Everybody is making a quick buck whenever a holiday rolls around. But to create a holiday from scratch? *slow clap* That's capitalism at its finest. #allhailthealmightydollar Today is National Coffee Day, so in a bid to keep people caffeinated, have Mormons clutch their pearls and contribute to the economy, we curated a list of coffee-centric treats, ranging from traditional kopi to coffee-infused cocktails. So, for all the coffee aficionados out there, why not venture out and savour a delightful cup of coffee?

The 1950s Coffee

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We start with the classic kopi. Everybody loves it and The 1950s Coffee serves arguably one of the best kopi in Singapore. Awarded with a Michelin star, this place has been doling out kopi since the 1950s. Their kopi stands out for its full bodied, velvety smooth texture without being overly diluted. However, the star attraction is their signature Kopi Tarik. A queue for this stall is a common sight and their toasts usually sell out by noon. A hit among many locals, The 1950s Coffee definitely serves a mean cup of traditional kopi.

Chye Seng Huat Hardware

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Located in an old shophouse, the place is reminiscent of old school provision shops. Chye Seng Huat Hardware has a cafe below and a coffee school and retail space on the second floor. Owned by the folks at PPP Coffee, the cafe specialises in cold brews, which is great for living on the equator. Using specialty-grade single origin beans, their black cup of joe is brewed from PPP Coffee’s Ethiopia Suke Quto, boasting floral scents with notes of peach, earl grey tea and citrus.

There Was No Coffee

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Hailing from Shenzhen, There Was No Coffee opened with the premise of providing a healthier alternative to the high sugar content found in coffee elsewhere. Ditching syrups and sugar, the cafe solely relies on fruits to provide sweetness to their drinks. Our durian obsessed nation might be intrigued by their signature Durian Latte, where latte is poured over durian puree. Other flavours include the Avocado Latte, Persimmon Latte, and the Watermelon Latte—all made with real fruits. It's an unusual menu but it works.

Bearded Bella

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Other than the regular selection of coffees, Bearded Bella serves signature coffee concoctions that aren't commonly found elsewhere. Take the Coffee Slushies that are blended with espresso, syrup and milk tea; anything with ice and caffeine just rings true for our weather. Try the Citrus Coffee Spritz. It's a refreshing blend of Bearded Bella’s Seasonal House Blend, orange juice, soda water and honey.

King’s Cart Coffee

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If you are an avid coffee drinker, you have definitely heard of King’s Cart Coffee. Situated at Joo Chiat, King’s Cart Coffee puts their own spin on local dishes and ingredients. Presenting their Singapore Signature Menu: mostly coffee-centric dishes that includes their “Sng Buey”, the perfect thirst quencher that consists of a mix of espresso and the sweet and tangy homemade sour plum. For desserts, there is the ‘Ah Bo Ling’, glutinous black sesame balls served with a shot of espresso, creating a flawless blend of bitterness and sweetness that tantalises the taste buds!

Prefer Coffee

Looking for an environmentally friendly option to coffee? Look no further for Prefer produces their coffee by upcycling food manufacturing by-products sourced from local companies. This includes day-old bread from Gardenia, soy bean pulp from Mr Bean, and spent barley grains from local breweries such as The 1925 Brewing Co. While Prefer’s grounds are caffeine-free, the upside is the ability to add caffeine derived from tea and adjust levels as preferred. Prefer’s coffee can be ground fine for espresso, or medium coarse for drip brewing. The extraction process is as per normal, taking the same amount of time when brewed using a coffee machine. Baristas and coffee drinkers can also appreciate the crema that allows for latte art.

Republic

At Republic, indulge in the Kim Sisters cocktail, a luxurious interpretation of the classic Irish Coffee. The South Korean singing group used to be offered whiskey, chocolate and coffee as tokens of appreciation after performances, which inspired the ingredients in this cocktail. This refined concoction harmonises creamy caffeine, rich chocolate, and subtle nuttiness. Each sip offers a medley of flavours, an experience that coffee lovers will relish.

Punch Room

A welcome punch served exclusively during the Punch Room Afternoon Tea Ritual, The Coffee Punch is made with cold-brewed Tanamera coffee, renowned for its smooth finish and mild acidity. It is mixed with spiced rum, demerara sugar, and coconut water for a touch of tropical freshness and sweetness. This refreshing yet invigorating punch adds an exotic twist to the traditional afternoon tea experience.

Manhattan

Paying homage to the bustling city of Chicago, Manhattan serves up a mean Razzle Dazzle Cocktail, but with a twist. A digestif-style concoction, it is a mix of bitter melon and hibiscus-infused Pierre Ferrand 1840 cognac, black sesame-infused Mancino Chinato vermouth, and Luxardo Espresso liqueur. The citrusy notes of the cognac complements the bitterness of the coffee surprisingly well. Ending off with a touch of elegance, the cocktail is delicately spritzed with gold dust tableside.

The Dream Sphere
The Dream Sphere

Led by the Singapore Tourism Board (STB), Singapore’s participation at the World Expo 2025 was an opportunity to share our nation’s story. Located at Yumeshima Island, situated near Osaka, Singapore's pavilion design is called "The Dream Sphere". It is a seven-storey bright red sphere that pays homage to Yumeshima Island’s name, meaning "Dream Island". With the tagline, "Where Dreams Take Shape", this sphere is designed and produced by Kingsmen Exhibits.

The Design

If the design looks familiar, chalk it up to coincidence. Leading Singapore-based multidisciplinary design firm, DP Architects spearheaded its architectural design. Inspired by Singapore’s endearing moniker, ‘the Little Red Dot’, DP interpreted the look of the Dream... quite literally. Conceived in line with the expo's theme of "Designing [a] Future Society for our Lives", the Pavilion aims for positive change to build a more sustainable and liveable city for Singaporeans. It's constructed around the tenets of 4Rs—renew, reuse, reduce and recycle. And staying true to the message of sustainability, the facade is made of more than 20,000 recycled discs. 

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Other design features of the Pavilion include its scaly exterior. It references the Seigaiha, a traditional Japanese wave motif, and Ema, a Japanese wooden wishing charm. The sphere’s colour coincides with Singapore's and Japan’s national colour. Its shape resembles the distinct silhouette of the Japanese ume. 

