The New Asia: The Most Powerful, Influential & Stylish People To Know In 2020
- Adrian ChengAdrian Cheng
- Chryseis TanChryseis Tan
- Wanwan LeiWanwan Lei
- Tirawan TaechaubolTirawan Taechaubol
- Rosey ChanRosey Chan
- Wendy YuWendy Yu
- Arnold PutraArnold Putra
- André FuAndré Fu
- Vatanika Patamasingh Na AyudhyaVatanika Patamasingh Na Ayudhya
- Federico Tan & Kevin PoonFederico Tan & Kevin Poon
- Rachel LimRachel Lim
- Kent Ho & Emily Lam-HoKent Ho & Emily Lam-Ho
- Veronica ChouVeronica Chou
- Nathan HartonoNathan Hartono
- Nadya HutagalungNadya Hutagalung
- Mark Cho & Alan SeeMark Cho & Alan See
- Anne Curtis Smith-HeussaffAnne Curtis Smith-Heussaff
- Tina KengTina Keng
- Pranapda PhornpraphaPranapda Phornprapha
- Piyarat KaljareukPiyarat Kaljareuk
- Nualphan LamsamNualphan Lamsam
- Lulu WangLulu Wang
- Takayuki IshiiTakayuki Ishii
- Thierry Chow, Marisa Yiu & Betty NgThierry Chow, Marisa Yiu & Betty Ng
- Bryan LooBryan Loo
- Nirvana, Rahul & Varun ChaudharyNirvana, Rahul & Varun Chaudhary
- Eric Gnock FahEric Gnock Fah
- Yoon AhnYoon Ahn
- René ChuRené Chu
- Vasu VirajsilpVasu Virajsilp
- Frank ChouFrank Chou
- Siddharth KasliwalSiddharth Kasliwal
- Datin Sri Lara HusseinDatin Sri Lara Hussein
- Teo YangTeo Yang
- Vicky LauVicky Lau
- Anthony ChenAnthony Chen
- Christopher Mark & Syed Asim HussainChristopher Mark & Syed Asim Hussain
- Daisy TamDaisy Tam
- Zola ZhangZola Zhang
- Guo PeiGuo Pei
- Elyn PowElyn Pow
- Darren WangDarren Wang
- Yu HongYu Hong
- Marion CaunterMarion Caunter
- Cindy ChaoCindy Chao
- Steven PanSteven Pan
- Darren TeohDarren Teoh
- Katrina RazonKatrina Razon
- Maria TaniguchiMaria Taniguchi
- Mike ConcepcionMike Concepcion
- Ong Ning-GengOng Ning-Geng
- Heart EvangelistaHeart Evangelista
- Wee Teng WenWee Teng Wen
- Ivan PunIvan Pun
- Jennifer WooJennifer Woo
- Loui LimLoui Lim
- Chen ManChen Man
- Douglas WooDouglas Woo
- Otto NgOtto Ng
- Joe FlizzowJoe Flizzow
- Datin Vivy YusofDatin Vivy Yusof
- Alan Lo & Yenn WongAlan Lo & Yenn Wong
- Talenia Phua GajardoTalenia Phua Gajardo
- Chen XuzhiChen Xuzhi
- Lindsay Jang & Matt AbergelLindsay Jang & Matt Abergel
- Nur FazuraNur Fazura
- Han ChongHan Chong
- Yang YuancaoYang Yuancao
- Kevin L TanKevin L Tan
- Rayi Putra Rahardjo & Nindy AyundaRayi Putra Rahardjo & Nindy Ayunda
- Liang ZhouyangLiang Zhouyang
- Georgina Wilson-BurnandGeorgina Wilson-Burnand
- Kim JonesKim Jones
- Chatri SityodtongChatri Sityodtong
- Lauren KhooLauren Khoo
- ML Piyapas BhirombhakdiML Piyapas Bhirombhakdi
- Royce HongRoyce Hong
- Kezia ToemionKezia Toemion
- André ChiangAndré Chiang
- Kris WuKris Wu
- Ying Chao KuoYing Chao Kuo
- Jonathan CheungJonathan Cheung
- Lynn BanLynn Ban
- Padmanabh Singh, Shalini & Samir KasliwalPadmanabh Singh, Shalini & Samir Kasliwal
- Julien RoyerJulien Royer
- Jiang Qiong ErJiang Qiong Er
- Wong Mun Summ & Richard HassellWong Mun Summ & Richard Hassell
- Feiping ChangFeiping Chang
- Victoria Tang-Owen & RoccoVictoria Tang-Owen & Rocco
- Fiona McLeishFiona McLeish
- Kevin KwanKevin Kwan
A new class of innovators and builders will redefine not only how Asia is perceived in the eyes of the world, but also how we see ourselves, by breaking borders, promoting connectivity and rewriting social codes. In these challenging times, their examples of leadership and originality strike a collective note of optimism for a brighter tomorrow. Welcome to the New Asia.
