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By T: The New York Times Style Magazine Singapore
Entertainment & Culture
/1 December 2019
Last Thursday noon at Sheraton Towers’ conference ballroom, we hosted the second edition of T Dialogues, an annual series of panel discussions with industry thought leaders to highlight the role of luxury, social media and mental health in the new digital age.
The list of topics and speakers were carefully curated to create a forum of wide discussion, where priorities and developments are considered through a lens that’s both local and global, and brushes a diverse range of industries, from fashion to arts and culture.
T Dialogues’s master of ceremonies, Georgina Benjamin, addressed the audience and kickstarted the event.
Through a video, Michael Greenspon, the Global Head of New York Times Licensing and Print Innovation, greeted the forum’s speakers and guests electronically. “This year, T Singapore has seen personalities like Lee Dong Wook, Hailee Steinfeld and Millie Bobby Brown on its cover, and has explored topics like the contemporary state of fashion and ever-evolving Singapore and keeping craftsmanship alive,” Greenspon said. “It brings readers the trends and cultural moments in the worlds of food, travel, fashion and art — all with its unique lens.”
Renée Batchelor, the editor of T: The New York Times Style Magazine Singapore, greeted the audience.
In tandem with the panel talks, a five-course lunch was served for the guests.
In the first panel talk moderated by editor Renée Batchelor, “Your Online Self Versus Your Real Self” examined the pressing dichotomy of the glossed-up online persona and the real offline self with co-founder and director of The World Record Egg, Alissa Khan-Whelan; the fitness guru of Ultimate Performance Fitness, Chris Richards; and the clinical psychologist Dr. Sng Kai Ying, who delved right into the notion of mindfulness. “The word ‘mindfulness’ has been thrown around a lot without people knowing what it really means,” Dr. Sng posited. “Mindfulness really means intentionally being in the present moment. Whenever you catch your mind wandering — “What’s my next dish?”, “Where am I going tonight?” — just bring yourself back to here and now, and focus on what’s happening right in front of you.”
Alissa Khan-Whelan, co-founder of The World Record Egg and the year’s breakout mental health advocate, brought to light the importance of understanding that social media is but a tool, not an extension of oneself. “With social media, a key thing that we’ve learned is not to take it and yourself too seriously. It is a creative platform where you are able to curate what you put on there — it bring people together,” Khan-Whelan reiterated. “But in the matter of valuing yourself in terms of likes, The Egg is a really good example of devaluing what it really means. If one egg can get 54 million likes, what does an Instagram like really mean? It doesn’t value who you are, and how much you are worth.”
Guests of T Dialogues.
Moderated by Yvette King, the second panel talk, “How Do You Make Your Exclusive Brand More Inclusive?”, discussed about what it takes for a brand to find an equilibrium between exclusivity and inclusivity with the fashion influencer and founder of Exhibit, Yoyo Cao; Hong Kong-based multi-hyphenate Oscar Wang; and the founder and CEO of Skin Inc, Sabrina Tan.
“Today, inclusivity and exclusivity can co-exist together. Being able to celebrate the uniqueness of everyone, while allowing mass customisation, is possible with today’s technology. Luxury doesn’t mean it’s scarce,” opined Sabrina Tan, founder and CEO of skincare brand Skin Inc.
“When people purchase an exclusive product, they will feel like they’re a member of the cool club,” said Yoyo Cao, fashion influencer and founder of clothing label Exhibit. “I think the rise of social media has contributed to the whole idea of inclusivity. It’s a platform for everyone to freely express themselves. These voices on social media can’t be undetected by brands. And so, this whole movement creates inclusivity.”
Oscar Wang — the artist, designer and chief creative officer of BRDN — offered his take on inclusivity and exclusivity in the world of art: “Traditionally, the arts scene has always showcased their art in physical spaces — museums, gallery. But now they are able to utilise social media to showcase their work. And this has transitioned into merchandise. I think the consumers are able to collect a fragment of history or a moment from this artist.” He then continued, “I think that exclusivity was traditionally made for a smaller group of people. But now, through social media, it has opened a new global platform and created a concept of hype, where certain things are exclusive in a different way.”
Yoyo Cao, one of T Dialogues’ panellists.
At centre, T Dialogues panellist Sabrina Tan at her table.
Return On Investment (ROI) is a key phrase we hear a lot today. But what does it really stand for? Has traditional media like print and outdoor advertising really lost out to digital because of how ROI is so easily calculated, and does quantity outweigh quality? The third panel talk, “Making Sense of the Numbers”, moderated by Anita Kapoor, underscored the intricacy of defining digital success in the rise of digital media’s metrics-skewed sensibility with the managing director of digital advertising specialist Integral Ad Science, Laura Quigley; the vice president of the independent advertising platform AMOBEE, James Parker; as well as the Manila-based fashion stylist, influencer and entrepreneur Liz Uy.
