Breakfast with Ms Burch

 

Every so often, or perhaps only once in a lifetime, you’ll have a chance to meet someone who inspires you to the very core. For me that opportunity came a few weeks ago in the form of a breakfast meeting with Tory Burch (yes, Tory Burch).

There’s a lot that can be said about this remarkable woman – super mom to three kids, design visionaire of a fashion label that’s quickly becoming the new American staple (the new Ralph Lauren perhaps?), and powerhouse CEO of a global empire valued at US$3billion. Yes, there is a lot that can be said, as you’ll soon see below.

If you’ve been reading this space for a while, you’ll know two things (1) I have a passion for profiling women who combine their passions and talent for a purpose – be it in business or otherwise; and (2) Tory Burch is, to me at least, the epitome of a woman who’s managed to do exactly that, to an incredible degree of success.

There’s a lot of talk (and an abundance of articles) about how women should “lean in,” and how we can (or cannot) “have it all.” These pieces, written by women successful in their own right, aim to inspire the rest of us to do just that – be the best mothers, professionals, human beings we can be. That’s all well and good, but perhaps we should turn our attention to women who have managed all of that, and come out on the other end as unaffected by their success as when they first began.

My day with Tory began like this, I showed up at 9.30 on the dot for a breakfast meeting with the mogul. There she was in her boutique – pint sized and perfectly prepped – surrounded by staff from her Singapore store. What struck me was Tory was standing in the midst of her people (almost completely obscured because she’s so petite), having conversations with them (instead of talking at them) about how they’ve made the store a success (a huge success at that, as I am later told by her director of international PR), and thanking them individually for their contributions.

It was inspiring and humbling to see a mogul make time for members of her team.

She refused to be rushed through this, so breakfast began a little late, which was fine by me because I got a lesson in Management 101. It’s something that no b-school course could ever teach because you had to be there to see it in person, and witness the response of her sales team for yourself, every one of whom was beaming from sun up to sun down.

Breakfast began, we took our seats. I am a foot away from her, with just a plush velvet-covered settee between us, and she’s still flawless. More details for those who don’t know her – Tory’s 46, a mother of 3 boys (her twins, Henry and Nick, are 16 and Sawyer, the youngest, is 12), the design visionaire behind an eponymous label which began in her apartment (she was redecorating her apartment and designing her line at the same time), and the CEO of a global fashion empire who took the company from zero to hero in just 9 years… and she somehow manages to look not a day over 35.

That morning, she was impeccably dressed in slim cut denim with a slight flare which she paired with an orient blue patterned sweater over a button-down shirt of the same design. Pattern on pattern, jewelled collar to accessorize, blonde hair that’s perfectly in place though it’s 9 in the morning and she’d gotten in on a midnight flight from HK. It’s all so effortless.

She’s wearing a ring, crystal (I think) set in gold, with more embellished crystal. It’s large, and should seem gaudy and oversized on someone with such refined features, but somehow it’s perfectly in place with everything else she’s wearing (no diamonds or pearls, she’s not that kind of girl). Yvette leans over commenting on how intricate it is, Tory slips it off her finger and hands it to her saying, that’s the Hagia Sophia carved on the inside – and true enough there’s the mosque, tiny though it is, it’s detailed and perfect in the smoky crystal. It’s by Sevan Bicakci, she adds, she bought it on her last trip to Istanbul.

Tory is genuinely interested in the details. Her jewellery, her work, her homes, her clothes, they’re all inspired by her travels and the details she picks up along the way. She’s attuned to the details in the lives of others, making her interpersonal skills second to none. She pays attention, she listens, she watches and observes.

I know she has a busy day ahead (her PR team has told me this), and yet when she talks to you, you feel as though you have all the time in the world, because she really pays attention. I was there to find out more about her, but I think the reverse was true – I now know that Yvette is Korean-Australian but doesn’t speak a word of Korean because she was a stubborn kid who refused to learn it, Nikki’s got a son who’s slightly older than Tory’s boys who is in University in Australia, and they all know I’m recently engaged and would very much like for Tory to design a line of home ware to fill the new place Paul and I hope to buy at some point of time.

