72 Smalldive is Singapore’s pioneer slow-accessory label that was established in 2007. The label has steadily grown a following of customers who aspire to a culturally and socially discerning lifestyle. Its unique holistic approach in design and product development has led to features on international publications such as Monocle, British GQ, Vogue, and Vanity Fair Italia and as well as various international design awards.
We are delighted to bring you a special interview with Sze Tiong, founder of 72 Smalldive. Learn more about their journey, and what makes their brand special and different from other accessory brands in Singapore.
Q: Can you tell us a little bit about yourself?
I was a strategy consultant in the banking sector, dealing in areas of loan operations, P&L performance, etc. I also have a past time and interest in accessory design. Although untrained in fashion, during my residence in Milan, Italy, I discovered a network of artisans in that city. That led me to initiate a series of design projects as a personal hobby.
Q: Can you tell us how 72 Smalldive started.
The label was established in 2007. Although it is a Singapore label, it presented its first accessories collection at the Paris Fashion Week in October 2007. Within 2 years from its launch, 72 Smalldive garnered the interest of an Italian multi-label showroom Vestis SrL, which then spurred the label’s extensive sales distribution to over 20 stores in high-end tourist resorts in Northern Italy.
Q: Did you always want to do this, or was it something that just happened naturally?
I’ve always been interested in the fashion industry. But it was my sojourn in Milan that gave me the insight of a very specific community of ‘silent workers’ who were, and in some fashion houses still are, one of the foundations of the industry. They are the artisans and they are the ‘communicators’ of the conceptual ideals of the designers. This, and coupled with the slow living movement, I decided to launch the brand that is synchronous to aspiration of slow fashion.
Q: How would you describe your brand & your products?
We are a pioneer slow-fashion label in Singapore (since 2007) that upholds the philosophy of Shokunin, a Japanese term that not only defines a commitment to traditional craftsmanship, but also an attitude for social consciousness. Unlike many labels which classify themselves as artisanal brands, we strive to inculcate a business decision process that emphasizes provenance, quality, and support for traditional skills.
Q: What is unique about your business that differentiates you from this very competitive industry?
Made with prime material and traditional production techniques, our items could last over a good period of time, depending on the user’s care. For example we do not use split leather but full grain (calfskin) leather; we do not assemble the pieces with rivets if they can be sewn; all edges of the cut leather are lacquered or sealed with pipping or folded and sewn; our bag interiors are lined with natural fabric protected with a thin film of resin to prevent fraying. We also ensure the leather parts are sewn using a single filament construction instead of joint stitches and metal accessories are made in solid (not hollow) metal. All in all our products carry the hallmark of a well-made artisanal leather good.
But product quality is not just what differentiates us from many commercial brands. The choices we make for the production process have a social impact too: The full grain leather used in our products are tanned with water soluble dye, hence making it more environmentally-friendly; our materials and accessories are all sourced within 0 km of the artisans’ workshop and delivered by bikes, thus reducing unnecessary carbon foot print; our collaboration sustains a heritage rich urban planning because many of the workshops are located within the city. Many fashion brands have products that contain a significant innate cost that has a detrimental impact to the society it operates in, we endeavour to reverse this.
Learn more about us by taking a look at the following video:
Q: What is your ultimate goal or dream for 72 Smalldive?
We hope to be able to continue to operate in this niche and extend our collaborations with more artisans worldwide, especially in Asia. We also hope that as we grow, we are able to give value to the society via different ways be it in our business operations or in collaboration with other like-minded associations.
Q: Euforia Singapore is a social enterprise with a mission to help Non-Profit Organisations and their members. Is Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) part of your plans for your brand?
CSR has always been a part of our brand philosophy. Unlike big corporations we do not have a team within our organization structure to design a program that systemically pursue projects in this area, however we do collaborate with various organizations both in Singapore and worldwide.
Q: Can you share any of your personal volunteer or CSR-related experiences with our readers?
- We are a partner with Hasana Inc, a retail arm of Apparecio Foundation based in Chicago. Sales proceeds of the retail store go to a women higher education fund for women living in underserved communities in the city of Chicago and New York.
- In 2011, we collaborated with GiftAndTake, where we initiated sewing projects for abused victims in a shelter. Pattern cutting skills are imparted to the residents who in turn became ‘producers’ of gift items sold via GiftAndTake’s point of sales.
- We have collaborated with Trybe, an association that counsels juvenile delinquents, where we hire their residents as sales promoters as part of their programme.
To check out 72 Smalldive’s products, please click here: http://myeuforia.com.sg/vendor/72-smalldive/