T’s 10 Best Stories on Singapore From 2019

  • By T: The New York Times Style Magazine Singapore

  • T’s Best of 2019 /19 December 2019

  • By T: The New York Times Style Magazine Singapore

Tung PhamSumithra Debi does her nipple and areola tattoos from the privacy of her studio that is set apart from the rest of the Gurkha Family Tattoo parlour.
Sumithra Debi does her nipple and areola tattoos from the privacy of her studio that is set apart from the rest of the Gurkha Family Tattoo parlour.

The cosmetic industry is often hit with bouts of bad publicity, especially when it promotes impossible-to-achieve standards of beauty and the insecurity that they breed in consumers. But the very same products and technology that can be used to shackle us, can just as easily be harnessed for a good cause. Restorative treatments and cover-up makeup don’t just bring about healing on a physical level. They also boost confidence and bring back a sense of normalcy to those who suffer from scarring, hair loss and skin conditions, which have marred their sense of self-worth and adversely impacted their psyche.

T Singapore speaks to three women who have been quietly using their respective skills to serve a higher purpose than merely beautifying an individual. They offer restorative treatments that aim for a more holistic healing of the individual.

Continue to read the full story here.

Inside Singapore’s Rising Private Dining Scene — Three Home Cooks Tell

Tung PhamA selection of dishes served at FatFuku.
A selection of dishes served at FatFuku.

As the private dining scene in Singapore climbs in popularity, three home chefs of diverse culinary backgrounds and cuisines discuss the in-and-outs of creating a home dining experience curated with more than just the food served.

FatFuku

It’s not often you see a food critic on the other side of the table, preparing food rather than reviewing it. For Annette Tan, who has been a journalist for 20 years and covering the food scene for half of that, branching out to private dining was a natural extension from her love for cooking and testing recipes. Although Tan has not been formally trained as a chef, her experience comes from the skills she picked up from her late mother, whom she describes as a “formidable cook”, as well as from the chefs she has had the privilege of working with. “Part of my work as a food writer includes transcribing and testing recipes from chefs before they are printed in a magazine, book or newspaper. Through those experiences, I gained more knowledge and insights about cooking that I put to use when I cook,” says Tan.

Continue to read the full story here.

JJ Lin Is Saying More With Less

Charles GuoJJ Lin in Ralph Lauren Purple Label shirt and jacket.
JJ Lin in Ralph Lauren Purple Label shirt and jacket.

In the early ’90s, a young JJ Lin would sit at home, listening to cassette tapes. “Compilations of number one hits of pop artists at the time,” Lin says. He remembers New Kids On The Block, Janet Jackson and Michael Jackson. “Especially Michael Jackson,” Lin continues. “Listening to ‘Bad’, ‘Thriller’, ‘Dangerous’ was how I got in touch with pop music.”

It was an “Eh?” moment, and that was it — Lin knew it was more than an inclination toward rhythm and melody; it was a means to express himself. “That’s when I started to write songs.” At the time, Lin’s brother was already playing in a rock band with his schoolmates, and, naturally, Lin became the band’s newest member. That was JJ Lin’s first steps into the world of writing and performing music — an act that would set in motion a series of events that has since catapulted him into the upper echelons of the Chinese pop industry with record deals, countless awards, and hordes of adoring fans. 

Continue to read the full story here.

Made in Singapore: Strawberries, and the Future of Sustainable Farming

Bianca HusodoInside the sealed-off farm in Admiralty, strawberries, grown in a lab.
Inside the sealed-off farm in Admiralty, strawberries, grown in a lab.

In one-north’s startup complex, an office, unassuming in its facade, houses a small research and development laboratory. A peek through its glass doors rewards curious passersby with the soft glow of magenta light illuminating from the lab, and an uncustomary sight of budding strawberry plants, stacked on metal shelves.

Strawberries are finicky to cultivate. More so in Singapore where year-round equatorial humidity hinders the growth of the cool-clime fruit. Thus the nation’s reliance on strawberry-producing countries, mainly Korea and Japan, for supply.

The strawberries grown indoors at Sustenir, then, are Singapore’s very-first to be grown for commercial consumption; a revolutionary milestone for local agriculture. 

Continue to read the full story here.

In Singapore, “No More Free Space?”

Courtesy of Singapore PavilionIn 2008, spurred by an initiative of Singapore’s Public Utility Board, a three-kilometre stormwater canal was de-concretised and naturalised into a meandering river that now veins through one of the city’s largest urban parks, Bishan Park.
In 2008, spurred by an initiative of Singapore’s Public Utility Board, a three-kilometre stormwater canal was de-concretised and naturalised into a meandering river that now veins through one of the city’s largest urban parks, Bishan Park.

Singapore is the third densest country in the world. Its land — considerably smaller than the rest of its Southeast Asian peers, merely about three-fifths the size of New York City — is home to 5.6 million people. Dwindling territory is something the country has had to tackle head-on since its independence; its freedom contained within physical constraints from the very beginning.

With its population estimated to grow another million in the next decade, is the island nation, finally, running out of space?

