Photography Li Wanjie Styling Imran Jalal
Not once in the five years since setting up her eponymous jewellery label Lauren X Khoo – “X” stands for her Chinese name – has Lauren Khoo agreed to be photographed for a magazine (she did say yes to the British 10+ last year, but it’s limited edition and comes boxed). Published images of her tend to be of the one same official black-and-white portrait, head turned to the side to reveal naturally sculpted cheekbones and a willowy neck. She’s discerning about whom she shares it with.
To be recognised for one’s talents and less so for one’s profile is paramount for the 33-year-old. It’s a (little written about) fact that she hails from one of the most storied families on the island and is naturally wary of the tags and assumptions that come with it. She’d also rather keel over than be typecast as a socialite, a term that’s grown even dirtier in the era of #richkids and #realhousewives (her personal Instagram account is private).
She arrives at our set in a timeless get-up of black dress, tights and ballet flats, accompanied by a close female friend for moral support. She’s nervous, but has agreed to this feature because after so many years in the business, it’s time for her to “step out of the shadows”, she says, and the carefree ease with which she moves in front of the camera belies any anxiety.
At the photographer’s suggestion, she gamely climbs into an elevated alcove, dives into a duvet, and poses on the carpet of her family’s hotel, which we’ve chosen to shoot in. Instead of coming across as preening, her comportment hints at a playful, laid-back nature and a professionalism that’s been cultivated since she was very young. “If only I could have been shot in silhouette,” she deadpans in jest, post-shoot.
She had better get used to the limelight. This month, she debuts a fine-jewellery collection for the hallmark of American-elegance-made-cool that’s Oscar de la Renta in its S/S ’20 show. Details remain secret at press time, but here’s what we know with ODLR being one of the most closely watched shows on the New York Fashion Week calendar: It’ll be Khoo’s most high-profile and photographed project to date.
Already, the Gemological Institute of America alum who once worked in the jewellery department of Sotheby’s Hong Kong has a cult following for her witty designs with a modernist streak. Her most popular pieces are the gummy-bear ones and Jeff Koons-ish animals inspired by the Chinese zodiac; her stockists – equally cult meccas of cool, including Moda Operandi and Dover Street Market.