From designers to DJs, chefs to club owners, these are the people who have shaped — and shaken up — Singapore's creative scene in 2017
Who from the list of 24 Creatives would you want to collaborate with? Definitely Javier Perez from Kilo Kitchen because we love his restaurants and the food is amazing. We've always wanted to do an F&B joint installation for Beyond The Vines. There's also Kage and Keng How from Biro Company. A huge bulk of our overseas orders comes from Japan, so designing a collection with them — and having the clothes manufactured in Japan — would be extremely exciting for our customers.
What's the top priority for Beyond The Vines right now? Having just opened our latest store — Beyond The Vines LIFE at Mandarin Gallery — we're wrapping up the year and looking forward to celebrating a successful 2017 with our team during the holidays. 2018 will be an exciting year for the brand, but before jumping in there, we really want to take the time to just live in the moment.
What is the one thing the Singapore fashion scene needs? Singapore's fashion scene definitely needs a whole new retail experience; cookie cutter stores no longer work. Customers still enjoy a physical shopping experience, but one that isn't stale and transactional.
Name an unexpected fashion trend for 2018. Logomania is going strong!
Beyond The Vines had a stellar 2017, opening four stores in Singapore and Bangkok as well as winning The Top 3 Most Popular Brands of the Year Award at Singapore Fashion Awards.
Which person from the 24 Creatives would make a great ambassador for Allies of Skin? I'm going to be greedy and pick three because Mae, Rosalyn and Tabitha are all allies who love our products. I'm a lifelong feminist and a proponent of women doing it for themselves. These three women are strong, ambitious and encapsulate everything the brand stands for.
What has been the hardest part about getting Allies of Skin off the ground? As a young start-up, we face the classic challenge of having a ton to do but not having enough money to do everything. We've had to learn how to adapt and grow with zero marketing dollars. The trick is to grow the thickest skin and never give up.
What to you is the best measure of success in life, both for your brand and for yourself? To see and hear people loving the products that I created: On Instagram, from editors, from buyers all around the world and even from customers who email me every day. To be able to create something that people would part their hard-earned money for, and to help people feel great in their own skin is such a huge honour... it's what gets me out of bed every day.
What is the beauty secret of the future?
2017 was a great year for Allies of Skin as it expanded into 12 countries, introduced four new products, and became the first Singaporean brand to be stocked on Net-A-Porter and Barneys.
Who among our 24 Creatives would you like to collaborate with? I would love to work with Chelsea Scott-Blackhall. I've been an admirer of her work for years and I've always been very interested in the fashion world, because like music, fashion is an avenue of expression, and an extension of ourselves.
What do you think makes a change maker in Singapore's music scene? Someone who pushes boundaries, isn't just content with doing things the way they've always been done, and someone who can give a voice to the people.
Where do you think Singapore's music scene needs the most growth in? I feel that education and exposure are important for artists to survive and have longevity in this business. More often than not, people can't name 10 Singaporean bands off the top of their heads, or can't tell you anything about the scene 40 years ago. The scene is vast and rich, but there isn't anyone actively talking about it, nor is there a space for people to go to explore all of it. At the end of the day, as artists, we're doing music for the people. And if they've never even heard of us or can't easily access the work we've done, then what's the point? The Singapore music scene will only be as successful as the number of people who engage with it, and I'm proud to say, it's getting better and better with each year that passes.
Who would you love to collaborate with in our list of 24 Creatives, and why? I'd love to collaborate with Kirsten Tan. I've yet to meet her but admire her skills as a film maker,
especially her visual style. When I first entered university, I wanted to be a film major, but
eventually ended up majoring in political science. I'm still passionate about cinema.
There has been much talk this year about the launch of Straits Clan. What is your elevator pitch for joining the club? Straits Clan is a new kind of members' club that aims to forge meaningful connections amongst
this city's most passionate progressives through diverse curated experiences. But first and
foremost, Straits Clan is about its community. We hope to entice the country's key influencers,
creatives, entrepreneurs, and change makers to join our club, to meet each other, to network, to
forge new friendships, new businesses, or even new social movements.
