Founder and creative director, Maison Q
Suhana Ab founded the reversible kids apparel label Maison Q in 2015 while she was working as a magazine editor. And though the journalism graduate had no fashion training, she has since grown the brand and established Maison Q at more than 10 points of sale in Singapore and Malaysia, including Motherswork, Takashimaya, Tangs and gift stores under Wildlife Reserves Singapore. Its first collaboration with an international brand, the Friso x Maison Q collaboration launched this March, was a major feat too.
Since every article of Maison Q clothing features two fabric designs, those became a significant part of the brand’s DNA.
“I love kids’ fashion because it feels like I am reliving my childhood — we can be as colourful, loud and childish as we want,” says Ab. And inspiration for patterns can come from her three kids, children’s books or anything in between. “We try to infuse fun in our concepts,” she adds.
Besides whimsical charm, consistency of the fabric prints is critical, and that’s where Brother International’s technology comes in. Colours that appear on prints are based on Pantone’s Cotton colour chart, and the Maison Q team simulates them on paper for an overall feel of each print before it gets approved. Ab emails print designs to Maison Q’s fabric printing supplier and they work together to ensure colour uniformity when printing their artwork and fabrics.
Ab describes design as having to strike a delicate balance — what the Maison Q team likes may not be what customers appreciate.
“In the final stages of our print development and apparel design, I always take a long time to review them before signing off,” she explains. “On one hand, I want to be safe, by choosing safe colours or conservative designs, and on the other hand, I want to push boundaries and stand out from the crowd.”
Ab is confident about where Maison Q is headed. She plans to establish a wholesale model that can help the label enter markets beyond Singapore and Malaysia, and has attended trade shows in Italy and Germany. “Growth is always on our mind,” she says.
Clarence Valerius Wee
Calligrapher and founder, Craft Varies
Clarence Valerius Wee is a person who follows his passion.
“Wherever it leads me, I just take that step towards it, and then see what happens.” That process led him from studying graphic design to picking up calligraphy some 12 years ago as a way to understand typography, or the art of forming letters and text, to establishing his type atelier, Craft Varies.
Wee launched his studio about seven years ago, at a time when calligraphy was less familiar in Singapore. Now that it has gained wider recognition, Wee is venturing into glass engraving. He also does logotype design and sign painting, and runs lettering classes and workshops that explore the relationship between calligraphy and yoga.
“Calligraphy has taught me more than just about writing,” Wee says. “It taught me a lot about mind-muscle connection and the sensitivity of our mind and body.”
As a creative outlet, glass engraving presents Wee with the opportunity to branch out and apply his existing calligraphy skills to other media or materials.
“That’s how you progress,” he says. “It’s about understanding the different technologies to use as a tool so that I can further grow this skill set.”
In the design process, Wee sees benefits in employing tech systems like Brother International’s that are seamless, such as being able to print artwork directly and wirelessly from his tablet, when he previously had to rely on his laptop as an intermediary and use connection cables. When things don’t work or there are too many steps involved, it can complicate and slow down the creative process, he explains.
“I have a business to run,” he says. “The thing about working for yourself is that you have all the time in the world, but you also have no time.” Besides working on engraving and calligraphy, he handles communicating and liaising with clients. “Interacting with people is nice too, but when you have many things to juggle, it can take a toll.”
It’s the love of the craft of calligraphy and the grind — the exhilaration of turning requests into reality — that keeps Wee going. “I would say that my purpose is to share the passion and love for typography,” he says. “I look at it as something more than just a service that we provide.”
Director, Rumah Bebe
While living in London with her husband, real estate broker Zephyr Eng would try to recreate, through trial and error, the flavours that reminded the couple of Singapore.
And Peranakan cuisine, with its complex flavours, was a particular favourite. Eng learnt how to prepare it from her mother and mother-in-law, whom she describes as “a true-blue Peranakan matriarch”.
“I had always thought about how I could continue this legacy that my mother-in-law had started with her passion for Peranakan crafts and cuisine,” Eng says, referring to Rumah Bebe, a Peranakan boutique and restaurant founded by her mother-in-law, Bebe Seet, in 1995.
After participating in MasterChef Singapore season 2, where she emerged a semi-finalist, Eng decided to formally integrate herself with Rumah Bebe. There, she is learning all aspects of running the business, from the kitchen to front of the house, and handling everything from menu conceptualisation to social media; she even creates the finishing touches that complete the customer experience, such as weekly-updated menus, detailed reheating instructions that are sent out with delivery orders and thoughtful thank-you cards.
“It’s not all about the food!” she says about the realisations she’s had since joining the business. “It’s about managing the staff and customers, and brainstorming creative ways of marketing our dishes, like coming up with a National Day menu in August.
“We always have to reinvent the menu for special occasions or events to keep our regulars and new customers engaged and looking forward to our next food offering.”
And Eng sees technology like Brother International’s as key to automating manual processes and streamlining workflows.
“As we rely heavily on technology to create our unique Rumah Bebe customer experience, reliable and robust office equipment and peripherals are essential for ensuring that we are able to produce high-quality creative materials efficiently.”
Eng has bold ambitions for Rumah Bebe: to become a household name in Singapore and to also expand its legacy globally.
“We want the world to experience and appreciate the richness and uniqueness of Peranakan food and heritage,” she adds.
Videography by JC Productions; photography by Felix Lee; hair & makeup by Angel Gwee (for Suhana Ab and Zephyr Eng), Ann Ling (for Clarence Valerius Wee)