karin khoo says...
Monday, January 14, 2013
Since the birth of PinksuitcaseTrinkets in December 2011, Karin Khoo has been impressing fellow designers and avid fans alike with her creative flair and unique style. The 24-year-old founder puts her innovative skills to good use, churning out a vast array of finely crafted accessories. Her recent collections, ranging from necklaces to watches and pouches, are made from wood, surgical steel and acrylic materials that are deceptively simple, yet exquisitely simple – fit to complement any style. We check in with Karin as she walks us through her artistic journey thus far.
Audrey Lee: Care to give our readers a little more about your inaugural moments? What fuelled your decision to venture down the path of producing creative wares?
Karin Khoo: I’ve always loved the arts. Since secondary school I was in the art stream, took up design during my diploma days, got involved in designing mobile application on my first job and subsequently I free-lanced a lot of designing jobs throughout my full time job. It’s funny how I naturally stumble onto designing no matter what route I took. Well, I’m turning 24, had a bit of awakening and took this as a sign to get into doing something wholeheartedly that has been the biggest constant in my life.
Well, I’m a deviantart nethead! Before we even had Facebook or Friendster (during the IRC days) ß boy I’m old, there was deviantart. I always loved kawaii stuff but never really admitted it until I was probably 17? You see, during the whole secondary school debacle, we were hit with constant weird emotions, friends teasing, puberty… imagine a kawaii phase. So I suppose deviant kept me saint for that period of time. The amount of artists in there, it’s crazy! They have so much talent I just hope one day I’d be like them and finally (2011)… I took my first step!
AL: For the sake of our readers who are not currently aware of your designs, tell us a little bit about the birth and subsequent life of PSC Trinkets.
KK: PSC Trinkets is a line of original designs. They are all sketched and later computer illustrated. Funny how I started production in 2011 and aimed to launch my items by end of January 2012 but only got all up by early April 2012. I’m new to this and there were a couple of occasion where I’m at a point that I was all ready to launch PSC Trinkets, only to find that I’m missing something. It’s okay though, I am so glad that I went through this whole process and strangely I liked every bit of it. From waiting for my jewelry findings to coordinating with my cutter how big my pendants should be to making sure my printer got my packaging artwork right, it has been a heck of a journey.
Like every other fellow indie designer, I hand assemble my chains, my packaging and even self-shoot my photos. I first had the idea to cut my designs in surgical steel. The wood working section came in a little later but boy am I glad they’re in my collection. They are extremely light and match well with almost anything. I would without a doubt increase the variety of designs from time to time. I already had different request coming in even when it has only been published for 2 weeks. *YAY*
AL: Is there a common theme or focus in your designs and are they influenced by your personal style?
KK: They are certainly in some ways influenced by my personal style. I have a huge penchant for cute stuff but I didn’t want my designs to be 12 years old cute (not that I wouldn’t wear cute 12 year old jewelry =X). I wanted something cute but still wearable for casual wears. Then again that is how I’d like my daily casual jewerly to look like.
Theme probably not, more like a material I’d like to stick to for a while. It’s my first time working with wood and it’s great! I like how when they’re painted on, that they look absolutely stunning, the perfect blend.
AL: What sets your collection apart from the rest? What can your consumers expect from you?
KK: Of course hands down my designs (giggles). I’d say my materials used. It’s not easy to find indie designs with surgical steel materials. I guess most to most they’d be in stainless steel or silver.
I’m also pretty proud of my Mall Girls collection. They are all originally designed cut up wooden charms where I’d hand paint them, putting on different shades and styles. These were the last set of designs I came up with. I wanted to get more hands on with my stuff, wanted to make it more personal, giving a little friendly touch there.
I am hoping to level up on my designing skills and bringing in preferably different types of merchandize like hand sewn purse with customized fabric (maybe some Blubber fabric!). I can foresee a big range of stuff coming up but my ultimate goal would still be to remain as indie possible even if I’ll ever have the chance to go big.
AL: How about a little insight of your workspace and a day-to-day regime?
