Daydream Mirage

If you’ve ever traipsed across Orchard Road, you might have be lucky enough to encounter one of the seasonal artist windows over at Hermès, Liat Towers. In my opinion, they’re literal traffic-stoppers that just get better in time.

This season, the house gave French artist Lilian Daubisse creative carte blache and he decided to fashion a dreamscape entirely out of corrugated cardboard: think undulating vegetation, at once alien and artful. Inspired by Hermès’ annual theme of the year: In the Pursuit of Dreams, Daubisse discovered corrugated cardboard as a student and it has been his medium of choice ever since.

Visit Daydream Mirage up close, and you’ll discover the references to Pointillism and Aboriginal art. He creates all his pieces by entirely by hand and is drawn to cardboard as it doesn’t have the kind of link to history or ‘civilisation’ that a material like wood does. According to Daubisse who once worked in an archaeology office, it’s the unpainted colour of cardboard: warm and easily identifiable that makes it so relatable. And yet, his creations when viewed from afar don’t seem to be cardboard… until they are.

The unexpected beauty of his work makes sense when viewed in an Hermès context (the house likes to ‘ennoble’ materials, using straw and wicker for instance, in its furniture and bags).

A small group of us got a chance to spend time with Daubisse at Hermès Liat Towers where we had a great afternoon learning about his process and made cardboard necklaces (or in my case, a Christmas tree bunting) of our own! Don’t judge me, I’m not great with the arts and crafts…

It took us over an hour to create this, whereas the windows took the artist 7 months to create by hand, so let’s just say we’ll leave this to the professionals.

Sewing the pre-cut discs of corrugated cardboard together… And even then, Brioni had to help me, oy vey.

Be sure to take a gander at Lilian’s windows if you’re at Hermès Liat Towers – 541 Orchard Road, Singapore.

Mid-Week Mantra

Sometimes fate is like a small sandstorm that keeps changing directions. You change direction but the sandstorm chases you. You turn again, but the storm adjusts. Over and over you play this out, like some ominous dance with death just before dawn. Why? Because this storm isn’t something that blew in from far away, something that has nothing to do with you. This storm is you. Something inside of you. So all you can do is give in to it, step right inside the storm, closing your eyes and plugging up your ears so the sand doesn’t get in, and walk through it, step by step. There’s no sun there, no moon, no direction, no sense of time. Just fine white sand swirling up into the sky like pulverized bones. That’s the kind of sandstorm you need to imagine.

And you really will have to make it through that violent, metaphysical, symbolic storm. No matter how metaphysical or symbolic it might be, make no mistake about it: it will cut through flesh like a thousand razor blades. People will bleed there, and you will bleed too. Hot, red blood. You’ll catch that blood in your hands, your own blood and the blood of others.

And once the storm is over you won’t remember how you made it through, how you managed to survive. You won’t even be sure, in fact, whether the storm is really over. But one thing is certain. When you come out of the storm you won’t be the same person who walked in. That’s what this storm’s all about.”

Haruki Murakami

Is that Ok?

My 3 year old said she wanted to be an astronaut, and I said she had to study hard, go to collect, learn a lot of science, and take a physical fitness test, and she shrugged and said, “That’s just 4 things.” So she’s basically a nonchalant motivational speaker.” – Jennifer Dziurza

Tokyo, Melbourne… I’m not sure about you, but I wake up every day wanting to break free. Spend some time on an island, learn a wellness course in the mountains somewhere. I think I just might be an escapist at heart.

The hardest thing after a trip whether for work or play, is getting back into the grind. Try imagine returning to the gym after a 4 week absence and you’ll get what I mean. People say the grind is where the magic happens, but on days where I’m at a loss for inspiration (or rather, motivation), the grind is what it is.

I suppose it’s about firing up the momentum again and giving yourself grace when you’re anything but enthused about life. It’s been a full-on couple of months behind the scenes at Mmerci Encore – and it’s felt like with every project or plan, something comes along to set us back a week, half a year… Projects or tasks that seem so easy and banal on paper (“it’s just four things!”) but are far more complicated in practice.

Momentum is described as mass in motion, so I guess I have to put my mass into motion. Some days though, when operating at maximum capacity, I think: how much more? When I was younger, I couldn’t help but think perhaps these challenges, tests or hardships are preparing us for an extraordinary destiny. I still do, in a way, but how much more do we need to give? What is ok?

