Esquire (Singapore) - - Front Page -

Christ­mas dec­o­ra­tions go up so early in Sin­ga­pore. The bright lights and daz­zling shop dis­plays seem to in­sti­gate a fren­zied rush to end the year in as fes­tive a man­ner as pos­si­ble. In and around the malls, the year-end throngs of peo­ple mill thick and fast, and Christ­mas mu­sic blares on a never-end­ing loop, al­most like an an­nual au­di­tory drill. There is no respite for the eyes ei­ther, given that ev­ery­where you turn, Christ­mas mer­chan­dise in gar­ish dis­play shouts mer­ci­lessly for at­ten­tion. An ironic anx­i­ety seems to fill the air; an over­whelm­ing sense of be­ing com­pelled to cel­e­brate through gift-giv­ing and yet not re­ally know­ing what to buy, cou­pled with a tired­ness to think any­more on the sub­ject. In such mo­ments it is in­fin­itely eas­ier to switch off, give in and lapse into that mind­less com­mer­cial­ism of buy­ing just for the sake of it.

Yet there is some­thing in us that re­sists this trite char­ac­ter­i­sa­tion of our Christ­mas habit. There’s a deeper long­ing to find value in the things that we do at this time of year. In a pure sense, Christ­mas is an al­tru­is­tic wrap-up to the year, a time of tak­ing stock of all the good things re­ceived. Sit­u­ated at the thresh­old of a new year, Christ­mas al­lows us to bid good­bye to past re­grets and em­brace a for­ward-look­ing hope to­wards the fu­ture. Even the mes­sage of re­demp­tion in the tra­di­tional Christ­mas cus­tom up­holds bran­dish­ing a clean slate and car­ry­ing ex­pec­ta­tions of greater things to come. Amidst the hus­tle and bus­tle, how can we kin­dle a spirit of hope this De­cem­ber?

Re­cently, Esquire was in­vited to a pri­vate event held by Ae­sop. Ti­tled At­las of At­trac­tion, the event was held in an off-the­beaten-track lo­ca­tion in a beau­ti­ful black-and-white colo­nial­style house. On climb­ing a flight of stairs, we were greeted by an ethe­real win­dow in­stal­la­tion placed at the stair land­ing. Laser-cut curvi­lin­ear shapes in a metal­lic ma­te­rial hung from the ceil­ing and floated across the room, like imag­i­nary con­tour lines on a topo­graph­i­cal map. The cut-outs glim­mered with iri­des­cence, and the light­ness of the work lent a sense of a del­i­cate balance. Mov­ing into the other rooms of the event space, we saw Ae­sop prod­ucts in­ten­tion­ally placed like con­tem­po­rary art ex­hibits in a mu­seum. The en­tire event venue be­came a con­jured space of dreams, a place where one could look up, be en­thralled and in­spired, and pon­der al­ter­na­tives. Each ex­hibit seemed to en­cour­age cu­rios­ity and in­vite a sense of play­ful won­der and hope.

Ac­cord­ing to Mar­sha Mered­ith, creative di­rec­tor at Ae­sop, At­las of At­trac­tion “was about ex­press­ing the idea of sea­sonal jour­neys and con­nec­tions, [look­ing to] graph­ics and im­agery that evoked a sense of move­ment, dis­cov­ery and won­der”. The name of the event is also the theme of the brand’s gift kits for the season, with each kit rep­re­sent­ing “one of th­ese jour­neys: the re­turn to fa­mil­iar horizons, the dis­cov­ery of new land­scapes, the strength­en­ing of ties and the em­brac­ing of fresh ideas that re­plen­ish or in­spire”.

To be quite frank, it can be counter-in­tu­itive to as­so­ciate th­ese con­cepts with a mere skin­care prod­uct. It might fur­ther be stat­ing the ob­vi­ous to de­scribe the rules of en­gage­ment Ae­sop lays out for en­coun­ter­ing its prod­ucts as counter-cul­ture, par­tic­u­larly in the midst of the Christ­mas season. Com­pared to the usual pro­mo­tional noise es­poused by most com­mer­cial brands, Ae­sop’s pref­er­ence in re­main­ing calmly hid­den (in a wait­ing-to-be-dis­cov­ered fash­ion) is os­ten­si­bly atyp­i­cal. What could ac­count for such bold­ness in go­ing against the grain?

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