KK: Oh wow, my workspace is crazy. You see, I’m currently living in a rented apartment, space is very limited, and so I have a lot of cute boxes stacked up against each other on my working table. I have my painting supplies, my fabrics, my jewelery finders etc… all on the same table I use the computer and craft on. But it’s undeniably good enough! I manage to make it as comfortable possible and I’m loving it!
Day to day regime huh… Here’s the breakdown. I’ll get up by 8am, prepare for work, try to get back home by 7pm, nap a little bit and start painting, or updating my facebook page or sewing some kawaii purses or something… My resolution this year’s to make sure I get something productive done every day (not talking about my full time job here) and yeah, I try to sleep by 4am.
Weekends are the best! I’ll make sure my house is sparkling clean by Friday 12mn, so I can dedicate myself fully to getting stuff done for PSC Trinkets. I usually don’t sleep until 6am on Friday nights, because having a full time job makes weekends so precious that really I don’t want to waste it. I’ll be up at 12noon on Saturday and everything exciting happens! I know this probably isn’t the best schedule and I’m banking on borrowed energy but hey, we only get this energy once huh! =X
AL: What is your take on Singaporean designers compared to international designers? Do you think there is a unique trait that is specifically homegrown?
KK: Hmm, this is a tough one. There definitely are a couple of limitations between Singaporean and international designers. The resources we can play with here are limited (of course it’s not an excuse). But I guess if we’re talking about creativity, we do have a bit of a knack and can be on par with our fellow designers across the globe. We are still after all compared to people who design throughout their family tree, young and can definitely improve at how we perceive and portray things.
I guess when it comes to designs, the word home-grown doesn’t mix in well (my thoughts really) Art is so subjective. If you put a locally designed necklace beside an international one, I’d most definitely not be able to tell which is from where.
AL: And your muses?
KK: Muse… hmmm unquestionably Kim Rountree of Oborocharms. Followed her since deviant days, try to control myself from hitting the favourite button on every of her entry *HAHA. She is amazing, determined, harworking… she does these cute little polymer clay charms and paints every single one of them! I played with polymer clay a while back and used colored clay instead of paints. Imagine sculpting, baking, painting, varnishing a super tiny charm. Sure takes a lot of talent. She is doing super well right now, over 11k fans on facebook. She updates her page every week with what she’s working on and attending which event, uploading video tutorials and painting ten gazillion charms a day. I am till today very inspired by her.
AL: What are your long-term and short-term goals?
KK: Short term, to be able to do this full time in probably 2 years? I guess I’m still at a point where I’m trying to absorb as much stuff I can from my full time job right now. It’s a great job and if given the chance I wouldn’t want to be leaving that soon. Long term would be to eventually be having PSC Trinkets stabled with a huge but humble range of great stuff and on the other hand to be able to be a travelling artisan.
Came up with this idea with my husband how we would one day want to travel to different countries, have pit stops at different places to craft and sell our stuff on the spot!
AL: Finally, would you leave us with a little known fact about you?
KK: My name is Karin, I’m from the very beautiful fine city of Singapore. I’m a very homely person, I’d rather stay home all day long than to shop or hang out with friends (sorry friends). Of course I do occasionally spend time with them. =) My favourite store is Takaishimaya’s Kinokuniya Japanese craft section. My most prized possession (http://www.etsy.com/listing/97749791/the-karin?ref=pr_shop), the Karin, made by my husband. I love buying cute food not to eat them, look at it, smile and only throw them away when they turn horribly mouldy or expired. I can also buy all the cute things in the world, not use them, keep it aside in the store room and taking it out once in a while to just look at it.
Back to Nature
Saturday, November 17, 2012
Helmed by Peter Lamas, Hollywood-renowned makeup artist, Nature Beauty unveils its latest offerings for achieving healthier and youthful looking skin the au natural way! Best known for its paraben-free and organic skincare products, the range has expanded its repertoire to include two fruity notes, Vitamin Cleanser and Pumpkin Polish. Congruous with its brand, they pack a mean punch of organic premium ingredients that will preserve skin’s youth and keep its hydration balance in check.