"When I think about what the New Asia means to me, I think about the power of creativity, culture, innovation and sustainability," says Adrian Cheng, heir to the Chow Tai Fook and New World Group empires and Founder of K11. "Adding to this, the word ‘community’ is going to be interesting in the future, because until now, we talked about Asia as individual countries. We talked about Thailand or Singapore or Indonesia, but now we are beginning to think of Asia as one community where everyone, young innovators and the older generation alike, comes together to exchange ideas and create new initiatives together. That collective force should be a part of the New Asia, too."
Chryseis Tan describes the New Asia as “bold, innovative and an even playing field where anyone can achieve success,” though she has often expressed bafflement at her own popularity. The soft-spoken heiress to Malaysia’s Berjaya Corporation’s fortune gives her followers a glimpse of her jet-setting lifestyle, while her marriage to another heir to a Malaysian business legacy, SM Faliq Nasimuddin of Naza Group, certainly adds to the allure.
But, like her tycoon father Tan Sri Vincent Tan, she has demonstrated a keen business acumen behind her luxe image, having played a key role in developing the group’s Four Seasons Kyoto and other properties. Tan’s investments in startups like Goxip, the Hong Kong-based ‘shoppable Instagram’ for fashion and beauty products, and the La Juiceria Group have also flourished. She’s the force behind Kuala Lumpur hotspots including Greyhound Café in Bukit Bintang, and Sushi Ryu and Bar Shake in Platinum Park. Her one piece of business advice is this: “Do not ever give up and take fear out of the equation.”
The founder of the M Woods contemporary art museum in Beijing has brought glamour to China’s red hot collectors’ market, with exhibitions featuring the work of Andy Warhol, David Hockney and Paul McCarthy.
Hotel group heiress Tirawan, or Waew, is the project development manager at family-owned Kasemkij Group in Thailand, with responsibility for land acquisition, marketing and business operations. In the vanguard of a new breed of Asian entrepreneurs, her latest venture under the group’s Cape & Kantary Hotels is Cape Fahn, a stylish resort on a private island off Koh Samui.
The Chulalongkorn University graduate, who holds a master’s in management from Imperial College London, also runs the noodle chain Nuer Koo with her cousin. Recipient of the Outstanding ASEAN Women Entrepreneurs 2019 award, the art-loving fashionista is married to real estate exec Ben Taechaubol, with whom she has a son.
The London-born multimedia artist and musician is known for combining art and performance with her works at art fairs such as Frieze London, commissions for gallery shows on Guy Bourdin and Marina Abramović, and even once having performed a spontaneous one-handed improvisation for Quincy Jones.
“Once in a while when I have a drink too many, I may be persuaded to play the piano upside down,” she says.
Born in Zhejiang, Yu became interested in business at an early age—her father, Jingyuan Yu, is founder of the Mengtian Group, the largest wooden door manufacturer in Asia. Based in Shanghai, she is the founder and CEO of Yu Holdings, which invests in lifestyle and technology companies with a millennial focus, and is fast becoming a major patron of fashion at museums around the world.
Her endowment of the lead curatorial position at the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s Costume Institute in New York City has positioned her as a lifetime power player thanks to the industry’s obsession with the Met Gala. “Though youthful in spirit, I’m actually an old soul and naturally intuitive,” she says. “I’m somewhat of a paradox in that I’m masculine in my approach, especially in business, but at the same time I am also very much in touch with my softer, girly side.” As for her taste in fashion, “I don’t like to have regrets,” she says. “Personal style is a journey with many chapters and it evolves with time.”
Arnold Putra describes himself as a fashion designer, but he’s fast becoming far more than that. His Instagram account is packed with photos from different locations of him wearing eccentric outfits that reflect his edgy and provocative personality. In one post from Ethiopia, he wears a white outfit and a massive cross, surrounded by orthodox priests and pilgrims during the Meskel Festival, which celebrates the discovery of the True Cross (the remnants of the actual cross on which Christ was crucified).
In another post, he appears with sadhus, or religious ascetics, in India during a holy event in the river Ganges. There’s also a post in which he hangs out with Grab drivers wearing a Grab jacket, possibly borrowed from one of the drivers, and worn in contrast to a pair of Balenciaga boots. “Although fashion design has been one of my more notable media,” he says, “I think that the things I have been creatively working on recently fall more into costume, film, music and the curation of spaces.” Asked whether his travel around the world has influenced his creative output, Arnold answers: “Maybe it has, subconsciously, but I would say that it’s the other way round. Travelling is the output of months of research, pitching to journalists, Google translating my way around forums, and finding the links to significant figures of a subculture and counterculture.” As for his underlying business belief, Arnold responds in typical form: “If a man does not have ‘sauce,’ then he is lost, but the same man can get lost in the sauce.”
Ever since he shot to international fame a decade ago with his innovative designs for The Upper House, Fu has left an indelible mark on the hotels and restaurants not only of his home city of Hong Kong (the St. Regis, K11 Artus and Louise opened in the past year), but also with major properties around the world from Singapore to New York City to London and more.
