New lunch menu at Crafted by Peter Zwiener

For the past two years, this sister outlet to Wolfgang’s Steakhouse Singapore has catered primo cuts (100 percent USDA Prime beef) for their burgers and steaks. Now, the joint is shaking things up with a new menu for the weekend and the weekday. Crafted by Peter Zwiener now offers a weekday lunch menu (11:30am to 4pm) and a weekend special, where the USDA Prime Black Angus Ribeye will be available all. Day. Long. But we are getting ahead of ourselves. Here's what you can expect:

The Weekdays

You have six dishes to opt from. These include three popular choices seamlessly transitioned from the restaurant’s takeaway lunch boxes. Also, each dish is accompanied with a daily cold-pressed juice.

Huli Huli Chicken plate

You've the Huli Huli Chicken plate that includes a sweet smoky grilled boneless chicken leg paired with grilled pineapple, white rice and macaroni salad. The USDA Beef Bolognese Rigatoni boasts a Prime Black Angus ground beef and slatherd with tomato-based sauce. The Loco Moco has Prime Black Angus hamburg steak nestled over Japanese rice and topped with a sunny-side up egg. The Hokkaido Pork Belly Burnt Ends Plate is spice-marinated for 48 hours. You get a side of white rice, macaroni salad and Japanese Pickled Cucumbers. If you're looking for something lighter, there's a USDA Prime Rib Eye Steak Salad, a light yet satisfying salad that is served with honey mustard sauce on the side.

Crafted by Peter Zwiener got the vegetarians covered with a Mushroom Arrabbiata Rigatoni. This dish features White Button Mushrooms cooked in a savoury Arrabbiata sauce and served with Rigatoni Pasta.

As an added incentive, for those who are ordering to-go, if you bring your own takeaway containers and tumblers, you'll get SGD2 off for each ordered set. Not a bad deal—you get to save your wallet and the planet. This is only applicable for the weekday lunch menu.

The Weekends

Between Fridays to Sundays, the all-day USDA Prime Black Angus Ribeye (250gm) steps into the spotlight. Priced at SGD48++, you get premium cut of the ribeye and it's only available for dine-in. To further brighten up the plate, diners can pick from an array of side dishes at an additional cost. Side dishes include the Roasted Chat Potato; Mac ‘N’ Cheese; Grilled Datterino Tomato on vines; Steak or Sweet Potato Fries; Sautéed Mushrooms; Garden Salad and Grilled Jumbo Asparagus.

USDA Prime Black Angus Ribeye (250gm)
USDA Prime Black Angus Ribeye (250gm)

Crafted by Peter Zwiener has your midday and weekend hanger issues on the ropes. Other than their specialised menus, patrons can still order from the standard menus. The special weekday lunch and weekend menus won't be available on public holidays. Diners can reserve a table here.

Crafted by Peter Zwiener is located at 26 Beach Road, #B1-21, South Beach Avenue

For Milan Design Week, Saint Laurent Rive Droite teams with the Gio Ponti Archives, Ginori 1735 and the Fundación Anala y Armando Planchart to showcase a plate collection. But these aren't ordinary plates. These are Villa Planchart Segnaposto Plates and for such an exceptional collection, it is showcased at the Gio Ponti—Villa Planchart exhibition. Saint Laurent's creative director, Anthony Vaccarello, curated the exhibit.  

This collaboration dates back to 1953. That's when Anala and Armando Planchart commissioned renowned Italian architect, Gio Ponti, to construct an avant-garde villa for them on the highest hill overlooking Caracas, Venezuela. While designing the villa, Ponti employed exceptional Italian artisans with traditional expertise for the interior decor of the Villa Planchart. This included the Florentine manufacturer Ginori 1735, for which he had previously worked as artistic director. He designed a set of porcelain tableware decorated with the various symbols of the villa. This pays homage to the village and Anala and Amando. 

Saint Laurent will reissue 12 original plates from the Villa Planchart Segnaposto collection designed by Gio Ponti. These traditionally-crafted decorative porcelain plates are painted by hand in Ginori 1735’s Italian Manifattura. Available in vibrant hues, the plates feature the same motifs that appeared in the porcelain tableware designed for the villa. This included the sun, the crescent moon, the polar star and iterations of the letter “A”—referencing the initials of the villa’s owners.

The limited-edition plates will be available online, at SAINT LAURENT RIVE DROITE Los Angeles, SAINT LAURENT BABYLONE in Paris. Also, for a limited time, by appointment at Saint Laurent’s Milan flagship on Via Montenapoleone during Milan Design Week.

Held at the Chiostri di San Simpliciano, the Gio Ponti—Villa Planchart exhibition will be open from April 16th to 21st. To pre-book tickets, register here.

Louis Vuitton

Famed Le Chocolat Maxime Frédéric at Louis Vuitton arrives on our shores. Marking their debut outside of their French homeland, the chocolates at Le Chocolat Maxime Frédéric at Louis Vuitton are handcrafted with high-quality ingredients. From the Filled Heart Saint Valentine to the intricate moving Vivienne on Malle, these concoctions are inspired by the fashion house and is only made possible through the deft hands of Chef Maxime Frédéric, the award-winning chef pâtissier of the Cheval Blanc Paris. Chef Frédéric answers a few questions about what goes into his chocolate-making, Louis Vuitton, and what fans can expect in the near future.

ESQUIRE: Tell us about your chocolate-making. What makes it special?

