SINGAPORE: Call it dino-might - after Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong's wife, Mdm Ho Ching, was photographed carrying a pouch designed by an autistic student at the White House, the bag has sold out in stores.
The S$14.80 pouch was designed by 19-year-old Seetoh Sheng Jie from Pathlight, a school in Singapore for children with autism. It was stocked in Pathlight stores, including its flagship outlet at the Enabling Village at Lengkok Bahru.
Screengrab from The Art Faculty's website.
About 200 dinosaur pouches were sold in a day, compared to 200 in the four months before.
Mdm Ho is an adviser to the Autism Resource Centre (ARC), which set up Pathlight, and a patron of the Autism Association Singapore.
ARC said that beyond sales of the dinosaur pouch, the event has raised awareness of what people with autism can do. “After this event, more people know about us and they step into the shop. Beyond the dino pouch, they actually see even more things. They are very surprised at the quality of the product; very impressed with the artwork so when they see that people with autism can actually do such detailed artwork, they are very surprised,” said Ms Jacelyn Lim, ARC's deputy executive director.
The centre said people who buy their products do not just do so out of charity, but because the products are functional. Pathlight artists create drawings which are then printed onto items. They earn royalties from the sale of their artwork and merchandise. ARC has declined to share sales figures.
“We really want people to come back and buy our things again and again, we wanted this to be commercially viable. (What we do) is very important to us ... (so) we don't want the products to become charity keepsakes,” said Ms Lim.
This is a view shared by the Movement for the Intellectually Disabled of Singapore (MINDS). It made a shift towards selling more functional products in 2012, after feedback from customers.
Said MINDS’ senior manager of social enterprises, Ng Rei Na: "When we first started producing all these products, it was really more for therapy, but our end-game was to push our clients to build products that customers really want, both for skills development, as well as for them to earn an allowance for the work that they do.
"We have to shift towards making more functional products that people want to buy, not because they want to support a charity but because they really do want the products."
The organisation's baked products like cookies have proven to be popular, raking in S$221,000 in sales in 2015. By comparison, craft items such as mosaic art pieces brought in S$150,000.
An A4-sized mosaic art piece sells for about S$80 while a jar of cookies sells for S$3. Across its products, MINDS said that about 40 to 60 per cent of its sales comes from corporate orders, while the remaining are individual orders such as weddings and birthdays.
As for those hoping to get their hands on a dino pouch designed by Sheng Jie, Pathlight is now taking pre-orders for it at its online store. Orders will arrive in about two months, according to its website.