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8 Folks On How The Pandemic Has Changed Their Lives And Work

The pandemic and the circuit-breaker have indelibly changed the way we run our lives and conduct work from now on. For a sense of perspective, we asked eight different individuals from various backgrounds on the lessons learnt during these unprecedented times.
Walid Zaazaa, fashion designer and founder of multi-label concept store Manifesto
On how the circuit breaker has disrupted work, and overcoming the challenges “Like most retailers in Singapore, we had to close our concept store temporarily during the circuitbreaker. Our in-store operations were completely stopped but it was understandable, safety comes first. We manage to continue our online operations and fulfill our orders coming in every day at To be able to do that, we had to use our logistic base in Hong Kong – adaptation was the key here. So, in the end, we managed to minimize our losses and even grow our online presence.”     On the lessons learnt during this season “I decided I wanted to use this opportunity to rethink our business and the way we do things. We had team conference calls almost every week and we started a process to think, plan, and prepare for the future. In fact, we are still in the midst of this process and we have yet to draw our final conclusions on how we are going to ‘evolve’, but I definitely see this challenging time as an opportunity to improve our standard and to draw new objectives.   The biggest principles we want to work on right now is to get closer to our customers and to understand them better, we have a very loyal customer base, people who really understand who we are and what we do, they enjoy shopping with us and we want to make this relationship even more exclusive.”   Walid Zaazaa, fashion designer and founder of multi-label concept store Manifesto
On post circuit-breaker plans “First, we want to re-open the shop and include all the safety measures given by the authorities in the most professional way. In the next few weeks, we will also focus on our online presence and improve our visibility on the Net. If there is one thing we learned from what just happened these past few months, e-commerce will have a bigger share of the cake and we want to be completely ready for this. We are small therefore we can adapt quickly.”     On new practices adopted “Before the Covid-19 situation, for the past few years, we were quite known for our parties and in-store experiences, tattoo studio, and relaxation classes. Now we need to go back to the whiteboard and be creative, to think about how to engage in non-traditional ways with customers. Social media will probably play an important part in this (an example will be the above editorial/profile featuring the couple behind 1degreeC Cold Brew Coffee in Singapore who were dressed in Manifesto’s brands like Lemaire and Our Legacy).”   Circe Henestrosa, head of the School of Fashion at Lasalle College of the Arts
On how the circuit-breaker has disrupted work, and overcoming the challenges “I think we all have been working very hard in our different industries, Zooming and communicating in this new virtual space. In the case of the education sector, while no extreme changes were made to teaching and learning as the Covid-19 restrictions were only imposed almost at the end of the academic year, our team had to work very hard to get through.   While Zoom is great, it is not the same as being face-to-face. We want our students to feel supported, as they do when they see us in person so I felt we all managed to come together as a team to make their academic year as smooth and productive as possible. The students have created truly great projects and everyone can visit our School of Fashion graduate show to see their works at   My independent work as a curator has not been affected too much as I always work remotely with different partners from Singapore. For example, we finished installing my Frida Kahlo exhibition at the de Young Museum in San Francisco on March 13, and the next day, the museum closed. I was there and everything was cancelled. We immediately just concentrated on coming back to Singapore. It was a strange feeling; it’s a weird time for museums and the fashion sector.”     Photo Natsuko Teruya Circe Henestrosa, head of the School of Fashion at Lasalle College of the Arts
On the lessons learnt during this season “It is interesting because by spending a lot of time online I feel we have also learned many new skills that we can take with us in a post-Covid 19 era. For example, I had to prepare a digital presentation for the de Young Museum’s donors and I learned a lot from that experience. Having to record and do a presentation while in Singapore in collaboration with my colleague based in Boston for a live event happening in San Francisco – that was a great and a big team effort.   I have also reflected a lot on on how fragile we are as humans. I have learned to value smaller things like having a conversation over the phone with a close friend or being able to see so much nature in Singapore. We had two sets of birds building their nests and hatching their eggs on our balcony (above) during Covid-19. That was priceless for me. Seeing the possibility of life in the middle of this pandemic was very special.”     On post circuit-breaker plans “I just got news that we will be able to open the show in San Francisco on July 7. We are also launching our Lasalle Graduate Fashion Show on July 16. We have prepared a great digital version of the show, and I look forward to sharing it with the people in Singapore and the rest of the world.” John Lim, founder of botanical design studio This Humid House
On how the circuit-breaker has disrupted work “As weddings and celebrations have been put on pause, so has the events side of our business. Our supply chain has also suffered from the global disruption of transportation networks.”     On overcoming the challenges “We’ve thrown our energy into something we’ve always wanted to do: to have a garden of our own where we’d be able to grow the unusual material we wanted and harvest when we wanted. We’ve also built a robust lineup of new floral products–bouquets and arrangements – developed around this more sustainable practice.” John Lim, founder of botanical design studio This Humid House