MAXIME FRÉDÉRIC: I think that what makes our chocolates unique is the savoir-faire and manual technique, as well as the art of the raw materials and the story we’re continuing to write with Louis Vuitton. These are incredible encounters and I believe that’s what gives our chocolates that undefinable “something extra”. It’s not just about the raw materials or just about the taste—it’s actually an entire ecosystem and story of sourcing, passion and people that have taken shape, and I see that as unique and precious.

ESQ: Can you tell us about a few of the chocolates specifically? Their flavours, ingredients, etc?

MF: Our chocolates are very diverse and our goal is to please as many people as possible and for everyone to find their own happiness and satisfaction, their own little delicious moment. As a result, we have flavours that are very simple, down-to-earth. We work with very pure cocoas and cocoa origins [from] Madagascar, Peru, the Dominican Republic, Vietnam, [where] each [country has] a specific, incredible aromatic bouquet. But we also work with very French flavours. We use caramel—Breton caramel—or speculoos biscuit flavours.

Then we’ll create this duality between the richness of the ingredients and the flavours from incredible terroirs around the world, as well as the French terroir. This is the magical combination that makes me so happy to be part of it all. So, there will be a lot of technical prowess in play. And that singularity typically comes in the Vivienne, which will rotate with its chocolate mechanism, but it is also in the skill behind our moulds, the Louis Vuitton Monogram, obviously. All these things taken together make me happy and it really makes this chocolate-making very precious to me.

ESQ: How does Louis Vuitton as a maison inspire you? How is this shown in your chocolates?

MF: Louis Vuitton inspires me by virtue of its history and the people who brought the company to life and keep it alive and thriving today. That’s a trait that I also see with my great-great-grandparents who were agricultures [sic] and our family farm today. Now we’re lucky to produce the eggs and hazelnuts that l use in our chocolate-making. I find this same idea of legacy at Louis Vuitton.

There’s an entire history there that has been forged and composed over the years, over time, and which has created this incredible maison’s richness and diversity. And today, that’s what we’re humbly trying to do with our chocolate-making: respecting the heritage and work of those before us, while adding our own uniqueness, our personality, our humanity, the richness of the land and of our ingredients. This human aspect is very important to me and it’s what inspires me at Louis Vuitton. At Maison Louis Vuitton, there’s a wealth created by the people, there’s a history. And these two inspire me and guide us greatly in making our chocolates.

ESQ: What’s next?

MF: The idea is still to enrich and cultivate the diversity of this chocolate-making, to be even more creative, to add even more surprising things, to bring in a fruity dimension, which is very rare in chocolate-making today—we have a little bit of that, but we plan to develop it even more and to bring our orchards into our chocolate-making as well, combining all that and enriching it, through this global gastronomic variety and culture, and French savoir-faire.

The local chapter of Le Chocolat Maxime Frédéric at Louis Vuitton is located at 2 Bayfront Ave, B1-38/39 Louis Vuitton Island Store

Climbing behind the wheel of an expensive car does something to a man. The exact brain chemistry, I can’t say. Perhaps it’s the sudden grip of power; the adrenalised unpredictability. Or, maybe, the increased likelihood that you'd catch the eye of anyone when you toss the keys to the valet. As someone who has previously shown an unwavering indifference to automobiles his entire life, for the first time I finally understood.

The Bentley Flying Spur Hybrid is the first hybrid ever made by Bentley. Powered by both electric battery and petrol it's a different hybrid symbiosis when driving it. A hybrid of heaven and hell. Heaven, for its robust smoothness and opulent interiors; and hell, for the feeling of devilish omnipotence that hijacks the person gripping the wheel.

A Childhood Memory

Having grown up in Los Angeles, the familiar image of a Bentley gliding down PCH is one tattooed across my psyche. But driving one myself? Please. That is a privilege reserved for those whose business cards have CEO in the title. Those with rocks on their fingers the size of walnuts. People with Sir Richard Branson on speed dial and who rent out the entire Beverly Hills hotel on 4 July because they didn’t want to be disturbed during breakfast. It’s a car reserved for those who do in a world of those who don’t.

As I drove this immaculate piece of machinery down the spidery highways of Dubai to pick up two unsuspecting girl-friends visiting from London—let’s call them M and N—I pulled up to the front of their hotel. Their mirrored expressions of incredulous wonder told me everything I needed to know.

“Is this your car, Anton?!”

Sure, I may have been guilty of letting the story marinate for an hour or so, but as our friendship dates back nearly a decade. Eventually, they saw through my charade. Still. Bolting through Dubai in a Bentley on our way to Hakkasan for dinner wasn’t so terrible.

A Bentley is like an award. It’s something you earn after years of hard work and dedication. Something the universe grants you when it feels you are finally deserving of such prestige. This is where you get to park right by the entrance, letting others know that it is a restaurant worth eating at, and you are worth eating there.

Growing up, I had a friend whose parents owned, among many other things, two private jets and a yacht. They also had a white show-poodle named Bentley. I used to think that was silly. Now I get it.

The meeting in the desert.

The Gobi. It’s a vast expanse of emptiness and sand—so much sand—that spreads out into forever where the sky meets the endless horizon in a union of dust and sunlight. From the pictures, you’d imagine it to be tomb-quiet but the howl from the whipping wind says otherwise.

It’s hard to imagine such a landscape to be replete of life but travellers walked these sandy plains once and still. Except, in this day and age, SUVs and motorbikes leave their treads in the sand—signs of existence. These lay there as testament before, hours later, the wind would return the desert to its unblemished state.

For now, a Mongol herder—a sullen man, adorned in weathered leather boots and a dusty blue down coat bisected by a brown belt—leads his camels; trailing foot/hoofprints. They see a figure perched on a dune ahead. As the figure approaches, the herder brim his eyes with his free hand, while the other hand tightens around the reins.

