“CELEBRATING AS OUR HOME-GROWN BRAND GOES INTERNATIONAL”
James Quan and Winnie Chan, Co-Founders of Bynd Artisan
It was a business that rode on the makers bandwagon – a retail concept in a far-flung industrial area, offering personalised notebooks and stationery, as well as workshops where attendees could try their hand at bookbinding and making simple leather goods such as card holders. Bynd Artisan was a fresh and very niche concept that tapped both the expertise of James Quan, who dealt in corporate gifting, and Winnie Chan, whose family business is Grandluxe, one of Singapore’s oldest stationery manufacturers.
They created a hipster-chic atelier in 2014 – complete with a coffee bar – and took old craftsmen off the production line, moving them to the shop floor to customise the customers’ notebooks as well as teach newbies the finer points of making their own leather-bound notebooks from scratch. The novelty of the creative process, a growing appreciation for traditional handcrafting, the array of quality and stylish products, a very Instagrammable space and clever social‑media marketing quickly turned Bynd Artisan from a sleeper hit into a commercial blockbuster. The brand was soon offered retail space in department stores, and eventually, outlet space in malls.
Fast forward four years. Bynd Artisan now has four ateliers in Singapore and a shop-in‑shop at Pedder on Scotts, as well as an outlet – its first overseas – at Jing An Kerry Centre, Shanghai, China,. It has also chalked up collaborations with creatives from different industries, such as singer-songwriter Gentle Bones as well as fashion brands Ong Shunmugam and Ying The Label. Next year, the brand will partner with architectural firm Ministry of Design on a fashion jewellery range suitable for both men and women. The founders are also in talks for a collaboration with a prominent Chinese painter they met through their friend and art collector Jackson See.
On a clear path to becoming an iconic Singapore brand, Bynd Artisan has also picked up high-profile accolades, including the Design Of The Year award at the 2016 President’s Design Award and Singapore Tourism Board’s Best Shopping Experience Award in 2017. This year, President Halimah Yacob even commissioned Bynd Artisan to design and craft the state gifts for visiting dignitaries. “We have a thank-you card from the Istana and it is hung right by the office entrance. It makes us feel proud every day,” Winnie shares. “And while we’re thankful of our success, we need to relax a little more and spend more time with family!”
The couple – they celebrate 22 years of marriage this month – were mutually complimentary when asked about their biggest achievements in life, with James declaring: “My proudest moment was getting my wife to say ‘yes’ after three weeks of dating. She’s my lucky star who keeps me grounded when my imagination goes overboard!”
To which Winnie replies: “And mine is bagging a handsome, charismatic husband who always makes me laugh. Whether it is to celebrate every victory or to cry with over every hiccup, we know we’ve got each other’s back.”
“CELEBRATING MY BIG 6-0!”
Grace Wong, homemaker
Friends know Grace Wong to be accommodating and generous. For her 60th birthday party this month, she requested that guests make a donation to Make‑A‑Wish Singapore instead of gifting her presents. “To remember this milestone birthday by, I thought about what I could do, and decided that I’d like to give kids who have life-threatening conditions an opportunity to fulfil their wishes,” Grace shares. “This is the first time I’m doing this and I hope to be able to do it again.
“Besides,” she quips, “I already have what I want and need. My best gift is my husband!”
Her party, cheekily themed Black Society (the invitation card featured her in a full-body tattoo outfit, casually holding a cleaver, a cigarette hanging from her lips), was preceded by a series of birthday celebrations thrown by her friends.
Usually, she celebrates her birthday here, with her Singapore relatives and friends, then flies off to Hong Kong for another party to celebrate with her family there. “My husband, Kevin, is from Hong Kong, so we have family and relatives there. Counting immediate and extended members of the family, there are more than 50 of us scattered around the world.”
About turning 60, she impishly declares: “I feel great! I don’t feel that I’m getting older. Instead, I feel that I’m accumulating more new experiences and learning every day.”
To keep her mind agile, she plays the guzheng, also known as the Chinese zither. Watching Grace pluck at the strings and listening to the melodious tune that emits, you would think she has been a practitioner for many years, which is not the case. “I’ve only just started!” she reveals. “I’ve been quite slack, but I hope to start regular practices soon.”
She is also looking forward to pursuing her passion for dance, and possibly picking up new forms of dancing.
