betty October 27, 2021

What inspires you to take a leap of faith, to pursue a dream that feels out of reach? What pushes you to persevere through challenges in pursuit of a passion, even when the odds seem to be stacked against you?

For two homegrown brands, it’s all the elements of a tale as old as time: good old-fashioned love, and an enduring faith in the stories they tell through their products.

In the 1970s, young scientist Dr Lee Kum Tatt, fuelled by his desire to fulfil a promise to immortalise orchids for his wife, discovered a way to encapsulate natural orchids in gold that would later become the iconic symbol of local jewellery and lifestyle brand RISIS. At the brand’s initial launch at CK Tang in 1976, 3,000 gold-plated orchids were sold out within a few mornings, thus planting the seed from which RISIS’ business would flourish over the next three decades.

RISIS and Scent by SIX were established by men who wanted to preserve memories of their love. Dr Lee Kum Tatt (left) wanted to immortalise orchids for his wife, while Mr Jason Lee (right) was encouraged to start his business after getting positive responses from a scent he created for his wife. PHOTOS: ST FILE AND SCENT BY SIX

Similarly, the beginning of perfume brand Scent by SIX can be traced back to the day founder Jason Lee proposed to his girlfriend with the first perfume he created. This scent which had hints of green tea and lavender as an homage to their holidays in Hokkaido, along with a second one, were also gifted to their wedding guests, and the positive reception gave him the confidence to give up a promising career at one of the world’s largest fragrance companies and start his own business.

Made with passion, sustained by dedication

The compelling origins of these two brands have propelled them into an indelible part of local history.

RISIS and Scent by SIX are two of the 64 brands newly recognised under the Made With Passion initiative that was launched in November 2020 by the Singapore Brand Office and Singapore Tourism Board and supported by Enterprise Singapore. The initiative aims to promote consumer awareness and drive support for local brands that are strong representations of Singapore’s diverse lifestyle sector, across the four lifestyle categories of beauty & wellness, fashion & accessories, homeware & décor, and packaged F&B.

Through this, Made With Passion also hopes to inspire brand owners and Singaporeans to pursue their dreams with passion, and enable collaboration opportunities among the brands to encourage further product innovation. A total of 111 brands has since been recognised under the initiative.

While passion might have given the initial spark for the inception of RISIS and Scent by SIX, it’s the commitment to quality control and constant innovation that have sustained them as iconic home-grown brands with quality products, and helped them earn the Made With Passion recognition.

At the heart of RISIS’ highly recognisable jewellery and lifestyle pieces is a painstaking manufacturing process to immortalise the precious orchids at best bloom.

One of the first series of orchids that RISIS plated in gold was the Aranda Deborah. Since it discovered a special plating process that preserves orchids, the brand has maintained its reputation by consistently offering good-quality products. PHOTO: RISIS

This means picking fresh orchids in a climate-controlled facility, selecting only the fullest orchids with delicate forms, preserving these exquisite flowers in a fine layer of copper, before the piece de resistance: the process of 24K gold plating, which dusts the orchid in a shimmery gold hue. It’s a labour-intensive, but critical part of RISIS’ brand identity, a special technique that it applies to the preservation of other organic material like roses, ferns, seeds and foliage to create items like brooches, earrings, necklaces and other ornaments.

The ultimate test of longevity for a brand however, is its ability to stand up to challenges, so as to deliver a consistently good product, whilst staying true to the Made With Passion ethos of maintaining a good reputation and having a loyal customer following.

Each RISIS piece is created through a meticulous process that includes using a special technique to preserve the flower or other organic material in a fine layer of copper before they are plated in 24K gold. PHOTO: RISIS

At the onset of the pandemic, Ms Verene Ng, chief executive officer of RISIS, had to steer the company through supply chain challenges whilst embarking on a rebranding exercise to market RISIS towards a younger generation. To breathe new life to the orchid designs, RISIS collaborated with four local fashion designers, including one from a brand recognised under the Made With Passion initiative, and plans to release the new product lines in the first quarter of 2022. Work to further improve the user experience on its e-commerce platform to time it with the rebranding exercise is also currently underway

Perseverance in the face of challenges

For Scent by SIX, the challenge stems from finding a way to stand out in a crowded marketplace dominated by European perfume brands. To do this, Mr Lee’s set of six perfumes uses the main ingredients in each perfume to highlight the stories and inspirations behind each variant. In this manner, it invites the user on a journey of self-discovery and exploration.

One of Scent by SIX’s core offerings is the Hikaru collection, which was co-created with beneficiaries from the Singapore Association of Mental Health. The uplifting scent has Japanese yuzu as one of its top notes. PHOTO: SCENT BY SIX

For example, the Hikaru scent, co-created with beneficiaries from the Singapore Association of Mental Health, has fresh Japanese yuzu as one of its top notes, a key ingredient that Mr Lee says is “instrumental to evoking feelings of happiness and joy”. It’s also a tribute to the scent’s co-creators – in Japanese, “hikaru” means “to shine”, something that Mr Lee hopes the scent has afforded the co-creators amidst a tough 20– 20.

In the early days of the business, to make headway in the retail space as a new local perfume brand, Mr Lee spent hours at flea markets to give out samples of his perfumes, and participating in larger-scale fairs like Boutique Fairs to hobnob with industry players like hotels, airlines and departmental stores.

Mr Lee started selling his products at flea markets and the Boutique Fairs. Today, the brand has three standalone stores in 313 @ Somerset (above), Bugis Junction and JEM. PHOTO: SCENT BY SIX

He caught his first break after the spa director of Equarius Hotel discovered Scent by SIX at Tangs, and invited him to curate a scent for the hotel. More recently, in a landmark achievement for the brand, Scent by SIX collaborated with Singapore Airlines to create a unique signature scent for the airline that included floral notes from flowers depicted in SIA’s new batik motif.

By constantly refining their processes and innovating their products, RISIS and Scent by SIX are able to deliver quality products recognised by most Singaporeans. And it is thus befitting that they are now earned the Made With Passion accolade.

As the Made With Passion tagline “You know it’s good, when it’s Made With Passion” goes, the enduring quality of RISIS and Scent by SIX is testament to the ambition, resourcefulness, optimism and determination that forms the passion that in turn, drives every facet of the brands’ operations.

For Ms Ng and Mr Lee, this passion is closely tied to purpose and commitment.

“Passion to me is staying true to our core values, to deliver on our commitment to our customers,” says Ms Ng. “​​We firmly believe that passion never goes out of style, and it starts from home – from celebrating the exceptional Singapore spirit.”

Mr Lee sums it up: “When you wake up in the morning, passion helps you look forward to doing what you do, but purpose keeps you going. That is the most important for any profession or brand.”

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