The stranger, a tall foreigner of the Western persuasion, is attired in a white coat and slacks the colour of chocolate. He may look like a fish out of water but, here in this parched land, he feels perfectly at ease. Were this any other encounter, the herder would baulk at the stranger but this is a meeting that had occurred minutes ago. This is the second take before documentary photographer Chris Rainier, satisfied with the shot, directs them to another spot, angled in a way that the near-afternoon sun would flatter them.

A fashion shoot at the Aryabal Temple's inner sanctum.

From the Sands, a Seed of an Idea

It started at Luxor.

Two years ago, to commemorate its semicentennial anniversary, the Italian luxury lifestyle brand Stefano Ricci decided to host the celebration at the Hatshepsut Temple. As part of the Theban Necropolis, the temple is carved into the sheer cliffs of the Deir el-Bahari complex. The monumental architecture characterised by three terraces proved to be a fitting space for Stefano Ricci.

The two-day event culminated in a fashion show for 400 guests. Dr Zahi Hawass, archaeologist and former Minister of Antiquities and Culture, described the show thusly: “I have seen this temple more than a thousand times in my life, but Stefano [the namesake founder and brand chairman] made me see it in a new and different way. The fashion models began to come down the temple stairs, escorted by Egyptian warriors. We saw a great new fashion that the world had never seen before.”

The event created a lot of buzz but it also sparked an idea for a series; one that would take the Ricci family to far-flung corners of the world.

It's called the EXPLORER Project and it’s spearheaded by the sons of Stefano, Niccolò and Filippo—the CEO and creative director, respectively. Filippo said that the Luxor event alerted them to a new outlook in appealing to men’s innate wanderlust. Their clients are “dynamic, independent, powerful men” and the real luxury is to “have remarkable [travel] experiences”.

They started with Iceland. A land of contrasts, where glaciers meet black volcanic sands. The Vatnajökull Glacier—Europe’s largest ice cap—is an indomitable presence on the south-eastern horizon. For their AW24 collection, Filippo came with an intrepid crew consisting of hair-and-make-up artists, stylists, videographers, drone operators and models. They also roped in the expertise of Terry Garcia, CEO of Exploration Ventures, and the aforementioned Chris Rainier.

Terry leapt at the chance to work on the project. He cited the importance of exploration, especially in this day and age. They shot against the Skógafoss waterfall; along the black sand beaches of Reykjanesbær and Reynisfjara; the Diamond Beach, a sand beach next to Jökulsárlón Glacier Lagoon and the cavernous ice caves of the Vatnajökull Region.

The Galápagos Islands were the next chapter of the Explorer project but that wasn’t Stefano Ricci’s first choice. They were supposed to shoot elsewhere but unforeseen circumstances forced the crew to scramble for another location. They eventually ended at the Galápagos Islands.

A Diverse Crowd

We suppose there is some poetry to this. The volcanic archipelago was where naturalist, Charles Darwin, was inspired to develop his theory of evolution. In this place, where Darwin witnessed the adaptations of finches’ beaks, Stefano Ricci will adapt to shoot their SS24 campaign.

Terry Garcia is still on board but this time, Mattias Klum, photographer, and National Geographic fellow, helmed the photoshoot. Niccolò has decided to come along as well; no sense in letting the younger brother have all the fun. With the supervision of the Galápagos National Park Directorate, extreme care was taken in shooting in the archipelago’s fragile and unique ecosystems.

They shot at Santa Fé Island, a small gem in the Galápagos crown. There, the the sea lions and marine iguanas were nonchalant accessories to the photoshoot. The unique fauna (giant turtles) and flora (cactus and Scalesia forest) complemented the “nature tones” of the collection. This was also their first underwater shoot. On a boat ride out to Isla Guy Fawkes, Matthias said that the underwater perspective added another dimension to the story that they were telling.

That story is part of a bigger one. It’s post-Covid and the borders are slowly opening up. The pent-up agoraphilia that those mindful of quarantine have broken loose. It seemed serendipitous that Stefano Ricci managed to be in the thick of this sudden worldwide yen for travel.

The Land of the Conqueror

A ride along with the Kazakh eagle hunters.

For the AW24 collection, Stefano Ricci’s took to the birthplace of Chinggis Khaan—Mongolia. Aside the return of Chris Rainier as the principal photographer, for this expedition, they included the locals in their campaign, opened the expedition up to valued customers willing to join them and introduced exclusive material for their winter outfits.

First, the material. It’s made from the undercoat of the Hircus goats from Alashan. The fibre is collected through gentle hand combing on goats no older than 10 months of age in the spring. Then, it’s processed into a superlight and resistant cashmere: the Stefano Ricci Alpha Yarn.

Second, the inclusion of Stefano Ricci’s clientele in the project added another facet to the brand’s growing portfolio—that of a semi-bespoke travel agent. Stefano Ricci’s exclusive patronage is a by-invitation-only club. These valued patrons will have the opportunity to embark on this once-in-a- lifetime chance to evoke their inner Magellan (or insert your own ethical explorer alternative). Lorenzo Quinn, an artist known for his large-scale sculptures (one of his works, “The Force of Nature”, is found at Marina Barrage) is an inaugural invitee. In a reportage video, Lorenzo paraphrased the essence of exploration from the project’s motto, “[to] explore the world is to explore ourselves”. For an artist like him, this was a much-needed respite to stir the creative juices.

Shooting at the Chinggis Khaan Statute Complex.