Carrie Kwik, Executive Director, World Expo and Special Project, STB, said, “Singapore’s participation at Expo 2025 in Osaka serves as an important platform for Singapore enterprises and talents to be profiled on a global stage and a chance for companies to enhance their brand visibility and engage potential business partners. We are proud to bring Singapore to Osaka and aim to have Singapore business missions visiting Japan to network and promote collaboration between Singapore companies and Japanese guests at our Singapore Pavilion.”

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Expo 2025 Osaka expects 28 million visitors over 184 days from 13 April 2024 to 13 October 2025.

We know Gillman Barracks as a colonial barracks and then as an arts cluster. But there are more to the area than just contemporary art galleries. For one, there is The Southern Depot, where it's all about crafts, cycling, wellness and lifestyle.

The Southern Depot seems like a prime pit-stop and landmark in-line with Gillman Barracks' vision as a vibrant creative arts enclave. Painting itself as an event space, The Southern Depot hosted a slew of activities and workshop when it opened in early March. It was a weekend event that featured vendors like Tiong Hoe Specialty Coffee, KultBespoke, HeartyPlayFam, Re-store and more.

Embracing the ethos of "Cycles, Craft, and Community", the creative hub fosters dynamic partnerships with local lifestyle brands and carefully curates eco-conscious workshops. Aside from weekend craft markets, visitors can also visit the DIDI Lifestyle area, where you can peruse a wide array of two-wheelers in their showroom (hell, try for a test ride!) or patronise their on-site partners like Weber Grill Academy (getcher grilled meats on!), Kaffa Bella (getcher caffeine on!) and Little Island Brewing Co (getcher beer on! Responsibly!).

Tune in for more curated programmes and installations from weekend markets, seasonal pop-up events and co-working spaces. Goh Kian Sin, Executive Chairman of DIDI Group and owner of The Southern Depot says, “We have many programmes and partnerships in the pipeline, and are looking forward to introducing a unique experience for visitors to discover the limitless potential of The Southern Depot.”

So, if you feel fatigued by the art (or the GD sun), step into The Southern Depot for a spell. Have a drink or some food and even partake in one of their many cultural events.

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

FJ (left) and Isaac (right).

Sai Fengjia (FJ, as she’s commonly known) and Isaac Ang were born in the '90s. Too young to experience the grunge era nor relish in the heyday of X-Men: The Animated Series. But it didn't stop them from indulging in their love for the era or earlier.

They met at polytechnic, studying to be graphic designers. They bonded over their shared love of the past. "We got into streetwear," FJ says. "There were a lot of Supreme, HBA, people were dressing like ASAP Rocky, that sort of thing." Like many people in those days, YouTube was a treasure trove of content and FJ and Isaac were willing patrons of short clips and unboxing videos. "We watched people collecting vintage snapbacks," FJ adds. "Not only were they restoring them, they were also talking about the history behind the caps."

That was the trip over the edge of the rabbit hole and they fell into the world of vintage clothing. They chanced upon videos by Round Two, a secondhand clothing business, and had insights into a behind-the-scenes look into its operation. But what cemented the duo’s aspiration to open up their own vintage clothing shop was from a trip to Shimokitazawa, Tokyo. They enjoyed the hospitality and the local owners’ willingness to share their expertise, regardless of the language barrier. "We saw KINJI (used clothing store) and other secondhand stores," FJ says. "It was everything that you see them sell online but in a physical store. I remember Isaac saying to me, Haha, when we return to Singapore, let’s do something like this."

It may be an off-the-cuff statement but it planted a seed. The plan to open up a physical space was postponed until Isaac finished his National Service and in 2018, they set up Loop Garms in Little India. What started as a passion project, has now grown into something else. It's a living. It's still a familiar terrain but now new landmarks have taken root—there’s a business component attached to it; they have a staff who depend on them for their livelihood. While the local vintage market has grown, Loop Garms manages to remain relevant with a vintage selection that caters to almost every demographic and its marketing outreach.

For the latter, FJ and Isaac upload educational videos on how to spot an authentic vintage piece or bite-sized clips on their social media platforms on what they are wearing. It’s this sort of outreach that puts them in the foreground of public perception.

"We bought items with no intention of flipping it," FJ says. "They were just things that we got from eBay that appealed to us." Comic paraphernalia is more of FJ’s wheelhouse, while anime and manga were Isaac’s. But for the rest, they are usually chosen, more often in unanimity.

Racks on racks at Loop Garms.

It borders on hoarding. Over the years, people were dropping off things at the shop. Things that they were too lazy to sell themselves or just want other people to bask in the items’ nostalgic value. FJ and Isaac try will make space for the goods but it starts to turn into a game of "where-else-can-I-clear-to-display-them"? The Loop Garms shop is a scene of organised chaos. Chocked with ’80s-’90s pop culture items in seeming disarray, items were grouped by some unspoken logic. FJ points to the display case at the front counter, a small anthill of old electronic equipment—mobile phones, pagers, handheld game consoles — many were donated by her family. T-shirts of the moment hang from invisible threads from the ceiling. Action figures loosed from the confines of their boxes, stand posed on a shelf to the side.

FJ reveals that she doesn't have the heart to toss out anything. "If I don’t have the space for it, I'd put them in a box and I'll think about what to do with them the next time."

Loop Garms has a healthy international customer base. It is where a lot of their big-ticket items go to. "Mind you, many of our customers are young and they think that vintage must be old-looking or secondhand; something you must thrift. We try to educate them about this. Having a physical space allows for conversations like this to happen."

So, what do customers usually look for? According to Isaac, the local clientele is more trend-driven. "There was a series of T-shirts called 'American Thunder'. Basically, it had lightning streaks on the front and features some sort of Native American-related print. We carried them and they were sold out in 2018. The following year, we had people DMing us saying that they recall us stocking a couple of American Thunder tees in our store. We were wondering why there was a sudden interest and then realised that Travis Scott wore a couple of them on his tour. People are looking at these again because someone famous wore them."

When Netflix’s The Last Dance aired, interest in Chicago Bulls memorabilia surged. Basketballs with the Chicago Bulls logo or posters of Dennis Rodman would double in price. One would point to the nature of supply and demand but it’s more accurate to point to the cyclical nature of fashion—a fad never falls out of season; it hibernates.

Isaac argues that it doesn’t matter what age you are, who can fault you for having an appreciation of the period? I mean, are we going to go after historians next?

"It's really just nostalgia,” Isaac justifies. “But it's not because it’s cool to like pieces from the '80s and '90s. There was a quality to them."

