Sunday, June 21, 2009

Write-up in The Business Times (Singapore)

Audrey Poon, a journalist for The Business Times, contacted me recently about featuring the label in a special on sustainable luxury. It was a great honour to be selected, especially so given that I was positioned next to Zegna and Ferragamo. Thank you so much, Audrey! :)

Published June 20, 2009
A silver lining

AS THE saying goes, every cloud - yes, even economic cumulus nimbus - has a silver lining. And for jewellery fans who have been starved of justifiable purchases in the current recession, that lining could take the form of silver jewellery studded with semi-precious gems from Choo Yilin.

Much of the Choo Yilin Artisan Jewellery is hand-crafted using fair-trade silver from the Karen hill tribe in Thailand. Ms Choo also works with the tribespeople to design much of her collection.
The fact that the local designer's luxe, pretty pieces are reasonably priced (they range from about $180 for a pair of men's collar stays to $2,120 for an elaborate necklace) is a bonus; what really makes them guilt-free buys is that they are produced with plenty of social and environmental consciousness. Much of the Choo Yilin Artisan Jewellery is hand-crafted using fair-trade silver from the Karen hill tribe in Thailand, and while that's not a new concept, what is is that Ms Choo does not merely procure the metal from the community - she actually works with the tribespeople to design much of her collection. It's a win-win situation: the collaboration contributes towards the sustenance of the Karen's centuries-old tradition of silvercraft and provides employment for its people, while the label benefits from the craftsmen's expertise and is able to borrow from their design aesthetic.
The rest of the pieces which are not produced by the Karen are made by freelance Bangkok craftsmen using eco-friendly sterling silver, which is basically recycled silver that has been refined and alloyed to 92.5 per cent. These include a new range of men's collar stays and cufflinks, which Ms Choo introduced just this week.
'I set out to do something socially responsible so I'm growing this label as a social entrepreneur where I can fulfil two to three bottom lines,' says the designer who is based in Bangkok, where her husband works. 'Firstly, I want to be profitable because otherwise a small business like mine cannot be sustained, but I also want to be a social mission of sorts for the hill tribes and at the same time be ecologically sustainable.'
If the whole tribal or tree-hugger thing does not appeal to you though, there's a good chance that the jewellery will. Ms Choo's greatest inspirations come from numerous college holidays spent in Europe, which have translated into rich old-world designs such as a necklace of artisan-hammered mini 'disco balls' intertwined with black spinel faceted rondeles, and cufflinks comprising parcels of organically cut kunzite wrapped in silver bands. Such beautiful jewellery makes adopting a sustainable lifestyle look alluring the way no unbleached organic-cotton T-shirt can, and a good thing too. 'Resources are depleting at an alarming rate and consumerist tendencies are very high. It's in our best interests to live sustainably, otherwise the world as we know it is not going to be here for very long,' says the designer. 'If you don't do it, there will be nothing left in the long run.'
Choo Yilin Artisan Jewellery women's designs are available at Colette (#01-15 Forum the Shopping Mall) and online at, while the men's cufflinks and engravable collar stays are available at Rossi (#01-36 Millenia Walk). The designer also has rather spiffily-packaged jewellery cleaning kits for sale on her website, for which all proceeds are donated to other groups of the Karen who do not have the resources to support themselves.

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