Project Woodworks co-founder Bryan Chang on what makes the company tick
Starting a business is never easy, especially when you’re in the still-growing sustainable fashion scene of Malaysia, where awareness towards sustainable fashion is still very low. Yet that didn’t stop childhood friends Izac Tan and Bryan Chang from starting Project Woodworks, a sustainable fashion company that makes watches from unused wood.
Co-founder Bryan Chang spoke to Fashionably Kind recently about the company’s beginnings, its products and future plans. Below is a summary of the interview:
Fashionably Kind (FK): What inspired the two of you to start Project Woodworks?
Bryan Chang (BC): Izac came from a family that manufactured wooden antique furniture. However, his dad’s business was forced to close in 2008 as wood prices had increased dramatically due to irresponsible and non-sustainable logging practices. Izac’s idea of making products using waste wood came about when he was researching the concept of wooden skyscrapers for his final year architecture project.
I had always wondered why business must solely focus on profits and disregard other stakeholders. I had already experienced how social responsibility and business output can be aligned from my final year project, which was business-simulation game that revolved around establishing a socially-innovative enterprise.
We combined our passions and dreams and started Project Woodworks in 2015; our dream is to change the world for the better, one product at a time.
FK: On a scale of one to 10, how would you rate the sustainability of your company?
BC: I would say 7.5 out of 10. Currently, our packaging is made from recycled paper, and the wood we use are from unused sources. However, the wood is currently sourced from different parts of the world and that has caused some carbon footprints.
In terms of impact, we are working with Landskap Malaysia to preserve rare tree species and plant them at their original forests across Malaysia.
FK: What were some of the early challenges you faced when starting Project Woodworks and how did you overcome them?
BC: Capital investment was a problem for Project Woodworks initially, but we managed to secure the funding from friends and family, and recently, we completed the MaGIC Accelerator Program and will receive the grant soon.
Besides that, we have spent 8 months to find the right manufacturing partner to work with us because we want to ensure quality, responsibility and the sustainability practices of the manufacturer. It is after many queries and an actual visit to the factory site that we chose our current manufacturing partner.
FK: What are Project Woodworks’ mission, long-term goals and values?
BC: Project Woodworks is built upon three pillars of beliefs, namely: impact, responsibility and sustainability. We aspire to create products that complement our consumers’ lifestyle needs at a modest rate while involving them in making positive impact together:
Impact – We create a movement that involves our consumers in the process of solving social / environmental problems.
Responsibility – We design our products based on the virtuous consumption cycle where they are manufactured greenly, fairly and thoughtfully.
Sustainability – We utilise sustainable wood materials to create our products because wood is 100 percent biodegradable and the most sustainable material on Earth.
Our motto is Style Sustainably. We believe that exclusive products make our consumers look stylish as they give a sense of personality and confidence. Most importantly, we want our consumers to understand that the way they style can make a change and help to build a sustainable world.
FK: What inspired your first collection Shivelight and how well-received has it been?
BC: ‘Shivelight’ is a long-lost nature-inspired word that carries the meaning of ‘lances of sunshine piercing into the canopy of wood’, thus it explains the shiny surface of our watch dial. The watch collection is receiving good response so far in terms of the design and the cause behind the cause, which is reforestation efforts in our country.
FK: Where are the watches made and how long does it take to make a single watch?
BC: Currently, the watch assembly process is done at Shenzhen because the watch-making industry in Malaysia is non-existent anymore. It will take up to 45 days to produce a watch in batches as it is handcrafted.
FK: Where are most of your customers from currently? Any plans to ship internationally?
BC: Our customers are mostly Malaysian and foreigners working in Malaysia. We are still at the early stage and just focusing on local shipping and the furthest, to Singapore. International shipping is definitely part of our plan now.
FK: Which retail outlets currently carry your watches currently?
BC: Currently, our watches are available at:
- LOKA Asia, NU Sentral, Kuala Lumpur
- FABSPY, Midvalley, Kuala Lumpur
- Boundlezz Unlimited, Sungei Wang, Kuala Lumpur
- Petronas Twin Tower Gift Shop, KLCC, Kuala Lumpur
- Boundlezz Heritage, Penang (upcoming)
- FABSPY, KL SOGO, Kuala Lumpur (upcoming)
FK: What are your thoughts on the progress of sustainable fashion in Malaysia, compared to places such as Singapore and Hong Kong, for instance?
BC: I would say sustainable fashion is still a fairly new concept in Malaysia, and I believe it will take a while to establish its footing in our country. Singapore and Hong Kong customers are more receptive towards sustainable fashion brands.
FK: What more can be done to increase the awareness levels of sustainable fashion in Malaysia?
BC: It is up to a brand like Project Woodworks to spread the awareness of sustainable fashion in our country. We want our consumers to know that the way they style can change the world, one product at a time.