Image via Honeycomers
With a rich background in the history of advertising, a brave decision to change careers in the most extreme way, and a beautiful outcome – success through unconventional, stunning designs that have wowed both the Singaporean and international fashion industries – Carolyn Kan has made an amazing name for herself through Carrie K. The jewelry designer shares her best moments, her design process, and the secrets behind her success in an exclusive interview with MWM.
1. What made you start the brand, Carrie K?
Passion for design and craft!
2. Is there something that sets Carrie K apart from other jewelry designers?
Carrie K. is a unique marriage of artisan craftsmanship with contemporary, playful design. Every collection tells a story centered around our philosophy of teasing people into questioning traditional ideals and celebrating the possibilities of unique quirks and imperfections. All designs are unique to Carrie K. and every piece is handcrafted by specialized artisans from around the world. The leathers are made by craftsmen in Italy and Istanbul. Our silver and fine jewellery pieces are handcrafted in Singapore, Hong Kong and Thailand.
Although our aesthetic is modern, our passion for traditional craftsmanship is key as I started my journey as a silversmith in Florence. Carrie K. is passionate about making craftsmanship more accessible and valued. Hence, we launched a quarterly KEEPERS Artisans Showcase two years ago, to present work by artisans, artists and independent designers. And to build a community of people who value quality over quantity. In fact, we did a month-long Keepers pop-up in Penang at the Georgetown Festival in 2013, which was brilliant! Seeing and actualizing possibilities is in Carrie K.’s DNA. We saw an opportunity to inject sense of fun into the fine jewellery category so we launched our line starting with our signature Reborn Safety Pin Rings paved with diamonds. We also started our bespoke designs service to distil people’s stories into the design of their jewellery. This has been particularly popular for jewellery of significance such as engagement and wedding rings.
3. How has fashion in Singapore evolved over the past few years?
The last few years has seen a burst of new designers in Singapore. So I have noticed increasing support for local designers. There is also a growing appreciation for artisan craftsmanship paired with unique designs. A small but increasing number of people are getting interested in how things are made and value quality over quantity. This is why we created KEEPERS and our aim to bring together a community of people who appreciate artisan craftsmanship is really timely.
4. What has been a landmark moment for Carrie K?
There have been two. The first was launching the Carrie K. Atelier at the end of 2011 and the other is being personally selected by Yuji Yamamoto, the son of Yohji Yamamoto, to represent and market Carrie K. It was amazing to be recognized by someone who works with only the best designers in the world. And he has been one of Carrie K.’s greatest advocates.
5. Each Carrie K collection has a very specific theory and aesthetic (such as "Gender Bender"). Where do you get your inspiration from?
Carrie K.’s designs challenge pre-conceived perceptions in society and even material. Whilst society pursues perfection, we show beauty in imperfection, and mundane everyday objects like safety pins and strings.We get inspiration from talking to people and seeking out the interesting side of things that usually get missed or ignored.
6. Is there a particular kind of person you have in mind when designing?
We design for individuals who see 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 creative heart and joie de vivre.
7. What is the design process like for each collection?
Our process varies from collection to collection. Some ideas like “A Beautiful Mess” were inspired by reflecting on the work of Jackson Pollock and the notion that one man’s mess is another man’s art. It celebrates disorder and irregularity in a world that strives for order and perfection. From an egg of an idea to the final birth of the product was a relatively quick two months.
Other ideas like “Gender Bender” percolated in my mind for a long time experimenting before I found a technique that would breathe life into the idea. Heavy Mettle also took a while as we had a find a way of making leather look like metal. In fact, we did such a good job that people who saw our designs from a far thought it would uncomfortably heavy, but were delighted when they tried it on.
8. Is there a work philosophy that keeps you going or inspires you?
We exist to sprinkle a bit of magic dust and sense of play in this world that is too serious. We fuel each other with the belief that anything is possible and this runs through the core of our business through to our designs.
What do you think of Carrie K. designs? Check out the website to share, explore, and shop!