Gerald Tan meets five outstanding women who are charting their own paths in distinguished ways.
Photographed by Wee Khim. Styled by Sharon Tulasidas
Managing Director of Direct Funeral Services, 32
It’s never an easy task getting people to confront their mortality; especially in a conservative Asian society like Singapore, where death remains a taboo topic. But Tay is hoping to change the status quo by shifting the focus to the commemoration of life and ensuring its final journey is a meaningful affair. “It’s not about how elaborate the funeral is, but more about how much love and warmth is felt during the last moments,” she says. In the five years since she has taken over the reins of her family’s company, Tay has given the funeral business a more polished outlook (its revenue has reportedly jumped from $2 million to $7 million under her charge), while encouraging people to give serious thought to end-of-life-planning. At the same time, she also launched the Direct Life Foundation in 2015, which assists the lonely elderly in Singapore.
Shirt; pants, Dior
Co-founder of The Food Bank Singapore; President of ONE [Singapore], 40
“Adversity empowers me,” declares Ng, an astute businesswoman who is a prime example of how the only way to go after hitting rock bottom is, well, up. Her late father was declared bankrupt when she was about to start university and she vividly recalls being at home when the bank came and seized their house. “It was very painful for us,” Ng remembers. Then, there was her two-decade-long struggle with bulimia, which plagued her even as she was setting up The Food Bank Singapore in 2012, a charity that aims to reduce food wastage by channelling excess food to various redistribution channels such as family service centres and religious establishments (she’s also the President of ONE [Singapore], an organisation dedicated to eradicating poverty). If anything, those dark hours showed her mettle and today, Ng is thankful for the little victories and all the life lessons thrown her way. “When good things do come to you, let’s take the time to appreciate them.”
Dress, Prada. Platinum and diamond necklace, Harry Winston
TAY LIAM SZE
Managing Partner of Directions Group Inc, 50
“Power is neither good nor bad. It’s very much dependent on the person who is using it,” observes Tay. For her, the act of making a difference begins like a seed taking root—nothing is too insignificant; and it’s a humbling moment that blossoms beautifully from the inside out. “You learn to remove the ‘I’ in every equation,” she adds. A familiar face within Singapore’s fashion circle, Tay has grown the number of brands her company represents from an initial “three to five, to a current stable of about 20 today.” Besides multiplying the industry’s level of professionalism, Tay also operates with the conviction that every interaction should be a meaningful, enriching and empowering experience. “For every person who has come into my life or walks through my door, I want them to leave becoming a better version of themselves,” she says.
Top, Loewe. Silver cuff, Elsa Peretti for Tiffany & Co.
TRIAN LIANG - LIN
Managing Director of Templebridge Investments; President of Singapore Committee for UN Women, 48
Even though the conversation surrounding women’s rights rose to a crescendo last year with movements such as #MeToo and #TimesUp hitting the headlines, there’s still much to be done. Enter women the likes of Liang-Lin, who are leading advocacy groups that are contributing to the discourse and maintaining momentum for every worthwhile cause—while also juggling her responsibilities at investment research consulting firm, Templebridge Investments. As the head of the Singapore division of UN Women, Liang-Lin has led her team to successfully push for foreign domestic worker benefits, as well as contribute to Singapore’s National Plan of Action against Trafficking in Persons. Yet, for all her achievements, the philanthropist has one very simple wish for the world. “I hope that it becomes kinder and more understanding,” she muses. “If I can change the world that way, I’ll be very happy.”
Chief Executive Officer and Co-founder of The Great Room, 38
Ang started The Great Room in 2016, a “hospitality-inspired, co-working space”, to change the way people feel about work. “We spend so much time at work, and a lot of the time in very bland and uninspired environments. I hope to give everyone a chance to be in an environment where we’re constantly inspired by the things we see, the people we meet; and [where] there’s a certain energy and buzz to be our best selves,” she says. Her ambition to foster communities comprising diverse individuals and companies (the creative brains behind Design Hotels and Swiss hospitality schools Les Roches and Glion have operated from The Great Room) that mirror a vibrant economy is paying off: Besides reportedly securing more than $5 million in Series A-funding, The Great Room now boasts three locations in Singapore, while another is slated to open in Bangkok soon.
Blouse; matching slip (worn underneath); skirt, Louis Vuitton. Rose gold watch, Patek Philippe
Makeup: Toni Tan using M.A.c Hair: Sean Ang/FAc3Inc using Kevin Murphy Styling assistants: Marc Koo and charmaine Tan