And there's a bigger reason for this: the stories. FJ and Isaac love the histories that come with the T-shirts. "Like us, there’s a personal connection between the customer and the shirt. There was one guy whom we were chatting with and he noticed a Speed T-shirt we had displayed. He pointed at it and said that his dad and he used to watch Speed.

It does reframe your perception of what FJ and Isaac do. Maybe they are more than collectors or packrats. Rather they are archivists of a past for the next generation.

1. INDUSTRIAL SYMPHONY NO. 1 TEE

Isaac: “In the late ’80s, early ’90s, David Lynch created a concert performance called Industrial Symphony No. 1. They created a promo T-shirt that you can only get at the show. We saw a vintage store owner talk about how significant the Industrial Symphony No. 1 T-shirt was to him and we thought about doing a video as well because we have the same shirt. After we posted it, a guy from the States DMed us and offered USD1,000. We declined. We weren’t trying to sell the T-shirt, we just wanted to talk about it and see people’s reactions. Then, we had offers from other people as well and the guy who offered USD1,000 came back with another number: USD2,000. At this point, we’ve no idea if he was joking or not. Obviously, we declined. A couple of months later, he contacted us again. He said that he may not have the most money but no one wants this shirt more than him. And he offered USD3,000. But we refused again. We didn’t want to sell the shirt because the fit is great. We have an XXXL, which would be a modern-day XL; it’s a size that’s very popular because a lot of people can wear it.”

2. NATURAL BORN KILLERS TEE

Isaac: “I remember growing up in Australia and my mom allowing me to watch this. I love Natural Born Killers; love Woody Harrelson... Robert Downey Jr’s character was pretty hilarious. I dig the whole vibe of the film. Pity I don’t wear this any more.”

3. LOLLAPALOOZA ’92 TEE

Isaac: “I’ve never been to Lollapalooza but it doesn’t stop me from wearing this. That year, they had a sick line-up of bands that I’m into: Soundgarden, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Pearl Jam, but more importantly, we tend to collect things that occur in our birth year—1992. The design of this appeals to us.”

FJ: “Fun fact, the Lollapalooza ’93 tee featured fractal art in its design. It was based on the Windows Media Player visualiser. We have a ‘Fractal Generation’ tee by Roberto Azank, a fractal artist, who made visuals for Macworld and Apple conferences.”

4. THE 1992 AND 1996 LITHUANIA TIE-DYE KITS

Isaac: “The national Lithuanian basketball team wanted to go to the 1992 Barcelona Olympics but they didn’t have the funds. The Grateful Dead saw their plight and wanted to sponsor them. They even got their designer, Greg Speirs, to create their kit, which is why their 1992 basketball team’s uniforms were all tie-dyed in the colours of the Lithuanian flag. This uniform is special because the country just achieved independence from the Soviet Union and now they are at the Olympics. And this is their first-ever uniform featuring Skullman... and they came in third!

FJ: “They’d win another bronze medal in the next Olympics and another bronze in 2000. We only have the ’92 and ’96 shirts. Again, prices for these skyrocketed after Jonah Hill was spotted in the ’92 tee. I like these tees because of the underdog story.”

Photography: Jaya Khidir

Here's something to do over the weekend. The fellas who added "hypebeast" to the lexicon are adding something different to their portfolio: a concert on our shores. Called Hypebeast Live, this concert will occur 23 March from 4pm-10.30pm at Somerset Skate Park and TRIFECTA SINGAPORE. We are talking a line-up of live music, DJ sets, arts and food; the event promises a night filled with partying and fun. And if music doesn't do it for you, there are always the activities at TRIFECTA SINGAPORE... but we're getting ahead of ourselves. Here's what you can expect at Hypebeast Live.

The Line-Up

Autograf
Haven
KIARA
Nicolette
HBN
Sivanesh
TropicLab
DONN

Courtesy of HighHouse, the music event will be headlined by regional act Autograf, an electronic dance music duo from Chicago. Having performed at big events such as Coachella and Lollapalooza, Autograf knows how to get a crowd moving. Helping them keep the energy going, two musicians presented by WILD Entertainment will join them—local singer, Haven, and KIARA, a versatile DJ renowned for her eclectic music style.

The line-up concludes with DJs from Sivilian Affairs, including Nicolette, HBN, Sivanesh, TropicLab, and DONN. All the acts will also be livestreamed on the official Hypebeast Youtube channel, providing international fans a virtual front row to the shows.

TRIFECTA SINGAPORE

Clogtwo

It's not just about the music. It's about the culture. And nothing enlivens the culture than with a permitted graffiti presentation. Helmed by artist Clogtwo, who will work on a large mural artwork called "Canvas" on-site at TRIFECTA SINGAPORE. See the process as it starts from basic sketches and transformed into a colourful finished work. For some extra sugar, a giveaway will be held, gifting winners with an exclusive t-shirt designed by Clogtwo. 

There will be pop-up stores as well like ASICS, Don Julio, Guinness, Häagen-Dazs, Johnnie Walker, Tanqueray, Rip Curl and more.

Capping off the night is an intimate afterparty held at HighHouse. Ticket holders of Hypebeast Live are entitled complimentary access to this restaurant-bar, where Autograf will deliver another exceptional performance.

Tickets for Hypebeast Live are available for purchase here.

Blouse and skirt, SIMKHAI via SOCIETY A. Necklace, SWAROVSKI

ESQUIRE SINGAPORE: We understand that you’re a big fan of podcasts.

DAPHNE KHOO: I’ve been listening to so much of the Duncan Trussell Family Hour podcast.

ESQ: Oh, yes. Duncan can be very deep with the big questions about life. Are you in a better place right now?

KHOO: Yeah, I think I am. When I was younger, I had this beautiful image of the future. No matter how bleak my reality was, everything was going to be better. The equations in my mind, social expectations of people and life... they made sense.

ESQ: I’m hearing a “but”.

KHOO: But as I got older, I realised you can’t predict how people will react to me, so my mindset has changed. While I’m optimistic about my life right now, I also understand that it is because I had overcome tribulations and I'm just waiting for the ones to come.

ESQ: You are expecting the other shoe to drop?

KHOO: Always, always, always, always. But I’m also reminding myself to enjoy the moment. Like now. This is great and I’m super grateful for it.

ESQ: When did this shift occur for you?

