Sitting across from Angie Lai-Tay, owner/buyer of Curated Editions and collaborator on Future Fashion Now, you’d never guess that this stylish, impeccably put together young businesswoman is also mom to an adorable, though sometimes rambunctious, little girl named Olivia. She just looks too young, too fresh, and too un-frazzled to be doing both! But perhaps I’m biased as most moms I know look tired all the time, and most businesswomen I know are constantly stressed... Perhaps this is why she's pursuing and doing what she loves.
Curated Editions, an online store that stocks hard to find labels such as Venna and Klutched, was started 7 months ago, on what most would call a whim. Angie was out shopping with her good friend and business partner, Tjin (of Mercury Marketing & Communications) when the latter turned to the former and simply said, “we have to start something together.” That something was the online accessories boutique, Curated Editions.
With Angie’s incredible eye for buying, her talents on the social media front, and Tjin’s incredible support and ongoing encouragement, Curated Editions has grown to the point where pieces often sell out before they even hit the internet equivalent of shelves. Demand > Supply? Not a bad problem to have if you’re a new upstart, though they are working to correct that.
Lucky me got a chance to chat with Angie, and get a first look at what’s coming up on-site soon.
So how did you decide to turn a hobby into a business? What was the push factor?
The push factor was really that fateful day shopping around in BKK while Tjin and I were there for Bangkok Fashion Week. It was utter madness, Audi Fashion Fest was coming up, we were up to our necks in things to do, and here was Tjin insisting that I start a business with her.
I’ve always loved accessories – I have so many – and people would always ask where did I get this, or where did I buy that. It was hard to explain that I don’t buy everything from one place, and it's really a kind of treasure hunt for the best pieces even in the jewelry equivalent of a rubbish dump.
With Tjin’s encouragement, I decided, hey why not? I enjoy this, other people want what I want, why not turn this into an endless shopping spree (Angie looks at me gleefully)
You’re fairly active on instagram, how has social media impacted the business landscape in Singapore?
Social media has changed the game entirely – not just for my business but in all aspects of how we receive information. Right now, I’m hardly on other websites, I just use instagram as I can do it on the go. It has helped me grow the business quickly. It has helped me connect with customers in a very immediate way. It has helped me with market research! It’s such a powerful tool.
Pictures speak a thousand words, I can convey so much more in a single picture than in a half page write up about a product. I can show people how to mix and match their accessories, I can show them how to pair it with different outfits, and I can tell the story behind the piece all at the same time. It is so direct and impactful and immediate. I’m very mindful about what I put up – every picture is actually curated before it goes up online.
AT: Oh, I agree completely, it’s almost as if you offer a personal styling portion/social service to people like me, who are complete fools when it comes to putting accessories together.
I’ve found that the personal aspect of instagram has helped to develop Curated Edition’s identity. With instagram, people can get to know the kind of woman that is behind the brand – quirky, out there with accessories, and dares to make different choices when it comes to personal style. It helps customers identify with the types of pieces I buy and whether or not it will fit in with their personal style.
Instagram also lets me interact with customers directly, I get excited when I know they’re excited about the products we have lined up for them. I still buy according to what I think fits in with the Curated Editions aesthetic, but I tweak it a little according to customer preferences. Instagram is a mini market research tool.
You have an adorable little girl, how do you balance running a business and being a hands-on mom?
Honestly, I love that what I do allows me to schedule my life around Olivia. She is my number one priority. I love the freedom and flexibility of coming into the office 3 days a week, and working from home the rest of the time to be with her.
At this age, she’s so fun to be around, she has the most hilarious stories about her classmates and her school days, and I would hate to miss out on time with her because I’m bound to a desk in an office somewhere.
That being said, now that she is in pre-school, it’s also better because she can take some of her energy out on her classmates, and I can really focus on my work during the hours that she’s away. (Angie promises to show me a picture of Olivia doing Gangnam style – I think her little girl could possibly have a shot at internet stardom)
What’s it like being able to work in the same space as a PR company, a fashion portal, and now an accessories line? (Curated Editions shares a shop house on Telok Ayer with Mercury Marketing & Communications, as well as Future Fashion Now)
It definitely helps. A lot of opportunities arise and partnerships are formed by leveraging the relationships with different clients. The many events we’ve done with other companies helps you realize new synergies. It’s great having everything under one roof, and I think more creative companies should consider a format such as this.
In fact, it would be hugely beneficial to the start up and entrepreneurship scene in Singapore if the government would provide low-cost (or better yet, no cost) shared office spaces. There is a Hong Kong property developer that has a scheme like this in HK. It lessens the financial burden on start ups, and it fosters a creative, thriving environment where people can brainstorm, bounce ideas off one another, and come up with newer, better, and greater things.
When you get creative minds working together, even if they are in seemingly different fields, well, you never know what might come out of it! In business, it’s really bad to isolate yourself.
You’re quite the style maverick in Singapore, and you’ve been chosen to be featured in the November Style issue of Her World. Tell us about your personal style.
I think I was picked because there aren’t a lot of people in Singapore who are very out there with their accessories. My husband tells me I look like a walking Christmas tree everytime I step out of the house with all these ornaments. But I love what accessories can do for your look!
My outfits tend to be very simple – the older I get and now that I have a young daughter, I prefer to keep my wardrobe season-less. I want timeless, quality pieces to pass on to my daughter. I also won’t wear things that are too intense anymore – it’s just tough to pick up a toddler in a form fitting pencil skirt.
I keep things lively by decking myself out in accessories. It's an easy way to update your look, and you can take an outfit from day to night in an instant. My advice to other young moms? UPDATE YOUR ACCESSORIES! Your kids can’t spill on your accessories and ruin them! (But they can ruin your clothes quite easily)
One piece of advice for would-be entrepreneurs?
It's important to do what you want to do, but you’ve also got to make sure you’re doing it at the right time, with the right people. Your networks are so important. My business partner, Tjin, has been an incredible support and she’s had a lot of faith in this.
Parents, teachers, society will always tell you to be a doctor, lawyer or accountant, or they'll advise you to follow this market trend or "the next big thing." Don't do that. Stick to what you love, do what makes you happy, and your chances of succeeding and living a life you love will become a lot higher.
I’m very fortunate, I’ve been able to weave all the elements of the different things I enjoy into my career – except career isn’t the right word (AT: as it denotes something linear and one dimensional?) yes precisely. What I do today pulls together all my varied experiences, my talents and leverages my skill set for the greatest amount of output. And it is fun.
Right place, right time, right people – if you get that chance, you’ve got to run with it. There’s a lot of hard work involved but it’s worth it.
AT: I asked Angie what the next big trend is in accessories – but I think the best way to find out would be to follow her on instagram where she’ll be showcasing the Paris buys while she’s there.
And just for you lucky people, she’s offering a 20% discount on ALL items on Curated Editions from now till 31st November 2012. Just key in LAVISHLEY in the “apply discount code” section before checkout :)
Don’t you guys dare say I don’t care to share the good stuff!