He also designs an ever-growing range of products for the home through his André Fu Living collections and collaborations. Fu’s biggest piece of business advice is simple and to the point: “Stay persistent,” he says. In fact, his favourite thing to do even in his spare time is to go back to his studio and work. But Fu does admit to a few weaknesses when it comes to comfort food—Pringles potato chips and his favourite dish, “pasta Bolognese.”
Vatanika Patamasingh Na Ayudhya
Vatanika’s eponymous fashion label enjoys a huge following, with an Instagram account that has racked up close to a million followers. Last year, the ambitious entrepreneur launched a timepiece collaboration with Swiss watchmaker Franck Muller.
The daughter of former society model Pintipa and a graduate of Central Saint Martins and the London College of Fashion, she is also famed for her extravagant reality show This is Me Vatanika, which has attracted nearly 300,000 subscribers to her YouTube channel. She was Thailand’s representative in Asia’s Most Stylish Women 2017.
Madsaki was born in Japan and moved to New Jersey as a young child, an experience that has shaped paintings that fuse graffiti and manga, with references to Hollywood films and old-master artworks, too. The 46-year-old artist has been championed by Takashi Murakami and international dealer Emmanuel Perrotin.
Federico Tan & Kevin Poon
In the mid ’90s, Federico “Fed” Tan began assisting his then-fashion photographer brother on shoots for magazines like i-D and Harper’s Bazaar, sparking a love for fashion that would lead him to forge his own path, working with brands like Diesel and Shanghai Tang. In 2012, he teamed up with Kevin Poon on Social/Capital, a Hong Kong-based events, marketing and communications company that has taken on clients such as Sacai, Maison Martin Margiela and J. Crew.
Poon has led and transformed the streetwear scene of Hong Kong (and Asia and beyond). His wildly popular label Clot, co-founded with Edison Chen, made its fashion week debut in New York in 2018, and their multi-brand retail outlet Juice has locations in five major cities. When he’s not working out of his decked-out Wong Chuk Hang office, you’ll find Kevin running in the same circles as Kanye West, Pharrell Williams and Kaws.
Running a startup can be intense, and one that operates in the much-disrupted sector of fashion retail is pretty much an exercise in constantly staying on your toes. Little wonder that Lim, the co-founder of the digital native apparel brand Love, Bonito confides: “My guilty pleasure is being alone on a flight, when I’m forced to shut out the world and be alone with my thoughts.”
Started in 2006 as a blogshop in Singapore when Lim was still a student, Love, Bonito has since expanded with brick-and-mortar stores and ventured into overseas markets. The latest is Hong Kong, and more new adventures await. “I believe the future of Asia and Asian brands is bright,” says Lim. “It’s exciting to be growing and learning at the frontier of the newest and latest when it comes to retail, e-commerce and other growth opportunities in the region. As we deepen our footprint in the New Asia, curating the right experiences and offerings for different markets will be key for us.”
Kent Ho & Emily Lam-Ho
Kent Ho and Emily Lam-Ho are one of Hong Kong’s most glamorous power couples. Having spent a decade in Silicon Valley before settling in Hong Kong in 2012, Kent has made it his mission is to “tie the two together.” The Kentucky-born, Stanford-educated entrepreneur is the founder of early-stage venture capital fund Spectrum 28, which invests in experimental and pioneering tech companies—to date, its portfolio spans digital health, genomics, retail and hospitality, fintech, construction and even drones. In 2018, he was named a Young Global Leader by the World Economic Forum.
Armed with a double master’s from Columbia and a double degree from the University of Southern California, Emily once worked on the trading floor of the capital markets firm CLSA. Today, she’s using her business savvy to empower women as CEO and founder of Empact28. Emily works with the Women’s Commission to advise the Hong Kong government on special projects and is on the Women’s Leadership Board of Harvard University’s Kennedy School. She is also the co-founder and CEO of Hong Kong-based NGO EcoDrive, which works to reduce the city’s use of plastic—you’ll find plenty of tips on living sustainably on her social media.
Having introduced more than a dozen American brands to China (with 1,000-plus stores), and invested in many aspiring green brands, Chou, a daughter of billionaire fashion tycoon Silas Chou, launched her own eco-friendly collection, Everybody & Everyone, last year. And she’s just getting started. “I hope to make my impact using material science and sustainability,” says Chou.
He’s still a fresh-faced crooner at age 28, but this Singapore-based performer and songwriter has actually been performing onstage for half of his life. When Hartono was 14, he impressed his parents (resort consultant Thomas Hartono and Tung Lok Group senior vice president Joycelyn Tjioe) so much with his singing during a karaoke session that they encouraged him to enter a teen magazine talent contest.
Hartono won that prize and just a year later became the youngest performer to headline a show in Esplanade’s Late Nite series. That gig, at the national performing arts centre’s Recital Studio, “was my first proper ticketed show and I remember being extremely nervous that we wouldn’t sell any tickets,” he says. Hartono has gone on to record three jazz-inflected English albums, an EP and several singles. He’s also an actor, most notably playing the lead in a 2012 staging of the musical Spring Awakening. In 2016, Hartono vaulted into the regional spotlight as a contestant in the popular Chinese TV singing competition Sing! China. He became the first Singaporean finalist and ended the season as the runner-up. Since then, he started his own company so that he could retain creative control over his music, released a debut Mandarin EP in 2018 and two Mandarin singles in 2019, and is currently working on more releases in both Mandarin and English. Hartono says the New Asia is about possibility: “It is a new generation of unapologetic, fearless Asians taking over their respective industries, especially ones that weren’t previously ‘Asian-friendly,’ like arts and entertainment.”
