From dine-in restrictions to vaccinated travel lanes, this year has been a bittersweet rollercoaster ride of pandemic highs and lows, plus everything else in between. No one knows what lies in wait for us next year, but for now, let’s just take a moment to look back at 2021 and what it’s meant for us at Options. Here’s an A to Z rundown of the good, the bad and the weird of this strangely climactic year.

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Photo: UNSPLASH/EMILY UNDERWORLD

Apps

Apps are a staple for many of us today. Besides powering our digital activities, such as watching shows or shopping online, apps can also help to enhance our physical lives. For instance, many wellness apps have gained popularity as we increasingly rely on them to keep up with our overall wellness — from physical to emotional and mental health — during the pandemic. With apps like Headspace, GoalKeepin, and Wysa, we can find a meditation routine that works, set goals and check in with our feelings, to ultimately combat languishing, wherein we feel a sense of stagnation and emptiness. For the sleep-deprived, apps like Calm and Pzizz can help you to better cope with anxiety, stress and insomnia.

Given the rise of mental health awareness, wellness apps will most likely continue being used to complement national and corporate mental well-being campaigns in the post-pandemic world. Such apps can make it easier for us to seek help and ensure we prioritise our health. After all, health is wealth.

Photo: Kenzo Sport


See also: Jenny Ang, MD of EHL Hospitality Business School in Singapore, is grooming future leaders of the hospitality industry

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Brompton

If you’ve jumped on the cycling wave, chances are you’ve heard of the Brompton folding bicycle and its sudden boom in popularity in the last two years.

Made in London and launched in 1975, the Brompton’s appeal lies in its compact tri-fold design which can be easily folded and tucked away into a car boot or pushed around the train stations with ease. Other winning features include its lasting steel frame and performance on the road in terms of speed and durability, thanks to the superior quality of its components, which we understand consists of 1,200 separate parts manually assembled at its factory in Greenford in Middlesex. This is why a Brompton can cost as much as a high-performance road bike, from over $3,000 for regular models and up to $6,000 for the performance range made with titanium.

Despite the high price tag, global demand for the Brompton sky-rocketed at the start of 2020. During pre-Covid days, the UK bike manufacturer produced an average of over 45,000 bikes per year, but in the last financial year, Brompton sold about 59,000 bikes — an increase of about 10,000 bikes since 2019. While the majority of its customers still come from the UK, the second-largest market is China.


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The 46-year-old company made a gross margin of 49.7%, bolstered by direct distribution and special edition sales, such as the recent collaboration with Kenzo where 50 custom-designed sets were sold to help global charity organisation Qhubeka raise funds to allow people to get access to transportation through bicycles in Africa.

Although inflated demand is a happy problem for the British company, it is serious nonetheless as supply chain and transport issues are causing production delays. Millions of dollars worth of Brompton’s parts are said to have gone missing in containers or been cancelled due to delays at British ports caused by Brexit issues. In addition, the global price hikes in bike parts and steel, freight and shipping costs, on top of hiring 100 more staff — this perfect storm of factors may force the company to raise prices by 10%, according to Will Butler-Adams, Brompton’s managing director and major shareholder.

He warns that the company will need about 18 months to recover from bike supply shocks, which potentially means you may have to wait over a year before you can get hold of a brand-new Brompton. Even so, local demand in Singapore is not wavering. All appointment slots at its official store at Funan Mall for this year have been taken up and bookings for next year are expected to start only in October.

Photo: Coa

Cocktails

Despite the strain of the pandemic on the F&B industry, top bars and restaurants have been getting their due recognition through regional and global awards such as Asia’s 50 Best Bars and World’s 50 Best Bars. The latter, considered the Emmys of the bar awards (the Spirited Awards is the Oscar equivalent), drew some surprises with a healthy showing of Asian bars taking up 16 out the 50 places in the list.

Stealing the No. 7 spot was Coa from Hong Kong, helmed by bartender-owner Jay Khan who specialises in all things agave at his Mexicana drinking den. Singapore had the most Asian representatives and more than any city in the world, with six bars on the list. Jigger & Pony is at No. 9, Manhattan at No. 15 and Atlas at No. 16. There are two Singaporean new entries with No Sleep Club at No 26 and MO Bar at No. 36, and Tippling Club, Singapore is a re-entry at No. 43.

