Tag Archives: ESSENZE

Passion of the Rose

The rosey love affair of Piaget

In a love story that stretches back to the 1960s, Piaget’s fascination with the rose has taken a prominent place in the brand’s jewellery and this is no more prominent than its latest collection. The Piaget Rose Passion, which comes as a tribute to the queen of flowers, is a glamorous and bold haute jewellery line that is vibrant as it is colourful.

In 1979, the current chairman of Piaget, Yves Piaget, created the trophy for the Geneva International New Rose Competition, and in 1982, his passion for the rose was recognised when the winner of that year’s competition named his prize-winning rose breed the Yves Piaget Rose. This love affair with the gorgeous flower is captured in Piaget Rose Passion collection of 75 jewellery pieces and 25 watches.

Each piece of jewellery bearing Piaget’s name is made entirely in the brand’s own jewellery workshops using a myriad of precious stones. With choice jewels ranging from white and yellow diamonds to luscious emeralds and pink sapphires, the pieces in Piaget Rose Passion are fresh and feminine.

A New Health Epidemic

Computers, Mobile Phones & Other Digital Devices Are Impacting Your Eyes

By Dr Susana Liou

In the old days, human beings devoted the majority of their time to working outdoors, farming vegetables and animals, working the fields. A huge portion of their daily life was spent underneath the sun, with their vision mainly focused on looking into the distance. This is how our eyes have evolved over millennia. In contrast, modern society spends much of its working life indoors, underneath artificial lighting, and looking at a computer, which in terms of vision is very close-up.

Our eyes were not designed to be looking at objects close-up for long periods of time. The muscle used for focusing on different distances, whether 10m away for driving, 4m for TV, 60cm for computers, or 40cm for reading, needs to adjust accordingly depending on the distance.

When we see far away in the distance (E.G. more than 6m away) the eye muscle is in a relaxed state. The closer you are looking at an object, the more focusing needs to occur, thus causing the eye muscle to contract. So, the longer you look at your computer screen for a prolonged period without looking away and changing the eyes’ position, the more strain you put on the eyes.

What does this tell us? The natural design of our eyes has not evolved to have us working close-up for the majority of the time. Some people these days spend up to 8 hours or more each day with their eyes locked in a fixed position towards their computer screen. The epidemic of sore and tired eyes caused by the use of digital devices has begun!

We at Visual Q Eyecare have begun to see an increased frequency of young people suffering from eyestrain due to prolonged near use. They tend to be between 25 and 38 years old, and upon visiting our optometry clinic comment that while they can still sit at the computer, it’s not as comfortable as it once was. They complain of sore or tired eyes, yet their vision might not be blurry. However, if the symptoms continue untreated, we often hear about a sudden onset of blurred vision.

People who use computers or other digital devices at a near or intermediate distance for extended period of times should have their eyes checked if they suffer from any of the symptoms mentioned above. Discomfort when reading is also a common issue. When booking for your eye test, choose an optometrist who takes an interest in binocular vision problems, as they are often quite knowledgeable about issues with eye muscles. Once diagnosed the problem can be solved by wearing special vocational multi-focal lenses while you work. These look like normal glasses on the outside, but have added strength to help sustained near work.

We often hear people say, ‘Everything is fine with my vision, except when I use a computer my eyes feel tired.’ Our general advice is to take regular breaks from looking at the computer screen. For every 30 minutes of close-up work, take 1 minute to look at something at least 6m away from you. This will relax the eyes’ muscles. You may find it hard to comprehend, but we believe a 1-minute break after every half hour of near work is more beneficial for your eyes than a 30-minute break after 3 constant hours of working close-up. Think about it. 6 minutes of break time over a 3-hour period (1 minute per half hour equals 2 minutes per hour) is better for your eyes than a 30-minute break at the end of 3 hours straight work. It takes conscious determination and discipline, but it could save your eyes from becoming another victim of the modern digital device epidemic!

Show Stopping Showhouses

In a time when properties are hitting the million-ringgit mark and beyond, and with each development one-upping the other with new technologies and security features, aesthetics can play an important and deciding role. How one presents a showhouse could be the key to the potential home-buyer’s heart.

When potential home-buyers walk into the space, they immediately start visualizing how the space could fit their requirements and lifestyle, more so when the property is on the higher end of the market. This is the reason showhouses exist – to show how a particular house can serve as a home and how the standard space can be transformed into something new and with the right design by the interior decorator, spectacular.

