Tag Archives: Hong Kong

Vinexpo HK Reveals Singapore’s Favorite Wine

In the never-ending battle between red and white wine, Singaporeans have chosen a winner. In the run-up to Vinexpo Hong Kong, consumption trends in Singapore, as well as five other Asia-Pacific countries were analyzed, revealing a clear preference for red wine. It was revealed that red wine represented 70 percent of the market in Singapore, with 645,000 9-liter cases consumed in 2014. In contrast, only 251,000 cases of white wine were consumed in the same year, though that figure is set to grow slightly by 1.2 percent by 2019.

Australian wines have been shown to dominate the import market in Singapore (there is no other market in Singapore as the island has exactly zero wineries), holding a 38.5 percent of market share as compared with Chilean wines at 16.5 percent and French wines at 16 percent.

On another front, whisky remains Singapore’s favorite spirit (judging by our associate publisher and designers’ office bar, we agree), with its popularity projected to rise 14 percent by 2019. Cognac and armagnac – the second most popular spirits – are slated to decline nearly six percent over the next five years, mainly due to the declining numbers of Chinese tourists.

Gin and tequila are the fourth and fifth most popular spirits, with consumption predicted to spike through to 2019: gin is predicted to grow by 29 percent and tequila, 23 percent. Where is rum in all this, we have to wonder…

The Vinexpo 2016 in Hong Kong will be a three-day trade-only show for international wine and spirits professionals to converge to exchange ideas and knowledge. Held from 24 – 26 May 2016, the event is expecting 16,700 buyers from 24 countries and 1,300 exhibitors from all over the world.

Guide: Hong Kong Property Outlook 2016

Home to one of the world’s largest property markets, Hong Kong (HK) has seen a decade-long rise in residential prices, fueled by mainland Chinese demand and the low cost of borrowing within the country. Official figures by the HK Rating and Valuation Department suggest that residential prices reached a high in July, 2015, with a price tag of HK$151,462 ($19,543) per square meter (psm) for properties under the size of 40 m2.

However, this boom is set to end with the advent of 2016 (best available data), as global financial events trigger predictions of a drop in both rental and housing prices. Our friends at Palace magazine published this report in the first quarter of 2016, looking ahead to the rest of 2016.

Source: Squarefoot Hong Kong

Prices psf vs months. Source: Squarefoot Hong Kong

According to the South China Morning Post, property market analysts expect an 8 per cent to 10 per cent decline in rental and residential home prices in 2016. A number of circumstances have been cited as key reasons for the drop in prices, chief among them are the US interest rate hike and the dampening effect of China’s economic slowdown.

Signs of a cooling property market emerged earlier, in August 2015, as HK residential sales numbers hit their lowest in 17 months at 5,197 transactions, due to investor caution amidst a speculative economic climate. The HK sales volume figures published in Nikkei Asian Review suggest that this trend will continue on, as the number of completed sales dropped further to 2,800 units in November 2015.

A Slowing Dragon: The Chinese Factor

The plunge in the number of HK property transactions can be partly attributed to the loss of momentum in Chinese growth — a phenomena which can be traced back to a slowdown in the country’s massive trading and manufacturing sectors.

In the face of an economic downturn, mainland consumers have cut back on all forms of purchases, including property investments in HK’s secondary market.

A report released by Bloomberg Business in December, stated that the proportion of Chinese property transactions in the HK market had fallen sharply from its peak of 12 per cent in 2011 to 6 per cent during the first six months of this year.

This trend is also indicative of the results accomplished by cooling measures that have been put in place since 2009. In a bid to quench the heavy demand generated by foreign investors and scalpers, solutions such as a 15% Buyer’s Stamp Duty (BSD) and Special Stamp Duty (SSD) were implemented to dissuade non-locals from snapping up property for profit.

The Rising Cost of Borrowing in HK

Likewise, the lifting of US Federal Reserve interest rates by 0.25 per cent to 0.5 per cent, has been predicted to have a dampening effect on activity in the HK property market. As the Hong Kong dollar is pegged to the greenback, home mortgage rates are expected to rise and impact property affordability accordingly.

Moreover, news of the interest rate hike coincides with an ongoing trend of rising property foreclosure numbers— an article published by Bloomberg Business reported that case figures had increased to “80 from about 50 to 60 in the first half of 2015”.

Although these changes signify added threats to HK’s residential market, their influence might be less significant than expected.  For instance, in Knight Frank’s December market analysis, it was pointed out that a jump in interest rates by 100-basis-points would only necessitate an additional payment of HK$500 per month for a HK$1 million loan, assuming a 20-year repayment schedule.

Source: Hong Kong Housing Authority

Stock of flats in public and private permanent housing, Source: Hong Kong Housing Authority

More Affordable Homes for Locals?

Growing interest rates aside, other market trends point to the possibility that HK homes might actually become more affordable in the coming year. Knight Frank estimates that there will be close to 110,000 new homes added to the market supply from 2016 onwards to 2020. On a yearly basis, this translates into an increase of 22,000 housing units in heavily populated areas like Yuen Long, Tsueng Kwan O and Kowloon.

Consequently, this increase in property availability can be taken as a sign of cheaper homes to come; prominent HK developers have already begun to cut prices while offering attractive mortgage plans as their answer to the steadily rising supply of new properties.

Bloomberg Business reports that major players, like Cheung Kong and Henderson Land, are currently offering a series of discounts that will enable interested buyers to save up to 14 per cent of their purchase costs. That said, if there is ever a good time to buy a home in HK, it is in 2016.


Story Credits
Text by Tina Chopra

This article was originally published in PALACE Magazine

Interview: Photographer Peter Steinhauer

Award-winning fine-art photographer Peter Steinhauer recently showed at REDSEA Gallery Singapore his Singapore ‘Number Blocks’ and Hong Kong ‘Cocoons’ series based on having lived in the two cities during 21 years of residing in Asia.

Singapore ‘Number Blocks’ is a series that captures the bright colourful number markings found on the sides of HDB buildings of Singapore. For Steinhauer, the interest lies in the unusual colour schemes and deliberately scripted fonts used on these government housing blocks that are the very heart of the multi-cultural integration that is Singapore. Meanwhile Steinhauer’s ‘Cocoons’ series documents the surprising beauty of a construction technique native to Hong Kong – the bamboo and fabric nets that encase the ‘metamorphoses’ of a building project.

Peter Steinhauer’s work is held in collections at the Carnegie Museum of Art, the Hong Kong Heritage Museum and numerous private and corporate collections worldwide. Born and raised in Boulder, Colorado, Steinhauer developed an early fascination and appreciation of culture which culminated in him living in numerous cities throughout the US, Stockholm, Sweden, Hanoi, Saigon, Vietnam, Hong Kong and Singapore.

Describing himself as a purist from a photography background not a digital artist, Steinhauer speaks with Art Republik about Singapore, Hong Kong, and his work.

What’s your favorite building in Singapore?

My favourite building is not one that many would probably think or know of. It is an old shop house on the corner of Jalan Besar and Veerasamy Rd. The most beautiful detailed building in Singapore in my opinion. Painted a light pastel blue, accented with emerald green small square tiles with pink roses with emerald green roof trim and terracotta tiles. The detailing of the glass tiled windowed doors and the ornately flower looking carvings on the faced is something that I look at every time I pass it. No one makes houses like this any longer.

HDBs and their corridors are loaded with nostalgia and psychic weight for Singaporeans, featuring often in art films. Why do you think that is?