Hong Kong is represented by three bars this year, with Darkside a new entry at No. 49 and Quinary re-entering the ranking at No. 50, alongside the award-winning Coa. In Mainland China, Shanghai’s Sober Company is at No. 39, while Epic and Union Trading Company are both new entries at No. 41 and No. 48 respectively. Japan claims two spots with Tokyo bars SG Club at No. 18 and Bar Benfiddich at No. 32, while South Korea’s Seoul bar Charles H climbs seven places to No. 42. And, for the first time since 2010, an Indian bar returns to the ranking with Sidecar, New Delhi coming in at No. 47.


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The World’s 50 Best Bars provides a definitive list of the world’s best drinking venues, voted by an academy of over 540 experts worldwide. The World’s 50 Best Bars list has been published annually since 2009 while Asia’s 50 Best Bars has been published since 2016.

Photo: UNSPLASH/PICKAWOOD

Department stores (online)

Several departmental stores in Singapore suffered during the Covid-19 pandemic, while some were already struggling pre-pandemic as consumers moved to online channels for their shopping needs.

It was a sad event when the 160-year-old departmental store brand, Robinsons, had to shut its doors late last year. The store survived several crises, but the pandemic was the straw that broke the camel’s back. After some five months of closing its last two physical outlets in Singapore, Robinsons emerged once again. But this time, the brand has moved all its operations online. In June this year, Robinsons opened its online store, once again carrying several brands under its house.

Departmental stores that still have their physical presence have also realised the importance of having an online presence. This is especially with on-and-off restrictions. They will need their online platforms to stay relevant as people stay at home more.

Perhaps, a single website platform is not enough either. Several departmental store players have joined e-commerce marketplaces to gain more traction and participate in large sale events, such as Lazada’s 11.11 sale.

When it comes to shopping, can online shopping truly replace the satisfaction of heading into a physical store and leaving with a bag full of items? Only time will tell.

Photo: UNSPLASH/SPENCER DAVID

Entertainment

The entertainment industry had to pivot quickly to address restrictions that were back in place as another bout of Covid hit many countries. Movies such as Top Gun: Maverick and John Wick 4 have been delayed while live entertainment such as musicals, theatre shows and concerts are increasingly presented in virtual formats.

Livestream concerts, in particular, have been well-received. South Korean boy band BTS’ online concert in April alone attracted more than 750,000 viewers globally and raked in as much as US$20 million ($27 million).

Interestingly, these livestream concerts are experimenting with ways to deepen the relationship between technology and music. They leverage augmented reality tools to offer immersive environments, and make use of live social media Q&As for artists to interact with fans during the show. Some artists, like Ariana Grande and Lil Nas X, even took a step further by hosting their concerts on online gaming platforms Fortnite and Roblox, respectively.

It is unlikely that virtual concerts will replace physical shows. But there is a possibility that technology will be increasingly used to blend the virtual/metaverse and physical worlds to deliver more interactive performances that better connect fans with the performing artist.

Photo: BERLUTI

Fashion

This year, denim is enjoying a resurgence, whether for casual or formal wear; everyone is embracing the new designs. For the eco-conscious, there is H&M’s collection of baggy jeans, loose and straight-leg jeans that are made of 100% recycled denims. For a more formal look, Berluti uses a coil-engraved Scritto pattern revealing a white denim shade, and topped it off with a patina finish.

Photo: KIND CITIZEN

Giving back

The past two years have shown us that in times of crisis, banding together as a community can help many struggling businesses and individuals weather the storm. While homegrown retail and hospitality brands have reaped the benefits of cross-collaborations, companies are paying it forward through fundraisers, donation drives, gifting exercises and more.

If you feel like helping other unseen groups of people such as caregivers, special needs individuals, frontline workers, single parents and ex-offenders, you can spread a little love through the newly-launched donation platform, Kind Citizen. The “tech-for-good” platform is a first-of-its-kind social impact marketplace rooted in the concept of paying it forward with holistic gifts and essential lifestyle services, to a broader range of beneficiaries with its wide range of merchant partners.

