Over the last eight years, designer Jo Soh has built a mini fashion empire creating impossibly chic, incomparably stylish creations that have become the darling of women here and around the region.

The bespectacled and much-lauded designer has seen her label Hansel stocked in over 10 Australian boutiques in cities like Queensland and Melbourne since 2004. Her sartorial journey has seen the designer, more often than not, taking the clichés of retro glamour and injecting them with a dose of eclecticism. The result? Fun and flirty pieces, the quintessence of fashion modernism. After opening her first flagship boutique at Mandarin Gallery last year, Soh impresses again with her new line Hello Hansel which sees the designer taking on casual wear chockfull of the quirks and whimsies that Hansel is known for. The celebrated designer behind your Favorite Local Fashion Brand in the Reader’s Choice Awards 2011 gives us an intimate insight into her design eye.

It’s been eight years since your debut at the Mercedes Australian Fashion Week. How has the journey been?
It has been a steep learning curve full of ups and downs! It has also been a very fulfilling experience.

How would you describe your style today?
With the recent launch of my casual wear label Hello Hansel, I have found a happy balance with Hansel being the more dressy and sophisticated label and Hello Hansel carrying the fun pieces with Hansel’s signature bright, graphic prints.

Tell us more about your new collection “The Geometric Swan.”
The whole collection’s theme and direction sprung from a single vintage button with a graphic swan motif that I came across during my sourcing trips in Hong Kong. I envisioned dresses with plump ruffles and gathered, fluttering sleeves and knew straightaway that the theme had the potential to become a whole collection.

Previously you’ve sold your creations only online and through consignment, but you’ve opened a boutique just recently. How is that coming along?
With my new shop, I have been able to present Hansel merchandise in an environment that showcases Hansel’s style, thus creating a much stronger brand identity. I have also been able to meet more of Hansel’s customers and learn firsthand about their preferences and needs. It has also been a terribly exciting challenge to run the shop, keeping me on my toes everyday! I am constantly thinking of ways to improve our product and our service. Also, ever since we had our physical shop presence, we have been approached by several large companies for project collaborations, which is fantastic for the brand! Opening my own shop is something that I should have done a lot earlier!

Singapore-designed fashion labels have fared quite well overseas but are still quite unknown here. What does it take for Singaporeans to have a piece of local fashion in their wardrobe?
Continued and consistent publicity on the local and international successes of Singaporean fashion labels will help to change the mindset of the general Singaporean public. For an industry that is a lot about status, Singaporean labels would also need to gain more publicity like international celebrity endorsements to really grab the general Singaporean's attention and alter their perception about the capabilities of a Singaporean label. I am hoping that the Audi Fashion Festival and Blueprint events will carry on for at least the next 10 years as their continued presence would greatly develop the general public's view on the local fashion industry.

What for you is exciting in fashion now?
The acceptance by consumers of all labels from all market levels, from the mass, to the indie to the high end. It is now seen as being smart to mix pieces from labels from different market levels.

Finally, do you have any fashion advice or styling tips you could give to our readers?
If we invest in one thing this season, what should it be? A Hansel dress with a signature Hansel print.

Hansel is located at #02-14 Mandarin Gallery, 333A Orchard Rd., 6337-0992.


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This pocket-sized gizmo offers an easy way to securely access and share your files, says Zaki Jufri.

• Easy to use. It’s really plug-and-play. Just stick both halves of the iTwin into your PC’s USB port and the noob-friendly instructions will guide you.
• Like all the major cloud services, iTwin uses AES 256-bit encryption. But it’s even safer, because the information isn’t held online but in each key.
• If you lose a key, you can disable it remotely using a unique link that iTwin sends you via email. You can passwordprotect your access, but you don’t have to.
• To share files, all you need to do is drop the files into the iTwin folder (after installation) in your “My Computer” window.
• Transferring files (MP3s, AVI movies, DOCs) is generally fast—over broadband, of course.

• Both computers need to be logged on to the Internet.
• For the iTwin to work, you need to install the software on the remote PC: this will be an issue if you really have to access and edit files from LAN shops or shared computers which restrict
software installation.
• Currently, iTwin only supports Microsoft Windows XP, Windows Vista and Windows 7. It’s not MacOS compatible (yet!), but we hear that it will extend the platform across smartphones as well.
• There are already many (cheaper and even free) ways to transfer files over the Internet (MSN, Dropbox, Google Docs).