The character of them. It is Singapore, and has the identity of Singapore within them. Again, it brings it back to the culture, the multi-cultural, race and religion that make up Singapore. The background of Peranakan, Chinese, Malay mix, the food and way of life. This is what makes up Singapore, not the Marina Bay Sands. Beautiful, yes, but it is not the culture and background of Singapore. You find it, like in any other Asian culture, in the working class, foundational groups of people, and in Singapore, they are in HDB’s. I am sure this is why many films are made in or with them.

Block 167, Singapore, 2013

Block 167, Singapore, 2013

Tell us about your Hong Kong ‘Cocoons’ series.

In my ‘Cocoons’ series, the structures are encased in bamboo scaffolding, then the colored material is draped around the bamboo to stop debris and other things from falling onto the streets below. I first started the interest in these on my first trip to Hong Kong in 1994. I was living in Hanoi, Vietnam at that time and had to go to Hong Kong as my visa had run out. Outside of the old Kai Tak airport, I saw this massive building across the street and it was covered with bamboo and yellow material. I thought it was the environmental artist Christo and his wife Jean Claude wrapping buildings (as is their art) in Hong Kong. I quickly realised, after seeing others on the way to my hotel, that this was a construction process. I found them extremely interesting as they look like giant colored wrapped packages within a mono chromatic, dense concrete urban environment. I made images of these as well, snap shots if you will, every time I visited Hong Kong. When I moved there in January of 2007, I started photographing them as a full-time project. The ‘Cocoons’ book is under design as we speak and hope to have it published in 2016.

What first brought you to Asia, and what kept you here for so long?

My background with Asia, starting with my father being a doctor in the Marines in the Vietnam American war. I was born while he was there and growing up we always had slide shows of his snap shots of Vietnam in the living room; from third grade until a senior in High School, I gave the same slide shows for extra credit. He started going back to Vietnam in 1988 and helped start an organization that gives donated medical equipment from the US to Vietnam and developed friendships with people there through this work. I finished photography school and had a chance to go there to make my art and was going to stay for a few months. After one week there, I had felt so comfortable with it all and knew this was the place I was supposed to be. I travelled around Asia while based in Vietnam working on my projects and just felt that there wasn’t a better place for a photographer. I stayed for the next two decades!

What kind of camera setup do you have?

I work with Phase One IQ260 medium format digital back, which is a very high resolution 65 megapixels. It is attached most of the time to a Cambo WRS 1250 technical camera that is made for architecture. I use Schneider Digitar lenses and Lexar compact flash cards. Occasionally I use the Phase One camera body with the IQ260 digital back but mainly the technical camera. All my work is set up on a carbon fiber tripod. My exposures range anywhere from 1 second to 1 minute for most cases. Oh, and I like to work on cloudy days.

Why is that?

I prefer soft light. It focuses more on the subject and I can push the contrast more without losing details. You can see what’s hanging on their doors even if it’s in the shadows, you can even see through people’s windows.

What kind of a photographer do you consider yourself?

I’m not so much a social documentary photographer. I just take pictures of things because of the way they look to me. What interested me about the Singapore ‘Number Blocks’ is that someone took a lot of time to find color schemes and fonts — sometimes scripted or blockish or art deco fonts, some with drop shadow and lots of style — and I was intrigued that they put a lot of effort into all of that.

*For more information, please visit www.redseagallery.com

Story Credits

This article was originally published in Art Republik

Spring/Summer 2016: 4 Celebrity Collaborations

It’s always fun to learn of celebrity collaborations with notable brands. Here, we take a look at some of the most anticipated lineups for Spring 2016 you’d want to include on your shopping list.

Rihanna for Manolo BlahnikManolo-Blahnik-Rihanna

Rihanna isn’t showing signs of slowing down when it comes to collaborations. This spring, she adds yet another exciting project to her busy fashion plate with famed luxury shoe designer Manolo Blahnik for a capsule footwear collection entitled “Denim Desserts”. The collection includes six models: ankle boots, stilettos and thigh-high boots. The embroidery and beading featured in the designs, are inspired by the award-winning singer’s many tattoos.This very limited-edition collection goes on sale from May 5 in Manolo Blahnik stores in London, New York and Hong Kong.

Sonia Rykiel & Robert ClegerieSonia-Rykiel-Robert-Clergerie

One of Robert Clergerie’s most iconic designs makes a come-back from the 1980s with the help of Sonia Rykiel. The closed-toe wedge sandals with an ankle strap that sealed the brand’s success got a breath of fresh air with bejweled, striped and sequined designs. Fans looking to embrace the iconic style of the ‘80s can do so in June when the updated designs head to both brands’ stores.

Liberty London for Uniqloliberty-london-Uniqulo

Uniqlo has quietly edged into the top spot for designer collaborations after working with some of the industry’s best – think Pharrell Williams, UNDERCOVER and Jil Sander. This season, in celebration of Liberty London’s 140th anniversary, the Japanese chain brings a selection of charming floral prints by the English label to bloom on 20 Uniqlo designs, including T-shirts, dresses, pants and lightweight down jackets for women, men, children and babies. The range is out now in stores and online.

Kendall & Kylie Jenner for Neiman MarcusKendall-Kylie-Jenner-Neiman-Marcus

Kendall and Kylie Jenner have taken over the world one Instagram post at a time, and now they’re about to take over our wardrobes too. The capsule collection of chic, high-end pieces designed for Neiman Marcus as part of the label’s “#OnlyatNM” program sees moto jackets, shorts and maxi dresses designed by the powerhouse sisters, and is available in the luxury label’s stores or online at neimanmarcus.com.


Focus: Samujana Villas, Koh Samui

Koh Samui is today a renowned international holiday destination, with visitors and investors from all over the world. The number of visitors from Asian countries is increasing due to improved air links, with direct flights from Hong Kong, Singapore and Kuala Lumpur. The large increase of high-end resorts between years 2012 to 2014 has repositioned the island as a luxury resort destination. The real estate market has also seen prices increased over the last few years.Palace-Koh-Samui-Samujana-Featured

Boutique luxury villa estate, Samujana, has unveiled its second phase of eight expansive new properties, adding to its existing collection of 25 luxury hillside villas. The project first opened in March 2012 as Koh Samui’s most exclusive and discrete luxury villa estate. Positioned in the most sought-after location on the island, it offers complete privacy, yet is within a few minutes’ drive from Samui International Airport. Set in a prestigious hilltop location which is walking distance from beaches of Choeng Mon and popular Chaweng, the all-pool award-winning villa estate overlooks a coral cove, giving each villa uninterrupted sea views and private beach access.Palace-Koh-Samui-Samujana3

The 25 villas at Samujana have been designed by Asia’s celebrated Gary Fell of GFAB Architects — each sensitively constructed in harmony with the natural rock outcrops and vegetation with a contemporary spacious design. With large en suite bedrooms, living spaces and dining areas, state-of-the-art kitchens, dedicated parking and private infinity edge pools, each property boasts uninterrupted luxury in a home away from home.Palace-Koh-Samui-Samujana4

Villa 30 is known not only as the jewel in the crown of Samujana, but the most impressive villa in Koh Samui, as one of the few places on the island with 360-degree sunrise and sunset views of Chaweng and Lamai, Choengmon and Plai Laem, Big Buddha and the neighbouring island of Koh Phangan. Situated at the very top of the estate, Villa 30 features five en suite bedrooms, a state-of-the-art cinema, private gym and a handcrafted spiral staircase. The villa also offers a breathtaking infinity pool, two fully equipped kitchens and incorporates the use of contemporary Asian art and accents throughout. From rain showers to Nuovo sound systems, a full service bar and rooftop barbecue deck, the villa is suitable for functions such as a soirée or intimate dinner party with friends.Palace-Koh-Samui-Samujana7