Penang-based interior décor firm, Splendid Interior Décor, is one such expert in transforming empty shells into statement houses. Employing clever lighting techniques, smart space management and arresting art works, Splendid Interior Décor has designed some outstanding contemporary showhouses.

One such project is the Botanica.CT residential development in Penang’s idyllic town of Balik Pulau.   Styling the two-storey and three-storey houses, Splendid Interior Décor has created showhouses that are not only liveable and practical, but also elegant and stunning.

One of the design elements that was used to enhance the ambiance of the spacious living and dining areas was lighting, which in this project consisted of a combination of gorgeous chandeliers and warm accent lights. By combining the right lighting fixtures with the correct hues and intensity, Splendid Interior Décor has highlighted features of specific room that deserved the attention, and making the generous spaces cosy and charming.

Playing off the lighting, artworks in earth tones adorn the wide walls, blending in perfectly with the perfect ambience, colour and illumination scheme of the showhouses. Another design element that elevates the overall concept of the Botanica.CT showhouses is the contemporary sculptures that add a certain glamour to the spaces. The result is a set of showhouses that are inviting, stylish and reflective of a contemporary lifestyle.

For further information, email splendidinteriordecor@gmail.com

Holistic Grooming

One of Malaysia’s premier aesthetics academies, Stella-In International Advanced Aesthetics Academy has groomed generations of aestheticians and beauty professionals. It was established by Madam Stella Hong in 1980 and is accredited by international examination boards of Confederation of International Beauty Therapy & Cosmetology, UK (CIBTAC), Comite International d’Esthetic et Cosmetologie, Zurich (CIDESCO) and International Federation of Aromatherapy, UK (IFA). Recognising the academy’s contribution to Malaysia, the Ministry of Tourism appointed Stella-In as Malaysia’s Official Centre of Excellence to train Spa Therapists in 2011.

Not content is being just providing vocational training, Stella-In has paved a continuous education pathway for its students, enabling them to acquire higher qualifications. The Academy is in collaboration with Chisholm Institute of TAFE that allows its students to transfer credits of their qualifications at Stella-In to Chisholm TAFE for further studies in Diploma in Beauty Therapy and Bachelor in Health Science (Dermal Therapies) at Victoria University (Melbourne). In this regard, Stella-In is a pioneer, being the first aesthetics academy in Malaysia to forge such a path for its students.

Stella-In is headed by Madam Stella’s son, Leslie Hong. Injecting vigour and helping bring the Academy to new heights, Leslie is an expert in the field of aesthetics. He is a Colour Analyst and Image Consultant who has the distinction of being one of the first in Southeast Asia to be certified by Canada’s International Image Institute. This Property Estate Studies and Management double-degree graduate from New Zealand followed his mother’s footsteps and joined the family business because of his passion for the industry. ‘Aesthetics is not just making people look beautiful, but helping people as well. I saw my mother helping clients with acne recover; then when the clients’ skin got well, she would put make-up for them and groom them. You could see the joy in the customers. That really inspired me,’ said Leslie.

Leslie Hong,  Chief Executive Officer of Stella-In International Advanced Aesthetics Academy
Leslie Hong,
Chief Executive Officer of Stella-In International Advanced Aesthetics Academy

With over 18 years of experience as an artistic director, make-up artist and master trainer for Stella-In International,  Leslie is credited with leading the Academy to its international recognition and positioning as one of, if not the, leading aesthetics academy in the region. ‘Nowadays, people look towards brands and recognition, awards and achievements. The evolution of Stella-In from the 1980’s to now is one in which we have positioned ourselves very well in terms of accreditation,’ he explained on the success of Stella-In in bridging vocational training and tertiary education with leading institutions in Australia.

Besides having a passion for the aesthetics field, Leslie is passionate about community service. He is an active Lions Club member, having served the organisation as its president in the past and spearheading his club’s Prosthetic Limbs Project which has been instrumental in providing prosthetic limbs to those in need since 2006.

With his interest in Lions Club and his mother’s life-long quest to help people, it is no surprise that Stella-In has a culture of doing social work. ‘In business, we feel that most important thing is that we have to care for the society through community service works,’ said Leslie. ‘We are involved in social outreach programmes such as fund raising for local hospitals, and providing massage training for the blind at St Nicholas’ Home, among others.’

If a lasting career in aesthetics is what you’re looking for, make Stella-In your top consideration as a quality education centre. To find out more information, call +604 228 3833/ 227 3833 or visit http://www.stella-in.com.my.

