Carolyn Kan was on a year-long sabbatical when she learnt how to make her first ring in Florence. She fell in love with silversmithing so much that upon her return, she left her job as Managing Director of an international advertising agency to set up artisan jewellery label Carrie K. It’s been 11 years now and she hasn’t looked back since, and in this interview she opens up about what jewellery means to her, and what she prioritises when it comes to design.
What gave you the push to make a career switch?
I knew what I wanted to do for the rest of my life after making my first ring. When I returned to Singapore and told my friends that I was going to be a jewellery designer, many people thought I was mad to make such a drastic career switch, but thankfully I am surrounded by strong women like my mother, sister and close girlfriends with whom I built the foundation of our Carrie K. community.
A piece of jewellery can be more than an accessory. What is it to you?
Jewellery is the best device to convey meaningful messages or stories. People are often intrigued by uniquely interesting jewellery pieces and will ask about them, so our pieces are designed to be conversation starters that let the wearer convey the story behind the piece. This is why every Carrie K. collection talks about what is important in life—the love of self, family, friends, and of course, the special someone. It’s like a love letter immortalised in a tiny keepsake that you wear on your body as a daily reminder, or a gift to someone special that keeps you both connected even when you are apart.
We design collections that tell stories about our culture, heritage, and stories that inspire us, so we hope they will become meaningful heirlooms where these stories are told when passed on. Our jewellery is made with great time and care, to be loved by mums today and coveted by their daughters in future.
What has been the biggest challenge in your entrepreneurial journey, and how did you overcome it?
The Covid-19 pandemic has caused a paradigm shift in customers’ needs and priorities and we don’t have a historical map on how to overcome it. The only thing we know is that we have to offer a product, service and experience that people value. And that is why we love getting to know our customers over a cup of tea, and listening to what is important to them—so that we may focus on what adds value to their lives.
In this current time of uncertainty, showing love, care and appreciation for family and good friends are at the top of everyone’s priority list. Hence, our focus is to create jewellery that tell meaningful stories that connect and celebrate people’s milestones and personal triumphs
You’ve partnered with household names such as Disney and Singapore Airlines. What do you prize when it comes to design?
I believe that design should add value to peoples’ lives, be it solving a problem or creating joy through a story or meaningful reminder conveyed by the design. We loved working with both Disney and Singapore Airlines because they gave us free rein in picking a story as inspiration and seeding the idea for each collection. For example, with Disney, we created a collection for the movie Beauty and the Beast starring Emma Watson. The story we wanted to tell through that collection was to embrace the perfection and imperfection in all of us, so the visual icon of the collection featured an element that reflected the imperfection of the beast and the perfection of Belle.
In both collaborations, we challenged ourselves to explore design techniques and that resulted in what is now our core design style—versatile jewellery that can be used to create multiple looks so that one may wear the jewellery both every day and on special days.
You partnered with Her World for a collaboration. Tell us more about it.
We are honoured to have collaborated with Her World to mark your 60 years of inspiring and connecting women, and created the Carrie K. Love Knot collection to celebrate the everlasting friendship and bond we share with our sisters and friends. The love knot is formed by an infinite line that links a collection of four hearts representing our eternal bond with our four loves—our special love, love of self, love of family and love of friends. The design also represents the the weave of women coming together in support of each other.
To spread the love, we will be donating 10 per cent of sale proceeds for this first Love Knot collection to AWARE.
What’s one piece of advice you have for aspiring business owners?
Apart from getting to know your customers, create a community. Carrie K. is a strong believer of the power of the collective and is passionate about being a positive force that adds value to our clients’ lives and giving back to the community.
That is why we are so happy to collaborate with Her World to celebrate other women, the power of sisterhood, and support women in need through AWARE.