Bringing Human-Centered Design Values into the Business of Fashion (Part 1)

For the first year of Eden + Elie's life as a jewelry brand, we did not talk about our social mission.  For one thing, we were still assembling the pieces of what this would look like and we didn't want to talk about something that we meant to do but hadn't done, or at least not at scale.

This year, we are embarking on that first chapter.

After many many months of visiting and talking to organizations, including those working with poor urban communities in Southeast Asia, we've arrived at a decision to start our work on local ground, here in Singapore.

With the dedicated support of job coaches and staff at ARC (the Autism Resource Centre), we are currently working on training and hiring individuals with autism from ARC's network to become bead-weaving artisans for Eden + Elie.

While we have only just begun, early results from the assessments and training conducted by ARC staff have been very encouraging and deeply humbling.  

We are also recruiting under-privileged women who need flexible home-based work because their circumstances present high barriers to employment in the regular job market.  We have one woman training with us now and are looking forward to a couple more joining us soon.

How did we arrive at these two very different profiles of artisans-in-training and why such different social causes?

Well, for one - I didn't have a fixed social cause in mind when I started Eden + Elie.  

I've been working in design-related industries for most of my life - in architecture, teaching, product design, management and most recently in consulting and Experience Design.

But to start, I had an inkling for a product.  And for a way of making that product that would involve hours and hours of labour.  Those hours of labour are key to what makes our product unique and also instrumental in allowing us to hire people.  

People, who may have time, but no jobs. People who need flexible, independent and autonomous work.  People who would thrive in making something so fine, so meticulously and exquisitely crafted that it would be their way of being seen, heard and uniquely appreciated for their work.

This love for making can be shared by all and it is part of our humanity.  Granted, our product takes a long time to make.  And training and hiring artisans out of Singapore where the living wage is high presents business challenges that we must meet.

Stay with us for the next chapter as this story unfolds.  We will share about our journey to building a different kind of business.  As for the question, "Who made your jewelry?" We will soon have an answer, that'll be him or her.