Villa 28, which has six bedrooms and extensive gardens, is perched high up on the estate and offers panoramic sea views. This 1,209sf villa is fully equipped with two designer kitchens sufficient to accommodate group functions, a private cinema complemented with a wide selection of films and TV shows, and an infinity pool.Palace-Koh-Samui-Samujana6

Guests can also enjoy the various amenities offered on the estate — private villa hosts, local and international cuisine from top, private chefs, an all-weather floodlit tennis court and access to water sports. Samujana has also partnered Koh Samui’s leading spa centers and a wide range of beauty and relaxation treatments can be provided in the privacy of villas. There is also exclusive charters of various sailing and motorboats, suitable for activities such as water-skiing, picnics on hidden beaches, snorkeling, sightseeing or sailing.Palace-Koh-Samui-Samujana2

Kurt Berman, General Manager of Samujana says, “we are focused on offering owners the very best return on their lifestyle investment. By operating as a boutique villa retreat with the provision of exemplary hospitality in such a stunning setting, we create an environment where owners and guests can discover a new state of mind”.Palace-Koh-Samui-Samujana

The development has been awarded various accolades, including the ‘Best Villa Development in Southeast Asia’, ‘Best Villa Development in Thailand’ and ‘Best Residential Architectural Design in Southeast Asia’ at the South East Asia Property Awards 2013, and was highly commended for ‘Architecture of Multiple Residences in Thailand’ at the Asia Pacific Property Awards 2014, among others.Palace-Koh-Samui-Samujana8

Buyer Information

Property: Samujana

Location: Bontji Moo 4 Koh Samui, Ko Samui District, Surat Thani 84320, Thailand

Architect: Gary Fell of GFAB Architects


Walking distance to nearby beaches

Selected villas offer 360-degree sunrise and sunset views

Some in-villa facilities include large en suite bedrooms, a state-of-the-art cinema, private gym, infinity pool, kitchens, full service bar and rooftop barbecue deck

Spa treatments provided in the privacy of villas

Exclusive charters of various sailing and motorboat

Access to activities such as water-skiing, picnics on hidden beaches, snorkeling and sailing

Price: Price on Application

Date of Completion: Phase Two is complete, all villas are open.

Contact: www.samujana.com

Story Credits

Text by Domenica Tan

This story first appeared in PALACE Magazine.

Volvo Ocean Race Sails for Hong Kong in 2018

The next edition of the Volvo Ocean Race, will see the sailing event visit Hong Kong. Over the course of nine months and 40,000 nautical miles (74,080 km) the fleet of sailing yachts will stop off at more than 11 host ports.

“For 43 years the Volvo Ocean Race has visited the majority of the world’s most prestigious and iconic ports, with one obvious exception and that port has possibly the most wondrous waterfront in all the world,” Jon Bramley, the event’s director of news said at a press conference in the city.

Come February 2018, the participants will be visiting the site of the former Kai-Tak airport that is now an ocean cruise terminal, during the 13th edition of the race for up to two weeks. Other cities hosting the race that starts in 2017, include Alicante, Spain; Newport, Rhode Island; Auckland, New Zealand; Capetown, South Africa and well as Lisbon, Cardiff and Gothenburg before finally ending in the Hague, Netherlands.

The route has yet to be confirmed by organizers where competitors will spend weeks at sea between ports piloting their identical 65ft monohulls through treacherous waters. The seven teams made up of members from 19 nationalities including China, Ireland, Argentina and Antigua participated in that edition of the race will survive on a diet of freeze-dried food and a maximum of four hours of sleep a day.

Focus: Studio Munge

From Toronto to Hong Kong, Studio Munge’s interiors transport guests and residents into a world of sumptuous luxury.

Design aficionados often talk about how a carefully curated space affects the way you feel. This is certainly the belief of Allesandro Munge, design principal at Studio Munge, a Toronto based firm that specializes in luxury hospitality and residential interiors. “Most of my designs are emotion based,” he says. “Whether the guest enters a restaurant, a hotel lobby or a private residence, the initial burst of emotion is what I’m after.”

Since opening his studio in 1997, Allesandro Munge’s atmospheric interiors have reached an increasingly global clientele. His firm has partnered with Park Hyatt, MGM Resorts, Greenland Group, Wheelock Group and China Land Resources among others, often working on projects across several continents simultaneously.

Whether he’s creating a moody bar in Vancouver or a plush residence Hong Kong, Munge’s spaces are also decidedly upscale. “I will use every design element accessible, from bespoke furniture designs to the most luxurious finishes to translate our narrative and transport people into a world of hedonist luxury,” he says.01-Alessandro-Munge-Portrait

Born and raised in Germany to Italian parents, Munge came to design as a child when he began sketching designs for his mother’s drapery business. Later he expanded his visions to incorporate different elements of a room to create a comprehensive space. Professionally, he got his start at Yabu Pushelberg in Toronto where he worked for four years before breaking away with Sai Leung to form his own company. Fast-forward two decades and his firm has become one of Canada’s leading design studios.

Studio Munge is known for an innovative and eclectic approach to high-end interiors where choice materials and furnishings are often combined in playful, unexpected ways. At Taverna Mercatto, an Italian restaurant that recently opened in Toronto, Studio Munge combined barbed wire chandeliers and exposed beams with stained glass windows and reclaimed church pews to achieve a look that is part gothic industrial and part nonna’s living room. At Prohibition, the bar at Vancouver’s legendary Rosewood Hotel Georgia (where Munge’s studio also spearheaded a stylish restoration), Studio Munge created a sleek room with lush drapery and richly upholstered bar stools, a throwback to the age of decadence and glamour that includes an ornate ceiling clad in Macassar Ebosy, a custom glass-and-metal chandelier, an a 3,000 sq. ft. black stone bar.Studio_Munge_Prohibition_17

A keen eye for detail and love of lavishness also characterizes the studio’s prolific hospitality and residential work. (The firm is currently working on over 30 residential projects split between four design teams.) At the Ritz Carlton Residences in Toronto Studio Munge was tasked with creating model suites that exuded the refined elegance for which the brand is known. To convey tasteful sophistication the firm used rich woods like macassar ebony and patterned floors made of marble, limestone and granite. Since future owners would eventually customize their units, Munge concentrated on showing upgrade options such as brushed, satin-nickel hardware, walls custom-lined with wenge-stained oak and leather stitched panels. To add local flair Studio Munge commissioned art pieces from Toronto artists. To contemporize the space they designed a custom two-sided fireplace between the living room and the den.

Finding cohesive solutions for projects that demand a plurality of design languages and functions is not easy. Allesandro Munge attributes his success in part to his extensive world travels. “My extensive travelling is undoubtedly what influences me the most. The contact with foreign culture has had an immeasurable impact on my designs. It allows me to truly understand human nature, the psychology of the mind and what links us all.”Studio_Munge_Bisha-Sales-Centre_Credit-Evan-Dion09

Munge’s world travels became a central principle for another recent residential project, the Bisha Hotel and Residences. One of the developers, Charles Khabouth, was an early nightclub client of Munge’s who loves to travel and collect art and furniture. He wanted Bisha’s interiors to be ‘worldly instead of trendy’, filled with one-of-a-kind pieces that reflect the international inspiration of Studio Munge’s travels around the globe.

