Better By Design

Eden + Elie’s Founder Believes Strongly In The Need For More Social Good

Stephanie Choo’s jewellery brand employs the marginalised and those with autism, even as she slakes her innate curiosity.

Eden + Elie’s Founder Believes Strongly In The Need For More Social Good
Stephanie Choo, founder of Eden + Elie.

Growing up, Stephanie Choo was a reticent child, slow to warm up to others. Rather than being aloof, she says that she was always observing her surroundings, trying to make sense of everything around her. Curiosity was her best friend. These qualities stuck with her even after she became an adult.

While her inquisitiveness and sharp eye for detail eventually helped her become an architect, they also forged within her an empathy for the less fortunate whom she never failed to notice during her travels.

“I think good design isn’t about making up something otherworldly or outlandish in your head. It’s simply about finding inspiration from your surroundings,” says Choo. “Inspiration can come from something familiar, something that resonates in your soul, something that makes you go, ‘I know this somehow, but I never thought it could look like this or be this way.’”

It was a wave of inspiration in 2015 that led to her connecting the dots between two things she has always felt strongly about — design and the need for more social good.

The result was Eden + Elie, a jewellery brand offering contemporary accessories handcrafted by artisans who have autism or individuals from marginalised communities. Hiring the former, says Choo, is not an act of pity. The common qualities these individuals purportedly share are ideal in a jewellery artisan.

“Consistent focus, attention to detail and the aptitude for repetitive, meticulous work is exactly what makes them excellent artisans,” explains Choo.

Named after her two children, Eden and Eliot, the jewellery brand had only a necklace and bangle to show for its first collection. Faced with a tight budget, Choo took all the product photos and wrote the copy for the website. She also relied primarily on word of mouth for publicity. Naturally, her friends became her first customers. They were also her harshest critics.

“I learnt a lot in the early days by listening to their honest, no-holds-barred feedback. I’ve since adopted the mindset to treat all my customers like my friends and to listen to opinions,” she says.

It was a tough slog, but her willingness to listen has evidently paid off. In May 2019, Eden + Elie had the honour of displaying its pieces at the Peranakan Festival Exhibition and Fashion Showcase in Chengdu, China. Later that year, the brand was a finalist in the President’s Challenge Social Enterprise Award.

Today, the brand’s creations are stocked at locations such as Design Orchard and Gift by Changi Airport at Jewel, as well as international platforms, including global online marketplace Wolf & Badger. It has also designed a limited-edition series inspired by the Blue Kebaya for Singapore Airlines.

Looking ahead, Choo envisions that Eden + Elie can be much more than just a jewellery brand, and that the future path of the company would likely be determined by the sense of curiosity that has guided her so far. The ethos, however, will never change.

“The goal is simple,” she says. “We are here to help create a better world.”

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