Verdict: If you want the convenience of accessing your work files from home (or anywhere else for that matter) hassle free or are afraid of putting up sensitive data up in the Cloud, the iTwin is your answer. Plus, it’s designed and developed in Singapore.
$139 from www.itwin.com


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More and more local web retailers are offering fashion forward finds, personable service and faster delivery, says Zaki Jufri.

One of the biggest bugbears in online shopping is the long, agonizing wait. You know, the one after you press the “Buy“ button and wait two weeks to get your hands on that dress you just bought—simply because that online store is based overseas. Thankfully, a number of fashionably enterprising locals have taken it upon themselves to make the whole thing easier, with some even promising next day delivery—saving you time and money. “It removes the up-front cost of retailing and ultimately we are able to offer that dress to our customer at a more reasonable price,” says Jacqueline Tan of Starlet Dresses. Some of these websites even stock international labels such as the high-fashion Oscar de la Renta, New York-based Faviana and British accessory brand Fleet Ilya, as well as select furniture and art.

Here are four of our favorites:

Doorstep Luxury
What: An afternoon tête-à-tête between friends and former classmates Miranda Lindsay-Fynn and Au Da Yu resulted in them launching a virtual store of personally picked luxury items. Doorstep Luxury is Asia’s premier online retailer of cult designer handbags, jewelry and accessories, and its cache of goods comes straight from where it matters most: The fashion capitals.
“We source our merchandise from Fashion Weeks in London, New York and Paris. We have a team in Europe who keeps us updated on the latest hot young designers to check out and the trends they see developing for the coming seasons. I personally meet with all the designers at Fashion Week and put together a collection with their input,” says Lindsay-Flynn.
The goods: Expect labels and designers such as Ragazze Ornamentali for their sublimely beautiful handbags ($850 upwards), British accessory label Ela Stone, cult British leather accessory designer Fleet Ilya, who specializes in beautifully
structured bags and corset-belts, and Misela, a Turkish-born New Yorker who makes handbags for the clued-in fashionista ($550 upwards).

Not In The Malls
What: If you think online stores are only good for a particular type of product, think again. Not In The Malls, the brainchild of Michelle O’Neill and Krista Moore, aims to bring the experience of shopping in the malls into your home. This online marketplace is a platform for sellers of unique products hand-picked by the pair. “We realized that we could provide these small businesses with an alternative avenue to sell their gorgeous creations to more people like us while still keeping their mystery and uniqueness,” says Moore. Take note though, as there is no central warehouse and everything you purchase comes straight from the seller, there might be an additional delivery charge to your order.
The goods: The website hosts more than 80 independent sellers ranging from art from acclaimed artist Diana Francis and handmade cars from scrap metal wire and tin cans by Africars, to the dark gray minimalist jewelry collection from Vanessa Ward and handmade children’s clothes by Chandamama and Little Red Wagon. $79 upwards for fashion accessories, $85 upwards for bags and $800 upwards for art pieces.

Starlet Dresses
What: Any fashionista worth their weight in wool will agree on one thing: Quality, red-carpet-ready dresses cost a bomb. But point your mouse to www.starletdresses.com, and
you’ll find stylish, high-fashion cocktail dresses and elegant evening gowns at affordable prices. You can also snag labels from New York designers such as Flip and Faviana, previously available only in the US. “We set out to serve the mid-tier evening gown/cocktail dresses segment in Singapore who find it hard to find beautiful off-the-rack gowns in the local market that aren’t overpriced,” says owner Jacqueline Tan.
The goods: From beautiful beaded chiffon dresses to luscious off-shoulder satin numbers, Starlet Dresses makes you look like a star without busting your bank account. $220 upwards for cocktail dresses and $390 upwards for evening gowns.