Lucky for me, she’s launched a small home accessories line (just the day before) on her online store. What are the odds? I plan to buy this pillow, this ornamental box, and the Robinson Nutcracker. I love the idea of a good-for-nothing nut cracker.

It’s hard not to like someone who takes a genuine interest in you as a person, it’s even harder not to become a complete fan-girl when the person paying attention just happens to be the woman you look up to most in the world (barring my mother of course).

I ask her (the question I’ve been dying to ask) how do you do it? It isn’t easy, she replied, but my boys come first and everything else falls into place after that. She has an amazing team that helps to make it happen, all this (gesturing around the boutique) wouldn’t be possible without them, but her city-slicker sons come first. She talks about how she never imagined raising her three boys in the middle of the most (excuse my word for it) happening city on earth. They sometimes tell her, mom you’re a farm girl, you wouldn’t get it.

She grew up on acres of rolling green in pastoral Pennsylvania (with three brothers, two of whom now work with her in the business, a support system she does not take for granted), while her sons are in the thick of city life, she tells me they have different challenges from her. I feel as though she thinks her sons are missing out on the childhood she had, and I want to tell her she’s given them so much more just by doing what she’s doing, and if they don’t appreciate it now, they definitely will when they are older. But I don’t because I’m not sure how to, or if I’m even qualified to say such a thing, seeing as how I don’t have any kids of my own… but Dad, if you’re reading, I get it now!

And this is perhaps what I admire most about her, she is unabashed about her role as a mom. She doesn’t engage in the debate on children-vs-career or talk about how she’s had to build a nursery beside the office… she is a mom, she is proud of it. Plain and simple. She just also happens to be a mogul leading an empire worth 3 B’s.

It’s time to leave, Tory has a million and one meetings and interviews to make it to. She thanks me for making time to meet up, I want to tell her she’s crazy and that I wouldn’t have missed this for the world. But instead I settle for a more measured and gentle, no thank you for meeting with me, and tell her that it’s been such an incredible pleasure (she must be rubbing off on me). She invites me back for the evening cocktail session, and says she would love to meet my other half. I text Paul immediately, telling him he can’t miss it, no matter what.

It’s evening and we’re back at the boutique. It’s a mad crush. The serene breakfast scene has completely transformed into a pulsing party – there’s a DJ in the anteroom, champagne glasses on every available surface, and a sea of fashionably turned out women (and a sprinkling of men) literally jostling to get a view or a word in to Tory. And there she is, once again in the center of all the commotion, a mogul among the masses who doesn’t come across as one. She’s perfectly poised and totally composed while guests fight for her attention, wiggling and squirming to get closer to the hottest piece of real estate in the room – the one foot radius around Tory Burch

I stand in the outer circle, watching Tory’s perfectly perfect manners in action. Despite the crush and frenzy of activity around her, she turns to greet each adoring fan that’s wiggled their way through the crush of well-dressed humanity, flashing them a gracious smile and exchanging a couple of words. She’s elegant and refined, without the usual veneer of unapproachability you’d expect from someone so famous.

Paul murmurs to me, if I were a billionaire, I definitely wouldn’t put myself through this. And I said, that's the magic, you just wait and see.

She sees us, and with a gentle tilt of her head, we’re suddenly in the inner circle exchanging air kisses. She’s eager to meet Paul and enthused about our engagement. He’s quickly won over by the this pint-sized kingpin who looks like she should be taking her sons to tennis at the club, not running a business that employs thousands. She can level that same attention on you regardless of whether there are 3 or 300 other people in the room. Her magnetism is understated, and up close, you notice it even more. She also seems to have a boundless sort of energy. Even after a day jam packed with meetings and a week of flying around the world (she hates flying by the way, a phobia she developed when her uncle passed away in a plane crash), she looks refreshed, as though she’s done nothing but sip lemonade and have quiet conversations on the front porch.

It’s unfair really, that one person should possess such effortless perfection and be so endlessly fascinating. But my takeaway is this – Tory started Tory Burch at 36, and based on that timeline, there’s still hope for me! I’ll just need bucketloads of determination, a good deal of good luck, and a network of family and friends to fall back on.