The flagship project is the latest private-label boutique hotel and residence brand to emerge in Toronto since the Four Seasons. It comprises a 41 storey tower, designed by Wallman Architects, 100 hotel rooms and over 300 residences that feature nine-foot ceilings, spacious balconies and custom-designed Studio Munge cabinetry.

Entering the building, Bisha’s interiors are meant to reflect the fusion of Toronto’s homegrown poise with an international flair. Studio Munge employed a tantalizing mix of opulent furnishings and textures including glass, wood, stone, gold-hued metals leathers and silks. The lounge features wireframe chairs from Minotti, a French sideboard bar unit from L’Atelier, a custom hide rug from Kyle Bunting and custom wall finish by Toronto’s Applied Arts Studios. At the bar, vintage Parisian wall sconces flank a gold circular fireplace; a glass sculpture by Jeff Goodman hangs from the coffered ceiling.

The opulence is palpable; yet the space is also designed to feel intimate, complete with ‘at home’ comforts. These days Munge says the lines between luxury hospitality and residential project are increasingly blurred.  While his luxury hospitality clientele is looking for intimate and curated spaces, “a home away from home”, residential developers are tapping onto the aspirational luxury hotel lifestyle. “They both are merging into a common sophisticated cosmopolitan lifestyle,” he says.Studio_Munge_IDS-Bisha-Credit-Tom-Arban_20

Munge says the biggest change he has experienced is to the actual scope of his design projects. “We’ve outgrown the client/contractor relationship and are now working in a much more symbiotic way with our prestigious clientele and developer partners.” This means the studio will come to the table with a deeper understanding of their client’s business needs, leading to stronger partnerships and more relevant designs both in concept and execution.

But business aside, the driving factor for Munge remains the desire to transport guests through his lavish and evocative spaces. “The beauty of Interior Design is that capacity to transform a human being’s mood and feelings through spatial experience.”

Q & A

You started your company nearly 20 years ago. Have your tastes and design ideals changed since then?

I wouldn’t say my design ideals have changed rather they have matured. As you age, learn more about yourself and become comfortable in your skin. It all starts influencing your aesthetic.Studio_Munge_Prohibition_04

Who are some of your favorite designers?

Many of our designs are inspired by architecture and fashion. I am not sure I can point to one favorite designer but I have always admired designers with a strong vision and sense of direction from the likes of Frank Ghery to Tadao Ando. They have such a great understanding of light and volumes; both artists perfectly materialize the intricate relationship between fluidity and human connectivity.

Do you think Canadian studios are sometimes overlooked when it comes to design?

15 years ago maybe… It’s a different story today. The digital world, ease of travel and communication have turned the industry into a village. Wherever you are based, clients are open to hiring you if you produce quality work. Plus our “conservative Canada” has evolved tremendously, clients are much more inclined to going out of their comfort zone.  I mean look at what Canada has produced…from the likes of Frank Ghery to Drake.Studio_Munge_Suites-at-The-Ritz-Carlton_Credit-Evan-Dion06

In addition to luxury condominiums you also work on private homes. Is there a private residence of which you are particularly proud?

The residential work I am the most proud of is a terraced private home I have been designing for the last four years. It’s one of those beautiful design stories that I cannot wait to share with the world. The architecture is extremely modern and resort like.  It is filled with gorgeous Canadian limestone, strong architectural features and sophisticated details.

What would you like to work on next?

I really need to find the time to finish my own residence! It’s been an ongoing project for years, a passion project of mine that requires much more attention that I am able to give right now. Hopefully 2016 will be the year.

Staff Credits
Text by Sophie Kalkreuth

This article was originally published in PALACE.

Diamond, Scroll Set Auction Records in Asia

Despite the China market blues, a rare blue diamond and a painting by Chinese master Zhang Daqian broke auction records at Sotheby’s April 5. The De Beers Millennium Jewel 4 raked in HK$248.29 million ($31.8 million) at the Hong Kong auction, just hours after a scroll painting by Zhang Daqian sold for a record-breaking HK$270.68 million ($35.93 million).

The 10.10 carat vivid blue diamond broke the record for the most expensive piece of jewelry sold at auction in Asia, but at the lower end of estimates which predicted it would fetch between $30 and $35 million.

Slightly larger than an almond, it is described by Sotheby’s as the largest oval blue diamond ever to appear at auction and “internally flawless”. It was sold to an anonymous phone bidder.

“It was a very successful sale,” Sotheby’s international jewelry division worldwide chairman David Bennett said.

“The fact that it’s a record price for jewelry in Asia I think speaks well about the Asian market… I think it’s alive and well and very healthy,” Bennett said.

The sale came hours after a scroll painting by Chinese master Zhang Daqian sold for a record-breaking HK$270.68 million ($35.93 million), also at Sotheby’s.

It was snapped up by Chinese collector Liu Yiqian’s Shanghai museum — the latest in a string of massive buys associated with the former taxi driver turned tycoon.

Zhang’s splashed ink and color scroll outstripped the top-end pre-sale estimate of HK$65 million, breaking the record for the artist’s work at auction.

A buyer from Liu’s Long Museum ended hour-long bidding for the work, entitled “Peach Blossom Spring”, with more than 100 bids cast.

The sales comes despite a slowdown in the Chinese economy which expanded 6.9 percent in 2015, the worst performance in a quarter of a century and a far cry from years of double-digit increases.

There are fears that the combination of the Chinese economic slowdown and an anti-corruption drive by President Xi Jinping could hit the Asia market — both Sotheby’s and Christie’s posted lower totals at their autumn sales last year in Hong Kong compared with the two preceding years.

Liu, who has been making record-setting purchases at auctions in the past few years, stunned the art world when he bought a famed nude by Italian artist Amedeo Modigliani costing more than $170 million in November.

He set a record for Chinese porcelain in 2014 by paying over $36 million for a tiny Ming Dynasty cup depicting a rooster and hen tending to their chicks, know as the “chicken cup”.

Liu made world headlines by drinking from the cup after he bought it.

Auctioneers say despite China’s economic downturn, there is still demand for top quality collectibles, and demand stretches across Asia.

The “Seal of the Mandate of Heaven” which belonged to the Kangxi Emperor, the longest reigning Chinese monarch, is to be auctioned on Wednesday at Sotheby’s as part of its spring sales season, with a starting at a price of HK$50 million.

Insight: Resilience of Bangkok Property

Despite being hit by political turmoil, the robustness and resilience of the Thai market proved to be stable throughout the various turbulences. According to Suphin Mechuchep, managing director at JLL, part of the strength in the Bangkok market comes from a good balance between demand and supply in the market, as well as the political stabilisation in the second half of 2014.

Moreover, there are other factors that will add to the optimism of the market. For starters, Thailand’s reform roadmap—amidst the stability so far—will enjoy more clarity in policy and direction, and all of this will bolster investors’ and businesses’ bullishness and overall consumer confidence. Moreover, the military government had gone ahead with various major capital spending initiatives, seeking to stimulate the economy through major infrastructure investments, all of which are expected to lift the country’s macro-economy soon, which will in turn help to grow the capital’s various property sectors.