KHOO: I think it was a gradual accumulation. Episodes where I got cancer kind of scuttled my plans. I was like, that’s ok. I’m resilient. I’ll get up, I keep going and then it’s one thing after another, you know. It’s not just the illness but also people disappointing you, taking advantage of you.

ESQ: Life and its lemons.

KHOO: But there is hope. That’s what keeps me going.

ESQ: Can we ask about the name change? You went from Daphne Khoo to Haneri.

KHOO: Ok, the reason that I needed a pseudonym... no wait, that’s not right. I’m thinking of another word.

ESQ: Persona?

KHOO: Yeah, thank you. I needed a new persona because I put out a lot of music as Daphne Khoo. It was fun but I didn’t know anything. I had no one to teach me, no music mentor or life coach at the time. I needed to figure out who I was and what kind of music I like for myself.

ESQ: What were some of the things you wish you’d known then?

KHOO: I didn’t know what I was aiming for. I didn’t know if I wanted to write a hit nor did I think about that side of things like marketing or PR. I was driving blind and I couldn't see anything ahead of me. But I’d just go.

Here’s how much I didn’t know: I didn’t hire professionals so instead, for a music video, I roped in my sister's mother-in-law who sells make-up to do my make-up.

ESQ: Selling make-up does not mean one can do make-up. At least, you were enjoying yourself.

KHOO: I was. But there wasn’t a lot of thought going into it. It’s like if you were painting but you don’t care about the brushes or the colours; you just want to get your paint on canvas. That was me.

ESQ: The “Just Do It” mentality.

KHOO: Yeah, just do it and figure it out later. Now, with experience, I find that there’s texture, storytelling and intention in music. I’ve learnt so much in the last 20 years of my career and waking up to that realisation—I didn’t know who I was; I didn’t know what I stood for; I didn’t know what I cared about.

ESQ: When did you start to realise this?

KHOO: The first was in 2008. I was in my mid-20s or early-20s. I wouldn’t have had that epiphany here [in Singapore]. Getting into Berklee College of Music and moving to the States helped. Even then it was this weird hybrid of who I was trying to be and who I thought I was.

That self-awareness came about later on, when I realised I wasn’t focusing on health and relationships.

ESQ: Back then did you think the music was superficial?

KHOO: Not at all. I thought I was super deep but I probably wasn’t. I was introspective; overthinking every possibility. It’s one of the things that served me well but it also ended up backfiring because you can’t take everything too seriously in life. I’m trying to look at one emotion in a thousand different ways.

ESQ: You can’t please everybody.

KHOO: Yeah, but part of being a people pleaser came from thinking that was where my income was coming from. That if I didn’t please everyone, I wouldn’t sell music and in turn, I wouldn’t be able to feed myself.

So, that came from a place of desperation. I was trying to suss out what everybody else wanted. I look at all these young artists these days and—I don’t know if it’s the way I was brought up culturally—but what they do seems selfish and yet, I get it. They are so unapologetically themselves and people vibe with it. It doesn’t matter how I present myself. The bigger question is: How do I feel? And I can also go off on a tangent and be like, Why does that matter?

ESQ: Must be fun living in your head.

KHOO: But going back to your question about “Daphne Khoo” and “Haneri”... people [in Singapore] remember me as Daphne. I’ve done so much more as a musician since I adopted the "Haneri" persona when I was in LA. If you go to Europe or the US, there’s a higher chance that people will not recognise me but they’ll recognise the music, more than all of my fans in Singapore.

ESQ: You work with other music producers.

KHOO: Yeah. With a lot of EDM producers. It’s one of the things that made the most money in my 20s. As Haneri, my first single was with Dash Berlin so I have a lot of requests coming in from around that region. When I returned to Singapore, it seemed like a smart move to go back to “Daphne Khoo”.

ESQ: You’re now working in radio.

KHOO: As you know, I'm now with Kiss92 [Eavesdropping with Daphne Khoo].

ESQ: Congrats. Are you satisfied with where you are right now?

KHOO: No, I’m never satisfied with where I am. But I am content.

ESQ: Was it easy to get to this level of contentment?

KHOO: Absolutely not. You saw me through some dark years.

ESQ: Are we talking about the COVID years?

KHOO: That was a terrible period when I lost my dad. I think that was the biggest reveal that disappointing things can lead to beautiful things. Imagine if I had my visa renewed and decided to stay in the US, I’d never have been able to be with my dad in his last days during the pandemic.

ESQ: But you’d have returned anyway, right?

KHOO: But I might have been too late. Or my relationship with my dad wouldn't have been the same.

ESQ: What’s your relationship with him like?

KHOO: We don’t have enough time to unpack that but in a nutshell: my dad was a wonderful human being but flawed like all humans are. He didn’t know what he was doing when he had kids. He didn’t know how to be a dad to three girls; he was so out of his element with us.

I think the hardest thing in the world is sucking at something for a while and figuring out how to do better. You can’t just be, I’m a bad dad so I won’t be a dad then. He took it upon himself to try and slowly get there. He didn’t know how to show he loved us because he came from a very difficult background and he felt there was no way out of it.

But watching him in the last few months of his life was quite something and I wouldn’t trade it for anything else.

ESQ: Did you get your closure?

KHOO: I think getting closure made me even more mad at him. In a, wow, you did this perfectly. You did everything you wanted and then figured out how to just make it all better just before you died.

ESQ: Took a while but he got there.

KHOO: He changed a lot as I got older. We had conversations like two grown adults. I mean, he was never good at talking about his feelings but he was consistent on how he apologises, which is never... but in other ways, he’ll demonstrate it by wanting to take you to work, you know? Towards the end, he just got very spiritual. He fought the cancer for eight months and in that time, did some very tough self-reflection. He told us about his life and where he thought he fell short. And then, asked us for forgiveness.

My mom found a bunch of notes on his phone. We kept his number alive and now use the phone as a media player now. He showed me that you don't have to have it all figured out. The people around you might disappoint you but you still can choose who you want to spend time with.

Those memories will stay with me for a very long time. Some good and definitely some bad because it is very tough to watch life drain out of someone you love. It was tough for him too, but he handled it.

ESQ: With regard to your career, would you consider this a comeback?

KHOO: I do, but it’ll be a very slow comeback. I had a new single called “Daydream” that came out. For the last three years, I haven’t looked for jobs; I haven’t been actively creative. I'm just trying to ease my way back into making and releasing music. I try not to let the last couple of years hold me down because I’d rather move forward.

