In the heart of Singapore, nestled within the charming precinct of Neil Road, lies a meticulously restored shophouse that serves as the new atelier for Carrie K, a fine jewellery brand that has not only adorned individuals with exquisite pieces but has also become a custodian of local tales. The journey of Carrie K is inseparable from the visionary behind its creation – Carolyn Kan, a luminary in the world of jewellery design. Established in 2009, Carrie K stands as a testament to Kan’
’s unwavering commitment to intertwining tradition with modern allure. The recent relocation of the atelier into a shophouse, a relic from the Urban Redevelopment Authority’s pioneering conservation efforts in the 1980s, adds a touch of historical richness to the brand’s narrative. With an emphasis on local narratives, her collections breathe life into modernised renditions of jade and draw inspiration from the rich tapestry of traditional Asian motifs. Each piece is a manifestation of Kan’s dedication to preserving heritage while seamlessly weaving it into the fabric of contemporary design. In an exclusive interview, Kan opened up about the evolution of her design sensibilities. She delved into the art of marrying time-honoured motifs with the allure of modern, covetable designs. The state of affairs “After eight years at the National Design Centre, we’re so excited to share our new home at a historic shophouse at 77B Neil Road. It’s a beautiful district and so much of it aligns with our brand and identity,” she told Inside Retail. Kan revealed that the team tailored the space inside the atelier in response to discussions with its clients, demonstrating a keen understanding of their wants and needs. She wanted to create a space that customers will love to visit, much like a friend’s luxurious home. Neil Road and the surrounding Keong Saik Road and Duxton Hill area is a hotbed of high-profile food and beverage entities – Michelin-starred restaurants, artisanal bakeries, specialty cafes, and top cocktail bars pepper the streets surrounding the atelier. “We were also sure to carve out new private spaces nestled in the atelier, which allows for intimate bridal or engagement appointments, as well as gemstone and styling workshops,” she added. All these high touch points were created so clients have the space and time to gain an even deeper understanding and appreciation of the jewellery that the team creates, as well as the stories and meanings behind them. “One of the other new elements we have introduced in the new atelier is our Jewel Bar of Wearable Wishes, the centrepiece and heart of the space. It houses our range of fine jewellery pieces that reimagine traditional Asian stories and customs into modern and versatile designs, or what we call wearable wishes,” she noted. Interestingly, all of the brand’s highly-customisable selection of jewellery — including necklaces, earrings, bracelets, bangles, and rings — feature transformable or modular elements that enable the wearer to stack, layer and mix and match to their heart’s content, so it can be dressed up for a big day, or down for casual everyday wear. An evolution While many retailers are shifting their focus to e-commerce, Carrie K is doubling down on the in-person experience, and the new atelier is proof of that. “We want to focus on a high-touch experience, one that’s both luxurious and deeply personal, allowing us to get to know our customers and share with them the meaningful stories and craftsmanship that goes into our jewellery. It is that focus that we feel differentiates us from other retailers, and is a key milestone in our brand journey,” she opined. There is also a new beverage bar for guests to take a welcome drink, a couch for friends to mingle, or for a gentleman to wait for his beau, and even an intimate dining space that doubles up as a space for intimate VIP showcases of the latest collections or Carrie K’s Gem Workshops. Kan wants her jewellery to be more than just adornments — she wants them to be both precious and meaningful. “We see that there’s a rising trend of provenance among consumers, especially younger ones today, and they want to know all about their heritage and history, and to be connected to it in some tangible way, and our pieces address this desire,” she stressed. For example, one of its latest collections, the Lotus collection, takes inspiration from the lotus flower and symbolises the wish for harmony, whether for the wearer or the recipient. “We chose the lotus to represent this wish because in Mandarin, the word lotus (荷 花, hé huā) sounds phonetically similar to harmony (和谐 hé xié), embodying that wish for unity and peace,” she elaborated. Trends in the marketplace In recent times, Kan has seen a rising trend of intergenerational jewellery. For example, mums wanting to pass their own heritage pieces down to their daughters, or women buying jewellery for themselves with the desire to pass it down to their children. This is why Kan has focused on creating jewellery with meaningful stories that will transcend generations. “We have leveraged on universal truths that appeal to young and old: namely, the heritage stories that form our collections are about love, friendship, harmony, and so on. These stories are relevant to all regardless of age, ethnicity or cultural background,” she added. Kan also said it is also important to bridge traditional craftsmanship and contemporary designs by introducing the relevance of time-honoured techniques and materials into the modern day. “We do this by taking things that are conventionally seen as “old-fashioned”, such as pearls and jade, and incorporating them into versatile, wearable designs that embody the wishes that anyone today will be able to resonate with,” she noted. Kan is keen to grow the brand beyond Singapore’s borders, and by working closely with her overseas partners, she hopes to bring the Carrie K experience abroad by the end of 2024 or the start of 2025.