What: This is the only fashion e-tailer with its own bus ad (you might have spotted a bright red bus with www.traceyinny.com.sg emblazoned on it). Started in 2007 by Pamela Goi and Jeannie Pang as an online blogshop, Tracyeinny is now one of our leading independent online fashion retailers. Last year, Pang and Goi opened Tracyeinny’s first retail store, which has since moved from Pearl’s Hill Terrace to Nankin Row in China Square Central.
The goods: Look out for easy-to-wear casual and dressier pieces such as printed blouses, shift dresses, jumpsuits and outerwear at purse-friendly prices (starting from as low as $24)



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Reflections at Keppel Bay

More opulence for the rich to indulge in, and for peasants on the ground to gawk at. Reflections at Keppel Bay, a mega luxury condo project by Keppel Homes, is designed by American architect Daniel Libeskind, best known as the master plan architect for the reconstruction of the World Trade Center. Liebskind’s iconic forms of undulating towers of alternating heights are set to change the skyline of the city’s southern waterfront. Together with nearby VivoCity, Marina at Keppel Bay, the iconic Keppel Bay Bridge and Resorts World Sentosa, Reflections has sparked a rejuvenation of sorts in the previously underdeveloped Telok Blangah/Mt. Faber/Keppel area. With prices for each of Reflection’s units going for up to $2,000 per sq. ft., it will be one of the most expensive homes in the city.
Where: Keppel Bay
How Much? $1 billion
When? 2013
Worthiness: **
Verdict: Yet another overpriced condo project targeted at the nouveau rich (yawn). Still, the awesome design should be a sight to behold.

Singapore University of Technology & Design

Singapore does hubs like nowhere else: arts hub, IT hub, sports hub. And, when the new Singapore University of Technology and Design (SUTD) open its doors in three years time, our city can add “education hub” to its lion’s mane. The nine-hectare SUTD, the city’s fourth university, will collaborate with the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and China’s Zhejiang University, and offer four specializations: Architecture and sustainable design, engineering product development, engineering systems and design, and information systems technology and design. Amsterdam-based practice UNstudio together with local firm DP Architects designed SUTD, drawing inspiration from the school’s cross-disciplinary approach to their curriculum, conceived an overlapping network of vistas and thoroughfares connecting four blocks.
Where: Upper Changi
How Much? They won’t say
When? 2014
Worthiness: ***
Verdict: The whole project sounds promising given the fact that its disciplines revolve around creative technical research and education anchored in design—something lacking in the varsities here. That said, its inaccessible location in Changi might turn off quite a few wannabe technical hopefuls.

Capitol Theatre Project

Finally, after years in limbo, one of Singapore’s landmarks will receive a swanky revamp set to turn the building into something that may surpass even its former glory. The iconic neo-classical structure built in 1929 by the Namazie brothers will be given a makeover by renowned architect Richard Meier, who designed the Barcelona Museum of Contemporary Art and Camden Medical Centre off Tanglin Road. A 15-story development with shops, eateries and apartments will rise above the site’s conservation heritage buildings—Stamford House, Capitol Building and Capitol Theatre—while Capitol Centre will be demolished. In the place of Capitol Centre, a new luxury residential podium will be set above a four-storey shopping mall. Thirty million dollars of the projected cost will be set aside to conserve Capitol Theatre. “The theater will act as a catalyst to inject life and energy into the development and we need to leverage on that,” says Pua Seck Guan, chief executive of Perennial Real Estate, one half of the project’s winning consortium.
Where: Stamford Road
How Much? $750 million
When? 2014
Worthiness: *****
Verdict: Definitely two thumbs up as we’re confident that someone of Richard Meier’s caliber can do justice to the languishing landmark, which has been home to second-rate retail shops for as long as we can remember.

The North-South Expressway
Motorists living up north, your peak hour traffic jam woes may soon be a thing of the past (if by soon, you mean 2020). You will be able to zip down from Woodlands, Sembawang and Ang Mo Kio to the city in a breeze (provided there aren’t more cars by then) on the new North South Expressway. But to get this project off the ground, the government will have to acquire some 40 lots and over 30 partial lots of land, meaning those of you unfortunate enough to be in that space will have to up and move. Work on the new expressway, which runs parallel to the CTE and will connect to existing expressways such as the Seletar Expressway, is expected to begin in 2013. The new expressway should cut travelling time from Woodlands to the city by 30 per cent during peak hours.
Where: From Woodlands through Sembawang, Yishun, Ang Mo Kio, Bishan and Toa Payoh to the city.
How Much? $7-8 billion
When? 2020
Worthiness: ***
Verdict: Anything that eases traffic congestion is certainly a good thing. Let’s just hope that all the construction work that goes into it won’t affect the already unbearable peak-hour traffic jams in the north.


