According to a report by insurance company Manulife, millennials in Singapore have started saving for the future, but their priorities lie not so much in securing a comfortable retirement fund, but building and furnishing their first home.
This is good news for Alex Fan, co-founder of Sunday Bedding, a local bedding company targeted at a generation that is increasingly staying in to – in millennial slang – Netflix and chill. But, unlike other digital natives of his time, the 30-year-old philosophy and economics major from Columbia Business School gravitates towards pen and paper.
At our interview, he pulls out three slim leather-bound books from his bag – a daily planner, work diary, and a personal journal. Fan’s bedtime ritual involves a spot of reading (a genre-agnostic list spanning the absurdist musings of Albert Camus to Ray Dalio’s modern-day Wall Street bible Principles) and writing.
“I’m continually learning how to organise and articulate my thoughts, and journaling gives me the space and time to master this skill,” he says.
For Fan, who grew up helping out in the family’s 36-year-old textile business, his journaling practice carries over to the boardroom. “Decision-making is often mired in emotions and ego, and setting aside time to think before speaking or acting is very helpful,” he says.
Dressed in a nondescript white long-sleeved shirt and khaki-coloured trousers, the soft-spoken man is every inch the introverted leader eulogised in Susan Cain’s Quiet. It’s easy to forget that he is in fact the second-generation scion of the Pac-Fung Group, a Hong Kong-based textile manufacturing company with a headcount of over 1,700. Founded by his father, Fan Shi Hoo, in 1982, Pac-Fung started as a modest down-comforter manufacturing operation in China.
Today, the company has expanded its production beyond comforters to include bed linen, mattress pads, pillows, and more. It is behind some of the most luxurious bedsheets in the world, providing white label services for clients such as the Rosewood Hotel Group and Intercontinental Hotels & Resorts.
The textile industry might have awakened to the notion of sustainable fabrics only in recent years, but the elder Fan was decades ahead of the green curve.
“One thing I respect about my father is his strict adherence to environmental standards,” says Fan. While its competitors were dumping chemically laden water into the river, Pac-Fung treated waste water before releasing it back into the eco-system.
Today, Fan upholds his father’s approach to sustainability, even as he launches his own bedding brand. Eco-friendly bamboo is used in Sunday Bedding’s best-selling bamboo sateen (a weaving technique which results in a silky, satin-like texture) sheets, while proprietary technology is used to produce wrinkle-free sheets without the use of harmful chemicals.
Getting the three-month-old business off the ground means that the Hong Kong native now splits his time between home and Singapore, where his Singaporean partner and co-founder of Sunday Bedding, Clara Teo, resides.
As the brand gears up for the launch of a new linen bedsheet line this month, Fan muses: “Starting something new is always exhilarating and stressful… the disconnect between the expectation and reality of what we envision for Sunday Bedding, and what needs to be done, is often disorientating, but I’m getting more comfortable with it.”
01 FINE CUTS
“I’m a steak person and Praelum Wine Bistro serves really good ones. I prefer the texture of sirloin to ribeye, which tends to be too rich for me.”
02 SILVER LINING
“I recently finished reading Cormac McCarthy’s The Road. His novels are all dark and don’t end well. But with this one, which he wrote for his son, he gave us an ending with a sliver of hope.”
03 SCREEN TIME
“I love George Carlin. He’s a comedian who passed away some time back. He’s one of those OGs (original gangsters) who greatly influenced other comedians.”