Nodspark Business Times Media Feature

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The Business Times | Friday, September 4, 2020


Designer collaborations

Photo Phactory X Sanrio From S$70, from Hello Kitty has found its way into Singapore’s heritage, thanks to a tie-up between Sanrio and Photo Phactory, a homegrown company that captures Singapore’s history through colourful prints of shophouses on various lifestyle products. It’s a perfect cultural connection with the Japanese company, which is always looking for something new and wants to localise its characters in Singapore. The collection includes clutch bags, serving trays and scarves.

Creative minds come together to put a new spin on familiar products BY TAY SUAN CHIANG Nodspark X YeoMama Batik S$15, from and Usually associated with ethnic-themed apparel, batik fans can sport the same look on their fingertips too, in the form of nail wraps from Nodspark. Desleen Yeo, founder of YeoMaMa Batik, wanted to put her artwork on a different medium other than conventional fabric. So she worked with Nodspark’s founder, Eugenia Yeo, who adapted YeoMama’s Midnight Vanda batik print to create the nail wraps. The Nodspark team digitally extracted the artwork, stencilled it, and then printed it on the nail wraps, perfect for a heritage touch to your next manicure.

Scene Shang X Binary Style, Onlewo and Minor Miracles From S$730, from Contemporary furniture and lifestyle brand Scene Shang’s Cane Chair Collection usually comes in solid colours, but in a collaboration with three fabric makers, homeowners can go wild with prints. Pick from a print with scenes of Chinatown from Onlewo, a mouse deer print from Binary Style and a watercolour print from Minor Miracles. Scene Shang co-founder Pamela Ting says: “These three brands offer classy local prints and fabric that speaks to the soul of our culture. They pair nicely with our Cane Collection to give a modern nostalgic vibe to any space.”

Cherin Tan X Alvin Tan From S$350, from Art Now, Raffles Arcade, 02-28

47Ronin X various watch brands From S$260 from

Ipse Ipsa Ipsum X Laurentia Liu, Kristie Ng, and Denise Eng

Bynd Artisan X Ying The Label S$280 from and Fashion brand Ying the Label and leather company Bynd Artisan are back for a second collaboration. This time, it’s for The Renewal Bag – a limited edition, upcycled, reversible tote. There are four designs, using fabric from previous collections, which would otherwise have been left unused. Each bag has printed fabric on one side, and solid colour on the other, while the handles are made of leather.

S$200 from ipseipsaipsum When furniture retailer Ipse Ipsa Ipsum learnt that the local art community was struggling with the lack of work, it invited them to design anti-microbial masks and tote bags. The firm ran an open call, and worked with freelance illustrators Laurentia Liu, Kristie Ng and Denise Eng. The design brief was kept open with the only requirement being that their art be related to social issues arising from the pandemic. Ms Liu’s design reflected the different quarantine activities; Ms Eng spotlighted mental health, while Ms Ng illustrated a work from home situation.

To Tong Chuek Fung, a watch strap isn’t just something that attaches a timepiece to the wrist – it can also be turned into a piece of art. When he was working in Japan as a consultant, Mr Tong became fascinated with crafts such as kimono textiles, pottery and tatami, and was inspired to incorporate kimono fabric into watch straps. He launched his label 47Ronin, and works withvarious watch brands, such as Vario from Singapore and Norway’s Von Doren, to create exclusive straps. Each is unique, as Mr Tong studies the characteristics of each watch, before deciding on the colour of the leather and the fabric to use.

Design veterans Cherin Tan, founder of LAANK interior architecture firm, and Alvin Tan, co-founder of PHUNK, a contemporary art and design collective, have come together to create LAAT, a collection of furniture and home accessories. The collection consists of lamps, tables and benches. What makes them special is that they are made from unwanted parts, such as glass panels, metal rods, tiles and even sanitary fittings. “They were unsold items from some of our suppliers that we took apart, and upcycled them into new pieces, which is in line with our idea of ‘purpose to repurpose’,” says Ms Tan.