During the time in Mongolia, the group slept in gers (a Mongolian yurt); traversed the Flaming Cliffs; posed at the Chinggis Khaan Statue Complex; climb the many and winding steps of Aryabal Temple and communed with the Kazakh burkitshi (eagle hunters) in Altai. It is the latter that held great significance with Stefano Ricci; the family’s emblem is the eagle. It is this commonality that the Riccis donated to Kazakh Falconry Association for the preservation of the raptors. (Stefano Ricci also donated to the Charles Darwin Foundation at their last Galápagos project).

For a luxury brand, there is nothing luxurious in how the campaigns were shot. In fact, productions were closer to the point of discomfort. There have been a lot of unearthly hours to aspire to, just to catch the first light of the sun. They also had to contend with the local amenities in these far-flung corners. In their journey from Three Camel Lodge at which they resided, to the shooting location in the Gobi, the early morning darkness caused even the guide to lose his bearings.

Model/ Monks.

But Niccolò had nothing but praise for the professionalism of his team. Everybody knows what they need to do. It’s a well-oiled machine, one that was honed during previous excursions. In classic Italian fashion, the smiles break through the sweat; the camaraderie flows easily.

A fashion house and the theme of travel... this isn’t a novel idea. Luggage brands like RIMOWA extolled the virtue of a well-travelled suitcase and Samsonite highlighted the “man on the go”. Coach had an air travel boutique inside an aeroplane. Japanese label, TEÄTORA, specialises in outfits to ease the rigours of travel—ie, packable T-shirts, jackets to fit carry-ons like a passport and/or an electronic tablet.

We leave off with a quote from Terry: “Exploration, yes, it’s about adventure, it’s about the unknown. But sometimes, exploration is about seeing an old place through new eyes.” And what better way than to view it through the lens of fashion?

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After 36 years, the long awaited Beetlejuice sequel is finally here. Having been in the works for many years now, it's finally set to release after several failed attempts. The majority of the original cast will reprise their roles. That includes Michael Keaton as the titular Beetlejuice, Winona Ryder as Lydia Deetz, and Catherine O'Hara as Delia Deetz. Goth gen Z princess, Jenna Ortega—previously as the lead in Netflix's Wednesday—joins the cast as Astrid (Lydia’s daughter). This makes this the second time the actress has worked with Tim Burton. Other new names to the film—Monica Bellucci, Willem Dafoe, and Justin Theroux—are also part of the sequel's cast.

Titled Beetlejuice Beetlejuice, the sequel centres around the rebellious Astrid’s summoning of Betelgeuse and turning her mother’s life upside down. Harry Belafonte's “Day-O (The Banana Boat Song)," plays in the background, evoking memories of one of the most memorable moments from the first movie. The trailer follows Astrid around as she cycles through town and across the infamous red bridge. We follow her into the attic, where she uncovers the scale model of Winter River in Connecticut. And, of course, unknowingly summon Betelgeuse.

Directed by Burton, the sequel will embrace his handmade aesthetic with practical effects and no CGI. Burton and Keaton had originally declared that if a sequel were to be made, it would have to stay true to the spirit of the first movie and carried out using the same techniques. Burton had adopted the use of puppets, strings, wire and make-up without any digital effects, reminiscent of how many of his other older films were made.

Beetlejuice Beetlejuice is scheduled for theatres on 6 September 2024.

For its latest promotional effort, Martell has brought Hong Kong’s finest together: the iconic Tony Leung and the charismatic Eddie Peng. To celebrate the Martell Cordon Bleu and the Martell XXO, Leung and Peng appear in two films by Wing Shya and Ryan Hopkins.

The Shya-directed short film, featuring the Martell Cordon Bleu, sees Peng leading Leung in a chase over Parisian rooftops. The Hopkins-directed piece featuring the Martell XXO has the two men outrunning an avalanche as they snowboard down the snow-covered slopes.

Together, Tony Leung, a veteran actor and recent Lion d’Or recipient in Venice, and Eddie Peng, a sought-after lead in over 30 box-office hits, mirror the prestige of the two cognacs. And how fitting that these intergenerational titans of the acting world represents Martell’s enduring legacy.

While this isn’t the first time that Martell has dabbled in the world of cinema, it showcases the maison’s audacious spirit in elevating a sensorial journey—one that goes beyond the discerning palates into the untamed imaginations of cognac connoisseurs.

"Fly By Fruiting" by artist and sartorial style enthusiast, Samara Shuter

It’s a new year, and there’s a good chance you’re looking for a new job. Maybe you’re pondering going freelance or starting your own business. You are not alone. Statistics suggest that a third of the workforce switches jobs every 12 months nowadays. Witnessing wave after wave of layoffs, people have learnt that companies aren’t loyal to staff any more if indeed they ever were, so why should employees display blind loyalty to their bosses?

Even here in status-obsessed Singapore, where a stable and well-paid office job has long been seen as the ideal, more and more people are looking for “meaning and purpose in what they do, not just for good salaries,” per the gahmen’s recent Forward SG report. Giving new meaning to the phrase ‘Money no enough,’ today, we want jobs that are rewarding on a level beyond remuneration—jobs we’re passionate about. Often, that means creating a job for yourself.

Many of Canadian artist Samara Shuter’s super-detailed paintings celebrate the type of peacock sartorialism seen at the Pitti Uomo menswear fair. Why the passion for men’s style? Shuter’s family has deep roots in the garment trade—she grew up amongst bolts of colourful cloth, and she says her father’s dapper dressing when she was a young girl also left a lasting impression.

