Three years ago, Ms Danelle Woo's husband gave her a blank notebook as a present, with a little note of encouragement that he had written inside.
At the time, the founder of womenswear brand Aijek was struggling with her fledgling brand, which she had started a year earlier. She was living in China and was in the process of moving from Shanghai to Guangzhou because of her Singaporean husband's work. Not only was she having a hard time finding new suppliers for Aijek in Guangzhou, she was also juggling her young business with looking after her son, who was then three years old.
In the end, everything worked out and Ms Woo, 36, now carries that thoughtful gift around with her every day. She had kept it unused for sentimental reasons, but recently decided to use it as the pages were turning yellow.
It is filled with intricate sketches and colourful swatches - testament to how busy she has been with her successful label.
The brand was recently offered a permanent store space at department store Tangs, making it just one of three local labels to be permanently stocked there. The other two labels are In Good Company and Coats. The rest of the local labels there occupy temporary pop-up spaces.
MS DANELLE WOO'S BAG
"I bought this bag from Givenchy as a reward for myself after Aijek did very well last year. I've owned it for about half a year. As I'm always dressed in black and white, it adds a nice pop of colour to my outfit."
Tangs first offered her a 332 sq ft pop-up space last November for three months. Within two months, Aijek had doubled the sales target set by Tangs management and was subsequently offered a two-year permanent contract to occupy a 500 sq ft space there. Tangs and Aijek declined to reveal sales figures.
7 Things In The Bag
1. AIJEK CATALOGUE
I have this with me because I'm going for a meeting at Tangs.
2. AIJEK S/S15 JACKET
Singapore weather is very erratic - it can get really hot but also really cold sometimes. This polyester jacket comes in handy because it is lightweight and stylish.
3. FASHIONARY NOTEBOOK
My husband bought this for me from Hong Kong when I was having a rough time with the brand. It has a nice little note inside that he wrote to remind me not to give up. I use it as a sketchbook and I also put fabric swatches in it.
4. LITTLE NOTEBOOK
This is for me to take notes during meetings.
5. PRADA PURSE
My first designer treat to myself. I bought it in Tokyo. I like it because it is huge and has two coin pouches. This is very useful for me as I travel a lot and I can carry two currencies in it.
6. TEENAGE MUTANT NINJA TURTLE FOOT SOLDIER TOY AND CARDS
My six-year-old son, Kai, always throws his stuff into my bag, especially when I'm travelling.
He says it'll help me remember him when I'm out or when I'm overseas.
7. TAPE MEASURE
This was handmade in Italy. It's cool because its leather cover has no seams. My husband got it for me and I bring it everywhere.
Tangs' fashion merchandising manager Lynn Khoo says: "The brand is very well-received by our shoppers because of its distinct combination of feminine aesthetics and modern silhouettes. The pieces work for both day and night, and their use of natural silk fibres means they age beautifully and have great wardrobe longevity."
Aijek is known for its comfortable feminine silhouettes made with high-quality silks and laces.
Prices range from US$139 (S$196) for a contrast-seam camisole to US$549 for an intricate lace maxi dress. The brand also accepts made-to-measure requests.
Prior to being stocked at Tangs, Aijek was sold online and at seven multi-label boutiques locally. It is also sold in the United States, Hong Kong, China and Indonesia at independent multi-label boutiques. The brand has been carried internationally since it started in Shanghai in 2011.
It was growing at a rate of 50 per cent year on year before its arrival at Tangs. Since then, it has seen another 50 per cent increase in local revenue.
Ms Woo, a self-taught designer, says her aim is to create timeless designs that are not constrained by seasonal trends, pieces that one can pull out of the wardrobe and still wear five years down the road.
She says plans are underway to launch a ready-to-wear evening and wedding line.
She also would like to globalise the brand by focusing on further expansion within Asia, especially in China, where the brand first started. And with the rising middle class there looking for quality and affordability, she is certain that Aijek will do well.
"I think it's important that we don't do fast fashion and we want something that is more precious."