Cream of the Crop

04 december 2013 / design / words alice davis

01-04 Various projects by Pann Lim; 05 Pann Lim; 06-09 Harijanto Setiawan’s works; 10 Harijanto Setiawan; 11-14 Alfie Leong’s collection; 15 Alfie Leong.


It’s that time of year again – the highlight of Singapore’s design calendar, when President Tony Tan Keng Yam announces the industry’s big winners.

Last night at the Istana, Singapore’s president awarded the nation’s most prestigious design trophies. Six designers were heralded Designer of the Year, and a further nine walked away with the Design of the Year award. Among those, Parkroyal on Pickering, Gardens by the Bay South Garden and Dell’s All-In-One PC (for the second year running) weren’t hard to predict. Further Design of the Year awards went to World Kitchen’s Eco-Flip drinking bottle and Linghao Architect’s Satay by the Bay.

The six designers of 2014 were named Patrick Chia of the Design Incubation Center, architect Richard Ho, AWOL fashion designer Alfie Leong, floral artist Harijanto Setiawan, advertising creative Pann Lim of Kinetic Design and ip:li Architects’ Yip Yuen Hong. We caught up with three of the winners.


Surface Asia: Can you summarize your mission and your aesthetic as a designer?

Pann Lim: The mission is simple. The idea and insight must be strong and fresh and it must be beautiful. Lastly, it has to meet the client’s objectives in the brief.

Harijanto Setiawan: My mission is to develop public interest in floristry, and raise the standards of floristry. As designers, we should always be humble enough to inspire each other and to improve the standard of design appreciation.

Alfie Leong: Simply, it is my passion and the love for creating. I like to create unconventional designs technically and dress people to make them look good. Draping is one of my favorite methods and it allows me to create in a free style.


Surface Asia: Can you tell us about your most defining work/collection to date?

Pann Lim: Every project has its own unique brief and objectives, hence I can’t pinpoint exactly which project is defining. However, I love projects that are honest and heartfelt. Our Uu 3D custom figurines project is one such example. The project actually involved everyone in the office – even our cleaning auntie was not spared! The project encapsulates what Kinetic is all about. We were able to work on naming and branding Uu, and the work ranged from design, advertising and web to interactive booths, visual merchandising, social media, interior design and retail.

Harijanto Setiawan: I think it was my Floral Kaleidoscope, which was awarded the Best Show and Gold Award at the Singapore Garden Festival 2012. It combined many aspects of architecture, floristry, lighting and sound to produce a great impact.

Alfie Leong: I created winter collections out of gold sheep leather and fur, paired with silk fabrics for which we designed our own prints. I felt happy that I had the chance to be able to use such materials, and make them wearable. The latest S/S 2014 which I showed in Seoul was basically going back to my roots, and I draped the garments in a way that can no longer be found in this fast fashion market.


Surface Asia: What has been the high point of your career so far?

Pann Lim: In our industry, no one actually works alone, so my high point is also my team’s high point.
Kinetic wrote history when a local shop like ours won many of the top accolades at this year’s Singapore Creative Circle Awards (Gong Show 2013), which is usually dominated by big advertising agencies. We won the most awards that night with seven golds, 17 silvers and 12 bronzes. We also bagged the night’s top awards: Best of Show Solitaire Award, Independent Agency of the Year, Design Agency of the Year, Design of the Year, and two of our designers also won Young Designer of the Year. It was an unforgettable night and I am truly grateful to everyone that made it happen.

Harijanto Setiawan: It was the floral decorations I did in India for a wedding with more than 10,000 guests!

Alfie Leong: For me, there is no high point because as a creative person I must always feel that there is more to learn and more to achieve.


Surface Asia: What was the most difficult time in your career?

Pann Lim: Many people tell me it is most difficult to partner with someone who is on the business side when it comes to running a creative agency, because one is like oil and the other is water. But I am blessed to be able to look at it from a different perspective: oil and water actually complement each other, much like olive oil with balsamic vinegar! Thank you Carolyn Teo for this wonderful partnership!

Harijanto Setiawan: Well, one of the difficulties we face is that we have to deal with the reality that floral design is very subjective, and so getting the correct customers with the correct budgets is a challenge. Because flowers are perishable, we always have to work against the clock.

Alfie Leong: There are times when the economy is bad. It is a test for creative Singaporeans to maintain our businesses.


Surface Asia: How does it feel to be the president’s designer of the year?

Pann Lim: I am truly thankful for this award. It does make me feel that I have to work even harder so that I can do more for the industry. I have always loved teaching and I enjoy giving talks in schools. I am currently an adjunct lecturer at Temasek Polytechnic and a mentor at NAC Noise Apprenticeship Program for the past three years. This award encourages me to stick to my commitment to raise the bar for the industry, as well as for the students I teach.

Harijanto Setiawan: Since it’s the first time this President’s Design Award has been given to a floral designer, I treat this as a legal recognition. It’s my duty to share the knowledge that I have and to inspire my fellow floral designers to always be positive. And, it’s a great sign for Singapore floristry … even though it has only just begun.

Alfie Leong: I definitely feel honored and happy. Simultaneously, it feels heavy on my shoulders. I just hope to be able to make a difference to Singapore’s fashion industry and continue what I love to do as a career. It is an achievement and another recognition that I hope will only enhance – and not apply pressure! – to what I am doing.


Members of the public can learn more about all the winners and view their work at the President’s Design Award Exhibition, held at the National Design Centre, 111 Middle Road, Singapore, from 5 December 2013 to 22 January 2014, and from 3 March to 16 March 2014. Alternatively, catch the exhibition at the URA Centre, 45 Maxwell Road, Singapore, from 24 January to 27 February 2014. Admission at both venues is free.

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