One of Asia’s best-known KOLs, the former graphic designer shot to fame after he was selected to appear in a Valentine’s Day promotional video for Chanel in 2018. Recognisable for his unique style and engaging imagery, he attributes his success to being a perfectionist, though he would never claim to being perfect when it comes to his own style. “Everyone must have a made a mistake,” he says. “Someone who says no must be a big liar.”
Hutagalung shot to fame as a VJ for MTV Asia in the 1990s, but these days the Indonesian-Australian dedicates her energy to another calling: environmental advocacy. In 2014, she co-founded the campaign Let Elephants Be Elephants, to reduce demand for ivory in Asia. In 2015, she was appointed an ambassador for the United Nations’ Great Apes Survival Partnership (GRASP), working to ensure the long-term survival of gorillas, chimpanzees, bonobos and orangutans in Africa and Asia.
She addressed the United Nations General Assembly in New York that same year—a moment she counts as her first big professional achievement. As a UN Goodwill Ambassador, she continues to raise awareness for causes such as eliminating marine litter. In her personal life, the mother of three and wife of Olympic swimmer-turned-banker Desmond Koh tries to support local brands and focus on sustainable purchases. “The New Asia understands its power and responsibility to create positive impact,” she believes. “As the fastest growing region, we need to redefine the benchmarks of success and realise that contentment does not come from material objects.”
Mark Cho & Alan See
The dapper duo of Cho and See founded The Armoury, Hong Kong’s leading menswear store and tailor, in 2010—and they’ve been shaping men’s fashion in the city and abroad ever since. The Armoury now has two stores in Hong Kong and one in New York, each of which offers bespoke tailoring as well as off-the-rack clothing, footwear and accessories by the store’s own label and brands such as Drake’s, Foster & Son and Yohei Fukuda.
Anne Curtis Smith-Heussaff
An actress, entrepreneur and UNICEF goodwill ambassador, Smith-Heussaff is one of the most in-demand talents in Philippine show business. Not one to play it safe, she exercises her acting chops by taking on unorthodox roles in almost every genre, from romantic comedies to elevated horror films. She likewise adopts a gutsy way of thinking when she drums up ideas for her beauty and fragrance brand, BLK cosmetics, through which she showcases conceptual collections.
“For the longest time, people have been talking about how Asia was the next big thing in business, but we never quite saw that trickle down to the film industry until now,” she says. “It’s so heart-warming to see more Asian films and series being acquired on streaming platforms, Asian actors making debuts in international films and recognition from international film festivals.”
Tina Keng, founder of the Tina Keng Gallery, has become one of the most influential gallerists in Taiwan and Asia more broadly over the past 30 years. She helped introduce Zao Wou-ki’s work to Taiwanese collectors and curated the first Sanyu solo exhibition in Taiwan in the early ’90s and six others since.
“In terms of the art industry, Asia is a relatively new and emerging player,” she says. “There are many sophisticated senior collectors, and young people support contemporary art with an open mind, so these are very important trends we can look for in the future.” Her advice for working in the art world: “You must have perseverance, persistence, enthusiasm and a bit of stupidity.”
The daughter of business magnates Phornthep and Mayuree, Phornprapha is director of the family-owned Siam Motors group and runs the family’s Yamaha Music School. Through her company Paroshoot she is also the local distributor of fashion brands Christian Louboutin, Missoni, Berluti and Havaianas.
“Fashion is supposed to be fun,” she says. “So I have no regrets. Always follow your gut.” The Brown University graduate also strives to reinforce and foster a better understanding of women’s rights and gender equality through her Dragonfly 360 Summit. The event saw local and international celebrities, business leaders and numerous inspiring individuals gather to shed light on issues affecting women.
Better known as Tae Kantana, Piyarat Kaljareuk comes from a long line of entertainment industry luminaries and as a third-generation heir to the Kantana entertainment empire, he spearheads hit shows such as The Face Thailand and Drag Race Thailand among other international franchises.
He is a proud advocate for the LGBTQ community and also speaks out on the topics of bullying and depression. The Chulalongkorn University graduate in western music is known for his glamourous looks, but don’t ask him to name his fashion regrets. “So many!” he says.
President and CEO of Muang Thai Insurance, Nualphan Lamsam comes from a family steeped in the financial sector with interests in Kasikorn Bank and several notable insurance companies. The Boston University MBM graduate began her career as one of the country’s early importers of designer labels and she still owns Hermès distributor Saint Honoré. Nualphan is also breaking ground in the male-dominated world of sports, particularly football.
