For a long time, the term ‘wellness’ seemed to me the final stage of packaging a marketing gimmick. It was like a well-adaptable label slapped on anything and I suspect, for fellow sceptics, often conjured images of meditation in dimly-lit rooms and multicoloured crystals. The term gathered momentum during the pandemic and has become a buzzword in its own right, making it all the more difficult to define.
Looking past its sensationalised nature, the popularity of wellness does point to something: As we balance a mountain of commitments and expectations, we seek something to ground us and help us feel at peace with ourselves and our circumstances. And the answer to that might lie in wellness.
What then, is wellness?
A broad definition would be to interpret wellness beyond an individual’s physical health - that is, to consider mental and emotional health as well. This holistic understanding is what backs the Singapore Tourism Board’s inaugural Wellness Festival, launched to promote holistic wellbeing here with a 10-day line-up featuring over 120 offerings.
As part of the Wellness Festival, Crane is delighted to welcome to the fore brands under the Made With Passion label (a national initiative that showcases and celebrates local lifestyle brands and the passion behind them) that will be hosting workshops and pop-ups on the weekend of 4th and 5th June.
I hear from three Made With Passion brands who will be at Crane on their inception and the wellness philosophies that guide their brand purpose.
Spurred by the desire to evoke lasting memories, Jason Lee, founder and CEO of Scent by SIX, partnered with world-renowned fragrance house, Swiss-based Givaudan, to develop a collection of fine fragrances under the artisanal brand.
Having formerly been employed as a management associate at Givaudan, Lee has developed a keen sense for the industry alongside a passion for fragrances.
Scent by SIX has since achieved various milestones, such as collaborations with local brands like Singapore Airlines and Eu Yan Sang, to create their bespoke scents.
A pivotal moment for Lee was his encounter with an elderly lady suffering from severe dementia at a scent workshop he was conducting for the less fortunate. “She was really grumpy. She had a very bad temper and she couldn’t remember anything. She was just slowly fading away.”
Speaking to her family members and caregivers, he learned more about her: She used to go to temples on Sundays with her late husband to offer incense, and she loved kopi O kosong (black coffee without sugar) and pandan cakes.
Lee endeavoured to create a scent for her based on her life experiences in a bid to revive her memory. “I allowed her to take a whiff. What happened afterwards was priceless. Her eyes welled up, and she teared. When I looked around the room of family members, they were all crying. And she even blurted out the name of her deceased husband. And that was when I realised why I'm doing all this work.”
At its core, the brand’s commitment to serving the community has continued to guide its purpose over the years since its launch in 2016.
“It is beyond selling fragrances, setting up a shop, beyond dollars and cents. It's all about healing emotions, to connect people and to bring people together,” says Lee.
Inspiring others to act on the same purpose is one of the challenges Lee faces as a leader of the company, a job he dubs “problem solver”.
“We are a very inclusive company. We have colleagues ranging from the age of 16 all the way to 61 years old.” With a grin, he adds: “It's true.”
“That spans across multiple generations, cultures and genders. And so it is important that we are able to include everybody and have a democracy of views and expectations, and to allow for clear and open communication and collaboration.”
He shares that motivating employees to engage with the company’s direction, in order to find meaning in their work, is a constant work in progress.
“We human beings are transient, in a way. We are ever-changing in our expectations as we grow, as we age. So, it is important for us to always keep an open mind, to stay humble in learning about our peers, what they want, what they need.”
Given Scent by SIX’s active involvement with charitable organisations, another challenge they face is when it comes to co-creating fragrances with beneficiaries.
Recounting how the scent Hikaru was conceived, Lee describes his anxiety when he was conducting a workshop for youths from the Singapore Association of Mental Health who were suffering from severe depression - Particularly when he was told that he should be mentally prepared that they might drop out of the session.
“By then I can tell you, the youths looked anxious, but the real anxious one was myself. I just couldn't imagine if I were not able to value-add to the session, and that the whole session would be a waste of time for everyone.”
Despite his misgivings, Lee decided to stay mindful of the tonality of his voice and asked the youths to find the ingredients that were uniquely them. And “magically”, they developed an interest in exploring certain ingredients and by the end of the session, were “having fun trying to play around with the ingredients.”
“That's how Hikaru was born, together with them. And one of them even wrote me two full paragraphs of how she felt that the scent could be improved further.”
While demanding, this aspect of the business is also what Lee is most proud of: The ability to co-create something meaningful.
“When we sell these winning fragrances in the market, besides donating money…, when our beneficiaries are able to see their work coming to fruition, this is something that really makes me feel very, very proud.”
