Category Archives: Bites & Brews/Blings & Wraps/Chill

Swallow cloud at Cloud 9

He has a vision to revolutionalize the Chinese fast-food scene.

At Cloud 9, it is fast-food with service – making it a hybrid of casual eatery and fast-food chain.

Serving Taiwanese fare and its signature ‘wonton’, Cloud 9’s Chinese name, “吞云小莳”, plays on the word for this well-known snack loved by many around the globe. “Swallowing cloud” (吞云), alludes to the white, translucent dumpling that looks like white fluffy clouds in the sky while the last word of the name, “shi” (莳), puns on the sound for food (食). The word lends it a poetic touch, conjuring images of leisurely plant cultivation. It is this clever dash of sophistication that makes the brand appeal to China’s growing class of white collar workers.

Well, they seemed to have lapped up Cloud 9’s formula. Within 2 months of its opening, 6 of its 12 stores had reaped a profit. So looks like Cloud 9 is on track to meet its target of opening 42 outlets this year. It currently has 12 outlets inShanghaiand plans to expand to Beijing too.

So who is behind this dynamic chain? Helmed by Singaporean Chris Tay and financed by global venture capital firms such as Qiming Ventures, Hotung Investment and Mitsui Global Investment, as well as renowned entrepreneurs such as former DBS Bank and Singapore Airlines chairman Koh Boon Hwee, and NASDAQ-listed founders, Mr Norman Lui and Mr Michael Feng Yunlei; Cloud 9 has a strong management team with 80 years of combined experience in the F & B industry.

Starting a new brand in the cut-throat food industry in China doesn’t faze Chris at all.  He has honed his entrepreneurial skills since the age of 21 from food to IT industry. The intuition that he has developed for the food industry started way back inSingaporewhere he once operated the Billy Bombers restaurant. Backed by experience at Yoshinoya inBeijingandChina’s fried chicken chain, Dico; he is an old hand in the China market.

Perhaps what sets Chris apart from other F & B owners is his quest to find that elusive, formula for Chinese fast-food. As the nature of Chinese cuisine does not translate that well into fast-food, relentless research and development (R & D) is required to perfect that transition. Cloud 9 has been committed to its R & D efforts since its inception, working to perfect its menu from time to time.

Besides the menu, Cloud 9 has also managed to simplify the food preparation process to less than five steps. With an outsourced central kitchen supplying the food as either end product or half-finished product, staff at the outlets needs only reheat or prepare the food in a few simple steps before they are ready to be served. Only simple tasks like cooking rice and making soup are done at the outlets.

Chris has no qualms paying top dollar to rope in talent as he believes getting the right person is the key to rapid expansion. Its ability to adjust to changing market conditions with lightning speed attests to this nimbleness. Changing its menu 3 times within a month is something a lesser team would not be able to achieve. Having assembled an A-team also enabled it to open 8 outlets at an incredible speed within a space of 7 months.

Believing that a swift set up rate of outlets and staff training is instrumental in lowering operating cost by as much as 40%, Cloud 9 hopes to increase its turnover from S$32.1 million to S$42 million when all its planned 42 outlets are up and running by this year. In fact, it hopes to multiply to 220 outlets by 2015. This would significantly bring down the current set up cost of S$200,000 per outlet.

Cloud 9 aims to be able to list in either Taiwan or New York in 2015. Cloud 9 is the group’s first brand. Its parent company, YPX Cayman Holdings, aspires to build a multi-brand, multi-concept group of casual F & B chains in China. If their Midas touch continues, this would no doubt become a reality.

The lament that there is a dearth of home-grown entrepreneur can take some comfort in the likes of Chris Tay. Perhaps their success stories would be an inspiration to budding business owners out there and fuel a wave of entrepreneurship. Seeing Chris’s tenacity, one can’t help but makes you root for a fellow Singaporean. I look forward to “swallowing” more “clouds” in China in the near future.

Leave a comment

Filed under Bites & Brews/Blings & Wraps/Chill, Serious Stuff

Rebirth of an old Shanghai icon

The history buff in me is intrigued by the recent rebirth of an old Shanghai icon – Shanghai Vive. Banking on the glamour of old Shanghai, the great grandson of the late Chinese President, Chiang Kai Shek; Demos Chiang is reviving this cosmetic brand of choice of the society ladies of 1930’s Shanghai.


Shanghai Vive or literally, “Two Sisters” (双妹, pronounced as “Shuang Mei”) in Chinese, is vowing successful ladies in their mid-30’s with its retro chic and clean cut contemporary look.  Set in the equally legendary Peace Hotel, Shanghai Vive is making a comeback after an absence of half a century.


