COVID-19 SPECIAL

From leather gift products to hand sanitiser holders: Allowing craftsmen to stay active and purposeful

Stacks of cut masks from bespoke tailor CYC Tailor, whose main business before the coronavirus pandemic was producing men's shirts. Carry your hand sanitiser in style with a leather handcrafted sanitiser holder by Bynd Artisan. Bynd Artisan founders
Carry your hand sanitiser in style with a leather handcrafted sanitiser holder by Bynd Artisan.PHOTO: BYND ARTISAN

Hand hygiene just got a lot more luxe. Within a week, local leather gifting brand Bynd Artisan went from crafting customised notebooks to European leather hand sanitiser holders.

It was to keep its team of 12 craftsmen, half of whom are aged above 50, active and purposeful, says co-founder Winnie Chan.

The bookbinding boss, who is in her late 40s, landed on the idea after buying hand sanitisers in bulk to distribute to her staff. Its senior craftsman later designed the mould for the hand sanitiser holders.

That was before circuit breaker measures were first announced on April 3, mandating that Bynd Arti-san's five ateliers close on April 7.

In three days, the team scrambled to pull together take-home kits for the craftsmen. Inside were punching tools, cutting boards, leather pieces and the holder mould to trace and cut out.

On April 8, the team got on a Zoom conference call for a refresher on how to make the leather holders.

Among them was its oldest craftsman, a 78-year-old named Mr B.C. Chong, who had undergone open-heart surgery in February and been on medical leave, but requested to join the call.

"When he heard we were doing this, he said, 'I want to do it as well'," says Ms Chan. "He has a purpose - to show solidarity and that active ageing is possible.

"I think we all want to feel useful - especially during this time when (everyone) worries for the company. So to be able to have that sense of usefulness and being able to contribute, I think, does a lot for their mental well-being."

Stacks of cut masks from bespoke tailor CYC Tailor, whose main business before the coronavirus pandemic was producing men's shirts. Carry your hand sanitiser in style with a leather handcrafted sanitiser holder by Bynd Artisan. Bynd Artisan founders
Bynd Artisan founders Winnie Chan and James Quan (in black) with chief learning officer Grace Chai and master craftsman B.C. Chong (both with aprons). PHOTO: BYND ARTISAN

Crafting from home, most had no problem adapting to making new products, says Ms Chan.

In fact, a hand sanitiser holder comes pretty close to AirPod holders - which the brand had planned a public workshop for in March. Both have an opening at the bottom - for the hand sanitiser bottle cap to go through as well as the lightning cable charger for the AirPod, she adds.

 
 
 

A few hundred orders for the leather holders have already been fulfilled and they have received positive feedback, says Ms Chan.

The pocket-sized gifts are priced at $48 each and comes with a free hand sanitiser, local shipping and name personalisation (which usually costs $30).

Each one also comes with a message card with the name of the craftsman who made it, for a personal touch. One craftsman was even sent a dim sum treat by the happy customer.

"As business owners, we need to make sure whatever offerings we have are relevant to our customers. There is no point for us to push a passport holder at this time when travel is not possible - it's the wrong time," she says.

Acknowledging the need to think about life beyond the circuit breaker, she dropped hints about upcoming designs for a fashion accessory "that can match my outfit and still keep me safe".

"There are a lot of things we're trying to anticipate our community would need in today's new normal world," she adds.

"Bynd Artisan's purpose has always been to make gifting meaningful and this is our way to let our customers send love to people they care about during this time apart."

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 01, 2020, with the headline 'Allowing craftsmen to stay active and purposeful'. Subscribe