The Story of Banwagon Bags/Wares

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Epoch Times, Singapore Edition (Issue 492, August 8 – August 21, 2014)

By Li Yen Epoch Times Staff

Mr Lengfei Tok and Mr Gareth Dean Lee met during their days in Singapore Polytechnic, where both of them were multimedia design students.

Both aged 23, they are the founders and designers of Banwagon Bags/Wares, a local brand that manufactures honest, well-designed and hand-crafted goods of the finest quality. Design functionality, lifestyle, and the philosophies of consumerism are a few of the key aspects of Banwagon Bags/Wares.

The young duo hope that consumers will learn about the brand’s stories and products instead of being just trend followers. Wanting to cease the ‘bandwagon effect’, or the herd mentality of purchasing something primarily because others are buying it, they named their brand Banwagon.

They wish to encourage individuals to do things that are true to their passion, or simply because they love it.

“Consumers these days are an extreme example of ‘Hopping on the Banwagon’, the majority being victims of fashion and trends. It’s not a bad thing to follow fashion and trends once in a while, but people often abuse them as a way to “fit” into society, causing them to lose their personal sense and taste,” says Mr Lee, the co-founder and designer.

Mr Tok, the founder and craftsman, thinks that Singaporeans are sceptical to put their trust in local designers. Though these perceptions hurt him, they also motivate him to advocate for a change in the Singaporean mindset towards local design.

If you thought that Banwagon Bags/Wares only produces bags and wallets for men, be prepared for a surprise. Mr Lee and Mr Tok are presently preparing to launch a range of bags for ladies. So ladies, stay tuned!

Can you tell us more about Banwagon Bags/Wares leather products? What range of leather accessories do you sell, and how are they priced?
Mr Lee: We use leathers from tanneries such as Horween, and Wickett and Craig. There are wallets, cardholders, tote bags, key fobs, passport holders, belts, bracelets, and furniture. Prices range from S$30 for a key fob to S$565 for a bag.

Mr Tok: Gareth and I are collaborating with Kevin Chiam, a furniture designer. A coffee table is designed and is available now.

How are Banwagon’s leather products different from other brands?
Mr Tok: Consumers can expect well-crafted and designed goods at an affordable price. Leather and hardwares used are from USA. Many brands tend to overuse the term ‘handmade’ or ‘handcrafted’ when their products are produced using sewing machines and clickers. Our goods are completely handmade from start to finish; leather pieces are hand-cut and sewn by hand, edges and surface of leather are polished by hand as well.

Mr Lee: Our products on their own aren’t unique or special even though we are confident of its quality. Everything’s functional and minimalist with occasionally added details. However, what that defers us is that we don’t just sell a product, we sell a story with it.

Unlike majority of brands you see in the market, they just want to keep up with fashion, trend, and money making. We want to keep up with life, helping others see that life isn’t about competing with the times, but about experiencing things you really love and like.

That is true happiness.

What inspired you to start up this leather accessories business?
Mr Tok: The high amount of badly designed and ridiculously priced items that are available on the market. We really hope consumers will soon realise what they are actually supporting before paying the price.

Mr Lee: No offense, but we’re not producing just leather accessories. We are just releasing the first wave of products that happened to be leather accessories.
As to why we major so much in leather is because firstly we have interest in leather, second an interest for crafting, and lastly a large mass of humans obscure to leather products.

Banwagon’s primary goal isn’t making money; it’s a project to educate the mass about the importance of consumerism.

It can be quite terrible to not know what you’re buying at times, like near extinct animal products, over chemicalised food, religiously conflicting products, etc.

What is the inspiration behind your brand name, Banwagon?
Mr Tok: Nowadays, consumers tend to ‘jump on the bandwagon’ and follow blindly what is on trend today instead of really finding out the back story of the brand and the products they are using. So with that in mind, Banwagon Bags/Wares is created, hoping that the ‘bandwagon effect’ will cease to exist in consumers’ mind.

Mr Lee: Consumers these days are an extreme example of “Hopping on the Banwagon”, majority being victims to fashion and trends. It’s not a bad thing to follow fashion and trends once in a while, but people often abuse them as a way to “fit” into society, causing them to lose their personal sense and taste.

Therefore we want to ban the bandwagon effect, and thus the name Banwagon. We want to encourage people to do things not because society prefers it, but because individually they love it.

That is why we don’t advertise, we only want Banwagon’s name to go by word of mouth with absolutely no marketing gimmicks to tamper consumers’ minds.

Are the leather accessories hand-made by you both? If yes, where did you pick up the leathercraft? When did you make your first leather goods?
Mr Tok: Yes, all leather wares are handmade (hand-cut, hand-stitched and hand-polished) by us. We are completely self-taught craftsmens. We read books. The rest of the learnings were trial and error. We took a year of practising before both of us are satisfied with the final outcome of our skills.

Mr Lee: As of now, everything is hand-stitched. I (Gareth) have been into crafting of many sorts since young with a passion for the form of things. Lengfei had an interest in products and their functions.

So when we learned leathercraft together, we had a headstart on form, function, stitchwork, and pattern making.

The rest of our knowledge were researches on the Internet and expensive mistakes from crafting processes.

Our first leather goods was done around the mid of 2012.

Who designs the Banwagon products?
Mr Tok: Both of us design the collections together. However, we do handle different tasks other than designing—I craft all the leather goods while Gareth is currently handling the homewares and liaising with our stockists.

Mr Lee: Most of the designs are by Lengfei, but we always further develop them together.

What is your future plan for Banwagon Bags/Wares?
Mr Tok: We will still be focusing on leather goods in a small production scale to ensure consistent quality. We hope to have more collaborations with other brands locally and internationally in the future.

Mr Lee: We’re not an all leather products brand. Currently we’re working on a range of furniture, with our first design being collaboration with a designer named Kevin Chiam.

Also, we plan to launch our ladies collection this year.

We intend to keep Banwagon with just the two of us as we want to retain our quality and creative control.

And of course, we hope to continue educating the mass on consumerism, starting with craftsmanship and leather products.

For more information about Banwagon Bags/Wares products, please check out their web store at http://www.banwagonstore.com, or visit Front Row located at Raffles Hotel Shopping Arcade, #02-08/09, 328 North Bridge Road, Singapore.

From – http://printarchive.epochtimes.com/a1/en/sg/nnn/2014/08%20August%202014/492/AUGUST8-21_24_lowres.pdf (Pg 1), http://printarchive.epochtimes.com/a1/en/sg/nnn/2014/08%20August%202014/492/AUGUST8-21_25_lowres.pdf (Pg 2)

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