THE PREVIEW ISSUE DECEMBER 2016
JEAN WEE | COLIN SEAH | WENDY LONG YIAN HUANG | JANICE WONG | JEFFREY MCCALL
IN THIS ISSUE 06
L ette r F r o m T he E d it o r
What ’s In Your P o r tf o li o ? Jeffrey McCall, the founder and director of elite branding consultancy Flânerie, reveals what’s in his bag.
14 I m p r essi o n Here are the things you need to know if you find yourself obsessing about table conversations, curating the home for the holidays, or celebrating your recent
achievements with a new timepiece.
P RO F I L E Colin Seah The renowned designer and architect ponders the function of
memory and identity in design.
A Man’s Touch
A keen interest in real estate and interior design has prompted this housewife to start a new business.
Newly launched hotels lose the frills with gender-neutral guestrooms and decidedly masculine lounges and bars.
IN THIS ISSUE 54
P RO S P E C T
V est m ent
Landlords and investors warm up
Angular silhouettes and precise
to the idea of having more renters
construction suggest the mathematical
than homeowners in London in the
reference for these apparels.
58 EVENT Charity was the overarching theme at the swanky events held recently at National Gallery Singapore and the Singapore Polo Club.
DO W N T I M E
F in a l T a lly
Photojournalist and entrepreneur
A few ways to keep your cool about
Yian Huang finds ultimate
the Trump presidency and the much-
freedom on the road.
maligned, moneyed millenials.
O n T he C over : N obel D esign H oldings C O O and e x ecutive director J ean W ee is photographed by C h i n o S a r d e a at the M ar q uis S howroom on T ai S eng S treet
06 L E T T E R F RO M T H E E D I TO R
WHAT ’S IN YOUR PORTFOLIO ?
ortfolio has varied and interesting shades of meanings. The first that comes to mind is a group of investments held by an investor or an investment firm—which to me is a good indicator of what a person values, and by extension, his character. It can also mean the responsibilities in an office held by an individual, like when we say the ‘minister’s portfolio’, to refer not only to the routine accomplishment of tasks, but also the level of professional commitment to them. Portfolio can also be the portable case for carrying materials that represent a person’s recent works, as in those of a painter or a
designer. This particular usage also connotes the collection of a person’s credentials – for to present one’s portfolio is to introduce one’s qualifications for an office or a job. It is also, starting today, a monthly publication that celebrates achievements in business, profession and enterprise. Portfolio, the magazine in your hands, is a repository of records of contemporary urban life as seen through the achievements, pursuits and collective aspirations of the influential people it addresses. In this Preview Issue we are highlighting the key sections and the general architecture of the publication. We want it to be a platform for thoughtful conversations and discourse,
M A N AG I N G E D I TO R
and for which we ensured there is variety, utility and clarity of intention. We are also presenting our brand of storytelling—digressive, inquisitive, incisive, succinct, memorable, resonant, relevant, the kind of language and narratives that we will use, and our commitment to our readers. We want this Preview Issue to set expectations for the coming issues. Yes, they will be the supersized version of this preview, but they will communicate the essence of what we believe in: That industry and innovation should be rewarded, that great ideas should be shared, and that achievements in various fields, no matter how modest, as long as they contribute to the common good, should be celebrated. P
NO ZERO | THE PREVIEW ISSUE
MARC S ALMAGRO Managing Editor
ASH Creative Director
ANTON D JAVIER LI HAOHAN VICTOR CHEN Writers
LIU MINGSHEN EVELYN CHEW Graphic Designers
CHINO SARDEA Photographer
HAROLD JAYSON CAMINERO Applications Developer
PORTFOLIO is published monthly by Pulp Kreatives Pte Ltd, 20 Bedok South Road, Singapore 469277 MICA 007/11/2016
Opinions expressed by contributors and advertisers are not necessarily those of Media Group Private Limited. While every reasonable care has been taken to ensure the accuracy of the information within, neither the Publisher nor the Editor or Writers may be held liable for errors and/or omissions however caused. No part of this publication may be reproduced in any form without written permission from the Publisher. All rights reserved.
NO ZERO | THE PREVIEW ISSUE
WEILING WONG Managing Director, Pulp Kreatives DANIEL POON Business Director CHRYSTAL WONG Marketing Manager
Media Group Pte Ltd DENNIS PUA Managing Director WINNIE SEK Finance WENDY CHUA Human Resources
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13 W H AT ’ S I N M Y P O RT F O L I O
WHAT ’S IN MY PORTFOLIO ? B Y J E F F REY M C C ALL P H O T O G R A P H Y C HINO S ARDEA
cornucopia of stories spills from my portfolio. Fantastical or genuine, my ‘story’ feels defined by my upbringing and life adventures—all ‘recorded’ in my memories, my collections, and my experiences, both personal and professional.
To ‘escape’ the formality and being an only child until age 7, make-believe friends became the characters in my early play-acting and storytelling. Later on, National Geographic and Encyclopedia Britannica became my escape tickets to dreamed of exotic destinations where I envisioned new, yet to be realized stories. A flâneur I was destined to be. Fast-forward to today and the plenty of mementos collected along the way. Each book (organized by colour of spine – OCD or visually inspired?), woven textile, art piece and artifact, string of beads, Christmas ornament, tribal basket, etc. is a physical reminder of life as a passionate traveler and collector of stories. As a luxury lifestyle brand consultant, my company Flânerie is all about storytelling. A successful brand for me is one with a sharply focused lens through which the brand or ‘story’ is seen, felt, remembered. I’ve been fortunate to work with clients from over 70 countries to date (and still counting). I fancy myself as a bit of a closet cultural anthropologist as I seek to understand the context and nuance of my projects in a culturally sensitive manner. Crafting unique brand strategies, ones with relevance and differentiation (plus boldness!) satisfies my sense of curiosity and adds to my archive of life-enriching stories. P
JEFFREY MCCALL IS THE FOUNDER AND DIRECTOR OF BRAND CONSULTING FIRM FLÂNERIE. AMONG ITS CLIENTS ARE SOORI, AKAR DE NISSIM AND FOUR SEASONS HOTEL & RESORTS.
