Jillian Tan and Christina Tan (not biologically related) of Kami Design began creating bespoke invitations for private clients on a part-time basis, but after working into the wee hours of the night (and sometimes from their cars), they realised it was time to take a leap of faith; they went all hands on board in May 2018. Since then, they've serviced the likes of Christian Dior, Bell & Ross and BMW, not to mention many happy couples, some of whom grace Malaysia Tatler's wedding pages.

‘Kami,’ meaning ‘we’ in Malay, is non-inclusive of the recipient, denoting exclusivity. What informed your decision when naming the company?
Both: ‘Kami’ means ‘paper’ in Japanese, and we have always been fascinated with Japanese design in product packaging, which is not just aesthetically pleasing, but always functional. These are two guidelines we abide by: to combine art direction with thoughtful personalisation. The outcome is functional and inspired stationery that’s enjoyed by both the sender and receiver.
Of course, ‘kami’ is also a word in Malay – the national language of Malaysia where we’re proudly based.

You met each other while working in the design department of Pavilion Kuala Lumpur, the cream of the crop of luxury shopping centres. Did this inform your understanding of the luxury market?

Christina: Definitely. In-house designers practically live and breathe the mall’s branding. We were tasked with delivering concepts and visuals that put Pavilion at the forefront of luxury fashion malls. It was a good (albeit stressful) training ground and priceless exposure to the luxury market.

Regale us with the story of your first assignment! Your first customers, Marcus Teo and Juvene Goh, were on the cover of Malaysia Tatler in October 2016.

Christina: We were colleagues with Juvene at the time. While working on a wedding invite as a favour for a close friend, Juvene asked if I could design something for her as well. She already had a pretty clear idea of what she wanted, and being in the same office meant we could work on it together. It was a fun little side project. Once the designs were done, Jillian helped her out with choosing the best paper and oversaw the production. This is how Kami started!

Kami Design fills a gap in the market. Prior to this, invitations were largely selected from existing templates. I imagine some clients cringe at the idea of sharing the same invites as others; kind of like walking into a party and seeing someone else wearing the same dress. Walk us through your bespoke process.

Jillian: For our custom suite, the process begins with a conversation – taking time to understand a client’s creative brief, concept, and budget. Every bespoke design is created from a blank piece of paper. We work very closely with our clients to create a product that not only suit their requirements but also reflects their love as they began a new journey together.

How is the workload divided?

Jillian: My role as brand strategist involves being on the front line, from client servicing to marketing. I also oversee the print production, and style and manage our social media.

Christina: I oversee the creative process, from designing visual concepts to proposing paper materials and colours. I also handle the more mundane tasks such as finance and admin work.
Floral art features heavily in Kami's designs, making up its core aesthetic. What a great way to stay evergreen! Where do you look for inspiration, Christina?

Christina: Thanks to Instagram, our visual feed is endless and there are many arenas for inspiration. At this moment, I’m obsessed with the Maria Grazia Chiuri collection from Dior.

The company is also an evolution of Jillian's family business. What are some steps you have taken to modernise the traditional printing model?

Jillian: Because my family has been in the printing industry for more than a decade, I developed an early interest in design, paper materials and entrepreneurship. From the age of 15 upwards, I accompanied my parents to the factories to observe and aid the production line. I believe that print is not dead!
Convenience and modernity go hand in hand. We want the process of ordering Kami Design’s products to be as painless as possible for our clients. Every step can be carried out online or via texts or emails – all this to accommodate their busy schedules. They need to know that they don’t have to step out of their doors to receive tailor-made designs on top-notch materials.
There is plenty going on behind the scenes of Kami Design. Not only do you carve individual wax seals for every letter in the alphabet; it took a trip to Jakarta to research the process of making handmade paper. Can you expand on your green initiative?

Jillian: Many are trying to go paperless for the sake of the environment, and we agree with this up to a certain extent; we opt for paperless in most of our admin and finance work. However, we also strongly believe in maintaining traditions and sending out tangible invitations. There is something sincere and heartfelt about giving and receiving a physical invite, especially a carefully curated one. To make up for this, we are making it our mission to reduce our carbon footprint by introducing recycled materials such as handmade paper to our range of products. We hope to stir awareness among grooms and brides; their joyous celebration can also contribute to a lasting cause!


Kami Design | Instagram: @kamidesign.co | 012-317 7841 | kamidesign.my@gmail.com