Have you thought about taking your design brand beyond the shores of Singapore? Not sure how to navigate the seemingly complicated process of shipping items past our borders? We speak to Eugene Yip of Onlewo and Pamela Ting of SCENE SHANG to find out more about how they take inspiration from their Asian roots, their experiences overseas, and their international plans for the future!
Read on to discover their experiences with Bienvenue Factory, an agency that helps brands with retail transformation and international expansion, then download the international shipping guide below to get started on your journey.
Tell us about Onlewo and its roots.
Onlewo began in 2015 when we lived in the charming old town, Tiong Bahru. The stylish art deco architecture and authentic local food inspired me to take up a camera to capture these close-to-heart everyday experiences. These photographs began my surface print journey – they were initially converted into posters, then expressed on wallpaper. The joy of creating patterns inspired by the ordinary yet authentic Singapore way of life, and taking liberty with colours and arrangements in pattern-making is the guiding DNA of Onlewo designs.
Since then, Onlewo has grown our surface print design works into a fun repertoire of home, gifting and lifestyle products that celebrate Singapore heritage, culture, architecture, food, places and more.
Could you tell us a little about your processes, from concept to production to shipping and finally having the item on the retail floor?
Many think that Singapore is small and boring, but we find so much to be excited about in things both big and small. Singapore has inherited such a unique cultural blend that is full of flavours, colours and textures. If we become more aware of our environment, it is not difficult to pick up a source of inspiration for design. Of course, that inspiration must be authentic and best of all, lived. Then the design story will be convincing.
We do not have a fixed design approach. Whether it is in this surface print design process, interior or furniture design process, we use our gut and feeling to guide us through the expression of our designs.
As our range of products is very wide, the production stage is varied. For fabric products, which forms the bulk of our works, we have our designs produced on fabrics in Europe, and then work with local sewing workshops to create the final fabric products.
The shipping process is essential to facilitating the transition from material production to production creation.
You’ve exhibited at various international fairs such as London 100% Design, and Heimtextil Frankfurt in 2014. What does showcasing Singapore heritage overseas mean to you? And is it difficult to exhibit overseas logistics-wise?
It is about story telling. Telling the world about the world I live in, and in so doing, igniting curiosity in people from other backgrounds towards what Singaporeans (me included) love – both the quirks and passion in our way of life.
Lugging two big luggage through Heathrow and Frankfurt airports in those overseas exhibition experiences remain large in my memory. Thankfully, my works then were mostly expressed on wallpapers and they are rather flat items. Still, the weight, the care required during transportation and the final relief when they were installed on the walls of the exhibition booth are palpable, even now.
Pre and post exhibition logistics are a practice by itself, and thankfully, we do get better at it over time.
Do you have plans to expand overseas? What sort of considerations go into such a decision?
Yes, France and Japan are always in our hearts. Since our first exhibition in London 100% Design, as our largest and most passionate group of customers have always been French and Japanese.
This Onlewo journey is also a personal journey of fulfilment and constant discovery. We do not have specific considerations to decide when to expand to France or Japan. As with my creative process, my heart will tell me when the time is right.
Does working with a corporate agency like Bienvenue Factory help you with your overseas endeavors? What’s your advice for other design studios like yours which hope to exhibit overseas too?
Bienvenue Factory (BF) made the logistical process of shipping our works overseas a breeze. From the tie-up with the local point of consolidation to seeing the goods on freight to Paris, it took a few emails and easy communication to have it all done. As a lean team, we have little spare resources to handle well every single part of the process of exhibiting overseas. We were relieved that BF could support in this specialised role,.
Our advice: Go with your heart, open your mind to experiences and prepare well (smart) by tapping on support from specialists.
Tell us about SCENE SHANG and its roots.
SCENE SHANG is an Asian contemporary furniture and homeware brand that draws our inspiration from culture and heritage to design pieces that are relevant for the modern homes.
Congrats on Scene Shang Loft! Could you tell us a bit more about your new space?
Spanning 7,000 square feet, SCENE SHANG Loft is a combination of showroom, workshop, and office occupying the entire top floor of a 1980’s industrial building. The journey into SCENE SHANG Loft begins at the foyer, welcoming visitors through a mini gallery that houses acclaimed artist, Arthur P.Y. Ting’s Peranakan architectural artworks.
The foyer leads to the showroom, neutral canvas of grey woods and light walls that highlights SCENE SHANG’s Classics and signature Collection pieces. Each piece of SCENE SHANG furniture resides in thoughtfully designed living spaces that simulate modern dwellings, flowing seamlessly from living and dining environments to bedroom and patios.
Through the windows, one might notice the auspicious word, “福“ (Fú, fortune) mounted on the façade of the building opposite. It is a symbolic emblem visible within the showroom’s vista views.
Your products are made in Singapore as well as other countries including Malaysia, Indonesia and China. Could you tell us a little about your processes, from concept to production to shipping and finally having the item on the retail floor?
We design all our pieces in-house. We’ll conceptualise a collection and bring it to our makers to work out the details, working very closely with them to ensure that we understand the manufacturing process and the materials so that the best of our designs can be expressed. They then create a sample for us which we will test and give feedback on. When the final product is approved, we ship it over to our warehouse here in Singapore where we do a final quality check, clean it up and package it before delivering it to retail floor for display, or to the customer’s home.
You have an international following, from tourists who would ship your products home from your previous store at Raffles Hotel, to overseas customers who shop online. How do you arrange shipping for them?
For homeware items, we bubble wrap them and pack them into a carton box to be picked up by DHL express and delivered to overseas customers. We have had quite a few furniture orders from overseas – for that we work with a third-party logistics company to crate and fumigate, then have the items shipped over either by air or sea, depending on the rates.
Do you have plans to expand overseas? As one of the designers in Dsg’s Business of Design, you last shared that you were speaking to potential customers in China and France. Would there be more plans or developments for that next year? Are logistics a big hurdle?
Yes, we definitely have plans to expand overseas and we are already speaking with international platforms and distributors to do so. Currently we are also working on improving the user experience on our website to allow customers to shop more seamlessly. For this part, it would be good to have the logistics sorted with one partner so that our packaging and delivery is taken care of.
Tell us about your experience working with Bienvenue Factory, and how that helped you with your overseas endeavors.
We worked with Bienvenue Factory for a planned show in Paris, but it unfortunately didn’t happen due to the pandemic. However, the experience was painless and smooth as they took care of the documentations, packing etc that was required for our bulky items to be shipped over.
Your International Shipping Guide
With globalisation and the rapid growth of e-commerce, international logistics have become a vital component of many small businesses.
DesignSingapore Council, in partnership with Bienvenue Factory, has produced this guide to take you through the steps of successfully shipping your goods between Singapore and the European Union.
The guide gives a comprehensive understanding of this complex industry to those new to the international shipping process, providing definitions, regulatory extracts, export rules, and valuable links to government services and websites to progress step by step and provide simple answers to your questions.