For example, if you wish to extend a meal, haircut or taxi ride to someone, simply click on the tab and select the amount you wish to bequeath, and check out as you would on any other e-commerce site. You can also leave a personalised message with words of kindness or encouragement for the beneficiary. Community partners will perform due diligence, managing the beneficiaries directly and according to the support they need.

Founded by Bernice Tan, Kind Citizen has been in the works for two years and is supported by the Infocomm Media Development Authority’s Our Singapore Fund for Digital Readiness, amongst other notable partners. In addition to brands like Singtel, ComfortDelGro, Ez-Link and Grab, Kind Citizen has more than 100 merchants on its platform, including Flash Coffee, Love Bonito, Huggs Coffee and HAO mart, to aid a pool of over 3,000 beneficiaries. Visit Kind Citizen at www.payitforward.com.sg.

Photo: BLOOMBERG

Heightened Alert

The term “heightened alert” became a household name in Singapore this year. The republic first entered this phase on May 16, in a bid to curb the rise in Covid-19 infections. Among the measures imposed were a prohibition of dining-in services and a cap on social interactions to two persons.

While these measures were eased a month later, they were quickly re-introduced when the daily case count continued to climb. The measures were soon altered to allow vaccinated individuals to dine out, initially in groups of five and then in groups of two. As of Nov 10, up to five fully vaccinated persons from the same household can dine out together in restaurants.

Under the most recent of measures, people who are unvaccinated by choice and test positive for Covid-19 are required to foot their own medical bills from Dec 8. The move is in hopes of sending an “important signal to urge everyone to get vaccinated, if they are eligible”, stressed health minister Ong Ye Kung.

The drag in the pandemic saw a pick-up in the mental health struggles faced by individuals, both locally and abroad. Practitioners from Safe Space — a digital mental healthcare provider — say the four common difficulties faced are uncertainty, managing relationships, working alone and slow progress.

Create a calming corner with the Palm Duet, a beautifully made chaise lounge by Loro Piana Interiors Photo: LORO PIANA

Interior

This year has been the repeat of 2020 as working from home (WFH) continues, most likely into 2022. According to The Economist: “For workers, the great WFH experiment has gone fairly well. Adjusting to the new regime was not easy for everyone — especially those living in small flats, or with children to homeschool. Yet, on average, workers report higher levels of satisfaction and happiness.” Let’s make the most of it and add some much-needed changes to our work space at home. Create a calming corner for you to work from with scented candles or invest in the Palm Duet, which is a beautifully made chaise lounge by Loro Piana Interiors. Shaped like the palm of a hand, its pure lines follow a spiral movement with no interruptions and no angles as it wraps you in comfort.

Photo: JANICE WONG SINGAPORE

Janice Wong

It’s been an extremely productive second half of the year for dessert doyenne, Janice Wong. To support and promote local businesses and celebrate the Mid-Autumn Festival, the homegrown chocolatier teamed up with local nut and snacks brand Tai Sun to create a delicious range of mooncakes using healthy Nature’s Wonder premium range of dried fruits and nuts.

Not long after, she opened ice-cream parlour Softhaus at Great World this September — boasting a multi-sensory experience where one can create their own icy treat from a range of 16 flavours (with plant-based milk and sugar substitutes) and 20 toppings, including freshly baked macaroons, crunchy popcorn, and handmade chocolates.

“After 14 years in business, and pushing ourselves to innovate even as the industry was unsteady, now feels like the right time to introduce a new concept, which in many ways highlights the evolution of the Janice Wong brand,” says Wong.

True to the Janice Wong Singapore brand, that embraces food technology and innovation, Softhaus has also incorporated digital motion and animation into its food retail experience, plus its very own curated mobile check-out page.

The real cherry on top was the opening of Pure Imagination at Great World — a bean-to-bar chocolate café-cum-production facility created with a greater purpose. Wong intends for Singapore to manufacture its own chocolate through the planting of 1,000 cacao trees across the island. Together with Great World, Gardens By The Bay and Spectra Secondary School, Wong will be spearheading a year-long community initiative to grow the trees at these designated spots. And when it’s time to harvest in three to four years, the dream of biting into locally-grown chocolates will become a sweet reality!