Rich in pumpkin enzymes, natural fruit and nut acids from apples and almonds, the Pumpkin Polish is the perfect elixir for skin revitalisation and rejuvenation. It treats skin by gently polishing and removing dead cells and impurities, resulting in a smoother and even-textured glow. It also contains lingering undertones of pumpkin oil, soy protein, aloe vera and vitamin E to give skin the moisturising treatment it deserves.
Going back to basics with the good ol’ C, the vitamin, that is, the Vitamin Cleanser is a makeup remover and a cleanser in one. It leaves skin looking brighter, fresher, younger and feeling softer by gently whisking away everyday impurities and makeup – without stripping the skin of essential moisture.
An Arresting Lash Revolution
Thursday, October 11, 2012
Maybelline has gone and done it again, adding yet another line to their already impressive beauty stable. So ladies, if you haven’t yet caught wind of their latest crop in the bag, you seriously need to get up to speed. High on our radar is Maybelline’s brand new Lashionista mascara, and we soon found ourselves caught up in the midst of the biggest launch party yet!
The roles have been switched! Check out this video for Xia Xue’s interview with me:
It was a massive turnout at the heart of Zouk, with over 1,200 attendees flocking the scene. Taking the reigns of the night was 98.7FM DJ, Rosalyn Lee, who stirred the crowd into cheers and hollers. Local (deep breath in) “Pan-Asian Make-Up Extraordinaire cum YouTube Make-Up Tutorial Sensation”, Golden Tan aka Michelle Chong, ensured guests were not short of entertainment either. Joining hands with famed make-up artist, Larry Yeo, they towed along an awesome line up of live make-up demonstrations and side-splitting acts that were relished by both the young and young at heart.
The night also saw the rise of homegrown fashion cats, Catwalkclose, Holly Hoque, The Closet Lover, The Tinsel Rack and Vain Glorious You, as they kick started the runway with the kind of femme-inspired collections we anticipate and salivate over – season in, season out. If that didn’t set the tone for the night, Zouk’s first ever night bazaar sure did the trick. But the real deal that went far and beyond the mere showcasing of intentional gathering of fabric and pretty faces, the ladies (coupled with a handful of guys) were treated to a complimentary Lashionista makeover!
Maybelline’s unique Lashionista adds drama to your peepers. Pump up the volume and length of each lash for a look that’s plusher, bolder, lusher, and dare we say, oh-so-fabulous darling! For more information, pay a visit to https://www.facebook.com/MaybellineSG. Lashionista mascara is now on sale islandwide!
UNMASK THE TASTE of French Summer!
Thursday, September 20, 2012
On July 26, Kronenbourg 1664 brought the vivacious culture of French summer to the doorstep of High Society Mansion at Pacific Plaza. We helped celebrate the launch of premium wheat beer, Kronenbourg 1664 BLANC, courtesy of the lovely ladies from Sixth Sense Communications. While we are well acquainted with a lager or two, this was very much favoured for its refreshing taste of light and citrusy overtones.
As the temperature rises, it’s always a good sign when you’re greeted at the door with a chilled light beer to commence the evening. High Society Mansion, as the name suggests, translates luxury and opulence into life. A thoughtful combination of classic elegance and style, the soul-warming lounge boasts plenty of personality in its French styled décor: A deep red, black and white outfit, with plenty of marble, chandeliers and gold trim. High quality canapés were served to satiate the appetite of hungry guests, needless to say, along with free-flow bottles of Kronenbourg 1664 BLANC. And to cement that time-traveller experience of lavish masquerade balls in the 17th century, we were also given a Venetian mask to wear!
The angelic Brand Ambassadors of Kronenbourg 1664 were the highlight of the evening. Donned in a heavily sequined blue mini dress, coupled with a pair of angel’s wings, they were hard to missed as they went round the room to unveil the key ingredients that make up this distinct beer. It was revealed, the Kronenbourg 1664 BLANC is made from wheat, coriander seeds and orange peel. Aah… never has there been such finesse and nostalgia in one place.
COACH Opens Largest Flagship Store in Singapore!
Friday, August 10, 2012
Nestled right smack in the middle of Orchard Road, the lights at the newly revamped Wisma Atria have already been turned on. But all eyes were set on one exquisite store.