An intriguing aspect of fragrances developed by Scent by SIX is that they are equipped with “fragrance intelligence”, a formulation that influences mood and behaviour, backed with scientific data and findings from fMRI sensors that measure brain activity by tracking blood flow.
“And I must say this is perhaps what makes us unique - we are trying to marry olfactive aesthetics, beauty. So a scent can smell superb, very beautiful, yet you are very convinced, and maybe very confident that a scent can give you tangible benefits,” says Lee.
Up on the horizon for Scent by SIX are three new fragrances in collaboration with the Caregivers Alliance, each with a unique property and imbued with formulations that promote relaxation, better sleep and focus.
“But the ‘feel happier’ scent is the best secret for employees. Before your pay raise meetings, you can spray it in the meeting room,” jokes Lee, referring to Hikaru.
Lee shares that the company’s philosophy on health and wellness is that it starts from within - and as the leader of the company, he leads by example.
There is hardly breathing room in his schedule, packed as it is with work, spending time with his four children and wife, and continuing to serve in the community. Still, he has developed a daily routine that involves dedicating 20 minutes each to three activities. He spends the first 20 in the morning engaging in exercise, and another 20 in the afternoon catching a nap to freshen up and clear his mind before meetings.
“The last 20 minutes of the day, at night, I will choose a person in the family to spend this time with, having a one-on-one conversation with this person just to make sure this person knows that he or she is special to me.”
Naturally, he gets questions about why he formulated such a calculated routine, but it has proven successful so far in managing his tight schedule.
And as for the next big thing from Scent by SIX, Lee drops a big hint: “We're thinking about how we can participate in the metaverse. How can a scent play a meaningful part in this space where content is very rich, engaging and immersive? And I'll just leave it at that.”
For a hands-on experience, join the upcoming workshop by Scent by SIX to create your very own bespoke room mist at Crane’s Wellness Fest. Scent by SIX reveals, re-enacts, and remakes immersive spaces through scents that capture the essence - in a bottle.
Porcelain Singapore’s story starts with mother-and-daughter duo, Jenny Teng and Pauline Ng, who started the business in late 2009. By then, Teng, a passionate aesthetician, had spent more than two decades honing her skills.
Inspired by her passion for helping others achieve healthier skin, and the empowering and transformative power of skincare, Teng founded Porcelain Singapore with her daughter.
The pair, along with their team, wanted to provide clients with a place they could trust; that meant being transparent while delivering exceptional value and standards, particularly by combining craftsmanship with state-of-art technology for holistic skincare. Porcelain was “a safe place built on integrity and trust, where clients would experience no hard selling”. Getting here, however, was no mean feat.
In the earliest stages, the lack of capital meant that the team had to maintain tight control of their cash flow. When the time came to expand, the original “self-designed” logo and bottle packaging were in need of a major makeover. This re-branding, while expensive, proved to be worthwhile for Porcelain Singapore.
As the team grew, so did the operational issues, such as ensuring consistent service and retaining and hiring new staff. The burgeoning popularity of the Medical Aesthetics field also attracted new entrants, leading to stiff competition.
To manage manpower and quality control issues, Porcelain endeavoured to maintain a high quality of service and made their best efforts to compensate employees well while developing a cohesive company culture.
Despite the difficulties, the brand has established three wellness spas over the years, including Singapore’s first smart spa and wellness café concept, and won numerous awards for its acclaimed services and products.
Now, their challenge remains in creating sustainable yet malleable processes to achieve success at the international stage in the next five years.
‘Healthy skin from within’ is the adage that has guided the brand since its launch, with the goal of helping clients achieve healthy skin through correction rather than concealing. The brand’s various facets, such as product designs, R&D and training, are derived from three key approaches towards life, health and wellness.
The three tenets of their wellness-driven philosophy: Good skin starts from within; No two skins are the same; Commitments from us to you, and for you with yourself.
Porcelain’s solutions target the root of the problem and stimulate cellular regeneration, with customised and curated regimes for clients that are tweaked and improved upon based on active feedback.
“Your skin undergoes a myriad of changes as you journey through life. As you and your skin change, we will grow and adapt right alongside you – and that’s an uncharted adventure we commit to as long as you will too.”
And as for what the future holds, from product launches to new markets, the brand has a lot in store.
As part of the Wellness Fest, Porcelain’s Destress Retreat at Crane promises a relaxing yet educational retreat to help attendees identify the effects of stress on skin health and how to counter it at the root. With two skin experts hosting the session, this is your chance to unravel the skincare mysteries that have been niggling your mind.
