Bynd Artisan duo carry on nearly 80-year family legacy

The co-founders of Bynd Artisan, Ms Winnie Chan and Mr James Quan, at the brand's flagship atelier in Holland Village. A third of Bynd Artisan's staff are men and women above the age of 50, and many who have mastered the tricks of the leather-working
Ms Winnie Chan and Mr James Quan have worked together as co-founders and brand owners since 2012.ST PHOTO: ARIFFIN JAMAR

For Ms Winnie Chan and Mr James Quan, their brand Bynd Artisan is not only a labour of love, but also part of a long legacy that has spanned close to 80 years. The husband and wife duo - who co-founded the brand in 2012 - started the business as an experiential retail concept.

But while customers might know their brand for its chic, personalised notebooks and customised leather goods, few might know just how intertwined the company's brand is with a traditional craft business whose history spans decades.

"It started with my grandfather, Mr Chan Koon Seng, who founded a small bindery workshop back in 1942. We have since drawn inspiration from the hand-designed, traditional bookmaking methods and machinery we used back in those days, with the skills of our older craftsmen really taking centre stage (in our products)," said Ms Chan.

A third of Bynd Artisan's staff are men and women above the age of 50, and many who have mastered the tricks of the leather-working and crafting trade continue honing their skills at the brand's ateliers.

Bynd Artisan was one of the 48 pioneer recipients of the "Made With Passion" Singapore brand mark launched yesterday. These local lifestyle brands were chosen for their strong connection to Singapore.

For Bynd Artisan, leveraging on a rich home-grown tradition has definitely paid off.

From a relatively far-flung workshop space at the Chan family's factory in Boon Lay, Bynd Artisan's business has since flourished: It now has a flagship atelier in Holland Village, which opened in 2015.

In 2017 and 2018, Bynd Artisan also opened retail stores in shopping malls such as Ion Orchard, Takashimaya and Raffles City.

The couple's willingness to adapt is apparent from how the brand has quickly pushed out products and programmes that cater to customers amid the pandemic, such as customised leather hand sanitiser holders. They also offer virtual workshops by shipping tools and kits to participants and live-streaming the process from its atelier.

"We saw the Covid-19 pandemic not only as a challenge, but (also) as an accelerator. We are so honoured to be one of the first brands to receive the brand mark. It is now on us to do better, and to make it work," Mr Quan said.

"I would say that our growth has involved a series of continual pivots, whether it be with our product range or adjusting to the online environment. We have had to keep evolving, while staying true to our ethos: to create, with great passion at the core of what we do."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 21, 2020, with the headline 'Bynd Artisan duo carry on nearly 80-year family legacy'. Print Edition | Subscribe