7 Dec Weaving brighter, and bolder bags for Asians

PHOTO: 7 Dec Weaving brighter, and bolder bags for Asians
Above photo is Ms Adelene Tan, 35, a former corporate lawyer, and her mother-in-law created Tessere out of a desire to have a brand tailored for Asian women.

SINGAPORE - Home-Grown fashion brand Tessere was born out of a desire to craft bags for Asian women that were d-aring and different.

And its creation five years ago brought together an unlikely pairing that some families might regard as a potential nightmare.

Ms Adelene Tan, 35, a former corporate lawyer, joined her mother-in-law, Mrs Tan Ee Leng, in the world of fashion after moving back two years ago to Singapore from New York, where she and her husband had been based.

Her mother-in-law founded Craftmark - Tessere's parent - more than 30 years ago.

It was an agent and distributor for largely European and American brands such as Picard and Jane Shilton.

But the duo decided they wanted to do something more - by creating a new brand that was "bold, spirited and zesty".

Ms Tan, Craftmark's director, said they noticed that some foreign brands the company carried were designed for markets such as Europe and the United States.

"We found that we were giving them feedback to change and tweak (bags) for the local market and were spending increasing amounts of time to help them design for the market here.

"So it was just a natural progression, that from there we started to come up with this concept for our own brand, and that's how Tessere started," she added.

For instance, bags of smaller sizes are designed to cater to the smaller Asian frame, while lighter, leather material is also sourced for Tessere bags.

"And generally speaking, in terms of taste, I think women in Asia prefer bolder and more colourful designs," Ms Tan said.

Tessere means "weave" in Italian and represents the way that everything in life is interwoven, be it cultures, people or ideas.

An in-house team of Singapore designers work on Tessere designs here and source materials from all over the world.

"It's not your run-of-the-mill bag. It's got energy; it's refreshing and it's almost like taking a step out of your usual mundane world into a different world. We focus on good design and good quality as well," Ms Tan emphasised.

Tessere started with only woven bags, but has since expanded its product range.

Many of its bags now have woven and artisan elements, and are hand-crafted in Italy, China and Bangladesh.

Exotic skins such as deer, springbok, fox and python have also been used.

Revenue has more than doubled over the past five years.

Tessere has eight points of sale at various departmental stores across Singapore now.

But the brand faced some early challenges, as some consumers tended to favour European brands.

Over the years, however, more buyers have become accepting of local labels, with some even embracing them, Ms Tan noted.

"I think the Singapore woman is quite discerning, and she can tell when a bag is of good quality and design. If both can resonate with her, I think she is open to buying a local branded bag," she added.

As Singapore is a small market, the plan is to take on regional markets in the next one to two years.

There is also the possibility of starting a line for men.

Ms Tan said Tessere will continue building its brand awareness so it can be at the top of consumers' minds in a very competitive retail landscape.

And while some might eschew working with their mothers- in-law for fear that it might lead to friction, Ms Tan has no such concern.

"She's very reasonable. I have a wonderful relationship with her; we bounce ideas off each other all the time, and that's what I appreciate about her. Her door is always open," she said.

Being able to help out with the legal aspects of the business is also something she enjoys.

Ms Tan said that she is enjoying the challenges of business, and plans to stay on at Craftmark instead of returning to legal practice.

"Running your own businesses has its own stresses as well, but I think at the end of the day, when you make good business decisions and you see the results, it is very encouraging."

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