Sunday, December 6, 2009

Social Enterprise - The S'pore Shawl

Shelley Siu is 65 years old, but she is so elegant and energetic that one would never have guessed. She has 3 grand children, however, unlike other grannies, she is not looking after her grand kids but actively helping marginalised women.

She is the founder of The Singapore Shawl, an social enterprise which reach out to breast cancer survivors, single mothers, home-bound care-givers, the retrenched......

She is proud of her achievement as not only does her creation provides employment, it has successfully position itself as an exclusive brand of unique, elegant and eco-friendly shawls which feature the flora, fauna, history, art and cultures of Singapore.

It is not just another shawl - for it has graced the shoulders of world leaders, royalty and celebrities.

Her presentation was so interesting, spice with humour and anecdote, that she had all her audience 'captivated'. She was telling us how she pushed for bamboo fibric for her shawls in early years but it was not 'in fashion' then. She had resistant from buyers as they prefer pure silk.

Only in recent years, the eco-friendly bamboo has gain market momentum. Bamboo makes great flooring as it is naturally anti-terminate and cooling. Bamboo naturally screen off harmful UV rays, it is light and strong.

The stuff she was telling us, is new to me - about bamboo and even her product - The S'pore Shawl. I have never heard of it before, though some of the folks in the audience worn her shawls to the talk in support for her.

Perhaps because I am not into fashion and things uniquely S'pore. I thought only those food stuff (Hainanese Chicken rice, ..etc) we are arguing with Malaysia to lay claim to their origin is 'uniquely S'pore.' Never knew we make our name in area of shawl creation too. This is something to be proud off.

She shared with us the pain and frustration of being a 'small' enterprise trying to survive in the shark invested market of buyers who 'bully' those without bargaining power. She had to move her little corner away from CK Tang as they were very inflexible about rental during the financial crisis. She now has a little corner to showcase her product in Robinson who is more flexible regarding rental negotiation.

She ended her talk with a show case of her shawls. Wow - they are so beautiful and really unique. Some are collection item as only 1 piece is produced. She demonstrated the many creative ways to wear a shawl. Even men can use them and look good. Many in the audience got excited and started snapping away with their cameras. I am not sure if the ladies in the audience were more excited or the men. Shelley was so gracious and moved nearer to them, posing so that they could get a good picture.

The next time I visit a shop carrying her produce - I will stop by to admire her handicrafts. Shelley is an workaholic, she stays up into the wee hours of the morning like 5 am to create her shawl design. Likely, seldom is a shawl created with so much passion.

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