The month of July saw the opening launch of US brand COACH, currently the largest outlet in Southeast Asia. Spanning at an astounding 4,600 square feet, the leading American fashion house of luxury accessories unveiled a complete selection of fragrances, watches, sunglasses, outerwear, jewellery and shoes, including an array of stunning leathers from its latest COACH Legacy 2012 Fall Collection.
A bevy of stylish models, socialites and personalities flocked the scene to marvel at the plush surroundings of the new store. On the VIP guest list included the likes of homegrown artists Elvin Ng, Yvonne Lim, Lin Pei Fen, Shelia Sim, Nat Ho and Rosalyn Lee. But it was the arrival of Hong Kong megastars, Simon Yam and his wife, Qi Qi, which really puts the cherry on top of a fantastic evening.
The night ensued with killer live music by local band, 53A, while attendees enjoyed flowing drinks and canapés among the good company of people. Guests could even snag home a little memento from the event – a personalised COACH bag tag with their own initials engraved by a tattoo artist! It was an eventful night to remember… one of the best!
COACH’s newest store is at 435 Orchard Road #02-19/27, Wisma Atria Shopping Centre, Singapore 238877
Tel: 6222 1771
Hello and welcome to my side of the block. I’m Audrey. Or better known as the bargain hunter, shark advocate and the girl who has a penchant for lomography and anything handmade, from the past or out of the norm. I’m a lot of things but mostly just a simple gal with an aspiration. In pursuit of my young upstart’s dreams of encouraging a new trend from the monochrome-clad and career driven crowd that is Singapore today, here is where you’ll find all that inspire, delight and question. I also purport to be a rising platform for emerging designers and artists through my knack for words. So come join me on my journey in search for our little town’s hidden talents and traits. I think we are off to a good start!
Spotted: When not rushing for deadlines, I can be found happily plugged in while putting my Holga to good use!
If you would like to view the full version of my resume, please do not hesitate to email me.
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This story was featured on Reportage Enviro on 6 September 2010.
Beneath the first blush of an early September predawn light, a fierce wind lashed the sullen, logy waves, stirring up a blast of fresh salt air that consumed me. The loud droning of the engines interrupted the tranquility of the untamed sea as our speedboat jetted across the ocean just off the coast of Gansbaai in South Africa. With 15 others onboard this 11-metre catamaran, we were on an expedition most would call a ‘reckless’ one. The one animal we fear most was the one we were hoping to meet that morning: the great white shark.
Buckets of diluted rancid minced fish parts, tuna blood and oil, or otherwise called chum, were tossed into the water from the stern. The bristling breath of the sea was engulfed by a long, unbroken trail of this malodorous concoction, snaking its way towards the horizon. The sharks’ sense of smell is so sensitive it can detect even a single drop of blood in the water up to 5km away.
The boat finally came to a complete standstill and we found ourselves stranded in the beasts’ lair. The choppy waves shook the boat like a rag doll, with the surrounding waters turning crimson from the chum. The cold wind blew harshly, cutting my face like piercing needles. The ocean was a sepulcher. Still raring to go, I climbed into a large cage that was fixed to the starboard at water level. The icy water restricted my legs a little, but I continued to tread to stay warm, as I waited anxiously with bated breath. All other eyes on deck were kept peeled for a triangular fin that might break the water surface.
“Shark!” It wasn’t long before a fellow member cried out in a keening falsetto. My heart began to race. Most would scurry to shore at the sound of that word, but I put on my snorkel and ducked underwater. The three-metre shark lunged towards a chunk of tuna carcass attached to a line next to where I was. Its huge jaws exposed, baring row upon row of deadly serrated teeth. Its formidable tail was thrashing around wildly, churning up sea bubbles and impairing my vision.
As the bubbles soon began to clear, the shark had already devoured its prey in a matter of seconds. Overwhelmed with a feeling of awe, I edged in closer, instantly captivated by the animal’s majestic performance. The shark glided gracefully towards the cage, its large, unblinking black eyes fixated onto mine. With only so much of a couple of steel bars separating us, I was centimetres from it. I was almost certain that the shark could easily wrench the bars out and attack me if it wanted to. But it didn’t. Like an inquisitive child, I saw a flickering light within its barely visible dark pupils, as it gazed upon me. Unthinkably, the great white disappeared abruptly into the murkiness. The most feared predator on earth… was afraid of me.