Food Culture Singapore boasts the sweetest origins as an initiative of Singapore’s oldest and only sugar manufacturer, Cheng Yew Heng Candy Factory Pte Ltd.
Cheng Yew Heng, like many local businesses, suffered when the Covid-19 pandemic first hit Singapore’s shores. It offered businesses little choice: Sink or swim.
The brand strove to stay afloat - but not alone.
“We decided to expand online and gather other local brands that were struggling to cope like we did,” says John Cheng, founder of Food Culture Singapore. “Thus, Food Culture Singapore was officially launched and aims to be a one-stop destination for local food gifts, groceries and craft.”
Pivoting online never comes easy, not when the Internet is host to a crowded marketplace; There are nearly two billion websites and frantic efforts to crawl up the page rankings. Food Culture Singapore is no stranger to this struggle.
Reaching both vendors and potential customers was a huge challenge that took a lot of work and skill. However, with support from government agencies such as Enterprise Singapore and the Singapore Tourism Board, and the trust of the local brands, Food Culture saw steady growth.
In fact, there are close to 60 brands on their platform to date and the team is looking to make that 100 by the time 2022 comes to a close.
“We’re proud to support local businesses and showcase their efforts and innovation,” says Cheng. “Our uniqueness lies in the wealth of Singaporean brands under the Food Culture umbrella, so we can promote Singapore’s rich food culture and innovations, as well as be the one-stop destination for consumers looking for local food gifts and craft.”
(Even its origins are steeped in this solidarity: Food Culture Singapore was officially launched on 9th August 2021, on Singapore's 56th National Day.)
The brand is committed to supporting local heritage and startup brands in expanding their market presence not just through online platforms but also through offline mediums like experiential pop-ups and exhibitions (such as their upcoming pop-up at Crane).
What is the brand’s philosophy on health and wellness? As staunch advocates of the United Nations’ Sustainable Developmental Goals (SDGs), which provide a shared blueprint for peace and prosperity for all people and the planet, the team integrates these goals into their work.
“For example, maintaining good health and wellness are part of the 17 SDGs, specifically Number 3 – to ensure healthy lives and promote well-being for all at all ages. In these new times, we believe that it is a collective social responsibility to help one another to maintain a healthy immune system and nurture mental wellness.”
With restrictions easing and things looking up across industries, Food Culture plans to ramp up its activities and bring brands to consumers through more face-to-face interactions.
At the upcoming Singapore Food Festival anchor event by the Singapore Tourism Board, 90 to 100 of Food Culture Singapore’s brands will be showcasing and selling their products.
And that’s not all, according to Cheng: “We’re also in the midst of planning an experiential event at the end of the year in collaboration with the Singapore Tourism Board that will allow consumers to rediscover Singapore through a multisensory journey of heritage, innovation and sustainability, so stay tuned!”
As an ambassador for Made With Passion brands, Food Culture Singapore is bringing them to Crane’s Wellness Fest. Visitors can expect to find food items from various brands such as Jewels Rock Sugar Sticks, Mekhala, and Hook Coffee. Two of their brands – Jewels Rock Sugar Sticks and Asmara – will be partnering up to hold a workshop on science-based herbalism where participants get to craft their own tea-coffee blend or edible facial scrub.
Jason Lee (Scent by SIX): Take action. Take action in many, many different ways to anyone, to yourself, to your family. I've shared about the three times 20 minutes routine – it is also a part of me taking action; putting that down to my commitment on a daily basis, to make sure that I cover all aspects of my mental health and emotional health.
It is also about taking action for others. It may be a small action. We try to light up people's lives one at a time. And I'm sure if the direction is right, we go far. It is not about how bright you are at this point but how long your candle will last and continue to light up other candles.
Porcelain Singapore: Over the years, one of the most important things we learned is that it is so important to start taking care of yourself when you are younger – your older self will thank you for it. Exercise, eat well and make time for the people you love.
When you're younger and finding your footing in the world, you may feel lost. It is okay to feel inadequate and unsure of yourself, it is okay not to fit in. It is okay to have traumas and recognize how they can form and become a part of us. These cracks in our life make us whole and who we are as individuals, precious – perfectly imperfect.
John Cheng (Food Culture Singapore): Health and wellness are about finding balance in one’s lifestyle from eating, exercising and mental well-being. It’s not about extremes, but moderation. That is the key to a positive, happy and healthy life.
On the weekend of 4th & 5th June, Crane is proud to host workshops and pop-ups by brands under the Made With Passion initiative as part of the Wellness Festival Singapore. Come on down and rediscover wellness - it’s a good time as any for a recharge as we approach the midpoint of the year.