De Bethune's DB28XP Kind of Blue. If you've got a "crazy, leftfield" idea, "just go and do it," says watchmaker Denis Flageollet

“My father had an incredible appreciation for style. He had the most amazing collection of ties,” she recalls. Her dad’s struggles to support his family in various corporate sales roles, which required the Shuter clan to regularly relocate—“We moved every year or year-and-a-half; I was kinda like an army brat, it felt very unstable,” Shuter says of her peripatetic upbringing—also left an indelible mark.

So, when she set out to forge her own career, Shuter says, “It was important to me that I could do something that I love, but where I was in control.” Having seen her father suddenly lose jobs and the turmoil that caused for her whole family, she says, “It was important that what I did, nobody could take away from me.” So she became an artist. Back in the mid-’00s, Shuter took the money she’d saved waiting tables and tending bar and hired a booth at an art fair in Toronto. It was a big gamble, several thousand dollars, everything she had. “But that weekend, all the works I’d painted sold out. I couldn’t believe it.”

Soneva Jani

Three years later, Shuter was selling sufficient volume, at high enough prices, that she was able to quit pouring pints and focus on her art practice full-time.

Leading independent British bespoke shoemaker Nicholas Templeman says it was an invaluable experience mastering his craft as an employee of one of the most legendary firms in the trade. But to make the sort of shoes he was passionate about, he had to set up his own business. “I trained at an established bootmaker—I worked at John Lobb for seven years before going it alone,” he explains. “I had a great time there and there’s a lot I look back fondly on, I don’t think I could have learnt as much about shoes and bootmaking anywhere else in the world.”

Eventually, though, Templeman reached a point where to be fulfilled, he needed full creative and quality control over the footwear he made. “That’s only really possible when your name is stamped on the soles,” he says. Having his signature on the product also means Templeman is especially punctilious about quality. “I’m pretty fastidious about what I make, no shortcuts, even if, as currently, it makes the lead times longer than I’d like.”

Master watchmaker Denis Flageollet, cofounder of De Bethune and a godlike figure in the world of watches, reckons passion—and the confidence to express that passion—is an essential attribute in anyone aspiring to stand out in haute horlogerie. “I love talking to young independent watchmakers to see whether they have that spark inside them, that passion that will allow them to really grow their vision of what watchmaking can be,” he says.

“For several years now, I’ve realised I need to pass on the knowledge I have, not just to train new watchmakers for De Bethune, but to share what I know and my experiences with a larger audience,” Flageollet says. The advice he habitually gives young watchmakers is, “You have to be brave, you have to be bold. If you think you’ve got an idea, but it’s maybe a bit of a crazy idea, or it’s a bit left-field, just go and do it. The only way you’re going to know is to try it, and then see what the world thinks of it; it could be the next great idea.”

He says creatives have got to trust their instincts. “You shouldn’t be scared of not being understood. Maybe they’ll understand you in 10 years’ time—or after you’re dead! The most important thing is that you do what you believe in, what you’re passionate about.” Flageollet encourages rising watchmakers to place a bet on themselves. “I tell them to gamble, try and do something that they believe in, take a leap of faith because that ultimately is what’s going to make them happy.”

Independence is brilliant, but as any start-up entrepreneur, small business owner or freelancer will tell you, there’s also much to be said for a reliable monthly salary. However, those who choose to go the regular wage route are increasingly opting to work for purpose-driven businesses, where the sense of fulfilment goes beyond merely cashing that wonderfully predictable pay cheque.

Sonu Shivdasani says people are attracted to working for his Soneva resorts because the job comes with an authentic sense of purpose, above and beyond profits

“To be a successful organisation in the 21st century, to attract the best people, you need to be authentic,” says the co-founder of Soneva luxury resorts, Sonu Shivdasani, OBE. “You can’t be saying one thing and doing something different, because people will vote with their feet now—they don’t need the work. So if you aren’t authentic, you’re not going to attract the best people.”

In Soneva’s case, that authenticity comes down to what Shivdasani calls “a very clear focus, an undiluted philosophy” he has dubbed SLOWLIFE, an acronym standing for Sustainable, Local, Organic, Wellness, Learning, Inspiring, Fun, Experiences. “Essentially, offering luxuries, while minimising our impact on the environment and enhancing the overall wellbeing of our guests,” Shivdasani sums it up. Soneva is considered the gold standard in sustainable tourism.

The brand’s founders, Shivdasani and his wife Eva, believe a business must have a purpose beyond simply making money, if it hopes to generate high levels of employee engagement and as a flow-on effect, happy customers. “In our industry, in hospitality, the definition of luxury is the magic created by our people, the hosts—we don’t have employees at Soneva, we have hosts. And I believe that magical service has to come from the gut; you can’t train it, it has to be instilled. By having a core purpose that our hosts are aligned with, they become more engaged, more passionate.”

Preparing to open a new wing opened at Soneva Jani in the Maldives a couple of years ago, Shivdasani recalls, “We had 80 vacancies. And within a week, we had 3,000 applicants for those 80 vacancies.” When the successful candidates arrived and Shivdasani was performing their induction, he joked with the fresh hires, “You know, it’s actually tougher to get into Soneva Jani than it is to get into Goldman Sachs or Oxford—and that’s because people really were passionate about joining us.”

We’ll grant you that the prospect of working in a tropical paradise probably didn’t harm Soneva’s recruitment efforts. Nevertheless, there’s a potent lesson in the anecdote for organisations trying to engage people who’ll stay on for more than 12 months. Showing you care about something beyond the bottom line—demonstrating you care about your employees, your customers, and the world—has its advantages. Think about it, boss.