Why does Singapore need a private members' club? I personally feel we need more opportunities for people from diverse backgrounds to discover each other. For me and my co-founders — Wee Teng Wen and Sally Sim — our primary goal has been to create a safe environment for these meetings and discoveries. A club is just one way to reach this goal.
What's your advice to people in the creative industry?
Aun Koh Founder of Straits Clan, and co-founder of communications agency The Ate Group
One third of the team responsible for setting up Straits Clan — the new private members' club to connect Singapore's creative community.
2017 has treated you well. What were your favourite moments? There were so many. Things that come to mind include: when we launched our first Malay womenswear collection; when we worked with the traditional cloth Pua Kumbu for the first time; when we pulled off our first standalone runway show in Singapore; and when we took the Love Letters collection to New York and Paris fashion weeks.
Who from the list of 24 Creatives would you love to dress? Javier Perez — the man got good taste.
What's more crucial for success — perseverance or talent? It's 50-50.
What's the most rewarding aspect of your job? Making people happy.
If you weren't a fashion designer, what would you be? A bus driver.
What does the term 'Singapore fashion' mean to you?
Ong Shunmugam launched her debut cruise show, Love Letters, in 2017 and dressed 'Hidden Figures' star Janelle Monae for the film's premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival.
What do you think makes a change maker in Singapore's art scene? I think anyone can be a change maker as long as you put your honesty and sincerity in whatever you want to do. I've always believed in paying it forward and also being an arts educator, I try to implement my own principles and beliefs to my own students.
Do you think your works define you as a Singapore artist? To be very honest, I don't know what Singapore art is — how do we identify ourselves? I mean, it's just 52 years of independence, what history do we really have? My mom is older than Singapore. So how do we identify what is Singapore identity? These are the questions that I ask my students too. We are a multi-racial community, we are all rojak.
What can we expect from you next? I'm a loner, I love being alone but I hate being lonely — that's my next theme, confronting loneliness. I'm doing a series of performances for photographs. It's an ongoing and personal project, I don't know if I'm going to show it or not. I'm always known as the clown, so I'm always misunderstood. People always think Ezzam should be happy, Ezzam should be a funny guy… but there is a quieter and more melancholic side of me too. I think that comes through in my works.
The 2015 President's Young Talent and 2016 Young Artist Award winner recently participated in Singapore Inside Out: Sydney, bringing his performance art and sculptures to a new audience.
Who would you like to create a drink with in our list of 24 Creatives? I'd create a drink with the folks behind Beyond The Vines. It's always interesting to work with professionals from a non-F&B industry like fashion. When two non-related industries cross paths, I feel that the outcome is a lot more unique — and definitely a more enjoyable process.
If you had to choose one coffee to drink for the rest of your life, what would it be? A pour over African coffee because it reminds me of why I started my coffee journey in the first place.
Chye Seng Huat Hardware has been hosting a few DJ and music gigs of late. Where do you see this coffee and music collaboration going? Coffee and music are strong influences for me and it ignites different communities and cultures. Because I personally enjoy both, it was a very organic transition to have our monthly parties livened up with music — bringing energy to the Jalan Besar neighbourhood.
Where in the world would you travel for coffee? We spend some time travelling to different origins per year, but if I have to choose just one, It would be Antigua in Guatemala. Apart from great tasting coffees, the scenery and people are worth the journey.
If you could create a beverage to represent Singapore, what would it be?
Leon Foo Founder of Chye Seng Huat Hardware and speciality coffee roaster Papa Palheta
Constantly breaking new ground in Singapore's coffee scene, Leon has led several collaborative events this year with the likes of Marou Chocolate and Darker than Wax.
What makes someone a change maker in Singapore? Someone who is not afraid of doing something different. They keep their fingers on the pulse and their ears to the ground, and know when to adapt, evolve and move with the times. Sometimes it's just recognising when you can, or should be, a rebel with a cause.
