“Meaningful heirloom jewellery celebrating life” – that’s how Carolyn Kan describes Carrie K. We dive into her brand’s evolution and the stories behind her designs.
Carolyn Kan has lived many lives. From a high-flyer in advertising to debuting Carrie K. to rising up as a champion advocate of the local designer scene, she doesn’t shy away from new challenges and aspirations. Her journey in the world of jewellery started in 2009, when she shed her past life to start her brand. And she’s never looked back since. Now, stepping into 50, she’s leading the charge in the evolution of Carrie K.
When I enter her elegant atelier at the National Design Centre, Carolyn greets me warmly, offering me a slice of homemade chocolate cake and a cup of lemongrass tea. Jokingly referring to herself as a magpie – because she can’t help but notice the unusual elements of accessories on others – she brings up my wedding ring, the only item of bling I wear. She, on the other hand, has adorned herself in a half-pearl, half-chain necklace, a statement ring, and spectacular earrings for a standout look.
As we chat about all things jewellery, Carolyn weaves tales of her years in the industry. It’s clear that her excitement and passion haven’t wavered one bit. Even now, she’s learning new things all the time. And she’s eager to share her knowledge at complimentary gemstone workshops, which she takes me through. The interactive introductory session delves into the type, colour, cut, clarity, and origin of gemstones – you’ll leave better equipped to purchase quality jewellery in the future.
It’s charming how she radiates pride and positivity when speaking about her brand, which has recently seen a refresh from its previous iteration. The focus is now on versatile designs, modern renditions of bridal pieces, heirloom items made contemporary, and custom-made creations that celebrate life’s pivotal points. After all, what’s more beautiful than jewellery that tells soul-stirring stories?
Here, Carolyn dives deeper into the inspiration behind her jewellery and what it all means to her.
You’ve been running Carrie K. since 2009 – how has the brand changed since its inception?
While Carrie K. has always told stories through jewellery, the stories we tell are now focused on love – of self, soulmate, family and friends – to mark the milestones in life. Celebrating ourselves and the lives of our loved ones is important. We’ve also evolved from creating silver accessories to fine jewellery that holds meaning for future generations.
In the last five years, we have supported women in need through causes like Daughters Of Tomorrow and Aware, and mentoring women and future female leaders of tomorrow through Inspiring Girls SG. By supporting mothers in need, we help lift the lives of their families and that flows on to uplifting our community.
Tell us about your current brand ethos.
Carrie K. has evolved to create meaningful fine jewellery that celebrates love and life. It’s versatile and timeless, designed to appeal across generations. We create modern heirlooms for mums to love and daughters to “steal”.
We wanted to solve a common problem our clients had. Many inherited their grandmothers’ or mothers’ jewellery or were gifted traditional wedding jewellery important to them, but they rarely wore those because they looked dated. To solve this, we created jewellery interchangeable for versatile wear. It can be deconstructed to its simplest element for everyday use or have elements added to transform into an eye-catching statement piece for special occasions. We also reimagined gems perceived as old fashioned – such as pearls, mother of pearl and jade – giving them a modern twist whilst incorporating details that tell meaningful stories.
Share your thoughts on your collections: favourite designs, meaningful pieces and the stories behind them.
I love the Blessings collection as it talks about a deeply meaningful traditional Chinese concept of “wu fu”, or the “five blessings” essential to living a good life. This modern interpretation of the traditional saying is represented by an elegant motif of five bats set with pearls, mother of pearl or jade. I like that its appeal spans generations. It’s popular amongst mothers for the bride-to-be’s “si dian jin” bridal jewellery and is loved by modern brides as they can enjoy the jewellery for years to come.
For myself, I love the Code collection that features my husband, my dog and my own initials in discreet Morse code diamond dots and dashes. The designs are what I’d call “timeless with a twist”. And this collection has designs suitable for life’s milestones – from engagement and wedding ring designs to more modern bridal jewellery, to push presents and gifts for significant anniversaries and birthdays.
A recent experience that warmed my heart was when a gentlemen client marked the birth of the family’s first child by customising a bangle for his wife, an anklet for the baby, and a ring for himself. Each featured their three initials in Morse code diamond dots and dashes.
With your heirloom revival service, wedding ring designs and bespoke creations, you must have lots of unforgettable interactions. What are some of the standout stories that stick with you?
Many of our stories involve tears of joy and clients who become friends. Our clients often come with no specific story in mind for their ring. We encourage them to share with us, and with each other, stories about their relationship.
One couple who came to us for a bespoke engagement ring shared a heartfelt story of the bride-to-be’s past hardships and how her boyfriend was her shelter. At that moment, he promised to always be her home, encouraging her to feel safe to explore the world and discover herself. Touched by their story, we were moved to tears. It served as the inspiration for the bespoke ring we designed featuring a Chinese roof – a symbol of their shared heritage (both partners were born in China) and his promise.
Another happened a day before the Covid lockdown. Our client got his girlfriend, who was unaware that he planned to propose, to come to our store on the pretext of picking a present. When they arrived, we surprised her with a bespoke ring that our client had co-designed and popped champagne that we’d secretly organised. She burst into tears of joy and surprise.
There are so many stories like this. It’s a joy and a privilege to be a part of such important milestones in our clients’ lives. They reward us with photos of their proposals and messages of appreciation for our service.
Speaking of celebrating milestones, can you share some of your own personal triumphs with us?
A major milestone was embarking on a new exciting chapter in my life in 2009. That’s when I left a senior corporate job as managing director of an international advertising agency to start a Carrie K. from my kitchen table.
Another milestone was my 20th wedding anniversary. My husband gifted me my Code bangle featuring his, mine and our dog’s initials in Morse code diamond dots and dashes. To me, it’s a precious reminder of 20 years of memorable stories, lessons, growth and love.
What’s the one thing you love most about jewellery?
Jewellery has the potential to be a powerful talisman which brings reminders of personal triumphs or messages that you’re loved. It’s a precious vessel that passes on important stories.
Tell us one thing about you and your jewellery that not many people know.
When I first started designing jewellery, I wasn’t a fan of pearls. I always associated pearl necklaces with a matronly, old-fashioned look. My mother gifted me a string of pearls that I never wore, which prompted her to challenge me to redesign the necklace.
So, I set out to transform the classic pearl necklace into something versatile and stylish, using detachable accessories to create over 100 different looks – from sophisticated to edgy. My mother was impressed with the final result. Now, you’ll never catch me without my Carrie K. pearl necklace, which I wear attached to a modern gold chain.
After an exciting few years, what’s next for Carrie K.?
We’re collaborating with a couple of amazing brands known for standout bridal gowns and milestone gifting. And we’re expanding our engagement ring designs and services to meet the growing demand for unique, custom proposal rings. Our focus remains on providing versatile jewellery options that can effortlessly transition from everyday wear to special occasions. That’s particularly important for modern brides seeking timeless and adaptable jewellery.
We love entrepreneurs and small business owners at Honeycombers, which is why we’ve created Launchpad, a comprehensive digital networking platform (with IRL benefits, too) that encourages connection, business support and community. It’s a privilege and pleasure to learn from so many talented and inspiring folks, so we’ve decided to share the love by interviewing some of the lovely Launchpad members. Get in touch with Carolyn Kan online, and check out Launchpad for more inspiration!