What’s your story?
In April 2016, I opened South East Asia’s 1st – A Museum of Vintage Bags in Bali, where I live. The truth of the matter… the handbag bug bit me when i was 16, an impressionable age! my mother gave me her black leather, pill-box handbag, it was ‘the’ handbag for me among all her many others and the day she said – T, this is for you… i was over the moon with it! It was everything a 16 year old young lady wished for in a handbag! And that journey of handbag love cumulated in the opening of my museum, it is my work of love, of passion translated into a showing of a detailed collection of over 400 handbags from the 1920’s through to the 1990’s. It is a visual history in the art and design of the handbag. And there are hundreds more to be shown… this is just the beginning. I say to my teams in Bali and in Singapore – it is global domination – one handbag at a time!
What excites you most about your industry?
The vintage fashion industry in Asia, is growing. In my specific of vintage handbags, I get excited when i see a well worth collector’s piece, deemed so by its design, workmanship, materials, finish and the sure test of quality, having lasted 50 years or more! There is something close to perfect in a well balanced handbag and i find this more evident in an 1950’s handbag than something found in today’s fashion. It is telling that fashion houses are reinventing and hence, relaunching their vintage designs with a modern take down the fashion catwalks. It is refreshing to see women getting more style conscious and less label dependent and carrying vintage handbags!
What’s your connection to Asia?
Being born in Singapore! My mother is Shanghainese and my late father Peranakan. It was odd growing up Singapore, a case of an ill fitting glove as i am a product of an English household in Singapore, bread and butter pudding is my comfort food and a great christmas turkey is what i am better at than chicken curry! The English-ness in me is much stronger than my Asianess – my mother, though from Shanghai, grew up in a manor house in Surrey, England, and my late father worked with the BBC. I used to get asked most often when in Singapore – so, where are you from? Bhutan, Korea, Japan are just some of the countries that get pinned on me, though there have been times when i have pulled out my Singapore identity card to silence the guessing!
Favourite city in Asia for business and why?
Bangkok – the multitude finds in creative fashion and just general stuff there. I visit to look for new designers and labels and it has never disappointed! The ideas that i buzz with after each trip… the Thai sense of humour, their food… mangos and sticky rice… going up or down the river… and thai silk in multitudes of colours! It is just the way things are in Bangkok that attract me, so much so, that at one stage, i was looking for a piece of property there.
What’s the best piece of advice you ever received?
I have to say – 2 best pieces of advice that I follow till today – the first – have your opinion, hold onto it and express it, the other – if you have nothing nice to say, be quiet and just smile! These have in ways become my trade marks! So when Tina sits there and smiles, when in a conversation, she most definitely has something not nice to say and thus having my opinion, i most likely will say it! My sons, do say ‘ mama. Be nice’!
Who inspires you?
It difficult to qualify one person or one moment or one book… life inspires me! To know that i am life and that lives are impacted by and on me, is an inspiration in essence, to be an improved human.
What have you just learnt recently that blew you away?
That humble papaya leaf is one of nature’s strong immune boosters and a cancer fighter among its other benefits. Ever bitter to taste but what healing it gives! It grows abundantly in Bali, the papaya tree and i never would have imagined that It is now a part of my morning habit to make a shake of papaya leaves, 2 single garlics, honey kefir, turmeric and ginger jamu with a banana, and drink this before any other breakfast foods. I am sharing this find of mine with friends and most utter disbelief that i drink this bitter concoction! I say – i am wiser for this choice!
If you had your time again, what would you do differently?
Zero – nothing! To live is onwards and not backwards… i would not be here, in the now of my life today, living it the way i want to and being simply – me!
How do you unwind?
With a smooth, charactered, single malt whiskey and currently it is the 21 year old Giengoyne that lingers in the gastro memory… and weaving, my current relax fave.
Favourite Asian destination for relaxation? Why?
Bali, why – it is where i live! Living here gives simplification to my life, it connects the dots for me, it allows me to still myself and pause… walking the beach in the mornings with my husband and our 3 dogs as often as possible, having a coconut on the beach, looking out to sea, letting the sun warm you… before jumping on my bicycle and cycling off to the Museum to begin my work day with my team. I set the pace i choose, mixing it with discipline and yoga!
Everyone in business should read this book:
‘Tuesdays with Morrie’ written by Mitch Alborn, originally published in 1997 and made into a TV movie in 1999 – it humanises you, and this is what we must remind ourselves of, as a business is an arena for the fittest to survive in, let it also be where we do not forget the kindness we have received and relationships that have helped us with our success.
Shameless plug for your business:
The attraction destination ‘must see’ in Asia, the first ‘Museum of Vintage Bags’ in Bali, over 60 designers housed under one roof, spanning the 1920’s to the 1990’s. Immaculate handbags in all sizes, shapes, colours… a truly amazing collection of over 400 pieces at any one time! So ladies, come in and let your eyes and hearts do the feasting !
This interview was part of the Callum Connect’s column found on The Asian Entrepreneur:
Callum Laing invests and buys small businesses in a range of industries around Asia. He has previously started, built and sold half a dozen businesses and is the founder & owner of Fitness-Buffet a company delivering employee wellness solutions in 12 countries. He is a Director of, amongst others, Key Person of Influence. A 40 week training program for business owners and executives.
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