45 Creatives And Tastemakers To Know In Singapore

From rising models to musicians and artists to fashion marketeers, these 45 individuals have a hand in shaping the creative landscape in Singapore — be it in ways big or small.

#1: Duan Mei Yue, model

With strong brows, wide-set eyes and a lanky 1.78m-tall frame, this 19-year-old is used to being taunted as “ugly”. Incidentally, those same features have landed her in the pages of i-D Japan and the runway of Dior’s S/S ’18 couture show in Shanghai — all within her first year of modelling. Adding to her X factor: her ’90s alt-girl style and boisterous, slightly goofball charm — best captured in her live beauty tutorials on Instagram (@dmeiyue). It’s little wonder that besides Mannequin Studio here, she’s signed to Women Management in New York — the same agency as Sun Fei Fei and Natasha Poly — and has netted an active 39K-strong social media following. As she cheekily puts it, she’s “Pinterest and Tumblr famous”.

 

#2: Iman Fandi, model

Everyone knows her as the only daughter of Singapore soccer legend Fandi Ahmad and former model Wendy Jacobs. Or the kid sister to soccer heartthrobs Irfan and Ikhsan Fandi. But at 18 and boasting the same winsome beauty and cool charisma as her mum, Iman Fandi has all the makings of the next top Singapore model. The first thing you’ll notice about her is how pretty she is. Her tawny skin is flawless, her features are almost perfectly symmetrical and take after her mother’s: bright, almond-shaped eyes; a straight, strong nose; slight bee-stung pout. The other most striking thing about her is to be witnessed in person: a cool composure and intelligence that’s beyond her years. Growing up in the public eye and constant advice from mum and her industry pals have made her keenly perceptive. (The psychology background doesn’t hurt either.) On set, she knows her angles and is instinctive about art direction. Off set, she’s affable yet polite — she credits her mother for instilling in her that in this line, “professionalism and respect for everyone are non-negotiable”. Her dad Fandi and elder brothers Irfan and Ikhsan — two generations of soccer heart-throbs — might lend a Beckham-like air to the household, but there’s a Kendall/Kaia/Gigi quality to her; Tay-Tay Swift be damned. 

 

#3: Cheryl Tan, actress

It takes moxie to hold your own against top-billed veterans like Kit Chan, but this Singapore-based Malaysian did just that with her scene-stealing turn as the young Empress Dowager Cixi in last year’s blockbuster musical Forbidden City: Portrait Of An Empress. (For that, she earned a Best Supporting Actress nomination in this year’s The Straits Times Life Theatre Awards.) Her resume is packed with plum roles, many incidentally playing “princesses” — Juliet in Shakespeare In The Park’s Romeo & Juliet, and Ivy Chan in 2015’s Beauty World. Citing the likes of brassy American comedian Ali Wong as her idol, Tan says her dream though is to do “something that changes the way people think, or gives young women confidence to reject bulls**t”. 

 

#4: Aarika Lee, marketing creative at Elementary Co. and co-founder of Life Beyond Grades

She’s best known as the turban-loving managing director of marketing, digital, and branding consultancy Elementary Co., musician, and Insta-cool mum of two toddlers. Currently on her plate: #LifeBeyondGrades, a campaign and series of conversations with parents which Elementary Co. is involved in, and Lee is a co-founder of. It aims to create a mindset shift in Singapore to dispel the increasing pressure of getting good grades in our young. The perfect icebreaker for their first dialogue session? Getting parents to share their PSLE scores — with no judgment at all.

 

#5: Tan Zi Xi, artist

Going by the moniker Messymsxi, Tan’s best known for her whimsical illustrations that have netted her an illustrious clientele that includes luxury fashion houses, Kiehl’s and Facebook. Child-like fantasy-inducing quality aside though, most of her works address humanity’s mismanagement of natural resources — a topic she’s been obsessed with since school. Take for example, “Plastic Ocean”, a large-scale installation commissioned by the Singapore Art Museum in 2016,  and arguably the 33-year-old’s most prominent work to date. She collected and strung up over 20,000 pieces of discarded plastic to create the effect of being underwater – surrounded by trash. The installation generated global headlines, and travelled to Mumbai for the Sassoon Dock Art Project in 2017, with Tan recreating it using 400kg of plastic bought from recycling centres there.