CORE COMPETENCY The fine sampling of in-house expertise from leading watchmakers has produced a slew of coveted pieces.
1. Minute-repeater L.U.C Full Strike from Chopard has sapphire crystal for gongs for that unique, clear sound. The movement is a new L.U.C caliber 08.01-L, which is extremely thin at 11.5mm, considering that the movement has over 500 parts. The 42.5mm (dia.) case comes in Fairmined rose gold with an open-worked dial.
4. Hamilton Khaki Navy Frogman, inspired by the 1951 movie The Frogmen, features an H-10 automatic caliber with an 80-hour power reserve, and centered hours, minutes, seconds and date. The titanium case with helium valve and a red bezel measures 46mm. It is waterresistant to 1,000m.
2. Mexican silver obsidian is highlighted in Blancpain’s Métiers d’Art timepiece ‘The Great Wave’. The dial features an engraved image inspired by Hokusai’s The Great Wave Off Kanagawa. The piece is fitted with a 13R3A movement with an 8-day power reserve in a stepped platinum case. The calfskin strap comes in ‘storm gray’.
5. The updated HERITAGE BLACK BAY from Tudor is fitted with a COSC-certified Tudor calibre MT5602, a variation of the first ever Tudor Manufacture movement launched in 2015. Besides hour, minute and second functions, it also has 70-hour power reserve as well as an antimagnetic, high-precision silicon balance spring.
3. Breguet Tradition Répétition Minutes Tourbillon 7087 has a selfwinding movement with a minute repeater and a 60-second tourbillion. Its 80-hour power reserve indicator is visible through an aperture at 12 o’clock. The 44mm (dia.) case with double-paned sapphire crystal caseback is in 18-karat rose gold.
6. Maurice Lacroix’s Pontos Decentrique GMT, developed specially for Sincere Fine Watches Singapore and Malaysia, comes in a limited edition of 22 pieces. It has a mechanical movement, two off-center hour and minute displays, and Clou de Paris decoration on its main bridge. The 45mm (dia.) titanium case has a domed sapphire glass.
The Heights Of
The world largest experiment in social engineering, China’s One Child Policy was only launched in 1980 but looks set to influence many generations to come across the world. Raised like princes in a world that was initially repressive and insular and then suddenly unfettered and global, they comprise an estimated population of about 320 million, and are mostly still in their teens and twenties.
Exclusive 270° views of Solo in Central Java belong to the guests of Agra, the hip urban retreat perched on the 29th floor of Alila Solo. Go there for a variety of tapas, cocktails, and food that lean towards the Mediterranean and the Indonesian. A DJ spins from Thursday to Sunday. Parties begin at 5pm. http://alilahotels.com/solo/dining
An old, mostly male population with little capacity to supply the muchneeded labor force is at the center of Mei Fong’s One Child The Story of China’s Most Radical Experiment (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2016). The book examines the far-reaching effects of the one-child policy that the Communist Party adopted in anticipation of a population explosion. Meanwhile, Wish Lanterns Young Lives In New China (Picador 2016) follows the journey into young adulthood of six Chinese millennials. Coming from different economic and social backgrounds, with different abilities and aspirations, they are united by the hopes that their parents have placed squarely on their shoulders. Idea Spinners
THE MILLENIAL IN 4B Observers point out that owning a property is not high on the millennials’ bucket list. This aversion to rootedness, however, is boon to property owners with places to rent in major cities where these young, cash-rich individuals like to congregate. HOT OFF THE RUNWAY Buying clothes from online stores moves the merchandise quickly, but getting them off the runway is even faster. Angry skeptics say, however, that the practice puts undue emphasis on designing what would sell rather than what the brand is about. The highest five-star resort in the Middle East, Anantara Al Jabal Al Akhdar Resort is perched 2,000 metres above sea level on the curving rim of a great canyon in northern Oman. The resort has 115 luxury guest rooms and villas, and six restaurants and lounges, including Al Maisan for all-day dining, and Al Qalaa for Omani cuisine. Nights are best spent at rooftop shisha lounge Al Shourfa or at a Moroccaninspired setting at Al Burj. http://jabal-akhdar.anantara.com
FASCINATING ALGORITHM In Power: A Radical View (1974), Steven Lukes wrote that power has three forms: the ability to stop people from doing as they want, the ability to compel them to do things that they don’t want, and the ability to shape their thoughts. Algorithm programmed into our activities online has the last.
INFORMED CHOICES There’s no shortcut to bringing luxury to a room, but at least there’s help.
1. Find st unning an c h o r p i e c e s
The two-seater Gentry Sofa by Patricia Urquiola and the swivel armchair Take A Line For A Walk by Alfredo Häberli, both for Moroso, anchor the other pieces in this living room. The sofa consists of a flame-retardant cold cure foam body covered in polyester fiber and set on a steel frame. The raised feet come in chrome-plated steel, black chromeplated steel or coated steel. The cushions are filled with goose down with polyurethane foam inserts. The covers, shown here in ‘big braid’ quilt, are removable. Available at Xtra Designs, 6 Raffles Boulevard, #02-48 Marina Square (S) 039594
2. Access or ize li b e ral ly
A selection of Polygonal Rings, the latest articulation of the Light Ring, illuminates this installation by Massimo Castagna for Henge. One of ten limited edition tables with Stone Elm® fossil wood top stands on the side, surrounded by Strip Chairs. The suede leather sofa is set amidst a collection of side and coffee tables. Available at Gamut, 315 Outram Road, #07-07 Tan Boon Liat Building (S) 169074
3. Ge t profess io n al h e l p
Space launches By Appointment, a private shopping service done in the luxurious By Appointment VIP Room designed by Peter Tay. Dedicated design consultants provide private consultations on space planning and merchandise selection. Refreshments are served throughout the consultation. Transport to the showroom is provided on request. Log on to by-appointment.spacefurniture.com.sg to register.
DECK THE HOLS W IN T RY W ONDER S
Requisite pieces for holiday decorating.
