Luxurious lifestyles of S'pore's most prominent style influencers will leave you jealous

8 January 2015 / 1 year 9 months ago
Source: AsiaOne via The Straits Times

These style influencers have made a name for themselves for leading apparently picture-perfect lives. On their Instagram feeds are photographs of the latest luxury bags, meals at top restaurants and fancy vacations. But they tell Leslie Kay Lim and Stacey Chia there is more to them than meets the eye.

Velda Tan: Entrepreneur with a simple dream

She is the co-founder of popular online boutique Love, Bonito and newly opened lobster restaurant Pince & Pints, but as a teenager, Ms Velda Tan's goal in life was to be a housewife.

Watching her unpack her chic pant and skirt suits that she has brought along for this photo shoot, it is hard to imagine the 27-year-old being anything other than a career woman.

"That was a dream I had when I was really young and perhaps naive, way before I discovered the entrepreneurial spirit in me," says the social media darling, who has 112,000 followers on her Instagram account (@belluspuera).

Love, Bonito, which she founded in 2005 with her older sister Viola, 31, and best friend Rachel Lim, 27, started out as a platform to sell their own clothes for extra cash.

From its simple beginnings, it has grown into a business that is now believed to be worth a seven-figure sum. The trio moved on to import clothing and then started to create their own designs. Mr Frederick Yap, her then boyfriend and now husband, was the company's managing director.

Business was so good that the couple dropped out of university to focus on the store. She was enrolled in the business and finance course at SIM University, and he was in an engineering programme in the United States. Ms Tan still has a stake in the business, but is no longer involved in its day-to-day running. Her husband is no longer a part of the business.

She handles marketing and public relations for her restaurant, which brings in huge dinner crowds.

Naturally, her taxi-driver father and bank officer mother objected to her leaving school.

"But we realised that we enjoyed running a business and it was worth taking the risk," says Ms Tan, who sits perfectly poised throughout the interview.

The business flourished as it was one of the first few online shops offering on-trend, affordable clothing, but Ms Tan's social media presence possibly played a part too.

Her blog (, which she started at around the same time as the shop, was a glimpse into her life and work through advertorials. At its height, it received 10,000 views daily.

Now, she has put blogging on the back burner, but actively uploads photos of food, fashion and travel that portray an enviable though not ostentatious lifestyle on Instagram.

Gone are the days, too, when she would don Love, Bonito outfits. Her photographs now feature niche brands, such as Australian labels Finders Keepers and Cameo, some of which are presents from the brands.

A natural in front of the camera, the 1.7m-tall beauty was a finalist in The New Paper New Face modelling competition in 2006 and a briefcase girl on the game show Deal Or No Deal.

While she has moved into the food and beverage business, she says that her interest will always be in fashion.

Last year, she took fashion drawing, pattern- making and brand-management courses at the renowned Central Saint Martins arts college in London.

"Growing up, I shared a room with my two sisters and we were always borrowing clothes and dressing up together. Fashion was always our thing," says Ms Tan. Her younger sister Vanya, 24, is an air stewardess.

Beneath this strong businesswoman still lies the girl with simple dreams of taking care of her family.

"I want two boys and two girls if we can afford it," she says with a smile, revealing her trademark dimples.

"But they always say you'll know how many you want after you have your first, so I'll hold that thought."

Mae Tan: Fashionable teen blogger

Student Mae Tan leads the life that most teenagers can only dream about.

On her Instagram account (@marxmae), where she has 43,000 followers, she shares photos of her designer handbags, luxe streetwear outfits and famous friends such as former actress Fiona Xie.

The 19-year-old has even hosted her own travelogue - Miss Korea: I'm Mae - which aired on cable channels StarHub and SingTel mio TV in 2013 and featured her travels in South Korea.

But as frivolous as her life looks, the teen takes her future very seriously.

After graduating from Kuo Chuan Presbyterian Secondary School in 2012, she decided to take a break from studying.

"I didn't do well in my O levels and I wanted to use the time to find out what I really wanted in life, you know?," says Ms Tan, who recently started pursuing a diploma in fashion at Lasalle College of the Arts.

As the only daughter and middle child of housewife Janet Toh and businessman Dave Tan, who runs luxury watch brand Richard Mille in Asia, she could have taken life easy. Her 23-year-old brother is the manager of multi-label boutique Surrender and her 17-year-old brother is a student.

Instead, the enterprising teen took up graphic design work, started blogging professionally and opened a clothing store at *Scape in Orchard Road.

"My ex-boyfriend and I pooled together about $10,000 in savings to open the small shop without my father's knowledge. I didn't want him judging the business even before I got started," says Ms Tan, who closed the shop in October last year because it was not profitable.