So yes, there’s a lot that can be said about Tory Burch, and having met her, I’ll say this: she’s warm, funny and sincere, incredibly humble, very hard working, and genuinely genuine.

And for everything I’ve said above, the image that sticks with me is this – walking in at 9.30am and witnessing Tory in the midst of thanking her team. She truly is the most gracious and graceful of human beings.

Stephanie Chai - The Luxe Nomad

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Some days I wake up and absolutely love that I get to blog on the side while living a very conservative corporate life. It also gives me a great excuse to kay-poh into the lives of brilliant young women pursuing their passions and creating their own careers. Today, I want to tell you about the lovely (and drop dead gorgeous) lady behind The Luxe Nomad – the private flash sale site that offers members up to 70% off the most beautiful and curated list of luxury resorts in Asia, including the likes of Sri Panwa in Phuket and The Upper House in Hong Kong.

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Never one to stick with tradition, Stephanie Chai managed to turn her hobby (traveling) into a full time job. This might have a little to do with the fact she’s always gone her own way when it comes to making life decisions.

She took up modelling (much to her parents’ displeasure) at 18 when she was still in university – that led to years of frequent hopping about from country to country, never spending more than 2 months at a time in one place. That desire to experience new things, and be exposed to new cultures, traditions, and people, led her to create a life for herself that always involved those elements.

First up, how did you first decide to start The Luxe Nomad?

Funny story. A friend of mine owed me a business idea and sent me an email with the link about The Luxe Nomad business model and concept. 5 minutes later I emailed him back and said "I'll do it!". And then, I started researching! I knew nothing about the hotel industry, ecommerce and so forth - so talk about a crash course. But I'm glad I stuck to it. The company is very blessed to have a great, small team. The best bits are working with them, brainstorming ideas and of course, having a laugh or two. Work should always be fun!

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What's life like as an entrepreneur? And what do you do when you're not working?

Being your own boss means being busier than ever! Most weeks I’m working 6 days out of 7, so I relish any down time I have.

Back when I was modelling, I had a lot more time to myself. These days, you’re likely to find me unwinding in whatever little free time I have (and there’s not a lot of it), I try to squeeze in a bit of shopping, a foot massage, maybe a tennis lesson. I’m a huge fan of film, drama and politics – so as you can imagine the recent Malaysian elections was quite a hot topic among my friends.

You travelled a lot for your previous job, how has that experience/exposure helped you build The Luxe Nomad?

Quite honestly, one of the best decisions I ever made was to model. It put me in my parent's bad books for a few years (until I graduated and my dad was a happy man) but it gave me the opportunity to travel to most parts of Asia and live in these different countries. Why is that important? Because I learned to get on and work with people from all across the region, to better understand their culture and ways – this helps when it comes to negotiating and dealing with folks of different backgrounds.

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When it comes to business, a simple thing most people tend to overlook is this: people will only work with you if they like you!

Your work continues to take you around the world – what are some of your favourite destinations and why?

I still love Bali and Phuket for a short weekend away (especially if you live in Singapore or Kuala Lumpur - it's only an hour's flight for Phuket and 2 for Bali).

The Bale in Nusa Dua is one of my favourites at the moment – white-walled villas with your own private pool right on one of the most gorgeous beaches in Bali. Nusa Dua is also a very swimmable beach which is not that common for Bali where the waves tend to be very strong.

Two of our celebrity bloggers and friends are staying at The Bale at the moment (Margaret Zhang of Harpers Bazaar Australia & Shinebythree and Camille Over The Rainbow), so you should definitely check out their instagram feeds if you want an inside look on the properties.

The luxury hotels we feature love that we bring them something different from the usual flash sale site - it's members only, luxury hotel focused (so they can be sure they're always in good company and never have to worry about being on a platform with less stellar hospitality outfits), and they get endorsed by our network of celebrities (another plus from my modeling days).

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Other than that, Macakizi hotel in Mugla, Turkey is a hip hotel by the sea and if you're thinking of stopping by a city then The Upper House in Hong Kong is a must if you want to truly travel in style.