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The Diageo Reserve World Class Bartender of the Year 2010 and head bartender of The American Bar at London’s The Savoy talks to I-S about the craft of the cocktail.

What are some current trends you’ve seen in the cocktail market?
Having travelled around the Asia Pacific region recently, I have noticed a lot of creativity where bartenders create drinks based on homemade ingredients. They use almost everything, from bitters, infusions, fat washing* to syrups, to create interesting cocktails with great flavor. The ritual theater behind a memorable serve provides that real “wow” factor when the drink arrives at the table. Just as spirits are known to age in barrels, cocktails today follow suit.
* Fat washing involves mixing a melted fat with a spirit, chilling the mixture until the fat solidifies, then skimming or straining it to get the fat out.

What’s the next big thing in cocktails and spirits?
Gin has made a big comeback. One of my favorite brands is Tanqueray No. 10. Also, many spirits which were made back in the old days are being reproduced again. Cocktail trends wise, there is rapid progress in new techniques applied behind the bar to create new cocktails that involve methods using homemade ingredients and barrel-aged cocktails.

What’s your advice to the home mixologist?
Less is always more. Fresh ingredients, good quality products and proper ice cubes!

Rising To The Sky by Erik Lorincz
What you need:

  • 45ml of Tanqueray No. 10 gin
  • 10ml Yuzu juice
  • 22.5ml freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 15ml pressed pineapple juice
  • 10ml shot Fino dry sherry
  • 15ml sugar syrup 
  • 8 fresh coriander leaves

Shake all ingredients with ice and fine strain into a chilled martini glass, serve alongside a tumbler of botanical steam (for an extra sensory experience, not to be drunk).

Botanical steam:
Macerate coriander leaves, juniper berries and grapefruit peel in hot water, then pour over dry ice.


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For fast prints direct from your camera’s memory card or cable, invest in your own portable color lab

Epson Picturemate PM310
The Epson’s hefty Picturemate PM310 is one of the fastest photo-printers around—it took less than 40 seconds to dish out prints—and the quality is first-rate for a compact. The printer uses Epson’s propriety Claria Photographic inks which are smudge, water and fade-resistant, allowing your prints to last some 200 years—a solid choice for sharpshooters who want an at-home photo lab. $298 from Challenger, #06-00 Funan DigitaLife Mall, 109 North Bridge Rd., 6339-9008

HP Photosmart A626
HP’s Photosmart A626 is able to deliver 6x4in and 7x5in photos as well as 4x12in panoramas. It can also print directly via PictBridge and a variety of memory card formats, including CompactFlash, SD, xD and Memory Stick. You can wirelessly print from Bluetooth-enabled camera photos and other devices by just plugging in the HP Bluetooth Adapter into the printer. The flip-up 4.8-inch color touchscreen is a handy tool where you can edit your photos and add captions and descriptions using the onscreen keyboard. Despite the high price, its easy-to-use menus and Bluetooth connectivity make this a serious contender.
$399 from Best Denki, #05-01/05 Ngee Ann City Shopping Centre, 391 Orchard Rd., 6835-2855

Canon Selphy CP800
The tiniest of the lot, Canon’s CP800 takes the pain out of printing photos with its plug-and-play design and straightforward interface, and the price tag makes it an excellent companion printer for quick prints at home. The tilt-up 2.5-inch LCD screen upfront provides all the features you need to print directly from the CompactFlash, MultiMediaCard, Memory Stick, SD Card, and XD-Picture Card slots.
$199 from Canon Link, #02-32/33 VivoCity, 1 HarbourFront Walk, 6376-9340/41


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I-S asks whether the city’s upcoming megaprojects justify the hype.

Blink and you’ll miss it. The breakneck pace at which Singapore’s urban landscape is developing is truly something to behold. Never mind the backwater swamp we were 44 years ago, think about what has changed in the last six months. “These are exciting times in Singapore where significant new additions to the urban-scape are taking place.