She has had better luck with her other ventures.

She was part of a team that designed the much-talked about In George We Trust paraphernalia to support former foreign affairs minister George Yeo's election campaign in 2011, which helped to bring in other jobs.

Her blog (, where she posts make-up tutorials, product reviews and fashion advertorials, gets about 2,500 unique views daily even though she only blogs about twice a month. She used to blog once a week until Instagram came around. With its built-in editing tools and filters, she finds Instagram more convenient to use.

While the world of blogging catapulted her to fame, she paints it as a dog-eat-dog world that she has grown to dislike. Hate mail and comments are an everyday occurrence, which she says "hurts like hell".

This is a topic that gets her all heated up and using swear words.

"It's a world where looks have become all important, so I have to make sure my photos always look good," she says.

"When I see other bloggers getting prettier and prettier because of plastic surgery, I consider it too, but then I remind myself that I don't want to be a blogger forever."

She recently started a private Instagram account for more personal photographs - but will keep up with appearances on her public accounts for now.

"I still have followers, so I must be doing something right and it pays well," says Ms Tan pragmatically.

She declines to reveal how much she can earn from her social media posts.

The youngster has her sights on doing marketing or public relations for a luxury fashion brand once she completes her diploma.

Judging by the way she styled herself for this shoot, while mumbling "should I wear a belt?", it is clear that she is in her element.

She does not rule out working for the family business. Her father also owns multi-label boutiques Surrender and Salon by Surrender.

"I'm going to try my best to prove myself. I don't want people just treating me as the boss' daughter."

Tracy Phillips: Partying on

It has been five years since Ms Tracy Phillips left her job as Zouk's marketing manager, but her partying days are far from over. The invites just keep coming in for the 36-year-old, who now runs the creative consultancy Present Purpose and there is always some place to be every day.

She arrives for this interview on a Friday looking slightly frazzled from a late night.

"I had a big night of sake," she admits.

Her Instagram account (@tracyjoyphillips), where she has 6,500 followers, reveals that she was at a fashion event hosted by luxury online retailer Net-A-Porter the night before.

Scroll down further and there are photos of her hobnobbing in Scotland with renowned shoe designer Jimmy Choo and retired footballer David Beckham at the launch of Beckham's new whisky label.

Then there are the art events, music festivals and dinner parties that also fill up her social calendar.

"Most of them are work-related and to support my friends who are involved. I have a wide group of friends and combined with my far-ranging interests, there are definitely times when I do feel like my social life is killing me," says Ms Phillips with a laugh.

She kept late nights during the decade she spent handling advertising and promotions for Zouk, when a typical day started at 11am and could go on till the wee hours of the next morning.

The popular nightspot broadened her network of contacts in the fashion and entertainment industry and helped to cement her cool status. Apart from appearing in magazines, she was asked by brands, such as Agnes B and The Heeren mall, to model for their marketing campaigns.

"I think it was really the media who put me in the limelight. They would often approach me when they wanted to feature real people for photo shoots or for quotes on trends, culture and marketing," says Ms Phillips, who still goes to Zouk twice a month.

But it is not all play and no work for her. Keeping late nights does not mean that she gets to sleep in, says Ms Phillips, who is usually up by 8am every day.

Much of her day is spent meeting clients, some of whom include Oriole Coffee, online store Lyke and theatre venue The Henderson Project.

She is so in tune with the lifestyle scene that she was given her own radio programme on Lush 99.5FM last year. Called The Lush Life, it focuses on the latest in fashion, culture and nightlife.

She spends her free time writing about The Lush Life on her blog (, reading or watching movies with her 36-year-old engineer boyfriend.

Given that her life revolves around socialising, it comes as a surprise when she describes herself as "reserved".

"I'll quite happily talk to anyone who talks to me, but I'm unlikely to make the first move, especially with complete strangers. To me, there's nothing worse than small talk," says Ms Phillips, who speaks at a measured pace throughout the interview.

She adds: "Fortunately, because I've been introduced to so many people through work and my social life, I'm rarely at a party where I don't know anyone."

The one-time model rules out a career in front of the camera.

"I've been asked to host television programmes and events, but unless I find the topic compelling, I would much rather be behind the scenes putting everything together," says Ms Phillips.

She remains comfortable in her own skin and unaffected. Though the big 40 is just a few years away, clearly, she has nothing to fret about. Her skin is radiant, unspoiled by years of late nights. Dressed in a multi-coloured dress from French brand Germain and Stella McCartney rubber wedges, she exudes girlish charm.

"I think I got good genes from my mother. When she turned 60, people thought she was 40. I don't think it was just about the way she looked, but more about her spirit; she was always full of energy and game to try something new," says Ms Phillips, who was born to a Chinese mother and father of British, Dutch and Myanmar lineage.

