Cosmos Creatives Spotlight: Yuan Artisan

“I strive to create clothing that conveys stories and represents the causes I’m passionate about, whether it’s redefining traditional fashion or advocating for important social issues” – Ai Leen

In commemoration of Breast Cancer Awareness Month, Imagine The World is back with our second edition of the art market – Cosmos Creatives Art Market, embodying the spirit of life and a hope to flourish. Cosmos Creatives Spotlight discover unique brands and the inspiring creative minds in their journey towards their pursuit of their passion. We interviewed Ai Leen, founder of Yuan Artisan, as she finds herself on a journey of entrepreneurship to create a sustainable and ethical brand.

Yuan Artisan was founded out of our love for traditional Asian fashion and appreciation for high-quality artisanal craftsmanship. At the heart of Yuan Artisan is the mission to support and empower the community of women who sew for a living. We are passionate about providing fair wages and opportunities to generate income.

How did you get into the craft?

I discovered my passion for artisanal fashion during my two-year volunteer stint at Beyond Social Services. That gave me the opportunity to work closely with talented seamstresses in a sewing project. I conceptualize and market sewing goods to help these artisans earn a living from their craft. This fun and fulfilling experience ignited my own journey into artisanal clothing, eventually leading me to establish Yuan Artisan.

How has the brand grown from when you first started?

My days are quite dynamic. I work as a full-time Sales Development Representative at a fintech startup, which keeps me busy during the day as I seek new business opportunities for the startup. In my free time, I try my best to manage time effectively in carving out moments to work on Yuan Artisan while also spending quality time with my loved ones. And, just to unwind, I indulge in nightly Netflix binge sessions.

One of Ai Leen’s Sketches
During the process of making the Bloom Cheongsam Top – 2023 LNY Collection

What is your source of inspiration?

The quest for meaning and purpose. I strive to create clothing that conveys stories and represents the causes I’m passionate about, whether it’s redefining traditional fashion or advocating for important social issues like breast cancer awareness.

What is your favourite aspect of your craft?

My favorite aspect is sharing the fruits of my labour with others. Whether it’s the support of my loved ones or the appreciation from new customers who resonate with my work, the joy of seeing my creations make a positive impact in people’s lives is truly fulfilling as I believe through Yuan Artisan, we can look good, feel good and do good through fashion.

How has starting your craft impacted your life?

Starting Yuan Artisan has been a transformative experience. As a one-woman team, it’s a learning journey filled with important business decisions, shaping the brand’s direction, and ensuring its sustainability. This venture has broadened my skill set and given me a profound understanding of the entrepreneurial world.

What has been the best experience/opportunity your art has given you?

The best experience has been the opportunity to leverage my diverse skill sets developed through various work experiences, including marketing, sales, and photography. Bringing all these skills together to build my brand has been immensely satisfying.

Has there been any challenges that have made you almost give up on your craft?

Throughout the year since I started Yuan Artisan, I’ve never seriously considered giving up. While I’m still working towards breaking even, I believe in taking breaks, which personally last for 3-4 months between new product releases, to recharge and focus on other aspects of life. This approach helps me maintain my passion and commitment to the craft.

How are you involved in the local art community in Singapore?

I’m gradually becoming more involved in the art community in Singapore. Always actively exploring opportunities to engage, learn, and contribute. I’m especially keen to participate in community events that align with my work and interests, like Cosmos Creatives Art Market.

Do you have any advice to share with others who might be interested in learning a new craft, starting a side business, or just getting more involved in the local arts scene in Singapore?

My advice is simple—dive in and start. Don’t let your initial excitement wane into nothing. However, I do recommend taking a step back and carefully distinguishing between short-lived passion and a genuine, lasting interest. After conducting your personal “due diligence” and making an informed decision to begin, commit to your craft for a substantial duration. It’s through this commitment and unwavering dedication that you’ll find the path to meaningful experiences and personal growth.

Ai Leen with Yuan Artisan’s lead seamstress at the fabric store in Ho Chi Minh City

Han Ai Leen

Founder of Yuan Artisan

Website | Instagram