Swedish rocking chair from the ‘40s
Aloe Shoot lighting
Maison Lacroix table lamp
Song Amande bowl
Set by D. Porthault www. dport hault . fr
available at Design Market www.des ign-mkt.com
by Jeremy Cole www.des ig n - m k t.c o m
by Timothy Oulton w w.ti m o thyo ul to n .c o m
by Christian Lacroix Maison for Roche Bobois w w w.c hr i s ti a n - l a c ro i x .c o m
by Jaune de Chrome w w w. j au n e d e c h ro m e. c o m
Red Haussmann floor lamp
Chasing Stars plate
C LA S S I C C RIB
Off the Moon side table
by J.L Coquet w w w.j l c o que t.c o m
by Hamilton Conte Paris w w w. j l c o q u e t . c o m
by Hugues Chevalier w w w. hug uescheva li er. com
by Vista Alegre www.vis taalegre.com
by Galerie Negropontes www.negropon te s - ga l e r i e.c o m
One to three collection design
Les Heures de la Nuit plate
Alice in Wonderland Tea Set
by Leblon Delienne www.leblon- d e l i e n n e.c o m
by Timothy Oulton w w w.ti m o thyo ul to n .c o m
by J.L Coquet w w w.j l c o que t.c o m
by Alice Scott for Galison w w w. g al is o n . c o m
M OOD M ONO C HRO M E
by Maison Dada w w w.m a i s o n d a d a .c o m
b y S a c h a Wa l c k h o f f f o r Ve r r e u m www. v erreum. com
by Jaune de Chrome www.j aunedech rome.com
Colin Seah FOUNDER
Ministry Of Design
COLIN SEAH ~ A designer ponders the function of memory in a world that moves at breakneck speed.
hen Colin Seah moved out of his family home to settle down with his wife, he took nothing with him besides his personal effects and a battered old pot. “That pot had special meaning to me,” he says. “When I was growing up, whenever I was alone in the house, I would cook noodles in it and eat from it as I read my Asterix and Obelix comic books.” That was a world away, but Colin remembers it vividly. He is now one of Singapore’s progressive young designers, the founder and head of the award-winning Ministry of Design, an architecture and interior design practice with offices in Singapore, Malaysia and China. He has designed stunning objects and has been recognized for them, but the battered old pot remains accessible somewhere in his consciousness. When I caught up with him in Singapore, he had just returned from Tokyo where he is currently working on a very special project. A group of Singaporean designers, including him, has been invited to work with Japanese artisans on a range of new products for the international market. They are to provide conceptual skills and merge them with the artisanal skills of their counterparts. Colin was assigned to a fabric maker, and also chose to work with a glasscutter.
By Li Haohan P hotographed by C h i n o S a r d e a at M inistry of D esign S ingapore
The first makes wa-sarasa, the Japanese cotton print that is made into noren, the traditional fabric dividers that are hung between rooms and in doorways. Made to specific application, the artisan can only create bespoke pieces.
Colin then holds up his phone and shows me a picture of a beautiful cut glass. From the way it looks, I can tell it that it is expensive – there’s something about the etched design and the clarity of the piece that denotes exclusivity and superior refinement. “Do you know how much it costs?” he asks. I make a fairly accurate guess. “Yes, $200 for one glass! Isn’t that crazy!” he marvels. I counter that some brands like Schott Swiezel have something similar and equally expensive. “I’m sure people are going to pay for it,” I tell him. “But we have to tell the story behind it,” he insists. “If I want to buy a bag or a garment, I have to know the story behind it, why it is very expensive; if I couldn’t afford it then at least I know why people are willing to pay for it. “The same thing with the noren curtains. We have to tell the whole story, why it is so time-consuming, with the artisan mixing the colours one at a time, and applying the templates one by one, and moving the cloth each time, and waiting for it to dry. It is such a laborious process.” The wa-sarasa artisan he collaborates with didn’t understand initially why Colin wanted some ‘imperfections’ to show. Colin is interested in highlighting the ‘hand’, but the artisan, with his rigorous discipline steeped in tradition, aimed for perfection that bears the zero-error consistency of a machine-printed fabric.
“I wonder how objects like this is viewed in this day of fast moving consumer goods, where almost everything is disposable. Here in Singapore, for example, we are almost trained to think that everything is disposable, even their houses, because we’re upwardly mobile. “Maybe not disposable in the sense that you throw it away…” But something that you leave behind or don’t keep, I venture. “Exactly.” I tell him the first time I encountered the word ‘upgrader’ in the Singaporean context. When I was editing a property magazine, I kept hearing people saying that the project was for the ‘upgraders market’. And I often wondered why can’t people upgrade without moving to another place. “Ye, why can’t you upgrade the experience,” Colin asks. “Why can’t you upgrade internally? “And ironically, most of the time, upgrading is limited to more, or more prestigious, but not
necessarily better. I can argue that the person upgrading hasn’t really changed. The person who is upgrading only acquires identity through the things that surround him, the things that he owns.”
where he is within the house, that particular area becomes complete; otherwise there is always the void that indicates his absence. In other words, without him in the room, it is incomplete.
Colin is dismayed that the word ‘upgrader’ has colored the notion of a better life. “It’s as if I live in a HDB flat because I’m this, or in a condo unit because I’m that, like I’m better.”
“Instead of accommodating him and his changed circumstance, Koolhaas decided to make him the spirit of the entire house. I think that’s a brilliant way of thinking the design.
He argues that it is different if the ‘upgrader’ has undergone some profound transformation. “Do you remember that famous Bordeaux house by OMA, the one the hydraulic platform? Koolhaas’ brief was simply to create a house, but during the design stage the client had an accident and became wheelchair-bound. “So Koolhaas decided to create a house around this man’s changed circumstance. But instead of ramps and lifts for the handicapped, he made the man’s environment the keystone for the entire project,” Colin explains. The house has a big hole in the middle of each floor plate for the hydraulic lift that supports the man’s chair and desk. Depending on
Colin claims he is not against upgrading, if a person has changed his lifestyle or mindset. If your circumstances have changed then there will be there’s an attendant upgrade. Or shift. But often here in Singapore, it’s upward mobility – which is material. “Why can’t change come so that instead of upwards, it’s downward? That might be a better change.” P
The full transcript of this interview will be uploaded on www.portfoliomagsg.com
WENDY LONG Entertaining and decorating have provided Wendy with hours of pleasure until she discovered a way to turn her passions into something else.