 

#6: Yung Raja, rapper

From street-savvy odes about Mustafa Centre to viral parodies of the “Gucci Gang” brouhaha, there’s nothing this charming rapper won’t do. The 22-year-old started flaunting his silver-tongued flow and show-stealing charisma as a hype man at clubs, and has since become quite the budding hip-hop phenom, complete with fashionable Pharrell-esque pink hair. His X-factor: his authenticity and devotion to his roots — he’s a self-professed “brown superstar” who raps in Tamil and English. Just check out his infectious, M03 Records-endorsed debut single Mustafa — its hyper-stylised video’s already racked up over 1,100,000 Youtube views.

 

#7: Preeti Nair, comedienne and rapper

Image Courtesy of Jake Low

Most would know this comedienne by her public persona Preetipls and her unmissable Youtube videos in which she takes a stab at popular culture and pertinent social issues such as racism. Last October, the 24-year-old added one more avenue to speak her mind: rap. “Through (it), I can be super confident, badass and feel like I can say and do anything I want,” she says. Her first single Thicc, an infectious anthem for curvy girls, was something she long had in mind. “Looking the way I look — not just in terms of race, but also appearance — I wanted to say that it’s perfectly okay to look like me,” she explains. Despite a smattering of troll comments, the track chalked up more than 37,000 plays on Spotify in two months. Her third single will drop this month, and her self-funded debut EP by mid-year. “It’s the same things Preetipls would say, but translated into rap,” she says. What she intends to name it? “Singapore’s Top Album”, of course.

 

#8: Layla Ong, model

Represented by Basic Models Management, Layla Ong hit the headlines at birth as one of Singapore’s earliest test-tube triplets. Since then, she’s graced magazines and TV (Asia’s Next Top Model) with her unique Asian beauty — think Tao Okamoto with an alternative edge. She’s Singapore’s most editorial-looking female model since the ’90s with her willowy 1.76m frame and slightly alienesque features complete with a bee-stung pout — a look international designers would covet. She's since walked multiple Gucci shows, including the brand’s cruise 2019 show in the south of France, and its latest Fall/Winter 2019 runway (besides MSGM and Dolce & Gabbana too). 

 

#9: Li Wanjie, photographer and co-founder of talent agency Blu

“L’enfant terrible” reads the bio section of Li’s Instagram page @uuanjie — a fitting description considering the 18-year-old’s affinity for the weird yet wonderful as both an independent lensman and co-founder of the eight-month-old talent agency Blu. As the former — a pursuit he started at 16 — he channels the same poetic irreverence as global up-and-coming young photographers like China’s Leslie Zhang and Korea’s Min Hyunwoo (unsurprisingly, they’re his idols). Whether he’s capturing the rebel R&B artiste Sam Rui or doe-eyed beauty Fiona Fussi, his filmic, often light-soaked portraits conjure a sense of nostalgia and the surreal. At Blu, where he scouts, casts and shoots together with co-founder Nicholas Kent Tann, unconventionality is the highlight, with its current stable of eight models (including Serena Jane McNeill and Ryan Ong, pictured here) spanning a diverse mix of faces, races and body types that would easily make the runway cast of today’s most progressive labels.

 

#10: Rachael Cheong, fashion designer

The alum of the Royal Academy of Art in The Hague only has her graduate collection from 2017 to show, but it’d be prescient to say that when she gets down to business (give her a year or two, she says), she’s bound to blow up. Inspired by dolls, the said collection boasts 19th century-style dresses made up of a pastiche of pretty, intricately ruched fabrics like lace-trimmed gingham. It might sound sugary sweet — except that the pieces are brazenly deconstructed, then paired with latex bonnets and disconcertingly lifelike masks. Its boldly twisted, fantasy quality is almost Richard Quinn-esque, and — coupled with her artful workmanship — earned her a spot in the Lichting show at Amsterdam Fashion Week that spotlights the year’s top fashion graduates in the Netherlands. Now back after an internship with Marine Serre in Paris, she’s working with local band Aspidistrafly on their new album and music video. She’s also got the name for her label: Closet Children. We can’t wait.