Photo: SHUTTERSTOCK

Knowledge

The pandemic — and the resultant safe management measures — has seen more Singaporeans spending their time learning a new skill, language, musical instrument or even just upgrading them- selves through online courses.

A survey by the Institute for Adult Learning Singapore highlights that 25.4% of individuals between the ages of 20 and 70 preferred full online learning post-lockdown. By contrast, the statistic was 5.6% before the circuit breaker in April 2020.

The convenience and ability to save time spent on travelling to and from lessons were among the commonly cited reasons on why the respondents were more enthusiastic about online learning. However, several individuals expressed concerns over missing out on interactions with their peers and teachers.

Educators are now looking at ways to make lessons more interactive, in hopes of offering students an enriching learning experience. It seems like online lessons or a hybrid model of online and in-person classes are here to stay, even as countries move towards treating Covid-19 as endemic.

As challenging as online lessons may be less digitally-savvy individuals, the good news is that learning new skills and gaining knowledge helps keep Alzheimer’s at bay. They are also seen to improve mental health, keep the mind sharp and help individuals to stay relevant to the fast-evolving workforce.

Photo: Scent by Six

Local brands

Go local. Support local. Thanks to the Made With Passion campaign by Enterprise Singapore and Singapore Brand Office, so many great locally-made brands have been pushed into the spotlight to help create business opportunities for them.

A nationwide sense of camaraderie and community spirit has also been felt more strongly this year with many brands forging ties with one another through mutually-beneficial partnerships. While local bars and restaurants have been co-creating special edition menus, local fragrance brands like Scent by Six have been collaborating with the Singapore Association of Mental Health to design perfumes to uplift our moods.

Another observation is the rise in social consciousness, sustainability, and clearer traceability amongst homegrown brands. For example, jeweller Maddy Barber of Madly is the only jeweller in Singapore to be accredited with the International Coloured Stone Association’s Ethical Accreditation program, which means the gems purchased are mined responsibly, traded sustainably, and not sourced using child labour or obtained legally. To ensure traceability and legitimacy, Barber has invested in sourcing offices in the coloured gem capitals of the world, Tanzania and Sri Lanka, managed by a trusted jewellery partner.

Similarly, Singapore-based conscious beauty platform Aardae goes the extra mile to analyse and test every single product they curate for their website to ensure they are organic, sustainable, non-toxic, ethically-sourced, thoughtfully-manufactured, cruelty-free, and so on.

It’s been a great year for locals and we hope to see more of these homegrown brands expand overseas and fly our national flag with pride.

Fine-dining Western restaurant Zén in Bukit Pasoh Road was awarded its third Michelin star this year PHOTO: Zén

Michelin Guide

The pinnacle of culinary awards, the Michelin Guide Singapore 2021 made its return after a one-year hiatus with a starry line-up of 260 awardees in the Michelin Star, Michelin Plate and Bib Gourmand categories announced this September — almost 20 more winners than 2019.

For a country so small, Singapore is now home to close to 50 Michelin-starred establishments — three are three-Michelin starred, five are two-Michelin starred, and 41 are one-Michelin starred. In addition to that, there are 142 Michelin-plate awardees and 69 Bib Gourmand winners, spanning a mix of restaurants, street food establishments, and hawker stalls. In a first, the Michelin Guide also launched the first-ever Young Chef Award which recognises a young chef who has exceptional talent and great potential.

What all this proves is that despite shipment delays and price hikes in imported produce, manpower crunches and dining curbs, the standard of food in Singapore has not dropped. In fact, it has far exceeded the expectations of Michelin inspectors with its consistency and quality in cuisine.

“Despite the challenges posed by 2020, it has been impressive to observe how the chefs and their teams were able to reinvent and adapt to the unfolding situation. In this 2021 edition, we pay tribute to the perseverance and dedication of these professionals, who continue to bring us together over the finest gastronomy and experiences,” says Gwendal Poullennec, international director of the Michelin Guides.

