Khoo Wei Ling is an executive at Tan Tock Seng Hospital. One wouldn’t expect a bioengineering graduate who does audits and administrative work to run an online boutique business. But hey, here’s to breaking stereotypes.
Over the past few months, Khoo hand-makes and sells earrings under the brand Khoo Designs. She got the idea at the place where all good ideas come from – the shower.
“I had a thought about utilizing my time at night, as I do not have to bring work home. Then I remembered a girl selling handmade earrings in George Town, Penang, and had bought two pairs from her. I thought, ‘Hey, I love earrings and I have been buying lots of them ever since I got my ears pierced. Why not make myself one? Plus, I could perhaps earn some pocket money!’
Obviously, Khoo didn’t know much about making earrings before. She learned through watching Youtube videos and reading whatever she could get her hands on. Handling small fragile objects that are earrings can be tricky for the butter-fingered. But Khoo found that she truly enjoyed the “manual work”.
“I could continue making and say, ‘Why is time passing by so fast?’ I believe one needs to get down to doing it to truly decide if she loves it.”
What started as a productive way to pass her time slowly gained a sustainable following. First it was just family, friends and classmates. But there are now orders from strangers. It’s a decent progress considering she just started Khoo Designs in October 2015.
Simple and elegant
Khoo first worked on fabric, but have moved to resin, “Resin allows me to play around more freely as compared to fabric because I can mix resin with anything. So far, I have tried mixing resin with glass glitter, dyeing the resin to get coloured resin and lately, started on pressed flowers.”
Khoo describes her designs as “Simple and Elegant.” Her earrings are the studded kinds. Perhaps some may think that stud earrings are too simple, however, it appears that it’s their simplicity that appeals. “Perhaps the shapes I have to offer – Superman and Heart-shaped, made the design stand out even further,” Khoo muses.
Admittedly, Khoo’s earrings seem to boast little. But perhaps that’s why they seem to be doing well – the everyday pair for the everyday girl offering just a touch of uniqueness at an affordable price from SGD11-15.
“Many whom I have conversed with prefer unique designs which can hardly be found elsewhere. Every handmade item in itself is different. No one piece looks exactly the same. I feel that it is the personal touch that people are looking for, which cannot be found in mass produced goods.”
For the community
Khoo started with earrings because it’s something she personally wears.
“I think that is the only accessory I wear, apart from my wedding ring and a watch,” she laughs, then adds, “Secondly, based on my research, making earrings is probably easier than say a necklace – fewer parts to assemble and fewer tools needed. The key is to start simple and small. ”
But as much as she herself loves earrings, Khoo has come to realize that some may not be able to enjoy them. Although she uses nickel-free hypoallergenic earring posts, Khoo notes that “the definition of ‘sensitive’ as it varies from one ear to another.”
“I realised from the few bazaars that I have been to, a handful of customers asked me, ‘I have sensitive ears, can I still wear these earrings?’ I had a customer who stood at my booth for a long time and sadly said, ‘I love your stuff but I have really sensitive ears.’ And she walked away with a sad face. Hence, the thought of making something else which every lady can put on, is a necklace.”
Since the end of March, Khoo Designs offers necklaces. There are two designs so far, made of anti-tarnish materials.
Khoo makes appearances at local creative and flea markets to show off her studded wares and build awareness of her brand. She doesn’t intend to go fulltime with this though.
“Though I love doing it, my calling is to teaching. Hence, it will stay as a side line, a hobby.” She does hope, however, to turn her little project into something that would contribute back into the community.
Maybe it’s just through making accessories all women can wear, or maybe it’s through her revenue. Whatever it is, Khoo puts her heart into her work.