The main property players remain well-funded and have the means to acquire income-yielding assets, or to grow their land banks. In fact, some of these developers have launched their own real estate investment trusts (REITs), which are in turn partly funded by a vibrant stock market in the country. All these ensure a sustained institutional demand for property further upstream, which keeps the market growing at a healthy pace. Beyond local factors, global trends including a low interest rate and low oil prices translating into residential markets having improved household balance sheets (as energy costs now take up less income) are expected to bring about a boost in the local property market.

The trends seen in the market corroborate these observations. According to data from Colliers, over 11,000 condominium units were launched in the city in the second quarter this year, about 9.5 percent more than in the first. Over 75 percent of these new launches were in the area connecting Bangkok along new subway lines. Moreover, significant numbers of luxury condominium units were bought up by investors despite selling prices being high and a competitive leasing market (with investment yields only hovering at about 3.5 percent, based on JLL estimates). Most of such investors have bought for capital appreciation, as opposed to seeking rental income, since prime condominiums in central Bangkok see an average of 20 percent price rises between when they were offered for sale off-plan, and when construction is over.

Some fret about the weakness seen in local demand. According to the Thai Chamber of Commerce, the confidence of new home buyers (also known as the New Residence Buyer’s Confidence Index) fell from January to June 2015 to 63.9, the lowest in the past year. The weakness is said to be due to various factors, including a dim outlook that Thais in general have taken about their own economy. However, that gap is increasingly filled by foreign buyers, as many major Thai developers have gone overseas to market their projects, particularly in China, Hong Kong and Singapore. This has led to a rise in the average take-up of condominium units, especially for units in the price range of $260 to $520 psf, which registered a rate of 90 percent. Those in the higher range of $651 psf also did well, at 80 percent. What is clear therefore, is that the demographics and dynamics of the Bangkok market is changing, and that could be just where the next big opportunity is.

Story Credits

Text by Willy Teo

This story first appeared in PALACE.

Asia’s Top Bar is in Singapore…

There is a new bar capital of Asia and it is Singapore, according to a new ranking of Asia’s top watering holes. The city-state has four entries in the top 10 – the most of any country – and the top spot of course, for 28 Hongkong Street.

In the inaugural edition of Asia’s 50 Best Bars awards– a spinoff of the World’s 50 Best Bars– a panel of 154 judges including “high-level” bartenders, bar consultants, brand ambassadors, journalists and global bar hoppers weighed in to pronounce the best drinking hotspots across Asia.

Taking the top spot is a Singapore bar famous for its discretion. Since opening in 2011, 28 Hongkong Street has built up hype by playing itself down in the manner of a secret, clandestine speakeasy.

Tucked away in a downtown thoroughfare, the bar is non-descript with nothing but the street number to identify itself: There is no awning, no flashing lights, or swanky, velvet-roped entrance.

But once inside the beige doors, the bar’s swish clientele sip on cocktails like the Modest Mule, made with lemongrass-laced vodka, ginger beer, lime and rosemary, and the colorfully named Whore’s Bath, made with manuka honey vodka, umeshu (liqueur made with Japanese apricots) poire liqueur, lemon and Hawaiian lava salt pickled ginger.

“28 Hongkong Street is an emblem of the region,” editors write. “A benchmark of quality across drinks and hospitality.”

Overall, Singapore and Hong Kong tied with nine spots each on the list, followed by Tokyo, which scored eight spots.

But with four of the top 10 spots, including the No. 1 ranking, Singapore is the big winner this year.

The results also surprised editors, who predicted Shanghai to finish fourth after Singapore, Hong Kong and Tokyo with the number of bars represented.

Instead, Bangkok nabbed the spot with six addresses including Vesper, the city’s top-ranked bar in 17th place.

“Bangkok’s people have a serious case of cocktail fever and, with the number of international ‘tenders setting up in the city and locals opening up their own places, it is only going in one direction from here.”

Here are the top 10 bars in Asia, according to Asia’s 50 Best Bars:

  • 28 Hongkong Street, Singapore
  • Speak Low, Shanghai
  • High Five, Tokyo
  • Lobster Bar & Grill, Hong Kong
  • Manhattan, Singapore
  • Quinary, Hong Kong
  • Operation Dagger, Singapore
  • Jigger & Pony, Singapore
  • Union Trading Company, Shanghai
  • 10. Omakase + Appreciate, Kuala Lumpur

Profile: Painter Basmat Levin

“Color is the oxygen of my imagination,” says Jerusalem-born artist Basmat Levin. “It transforms emotions and blows through my heart like a hurricane.” Indeed, the painter can be described as an artist who seeks color and inspiration in her travels, and one who aims to create work straight from the heart.

Levin recently showed her incredible installation ‘My Magic Wall’ under Leo Gallery at Singapore Art Stage 2016. Her striking 20-meter installation involves a collage of over 30 oil paintings from different stages of her career. Levin skillfully weaved together portraits, carpet designs, and simple shapes to create her overall masterpiece. A myriad of themes styles, such as magic and power of togetherness, are vividly portrayed in this cohesive technicolor blanket of emotions.

“Levin paints with emotions… her work expresses a kaleidoscope of feelings that come from the soul, giving her paintbrush a heartbeat that sends pulses of color and energy across her canvasses,” comments global consultant and existential poet Daniel Jeffreys.

1_Coco_oil on canvas (170x160cm) copy

The artist currently lives and works in Shanghai, where she has gained outstanding recognition for her portraits. She attempts to capture the fears and fantasies of living in Asia through the faces of the friends she chooses to paint, and employs a dynamic palate of textures and colors to do so. Her portrait collection for her two Facebook shows in Shanghai Monganshan Road galleries, Gallery 99 and Tangram, featured a collection of her friends through a series of large-scale paintings based on photographs she took while walking around the streets of Shanghai.

“I just took photos of everybody I know, I always have a camera with me,” says Levin. “Some people write about people, but I paint them. I had an exhibition of all my friends together. It was all about faces.”

4_Wendy_oil on canvas (230x174cm)tif copy

Levin’s reputation has spread throughout Asia, as well as the United States where the artist frequently works. A recipient of the Charles Revson Fellowship from the New York Studio School of Drawing and Painting, her work was on display at New York’s Elizabeth Harris Gallery, and at DOT.51 Gallery in Miami, among others. She is also making a splash in the fashion world where her Prada-esque palate has captured the attention of fashion designers like Poesia’s Chris Chang and Shanghai Cobblers, whom the artist has since collaborated with. Levin’s paintings have even been featured in major motion pictures like ‘Dinner Rush’ and ‘Suburban Girl’.

“Light endows everything with vibrant colors, creating a rich prism of refracted emotions,” says Levin. “I don’t want people to see my work – I want them to feel it.” Her portraits are individually striking, but offer greater insight into the depths of the human spirit when viewed as an entire collection. The use of colors, textures and gestures she synthesizes within her paintings express a powerful and positive energy that will speak to any like-minded adventurous soul.

6_Maria Teresa_oil on canvas (140x150cm) copy

3_chris 1_oil on canvas (161x170cm) copy

2_The Poet_oil on canvas (151X121cm) copy


Reality Bites: Social Critiques at Art Basel HK

Art Basel Hong Kong opened to VIP guests with two days of previews before its public opening March 24. in fact, this is only the start of a flurry of art events taking the city by storm. Concurrent with Art Basel is confessional/expressionistic artist Tracey Emin’s first art exhibition in greater China and Japanese artist Tatsuo Miyajima’s new light-display – “Time Waterfall”.

The long stream of illuminated numbers running down the side of the International Commerce Center is quite a spectacle, tying in to Miyajima’s standard Buddhist-inspired themes (change, non-existence, eternity) but there are quite a number of pieces in the various exhibitions that go light on metaphysics but heavy on social commentary.