 

#11: Dawn Ng, artist

local artist

This is the woman behind Walter (2010), an installation that saw her displaying a giant inflatable rabbit balloon guerrilla-style all over Singapore. She's also the same name behind How To Disappear Into A Rainbow — of mirrors and blocks in pastel colours — launched as part of the reopening of Hermes’ Liat Towers flagship in 2017. For all her preoccupation with “the ephemeral and transient”, Ng’s works often possess a childlike joy and simplistic beauty that easily appeals even to the non-art crowd. She's since gone on to stage her first performance art piece, 11, this year. 

 

#12: Charmaine Seah-Ong, co-founder of Elementary Co. and Life Beyond Grades

At work, she heads a team of 11 as co-founder of boutique branding agency Elementary Co. — founded with the idea of bringing together like-minded folks with different expertise (she, for example, has a background in TV production, while Aarika Lee, above, has a flair for writing) to create an intimate one-stop shop. At home, she’s the firm yet friendly “boss” of two toddler girls. And everywhere she goes, she commands attention with her preternatural fashion savvy. Seah-Ong is also behind the movement Life Beyond Grades, that aims to “get parents to see past grades and encourage their children’s passions”. 

 

#13: Chantal Tan, nightlife impresario and DJ

This striking 26-year-old and her husband Sant Ruengjaruwatana, are behind the party series Horizon99, started in mid-2017. Usually, the venues are only disclosed on the day itself, and veer towards the likes of, say, an industrial building in Geylang. Unlike many niche pop-up parties though, everyone is welcome. “It’s about crafting that safe space where everyone is allowed to be who and what they are without needing to conform or compromise,” says Tan, adding that the concept was born out of “boredom and the feeling of alienation” at existing nightlife haunts. An interior designer by day, she handles everything from creating the publicity posters to curating monthly mixtapes available on their eponymous Soundcloud, as well as playing an eclectic lineup of bold female artistes (Brooke Candy, Jolin Tsai, 2NE1) for the night.

 

#14: Mae Tan, marketing creative at Surrender Group

Instagram (@marxmae)

A marketing creative breathing new life into Orchard Road, it takes a millennial to translate the cult of luxury streetwear to the every man, and Mae Tan is that person. She's orchestrated some of the biggest luxury-meets-streetwear launches in Singapore, from the collaborative collection between Surrender and Los Angeles-based artists DRx Romanelli and Cali Thornhill DeWitt, to the pop-up store within Surrender for the highly coveted Louis Vuitton x Fragment collection. Then there’s the standalone store for Virgil Abloh’s Off-White, opened in 2016 under the Surrender Group at 268 Orchard Road (of which they've since added regional addresses to their portfolio). Most recently on our shores and, similar to Off-White, Tan has done the same with streetwear label Marcelo Burlon County of Milan.

 

#15: Gabe Tan (left) & Christian Julian, cultural documenters 

What do two Gen Z guys craving for more colour in the way people dress do to get their message across? Go to the hippest fashion events and underground parties thronging with like-minded Gen Zs, photograph the coolest and most stylish, then share them all on their seven-month-old Instagram page @whatsingaporewore. Far from typical portraits of image-conscious, cookie-cutter partygoers, their images capture youths in a distinctive mix of streetwear and vintage posing confidently for the lens. In an age when preening selfies have become the mark of a good night out, their work brings back the raw, intrinsic glamour of nightlife chronicled by The Cobra Snake in the 2000s and Gene Spatz in the ’70s and ’80s, reinterpreted for the hype generation. The goal, says Tan, 23, is to “cast a spotlight on people who love fashion” and inspire with this personal project, which has since earned commissions from Highsnobiety.

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#16: Polina Korobova, artist

There’s a certain pretty-but-basic connotation attached to glitter (blame Mariah Carey for that), but not in the hands of this 22-year-old, who performed an art piece covered in — what else — glitter at the 2018 Neon Lights festival. Based here since 2013, she swathes everything from canvases superimposed with family portraits to her entire body in sparkly dust, as well as other materials that look right out of a pink-and-rhinestone-obsessed child’s art kit. Coupled with an unmistakable feminist slant (cue lacy undies suggestively tainted with glitter) and there’s a rebellious edge that recalls ’90s punk icons like Courtney Love. Other works nod at another definitive, politically charged moment from Korobova’s birth era: the dissolution of the Soviet Union. Describing her art media of choice as something that “effortlessly brings joy”, she says: “(Existing) perceptions of objects can be changed if you place it through a different (light).”