Where do you think Singapore's nightlife scene needs the most growth in? The nightlife scene in Singapore has always been thriving, but brand owners and consumers are equally unwilling to try out new concepts or ideas. What we've ended up with is so many bars and clubs offering the same or similar experience.
What's next for The Council in 2018? I'm very excited to share that Headquarters will expand to two rooms at the current home at 66 Boat Quay. This expansion brings us one step closer to realising our vision: a space for people to roam between rooms and experience different concepts or music genres. There's so much good music out there and I hope we can continue to champion the sounds of the underground for many years to come.
Who would you party with from our list of creatives? Aun Koh, because I think a dinner party with him could be a lot of fun. Dance parties aren't the only type of parties I'm into!
The co-founder of underground music space and community The Council celebrated the club's first anniversary and launched Plastik Dreams, an accessible pop-up party series.
Who from the list of 24 Creatives would you love to dress? Kage and Keng How Chong from Biro Company. We've seen their work and admire their ready-to-wear clothes, and we believe they will appreciate and resonate with our aesthetic and quality of our suits.
Where is menswear headed? In terms of tailoring, men are asking for lighter and more breathable fabrics because of our warmer climate. More consumers are requesting for their suits to be made in 8 to 10oz open-weave fabrics, hence lighter canvas will be used for its structure and suits will be made with half-lined constructions to allow more ventilation.
What's the one thing about tailoring that most people aren't aware of? What their clothes are made of and how to take care of them. Quality suits and trousers are made with wool, so the proper way to clean them is to dry clean — but not too regularly. If you wash your wool trousers, you may risk damaging the fabric, causing shrinkage and distortion.
What is the biggest mistake men make when buying a suit? Not knowing what they want and need. Many men don't know what type of styles, designs and quality of suits they are looking at, or whether the cut is ideal for their body proportions.
This stand-up comic is a rare female in comedy's "boys' club". Channa has received praise for her one-hour solo shows and has performed at multiple festivals at home and abroad.
Which person from the list of 24 Creatives would you love to introduce Porcelain to and why? I would pick Rosalyn Lee. Apart from the fact that I've always been a fan, she is what Porcelain represents: staying true to yourself, and being confident in your own skin (both figuratively and literally).
What was your proudest achievement in 2017? The opening of our flagship store — Porcelain Signatures, at the iconic Tanjong Pagar Centre in March.
What is your vision for women in Singapore when it comes to their skin, and how do you hope to change the skincare industry with your brand? Porcelain has always gone against the grain in the way we do things. Just like developing six-pack abs, there isn't really any shortcuts to achieving #FoundationFreeSkin. It takes time, faith, patience, trust and commitment from our clients; on top of the work we put into developing our skill and R&D. We live and breathe skincare, and we are very good at what we do.
Good skin starts with...
Pauline Ng Founder and managing director of the Porcelain chain of facial salons
Ng has led the brand to greater heights with the opening of Porcelain Signatures in 2017 and the expansion of its skincare range.
Who would you like to collaborate with in our list of 24 Creatives?
Tabitha knows how bad I want her to blow up! Would love to get her on a track with a US artist — spoke to her recently about Masego, and even though I’m not in the scene, I want to be in the studio to witness this go down.
How do you constantly keep yourself inspired? The belief and faith in purpose.
What are some of your favourite food trends that you have seen in your travels? Mediterranean fast-food and initiatives to minimise food wastage — places in California are using rejected fruits to make jams and preservatives. People are also starting to eat insects now, whether it's in mid-tier or fine dining restaurants.
What new skills would you like to learn in 2018? Watersports and languages.
The trendy Kilo Kallang is still the talk of the town in Singapore three years after its opening. What's next? We hear Javier is breaking ground for Kilo Jakarta in 2018.
Who from the list of 24 Creatives would you love to dress? The person who wrote the list. A creative who champions creatives.
How swayed are you by trends? Do you march to your own beat or are consumer preferences too big a wave to ignore? It's important as a designer to aim to differentiate; as opposed to simply be different for the sake of being different. To have a voice and a vision, whilst also balancing the desires of your consumer.
