Polished exterior + Effortless Organisation = Functional Luxury Bags for Men
What’s your story?
Faire Leather Co. is an online leather goods label that is focused on Functional Luxury. It taps traditional know-how from decades of experience to create stylish products designed for maximum function. Previously, I was the head of marketing at Quandoo. I quit in 2017 to start Faire Leather Co. with my partner, Joseph Lor. We became the most funded fashion kickstarter in Singapore, and hit $1,000,000 in sales in under 10 months. Our total revenue to date is at about $2.3m and we’re looking to raise funds, in a few months time, to scale the business.
What excites you most about your industry?
The online retail world never sleeps and it’s fair game for everyone no matter where you are – as long as you have a good message, a great product and stellar customer service, you’ll go places. Specifically when it comes to bags, we are fully, vertically integrated. We are direct-to-consumer (DTC) and we run and own the factory, the same factory that’s produced for several luxury brands, so it’s great to be able to re-innovate the scene and come up with products that are truly different from the rest.
What’s your connection to Asia?
My father is from Hong Kong and my mother was from China. She spent time working in the Philippines, Indonesia and Singapore as a hotelier. My father did business in the Middle East, Singapore and eventually Malaysia. While my brother and I are born and bred in Singapore, we did stay for certain periods in those countries during our holidays and learning from a wide array of cultures was a positive experience.
Favourite city in Asia for business and why?
My most pleasant experience has got to be Hong Kong. It is fast paced, has a high appreciation for fashion apparel from other countries and is extremely efficient. Everyone’s big on maximising their time to achieve the optimum.
What’s the best piece of advice you ever received?
When you’re sitting pretty, always think of danger.
I think the current climate of things is a great example – we knew the potential of e-commerce and moved away from committing to a brick and mortar concept, especially for a product like ours. We did occasional pop-ups when there were strategic, collaborative efforts with complementary brands, so I don’t think we rest on our laurels a lot. We’re constantly thinking of ways to expand our reach and we don’t stick to the one solution, as we know the world changes too quickly – we have to always be prepared for the worst.
Who inspires you?
My father was a businessman and went through some really tough times. As a kid, I remember the decent house and a nice car – after the financial crisis in ‘96, it got reduced to a van and counting coins from vending machine sales, and him moving to Malaysia while we stayed in Singapore. Moving into foreign territory was one thing, delving into a whole new industry was another. The inspiration doesn’t come from the fact that he had to be a father and an entrepreneur – the inspiration comes from the fact that he took a gamble and worked hard at it.
What have you just learnt recently that blew you away?
SpaceX and Tesla. Elon Musk gave it a probability of 10% to succeed and he still dumped all his money in there following X.com. He mentioned in a tweet that, “If it was about money, I’d just do another Internet company.” I find that there are three scales to business. The first, where you just need to survive as you begin, then where it becomes profitable, and the highest peak is when the business isn’t about money anymore but servicing a need or solving some kind of problem. At some point, business has to be about something more than money. It’s not how much you make, but what you make.
If you had your time again, what would you do differently?
Probably nothing. I believe that every mistake I’ve made along the way has led me to where I am today. But if you’re forcing me to answer, I would have focused on the friendships/relationships that really mattered – I wouldn’t have been so generous with my time, advice or sacrifices. I also would not have used ‘wanting to prove people wrong’ as a motivator – it’s much stronger when you don’t care because you know you’re right.
How do you unwind?
I spend time with my wife and kid. That, or a good book, a glass of whiskey and good music. Occasional moments of writing or playing the guitar helps.
Favourite Asian destination for relaxation? Why?
Japan. It’s fast paced and all that, but there’s something about the country that lets you be whoever you wanna be. You can take the time to explore the place or chill by a cafe. Everything they do is maximum effort and it feels like everyone is mostly in a pleasant mood – in a city that moves so quickly, you can relax at a pace of your choice.
Everyone in business should read this book:
“Whatever You Think, Think the Opposite,” by Paul Arden. Not exactly a business book, but you can probably finish the book in a day. It teaches a single basic concept, that there are benefits to making the wrong decisions, about how gambles or taking risks sometimes are necessary – everyone else out there is making sensible decisions and if it’s a safe decision that has to be made, you’re moving at the same pace as everyone else. In essence, we are the ones that get to define the world — Think Big and Act On It.
Shameless plug for your business:
Products that offer effortless organisation and polished exteriors, we’re one of the few brands in the bag world that actually care about what you put in your bag or where you go – intelligent design and smart compartments. We make sure everything is well kept, and easy to access. You won’t find another bag that blends high quality craftsmanship and clever design at a price point that won’t break the bank. This is Functional Luxury.
This interview is part of the ‘Callum Connects’ series of more than 500 interviews
Callum Laing is an entrepreneur and investor based in Singapore. He has previously started, built and sold half a dozen businesses and is now a Partner at Unity-Group Private Equity and Co-Founder and CEO of MBH Corporation PLC. He is the author of three best-selling books ‘Progressive Partnerships’, ‘Agglomerate’ and ‘Entrepreneurial Investing’.