 

#17: Victoria Loke, actress and activist

You'll recognise this indie thespian-turned-actress-to-watch from the Crazy Rich Asians film, but this actress/artist/activist (her words) is a multi-hyphenate intent on making a difference. When she’s not pursuing acting gigs, she’s devoting her time to weightier work like AsianGirl, an ongoing collaborative feminist art series focused on “exploring issues of the Asian feminist in 21st century digital discourse”. Also, she has partnered with the Singapore Committee for UN Women to research contemporary strategies for the economic empowerment of South-east Asian women. And while you could term it as “doing a Jolie” (she certainly has the lips to match), that would be detracting from the fact that she’s initiated these projects all on her own.

 

#18: Kellie Tan, makeup artist

Most Kylie Jenners and Gen Z beauty Youtubers of the world might have you think that makeup ought to be sexy, pretty or cute. This 19-year-old, who’s also adept with the camera prefers something more “real”. By that, she often means bold strokes in unexpected colours. Think ice blue lippie, graphic blocks of eyeshadow in contrasting shades like orange and purple, or brows drawn with black stitch-like little “X”s. In short, anything that celebrates individuality and isn’t your conventional idea of beauty. Instead of ugly or absurd though, her work is playful yet sophisticated thanks to her light, painterly hand, which might explain why she’s a favourite collaborator of other alt-influenced Gen Z creatives like up-and-coming photographer Julian Tan.

 

#19: Jean Yong, model

A game, experimental streak has led this 23-year-old to go from bioscience research assistant to one of our brightest modelling stars. In 2017, she joined The New Paper New Face contest, and gamely loped off her chest-length hair into a pixie crop for a job a day before the finals — and went on to take the crown. A campaign for rising local designer Wai Yang and Antonio Marras’ F/W ’18 show in Milan followed. The bleached brows she sports here? She got them for the June 2018 cover of British indie magazine Beautiful Blood

 

#20: Liv Lo, TV presenter, founder of FitSphere and eco advocate

TV presenter, fitness model, yoga instructor. Now add eco-advocate to the 32-year-old’s list of titles, in part thanks to Before The Flood (2016), the Leonardo DiCaprio-backed documentary on climate change. Watching the moving film was a turning point for her, she says, and she became an ambassador for Green Is The New Black, Singapore’s first Conscious Festival, that same year. Last June, she went a step further and started a petition urging Dr Amy Khor, Senior Minister of State for the Environment and Water Resources, to reconsider her stance on implementing a small levy on plastic bag usage. (Khor had announced in her ministry’s budget in March that “imposing a charge or ban on disposable plastic bags and substituting them with other types of disposable bags is unlikely to improve environmental outcomes”.) The number of signatories Lo got: 13,000. Dr Khor? Your move.

 

#21: Fiona Fussi, model

With her winsome German-Chinese good looks, she got her start winning the 2011 Elite Model Look competition in Singapore. She speaks multiple languages fluently: English, Mandarin, German, Cantonese and Japanese. She always appears to be have right mix of poise, playfulness and warmth. In short, Fiona Fussi is quintessential beauty queen material — except that she’s completely redefined that title since going from teenage pageant winner to the 22-year-old budding idol that she is today. In those seven years, she’s become the face of multiple beauty and lifestyle brands, travelling the globe — New York, Hong Kong, Tokyo, Paris — to shoot commercials and other marketing content for them. One of the most impressive is an ongoing series of makeup tutorials filmed in the French capital, a gig she’s had since 2015. 

 

#22: Nicolas Travis, founder of Allies Of Skin

He's the founder of homegrown beauty brand Allies of Skin, which has been receiving rave reviews for its smart, multitasking formulations. It says something if since March 2016 (and with just four products), Allies of Skin has raked in a revenue of over $1 million, boasts stockists at Net-a-Porter, Joyce, Barneys (a first for a Singapore brand) and Sephora, while receiving glowing recommendations from the likes of Allure and Wallpaper* (they loved the 1A All-Day Mask) — all without a fancy marketing campaign. The effort has paid off, and Travis’ pared-down, nutrient-rich products are worthy of the hype. Not only do they work, they’re designed to take the hassle out of your daily skincare routine — seriously, who has time for a 15-step beauty regime?