B Y M AR C AL M AGRO P H O T O G R A P H Y B Y C HINO S ARDEA , S H O T O N L O C A T I O N A T T E A P O T & G I R A F F E
t has been a couple of months since businesswoman Wendy Long and her team called the renovation of a two-bedroom apartment in London complete. By the time they did, the property had new floorboards, smart new furniture in all the rooms, new bathroom fixtures, and an updated kitchen with a breakfast counter—on top of other improvements. There was also a third bedroom created out of a rather spacious receiving room. The property, dated and unappealing when it changed hands, was by then more than ready for its new occupants. Although Wendy, who studied Business Administration at the National University of Singapore, and has a master’s degree in Contemporary China from the Nanyang Institute of Technology, understands how property businesses run, her foray into it came out of left field. “I’ve always been interested in real estate and interior design; I actually started scouting for properties in Singapore many years ago with the intention of giving them a makeover—it was just a home decoration project, but one that allowed me to exercise my creativity and combine both my passions,” she admits. But as acquisition and renovation of properties involved intensive investments in time and money, Wendy has decided to transform her passion into a business. Pretty soon a few close friends were persuading her to take investments in her new projects, confident that she had what it took to turn around properties and supersize their marketability.
Wendy Long Private Investor
The London apartment, her third overseas venture (she has previously acquired properties in London and Tokyo), is located in Drayton Gardens in the affluent Chelsea neighborhood. “Location is a very important consideration,” Wendy points out, “as overseas investor we feel it’s safer to pick areas that are prime and well known to both local and foreign buyers.”
This particular property was built in the 1980s and “comes with a share of the freehold”, a key factor in Wendy’s acquisition. “It’s about 1,300 square-feet, in a very exclusive block of only six units, one on each floor. It comes with a day porter and a covered garage—a prized commodity in prime central London—as well as a balcony, which is also rare in the area.” With the apartment now tenanted, Wendy is prepared to cast her glance at other properties. “I’m always on the look out for opportunities,” she confesses. But besides design trends, she has become adept at reading market reports. “Market conditions affect profitability and viability. Whenever new guidelines are imposed to cool down a property market, returns and viability are affected. For international properties, the ability to get leveraging does make a huge difference, too.” Wendy has observed how in recent years local banks have started offering loans for Japanese properties, which has in turn prompted a surge in demand among overseas buyers. “It works both ways,” cautions Wendy. “Firstly, it makes it easier to acquire properties for investment and redevelopment and, secondly, it widens the buyers market (when its time to sell the properties acquired and redeveloped). You must do your homework.”
The open plan brings in the sunllight and views into the space
apartment from the original two bedrooms,” Wendy explains. In the end, he had also remodeled the kitchen, and even created a laundry room out of an unused space. Another key collaborator was Aidy, the principal contractor who came highly recommended by the property manager. A local contractor, he was very knowledgeable about London’s building regulations, and was able to help with all the administrative work, including engaging a professional surveyor to check on the structural framework of the apartment, before we commenced renovation.
ANATOMY OF A RENO The team that undertook the renovation with Wendy included architect Terence Chan of Singapore-based practice Terre, general contractor Aidy Salehi, who works around central London, and Natalie Fernbach a decorator and stager from Cullum Design. Wendy and Terence flew to London for the initial part of the renovation. The latter’s input was important as the project involved structural work, and hence required architectural expertise. “Terence’s main role was to help us reconfigure and maximize the space—to unlock the value in the property through the reconfiguration, by turning it into an efficient three-bedroom
An upscale, exclusive neighborhood
The fully revamped kitchen has a new breakfast counter
When time came for Wendy and Terence to leave London, Aidy managed on his own. He sourced materials from catalogs that Wendy and Terence had approved. They picked paint colors from swatches. “Aidy did patch tests of the samples in various rooms and sent us the photos. So it required quite a fair bit of cross-border coordination.”
After the renovation work came staging— dressing up the place for viewings. Wendy chose to work with Cullum Design whose works she found on the Internet. “I wanted an elegant, contemporary classic look that was close to Kelly Hoppen’s, and they had an extensive furniture and accessories inventory that could support the look that I was going for.” She met up with Natalie in London and briefed her on the look that she wanted. Natalie began sending photos of projects she has done and Wendy shortlisted those that she liked. If certain items weren’t available, Natalie looked for suitable replacements, even buying some of them. As the pieces were rented out to clients, buying new ones was simply seen as growing the company’s inventory for future projects. On installation day, Natalie shared photos of the staged rooms and the rest of the team gave their feedback. “I set up a WatsApp group chat as we needed real time, almost
instantaneous feedback so that Natalie could incorporate them into the staging. We were in three countries and time zones—I was in Tokyo, Terence and his assistant were in Singapore, and Natalie was in London. Terence guided Natalie on design aesthetics, going through the various items, whether a particular artwork should be shifted more to the left or right, or whether the height of a table works with the side chair. It wasn’t just about selecting the furniture pieces, but also about the details. “I believe in dressing up a property for a buyer or a renter. Staging is a big business in the US and UK; there’s definitely room for it in Singapore. There’s a cost involved, but in the grander scheme of things, if you want to fetch a desired price on your property, it is marginal.” P
JANICE WONG Singapore’s undisputed queen of desserts is experiencing sweet success in two of the most mature food markets in Asia — Hong Kong and Tokyo.
B Y AN T ON D . J A V IER
few months ago, while looking for the main entrance of NEWoMan, a commercial space in the heart of Shinjuku in Tokyo, I did a double take when I saw a familiar name on the sign of a yet-to-open establishment: Janice Wong Dessert Bar. Despite the initial excitement of seeing a Singapore brand in Japan, I was not surprised that Janice Wong opened an outpost in Tokyo—as well as COBO HOUSE by 2am: dessertbar in Hong Kong—given that she spent her formative years in both cities while her father was stationed there. But that’s not the only reason. “I decided to bring the brand to these places because they’re established markets with a strong food culture. In Hong Kong, they have a very ‘late night’ culture where they hang out and enjoy food and wine late at night. Meanwhile, Japan has a unique sweets culture that’s all its own. People there eat sweets early in the morning, and you don’t really find that elsewhere. These markets are also a little more sophisticated, and it was easy for them to understand what my brand is all about,” shares Janice.
