SME Spotlight

Making eco-friendly jewellery trendy

Ms Elaine Tan has been making jewellery since she was a teenager and finally took the plunge to start her own business a few years ago. The 30-year-old, who is behind the brand Amado Gudek, talks to Sabrina Theseira about expanding her company and dealing with copycats in the last of a four-part series about small local companies that are big on intellectual property.

Founder of Amado Gudek Elaine Tan prefers to create unique jewellery designs. Currently, she is planning to start a new brand that focuses on producing men's cufflinks.
Founder of Amado Gudek Elaine Tan prefers to create unique jewellery designs. Currently, she is planning to start a new brand that focuses on producing men's cufflinks. ST PHOTO: LAU FOOK KONG

Q How did you get into jewellery design and when did you decide to start your own company?

A I started making jewellery when I was 17 years old and I was inspired to do so after my mother took me to a bead shop in Chinatown.

I was mostly self-taught at the start, but later on attended a jewellery-making course at Central St Martins in London in the summer of 2010.

This was after I graduated from Istituto Marangoni with a master's in luxury brand management.

Making jewellery was my hobby for 10 years before I decided to start my company in 2014.

When choosing the name for my new label, I wanted something that would remind myself of my time and experience in London.

Thus, I took the surnames of my two best friends from school, Amanda Amado and Sibel Gudek, and formed the brand name Amado Gudek.

Q How has the company grown over the years?

A The company is only three years old and we still have a long way to learn and grow.

In 2014, I started out at a co-working space known as Mettle Work.

Initially, without a regular income, I struggled to cover the rent and costs incurred during production. Starting out as a one-man show was tough, as this meant that I often fumbled in unfamiliar areas and could not focus my time on my forte of branding and design.

In 2015, I moved to a full unit in Chancerlodge Complex, an industrial building in Sims Avenue. There, I invested in a proper production system with the machines needed to carry out jewellery production.

I also hired part-timers so that I could focus more on designing.

Currently, I have four part-timers on board with me, including three production staff and one operations staff member.

Q How do you make your brand unique?

A I try to differentiate my brand with the types of material that we use, as well as through injecting meaning into my jewellery designs.

We use eco-friendly bioresin, sourced from California, in our production.

The renewable material found in the bioresin eliminates harmful by-products and reduces greenhouse gas emissions during the production process.

I also try to create conversational designs that hold a message or have a story to tell.

In one of my capsule collections, titled Drift Away, I used natural driftwood.

The organic form and pattern of driftwood means no two pieces are alike. This symbolises the need for us to remain our truest selves amidst the societal pressures of living in a fast-paced city.

Q Have you run into any copyright issues and how do you intend to protect your designs?

A So far, I have not had anyone try to copy my design.

In this day and age, I understand that it is very easy for others to copy my designs. This is why I try to design things so that they are distinct, intricate and hard to copy.

Having my own production facility means that I have the flexibility to make changes quickly, allowing me to stay ahead of the copycats.

For Amado Gudek, I do not outsource my jewellery production to factories overseas. This reduces the risk of having my designs copied.

My brand means so much to me because of the values that it stands for.

I realised that if I was going to do this for the long haul, I would have to protect the uniqueness of my brand. That is why I decided to trademark my brand in June last year.

Q Recently, there was an update to the Registered Designs Regime. One important feature is allowing the designer of a commissioned design to be the owner by default. Another includes broadening the scope of registrable designs to include handcrafted items.

How will the update affect designers such as yourself?

A Allowing the credit for a commissioned design to go to the designer is very important to me as a designer and business owner.

In this industry, those with the necessary funds can commission our designs and designers are often left uncredited.

Knowing that we are now being viewed as serious business people rather than hobbyists is uplifting. Designers will be able to assert themselves and build a real business.

We can now also use all our designs to build up our portfolio, whether they are commissioned or not.

Now that the designs of artisanal and handcrafted items can be registered, it will also encourage designers in these areas to come up with more interesting designs.

Q What are your plans for growing the company?

A My vision for the company is to have a diverse portfolio of brands that targets different sectors of the market, while using the same production system.

I will start by anchoring the local market and meeting my Singapore sales targets.

I will then look into collaborating with local partners to diversify the business.

Establishing alliances with overseas partners to source for new raw materials and opening more outlets locally and overseas is also a strong possibility.

Right now, I am planning to start a new brand that focuses on producing men's cufflinks.

The brand is called Analog Cufflinks and the sales will be conducted online, where customers can choose the shape, size and style of the cufflinks. I am working with a 3D technology company, VastPotato, to produce the website and I am aiming to launch it by October this year.

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 19, 2017, with the headline Making eco-friendly jewellery trendy. Subscribe