 

#23: Celine Autumn, musician

Her band, Sobs, has a nascent yet triumphant reputation, and as frontwoman, this 21-year-old commands with infectious insouciance and an understated swagger. Despite this endearingly lackadaisical disposition, she’s been instrumental in thrusting the 2017-born act into the spotlight. Her rounded, swell-for-summer vocals perk up her bandmates’ soporific guitar hooks, completing a ripe indie-pop package that modern-day beatniks can’t get enough of. If you’re one of the latter, pick up their sparkling debut Telltale Signs, a full-length album that launched in June 2018.

 

#24: Linda Hao, DJ and eco advocate

The past three years has seen this quirky, free-spirited DJ/stylist focus on creative projects and collaborations, and advocating against waste in the fashion industry on a personal level. (She’s big on thrift store shopping and often challenges herself to create new looks with her existing wardrobe.) She hopes to nurture the next generation of artists and designers, so besides training to become a children’s arts instructor, she’s recently started working part-time at the creativity-oriented kid’s charity Playeum. Meanwhile, rediscovering fabric leftover from the days of Yesah, her defunct fashion label, has sparked off her most ambitious idea as an eco-warrior: a lifestyle concept covering everything from clothes to art objects made solely from said “scraps”. She says: “Whatever material I have will determine the result.” 

 

#25: Narelle Kheng, musician and co-founder of 21 Moonstone

You know her as the bassist and vocalist of local pop band The Sam Willows, but the 24-year-old has interests and endeavours beyond music. A science student in junior college who also dabbled in drama, she lights up expounding on the work and theories of award-winning science fiction writer Ted Chiang. In 2017, she revealed her entrepreneurial side, co-founding the co-working space/bar 21 Moonstone atop an old industrial building near Serangoon Road. Her goal, she says, is to have it become a community space for like-minded creatives. Around May 2018, it held its first public event, Xiao Kopitiam — a cheeky nod to the space’s former use as a canteen — that offered beers and affordable artisanal grub, alongside wares and services by independent local labels. 

 

#26: Dionna Lee, image maker and co-founder of Studio Oooze

It's not hard to see how this image maker has amassed a whopping 53K followers on her Instagram account @tofurier. The food stylist/photographer is one half of creative agency Studio Oooze with her husband Sean Ashley Gabriel, and her works — almost always bursting with vivid pop hues — range from a picture of a cherry tomato flying off a playground swing made of farfalle, to austere tableaux inspired by the still lifes of 17th century artist Juan Sanchez Cotan. Colours aside, a distinctly humorous eye runs through all her imagery. That creative POV has caught the eye of bigwigs such as Apple, Louis Vuitton and Chanel, amongst her numerous clients.

 

#27: Guan Min, PR & communications manager at Surrender Group

Followers of Guan’s beauty tutorials and review videos on Youtube might have noticed her online hiatus. It’s not a social media detox; she’s just been busy running the PR and communications arm, since April 2017, for streetwear boutiques Off-White, Christian Dada, Marcelo Burlon County of Milan and multi-label store Surrender — the latter known for its curation of cult labels and emerging designers.

 

#28: Amanda Keisha Ang, DJ and co-founder of Attagirl!

This sprightly DJ/designer has always taken things into her own hands. Sensing a lack of support for female DJs, she co-founded Attagirl!, a collective that hosts parties with all-woman line-ups. Last year, it was Baowbaow — to promote bass music and its sub-genres through events with underground acts. While the latter launched a regular club night and more shows in 2018, expect Ang to kick off another agenda: a career as a tattoo artist. “I’ve been practising since last year, but was quite distracted,” she says. “Now, I’ll focus. This is my year (to do this).” 

 

#29: Nature Shankar, artist

For her craft, this 22-year-old visual artist spends eight to 10 hours a day sewing — she’s even sprained her elbow once while at it. The result of her efforts, however, is anything but your usual piece of embroidery art. Exhibited at the likes of Gajah Gallery in Yogyakarta and, soon, various Chinese cities like Beijing, Shanghai and Shenzhen, they range from a bulging, Dadaist collage of fabric, oil painting and handmade paper (Out Of Bounds, 2018) to a conceptual installation that includes two large embroidered portraits with their loose threads strung onto an armchair (Somewhere Along The Line(s), 2017).  Exploring the “dynamics of identity, race, cultural heritage, internal bias, truth and human existence”, her work often involves using fabrics personal to her — saris gifted by her paternal grandmother, for example — as a base, and always her putting needle to cloth by hand. 