Rome: 10 Things Not To Miss (Part 1)

Touring Rome is unlike visiting any other major city in Europe. This place, with a history of more than 2500 years, presents to visitors the  opportunity to experience an open air museum where angels and demons once ruled. One has to really like and appreciate heritage as this is a place where treasures and masterpieces of Roman art and architecture are preserved and presented proudly by the Italians. EZ has selected 10 things you should pen down when planning your tour in this ancient city.

 Part 1

01 Hop On Hop Off

Rome is unlike many modern European cities where the trains or subways are designed to directly reach important tourist attractions. This city has so many ancient architectural sites above and below ground level that the rail transportation system was built around these important sites, making sure that no heritage was damaged. As such, it is highly recommended that one should pack along a pair of good sport shoes. Furthermore if you are not travelling with a tour group, it is advisable to buy tickets and take a round trip with the Hop On Hop Off bus so that you will have a good idea and perspective of the city of Rome.

02 Colosseo (Colosseum)

The Colosseo (Colosseum in Italian) is one of the world’s most recognised buildings. One would be hard pressed to find a larger and more glorious setting that could seat over 50,000 people to view the mass slaughters which were a form of entertainment millennia ago. This was a brutal stage on which gladiators, slaves, criminals and animals had to fight to death for the sole purpose of surviving another day. It is highly recommended to purchase a combo ticket that covers the entrance for Forum and the Palatine Hill. Moreover, it allows you to bypass the super long queue. The ticket also comes with an English speaking guide that will take you to places that are restricted if one only buys the normal ticket. Before leaving, remember to take some memory shots with the Arch of Constantine, the triumphal arch in Rome.

03 Piazza Navona

Built on the site of the 1st century AD Stadium of Domitian, this city square is the venue that was once used by ancient Romans for festivals and sporting events. Today Piazza Navona is a pedestrian’s paradise where restaurants line the perimeter and the magnificent Fountain of the Four Rivers structure grace this elongated oval. One cannot miss the church of Sant’Agnese in Agone, a 17th century baroque church that commands such fine craftsmanship, such splendour and such dedication to faith that is almost impossible to find in today’s modern world. For those who would like to bring home paintings as souvenirs, there are plenty of artists’ works on sale here.

04 The Monumento Nazionale a Vittorio Emanuele II

The Monumento Nazionale a Vittorio Emanuele IIis located just within walking distance from the Colosseum. This magnificent yet controversial white marble monument that dominates Piazza Venezia was built to pay tribute to Victor Emmanuel II, the first king of a united Italy. Within the monument, the Museo Centrale del Risorgimento is housed. This is a museum dedicated to the history of how Italy was unified. The top of the monument provides a fantastic 360º panoramic view of Rome.

05 Trevi Fountain

If you like to meet The God of the Sea and do not mind squeezing with other admirers, then the Trevi Fountain would be the place to be. As tradition has it, you will supposedly return to Rome if you throw a coin over your opposite shoulder with your back facing the fountain. While this makes for a fun little activity, there is an annoying side to it – there are just too many people snapping, videoing and repeating the same ritual of tossing over and over again! However, the atmosphere of the jostling crowd and the magnificent presentation of the majestic Neptune riding a shell-shaped chariot with two seahorses are simply breath-taking. If things get a little overwhelming, an Italian Gelato might just do the trick.

Stay tune for the next issue of EZ to find out more exciting things to do in Rome.

The Art of Human Psyche

One artist’s quest for artistic exploration and freedom

The human mind is an interesting subject, and it has captured the attention of Malaysian artist, Phillip Wong, who since 2009 has delved deep into the human psyche to explore its effect on the human condition. In his quest to find the answer to a question he likes – ‘why humans always got problem?’ – Wong has created a series of incredible artwork that capture his exploration of the human brain, emotions and the subconscience aptly titled The Human Mind.

One of Wong’s signature artistic styles is transparent glass painting – a style he developed using Perspex, glass, wood, canvas and transparent glass paint. ‘Transparent glass painting is see-through, and it allows you to see through the surface and look at what the work means,’ said Wong. He had started working on transparent glass paintings beginning with his Daun series 1993 which culminated in his first solo presentation in 2006. Now, with The Human Mind series, Wong has once again channelled his artistic impressions through transparent glass paint, this time on canvas.

Wong, born and raised in the idyllic town of Seremban, is among the most prolific contemporary artists in the country. A graduate of Malaysia Institute of Art (MIA), art has always been a big part of his life, a passion of his since he was a boy. ‘I dreamed of becoming an artist when I was just 6 years old and it was a dream born out of passion for art,’ said Wong in an interview with EZ. In the 15 years since graduating from MIA, Wong charged into the local art world with full-force before establishing ArtSeni Gallery in 2005.

