Friday, 28 October 2011

Chic Talking With ... Sereni & Shentel

Lady Gaga once said that she wanted to conquer the world, one sequin at a time. However, in Sereni and Shentel’s case, the sequin will be replaced with a headband at a time. 

Hailing from Kuching, jetsetters Sereni Linggi and Shentel Lee are continuously carving their mark in the fashion scene with the birth of their revolutionary headband label, Sereni and Shentel. Sassy, sexy and obviously quirky, Shentel and Sereni headbands have received not just rave reviews and chic lauds from fashion editors and bloggers, but also craved by discerning fashionistas and trendsetting celebrities. 
  
Even the Miss Universe contestants too fell for their headbands when Malaysia’s very own Deborah Priya Henry presented them in beautifully crafted boxes at this year’s pageant in São Paulo. 

Recently, I managed to get the girls to chip out some of their precious time for an email interview. Therefore, Sereni and Shentel fans out there, do check it out! 

Every brand has a story to tell. What is yours?
Kuching is a small city and although we both travel a lot there were many a weekends where we found ourselves with simply nothing to do. We both share a love for the handmade and decided one weekend to make headbands for a Lady Gaga concert that we were attend in Singapore. 


The reaction that we received from the concert crowd was overwhelming. Sereni and I were bombarded by photographers and taken by all the Singaporeans asking us where we got our headbands from. 


Shentel even made it into the newspapers the next day for the headband that we made. It wasn’t until we had the opportunity to create hair accessories for a Tatler Shoot in the Philippines when we really started to get serious. Sereni got to meet the hair guru Kim Robinson at the shoot and after his praise for the range we decided that we would start a small online store to showcase our designs. 

How long has Sereni and Shentel been in the fashion market?
We have been in business since September 2009 

How do you get the idea to create those beautiful yet sassy headbands? Do they come instantly or more than a week?
We are simply addicted to the Internet. We LOVE that you can get visual references to just about anything with the click of a button. We follow blogs, Twitter and Facebook religiously and read online magazines through zinio.com as it is the fasted way to get overseas publications. 


A lot of our inspiration comes from our Mother's as well as visual pin boards that we create from clippings and bit and pieces that find their way into our handbags through our travels. 


Some of our ideas are amazing and many of them get thrown in the bin. The bad designs are the most memorable for us, as we tend to laugh about them over coffee. As the saying goes, "It's so bad, it's so good!" Our designs do take time to create. Some have taken months to get right. 

Are the headbands’ design based on specific themes according to the fashion seasons (spring/summer, fall/winter) or just inspired by some random things such as Pucci prints or semi-precious stones?
To be honest we do not follow specific fashion seasons. We are heavily influenced by trends though and what is hot for the moment. We look to other designers for their colour pallets. 


Our Blair and Blockspirations are a range of headbands that are created weekly and are influenced by visuals that we see in magazines. We are collectors and love to look back at past spreads for inspiration.

Both of you are heavily involved with the corporate world — Sereni in the property line and Shentel as the founder of The Playground Sydney — as well as in the Malaysia high society scene. So how do you chip in a fraction, if not some of your time from the hectic schedule to run Sereni and Shentel? 
Some people go to the gym, some people spend time with their friends, some people cook dinner. We spread headband love in our free time. The business is still our major hobby and we love that we get to have some down time away from our day jobs. 

Since the headbands are made to order (as per the website FAQ page), how long do you take to complete the orders and are they handmade?
All our headbands are handmade in our Kuching workshop. An order can take up to 9 days to complete depending on our schedule. All headbands are placed on our list on a first come first serve basis. 

The “Made in Borneo” tag spotted on the bands really caught my attention. That said, does that mean all materials used for the headbands are sourced within the vast and beautiful island of Borneo itself?
We would love for all the materials to be made in Borneo and when we do find a supplier we would switch in a heartbeat. 

Right now our materials are sourced from all over the world, but our personally trained artisans hand sew each and every headband. Some headbands require up to three people to complete it. It is a labour of Borneo love.

Now, some people, especially those who are in the lower income group, tend to see the price of the headbands as absurd and beyond affordable. What is your take on this subject?   
Our headbands are hand sewn and not machine made. We do not make them in bulk oversees. All our headbands are shipped for free within Malaysia and are packaged in beautiful canvas bags. We think that they are investment pieces worth having. 


We also do repairs on headbands for our clients if their headbands ever get into a shabby condition. This is a service we pride on. Of course, if you snap your headband their isn't much we can do but we do try our best if it is repairable. 

Out of the thousands or perhaps, millions of international trendsetters in the world, name one, two, or three celebrities that you wish to see wearing Sereni and Shentel at the Oscars?
Lady Gaga, Madonna and Elton John. 

Block Party, Ice Ice Baby, Mama Mafia … the names seem playful to me. Why you girls do christened them with such playful names?  
That is just who we are. We love to have a laugh when it comes to getting dressed up, be it for work, play or eating a bag of chips in front of the TV. 

Moreover, Blair … I believe one or both of you must be a die-hard fan of the Gossip Girls, right?
Upper East side! We love Gossip Girl. Blair knows what she wants and always gets it and we adore her for it.

Well, Blair and the others aside, the bunny ears too almost got me swooned. Is that a sort of homage to the iconic Playboy playmates?
 
Sereni is a zodiac rabbit so we have always loved the bunny rabbit. Let us not forget as well the Easter Bunny. We are more obsessed with him then the Playboy bunnies.

I just peeked at Sereni and Shentel look book and I only have one word to describe it – MARVELLOUS! Running around in shopping cart, gossiping (I guess) while on a limo ride, having milk and cookies — they are indeed inspiring. Do you mind sharing with me the whole story behind this well-done look book?
The first look book was all about how we saw the brand. We designed them for ourselves and we wanted to share with others who we are, what the brand is and where is came from. All the photos were taken in Kuching in places we actually live and breathe in. Some of the pictures may seem a bit over the top but that is who we really are. Our motto is "Be seen or GO HOME!"


The special headband that you created as national gift to be auctioned off during the Miss Universe pageant is certainly breathtaking. Judging from its meticulousness, I must say it took long working hours to design it.
The headbands took three months to complete and it was a labour of love. We are so thrilled with how they turned out and seeing them on some of the contestants in Brazil was a kick.


Now that Sereni and Shentel headbands have made it to the Miss Universe, thanks to our own beauty Deborah Henry, the possibility for Sereni and Shentel to tap new and bigger markets such as Brazil, India, China, the Middle East, United States and Europe is already there. What say you?
BRING IT ON!

All right, one last question from me. Where do you see Sereni and Shentel in the next ten years? Will it spawn a full-fledge ready-to-wear and footwear line or maybe a huge, dedicated store in the heart of Kuching? 
We have big plans for our brand but ultimately we will always be hand-making headbands in Kuching. That is who we are and what we are good at.

Sereni and Shentel headbands are retailed directly from their own website (http://www.sereniandshentel.com/), as well as by selected mixed brand retailers such as the M Store Women at The Gardens Mid Valley and 1st Avenue, Penang. Also, do check out the new Artist Series collection by New York-based artist Anna Coroneo and the special project line called the Borneo Collection.


*Photos courtesy of Sereni and Shentel.  

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