How did your creative journey together begin?
Carolyn Kan (CK): In 2009, I left my role as managing director of an advertising agency and started Carrie K from our kitchen table, while Chong was still working in Shanghai as the general manager of an aluminium rolling mill. He was spending two weeks in Shanghai and two weeks in Singapore and when he was back in Singapore, he would photograph all the jewellery I had created. He would often offer up ideas, as he had 18 years experience in the metal trade. Stubborn old me told him to enrol in goldsmithing classes because I believed that creating jewellery with precious metals and producing aluminium for computer motherboards had nothing in common. Credit to him, he enrolled at NAFA for night classes in jewellery fabrication and design. In 2012, he left his job of almost 20 years and worked together with me to build Carrie K.
How do you complement one another? What have you learned from one another?
CK: We are a case of opposites attract. Chong is the creative engineer, I am the storyteller.
Chong enjoys diving deep into technical knowledge, be it jewellery production, photography or gemstones. He is now a GIA-certified gemologist. He is really good at imagining technical possibilities, and foreseeing possible roadblocks to an idea and how to overcome them. He is more introverted and likes to tinker with his gadgets, whereas I am an extreme extrovert and love talking to people to uncover their stories that inspired jewellery design. I am a daydreamer and love nurturing people and celebrating their stories. So I design ideas inspired by wearable wishes that clients share with me, and Chong will figure out how to engineer innovative ways to make the jewellery piece versatile.
Chiew Huan Chong (CHC): I am the head and she is the heart. I appreciate that she leaves me to experiment and work on special projects like innovating how we engineer our jewellery, and she comes up with the design and the stories behind each jewellery collection that has a lot of heart.
What was the process of building a business and team together like?
CK: The first awkward step was discovering each other again and finding out how to work together. Being married to each other is completely different from working with each other. It took a while to find out each other’s superpowers and then figuring out what we did not enjoy, and being clear about our roles and responsibilities, not just with each other but with our team too.
What are your year-end traditions or routines? What meaning do they hold for you?
CK: I love Christmas, and it is a Carrie K tradition that Chong and I cook up a feast for our Carrie K family. Spending quality time together with our Carrie K family and feasting with those who are dear to us is important. Creating joy to mark milestones in life is important not just for our clients, but for ourselves. The year end is not only joyous—I also hold space for reflection.
Is there anything you’re planning to do differently this year compared to past years, for yourself and for one another, and why?
CK: I am definitely planning more inspiration intermissions to fuel myself, and to keep learning and growing so that I have the capacity to nurture others. I am learning to be a life coach not to change jobs but to be a better leader, ask better questions and be a better listener to incorporate it in our Carrie K experience. What we do requires asking good questions and listening, to help clients uncover what is meaningful to them. It has been through listening to clients that we created the new Carrie K experience at our new atelier, which is designed to feel more like visiting a friend’s home than a store. And the themes in our collections are based on wishes that clients wish for themselves or their loved ones.
What is your favourite memory together?
CK: Going for walks with my favourite “people”: Chong and our dogs.
CHC: I enjoy coming up with new ideas together. For example, Carolyn came to me with an idea and the challenge of creating a different silhouette for the classic pearl necklace one day. The outcome of our collaborative process to solve the pearl necklace problem resulted in our innovative transformable and modular pearl necklace design. And that design DNA has evolved to all our jewellery in our Jewel Bar of wearable wishes.
Photography JAYA KHIDIR
Art direction MARISA XIN
Hair and makeup SHA SHAMSI, USING KMS AND CLÉ DE PEAU BEAUTÉ
Photography assistant CHUEN KAH JUN