For Wong, being an artist does not end with just creating art but he sees it as his mission to create awareness on art. This for him takes various forms, including building and gathering support for himself as well as his artists, exploring new avenues for exhibiting art works, and to promote Malaysian art internationally. In his efforts to serve the larger artistic community of Malaysia, he sat on the Board of Trustees for the National Visual Art Gallery of Malaysia for four years. Another notch in his artistic journey was nailed when Wong was awarded the much coveted Grand Prize at the 2007 Asia Art Award in Seoul, Korea. The following saw Wong being appointed as a committee member of the Asia Invitation Art Exhibition in Seoul, a position he has continued to hold.

Not just confined to fine art, Wong is also a dedicated and passionate practitioner of performing arts. He was bitten by the acting bug in 1996 when he made his stage debut in the drama About Them. From acting, Wong has gone on to produce his own shows. One of them which he is especially proud of is Twelve plus One.  The show combined his two passions – fine arts and performing arts – to create a spectacular experience for the viewers with its unique concept. In 2012, Wong starred in Passion & Drama, which he said would be his last appearance on stage for the time being. However, his support for the local performing arts scene would never wane. ‘I am now more focused on supporting them behind the scenes and supporting them unconditionally,’ said Wong.

2012 also saw Wong pulling the plug on ArtSeni Gallery, which at that time was located in Lot 10, Bukit Bintang. The decision to move away from managing a physical gallery came from his desire to focus on his paintings and to promote the local artists. This move also gave him the freedom to curate exhibitions outside of Kuala Lumpur with TIGA: The Intellectual in Generation of Aesthetics and The Journey Continues. Both the exhibitions were held in Penang in the second half of 2013. Wong was successful in introducing Kuala Lumpur-based artists to the public in Penang. With The Human Mind continuing Wong’s trajectory of artistic freedom and expression, 2014 looks like it is going to be yet another good year for this artist.

 A Flair for flavour

In a land where spicy street food and Hokkien cuisine rule supreme, there is one heavyweight champion that is slowly turning the tide by introducing impeccable Cantonese Szechuan cuisine in a classy setting that is fit for a king. Set in Maple Gold Club, a grand heritage mansion tucked in the millionaire’s row of Penang’s swanky Northam Road (or Jalan Sultan Ahmad Shah), is Maple Palace Restaurant. The restaurant has made a name for being one of the top places frequented by the well-heeled millionaires and socialites of Malaysia’s high society.

The proprietor and head-chef of Maple Palace, Tan Loy Sin, or Loy as he goes by, recently hosted celebrated food critic and writer, C.K. Lam, and EZ to sample the restaurant’s new menu. Lam, who runs one of the most visited food websites in Malaysia is widely regarded as an authority on the Penang food scene and has written for numerous publications in Malaysia and beyond.

Tan Loy Sin and CK Lam
Tan Loy Sin and CK Lam

Joined by Loy and his partner Vivien Teoh, we were treated to a sumptuous spread that included Double Boiled Watercress Soup with Pork Ribs, Braised Abalone with Sea Cucumber & Black Mushroom, Fresh Water Prawn Curry with Mantou, Steamed Marble Goby with Superior Soya Sauce, Steamed Chicken, and finished with a sweet note with the Sweetened Ginger Tea with Glutinous Rice Ball.

As the tantalising aroma of the food wafted, the conversation around the table naturally turned around to food. Lam, who originally hails from Kuala Lumpur, was soon sharing her insights on the restaurant industry with Loy. ‘Most important is the food, and so is the word of mouth,’ she said, explaining that when customers like the food and service in a particular restaurant, they spread the word to their friends and family, which everyone at the table agreed that it works even better than any advertisement.

Echoing Lam’s sentiments, Loy in turn shared with the table his attitude on running a successful restaurant. He said that customers’ feedback was very important to him as he strives to maintain the type of service and quality that has come to be accepted of Maple Palace. ‘We need to be in tune with our customers’ preferences, and so, much thought is put into deciding what goes in our menu,’ said Loy, who personally creates the course set menu.

Lam chimed in, saying ‘There is much competition these days and Maple Gold is one of the Chinese restaurants that is on top of the game. Loy works closely with his kitchen staff in maintaining the standard for the food and keeping the menu fresh and exciting. Dishes are prepared with bold and exciting flavours using quality and fresh ingredients.’