Janice Wong Chef
Timing was also a crucial factor for Janice, who insists that finding the right moment was tantamount to figuring out how to position the brand. She says, “We have been in the business for almost a decade and have spent a good amount of time doing our lab works, as well as research and development. If we opened seven years ago, it probably wouldn’t have worked out. So the main reason for opening in foreign markets now is because we’ve come prepared.” And the most important lesson learned in the years of research? “Quality and standard are a given, but we also have to know how to adjust according to the market—in terms of palate and expectations. You can’t bring the same dish from Singapore to Japan and expect it to immediately become a success.” All her years of hard work have paid off because, despite being open for only a few months, the establishments in Japan and Hong Kong are receiving rave reviews. Janice recalls, “There were no hesitations on my side. For me, it was always about working to achieve plan A. Just like any business owner, sure, a plan B was always there if things didn’t work out, but truthfully, I kept looking forward.”
COBO HOUSE by 2am: dessertbar in Hong Kong In order to keep the momentum going, Janice surrounds herself with business partners who share her vision of uncompromised success—she regularly discusses plans for the brand in Singapore with one of her investors, Manoj Murjani, co-founder of TWG, while her business partners overseas ensure that operations are going smoothly when she’s not around to tackle both the creative and administrative sides of the business. At a time where venturing into F&B business has never been more alluring, Janice leaves those dreaming of a successful path in the industry with something to ponder on. “A short-term goal is easy, but you really have to plan about five years ahead. At the end of the day, what was important for me was building the brand—not building the restaurant.” P
Janice Wong Dessert Bar in Tokyo
A selection of dessert by Chef Janice Wong
JEAN WEE The COO and executive director of Nobel Design Group remains unfazed by predictions of a slowdown in the coming year.
B Y M AR C AL M AGRO P H O T O S B Y C HINO S ARDEA , S H O T O N L O C A T I O N A T M A R Q U I S Q S Q U A R E S H O W R O O M
hen she finds time, Jean Wee likes to visit the showrooms at Marquis Furniture Gallery on Tai Seng Street where she works. She goes around the floor inspecting merchandise and set ups, and taking mental note of what may require attention. During a recent walkabout, she stopped to adjust a picture frame until it was hanging upright, moved some accessories across a coffeetable so that they were perfectly aligned, and told the staff who was doing the rounds with her that the cushions on a particular couch needed fluffing up. Old habits die hard. Jean Wee began her career as an interior designer, and has spent years on the job before joining a group that founded what would become Nobel Design Holdings, currently a diversified company with interest in furniture retail, supply and installation, and related services, as well as property development. She is now the chief opertaing officer and an executive director responsible for marketing, sourcing operations, and brand development for the imported furniture business.
Jean Wee COO and Executive Director of Nobel Design Holdings
Jean is directly in charge of the groupâ€™s luxury furniture business, comprising Marquis Furniture Gallery and Marquis HQO; the former retails upmarket European furniture and accessories to end-users and specifier markets, and also provides home styling services. Marquis HQO, meanwhile, supplies furniture to various hospitality, residential, corporate, and F&B establishments.
Staying the Course Although most of its brands are massed in the upper reaches of the market, Marquis has a spread of activities as well as the size that makes Jean confident it will ride through the predicted slowdown in 2017. Earlier, professional forecasters reportedly revised down their 2017 growth figures from 2.1 per cent to 1.8 per cent—a sign that market sentiment may not support a buoyant retail sector.
This confidence is reflected in Marquis’ activities this year, from relaunching a revamped MisuraEmme showroom to strengthening Lifestorey’s digital platform to support the growing online consumer activities. “This year, we expanded our showroom space at Tai Seng Street to about 30 per cent,” she beams. “We have also invited world-renowned architect and designer, Mauro Lipparini, to introduce his works to Singaporean architect and designers. Lipparini is among the designers of MisuraEmme, which we represent.” Marquis has also increased the end-user focus of its interior design division, Marquis Home Styling, to augment its already strong relationship with property developers. “The situation will not stop us from moving forward,” Jean points out. “We believe that it is important to upkeep our brand positioning. We constantly look into ways to keep our showrooms interesting, by taking on new portfolios like Bentley Furniture, as well as revamping our MisuraEmme showcase, adding more display to the entire collection.”
Going Forward Among the moves highlighted by Terence Goon, Nobel Design Holdings’ group CEO and group managing director, in his 2015 annual report was the development of the group’s presence on the Internet “to address the shift of media consumption patterns of customers in 2016”. Jen concurs that “we are living in the digital age and have to stay current in order to meet the changing consumer demands.” She points out that consumers tend to do their research online to find out more about the product, brand and price before they make any purchase. “As a result, prices become transparent and we have to ensure our pricing is competitive and stay relevant. We constantly leverage on technology to enhance our digital platform. Our websites have been optimised to be more responsive and user-friendly.” Hamilton Conte
Telling Figures Instead of revising targets to a more comfortable figure, Jean hopes to retain theirs for 2017 the same as this year. “However,” she admits, “looking at the economic situation, we may expect a shortfall.”
“Marquis Furniture Gallery started 1993; since then we have ridden through several economic recessions, including the Asian financial crisis in 1997, the global financial crisis in 2008, and so on.” Throughout the years, Jean points out, “we have become stronger as a business group, and have gained more experience in dealing with market slowdown”.
Marquis’ business is predominantly in Singapore. Although it maintains presence in Malaysia, Thailand, Indonesia and Myanmar, its overseas sales contribution is not significantly large. “It shouldn’t adversely affect our overall revenues even if the downturn in the region persists,” Jean explains. “Moreover, we do see a trend of Singapore customers investing in weekend houses overseas.”
