Rising lifestyle brands take a hit

This year was supposed to be huge for Ms Dawn Bey and her apparel brand Minor Miracles, which was founded last October, but the coronavirus pandemic threw a wrench in her plans.

"It's quite mentally draining to strategise how to adapt our business as the situation evolves. We are quite new so it is critical for us to have sales channels to spread the word of our brand," says the 29-year-old fashion design graduate.

Her retail space at Funan mall was open for less than a week before circuit breaker measures kicked in and all non-essential services ground to a halt. In response, Ms Bey has decided to use her colourful fabrics, with prints designed by herself, to produce masks instead.

Like Minor Miracles, local lifestyle brands have been dealt a heavy blow as stricter measures kick in to curb the spread of the coronavirus. Many, like Ms Bey, were hit by the cancellations of major pop-ups such as that of Boutique Fairs, one of Singapore's largest and most popular shopping pop-up events.

Mrs Nupur Khemka, 35, an Indian national who lives in Singapore with her husband, is among the lifestyle entrepreneurs affected by the cancellations.

Her locally based handmade soap business Mira was ready to take in more orders during Boutique Fairs and she had bought large amounts of raw materials before the event was cancelled.

"It's only the second year I'm in business and I was expecting the brand to gain more momentum, but now that has been interrupted. I was even close to getting a retail space where my customers can see the soaps, but thankfully, I did not sign the lease," she says.

Others, like bedding brand Sojao, have had to absorb rising costs and modify certain business practices.

Its founders, Ms Janice Tan and Ms Priscilla Tan, both 32, say the brand is absorbing rising delivery costs for overseas shipments.

The brand, which uses organic cotton made and grown sustainably in India, is also sending complimentary swatches of its fabric to customers who want to feel the sheets.

"We're very lucky to have received a huge shipment of stocks right before India went into shutdown so we have enough to last us for about four to six months," Ms Priscilla Tan says.

They are also offering discounts on their products for healthcare workers who can send verification of their occupation.

They hope that Singaporeans can support small local businesses when shopping online or ordering takeout food during this period.

That is also the hope of Ms Lyn Ng, 28, who is founder of Studio MU / YU and handcrafts wooden accessories for her brand.

She upcycles discarded wood pieces sourced from local carpenters for her pieces and used to run workshops for corporations and individuals weekly. These have all been cancelled or postponed indefinitely.

Ms Ng says: "I'm losing about $10,000 of my income in total. A lot of my maker friends are taking a hit too as they cannot run workshops.

"If customers are able to, they can help by buying our products and, perhaps, instead of entirely cancelling workshops, postponing them would help too."

This article was first published in Straits Times.

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