On the lessons learnt during this season “There are so many, the biggest of which is that pause is necessary. We appreciate the perspective this time has given us as well as the impetus to do what’s always been on our hearts.”     On post circuit-breaker plans “We are settling into a new relationship of the discovery of what our garden is able to provide, of trial and error and seasons and micro-seasons. We also patiently and eagerly await the resumption of events.”     On new practices adopted “We’ve been challenged during this period to be a lot more visible on social media channels through engagements and collaborations; we’ve been pleasantly heartened by the response and we plan on running with this.” Letitia Phay, co-founder of dress label Time Taken to Make a Dress
On how the circuit-breaker has disrupted work “We had appointment cancellations and existing clients weddings and events either postponed or cancelled pre-circuit-breaker. During circuit-breaker, we couldn’t use the atelier at all and didn’t want to risk clients gowns being damaged or misinterpreted working from home. And we had no way of meeting new clients. We honestly weren’t sure if we could survive it.   Since we couldn’t do anything for work, we shifted our focus on our family life. My partner Jade and I both have two boys so we spent the time homeschooling and setting up fun and creative activities for our kids.”     On the lessons learnt during this season “We love what we do too much to give up.”   Letitia Phay, co-founder of bridal label Time Taken to Make a Dress
On new works during the circuit-breaker “When we were allowed to start work again during Phase 1, we created a bridal mask for a client getting married who couldn’t find something to match her dress. We honestly didn’t think much of it but after we posted it on Instagram, the responses were overwhelming. We never imagined creating and selling masks but it was clear that it was very much needed and we couldn’t say no.   We are also in the midst of creating a minimal bridal line that we feel will be something our girls can relate to in this climate and season of intimate weddings wherever they may be held.” Nicole Wong, creative director at boutique creative agency Nplusc
On how the circuit-breaker has disrupted work, and overcoming the challenges “With the newfound spare time on hand, I started experimenting more when it comes to my work, trying things I never had the chance to.   I am a natural introvert, so while my extrovert husband was adapting with Houseparty and finding ways to catch up with friends virtually, I was just drowning myself with learning more editing programs, online classes and creating works (like my first avatar Aeon Lou above).”     On post circuit-breaker plans “I want to continue to have a balance in work and life, as it has already proven quite difficult as jobs and works are coming back at an intense speed.”   Nicole Wong, creative director at boutique creative agency Nplusc
On new practices adopted “Cooking regularly – I never enjoyed it, but I realise that I wasn’t thinking about work, or doing work while I was cooking and I appreciate that moment.”     On the lessons learnt during this season “I’ve learnt that ‘me time’ is important and not something that I only deserve at the end of the year during the festive period. How do I limit my time spent on working and just doing stuff that can never be turned into work? I never realise this issue until last year when I constantly found new things or hobby to do but they eventually ended up being turned into work. I hit my limit and during this circuit-breaker period and the time I have allowed me to readjust and accord myself more ‘me time’.” Weish, singer-songwriter and one half of electronic band .gif
On how the circuit-breaker has disrupted work, and overcoming the challenges “Well, most of my income has relied on live gigs, so I’d say it was a big blow. .gif launched our long-awaited LP, Hail Nothing, to a really great reception. We were planning a grand launch party, but sadly we had to let that go. Response online has been amazing though, so we’re grateful.   Like many fellow artists, livestreams, online DJ sets and other such alternative performing platforms came into the picture. I’ve also been working with the Esplanade and social workers from Singapore Girls’ Home on a very meaningful project.   More recently, I’ve had the opportunity to write and perform a devised monologue/song performance for Checkpoint Theatre, for a digital festival called Two Songs and a Story – lots of exciting storytellers on the lineup, too, and that’s coming out in July.   I’d also been doing some writing jobs on the side for the past couple of years, so I started to find more work in that area during CB, too. I’m currently working on a series of articles and interviews about casual racism for a children’s newspaper.” Weish, singer-songwriter and one half of electronic band .gif
On the lessons learnt during this season “I’ve learnt how to be at home, really. Life is messy, people are complicated, the world is in chaos. I’ve been trying to learn to tune into the quiet, to be more present, to find joy in small moments. Oh, and I’ve learnt to make some legit desserts.”     On post circuit-breaker plans “Live gigs are still not allowed, so there’s not much of a shift for me just yet. But being able to hang with friends in the flesh has been great. Meeting face-to-face with clients and collaborators is so much easier, too.”     On new practices adopted “The past few years have been so crazy hectic, I’d forgotten how much I loved to do certain things –– cook, read, write, tinker on the piano. Now that CB has sort of forced me to rediscover these things, I’ll definitely be more conscious about making time for them.”   Wendy Long, freelance writer and private investor