Change of this scale hasn’t been seen since our early phases of nation building and it is definitely a sign of a new era in Singapore,” says Adib Jalal, founder and editor of FiveFootWay.com, a local architectural e-zine. “But we also have to be mindful and see whether these projects really benefit Singaporeans and not just visitors and foreigners,” counters writer and urban theorist Professor William Lim. “If our own people do not feel a sense of ownership or identify with them, then I guess they’re just window-dressing.”

Certainly our city-state has become flashier, more mobile and greener than ever before, but with more grand-scale projects such as the Singapore Sports Hub and Gardens By The Bay all well underway, we decided it was time to take a closer look and see if this is all money well-spent. 

Singapore Sports Hub

The erstwhile National Stadium—host to 18 National Day Parades, Pope John Paul II’s mass in 1986, and Michael Jackson’s Dangerous concert dates in 1993—will make way for the new Singapore Sports Hub. The grey oval will turn into a 55,000-seat National Stadium with a retractable roof, a 6,000-seat indoor aquatics arena, about 41,000 square meters of business, commercial and retail space, and a sports institute. There will be a sports library and sports museum, as well as other amenities including a volleyball court, rock-climbing wall, hard courts, a skate park and state-of-the-art training and sports recovery facilities, among others.
Where: Kallang
How Much? $1.33 billion
When? April 2014
Worthiness: ***
Verdict: Finally, we’re just happy to see the National Stadium finally go after two years of delays. Demolition work was originally set to begin in 2008, but the 2007 global financial crisis and high construction costs delayed the project. There was even a farewell party held in June 2007, for crying out loud. The Singapore Sports Council has a lot of work on its hands, trying to build a sporting culture and getting locals to participate at the same time (not just as spectators). We can only hope that the very expensive Sports Hub won’t become yet another tourist-dollar chasing venue and will offer more than just occasional international events.
Gardens By The Bay

If you’ve driven along the East Coast Parkway and up the Benjamin Sheares Bridge, you’ll have noticed those strange structures (not Marina Bay Sands, the other ones) being constructed where Marina South City Park used to be. Gardens by the Bay, an ambitious project undertaken by National Parks Board (NParks), will occupy 101 hectares of prime waterfront land in Singapore’s new downtown, Marina Bay. It will comprise three gardens: Bay South, Bay East and Bay Central. Bay South is the largest of the three gardens and the first to be completed. Highlights include the cooled conservatories, “Supertrees” and horticultural themed gardens. But do we really need another botanical gardens? According to an NParks spokesperson, “Both gardens offer different leisure experiences and will complement each other in terms of horticultural offerings. While the Botanic Gardens, as a botanical institution, focuses on botanical displays for education, research and training, Gardens by the Bay will bring together the best of horticulture and garden artistry for the purpose of “edutainment.”
Where: Marina South City Park
How Much? $1 billion
When? It will be open for public review this November
Worthiness: ****
Verdict: This is the closest we’ll probably get to New York’s Central Park or London’s Hyde Park, never mind the cheesy “Supertrees” concept.
National Art Gallery
The old City Hall and Supreme Court buildings will soon do our arts and culture scene some justice, as home to the National Art Gallery (NAG), the largest art museum in Southeast Asia. It will house a range of permanent and temporary galleries, showcasing works from both our national collection and international travelling exhibitions. “NAG has a Southeast Asian art focus, the only such focus in the world. The museum also provides a platform to evince even greater cultural vibrancy through a civic space belonging to the community and visitors alike,” explains Kwok Kian Chow, director of the National Art Gallery. He adds, “The National Art Gallery will give Singapore a specialization in cultural studies—that of Southeast Asian art, as our contribution to world culture. This will benefit the Singapore art scene tremendously as we are not seen as merely drawing inspiration from the surfaces of current vogue.” (Really. That’s just how they talk in the art world.)
Where: Former City Hall and Supreme Court buildings along St. Andrew’s Road.
How Much? $520 million
When? To open progressively from the end of 2014
Worthiness: ****
Verdict: This one’s been a long time coming—a center where Singapore and Asian art can flourish. There is certainly room in Singapore’s growing visual arts scene for an expansion of museums and visual arts institutions. Local artists will also have another platform to strut their stuff as one of the key components of NAG will be to engage and involve our homegrown arts talent. Plus, entry to four areas within the museum will be free.



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