SINCE she was young, Jillian Tan has always wanted to make her own jewellery. “I often found myself looking for [specific styles of] necklaces, bags or earrings but I was unable to get [them] here in Malaysia. So, I resorted to making them myself,” said Tan, who holds a degree in Business in Marketing and Management.
Eventually, Tan left her corporate job at a market research company to become an accessories and jewellery designer, and launched www.poppylab.com in 2014, selling earrings, necklace, rings, bracelets, bags and clutches.
“I quit my corporate job because I wanted to pursue happiness, I wanted to do what I love and do good, whenever possible,” said Tan.
“I remember the day, I was sitting in a cafe in Australia. I thought: ‘I have to start a business. I really have to do it’. I remember looking at a sign with the word ‘happy’, and thought of what makes me happy, and the poppy flower came to me.
“The name Poppylab inspired by the poppy flower. Poppy flowers are so bright and cheerful to me and they always make me happy, which is why I chose the flower for the brand. Poppylab is a place where girls and women can come to be happy.
“The Poppylab brand is all about quality, unique, colourful merchandise with a touch of island life added to the mix.”
Island life and surf culture have always attracted Taiping-born Tan. “I always loved the beach and the sea. It makes me happy and in fact, it makes most people happy,” said the 33-year-old, who models her earrings on her brand’s website.
“Everything about the lifestyle, the way of life, art and design is so beautiful to me, from the choice of colours, and sometimes, even the traditional or cultural elements. I really admire islanders. Their sense of identity is so strong, grounded and hardly swayed by outside influences and they remain connected with nature,” she said.
Having visited Bali, Koh Lipe, Koh Phi Phi and even Kotor, the coast of Montenegro and Bondi Beach, Tan draws inspiration from those locations. Her love for nature such as plant, leaves and flowers translates into design.
Her next earring collection titled Hawaiian Dreams was inspired by Hawaii in the United States, with a red fern motif, while Evenings in Ipanema was inspired by Ipanema in Brazil, with a Monstera leaf motif.
“The collection design that resonated with me the most is the Taiping Raintree Series (inspired by a hanging raintree in Taiping Lake Garden), as it is the story of my hometown and it is close to my heart.”
Another collection is the Hornbills Series where Tan contributed 30% from the sale of each pair of earrings to a non-profit organisation.
Tan even named one of her collections after places in Malaysia, like Georgetown and Malacca.
Her upcoming collection is Peranakan Tiles (Streets of Malacca) and batik-themed earrings for the upcoming Hari Raya celebration
“I want to highlight Malaysia’s pride and joy, such as batik, or Peranakan tiles,” she said.
She loves the choice of colours used in the old Peranakan tiles and painstakingly, she handpaints her own colour combinations on the Peranakan tile-inspired earrings.
“Most of my earrings are one-of-a-kind-pieces. So, when [customers] buy, it is truly unique and handmade. The earrings are made from polymer clay, which is lightweight, durable and water-resistant,” said Tan. The earrings come in various shape, colours and designs.
Apart from polymer clay, her earrings are made from stainless steel with pearls, crystal beads and natural stones.
“My key pieces are colourful and bright, and people can flaunt it. It is trendy and casual. My products can be worn in the summer or for work, daily.
“I don’t feel like a product has to be confined to a specific occasion. It really depends on how you want to express yourself. If you are true to yourself, you can pull off anything. No matter how weird it is, it works.”
As for her own style, Tan loves to wear a neutral outfit with a bright earring to add a bit brightness to the face, and she prefers gold colours.
Tan’s wants to raise the brand to be internationally recognised worldwide, with her products placed in stores everywhere. “That is the dream,” she said.
Designer Jillian Tan is proud of her homegrown accessories brand, PoppyLa. – ADIB RAWI/THESUN