No expenses have been spared on its re-launch.  French creative firm Cent Degres, was commissioned to design its product packaging and stores.  Demos’ firm, DEM, is responsible for its restructuring and marketing strategy.  Infusing the spirit of the swinging 1930’s with a modern feel, the logo bearing the “Two Sisters” has been updated with a streamlined look.  Its sleek perfume bottle is designed to resemble a lady in a long dress, wrapped with a fur stole.  Complete with an old-fashioned atomizer pump, this perfume bottle is vintage at heart with a contemporary beat.


Born in 1898, this century old brand first gained international recognition when it won the gold medal at the 1915 Panama World Expo for its “Radiance Restorative Cream.”  Following that, it slowly expanded toParis and even gained a small but loyal following there.  And this was at a time when big and successful brands like Shalimar, Mitsouko (Guerlain) and the iconic Chanel No. 5 were all the rage then.  No small feat for a small, China-made brand.


The rejuvenated Shanghai Vive has added jewellery and accessories to its line besides its staple of cosmetics and skincare products.  Drawing on its heritage and expertise in cosmetology, Shanghai Vive has modernized its 100 year-old beauty formula to incorporate cutting-edge technology. Instilling the essence of East and West, Shanghai Vive’s jewellery design brings out the best of both worlds, with a quintessentially Asian spirit.


State-owned chemical consortium, Shanghai Jahwa Group (which owns the brand) plans to spread the magic of Shanghai Vive across Shanghai with more than 20 branches in the next 2 to 3 years.  It is confident that the brand would be profitable in 7 years’ time.


Having successfully revitalized another old Shanghainese brand, Herborist, Shanghai Jahwa is lending its Midas touch to Shanghai Vive.  With is smart positioning and slick marketing, Shanghai Jahwa is just the company to breathe new life into Shanghai Vive.


However, sceptics are unsure if Chinese consumers would bite given its high price.  Unlike the mid-priced Herborist, Shanghai Vive is marketed as a high-end luxury good.  Price-wise, it is competing head-on with well-known foreign players.  At RMB $1,000 per bottle of 50ml perfume, this places it in the league of Chanel and Dior.  In fact, these established brands cost even less, at between RMB $500-900 per bottle. So, is Shanghai Vive pricing itself out?


Price aside, brand worshipping Chinese consumers typically turn their nose up at local Mainland products, preferring well-known foreign brands.  It would be a real challenge to get them to pay a premium for a Chinese brand.


Are chic design, sleek packaging and smart marketing enough to convince the well-heeled 30-something ladies to part with their money?  This is a group that cares for the quality of their beauty products more than brand stories.  Perhaps Shanghai Vive should rev up the marketing of what’s in their secret formula, making it a must-buy for the ladies.


While it would take more than nostalgia to sell to the Chinese, the romance of 1930’s old Shanghai has great appeal to Westerners.  Retro chic is hip and there is a genuine appreciation of quality Chinese products in the West.  So, perhaps Shanghai Jahwa should consider opening a branch in USA and Europe as well?


Whether Shanghai Vive eventually endears itself to Chinese or Western consumers, it is heartening to see an old Shanghai icon being given a new lease of life.  Trying to make its mark among the big boys of international luxury brands, makes you want to root for its success.  Somehow, you wish to see it return to its former glory and be the darling of high society ladies again.

Leave a comment

Filed under Bites & Brews/Blings & Wraps/Chill

Wish These Could Be On My Wrist

These watches have always appealed to me and I wonder when they would end up on my wrist, if ever. Though Christmas is still 3 months away and Halloween is not even over yet, but I guess it’s never too early to start wishing. Santa, are you listening?


Cartier Tank Francaise Watch

When I first set eyes on the Cartier Tank Francaise Watch, I fell in love with it immediately. Its clean-cut lines, cool steel bracelet and square face reflect minimalist chic at its best. This 1917 creation has an androgynous look and exudes quiet strength without being overtly masculine. Inspired by American forces’ Renault tanks in World War I, the watch is modelled after these war machines; with its lines and proportions mirroring them. Its brushed and polished steel strap attaches seamlessly to a thin curved steel case including an ingenious hidden deployment clasp. This is one versatile watch that could bring you from the boardroom to a dinner party.


Hublot Classic

Hublot Classic appeals to my love of all things unique. With its matte and polished steel case and rubber strap, Hublot is simplicity crystallized. Its signature rubber strap specially designed to be corrosion, abrasion and sweat resistant as well as flexible and water-proof sealed its one of a kind stature. The twelve steel screws around the bezel serve as hour makers and give it attitude. This porthole theme watch has an irresistible rugged appeal with an understated urbaneness. Hublot is your everyday watch with lots of character.