One of these pieces is Tintin Wulia’s grand-scale “Five tonnes of Homes and other Understories”. Compacted bales of cardboard decorated with murals hang on chains and form a spiral, as a commentary on the poor elderly cardboard collectors in Hong Kong making a meagre living from delivering cardboard to recycling depots. Wulia spent two years on the project tracing the cardboard’s route through Hong Kong, including collaborating with Filipina domestic workers who use cardboard to create windbreaks for themselves when they gather in the city’s public spaces to socialize on Sundays.

Another stark and somewhat extravagant commentary is Zhang Ding’s “18 Cubes”. These are gold-plated cubes that visitors are encouraged to deface and scratch in order to leave their mark, literally. The anarchistic artist has pulled off many other equally destabilizing works before, such as “Opening” in 2011, where he transformed the gallery exhibition into a nightclub setting as a critique of pompous social rituals.

“What you see is the unseen/Chandliers for Five Cities” was set up by South Korean artist Kyungah Ham. The work is an embroidery painting of gold chandeliers – with the extra fact that the textiles were made in North Korea. The work was done to highlight the contrast between the two nations, as well as the gulf between the disenfranchised and politically powerful class.

Art Basel Hong Kong is now in its fourth year and has helped feed the city’s reputation as an art hub for Asia. With such daring radical art going on, new generations of artists may continue to be inspired into the future.

Art Basel HK: From 20th Century to Contemporary

The 4th annual Art Basel Hong Kong art show takes off on March 24 to March 26 2016 with 239 galleries from 35 countries putting up significant pieces. More than 50% of the exhibitors are from Asia and the Asia Pacific region. It will take place at the Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Centre (HKCEC)

For this year, the fair will showcase early 20th century and contemporary pieces in a series of sections each dealing with a different type of art. ‘Galleries’ will host leading Modern and Contemporary art galleries from around the world. ‘Insights’ has works developed specially for the show. ‘Discoveries’ provides a global platform for emerging contemporary artists around the world. ‘Encounters’ was curated by the Executive Director of Artspace in Sydney and features works that can be interacted with or allows for visitor participation. Also included are sections for films and magazines.

Some of the highlights are as follows:

In ‘Galleries’, Munich’s Galerie Thomas will have works by renowned 20th Century expressionist painters Marc Chagall and Paul Klee.

Pieces from Joan Miro and the evocatively dark Francis Bacon will be shown by New York’s Galerie Lelong.

Hauser & Wirth (Zurich, London, Somerset, New York, Los Angeles) will spotlight four major artist estates: Louise Bourgeois (1911-2010, France), Alexander Calder (1898-1976, U.S.), Philip Guston (1913-1980, Canada) and David Smith (1906-1965), in a display themed on spiders.

For ‘Insights’, eight large photographic works by Australian Michael Cook will be presented by This Is No Fantasy and Dianne Tanzer gallery (Melbourne). This panoramic narrative will reflect on colonial histories and draw from the artist’s Aboriginal heritage.

Also on display are sculptures by Chinese artists Guan Xiao and Yu Honglei, both represented by Antenna Space in Shanghai.

Ink Gallery in Beijing will be presenting experimental ink work by Chinese artist Li Huasheng.

Pi Artworks in Istanbul and London will display new sculptures (accompanied by video and audio work) by Bangladeshi artist Tayeba Begum Lipi, looking towards her childhood.

In ‘Discoveries’, Ink drawings by Pakistani artist Waqas Khan are presented by Sabrina Amrani of Madrid.

Sydney’s Darren Knight Gallery will have an installation piece of 13 works on paper and 1 video work by Jess Johnson of New Zealand.

Workplace Gallery in London has a sculptural installation by American Joel Kyack exploring conflicts and parallels between intense consumerism, cultural conditions and the historical conditions of Hong Kong.

‘Encounters’ will feature 16 artworks by artists from 12 countries. Including works by Brook Andrew, Isa Genzken, Arik Levy, Richard Maloy and Zhang Ding.

For more information on Art Basel in Hong Kong or to purchase tickets visit: https://www.artbasel.com/hong-kong

Images courtesy of Art Basel Hong Kong

Victoria Beckham Opens First Store in Asia

Hong Kong is now the second location of Victoria Beckham’s brick and mortar store outside of her native home. Amidst the luxury brands, swanky five-star hotels, the store in the heart of the Central district is seen as a way for the designer to tap on the Asian market.

As fans waited eagerly outside Friday morning, Beckham was seen doing the final checks on the store in the Landmark building. Designed by London-based architect, Farshid Moussavi, the store is a collaboration with Asian fashion retail brand Joyce that already carries her collections.

On why she chose Hong Kong as the follow up to her first shop in London’s Mayfair district, the designer said, “I know Asian women really understand luxury, good quality and appreciate when garments are made well — and my clothes are”.

While some are doubtful over the success and future of her store in Hong Kong due to the worst retail sales decline the city has seen in 13 years, others are more optimistic. “I think she’s going to be very popular here,” said hedge fund manager Sally Zhang, 30, after browsing in the store Friday.

“Compared to other shops, which are too fancy, not fit for the office, this one is quite different,” said Echo Xu, also a hedge fund manager. Along with opening her store, Beckham will also be attending the amfAR AIDS research fundraiser in the city along with Uma Thurman on Saturday.

Art Central in Hong Kong

If you have time to spare or are in Hong Kong from March 23 to the 26, then we suggest taking a trip down to the iconic Central Harbourfront for Art Central. The city’s largest, architect-designed temporary structure will play host to new and established international galleries. With more than 100 galleries from 20 countries — including 23 cities across Asia, the fair will feature a dynamic program, as part of Hong Kong Art Week.

Visitors will also be treated to talks, films, performances and a chance to savour the best of Hong Kong’s hottest eateries. To purchase tickets that our friends at Art Republik are offering at a special rate, head here.

Blue Diamond to Earn $35 million at Auction

Coming five months after the sale of the 12.03 carat Blue Moon of Josephine (bought by businessman Joseph Lau for his daughter at a record $48 million), the 10.10 carat De Beers Millennium Jewel 4 is set to go on sale at Sotheby’s in Hong Kong. This oval vivid blue diamond was rated with a clarity of “internally flawless” or IF as it is known in the trade and is expected to fetch between $30 million and $35 million.

“There are no more than a dozen or so blue diamonds of fancy vivid color and over 10 carats in the world, so they are very, very rare,” Sotheby’s Deputy Chairman for Asia Quek Chin Yeow told AFP.

The blue diamond was mined from the Cullinan Mine in South Africa – one that is famous for being a significant source of blue diamonds in the world. Blue diamonds are especially rare and have a high price due to a diminishing supply mixed with an increasing demand.

One of the most famous Blue Diamonds is the Hope Diamond, currently located in the Smithsonian Museum. The Hope Diamond was suspected of being cursed due to the deaths of many owners over the years.

Despite the slowdown of the Chinese economy (having a weak 6.9% expansion in 2015), the jewelry auction market remains strong. The previous record for a diamond sold in Hong Kong was set in 2013, with the sale of a 118-carat white diamond for $30.6 million.

“It’s the rarity and collectability of these wonderful objects. When they come to the market, they will have strong interest from all over the world,” Quek said as an explanation, adding that the location of the upcoming sale was a sign of confidence in the Asian market.

