INTELLIGENT DESIGN

Patricia Ho

FOUNDER & DESIGN DIRECTOR

WHITE JACKET PTE LTD

(Pulsar Category Winner 2017)

"One first has to dream big in order to achieve something big"

If you have been to Naumi Hotel on Seah Street and marvelled at its space design, you would have admired the work of Patricia Ho and her team.

Ho is the founder and design director of White Jacket, a design consultancy firm specialising in hospitality and food-and-beverage projects. Established in 2010, the company has worked on international and boutique hotel brands all over Asia, including the Philippines, China, Vietnam, Thailand, Hong Kong and Indonesia.

“Our very first hotel project was the New World Makati in Manila,” Ho relates. “It was a very exciting commission because it meant that our dream had become real.” The project, which followed the hotel’s decision to rebrand itself, involved giving the property a major facelift and a more contemporary look with an Asian appeal. “It was a $50-million project and there were two of us working on it at the start,” the 38-year-old recalls. “I remember all the late nights that we had to put in and going out for supper virtually every night. When everything was approved and completed, the satisfaction we felt was enormous.”

For a relatively new entrant to the industry, this opportunity was exactly what White Jacket needed. “It was all the more fun as it was a renovation instead of building from scratch, since with renovation, you get to see things done in phases. It allowed us to build our portfolio fast and gave others the chance to see what we were able to come up with,” Ho adds.

Ho’s passion and eye for design can be traced to an early age when, as a young child, she enjoyed painting as well as making and creating things. Her academic path eventually brought her to a crossroads between fashion and interior design. Eventually, she chose the latter because of her love for architecture. She enrolled in Temasek Polytechnic, where she became increasingly interested in the design industry. “Sometimes, you need to explore a bit before you fall in love with what you do,” she says.

Prior to founding White Jacket, Ho worked as a design director in Wilson Associates, one of the largest design firms here with an international footprint. Being the youngest design director on the team (she was 28 then), she noticed that the industry was dominated by males much older than she was, many of whom were also expats. “I wanted to change that and lend a younger feminine voice,” she shares. “I wanted to create a design studio that is recognised as a Singapore company that can compete with international firms from the US or Europe. It would be an Asian voice in the international design scene.” It’s obvious Ho does not lack ambition, drive or optimism. “One has to dream big in order to do something big. I am passionate about life and living — you either give it your all or don’t do it at all.”

Leading a team of 20, Ho spearheads all the design projects that comes out of her studio. She likens her role to that of a movie director: “I direct the storyline and create the scene, and I have a group of highly talented and dedicated designers who have their own roles to play. As a design firm, what makes or breaks us is our talent, so we also have to think about how to attract and retain talent.”
White Jacket has won multiple accolades over the years, including the 2015 Asia Hotel Design Awards for Best Suite at Naumi, and an interior design prize in the 40 Under 40 category at the 2015 Design Leaders of Today and Tomorrow awards in Hong Kong. “When I started White Jacket, my mission was to create award-winning designs that would earn us recognition in the industry. I knew right from the start that I wanted every project to be award-winning,” says Ho. “So far we have completed four projects, and all of them have either won awards or were finalists in international design competitions.”

White Jacket’s strength doesn’t just lie in crafting beautiful spaces but also in curating experiences for people. Ho explains, “Instead of just generic or soulless interior spaces, the spaces we design create strong and vivid memories for guests as they evoke emotions. People crave experiences and well-executed design resonates with what people want. That is one of the biggest differences between us and commercial designers — we pay attention to the entire experience, beginning with customising furniture pieces, lighting, etc.”

The company is currently working on numerous projects in Thailand, Vietnam, the Philippines and China, among other in the region. Ho is also looking into expanding the business to include a lighting design consultancy and possibly the manufacturing and retail of its bespoke design pieces such as furniture, decorative lightings, rugs and accessories.

When asked about setbacks, Ho says she takes everything in her stride. “It’s important to see rejection as a challenge, in the way that people might have had higher expectations and felt we could have done a better job. We don’t see criticism in a negative light but as something that takes us out of our comfort zone and challenges us to do better.”

The most important thing is to keep one’s passion alive and believe everything is possible, she adds. Entrepreneurship entails being ready for growth and challenges. “You really have to believe in yourself. And don’t just think big – think bigger.”

AWARD JUDGE

BG (NS) Chan Wing Kai

Director

Seed Global Investment

BG (NS) Chan Wing Kai spent 29 years in the Singapore Armed Forces as a military officer. He rose up to the Army’s top leadership and held numerous key appointments.

The years in the Armed Forces provided him a strong foundation in leadership, human capital management, operational planning, training development and critical diplomatic skills.

He retired from active military service in 2016 and is currently a Director with SEED Global Investment, a real estate investment firm. He oversees the company’s portfolio and business development in the US and UK. He holds a MSc in Applied Finance from the Singapore Management University, and is no stranger to corporate finance, portfolio management, equities, bonds and derivatives.

AWARD JUDGE

TIN PEI LING

Member of Parliament
CEO

Business China

Ms Tin Pei Ling is the Chief Executive Officer of Business China, a non-profit organisation that harnesses the support of the public sector & private enterprises to strengthen the ties between Singapore and China. Prior to joining Business China, Pei Ling was the Group Director of Corporate Strategy for Jing King Group.

Pei Ling is an elected Member of Parliament in Singapore since 2011 and currently serves on the Public Accounts Committee. She also serves on the Government Parliamentary Committee for Communications & Information (from 2018, Dy Chairperson) and Health (2011 – present) and previously for Law/Home Affairs (2011-2015) and Social & Family Development (2015 – 2018, Dy Chairperson).