Jaeger-LeCoultre Reverso

Jaeger-LeCoultre’s Reverso caught my eye with its iconic reversible watch. Encased in classical Art Deco design with its linear symmetry, Reverso embodies Jaeger-LeCoultre’s spirit of invention, superb craftsmanship, meticulous precision and heritage. Specially commissioned for the British officers stationed inIndiain 1931, this horological masterpiece is designed to withstand the hard knocks of a polo game. Its swivel system allows the watch to turn 180 degrees within the case, protecting the watch during a game. Oozing the glamour of 1930’s, this timeless watch fuses technical mastery, functionality and aesthetics effortlessly.

 Rado Ceramica

Rado’s distillation of purity of lines captured my heart. Its sleek, slinky bracelet slips on like a second skin. This futuristic look is befitting of its philosophy of synthesising innovative design with cutting-edge, pioneering technology. The use of scratch-resistant materials is one of the hallmarks of a Rado watch. Hard metal, high-tech ceramic that is skin-friendly and a high-tech diamond born by transforming carbon into a Nano crystalline diamond with a Vickers hardness number of 10,000 are just some of Rado’s long line of magical creations. Rado draws the individualistic in me and fascinates the dreamer within. It is a testimony of turning imagination into reality.


Bertolucci VIR

Sensuous, graceful with streamlined silhouette, without being fussy; Bertolucci VIR is my ideal dress watch. In fact, this is as dressy as it gets for me. Its round shaped links on the bracelet echo the founder, Remo Bertolucci’s enthralment with pebbles on the Mediterranean shores of his childhood. The polished finish resembling the smoothness of pebbles having been caressed by the infinite waves of the sea.  The softness of the curves lends it a feminine touch, while its Italian sharpness ensures it is elegant with an edge. Epitomizing the love story of the founder, Bertolucci VIR is a union of Italian’s innate sense of style and flair for design with Swiss’s precision, craftsmanship and reliability.

1 Comment

Filed under Bites & Brews/Blings & Wraps/Chill

I am a sandal queen


I simply love sandals! To me, it is an uninhibited way of looking good. Take your pick on the look that you wish to achieve – elegant, professional, sexy, sporty, cool, funky, playful, cute, goofy, adventurous and feminine.

My mum doesn’t understand why I’m always in sandals instead of a pair of warm, snug and to her, comfortable and safe, shoes. (Yes, exposed toes are dangerous to her!) My feet are as free-spirited as its owner, they like the liberty that sandals afford them. My toes need the space to wriggle and breath, they feel suffocated in the confines of shoes.  This is especially so in pumps, where they would be tightly pressed together into an uncomfortable mould.

Freedom aside there is something special about the sandal – it is light, sexy, sensual, airy, easy-to-slip-on, versatile, fun, cheerful and simply irresistible! Who needs stuffy shoes when you can have pretty dress sandals?

Naturally, I have different sandals to suit different occasions – smart ones for work, casual ones for the beach, summery ones with sundresses, sexy ones for that LBD (little black dress), sporty ones for those brisk walk – well, you name it.

My all-time favourite is the slide sandal as it is the most versatile of all. An open-toed and back footwear with a strap across its top, a slide can be casual or dressy depending on the design. Make it higher with heels; add a little embellishment and you have a dress sandal fit for the evening or even for your own wedding. Smart, leather slide in black or other basic colours works for the office. A simple, low-heeled one would bring you from a girl’s day out shopping to a casual date. Best of all, you can just slide your feet in! And there are no straps at the back to cause painful blisters. Fuss-free and they bring you from the boardwalk to the boardroom.

Thongs are my next best friend. With a very open upper part except for the Y-shaped strap that separates the big toe from the second toe; thongs are comfortable, casual and sexy. Best paired with summer sundresses and smart casual attire, they jazz up any outfit. Floral pin with kitten heels perks up a sundress or a long skirt. Gem or stud embellishments or leather sandals are great with jeans or khaki coloured pants. Thongs are great for travelling too. They afford comfort without looking sloppy. 


For the ultimate comfort, nothing beats the humble flip-flops. Known by a multitude of different names, from ‘jandals’ to ‘pluggers’ to ‘toesies’ to ‘slip slaps’ to ‘zori’;  flip-flops is the original thong sandal in its ‘primitive’ form – flat rubber sandals with a band that separates the big toe and other toes. Slip them on when you venture to the neighbourhood shops or chill out at the beach. With the popularity of Havaianas flip-flops, it is now cool to wear it everywhere. Many have worn this trendy footwear for shopping and even to casual parties. I always bring a pair along for my travels too. You could walk for miles in them and let your tired feet stay happy.

