Meet the Sarawak-based duo crafting ethically-sourced bespoke jewellery with beautiful stories to tell
The young duo behind some of Malaysia’s most beautiful bespoke fine jewellery nearly ended up in the rather different world of mechanical engineering. Eileen Phoan and Fabian Tan embarked on a small side hustle during university, with Eileen making beaded jewellery and Fabian helping her to sell it.
As time went on, the couple delved deeper and deeper into fine jewellery techniques, teaching themselves by trial and error and finally earning the mentorship of an experienced local jeweller.
Now, Eileen and Fabian are at the helm of Left & Right, an atelier specialising in personalised fine jewellery that reflects wearers’ stories. Stories are at the heart of the brand, Eileen tells us.
“My late grandparents were splendid storytellers,” she says, “and when they passed, I missed them a lot. I started to create jewellery pieces with a story to tell, as a conversation with them. Soon after that, I started receiving emails and texts about how these stories resonated with others, so we started to personalise pieces for individuals, hoping to bring weight to their moments, emotions and journey.”
While each Left & Right piece is unique to its owner, there’s a definite signature, with antique-style flourishes and botanical-inspired curves and lines dominating. “Our design style tends to be very organic, intricate and dynamic,” Eileen explains. “Being in a tropical country, surrounded by architecture and elements of diverse cultures, helps us to keep an open mind when it comes to stories. We were both born and raised in Kuching, Sarawak, so we are constantly exposed to local symbolic design.”
Their considered, mindful approach to design extends to how they work too: Left & Right is committed to using ethically sourced materials, working with reclaimed gold and silver wherever possible and only using gemstones from reputable cottage mines. Zero waste is a term that’s not often applied to the jewellery industry, but Eileen and Fabian are taking a pretty good shot at it.
“We salvage all the gold, even in powder,” Eileen says. “And then we process it ourselves and melt it down into little bars, leaving as little wastage as possible.”
This story originally appeared in the Spring 2020 issue of Going Places magazine.