Finally, what’s the most valuable lesson you’ve learned through starting up The Luxe Nomad?

Don't give up!

Images courtesy of Stephanie Chai and The Luxe Nomad.

PTP and what it's taught me

Over the past three days, I’ve received some really positive and constructive feedback on the little Passion Talent Purpose series I’ve been working on, and I can’t tell you all how glad I am that the stories of the women featured resonate with all of you.

If nothing else, this series has taught me that compelling lifestyle content, written with passion and co-created with talented individuals, both engages people and activates social conversations. Personally, I’m glad that Lavishley has evolved to become more than just a personal blog, to become in some small way a means to showcase talented women building interesting new businesses.

It is my genuine hope that you will all continue to engage with me (as you have been! Thank you for that) and support them as they create new and innovative, niche and unique lifestyle concepts, products and services that make our lives a little better on the little red dot – it’s a win-win for everyone isn’t it?

And if you like it, please do share - the businesses, the stories, the content, and most of all, share with me women whom you think have combined their passions and talents for a purpose because there's nothing I'd love more than to get to know them a little better.

More stories of amazing women doing incredible things coming up super soon!

The ladies behind Blow+Bar, Diana and Ashley, talk about being women, workers, mothers and friends. All the while maintaining a fabulous head of hair.

Diana and Ashley are two friends who have proven false the idea that friends should never double up as business partners. The two of them have also gone to show that it is possible to pursue your passions, while juggling other very important commitments such as a professional day job and two toddlers. With all this talk about what it means to have more women in the work force and also in the self-employed and start-up scene, these two lovely ladies show just how possible it is for women to indeed, as they say, have it all.

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1. So Blow+Bar was born out of a belief that women should not only be well groomed, but they should feel good too. Plus, if they can make it time to either unwind or catch up with friends, it’s an added bonus. Is that an accurate summary?

DBlow+Bar was inspired by the fact that women look and feel their best after they step out of a salon. Years ago, when I first started working, I got into the habit of having regular hair-washes at salons. Call it an indulgence, but I found that as life got busier with work commitments, family commitments, and social appointments to keep, it was tough to wash, dry and style my own hair on such a tight schedule. Having my hair done was the one time when I could completely kick back and just relax, have some time to myself and unwind. I loved the scalp massages that I could not replicate at home (I am a strong believer that a great 10 minute massage is all you need to feel completely rejuvenated), and the perfectly-tressed hair that took far too long to do on my own.

So I suppose you could say that Blow+Bar was a way for busy working women to have a chance to unwind (with a glass of wine), catch up with friends, but also get the necessities out of the way. Having good hair (all the time) not only makes up the biggest part of first impressions, but getting your hair done is the only beauty service that makes you look good and feel even better immediately. Think about it, facials make you look horrible and body massages feel great but do nothing for how you look.

A: This is how Blow+Bar is conceptualised. Our desire is to get people to change their habits about hair and grooming, as we believe it will make a positive change in their lives. It can’t just be about IT bags, expensive face creams, and a closet full of clothes from the latest season – to look good you have to have the whole package and that includes having great hair. Beyond that, Blow+Bar is also about more than just looking good, it’s about feeling good as well. That’s why we place so much emphasis on the scalp massage and hair rejuvenation.

In a time-starved era like ours, we want to give women a way to get as many of their grooming needs out of the way while enjoying their time alone or with a group of girl friends. Though we specialise in blow outs, we also offer perms, cut, colour, treatment and mani/pedi services.

I suppose Martin Luther’s quote would speak directly to your main audience:

The hair is the richest ornament of women.

A+D: It is, as they say, our crowning glory! We should give it due care.

2. I understand that both of you used to work in FMCG companies specializing in skin and hair care products – did this prior life help you two get to where you are today?

A: Combined, I think Diana and I have more than 15 years’ experience in the hair care industry. You don’t work that long without getting a lot of insight into how the industry functions. Before Blow+Bar, I worked with L’Oreal to create some of the most innovative hair services, set seasonal trends and launch new products into the market. That experience put me in close proximity with leading industry insiders from hair stylists to business owners, it helped me identify a sure gap in the market for hair care services, and showed me what could and could not work in Singapore. It was invaluable in setting up Blow+Bar.

