YUSRINA YUSOFF visits Hayley Grobman at the new Hanna Lee boutique for a chat about fashion and more.
More than a passion. At the age of 18, Hayley Grobman, founder of accessories label Hanna Lee, packed her bags and left London for Paris to learn French. “I thought it was necessary if you wanted to work in fashion, and that is all I ever wanted to do.” Determined to make it big in this cutthroat industry, she worked in retail on weekends while at college to gain experience and practise her French.
Working for top designer Karl Lagerfeld is a priceless education no fashion college can offer. The plan was to stay in Paris for only six months, but when Hayley got a job with Karl Lagerfeld she wasn’t going home anytime soon. During Paris Fashion Week, she escorted buyers from upscale stores like Henri Bendel and Saks Fifth Avenue to the shows. “I freelanced for Karl Lagerfeld during Fashion Week, and when the buying season was over, I followed up on orders.”
Globetrotting fashionista. After Paris, Hayley returned home and found a job at J & M Davidson, a luxury leather brand where she gained valuable insights that helped further her career in retail. Yearning for change, she moved again to another fashion capital – New York City. There, she worked for one of the jewellery designers whose collections are now stocked at Hanna Lee.
“My whole thing is selling.” Opening a retail shop had always been Hayley’s ambition, one that she achieved 17 years ago together with her mother. It was such a success that they decided to open another boutique – Hanna Lee Lifestyle – selling high-end apparel, shoes and more. However, unable to juggle family life and two businesses, they closed it down when Hayley was pregnant with her second child. It was tough, too, competing against giant retailers like Zara, which had just arrived in the UK.
Hanna Lee moves to the Far East. When Hayley moved to Singapore in 2010, she saw a gap in the market for affordable, trendy jewellery. Seizing the opportunity,she began selling at fairs, then from her home. As demand grew, she felt that she needed a store; after seeing an empty shop in Tanglin Shopping Centre, she signed the lease for it. Her instinct was right, and a second outlet is opening soon at Cluny Court.
“I don’t believe you have to spend a lot of money to look good.” After all, Hanna Lee’s mission is to offer affordable fashion. Hayley is of those few who don’t flutter at the sight of the iconic blue box. The first time she received a Tiffany & Co necklace was from her husband, a few months after they started dating. It was the last time, too. “It’s just not me,” she says. She would pick a fashionable neon necklace to match her peplum top over a silver bean any time.
|Hayley Grobman’s Top Tips
• Store costume jewellery in zip-lock bags to keep the air out
• Avoid contact with body cream or perfume as jewellery will tarnish
• Buy jewellery that is nickel-free, especially if you have allergies
#03-48 Tanglin Shopping Centre
6737 0698 | facebook.com/HannaLeeShop