Inside our dinner party to connect Singapore’s creatives
In our increasingly digitally connected world, it's surprising how isolated we can be in our own comfortable circles. Have you noticed that, as creatures of habit, we tend to live our lives in predictable loops? This was the impetus behind launching #BuroSocial — a series of dinner parties designed to foster creative connections; to gather people from different walks of life to share conversations over a shared meal.
For our first #BuroSocial we transformed the communal area of The Co. — a premium co-working space in Duxton Hill — into an elegant restaurant complete with overhanging fairy lights by Midnight Sparks (including mason jars filled with lights and scattered across tables); gorgeous floral arrangements by Floral Magic (especially that cascading wall of breathtaking blooms welcoming guests at reception); communal style dining provided by Luxe Catering (that even had the industry foodies raving); delicious cocktails mixed on-the-spot by bartenders from Crackerjack and 28 HongKong Street (strong and generous, just the way we like it); and superb wine from the Penfolds Max's range (that fuelled the party well into the night).
And when it was finally all over, red rover, guests left with a special gift from Clé de Peau Beauté. "You guys have outdone yourselves," remarked several guests. Thank you. "Is this in Singapore?" asked a few voyeurs witnessing the event unfold through our Instagram Stories. "It's like a hipster wedding!" Guys, this is just how we roll. Buro 24/7 Singapore does not do things by halves.
To ensure that that we had a mixed-bag of creative individuals at our #BuroSocial dinner, we hand-picked four 'hosts' from four different industries — Anita Kapoor (TV host and presenter), Javier Perez (founder of Kilo and Grain Traders), Krystal Tan (lawyer and co-founder of travel agency, Blue Sky Escapes), and Dean Chew (designer, director of FUUR and co-founder of Darker Than Wax) — with each 'host' bringing four of their own friends. An exclusive seated dinner party for a total of 30 people, the remaining guests were invited by The Co. and Buro 24/7 Singapore. How did we get everyone mingling? Through the ingenious game of Smôl Tôk — a card game created by fellow Singaporean Nicholas Pang designed to start conversations.
In between sips of Shiraz (not to mention bites of Anita Kapoor's surprisingly tasty birthday cake that was, wait for it, gluten-free and lactose-free) I spoke to the four 'hosts' about the power of collaboration — proof that work, just like life, is always better when shared.
ANITA KAPOOR, TV PRESENTER AND HOST
What does the concept of collaboration mean to you?
The idea of collaboration for me is energy, the art of coming together, and not overpowering one another. I think collaboration works when people bring exactly what you have but also be open to the suggestions of others. I think that's very important
What's an example of a successful collaboration in your career so far?
Every single job I do is a collaboration. From the camera men to the sound guy and director, and even the people I'm interviewing or talking to, I've never felt that I'm doing this on my own. It takes a group of talented people to make TV work. I've also had some negative collaborations as well, and that's usually connected to bad energy.
What did you learn from the negative experiences?
That when you're in a situation that requires you to bring your best, you have to bring you're A-game, not your ego.
Do you thing Singaporeans inherently think about collaboration in their day-to-day work?
I don't think they do, you know. We have the ability because we are a migrant culture, and by nature of that, migrant cultures are inherently collaborative if you allow it to be that way. I think what we need to do is go back to that kampong spirit of collaboration. That really sits at the soul of all Singaporeans, but we have kind of forgotten it. And I think that if we can bring that back, we will see a softening of a lot of projects, and witness more organic flow and movement rather than a system set on hitting KPIs and following things by the book.
JAVIER PEREZ, FOUNDER OF KILO AND GRAIN TRADERS
What is at the heart of collaboration?
Finding common ground. Finding that intersection of two people, two brands, two companies. When you can find that sweet spot, that's when collaboration is beautiful and when it works.
On the flip side, when does collaboration not work?