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That experience with hair products, tools and industry insiders gave me a very clear idea of what Blow+Bar should be in terms of the service offering, quality and client experience. At Blow+Bar, we designed the entire customer experience from the time they make the appointment to when they walk out the door, we even follow up with them to see how their hair is faring a few days in. Our customers really appreciate the care and attention we pay to the five senses, and we want to continually strive to make sure we deliver not only a great product, but an excellent experience.

The industry experience also means we are able to stay abreast of what is happening in the market (fed to us by the veterans we used to work with), and always offer the latest and greatest in terms of product. I am also extremely well versed in hair and scalp science, and can provide our customers with a very professional and detailed consultation.

D: As a marketer for Procter & Gamble (where I once handled the prestigious skincare brand SK-II), I learned quickly that you can’t just have the best product or service, you have to have the best brand. I worked in the global team in SK-II developing strategy, positioning, defending market leader positions, fighting competition, launching new products, sustaining hero products, making commercials, and creating great ad campaigns. So that’s where my experience comes in – I want to build Blow+Bar into a brand that delivers on the promise to be the ultimate urban lifestyle remedy for busy people.

It seems you both are quite the dynamic duo, Ashley comes with product and Diana comes with positioning – sounds like a fairly fabulous pairing between friends.

4. My next question then would be this: What’s it like to have a friend, another female, for your business partner? Do you think that women-run businesses can help to make life better for women in general?

A: I think it is great to partner with another woman, but it is important to find a partner who can accept you and complement your strengths and weakness. Women understand what other women want so yes, women-run businesses do play a part in making life easier and better for other women. That's ultimately what Blow+Bar is all about, offering a great place for multiple services for busy women.

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D: Some people will say that partnering with a friend might ruin friendships, and everyone knows at least one instance in which this has happened. Like Ashley said, it is about finding a partner who can accept you for who you are and complement you. Women are naturally more understanding and sensitive to the needs of others, not to mention a lot more supportive. They understand the complexity and magnitude of different roles all women play in their lives and naturally I believe that makes us so much more tolerant and understanding. It is never just good times in a business, everyone has differing views and a different take on how they want to do things. Ashley and I are always completely honest with each other, and we are both open to criticism of how we can improve and do better.

3. You both have other full time commitments (Diana works a day-job as a brand consultant, and Ashley is a full-time mother of two), how has running your own show made this easier/harder?

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A: It’s both better and worse. I work full time at Blow+Bar, managing the day to day operations of the business as well as a family with 2 young boys (Isaac is 4 & Abel is 1). It isn’t easy, people don’t tell you often enough that life is much tougher when you’re the boss. The corporate world offers annual leave, public holidays and weekends off, running your own show is 24/7 – almost like having a third child. But these things aside, there is a lot more flexibility in how I structure my work schedule (not being in the office at 9am is a wonderful, and I also get to put my boys to bed every night) and the satisfaction I derive from it cannot be described.

D: Someone once told me – people who want to start their own businesses are maniacs or will become one. I laughed, but now I understand. Having your own business fully consumes you. You think about it 24/7 even when you don’t have to. So essentially, I have two jobs now – my day job in brand consulting and the rest-of-my-time job as Brand Director of Blow+Bar. It works for me because my passion lies in marketing and brand creation, so while the work load is heavy, I have to say I enjoy almost every minute of it. I love that Ashley and I are pioneers in lifestyle grooming in Singapore, and I love that we did it on our own and from scratch. It’s been a great experience so far.

5. Any tips and tricks to maintain a good head of hair?

D: Regular grooming and treatment. Just like how you need facials, exfoliating scrubs and masks for your face, your hair and scalp need it too. Daily care is really important. Most people would put 6-9 steps of skincare on their faces but none on their hair. It’s a shame.

A: Use good quality salon grade products, even at home. If you have never had a professional hair consult, get one done immediately. It will really help to address any issues you have, or prevent future ones from happening. After all, it is not just about having a great stylist, but having the proper after-care to maintain the results of a color, cut or perm.

