Swimming Upstream with Jonathan Yun // A fashion show cum afternoon tea session
18 June 2020 // Palm Court, E&O Hotel, Penang, Malaysia
"What are you wearing??! I'm wearing the animal print skirt!!!"
(I have the exact same skirt).
"Um... I'm wearing a slip dress..."
"Ok. Just letting you know."
That was my mum. Ten minutes before we left the house.
Obviously, we were a tad too excited.
Needless to say, the Malaysian lockdown / MCO has greatly affected many local businesses as well as the hospitality industry. Local jeweller Jonathan Yun - who creates sculptural jewellery inspired by his diving trips, took to Facebook to express his thoughts on his fight to keep his business afloat. Michelle Grimsley - organiser of the "Super Stylish Shopping" fairs - a market where many artists and artisans sell their craft. And I highly recommend you check it out if you love artsy stuff - organised this afternoon tea cum jewellery showcase/fashion show session for Jonathan Yun to share his latest work.
One dull afternoon at home, around 4 weeks ago, my mum saw this event on Facebook and immediately registered for it. More like, immediately pounced on it and went :
"Hey, do you want to go for high tea after the MCO?!"
"WHHHATTTT???!!! Yes please!!!!"
Other than the excitement of having an occasion to dress up to after this lockdown, I'd never attended such an event before! I was ecstatic.
- E&O Hotel Lobby -
When British colonial architecture meets great grandma's house in
an eclectic but classy melange.
E&O Hotel - one of Penang's poshest and oldest hotels. This is their newly-renovated wing, which just opened last December and was supposed to be full, until the pandemic hit.
Other than the oddity of having to take our temperature and record our names and contact details, life felt almost normal again - you know, casually admiring beautiful hotel interiors (while trying to act somewhat mature) then going : "OMG! That sofa set- didn't lao ma (great grandma) have this but um... shabbier???" "Oh look- an antique iron! My grandma used to use it!"
It was great- being a tourist in my own country.
- Palm Court, E&O Hotel -
I know, I'm a terrible person. As everyone flocked towards the display table showcasing Jonathan Yun's jewellery, I got VERY distracted with the interiors. And proceeded exploring very corner of it before all the guests took their seats.
It was incredibly comfortable with armchairs and sofas everywhere - sprawled across a large space to meet the social distancing regulations. This was done so well that it felt like we were attending a "normal" social event (that did not feel like a masquerade), and yet still private enough for our little party to talk.
- Jonathan Yun's Sculptural Jewellery -
That's the man himself!
I was blown away by the intricacy of his pieces. Every piece of jewellery is a bespoke piece that he sculpted himself. Yes, I'm talking about all the coral-inspired creations, all those perforations. This reminded me of my days in architecture school when I could barely carve into foam! And these were carved out of sterling silver! Wow. Just wow. The man is talented.
He explained that his creations during the MCO were inspired by his diving adventures, as well as the butterfly emerging from the cocoon : a metaphor for the re-emergence of trade after the pandemic.
A side note: the poems below are my own. They are how I personally interpreted his explanations behind his creations. But he writes a lot about his thought process, so to read the ACTUAL explanation, his page is here. And this is his website. Plus, he has a shop at Armenian Street- the heart of heritage Georgetown.
I must be the worst Penang-ite ever - I frequent the heritage area yet I have never noticed it before...
Trapped in its cocoon,
It waits. Patiently.
For change takes time,
And it is ambitious- it intends to stun
To shun all those who have doubted before
And when the time comes, its chrysalis gives way
To a beautiful creature
Glorious, confident, radiant,
Ready for the sun. Ready to soar to its dreams.
For to swim against the current-
it was simply not done.
But he had to, to survive.
It was easy, to let the current take over
To sweep him back down
To wash away all that pain, that suffering
But too far he had come
And before he let go, he needed to know -
If I just swim upstream a little longer,
Would I drown or would I meet the wide sea beyond?
- The Fashion Show! -
Masked models to meet the SOP (standard operating procedure).
This was definitely one memorable fashion show.
It happened in three segments across the afternoon tea session. Seven models strut around the room in 2 groups, alternating between our room and the other room.
The models approached our table individually too. I felt a bit awkward when she stopped in front of me. So I said hi. :D
- Food & Coffee -
Of course my camera got to eat as well.
High tea - what an indulgence worth skipping my lunch for. I mean- it is essentially 2 meals, no? And the latte was really good ( Yes, I asked to change my tea to coffee. How uncultured, I know ).
- Some thoughts -
I had a fantastic time.
I really hope that this event helped his business. I can't even start to imagine the number of businesses struggling in this unprecedented pandemic. This jeweller is incredibly talented and hopefully this would have gained him enough publicity and traction to push him on.
It felt amazing - to see everyone dressed up, socialising. Actually having a nice chat over coffee and dessert without masks, or being in a hurry to gulp a meal down and leave. I went with my mum, my grandma, and another close family friend whom I hadn't seen in months, and it felt so nice to see everyone spruced up. To see my grandma back to her chic self, my mum putting on makeup and fighting over outfits with me (honestly, it is uncanny how we always seem to wear the same clothes), and catching up with our tea buddy again! It feels so normal? After getting used to life eating home, saving up, freezing food.
High tea has always been a rare indulgence- something I get incredibly excited for. But I've never been quite this excited, or grateful for this experience. From the ambience, to the plating, to dressing up, to actually being able to sip my coffee over 2 hours instead of downing it mindlessly and hustling on. It's really a slap in the face for me : stop blinding yourself and focusing only on always wanting to work for more. Sometimes, just shut that computer and cherish everything you have. Because some people may not even have had the chance to experience high tea before.
Hey future me! Read this sometimes and remember this feeling ok?
- My outfit // I was feeling rebellious -
I had 4 weeks to deliberate.
Let's go for the black ruffle dress. Wait no, shall I just wear a long dress?
On the day itself, I just wanted to wear something extremely... comfortable. The slip dress it is - the one I got off the 'loungewear section'.
Well, I did write about how to wear your PJs out, but this was actually my first time testing the theory. I'd say the theory stands!
Grandma: "Wow, you're so dressed up! I'm only in my (elegant) pants!"
It was oddly satisfying to say : "Um grandma, I'm in my loungewear. No, literally."
I'm such a weirdo.
I was quite emotional last week. So it was a personal act of rebellion to dress up the simplest dress in my wardrobe for a social event. To prove to myself that clothes all boil down to fabrics, different cutting, colours, and patterns. A dress can go from a very basic piece to an elaborate one when dressed up. It doesn't necessarily have to be the most expensive or extra piece just to look 'dressed up'. It is about layering.
At the end of the day, it should be about feeling confident in what you choose to wear, how you want to express yourself, that dictates your wardrobe choice. And NOT, how I think I should look ( Well, there are some exceptions. But you know, generally). I'm talking in quotes because that was a big portion of my reading material last week :
Live life to express, not impress.
Dress up for yourself, girl.
Thank you for reading!