Director of the Ah Boys To Men movies Jack Neo and his cast help launch Camou Products, a range of fashion bags made from decommissioned army fatigues.
By Theresa Tan
Jack Neo is perched a little less than comfortably on a stool, flanked by a news camera and the Mayor of South West Community Development Council, Dr. Amy Khor.
“How do I do this?” he asks, humbly and terrified, yet gung-ho.
“You just hold it like this…” coaxed the Mayor. “Ahhh! That’s right!”
The piece of cloth slid under the needle hesitantly before backtracking. But Neo was determined to conquer the sewing machine, even if it meant he had to try again.
His second, successful attempt drew shouts of excitement from all watching. The needle punched thread through the piece of cloth in one straight line, and Neo jumped out of his seat triumphantly.
This was a media event on Feb. 7 that combined the star power of Neo and three of his stars—Maxi Lin (“Wayang King”), Wang Wei Liang (“Lobang King”) and Tosh Zhang (“Sergeant Ong”)—with a social story. Today, South West CDC was introducing the launch of the Camou line, created by WEworkz. WEworkz is a programme which provides training and sewing employment opportunities for women who are unable to commit to full-time employment, to enable them to supplement their household income.
WEworkz has, in the past five years, produced environmentally-friendly products such as banner bags (bags crafted out of old banners), along with items like jewelry and candles. Camou is the latest in the range of goods, and one that the Mayor is especially excited about.
“We started WEworkz to give women an opportunity to make some income in 2008. Today, we have sold over 23,000 recycled-banner bags!” she says. “I am happy now that we have expanded into Camou; it is exciting because of the immense possibilities that exist to make fashionable items with this material.
“It is a uniquely Singaporean product. Each one has been worn by a National Service man. I am happy that the women’s skills have improved; we’ve gone beyond banner bags.”
Jenny Wee, WEworkz’s chairperson, hopes that “this will result in WEworkz helping more women who need extra income. It’s a home-based job for these ladies.”
Camou was made possible through talks with MINDEF. The uniforms are of the old print, which is now no longer used by the Ministry. MINDEF worked with WEworkz by availing the fabric to the women’s workshop, and the women quickly came up with designs for tote bags, messenger bags, and what has so far been the most popular item in the line, clutch bags. Their imagination yielded over a hundred different designs. On display today are 200 samples made by the WEworkz ladies.
Jack Neo came into the picture via WEworkz Committee member Elim Chew. “Jack asked me to print his Ah Boys To Men t-shirts. I thought, hey why not ask him to help launch the Camou range? The timing is perfect with Ah Boys To Men 2 out in theaters right now,” Chew explains.
Neo found the idea meaningful and said yes quickly, pulling out all the stops to make it happen.
The stars present at the media event have their own Twitter and blog followers, and have agreed to talk about the line on their social media platforms.
“Three things to remember about Camou,” Chew adds. “Serve: Every uniform represents the sweat of a Singaporean soldier. Recycle: These are made from decommissioned uniforms. Employment: For someone’s mother, sister, aunty. And when you buy it, you own a piece of history.”
Check out the Camou range at WEworkz’s Facebook page: www.facebook.com/we.workz. The products can be purchased online at www.weworkz.sg. Every bag sold helps to support the livelihoods of WEworkz’s women.