Cover Joseph Ho, founder of local lighting purveyor Sol Luminaire

Joseph Ho, founder of local lighting purveyor Sol Luminaire, shares more about his entrepreneurial journey and the new Galerie 5 showroom

Sol Luminaire co-founder Joseph Ho originally had ambitions to become a chef—he had never really thought about joining the family trade in furnishings and fittings. The bread and butter of the business then dealt with outfitting retail stores for international sports brands. 

When his father started discussing his retirement plans, Ho then took up the mantle and established Sol Luminaire in 2008, continuing the family tradition while starting a new chapter for the firm by specialising in architectural lighting. The local lighting purveyor started retailing products it manufactures and designs for Aeon, its in-house brand. His brother Zhi Kai, who had originally worked for a luxury retail brand, also joined the firm to lead its marketing department. 

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Five years since and two showrooms later, the homegrown firm has recently opened Galerie 5, a new boutique on Craig Road, which retails a selection of custom lighting pieces handmade by artisans around the world. “Galerie 5 serves a place where brilliant minds, space, and lighting come together,” says Joseph Ho, founder of Sol Luminaire. “Visitors get to experience light as a medium of various art movements and styles as the five featured brands and artisans bring about new ideas that combine interdisciplinary approaches, material exploration, and circadian rhythm to engage all five senses.”  

Brands represented exclusively by Galerie 5 in Singapore include multidisciplinary French artist Frederic Saulou, Pittsburgh-based American firm The Soucy Shop, Belgian studio IIII, and Ukrainian firm Makhno Studio. 

Here, he shares more about the firm’s early years and plans ahead for the lighting purveyor.

Have you always wanted to join the family business?

Joseph Ho (JH): When I was a trained chef, I never thought of joining the family business. My dad’s faked retirement plan tricked me into it; until this day he has yet to retire!

Functional LED lighting was everywhere in Singapore, yet good lighting was often overlooked in interior design. With Sol Luminaire, we set out to create an architectural lighting solution for local homes and spaces—one that incorporates elements that are design-led.

We believe in creating a multidimensional space that encapsulates the synergy between human and object, form and function, design and technology, through the five resident brands and awe-inspiring artisans from around the world. We want to become a local platform that highlights under-the-radar artisanal brands and artists, to create a little design community.

Can you tell us more about your in-house brand Aeon?

JH: When Aeon was first introduced in 2010, its primary goal was to offer architectural downlights that are functional, with impeccable quality components integrated into the lamp, as well as design-centric—this refers to the form of the product that adds and accentuates the ceilings of Singapore homes.

The limited-production Gypsum series is the perfect example within Aeon’s collections. With its concave facade that not only reduces the harshness (of the light emitted), it also gives off an architectural look, while maintaining the semiconductor integrated into the lamp to maximise its output efficiencies.

How do you differentiate the offerings at your showrooms from one another?

JH: The build of each individual store carries a different overall retail visual experience to align with the brand partners that we will decide to exhibit. At The Lab 2.1 showroom, we carry brands including Buster+ Punch, A by Arturo Alvarez and Lumira. At Galerie 5, we have products from Makhno Studio, Frédéric Saulou, IIII, The Soucy Shope, Sticky Glass and Isac Elam Kaid.

At the new Galerie 5 showroom, we wanted it to keep it simple and retain the heritage facade. To inject a sense of newness, modern materials are utilised. We also incorporated an organic approach when it comes to design with curved walls highlighted by soft lighting. The walls on the second level of our showroom are one perfect example of that—the walls are designed with waves in mind to create a unique shopping experience.

How do you select the brands that you represent?

JH: The chemistry over the initial Zoom call with the brand partners plays a huge part. Understanding the direction that each individual partner is heading towards and trusting in us to best carry forward their vision in Singapore cohesively. We primarily seek partners who think out of the box, integrating elements of lighting in their designs [such that] the lamp acts as an art object; and when turned on, it provides an added dimension to the interior.  

We work exclusively with our brand partners in Singapore to develop and brainstorm what will and might not work for Singapore, coming together to create a collection that is meant specifically just for Singapore while concurrently exhibiting what is being allocated to us within their existing collection. Through weekly calls, we conversed by bouncing ideas and keeping each other up to date locally.

 

What are your hopes for the future of the brand?

JH: Down the pipeline, we will be exhibiting more brand partners around the world as well as internally developing our in-house architectural downlights from Aeon. More brands will be coming soon, please stay tuned!

Galerie 5 is located at 50 Craig Road, Tel: 6610 7221

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