The Rabbit & the Dog – The sisters behind Bowerhaus
View the Bowerhaus store here: www.bowerhaus.com.au
THE RABBIT & THE DOG – The sisters behind Bowerhaus.
Much can be revealed about the truth behind Chinese Zodiac animals. Born in the year of the Rabbit, 24-year-old Elizabeth Lee enjoys being surrounded by family and friends and has a compassionate and gentle nature. Her older sister 29 year old Shen-Tel Lee was born in the year of the Dog and is enthusiastic and passionate about family and friends due largely to her caring and nurturing personality.
The sisters were born and raised in Sydney Australia and although they went to a German School and lived a very Aussie lifestyle of backyard BBQ’s and weekends at country fairs, the girls always upheld their Asian cultural heritage. They credited their mother and father Dr. Lincoln and Betty Lee for sharing and celebrating events like Chinese New Year and Old Souls Day with them.
The sisters enjoyed decorating their home at Centennial Park, Sydney for the biggest event on the Chinese calendar, which is the Chinese New Year celebration. Elizabeth shares “The main dish for the day we named Australian Yee Sang. It is basically a giant salad with vegetables and fruits plus all the freshest seafood, seeds and nuts. The day starts early with the whole family slicing, cutting and chopping all the 50 ingredients. Both of us would take turns each year to arrange the ingredients creatively on a huge round platter. The best part of the tradition is when our family and friends gather together to toss the Yee Sang with chopsticks.
It is this meticulous care for tradition that binds the Lee family together. Shen-Tel comments, “We are definitely a family that loves being in each others company. Some may view it as suffocating but for us it is the best feeling. Being surrounded by your loved ones who support you unconditionally, gives us the confidence to get through the many difficult challenges of life”.
Both sisters have always been inseparable. Shen-Tel remembers the day she pleaded to her mother for a sister. When her mother Betty ask “How about a baby brother?” Shen-Tel insisted, “I want a baby sister!”
The bond between these two sisters is obvious. In their presence they often say the same thing at the same time, or finish each other’s sentences. Separately they would come home with identical purchases. They have similar intuitions. To them this comes from years of travelling together and countless hours of sharing identical hobbies.
Arts have always been their foray. They grew up in a family that encouraged music and arts. The girls flourished in University with both graduating with Degrees in Design.
Shen-Tel founded her own Graphic Design business called The Playground Sydney in 2004 and in 2008 Elizabeth joined the company. Together they worked with many top Australian Brands specialising in cosmetic packaging.
In 2009 Shen-Tel got married and moved to Borneo where she started Sereni & Shentel VIEW HERE with her best friend Sereni Linggi, an online business specialising in handmade headbands. The sisters continued to design for their clients in Sydney despite the separation
but the creative itch to start something together could no longer be contained.
Elizabeth recalls “I came to Borneo and told my sister, it is time we start designing something for ourselves!” Shen-Tel couldn’t have agreed more. Having experienced first hand how to start and run a business she had the confidence to create a brand that would be the very essence of what the sisters are. As Shen-Tel puts it, “With years of designing brands for other company’s it was fun to turn the tables around. Creating Bowerhaus came naturally for us.”
For years the sisters had been creating their own necklaces and earrings with the collaboration of jewellers in Sydney and Hong Kong. Their mother taught them how to buy the best pearls and encouraged them create their own designs. The sisters would often create fun pieces for friends and family. The common design thread throughout all their creations was simplicity and quality.
“Travelling to places like India, Japan, Italy and China really opened our eyes to the variety of gemstones and pearls the world has to offer,” says Shen-Tel. With the aim being affordability and quality for the Australian market the girls designed, source and produce their first collection they simply called “Hello.” The collection was designed with Keishi and Baroque pearls that were all hand selected by the sisters for their unique raw qualities which they christened ‘Rebel Pearl.’ “We never go for flawless pearls. We go for pearls with personality that are unique and irregular. For us, individuality is everything and we want each piece to have its own special characteristic,” says Elizabeth.
Creating their signature Bowerhaus coin came from years of looking at their father’s vintage coin collection. “The signature jingle that comes from a Bowerhaus trio bracelet evokes a childhood memory of the sound of tuck-shop money in my school uniform pocket,” recalls Shen-Tel.
Creating the packaging was something the girls had the most fun with. Having sourced the paper they wanted from Japan and working with printers to get the right folds for the handles on their paper bags, the creative process of designing pouches, packing boxes, carry bags and their first catalog was all territory the girls were most comfortable in.
“I remember how excited and ready we were when we shot our first catalog in Kuala Lumpur,” recalls Elizabeth. Since that first shoot the sisters travelled to Paris to shoot their second range and their current 2012 collection was shot in Shen-Tel’s new hometown of Kuching in Borneo.
A year has now passed and the girls are still creating beyond Bowerhaus with Elizabeth creating a new online business called Postman’s Box with her best friend Holly Cardew VIEW HERE. The website provides free instant card delivery for online cards and invitations, designed with luxury and sophistication in mind. The girls saw a gap in the market for beautifully designed cards that are free. The website www.postmansbox.com has a funbooth function where you can take retro black and white photo strips and email them to your friends or family with a message. “The site will grow to include cards designed specifically for advertisers but for now we are just building up our data base of fans,” says Elizabeth.
Right now the girls are undergoing the joys and pitfalls of being employers. The one thing for certain is that creation and innovation is what the sisters live for.
View the Bowerhaus store here: www.bowerhaus.com.au