Jean anticipates the negative impact of this downturn to be less intense. “Although consumers are cautious in their expenditure, the premium furniture category seems to be holding up well. With our years of experience and the strength in our organisation, we are well placed to withstand any economic slowdown compared to the smaller players in the market,” she says.
Jean and her team foresee see better opportunities in the contract and hospitality sectors going forward. “Local designers understand the need for international furniture brands in their proposals. In fact, some overseas companies from emerging markets throughout region have approached us to provide them with our advisory services in furniture and furnishing trends.”
She emphasizes, however, that the threat of competition from e-commerce “is less pronounced in the upmarket segment than in the mass market consumer space. Clients in this demographic still appreciate the
presence of physical store where they can touch and feel the furniture pieces before they purchase.” Given the less than optimistic forecast, Jean favours the constant rationalization of cost structure “to ensure not only that operating costs are as lean as possible, but we take a strategic view to eliminate unnecessary spending. “However, we do not compromise on our sales force and still maintain the number of sale consultants in proportion to the size of the showroom. It is important to ensure quality service to our customers.” Marquis sends its sales staff for courses and seminars that are not only those within their job scope. “We encourage them to take up topics relating to the industry. For instance, we allow sales staff to take up basic interior courses so that they can act as an in-house home stylist to our customers. In this way, we can provide more services to them and add value to their purchase experience.” P
Showroom and Tell Nobel Furniture Gallery’s luxury furniture business is a mix of well-known and trade byword brands including Minotti, Porada, Meridiani, Misura Emme, Hamilton Conte, Cierr, Visionnaire, Bentley Furniture and Lifestorey. They are mostly housed in the Group’s Tai Seng Street building, except Minotti, which has its standalone showroom on Hill Street. The showroom spaces allocated and designed exclusively for various brands reflect their aesthetic direction and brand positioning. Jean Wee, who heads the Marquis upmarket furniture business, is directly involved in the design and furnishing of every showcase. Working with brand principals, she puts together not only the latest products but also the accessories that help articulate the essence of the brands. Every little detail is assessed and calibrated to contribute to the feel of the space. Books, throws, accessories, even the intesity of lighting must pass Jean’s rigorous standards before they are included in a setup.
â€œ We have ridden through several economic recessions, including the Asian financial crisis in 1997, the global financial crisis in 2008, and so on.
â€œ We believe that it is important to upkeep our brand positioning. We constantly look into ways to keep our showrooms interesting.
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A MAN’S TOUCH A crop of new hotels in exciting destinations proves that a more macho approach to design can still result in a cozy and restful stay.
B Y A N TO N D . J AV I E R
The Robey, Chicago
here is something about design that makes staying in some of the world’s most celebrated hotel chains comforting and familiar. More often than not, every guest’s needs are instinctively attended to by the most genteel of staff whose sincere smile is nearly as soft as the 600-thread-count sheets.
Where interiors and décor are concerned, softer has always seemed better. A gilded spiral staircase is de rigueur, as well as tassels dangling from every curtained area. Cloud-like carpets are essential, while towering floral centerpieces should be visible in just about every corner. But in this age where less is more, independent hoteliers have started to realize that the decorative bells and whistles in lobbies and guestrooms need to be toned down. Suddenly, there is a distinctive charm associated with polished concrete floors, while masculine wooden walls bring with it a new kind of warmth. Meanwhile, heavy industrial light fixtures are replacing the feminine curves of an ornate chandelier. The trend doesn’t stop at interiors. With the rise of jet-setting millenials looking for a unique experience rooted in authenticity, fine dining establishments have been turned on their heads and are being replaced by haute diner-inspired restaurants that serve up messy, but delicious burgers, while the involvement of local artists, musicians and makers has never been sexier. Proving this shift is a handful of design-centric hotels that are breaking away from tradition. Found in exciting cities around the globe — from Lima to Chicago — here are some of our recommendations to keep on your radar.
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An Art Deco skyscraper from 1929 in the Windy City has been repurposed to what is now known as The Robey, a modern yet timeless hotel that boasts 69 guest rooms, a second-floor lounge, an exclusive guest-only rooftop lounge and a soon-to-open rooftop pool. The building, which is fondly referred to as the Coyote Building because of its “howling” appearance, favors a minimalistic approach to design, with materials like glass, concrete, chrome and natural wood used throughout public spaces and guestrooms. Adding to its photogenic appeal is the building’s unique triangular footprint, which boasts lively views of the city, as well as an abundance of natural light that keeps the hotel from looking and feeling clinical. The hotel’s Art Deco roots have not been forgotten, so keep your eyes peeled and you’ll find yourself walking on herringbone hardwood floors or lounging on furniture that ranges from sleek and streamlined to inviting and contemporary. For fancy yet friendly affairs, make your way to Café Robey on the ground floor, which is helmed by chef Bradley Stellings. Boasting industrial finishes, high ceilings and a backdrop of Wicker Park and Bucktown’s six-corner intersection, guests and locals can enjoy Stellings’ French-American fare in cool style — whether it’s breakfast, lunch, dinner or weekend brunch.
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Atix Hotel, La Paz w w w.atixh ote l .c om
Atix Hotel is breaking away from the tradition that’s often associated with luxury hospitality in La Paz, Bolivia. It rejects European standards that deeply influences the city’s buzzing Calacoto district, and instead, draws heavily on its own identity. True enough, the hotel is a tangible celebration of Bolivia’s cultural heritage and proving this is the façade that uses locally sourced natural timber and Comanche stone, which was once used to pave the streets of La Paz in the ‘20s and ‘30s. Design details, such as handcrafted furniture in a neutral colour palette and alpaca throws nod to Bolivia’s rich culture of quality craftsmanship. In addition, Bolivian artist Gastón Ugalde’s presence can be subtly felt through his original pieces dotting public areas, hallways and guestrooms. Beyond design, everything local is also celebrated at the on-site restaurant, Ona, which boasts an innovative menu comprised of fresh, seasonal and locally sourced ingredients from Lake Titicaca to the Amazon. Meanwhile, Atix Hotel’s The Market — an in-house market offering organic produce — is a showcase of a curated mix of local goods that’s selected in collaboration with socially-conscious organizations that support neighboring farmers.