 

#30: Ellison Tan, theatremaker

This 29-year-old sums herself up in one word: theatremaker — the industry jargon for a multi-hyphenate, juggling acting, DJ’ing on radio, playwriting and directing all at once. “I’ve always loved creating, and they all fall under that umbrella,” she explains. She’s also a daring one. Besides having penned three plays, she co-created 2017’s You Can Reach The Sky, an interactive theatre piece that was a first of its kind here. Its target audience? Infants. With a soothing soundtrack, specially designed lighting set, and quotidian objects such as bubble wrap, it was meant to appeal to babies’ psychomotor and cognitive abilities. It was also such a hit that she’s since restaged it.

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#31: Fariz Jabba, rapper

This fledgling emcee could very well be our Fresh Prince. Since blowing up in 2017 with freestyle rap videos on social media, the 21-year-old has graced top-tier stages like Baybeats and the Ignite! Music Festival, winning the ardour of both wide-eyed punters and regional rappers like Malaysia’s Sonaone and Joe Flizzow. Aside from being a grandiloquent rapper who spits rhymes in both Malay and English — nod your head to his fiery hit Ape Sia — he also shines as a singer, dancer and actor, making him one multitalented maverick who’s giving the scene a cool new edge.

 

#32: Savina Chai, style influencer

As much as Savina Chai loves fashion, she readily points out that it’s a business. Case in point: her last trip to fashion week which was self-funded. “I don’t think attending Fashion Week is a sign of making it,” she says. “It’s a matter of how much an influencer is willing to invest, and what’s her ROI.” And she’s not driven by follower count: “My goal has always been to build businesses, solve problems and provide for myself independence and knowledge.” This is why this eloquent, quietly confident KOL has made it. While many sell the image of being bona fide fashion stars, she’s honest about her interests, and knows that clothes alone don’t make the woman. It’s an ethic that she’s determined to instil in her students from Temasek Polytechnic’s apparel design and merchandising course — she lectures on sourcing and costing. In the pipeline: a new start-up. 

 

#33: Nadia Rahmat, events manager at Kilo

There’s an infectious energy about this plucky 27-year-old, who splits her time between being events manager at the trendy Kilo chain of F&B lifestyle outlets, and a model with local agency Upfront — amid several other personal and professional projects. Last year alone, she’s starred in a Netflix ad blitz championing diversity, and started using her Instagram account @skinnykatwoman to advocate conscious living. The latter is something that has trickled down into her work at Kilo, which has switched to using chicken that are milk-fed and free of antibiotics, and added sustainable wines to the menu.

 

#34: Khairullah Rahim, artist

One man’s rubbish is another’s man’s treasure. This “pick-up” artist (he literally trawls the beach, parks, and even swimming pools for days in search for potential materials) uncannily transforms everyday items like brooms, towels and road signs into surrealistic, pastel-hued assemblages that both delight and confound with their colours and tactile textures. Though his art evokes a joyful facade, the 31-year-old points out that they are “ultimately concerned with narratives of loss and longing”, while representing issues faced by marginalised communities. It might explain his penchant for collecting and working with found objects. “When collected in their raw state, I feel that the specificity of these objects and materials add a greater depth to the work,” he says. Ironically, they’ve indeed brought him “gold” — at press time, pieces from his most recent solo show “The Incredible Frolic”, staged at Yavuz Gallery, had largely sold out.

 

#35: Inch Chua, musician

Not so fun fact: If all the ice in Antarctica alone were to melt, it would raise global sea levels by reportedly more than a metre — and Singapore (being a low-lying island) is squarely in the crosshairs. Trump might not buy it, but this petite indie-pop singer-songwriter certainly does. Last February, she made headlines by travelling to the icy continent as part of an expedition with 2041, an NGO that aims to find solutions to protect the land and renew the Antarctic Treaty, which will be up for review in said year. Upon returning, the 29-year-old has distilled her singular experience there into an intimate, one-night-only show — appropriately titled No Man’s Land — at Theatreworks last May. The hour-long set of new tunes inspired by the trip is her way of engaging what she says is a largely disenchanted crowd on environmental issues. Beyond its debut staging, No Man’s Land is in fact a collaborative work-in-progress with the veteran theatre company, and a full show (Chua bills it as an “anti-musical”) will be executed this May — also when her next album will drop.

