Media Coverage

Tessere on Straits Times Urban

Tessere on Straits Times Urban

In an industry as crowded and cut-throat as fashion, it takes a serious scene-stealer to snag some attention.

This task is even more challenging for the founders of local beauty and fashion brands, who have to work doubly hard to place their products on an equal standing with international brands in the eyes of local consumers.

That is one reason, says Kim Faulkner, acting chief executive of Get Singapore Brands, that some companies she works with prefer not to be known as a Singapore brand.

Get Singapore is a six-month-old initiative of government agency Spring Singapore and acts as a marketing platform to showcase Singapore brands with well-designed quality products both here and abroad.

'Some of these company founders are worried that consumers here will think less of their brands if they are known as Singapore-based brands,' says Faulkner.

But slowly and surely, more home-grown brands are starting to revel in their local origins rather than shying away from them.

The 37 participants of Get Singapore include local start-ups Chinese medical chain Eu Yan Sang, cosmetics company I Nouvi, fashion and accessories brand Kwanpen and shoe chain Charles & Keith.

These brands believe they are in the best position to create products for local customers as they truly understand the likes and dislikes of the Singapore market.

Interview with Tan Ee Leng, Managing Director of Tessere, on The Straits Times

Tan Ee Leng, 60, managing director of handbag manufacturer Tessere

The brand was launched in March this year. Most of its bags are hand-woven with strips of leather in different colours and the colours are hand-rubbed onto the leather. The brand also offers snakeskin bags.

Tessere is wholly developed and designed by Singaporeans and inspired by local tastes and culture.


Why did you decide to set up this shop?

"The company has been in the handbag business for more than 20 years but only as a distributor and licensee for European brands. The thought of developing our own home-grown brand has been there for many years.

We were inspired to translate the colours and diversity of Singapore culture into products that are refreshing and alive with creative expression. So we decided to create a brand that explores more colours."


What makes this brand so special?

"Tessere is all about breaking free from the conventional. It means "weave" in Italian and we want the brand to express freedom of creativity.

One way we express this is in the unque way a lot of our bags are hand-woven out of strips of leather in different colours."


How is the brand faring now?

"Although the brand is very new, the consumer response has been very encouraging. We are in three departmental stores now: Metro Paragon, and Robinsons at The Centrepoint and Raffles City. We are adding another one to our list next month. Our bags are also sold in Kuala Lumpur and Jakarta."


What are the brand's biggest challenges so far?

"There were several false starts when we first attempted to conceptualise the brand.

Initially, we focused on products that were priced for the mass market. That was a struggle, as we did not have the economies of scale to make these price points feasible.

However, we think that the Singapore woman has become very discerning and sophisticated. She is able to appreciate quality and is not afraid to try something different.

Therefore, our focus now is on making quality bags that are lovingly crafted with unique materials.

Another challenge is getting consumers here to accept a Singapore brand in a sector that is traditionally dominated by European and American brand names. This is why it took so long to get this business going but we believe Singapore consumers have grown up and if we keep our commitment to quality and design, we can overcome this."