August Woman Dec ’12

august woman dec 2012

army of art

Have you heard of August Woman magazine? It’s stylish and beautifully put-together, and I’m glad it’s here to shake up the array of local print titles.

I loved their debut issue, and was super stoked to contribute a little article to their second issue for December 2012. It’s about Gillman Barracks, a picturesque cluster of colonial military barracks-turned-commercial art galleries, and I highly recommend taking a walk around the area, whether you’re an art enthusiast or just a curious passer-by.

It’s been a while since the issue hit the newsstands, but I just wanted to say a quick thank you to the lovely people who bought a copy to celebrate my first print byline with me :)

Notes on The Pursuit of Perfection

SMTA Congress 2012

My third article for, The Pursuit of Perfection, is live! In it, Sam and I visit a meeting of some of the most skilled hands and minds of master tailors in Asia, and bear witness to this ageing art form. Sam has been learning about this and sharing it with me for years, and I am so glad we were able to collaborate on this introduction to the fascinating world of tailoring together.

Here are some extra photos I took that didn’t make it to the final cut — look out for the model’s uneven shoulder blades and the difficulty this brings about for creating a smooth back piece.

SMTA Congress 2012
SMTA Congress 2012
SMTA Congress 2012

The piece is already a long one, (thank you if you read it!) but something else I wanted to highlight is the sheer hard work and level of respect that these “old man tailors” have for their life’s craft. Look closely at the photos above — these men are tackling the difficult job of constructing a jacket from scratch but are clad in suits and shirts with embroidered cuffs themselves. No loosened ties or unbuttoned collars here. Look at the tiny stitches that were sewn by hand, and then imagine them being ripped off without hesitation simply because a better fit was required. Look at their hands and the attention in their eyes.

They come from a generation where work spoke for itself and clever marketing buzzwords were unheard of — I could barely find anything previously written about master tailors and their shops online. At first, this made me balk at how difficult it was to do the research for this piece, but I quickly realised Sam and I simply had to go out and talk to them the old-fashioned way. Every conversation with the older gentlemen was refreshing and honest, and not once were words like ‘artisanal’ or ‘handcrafted’ dropped…just saying. ;) I look forward to a resurgence in the importance of fine, detailed work, and hope the article piqued your interest in this world I have come to love. x

luck be a lady

Sam and I spent the better part of yesterday afternoon deep in conversations between ourselves and with two master tailors, in preparation for a project we are working on together. While the men talked about the gentleman’s predicament of balancing the flair of looking put together against traditional notions of masculinity, I couldn’t help but meditate on what it means to be a lady in this day and age.

The school I went to for most of my growing years often emphasized grooming and deportment. While other girls our age made beelines for campsites or enrichment programmes the moment the academic semester was over, we had dining etiquette classes, watched classic films and got colour-matched with our ‘seasons’ at least a quarter of the time. However, while we might have always had a teacher breathing down our necks, telling us to pull up our socks (literally) or walk gently (and not ‘stomp up the stairs like elephants!!’), we had more than our fair share of exhortations to become thoughtful women of calibre who lived lives of purpose and grace, and that lesson was not completely lost on me — I hope!

Perhaps it is because of these years at school that I will always associate blue dresses, gold, clean whites and sassy little ponytail holders with learning to be a lady.

Here is a selection of beautiful things for ladies of all sorts — for those who like their finery, but also for those who would very simply like to waltz through each day with a little bit of grace. The accompanying text consists of excerpts from Meg Goes to Vanity Fair, which is a chapter from Louisa May Alcott’s ‘Little Women’. It was a much re-read book chapter from childhood that taught me about the perils of vanity that come after the first flush of beauty, as well as the importance of having goodness, happiness and a heart made of a more extraordinary substance.

tulle dress & watercolour chiffon dress / Dear Golden Vintage

On the Thursday evening, Belle shut herself up with her maid, and between them they turned Meg into a fine lady. They crimped and curled her hair, they polished her neck and arms with some fragrant powder, touched her lips with coralline salve to make them redder, and Hortense would have added `a soupcon of rouge’, if Meg had not rebelled. They laced her into a sky-blue dress, which was so tight she could hardly breathe and so low in the neck that modest Meg blushed at herself in the mirror…Mademoiselle is chatmante, tres jolie, is she not? cried Hortense, clasping her hands in an affected rapture.

gold pearl ring / lapis lazuli ring

What shall you tell her? asked Meg, full of curiosity to know his opinion of her, yet feeling ill at ease with him for the first time.

I shall say I didn’t know you, for you look so grown-up and unlike yourself, I’m quite afraid of you, he said, fumbling at his glove button.

How absurd of you! The girls dressed me up for fun, and I rather like it. Wouldn’t Jo stare if she saw me? said Meg, bent on making him say whether he thought her improved or not.