While in Japan two months ago, we lined up for a whole host of small but exquisite hole-in-the-wall (read: unbookable) restaurants. Like many others in line with us, a 50 minute wait time in the dark, rain, or cold didn’t seem to deter us as we were determined to try the sweet fruit of patience, be it uni bowls or yuzu-infused ramen.

Perhaps in a huffy/efficient Singapore-inspired moment I thought, why don’t they take reservations? This literally seats 8 people here, why aren’t there more tables? Why don’t they have more branches? But it only takes one mouthful of food to realise they don’t because it’s the only way to keep to a high standard of food and service; to really respect what they’re doing, and be all in, in that moment.

I left a little bit more inspired and encouraged by that. Growth is great, progress is amazing, but at what cost to quality and presence?

As Ricardo Semler, CEO of Semco Partners puts it: “There’s no such thing as perpetual growth. Yet that’s what traditional business people crave. But what is growth meant to achieve? If Oxford University is so successful, then why isn’t there a branch in Washington, D.C.? If a symphony is successful with 120 musicians, why not even more so with 600? “To grow bigger” is not much of an effective business strategy at all.”

I am an Ok person, giving it her best, and that’s enough for today. x Alli

Broken Hearts & Breathing Spaces

Originally published as a Mmerci Encore newsletter, sign up to receive your periodic dose of fresh inspiration x

Last year, the year before I turned 30, I surpassed my financial goals and got a space to make into my own art shed. It, too, was the year my mum survived cancer, and my sister became a doctor. Blessings upon blessings. More notably, it was the year I had my heart very broken.

It was one of those relationships where you come out not very much like yourself — more numbed than saddened, confused, insecure, and to be very honest, damaged. It made me very sceptical, to the extent of wondering if the universe is a loving entity at all for putting such hurtful people in one’s way. I stopped working for a month to regain my bearings. The pain and guilt, however, lingered and demanded to be felt.

Life is trickled with triumphs and ordeals, of good and bad intentions. One thing that’s true is that you get to decide what happens next. You always get to decide. With such a realization came better questions to ask myself. It was no longer “Why did this happen to me?” or “How do we scrub off pain and suffering from our lives so that we only have happiness?” but rather, “Now that we have nothing, what do we give ourselves? How can you be, through it all, your own best lover and healer — your own person?”

I started my recovery by reverting to frequent meditations, even though it was painful because it can have me reliving memories and eventually bawling on my knees. I’d keep at it regardless because, as they say, it gets worse before it gets better. I’d diffuse some lemongrass and cinnamon during my sessions — one is to stimulate the senses; the other, to soothe distress. Heartaches from bad breakups can numb you and depression can make breathing such a chore. It was only when I meditated with oils and reached those deep points of my aromatherapy-infused in-breaths that I was able to feel something good again. The more I get a whiff of that scented air, the more I savoured every breathing moment.

I looked forward to diffusing. One day, I felt like an 8-year old eagerly and carefully lining up my tiny bottles of essential oils on my dresser: ylang ylang, rose geranium, jasmine, lemongrass, lavender, lavender asia. I had with me an aromatherapy chart. “What to smell today? What would feel good right now?” I learned that a great deal of self-care is just giving yourself what you essentially need at the moment. Aromatherapy offered that opportunity for me to choose and create a sensorial experience that matched my mood/vibe. After a while, I’d forget I was hurting, for I was now like a god playing, alchemizing oils into aromatic galaxies and letting them have their way with me and elevate my meditations. Aromatherapy reminded me that we ultimately possess the power to conjure atmospheres — one that is sensible and most assistive to our healing and becoming.

One way or another, my oils kept me alive. Instead of being consumed by anger, grudge, and confusion, they made me open, playful, lit, relieved, and most of all — present.

I don’t know how long it takes to completely heal, but I do know now that happiness and peace begin here — in the little ways you decide to show up for yourself and do what feels good and aiding to your mind, body, and soul. It begins the moment you realize your power to create space and make the air around you a little more breathable.

Sofia for Mmerci Encore
Sofia is Manila-based designer and artist who occasionally writes about meaningful business and self-care. We collaborated with Sofia to write letters for Mmerci Encore.