When people say they don’t like camping, it’s usually because they’re attached to the comforts of city living. But what if you didn’t have to stray far from conveniences like running water, restaurants and bathrooms?

What if you could camp right in the middle of your city?

That’s the idea behind “urban camping.” Eager fans waiting for concerts or a store’s opening may have pioneered the practice, but it’s grown beyond securing your spot at the front of a queue. So, why not camp in the city for the joy of the experience itself?

As strange as it may seem, urban camping is having a moment, and it’s hard to ignore.


Urban camping is exactly what the name suggests— camping out in an urban area. More than half of the world’s population lives in cities, and remote wilderness areas can be hard to get to. Urban camping brings the thrill of sleeping outdoors to the concrete jungle instead of making you hike for hours to get to your spot.

“Camping in a city” is rather vague. That broad umbrella definition can mean several different things, and that’s part of the appeal of urban camping. The practice has a lot of variety—arguably even more so than conventional camping.

For some, urban camping is less about pitching a tent on a sidewalk and more about being near a metropolitan area. That could mean finding a nearby campsite or rolling out your sleeping bag in a park. This way, you get near or even within city limits but still have some more traditional hallmarks of the camping experience.

More hardcore urban campers ditch the grass for asphalt. They may sleep on the roofs of their apartment buildings, find abandoned buildings to camp in, or even opt for sidewalks or parking lots.

Of course, not every city dweller—including some public officials—takes kindly to urban camping. This conflict has led to an extreme subcategory called “stealth camping,” where the idea is to camp where no one will notice you. That could mean sleeping in a car or setting up a hammock in an area with minimal foot traffic.


Whether or not you need to stealth camp, why would you pitch your tent in the city? For some, it’s a matter of convenience. Urban camping lets you enjoy sleeping under the stars without trekking far outside of civilisation. If you forget to pack something or would like to eat out, you can easily run out to a store or restaurant.

Urban camping can also be a thrifty way to travel. Even New York City has camping spots within 50 kilometres of the city, offering a far more affordable alternative to a hotel or Airbnb. Why not save money on lodging to give yourself more to spend on food, drink and entertainment?

Urban camping can be a nice middle ground if you’re a fan of the outdoors but your friends and family don’t share your enthusiasm. Everyone can enjoy the tent experience without worrying about bugs or potentially dangerous wildlife. The proximity to proper toilets, hot showers and good coffee is also hard to overlook, even for the most outdoorsy adventurers.

If nothing else, there’s an undeniable thrill to urban camping. What you lose in connection with nature, you gain in the excitement of the concrete jungle. Willingly pitching a tent on asphalt is so unorthodox that it’ll undeniably draw eyes and attention.

How many others can claim they’ve done the same? If you’re looking for a unique experience or cool story to tell, this is a relatively easy way to get one.

Urban camping also scratches a certain rebellious itch some may have. Even if it’s perfectly legal—which it isn’t always, but more on that later—it’s unusual enough to make a statement. You could see it as a stance against urban sprawl or the monotony of city living.


As unique and exciting as the urban camping experience can be, it carries unique dangers, too. Most prominently, it’s not always legal. Singapore has five authorised camping sites across three parks, and many cities around the globe restrict where you can sleep or pitch tents. If you don’t read up on these regulations before camping, a hefty fine might ruin your weekend.

If you’re not careful, urban camping may also be unsafe. Sure, there aren’t any lions, tigers or bears to worry about, but, oh my, humans can be just as if not more dangerous.

Camping out in the wrong part of town with little more than a tent to protect you is ill-advised if you value your safety. That’s especially true if you’re travelling and don’t know the area well.

Even if you’re not in a riskier part of the city, know that people probably won’t leave you alone. Urban camping is a strange sight, so if your spot sees enough foot traffic, you’ll get a few passers-by staring at you, taking pictures or talking to you about it. For some, that attention is part of the draw of urban camping. For others, it may feel like an invasion of privacy.

Camping purists may also find city landscapes too distracting for an ideal camping experience. Even if you’re in a park, you’ll likely hear more cars going by than you would in a more remote campsite. Cities’ light pollution also makes it harder to see stars, so if you’re looking to reconvene with nature, you’re better off in the woods.


If you don’t mind the noise and attention, urban camping is an experience like no other. Like ordinary camping, though, it requires some preparation to make the most of this adventure.

The most important step is to read up on your destination before planning to camp in the city. Make sure it’s legal before you try it. In most places, you’ll find that some forms of urban camping are totally permissible, but others will get you into trouble.

You’re more likely to be ok in a park or rooftop than you are out on the streets but read local regulations carefully to know for sure.

You may need to get a camping permit, too. You can get one online for one of Singapore’s five legal camping grounds, and many other areas have online portals, too. A parking permit may also be a good idea, depending on your specific urban camping approach.

Next, be sure to camp in a safe area. If you’re unfamiliar with the city, ask locals which places to avoid. Choosing a place with plenty of light and going with a group will make it safer.

One of the best parts about urban camping is that packing is less of an issue. If you realise you need something you forgot, you can run out to a nearby shop to get it. Even so, ensure you have a few essentials—namely, a sleeping bag, lights, a portable charger and appropriate clothing.

You probably can’t build a fire on the sidewalk, so don’t worry about firewood, but you may be able to simulate the experience with a portable gas stove. Just review local regulations before the police take away your means of making s’mores.


Urban camping may not offer all the same things as going into the wilderness, but that’s the point. It’s a unique experience you won’t get with conventional camping or staying at a hotel in the city.

