- we see that you have essentially been living in and around the same nyc east side neighborhood since you arrived in 1987. what is it about that neighborhood that has drawn you there? name your top 3 favorite neighborhood go-to spots and why
I first lived in New York city at the NYU dorm on third Avenue - it was their latest and it was new and fancy - back when we wanted new and fancy digs in 1987. I lived on Third Ave and 11th st, 9th St, back to 11th St and then back to 9th st where I had a small apartment with a large terrace for parties. Those were fun years as an editor at W magazine.
The East and Greenwich Village are essentially my formative New York neighbourhoods. It is what I was drawn to and what shaped my experience.
I have seen the East Village - from a time where you do not go beyond Avenue A to it’s current state. I have absorbed the edge that it always as well as softened with the current “gentrified” state it is in. But one thing that has not changed is the renewal of the crowd that makes the EV their home every September. It is NYU and the lure of starter apartments that make the crowd change. There is excitement in the air, bright eyes and determined faces shaped by all they have read about coming to NY. I like the energy.
It does not mean that I did not get annoyed by the rising rents and the crop of bland arrivistes who have nothing to add to the cultural value of NYC. I packed my bags after getting puke on my shoes from some basic kids wearing Abercrombie. If you’re gonna go out and get trashed, at least do it with an edge.
However, if you have lived in the village long enough, you also spot the neighbours and friends who have been here forever. Traces of living through 54, Tunnel, The World. Knowing, lived-in and wiser faces, many jaded, others eternally hopeful.
Lucien - late night French bistro for fun dining. It is so small but there is often mischief in the air!
What is currently Club Cumming - my friends and I have been dancing (even under Giuliani) and drinking here since it was Wonderbar. After that, our friend Darren reopened it as Eastern Bloc.
Strand Bookstore - I always get lost in there for hours
Marie’s Crisis - technically not East Village but it is my neighbourhood spot to sing. And I have been singing there for a very long time!
- gramercy park is now your home. can you tell us how it is living in such a romantic, historic district that the new york times referred to as "a victorian gentleman who has refused to die"?
I felt the need to grow up. So off I went uptown. to 21st Street in Gramercy. Did not get very far. The park was essential. To be able to stroll through on a daily basis to get to work. I think it is so civilised to see neighbours walking their dogs and look into the garden through the seasons. It is alive in spring and so enchanting during the holiday season. It reminded me of the time I spent growing up in London. Walking through Irving place to get coffee, dinners at Casa Mono. It inspired me to propose to my boyfriend in the Park.
Right now, I moved down a few blocks - to 17th and Third. Right by the gorgeous Stuyvesant Park. I think that is essential - being near the park.
- throughout your entire body of work - from creative direction to styling homes, objects and personalities, there is a beautiful lush and chic timelessness to it all. top 3 creative influences?
Growing up in tropical Malaysia - it is always lush. I grew up surrounded by great tropical modernist architecture as well as older colonial buildings. That combination set amongst the lush flora has always stuck with me. Architects like Geoffrey Bawa hightened the tropical and natural aspects of the materials and used them in a modern and sensitive design. This has taught me to be appreciative of nature and design.
Bauhaus in London.
I spent some formative years growing up with my cousin Jessica in London in the 80s. She lived in a temperature controlled townhouse filled with Le Corbusier, Mies, Eileen gray and other Bauhaus era classics. While I was on vacation, I also worked at Joseph in London. I absorbed so much from Joseph Ettedgui. What an inspiring and tasteful man.
Growing up in 3 continents, there has never a shortage of Diversity. Being open to people and cultures - to food and ceremony, to ritual and identity. Being open to learning from other people has always been the first ingredient in a creative process. I had started observing and listening to the colourful personalities that were part of my mother’s world - from her work as a hairstylist on shoots when I used to tag along to hanging out at her popular salon. It is incredible to learn from a young age to be surrounded by people of all sorts.
These factors feature in my creative process – the global nature, the design edge and the personalities at play.
- we thoroughly enjoy the globe-trotting journey you take us through on ig. name your top 3 places in the world that you would not hesitate to visit over and over again and why.
It is almost impossible to pick 3 right now. I seem to be in a heightened state of wanderlust.
- you are a self-prescribed "stylish nomad" - which we couldn't agree with more - can you elaborate?
The Nomadic life chose me - starting off away from home in boarding school at 11. Living and travelling and settling into foreign lands have always been part of my dna. Even though after graduating from NYU, New York became my home, my work involved travelling and working and in some cases spending extended periods of time in new cultures. My favourite shoots at W magazine and later for Brooks Brothers involved extended periods in faraway places where we can incorporate the local folks into the stories. When I took on the role as Global Creative Director at Georg Jensen, I had so much to prove as the Danish are very protective of their culture and having foreigners come and take over their beloved brand! There was so much suspicion and bad publicity. It was important to pause and to listen and understand the Danes. It wasn’t about mounting some slick campaign and designing random “luxury” items. It was understanding what made them instils design in their everyday lives. What made them live with good design. I still have great affection for Denmark and have made many friends there. Shame that corporate shortsightedness to culture often ruin a good thing. But I digress. Leaving Copenhagen, I have been priming a heritage Italian jewellery and fine objects brand - rich in colourful history and stories - to relaunch. I have been working deep into research and have been in the literal underground ruins of the family home. As in the past, this time Rome and Italy chose me.
Style is something I chose, or rather what I am drawn to. I am interested in culture and thus interested in the way people express themselves through costume and clothing. Whether its t shirt and jeans or a caftan, there’s always cultural value and discourse in fashion. And I find it intriguing and a lot of fun to dress up.
- favorite 3 restaurants any where in the world? any specific cravings that you can't wait to have again?
The Farmer’s Feast Lunch at Stone Barns, the Rockefeller estate in Tarrytown, NY. A michelin starred Feast and a farm! Apart from a great meal, there is education - one of the earlier farm-to-table movement institution.
Pastis and Odeon in New York City. New York’s classic French Bistro is my staple.
Local Food in Malaysia at the Hawker stalls. Nothing can replicate the taste and frenetic atmosphere. And my favourite cuisine is Peranakan food - a cultural blend of the Straits Chinese and local Malay flavours. What can I say - I am always up for a cultural Mash-up.
- what are you reading now and what is next on your list?
Watch Me: A Memoir by Angelica Huston
Next is The Museum of Innocence by Orhan Parmuk
- we love your sense of color - any one color in particular that is a constant in your life?
The whole spectrum is omnipresent since I work in a visual field. I do find the green in nature and leaves and trees help as a palette cleanser.
Red is often what I am often drawn to in fashion. And then white is often right there too!
- we want to extend our heartfelt thanks for your support of thesalting. of all the pieces you have from us, any one that stands out for you?
Despite my affinity for colour, the white elongated shirt salt - I wear it so much and with everything - shorts, jeans and pants - baggy or slim! Then there’s the satin shirt. And the
- what is one step you take daily to erase hate from the world?
Diversity fosters tolerance and in generous instances, love. We have been so lucky, at least until recently, to live in a city where there is no escape from diversity. I can only continue to educate myself and being open to people from different cultures, races, life-choices, and learn.