When you can look that good in a sandal, you wonder why did anyone needed shoes in the first place. :p

Without being coop up in shoes, you feel as though you can dance your way to the top in a sandal. And you can. 🙂

Leave a comment

Filed under Bites & Brews/Blings & Wraps/Chill

Timeless Shopping Tips

With one ongoing summer sales everywhere, here are some tried and tested tips to get the most out of your shopping experience.

1.                  Know What You Want – Get Your Wish-List Done Up

  • Make a list of what you want way before the great sale. Be specific. State store locations and exact pieces of clothing that you wish to have. Try on those clothes that you fancy, so you’ll know exactly what size fits you and what look good on you. Come sales time, you wouldn’t need to waste precious time deciding on what you want.  Instead you could just zero in on your dream items.
  • This way, you could also avoid buying items that you don’t need.


 2.         Budget

  • You don’t want to break the bank, don’t you? Set a budget and stick to it. That way you’ll feel better about yourself too. No more guilt about shopping. Hurray!
  •  Remember not to buy things that you don’t really need. They would only end up sitting in your wardrobe for the next 6months or in the donation bin later on.


 3.                  The Surprise Bargains

Even though you’ve made a detailed list of what you want, be on the look out for unexpected bargains. These are the pleasant surprises that will put a smile on your face – the ‘bonus’ buys. That’s what makes shopping so addictive!

 4.                  How To Snatch that Dress You’ve Been Eyeing For From Right Under The Nose Of  The Other Person

Aim, Target, Shoot. That’s right, it’s that simple. Aim well, then target the object of your desire and zoom in on your ‘goal’ straight away. Regular stretching exercises and practice sessions at home helps. Practise makes perfect!

 5.                  Shop on a Weekday

Yes, trust me. It’s definitely worth sacrificing one day of your annual leave. You fight with fewer crowds (though not entirely as great minds think alike. Sigh!)

 6.                  Dress comfortably – Don’t Wear Stilettos

  • Wear something cooling, comfortable and easy to slip out of for fitting.
  •  Wear comfortable slip-ons/sandals/shoes. The last thing you want is for your feet to hurt and ache. Leave those stilettos at home.


 7.                  Don’t go on an empty stomach

You need energy to shop…HEAPS of it, in fact. So be sure to have a full stomach before going on a shopping spree. Don’t worry, all that walking can burn off those calories!

 8.                  Do rest your tired feet

Don’t torture those poor soles. Remember to rest them. What better way than to stop for a spot of afternoon tea? You refill your stomach and rest your tired feet at the same time.

 9.                  How to re-energize

Toss a banana or an apple into your bag before you head out for a day of splurging. Raisins, dried fruits or nuts (no added salt, non-roasted), sunflower seeds, crisp bread are alternative healthy snacks that would pick-you-up without piling on those pounds. Don’t forget that bottle of water too.

 10.              Get someone to carry your shopping bags

  • Get your boyfriend or long-suffering husband to tag along. If not, train up those biceps of yours. Hauling all those shopping bags is no joke. Or get a friend who drives to go along. Then you could dump your bags into the car boot once they get too much to handle. Okay, I know this isn’t exactly ethical but if they are willing parties and your chosen company enjoys shopping too; well, it’s a win-win for both of you. 
  •  Better yet, get your best shopping buddy to enjoy this annual shopping pilgrimage.


Are you ready to shop till you drop?

Note: First published on on 4 July 2008


Leave a comment

Filed under Bites & Brews/Blings & Wraps/Chill

These rings are my Thing

Like many women, I love my bling blings. So naturally I was instantly attracted to today’s (15 Jan 2010) article on iconic rings in The Straits Times, Urban supplement. Some find it strange that I am actually more of a design person. Yes, the design is more important to me than that bling, really. I have been known to eschew real jewellery for costume ones all because the accessories happen to have better design. Crazy? That’s just me, I guess 😛

 Perhaps it is embedded in my DNA, somehow even as a kid, I’ve always like only clean-cut lines, sleek and preferably unique designs. I seem to be ‘allergic’ to frilly, complicated, ornate or so-called ‘traditional’ designs. So I guess there’re no prizes for guessing which ring is my thing 😉


 If we’re talking about bling, then The Tiffany Setting Ring with its classic round cut diamond and discreet 6-prong setting is my all-time favourite. No wonder it is lauded as the world’s favourite engagement ring . Engagement ring or not, to me, that is distilled simplicity.