‘Many know the restaurant for its comfort fish steamboat. Among the large selection of delectable dishes, the fish steamboat is one dish that I will order time and again. The aromatic soup boiled for hours has lots of flavour and depth,’ she said, ‘Maple Palace is also a must go destination for waxed meat claypot rice (Lap Mei Fun). This fragrant dish which is available during the festive Chinese New Year period is prepared with preserved Chinese sausage, waxed duck thigh, goose liver sausage and Chinese wine.’

On what was being served that afternoon, Lam said, ‘The curry udang galah (fresh water prawn), which is part of the new exciting menu, is a huge winner. The fresh prawns stand up beautifully to the divine combination of Indian spices and the ladies’ fingers made a perfect accompaniment to this spicy dish. You can have it with deep-fried mantou or white rice.’

The other dish that stood out for her was the beautifully steamed marble goby dish. ‘The steamed fish in soy sauce is a simple dish and it is put together with a dazzling sauce – the chef uses the high quality Kikkoman soy sauce.’  As for the dessert, the self-professed sweet tooth had this to say about the desserts at Maple Palace; ‘A must-try dessert is the black sesame glutinous rice balls done two ways – served in warm ginger tea or rolled in grinded peanuts. I particularly like the ones in ginger tea.’ As each one of us polished off the hot aromatic bowl of Sweetened Ginger Tea with Black Sesame Glutinous Rice Ball, we had to agree with Lam.

For more information or to make reservations, please call +604 227 9690 / +604 227 4542 or visit http://www.maplepalace.com.

Breaking Limits

Infiniti Red Bull just warmed up their engines

Two days before April breezed in, there was a tempest of roaring engines and adrenaline brewing at the Malaysian Grand Prix. But the thunder of engines and clouds of exhaust at the Sepang circuit couldn’t catch up with the lightning speed of the racecars. EZ leaps into the fray for a taste of the action-packed pit lane with Infiniti Red Bull.

Infiniti goes beyond its recognition as crafter of innovative luxury cars, carrying its legacy of cutting-edge engineering into the fray at Formula One. The luxury carmaker joins forces with Red Bull Racing, the winning team of the 2013 World Constructors’ Championship, to form Team Infiniti Red Bull. Together, they battle against other motorsport giants Ferrari and Mercedes in a fight for the podium.

New rules beckoned the new season with a storm, sending all teams plunging into the unknown with a fresh challenge: reduce fuel consumption by almost 40 percent without concessions on speed and power. What sounded like an impossible feat was made reality, and Infiniti Red Bull Racing can lay claim to that with the latest Red Bull RB10. Born of form and function, the trusty steed brought Sebastian Vettel to the podium at Sepang with a third-place win. The man behind the steering wheel has nothing but accolades for the lean mean machine.

‘It’s good to see that the car is quick,’ Sebastian acknowledged, ‘The guys are pushing back in the factory – it’s been a massive job from them.’ And no wonder, for every inch of Infiniti Red Bull’s RB10 is a technological breakthrough in itself. Like a heart is to the human body, at its core is the engine which treads a delicate balance between being lightweight, compact yet viciously strong. Infiniti sponsors the vital organ that mobilizes the mean machine: the new electrified V6 turbo that takes the cake for being the most stressed component of the car. Comprising of up to six separate elements, it is so complex in itself that engineers of Infiniti Red Bull don’t call it an engine but a power unit instead.

The sleek combustion engine of the V6 is paired with Energy Recovery Systems (ERS) that bump up the mileage. The ERS absorb energy lost through heat and braking, and translate that energy into driving the turbo even after braking. This is a crucial necessity that drastically downsizes fuel  consumption to comply with race regulations. Yet, in no way does this feature detract from the power and speed of Infiniti Red Bull’s RB10. The power unit is more than capable of pumping out 750 hp per litre of fuel, which could rip the skin off your face if you are flying at full speed without a visor! With that much horsepower, the V6 is righteously as loud as a stampede of galloping horses as it tears up the track with a mighty roar.

However, Infiniti Red Bull cannot afford to rest on their laurels after a podium win because it’s always a game of playing catch-up with the Goliaths. ‘We knew that we had some ground to catch up to the Mercedes, so to finish as close as Sebastian did today was a really positive performance and, while we know we’ve got a lot of work to do, we can begin to realize the scale of our challenge,’ said Christian Horner, Team Principal of Infiniti Red Bull Racing. Vettel, too, shared similar sentiments with him, saying, ‘We still have a lot of work to do with the car, but it was encouraging to see that our pace was better than expected.’ Nevertheless, Horner and the Infiniti Red Bull Racing Team agree that the RB10’s win at the Malaysian Grand Prix was ‘an incredible performance.’

