To Elizabeth and Shen-Tel Lee, the practices of collecting and creation aren’t solely about aesthetics. The inseparable sisters believe that the acts of collecting, creating and gifting beautiful objects are ways of expressing passionate individuality and love for others.
This belief is evident in the sisters’ passion project, Bowerhaus. Whimsically named after the bower bird’s behaviour of creating beautiful nests to court its mate, the Lee sisters’ handicraft business was influenced by their parents’ love for collecting vintage coins, pearls and other meaningful objects. “We are utterly obsessed with collecting objects, and trinkets around the world,” Elizabeth and Shen-Tel explained. “Anything that is really cute, colourful and playful—that’s how Bowerhaus really came about.”
“When we travel, we like to collect all kinds of things—which is kind of a problem because nothing is off limits. But the best thing is we love to buy things for our friends and children.”
In the spirit of their passion project, the sisters took a trip to Singapore, where they discovered local heritage brands, passionate designers, and fellow connoisseurs of aesthetic beauty.
Here’s a glimpse of the sights and stories the sisters encountered when they visited Singapore.
Haji Lane: Exploring past and present
A buzzing enclave in the heart of Kampong Glam, Haji Lane is a treasure trove of quirky fashion boutiques and independent fashion outlets, making it the perfect neighbourhood for visitors looking to express their individuality through their fashion choices. “We love coming here because it is off the beaten track,” the sisters observe. “Anything could happen here.”
While in the neighbourhood, the Lee sisters paid a visit to Supermama and Mondays Off. SuperMama was founded by Edwin Loh, a designer influenced by the rigour of Japanese design, while Mondays Off stocks a range of curios and merchandise for both home and garden.
Mondays Off. 76 Haji Lane, Singapore 189269.
Supermama. 265 Beach Road, Singapore 199544. +65 6291 1946.
A feast for the senses in Little India
“Little India is one of our favourite places to shop,” the sisters enthused. A vibrant district that’s home to bohemians, artists and century-long heritage, the neighbourhood is an enclave that shows off the rich culture of Singapore’s Indian community, and a perfect place to expand one’s sensory horizons.
Elizabeth and Shen-Tel’s exploration of the precinct included various forays into the myriad stores selling delightfully kitschy accessories and mementos, as well as a shopping spree at Mustafa Centre, a sprawling shopping complex selling a paraphernalia of products.
Mustafa Centre. 145 Syed Alwi Road, Singapore 207704. +65 6295 5855.
Daily 24 hours.
Art and inspiration at The National Gallery
Originally Singapore’s former Supreme Court and City Hall, Singapore’s National Gallery has been transformed into an iconic art space, featuring art from Singapore and across the globe. Besides admiring the current exhibits on display, Elizabeth and Shen-Tel also paid a visit to Gallery & Co. “Every time Elizabeth and I come to this space, we get so inspired by local designers and seeing what they are doing,” said Shen-Tel. “It always sparks so much joy in us to then go back and recreate something new.”
The official museum store boasts a range of carefully curated souvenirs, as well as a unique, open concept experience for the senses, with a bookstore, restaurant, bar and design store housed within a continuous space.
Gallery & Co, National Gallery Singapore. 1 St Andrew's Rd #01-17, Singapore 178957. +65 6385 6683.
Mon-Thurs 10am-7pm; Fri 10am-9pm; Sat-Sun 10am-7pm.
National Design Centre: A meeting of hearts and minds
“It is so nice to be back at the Keepers. I just feel like every time when we are back here, the store is ever-changing,” the sisters enthused, following their meeting with fellow designer and kindred spirit Carolyn Kan at the National Design Centre.
Originally working a high-octane job as an advertising firm manager Carolyn took a year-long hiatus to broaden her horizons. A lesson in the craft of silver-making in Florence, Italy inspired her to pursue a career in jewellery design, ultimately leading to the founding of jewellery label Carrie K and design collective Keepers. Her jewellery designs draw inspiration from her travels, her loved ones and her passions for history: The Odyssey collection, launched in 2012, was inspired by the Greek myths of Odysseus’s journey.
Keepers, National Design Centre. 111 Middle Road #01-01, Singapore 188969. +65 8749 6454.
Carrie K. Atelier, National Design Centre. 111 Middle Road #02-02, Singapore 188969. +65 6352 2559.
Kultskins x Craft Varies: Creation and Collaboration
The Lee sisters next embarked on a collaboration of both hearts and minds. Working in collaboration with leatherworker Lawrence of Kultskins and calligrapher Clarence from Craft Varies, the designers created a coin pouch that symbolised their mutual love for travel and new experiences.
“As a whole, Singapore has such a creative community, and so many local designers that totally inspire us,” the sisters shared. “Singapore, you’ve got us hooked.”
Kultskins. 10 Ubi Crescent #05-62, Singapore 408564. +65 9863 2724.
Craft Varies. 36A Norris Road, Singapore 208278. +65 9873 7905.