Pushing forward in uncertain times By Tay Suan Chiang @TaySuanChiangBT

Jaelle Ang, CEO and Co-founder, The Great Room


IKE most people, Jaelle Ang, CEO of coworking space The Great Room, had great plans for 2020. “This was meant to be a big year for expansion,” says Ms Ang, 40. “We had a 100 per cent commitment when we opened at Raffles Hotel Arcade late last year and at the beginning of 2020, we were operating on healthy occupancy and good rates.” Besides four locations in Singapore, The Great Room is also in Hong Kong and Bangkok. “January was our best performing month. Everything was in place for a great year.” But Covid-19 turned Ms Ang’s plans upside down. “Now we are hunkering down to make sure the business is stable. Our expansion plans are delayed but they will still happen,” she says. Her husband Yian Huang is the cofounder. She likens living during this pandemic to be an “all round close range combat sport”. “Covid-19 has impacted everyone around the world, across all industries, affecting business and daily lives. No one can really help you, since we are all fighting the same battle,” she says. Her advice, which she applies to herself too, is to stay the course and stay focused. ■ You trained as an architect, worked in banking, and was part of the founding team that headed the development of hotels such as the Four Seasons Hotel and Capella Hotel in Bangkok. Why did you enter the co-working space? When we started The Great Room in 2016, we looked at the work environment. The fact is, the work environment is actually sterile yet we spend such long hours in it. I came from a background of hotel development and, in hotels, you see high value interactions, beautiful design, great energy and buzz. The spaces in the hotels are about bringing people together. So I questioned, why can’t we bring this excit-

ing interaction into the work space. ■ The Great Room has opened in six locations in four short years. Why has it done so well? Our growth can be credited to two factors. One, there has been an increase in the uptake of flexible workspaces. Right now, the rate is about two to three per cent in Asia. Pre-pandemic the forecast was that 30 per cent of commercial office space in Asia will be flexible, so there is still plenty of growth. Secondly, there is mature segmentation in this industry. The segment that The Great Room focuses on is Fortune 1000 companies and enterprises. This is an underserved yet fastest growing market in Asia. Our target audience really wants a flexible workspace in an elevated work environment.

Jaelle Ang: Her advice, which she applies to herself too, is to stay the course and stay focused. PHOTOS: THE GREAT ROOM still in place. One team manages member relations and membership collections. Another group deals with cash flow. A third handles health and safety and operational issues. The four is our wet weather squad. There’s the thinking that on sunny days you can overtake one car and, on rainy days, you have the opportunity to overtake 15 cars. So they look for opportunities to overtake our competitors. For example, we didn’t use to do much in terms of short-term day passes, nor did we have business continuity plans for our members. So we developed products for members who had to work in different teams. We offered to restructure leases to cater to the number of employees that would require a space. The first two months were difficult, but we survived.

■ You mentioned that pre-pandemic, the forecast growth rate for flexible workspace in Asia is 30 per cent. What role does co-working spaces play going forward? I don’t know if it will be even higher, but we will get to that 30 per cent in a shorter time, as people want the agility. There is still a lot of uncertainty; companies will be thinking when they should expand, how many people might they have to let go, or hire. They will want to buy time to gain visibility, so they want options. I believe flexibility is the counter to all the uncertainty, be it in this pandemic or in geopolitical situations. Our flagship space at Robinson Road will open in 2021 (after being delayed this year). We also want to deepen our presence in Hong Kong, Bangkok and even Sydney. There is demand and interest for what we do. But right now, everyone is slowing down and watching and gathering information about what will happen next. Two-thirds of the calls that we get now are from companies, from the professional services and finance industries that have never gone into flexible work spaces before and are looking to do so now. ■ How do you see the workplace evolving?

I see two narratives emerging. One, is this the death of offices? People like working from home and, already, there are American corporations who have announced that their employees will be working from home indefinitely. The other narrative is that, now more than ever, agility is very prized. People can work from home – they can cope but they cannot thrive. We can cope for three months, but after that, you are really handicapped when it comes to new business development or building new relationships, projects and deals. You can only push along things that you have been doing with people you already

know and have a rapport with. The collaboration is a bit subdued and less productive, and people realise that they can’t wait to get back to the office. But it will now mean more freedom and flexibility, and less clocking in of face time. To win the war of talent, companies have to give employees the flexibility of when, how and where to work. ■ How did you deal with the uncertainty over the past few months? Things were volatile, so one of the things we did was to set up four task forces which are

■ What has been your biggest takeaway from these past months? The biggest takeaway is that we have grown stronger, and have many tools and skill sets that will see us through tough times. I think we have turned the corner. We did better in July than in previous months. We might have been overly worried before but we are coming out of the woods. But I would say, we really have to revive the economy. Collectively, we have to open the economy in a safe way, but everyone has to play their part in getting the economy running again.