With fans such as A-listers Gwyneth Paltrow, Lady Gaga and Rita Ora, homegrown jewellery brand State Property definitely has bragging rights. Even former First Lady Michelle Obama has been seen wearing its designs. Stocked at major department stores in the US and loved by Hollywood, the founders of the contemporary fine jewellery label still call Singapore home.
Founded by jeweller Lin Ruiyin, 30, and industrial designer Afzal Imram, 31, in 2015, the brand is known for its “wearable art”, by fusing modern design with innovative techniques and traditional craftsmanship. The pair explain the brand’s vision: “Inspired by Art Deco, but brought into the modern day, striking a balance between minimalism and maximalism.”
Their latest collection, entitled Voyager, is inspired by Carl Sagan’s Golden Record phonographs — found in the time capsule aboard 1977’s Voyager 1 and 2 space mission.“ We were listening to a podcast about the Voyager space crafts and were intrigued by the idea of having audio recordings of human civilisation sent out into space to be shared with other beings,” says Ruiyin.
The synergy between both founders is the catalyst to the brand’s success. While Ruiyin is in charge of the design and manufacturing of the jewellery, Afzal handles finance, branding and sales. Afzal adds: “We couldn’t have done it without each other. Making sure that we are always communicating is sometimes tedious, but it really helps to have someone to bounce ideas with.”
They met through a mutual friend in 2010 and immediately hit it off. Right after Ruiyin completed her studies at Central Saint Martins and Afzal at the National University of Singapore, they formed design consultancy firm Proper People in 2014. It is still in business and handles the branding collaterals for State Property.
Their multidisciplinary talent explains how State Property managed to break into the international market and establish a cult following despite its young age. “We only work with partners who share similar values with our brand. We’re fortunate to have caught the eyes of key retailers like Saks Fifth Avenue and Goop,” Afzal shares.
These partners include sales and PR representatives, who are also responsible for connecting them with Hollywood stylists and helping them land their first celeb gig: Nicole Kidman, who wore State Property earrings to the premiere of 2018 film Boy Erased.
Going international isn’t without its challenges. Afzal recognises that they need to understand the suitability of their designs for various markets, and the nuances of conducting business in different countries and cultures.
“In Singapore, we don’t have seasons that affect how we dress. But in temperate climates, dressing for various seasons comes with considerations that don’t come to us naturally,” Afzal says. “For example, what types of earrings are good to wear when you would have to wear a scarf? Would you wear bracelets or rings if you need to wear gloves? Because of this, we’ve had to do lots of research, travelling to the markets we’re interested in to observe what people are wearing and buying.”
With fine jewellery shopping being an inherently tactile experience, the pandemic has forced the brand to shift its focus from intimate client relations to improving its social media presence. “We put up more videos to give a better idea of what the pieces look like in 3-D, and also posted interactive and educational Instagram stories to maintain the dialogue with our clients,” Afzal enthuses. “Moving forward, we’re investing more on our website imagery that includes the 360-degree photographs and, hopefully, even more videos. We think this is the way forward as people start to shop for fine jewellery more online, or want to make their decision in their own home and come to the store with their minds made up.”