More to local gifts than Merlion keychains

Apr 18, 2017


Supermama, which offers local-flavoured lifestyle products, is the brainchild of designer Edwin Low.


The lack of respectable Singapore-made gifts for friends abroad really irked Mr Edwin Low, the founder of Supermama.


Not wanting to resign himself to getting Merlion keychains, the designer made the leap of faith in 2011 when he started Supermama with his wife to create local-flavoured lifestyle products.


Since then, the store, now located at the Singapore Art Museum*, has been selected by L’Espace Retail at Parisian trade fair Maison et Objet as one of the 15 international shops with refreshing retail approaches.


These approaches include offering quirky, thoughtful gifts. The selection was made by Pierre Leonforte, journalist for the Louis Vuitton City Guide collection.


For the same reason, it was listed by global art portal Blouin Art-Info in 2013 as one of the best museum shops in the world.


Plunging into retail was no walk in the park, says Mr Low. From 2011 to 2012, his business only broke even.


“I had no experience running a shop,” says the 35-year-old, a design master’s graduate from the National University of Singapore.


In 2013, with the help of a grant from DesignSingapore Council, Mr Low produced the Singapore Icons collection of five plates with designs of Housing Board flats, a tembusu tree, the Vanda Miss Joaquim, a construction crane, and lightning patterns to convey Singapore’s rapid development.


The plate set, conceived by five Singaporean designers, was named Design of the Year at the President’s Design Award that year.


The dishes were manufactured by 400-year-old Japanese porcelain facility Kihara.


He says: “The most important aspect of the funding was it helped me manage my risk.


“For example, to produce 15 different products, with a minimum order quantity of 300 pieces, I would get 4,500 pieces. How am I going to sell so many pieces?


“Because the grant bore a portion of the production costs, it had the effect of stretching my budget.


“So, instead of having the budget to produce two pieces, I could do five.”


For this year, he plans to launch a collection called National, comprising 100 blue and white porcelain dishes, each by a different designer.


However, the design work will not be restricted to professionals. Mr Low wants housewives, chefs, firefighters and other individuals to tell a story through illustration or text on the porcelain.


This article was first published in The Straits Times, 2 February 2015.

Source: The Straits Times © Singapore Press Holdings Limited. Permission required for reproduction.

*Supermama is now at 265 Beach Rd, Singapore 199544