Memmo Príncipe Real, Lisbon w ww.me mmohote ls.com
Portugal’s capital is celebrated for the harmonious blend of old and new, and reflecting this is the most anticipated hotel in town — the Memmo Príncipe Real. The hotel was brought to life by Samuel Torres de Carvalho, a Madrid-born Portuguese architect that’s celebrated for his spectacular modernism and is seen as an ode to Lisbon’s memorable charm. An apparent heavy handedness takes center stage here, with limestone floors used in the reception all the way to the bar, while natural oak wood is the material of choice in the rooms — custom-built cabinetry, walk-in closets, headboards and even sliding doors are all made out of it. Softening all of this is the use of floor-to-ceiling windows, which invites the golden Portuguese sun in, while offering guests uninterrupted views of the charming city. The hotel’s Café Colonial also celebrates the old and the new, with offerings created by Vasco Lello, a 35-year-old chef that takes inspiration from a variety of South American countries, Africa and even Asia. However, the cross-cultural cuisine he dishes up still have their roots in Portuguese cooking traditions, which he credits to the wisdom of both his grandmothers and the home cooking he enjoyed daily as a child.
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Sir Savigny, Berlin & Sir Adam, Amsterdam w w w.s irh otel s.c om
Any property from the SIR hotel family, which has its roots in Amsterdam, wouldn’t look out of place in a Tom Ford or Wes Anderson-directed film. It prides itself as a chic home away from home for a new breed of upper class and individuals who have all the trappings of aristocracy, but none of the pretensions. As expected, each hotel under the group promises discerning designs, pitchperfect locations and a familiar experience that’s comparable to staying at the home of a close friend with impeccable, worldly taste.
If you’re in Berlin, ease into a hedonist’s playground known as the Sir Savigny. The recently opened property lets you indulge in much needed rest in the luxurious guestrooms outfitted by Amsterdambased designer Saar Zafrir, while a walk around the property will have you admiring the eclectic art collection in various areas. Meanwhile, slow down and sip on an expertly made tipple fireside in the Winter Garden, peruse an extensive book collection in The Library, or pass the time in the Savigny Garden, a leafy urban retreat to disappear in.
Bold, angular silhouettes, asymmetrical construction point to a mathematical inspiration.
C R E AT I V E D I R E C T I O N A S H P H O T O G R A P H Y LU M INA
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GIRL T O P I S S E Y M I YA K E SHORTS MARNI, SHOES MARNI, CUFF HERMES GUY T O P, J E A N S & S H O E S A L L F R O M I S S E Y M I YA K E , CUFF HERMES
L E AT H E R JA C K E T D O LC E & G A B B A N A J E R S E Y D R E S S S AT U R D AY S H O E S K AT E S PA D E VISOR NIGHT VISION
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B L A C K D R E S S Y- 3 SKIRT RECKLESS ERICKA SANDALS JASON WU FOR MELISSA D R E S S Y- 3 SHOES DR. MARTENS
PULLOVER JNBY CARDIGAN DEPRESSION L E AT H E R JA C K E T D K N Y S H O E S Y- 3 BLAZER & SHORTS DUNHILL SHIRT BOSS
TEMPORARY SHELTER? By 2025, says a report from PricewaterhouseCoopers, the majority of 20 to 39 year-olds will be renters. How can you harness the benefits from this trend?
eneration Rent is no longer a theory—it’s here to stay, and stay for another decade. According to PwC, by 2025, only 40 per cent of Londoners will own their own home, reversing the situation in 2000, when 60 per cent of Londoners were homeowners.
As a nation, the United Kingdom has been talking about ‘Generation Rent’ since 2010, the moment when it began to hit home: that many people born in the 1980s and 1990s may end up renting their homes late into adulthood – or possibly forever – if they are not fortunate enough to inherit a property eventually. Further striking figures come from Shelter, a charitable organization in the UK that assists people affected by homelessness. By 2020, first time buyers in London will need to earn at least £106,000 to afford the average first time buyer house, which Shelter estimate will cost £558,000. For that, they will need a deposit of £138,000. The UK has now returned to levels of home-ownership last seen in 1986 – but back then, the numbers were on the up, propelled by Margaret Thatcher’s Right to Buy policy for council houses. Now the number is falling and within the next decade, there will be an additional 1.8m privately- rented households in the UK – nearly one in four UK households, according to PwC. So what does it all mean for landlords? And how will it affect the way we live?
Firstly, as renters become more numerous and more permanent (some tenants in prime Central London are now signing rental contracts of up to 10 years, amounting to millions of pounds in rent), there is a need to offer far greater security of tenure.
They will feel at greater liberty to try out new areas and new types of property when the whim takes them – the natural lifestyle choice for the AirBnB generation who are drawn to the experience of hopping (tenancy agreement, permitting) from one city pad to the next. Trends people becoming more mobile, with many young professionals delaying where they put down roots.
It’s standard practice in the rest of Europe. In Germany and France, tenancies typically last five years or more. In Belgium, the average tenant stays for nine years. Properties are usually of a higher quality and there are more long-term assured tenancies than in the UK. Besides the security that offers to the tenant, think of what that means for landlords: the benefit of tenants they know and can trust over a long period; no void periods to worry about; none of the expense and effort associated with having to find new tenants every year or so.
Groups of friends can live near one another – or together - far more easily, something that is practically impossible amongst home-owning friends, given the high costs of buying and selling property. Their disposable income will be higher than that of homeowners, as renting spares them from the endless expenditure on home improvement and the typical homeowner’s expensive obsession with adding value. Local cafés, bars, restaurants, shops, gyms and cinemas will benefit from the explosion in Generation Rent. It all points to renting becoming more like in Europe – a long-term lifestyle. In Berlin, 90 per cent of people rent their homes and are quite happy to do so. The expansion in the culture of long-term renting here could see a major shift in the mind- set of Londoners, with renting as something to enjoy, take pride in and as a way of avoiding big debt. That shift in attitude will surely spread to landlords, too, who then feel more inclined to provide a good product and service and similarly take pride in their properties. On one hand, a generation of long-term renters in London points to greater stability and security for both parties. That is likely to be of great appeal to certain sectors of the market, such as corporate relocators, who want to avoid moving around in working and employment also see too often once they are settled in London. The rise of a long-term rental culture could also be seen to offer a more flexible and mobile lifestyle – of interest to young professionals who are still working out where they want to put down roots.
