*Produced by SilverKris for Bewa*
Prior to the announcement of Phase 2 (Heightened Alert) on 14 May, many homegrown small businesses such as Bewa Fashion Enterprise worked overtime to meet the demands for baju jubah and baju kurung during Hari Raya Puasa. But now with tighter restrictions back in effect, many will continue to struggle with the steep drop in customer demand.
Bewa founder Madam Lie Hong Haw is cautiously optimistic, however, that hard-won lessons over the past 15 months will serve her business well. “When Covid-19 hit in early 2020 and Singapore implemented the circuit breaker measures,” she recalls, “our business was hit at the worst time possible, just as we were entering our peak period of Hari Raya.”
Even after Singapore exited circuit breaker and entered phases one and two, the business situation was still bleak. “As Hari Raya had passed and the demand for Muslimah clothing dropped, our production team was in limbo and in danger of being made redundant,” Madam Lie shares. “Our priority was to save jobs, which is how we started experimenting with fabric facial masks.”
The experiment paid off. When Bewa first introduced their fabric masks on social media via pre-orders, the response was overwhelming. As the brand started releasing more collections, they realised they were reaching a much wider audience than before. From the original audience base comprising mostly Muslim customers, they were now receiving orders from across the different racial groups in Singapore and from both young and old.
“It was heartening to be able to showcase our workmanship to this newly acquired following”
Indeed, it has been Bewa’s exquisite workmanship that has earned them a solid reputation over the decades they’ve been in business. First founded in 1993 by Madam Lie (better known as Bewa), the tailoring house in Joo Chiat Complex – a popular gathering place for Muslims in Singapore – catered exclusively to Muslim women. Over the years, Bewa has grown to encompass ready-to-wear and unisex collections, and has expanded from one shop space to two, with a workshop and office in the same location.
Bewa’s commitment to creating beautiful, well-made products that eschews mass manufacturing methods is the reason behind the brand’s enduring popularity. Even when they pivoted to producing facial masks, they took this same thoughtful approach, with each mask individually cut and sewn – just like every dress or outfit they make.
The process of making these masks begin with the ironing and cutting of raw materials, which include a Dri-Fit inner layer, two layers of non-woven filtration fabric as well as the outer layer. From there, the filtration fabrics are then sewn together and combined with a nose wire to form the “skeleton” of the mask. Then, all the layers are sewn together and ironed again to give the masks a conical shape for greater wearing comfort. Each mask also comes with side slits to prevent crinkling or open sides, and ensures they adhere to the contours of the face perfectly. Finally, the team adds ear loops or hijab-friendly head ties to the masks. This painstaking process takes several hours for each mask, which is why the four-person production team is only able to make up to 50 masks a day.
The masks at Bewa come in a wide variety of colours – from the elegant Dark Gold and muted Military Green to the more flamboyant Burnt Orange and Electric Pink – as well as the option to include embellishments such as lace trims or embroidered flowers. Madam Lie says customers have raved about how comfortable and breathable the masks are, and how well they complement various outfits.
“Our most popular collection is the silk satin series,” says Madam Lie. “This is made using our unique blend of silk satin that we specially commissioned for the making of our dresses.”
For now, the Bewa team are hard at work mask orders, but while their hands are busy, their hearts are lighter. “We are proud to have steered our business from breaking point during Covid-19 to the thriving success that it is today,” Madam Lie shares. “We look forward to continuously innovate and deliver beautiful, handmade apparel to our customers for many more years to come.”
For more information on Bewa and their products and services, visit their website here.