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Organic growth needs just the right company

By Pauline D.Loh | China Daily | Updated: 2014-05-30 07:00

The thatched roof of the village meeting hall is nestled among paddy fields.

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Cooks in the communal kitchen still use the traditional way of preparing a meal. There are no gas stoves, only fires using wood gathered from around the surrounding hills.

This is Bali. And we are visiting the design and production studios of a world-famous handcrafted jewelry brand sold in the likes of Neiman Marcus and Lane Crawford department stores.

The story began when the brand's Canadian-born founder was lounging around on the tropical island, making jewelry and selling it whenever he ran out of money to pay for his hotel and food.

On a visit to New York, he showed his designs to a Neiman Marcus buyer and got an order for 300 pairs of earrings.

He had no workshop and resources to buy the silver but had a lot of friends in Bali willing to help him and lend him money. That was the start of his workshop.

Many years later, a young French designer working in New York for Van Cleef Arpels got a call to come work in Bali. Incredulous that someone should even think he would want to go from New York to a little island in Indonesia, he refused, but decided to take advantage of a free holiday.

Now, he is the chief designer and owner-partner of the Bali brand.

He says he first saw the thatched roof of the village hall and fell in love with its eco-friendly architecture. This is now his design studio and the heart of the brand's creativity.

He also liked that every worker was from the villages around, and that they were eating food they had grown and raised themselves, including rice, vegetables and meat. In fact, the showroom is a bamboo structure that "floats" above the paddy fields, built so the irrigation system is not interrupted.

The jewelry he makes is based on the traditional weaving methods used in the village for centuries, and his workers are local villages with an inborn sense of aesthetics.

In placing this world-famous design studio at the heart of the villages, the owners show they are committed to giving back to the community that inspires their designs.

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