LOCAL FLAVOUR

Sylvia Lim

FOUNDER

THE EMPORIUM GROUP PTE LTD

(Pulsar Category Winner 2017)

"Brands with Singapore stories carry great appeal at The Emporium"

Clad in a chic dress with geometric motifs, Sylvia Lim is as much an approachable icon of style as she is an earnest businesswoman. Co-founder and group managing director of Triologie by The Tricot Studio, Lim conceptualises and designs for Triologie, a womenswear label which retails at The Emporium. “We first came up with the idea and concept sometime in 2011, and saw the birth of our first season in Spring 2012,” says the 45-year-old. “It was a culmination of [effort by] three brains with more than 50 years of industry experience, each separately helming design, manufacturing and business.” With that, the trio of friends decided to put pen to paper and draw up their vision of a fashion label dedicated to the happy, free spirited and savvy woman – Triologie.

Triologie was conceived to first address the need for appropriate clothing for our tropical climate, hence the use of only natural fabrics. The Triologie woman, who possesses a lust for life and embraces spontaneity, wearability and versatility, is a traveller who loves to tell her travel stories. This is depicted in the print stories on the fabrics for each season.

Lim also wanted to put out garments with cheery appeal. “We want to create happy prints on happy dresses!” she says. The collections soon caught on with appreciative customers, especially those who are well-travelled, who enjoy wearing renowned fashion labels and also want to support local brands.

“It has to be wearable clothing that you feel happy in,” she says. “We aren’t going to be the most fashion-forward silhouettes on the runway, but we want to offer something that is wearable and which appeals to women living in our climate!”

Lim started her business without a brick-and-mortar store. Triologie was consigned to department stores in Singapore and neighbouring Malaysia, which gave her the opportunity to test the markets. In Malaysia, her collections were retailed at Parkson department store in Bukit Bintang and at various Tangs stores across the country. “The sell-through was encouraging and that kept us going, giving us the assurance that the brand could continue.” But the weekly travels across the Causeway soon took its toll. At the same time, manpower issues as well as the weakening ringgit made it harder to do business. Triologie soon became somewhat out of reach for the average Malaysian customer. Sylvia eventually decided to pull out of Malaysia, just before the ringgit plummeted.

Moving out of Malaysia meant that there was a need for retail distributing points in Singapore, so the label launched pop-up stores in malls such as Millenia Walk, Wheelock Place, Raffles City, Westgate and I12 Katong.

Lim later founded The Emporium Group which opened its first store at Millenia Walk, two years before the flagship outlet at Orchard Gateway. Today, The Emporium is in three permanent locations and Triologie is its in-house label. Triologie also retails at two counters in department stores.

Today, The Emporium is home to various labels and merchandise that include furniture and curios, which share the space merchandised and curated by Lim. The Emporium is conceived to be a fashion lifestyle store, dedicated to supporting local independent designers through retail collaboration. “We are a synergised retail platform that local designers, of complementary trades across multi-product categories, partner with to commercialise their brand,” Lim says.
“I am a big champion of collaborations, so I was on a shopping spree for people like myself, running businesses on a scale not unlike mine at that time such as ‘hole-in-the-wall’ type of businesses — small, perhaps not big enough to fill up a store on their own, and with interesting brand stories.” Lim soon found opportunities to collaborate with like-minded Singaporeans, including those onto their second careers — among them a Cambridge graduate who quit banking to solder jewellery at home!

“The whole is greater than the sum of its parts when we collaborate,” she says. “This is the beauty of collaboration — it also brings about new possibilities, creates interesting complementary adjacencies and makes everything more affordable!”

Lim ensures a stringent selection process at The Emporium and all merchandise is carefully curated. The Emporium represents and sells brand stories. “We engage our customers with our stories in a quintessential premium shopping experience with the purpose to excite, explore and be different. And that perhaps is what keeps customers coming back to The Emporium,” she says. “Every brand and [piece of] merchandise comes with a story, and that is what makes them special. The same goes for our stores — every outlet is merchandised and customised according to its location, but in a similar handwriting.”

An advocate of and believer in local talent, Lim believes more should be done to showcase local brands and the Singapore story.
The Emporium may be localised for Singaporeans but that will not prohibit a similar style of localisation of The Emporium in another country, Lim shares, adding that she has set her eyes on bringing the brand and concept to the region. “Consider The Emporium in Vietnam or Thailand. It can be localised with the similar handwriting, character, and heartbeat, while also incorporating into the mix native influences and culture. Curating and storytelling is the most enjoyable part of my job.”

The economic climate may seem uncertain but Lim is undaunted. “I believe in perseverance and finding new opportunities. Retail is undergoing disruption at the moment; we need to leave our comfort zone, our usual way of doing business and explore new opportunities,” she suggests. “There is art and science in business. Both areas are as critical, which requires careful balancing or it will not work for the long haul. Entrepreneurship is about character building.”

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.