AWARD JUDGE

RYAN CHIOH

Managing Director

Faseastflora.com

Mr Ryan Chioh joined FEF.com in 1998 as Executive Director of Far East Flora Holdings Pte Ltd.

Always a firm advocator for technology, Ryan identified the direction for e-commerce development and saw a business opportunity to offer FEF.com’s extensive range of flowers and gifts online in 2001. Ryan blended his IT savviness and prudent business sense to steer the company’s website to become the leading portal for flowers and gifts. Ryan also brought the company to another level by spearheading the development of a CRM and ERP business solution, integrating the front-end and back-end operations so that there would be easier identification of customer base.

AWARD JUDGE

NEO SING HWEE

Asia Pacific, Asean and Singapore Internal Audit Leader, Risk Advisory Services

Ernst & Young

Mr Neo Sing Hwee sits in the EY Asean Partner Governance Council and leads the Advisory (Risk) Internal Audit Practice in Ernst & Young Asia Pacific, Asean and Singapore.

He has more than 20 years of experience in providing risk management, performance improvement, internal controls and business advisory services to clients in various industries, including organisations in the government and public sector such as ministries and statutory boards. He provides advice to Boards and Management on leading practices, insights as well as issues relating to corporate governance, risk management and internal controls.

AWARD JUDGE

DR LIM WEE KIAK, PBM

Member of Parliament
CEO

Eagle Eye Centre

Dr Lim Wee Kiak, is an elected Member of Parliament for Sembawang GRC since 2015 and serves as chairman of Government Parliamentary Committee (GPC) for Ministry of Community, Culture and Youth. An Ophthalmologist, Dr Lim is currently the Chief Executive Officer and Co-Founder of Eagle Eye Centre.

Dr Lim joined the Singapore Armed Forces as a medical officer in 1994 and completed subspecialty training in Ophthalmology in 1998, with a Master’s degree in Medicine and two post-graduate specialist qualifications in Ophthalmology. During his service in SAF, he led numerous humanitarian missions to neighbouring countries. He joined Singapore National Eye Centre and was awarded the MOH HMDP fellowship in 2003, doing one year of clinical and research Fellowship at the National Eye Institute, National Institutes of Health.

Dr Lim had been an active grassroots leader since 1998 before joining politics in 2006. For his active community involvement, he was awarded the Young Executive of the Year in 2000 and Public Service Medal (PBM) in 2003.

AWARD JUDGE

Chew Mok Lee

Assistant Chief Executive
ICM & Digitalisation
Enterprise Services & New Industries

Enterprise Singapore

Ms Chew Mok Lee is the Assistant Chief Executive in charge of ICM & Digitalisation, Enterprise Services & New Industries in Enterprise Singapore, a government agency spearheading enterprise and industry development, reporting to the Ministry of Trade and Industry, Singapore. Enterprise Singapore is also the national Standards body in Singapore.

Prior to Enterprise Singapore, Mok Lee was with National Productivity Board (NPB), PSB and SPRING Singapore. She graduated from National University of Singapore, majoring in Economics and Statistics. She has a double Masters and is well versed in the area of enterprise promotion, industry development and partnership building, having been involved in various aspects of capability development, support for local enterprises, enabling a viable enterprise eco-system and entrepreneurship for 29 years. She also served as Secretariat to the Action Community for Entrepreneurship and was responsible for working with the Minister in Charge of Entrepreneurship and private sector members to foster entrepreneurship and support start-ups in Singapore.

AWARD JUDGE

CHIA KIM HUAT

Regional Head
Corporate and Transactional Practice

Rajah & Tann Singapore

Mr Chia Kim Huat has extensive experience in capital market, public and private mergers and acquisitions, cross-border joint ventures and private equity investments, both in Singapore and the region. He travels regularly in the Asia-Pacific region advising clients on a wide range of matters, including direct investments and infrastructure projects in China, major acquisitions in Korea, joint ventures in Taiwan, Hong Kong and Japan and cross-border mergers and acquisitions transactions. Kim Huat also advises foreign investors on their investments in Singapore, including listings on the Singapore Exchange, privatisations, secondary and dual listings.

He has been recognised as a leading lawyer in his field by International Financial Law Review 1000, Chambers Global “Leaders in their Field”, Asia Pacific Legal 500, “Eminent Practitioner” in Chambers Asia Pacific, Who’s Who Legal: Corporate – Merger & Acquisition/Capital Markets – Debt and Equity and Merger & Acquisition, ‘Leading Lawyer’ in Asialaw Profiles and Best Lawyers, 2017 Edition.

AWARD JUDGE

TAN WEE BENG

Deputy Chief Executive (Operations)
SkillsFuture Singapore

Wee Beng is the Deputy Chief Executive (Operations) of SkillsFuture Singapore (SSG). He leads the Business Technology Group (Operations Planning Division, Capability Development Division, Operations & Support Division, Security & Infrastructure Division), the Training, Manpower & Infrastructure Group (Manpower & Infrastructure Planning Division, Office of Lifelong Learning, and Institute of Adult Learning which comprises Learning and Professional Development Division, Research and Innovation Division, Learning Services and Support Division ) as well as the Business Services Group (Shared Services Management, Integrated Business Services Division &, Corporate Services Division).

Prior to joining SSG, Wee Beng was an officer with the Singapore Armed Forces, leading both large and small teams. His last appointment was Chief-of-Staff, Republic of Singapore Navy, overseeing a range of staff departments and ground commands. Other key appointments held were Head Naval Operations, Commander of Maritime Security Task Force and Commander, Naval Diving Unit. Wee Beng holds a Bachelor of Arts and a Master of Arts in Physics from Oxford University, UK, and a Master of Science in Management from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, USA.