Fresh off her Singapore Fashion Awards win, we chat with Designer of the Year for Accessories, Carolyn Kan of Carrie K. Discover how this accidental silversmith emerged as one of Singapore’s most celebrated jewellery designers.
Just one year after her first creation, Carrie K. was named Jewellery of the Year by ELLE Magazine, Singapore. She was then personally selected by Yuji Yamamoto, son of influential fashion designer Yohji Yamamoto, to be represented by him in Japan.
Within the last twelve months, she has collaborated with Disney and won the coveted Designer of the Year for Accessories award at the Singapore Fashion Awards. There’s no stopping this creative gem.
Organised by Textile & Fashion Federation (TaFf), the Singapore Fashion Awards honours brands and individuals for their outstanding contribution to the fashion industry. Winners of the Designer of the Year award each won S$24 000 worth of prizes, including a sponsored season at a showroom in Shanghai.
We chat with Carolyn to find out her thoughts on winning the award, as well as the brand’s journey, plans for the new year and her hopes for Singapore designers.
How did the brand come about?
My journey of learning to silversmith in Florence was a happy accident. In 2008, I decided to go on a year-long sabbatical from the corporate race to do all the things I had promised myself I would do “one day”. That included travelling to Italy. When I was in Florence, I met a silversmith who taught me how to make jewellery. I was in my teacher’s workshop putting the final touches on my first ring. I knew then that I wanted to be a silversmith and jewellery designer and Carrie K. was born in July 2009.
Who is behind the brand and what roles do they play?
I’m Carolyn, the Founder, Designer, and the Creative Director of the jewellery design and our brand story. Chong is the principal maker who hand tools our collection prototypes and trains our artisans who produce the collections.
Other key members include Tan Wei Wei who heads our Retail Operations, Pei Qi Lee, our senior Designer who works with me in developing designs and visualises how we present the Carrie K. story. Stefan Kwang champions our Sales and Marketing.
Each of your collections is very meaningful, what’s the process for you to come up with a concept?
Each collection is a story that is meaningful to us. For example, Reborn is about the unsung hero, the humble everyday object that helps keep the world going round but is taken for granted. So we spotlight them and make them heroes as covetable jewellery.
You have had steady progress over the last few years, what have been some of the highlights?
There have been so many. The first was gaining recognition by ELLE Awards and being awarded “Jewellery Designer of the Year” in 2010, just a year after I made my first ring. That was a real confidence boost and made me realise that my delusions of grandeur may amount to something.
The next was setting up our Carrie K. Atelier in a lovely black and white shophouse of Newton Circus in late 2011. Then being personally selected by Yuji Yamamoto, son of Yohji Yamamoto, to be represented by him in Japan.
Other major highlights include being selected by Disney to collaborate on a collection for “Alice Through the Looking Glass”. The latest, most unexpected honour was receiving the award for “Designer of the Year, Accessories” by Singapore Fashion Week.
Receiving my first award was a real confidence boost and made me realise that my delusions of grandeur may amount to something.
How did your collaboration with Disney come about?
I got a call from Disney late last year. I could not believe it when they said they’d been watching us for a year. They are passionate storytellers as are we, so it was a great fit and working with Disney on this collection really helped us lift our game. I could not be prouder of my team and what they have shown we are capable of as a team.
What were your thoughts when you won the “Designer of the Year, Accessories” award?
This inaugural Singapore Fashion Awards showcased a high calibre of work that made me feel proud to be a designer from Singapore and to be singled out amongst such talent was a real honour.
You mentioned in your acceptance speech that your husband has joined the business, could you tell us a little more about that?
Chong joining Carrie K. was also an accident. He was in the metal trade, shuttling between Singapore and Shanghai. After 7 years of this, he had intended to return to Singapore to pursue his passion as a photographer. So he started photographing all our Carrie K. campaigns. And whilst he handled our pieces he had suggestions on what we could do better because he felt he understood metal.
He enrolled at NAFA to learn silversmithing. That was when discovered that he is a much better craftsman than I am. Hence, he started taking over and now heads production. I often come up with ideas and he figures better ways to engineer the pieces.
You’ve won one sponsored season (April 2017) at a showroom in Shanghai. What are your plans for this?
I am really excited about growing Carrie K. internationally and China is one of the markets we have our sights on. We will use the opportunity with the showroom in Shanghai to better understand the China market. So 2017 will definitely be another year of discovery and new stories to tell.
What are your hopes for Singapore designers, and Carrie K?
Singapore is only 50 years young. And our design industry is even younger. Many Singapore designers are making inroads internationally but ironically unknown in Singapore. There is a lot of potential in Singapore but it will take a nation to nurture this potential into its fullest. The Singapore Fashion Awards is a great step forward by TaFf.
I hope that appreciation for our brand of playful storytelling paired with artisan craftsmanship will continue to grow. Life has become too serious and we’re here to sprinkle a little playful magic telling meaningful stories about what is important in life.
There is a lot of potential in Singapore but it will take a nation to nurture this potential into its fullest. The Singapore Fashion Awards is a great step forward by TaFf.