You shuffle between NYC and Singapore for Dzojchen. How does being in both cities influence your designs? Dzojchen is about paradox. Unexpected balance from contradiction; the fusion of seemingly opposing fashion dualities in a subtly-striking balance. With a brand rooted in contrasting cultures — practical and philosophical influences of East and West — being in both cities heavily influences my designs, and underpins the DNA of the brand through our collections.
Having just won the biggest fashion award in Singapore, what's next for Dzojchen? The ultimate prize would be to have Dzojchen embraced as a household name, and to be recognised for navigating the future of retail.
What does it take to be a fashion designer?
Chelsea Scott-Blackhall Founder and designer of Dzojchen
Scott-Blackhall is known for fusing tailoring with edgy streetwear, and was named Fashion Designer of the Year at the recent Singapore Fashion Awards 2017.
Who in our list of 24 Creatives would you name a dish after and what would it be? Rosalyn Lee. She has a very unique sense of style that can be easily expressed through the presentation of a dish. The dish would be octopus with squid ink and piquillo pepper.
If you had to whip up a dish with just three ingredients, what would they be? Cauliflower, Thai basil and egg. The dish will comprise of roasted cauliflower — with raw cauliflower compressed in Thai basil — caramelised cauliflower puree, and son-in-law egg.
If you could cook for a celebrity of your choice, who would it be? Kirk Hammett, the lead guitarist from Metallica.
Just over a year after its opening, Chef Rishi led Cheek By Jowl to win their first Michelin star this year. He's the first Sri Lankan-born chef to be awarded this title.
What do you think makes a change maker in Singapore's art scene? A change maker is someone who takes a bold step forward to set an example of how things could be like, or should be like. Be it through modes of expression, transcending boundaries through perfection in their craft or presenting a grand vision of a better scene and following up on making that change.
Where do you think Singapore's art scene needs the most growth in? With the changing times, influx of creatives and increase in art graduates, I feel that the infrastructure could use some work to adapt to these changes. Personally, I would like to see our 'eco-system' become one that's conducive and encourages these creatives to see that it can be a career, and for freelance creatives to not be at the bottom of the chain when it comes to their legal rights and payment terms.
What's next for you in 2018? I will be bringing my interactive installation 'Progress - The Game of Leaders' to Singapore Art Week 2018 in January and Hong Kong in April for another festival. I will be re-launching RCGNTN.SG, a platform that showcases Singaporean talent that I first founded in 2008 that helped me learn about the local scene.
Out of our 24 Creatives, who would you create a mural for and why? Wow, all of them if I could! I respect the work they do in pushing the scene forward. It would be really cool to collaborate across disciplines to see what we can do to push the boundaries.
The secret to not getting caught is...
Sam Lo Artist and entrepreneur
In 2017, the artist put out two exhibitions, released a book on street art installations and founded Project XIV — an agency that represents freelance creatives.
Who would you like to collaborate with in our list of 24 Creatives and why? Joshua and Sarissa Schwartz. We are already in extremely close collaboration for Bang Bang and Lulu's Lounge, with immense success, and are looking to do more with them. It's great to see them really passionately living and breathing what great nightlife experiences are about; which explains why they are so successful at what they do.
What are in the works for The Privé Group in the upcoming year? You'll see Privé outlets in one or two more special locations within Singapore. I've also very excited with taking my love for chicken rice further. My plans, over 15 years on the drawing board, are finally taking shape — I hope to introduce quality chicken rice to a wider audience.
Apart from Bayswater Kitchen, where in the world would you recommend for the best and freshest seafood? I really enjoyed Ristorante Bagni Delfino in Sorrento, Amalfi Coast, which is run by a large Italian family. The seafood is fresh from the bay. Their food is straightforward and rustic, the people are super friendly, the portions are generous, you dine right at the pier with sea views, and I just loved their food. I dined there twice on the same trip and would have done it a third time if I could.
What advice would you give to budding entrepreneurs in the food industry?
Yuan leads The Privé Group into its 10th year with a new outlet on Orchard Road, a cool late-night club Lulu's Lounge, and a seafood-centric restaurant Bayswater Kitchen.