“Since the dawn of digital, we have not changed the metrics of how we define digital success. How brands define success is cost per click, cost per ad position, and so on. We have seen the users evolve, but at this moment, we are stagnating, we aren’t evolving [in the way we understand the metrics] and that’s scary,” remarked Laura Quigley, the managing director of Integral Ad Science.
“Programmatic [ad buying] is about the automation of digital buys across video, social, and other formats. But I think what is important to brands right now when it comes to this is: transparency,” said James Parker, AMOBEE’s vice president of platform. “Transparency is on top of everyone’s minds. There are frauds out there. And consumers also need to be a little smarter about taking control of their own data.”
Asked on her stance on translating numbers into analytical data, Liz Uy, entrepreneur and creative director of StyLIZed Studio, highlighted a microtrend where a return towards the human psyche gains momentum. “I find that some brands are surprisingly looking less towards the metrics. There is so much more beyond numbers: There’s brand awareness, brand loyalty and brand equity for the customers. People are looking for more individuality. You have to be more creative in terms of how you are going to make someone stop and listen to you,” said Uy.
From left: Jumius Wong, the editorial director of T: The New York Times Style Magazine Singapore, and Georgina Benjamin, T Dialogues emcee.
T Dialogues emcee Georgina Benjamin.
T Dialogues panellist, Alissa Khan-Whelan, the director and co-founder of The World Record Egg.
From left: Alissa Khan-Whelan and Chris Godfrey, the co-founders of The World Record Egg.
T Dialogues panellist Liz Uy, the stylist, entrepreneur and creative director of StyLIZed Studio.
T Dialogues panellist Yoyo Cao, a fashion influencer, stylist and the founder of clothing label Exhibit.
T Dialogues panellist Oscar Wang, Hong Kong-based creative and the chief creative officer of BRDN.
T Dialogues panellist Sabrina Tan, the founder and CEO of skincare brand Skin Inc.
From left: T Dialogues panellist Sabrina Tan and T Dialogues guest Rani Lan Yifang.
T Dialogues panellist Chris Richards, Head of Asia Operations of Ultimate Performance Fitness.
T Dialogues moderator Yvette King.
T Dialogues moderator Anita Kapoor.
From left: T Dialogues guests Mae Tan and Desmond Tan.
T Dialogues guest Fiona Xie.
From left: T Dialogues guests Jon Chua and Amanda Chaang.
T Dialogues guest Arissa Cheo.
From left: T Dialogues guests Jenine Oh and Min Guan.
From left: T Dialogues guests Soo Yun Teng and Kris Manoonsirikul.
T Dialogues guest Rosalynn Tay.
T Dialogues guest Chase Tan.
From left: T Dialogues guests Carol Loo and Chase Tan.
Clockwise from top left: Chris Godfrey, Alissa Khan-Whelan, Chris Richards, Liz Uy, Mae Tan and Jack Wang.
From left: T Dialogues guest Jenine Oh, T: The New York Times Style Magazine Singapore’s editorial director Jumius Wong, T Dialogues emcee Georgina Benjamin, T: The New York Times Style Magazine Singapore’s VP of Sales and Marketing Lesley Ann Chai, T Dialogues guest Carol Loo, and T: The New York Times Style Magazine Singapore’s Senior Fashion Stylist Glenn Goh.
From left: T Dialogues guests Charlie Ng and Caroline Suganda.
From left: T: The New York Times Style Magazine Singapore’s Editor Renée Batchelor, The New York Times’ South Asia and South East Asia licensing manager, T: The New York Times Style Magazine Singapore’s Writer Lynette Kee.
From left: T Dialogues guest Andrew Tan and T: The New York Times Style Magazine Singapore’s VP of Sales and Marketing, Lesley Ann Chai.
T Dialogues guest Andrea Sim.
From left: T: The New York Times Style Magazine Singapore’s Digital Writer Bianca Husodo and T Dialogues guest Rosalynn Tay.
T Dialogues guest Elaine Lim Chan.
From left: T Dialogues guests Sabrina Ho, Qli Quek and Lydia Lim.
From left: T Dialogues guests Pamela Ardana and Jas Ng.
From left: T Dialogues guests Amy Tran and Patricia Paguia.
From left: T Dialogues guests Pak Ley Peng and Sammi Lim.
T Dialogues guest Eileen Wee.
T Dialogues guests. At centre, Ruth Paul, South Asia and South East Asia’s licensing manager of The New York Times.
Post-T Dialogues, guests mingle in the cocktail area outside the conference room.
T Dialogues’ gin sponsor, Tanqueray, set up a booth in the cocktail area, serving guests rounds of cocktails.
T Dialogues guest Carol Loo at the Tanqueray booth.
T Dialogues refreshment sponsor, Coocaça, served açai bowls to guests in the cocktail area.
Related story: Watch: T Dialogues 2019
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