“I try to keep fit by dancing regularly – it helps with coordination and keeps my mind alert. It also helps me relax and focus. I believe that as one ages, one needs to exercise to maintain muscle mass and also to keep the joints flexible. And no, shopping is not enough!”
“CELEBRATING A SUCCESSFUL DEAL AND MEANINGFUL RELATIONSHIPS”
Shann Sok, Group CEO of Kingsland Development
Her gentle demeanour belies her will of steel when it comes to business, and it is that tenacity that has helped parlay her family’s real estate business into a multi-sector one across Asia. Shann Sok’s latest achievement: Successfully negotiating the sale of 99 percent of Kingsland Data Centre, a subsidiary under her company Kingsland Development, to Keppel DC Reit for $295 million. The data centre was developed for over $100 million and launched in 2015.
While work – and taking on business challenges – is something she relishes, Shann shares that family and relationships still take top spot for her. “Life is all about relationships,” she says. “You’re only successful if you’re successful in your relationships with your parents, spouse, children and close friends.”
Reflecting on the past year, Shann mulls: “I’ve learned not to be affected by situations and people who don’t matter, and not to waste energy on things that are beyond my control. I’ve learned to cherish every moment with my loved ones, and not get hung up over trivial things but instead, celebrate the little things in life. Gratitude, I’ve come to realise, is the key to happiness. My greatest achievement is being content, happy and fulfilled at this stage of my life.”
Ask about her upcoming plans and Shann says that she’ll be spending lots of quality time with her family on holidays. But lest you think that means that she’s letting up on work, she reveals that there are “several potential projects – data centres, hotels and offices – in the pipeline in various parts of Asia. I’m considering venturing into the food, medical and finance industries as well”.
Showing her heart as well as business acumen, Shann adds: “A few like-minded business owners and I are also planning to start a foundation that contributes to several causes. It’s important that the foundation is self-sustaining through passive income – that way, we can make long-term contributions to society instead of one-off donations.”
“CELEBRATING 10 YEARS OF MARITAL BLISS”
Richard and Ginny Wiluan, President Director of PT Citra Tubindo, and Director of Nongsa Resorts and Nongsa Digital Park respectively
Despite their busy schedules, Richard and Ginny Wiluan always make it a point to find time for themselves. The couple, who celebrated their 10th wedding anniversary in July, met 12 years ago at his cousin’s wedding and have spent almost every single day together since their first date.
“Our personalities are quite different though,” muses Ginny. “Richard is the most disciplined and organised person I know, while I’m more flexible and easy-going, possibly more innovative. I guess that’s why we work well together – we complement each other and our different personalities enable us to deal with varied challenges.”
That their marriage is a loving one even after a decade is evident. When asked to reflect on the past year, the first thing that comes to Richard’s mind was their 10th wedding anniversary – which they celebrated by returning to the venue of their first date: Oso Restaurant. “It was a milestone in our marriage, which has been a journey full of joy and excitement,” he shares. “Ginny has been the cornerstone of everything I’ve achieved in the past 10 years. Nothing would make me happier than growing old with her. In fact, I can imagine us walking hand-in-hand even when we’re 80, still very much in love.”
“Richard is my partner in every sense,” Ginny says, echoing her husband’s sentiments. “He’s my best friend, my lover, my work partner, my playmate, my companion, my muse and my inspiration. He’s also the best father to my children.”
Reflecting on the decade they’ve spent together as a married couple, Ginny shares that “in some ways, it feels like just yesterday we were preparing to get married, but at the same time, I feel like we’ve spent a lifetime together. These past 10 years have changed our lives completely. We now have three kids, three dogs, five rabbits, fishes and turtles … it’s a full house! There has never been a dull moment, and thankfully, with God’s grace, it has been a journey filled with love.”
When asked to share their personal triumphs and achievements, Richard answers without hesitation: “Marrying Ginny!
As for Ginny, she comes back instead with what she would like to achieve: For the people she cares about to know that she loves them. “I’d like for them to know that they’re special to me,” she says, adding that that would be the legacy she would like to leave behind. “I want my memory to always bring a smile to them.”
Work-wise, 2018 was a real ride for them. “There were lots of exciting highs, but also painful lows,” Richard shares. “Thankfully, we got through the lows together, supporting and leaning on each other in a way you can only with someone you have absolute trust in. We really grew closer as a couple.”
Art Direction: Audrey Chan
Photography: Joel Low