Style at Full Speed:
Introducing the Singapore Tatler
After a decade of bringing you the Singapore Tatler Fashion Hall of Fame, we are switching gears. We have reimagined, re-engineered and redesigned our annual fashion event, and will be launching the inaugural Singapore Tatler Fashion Awards on April 7 at Parkroyal on Pickering. We are thrilled to reveal a first look at our brand-new awards and our newly minted recipients, who share the most memorable milestones in their style journeys to date. Many of these milestones are more personal than sartorial, which isn’t really surprising. After all, fashion is never just skin-deep—it’s a reflection of the choices we’ve made, the experiences that have shaped us, and hard-earned perspectives on how to live your best life. This year’s arbiters of style know well that knowing who you are is the first step to looking good.
— Jane Ngiam, Editor-in-Chief
Most Classic Dresser 2017: Grace Yeh
Society maven Grace Yeh is well known for her charity donations and fashion pursuits. Her sense of style is best described as no fuss, no muss, and timeless enough to transcend temporary trends.
How do you achieve a timeless sense of style?
I’ve had a strong sense of what suits me since I was very young. Nobody looks good in everything. Style is like DNA, some things you just know, but it can be hard to describe. When you’re young, you can look nice in everything, but as you get older, the cut and the material become very important. My style is more classic than trendy, and I don’t spend a lot of time exploring different shops, because I already know what I like. I tend to visit the boutiques where the staff knows my taste, and if I see something that will work for an upcoming event, I get it straightaway. I’m quite a spontaneous person.
How do you feel about couture?
I don’t wear couture often, but I got to know Chinese designer Guo Pei because I’m friends with her husband, and I have hosted a fashion show featuring her designs in my home. Her work is very intricate, especially the embroidery, and it’s rare for a Chinese designer to be so well known, so I think that’s something to be very proud of. I have about four or five pieces designed by her, including a quilted jacket with fur trim that I originally just intended to wear for bridge, because it has three-quarter sleeves which make it more convenient when I’m playing. But the piece turned out to suit me so well that I wear it everywhere now. She’s invited me to visit her workshop in Beijing, and I’m looking forward to that.
Fashion Disrupter 2017: Margie Van Elten Blommaert
Margie Van Elten Blommaert’s been a teenage model, a talent booker who put actors on shows such as Xena: Warrior Princess, and even A homecare nurse. Now married to a childhood friend, this netherlands-Born, australia‑raised, Singapore‑based jet-setter is expressing her sense of adventure by breaking the style rules in her own inimitable way.
Everyone remembers you by your hair. What made you decide to go grey?
About four years ago, I decided that spending three hours in the salon to get my hair coloured was a big waste of time. So I got a pixie cut to cut all the dye out, and I haven’t looked back since. Going grey has changed my fashion too. I used to dress more conservatively, but when I changed my hair, I realised that conservative plus grey hair equals old. So I started gravitating towards edgier pieces. My style is best described as “practical edgy”, which can sound like a contradiction because edgy usually means not practical. But I have found a way to do just that. Every piece I buy is practical and easy to travel with. I travel very often, mostly to the US and Europe, so the fabrics have to be thin so they won’t weigh down my suitcase. My clothes have to be wearable instantly when I get to my destination, because steaming and ironing is not my thing. I also use Stylebook, an app that helps me organise my clothes so that I know what I need to pack for each trip.
You lived in Texas with your husband for almost a decade before relocating to Singapore two years ago. What is Texas high society like?
Everything’s bigger in Texas, from big personalities to big hair. It was a very different experience. I didn’t think the US would be culturally different from Australia, but it was, and Texas is its own little country within a country. They have great Southern manners there, and a rugged outdoorsy culture that’s similar to Australia. But I think Australians have a different fashion sense, it’s a little bit more European. Texas supports American brands. The most obvious way Texas influenced my sense of style is in my collection of cowboy boots—I have five pairs. I haven’t worn them in Singapore yet, but I am very much a boots person.
Most Stylish Man 2017: Sanveer Gill
As director of his family’s lifestyle group, Gill Capital, fashion is in Sanveer Gill’s blood. He’s been immersed in the retail industry since he was a boy, and that has moulded his sense of style in crucial ways.
What’s your definition of power dressing?
Comfort—if you’re not comfortable and functional, that can take away your confidence. Whether you wear a suit or Speedos, that’s not going to change your intellectual capacity. Look at Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg, the founders of Instagram and Snapchat, or Alibaba’s Jack Ma. They’re in jeans, hoodies and T-shirts. My family business deals with retail, so corporate attire for us usually means jeans and T-shirt. We’re on our feet and moving from shop to shop all the time, and you can’t really do that in a suit and dress shoes. Jeans from H&M or Diesel, Tod’s loafers and a fitted T-shirt are probably what I wear most often. I always start with the shoes because comfort for my feet is probably the most important part of my outfit. Then I work my way up. When I was younger, I wore more neutral colours, but now I experiment with bright colours for either my shoes or my trousers. If the occasion calls for it, I’ll throw on a leather jacket or blazer to finish off the look.
