Lifestyle start-up brands hit hard by stricter Covid-19 measures

Local lifestyle brands have been dealt a heavy blow by circuit breaker measures.
Local lifestyle brands have been dealt a heavy blow by circuit breaker measures.PHOTOS: MIRA, SOJAO, HUSHCANDLE/INSTAGRAM, MUYU.CO/INSTAGRAM

SINGAPORE - This year was supposed to be huge for Ms Dawn Bey and her apparel brand Minor Miracles, which was founded last October, but the coronavirus pandemic threw a wrench in her plans.

"It's quite mentally draining to strategise how to adapt our business as the situation evolves. We are quite new so it is critical for us to have sales channels to spread word of our brand," says the 29-year-old fashion design graduate.

Her retail space at Funan mall was open for less than a week before circuit breaker measures kicked in and all non-essential services ground to a halt. In response, Ms Bey has decided to use her colourful fabrics, with prints designed by herself, to produce masks instead.

She is currently paying fresh fashion design graduates from Temasek Polytechnic who cannot find a job during the crisis to produce these masks - with proceeds going to Covid-19 relief efforts.

Customers have responded well to her sale of masks - popular prints were sold out just a day after word went out.

She says: "I'm considering cutting up our existing products like our scarves to repurpose them into masks since they are more in demand now."

Like Minor Miracles, local lifestyle brands have been dealt a heavy blow as stricter measures kick in to curb the spread of the coronavirus. Many, like Ms Bey, were hit by the cancellations of major pop-ups such as that of Boutiques Fair, one of Singapore's largest and most popular shopping pop-up events.

Mrs Nupur Khemka, 35, an Indian national who lives in Singapore with her husband, is among the lifestyle entrepreneurs affected by the cancellations.

Her locally-based handmade soap business Mira was ready to take in more orders during Boutiques Fair and she had bought large amounts of raw materials to make her soaps before the event was cancelled.

"It's only the second year I'm in business and I was expecting the brand to gain more momentum, but now that has been interrupted. I was even close to getting a retail space where my customers can see the soaps, but thankfully, I did not sign the lease," she says.

Others, like bedding brand Sojao, have had to absorb rising costs and modify certain business practices.

Its founders, Ms Janice Tan and Ms Priscilla Tan, both 32, say the brand is absorbing rising delivery costs for overseas shipments.

The brand, which uses organic cotton made and grown sustainably in India, is also sending out complimentary swatches of its fabric to customers who want to feel the sheets.

"We're very lucky to have received a huge shipment of stocks right before India went into shutdown so we have enough to last us about four to six months," Ms Priscilla Tan says.

They are also offering discounts on its products for healthcare workers who can send verification of their occupation.

They hope that Singaporeans can support small local businesses when shopping online or ordering takeout food during this period.

That is also the hope of Ms Lyn Ng, 28, founder of Studio MU/YU and a maker who handcrafts wooden accessories for her brand.

She upcycles discarded wood pieces sourced from local carpenters for her pieces and used to run workshops for corporations and individuals weekly. These are all cancelled or postponed indefinitely.

Ms Ng says: "I'm losing about $10,000 of my income in total. A lot of my maker friends are taking a hit too since they cannot run workshops.

"If customers are able to, they can help by buying our products and, perhaps, instead of entirely cancelling workshops, postponing them would help too."

BRANDS TO RALLY BEHIND

In this time of crisis, every little act counts. When shopping online, support the Singapore economy and help save small business owners by shopping local. Here are eight brands to rally behind.

MINOR MIRACLES


PHOTO: MINOR MIRACLES

What: A print and textile studio which sells apparel with unique prints designed by founder Dawn Bey. It is now also selling face masks using its printed fabrics and all proceeds from the masks will go towards Covid-19 relief efforts.

Buy on the website


MIRA


PHOTO: MIRA

What: A handmade vegan soap brand which uses plant-based ingredients. All soaps are handcrafted in Singapore and free of palm oil, chemicals, artificial colours, artificial fragrances and preservatives. It also sells perfume and lotions.

Buy on the website


KINDRED TEAS


PHOTO: KINDREDTEAS/INSTAGRAM

What: A tea brand founded by Singaporean Madelene Poon, its teas come in pretty, pastel colour tins. It also has lactation teas for mothers and a series of blooming teas - with tea blooms that unfurl into a flower when infused in hot water.

Buy on the website


SOJAO


PHOTO: SOJAO

What: A bedding brand founded by two Singaporean women - its name means "go to sleep" in Hindi. Its bedsheets, pillowcases and bolster cases are made with organic cotton grown sustainably in India. It offers free delivery for local orders.

Buy on the website


OASIS SKIN


PHOTO: OASISSKIN/INSTAGRAM

What: A skincare brand that is committed to being environmentally friendly. It also ensures its products are free of chemicals.

The brand sells a wide range of beauty and lifestyle products, from solid shampoos and conditioners to facial mists, clay masks and laundry soap. They are made with plant- based ingredients and said to be cruelty-free.

Buy on the website


THE WHOLE KITCHEN


PHOTO: THE_WHOLEKITCHEN/INSTAGRAM

What: A gluten-free baked goods and snacks company in Singapore founded by a trained chef and a nutrition health coach - both Australians based here.

All of its baked goods, such as breads and muffins, and its snacks like granola are made fresh locally. Its delivery capacity has been ramped up during the coronavirus pandemic and delivery is free for orders above $45.

Buy on the website


HUSH CANDLE


PHOTO: HUSHCANDLE/INSTAGRAM

What: A brand focused on making handcrafted candles with natural soy wax instead of paraffin wax. Candles have scents like geranium and rose. It is selling a work-from- home care kit comprising a hand sanitiser and candle. There is free delivery in Singapore for orders of $40 and above. Expect a longer wait for delivery because of the pandemic.

Buy on the website


STUDIO MU/YU


PHOTO: MUYU.CO/INSTAGRAM

What: A local accessories brand which handcrafts jewellery and bags. It makes its products by upcycling wood discarded by carpenters in Singapore.

Buy on the website