Purses of heritage

The Poh Sim clutch (left) from the Ong Shunmugam x Bynd Artisan capsule collection.
"We both covered each other's blind spots quite well." — FASHION DESIGNER PRISCILLA SHUNMUGAM (left) on how the collaboration with book-binding company Bynd Artisan, founded by Winnie Chan (right), was a success
The Poh Sim clutch (left) from the Ong Shunmugam x Bynd Artisan capsule collection.
The Poh Sim clutch (above) from the Ong Shunmugam x Bynd Artisan capsule collection. PHOTOS: DIOS VINCOY JR FOR THE STRAITS TIMES


For the past three years, Ms Priscilla Shunmugam had been thinking about launching an accessories collection to complement her fashion label Ong Shunmugam.

Last year, the opportunity to do so arose after she was approached by an unlikely collaborator - book-binding company Bynd Artisan.

Its founder Winnie Chan, in her 40s, had long admired Ms Shunmugam's label because of its modern spin on classic designs and traditional fabrics, which she found similar to Bynd Artisan's modern take on leather craft and book- binding.

Ms Chan's grandfather founded the Goy Liang Book-Making Company in 1942, which was renamed as Grandluxe in 1978. She joined the family book-binding business in 1994 and set up Bynd Artisan in 2014, with a focus on personalised notebooks and stationery.

Ms Shunmugam, 34, took up Ms Chan's offer to collaborate and decided to produce a capsule collection of clutches as she felt it was a natural extension of her fashion designs. She is known for her modern take on cheongsam and statement dresses made of traditional Asian textiles.

The Ong Shunmugam x Bynd Artisan capsule collection comprises nine clutch designs in two different styles - the Shao Xia and the larger Poh Sim, which are named after the mothers of Ms Chan and Ms Shunmugam respectively in a tribute to their heritage.

The Shao Xia clutch features intricate lace fabric layered over a matching coloured cloth, while the Poh Sim features contrasting patterned fabrics on either side.

The clutches are fully lined with nappa leather; the lining of two Poh Sim clutches is dyed a bright orangey red, with the clutch frame wrapped in matching leather.

The fabrics are from Ms Shunmugam's personal collection of fabrics, some of which are vintage and from Japan, South Korea, India, China, Cambodia and Indonesia.

The clutches, which cost $680 each, are available at the Bynd Artisan store in Holland Village and at Atelier Ong Shunmugam in Raffles Quay.

Ms Chan left the design to Ms Shunmugam, while she advised the fashion designer on the technical aspects and qualities of working with leather.

Ms Shunmugam, who had no prior experience working with leather, says the collaboration worked "because we both covered each other's blind spots quite well".

She adds that the collaboration was a chance for her to test the market before deciding whether to launch a permanent accessories collection.

"I suppose you can always have ideas, but you will not know the possibility until you actually do it," she says.

Ms Chan, who has collaborated with creative types such as creative director Larry Peh of &Larry design studio and photographer John Clang, says: "We want to work with people from different industries because when you have different backgrounds and world views coming together, innovation can happen."

Alyssa Woo

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on February 04, 2016, with the headline 'Purses of heritage'. Print Edition | Subscribe