 

#36: Charlotte Chen, entrepreneur

It’s enviable how ceaselessly enterprising the Hong Kong-born Chen is. One just needs to look at her CV, which spans everything from creating award-winning apps to building and scaling luxury fashion and consumer tech start-ups. That innate just-do-it attitude is what spurred the 34-year-old on in her latest foray: Everyday, a brand of personal care products with the “millennial touch”, thanks to the cheery and modern packaging, and a clean beauty ethos (it uses non-toxic, vegan-friendly and natural ingredients). When I was pregnant with my daughter, I was looking for paraben- and cruelty-free alternatives to my daily routine, and couldn’t find anything in the market that was clean, affordable and fun,” she says. Launched in the US in June exclusively at retail chain Madewell, the brand has since opened its Singapore e-shop. 

#37: Ysa Yaneza, musician 

A brazen presence, ability to churn out addictive earworms, and courage to butt heads with the status quo — these are the qualities of a bona fide pop star, and this 23-year-old anti-heroine is one of our next brightest. And it’s not just because of her penchant for bubblegum pink and shiny body-con. Entering the scene in 2017 following her college years in Chicago, where she found her footing in music, the Filipino-Singaporean singer-slash-producer purrs out post-millennial love songs coated with sugary slick electronic production. To go with her strangely addictive tunes like Tea and IRL: music videos laced with candy pop colours and ’90s kitsch that place her firmly as Singapore’s answer to Charli XCX.

 

#38: Olivia Lee, industrial designer

singapore influencers

Olivia Lee is the industrial designer who made international news with her “future-proof” furniture range, The Athena Collection, shown at Salone Satellite, 2017 Milan Design Week. The forward-thinking Lee creates in anticipation of an individual’s needs, not the other way round. Her pieces are decorative (think soothing pastel hues and soft curves), functional (the Altar vanity table comes with a flattering ring light), intelligent (the Arena carpet comes with tactile ridges so the mobile-obsessed can gauge a “safe parameter” and avoid collisions with walls or furniture), and quirky (the "Books of Dreams", a series of leather-bound books in collaboration with Bynd Artisan, are leather-bound books with concealed piggy banks). It’s no wonder that Dezeen named Lee as one of its eight most promising designers of the fair. Ultimately, Lee’s designs show that you don’t need technology to make a “smart” home — you just need to think out of the box.

 

#39: Elizabeth Gabrielle Lee, photographer

singapore influencers

The Singapore-born, London-based photographer is a regular contributor to cult indie publications such as Pylot, Polyester, Hard Ears, No Substance, and Petrie. Lee’s first photo book Xing (also pronounced “sing”, and in Mandarin, can be read to mean “sex”, “sexuality”, “to wake up”, “to grow aware” or “essence of a person”), has been picked up by Dazed Digital, i-D, Huffington Post, Crack and Ignant for its culturally woke dissection of “‘othered’ groups through the language of photography”. The book is an effort that’s been a year-and-a-half in the making. International emerging artists, including British fashion photographer Ronan McKenzie (she’s shot for Vogue, i-D), and local feminist writer Samantha Yap contributed to the tome of achingly stylish images, exploring “new identities among Asian women”, a polarising topic that deserves debate now more than ever before.

 

#40: Bella Koh, food, design and wellness stylist

lifestyle space

A powerhouse food, design and wellness stylist, the social media maven behind Instagram account
@catslavery, and a member of our Female collective, 
Koh transformed her former Tiong Bahru shophouse apartment in December 2017 into a twofold workshop and event space, and christened it The Slow House. Think of it as an extension of her popular Instagram feed, where feel-good images of plants, cats, home-cooked dishes (made with organic and sustainable ingredients) abound. She holds intimate workshops (for between five and 10 people) to educate time-strapped folks who still want to maintain a healthy diet (earlier workshops have focused on Japanese-style broths and plant-based milk formulas). Then, there’s the events part, where external brands can rent the space for their own events — but with a #slowlife twist. “It (slow life) means simply to slow down one’s pace (especially) in a fast-paced city like Singapore,” she says. 

