When it comes to jewellery, skincare or artisan tea, we often find ourselves gravitating towards international brands. In fact, how often do we patronise a Singapore brand?
“Only a small, though growing number of Singaporeans will put in the time and effort to discover and support independent Singapore designers,” said Carolyn Kan, founder of local jewellery brand Carrie K.
As Singapore is a small market, there are lower economies of scale and limited access to materials and experienced craftsmen.
However, Cheryl Gan, founder of aromatherapy brand HYSSES, said that local brands “are more likely to care and invest more in the well-being of their communities and give back to them.”
Therefore, local products are made with love and dedication from local owners.
“Additionally, local products may not lose out in terms of quality to many international brands, and can be much more affordable as both price points and product offerings are localised to better meet the local consumers’ needs,” she added.
With that, we take a look at the production process and passion that go into making these local products.
1. Carrie K.
Established in 2009, Carrie K. is known for its versatile and quality fine jewellery.
On how she started up the business, founder Carolyn Kan recounted taking a month-long apprenticeship with a silversmith during a trip to Florence, Italy.
It was there when she knew she wanted to be a silversmith and jewellery designer, which led to the birth of Carrie K.
To date, one of their most innovative pieces is Carrie K. Pearl Bar, a first-of-its-kind classic pearl necklace that can be restyled over 100 different ways.
According to Carolyn, it takes between six to eight months to create a new collection such as the Star collection that celebrates the Malay spirit of “Gotong Royong” or fellowship.
The star, often woven into the traditional Malay fabric songket, is featured as the visual icon to represent “weaving the community together”.
The gemologist will create the signature customised gem cut for the collection. The visual icon is then expanded and applied to earrings, rings, necklaces that are modular.
Each piece is then engineered to fit with past collections, and future proofed to be stacked with designs they have yet to imagine.
Every collection will feature accessories that enable their pearl necklaces to be styled in versatile ways.
Each design is created in scaled 3D computerised drawings, and 3D resins are then produced to ensure each innovative design is engineered with precision.
All pieces of jewellery are handcrafted by Carrie K.’s master craftsmen, and each custom-cut gem that is handpicked for the collection is then set.
Each piece of jewellery is handcrafted the old way, with great time and care, so you can be assured that each piece is a quality one that can last you a lifetime.
Another local brand, Hegen, is well on its way to making a difference by providing a sustainable breastfeeding solution to mothers all over the world.
Launched in 2015, the local brand was created based on founder Yvon Bock’s own personal pain points with breastfeeding.
“From too many parts to assemble and clean to noisy bulky pumps, and teats that cause nipple confusion, I wanted to modernise the entire system while making it simple, practical and innovative,” explained Yvon.
Their star product is the Sqround (square-round) PCTO bottle, which features their patented one-handed Press-to-Close, Twist-to-Open innovation.
The square aesthetic helps with babies’ motor skills, optimises space, and reduces the chance of the bottle rolling away or spilling milk. The bottle can also be quickly assembled in under five seconds.
However, trying to enter an already saturated market and competing with internationally-renowned brands that have decades-long legacies was tough for them.
The only way was to innovate and be different. The difficulty with innovation is to try and envision a new product/system that can really solve the pain points of our customers.
It took us five years, over hundreds of iterations, and thousands of R&D hours to create our first product from start to finish. Now that we have SOPs in place, it takes a couple of years to create new products, and only a few months for line extensions.
– Yvon Bock, founder of Hegen
From design to production and packaging, all processes are done in-house to ensure end-to-end compliance.
Their ingenious product, high standards and quality show that they are definitely on par with, if not better, than other renowned baby bottle brands.
Local aromatherapy brand Hysses focuses on products that contain only natural botanical and bioactive ingredients to provide healing therapy and nourishment for the skin and hair.
Their products range from candles to skincare to scents, and are formulated specially for Asian skin.
Founder Cheryl Gan shares that scent formulation is resource-intensive in the R&D phase.
This is similar to skincare production, except that for our skincare, we will need to include a micro-bacterial test for every production batch to ensure application safety and durability for our consumers.
– Cheryl Gan, founder of Hysses
Once R&D has finalised the formulation, the production process starts from Raw Material Selection, Inspection, and Acceptance to Mixing, Filling, Batching and ends with Quality Control testing.
This production schedule takes two to three weeks per product on average.
For hand-made soap, candles, burners and nebulisers, they are labour-intensive production that require skilled workers trained in these specific areas.
In fact, they hand-make every single component of their candles, from the wick to mixing and layering the wax.
They also have an outsourced team of glass blowers masters to make their nebulisers. These products generally take a much longer production cycle, ranging between four and 16 weeks.
When it comes to skincare and scents, their products are customised based on skin types and culture.
It is evident that a lot of dedication and attention goes into each product and we can be certain that we are buying a quality product.