About Mmerci Encore

Mmerci Encore is our riff on the French phrase ‘thank you again’ and we’re all about celebrating the small things. We’re an artisanal aromatherapy label offering self-care products for skin and psyche. The line includes aromatherapy perfumes, blends, and body products. Our intention is to create goods that help people pause, rebalance, and come back to themselves.

What is aromatherapy?

Aromatherapy is a healing modality that captures the life force of plants, flowers, roots, bark, resins and more to promote physical and emotional well-being in the form of essential oils.

Why essential oils?

Essential oils can be diffused alone or blended together, offering a plethora of health and wellness benefits. The action of the oils on the limbic system and the adrenal cortex work rapidly when inhaled or absorbed through the skin. We recommend 3 to 5 drops in a diffuser. As our essential oils are very potent, never apply them on the skin neat. Remember to blend them into a carrier (or vegetable-based oil) such as coconut, grapeseed, or jojoba if you’d like to wear them on your skin.

Bergamot busts lethargy and overwhelming feelings of sadness. SHOP

Rose Otto and Chamomile (found respectively in our Moon Phase PMS Trio) is already blended in Jojoba and can be used to anoint over the heart and sacral areas. These exuberant oils celebrate self-love and self-confidence.SHOP

Ylang Ylang when used in small doses is an aphrodisiac and helps you unlock or rediscover your sensuality without shame or guilt. SHOP

An Eden in Venice: discovering Un Jardin Sur La Lagune

Essential oils will always have my heart but the power of scent and the art of perfumery has always captivated my imagination. To me, experiencing scent goes beyond the autonomic act of in the inhale and exhale.

As someone who has had the privilege of meeting and interviewing some of the world’s leading noses (all rockstars in my opinion as there are less perfumers in the world than say, well, rockstars), Christine Nagel is rare gem. She’s a scientist, alchemist, dreamer, creative, so generous, open, daring, and giving of her spirit. I love this interview she gave in BoF and it reminded me of the time I sat in an interview with her. It was something that she learned on her first day of work at Hermès.

You have the right to make mistakes.”

I was so profoundly moved by that, I flew back to Singapore and had my dear friend Trudy calligraph and frame that mantra as a reminder.

Hermès parfums, specifically that of the Un Jardin family have always been a bit of a haiku to me.

Nuanced and faceted, to really savor an Hermès fragrance—whether created by Jean-Claude Ellena or its present-day nose, Christine Nagel—one need only get still, and let the scent reveal itself to you.

Hermès has always been the ultimate storyteller, and perfumer Christine Nagel is our poet.

We begin our story in Venice in 1884. English lord, Frederic Eden exhausted with seeing nothing but water during his excursion in a gondola, yearns for a garden in the heart of Venice…

“Of sumptuous secrets as intense and strong as the plants that grew there – which had little soil to sink their roots into, but so much sky to breathe,” writes Olympia Alberti.

Despite being traditionally known as la tomba dei fiori, Eden and his wife Caroline, eventually realise their dream of an English garden in Venice. Hemmed in by ochre walls, the garden sighs in Madonna lilies, iris, foxgloves, larkspur, and Canterbury bells, according to Peter Parker, reviewer of Frederic Eden’s A Garden in Venice.

It played host to iconic visitors, namely Rilke, Proust, Henry James; was immortalised by Cocteau, and was eventually tended to by Princess Aspasia of Greece following the Edens’ passing.

Finally, says Alberti, after braving time, salt water and wind, nature prevailed.

Till now where a century later, Christine Nagel offers us the key to unlocking this secret garden. Through Un Jardin Sur La Lagune, she brushes past the overgrowth and absorbs its mysterious echoes to conjure a glimpse of this unforgettable, peace-filled oasis.

Here, sky, flowers and sea unite as time and memory is rebirthed.

In this eternal Eden, Nagel offers us a feeling of eternity where blooms, sunshine, laughter, and the sound of water is on loop.

“The woody, serene and tender breath of the garden is revealed on the shore of the lagoon, where the dreamy Salicornia bends towards the sea winds, the pittosporums, the Madonna lilies, the magnolias,” says Alberti.

While its first blush of flowers and piquant top notes opening the scent is undoubtedly joyful and arresting, it’s the exquisite dry down present in all of Nagel’s scents that I find so deeply alluring on my skin.

Spritz this on and be transfixed. x Alli

Un Jardin Sur La Lagune is available now at all Hermès stores.

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