If you look at Nana & Bird today, you would never guess that this sleek and established luxury women’s fashion and lifestyle brand was once simply an idea dreamed up by two friends in vastly different industries and spaces in their lives.
In fact, Tan Chiew Ling and her best friend, Georgina Koh, were both well into their individual and illustrious careers in advertising and marketing with Tan stationed in Shanghai and Koh in Singapore when the two decided to embark on a fashion venture together. Spurned by their love for fashion and strong friendship, this passion project slowly grew to be the staple fashion brand it is today.
Tan and Koh have a long-standing friendship that goes back to their days in Anderson Junior College when they were simply classmates who bonded over shopping, food and movies.
Both their paths separated when they graduated and moved into university with Koh doing a Bachelor of Business Administration in Marketing at the National University of Singapore and Tan completing a degree at Wee Kim Wee School of Communications and Information at Nanyang Technological University of Singapore.
From there, Tan entered the world of advertising and joined creative agency Bartle Bogle Hegarty (BBH) Global. After a one-year stint at the agency, the ambitious and talented advertiser was posted to Shanghai in 2005 to help lead and set up the company’s operations. Tan quickly adapted and spent the next seven years building her career at BBH as well as her life in Shanghai.
Koh, on the other hand, became an associate producer at Active Interactive where she worked on Singapore-wide location-based marketing campaigns for the company. She was strategic and her skills got her top jobs at Yahoo, Apple and Nokia over the years.
However, despite going their separate ways, both friends stayed close. In 2010, with Tan still in Shanghai and Koh still pursuing her career in Singapore, the pair began to float ideas with each other about possibly pursuing something they were passionate about together and that they could call their own.
“I kept in touch with Georgina even when I was residing and working in Shanghai and we both had an epiphany the year we turned 30 that we should partner up and do something we could call our own. Rather than working for others, we wanted to work for ourselves,” shared Tan.
This is where the idea of starting a fashion brand was born.