A Belle and Her Dreams

It is a story right out of a fairy tale; a girl dreams of making it big, chases her dreams and builds a fantasyland that makes other girls’ dreams come true! In a journey of self-realisation and exploration, one Penang-lass makes it to the big league with her large dreams and bold ideas. For this issue of EZ, we talked to Anne Lee, the bridal industry maverick and fairy godmother to a host of brides and brides-to-be.

When Malaysian king of badminton and world champion Datuk Lee Chong Wei decided to tie the knot with his sweetheart, former Malaysian badminton singles player, Datin Wong Mew Choo, only the best would do for the special occasion. He and his now-wife turned to Anovia Bridal, more specifically Anne to capture and immortalise the couple’s love.

To Anne, this celebrity wedding was the most outstanding one that she has been involved in and goes down as one of her most memorable projects. ‘There are a lot of celebrity weddings, but there’s only one Datuk Lee Chong Wei, and I’m proud to have had the opportunity and ability to handle his wedding,’ said Anne when met at her latest bridal boutique, Obsidian in Penang.

‘He is one of the world’s top badminton players and he makes Malaysia proud. He even asked to visit Anovia and have a look at the chapel. That made me feel very proud because before that, he already had his wedding photos taken at Sepang. He was training there, and therefore he couldn’t come to my place in Penang. But at the very last minute, Datuk Lee suddenly said that he wanted to come to Penang. ‘I want to go to Penang to take photos, your shop is very nice,’ he said.’

‘There are a lot of celebrity weddings, but there’s only one Datuk Lee Chong Wei, and I’m proud to have the opportunity and ability to handle his wedding.’

– Anne Lee, Managing Director of Anovia Bridal and Obsidian Production Studio

Long before Anne’s Anovia Bridal captured the attention of Malaysia’s golden boy, the bridal house was already generating positive buzz not only within Malaysia, but also overseas. Housed in a sprawling heritage mansion with an immaculate garden adorned with angelic sculptures, Anovia Bridal has a celestial wedding chapel built on its grounds where love-struck couples can pledge their love and seal their marriage.

The idea for Anovia Bridal came at a time when Anne had decided to take a break from the bridal industry, which she was involved in for almost two decades as a wedding gown designer, a sales person, a bridal house supervisor and then as a bridal house manager. Knowing the ins-and-outs of the industry and having worked with top bridal houses in Singapore, Kuala Lumpur and Penang had prepared her to build and run her own business in the bridal industry.

Invited by her friend to view a property, which used to house the famous Penang establishment, Bagan Bar, Anne was reluctant at first. This would however change the moment she entered the mansion. ‘When I reached Bagan, I don’t know why but I immediately felt a connection to the place. I could visualize so many changes to the place; this is where I could have my reception, and there would be the gown department, and I kept talking and talking about my ideas,’ recalled Anne, saying that it was almost akin to a ‘love at first sight’ with the mansion.

That deliberate maneuver by her friend was successful in reigniting within Anne the passion for the bridal industry. ‘From then on, my dream started once more. I wanted this, I wanted that, I wanted a chapel; I didn’t want this tree… I talked a lot with the designers to create and realize my own dream bridal house. When I first entered this area, the premises were derelict and unkempt. It was like a jungle, with trees here and there. But it had such a big compound that I could make a dream wedding house of my own,’ she said.

Any visitors to Anovia would feel like they are entering a surreal world, one that is magical and serene. The concept of this bridal house is very clear and tactical, and it is all credited to Anne’s vision. ‘Last time, my dreams and ideas were restricted by my superiors. But now that I had a place of my own, I could let my creativity run loose. I could have what I wanted at Anovia, like the statue, decorations, everything which was from my heart. I created a feeling that was welcoming, and with every step you take in Anovia, a story unfolds in your mind. We can feel it inside, in ourselves. That’s what I visualized, that every step is a moment of its own with a different scenery and perspective playing out in the mind of every visitor,’ explained Anne on her concept.

Having established Anovia Bridal in 2011 and receiving rave reviews and accolades for her celestial bridal concept, Anne has unveiled another exciting concept this year. Obsidian, which is right next door to Anovia Bridal, is like the hip, younger sister complete with its exposed brick walls, obsidian black ceilings and glam wedding gowns.

‘Obsidian’s concept is completely different from Anovia’s. It is urban, contemporary and bold – a different way to present a wedding. It appeals more to the young generation. Another thing is I think that in the whole of Malaysia, you’ve never seen a bridal house with a black or grey ceiling. It’s a very strong colour, and it’s such a bold concept that I had to spend a few months mulling it over,’ said Anne.