As it poises to terraform itself in search of space, unnaturalness is the world’s, and certainly Singapore’s, future. Land reclamation, once its go-to solution, is no longer a sustainable long-term solution. Underground caverns are currently explored. Another way it has tried to make room for more is by demolishing “ugly” properties, and building, in their place, better-designed edifices. And while the possibilities of expanding into the ocean through floating coastal cities are on the horizon, what will be the next conceivable future for modern urbanity as we know it?

Continue to read the full story here.

Three Singaporean Men Who Refuse to Give Up on Traditional Crafts

Tung PhamThe 39-year-old Singaporean Kim Whye Kee, founder of Qi Pottery, photographed with his collection of teaware.
The 39-year-old Singaporean Kim Whye Kee, founder of Qi Pottery, photographed with his collection of teaware.

At a cultural moment when the world is moving at a breakneck pace fuelled by the monumental advancements in technology, the idea of making a living from an old world craft seems like a novelty. Here, we profile three individuals — a potter, plant enthusiast and jeweller — who literally, craft a living by hand.

Qi Pottery

“Pottery is very related to my life. If you leave the clay unattended, it is just a pile of mud but when you put good intention and effort into it and follow through with the process, it becomes a beautiful piece of art. Just like life,” says 39-year-old potter, Kim Whye Kee as he meticulously applies glaze on a ceramic piece for firing.

Continue to read the full story here.

The Remarkable Female Trailblazers in Singapore’s Hawker Scene

Tung Pham68-year-old Madam Lai Yau Kiew is the maternal figure to the family-owned and female-led Ji Ji Wanton Noodle establishment. She runs the business with two of her daughters.
68-year-old Madam Lai Yau Kiew is the maternal figure to the family-owned and female-led Ji Ji Wanton Noodle establishment. She runs the business with two of her daughters.

If women were supposedly meant to take charge of the kitchen, why are there so few female faces in the culinary world?

Diving deep into Singapore’s vibrant hawker culture — where affordable, comfort food is a go-getter, and where heritage and gastronomical wonders coalesce — female figures are as much the trailblazers as their male counterparts. These are women who grew up amid the tight heat of a hawker stall, who gave up their comfortable white-collar jobs to carry on family legacies, and who move the needle to bring sumptuous food to the table.

Speaking to three locally-owned establishments whose kitchens are spearheaded by such female trailblazers, it would not take long for one to be admired by their unabashed furore for preserving their predecessors’ craft.

Continue to read the full story here.

Visiting Singapore’s First Witchcraft Store, Spellbound

Felicia Yap
 

“I wouldn’t dare to call myself a witch because it has been looked upon in such a negative manner for a very long time but I would call myself a practitioner,” says the owner of Spellbound, Singapore’s first witchcraft store, who goes by the moniker Angela. Tucked away within the time-worn interiors of Peninsula Shopping Centre sits Spellbound, a modest nook that houses an expansive inventory of witchcrafting essentials sourced predominantly from Europe and Australia. 

To the uninitiated, Spellbound’s catalogue of stock is a dizzying sight to behold: Large plastic containers of herbs like witch grass and burdock (stacked one above the other) sit snugly next to shelves lined by a mélange of coloured candles (tall, skull-shaped or in the silhouette of a figure) flanked by New Age books, tarot cards and leather-bound grimoires, while amulets and accessories lie invitingly behind a glass window at the storefront.   

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Made in Singapore | The Last Teochew Puppeteers

Tung Pham
 

A Singaporean family of third-generation puppeteers, the Sin Ee Lye Heng troupe, fights to preserve a sacred yet fading art form.

Watch the video here.

Meet the Three Creatives Shaping Singapore’s Visual Aesthetic

FaiyazTitled “Things Fall Apart”, Faiyaz’s series of portraiture is an inquisition into finding beauty in chaos.
Titled “Things Fall Apart”, Faiyaz’s series of portraiture is an inquisition into finding beauty in chaos.

Faiyaz, photographer

When you’re leafing through the pages of a magazine or scrolling mindlessly through an Instagram feed, there are certain images that stop you in your tracks. In parlance of then editorial director of Condé Nast, Alexander Leiberman (who coined the term to encapsulate revered fashion photographer Irving Penn’s body of work), visually arresting photographs have come to be known as “stoppers”. 

25-year-old self-taught photographer Faiyaz’s (who prefers to go by his first name) body of portraiture evokes a similar reaction — it reels the eye in and holds the attention, prompting an attempt at unpacking the multitude of layers. Every photograph has a narrative to tell through its carefully considered elements: the mise-en-scène, the choice of subject, down to the manner of dressing and embellishment. 

When Faiyaz steps behind the lens, his clicks of the shutter are inquisitions into the conundrum of identity. Coming from a background of part Sinhalese and part Gujarati descent, Faiyaz’s experiences have shaped his purpose: decolonising minds and reshaping the primitive schools of thought on the topic of diversity. Albeit having a deeply personal connection to the leitmotif, Faiyaz is careful not to entirely project his vision onto his models.

Continue to read the full story here.