Anyone who came of age before the Internet can tell you how much faster the world has become. News, trends and innovations have always come and gone, but today they’re chewed up and spat out faster than you can ask: ”What’s new?” Social media makes potentially hot trends go viral almost instantly. But soon after it flares up, it’s swept aside to make way for the next new thing.
In such a rapidly changing environment, leading creatives have learned to stay in the game by staying ahead of it. They improvise and experiment, savvily adapt to current tastes, and seek inspiration from the avant garde. They put a fresh spin on their aesthetics while staying relevant and true to their own personal callings. And in the course of that, they get our vote for being ahead of the pack.
Here’s our pick of some of the fast risers, trailblazers and steady hitters of the different industries.
John Lim, founder of Humid House
Talking to John Lim, the founder of Humid House, is like taking a class on modern art.
The botanical design studio creates floral arrangements that reference ”impressionist paintings”, the ”sculptures of Tara Donovan and John Chamberlain”, and the ”choreography of William Forsythe”. For good measure, he also turns to cinema ”to give us the vocabulary to describe narrative and mood”.
Small wonder then that almost everything Humid House creates looks like no flower arrangement you’ve ever encountered. The compositions are askew. The colour combinations are by turns complementary and clashing. The flowers look like alien life forms.
But their uniqueness is precisely why Humid House has become the go-to florist for the elite. Though incorporated only last year, the studio has amassed an enviable client list that includes Gucci, Cartier and Kenzo – as well as many socialites and celebrities. Lucy Liu’s recent gala dinner to mark her debut art exhibition in Singapore featured Humid House creations on every table.
Mr Lim studied architecture at The Copper Union in New York, where he met Wee Teng Wen, the co-founder of The Lo & Behold Group. The group owns private members club Straits Clan where Humid House runs a floral concierge.
Having worked for starchitects Steven Holl in New York and Ole Scheeren in Beijing, Mr Lim says his architectural training teaches him to read a space astutely: ”For example, the proportions of a room may call for an arrangement or installation that’s large, imposing and tower-like, or, conversely, modest, lateral and sprawling.
”Our design for a wedding at Fullerton Bay Hotel had hanging garlands the shape of the inverse of the roof trusses, which celebrated the architecture and expansiveness of the space, while the overhanging effect of the garlands brought a layer of intimacy to the festivities.”
Mr Lim explains: ”Our seven-member core team is very focused on form and shape. We judge many of our arrangements formally, as we would, sculpture.”
The 34-year-old says he has never taken a course in floral arrangement – unless you count the YouTube videos he turns to, to pick up practical tips. But he did grow up surrounded by verdant flora: ”My paternal grandfather was an avid gardener. We had the best fruiting trees – mangoes, rambutans, chikus and papayas. So I’ve been interested in plants and flowers since I was a child.”
That interest has certainly evolved into the eclectic and esoteric: ”I have a weakness for the oddballs: Alliums that curl themselves into knots; flowers that resemble genitalia or don’t resemble flowers at all, ingredients that are prickly, aggressive and unlovable to most… Right now, I’m excited for the spring arrival of the fritillaria, an exquisite-looking plant.”
Google ”fritillaria” and you’ll find large, droopy, bellshaped flowers that look dead even when they’re alive. But that morphological kink is precisely why Mr Lim thinks they’re fascinating. And chances are, he’ll make you think so too.
Humid House’s reputation has extended beyond these shores, with enquiries increasingly coming in from global clients. Yet when asked what his dream assignment might look like, the cosmopolitan Lim offers a reply that suggests he’ll always be a Singaporean at heart: ”We’d love to have a platform to develop a national conversation around regional flora. We’d love a residency at the Botanic Gardens where we’d have the freedom to use ingredients foraged from the ground.”
Website: humidhouse.com. Instagram @thishumidhouse.
A version of this article was originally published in The Business Times.
Photos: Humid House, Wynk Collaborative, Asolidplan, Ong Shunmugam, The Missing Piece & Stolen