Take one look at the oo crew’s social media page and you’re greeted with bright colours, cute doodles and the smiling faces of people you’d want to be your friend, clutching accessories of every style and type — from sparkly stud earrings to adorable masks and scrunchies.
As founder Melissa “Mel” Tai shared with HerCampus Nanyang Tech late last year, her motivation for starting the oo crew was to help individuals find new ways to express themselves through their jewellery.
The local multi-label accessory shop advocates for “owning your kooky”, encouraging their customers to go big or go home style-wise, and to not be afraid of being themselves. This is a message that definitely bleeds into the founder’s life, as among the green and white walls of her home office, were a few items from the store.
Some of the items included a tray of exclamations! earrings from Melbourne-based label, Champ, and a portrait of Frida Kahlo hanging just above her work station.
“We don’t tell people where or how to wear their accessories — wearing them means finding a way to express themselves,” the 32 year-old National University of Singapore English graduate, said, perched daintily on a step ladder which she fashioned into a stool. “Everyone has an awkward inside self that manifests outward, and I wanted to create a space where this side was welcome.”
Bringing international, local
Interestingly, although the company — just over a year old — is local, none of the brands that they carry are. Instead, their labels come from India, the United States of America, and The Philippines, just to name a few. When these brands release their products, the oo crew buy them wholesale in small batches.
One of the first brands that jumped on board with the shop was American brand, SOKO, which seeks to provide economic opportunity and financial inclusion for marginalised artisans and their families in Kenya through the production of ethical jewellery. Using an app, the brand’s artisans receive purchase orders, manage delivery and inventory, and get paid.
With reference to the Square Sia Studs from SOKO, Melissa gushed about the weathered but stylish look of the brass earrings.
“Though some might say that the brass looks tainted, I’d say that these are for people with more conservative and classic tastes. I really like that they have a sort of 3-dimentional floating effect to them,” she told HCNTU.
Though the process of working with international brands seems tougher than working a local one, Melissa shared that it was entirely intentional, as the oo crew’s purpose was to breathe new life into the local accessory industry.
“I wanted to challenge and differ from the existing styles in Singapore, so we bring in international labels that are not available here,” she said. From a business perspective, Melissa said, “the oo crew was also supposed to be an entryway for international brands to come into Singapore, and for us to help these brands to produce meaningful content that they themselves can make use of.”
Setting realistic dreams
Like many stores in 2020, the pandemic halted many businesses’ plans, and the oo crew was no exception. Melissa had plans to travel to Malaysia and the Philippines to meet with new brands but that did not happen, nor did the big pop-up that they were looking forward to in March last year due to the Circuit Breaker.
Though the brand will continue to push on through 2021, the oo crew is running on limited time. Melissa says that if the brand does not hit her intended target by some time this year, it might close for good.
She told HCNTU with a twinge of sadness, “I love the oo crew, but practically speaking there is an expiration date, and if it doesn’t work out by then, it’ll have to close.”
Melissa further added that the oo crew continues to be an extension of her own being, saying “the oo crew was born out of passion and it reflects me in my entirety.”
If all goes well, Melissa hopes to bring in more products and brands for the store.
Advice for the youngins
As we near the end of the interview, we asked what would be some advice she would give to her younger, undergraduate self.
She said, “You have to go through a trajectory of not knowing everything. It’s okay to experience self-doubt.”
“It sounds like your life will be all put together when you hit your thirties. But I wish they said you will continue to feel doubt all the time, and that’s good because it means you’re forever growing and changing. You can’t control the outcome, but you can learn to have fun with the process.”
Melissa added she spent many years trying to validate her worth as a person through various avenues, such as her professional work. However, more than seeing the self as a result of the work you put out in the world, she added that it is more important to understand why you made that decision and to learn from it, regardless of the outcome.
She said, “Learning to trust and articulate yourself in a space that is uniquely yours is immensely scary and rightly so, but the discomfort gets easier the more you practice.”
“In sum, we’re given a lot of bullshit advice, but at the end of the day the only one who has the ability to validate yourself is you,” she expressed.