker food to specialist restaurants.
My everyday favourites include Soto Ayam at Adam Road Hawker Centre. There’s always a queue but its well worth it.
For Vietnamese, I always head to Long Phung in Joo Chiat.
Seafood Hua Yu Wee, an institution housed in an old black and white in Upper East Coast Road.
Restaurants that I love include Morsels at Mayo Road, Little India. Shinzo for Japanese at Carpenter Street. Ice Cream in Toa Payoh by Creamier. Chocolates and cakes by Truffs at Telok Ayer Street. And for hearty Italian, Etna on East Coast Road.
Favourite thing about Singapore?
Right now, there’s never been a better time to be a designer in Singapore. I feel that Singapore is going through our renaissance with great support for local design from the government and the community. We’re a young country, and we are just starting to make in-roads internationally in the area of fashion design.
What are some of your favourite shops (other than the Carrie K Atelier obviously!) ?
One of my favourite shops will be Strangelets at Yong Siak Street. It is hidden amongst the old charms of Tiong Bahru estate where they have a variety of quirky and well-crafted unique designs. It’s one of my favourite places to shop for accessories and gifts for loved ones’ birthdays and Christmas. This store tends to bring out the inner child in me.
Another shop will be Front Row at Raffles Hotel, where I can get cool finds for cult and emerging local and international labels that are handpicked.
What are your must-have beauty products? Where do you go for hair/nail/beauty maintenance?
Currently, my must-have and hard-to-come-by beauty product is sleep.
Leslie of Mosche Hair Salon is my go-to person for hair styling. I just close my eyes and let him decide what to do with my hair. He never lets me down.
Where would be top of your travel bucket list?
At the moment, I am craving nature, big open spaces, fresh crisp air, so the land of the Hobbit comes to mind.
I have always wanted to get lost in the Fez in Morocco. And to live aboard a yacht and go island hopping in the Whitsundays, Australia.
When you run your own business, how do you achieve that work-social life balance?
Family is very important to me, so my weekly feast with my parents and siblings is a must.
Our two dogs Timone and Pumba, come to work with me. Their job is to spread the love which they are very good at. In fact, they are our welcoming committee. And friends often pop by for a coffee. I am sure they come mainly to visit Timone and Pumba.
I love what I do so it doesn’t feel like work.
Where do you see yourself and Carrie K in 5 years time?
We love what we do and we love injecting a bit of playfulness into the world around us. So I see us continuing down our slightly unconventional path. We will be growing our bespoke and fine jewellery line and inject our brand of playfulness to this very traditional category.
No matter what products we may be selling in 5 years time, we will always be a catalyst for possibilities. Be it showing refreshing possibilities through jewellery and accessories or helping designers and artisans achieve their own possibilities.
In fact, we started a quarterly showcase at Carrie K. Atelier in 2011 called KEEPERS. It aims to make the work of independent designers and artisan more accessible and valued in Singapore. KEEPERS has since grown and together with Textile & Fashion Federation (TaFf) and the support of Singapore Tourism Board (STB) and Spring Singapore, we built the KEEPERS: Singapore Designers Collective pop-up on Orchard Road from 12th September 2014 to 15th February 2015. So in 5 years time, perhaps KEEPERS will have a permanent home in an enclave for designers.
Thanks, as always to the fabulous Gunilla from Sugar Light Photography for her amazing, amazing pictures!