If you’re looking for a way to switch things up, give this weird, unconventional kind of camping a shot. You may just find it’s for you.

Diptyque international commercial director Eric Cauvin.

We are sat in a private salon towards the back of Diptyque’s latest store in Singapore. It’s the third standalone Diptyque store on the island, and it is ensconced in Ion Orchard’s revamped beauty-centric B2 level, flanked by multi-label Escentials and Jo Malone London—the former would officially open the next day.

For a small city and market like Singapore, opening a third standalone store seems excessive, especially since they are all concentrated within the central region. Eric Cauvin concedes. “We do have three stores here, which is quite a lot. But if we’ve opened this third store, it’s because the first two been successful. We have had a love story with Singapore for many, many years,” reasons Diptyque’s international commercial director.

That love story is perhaps the most apparent in this latest Ion Orchard outpost. Cauvin politely asks for the door of the room to be opened—the brand was getting ready to host a lavish opening party here a few hours later—and raises his arms towards the fresco that envelops the given space outside. Pastel green walls have been handpainted with a plethora of random blooms that extend to the ceiling—the work of one Jacky Mak. The Singaporean artist has also lent his hand to the walls at the front of the store, creating a monochromatic teaser to the floral burst at the back.

“Did you also see the ropes as you walked through the store? Those are by another Singaporean artist, Natalia Tan,” Cauvin tells us. “This is our way of forming a connection with the local population, through its own artists, and we decided to make it really unique.” Mak’s murals and Tan’s braided rope knots are not the only Singaporean works that are contributing to the new store’s eclectic aesthetic. Furniture pieces—the likes of an orange lacquered table that was crafted in Singapore, as well as a mirror trimmed with wooden components by Singapore-based Studio Kallang—fill the space. The latter’s pieces have also found their way into a number of other Diptyque stores at home and abroad. The studio’s latest contribution is fixed atop a central fireplace akin to what you’d find in a typical Haussmann apartment in Paris.

Murals by Jacky Mak, and braided ropes by Natalia Tan are two of the Singaporean touches to the Diptyque Ion Orchard store.

“Every Diptyque store is unique; you wouldn’t find any two having the same look,” says Cauvin. “If you go to Japan, and then Paris, you’ll see some very nice stores but they’re all completely different from one another. But they’ll all have the same spirit and the same chemistry of local artistic collaboration. Our founders were artists, all three of them, so it’s really important that we keep that spirit.”

While many are familiar with Diptyque’s fragrances and candles that are almost always adorned with a playful arrangement of its typeface, its origin story is often left undiscussed.

Diptyque didn’t start out with what it’s now categorically known for. The brand’s founders—three friends with a passion for the arts and craftsmanship—launched Diptyque in 1961 at 34 boulevard Saint-Germain in Paris’ fifth arrondissement. It was a multi-label concept space with a selection of objects sourced from all over the world, or as Cauvin tells us, “It was the Colette before Colette” (referencing the now-defunct multi-label boutique that was the style and design space of Paris from 1997 to 2017). The candles were conceived in 1963, and fragrances introduced five years later.

Vessels take on artistic forms, perfect for displaying.

It is precisely this heritage of being enthralled by artistry—not just French but also of many different cultures—and collecting and presenting them in a unique way that Diptyque continues to embody throughout its expanding range. Modernism is always at the forefront of the brand, and that extends to the design of all its products.

Les Mondes de Diptyque refillable candles, for example, are a revolution for the brand, both in concept and design. Instead of the maximalist labels, the glass vessel in itself is a work of art, comprising three stacked oval-shaped tiers with “Diptyque” elegantly spelt out at the bottom centre and the brand’s original address in its usual layout at the top. A glass cap features Diptyque’s fragrance burner emblem. Every design element—save for the Diptyque branding on the vessel’s body—is shaped from the glass itself, creating a seamless and minimalist look.

The various ways to scent the home at Diptyque.

“The refillable candle is an evolutive version of the candle, but if you know our range, there are electric diffusers, and some new products that will come that are totally different. We need to keep being innovative in the way we scent the home, so you may be surprised at some of the new things coming but it’s important for us to make sure that we’re still the ones driving and creating,” explains Cauvin. There is a constant need to evolve and innovate, yes. But at the same time, as Cauvin reiterates throughout our conversation, it’s necessary for everything to make sense and tied to the origins of Diptyque.

Stepping back into Diptyque’s Ion store, it feels like entering the home of a collector—not just of art, but also of craft-centric pieces as though from a lifetime of travelling the world. Certainly, the foundations are Parisian and undeniably chic, but every element is a careful curation of experiences and stories. And as you smell each of the candles, you are transported to the exact moment they were designed to encapsulate—a magic that still permeates our spaces more than 60 years later.

Oppo has always been the dark horse. While the Android scene is fixated on Samsung, Oppo has slowly but surely manoeuvred itself farther ahead in the smartphone race. Remember the Oppo Find N3 Flip that was released last year? With an improved flexion hinge and souped-up camera system, it demonstrated what a good foldable phone ought to be. In the same vein, the Oppo Reno11 series showcased what a dependable midrange phone could be.

Released in China last year, the Reno11 series made its first SEA stop in Singapore this January. With marketing fiercely touting the Reno11 Pro smartphone’s Ultra-Clear Portrait Camera System, Oppo banks on attracting a new segment of smartphone photographers.