Singapore is World’s Most Expensive City

Singapore is the most expensive city in the world, according to the Economist Intelligence Unit’s annual ranking; this is the third year in a row that the republic has topped the list. The ranking takes into account 400 individual prices across 160 products and services in 133 cities.

Being based in Singapore as we are, this report always gives us pause for thought. The EIU report is mainly useful to business travelers and for people looking to relocate for work, even though the report itself is called the Worldwide Cost of Living survey.

In the results of the survey this year, Singapore is tailed closely by fellow finance giatns Zurich and Hong Kong, which jumped up seven places in the ranking in the last 12 months. Geneva, Paris, London, New York, Copenhagen, Los Angeles, and Seoul round out the top ten. New York, it is worth noting, achieves its highest position on the list since 2002, coming in at seventh; it is one the fastest rising cities on the list, having moved up 42 rungs since 2011.

In making its assessment, the Worldwide Cost of Living survey, released twice a year by the EIU, compares prices on everything from food and drink to clothing, household supplies, and personal-care items, home rents, transportation, utility bills, private schools, domestic help, and recreational costs. In total, more than 50,000 individual prices are collected in each survey; New York is used as the benchmark and positions on the list depend strongly on how well the US dollar is doing. For example, Tokyo used to top the list before Singapore overtook it and this drop is attributed to the general weakness of the yen against the greenback and persistent deflationary pressure in the Japanese economy.

The report notes that part of Singapore’s run as the most expensive city is due to its high transport and utility costs, both of which can affect travelers as they can translate to higher hotel room fees and more expensive public transit. This is in large part due to Singapore’s complicated Certificate of Entitlement system, which results in transportation costs that are 2.7 times higher than in New York!

Singapore isn’t more expensive in every category, though. Travelling foodies eager to visit the city’s famed Epicurean Market will be pleased to note that basic groceries are cheaper in Singapore than in its Asian neighbors (Seoul is 33% more expensive at the grocery store). Fair warning though: fine dining in the city-state is exorbitant due to high taxes on alcohol, rent pressures and the aforementioned sky-high transportation costs.

While Asia has three of the most expensive cities in the world, India has four of the least expensive, including New Delhi, Mumbai, Bangalore, and Chennai. The least expensive city on the 133-city survey is Lusaka, Zambia, meaning it might be time to start planning that safari.

World’s 10 most expensive cities in which to live in 2016

  • 1. Singapore
  • 2. Zurich, Switzerland/ Hong Kong
  • 4. Geneva, Switzerland
  • 5. Paris
  • 6. London
  • 7. New York
  • 8. Copenhagen, Denmark, Seoul, South Korea, Los Angeles
  • World’s 10 least expensive cities in which to live in 2016

  • 124. Damascus, Syria/ Caracas, Venezuela
  • 126. New Delhi
  • 127. Almaty, Kazakhstan/ Algiers, Algeria/ Chennai, India/ Karachi, Pakistan
  • 131. Mumbai, India
  • 132. Bangalore, India
  • 133. Lusaka, Zambia

Interview: Pakho Chau

With gorgeous looks and a buff physique often revealed via Instagram posts of his gym and basketball sessions (he used to represent Hong Kong as a strapping 1.82m player) and shirtless magazines covers, Pakho Chau is afflicted by the same malady that has plagued many of his predecessors: pretty boy syndrome. Our friends at Men’s Folio had a chat with Chau late last year and tried to get beneath the surface while also producing a lovely spread featuring the Cantopop star.

Often labeled with a disclaimer for a perceived character flaw, these good-lookers ironically have an easy start as pop idols but it doesn’t require a lot of range. There are reasons why pretty boys are having it tough when it comes to longevity and credibility. It goes to show that looking like an Adonis cramps your style.

Cases in point: Many hated Aaron Kwok and his floppy hair in the 1990s before his Golden Horse Award wins; Wang Leehom was similarly the subject of vehement verbal abuse in the new millennium despite being able to play different musical instruments; and detractors who remembered Takeshi Kaneshiro as a Taiwan-based pop idol despised him in both decades. It was with great effort that Miuccia Prada and Giorgio Armani (and maybe Biotherm) convinced them otherwise about the latter.

To drive home the point on the international front, I recall lesser male specimens cursing as Brad Pitt sleepwalked through Meet Joe Black and exhibiting the middle finger each time Tom Cruise grinned like a proboscis monkey onscreen. Have you ever watched a Tom Cruise film after Risky Business and Top Gun and be so aware that it’s Mr Cruise on screen in every subsequent film. The man does not inhabit a role. The role has to audition with back-flips and quadruple summersaults. Boy-band bashing is likewise extensive on both sides of the pond. And don’t get haters started on Justin Bieber. That would just be uncivilized.

Louis Vuitton Rope circles denim jacket and pants

Louis Vuitton Rope circles denim jacket and pants

As a counterpoint, female colleagues pointed out that raging heterosexuals did not display a similar disdain when the members of Girls’ Generation sashayed meaninglessly throughout the recent music video of “Party”. Point taken, but hardly a paradigm shift.

The gripe being that many of these handsome male homo sapiens commonly lack that the necessary talent in correlation to their physical attributes, with weedy wannabes that are a dime-a-dozen falling by the wayside. This clearly isn’t the fate that awaits Chau. “I believe that true success requires sacrifice,” he says. “It’s not safe to rest on your laurels because only the hard workers earn the respect they deserve that makes them living legends in their own right.”

Throw Show Luo, the brooding vocals of Eason Chan, and a sprinkling of Hong Kong singer and actor Daniel Chan in a mixer and you’d probably get Pakho Chau. While the 30-year-old is blessed with good looks, he literally got his start at the bottom at film composer Chan Kwong-Wing’s recording studio as a junior engineer. “I had modelling gigs on the side,” recalls the Hong Kong native. “But my time learning music production had the most impact on my career as I learned the tricks of the trade. I learned not just the technical process, but also that success requires time, persistence, and patience to nurture.”

Ermenegildo Zegna Couture Cotton shirt, wool pants, wool coat

Ermenegildo Zegna Couture Cotton shirt, wool pants, wool coat

Just as well, with peepers that resemble Bambi’s, his cheekbones are also dangerously defined, and his wry smile can turn sane females (and the occasional male) into shrieking banshees at the drop of a snapback cap. Chau first caught the attention of Chan, whose claim to fame includes scoring Hong Kong blockbusters The Storm Riders, Infernal Affairs and Bodyguards and Assassins, putting him in good stead. A recording contract with Warner Music in 2007 soon followed.

It helped that he can carry a tune (without the help of Auto-Tune), play the guitar, and write his own songs. His musical inclinations date back to the age of five, when he was already playing the piano. “My dad was an audiophile and used to buy CDs very frequently,” he says. “As a result, I was exposed to Cantopop at a very young age. My mom also fervently encouraged me to attend piano lessons, and that’s how I became infatuated with music.”

Thankfully, there were no heart-thumping dance tracks or an artificial transfusion of street cred courtesy of faux hip-hop posturing in Chau’s music. Instead, we’re treated to forlorn ballads that are lyrically poignant and, every so often, heart wrenching. “There’s always a real-life incident that inspires a song,” he mentions candidly. “However, not one aspect of life completes me. There are notches in our short time here on Earth that is represented lyrically and in the melodies of my composition.”