Introducing such a novel concept to an already saturated industry could be daunting, something that was certainly not lost on Anne. She had to ensure that the concept was not just a superficial one that was contemporary in its aesthetics but one that was daring to create new trends within the bridal industry. ‘One of the main products we offer here in Obsidian is short film productions. Out of the whole of Malaysia, this is the only bridal house with its own screening theatre. We create short bridal videos, and hold previews as well as screenings for the customers to present the finished product to their family and friends,’ said Anne.

‘In my opinion, photos capture memories without sound and movement. Many years after the photos are taken, they still evoke nostalgia but we can only make simple statements while looking at them. However, videos and short films are different. We create short bridal films because a marriage doesn’t concern just two people; it involves the joining of two families and their worlds. Only a short film can capture the worlds of the bride and the groom. So, one day, when the customer watches the short film of their wedding, he or she can listen to the voices of loved ones and relive the moment.’

Another key aspect of Obsidian’s short film concept is its technical and creative crew, which Anne assures are all professionals – both from the bridal industry and international film industry. ‘When a customer signs up for the short film package with us, we create a story for them. We prepare a script, a director, art director, producer … basically everything for the customer. Obsidian has invested in an overseas movie crew, and so we have a team of specialists whose expertise lies in making short-film movies,’ she said, ‘You can make a short film with your girlfriend, or a short movie with your friends. That means this service is not restricted to just newlyweds or engaged couples. This is Obsidian’s new challenge for the market. This is our new plan for the millennium.’

With Anne realizing her own dreams and ideas, what she has done is give this generation a channel to make their own dreams come true and to capture it for all eternity.

Rooted in Innovation

Fujifilm is an institution as much as it is a brand that has made a connection with countless people all over the world. Its constant innovation and high quality products that cross multiple fields are highly regarded in the business world; and so is the prominence of Fujifilm as a brand that is reliant. EZ talks to Paul Ho, the Senior Executive Director of Fujifilm Malaysia to find how Fujifilm has managed to diversify its products through the digitalization era and how the company has managed to conquer the global market

Photography, over the past century, has experienced quite a change. Combining principles of science with the aesthetics of art, photography has progressed from the days of creating images chemically through light-sensitive material such as photographic film to digitally capturing images electronically. Along the way, elements of photography have been used in diverse fields like medicine, sciences, art and so on. In its revolutionisation, the field of photography has seen many developers and brands rise to great heights and it has also seen the demise of many such great names. Among those who have not only survived the dawn of the digital era in photography but also to go on to become one of the biggest names in the industry is none other than Fujifilm.

Fujifilm, which started as Fuji Photo Film Co, Ltd, was established in 1934 in Japan. It was the first Japanese producer of photographic films. The first decade of the company saw the production of produced photographic films, motion-picture films and X-ray films, after which it expanded to produce optical glasses, lenses and equipment.  The decades that followed saw Fujifilm diversify into medical (X-ray diagnosis), printing, electronic imaging and magnetic materials fields. Driven by original research and development, the Fujifilm name boldly entered and conquered the digital revolution with its continuous innovation and leading-edge products. Today, Fujifilm is a world leader in the fields of electronic imaging, photofinishing equipment, medical systems, life sciences, flat panel display materials, and office products, based on a vast portfolio of digital, optical, fine chemical and thin film coating technologies.

Just as it is a prominent brand internationally, Fujifilm has been the leading name in Malaysia for a wide range of products such as photo and electronic imaging, data storage media, graphic arts, medical, information systems and life science products for over 20 years. Its marketing and sales operations include a service centre, warehousing, and technical back-up services with branches in key markets across Malaysia. For the company to have grown in Malaysia in the way it has, as much credit goes to the steering of the growth as it is with the quality and likeability of the products. Competent leaders would be able to recognise the tide of change and to lead the company along with the waves, not against them, which is clearly how Fujifilm – be it worldwide or here in Malaysia – has been managed.

Fujifilm Malaysia’s Senior Executive Director, Paul Ho, has been with the company for over 2 decades. He has seen the company grow exponentially in the heyday of film and is now steadily steering the Malaysian branch of this global powerhouse towards a digital future that looks only looks bright for Fujifilm. The key to excelling in the digital world is to be innovative, which Ho says is the fundamental principle behind Fujifilm’s success.