6. Finally, one piece of advice for would-be entrepreneurs?

A: Focus and stick to your goals, but be flexible when you need to make changes to your original plan.

D: Always have a purpose in mind, think of the bigger picture and don’t be afraid to rough it out.

Blow+Bar is located at 7 Rodyk Street, Robertson Quay, right by Kith Cafe! Pop in for a blow out, glass of wine, fabulous scalp massage, or simply to meet one of these two (or if you're lucky, both!) lovely ladies pursuing their passions and combining their talents to form a purpose they are both very proud of.

Lelian Chew - Banker turned Bride's Best Friend

I was going to save this write up for the end of the week, but I got too excited to share it with all of you, so I decided whatever, we need this kind of amazingness on TUESDAYS to give us a little more will to pursue our passions. ENJOY the read!

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Armed with an amazing ability to manage very, very demanding people, and more than her fair share of natural born charm, wit, and intelligence, Banker turned Bride's best friend, Lelian Chew, talks about turning those girl-hood dreams into full time reality - one that breathes life into the dreams of others.

Sitting across from Lelian one sunny afternoon, I realized that she is one of those ladies that every girl wants to be, and every man wants to be with. This brilliant former banker is blessed with far more than her fair share of charm, wit and intelligence, not to mention incredibly good looks and a wardrobe TDF. She also has an incredible story to share – one that started behind the front desk of the hospitality industry, which evolved into the coveted role of banker to the top 1% of Asia’s HNW individuals, and finally led her back to her dream job of planning weddings that are – dare I say it – bold and beautiful.

She was perhaps the best example of someone I knew who was pursuing her passions, using her talents, to create a purpose and a place for herself in an industry that was completely foreign to her. So I figured I’d feature her here, because really - who in their right mind leaves the ivory tower of G's PB for the unchartered (and gruelling) territories of wedding planning?

Lelian does. Because behind all that aforementioned natural born charm, wit, and intelligence lies an incredible ability to manage very, very demanding people, and a burning desire to ensure perfection in everything she does. Who better to manage brides-to-be than a banker seasoned in managing the billionaire boys club?

With that, she launched The Wedding Atelier (TWA) a boutique wedding and events planning agency that creates fantastical landscapes using florals, and offers brides a way to have the big day of their dreams.

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I guess the first question everyone has on their minds would be – why leave the cushy world of an extremely well-paid banking job?

Banking was my first and only love for a long time. But there was always a little voice inside me wanting to seek out opportunities outside of this comfort zone. Two years ago, the bank transferred me from Singapore to Hong Kong and I think the new environment sparked off something in me. I decided to take a hiatus from work, partly to suss out my new city, partly to see what else is out there for me, and somehow all of this came to be.

According to just about everyone who knows you, you’ve always dreamt about doing something like this, and it seems like your wedding was the perfect way to test the waters…

My husband and I were married last year, and it was just such an amazing journey. It’s almost an unhealthy obsession but I’ve always been one of those little girls fascinated with all things weddings. Growing up, I staged countless weddings for my favorite Barbie & Ken… and even before going into this profession full time, I had assisted numerous friends with their weddings. So when it came to planning my own big day, I was thrilled to have a blank canvas to experiment with (thank goodness for a very accommodating husband!)

I was involved in every aspect of planning my wedding – from budgeting to vendor selection to floral design to food plating and really, anything you can think of! It was a great opportunity to breathe life into all those ideas I’d had in my head since I was a little girl.

After my own wedding, I was so very fortunate to be involved in a number of spectacular weddings, which really helped to build up my experience and portfolio (and test the waters of the industry). The Wedding Atelier (TWA) was only launched after I was fully confident that my team could recreate the magic in every subsequent wedding we take on.

And how did the skill set you developed translate across very vastly different industries?

In my past life, I dealt with the most demanding of clients. Billionaires who gave me a minute on the phone while they wait for their transit flights. CEOs who called at 3am to find out why their US-listed company is trading up 2%. You learn to be well-prepared, highly organized and extremely resourceful. I can’t imagine these skill sets being irrelevant in any industry, but I think it’s particularly applicable to weddings as there are so many different pieces, and they’re all moving at the same time.