When you try to hype things too much. When there is a great façade, but the substance is mediocre. We haven't had that happen to us, but at the same time, I don't think we've also had that great collaborative moment yet. I think we have had good collaborative moments, but I wouldn't say that it's been 'wow' and 'totally amazing'.
Who would you like to work with, or who are your dream collaborators, to create this 'wow' moment?
I would like to work with an architect or fashion designer, even though I know little of both worlds. But I think I could contribute something to bring a fresh take on what they do.
Like Lisa Crosswhite and her fashion label Chi Chi Von Tang? She's one of your guests tonight.
That's exactly what we've been talking about earlier during dinner. For example, I would take whatever she's thinking about for her show, and just curate two or three minutes of the experience; to give my own interpretation of her vision.
KRYSTAL TAN, LAWYER AND FOUNDER OF BLUE SKY ESCAPES
Tell us about your company Blue Sky Escapes. What does it set out to do?
Blue Sky Escapes is a boutique travel specialist. We craft journeys and experiences to destinations that are far-flung and off-the-beaten path, like Peru, Bhutan and Mongolia. We are for the independent traveller that is boldly seeking the unconventional.
Blue Sky Escapes started from collaboration?
That's right. My boyfriend Chervin Chow and I first started Andean Condor Voyager, a Peru trekking company, after a grueling trek through the Andes with a guide we really got along with. He became our Peruvian partner, handling the operations on the ground and us looking after the technical side with the website and legal documentation, given my legal experience. And as we continued to partner with new tour operators that matched our ethos, Blue Sky Escapes was created and continues to grow through collaboration.
What makes for a good collaboration?
They say that the difference between success and failure is a great team. And I think that collaboration is something that you need in order to bring to fruition a big idea. It's about empowering others — removing yourself as the bottleneck — so you can grow your team. Secondly, it's about carefully choosing a team based on their strengths and talents; people to do things that you can't.
What has been your most successful collaboration to date?
Last year I wanted to expand into Mongolia, and after a lot of research and Skype calls, I found an operator on the ground that shared our youthful and energetic culture. What came out of this collaboration was the opportunity to help families with their nomadic migration in West Mongolia. To set this up, our operator in Mongolia had to literally knock on doors and ask families if they were happy to have foreigners accompany them on their annual migration of 400 cattle. Finally two families agreed, but the migration had to happen on horseback, so the families had to train the horses to ensure that it was good for beginner riders. All in all, it took eight months to happen. The whole trip was 15 days, with the migration taking 4 days. And now we can offer this unique trip to our customers.
DEAN CHEW, DIRECTOR OF FUUR AND CO-FOUNDER OF DARKER THAN WAX
How would you describe what you do?
I am like the spiritual side of Darker Than Wax. I seek out artists, I seek out collaborations, I sort of map out the creative direction of DTW. But co-founder Kaye (Kevin Guoh) he's the backbone and fortress of Darker Than Wax.
There's a lot of collaboration that happens in music.
I think music is real the creative economy now because all the brands, from clothing brands to show labels, are all collaborating with recording artists. It's really a rich scene right now. And when you see two musicians from different genres come together on a track, it's always really interesting, organic and unique.
Can you give us a personal example of a successful collaboration?
The most recent one was our collaboration with G-SHOCK where we designed a limited edition Casio watch. It all started when one of the regional managers from the brand saw us perform at one of our parties, and I guess he agreed with what Darker Than Wax stood for, and before you know it, conversations led to us designing the watch and its specially packaged box that we conceptualized from the ground up.
What did you learn from the collaboration?
It was really meaningful because you learn about the science of Casio and how G-SHOCK works. It was a really humbling process. However, as I'm an architect first and foremost, so there were similarities when it came to the process of design itself. It's all about applying certain principles.
Click through the gallery below for more candid moments from our first #BuroSocial:
Check back every Monday for another @MusingMutley column from Norman Tan, Editor-in-Chief of Buro 24/7 Singapore. For more columns from @MusingMutley, click here.
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