In November, Faire Leather Co launched a Kickstarter campaign to turn its first two signature designs—a briefcase and the padfolio from the Bond collection—into a reality. In less than 36 hours, over SGD40,000 of the SGD50,000 target was pledged. As at press time, it’s now close to SGD200,000. We speak to the brand’s CEO, Joseph Lor, and Chief Brand Officer, Ryan Choy, about how this proudly Singaporean brand came to be.
Esquire: How is the joint venture between Tocco Toscano and Y Ventures Group beneficial for the growth of Faire Leather?
Ryan Choy: The partnership aims to leverage Y Ventures Group's proprietary data analytics and specialisation in online retail and distribution channels, as well as Tocco Toscano's in-depth experience and expertise in leather craftsmanship.
Esquire: According to the data from Y Ventures Group, what did you find out about the fashion appetites of Singaporean men?
Ryan Choy: The results we obtained were not specific to Singaporean men since we are an online label. Our goal is to really better understand the needs of male consumers everywhere.
Joseph Lor: For starters, we realised that men still prefer to carry bags and wallets in classic colours like brown, black, navy. Y Venture Group’s data also helped by providing core actionable insights through its analysis of demand trends, pricing intelligence, consumer sentiment and market competition. This was all derived from its proprietary data analytics software. For example, their results revealed that consumers place a strong emphasis on zippers, pockets and compartments. These findings contributed greatly to the products we’ve created.
Esquire: There’s a saying: “if I had asked people what they wanted, they would have said faster horses”. What’s your approach towards consumer data?
Ryan Choy: We believe we need to create something that answers to what the majority asks for. But sometimes, we also need to anticipate consumer needs and offer something extra which presents a solution that they haven’t yet articulated as a need or want.
Joseph Lor: We used the same approach when designing our products – 90% of the functionality is based on what the majority of our focus groups asked for, and 10% of it was not necessarily raised, but we included them because we believed they would deliver extra value.
Esquire: You seem to believe that men’s perception of fashion has evolved over the years.
Joseph Lor: In the past, prominent logos were a priority. But today, men are starting to place a lot more emphasis on function when it comes to their choice of key fashion accessories such as bags and wallets. They also prefer an understated and minimalist aesthetic. Because of how technology has evolved, functional luxury and the need to keep all the gadgets we now use on a daily basis organised have become important, too.
Esquire: What was the idea behind launching your product via Kickstarter?
Joseph Lor: Faire Leather Co. is a brand for the people. We cannot take sole credit for The Bond Collection. What we mean is that every conversation we’ve ever had–whether through discussions, focus groups, research, or data analysis—has contributed to the final product. We’ve created as many feedback channels as we can in order to constantly engage and chat with the online community we’ve initiated.
Ryan Choy: We wanted to find out and confirm if there was a need for the products we were building, and gain a community that we can continue to have a open dialogue with– that’s when we thought of Kickstarter. We have already raised more than $100K, which will go towards resources and build a team. However, the number of backers we secured is also significant to us. They indicate that the community has given us their stamp of approval.
Esquire: The Kickstarter campaign has now garnered more than SGD200,000 since you launched in November. What was the target that you were expecting and how does this change things?
Joseph Lor: We set our target at $50k as a point of validation, but we're hoping for $100k (which we have surpassed), to really be able to set Faire Leather Co. in motion. It will make it possible for us is to do more and engage more with our community. Where we’re at now means we have working capital to build a team dedicated to building the brand, while a percentage of the funds will be used to develop our next product.
Esquire: There's an exhaustive list of leather accessories brands out there, why take on this market?
Joseph Lor: We have the experience. We own our factory, which has also produced for several luxury brands. This means that we can control costs better and with the reliability of Y Ventures Group’s data, we are also able to ensure that we only develop products that people want.
Ryan Choy: Furthermore, we couldn’t find a leather brand that provides what we can – affordable and well-made functional leather goods. We decided to create our own brand in order to share our vision with the rest of the world. We believe we created a briefcase and padfolio which is truly different.
Esquire: Tell us more about how your leather products are made.
Joseph Lor: This is how we do it:
a. We first run focus groups and conduct research online research to establish what we think people want in terms of size, functionality, colour etc.
b. Then we verify our information by consulting the Y Ventures Group team.
c. Next, the Tocco Toscano team is activated to create 2D drawings on paper.
d. We usually go through multiple paper drawing revisions.
e. Then the Tocco Toscano team converts the 2D drawings into 3D structures of the final product.
f. At the factory, we create paper cuttings, then leather cuttings (plus lining materials) to develop our first samples.
g. The hardware details go into production after we confirm our designs.
h. The first sample is put together and we review it.
i. Any changes are noted, and we repeat steps “e” through “h” (we do this 4 to 5 times on average)
j. We eventually confirm our final sample and go into order production.
Esquire: Are there plans to distribute your leather products to retail spaces?
Ryan Choy: Not at present. After all, we are an online label. We want to run operations for a few months, and iron out any kinks in our online model prior to considering other channels. We will, however, be participating in pop-ups to showcase our products and give customers an opportunity to see, touch and try our pieces out in person.
Esquire: What’s in the pipeline for Faire Leather in 2018?
Ryan Choy: We plan to offer customization options such as:
a. A monogramming service
b. Interchangeable bag straps of different colours, materials and designs
Joseph Lor: We also plan to expand our product line to include:
a. Functional business card holders
c. Key pouches
d. Unisex diaper bags
e. A matte gunmetal hardware option for all products
Joseph Lor: In the next 6 months we will focus on our website, and on building brand awareness in overseas markets (particularly the US). If all goes smoothly, in about a year we will take Faire Leather Co. to trade shows to showcase our brand and source of distributors. This will only happen after we have developed up to a healthy library of products.
Ryan Choy: We see ourselves as a brand for the people, so we really want to engage with and speak to as many people as possible. This is why it’s so important that we get the word out to as many people as possible, and build a community that we can nurture a relationship with.