Tiffany’s Somerset Ring, is my top choice for everyday wear. This may look more like costume jewellery than the real thing but I fell in love with it ever since I set on eyes on it a while back. From Tiffany’s Mesh Collection, these micro knit mesh rings in either yellow, white or rose gold or sterling silver, are unique and sleek with a slightly edgy appeal.

If I have to wear gold, then Bulgari’s B.Zero 1 Ring is the ring. The spiral design has a hint of masculine feel to it. But it is the clean-cut lines which appeal to me the most.  I wish the Bulgari logo was not engraved onto the 2 lateral rims, though. Guess I’m not one for displaying logos 😛 So you would never find me with a Louis Vuitton bag. Haha.

I like the three different gold colours and smooth curves which intertwine so effortlessly in Cartier’s Trinity Ring. It is said that White symbolizes friendship, pink, love and yellow, fidelity. The intertwining reflects the ties that can’t be broken. And if I’m bored, it gives me something to fiddle with 😛

And for a fun and funky feel, I would definitely love to don Chopard’s Happy Spirit Ring. Perhaps my unexplained penchant for geometric shapes over flowers and frills explains my fondness for these concentric circles. These concentric circles spiral with a playful touch. The diamond in the centre designed to move with the wearer’s hand adds sparkle and lifts one’s spirit instantly. No wonder is it known as the Happy Spirit Ring J It comes with other motifs like round, square, oval and heart-shaped as well.

Ideal for the Friday night out, Chanel’s The Ultra Ring with its monochromatic, minimalist look is effortless chic at its best. Said to be inspired by Coco Chanel’s passion for pairing black and white, it comes in black and white ceramic in white gold. For those who love their bling, fret not, diamonds accented ones are available.

Chopard’s The Ice Cube Ring – This cool as ice, ice cube inspired ring has the bling without flaunting it. A ring that inspires confidence immediately, this is definitely what you would want to wear to that important meeting. It goes well with a cocktail dress too, slipping smoothly from day to night.  

For understated elegance, I would go for Chopard’s La Strada Ring. Inspired by Fellini’s film and 1950’s aesthetics, these sensual curves are simply sensuous. Alternating bands of gold and diamond, contrasts gracefully, perfect for everyday wear.

If I’m feeling sexy, The Trouble Ring by Boucheron is the ring.  A seductive serpent slithering on one’s finger is enough to put one in a sexy mood. This assertive yellow gold creation is for the cougar in you too 😉

For reasons unknown, Boucheron’s Quatre Ring seems a little ornate for my taste though it is relatively sleek in structure. Perhaps it is the diamond point and gopher motifs which I find a little too fussy for my liking. While I love the combination of 4 different types of gold – white, yellow, rose and chocolate – which makes it look like a luscious, four-layered cake, the different texture was welcoming too but maybe not in the way I would have liked it. Fused together by pressure rather than the traditional soldering used, it is truly unique in design. And chocolate gold is intriguing indeed. Hell, the ring is even hip so I’ve no idea why it seems a little ‘iffy’ to me.

Inspired by the ancient city of Rome, this simple modular pattern of interlocking graphic symbols is based on bracket shapes or parentesi (parenthesis) – a typical, Roman architectural pattern. Hence, it’s moniker, Parentesi Ring (By Bulgari) Again, I find it a little on the opulent side, though the plain ones in yellow or white gold, unadorned by diamonds seems more palatable. Probably this shape does not appeal to me. Somehow, the ring reminds one of the excesses of the 80’s.

What is definitely a no-no for me is Cartier’s Lust, Caution Ring. This 6.1 carat pink diamond stunner was specially commissioned by Director Ang Lee for the movie, “Lust, Caution”. Hugged by 2 circles of smaller sparklers, this ring was set in the glamorous style of the 1930’s. As vintage design is not my cup of tea, I would definitely re-set this huge bauble (in fact it was nicknamed the “Ostrich Egg” in the movie, due to its size :p) into something bold and chunky. Obviously, it wouldn’t be in my possession anytime soon as the ring is not for sale and is displayed at Cartier’s museum in Paris.

Another ring on my dislike list would have to be Louis Vuitton’s Cut Ring from the Les Ardentes Collection which features a flower cut and a star cut diamond. Created and patented by Louis Vuitton as these four petals Lily cut diamonds mirror the shape of the brand’s iconic monogram pattern, they are simply too feminine and frilly to appeal to me.

Now I just wish I could get my hands on my fave rings…one day, perhaps…one fine day.


Filed under Bites & Brews/Blings & Wraps/Chill