All the accolades and achievements that I have gathered while in LA—even if just for a few years—have been part of the most amazing experience in my life. I’d like to believe everything that’s happened to me—good and bad—is leading me to where I’m supposed to be... which turns out is in this weird little cafe with you right now. And that’s ok. This is nice.

Blazer, ACNE STUDIOS via NET-A-PORTER. Dress, DOLCE&GABBANA

Photography: Jaya Khidir
Styling: Asri Jasman
Hair and Makeup: Nicole Ang at SUBURBS STUDIOS using DUNGÜD and CHARLOTTE TILBURY
Photography Assistant: Kerk Jing Yi
Styling Assistant: Lance Aeron

The move to Sofitel Singapore Sentosa Resort & Spa marked a new milestone for Maduro. Formerly located at Dempsey, the move to the luxury resort on Sentosa Island aligns with Maduro’s vision. Keeping to its goal as a lifestyle destination, providing an unparalleled experience for whisky and music enthusiasts in the region.

The beautiful new venue is filled with globally sourced artwork. Curated by Maduro’s culture-loving founder Peter Ng, the pieces add to its eclectic interior. Guests may spot a Banksy or two when exploring their new space. It is a haven of the arts for patrons looking for a respite from the relentless buzz of city life.

Live Jazz Music

Since its opening, Maduro has managed to build an identity and brand with patrons and the community through the gift of music, cementing itself within the local live music scene. Live music is held on most Friday and Saturday evenings, and it sure does know how to attract a crowd. Music takes precedence at Maduro, whether it's classical music, contemporary, fusion, pop or jazz. Unlike in other bars, when the music starts playing, the crowd goes silent as they listen attentively. No one talks over the music.

Cigars

(Editor: Look, we really wanna to highlight the negative effects of smoking. We don't endorse smoking but you're an adult with excellent reading comprehension so you can make your own decision, natch.)

With a special private room meant for cigar smoking, Maduro provides a wide selection of Cuban, Dominican and Nicaraguan blends. There is a 24-hour temperature and humidity-controlled walk-in humidor, creating a sublime smoking experience. Additionally, a cosy retail corner offers a range of Davidoff accessories including humidors, cases, cutters, and Maduro merch.

Drinks

At the whisky bar, a key highlight is Maduro’s focus in sourcing non-mainstream labels for their bespoke whisky selection, presenting a curated range of premium whiskies from Independent Bottlers (IBs). Regular masterclasses and tasting sessions are organised to unpack these gems, where guests are taken on a sensorial journey of smell, taste and storytelling led by a whisky connoisseur. Unlike mainstream whiskies, IB whiskies are bottled at cask strength, displaying the full flavour of the barrel and elements of the environment they were produced in.

Exclusive bottles include: Cask of Distinction Lagavulin 200th Anniversary Special Collector’s Edition Aged 15 years, Isabella’s Islay Aged 30 years, and Eidolon Port Ellen 1983 Aged 36 years Sherry Butt, to name a few. Besides whisky, Maduro offers a range of other beverages such as rum, cocktails, champagne and wines.

“We are excited to present these new and choice selections and experiences to our clientele, many of whom are our loyal regulars who have grown with us since our early beginnings,” said Ng. “We look forward to welcoming new guests to Maduro and hope that they too will find comfort, inspiration and joy in our space.”

Maduro is located at 2 Bukit Manis Rd, Singapore 099891 Lower Lobby of Sofitel Singapore Sentosa Resort & Spa

Amid rising concerns about climate change, many companies are innovating solutions to address these problems. Within the food industry, some companies are investing in development of meatless meat alternatives. However, meat and dairy products aren't the only foods with a high carbon footprint. It's been found that a cup of joe can generate an estimated 29kg of CO2 per 1kg. Enter Prefer’s beanless coffee.

Jake Berber (left) and Tan Ding Jie (right).

The Founders

Founded by food scientist Tan Ding Jie (chief technology officer) and former neuroscientist Jake Berber (chief executive officer), Prefer aims to create sustainable solutions with food. With Tan's expertise in the field and Berber's experience in the investment sector, the two set up Prefer, which is the first of its kind in Asia.

While there are other bean-free coffee producers that use chickpeas, rice hulls and seeds to make their product, Tan and Berber wanted to push the envelope by using food waste.

Meshing of raw ingredients.
Pre-fermentation.
Laying out fermented base for roasting.
Post-roasting.
Roasted grounds.

The Process

Prefer produces their coffee by upcycling food manufacturing by-products sourced from local companies. This includes day-old bread from Gardenia, soy bean pulp from Mr Bean, and spent barley grains from local breweries such as The 1925 Brewing Co. Once gathered, the three ingredients are then blended in a secret ratio and fermented, roasted in an oven to bring forth aroma and flavour, and grounded till preferred fineness. Fermentation also enables Prefer to create flavours that can replicate coffee profiles sourced from far-away lands such as Ethiopia and Columbia within the same facility. This in turn, mitigates the environmental impacts that come with importing food and its price markups.

The Product

While Prefer’s grounds are caffeine-free, the upside is the ability to add caffeine derived from tea and adjust levels as preferred. Prefer’s coffee can be ground fine for espresso, or medium coarse for drip brewing. On the nose, drinkers can pick up a malty and nutty aroma reminiscent of dark roasted coffee. When sipped, flavours of cereal and hazelnut come through with an earthy bitterness and mellowed acidity. The extraction process is as per normal, taking the same amount of time when brewed using a coffee machine. Baristas and coffee drinkers can also appreciate the crema that allows for latte art.

At present, Prefer is available at cafes including Dough, Brash Boys, First Story Cafe, Foreword Coffee Roasters, Parched by Parchmen.

Photo by Jürgen Jester on Unsplash

"It's absolutely false to think that we in democratic countries have it any different to China," insists Frederic Lemieux. "The only difference is that China is open about what it does and we have a more layered, subtle approach. Governments say they’re not bad but the fact is that they have access to everything if they want it. Frankly, it's hard to grasp the scope of the surveillance apparatus today."

Lemieux is a professor at Georgetown University, US, specialising in information technology, and he uses a virtual private network. He avoids Zoom and social media; has "privacy settings through the roof". Lemieux is only "friends" online with people he’s met several times in person. He watches what he says in emails, won’t wear a smartwatch. And he is not remotely paranoid.

