Stephanie Choo, 47, runs a jewellery line crafted by individuals with autism.
Eden + Elie has gained a following for its unique Peranakan-inspired jewellery that’s handwoven from tiny, colourful beads. But fans might not know that their purchases were actually crafted by individuals with autism.
That’s because the label’s founder, Stephanie Choo, does not want people to buy the products out of pity.
She wants people to first love the jewellery, and appreciate its maker’s skill and commitment to the craft. “They have tremendous focus, and the output from their hands is just incredible,” she says of the six artisans she works with, who take home a monthly salary that gives them a means of supporting themselves.
Stephanie, who learnt embroidery from her grandmother as a child, started Eden + Elie in 2015 after returning from the United States, where she had spent two decades.
At the time, she had a successful career in architecture and design, and was the mother of two young children. But she sought a way for her passion for design and social good to intersect, and Eden + Elie was the result.
Related: What is autism?
Working with individuals who have autism has its challenges. For one, Stephanie can’t introduce new designs as and when she pleases.
“One of the artisans has even memorised the patterns. Things that require change are not easy for them. I need time to teach them, and I have to design what they are able to do,” she says.
But the final product is worth it. “It’s such a joy. To see them make something I’ve designed is an incredible feeling. They make it beautifully, and it’s identical (to what I make),” she adds.
Related: Is there a cure for autism?