THE CARRIE K. WOMAN

carrie k

In her former life, founder and designer of Carrie K., Carolyn Kan was a marketer for a big corporation. But in 2008, her creativity beckoned and she happily stumbled upon learning to silver smith in Florence. It was in her teachers studio that Carolyn decided to take the leap and followed her creative drive and Carrie K. was born the following year. Her business know-how coupled with her natural eye for design and craftsmanship make Carrie K. unstoppable. We talk to Carolyn about how Carrie K. came to be, what inspires her designs and who the Carrie K. woman is.

What drew you to the design world?           

I have always loved to design and make things with my hands. When I was younger, I wanted to be an interior designer but my mother suggested that I get a “proper” degree in order to get a “real job”. It took me a while but I have become what I always wanted to be – a designer and artisan. Before this, I was running an advertising agency for 5 years and that is where I honed my knowledge in design, marketing and branding. Fortunately, the long route has helped me tremendously in building Carrie K.

Tell us all about learning to silversmith in Florence?

My journey of learning to silversmith in Florence was a happy accident.

In 2008, I decided to go on a year-long sabbatical from the corporate race to do all the things I had promised myself I would do “one day”. When I was in Florence, I met a silversmith who taught me how to make jewellery.

I was in my teacher’s workshop putting the final touches to my first ring. The rain had just stopped and the sun shone through the window as I looked up at my work. I had this overwhelming sense of happiness and I knew then that I wanted to be a silversmith and jewellery designer and Carrie K. was born in July 2009.

Going from a corporate life to an artistic life is a big change, what's the best part about working as a designer? And what do you miss most about the corporate world?

The best part is being able to create things with my hands and fulfilling my passion as a jewellery designer. And starting my journey as a silver smith and designer in Florence has had profound impact on me. It really ignited my passion for artisan craftsmanship.

I noticed during my travels that there was a lot of traditionally designed artisan-crafted jewelery and the playful designs with a sense of humour tended to be poorly finished fast fashion accessories. I realized then that there was a gap in the middle. Carrie K is that unusual marriage of playfully provocative design and artisan craftsmanship. And there is a growing demand for well-crafted jewelery that has a meaningful and relevant story that is unique. In fact, we have grown our product offering and launched Carrie K fine jewelery featuring precious metals and gems and we now offer bespoke design services for fine jewelery that reflect our signature playfulness and wit.

Our designs aim to challenge traditional notions of what makes something precious and desired. We see beauty in impoerfection, marvel at the mundane in everyday life and celebrate what is real rather than what seems flawless. Showing people the beauty in things they didn’t previously appreciate or inspiring people to see things differently is what I really enjoy.

I don’t miss the corporate world. When I was working for a corporation, life felt so serious. In this second life, I knew I wanted to be a positive force to sprinkle a bit of playful optimism around me by helping others see the potential in the world and people around us and nurture that potential. And what better place to start than in one of the stuffiest categories of all – jewellery. Carrie K. also started an initiative called KEEPERS to showcase and grow an appreciation for the work of independent designers and artisans. What started as a quarterly showcase at the Carrie K. Atelier has grown into a concept store at Orchard Road. There we showcase just Singapore Designers and artisans and the KEEPERS: Singapore Designer Collective will be there until 15th Jan, 2016.

If you could describe Carrie K in 5 words, what would they be?

Artisanal, Playful, Provocative, Thoughtful, Storyteller.

What pieces would we see you most commonly wearing?

Recently it would have been the Razor Cuff, Leather Nut and Bolt Bracelet and Paper Clip Earrings from the Reborn Collection, which takes inspiration from humble everyday objects and reincarnates them into playful, coveted jewellery. And not forgetting my set of Stacking Rings, designed to be worn stacked from across collections.

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Can you give us a peek into your creative process?

It’s quite random. It can start with a seed of an idea that sits for a year then develops in a matter of weeks. Other times can be quite quick. Bull all our ides are stories that we tell through our designs. And whether you know the story or not, it should put a small on your face and trigger curiosity.

What inspires your design?           

We design for individuals who seek uniqueness and appreciate contemporary design with a sense of humour, combined with traditional quality craftsmanship. Our designs cater to their eclectic taste and desire to express their individuality through what they wear. They span a range of ages but share a common joie de vivre.

There is such fluidity and also a roughness throughout your collection. How do you find that balance?

That’s a hard one. We challenge ourselves to show the beauty in imperfection and it is actually harder to make a piece to look purposely raw and organic without looking poorly made.

Can you describe the Carrie K woman?

The Carrie K. woman is someone who has a strong sense of self. She may not be in the creative industry but has a creative soul. She has a sense of humor and enjoys expressing who she is or how she feels through what she wears.

What kind of music do you listen to when you create?

I currently love Agnes Obel.

What do you consider your greatest achievement?

The greatest milestone in Carrie K.’s history was being personally selected by Yuli Yamamoto, the son of Yohji Yamamoto in 2012. Yuji has been representing Carrie K. in Japan since 2012. In February 2014, we launched our first international shop-in-shop at Shibuya, Seibu, Tokyo. We also have a strong fan base in Seoul. And Carrie K. is now stocked in Hong Kong, U.S and Italy.

What do you enjoy doing most when you’re not creating?

I will spend time with my dogs, who are a part of the Carrie K. team. I will take them out for a walk in the park. That’s when I let my mind wander and dream up silly ideas. I also like to meet and talk to customers. I always come back feeling inspired.

What can we expect from Carrie K in 2015?

We love what we do and we love injecting a bit of playfulness into the world around us. So I see us continuing down our slightly unconventional path. We will be growing our bespoke and fine jewellery line and inject our brand of playfulness to this very traditional category.

No matter what products we may be selling down the line, we will always be a catalyst for possibilities. Be it showing refreshing possibilities through jewellery and accessories or helping designers and artisans achieve their own possibilities.

I am just so excited that KEEPERS, the quarterly showcase that Carrie K. Atelier started in 2011 has since grown to something a little more permanent. Together with Textile and Fashion Federation (TAFF) and the support of Singapore Tourism Board (STB) and Spring Singapore, we built the KEEPERS: Singapore Designers Collective pop-up on Orchard Road. The pop-up was initially set out for only a 5-month period (12th September 2014, to 15 February 2015) but we were invited to stay on till 2016. The idea is to grow an appreciation for our Singapore design talent and to nurture the community. So this is an initiative that will be keeping me busy in 2015. And hopefully by the end of it, we will find KEEPERS a permanent home and start an enclave for designers.

To view the Carrie K. collection, click here.
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