Oleah x THE LABEL SG: Clara's Breast Cancer Story

Published/Updated on:
October 22, 2020
Oleah is one of three local shoe brands represented on THE LABEL SG, a platform conceptualised by the Textile & Fashion Industry Training Centre (TaF.tc) to help local fashion businesses in the wake of Covid-19. This October, to celebrate Breast Cancer Awareness Month, THE LABEL SG has collaborated with 9 designers including Clara Han of Oleah on The Pink Ribbon Collection, where 20% of the gross sales proceeds will be donated to the Breast Cancer Foundation (BCF) to support women in their journey against breast cancer in Singapore. 

Click to watch the interview with Clara! 
Filmed and post-produced by Jerome Yah, May Min, and Gwyneth Anne Peter.

The Story Behind Oleah

Clara Han, the founder of local footwear brand Oleah, has always been a woman who plays multiple roles in her life, juggling between being a wife, daughter and also a corporate executive. Previously in her corporate job, she had to be about on her feet a lot, and she found that she needed a pair of shoes which were both professional looking and comfortable at the same time. Unfortunately, she could not find what she was looking for, and Oleah was born out of her desire to create the perfect shoe for herself and other women like her.

Clara in Oleah's Viola Red
Clara in The Viola in red

In 2016, she quit her job and took the leap to join the fashion industry as a footwear designer. Fortunately for her, she had the opportunity to take TaF.tc’s Diploma in Footwear Design and Product Development, which provided her a strong foundation in understanding the shoe industry. The diploma played an instrumental role in launching and developing her own brand, and was also helpful in her negotiations and conversations with different factories. 

Naming her beloved shoe brand Oleah, she explained that the name is actually inspired from the botanical name of the olive fruit Olea. Like the olive fruit which produces precious olive oil when put through tremendous pressure, Oleah seeks to also inspire the modern woman today to push forward beyond their limitations, producing beauty and value in her own life and the lives of others around her.

picture of the olea europaea
Olea, Source: Soaphoria

Overcoming Adversity

Not unlike the story behind the brand name of her homegrown shoe brand, the story of founder Clara Han is also one which speaks of the strength and beauty that emerges from adversity. 

Earlier in February this year, Clara met the biggest fear in her life. In December 2019, she had found a lump in her left breast but she only decided to see a doctor in early January this year. She was eventually referred to a specialist and had to go through a series of tests, before she was officially diagnosed with breast cancer in February this year. Having witnessed how difficult it was for her mother to go through breast cancer 13 years ago, she was devastated to receive the news. 

Clara and her Mom
Clara and her mother

However, Clara continued to stay strong, and the support and concern from the community around her kept her going through the journey. Despite the challenge and pain which she experienced going through treatment for her cancer, she also experienced love and beauty in her journey. Her sister and mother took turns to care for her, her husband accompanied her through each chemotherapy session, and her friends constantly showered her with encouragement and prayer.

Giving Back to the Society

Emerging from the crisis as a stronger woman, Clara jumped on the opportunity to participate in the collaboration between BCF and THE LABEL SG. The collaboration features the “Eden” shoe, which was designed for the spring season, as a way of bringing joy and happiness to the lady who puts it on. Clara’s wish is that anyone who sees the Eden will be reminded that dark days are only for a season, and that spring will always come after. The shoes are available online on THE LABEL SG. Coming October, 20% of all proceeds from the sale of the Eden shoe will go towards BCF. The donations will go towards funding the activities of BCF, to raise awareness and provide support to breast cancer survivors and their families. Says Clara who is a breast cancer survivor herself, “This is a cause that is personally very close to my heart…and Oleah is happy to be able to contribute to this cause in the little way that we can.” 

This is THE LABEL SG’s second campaign in support of BCF. Earlier in June this year, TaF.tc had partnered with three local fashion designers – Ann Teoh of At.titude by Ann Teoh, Esther Tay of R2W by ESTA and Sylvia Lim of Triologie – to create reusable face masks, where 10% of their proceeds are donated to BCF to help breast cancer patients financially. The collaboration started as an idea between the designers and Ms Doreen Tan, chief executive of TaF.tc, who offered to host the e-commerce platform THE LABEL SG, and absorb handling fees for the sale of the masks. In less than two months, the collaboration hit a donation target of $10,000 and was also featured on The Straits Times' COVID-19 Special Feature for helping local fashion businesses stay afloat in the wake of COVID-19.

To all patients diagnosed with breast cancer out there, Clara has this to share: 

“I would like to say that you are beautiful, you are strong. There are good days and there are bad. On good days, if it makes you feel better, put on that lipstick and high heels to make you feel like yourself again. And on your bad days, just remember and the dawn comes just after the darkest hour, so hang in there!”

Keeping her Feet Moving

The Covid-19 pandemic has certainly affected some of her business operations, as it is currently not possible to travel to Spain and work with the factories in person. Sales events which were planned previously were also cancelled, and the work-from-home mandate has also affected the business’ demand. 

However, it seems like nothing is going to stop this superwoman from moving ahead with the next phase of Oleah. Expanding from e-commerce to an offline presence, Oleah is looking forward to welcoming both new and familiar customers to their brand new store, but until then, check out her pop-up store at Spaces @ Joo Chiat until 30 November.  Having a brick and mortar store would give all shoe-lovers the chance to try out the different sizes, and also feel the comfort and cushioning of the shoe in person before purchasing! 

Oleah’s latest launch features one of the customers’ favourites: the Oleah Classic heel but in a lower height for ladies who may prefer shorter heels. It features the brand’s signature wave in its side profile and is available in nude and black colours.

For more information on new releases and designs by Oleah, visit https://thelabelsg.com/brand-directory/oleah or follow @thelabelsg and @oleah.co on instagram! Also, read more about how you can support Breast Cancer Awareness Month here.

Sarah Tang

Part-time shopaholic and bubble tea addict, full-time supporter of local fashion, local business, local designers, and local artists! I also enjoy spending my weekends at museums, galleries and also the occasional pop-up flea markets (before COVID-19!)

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