Photo: DOLCE & GABBANA

NFT

A non-fungible token or NFT is a system that allows you to buy and sell digital items that you place on your digital shelf by way of blockchain technology. NFT is now available in the world of fashion as Dolce & Gabbana debuts its NFT collection, Collezione Genesi. This is done through an exclusive partnership with the curated marketplace for digital luxury and culture UNXD. To date the collection has hit a record in the NFT world fetching over 1885,73 ETH (nearly $5.6 million at current exchange rates).

In a historic moment for the NFT ecosystem, Collezione Genesi is the first luxury NFT collection that involves both digital and physical works, bridging the physical and the metaphysical. This nine-piece, one-of-a-kind collection features hand-made, museum-grade items across Dolce & Gabbana Alta Moda, Alta Sartoria, and Alta Gioielleria. In designing the collection, Domenico Dolce and Stefano Gabbana were very inspired by the infinite creative possibilities allowed by NFTs, enabling them to extend their creativity into a new medium. For more information visit UNXD.com.

Photo: SHUTTERSTOCK

Office trends

Work from home will likely continue well into the next year and maybe beyond. The workplace will no longer have you stuck in a cubicle every day from nine to five. The pandemic has changed that as more and more offices are offering flexibility and freedom. Forbes states that “There is an added focus on health care benefits and wellness initiatives. Employees will continue to directly compare their current benefits to the benefits offered at prospective employers, particularly when it comes to mental health and wellness.” According to Knight Frank UK, the office will be a destination that provides experience, connection and choice — with Insta-worthy cafés, curated meet-ups that instil a sense of community and belonging.

PHOTO: CRYSTAL JADE GROUP

Plant-based

There has been an exponential rise in plant-based offerings brought on by a greater awareness and concern for the planet. This green movement has been further reinforced by several high-level talks that took place recently, such as Ecosperity Week 2021 chaired by Singapore President Halimah Yacob, the first Plant Based Asia Summit, and United Nations Climate Change Conference, all touching on the urgent need to drive change and reverse climate change.

According to the United Nations report, animal agriculture has contributed a staggering 18% of total greenhouse gases, far exceeding the combined exhaust emissions from all transportation (13%). From a health perspective, a meat-heavy diet is also bad for one’s health in the long run.

“Studies show that people who eat a carnivore, keto or paleo diet have early life deaths than eating a diet largely and predominantly of nutritionally rich plants, which is going to extend human lifespan in almost every person,” says Dr. Joel Fuhrman, a board-certified family physician and seven-time New York Times bestselling author, who spoke at the Plant-Based Asia Summit.

Through the innovation of food tech start-ups, the vegan scene is thriving with new and amazing non-meat products from brands like Quorn, Tindle, OmniMeat, HueraFoods, Beyond Meat and Impossible Foods (which just introduced Impossible Pork), available in a number of good restaurants now. While many fine dining restaurants can now customise menus to be vegan, bigger chains like the Crystal Jade group are now offering permanent plant-based menus for vegetarians.

For those who wish to adopt a healthier and more planet-friendly way of life, local catering start-up Insane Meals offers a plant-based meal subscription service for diners to enjoy a plethora of cuisines made with plant-based meats that they can enjoy daily.

Photo: MERT & MARCUS

Quilt

Not just a blanket on grandma’s bed anymore, the humble quilt has been given a second lease in life this year by fashion houses from Berluti, Longchamp, Coach to Versace. The one that turned heads is the Virtus hand- bag by Versace. The bag is named after the Roman deity, symbolising strength, courage, and character. A bold symbol of the brand’s aesthetic heritage, the central gold-tone Barocco V characterises the bag. Lending some star power is Bella Hadid who is the face of the campaign.

Photo: SOURBOMBE

Restaurant openings

The Covid-19 pandemic continues to loom, and with even stricter measures for the most part of this year compared to the end of last year. Such measures caused many F&B operators to suffer from having to pay full rent even though they were not able to utilise their space, and some had to hand up their aprons and vacate their spots. However, some of these spaces were quickly snatched up not long after.

