There is no resisting the lure of an island getaway that melds luxury with the serenity of nature at its most pristine. Throw in the finest Thai cuisine and impeccable service– and you find yourself in paradise. Now add seven beautiful women from Asia’s capital cities in all their glammed-up glory and you end up with one unforgettable weekend.
If not for the monsoon rains that led to a few delayed flights and threatened to derail our rather elaborate production, everything would have been perfect. Still, our prayers were heard; the skies cleared and the sun shone for a highly fashionable and memorable few days during the shoot for Asia’s Most Stylish 2013 at the enchanting Soneva Kiri resort in Koh Kood, Thailand.
The setting for the shoot: Soneva Kiri resort in Koh Kood, Thailand
Although the previous night’s thunderstorms and relentless downpour threaten to dampen our first day of shoots, the sun begins to peek through as we settle in at the resort’s dining room which has panoramic views of the bay and lush tropical jungle. We enjoy a rejuvenating breakfast of wonderful organic produce and freshly baked goodies with Soneva Kiri’s gracious PR manager Susan Wu.
The Philippine Tatler team has been assigned to produce this year’s Asia’s Most Stylish shoot. We congregate back at our villa, which has been designated as the official styling salon for the day. The Philippines’ most stylish lady, willowy Nanette Medved-Po, fresh and cheery in her yoga gear, strolls in, hand-in-hand with husband Chris. Make-up and hair guru Patrick Rosas and his assistants work their magic on her. Meanwhile, from the rack full of clothes by Filipino designer Inno Sotto, we settle on an elegant jumpsuit with billowy sleeves. Bold, chunky accessories with unpolished stones by Joyce Makitalo complete the look.
Medved-Po looks stunning in the silk aubergine number as we drive over in our buggies to the resort’s tree pod. Created to provide guests with a unique picnic option, it is perched 16ft above the ground and accessible only by a cable system. Quite a challenge when one is all glammed up and wearing stilettos! Medved-Po gamely climbs the steep stone steps and gets hoisted up to the tree top where the team has been setting up. The precarious location requires quite a few takes but the resulting shot is undeniably spectacular!
It begins to rain again, so we postpone call time for the next lady, China’s Li Xiao Ling. A painter and men’s clothing designer, Li has just flown in from Paris via Bangkok that morning, so the weather gives her a much needed respite after the long flight. The rest of us wait it out at the living room where the resort’s friendly and attentive staff make sure that everyone is very well looked after.
Li Xiao Ling gets last minute styling adjustments
After lunch we head back to our villa, where a bag full of gowns by Badgley Mischka has been sent over from Shanghai expressly for Li’s shoot. Although she explains that she has never worn the colour plum, she agrees to try it on after some gentle persuasion. Sure enough, the statuesque beauty looks fabulous in the draped jersey sheath. We are joined by Chopard Shanghai’s Nicole Tang, who brings a selection of jewellery for us to pick from. Make-up artist Rosas is in a playful mood this afternoon and experiments with a variety of looks while art director, Anton San Diego, has already rung twice to hurry us over to the next location as the skies are beginning to turn grey again!
By the time we get to “The View”, the resort’s outdoor bistro, it is completely overcast and photographer Frank Hoefsmit is disappointed to have lost the light. However, the charming Li immediately works the camera and in no time we have a striking wind-blown shot. Just in the nick of time as the drizzle turns into a downpour, sending everyone dashing in for some cover!
The afternoon flights have been delayed due to the rain but the ladies from Thailand, Indonesia and Singapore finally arrive on the island in perfect time for the official welcome dinner.
Everyone assembles at the jetty for the speedboat ride along the coast and through the scenic mangroves to Benz’s Restaurant. Over chilled champagne and the most exquisite 10-course Thai feast, the ladies do their introductions and get a chance to meet and mingle.
The group shot is scheduled for today, so the styling salon moves to villa 21, a splendid six-bedroom private residence where everyone can be accommodated simultaneously. Early-bird Singapore’s June Rin arrives first. The neuro anaesthesiologist is also a clotheshorse and has brought along several colourful options for her solo shot. Oohs and aahs are heard as Chopard Singapore’s Ng Shieh Li unveils some dazzling High Jewellery pieces. A sudden downpour forces us to move the set from the poolside to the master suite. Reclining serenely on the divan, the mild-mannered Rin cuts a pretty picture in her flowing fuschia off-shoulder gown by Roberto Cavalli.
The ladies get styled for the group shot
Indonesia’s Jessie Setiono, a 24-year-old model who is completing her law degree, appears almost waiflike in shorts, a T-shirt and glasses. She brings along a show-stopping lace and floral chiffon gown with cut-outs by Indonesian couturier Sebastian Gunawan that only someone with her perfectly lean figure could carry off. A complete transformation takes place and she emerges from the make-up room looking like a goddess. While Setiono is being photographed out by the seashore, our ever-efficient villa butler prepares a delightful spread of snacks and tea. The rest of the ladies arrive one after another sending the styling into full swing.
The beach at Soneva Kiri’s southern tip is the dramatic setting for the group shot. At this point, the heavens are smiling down on us, the sun has come out and it is the most glorious afternoon. The clear blue skies and the gently foaming sea make a stunning backdrop for
the seven stylish mavens all decked out in white. Everyone is in high spirits and after several great takes, we call it a day!
We’re off to a more relaxed start on our third and final day of the ams shoot. First in line this morning is Malaysia’s Marion Caunter. We choose a figure-hugging dress in bright melon by Victoria Beckham to show off Caunter’s hourglass figure. It’s hard to believe that she just had a baby girl not too long ago!
Rain doesn’t seem to dampen Marion Caunter’s solo shoot
Thailand’s vivacious Naphaporn Bodiratnangkura Narongdej is next to arrive. This petite lady is a dynamic powerhouse who manages her family’s hotel empire. We accessorise her diaphanous printed dress by Emilio Pucci with a pair of earrings designed by Belgian-born Gonzague Zurstrassen, whose collection is exclusively carried at the resort’s jewellery boutique, as well as an elegant timepiece by Breguet.
Naphaporn Bodiratnangkura Narongdej shows photogapher Frank Hoefsmit how it’s done
After the months-long preparations, it’s hard to believe that our ams production is coming to an end. Last to be photographed is Taiwan’s lovely Adrienne Wang, who arrives with her sister Lily. Once her hair and make-up are done, Wang slips into a blazing-red Christian Dior gown and steps out looking regal. Thankfully the weather is holding up today and we are finally able to shoot on the boardwalk that leads up to Soneva Kiri’s entrance. A mother of four, Wang was a popular tv anchor for 10 years. She is a natural before the camera and this last shot is effortless. It’s a wrap!
The AMS ladies with the Asia Tatler team
Photos: Anton San Diego