Does social media standing really matter that much without a directional voice and talent? We don’t think so. (Plus by now, we’ve all seen Xiaxue’s Social Blade video.) The 10 “Singapore influencers” featured below have shaken up the local fashion, beauty, design and pop culture scenes in some way in the past year, and look set to continue doing so. With support from the ever forward-looking Nars, we pulled together who – in our books – are Singapore’s true influencers of 2017.
Who she is: Mae Tan (seated), the 22-year-old marketing creative breathing new life into Orchard Road, seen here with her posse
Why know her: It takes a millennial to translate the cult of luxury streetwear to the every man, and Tan is that person. 2017 saw her orchestrating some of the biggest luxury-meets-streetwear launches in Singapore: from the collaborative collection between Surrender and Los Angeles-based artists DRx Romanelli and Cali Thornhill DeWitt (the latter was responsible for Kanye West’s “Life of Pablo” merch), to the pop-up store within Surrender for the highly coveted Louis Vuitton x Fragment collection. Then there’s the standalone store for Virgil Abloh’s Off-White, opened in 2016 under the Surrender Group at 268 Orchard Road – a bold move considering the ongoing retail woes of the “lacklustre mammoth” (how she describes Orchard Road). Will she be its saviour? Only time will tell.
What’s next: She’s keeping quiet, but expect an “exciting launch party for an upcoming brand addition to (Surrender’s) curation” come year-end.
Photography Zaphs Zhang Art Direction Adeline Eng
Who she is: The 25-year-old indie thespian-turned-actress-to-watch who stars in the upcoming Crazy Rich Asians film.
Why know her: This actress/artist/activist (her words) is a multi-hyphenate intent on making a difference. When she’s not pursuing acting gigs, she’s devoting her time to weightier work like AsianGirl, an ongoing collaborative feminist art series focused on “exploring issues of the Asian feminist in 21st century digital discourse”. Also, there’s her partnership with the Singapore Committee for UN Women to research contemporary strategies for the economic empowerment of South-east Asian women. And while you could term it as “doing a Jolie” (she certainly has the lips to match), that would be detracting from the fact that she’s initiated these projects all on her own.
What’s next: While she could not divulge any information on Crazy Rich Asians – not even the role she plays – the film’s formidable buzz (the first Hollywood film since The Joy Luck Club to have an all-Asian cast) is likely to present Loke with her breakthrough moment. Also she promises: “There’ll be some good news soon.” We’ll be keeping our eye on her.
Photography Vee Chin Styling Imran Jalal Hair Sean Ang Makeup Beno Lim Clothes Marc Jacobs Jewellery Bulgari
*Makeup tip: For a deep and rich red pout with a subtle sheen like Loke’s here, try Nars’ Velvet Lip Glide in No. 54.
Who he is: The founder of homegrown beauty brand Allies Of Skin, which has been receiving rave reviews for its smart, multitasking formulations.
Why know him: It says something if since March 2016 (and with just four products), Allies of Skin has raked in a revenue of over $1 million, boasts stockists at Net-a-porter, Joyce, Barneys (a first for a Singapore brand) and Sephora, while receiving glowing recommendations from the likes of Allure and Wallpaper* (they loved the 1A All-Day Mask) – all without a fancy marketing campaign.
The effort has paid off, and Travis’ pared-down, nutrient-rich products are worthy of the hype. Not only do they work, they’re designed to take the hassle out of your daily skincare routine – seriously, who has time for a 15-step beauty regime? And now with a new trio of products – two cleansers (Fresh Slate Brightening Cleanser & Masque and Fresh Slate Purifying Cleanser + Masque) and an overnight blemish treatment (Promise Keeper Blemish Facial) added last month – there’s an end-to-end solution, meaning devotees no longer have to look elsewhere for their beauty needs.
What’s next: Come 2018, there will be eight new products – bringing the range to 15 in total – aimed at “brightening, pore refinement and cellular repair”. Travis will also increase the already impressive stockist: The brand will retail at Bloomingdale’s in the Middle East and Harvey Nichols in Dubai. Not bad for a 29-year-old who launched with just one product.
Photography Zaphs Zhang Art Direction Adeline Eng
Who she is: The 32-year-old industrial designer who made international news with her “future-proof” furniture range, The Athena Collection, shown at Salone Satellite, 2017 Milan Design Week.