The ocean covers about two thirds of the world’s surface and is home to over 80% of life on Earth. The first sharks are known to have lived in the ocean for more than 400 million years, about 150 million years before the age of the dinosaurs. When all other life on Earth was wiped out, sharks have managed to survive five major mass extinctions. They are the apex predators in the marine environment, helping to maintain the proportional balance of various marine species in the ecosystem. They control the populations below them, essentially eliminating weaker species and thus, creating new ones.
Sharks are to known to have terrorised the hearts of people, many of whom are victims of traditional misconceptions and beliefs portrayed by the media. Steven Spielberg’s fear-provoking classic movie, Jaws, released in 1975 is a prime example. “Jaws was a completely unrealistic and over-dramatised portrayal of the great white shark,” Rebecca Davis, founder of Save Our Sharks Australia, says of the film. “Unfortunately, the fear it instilled into people who saw the movie has continued to influence generation upon generation.” Even Peter Benchley, the late author of the novel Jaws, wrote an article in 1995 titled “Misunderstood Monsters”, admitting to the damage his book has done to the reputation of sharks. “I couldn't write "Jaws" today”, he wrote. “The extensive new knowledge of sharks would make it impossible for me to create, in good conscience, a villain of the magnitude and malignity of the original.”
Scientists and experts have long tried to debunk the myth that sharks are “mindless killing machines”. Dr. Demian Chapman, a research scientist currently based in Peru of the Institute for Ocean Conservation Science and head of the Institute’s Shark Research Program, has been struggling to do the same. Growing up in New Zealand, Dr. Chapman spent most of his childhood on the beach. Like most children, he was fearful of sharks, but became fascinated with them and was “hooked” by the time he realised they were not the “monsters” he perceived them to be.
His fieldwork involves the studying of shark reproduction and behavioural patterns, and he has found them to be amazingly tame. “I’ve been near thousands and thousands of sharks,” he says. “All the ones that people are very afraid of, and I’ve never been bitten by any of those. In fact, I’ve been bitten more by my dog than sharks.”
According to a statistical study conducted by Taronga Conservation Society Australia, there have only been 52 human fatalities due to shark attack, in Australia in the last 50 years. The last fatal attack happened to actress, Marcia Hathaway, at Sydney Harbour in 1963. Michael Skoletsky, Executive Director of Shark Savers, says of death from shark bites is usually caused by blood loss. When a shark does bite a person, he claims, “it’s extremely rare that it would bite a person twice”. The bites are often not predatory. A surfer in a wetsuit on a surfboard may resemble a seal, a prey favourable to great white sharks. “Sharks don’t have arms so sometimes the only way for them to tell or to taste whether something is food is by taking a bite, and they have big mouths!” Skoletsky says.
Upon hearing my shark cage diving experience, Skoletsky says the only reason the shark approached the cage was because of the chum. “That shark probably would not have wanted to come near you if they weren’t attracting the shark, and they had to work pretty hard at that. They may be chumming long before you got into the cage. So that shows you that the sharks are not there to eat you.” Albeit sharks are often seen as the “bad guys,” Dr. Chapman argues that in reality, “we [humans] are the bad guys because we kill more of them”. Much more.
Research has shown precipitous declines in many shark species. Michael Aw, founding director of OceanNEnvironment and a shark expert, estimates over 100 million sharks are killed each year, where 26 to 73 million sharks are killed purely for their fins. As a result, over one-third of the shark species are classified as endangered or threatened by extinction under the International Union for the Conservation of Nature’s (IUCN) Red List.
