This time last year, we embarked on a sort of The-Alchemist-esque journey with our friends at Matter. It was the perfect alchemy. Matter, as you know, makes “pants to see the world in”. WoW discovers and tells stories of inspiring individuals. Together, we created a #WoWWoman series entitled #JourneyToMe. We wanted to have meaningful and intimate conversations with women about their unique path of self-discovery and self-acceptance; and with that, the power and freedom to be fearlessly and unapologetically who they are. In their stories, we found strength, courage, hope and inspiration. Listening to them gave us goosebumps and, because you, too, loved the series to much, we’ve decided an encore was in order. So here we are, one year later, presenting you part deux of #JourneyToMe.
We started the conversation last week with millennial #Girlboss and social media darling Andrea Chong. This week, the founder of local swimwear label K.Blu invited us into her elegant Bukit Timah home (tastefully embellished with the debut K.Blu x Commune home collection) to talk about the road less travelled and the meandering twists and turns along the way before she found success… and herself.
I learned to believe in myself and to be strong as a woman… to say ‘no’ and to challenge decisions or certain outcomes that I believe to be wrong.
Lyn Rosmarin: I am a workaholic. I can’t stay still whether I’m am working, engaged in sports or looking after my kids — I need to be doing something.
Do you remember what your childhood dream was?
LR: Yes, to have a well-paid job so that I can support my family.
What is your dream now?
LR: To make K.Blu a well known luxury lifestyle brand internationally.
You took a rather unconventional path which led you where you are today. Can you walk us down memory lane?
LR: I came from a humble background. My family owned a small provision shop, so I used to carry sacks of rice and deliver groceries to my estate when I was growing up. School was never great for me because I didn’t really have
My family owned a small provision shop, so I used to carry sacks of rice and deliver groceries to my estate when I was growing up.
the right support at home.
My life took a turn when I was 18. I was in the second year of my Human Resource Management course at Nanyang Polytechnic when I was offered to do a job placement in France, at a parfumerie called APF Arômes & Parfums. I took it. Thanks to the owner, I got a place in one of the grandes ecoles, a business school. He also got me a part-time job to cover my school fees. It was the best time of my life.
After I graduated, I got into a dealing room in a foreign bank. It was a steep learning curve, but I rose up the ranks with all the Ivy Leaguers. Fast forward 12 years (I’ve had a good run in my career in finance), the idea of K.Blu beckoned. I used to do a lot of sea sports, and I failed on so many occasions to find good swimwear in Singapore. I saw a gap in the market for good-quality swimwear, that I could make a difference to women who want to look (and feel) good in swimwear, so K.Blu was born.
LR: Well, I was re-learning about life. Living in France had made me a better person — I learned to believe in myself and to be strong as a woman. French women are tough, and they fight for equality in every way. I learned to say “no” and to challenge decisions or certain outcomes that I believe to be wrong. I think that’s where my perseverance comes from.
I was also given opportunities that allowed me to prove I could be as good as other kids who were getting a university education. I’m grateful to the French government for my subsidised education (she holds a double honours degree in business management from France and the UK, and speaks five languages — English, Mandarin, French, Japanese, Spanish — and two dialects, Cantonese and Teochew.)
I was robbed near my school, attacked by gas bomb in a night club, attacked by a gang with stones and I was followed by strange men numerous times. You learn quickly to look out for signs and stay alert.
Another life lesson I learned is how to deal with dangerous situations. We live in such a safe city we sometimes take it for granted. I never knew how to handle crime, didn’t know how to defend myself. In Paris, I was robbed near my school, attacked by gas bomb in a night club, attacked by a gang with stones and I was followed by strange men numerous times. You learn quickly to look out for signs and stay alert.
What do you think it really means — or takes — to be “unapologetically, fearlessly you” as a woman? Do you think you’ve achieved that?
LR: I’ve always been a very determined and confident person, and I think that’s helped me cross the many hurdles I’ve come face to face with in life — when I wasn’t selected for promotions or jobs, or when I wasn’t perceived as being “normal” by some friends.
At the end of the day, what matters is accountability to myself and my family. Always stand up for what you believe in — I always have.
What are three traits about you that you think other women would look up to?
LR: Perseverance, honesty and my ability to look at the bigger picture.
What about you don’t you love so much, and how do you come to terms with and accept (or improve) these parts of you?
LR: I am impatient and I tend to want to see instant results. Ever since I started K.Blu, being an entrepreneur has taught me to be more grounded in how I view money, progress and people, and more so, to set my sights further.
What do you do whenever you need a quick boost of confidence?
LR: Tell myself I can do it.
What’s the surest way for a woman to gain power?
LR: Empower herself with knowledge.
What’s your advice for people who are lost, who feel like an outsider and who are trying to find their way in life?
LR: Seek mentorship. You may find that there are other people out there who are going through the same thing as you right now. You never know until you speak to someone about it. What’s there to lose anyway?
What’s your mantra these days?
LR: Never try, never know.
Complete the sentence: I am…
LR: An underdog, but I always manage to come through.