The former manager of Thailand’s Paralympic athletes, she is currently chairwoman of Thai premier league Port Football Club and a manager of Thailand’s national women’s football team, which she helped lead to the 2019 Women’s World Cup Finals in France.
Chinese-American director Lulu Wang released her first feature film, Posthumous, in 2014, but it was last year’s The Farewell that pushed her into the spotlight. The movie, which stars Awkwafina as a young Chinese-American woman who travels from her home in New York to China to visit her ageing grandmother, was critically acclaimed for its exploration of the immigrant experience, cultural differences and family dynamics.
For more than 25 years gallerist Takayuki Ishii, also known as Taka, has been promoting the best of Japanese photography around the world and bringing leading international art to his two galleries in Japan. He represents legendary photographers Daido Moriyama and Nobuyoshi Araki, as well as Scandinavian stars Elmgreen & Dragset and American artist Sterling Ruby, among many others.
Thierry Chow, Marisa Yiu & Betty Ng
As a modern feng shui master, Chow knows a thing or two about getting lucky. Using the skills she learned from her father (revered feng shui master Chow Hon Ming), she crafts a uniquely contemporary approach to this ancient art to bring balance, harmony and better flow of energy to people’s lives through fashion and interiors. In 2018 she published Love and Fate—a feng shui guide to love and relationships—and in late 2019, she made her foray into homeware with her brand Thierry Go Lucky.
Yiu’s life is led by design. As the founding partner of award-winning multi-disciplinary architecture studio, Eskyiu, and the co-founder of Design Trust, a charity that supports creative projects in Hong Kong and the Pearl River Delta, she advocates for the positive impact of art and design on society. Marisa’s unconventional approach has left its mark—from an urban forest installation to an interactive exhibition that brings communities together through play and, most recently, the interiors of K11 Atelier King’s Road, a 28-storey tower that houses offices, retail spaces and an art gallery.
Design is a way of life for Ng, who founded architecture studio Collective in 2015. Since then, she has brought a stream of rich and thoughtful design concepts to Hong Kong, Madrid and New York City. Prior to this, Betty worked as the design director of the Rotterdam office at Rem Koolhaas’ OMA, where she led the winning proposals for the Hermitage Museum Art Repository in St Petersburg and the West Kowloon Cultural District Master Plan in Hong Kong, to name a few. Fun fact: Tatler tapped Betty to design its new Hong Kong office, which opened in late 2019.
Founder of the bubble-tea brand Tealive, Bryan Loo’s ambition is to create an empire by expanding to 15 countries by next year and eventually to build the largest food and beverage business in Malaysia. This seems right in step with the quote he lives by, as Loo told Generation T last year: “Think big, start small and scale it fast. I’ve been practising that motto since day one and it becomes more and more true as my career progresses. I now know that if I ever started a new brand, I would start with a big vision, as it is so important to know exactly where you are, and once I hit a certain threshold, scale it fast.”
Nirvana, Rahul & Varun Chaudhary
Nirvana, Varun and Rahul are the three sons of Binod Chaudhary, Nepal’s richest man and only billionaire, who owns hotels, factories producing everything from cement to noodles (The Chaudhary Group produces billions of noodle packets annually), and industrial parks throughout Asia and Africa. All three are senior executives at CG Corp.
Nirvana, the eldest, is managing director and has pushed the company toward broader investments in telecommunications and hydropower. Rahul also holds the title of managing director and Varun, the youngest, is executive director.
Eric Gnock Fah
It’s been nearly six years since Eric Gnock Fah co-founded Klook, the travel experiences booking platform that has grown at such an explosive rate it’s already reached unicorn status—a startup valued at more than US$1 billion—with more than two dozen offices and 2,000 employees scattered around the globe. Since its inception, doing good has been part of Klook’s corporate philosophy.
“Our mission is about bringing the world closer together, making it easier for everyone to travel and discover local experiences,” says Gnock Fah. This year, he aims to build an impact tourism division to create positive changes in destinations worldwide. “One idea we’re working on is to work with elephant-riding operators in Thailand to change them into elephant sanctuaries,” he says. “We’ve spoken to a few and they’re very keen. What they’re afraid of is if they change their business model, will they have customers right away?” Gnock Fah believes they will do it for the ’gram—or rather, that the lure of social media tourism can drive real-life traffic with the right combination of socially conscious messaging and marketing. “Right now Instagram looks good—but I think we can definitely do good, and I think that’s going to be the next trend in the travel industry,” he says.
Lady Gaga, Rihanna and G-Dragon are just a few of the many famous fans of Ambush, the Japanese jewellery and streetwear brand established and led by Korea-born Yoon Ahn and her husband, who goes by the name Verbal. In 2018, another admirer, fashion designer Kim Jones, persuaded Ahn to take on a second role: jewellery designer for Dior Men. Ahn now juggles both jobs, jetting back and forth between Paris and Tokyo.
Hong Kong-based designer René Chu launched her eyewear label Revé by René in 2013 to almost overnight success. “We landed [cult Parisian boutique] Colette as our first stockist four months after our launch,” recalls Chu. Seven years on, her designs are now sold around the world, including at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Los Angeles and the buzzy Boon the Shop in Seoul, and worn by celebrities including Siwon Choi, Fan Bingbing and Beyoncé.