Yes, I think she would, returned Laurie gravely.

cowl back silk blouse & scalloped silk blouse / stylemadehere

Don’t you like me so?‘ asked Meg.

No, I don’t, was the blunt reply.

Why not? in an anxious tone.

He glanced at her frizzled head, bare shoulders, and fantastically trimmed dress with an expression that abashed her more than his answer, which had not particle of his usual politeness in it.

I don’t like fuss and feathers.

the military & silk hair tie packages / Mane Message

She leaned her forehead on the cool pane, and stood half hidden by the curtains, never minding that her favorite waltz had begun, till some one touched her, and turning, she saw Laurie, looking penitent, as he said, with his very best bow and his hand out . . .Please forgive my rudeness, and come and dance with me.

I’m afraid it will be to disagreeable to you, said Meg, trying to look offended and failing entirely.

Not a bit of it, I’m dying to do it. Come, I’ll be good. I don’t like your gown, but I do think you are just splendid. And he waved his hands, as if words failed to express his admiration.



“My dear girls, I am ambitious for you, but not to have you make a dash in the world, marry rich men merely because they are rich, or have splendid houses, which are not homes because love is wanting. Money is a needful and precious thing, and when well used, a noble thing, but I never want you to think it is the first or only prize to strive for.

I’d rather see you poor men’s wives, if you were happy, beloved, contented, than queens on thrones, without self-respect and peace.”

The Happy List #5

1. Feasting with friends.
cafe le caire, by wans

(photo by tan wan lin)

We had the mezzé at cafe le caire before languorously sipping on beers elsewhere, and it’s $16 for plentiful portions of hummus, tahina, olives, salad, babaganush, chickpeas and feta to be scooped up with flatbread. Also, the fluffiest falafel I’ve ever had! This incredible photo is by my talented friend wan lin, who is ace at capturing sunsets with practically any kind of photographic equipment.

poached eggs/group therapy cafeThe poached eggs at Group Therapy cafe were perfectly smooth, covered in hollandaise and crushed black peppercorns and served on light, thick toast.

2. A georgette blouse I want to pair with dark denim and gold accessories every day


3. The gift of words

finallySam bought me this book I’ve been stalking at Kinokuniya for years — a collection of (love) letters exchanged between Rainer Maria Rilke and Lou Andreas-Salomé. Here is a section that made me melt:

Now I am closing my manuscript folder: the Visions are in it, the 12 novellas, many of which I will some day read to you, letters, pages filled with notes, and Ruth. Did I not myself write these lines once in some dream filled with presentiments?

“…until the whole world dropped away from me
And nothing of all that life remained
Except a boundless gratitude
And a love stretching on forever!…”

If they had not existed, I would have written them now. How wonderful that they do exist. For hence this strange exchange: I can express my happiness in your words. –And thus you in turn will understand my happiness. Is it not so?

starHe caught me sitting on the floor by the shelf, swooning and lost in its first few pages, and I felt like a guilty voyeur. I’m not very far into the book, but my favourite little detail so far is how Rilke signs off — it starts off formally with his full signature, but by his third letter he is René Maria, and then very simply, René.

5. My parents, Lauren and I are headed to Malacca tomorrow for what’s left of the weekend! I haven’t been there for ten years, but I’m looking forward to trying satay celup for the first time, visiting a man who restores antique jewellery, a popiah skin maker and a red paper cutter, and just wandering around with my dusty but trusty camera!

elephant seal baby dinosaur


magazine heaven





The last two weeks saw my life in its most unrecognizable form — a flurry of opportunities and unexpected grace, but paid for with non-stop 5am nights, a work table strewn with academic journal articles that never got put away, sundays in school. On wednesday, I got fed up, took a gamble with my good-girl self, sent in an incomplete thesis draft for review and rushed off to the theatre for a few hours to see cooling off day. Yesterday I took a whole day off, ate tokyo bananas, made the trek to katong to collect reserved magazine back issues with my mother. It was glorious.

Today is another sunday and I am still in school. Most of the time it feels like my mind has been buzzing non-stop, but with what? It’s a blurry, prickly, nameless feeling. My thoughts are tangled up and I’m too tired to unravel the knots, and where word clouds once existed in my mind, all there is now is…static. Static, and a longing to stay in bed just a little longer. On the bright side, almost everything tickles my funny bone lately (have you seen pusheen or the new despicable me 2 teaser?), kenny brought us milk pan buns, and we are moving forward to a new future every day!!

An afternoon at Atelier Ong Shunmugam

At Atelier Ong Shunmugam

Dreams Woven from Lace and Batik, my second article for POSKOD.SG is out! The funny and feisty fashion designer Priscilla Shunmugam talks fashion, of course, but also talks about growing up cross-cultural, identity, and why we need to start celebrating cheongsams, traditional Asian wear and the small-scale industries and artisans that support it.