"I think these are the gifts that she gave me - boundless energy and openness, a good recipe for being the life of the party."

Kim Lim: Tycoon’s daughter and jet-setting princess

Colourful Chanel bags. Supercars. Exotic jaunts to Europe. The glitzy images on @kimmylecute's popular Instagram profile paint its owner, Kim Lim, as a princess living the modern-day fairy tale. And she is, in a way.

The daughter of billionaire Peter Lim, the 23-year-old holds court on social media, with more than 57,000 Instagram followers and hundreds of likes per post.

There are selfies galore, and she is seen surrounded by the evidence of her material wealth - designer bags of all shapes and sizes from Hermes, Saint Laurent and Givenchy, in addition to the aforementioned Chanel, as well as a dizzying array of Christian Louboutin heels.

Followers lap up the peeks into her jetsetting lifestyle on the social media platform, which she joined in 2012.

Ms Lim's growing online presence has also netted the former SIM University business management student varied gigs, such as being a style ambassador for Digital Fashion Week here in November last year.

On paper, or the Internet-age equivalent, she seems like she could be a diva. And the difficulty of scheduling an interview and photo shoot through her PR minder reinforces that assumption.

On the day of her shoot, the photo studio is packed. There are 14 people in the room, including a PR minder, a nanny, a bodyguard, three employees from Cartier who arrived with jewellery on loan for the shoot, two hairstylists, a make-up artist, and the editorial, photo and video crew.

At the centre of the circus is the slim, 1.7m-tall Ms Lim, who appears not in a fancy get-up, but surprisingly, in a ratty tank, shorts and sneakers with shades to hide her bare face. In person, she is not a larger-than-life figure.

In fact, she seems younger and quite unguarded, slouchy body language and all. She is not fussy about which outfits or accessories to wear, and poses a bit awkwardly at first, in an endearing way. To get rid of her nervous energy, she banters with her hair and make-up team, who get her to crack a few smiles.

"My main priority is comfort. I have heels, but I love sneakers," she says in a twang that is a mixture of local and British inflections, thanks to the years spent at the all-girl boarding school Queenswood in Hertfordshire, where she was sent when she was 12.

The Insta-fame has been unexpected, she says. "I'm happy and thankful that people are noticing me, but at the same time I don't really know how I feel about it." It does make her a bit more conscious about how she presents herself in public, she notes, but she just tries to be true to herself.

Her home life is simple too, it appears. She loves to travel and eat well, but when in Singapore, she eats mostly hawker centre food and home-cooked meals by her nanny, with whom she lives in an apartment in the Orchard Road area.

"My dad is a simple guy too, usually in shorts and a T-shirt," she adds. References to her 61-year-old father pepper the conversation and she says the two are close. Her parents are divorced and Mr Lim is married to former television actress Cherie Lim.

Kim Lim is obviously aware of her privileged position as the daughter of one of Singapore's richest men who, according to Forbes Singapore, has an estimated worth of US$2.05 billion (S$2.6 billion).

"My dad wants me and my brother to be humble and down-to-earth," she says. Her 21-year-old younger brother is studying psychology in Australia. "I have the power and capability to give back to society and help others," she adds.

While she enjoys dressing up - Givenchy is one of her favourite brands with its edgy but casual T-shirts - she also does charity work. She has volunteered at the Apex Day Rehabilitation Centre for the Elderly in Bukit Merah View and has taken part in the family-run Operation Red Shirt charity, which gives out food provisions to the needy elderly during Chinese New Year, for many years.

It is a bit strange to picture her in such settings. However, Ms Lim explains that she does not just pack the food but enjoys delivering and meeting the old folks. She is also close to her grandmother, she says.

Dogs, too, have a place in her heart. There is a big menagerie waiting for her at home - a British bulldog, three French bulldogs and a cocker spaniel show up on her Instagram feed as well. With names like Basil, Onion and Cookie, they also reveal her love for food.

The dog lover will be finishing her degree in marketing overseas, but in the meantime, has lots of entrepreneurial ideas. She is in talks with Thai fashion label Patinya to bring the brand to Singapore and other countries.

She would also love to meld her passions - charity and fashion - with her father's football connections. Mr Lim recently bought Spanish football club Valencia. "Maybe the footballers could do a fashion show to raise funds for charity," she muses.

As a 23-year-old, the It girl is still finding her footing, it seems, and figuring out what to do with her life.

She says her end goal would be to support her father and his business.

"My dad has always been there for me. My main goal would be to help him out and be able to take care of him one day," she says.

"Just give me a few years on that one."

Take a look at the gallery below for images of the influencers.

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