Multi-award-winning principal architect and managing director of VaSLab Architecture, Vasu Virajsilp’s designs are influenced by abstract art movements from cubism to surrealism, and his works have included private homes, hotels and resorts, as well as the Honda Big Wing showroom in Bangkok and the internationally recognised Casa de la Flora boutique resort at Khao Lak in Thailand’s southern Phang Nga Province.
Though his buildings are undoubtedly forward looking, his passions sometimes look to the past, including his favourite spare time pursuit—“playing vinyl records.”
Furniture designer Frank Chou is an emerging star in China’s design scene. Characterised by a combination of metal, wood and fabric, his geometric designs are created for work and home. He has been the recipient of the EDIDA Award for Young Design Talent of the Year, the Gold Idea Award at the China International Furniture Expo, SaloneSatellite Special Mention Design Award and more.
The scion of India’s legendary jeweller Munnu The Gem Palace (and ninth-generation artisan) has carried the family legacy forward with a renewed emphasis on the storytelling behind its intricate handmade designs, which have adorned maharajas, maharanis and lots of socialites, too, for centuries.
While his late father Munnu is credited with building Gem Palace into an internationally recognised brand, Sid, as he is known, has added a modern flair with contemporary settings and exotic store designs (and even a bejewelled bottle of Chivas), working from his scarlet-hued atelier in New York City.
Datin Sri Lara Hussein
Malaysians know her for two things: being the grand-daughter of Malaysia’s founding father and first prime minister Tunku Abdul Rahman, and being the founder and CEO of advertising agency M&C Saatchi Malaysia, which has been around for more than two decades. Under her leadership, the agency has won the contracts of big corporations such as Axiata Group, CIMB and Malaysia Airlines. Aside from her success in advertising, Hussein is also an equestrian who still competes and sits on the board of her late grandfather’s foundation. Her motto: “Be brave, stay hungry, keep inspiring your team.”
South Korean interior designer Teo Yang opened his Seoul studio in 2009 and built a reputation for translating the traditions and aesthetics of his Korean heritage into a more contemporary style, with commissions for the presidential residence as well as skincare boutique EATH Library, where centuries-old medicines inspire modern skincare products. This contrast speaks to his definition of the New Asia: “The space and time to showcase the balance between past and future, global and local.”
For Lau, the head chef and founder of Tate Dining Room, the plate is her canvas and produce is her paint. Her past life as a graphic designer comes through in her exquisitely presented dishes and in Tate Dining Room’s beautiful interior design (it really is the stuff of Pinterest dreams).
When she’s not busy crafting Michelin-starred cuisine, Lau enjoys spending quality time with her daughter and indulging in snacks in bed (seaweed rice crackers are her guilty pleasure) and sweet-and-sour pork, too. Hey, it’s the simple things.
This Singaporean film director is the first person to describe himself as “very, very Aries, 100 per cent.” Well, Chen has acknowledged in the past that he has a reputation for being intense and demanding, but look at what he has achieved. In 2013, his debut feature film Ilo Ilo, about the bond between a boy and a domestic helper, became the first Singapore film to win the prestigious Camera d’Or prize at the Cannes Film Festival.
The same year, it bagged Best Film at the 50th Golden Horse Awards, and Chen himself won Best New Director and Best Original Screenplay. His second feature, Wet Season, was released in 2019, a story of a relationship between a teacher and her student that also scored accolades on the film festival circuit. Now based between London and Singapore, Chen has already started thinking about making his third film the concluding chapter of an unintended Growing Up trilogy. For aspiring filmmakers, he advises: “You are the best judge of your own work.”
Christopher Mark & Syed Asim Hussain
Black Sheep Restaurants’ co-founders Christopher Mark and Syed Asim Hussain own and operate 24 restaurants in Hong Kong that are some of the most transportive and international dining experiences in the region. Their properties include the Michelin-starred New Punjab Club and Parisian-inspired Belon, as well as Tuscan trattoria Associazione Chianti and Peak-top dining destination Rajasthan Rifles. Straight out of college, Hong Kong-born Hussain first worked in finance in New York: “It was just as the subprime mortgage crisis hit so my first big professional achievement was staying employed,” he says. “I said to myself that I was not going to be fired from my first job, and while I was not the smartest in the room, I was in first and out last and no task was too small for me. I learned the value of doing simple things well and that has served me ever since.”
But he eventually returned home to start an apprenticeship in the restaurant business. His father had been a restaurateur in Hong Kong in the 1980s and his son’s first job was as a dishwasher in his now-legendary Indian restaurant, the Mughal Room. Food was also central to Mark’s upbringing. Born in Canada to Chinese and Italian parents, he grew up in a neighbourhood full of immigrants. “From a very early age I was exposed to tons of foods,” Mark says. “They always fascinated me.” Before Black Sheep, he was the executive chef at Dining Concepts. In 2019, the New Punjab Club became the world’s first Punjabi restaurant to receive a Michelin star. Mark and Hussain also created and operate a proprietary delivery app, Go, and recently launched Uncle Desi Food & Sons—its first delivery-only digital restaurant, overseen by Chef Palash Mitra, Black Sheep’s Michelin-starred culinary director of South Asian cuisine.