We did the interview a few fridays ago, and it was one of those evenings that left me inspired in a happy, buzzy way, you know? The way putting on a damn good dress makes you feel. Many thanks to Priscilla, and POSKOD.SG team, especially Yu-Mei and David for the fine-tuned editorial attention and images. I managed to sneak some shots of the atelier that afternoon, and here they are, if you’d like to see:

dreams woven from lace and batik

During the course of the interview, customers continued to flow into the store to pick up their exquisitely made dresses and try them on — ooh la la~ I’ve never owned a cheongsam, but I have a strong feeling my first is going to come from here!

genius colour combination - cendol
The Meena in the Chendol colour fabrication is my favourite — ivory lace over chendol green fabric, complete with red bean buttons! Genius or what? The very chic and versatile Nishita is another of my favourites, made of soybean fibre fabric that’s heavenly on the skin and wrinkle-resistant!

creating a work scene

obsessed with corded lace

friday afternoon

Variations on the word love

by Margaret Atwood

This is a word we use to plug holes with. It’s the right size for those warm blanks in speech, for those red heart-shaped vacancies on the page that look nothing like real hearts. Add lace and you can sell it. We insert it also in the one empty space on the printed form that comes with no instructions. There are whole magazines with not much in them but the word love, you can rub it all over your body and you can cook with it too. How do we know it isn’t what goes on at the cool debaucheries of slugs under damp pieces of cardboard? As for the weed-seedlings nosing their tough snouts up among the lettuces, they shout it. Love! Love! sing the soldiers, raising their glittering knives in salute.

Then there’s the two of us. This word is far too short for us, it has only four letters, too sparse to fill those deep bare vacuums between the stars that press on us with their deafness. It’s not love we don’t wish to fall into, but that fear. this word is not enough but it will have to do. It’s a single vowel in this metallic silence, a mouth that says O again and again in wonder and pain, a breath, a finger grip on a cliffside. You can hold on or let go.

It feels like sacrilege to remove the run-on lines of a poem, but it feels right for right now, and it seems to work? Hope this doesn’t offend any poetry purists or Atwood fans. Here is the original.

There are different forms of love in these lines for everyone, and whatever you are doing tomorrow, I hope it will envelop you and carry you through. I will be at a 6-9pm seminar, and need all the help I can get! Big hugs to all my dear friends.

New Reads & A Secret Location

IMG_6690Frankie for me, Smith Journal for the guy

#1: Picked these up from a corner magazine stall en route to dinner, and I’ve been so excited about them ever since! Polka dots and typewriters! I haven’t allowed myself to do a cursory flip-through yet, because I want to set aside a good hour or two for a cover-to-cover reading, as all good things deserve.

An excerpt from the editor’s letter of Frankie: “We can find ways to be creative. To be a little strange around the edges. To close our eyes and wait for the thought that says, “Yes! I can do it!”…And to have a wee bit of fun while we’re at it, too. Most often, it’s the weirdy bits that are the best.”

Smith Journal is a new “heads-up and hands-on” men’s magazine “full of photography, stories, people, adventures, interesting conversations and gentlemanly style” that I’d read about online and knew would be perfect for Sam. Honestly speaking I dropped the ball on a birthday gift for him this year, and was so happy to see this stocked at the magazine stall so it could be part one of a slew of (guilt-induced) little gifts. I might even be more excited about reading Smith Journal than I am about Frankie, so I’m counting down the days till I get to borrow!


#2: Secret sunset on a rooftop bar just outside of town, the skyline of my city in clear view. Managed to take this photograph just before the lens on the new Ixus 220 began to fog up, and I like that it’s just barely so. The bar is tiny, black and almost industrial, but the light at 6pm washes everything in amber and it reminds me of New York, pulsing with life beyond concrete city blocks.

An Ode To Penguin





















The hardest thing about visiting An Ode To Penguin was resisting picking up every single copy to admire! Books are beautiful on their own but this collection of over a thousand titles showcases Penguins from different series since 1935, and it’s really something to take in so much art and book history all at once. Some interesting titles — China in the year 2001 (a prediction of communist China’s future published in 1970), A Dissertation on Roast Pig, and a hand-embroidered cover of Lady Chatterley’s Lover designed by Paul Smith!

“I can make dinosaurs fall in love with lighthouses”

I like this segment from ‘A Conversation with Ray Bradbury’, found while looking through my little sister’s literature text, Fahrenheit 451. This interview is included in the book, along with other extra goodies for the 50th anniversary edition.

DR: This question may sound strange, but I mean it seriously; after all, you’ve described yourself as a magician! Do you believe there is magic at work in the world?

RB: Depends on what you mean by the world.

DR: Well, what do you mean by it?

RB: Through my love of words and my love of ideas and metaphors, I can convince you of the most unlikely things. That’s what a magician does. He can make an elephant disappear on stage. I can make an entire world disappear or appear in a story. Or I can make dinosaurs fall in love with lighthouses. That’s magic.