Our 37th birthday was a glorious tribute to Chinoiserie, and here's the play by play

We are living in the “Asian Century”—a proclamation we hear a lot, from business summits to entertainment awards. For this year’s Singapore Tatler Ball, we paid homage to the rise of Asia by choosing Chinoiserie as our theme. Defined as the western interpretation and imitation of Asian traditions that became popular in the 17th and 18th centuries, influences of this East-meets-West visual movement is still going strong in decorative arts, landscape design and architecture to this day. 

Guests arrived in various interpretations of the theme, but as expected, cheongsam-style ensembles dominated. Style mavens such as June Rin found it easy to decode the theme. "I didn't think the theme was difficult to dress for. I'm wearing a dress with a calligraphy print, earrings with a Chinese spin, and red lips—this, to me, is Chinoiserie."

(Related: The Guests At The Singapore Tatler Ball 2019)

Couture pieces, tailor-made gowns and bespoke elements are a given at every Tatler Ball, and so are daring style moves. Carmen Ow arrived in an intricately embroidered gown by her go-to local designers Time Taken To Make A Dress, while dashing pair Grace and Kevin Wong wore matching outfits bearing a Ming porcelain-inspired print. Peggy Jeffs came in a resplendent custom-made coat, which she paired with a red gown because "it's the colour of Chinoiserie". Of course, she had an equally smashing golden headpiece to go with it. 

Tatler Asia
Above Celeste Basapa

Of course, there were plenty of opportunities to document all the style moments, starting with a grand entrance featuring a cherry blossom tree encased in a lattice frame.

This was followed by elaborate, artistic photo walls—there was a gigantic peacock at Manulife, a cinema-inspired set by Bvlgari, lush, cascading foliage at MTM Custom-blended Skincare, an extravaganza of red at Hublot, and a gold-leaf backdrop at our official Singapore Tatler wall. Guests also posed with the eye-catching Lamborghini on display adjacent to the ballroom.  

At around 8pm, the ballroom doors opened to unveil a stunning tribute to Chinoiserie. Half of the Capella Singapore ballroom was illuminated by a newly added LED screen that displayed an ornate wallpaper featuring moving peacocks, blossoming flowers, and other recognisable motifs of Chinoiserie. A soaring gilded birdcage took pride of place at the centre of the ballroom drawing curiosity from our Tatler guests. Our emcee, the effervescent Bobby Tonelli, welcomed everyone and went on to explain the significance of Chinoiserie as a movement. As everyone settled into their respective tables, a charismatic performance by homegrown singers Joanna Dong and Jimmy Ye kickstarted the event on the right note. 

(Related: Singapore Tatler Ball 2019: All The Party Pictures)

Generosity was an underlying message in the opening speech of Edipresse Media Singapore (EMS) managing director Corinne Ng. She thanked guests for coming to the Tatler Ball, but also for contributing to the Words Without Walls storybook that EMS produced with local non-profit organisation New Life Stories in 2017. "We want to be a company with meaning," she said, and subsequently shared plans on how the storybook will be staged into a play in March 2020, with all proceeds going to Playeum. Currently, the initiative has reached two-thirds of the fundraising goal of 250,000. 

Dinner commenced with guests transitioning from their flutes of Delamotte Brut to the sauvignon blanc from Trentino-Alto Adige, although both glasses paired well with the refreshing cold soba with poached Boston lobster. The second course was an exquisite consomme with duck rillette-filled wantons—a delicate dish that truly exemplified the theme and showcased the creativity of chef David Senia, culinary director of Capella Singapore, and his team.

(Related: What We Feasted On At The Singapore Tatler Ball 2019)

At this juncture, the first part of the Singapore Tatler Awards ceremony began presented by managing director Corinne Ng and editor Terence Lim. All of the award recipients received a Lladro trophy and a fragrance from Bvlgari as well as special gifts given by each award sponsor. 