What are you most proud of and why? I'm proud that I finally found the courage to quit my career to focus on building a life.
What do you think makes a change maker in Singapore's entertainment scene? It takes someone who dares to question the flow and who has a strong desire to disrupt the status quo.
Where do you think Singapore's entertainment scene needs the most growth in? Competition tops my list. How can we ever grow if one media company monopolises the industry? Competition forces us to stay on our toes, rethink tired methods, and value people.
Whose playlist from our list of 24 Creatives would you love to check out and why? Chelsea Scott-Blackhall. She has the most dope music taste. I've always got my Shazam on standby whenever I watch her fashion shows. Through her, I've discovered some of my favourite tracks like 'Red Eyes' by Thomas Azier, and 'Howling' by Ry & Frank Wiederman (Ame Remix). I'd definitely love to raid her Spotify playlist!
What's your advice for people in the entertainment scene?
The former radio presenter hosts Rozz Recommends on Clicknetwork where she talks travel and social issues. In 2018, she'll star in season four of the Mediacorp drama, Code Of Law.
What do you think makes a change maker in Singapore's theatre scene? Staying true to our individual calling in theatre, which means striving to do well even on days when we don't feel much for it.
Where do you think Singapore's theatre scene needs an expansion in? How about not thinking about an outward expansion? Instead, introspectively cultivate a genuine, persevering interest in the art of theatre for everyone in the scene. These days we talk a lot about the theatre business, but we don't discuss much about the artistry of it. It has to be the magic, not money, that thrives the entire ecosystem.
Who among our creatives would you have a dinner party with and why? DJ Zig Zach. The world of club mixes is definitely foreign to me, and if I were to sit down and have a conversation over food and drinks, then I would want to tread into the unknown. DJ Zig Zach's involvements in Kilo as well as the private parties on an old Chinese junk boat are intriguing topics.
Who would you create a cocktail with in our list of 24 Creatives? Tabitha Nauser! Hopefully she finds it so delicious, she decides to sing at Lulu's Lounge.
What are your thoughts on the current nightlife scene in Singapore and what do you hope to see more of in the future? We are really encouraged and excited by the constant growth and ambition of operators in Singapore. In the three years since we opened Bang Bang, and a myriad of nightlife openings and closures, it doesn't stop people from continuing to push through and try new venues and ideas out. In the future, we hope to continue to see more people following their own niche with new and exciting projects.
One piece of advice for couples who work together? It's important to create boundaries and understand how and when the other person processes information. When you leave the office and go home, it's still the office because your business partner is sleeping next to you. Shutting off, especially when you are in a 24/7 industry like us, can be nearly impossible. Make sure you really enjoy your partner's company before you decide to work together.
What would you say to someone looking to be an entrepreneur in the F&B industry?
Aside from opening the dynamic Lulu's Lounge this year, the power couple also brought Employees Only to Hong Kong in June.
What do you think makes a change maker in Singapore when it comes to the literary scene? To have thick skin — like a bull.
Where do you think Singapore's literary scene needs the most growth in? Infrastructure, particularly to drive readership. I think we have excellent writers and well-funded systems to develop them, but we don't have a reading culture and especially not one that reads local. Marketing, marketing, marketing... something they don't teach you in English Literature.
What upcoming projects or collaborations do you have lined up in 2018? Personally, I'm working on a spoken word musical on the life and times of William Farquhar — the founding father of Singapore — together with Marc Nair and Chong Li-Chuan. I also have a graphic novel with Tim Wang and Adam Jay, Ten Stories Below, that has been percolating for a few years and is almost near completion. And finally, launching my fourth poetry collection, Footnotes on Falling.
From our list of creatives, pick those you'd want at your dinner party. Rozz, Sam Lo and Kirsten Tan because I think music, design and text are a strangely linked triumvirate that comes together in the medium of film. Oh, and definitely Rishi Naleendra. Food is most important!
From our list of creatives, who would you collaborate with and why? I feel it might be premature of me to make any statements based on who I am familiar and unfamiliar with as of the moment, but I've admired Aun Koh, Rozz and Chelsea Scott-Blackhall and the work they do.