Just look, he says, at the mobile surveillance spyware Pegasus—technically illegal in the US. And yet the FBI has just been caught out. They are forced to cancel its arrangement with a government contractor that used the tool on its behalf. It’s the latest instance of an abuse of power. And the data breaches that underscore it are uncovered somewhere around the world every few months. Many more, one can only assume, are not. "So am I hopeful of some correction to this surveillance culture?" says Lemieux. "No."

Perhaps this culture has been a long-time coming. After all, the idea of systematic surveillance is not new. The Panopticon was the name given to an ideal prison devised by philosopher Jeremy Bentham in 1787. In it, every prisoner would—as an encouragement to improved behaviour—be observable without ever knowing if they were being observed. It would, as Bentham put it, create a "sense of invisible omniscience". And, he added, more darkly: "Ideal perfection would require that each person should actually be in that predicament, during every instant of time. This being impossible, the next thing to be wished for is, that, at every instant, seeing reason to believe as much, and not being able to satisfy himself to the contrary, he should conceive himself to be so."

In Bentham's time, this was no more than a thought experiment. Today the situation is very different. As the tech entrepreneur Maciej Ceglowski put it to a US Senate committee in 2019, "Until recently, even people living in a police state could count on the fact that the authorities didn’t have enough equipment or manpower to observe everyone, everywhere". Now, it seems, it looks as though they "enjoyed more freedom from monitoring then than we do living in a free society today."

Photo by Philipp Katzenberger on Unsplash

It’s easy to see why. The aforementioned spyware, with advanced processing power, can now collate, save and analyse truly awesome quantities of data. Increasingly prevalent CCTV has morphed into often erratic facial-recognition technology and biometrics. That includes the unevidenced idea that people’s emotional state can be read through their physical appearance. Drones have provided 'eyes in the sky'. These digital currencies—actively promoted in many nations as a stepping stone to doing away with cash—will allow the tracking of all financial transactions. So-called 'smart cities'—the UN recognised Singapore as a world-leading example—see the mass deployment of intrusive sensors to monitor its citizenry. Supposedly with the intention of improving the urban environment. And there's ever more wearable tech, RFID tags, GPS dots and the growing Internet of Things to provide anyone sufficiently well-resourced with a detailed picture of what once was considered private.

“But then we have also become largely indifferent to matters of privacy,” stresses sociologist Dr Gary Armstrong, co-author of The Maximum Surveillance Society. “Generation Facebook/ Tik-Tok / Instagram have a different perception of privacy than my generation—over 60s—and think nothing of self- revelation and self-promotion. As it stands the state knows less about me than, say, supermarket chains do.”

How so? Invariably because the greatest tool in the snoop’s armoury is, as Lemieux puts it, "our own complicity". We let Alexa listen and Ring Video doorbells watch. We sign up for loyalty schemes. Given that 86 per cent of the growing world’s population owns a smartphone, we willingly allow the means of our own monitoring. David Lyon, director of the Surveillance Studies Centre and professor of sociology and law at Queen’s University, Ontario, argues that while CCTV might remain the most powerful symbol of surveillance, to still think of it as the most powerful means of surveillance is way out of date. That's the gadget in our own pocket. Our self-imposed, frantically upgraded, style-conscious ankle monitors. He calls the result 'dataveillance', our supervision and assessment through a melding of state and corporate interests.

"And that’s been mutating and accelerating at a rapid rate," he says. Lyon cites a recent case in Canada. A user of the ordering app from a Tim Hortons put in a "freedom of information" request about its function. He discovers that, even when he thought he had disabled it, the app continued to track his movements. It even recorded when he visited one of the company’s competitors.

What he still didn’t grasp, however, was "the other uses that data was undoubtedly put to. His data was sold to and among other corporations and institutions in what has become a globally-significant economic system," says Lyon. "It's not just about being tracked but analysed, and then treated according to the profile then created and from which all kinds of judgments are made—by employers, healthcare providers, banks, insurers, law enforcement. The thing is that most people just don’t get that this is even happening."

Photo by Joshua Hoehne on Unsplash

Small wonder then that when the public reaction to surveillance is discussed it is, at best, rather muted. As Lyon puts it, "we've become seduced [through our smartphones] by the idea of the world organised around our needs, living in a very consumerist society in which efficiency, convenience and comfort have been elevated into core values"—"luxury surveillance" as it has been dubbed. And even if we give it some thought, our rationalisations justifying our acceptance of surveillance tend to be misguided, adds Juan Lindau, professor of political science at Colorado College, US, and author of Surveillance and the Vanishing Individual.

People dismiss the encroachment of surveillance because "they have nothing to hide"—"but it's a bullshit notion that they wouldn't mind if every detail of their life was out there for all to see," Lindau notes. Or they say they're too irrelevant to be of interest—"but if you ever do anything of even remote political consequence then you’re immediately not irrelevant to the state," he adds. Or there's the argument that any one personal revelation is now merely lost in a giant sea of revelations and so doesn't matter.

"But its evil brilliance... is that tech gives the veneer of distance and [us the sense of] anonymity that is entirely fictitious," he says. "It is not impersonal. We spend our lives now interacting with machines that observe all, that never forget and never forgive, such that the delineation between our inner and outer selves is [breaking down] by stealth."

It's also because thinking seriously about the boundaries for surveillance is relatively new. Before the seismic revelations of Edward Snowden, much concern about surveillance was dismissed as so much conspiracy thinking, argues Professor Peter Fussey, an expert in criminology at the University of Essex, UK. That, and because much of the surveillance apparatus is, governments so often argue, for our own safety. That's the line Myanmar has taken in the junta’s crackdown on protests. Or for more effective, worryingly "proactive", increasingly militarised crime prevention.

That's concerning. As Armstrong argues, we're well on our way to systems that look for the potentially suspicious or merely inappropriate. "Doing that requires a database of both known and potential offenders. And such schemes are always sold on the benefits of apprehending these known offenders," he says. "But these schemes are expansionist and soon develop databases of 'people of interest' too".

But it's also concerning when national emergencies are used to bring in more surveillance. We see subsequent spikes in favour of its expansion. A TNS poll conducted in 2014—three years after 9/11, but also not long after Snowden—found that 71 per cent of respondents thought the government should prioritise reducing the public threat "even if this erodes people's right to privacy".