While studying to get her PhD at Goldsmiths College in London, Daisy worked part-time at Borough Market, where she chanced upon a community of farmers and bakers who exchanged bread for leftover produce. This inspired her dissertation, and ultimately her foray into tackling Hong Kong’s overwhelming level of food waste through her website, Hong Kong Foodworks.
Her crowd-sourcing app, Breadline, works with 300 bakeries and facilitates the donation of more than 1,000 loaves of bread each week to families in need. “We’ve always associated hunger with developing countries,” Daisy says. “Now we’re talking about food security in very rich, cosmopolitan cities.”
Among China’s leading fashion bloggers, Zola Zhang certainly remains ahead of the pack with hundreds of clients and a crew of 30. Her Instagram account features selfies with Giorgio Armani, Karlie Kloss and Lady Gaga, so there.
As the first Asian guest designer of the Fédération de la Haute Couture et de la Mode in Paris, Guo Pei has represented China at the highest levels of fashion for more than 20 years. She became a household name (and her designs inspired a meme) after Rihanna wore her dazzlingly copious yellow gown on the Met Gala red carpet in 2015 for the opening of the exhibition China Through the Looking Glass. Her magnificently theatrical collections have been inspired by fairytales, legends and even military history.
Coming from a family with a history of diabetes, Elyn Pow always struggled to keep her blood sugar low despite leading an active lifestyle. It was only when this restaurateur changed her diet and eating habits that she began to see results.
Her experimentation with chia seed pudding formulations inspired Rawsome, an F&B business that specialises in wellness and fitness. Now open in seven locations in the Klang Valley, with more to come, Rawsome boasts a menu of 30 pudding varieties, cold-pressed juices plus salads, quinoa wraps and Buddha bowls.
Wang, the founder and CEO of OwlTing, specialises in cryptography and is one of the world’s leading experts in the field of blockchain record-keeping technology, which allows multiple users to work in real time on a shared network and has practical applications in healthcare, hotel management, food traceability systems, cryptocurrencies and anti-counterfeiting systems.
“The reason I moved back from Silicon Valley to Asia is because I saw the fastest development in Asia,” Wang says. “Lots of opportunities and new technologies from Asia gave me the chance to build more business in different countries—there are new technology companies rising in Japan, Taiwan, Korea and ASEAN countries, and blockchain played an important role in this trend.”
Yu Hong blurs fantasy and reality in her bold paintings, which are executed in a socialist realist style and explore the seismic social and cultural changes sweeping China. These monumental works—some of Yu’s canvasses are more than five metres long—have been applauded by critics and curators alike and featured in exhibitions around the world, including at the Guggenheim in New York and the Venice Biennale.
This is a big year for Marion Caunter, a renowned personality who dominated urban television in the noughties through her work on popular mainstream channels such as E! News Asia, ESPN and Channel V Asia. In November, she turns 40 years old—a milestone she both looks forward to and is nervous about. She’ll also celebrate her 10th wedding anniversary to businessman SM Nasarudin of Naza Group, and nine years of motherhood with her children Leia Rose, Lana Rose and Liam Naza.
Caunter started her career hosting a television variety show, The 8TV Quickie, before foraying into radio, regional TV and E! News Asia. Despite her step back from the media industry to focus on her children, she remains active in the social scene and retains her deep passion for fashion. “It is definitely an exciting time to be in Asia,” she says. “From a fashion point of view, I know so many people who are excited about collaborating with Asia in whatever capacity possible. I can see with my own eyes how Asia is taking up so much more space, from the celebrities and influencers who are chosen to collaborate with major brands to the models who walk the major runways to the clients who are attending the shows. It’s a huge time for Asia and I hope that Asians everywhere continue to take the utmost pride in their own values and culture, because we have so much more to offer the world.”
When Cindy Chao decided to follow her dreams to become a jewellery designer, she was a single mother working from home with just a few hundred dollars in her bank account. Now she’s one of the world’s most celebrated jewellers, has plush showrooms in Hong Kong and Taipei, and exhibits her one-of-a-kind pieces at museums around the world, including Beijing’s Today Art Museum, Tokyo’s Mori Art Museum and Washington DC’s Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History.
Pan is executive chairman of Taiwan’s largest hotel operator, Formosa International Hotels, which includes the luxury Regent Hotels & Resorts, lifestyle brand Silks Place and the budget chain Just Sleep. From his perspective, the New Asia also represents a harmony of contrasts: “Modern yet timeless, simple yet luxurious.”
Darren Teoh’s Dewakan was named the first—and only— Malaysian restaurant on the Asia’s 50 Best list last year. The restaurant puts the spotlight on locally sourced produce, incorporating ingredients such as Bario rice, banana blossom and ulam raja in elaborate nine-course menus. In a fast-paced industry, Teoh gives this advice: “You will always be in a constant state of arrival and departure,” he says. “Learn that.”
