The #SupportLocal hashtag is no stranger to most; you’ve heard of it, you’ve seen it around. And in the thick of the COVID-19 pandemic last year, Singaporeans from all walks of life came together to support local businesses. But I found myself wondering about the impulse to back our local brands beyond supporting the domestic economy. I was drawn to unearthing the socio-cultural forces behind such a movement, like a sense of solidarity — “kampung spirit”, if you will — and pride that will continue to compel us to “#SupportLocal” beyond times of crisis.
Recently, I came across Made By Singapore, a campaign that aims to raise awareness and foster support for local fashion and beauty brands through storytelling, from videos to articles. I first stumbled upon their Instagram through their interview with Rachel Lim, the co-founder of Love, Bonito. In it, she shared the brand’s beginnings and journey thus far, and dished out some advice for aspiring entrepreneurs:
“Success in life is really about discovering yourself — who you are, who you are not, and really working towards whatever that is and not being pressured by society, peers or family to go down a rabbit hole just because it’s something that is perhaps more known and popular now. If you’re aspiring to be an entrepreneur, really take the time to ask yourself why you’re doing this and what you’re doing this for and what’s the real gap that you’re trying to meet and who is it that you’re trying to serve.”
Even though I have no plans to start a business, her words — more specifically, her definition of success — struck a chord with me as she is someone that many would regard as having attained success. Yet, she thinks of success as self-discovery, a life-long process that she is still navigating. It is comforting to be reminded that success is personal and can be divorced from more typical measures, like our job title or salary.
After that thought-provoking interview, I continued to explore the other brands that Made By Singapore featured — both big and small — to see if I could glean any more nuggets of wisdom from these entrepreneurs. Along the way, I found three salient reasons to support local, along with some notable brands:
#1. To Champion Local Creativity
When “local goods marketplaces” like Naiise and Megafash first popped up, I would spend time poring over their stationery, books and wares. Having infused local elements into their products, I feel inexplicably connected to the brands and designers — as if I am privvy to a secret or an inside joke that only those with an understanding of Singapore culture can comprehend.
Putting a local spin on their products is a testament to the brands’ creativity and it’s no different when it comes to fashion. I’ve always longed for Singapore to have its very own local street style brand, so it was a pleasant surprise when I found Wacky Wears through Made By Singapore. Their quirky clothes are released on a campaign basis, so you really have to snap them up before they’re gone (forever).
I particularly love what they did with this design, the Free Spirit Ahma tee:
#2. To Encourage Entrepreneurship
It’s easy to find yourself rooting for the success of local brands and to derive a sense of satisfaction when they achieve it. After all, we all know that it takes a fair amount of grit, tenacity and determination to start and sustain a business. As stated on Made By Singapore‘s site, “lifting one brand gives space for another to grow” — successful entrepreneurs go on to inspire others like them, which builds a healthy culture of support for local entrepreneurship.
#3. Their Products are Made For Locals
Having products that aim to fill a gap in the market is a win for consumers. As someone who used to shop almost exclusively from global brands, I always found myself compromising on the fit of their clothes in some way. So it’s really heartening to find a brand like Vivre Activewear, with sportswear that flatters our proportions.
Beauty brands like Clynn By Nature also make their products with the humid Singapore weather and climate in mind. If you find yourself battling hair problems caused by our merciless heat, they’ve got products to help undo the damage.
It was a pleasant surprise to discover that our little red dot is in fact home to so many fashion and beauty brands. Unfortunately, a survey done by the Made By Singapore team reveals that among those aged 19 to 25, one in two respondents perceive local brands to be less value-for-money, prestigious and accessible than global brands.
I am hopeful, however, that more people will start to see the value of local brands in the years to come, and go beyond saying #SupportLocal just for the sake of it. After all, we’ve got some pretty cool brands in our backyard.
Feature image by contributor