Why know her: The forward-thinking Lee creates in anticipation of an individual’s needs, not the other way round. Her pieces are decorative (think soothing pastel hues and soft curves), functional (the Altar vanity table comes with a flattering ring light), intelligent (the Arena carpet comes with tactile ridges so the mobile-obsessed can gauge a “safe parameter” and avoid collisions with walls or furniture), and quirky (the “Books of Dreams”, a series of leather-bound books in collaboration with Bynd Artisan, are leather-bound books with concealed piggy banks). It’s no wonder that Dezeen named Lee as one of its eight most promising designers of the fair. Ultimately, Lee’s designs show that you don’t need technology to make a “smart” home – you just need to think out of the box.
What’s next: Lee’s getting involved with The Balvenie Connoisseurs of Craft, an initiative that promotes craftsmanship in South-east Asia. She’s also in discussions with multiple brands, and will be showing at Milan Design Week 2018.
Above: Lee’s 10-piece Athena range aims to “future-proof” your home – all without the use of electronics or software updates.
Who he is: The 28-year-old Mean aka The Dapper Rapper (real name Nur Ahmad Muhaimin) is our answer to American rapper A$AP Rocky.
Why know him: One look at Mean’s Instagram feed and the comparison (fashion wise at least) to A$AP Rocky is clear. Like A$AP, the rap talent comfortably straddles both the hip-hop and fashion scene with ease. He’s obsessed with Raf Simons (he wears Raf when he performs), collects Loewe by Jonathan Anderson, “loves Dries Van Noten”, and cites Craig Green as his latest go-to designer. But he’s more than just a glorified clotheshorse. His third and latest work is the five-track EP By Any Means (geddit?). The track Trollin, in particular, is Mean’s answer to naysayers – and a spot-on rhyme tackling hater culture. Props too for the stylized music video (shot and directed in Sydney by Singapore-born, Sydney-based creative director Henry Ng), guest-starring Melburnian rapper Judo, with Mean decked out in threads by Gucci, Dior and Valentino. With multiple gigs under his belt (GastroBeats at the iLight Marina Bay Festival and 100 Festival), plus collaborations with brands such as Loewe and Fred Perry, it’s clear that the rapper is one of Singapore’s fastest rising music (and style) talents.
What’s next: Watch for him at the Mosaic Music Series in November. Also on the cards, a flash, new music video and a second full-length album.
Photography Vee Chin Styling Imran Jalal Shirt & Trenchcoat Louis Vuitton Sneakers Gucci All Other Clothes & Accessories Mean’s Own
Who she is: The 25-year-old artist whose impromptu transformation of an innocuous HDB staircase into a gold foil-flecked artwork launched a thousand think pieces.
Why know her: She’s this year’s Samantha Lo (aka Sticker Lady), or possibly our version of British artist Banksy. While Dia’s debut public work didn’t set out to be controversial, it did spark a
national conversation on what constitutes art – can we say #achievementunlocked? For Dia, the exercise to “enhance her personal space” also brought her to cement her (art) signature – “the gold identity will remain with me in my future works”. In the months since, the recent Lasalle College of the Arts graduate has been part of New Majestic Hotel’s closing exhibition/party, a group show held at Yellow Cage (an industrial space for creatives located at Geylang) that focused on multiculturalism in Singapore, a residency at the Science Centre Singapore and, most recently, a live performance art piece
Photography Zaphs Zhang Art Direction Jonathan Chia & Adeline Eng Hair & Makeup Benedict Choo
*Makeup tip: For your own star-worthy profile shot, define the contours of your face naturally with Nars’ The Multiple cream-based shading stick.
What’s next: Expect Dia’s Midas touch to take the form of a new public work in 2018.
Above: Dia transformed an industrial cage into a “wind chime”, with hundreds of Indian brass bells hanging within, as part of a group exhibition entitled “87% – Multiculturalism in Singapore”. The purpose? To represent her personal experience of living in Singapore as a cultural minority.
Who he is: The multiple-award-winning designer and co-founder of design and advertising agency Kinetic Singapore.
Why know him: Trust us, you already do. Lim, 44, is a multi-virtuoso in design, advertising, retail and art, and his creativity is evident across Singapore’s creative scene: from Notebook Vol.2: (a collaboration with specialist printer Dominie Press), Noise Singapore, K+ at Scotts Square (curated by Kinetic), to his work with car brand Mini. But perhaps his most influential work is a bit more personal. In 2011, he started Holycrap, possibly Singapore’s only creative collective whose members make up the same family – Lim, his wife Claire, 43, and their two children Renn, 13, and Aira, 11. As a family, they publish the art-meets-design (and award-winning, no less) publication Rubbish Famzine twice a year – proving that “education” really begins at home.