On how the circuit-breaker has disrupted work, and overcoming the challenges “As a freelance writer, I’m not that affected by the circuit-breaker as I’ve always been working from home and remotely, thus from a work perspective, it’s not that much of a change.   As a private investor, the circuit-breaker posed minimal limitations as I cannot conduct viewings at my properties or inspect properties and I could not meet up with bankers. However, that was not a major inconvenience as we have always communicated via phone calls and e-mails. So in that sense, I guess I’ve already been attuned to a virtual reality.” Wendy Long, freelance writer and private investor
On the lessons learnt during this season “I’ve learnt that physical distancing that had plagued mankind has seemed to bring people closer together than ever before. Our level of connectivity has heightened, with more time spent communicating via social media and communication tools. It’s literally a captive audience out there!   Physical isolation has definitely redefined the way we work, play and live as well. It’s made us question the concept of place, space and society. Do we really need to be physically together all the time to get things done? After all, even when people are mingling together, they tend to get distracted by their mobile phones and not really be ‘present’ anyway, so perhaps, this drives home the point that we can function perfectly well, remotely and virtually.” Racy Lim, creative producer, writer and editor
On the lessons learnt during this season “We tend to oversimplify things to aid our understanding, mostly because it saves time. Few people can spare two hours each day on Telegram to unpack with you. We often forget that the external world is a vast space – understanding it and the people outside of our inner world takes deep discussions.   You have to spend some hours in the week (and not just for one day) to read, reflect, discuss and understand. Not everyone can afford those hours and days; some people are working long hours to earn their keep; some people face difficulties separating their minds from work weekly. Many people are hounded by their bosses as they work from home because some employers think that it warrants stripping their employees of their lives.    This is why resource platforms are useful and allow people to take in information at their own pace (although there are days when a sense of urgency is needed). These include, @sgclimaterally, @sghousingrights, @beyondhijabsg, @yourheadlahmagazine, @sayonisg, @interunilgbt, @queerzinefest to name a few.   We can no longer regard hostile and aggressive attitudes towards our peers with oblivion. Invite conversations with people who hold perspectives that come from different places. Understand that we don’t all enter conversations as equals, but we can work collectively to mend that by first passing the mic. We don’t have to speak on behalf of the people we love.   Read things that make you question yourself and where you stand. These are some books and texts that have taught me how to articulate these reasons in this period. They helped me understand my experiences as a woman and the privilege that comes with my background and what I’ve been offered: Why I’m No Longer Talking To White People About Race by Reni Eddo-Lodge; Women Who Run With The Wolves by Clarissa Pinkola Estes; Teaching Community by Bell Hooks; Dear Ijeawele, or a Feminist Manifesto in Fifteen Suggestions by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie   Gaps in our knowledge exist because our life experiences are different, and so we have the responsibility to spend our lifetimes learning. Choice of words is important in expressing thought. Some words, we may find, aren’t the equivalent of what we feel, know or observe in the place we are in, and so we continue to develop from there.”   Racy Lim, creative producer, writer and editor
On works done during this season “Something I’ve been working on is a new work for the digital exhibition Stay Home Sessions. Inspired by how its organiser Liana Yang framed love as a way of labour in creation, self-preservation and sustaining practices, I set up a folder for anyone to submit forms of practising love and care – cooking for a partner, dealing with family closeness in lockdown, journal entries and more. In return, I responded with curious notes and explorations. The digital exhibition also features the works of Aki Hassan, Kamiliah Bahdar and Liana herself, to name a few. It launches on July 1.” Racy Lim, creative producer, writer and editor
On post-circuit-breaker plans “To not disconnect myself emotionally with people and the lives they lead, even if I’m just observing. I’ve seen some effects of exercising consistent care towards pressing concerns, and continuously assessing personal work and those that we see. Thought, action and speech come together.   There is a need to reflect and draw up steps to hold ourselves accountable for decisions made, especially for work that engages the audiences. Uplift narratives without placing people in boxes. Make sure we’re reflecting critically upon our perspectives. Difficult conversations (internally and externally) need to be had in all platform-based creative, social or cultural work to encompass not just one or two lenses, but multiple.   Even as I say this, I acknowledge that I stand on a system that benefits me and my current knowledge comes from people who have done the work (and way more) before me. Seeing past instances where I had been performative even if I hadn’t realised it then made me take a step back to work more on my accountability – which has been an intense but necessary learning journey.   We can all do better, and that’s what I hope for organisers, cultural workers, publication editors and writers who share the same or similar background as me – to be more critical of their thoughts and actions, reach out more actively and continuously develop their sense of care in shared spaces and networks.”