Denise Taojo Kaur, Living DNA
Setting up the house as a newlywed prompted founder of Living DNA (formerly Departures & Arrivals), Denise Taojo Kaur, to open a shop with the concept of a well-travelled home in 2015. After a few years in the business of retail, Denise felt she wanted to focus on the mindfulness aspect of the collections she creates and curates. With a new brand and store location, Living DNA takes pride in telling the stories of the pieces being made by real people, and the love and attention that goes into them. Denise is a firm believer in consciousness and wants us all to feel a deeper connection with what we buy, affordably. Here we chat with Denise about her journey as a retailer.
How did you get started in retail?
I was once in a banking job. Setting up the house as a newlywed couple, my husband and I struggled to find home furnishing that’s carefully designed, made with substance and yet affordable. So we made use of frequent business trips to stuff our suitcases with unique pieces. It sparked the idea of opening an online store for conscious design lovers like us.
What inspired you to relaunch your brand?
I enjoy the multicultural provenance of our rugs and homeware, and the Departures & Arrivals concept of a well-travelled home will continue to be our signature look. But I felt a stronger need to emphasize the mindfulness aspect of our collection. This is what the new brand Living DNA is all about. We tell the story of our pieces being made by real people, and the love and attention that goes into it. Being conscious of what we consume and buy creates more joy.
If asked to describe your store to someone unfamiliar with it, what would you say?
Homeware with soul and substance. Inspired by culture, but easily matched with the modern home.
What makes your store unique?
The way we apply modern colours on traditional handiwork. Our homeware comes from all over the world, yet they don’t look like a typical tourist souvenirs. They are elevated pieces. They blend harmoniously with your modern furniture.
We don’t stop at looks. The piece has to be produced in a special method or with a special material. Objects with stories are enjoyed for a longer time. Buying consciously hones us to live mindfully.
Who are your customers?
People come to us when they want something unique yet goes beyond trends. They’re the kind of people who aspire to live mindfully by careful lifestyle choices.
You now focus purely on rugs and homewares. Can you tell us a bit about the brands you curate? And why?
Since our boutique first opened in 2015, we often encounter customers who want a rug but don’t know how to select one. They share with us they’re looking for something extraordinary at the same time reasonably priced. And then they always end up going home happy with one (or more) DNA rug. That’s when we realized we could really offer people a valuable service by being their one-stop rug shop, complemented with homeware not found anywhere else.
What are your best selling products?
Rugs definitely, including the low maintenance bath carpets. Next bestselling are the Japanese clocks. They embody the Japanese perfectionism and love for natural materials.
Where do you look for inspiration?
Travel! I am blown away by traditional craft especially in fabrics, everyday practical objects and even food preparation. I get a high from stumbling upon colour combinations that challenge my conventions. Elements of architecture like tiles, doors and windows are a wealth of patterns. As I move across climates, I pay attention to the vegetation and changing landscape. When I like a particular hotel, restaurant or house, I try to understand what makes it different and make a mental note of it.
How has the Internet/digital marketing impacted your business?
Thanks to the growing awareness of how products are being made and the shareability of information on social media, people are now more conscious than ever that their buying choices count. It started with fashion and beauty, now with homeware as well people are beginning to understand why natural materials and earth-friendly production methods are not cheap but are the only way forward.
What do you think the future holds for your store and shopping in Singapore?
Craft will endure. The faster our technological advances will be, the more we will crave for authenticity, for the human connection. Sustainable materials will not just be a trend, it will be a necessary way of living. We’re excited because these are the very values we stand for.
If you could give one piece of advice to the youth, or someone starting out in their career, what would you say?
Nurture all your interests, even though they don’t seem to connect at first. Once they do, you become a truly unique creative force. Every experience in life builds you up for the next – no experience ever goes to waste.