Thriving on ink
> Drawing strength from their passion, this couple is perfecting their art down to a
HANNAH Bhatt and Samuel Chew love American traditional tattoos and they are taking this interest of theirs one step further. In addition to inking it onto their body – they each have four already – they incorporated it into a lifestyle brand, The Covert Collective (TCC), through their fashion collections.
A local brand that combines street wear and art, it espouses a bold and courageous message with its fun, unique and quirky pieces.
“Since we are inspired by American traditional tattoos, you’ll see detailed illustrations with thick lines. Our designs are also slightly odd because we do not like to conform to the ordinary. Instead, we want to use our designs to encourage people to think out of the box,” explained Bhatt, the creative brain behind the label.
The couple, who got engaged recently, embarked on this venture on a part-time basis to fill in the gap in the Malaysian clothing scene.
“Samuel loves street clothes and we like this brand in the United Kingdom that uses American traditional tattoos in their t-shirts too. With this in mind and considering how most local brands focus on slogan tees, we decided to set up an artsy street wear label,” she said.
“Another reason why we founded TCC is to have an outlet for Hannah’s creativity. She’s in TO charge of designing the clothes while I manage the administrative side of the business,” added Chew.
It took the duo a three-month preparation period before launching the brand in December 2015. Twelve months later, TCC now has three collections despite being a side gig for them. Bhatt is a law graduate-turned marketing executive while Chew works in a logistics company. They both agreed that juggling their jobs and TCC involves “many sleepless nights”, but it’s “possible if you set your sight on success and stick to it”. Transitioning their relationship into a business partnership is also a new terrain that requires understanding and compromising. “Although it can get hard at times, we try our best to remember that business is business; hence we do not take things personally. It also helps that we handle different aspects of the business so it minimises conflicts. As such, unless she asks for advice, I won’t tell her what to do when it comes to designing,” revealed Chew. As they worked together on building a better future for themselves and their business, they are also striving to give back to society through the Covert Gives collection. A 100% non-profitable line, the revenue generated will be donated to charity. And their first partnership is with Tenaganita (pix) to raise awareness on human trafficking. The latter is a Malaysian human rights or- ganisation dedicated to protecting migrants, refugees, women and children.
“People are generally clueless about human trafficking, especially in Malaysia, and we want to change that. We’ve always wanted to help victims of human trafficking and have been following Tenaganita for quite some time, thus when we started TCC, we thought it’d be a great platform for us to play our part,” disclosed Bhatt.
For this altruistic pair, it is only the beginning.
“The Covert Gives will be an ongoing campaign dedicated to Alex Chai charity where it’ll remain 100% non-profitable. As such, there will be similar partnerships with other non-governmental organisations (NGOs) in the future,” Chew added.
TCC is fairly new in the industry, and may have to fend off another challenge or two in their quest to establish themselves as a heavyweight, but what it has going for it are founders who are ambitious, determined and generous. So long as Bhatt and Chew stay true to this combination, their dream of making TCC successful won’t remain as one.
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Samuel Chew (left) and Hannah Bhatt established The Covert Collective as a creative platform.