4. Gryphon Tea Company
Gryphon Tea Company was founded in 2006 to make fine, gourmet quality tea accessible to discerning consumers. One of Gryphon Tea’s key strengths is its ability to create unique flavours with tea.
For example, Singapura Spice, a green tea with complex flavours of herbs including curry leaves, basil and mint combining with tropical fruity flavours was created to complement Asian cuisine.
Singaporeans are an adventurous group of foodies who are always willing to step forward as tastemakers. It is this high level of acceptance from our consumers that encourages us to constantly introduce flavours that intrigue the curiosity and excite the palate.
Our development for teas usually starts with a blank canvas in creating new teas. Gryphon Tea draws its inspiration mainly from food and lifestyle trends globally.
– Lim Tian Wee, founder of Gryphon Tea Company
He added that it usually takes between one to two weeks to get the concept flavour true to their vision.
In their recent collaboration with fellow local micro distillery Brass Lion Distillery to create a tea-focused gin, they combined their expertise in flavour blending with Brass Lion Distillery’s expertise in craft spirits.
The end-product was a gin that is flavoursome with delicate floral notes on the nose, followed by a trailing flavour of oolong tea fragrance. The first batch was quickly sold out within a month.
Such collaborations allow local brands to come together to create new synergy and value to the partnership. Through collaborations, local brands can benefit from reaching out to new customers who previously were not available to individual brands.
Over the years, Gryphon Tea has established themselves as one of the leading tea brands in Singapore with their quality and innovative products.
5. Eu Yan Sang
With a rich heritage of 141 years, traditional Chinese medicine retailer Eu Yan Sang has become a trusted name for generations of customers, recognised for its high quality and standards.
They frequently collaborate with reputable institutions in scientific research and developments to propel the TCM industry forward.
Their herbs are sourced only from reliable and reputable suppliers with GAP (Good Agriculture Practices) certification, ensuring authenticity and quality of the raw herbs.
These herbs are subject to scientific tests before being processed in Eu Yan Sang’s GMP (Good Manufacturing Practice)-certified factories in Hong Kong and Malaysia.
From harvesting to manufacturing, the emphasis is on quality to ensure the efficacy and more importantly, safety of its products.
Its plant in Malaysia, Weng Li Sdn Bhd, was incorporated in 1980 and has since diversified into the manufacturing of traditional pills, capsules and powders, as well as the packaging of soups and teas.
The factory is equipped with sophisticated production lines designed to produce the most effective and consistent herbal formulas possible.
By maintaining precise levels of pressure, time and temperature, this process delivers quality natural herbs and achieves consistent purity and efficacy of products.
This is why Eu Yan Sang is regarded as a TCM leader and is the go-to company for tried-and-tested TCM formulations in Singapore.
Local Products Are Not Inferior To International Brands
From handcrafted jewellery to gourmet tea, Singapore products have come of age in terms of both brand strength and product quality.
Singapore companies excel in providing the best-in-class quality combined with a unique product proposition.
Despite our small market, Singapore entrepreneurs work harder to make their products differentiated from their competition.
– Lim Tian Wee, founder of Gryphon Tea Company
Furthermore, international brands tend to have a longer innovation cycle compared to smaller companies. This allows smaller companies to get a headstart advantage to tap on the trend and opportunity.
“International brands are also more likely to follow global trends than be market-specific,” added Tian Wee.
As a result, local products can be as good, or even better, than those from these multinational corporations.
Yvon of Hegen said that they are proud to uphold the qualities of a Singapore brand: safety, quality of life, and innovation.
A joint collaboration between the Singapore Brand Office and the Singapore Tourism Board, supported by Enterprise Singapore, Made With Passion is an initiative that promotes our local lifestyle brands which embody the Singapore spirit of turning possibilities into reality.
The initiative hopes to encourage other brand owners and Singaporeans to pursue their own dreams to turn their passions into a reality for a better Singapore. The brands mentioned in this article are just some of the brands under the initiative.
Carrie K.’s Carolyn commended the campaign, saying that it is a good initiative to grow national pride by spotlighting a curated list of Singapore brands.
Housing them in a central, visible, convenient location, such as at the Design Orchard, is also helpful, she noted.
Yvon too expressed her appreciation at how Made with Passion has given them a platform to showcase how far local brands have come in recent times.
“It highlights to us Singaporeans the brands that we love, but may not be aware that they are local,” she said.
It is important that we celebrate Singapore brands and buy local. Local products are made with love and dedication from local owners, for fellow Singaporeans.
In the current COVID-19 climate, the challenges Singapore brands face are multiplied, and many may not survive so now’s a good time to show our support for local brands.
This article was written in collaboration with the Singapore Brand Office.
Featured Image Credit: Gryphon Tea Company / Hegen / Carrie K. / Cheryl Gan / HYSSES / Eu Yan Sang