‘I think the whole principle is that you must continue to be very innovative. For Fujifilm, our R&D programme is consistently coming up with new products, no matter in which business domain. This keeps the company going; you cannot stay at one product. Every product that Fujifilm looks into, we invest in its R&D.  That is how we move along,’ said Ho before adding, ‘You cannot be satisfied at one product and say ‘oh, this is the one that will give us our next hundred years.’ You can always predict what the changes will be in three to five years, and you keep innovating.’

To be innovative and to come up with good products that will sell well, it is important to invest in research and development. More than just a buzz word, R&D, as it is more popularly known, is the hallmark of every successful company. ‘That’s why Fujifilm is very successful in entering the digitalization era; we’re continuing to move out across the region because of R&D,’ he explained. Recognising the need for a strong R&D department, Fujifilm reportedly spends over a billion dollars a year on R&D for the various fields it is involved in.

For instance, from its medical branch, the brand will soon see its new pharmaceutical product – the endoscopy – launched, and in the printing side, not only is Fujifilm content with providing digital printing services, it also produces digital printers, printer plates and even the ink used for printing. The direction to progress in this path comes from the top, in Fujifilm Tokyo, said Ho. ‘This is how they think – if  you just stick to one good product, say film paper and you do not progress, you just stick to it for the next hundred years, today you would surely be gone.’

This change was most prevalent in the area of printing, which was a ‘cash cow’ for Fujifilm during the days of analogue photography and film printing.  According to Ho, the future of printing is moving in two directions – a personalized form for consumers and the wide-format for businesses. Consumer printing has become much personalised. ‘People now have the option to either go to our shops to print their photos or buy their own equipment for printing,’ said Ho. It has become people-centric with a demand for variety in printing, such as calendars, event posters, photo cards and so on. This, in return, has led to the demand for big prints, which Fujifilm is able to meet. As for the business category of printing, Ho explained, ‘Outdoor advertising and images, this is where the future of printing is heading … into wide format. It has become very prominent. Fujifilm has developed equipment that can print very big, outdoor images that can get to 60-feet by 100-feet in high-resolution.’

It is important, said Ho, for the sales and marketing leg to follow in line with the direction of the company. Regardless how the advancements in product development, if the products are not marketed and sold well, any company would flounder. So when Fujifilm started moving away from film photography and more towards its wide range of products in the consumer and business segments such as digital photography, printing and medical imaging (Computed and Digital Radiography, Endoscopy, etc.), it was of utmost importance that the sales and marketing leg widen its focus and to recognize the areas of target or market.

The concept of diversification that Ho said needed to be understood from the ground up. ‘If we don’t accept the change in concept, we would have problems because this concept is very important for the company. As the leader there, if you see any changes happening, you have to really change, not just in terms of sales, but also in the timing. Let’s say after you have had good years with the sales of film, you wait until the very last year when you see the downturn which is not good – only then you start doing the changing, it is too late,’ explained Ho. ‘It took me three to four years to change the mind-set of our people.’

Human resources, Ho said is another key aspect of ensuring the growth of a company. In his professional life, he has only worked with 2 companies, one of course being Fujifilm, so to him loyalty is not only a principle he holds on to, but also how he leads his life. However, with the younger and newer crop of employees entering the workforce, Ho said that he has noticed a shift in attitude. Ho, who joined Fujifilm as a salesperson has worked his way up the management ladder and today handles the running of the company in Malaysia.

‘I started at the company as a salesman. I’ve gone through all the low and troubling times, but because of my attitude I continued to stay at one company,’ he said, adding that the current generation of employees ‘don’t believe in staying in one company. Like a tree, you grow roots and you become stronger. The young ones, they come in and then they go. That’s because they want to see a quick improvement in their career within a short period of time. If they don’t see it, then they leave it to look for another green pasture to progress. However, they will finally find that all the grass in the world is the same colour.’

The difference, Ho said, lies within them. ‘The only thing is their attitude – the attitude of working. Everything boils down to the attitude – how a person works. If someone is not a team player and they want to have a fast progress without putting in the hard work, then it won’t work anywhere,’ Ho elaborated further.

To tackle this human resources problem, Ho said the key was to recognize those who show the potential and those who were loyal. ‘For every ten workers, you can find three good ones – the three good ones will prosper faster than the rest. You continue to train up the new people, because they’ll still be good out of the group there. The majority of them won’t receive the training well, but there will be some good ones that we can groom,’ Ho revealed.

From the manner in which he conducts his life and the way he leads, it is clear that Ho is a person who is rooted in loyalty with clear ambition for the innovative aspects of business. It is through loyalty, diversification, innovation and pure calculated progression that both Ho and Fujifilm have sailed into the era of digitalization successfully.