Shark finning is a common practice where fishermen would pull a shark on deck and slice off its fins while it is often still alive. The rest of the shark is then thrown back into the sea to die either by bleeding to death or suffocation. As shark meat is relatively inexpensive and less profitable, their fins are primarily the reason behind this lucrative industry. According to Dr. Chapman, there is about 20 to 25 species of sharks that make up the fin trade, such as Whale Shark, Mako, Hammerhead, Thresher Shark and Grey Nurse. Putting it simply – the larger the fin, the higher the price. As far as species that are highly valued, such as the Hammerheads, their fins possess certain “characteristics that the fin traders and consumers find desirable, and can fetch up to $140 per kilogram of hammerhead fins,” Dr. Chapman says.
Depleted shark populations are hard to rehabilitate, as Skoletsky puts it, “because sharks have very slow reproduction rate, there’s no way for them to reproduce quickly enough to overcome the fishing.” An average shark can take up to 20 years to reach sexual maturity and even then produces only 2-3 pups a year. “Shark populations may take decades to recover, if they are given a chance to, or may never recover if this slaughter continues,” Skoletsky says. However, there are currently no international laws protecting sharks, as most of the oceans are not within the jurisdiction of any one country. At the conference of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) held this March in Doha, Qatar, four species of sharks, including the Hammerheads, were up for consideration in their endangered list. Unfortunately, Japan opposed this move. “The Japanese are extremely active in lobbying against these proposals and using what influence they have to get other countries to vote the same way. It was very disheartening. The sharks came very close, which just goes to show that a majority of countries do recognise this problem and are willing to deal with it. But it’s this handful of countries that are blocking it, simply because they are making a lot of money out of it,” Dr. Chapman says of the Japanese at that meeting. “And also what’s important to note is that the proposals that were up were not to ban trade in shark fins of these species. It was just to monitor the trade in this species. Just to monitor. Which is ludicrous!”
To date, only 17 countries including the European Union (EU) have laws against shark finning, and Australia is one of them. In most of these cases where the practice of shark finning is prohibited, fishermen would have to land the entire shark and not just their fins. Australia also has regulations that protect some shark species such as the Great White and the Grey Nurse shark and has limit fishermen to a certain quota per year. Nonetheless, sharks are still allowed to be fished and fins are exported overseas.
There are nations that have banned shark fishing altogether. This May, Hawaii became the first US state to have passed a complete ban on all types of shark fin commerce. Not only are fishermen not allowed to fin sharks, landing or marketing shark fin is also strictly prohibited. In September 2009, Palau established the world’s first shark sanctuary and banned all shark-fishing activities in its waters. Early this year, Maldives banned shark fishing within a restricted zone that covers 90,000 square kilometres of water. Instead, both Palau and Maldives rely heavily on tourism for economic survival.
The global trade in shark fins is largely driven by the Chinese demand for shark fin soup. According to Aw, over 80 per cent of shark fins are consumed primarily in China, Hong Kong, Singapore and Jakarta. The IUCN Shark Specialist Group states that Hong Kong alone handles at least 50 per cent to as much as 80 per cent of the world trade in shark fin. They have also found a significant mismatch in a comparison of some national shark landings data and Hong Kong fin import data. They conclude that tens of millions of shark fins ‘missing’ from the landings data are in fact appearing in Hong Kong, which does not provide a detailed report of the extent of shark finning undertaken by fishermen.
Shark fin soup is an Asian delicacy that symbolises wealth and prosperity. Otherwise known as an emperor dish, it was historically served only to wealthy people. A bowl of shark fin soup can cost up to $100 in high-end restaurants. “Serving shark fin is a way to honour guests. Since it's expensive, it shows that you want to spoil your friends and show off that you can afford such luxury. Asia is seeing huge growth in their spending power, and more people can now afford shark fin,” Ran Elfassy, founder of Shark Rescue, says.
“Since I was 10, I have been told by my teachers and environmentalists that sharks are dying out there. And till today, they are still saying the same thing. It’s not like I eat shark fin soup everyday anyway, so really, what difference does it make,” Hung Leung Chee, a 24-year-old Hong Konger, says. Conversly, Ben Birt, a Marine Campaigner of the Australian Marine Conservation Society says, “It is difficult to know where to start when you are trying to change a culture but it is a simple fact that if nothing is done and people continue to eat shark fin soup, there will no longer be any sharks left. And of course no more shark fin soup. The sensible thing would be to stop eating it now and save the species.”