The Reno11 Pro’s glass back was inspired by nature and comes in two colourways: Pearl White and Rock Grey. We were handed the former to test, and at first glance, it reminded us of expensive marble. The effect is courtesy of a 3D etching process. That creates millions of reflective micro surfaces, giving it a shimmer that moves under the light. Curiously, the thickness of the Pearl White smartphone measures 7.66mm, while the Rock Grey is 7.59mm. However, unless you’re some sort of hypersensory mutant, the difference is negligible.

The System

Set in the curved glass back panel is a raised Sunshine Ring camera system. This contains the main 50MP camera with an f/1.8 aperture and OIS, a 32MP telephoto with an f/2.0 aperture and an 8MP ultra-wide (112 degrees of Field of Vision) with an f/2.2 aperture. Front-wise, you have a 32MP camera with a f/2.4 aperture.

The 32MP telephoto lens is something else. It shares an IMX709 sensor with the front camera and can capture portrait photos even under low light conditions. The Reno11 Pro includes a next-gen computational photography algorithm called the HyperTone Imaging Engine. Originally featured in the Find X6 Pro and Find N3, the Reno11 Pro has an improved version. One that combines multiple uncompressed images in the RAW domain. It also applies AI-powered de-noising and de-mosaicing to give your images clarity, dynamic range and colour richness.

On top of the photography expertise, there is one more thing that stuck out: ColorOS 14.

The OS

There is something inherently exciting about the updated ColorOS 14, which serves as an exciting launchpad for the brand in 2024. With an updated user interface; Aqua Dynamics; allows for more network connectivity in challenging environments; the use of Oppo’s Trinity Engine and more, ColorOS 14 allows the company to lean away from Android and into its own identity.

The smartphone race has also always been about whether the hardware can catch up to the software. The Find N2 Flip was the first device with ColorOS 14 but its hardware was unable to do anything else to the cover screen when its closed. But with the Reno11, the series presents what it can do with ColorOS 14 and what the operating system could possibly do in the future. And that is a future we will eagerly stick around for.

The Oppo Reno11 Pro is now out in stores.


The novelty of being a big city lad, strolling into a sexy London glass office with a latte in hand (as they do in the movies) doesn’t last long. By the time I was 30, on paper, I’d made it. I was working at a top television network, with a comfortable salary and business trips to Manhattan. I had a bachelor pad, bought nice clothes, and partied weekends. It was exactly what I pictured growing up, but I wasn’t happy.

The traditional outlook on life has always been to work hard, get married, buy a house, and at least for millennials, allocation of ‘fun’ is slotted in at the end, for retirement. That’s assuming we’re lucky enough to make it to our 60s. Spending the next 30+ years of my life in an office cubicle and mind-numbing marketing meetings was, to me, pure torture. I decided enough was enough.

The First Step

In 2016 I sold my things and moved to Tokyo on an English teaching visa, interning part-time as an entertainment reporter for a local paper. It was a chance to go to free gigs, make new friends, and get out there. Months later, came the big break. A friend moved to Singapore as editor of an airline magazine, and they needed a travel writer in Japan. I was now getting paid to write and explore.

The lack of English-speaking reporters in the region, at least compared to back home, meant I was able to secure a steady flow of work covering Japan. Eventually, I ditched the English teaching job to write full-time, forfeiting the visa. That was fine as I could work anywhere with a good Wi-Fi connection.

Being used to a routine, things were tough in the beginning. You never know when the next job is coming, and finding a new place to set up shop can be stressful. Things have got easier, especially post-pandemic now that digital nomads have surged (131 per cent since 2019, according to Forbes). I’ve spent extended time in Da Nang, Bali and Kuala Lumpur, meccas for remote workers, thanks to special digital nomad visas, flexible co-working spaces and value long-stay rentals and travel.

Every day isn’t coconut cocktails on the beach. I still go to an office. I make my own hours and choose when and where I want to work. I’m based between the US and the UK. I rented desks or WFH, but you’ll find me and my laptop all over the place. Mostly in coffee shops and hotel rooms. I also try to make the most of transit time that can sometimes be a challenge. For example, on the Caledonian Sleeper train to Inverness, though the purpose was to sleep, I stayed up all night to meet a last-minute deadline. A couple of weeks later I sailed the Indian Ganges on a boutique rivercruise called Uniworld. It was pretty remote, and l got frustrated with Internet speeds. Maybe it was a sign to switch off and enjoy the ride.


Though the money I earn now is far less than before, so are my outgoings. I used to live rather excessively. But now I don’t need the latest gadgets, a car, or a swanky downtown apartment. Why? Because I get plenty of enrichment on the job. One week I can be surrounded by rescued elephants in Chiang Mai. And the next I’ll be surrounded by celebrity chefs at The Dorchester in Mayfair. In a single year, I can check off more bucket list activities than one could in a lifetime. I’ve had to make a whole new list, actually. Things I've done: hot air ballooning, snowmobiling, and safari; interviewed Sir Richard Branson and Michelle Yeoh. I’ve even written two best-selling guidebooks.

Before leaving the rat race, my stories weren’t particularly noteworthy. Unless you’re into drunken anecdotes, but everything that’s happened in recent years would make a real page-turner of a biography. I skim my travel journals in disbelief. Best of all, I’ve been able to share many special moments with the people I care about. Working remotely means more time with loved ones and less time with Karen from advertising. It’s ironic because we all know time is finite. And yet,most people prioritise making money in the hopes of using it later to live their best lives. Think about all the things that make you happy. Travel, music, cooking, sports, spouse, kids…How much time are you dedicating to them? Are you justifying a lack of time now for more later? I’m always conscious that later often becomes never, and remember, never is the saddest thing anyone could work toward.

James Wong can be reached here.