Your family business spans many different countries. How have these cultures influenced you?
For me, grooming takes precedence. When I was younger, I didn’t even know what grooming was, I even had a unibrow. In 2008, I moved to Dubai for work, and there were many grooming salons there because Arab men are very particular about their beards and eyebrows. They stick to one style of attire, so they make sure their grooming really pops. That’s what I learned there, and that was a huge change for me. Because of that, I now have a personal barber, and I’m always looking at how people are groomed when I meet them. I also worked in Indonesia for a few years and when I interviewed people for retail positions there, everybody came in with their own sense of style, they took such pride in what they wore. The Indonesians, across the board, are able to mix and match better than I’ve ever seen in any market. They are super creative, and very similar to New Yorkers in the way they let fashion become a reflection of their personalities. That taught me that style is not something determined by your income—with a little, you can make a lot happen.
Most Stylish Woman 2017: Stephanie Lee
The executive director of investment holding company TS Lee & Sons is the epitome of effortless grace—whether she’s at a society soiree, commanding a boardroom, or spending quality time with her family, Stephanie Lee makes looking stylish seem easy‑breezy beautiful.
You work in very male-dominated sectors—corporate banking in the past, and now property development. Has that influenced your style?
When I was in banking, I was more of a minimalist dresser. I dressed mainly in suits, shirts and trousers and appreciated sleek, simple shapes in monochrome or neutral palettes. When I started working for my family, I had more room to experiment, especially when different occasions called for it (though not so much for on-site work because I can’t be in a cocktail dress and treading the uneven ground in stilettos). Whatever the case, I’ll never wear anything that’s not me. The boho-chic or sweet girl-next-door look with lots of ruffles and ribbons are some styles I cannot relate to. My style is more classic, but with a twist. It’s usually a fine balance of the comfortable and sexy, the masculine and feminine. I’ll explore details that can be added to give a different flair, whether it’s statement jewellery, interesting textures or striking patterns. Fashion is an expression of one’s inner self and not a reflection of everyone’s expectations. With the right attitude, one can project one’s personality, poise and intent through one’s wardrobe.
Your son Max Choo is now 10½ months old. Has motherhood changed your style?
I still prefer to keep my outfits elegant and empowering, though I also have to be practical when I am with Max. Wrap dresses are ideal and convenient for nursing. I remembered wearing a jumpsuit when I returned to work after maternity leave and boy, was that a hassle! I used to live and breathe in stilettos, but now if I don’t have any meetings or appointments for the day, I’m actually very comfortable in flats. That’s something my dad keeps nagging me about, he prefers that I at least wear some low- to mid-heel pumps to accentuate my outfit. But I feel that designers are making such amazing flats now, and they are easier to move around in, especially when I’m carrying Max.
Fashion Newcomer 2017: Dawn Koh
Before she joined her brother to run cake company Chalk Farm, Dawn Koh explored design and fashion as a student. Her interest was sparked by mum Ginny Ng, who has helmed brands such as Tiffany & Co, Burberry and harry winston in various roles. Dawn’s years of exploration are reflected in her playful sense of style, which combines striking eclecticism with fearless experimentation.
You spent many years in London, studying first at Central Saint Martins and London College of Fashion and later, Le Cordon Bleu. How does the city inspire you?
I studied art and design, then fashion photography in London. Being at Central Saint Martins, I was able to see all sorts of people from around the world and their different styles and how they carried themselves. It made me realise that, wow, there’s so much you can do with fashion. In the past, I always wanted to follow trends. In London, I learned to just do whatever works best for me, to have fun and be more playful with my style. I try not to take myself too seriously, and I like to play around with different textures and colours. If I’m wearing a top that’s more formal, I might pair it with a pair of well-worn sneakers or something more casual. I’m also always trying to change my hair colour. On a whole, that period of my life in London was very enriching, even though I ended up not choosing the fashion industry as my career path.
Who are your creative heroes?
I used to take photos, and I really like contemporary fashion photographers such as Mert & Marcus (Mert Alas and Marcus Piggott) and Steven Klein, as well as more classic photographers such as Helmut Newton. My other fashion heroes are David Bowie, Kristen Stewart and Coco Chanel—again, a mixture of people from different periods. I also really love David Lynch, my favourite movie is Blue Velvet, I love the cinematography. Now that I run a cake company, all these influences help me think out of the box and get creative with colours and textures.
Photography Darren Gabriel Leow
Fashion Direction Desmond Lim
Hair Mesh Subra/Indigo Artisans, using L’Oréal Professionnel
Make-up Cheryl Ow/Indigo Artisans, using Parfums Christian Dior
Car Lamborghini Huracán Spyder