Sometimes, it takes just a mundane moment to spark creativity. This certainly holds true for Wayne Ng, who was feeling unfulfilled after moving from Penang to Kuala Lumpur. He decided to make something worthwhile out of his background and skill in sewing, and inspiration struck him in a mall when he saw the enthusiasm of shoppers for handbags.
Having sewn only dresses before, Ng had to start from scratch. He explored the night markets, buying bags in the styles that he liked and got down to work. “I tried to buy the cheaper bags, measure them, take them apart, make notes and put them back together step by step.”
Soon, Ng mastered the art and set out to sell his collection of handbags. “My friends said my bags were very nice and, of course, my friends and family supported me. But I wanted to know if other people would accept my products.”
Ng began with about 10 pieces to fill his stall at a weekend market but his first week was disappointing. “On the first day, nobody even looked at my bags,” he smiles wanly, recalling how it was not until the second week that someone bought one of them.
Still, Ng never gave up hope. “That first sale was very important to me because someone was willing to pay for my bag.” He started asking shoppers what they looked for in bags and discovered that waterproofing was a key factor. “I use mostly cotton so people were worried that their things would get wet. So I put in a layer that is waterproof, protecting everything.”
Ng also found that shoppers wanted branding and exclusivity, so he decided on the name Finders Keepers. He makes only one bag per fabric, so shoppers will be purchasing a unique product. “If you find a bag in the pattern or colour you like, buy it and keep it. You will have only one like it, which explains the name Finders Keepers.”
Since overcoming initial challenges, Ng has been able to sell his bags with ease. He has even displayed them in hotels in Penang and they were once sold out within three hours.
The materials Ng works with are sourced from multiple locations, including India and Malaysia, but the majority of his designs revolve around a beautiful range of batik. He wants to change the perception that certain old batik designs are “nenek style”. “I try to create modern designs with batik.”
Ng also collaborates with friends who craft batik cloth with original patterns and vibrant colours. It takes him just an hour to make a bag but he promises excellent craftsmanship. “I don’t want quantity, I want quality,” he says as he shows me some of his newer pieces.
Every bag is handmade entirely by Ng without a single stitch out of place. “I get very excited when I see new fabrics. I am crazy about making bags,” he says.
It is obvious that Ng is passionate about his work, enthusing about some new fabrics that are coming in and how he cannot wait to transform them into beautiful handbags.
Slowly teaching himself and crafting his creations with care has been a fruitful learning curve for Ng. He feels that patience is paramount in developing a business. He had tried selling his products at a shop in Sunway Putra Mall but found it to be a waste of time as he felt he was mostly sitting around and waiting. He closed that shop and returned to setting up stalls in bazaars and pop-ups.
With an active social media account, Ng regularly posts images of new designs and the dates of upcoming markets. Although handbags are his main products, he also makes wine bottle holders and pillows. Moving forward, Ng hopes to pass on his extensive experience and knowledge to eager students.
Shop for his bags here. This article first appeared on Mar 5, 2018 in The Edge Malaysia.