What’s next: The seventh edition of Rubbish Famzine will be out later this month at K+ Curatorial Space. The issue will focus on “the family’s fascination with film cameras” and, with its limited print run of 300, is likely to be sold out. Also, Holycrap will hold an exhibition at Deck in December.
Above: Holycrap’s popular Rubbish Famzines are both visual and tactile objets d’art that examine esoteric themes such as Lim’s own father and navigating Tokyo through Google Translate.
Who she is: The Singapore-born, London-based photographer, 23, is a regular contributor to cult indie publications such as Pylot, Polyester, Hard Ears, No Substance, and Petrie.
Why know her: Lee’s first photo book Xing (also pronounced “sing”, and in Mandarin, can be read to mean “sex”, “sexuality”, “to wake up”, “to grow aware” or “essence of a person”), has been picked up by Dazed Digital, i-D, Huffington Post, Crack and Ignant for its culturally woke dissection of “‘othered’ groups through the language of photography”. The book is an effort that’s been a year-and-a-half in the making. International emerging artists, including British fashion photographer Ronan McKenzie (she’s shot for Vogue, i-D), and local feminist writer Samantha Yap contributed to the tome of achingly stylish images, exploring “new identities among Asian women”, a polarising topic that deserves debate now more than ever before.
What’s next: Lee intends to start selling prints from the book come year-end, and is already prepping for the next instalment of the project
Lee’s photo book Xing features contributions from a diverse range of creatives to demystify, subvert and recreate stereotypes of Asian women. For more emerging photographers that we’re keeping our eye on, click here.
Who she is: The 32-year-old owner and founder of The Artling, a contemporary Asian art website, and Luxglove, a curated marketplace for pre-loved fine luxury items.
Why know her: When it comes to the world of art and luxury, there’s no one more in the know and better connected than Phua Gajardo. Not only is she making both worlds more fun and accessible – The Artling’s Young Collector’s Summer Party invited guests to a private viewing of the Yayoi Kusama exhibition, while Luxglove held a classic car weekend to launch its website – she’s also changing how we view and buy both. But it’s art that is Phua Gajardo’s first love, and with The Artling’s acquisition of Hong Kong-based Artshare, they now represent over 200 galleries and 1,200 artists across Asia. Her entry into China is especially timely considering “it [China] represents 20 per cent of the global art market”. And while she’s singled out the likes of Chinese street artist Zhang Dali and conceptual artist Zhao Zhao, she has not ignored other art forms. The Artling recently included a new design category of limited edition pieces and beautifully crafted objects d’art – proving again, she’s ahead of the curve.
What’s next: Get ready to download The Artling app soon. She’s also working on special collaborations in line with the Artshare acquisition, while Luxglove will get an update in early 2018.
Who they are: Karen, 35 (right), and Sharon, 32, the sisters behind the ongoing transformation of The Projector.
Why know them: These days when it’s so easy to “Netflix and chill”, you need a compelling reason to go out to the movies. Enter the Tan sisters and The Projector. While the distinctive ’70s architecture of Golden Mile Tower makes for prime Instagram bait (reason enough for Singaporeans to flock there blindly), the space is so much more than that. In two short years, it has become the heart of the local film industry and, together with its add-ons (alfresco carpark bar The Great Escape regularly hosts local album launches, the monthly themed parties with local LGBT collective The Glory Hoes), it’s the new “home” for local pop culture. Their secret? “We make do with what we have… kind of like how you go about making your house your home,” says Tan.
What’s next: The Projector’s screening calendar is predictably unpredictable. For the year-end, they’ll be showcasing “animated and Christmas classics”. And with the new addition of a third auditorium (the 107-seat Blue Room), expect more “salon-style sessions or workshops where filmmakers can present their works in a more up-close-and-personal kind of space”.
Photography Vee Chin Art Direction Jonathan Chia Styling Imran Jalal Hair Sean Ang Makeup Beno Lim Clothes H&M T-shirt, Brooch & Sneakers Their Own
*Makeup tip: Get camera-ready effortlessly with Nars’ Aqua Glow Cushion Foundation, which gives a fresh finish to boot.
This story first appeared in Female’s November 2017 issue.