The year 2010 is an auspicious year for 27-year-old Michelle Tang and her 29-year-old fiancé, Tan Ting Feng. The Singaporean couple will be holding their wedding banquet at Swissotel The Stamford in Singapore this October. Needless to say, shark fin soup was on their menu. “It has always been a customary tradition for us Chinese to have shark fin soup on special occasions,” Tang says. “Sharks harm people so I really don’t see why we can’t eat them. They taste so good!”
Unfortunately for them, Swissotel The Stamford no longer serves shark fin soup to their customers. In 1990, Fairmont Singapore and its sister property, Swissotel The Stamford proactively launched its Green Partnership program, a commitment to reducing their hotels’ impact on the environment. The program aims to save Singapore’s environment, and promote responsible tourism. In December 2008, Fairmont Singapore removed Chilean Sea Bass and Blue Fin Tuna from its menu. Last year, shark fin soup was also taken out from various Chinese restaurants in the hotel complex, including Szechuan Court.
“Asians’ affinity with shark fin soup is more of a cultural dilemma rather than a culinary,” Carlos Monterde, Hotel Manager of Fairmont Singapore, says. “And so far, the changes in our menu did not reflect negative results in our banquet. In fact, we are pleased to note that couples who are planning their wedding banquets at the Raffles City Convention Centre including organisations conducting their events at our hotels' meeting venue are quite receptive to this eco-friendly change.”
As the struggle to save sharks reaches to new heights, Fairmont Singapore’s banquet team served 600 complimentary bowls of eco-friendly and equally delicious soups to the public in the course of 3 days in early October 2009. The soups served were Double-boiled Herbal Ginseng Soup with Organic Pumpkin and Silky Bean Curd and Bamboo Fungus, a more sustainable replacement for shark fin soup. “We believe that chefs in hotels and restaurants play pivotal roles as gatekeepers to a more sustainable seafood preference,” Monterde says. “Chefs are catalysts in spreading awareness about the essence of marine animals conservation and they have the responsibility to influence diners' culinary preferences.”
Tang says that she is not upset that the restaurant has implemented an economical change in their menu. “If the chefs are able to substitute the fin with something else and still retain its taste, I’m fine with that too. It’s not that I don’t care about the environment. At the end of the day, real or fake shark fin, I’m only just sticking to my family tradition,” she says.
Shirley Chong, a Singaporean in her 70s, says she likes the taste of the soup, and believes it has medicinal value. Contrary to popular belief, the taste and nutrients of the soup are purely derived from other ingredients such as chicken or pork broth, and none from the fin itself, most of which is cartilage. However, its appeal is due to the inaccurate notion that sharks do not get cancer. Elfassy explains that while sharks do get cancer, “there is no scientific evidence showing that shark tissue, especially cartilage, has any protective benefits when it comes to cancer”. Moreover, sharks are found to carry high levels of methyl mercury, a substance the World Health Organisation (WHO) identifies as highly toxic to people. Methylmercury, is a lethal toxin that seeps into the oceans. Mercury accumulates in marine animals and it is magnified in concentration as it moves up the food chain. With sharks being the top predators of the ocean, their meat essentially has one of the highest accumulated mercury content.
Sharks have evolved in a co-dependent relationship with the ecosystem, shaping different populations for over 400 million years. Sharks keep all those populations in the right balance. Sharks, “are really the lions, tigers and bears of the ocean, they’re the chief predators,” Dr. Chapman says. “It’s reasonable to assume that if you take the top predators out, it’s going to destabilize the whole ecosystem.” Sharks are a vital source in restoring our oceans to health and enabling sustainable harvests of the sea protein upon which so much of our planet depends. Skoletsky says, “We humans need sharks—alive, in the oceans.”
Sharks have survived 5 major extinctions. But can they survive this one? “Sadly, the public in general is those who have been misinformed by movies, media and generational stories. I feel that the responsibility lies with councils, governments and international conservation bodies to help protect shark populations and initiate public education programs,” Davis says. “It is only through education that we can create a greater understanding and empathy for sharks. It is up to the individual to seek the correct information, to want to find out more, to challenge what they have heard.
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