"The idea that surveillance is for our own safety holds water, but only up to a point. Surveillance doesn't inherently make us safer. And that’s aside from the misplaced assumption that surveillance always works, as many cases of misidentification suggest," says Fussey. (He also an independent human rights observer of London’s Metropolitan Police while it trialled facial recognition technology from 2020.)

Photo by Kevin Ku on Unsplash

"The problem with people being suddenly more accepting of surveillance after, say, a terrorist attack is that the powers then given [to the machinery of state] don't tend to be rolled back later," he adds. "And then there is the fact that if we keep creating these tools that can be used for surveillance—even if that's not their intended use—they will be. There is simply just so much evidence for their misuse."

Furthermore, the expanding means of surveillance—from gait recognition to remote heartbeat analysis—are developed at such a pace that campaigners and legislators can barely keep up. It says something concerning that a hugely powerful business like Amazon has been entirely open in its ambition to create tech products with what it calls "ambient intelligence". They are always there in the background harvesting your life.

There's mission creep to contend with as well. If it wasn't bad enough the state and commerce wanting to watch us, remote working has encouraged a culture of surveillance among employers too. There was a boom in monitoring software. Tech used to map the behaviour, mood, eye movement, location, online activity and productivity of often oblivious workers. The American attorney Zephyr Teachout has predicted the coming of "surveillance wages". This is where each worker’s pay is constantly changing according to that worker's perceived alignment with their employer's expectations. Data would be used for hiring and firing decisions.

Could a new ad-free business model be devised for the web, disincentivising data collection? Could the European Union's General Data Protection Regulation be adopted beyond its borders? Even as Facebook obtusely moaned about how it and other regulations "may be costly to comply with and may delay or impede the development of new products, increase our costs, require significant management time and subject us to remedies that may harm our business".

Is there scope for a rebalancing of the interests of the surveillance industrial complex and individuals' rights? This segment makes billions from monetising data flows, with China and US the leading exporters of surveillance tech. Surely the transparency and accountability necessary for the relationship between state and citizen to function requires it? And yet, right down to how certain parts of your smartphones algorithms work, all is opaque, and getting more so.

Photo by Tushar Mahajan on Unsplash

"We have to have a much clearer sense of how surveillance will be used, whether it's legitimate and the necessary limits on its use," implores Fussey. "We're invited to think that the technology is just too complicated, but actually the standards we need to protect—standards in international law—are basic. The problem is who enforces those standards. We need the right policies, programmes and oversight."

"My concern is that so much surveillance now isn't just about watching where you go and what you do but what information you consume and what thoughts you express," adds Lemieux. "Surveillance can now be used to gauge opinion and so influence opinion too. It's not just about watching us through data but manipulating us through data."

Indeed, the instruments of surveillance only look set to get more invasive, more clever, more wily and devious. The tide might be turning. Lindau argues that after a long period of being "promiscuous with sharing our information", some of us are waking up. With low download rates for various government-driven tracking apps during Covid, the pandemic opened the doors to data collection and tracking on a scale that would have been imaginable just a few years before. Some cities— Portland, Oregon, for example—have banned the use of facial recognition in their stores and restaurants. And there’s a growing academic interest in surveillance overreach too.

And yet the more a surveillance mindset is applied, the more ordinary it seems. "Citizens are allowing greater and greater intrusion, to the point where the distinction between public and private has really broken down at this juncture," suggests Steven Feldstein, a senior fellow at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace and author of The Rise of Digital Repression. "The smartphone has normalised surveillance but it's a slippery slope. You continue to push at the boundaries and surveillance just becomes more and more acceptable. And there are no concerns about this because there is no political will [to make changes]. And there's no political will because nobody seems to care about it. We're seeing a greater level of omni-surveillance made possible and that needs more push-back."

In fact, we're moving towards TIA or Total Information Awareness. "The goal to know everything about everyone in real-time," as Lindau explains. "And so far all that has limited that most totalitarian of ambitions has been the tools."

Photo by NASA on Unsplash

The really bad news? The tools are coming. The AI Global Surveillance Index suggests that at least 75 out of 176 countries, many being liberal democracies, use AI for automated surveillance purposes. "All considerations we have about surveillance get put on steroids with AI," Lindau says. The French government, for example, has passed a law allowing the use of AI in mass video surveillance at next year’s summer Olympics in Paris. For AI to work, the data must flow. Your data. Everybody's data. "The ease with which AI will be able to amass and process information, combined with facial recognition, well, that’s ominous," he says.

He cites by way of example his recent experience of returning home from a holiday in Norway. Passing through the notoriously aggressive and prying US Immigration, he expected the typical barrage of questions. Instead, he was just asked to look into a small camera. That was it. Lindau asked if they wanted the usual details about where he had been and for how long and why. No, they said casually, we already know that.

Intoxicating interiors at Christina's in the Mondrian Singapore.

I recently had a suit made at Marlo Bespoke on Club Street. Wanting to do something uniquely Singaporean, I decided to juxtapose a cloth that reflected this city’s position as a financial hub—banker-style navy pinstripes—with a vibrant tropical-motif lining, a nod to Singapore’s ‘garden city’ status.

The idea was to sartorially balance business and pleasure, sobriety and whimsy. I’m far from the first to have had this thought. Vishal Advani, managing director of Officine Paladino, the Singaporean cloth merchants responsible for the bold bird-emblazoned internal fabric I selected, says his range of splashy graphic linings have proven to be a tremendous success.

A bold lining from Officine Paladino at Marlo Bespoke.

“We wanted to give sartorial enthusiasts a way to express their individuality and their passions, whether that be golf, fishing or tennis, travel, automobiles or cryptocurrency, whatever the case may be,” Advani says. “It’s an opportunity they’ve really embraced—sales of our more outré designs have been brisk.”

In addition to its Italian-made viscose linings, Officine Paladino also traffics in an array of audacious suiting cloths, for those who fancy a more overt expression of maximalism. “Being from Singapore and dealing with a lot of tailors around Southeast Asia, we take inspiration from the situations and people around us,” Advani says. “In this environment, colour and pattern just come naturally.”

Shinta Mani Angkor's lobby

That’s a statement prominent hotel interior designer Bill Bensley would most certainly agree with. Since establishing his studio in Bangkok in 1989, Bensley says, “I have evolved into a serious maximalist. My personal taste craves layer upon layer of quirkiness and colour.”