Dior Homme cotton shirt, wool suit, wool coat

Dior Homme cotton shirt, wool suit, wool coat

This is not intentionally skewed as his latest single “We’ll Be Fine” tells a melancholic tale of loneliness and the desire for emotional fulfillment. The accompanying music video shows Chau driving and walking aimlessly with the ambiguous ending suggesting the death of his beloved. The nimble strumming of guitars in the background showcases his sturdy vocals. “I’m sure everyone affiliates to the emotions that resonate from my songs in some ways,” he says. “And that’s what makes each one of us unique.”

The solo artist is well aware of the steep learning curve, and after seven studio albums, he’s delivered a more polished and sophisticated sound. There is truth in that, in a sea of homogeneous Asian celebrities, he has made efforts to differentiate himself by being true to himself without a regurgitation of a manufactured pop template. The reception from fans so far has been wonderful, even as Chau gives props to those that paved the way for him and his peers.

“Jackie Cheung, Aaron Kwok, Faye Wong, Eason Chan, Joey Yung, Miriam Yeung…” he rattles off a list of Cantopop superstars and crooners that he notes as having been instrumental in shaping his outlook to making music that’s accessible and honest. “They each have facets that I emulate and incorporate into my repertoire. I’m also heavily influenced by [Irish singer-songwriter] Damien Rice’s song writing expertise and his effortless way with the acoustic guitar that’s second to none.”

Louis Vuitton polyester bomber jacket

Louis Vuitton polyester bomber jacket

So sure, he has his singing career. But we’re back to the original Zoolander-inspired conundrum. Is there more to life than being really, really, ridiculously good looking? The film roles are steadily pouring in with him joining the fray of romantic comedies S for Sex, S for Secret, 12 Golden Ducks, and Love Detective last year alone. “My schedule these days is crazy, so to have opportunities to dabble in film is a godsend,” he says, to which he was quick to point out that “music is still my focus. I don’t ever want to stop making music. Hopefully, fans of my music will like the films I appear in as well.”

It would also seem natural that Chau would be an ambassador of youthful lifestyle giants Watsons, Adidas, Levi Strauss & Co. and Clinique Men’s Skincare, extolling the virtues of grooming elixirs and treatments for men, just like any auntie-killer would. Yet, as an indication of maturity, Montblanc has designated him as the Asian influencer for its luxury timepieces. “I didn’t like watches when I was younger,” he admits. “However, I’m gradually realizing the importance of time and how the amount of it that we’re allocated is finite. I’m a budding collector and Montblanc’s rich heritage is one that has constantly caught my eye over the years.”

Far from fearing the repercussions of overexposure, he is receptive that the additional visibility will only broaden the appeal of his music. And why shouldn’t his mug have its day in the sun? Everything is about making a good first impression these days. Chau gravitated with his best face forward on a grand stage. “I remember my concert at the Hong Kong Coliseum (in 2014) as being the biggest scale performance of my career,” he lets on. “I was extremely nervous and completely in awe when glancing at the sea of faces in the crowd. In my mind, each member of the audience came because of me. That was a very touching moment.”

Louis Vuitton wool coat, wool pants

Louis Vuitton wool coat, wool pants


Story Credits

By Jason Kwong

Photography Matt Hui / Sugarsugar Production

Styling Tok Wei Lun

Styling assistant Chua Chin Chin / Arm Collective

Makeup Kris Wong

Hair Cliff Chan / Hair Corner

Hong Kong is Most Visited City in the World

For the sixth year in a row, come rain or high water as they say, Hong Kong is the most visited city on the planet. With 27.8 million international arrivals, the Special Administrative Region tops the Euromonitor International’s Top 100 City Destinations Ranking for 2014. Yes, 2014 because apparently the data has just been compiled for that year according to the AFP report on it. The numbers reported are based on overall arrivals, not just high net worth individuals and a UBS report on the most expensive cities to visit in 2015 lists London (five-star hotel rates at $400 per night) ahead of Hong Kong ($250 per night). In Asia, Tokyo ($500 per night) and Shanghai ($470 per night) are both ahead of Hong Kong. Hong Kong is also cheaper, all-costs included, than either of those cities – $640 versus $1,000 (Tokyo) and $670 (Shanghai); the 2015 UBS report excludes Singapore.

Speaking of which, London ($750 per night, all costs in) surpassed Bangkok and Singapore to take second place on the Euromonitor list. London is the top European city in terms international arrivals followed by Paris ($890 per night, all costs in) in fifth, which is exactly in line with news reports citing London as a city of choice for Chinese travellers. North America’s most visited city and the only one in the top 10 was New York ($1,030 cost per night, all-costs-in, to visit) in eighth. By our count, this makes London, Paris and New York the most popular and most expensive cities to visit. We are not sure if “most expensive” is a tag any city really wants to have though…

Rio de Janeiro showed the highest jump in international arrivals with a 46.6% increase due to the FIFA World Cup and will likely see similar jumps in 2016, thanks to the Olympics. Greece had a record year in 2014: three Greek cities made the Top 100 with Athens seeing double-digit growth.

Kiev did not make the Top 100 for the first time due to geopolitical tension in the region. Saint Petersburg and Moscow saw double digit declines.

The United States and China top the rankings with seven cities each in the ranking.

For more information and the complete list of Euromonitor’s Top 100 City Destinations Ranking, you can find it here.

Hong Kong Condo Sells for $76.7 million

In a story that slipped beneath the holiday season radar, a new Hong Kong apartment has been crowned most expensive in the city, and possibly Asia (excluding the Middle East). The luxury apartment in Hong Kong sold for a record HK$594.7 million ($76.7 million), days before Christmas, according to reports in December 2015.

The unidentified buyer paid more than HK$103,700 per-square-foot for the 5,732 square-foot (532 square-meter) unit at the luxury 39 Conduit Road apartment tower in the Special Administrative Region’s upmarket Mid-Levels residential area, The Apple Daily and The Standard reported.

The condominium, on the 46th floor with a view of the iconic Victoria Harbour and a 1,754 square-feet rooftop, had a list price of HK$646.48 million on developer Henderson Land Properties’ website according to the South China Morning Post.

The price beats the previous record HK$470 million paid for a luxury unit, which takes up the entire eighth floor of the Opus Hong Kong, a 12-storey residential building designed by Pritzker Prize-winning architect Frank Gehry, in 2012.

Henderson Land was not available for comment when the AFP picked up the story. As of the publication of this story, no word has emerged on the identity of the buyer nor of any official comment on the sale.

This comes as analysts said a US interest rate hike could put an end to the housing boom in the Chinese city, which maintains a decades old peg with the US dollar.

Hong Kong-based brokerage CLSA warned the residential market was at a “turning point”, with prices possibly dropping 17 percent by 2017, while other firms have tipped falls of up to 30 percent.

Hong Kong’s de facto central bank raised its base interest rate by 25 points to 0.75 percent after the US Federal Reserve announced its first rate increase in more than nine years.

But chief analyst for Midland Realty Buggle Lau said the record-breaking purchase does not reflect the bigger picture of the overall property market in the city.

“The super-rich, I don’t think the small increase in the interest rates have any impact on their purchasing power,” Lau said.

“This is exceptional, it can’t reflect the whole market,” which he described overall as “sluggish”.

Property prices in Hong Kong, famous for its sky-high rent and super-rich tycoons, have more than doubled in six years due to record low interest rates and a flood of wealthy buyers from mainland China.

Many residents complain they can no longer afford decent accommodation in the city of seven million people, and analysts say property ownership is out of reach even for the upper middle class.

This report was compiled by in-house writers, in combination with a wire report and image from the AFP.