A maker of handmade jewellery with an industrial edge, Gin Tan is the founder of Singapore-based label Yard Yarn. We caught up with her in her home-based studio to discover the story behind her brand.
How she started her label…
I graduated from Temasek Design School in 2007 and began to hunt for a career in the design industry. Eventually I found a job overseas, but my family weren’t keen on me living outside of Singapore at the time so I didn’t take up the opportunity. I kept myself busy with a part-time job before I found a full-time retail sales role with a local label called All Dressed Up. After that, I progressed to become a Visual Merchandiser for eight years.
I started Yard Yarn during a transition period in my career and was inspired to make a few accessories using parts that I’d found in Hong Kong. After a lot of experimentation — and a few entrepreneurial ups and downs! — I launched our first capsule collection in 2015.
What she’s inspired by…
Our jewellery is influenced by forms from the natural world. We modify and interpret the shapes of flora and fauna, and then I source and choose the most appropriate materials to create the form. We experiment a lot with different hardware and coloured textiles too. Overall, I aim for my designs to feel free and fluid for the wearer.
Her design process…
I always push myself to think further with how I can use our materials. The questions that run through my mind will always be: “Can I build them? Can I thread them? Can I break them up?” What’s more, it’s important to me that our pieces are comfortable to wear, and long-wearing and lightweight too. Virtually all our designs weigh 100g and below.
I will start dissecting them on paper like solving an algebra question. Gradually the flow from a small part will be drafted into design sketches that serve as guide to me when I get hands-on.
Transparency is important to her because…
I choose to be honest and upfront about our practices as a brand, because that’s the type of company I want to build. It also helps to build a trusting relationship with our customers.
I also think the fashion industry has become way too commercialised. So many people buy an item and don’t know where it’s from or how it’s made. As a company that makes everything by hand, we’re able to showcase the crafting process through the content we put out, which educates our customers about the time and effort it takes for each piece to be made. It ignites a totally different kind of appreciation for the final product.
“I choose to be honest and upfront about our practices as a brand, because that’s the type of company I want to build.”
Her advice for aspiring entrepreneurs…
To have a positive attitude. Despite working in such a competitive industry, I always remind myself to look on the bright side even if something isn’t working out in my favour.
What keeps her driven…
Nothing inspires me more than when a customer loves their purchase! It’s hugely motivational for me to continue doing what I do.
Her tips for living a more conscious lifestyle…
- Digital design drawings. So I can save paper as often as possible.
- Alter clothes instead of throwing them out.
- I always look for cruelty-free cosmetics.
- Bring my own reusable shopping bag for groceries.
- If I’m looking to buy a new product, I read up about the source and origins first.
Susannah believes better design can help create a brighter future. A former magazine editor, she now runs ZERRIN and works at the intersection of consumers, brands and sustainability advocacy.