1880's Marc Nicholson On Building A Community

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March 15, 2018 | BY Hong Xinyi

His member's club is inspired by his parents' salon sessions.

When he was 14 years old, Marc Nicholson’s parents started a new tradition—a salon discussion on the trending topics of the day, which became known as Wednesday Night. Every Wednesday, he would take his seat at the dinner table along with his sister, tussling with the diplomats, journalists, artists and many others from all walks of life that his parents had invited to join the conversation that week. They talked about politics, religion, finance, war, human rights, “all the big issues in the world”, as Marc puts it. The next morning, he would reflect on what he had heard. It sounds like an intense education, but he wasn’t always a big believer in Wednesday Nights.

“I didn’t get it,” he recalls with a laugh. “What I came to understand is that these evenings were more about community than anything else. It’s about building strong relationships, and that’s what makes us happiest.”

(Related: How To Start A Conversation At Members Club 1880)

You could even say, in a way, that Wednesday Nights influenced the course of his life. Having been exposed to so many big ideas, “I became very interested in finding out how the world worked”.

Propelled by this restless curiosity, he has at various points in his life been an actor, manned a suicide hotline, coached Cyprus’ national squash team, volunteered in an Indonesian village, and even spent time in the US Naval Academy. While pursuing his MBA, he met his wife-to-be—Jean Low, now director of finance at UWC South East Asia. They moved to Singapore, where he launched British barbershop Truefitt & Hill in 2013 to better understand the market, before opening private members’ club 1880 late last year.

This latest endeavour is directly inspired by his parents’ salon sessions. Housed on the third floor of Quayside@Robertson Quay, 1880 is a club founded to spark authentic conversations, and naturally comes with its own spirited Wednesday night discussions.

“We want to attract the dreamers, renegades, and nation-builders—curious people who can speak about things on a deep, intimate level, and explore how the world could work better,” says Marc. Having lived in Singapore for 15 years, he is confident about building this community and convinced that these conversations will serve a larger purpose. “I’d love for people to forge great friendships here, and the more diverse the community, the more interesting those friendships will be. Conversations are how our values evolve. It’s how we constantly challenge the notions of right and wrong, in a respectful and open way.”

He’s also fond of describing the club as a “golf course for women”, a vision inspired by his wife and 14-year-old daughter. The current gender ratio at 1880 is 55 per cent male, 45 per cent female, and “I’d much prefer it to be the other way round”, he says. “When my wife travels for work, she’ll not go to the bar or a nightclub by herself, and that’s true for many women. But most men feel absolutely comfortable sitting at a bar, and maybe that’s where business cards are exchanged for future collaborations.” 

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His hope is to eventually bring the 1880 concept into other cities as well, so that globetrotting dreamers and renegades can find a welcoming and inspiring community no matter where they are. As for whether this explicit move to level the networking playing field will make it tougher to recruit men, Marc has this blithe riposte: “I couldn’t care less. This is not a marketing strategy. It’s something I believe in.”

Photography: Eric Seow
Fashion Direction: Desmond Lim
Grooming: Delanie Wong and June Goh/Indigo Artisans, using Make Up For Ever;
Photographer’s assistant: Eric Tan
Stylist’s assistant: Joey Tan

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