It seems that while some restaurants are closing, many others are taking this opportunity to hop on some food trends or even pursue their dreams of running a restaurant and joining the F&B business. For some, it was the best alternative after losing their jobs due to the pandemic. This is where new F&B joints such as Kevin Khoo Bistro were born. Founded by a group of former flight stewards and stewardesses, the lack of air travel grounded the flight crew and pushed them to open their own restaurant.

Meanwhile, several home chefs and home bakers that gained their fame online during the circuit breaker last year decided to ride on their new-found popularity by opening up a physical store. Some of these online-to-offline F&B outlets include doughnut bakery Sourbombe Artisanal Bakery (by 2018 MasterChef runner-up Genevieve Lee) and Wunderfolks which is popular for its sweet tarts.

Photo: UNSPLASH/ DANIEL BERNARD

Squid Game

Although the dystopian survival storyline is similar to Alice in Borderland or The Hunger Games, perhaps the draw of South Korean thriller Squid Game was that it simplified the concept by getting the characters to compete for the big payout by playing classic South Korean children’s games. Some of the games are also relatable to non-locals, such as the “red light, green light” game and tug of war.

Pairing that with its sharp critique of the socioeconomic inequality and brutal trap of capitalism led to Squid Game’s global success. It reached 142 million viewers globally just a month after its release — making it Netflix’s biggest series launch to date — and remained at the top of the charts for over six weeks. Moreover, it generated many memes, inspired Halloween costumes, and got brands in a frenzy with their own marketing games.

While it is uncertain if Season 2 will also be well-received when (or if) it gets released next year, we can expect a similar emotionally intense story that will touch on socio-political themes

Photo: SHUTTERSTOCK

Travel

So much has changed in the past 12 months — from being stuck in Singapore and only being able to enjoy a beach holiday in Sentosa, to now being able to fly to the beaches in California.

The world is somewhat gaining a sense of normalcy as overseas travelling is slowly, but surely, opening up, with Singapore introducing several vaccinated travel lanes (VTLs), which allows for travellers to travel back and forth quarantine-free. As at Nov 29, Singapore has established VTLs with 16 countries, including the US, UK, Malaysia and several other European countries.

Although there are some conditions for travellers to leave and re-enter the country, such as being fully-vaccinated and taking several Covid-19 tests, most residents in Singapore are more than willing to go through all that just to have a taste of being able to travel again.

Singapore is still in talks to open up more VTLs with other countries, while ensuring safe Covid-19 measures to prevent another huge spread. Meanwhile, people are starting to plan their overseas trips.

Apart from relieving locals’ wanderlust, perhaps this is finally the much-needed boost for several businesses that rely on tourism. From airlines and hotels to F&B and retail players, the VTLs are bound to give them some reprieve from the long and harsh effect of the pandemic.

Photo: FOREST & WHALE

Underrated

Never underestimate the talent of our local designers. Remember the name Wendy Chua of Forest & Whale, an award-winning designer who designs product and spatial experiences focused on social design, creative pedagogies and materials exploration. Her latest project KopiCup (a local version of a reusable coffee cup) was inspired by the iconic kopitiam milk tin and was recently showcased at the Good Design Research project “Reuse Lab” at National Design Centre.

With Reuse Lab, Forest & Whale aims to reduce the use of single-use plastic packaging for food delivery and takeaway by experimenting with new compostable materials and designing better, user-centric reusable food containers with local resonance. Through life cycle assessment of the carbon footprint in the takeaway container, a more sustainable shared circular system of reusable containers to deliver food is proposed.

Chua has also been busy teaching design to the next generation and finding ways to reduce single-use plastic in food delivery systems. Moving forward, Chua will pursue the Master of Arts in Open Design at the Humboldt University of Berlin and University of Buenos Aires.

Photo: SHUTTERSTOCK

Vaccination

When vaccines for Covid-19 became a reality, Singapore set aside over $1 billion to ensure that there were enough shots for its population of around 5.5 million. The city-state was among the first countries in the world to receive vaccines, with the first batch arriving in the last week of 2020. The vaccination drive was rolled out quickly to ensure that frontline workers — such as healthcare workers, delivery riders and transport operators — were sufficiently protected. The vaccines were soon rolled out to seniors (loosely defined as persons above the age of 60), students above the age of 12 and the general public.

