Conversations: Bella Koh On Turning Her Life Mantra Into A Business
Ever the purveyor of the slow life, Bella – better known as @catslavery – tells us how she started the unique SLOWHOUSE and how her daughter plays a part in all of it.| March 16, 2018
Being healthy in a fast-paced city like Singapore isn’t easy. Convenient lunches from fast-food chains with their bright signs are at every turn, something that many turn to when days are packed with meetings after meetings. Food is one, then there’s stress and the frequent exclamations of “Where did my weekend go?”
For food stylist, super mum, major cat lover and purveyor of the slow life, Bella Koh – also known by her moniker @catslavery – this was something she faced. (She’s also our resident kitchen maestro, who crafts a series of gorgeous recipes.) You see, it’s easy to forget how to slow down and take care of yourself. So one day, she quit her day job, picked up yoga and decided to focus on being more mindful about her body. Her first steps were to move towards a vegan lifestyle, which lead to adopting sustainable habits and creating nutritional recipes for her child, then for her social media platform, and finally, a full-fledged lifestyle business in the form of SLOWHOUSE, which covers everything from clean eating workshops to homeware to ready-to-wear. In this hectic, concrete jungle we live in, SLOWHOUSE is one of a kind.
Here, we asked Bella to reveal more about her creation of SLOWHOUSE, why she created it and the heartwarming stories that came out of it. The whole thing is incredibly beautiful, kind of like stepping into a modern zen garden. So, stop to smell the roses – you might just be inspired to start living the slow life.
Congratulations on finally launching SLOWHOUSE! But first, what is SLOWHOUSE and what led you to it?
SLOWHOUSE is a workshop cum event space for all things slow life! I’ve been on social media for almost five years now and have been living the slow life since circa 2009. People were constantly curious about it, which was why I expanded into SLOWHOUSE, allowing people to experience how to eat well, live healthy, care for their well-being and most of all, be more environmentally conscious. As an influencer myself, it got too boring attending events that were too commercialised and almost meaningless. SLOWHOUSE was created to change the way events work, providing a more conducive setting that came with meaning and purpose for these brands. It leaves guests with a lasting impression in their minds.
What were some of the problems or personal struggles you faced while starting out?
One of the main challenges besides scouting like-minded staff, was trying to develop this culture of slow living in a fast-paced city like Singapore. It really is a slow food, slow life movement I was vying to create, which I knew would take time when it came to cultivating values.
What is interesting about SLOWHOUSE are its workshops – you don’t see ideas like that often in the local scene. What were the different inspirations behind your starter workshops i.e. Soup Table, Milk Table, Dessert Table?
It really started with what we had on our dinner table and how my child and I could eat the same healthy food together, inspiring original recipes. I would post these on my Instagram Stories and get asked questions about what ingredients I used and where they could get them. It was then that I realised how much people were growing to be more conscious about what they put in their bodies, but I wasn’t sure how they were going to go about it since many of them don’t cook. That’s why I always make sure that my recipes are simple and easy to manage, usually being able to finish cooking in under half an hour. To me, it was about helping others find solutions for their busy lifestyles.
How has the response been? Any interesting stories from your classes?
The response was great! I had a fully booked class for our Soup Table, which is a lesson on how to make dashi broth from scratch. Everyone came from all walks of life. I had one mum whose child had eczema, but is now 95 percent cured after drinking our homemade milk for two weeks. It makes me happy to know that I was able to help a child.
SLOWHOUSE is based on your personal philosophy of slow and living. What are some of the easiest changes to make for one to work towards that?
Living a slow life is not unattainable. One just has to adopt a more positive and holistic mindset, being a little bit more conscious about what they put into their bodies and taking time to wind down and enjoy the simple pleasures of life and nature. Stopping to feel the breeze and paying more attention to food labels are easy steps to adopting the slow life. Being overly strict and paranoid about what we eat is one thing you shouldn’t do. I was once like that, full vegan and paranoid about every little thing I ate. It got to a point where I refused to eat anything if I happened to be in a country that didn’t have produce that met my standards.
There are many components to SLOWHOUSE – homeware, ready-to-wear, lifestyle workshops and recently, beauty. Where do you see it heading to next?
SLOWHOUSE is an umbrella term, encompassing all elements of life. The air you bring, the space you live in, the things you wear and the objects you touch. SLOWHOUSE is really about self-care, self-love and living a conscious life.
What are some of the future plans that you can tease about?
Only that I have rather unrealistic house dreams for SLOWHOUSE.
You’ve collaborated with Chantecaille and Innisfree. Why these brands? What are the dream labels you’d love SLOWHOUSE to work with?
These brands came to us because they felt that SLOWHOUSE aligned with their brand values. Most of the brands I’ve worked with were clean beauty brands who care for their customers and the environment. We took charge of sharing this knowledge with the guests. As for dream labels, I’ve never really thought of one. I’m open to working with any brand because we want to help them convey their message to their audiences, allowing them to receive a deeper understanding through a conscious experience at SLOWHOUSE.
Since we’re on the topic of beauty, what are some of your vegan or natural skincare and makeup products?
Too many! There are so many brands who have gone paraben-free and organic compared to when I started this lifestyle in 2009. Some of my favourites include Ilia, Dr. Barbara Sturm, Herbivore Botanicals, Tata Harper and Sulwhasoo.
It is so cute how you’ve made Alessandra the “other half” of SLOWHOUSE. What can we expect from your little baby boss?
She was the catalyst for the birth of SLOWHOUSE, with menus evolving around her. She made me think more about my food and product choices. Now, she’s totally absorbed with eating from sustainable ingredients, helping to protect the Earth one mouthful at a time. On good days, she helps out around the house like washing the dishes. I hope one day, she would be conducting workshops on her own, teaching kids to feed themselves at an early age so that parents can take a breather.
Finally, since you’re our resident kitchen maestro – what is one guilty pleasure recipe that you’ve been using repeatedly of late?
My pressed-in olive oil vegan tart using a variety of fresh ingredients is always on rotation! It’s the easiest, most delicious tart that you can put on your table in under 30 minutes.
What To Read Next: Conversations: Olivia Culpo On Skin Tricks, Balance & Moving On To Big Things, The Peanut Butter Broth Noodles That EVERYONE Needs To Try and A Definitive List of Our Favourite Restaurants in Singapore | Images: Courtesy of Bella Koh and SLOWHOUSE