Women of Strength – (S)carving A Printed Legacy
“You are smarter and stronger than you think you are."
"You can achieve everything you want with the correct support and help.”
In conjunction with International Women’s Day, PAZZION is encouraging women to follow their passion and fulfill their dreams. In a 3-part series, we share empowering stories about women who defy social conventions to pursue their interests and eventually emerged victorious in their own rights.
Our second inspirational story is about twin sisters, Santhi and Sari Tunas, founders of Binary Style - a scarf brand specialising in conversational prints, inspired by nature, Singapore’s unique history and the diverse cultural mix we can find on the island. Both sisters were trained architects from Indonesia, worked for 15 years in Europe, but relocated to Singapore and switched careers mid-way, primarily to pursue happiness and launch their brand, Binary Style (@binarystyle).
This design sibling duo have been working non-stop and had collaborated with many organisations to create various original prints, often showcasing the intersection of architecture and nature with an unmistakably tropical hint.
Find out more about their designs and how they managed the challenges to start their own business:
1. What motivated you to follow your dream and started Binary Style?
Santhi: “At some point in your life, you will need to ask yourself if what you have been doing is what you want to do for the rest of your life. So while we had been pretty established in our careers, the projects ended up being a bit repetitive. We then decided to try something different in an area that is personally more fulfilling.”
The business idea stemmed from my personal love for scarves. I love wearing them but was never able to find the designs and colours I loved in the market. As we have always been very artistic people, I thought ‘Why not design the scarves myself?’ and that was the beginning of Binary Style.”
2. Could you tell us a bit more about Binary Style and your main inspiration?
Santhi: “We wanted to tell beautiful stories with our scarves and started by incorporating the story of Singapore into our fabrics. Sari loves taking walks in Bukit Timah and Botanic Gardens to appreciate the nature, floral and fauna. As a trained architect, she also appreciates rustic places like Tiong Bahru for its rich and interesting architectural structures and buildings that have stood through times.
The marriage between architecture and nature within a multicoloured universe was the main creative concept of our designs. So, while the architectural projects that we used to work on take long periods, sometimes up to 3 years, to be completed, we now find it very inspiring to be able to realise our designs in a much shorter time frame, printed on our scarves.”
3. You’ve worked in other parts of the world, so why did you decide to start Binary Style in Singapore instead?
Santhi: “Singapore is our home! We started the Binary Style in 2015 when we moved back to Singapore. Prior to this, we also lived in Europe for almost 15 years and after a while, we lost touch with our home country, Indonesia. We would definitely have a culture shock if we were to move back to Jakarta! Therefore it makes perfect sense for us to establish our business in Singapore”
Sari: “Also, it was never easy to step out of what you have been doing to start a new company, but in Singapore, we do have an incredible and supportive environment. We never studied business, accounting, marketing, or PR so to successfully manage our own business, we needed to learn everything from scratch. The learning curve was steep and the entire process was indeed very humbling but we really enjoyed it because I think we are both very nerdy!”
Santhi: “It helps that we both subscribe to lifelong learning. We believe that if you stop learning, you will be stagnant in your life, not being able to process and excel further. Sometimes people get scared even if we had relevant experiences from our previous careers, but by putting yourself out there, it really helps you understand the world better and challenges you to greater heights.”
4. With a successful business now, what advice would you give to inspire women out there?
Both: “It can be terrifying and daunting to follow your aspirations to try out new things, especially when you are moving away from something you are comfortable and familiar with, but always believe in yourself. Life will always be a never-ending learning journey!”
5. Did you find it complicated or did you get help during this journey?
Sari: “We definitely went through some difficulties such as not having enough experience or the need to find help and mentors to teach us the know-how of starting and managing a company and creating our designs from start to finish.”
The twin sisters wearing two of ‘The perfect shirts’ from the Binary Style.
6. Where do you find motivation and support to keep going?
Sari: “We always had support from each other because we are in this together. It also helped to have supportive family and friends who encourage us. It is also very encouraging to see our customers donning our designs and returning for more.”
Santhi: “It can be very frustrating and stressful when I have to multitask between work and family, especially with kids. With so many things on my plates, it is almost impossible for me to excel in all. But I guess you have to learn to choose your battles and fight those that you are confident to win. It’s also always fine to accept your limitations, but you have to work around it and focus on what you can do well.”
7. We understand your clients are mostly women Tell us a bit more about them!
Santhi: “We have different types of customers, some of them are women who are already into scarves and they just want to acquire special designs. Others are clients who have never really worn scarves so they usually purchase our scarves as gifts. Most of them also appreciate heritage as we do, so that’s why our best-sellers are those that depict cultures or heritage. Currently, because of the pandemic, people are buying fewer scarves due to the warm weather in Singapore and the travel restrictions so we have adapted to research on new products like home decoration.”
8. Anything you still want to achieve? Future plans you can share with us?
Both: “Of course, there are still so many things we want to achieve! We hope that Binary Style will become a full-fledged lifestyle brand even if we started out with scarves just like Marimekko. We would also want to bring Binary Style to an International audience while maintaining the brand essence and our unique designs.”
9. What would be your advice to someone who wants to do a career change or follow their dreams?
Santhi: “Starting a business at a ‘tender age’ of 40 and competing in a new industry with younger people was challenging but definitely possible, even if you didn’t have experience in this field. Also, you do not have to give up on your career just because you have kids. Learn to manage your time properly and effectively so that you don’t have to compromise on your work nor family.
Sari: ‘’It can be scary to start all over again and but life is so short, we definitely encourage people to embrace their passion and live life to the fullest with no regrets."
10. What would your inspiring message be?
Both: “You are smarter and stronger than you think you are. You can achieve everything you want with the correct support. Don’t be shy to ask for help, support and advice.”
Filmed in a single shot, our Binary Style sisters have been challenged to answer our fashion shoe style questions.
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