With The Wedding Atelier (TWA), I still deal with the same type of clientele and they demand the same level of service from me, and sometimes more! Because there are few things more important to one than their own wedding day.

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As with my last job, I do a great amount of groundwork for the wedding couple, taking time to suss out their likes, dislikes, personalities, visions and more. I am obsessively organized – a trait I picked up in my past life, and my blackberry is a banker addiction I won’t be quitting anytime soon as that’s what brides want – 24/7 service.

The other factor I have been very, very fortunate to have been able to bring over from my previous life is that The Wedding Atelier (TWA) has exclusive access to breath-taking private estates in many parts of Asia that are privately owned by my ex-banking clients. It’s wonderful to be able to offer brides locations that would otherwise be unattainable for their big day.

You’ve created some of the most stunning set ups I have ever seen this side of the pacific – where do you get your seemingly endless inspiration from? 

Wedding trends are not dissimilar to fashion trends. Each season sees its showcase of colours, textures and themes and I definitely draw inspiration from all that. That being said, I also believe that every wedding designer needs to have a signature touch, almost like a trademark. I love using flowers to transform a space and believe TWA’s floral designs are our distinguishing factor. Flowers are not just a mere decorative element; in many instances they are carriers of message as different blooms tell different stories. Besides their visual appeal, flowers also have a natural fragrance so you evoke multiple senses at the same time. You would be surprised by how much the right floral set up can transform a space.

I am also lucky to be able to collaborate with some of the best and most talented vendors in the world. They too are hard to get access too, but in a creative field like this, you want to work with the best of the best, and being able to draw on each other for inspiration and influence ensures that the good ideas are never, ever in short supply.

The concept of hiring a wedding planner seems to be taking off much slower out here in Asia, compared to the US. What type of couples should hire a wedding planner, and why is it a good idea?

Yes, you’re absolutely right! I believe many couples in Asia still make the common mistake of assuming the venue coordinator or their bridal party can perform the role of a wedding planner. They fail to realize that the venue coordinator works for the venue and not for them. And unless someone in your bridal party is a professional event planner, they will be too distracted with socializing and phototaking (instagram!) to be focused on their task at hand. This leaves a lot of loose ends to brides, and the last thing you want is to be frazzled on your big day.

The advice I give to all brides (friends, relatives, clients alike) is for them to leave the worrying to the professionals. From vendors, logistics, protocol to the smallest of design details, this expert has the skills and contacts necessary to make your day come together flawlessly. In addition, other than her traditionally defined role, a good wedding planner also takes on many other roles. I've acted as a mediator in tricky family situations, a fashion advisor to aid with gown selection and an etiquette consultant to coach on the dos and don'ts of a wedding. These are all hidden perks of hiring a wedding planner that many do not see.

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As someone with experience in planning and executing some of the most beautiful weddings I have ever laid eyes on, tell me, what is the most important thing that brides must remember on their big day?

After months of planning and anticipation, the worst thing you can do is to have the day slip you by. I tell all my brides the same thing on their wedding day – s l o w  d o w n  and take in everything. It’s your big day, everything is tailored to your likes, everyone is present for you. The only thing you need to do is to savor each moment and start creating memories. Leave all the worrying to me.

And finally, one piece of advice for would-be entrepreneurs?

I’ve come to realise that there will never be a perfect time to make the move to start something new. You’ll always have a reason not to: the economy is not doing great, maybe I should not take on additional risk now; the economy is booming, it’ll be a waste if I don’t stick around for my next bonus. I say "Take that leap of faith now!" Use the positives to your advantage and work around the negatives. Things will never be easy, but being passionate and working very, very hard goes a tremendously long way.

I know this has probably led the lot of you into thinking OMG SHE IS GETTING MARRIED! [No, I'm not] But if you are in the market for Event Planning Services, Design Services, or Day-Of Orchestration, I can't even begin to explain how perfect Lelian would be for the job. Check out the rest of the weddings she's had a hand in over on The Wedding Atelier.