What do you think makes a change maker in Singapore's film industry? This idea of a change maker is quite a pretty concept, but before we start pinning our romantic hopes on that one change maker who will emerge to save us all, I think it is better to see all of ourselves, each and every one of us, as potential change makers, because that's how society moves. Not with one, but with many. How would you like Singapore or your specific community to be? Be aware of what matters to you, move in that one direction in big and small ways and stay decent!
Where do you think Singapore's film scene needs the most growth in? I think we need quite a few things, but as of now, the issue I'm thinking about most is space. We need space to create freely, to say things that aren't always perfectly amicable, to argue, to counter-argue, without feeling like we're toeing lines or sometimes even getting prematurely shut down. Space is always a work in progress, and requires committed trust from both sides. I've been on enough sets to know that constant conversation and productive dialogue stemming from occasional conflict on opposing thoughts almost always creates a better final product; even if things are sometimes uncomfortable in the process.
Her first feature film, Pop Aye, won a Special Jury Prize at the 2017 Sundance Film Festival and was the Singaporean entry for the Best Foreign Film at the Oscars.
Who from the list of 24 Creatives would you want to trade careers with? Aun Koh. We admire his efforts in building the private members' club Straits Clan.
What is the biggest menswear trend in 2018? Less couture, and more streetwear in high fashion. Also the continued rise of ugly, weird-looking sneakers. It's all hype!
Advice for Singaporean men in terms of creative styling in this heat? Stick to a simple silhouette and add more depth by layering comfortable pieces. For instance, it could be as easy as wearing a thin sea island cotton tee with a chambray overshirt.
Who is the one designer you both look up to? Daiki Suzuki, he has a very interesting sense of style. His clothes are minimalist, but he tweaks old things cleverly to give them a new look.
What is it like building a brand with your brother?
Biro Company has been selected by Farfetch to create a special capsule collection to be launched in 2018, and introduced editorial content to its own e-commerce platform.
What do you think makes a change maker in Singapore in the nightlife scene? Having good taste in music would be a good start. Be creative with the parties, concepts and being different to what the others are doing. Most importantly, always put quality as the top priority in what you do, and make sure you stay firm and true to what you believe in.
Do you think Singapore's nightlife scene lacks space? For a small country, we have one of the best scenes for electronic music in the region. We have a very clued up crowd here. For that we have Lincoln Cheng to thank. He laid the foundation for the music scene here with Zouk. But there is definitely a lack of space and, of course, the strict laws don't make things any easier. I would love to be able to sit down with the Singapore Tourism Board and brainstorm on how to do events and use unique spaces in Singapore to do parties or lifestyle-driven events. Amsterdam is a good example of how the government and promoters look at the big picture by working together — they make it fun, entertaining, and most importantly, safe for party goers. From this list of our creatives, who would you party with and why? Javier Perez! I'm always a big fan of Kilo and all his food concepts. Also, Kilo Lounge — that I play for — is great. So there's already a lot in common and I reckon we'd tear it up!
What's your favourite track?
Zig Zach DJ and entrepreneur
The house and techno lover is behind parties Island Escape, The Sunday Social Market and Escape 56, which went regional. He also performed at Wonderfruit, Asia's Burning Man.
Who from the list of 24 Creatives would you want to collaborate with? This is honestly a list of insanely talented individuals. It would be incredible to work with any one of them.
What is your first fashion memory? That time I picked up really skinny, tight jeans from Peninsular Plaza. It was an Avril Lavigne phase — I can't be the only one! But I fell in love with fashion when I realised the importance of the message you're trying to put across. It's not just clothes; it's feelings and ideas.
What is a common misconception about people working in fashion? People don't realise how complex the fashion industry or fashion business is, especially when new creatives are at play. Overcoming it means sticking close to your roots, standing strong about who you are and what you can do for the world.
Where do you want to see your career in the next 5 years? I definitely want Christian Dada to be a brand everyone will not stop hearing about. And for Surrender to continue creating fun projects.