The global outlook on consumer spending may be less than peachy when it comes to fashion retail, but that didn’t stop customers from buying five times more of the brand’s beloved Dumpling bags during the circuit breaker.
“The performance of the dumpling bags exceeded our expectations,” said Daniel Chew and Rebecca Ting, the husband and wife duo behind the Singaporean brand Beyond The Vines. “We were definitely surprised, because the dumpling bags are not new — they were launched at the end of last year. We only made the decision to place the spotlight on the bags during the circuit breaker period because while most people weren’t buying ready-to-wear, bags were still a necessary and functional accessory.”
The Dumpling bag went on to become a collector’s item, with new iterations released by the duo each season. It’s loved for a multitude of reasons: it’s lightweight, deceptively spacious, can be folded into a compact square, and can be worn in a myriad of way that go from crossbody bags that street-savvy teens sport to simple handbags for the contemporary woman going out to high tea.
Beyond being a best-selling hit for the brand, the Dumpling bag is a testimony to Chew and Ting’s “good design for all” ethos.
“From the beginning, it was always our goal to make good design accessible to all,” they tell us in an email interview. “To be honest, the simpler the design, the harder it is to execute it well, because there are no frills or layers to hide behind. It is also our guiding principle that our designs allow space for individual expression. It’s always been important to us that the wearer wears the clothes and not vice versa. We think of our designs as building blocks in a wardrobe.”
Amidst the grim reports of closures and the great migration of retail onto the online sphere, Chew and Ting decided to cut against the grain in not one, but two major brand decisions: firstly, that they would rebrand Beyond The Vines; and that they would open a physical boutique as well as debuting their new collection, In Plain Sight.
“Our decision to rebrand was already been in the works since 2019,” the pair admitted. “But the Covid-19 pandemic made us think about the new identity we were working on, and how we could use our brand to make an impact.”
The new collection, called In Plain Sight, expands on Chew and Ting’s womenswear capabilities and now offers menswear and lifestyle products as well. Located in Ngee Ann City, the store stands out from the crowd easily with its fetching bright turquoise exterior, and as you meander through the spacious unit, you’re greeted with everything from original art prints, glassware and branded duct tape to utilitarian jackets for the guys and minimalist dresses in searing shades of yellow, apricot and grass green. And yes, there’s a whole wall dedicated to their fan-favourite bags too.
Reflecting on how they had to transition their team from just designing womenswear into a fully-realized design studio that encompasses men’s and lifestyle designs, Chew and Ting admitted that “the change of perspective was most vital in this. We needed to shift our perspective that as we’re now a design studio, we think about the wearer’s way of life beyond what they’re wearing. We create and design products to suit or represent a certain way of life and lifestyle. Our thinking and approach are more purposeful and all-encompassing – we think about what bag they’ll carry with that garment, what cup they will use, what other non-apparel products will fit in that way of life.”
It’s also this sense of adaptibility that’s helped the brand weather the storm earlier this year.
“[The pandemic] impacted the business for sure,” they shared. “For instance we noticed a drop in our sales of ready-to-wear items ever since people started to work from home, so we shifted our focus to selling products like our dumpling bags and invested more on our online channel.”
They also began a series of Instagram Live sessions, which they had not done prior to circuit breaker. Reflecting on the experience, they revealed that “the live-streams were very personal and intimate — they featured our staff sharing styling advice, or giving updates and sneak previews of upcoming items. Doing this really allowed us to peel the layers off and connect with our customers on a whole new level. We got to know them more and what they were thinking, why they were buying what they were buying, what they wanted to see from the brand, and so on. It really became a two-way conversation and I think that was something that was lacking before.”
Perhaps that’s the secret to successfully selling in a retail slump: having that mutual communication with your customer and listening to their needs at that very moment. As the pair puts it, the future “will be exciting to see how brands evolve to meet the needs of the people and the future generations through this pandemic. With the shaking, it will remove what isn’t necessary so that what is lasting will remain.”