A natural affinity, part one

A natural affinity, part one

We launch our new journal with the first in a two-part conversation between Baea founder, Adah Chan and Creative Director, Catherine Reeves. Inspired by their shared love for the natural world, the pair have worked together closely since 2017.
Adah Chan, Baea's Founder

Adah Chan, Baea's Founder

‘A slower pace…’ Adah’s country home 

‘A slower pace…’ Adah’s country home

The discussion begins with Catherine asking Adah about her childhood in Hong Kong, her relationship with nature and her mother’s influence.

Catherine: I know you love being outside — do you have an early memory of being in nature that you still think about?

Adah: I spent my early childhood growing up in Hong Kong. It’s a place people often associate with skyscrapers and crowds, but those who know the city also appreciate its proximity to nature. My childhood memories are of island hopping, tropical flora, beaches and a lot of hiking with my father. That was something we would do almost every weekend. 

C: What’s your favourite outdoor place to be now?

A: I still really enjoy hiking with my father when I’m in Hong Kong. Now, I bring my children along too. I love taking them on the same walk down to the beach from my parents’ house that I used to do when I was young. Watching them discover the same places is really special to me.

For the time being though, we’ve had to keep things a bit more local, so currently my favourite place has to be the area around our country home in Canada, where we have been isolating during the pandemic. It overlooks an inlet on a river and is close to my husband’s family’s farm. 

We’ve been here with the children since March and although it’s definitely taken an adjustment for me to live full-time in the country, we have been enjoying the space, the slower pace and forming a very immediate connection to the land. Since Spring, my husband has been planting all our vegetables with the kids — it’s amazing to see them harvesting something for lunch that they’ve grown themselves. 

C: I remember from our early discussions about Baea that the idea of drawing design inspiration from nature was clearly motivating for you. What is it about this concept that speaks to you?

A: Over the years, I’ve come to realise that the things bringing calm into our home are those gathered in nature. Things like a perfectly round stone I keep on a windowsill that reminds me of a day spent at the river with the family…

Nature contains so many incredible patterns — beautiful, unstructured, asymmetrical… each unique — which we’ve been able to draw on in creating products with meaning; that tell a story. 

Of course, not everything can be found in the wild, but why shouldn't those essential things we invest in — such as bedding — convey some of the same feelings? 

C: Right! And at the same time, invest in products that have been made with as little impact on the planet as possible. Sustainability is something that’s fundamentally important to both of us, but it’s also become a bit of a buzzword — what does it really mean to you?

A: It’s true! But I think you’ll agree that sustainability is never an afterthought for either of us, it’s really at the root of everything we do. 

On a personal level, sustainability has always been about longevity. I come from a family with decades of experience in textiles and homewares, and for both my mother and grandfather, making things to last was of the utmost importance, long before anyone was thinking about this in terms of “sustainability”. It was just common sense. But it’s not just about durability — with every decision we make there’s an obligation to think about how we might minimise the impact of our actions on the planet. 

C: Growing up with a mother in the homeware business, did you always mean to end up in this industry? Or was it a fluke?

Aligned in their thinking — Catherine and Adah launch Baea in Hong Kong

Aligned in their thinking — Catherine and Adah launch Baea in Hong Kong

A: Having an incredibly entrepreneurial mother, I knew early on that I wanted to start a business. But I honestly didn’t imagine it would be so close to home! My mum gave me tons of freedom and I was encouraged to make my own choices, but I suppose some values are deeply ingrained.

I spent my twenties traveling to factories all over Asia and Europe, and I think it is really within this context that I fell in love with the making of things, I loved the process of turning an idea into reality. I saw how objects connected people: the makers to the consumer, and when those skills and objects are passed on, the story keeps being told.

I learnt from my family, but I also managed product for global brands like Ralph Lauren Home. Now I’m really glad to get back to my roots. 

C: I bet your mum is pretty happy about you launching Baea.

A: Ha ha, she can be quite tough on me, but I do believe she is — she’s always been an incredible friend and mentor. I’m really happy to be able to take everything I learnt from her and apply it to creating something for the future.  

The view from Adah’s desk

The view from Adah’s desk

Bounty! Vegetables grown by the family

Bounty! Vegetables grown by the family

Courgette flowers — the kids love eating these for lunch

Courgette flowers — the kids love eating these for lunch

C: What's the single most important thing you learnt from her?

A: That quality is everything! I now see that this is something my mum instilled in me from a young age. She has high standards for everything she owns, and of course for everything she’s brought into her boutique over the past 30 years. She would always rather spend more on having less — investing in things that are made to last. This is probably why half my current wardrobe is actually hers! Growing up, it was embarrassing that everything nice would be ‘my mum’s’ but now I really value that. In fact, it’s become central to Baea’s ethos.

In the second part of Adah and Catherine's discussion, the tables are turned, as Adah finds out more about Catherine’s background, inspiration and connection to the natural world. Read here.

 

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