White House-worthy fashion by designers with special needs
Pathlight student See Toh Sheng Jie's now famous dinosaur pouch has raised awareness of special needs designers.
It all began with a $14.80 pouch designed by Pathlight School student See Toh Sheng Jie, 20.
The denim pouch, adorned with dinosaur motifs, stood out against the black and gold lace outfit worn by Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong's wife Ho Ching during a US state visit earlier this week.
Her unique sartorial choice has since shone the spotlight on items designed by people with autism.
By Thursday, all available stock of the dinosaur pouch - sold online and at the two physical shops run by Pathlight's retail arm The Art Faculty - had been swept off the shelves.
Some 100 interested buyers are on a fast-growing waiting list.
And it is not just the denim pouch that has been selling like hot cakes.
Other artwork and merchandise designed by Pathlight students and alumni are being snapped up too, Ms Jacelyn Lim tells The New Paper on Sunday.
The deputy executive director of the Autism Resource Centre says that for the past two days, walk-in sales have gone up by more than ten-fold.
Most of the products stocked at The Art Faculty are designed by students under Pathlight's Artist Development Programme (ADP).
Under the ADP, student artists are nurtured and taught by professional art teachers. Their artwork are then turned into merchandise - think everyday products imprinted with doodles - where possible.
Student artists earn royalties from the sale of their products, which ranges from 10 to 60 per cent depending on whether they are merchandise sales, artwork or commissioned artwork.
But the royalties earned are the last thing on these artists' minds.
Sheng Jie's father, Mr Jason See Toh, 54, simply shrugs when asked about the royalties his younger of two sons has earned so far.
"I don't really know how much royalties Sheng Jie gets, but it is the least of my concerns. For Sheng Jie, he is happiest when he is in the world of dinosaurs. We just tell him people like his art, and he smiles.
"And when he is happy, we are happy," the cabby says.
The same goes for 18-year-old Tay Jun-yi (below), whose artwork is arguably one of the more popular items at The Art Faculty.
His animal doodles, which depict the subtle nuances of animals during social interactions, are also printed on everyday items such as T-shirts, coasters and notebooks.
His father Roland Tay, 61, recalls being wowed by Jun-yi's work - a style he calls unique and brings joy to people.
The CEO of social enterprise Professor Brawn Cafe says: "He started drawing from a young age, even before he started school... It is a God-given talent. No one taught him to draw...
"He draws as a means to stay calm and as a form of expression - a sort of therapy for him."
Jun-yi's passionstems from his ambition to be an artist, says Mr Tay, who adds that his son draws at home all the time.
Also driven by ambition is Mr Kelvin Yong (below), who suffers from muscular dystrophy. The 27-year-old hopes to become a well-known bag designer.
He is one of six bag designers for Flax, a fashion brand under social enterprise Wise.
Using sketches done by their design teacher, the bag designers decide on details like zips and leather types for each bag.
Their designs are then sent to China and Italy to be made. The bags are sold online as well as at the brand's showroom in Paya Lebar.
Mr Yong hopes that more people will pay attention to the bags designed by him and his colleagues, just like how Singaporeans have become aware of the merchandise designed by Pathlight students.
"Some don't understand this enterprise or know about us at all," he says quietly.
Adding that he is a little envious of the buzz generated by the dinosaur pouch, he tells TNPS: "Just one pouch can make such an impact. I hope that my bags and my friends' designs will inspire some people too."
If you were going to...
What would you wear if you were lucky enough to score an invite to a White House event?
Why not make a statement like Ms Ho Ching with fashion pieces created by special needs designers?
We put together three outfits with items designed by Pathlight student Tay Jun-yi and Wise bag designer Kelvin Yong for freelance actress and former The New Paper New Face finalist Shine Koh.
A GARDEN PARTY
Look casual-chic and on-theme with this fun zebra top and a pouch adorned with flamingoes.
Zebras T-shirt by Tay Jun-yi ($29.90)
Multi-purpose case (Flamingoes) by Tay Jun-yi ($19.90)
A black satchel with a chequered flap instantly jazzes up your outfit.
Dogs T-shirt by Tay Jun-yi ($29.90)
Ivy (Black) by Kelvin Yong ($428)
A STATE DINNER
Add a pop of colour to a simple navy blue dress with a tee peppered with mint penguin motifs and a red leather bag.
Small Penguins T-shirt by Tay Jun-yi ($29.90)
Lotus Petite (Ruby) by Kelvin Yong ($428)