Arguably the leading name in sustainable hospitality design today, Bensley (who was initially trained in landscape architecture) may seek maximum impact visually, but he always aims for minimal impact environmentally. His own Shinta Mani Wild luxury eco-resort in the jungles of Cambodia was built without cutting down a single tree, and at sibling property Shinta Mani Angkor in Siem Reap, greenery is just as important a part of the décor as the plush furnishings and glitzy fittings.

Shinta Mani Angkor's pool villa.

“Many of our projects are in lush, tropical places, and over the years tropical maximalism has become a way of life, especially in terms of gardens. This climate lends itself so easily to gorgeous, overflowing gardens,” Bensley says. “And being a landscape architect, one must always put nature first—the architecture and interiors follow.”

In building an urban Bangkok outpost of her family’s Chiang Mai luxury resort, 137 Pillars, Nida ‘Natty’ Wongphanlert referenced elements of the original property’s heritage aesthetic, traditional handcrafted touches and verdant setting within the new high-rise hotel. “We didn’t consider a minimalistic approach for our property,” she says. Instead, the goal was to provide guests with “a visually stunning and memorable experience,” Wongphanlert says, “combining boldness and elegance.”

At 137 Pillars BKK, Jack Bain's Bar

She explains, “We utilised luxurious materials such as marble, silk, and brass finishes. We integrated authentic Thai elements, like Jim Thompson curtains and pillow cases, to pay homage to local craftsmanship. To add warmth and depth, we incorporated dark, rich wooden tones along with a navy colour palette, as well as small areas of strong contrasting colours, such as red, and decorative ornaments like our elephant lamps.”

The overall effect could best be described as ‘tastefully maximalist’. “Material selection was incredibly important, aiming for a luxurious feel while incorporating local design in a modern and sophisticated manner,” Wongphanlert says. “Additionally, we wanted to showcase the works of local artists throughout the property, immersing guests in the vibrant local art scene.”

At 137 Pillars BKK, the hotel lobby

Eye-catching art is a core element of the lavish tableaux created at Singapore’s new Mondrian Duxton hotel by US-based interior designer, Robbyn Carter. She reckons the secret to crafting a maximalist space that bursts with visual interest, without warping the viewer’s mind, lies in “meticulous curation and intentional composition.”

Carter says, “While it may appear chaotic, each element should have a purpose and place within the design. I ensure that there’s a unifying theme or colour palette that threads through the space, anchoring it and preventing it from feeling disjointed.” Success lies in thoughtfully layering textures, patterns and colours to maintain a harmonious balance, she suggests.

“Ultimately, it’s about orchestrating controlled chaos, where every element contributes to the overall narrative, resulting in a vibrant and captivating space that never overwhelms, but continually surprises and delights,” Carter advises. Just as the layout of these magazine pages tempers rather hectic images with plenty of serene white emptiness, Carter says expertly executed maximalist design provides “areas of negative space that allow the eye to rest, preventing sensory overload.”

Nouri's picture-perfect narezushi

Chef Ivan Brehm of Michelin-starred Nouri restaurant is responsible for some of Singapore’s most visually stimulating cuisine. (It tends to taste pretty good, too.) Asked how he manages to create dishes that are aesthetically impactful, without being overly fussy or bombastic, he replies, “Obviously that’s the golden ratio, isn’t it? If it was easy, everybody’d be doing it. For me, content—the substance of what you’re doing—leads the way.”

In crafting a meal that is a visual feast and yet, aesthetically balanced, he says, “When done correctly, all of the elements are there to promote a particular idea; they are very much in agreement with one another.” Doing maximalism well requires you to ask yourself, “Are all the elements purposeful? Are they there for a reason? Are they driving a singular message in what you’re trying to express?” Picture perfect as his creations may be, Brehm decries our Insta-driven obsession with the look of food, reminding us that while the eyes eat first, it’s our tastebuds and gullets that savour a dish’s deeper beauty.

An international, multicultural melange he describes as ‘crossroads cuisine,’ Brehm’s cooking is difficult to pin down or categorise. This Brazilian with a German surname is inspired by the cacophony of colours and flavours, sights and sounds, spiritualities and philosophies, of the Mediterranean and North Africa, the Middle East and India, Europe and Scandinavia, South America and Southeast Asia, and beyond.

“When cultures interact, the tendency is for some form of aggregate to take place, which manifests visually, religiously, musically—all of those things start to become more complex,” Brehm says. “And the result is greater than the sum of its parts.” In Brehm’s view, it is the clash of opposing forces and the friction between different approaches that creates something of singular beauty.

“Every movement starts in opposition to another, and it’s because of that opposition that each moves forward,” he says. In much the same way that there can be no light without darkness, maximalism only exists in contrast to minimalism. Yet despite their stark differences, the two ends of the spectrum actually have much in common.

“It’s like a snake eating its own tail,” Brehm says. He gives the example of the type of severe, ascetic, unadorned churches designed by architects like Tadao Ando and John Pawson. “Those spaces are totally overwhelming,” he says. “What could be more maximalist than that?” 

As the Lunar New Year approaches, adidas sets the stage for a blazing start to the Year of the Dragon with the release of the SS24 Originals Key City Tee. Collaborating with local artist Erika Tay (@erikartoon), adidas brings forth a celebration of local culture and childhood nostalgia through her character inspired by a local icon.

In Chinese legends, the dragon symbolises power and authority, and Tay's artistic vision transforms the mythical beast into a contemporary streetwear masterpiece. Tay, who previously left her artistic mark on adidas' AW23 Performance Key City Tee "Ultraboost by the Bay," takes inspiration from the famed Dragon Playground for the latest design. Breathing new life into the dragon character, Tay's localised interpretation sports sleek adidas Originals gear, shoes, and accessories, while incorporating the vibrant mosaic tiles of the playground drawn on its head.

"The Dragon Playground at Ang Mo Kio, in particular, has held many cherished memories of my childhood spent at my grandparents' house. Those memories have sparked my inspiration to bring the Dragon character to life," shares Tay. This personal connection adds a layer of authenticity to the design, making it not just a piece of apparel but a nostalgic journey into the artist's own history.

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The Dragon Key City Tee (SGD69) is now available at Brand Centre Orchard, Bugis+, Bugis Junction, Changi Terminal 1, ION Orchard, Jewel, Marina Bay Sands, Suntec City, VivoCity Originals, VivoCity Performance adidas stores.

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