 

#41: Ffion, musician

With breathy, velvety smooth vocals reminiscent of R&B crooners like Corinne Bailey Rae that’ll give you goosebumps, this demure songbird’s rise to fame is inevitable. UK-born and SG-bred, she first gained attention doing Youtube covers seven years ago. Now 22 and having worked with industry veterans like Vanessa Fernandez and the producer Fauxe, she’s confidently whipping up sensual, close-to-home tunes about romance and relationships. Heart-tuggers like Rumours and I Miss You, released in 2017, have clocked over a million streams on Spotify. Tune into the new modern pop sound of Personal, her debut single release in late 2018 with Warner Music Singapore.

 

#42: Talenia Phua Gajardo, taste curator and founder of The Artling and Luxglove

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She's the owner and founder of The Artling, a contemporary Asian art website, and Luxglove, a curated marketplace for pre-loved fine luxury items. When it comes to the world of art and luxury, there’s no one more in the know and better connected than Phua Gajardo. Not only is she making both worlds more fun and accessible — The Artling’s Young Collector’s Summer Party invited guests to a private viewing of the Yayoi Kusama exhibition, while Luxglove held a classic car weekend to launch its website — she’s also changing how we view and buy both. But it’s art that is Phua Gajardo’s first love, and with The Artling’s acquisition of Hong Kong-based Artshare, they now represent over 200 galleries and 1,200 artists across Asia. Her entry into China is especially timely considering “it [China] represents 20 per cent of the global art market”. And while she’s singled out the likes of Chinese street artist Zhang Dali and conceptual artist Zhao Zhao, she has not ignored other art forms. The Artling recently included a new design category of limited edition pieces and beautifully crafted objects d’art – proving again, she’s ahead of the curve.

 

#43: Dahlia Mohd, fashion entrepreneur and co-founder of En Pointe & Co.

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Dahlia Mohd spent six years in the finance industry before opening her store, En Pointe & Co. at North Bridge Road in 2015. The store stocks her favourite Malaysian labels like Mimpikita, Tsyahmi, Adila Long, Syomirizwa Gupta, Innai Red, Lynda Rahim, Fizi Woo and Nelissa Hilman, showcasing her penchant for brands which are not afraid of using colours and bold shapes and silhouettes in their repertoire. Over the years, the store has added indie Indonesian and Singapore brands in its roster and also branched out into being a brand consultancy helping small fashion brands tap into production, marketing and retail channels in Malaysia. Dahlia’s next step for her business sees her expanding the luxury made-to-measure bridal market in Singapore — courtesy of her trusted Malaysian designer labels, of course.

 

#44: Marie Soh, hair and makeup artist, and founder of 27A and Inga Cosmetics

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Since 2014, Marie Soh has been leaving her mark on the local beauty scene with her makeup consultancy 27A. She’s part of the core team that also includes two other young (but experienced) makeup artists, Zann Thiang and Christian Maranion, and is supported by a throng of freelancers it connects with over Instagram. What it aims to do: become a hothouse of makeup talents that lend their skills and creative eye to fashion publications, as well as the design scene. Besides Female, regular collaborators often hail from the indie creative set, including crochet artist Kelly Lim and stylist Nathaniel Ng, all of whom appreciate Soh’s deft yet experimental hand. Together with the team at 27A, she's also got a lipstick line, Inga, catered to Asian skin tones under her belt. She explains the impetus behind it: “I couldn’t find makeup (that’ll last) in humid weather. They either run, or are too dry. And they’re expensive. And I couldn’t find foolproof colours for Asian skin (so I decided to create them myself).”

 

#45: Weish, musician

This experimental solo artist known for her unexpected live loops and vocal percussions went global last year with her soporific contributions to the soundtrack for the Oscar-shortlisted documentary Shirkers. Now, Weish is focusing on something closer to home: a new album for her electronic band .gif — due out early this year — and playing musical director for an upcoming production by Checkpoint Theatre. 

This article is originally published on Female Singapore.

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