Landlords will be dealing with tenants who are accustomed to renting – it is their way of life, not a temporary blip. So they want to make their surroundings as pleasant and enjoyable as possible. Naturally the landlord has a role to play in that, ensuring the property is kept up to scratch, well maintained and freshly decorated – not just for the tenant’s benefit, but to ensure the property is immediately attractive compared with the competition.
what they are offering reflects what renters want in that particular area and the price being asked.
Rental yields may currently seem low for many Central London landlords and it is taking longer to find a tenant at present than in recent years. But this will change over time as Generation Rent beds in. They will be choosy about what they rent, though, and their standards will be high, so landlords will need to be at the top of their game, making sure
As becomes the norm among the under 40s in London, it will give rise to new ways of living. People may move around more, just because they can. They will be the ‘living light’ generation, unencumbered by mortgages, hefty furniture and the general clutter that accompanies years of home ownership.
Renting will increasingly be seen as not the option of last resort, but one of opportunity. And that is good news for landlords and tenants alike. P
A rise in the number of renters will see rental prices rise too – although the current slowing- to-stagnant market in prime London means owners who were seeking to sell are putting their properties on the rental market instead, maintaining a balance of supply and demand.
This two-bedroom property in Chelsea is located on the second floor (with lift) of an imposing red brick building with stunning river views
This spacious living room belongs to an apartment in Chelsea with a monthly rent of Â£6,912. Courtesy of Draker Lettings
Fundraising Gala National Gallery Singapore raised S$1.2m at its inaugural fundraising gala presented by Swiss watch manufacturer Vacheron Constantin. Artists, gallery patrons and donors, including both individual and corporate philanthropists, attended the event. All monies raised will go towards supporting and further developing the key areas for the Gallery. P
POLO PARTIES British Polo Day Singapore 2016 celebrated unity between Britain and Singapore. This yearâ€™s matches were preceded by specially curated events that included a HĂ´tel Vagabond launch party, polo clinic led by Malcolm Borwick, a Royal Salute Whisky tasting hosted by Peter Prentice, and Torquhil Campbell, the 13th Duke of Argyll, and Royal Salute dinner at the residence of entrepreneur Carmen Benitez. P
YIAN HUANG P H O T O S B Y C HINO S ARDEA
ian Huang wears many hats: He’s a director at Capital H Private Limited, whose principal activity is running a portal for real estate rental, and concurrently CTO and CFO at The Great Room Offices—the game-changing co-working space at One George Street. But it’s a motorcycle helmet that he dons when he unwinds.
“I love going on road trips; I once went across the US on a bike for 40 days—it was the best trip ever,” he recalls. His favorite pillion is, obviously, his wife, Jaelle. The couple stunned friends and family when they “famously traveled down the coast of Western Australia just after she gave birth”. Yian rides a Triumph Bonneville t100. Yian, who studied finance at the University of Pennsylvania, and journalism at Columbia University, is an accomplished photographer and photojournalist. He has had stints at global management consulting firm Bain & Company, as well as German lens and camera giant Leica. –MSA P
“ I love going on road trips; I once went across the US on a bike for 40 days— it was the best trip ever.
F I N A L T A L LY
Words and Consequence
“ I think it’s important to remember that words themselves aren’t policy. Historically, rhetoric hasn’t been a good indicator of policies to come, as so much of what an administration prioritizes and does is shaped by external forces and the political process. No administration is able to accomplish 100% of its goals -- it’s inevitably the top two or three that dominate the political agenda, and we do not yet know what those priorities will be in a Trump administration.” –Steve Strongin, Global Head of Research, Goldman Sachs
Trump Fiscal Policy
“The most important implications of a Trump administration are likely to come through fiscal policy and international trade. On the fiscal front, we assume Mr. Trump will pursue looser policy in the form of tax reductions and infrastructure and defense spending, worth around 0.75% of US GDP and probably starting around mid-2017. We also expect Mr. Trump to move in the direction of higher tariffs and greater trade restrictions, which would negatively affect growth in the long run. For now, we leave our 2017 growth forecast of 2% unchanged but think that most of the likely policy changes reinforce our existing call for gradually higher inflation and interest rates.” -Jan Hatzius, Chief Economist, Goldman Sachs
Hard and Soft Brexit Brexit will most likely be soft once both sides come to terms with the fact that they need each other. Trade tables demonstrate how much the UK spends with the EU and why it has a trade deficit. Trading Partner
% UK Exports
Of the UK’s top 10 trading partners, 3 are outside the EU; but of the 7 remaining, only 1 provides the UK with a surplus – Ireland. For the rest, the UK spends £108.4bn more with them than they spend with the UK. In fact, the UK buys 10% of all German cards manufactured, representing approximately 2% of the German GDP.
To Have or To Hold
In 2000, 60% of Londoners owned their home. In 2025, 40% of Londoners will own their home; the majority will be renters. In 2020 first time buyers will need to earn at least £106,000 to buy an average home. Within the next decade there will be an additional 1.8 privately rented households in the UK, or nearly 1 in every 4 households. Renting is becoming more like it is in Europe—a long-term lifestyle. In Berlin, 90% of people rent their homes. In Germany and France, tenancies typically last 5+ years. In Belgium tenancies typically last 9 years. -Draker Property Insights
“I understand the grants argument and our benefits from the EU subsidies, but no EU politician is going to risk losing votes because their economy shrinks, and voters lose jobs, which it will if we are blocked from trading. Dr. Fox and Ian Duncansmith made this argument seeking a ‘Hard Brexit’, but I think it works well for a more conciliatory approach. Why antagonize our neighbors—they will do their own analysis. Mr. Vanderhofstadt and Mr Juncker may jostle for soundbites, but the new German government, due in 2017, has to weigh in on the economics.” Maskells Market Update September 2016