Razon wears many hats in various industries: as a DJ under the moniker Katsu, as the director of Wonderfruit Festival, and as co-founder and creative director of events company CC:Concepts. She also launched KSR Ventures, a venture capital firm, through which she hopes to promote and raise awareness of social, environmental and sustainable initiatives. “Asia means new opportunities on the horizon, a growing creative culture and edge,” she says.
Taniguchi is well-known for her ongoing series, begun in 2008, of unnamed and unnumbered “brick paintings,” which are made of repetitive rectangular patterns. To complete each piece, the artist draws a grid, filling one “brick” at a time over a period of months in her studio. She also dabbles in printmaking and abstract videography, the latter often focusing on objects connected to Philippine history. In 2015, she won the Hugo Boss Asia Art Award, which brought her further international acclaim.
Concepcion has always been keen on finding spaces in the retail world where he can cultivate concepts based on his most compelling passions. He first came in with Ronnie and Joe, a premium optical salon that carries heritage eyewear brands. An avid sneakerhead, he was highly instrumental in bringing streetwear lifestyle boutique Commonwealth from the US.
Together with his father, this intrepid entrepreneur also has a foot firmly planted in the restaurant industry, having brought concepts such as Yabu, Ippudo and Elephant Grounds to the Philippines through their company Standard Hospitality Group.
An intellectual with a double degree in computer science and physics, Ong Ning-Geng developed an interest in the process of making chocolates while he was based in the US. It was mind-boggling to him that Malaysia, as a producer of some of the world’s best cacao, imported almost all its chocolate from abroad. A scientist at heart,
Ong decided to become a full-time farmer and chocolatier. Today, his artisanal, single-origin chocolate venture Chocolate Concierge co-owns 16 farms tended by the indigenous Semai and Temuan communities. Ong personally collects fresh beans from farmers, then processes them back at his Kepong facility to make his chocolates that are sold in a boutique in Bangsar Shopping Centre. Besides working to uplift local communities, Ong is also something of a wit. Asked his biggest fashion regret, he replied, “A few weeks back, I was washing up in the river after everyone had left the farm in the evening, butt naked. I heard a sound on the other bank as if something was approaching. The sun had set. I had my shorts lying next to my sharpened machete on a rock. I only picked up one item.”
She entered show business as a bright-eyed 14-year-old, endearing herself to Filipino audiences through her roles in youth-oriented television programmes and films. Artist, advocate and entrepreneur Heart Evangelista has evolved into one of the most sought-after style icons, with a 4.9 million-strong Instagram following. She enjoys chronicling her glamorous day-to-day activities on social media along with updates on work-related matters and philanthropic endeavours, local and international travels, and family life.
She has become a close friend to many big names, too, including Crazy Rich Asians author Kevin Kwan and fashion designer Christian Louboutin, who often sends her shoes with personalised notes and sketches. Evangelista herself is a talented artist, having mounted successful exhibitions of her work in Manila and Singapore.
“Doing what I love for 23 years is an achievement for me and to be collaborating with different brands that I love is truly special,” she says. “It’s a gift that I’m able to work with different people and learn from the experience. And also as an artist, one of my biggest achievements is to be able to showcase my art through exhibits and collaborations—just getting to share my art with people is something I’ll never take for granted.”
As wife to Sorsogon governor Francis “Chiz” Escudero, Evangelista has embarked on her own philanthropic initiatives—usually in relation to healthcare, relief operations and children’s welfare—that help uplift the lives of her husband’s constituents. She has also been instrumental in increasing awareness on the wellbeing of animals, having partnered with local rescue groups to feed, shelter and care for stray dogs. She has committed her resources to the construction of an animal welfare facility in Sorsogon.
“I think the New Asia is a major change in the way Asian countries relate and interact with each other,” she says. “It’s a better way for all of us to connect and share our culture, whether through business or entertainment. It’s a good change that we all need.”
See also: 10 Signs You're A Crazy Rich Asian
Wee Teng Wen
From rooftop bars to contemporary members’ clubs, many of the hotels and restaurants beloved by Singapore’s well-heeled urbanites were first dreamed up by Wee Teng Wen’s Lo & Behold Group. The co-founder and managing partner of this hospitality company runs a stable of award-winning establishments, including chef Julien Royer’s Odette, currently number one on Asia’s 50 Best Restaurants List; The Warehouse Hotel; and members’ club Straits Clan.
“Over the last decade, I’m happy to have created and nurtured 14 vastly different concepts, all backed by a team of passionate hospitality professionals hellbent on making Singapore a little more fun and lovable,” says Wee. Lo & Behold also recently joined the new F&B Sustainability Council, which aims to support local food and beverage establishments in becoming more sustainable. Says Wee: “The New Asia is culturally confident and socially responsible. We are blessed to be here in Singapore, in the right place at the right time.” Wee likes to maintain a low profile in the press, and he answers one personal question with typical humility: asked to name his claim to fame, he responds, “Marrying my wife, the artist Dawn Ng.”