The homegrown design store went from humble beginnings to becoming a heritage brand with a lasting legacy, nabbing a collaboration between Disney and its Star Wars franchise along the way
Brooks Brothers shirt, Bulgari Octo Finissimo Chronograph GMT Automatic watch; trousers, Edwin’s own
For Edwin Low, the leap from design lecturer to business owner required more than a few hail marys to keep design-centric lifestyle store Supermama from insolvency during its first few years of operations.
When the business began in 2010, its first month revenue was a demoralising $600. The second month fared a tad better, at just over $1,000.
“My design friends said I had gone to the ‘dark side’ when I first started the store, while my business friends said I made a lot of unwise decisions,” he recalls. “For example, there were some product designs that I knew were not going to sell, but they told a good story so I still produced them—a businessman wouldn’t do that.”
A view of the plates on display in the Supermama flagship store at Haji Lane
It took four years for Supermama, lovingly named after his wife, Lee Mei Ling, to eventually turn a profit. And today, the brand has managed to achieve what most only covet: a cult following of devotees who have embraced Supermama’s unique genre of contemporary ceramic products designed locally with a distinct Singaporean identity, yet made to the highest standards of traditional craftsmanship in Japan.
It was a marriage of culture and aesthetic the country had not seen, with Supermama collaborating with more than 100 designers and artists to date, and even snagging the President’s Design Award in 2013.
Plates from the Star Wars collaborative collection from Supermama
Soon, even Disney was knocking on its doors seeking a collaboration between the Star Wars franchise and the local brand. Six designs were sent directly to George Lucas for approval, each beautifully illustrated with iconic characters such as Yoda, R2D2 and Darth Vader seamlessly taking pride of place among Peranakan motifs for a uniquely Singaporean sensibility. The blue-and-white porcelain limited-edition series of 1,800 pieces was released just in time for the premiere of Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, with the entire collection selling out in just two months in 2017.
In another galaxy not so far away we call 2020, Low is now using the opportunity that the Covid-19 crisis presents to transform the business “from a mom-and-pop operation” to a heritage brand with a lasting legacy.
'House of Stories' plate by Tatler Homes Singapore and 'Dome' by National Gallery Singapore, from the Singapore Blue collection by Supermama
“I took this time to clean up my business. I also looked at the merits of Supermama and asked myself what are the parts that were personal and could be taken out, and what are the parts that are strongly related to Singapore,” he says.