Venturing into an unchartered territory can be nerve-wrecking, especially when it is dependent on the feedback of others.
A 19-year-old law undergraduate from Universiti Islam Sultan Sharif Ali (UNISSA) knows this all too well.
War, the creative force behind new local handmade jewellery brand Auberon Begawan, told the Weekend Bulletin that accessorising is her way to cope with body dysmorphia, a mental disorder that drives one to obsess about perceived defects or flaws in one’s appearance.
But she admitted to being quite particular about the designs of jewellery she wears.
“I find it really hard to buy anything because I feel like I’m spending more money on things that I don’t like because they don’t represent me,” she said.
On her birthday, the idea hit her – why not design her own jewellery?
“My mum and sister used to make their own bracelets, so I thought doing it wasn’t too foreign to me,” she said. “And it got me thinking about what it would be like to have my own designs and my own brand.”
Save for the occasional research on Pinterest to see what is on trend, War said her designs are mostly drawn from her own life. As a strong advocate for mental health awareness, her jewellery line conveys a range of messages that resonate with her, such as a heart to represent self-love and stones to represent mental, spiritual or physical hurdles.
As the local designer sees accessories as a sort of confidence boost, she makes sure her jewellery line provides the same for her customers.
With the COVID-19 pandemic, War finds it difficult to source for raw materials for her jewellery by demand due to shipping delays. So she has no choice but to place orders pre-emptively, which puts financial strain on her new business.
“I tend to question myself a lot, which is something I’m still working to overcome,” she admitted.
As someone who is struggling with mental disorder, War believes the journey she’s undertaken to realise her dream as a jewellery design has been a therapeutic one. It allows her to focus on designing and creating a jewellery piece instead of rehashing the negatives in her life.
“My dad passed away when I was eight years old,” she said. “But I remember him always encouraging me to work hard for what I wanted. ‘Whatever it is, just do it,’ he used to say.”
When it comes to constructive criticism about her creations, War treats it as an opportunity to learn and improve.
“I was very shy and in the process of discovering myself,” she said. “The journey helped me to mature into the person that I am now; I’m more responsible and I get things done.”
With a strong support system behind her, War hopes to open a physical shop both in the Sultanate and overseas someday.
She is currently working with Brunei Breast Cancer Support Group, and a portion of sales from her jewellery line this month donated to the organisation.
War also plans to work with other charitable organisations in the future in her bid to give back to the community.
“I feel like the purpose in life is to help others and to be kind,” she said. “There’s a sense of fulfilment that doesn’t require a ‘thank you’.”