Recognising her work with the Kidz Horizon Appeal, which marked its 15th anniversary in 2019, we awarded Caroline Low-Heah the Singapore Tatler Award for Community Service, presented by Manulife. She thanked each and every core member of the Kidz Horizon team, stressing that it is "hard work to start a charity but if you're passionate, sincere and have a damn good committee, the satisfaction and gratification will come."

The Award for Style, presented by Bvlgari, followed with the supremely elegant award recipient Nancy Ong telling the audience that "exercise is important in as it endows people with the right posture to carry clothes." She also thanked Tatler fashion director Desmond Lim for always being her sounding board when it comes to fashion.  

I want to create more platforms for the next generation to shine because I was given the opportunity to myself. Thank you to my audience because without you, there's no me
Hossan Leong

For the Award for Culture, presented by Hennessy Paradis Imperial, our recipient Hossan Leong appeared on video as he was hosting the Community Chest Gala at the Raffles Hotel at exactly the same time. Apart from turning 50 this year, he said that "this is certainly another feather in my 2019 cap. I'll continue to entertain you and make you laugh. I want to create more platforms for the next generation to shine because I was given the opportunity to myself. Thank you to my audience because without you, there's no me."

Guests were bonding, taking more photos, and savouring their main course of Te Mana lamb, steamed grouper and a vegan option when Joanna Dong appeared on stage again. The Gen.T 2019 honouree quipped that she really took the theme seriously when choosing her dress, and was happy that everyone else did, too. She gave an amazing performance, singing her last song in French—the first time she sang it live ever—exclusively for our guests. "For those of you who don't speak French, the lyrics mean: I don’t want to work, I don’t want to have lunch, I just want to forget everything, and dress up to go the Tatler Ball," she joked. 

After a short break, editor-in-chief Kissa Castañeda went up on stage with managing director Corinne Ng for the second part of the award presentation.

The Society Couple of the Year award, presented by MTM Skincare, was given to the loving pair, Grace and Kevin Wong. After Grace's speech, Kevin said: "I have nothing to add. Grace has said everything, and she's always the boss, right? I didn't think I would still have a boss after I stopped working." He added with a laugh, "people who know me will know this outfit isn't what I'd usually wear but she forced me to wear it... so I did," referring to their matching blue and white porcelain-inspired outfit.

The Award for Business, presented by Lamborghini, was given to Dr. Shazad Nasim, owner of Meinhart, a formidable engineering consultancy behind building most of the Singapore skyline and many other buildings around the world. "If you have passion, you don't need a masterplan because everything will fall into place," he shared.

The final award of the evening, the Diamond Award, presented by Hublot, went to well-loved entrepreneur Ron Sim, executive chairman and CEO of V3 Group. During his speech, he invited Taha Bouqdib, CEO of TWG Tea, one of the companies under V3 Group's portfolio, to the stage. "I'd like to celebrate this accolade with Taha. When we first bought this business, they had two stores and now we have 70 all over the world," he said proudly. 

With that, the award ceremony came to an end. Emcee Bobby Tonelli called for a toast and everyone stood up with a glass of bubbly or a Hennessy Paradis Imperial at hand; the latter had a sleek bar both inside and outside the ballroom that guests really enjoyed. Both Bobby and Corinne then walked towards the towering golden birdcage, revealing another surprise—the door swung open and guests enjoyed having their "squad photos" taken inside. Meanwhile, a video of our series of events held at ION Orchard played on screen, including our dressing room event with Bvlgari where we first unveiled the Chinoiserie theme.

(Related: #Tatlergram: The Singapore Tatler Ball 2019 edition

"The grown-ups party harder than us kids!" said Mae Tan, as our DJ Orio Leshem started his set and the guests shimmied to the dance floor. Guests alternated visiting the sumptuous dessert spread—complete with a live station where Capella chefs whipped up Crepes Suzette with Grand Marnier—and working it out on the dance floor. As the night wound to a close, we punctuated it with a comforting tradition: our Teochew porridge station, the beloved Tatler Ball version of supper.