The rise in Covid-19 infections has seen the set-up of mobile vaccination teams, so as to ensure that the vaccines were more accessible to individuals who are unable to make their way to a vaccination centre. As of Dec 13, 96% of Singapore’s eligible population (individuals aged 12 and above) had received two doses of the Covid-19 vaccine. Meanwhile, 31% had taken their booster shot. With variants like Omicron surfacing, the health ministry says that residents will soon need to have taken three jabs, to be considered fully vaccinated.

Photo: YOGA MOVEMENT

Weight loss

We have to admit, working from home does have its perks, such as waking up later, not having to travel and working in your pyjamas. But working from home does have its cons too, such as the lack of social interaction and lesser mobility (because there’s only so much space to walk around at home).

That may be why many people have started a fitness regime, be it at home with online help or going to the gym. It is great to see that many have made this a habit even through this year, as social distancing measures are more relaxed than the circuit breaker period.

With the increased popularity of people wanting to increase their fitness levels and lose weight, several fitness workouts have boomed in Singapore and thus have seen an increase in studios popping up lately. Some of these workouts include indoor cycling, boxing, high intensity interval training (HIIT) and yoga.

Just to name a few, Yoga Movement recently opened two more branches (one at Serangoon Gardens and the other at Tanjong Pagar), while Active Fitness expanded its portfolio with two new central outlets — Sugar Boxing studio at Orchard, and Popsicle Rhythmic Cycling studio at UE Square.

However, working out is only just one part of one’s weight loss or fitness journey. Diet is important too. Hence, restaurants have been offering several “healthier option” meals, while new food subscription or catering services have emerged to provide healthier food options without compromising on taste.

Photo: SHUTTERSTOCK

Xtreme sports

Perhaps with two years of travel restrictions and prolonged lock down in some countries, the need to break free is imminent. According to extremesportsx.com, five new extreme sports emerged this year. First, skyaking, where you skydive from a plane while sitting on a kayak. Second, heli-snowboarding (pictured), a combination of heli-skiing and snowboarding. Third, cheese rolling — yes, it is not a typo — where participants chase a rolling round of cheese down the hill and take control of it by tackling, grabbing, or spearing it. Fourth, bouldering, which is a type of mountain climbing where climbers go to heights of 20ft or less without ropes or harnesses. Finally, coasteering, which combine swimming, rock climbing, and navigation by the seashore of rocky coast- line without the use of a kayak or any other watercraft.

Photo: SHUTTERSTOCK

Youthful beauty

Award-winning actress Gwyneth Paltrow and owner of lifestyle online lifestyle portal Goop has admitted that she uses a “teeny drop” of Xeomin — which touts itself as “a uniquely purified choice for frown lines” — to help her “look less pissed off”.

So what is Xeomin? According to Goop’s website, it is a prescription medicine that is injected into muscles and used to improve the look of moderate to severe frown lines between the eyebrows in adults for a short period of time. Is it better than Botox? Keyboard warriors claim there is really no difference. In any case, Paltrow says: “When you see your face start to change, you don’t necessarily feel your most beautiful externally. But the irony is it’s that time in your life when you actually really like yourself and love yourself. So you sort of internally feel really beautiful.”

Will the pursuit of holding back the years ever end?

Photo: ONE KIND BLOCK

Z Generation

What were you doing at the age of 19? Trying to fit into college, navigating relationship problems, experimenting with alcohol or just wondering what’s next for you? While most of us were barely getting a handle on our career aspirations at that age, this bright young individual was already giving his first TedX Talk at age 11 and sold his first invention on Kickstarter at 13.

Meet 19-year-old Dylan Soh, the youngest-ever Design for Good winner who clinched one of the top prizes at this year’s Singapore Design Awards for his One Kind Block — a Lego-like hydroponic modular system designed to encourage urban farming in small spaces and promote a greener self-sustaining society. Design For Good, organised by the Design Business Chamber Singapore, is an award given out to problem-solvers who are able to reimagine ideas on how to improve lives during and after the pandemic.

“The ultimate goal is for cities to be more sustainable and self-aware about their food. Due to travel restrictions and reduced quantities of imported produce, Covid has shown that we need to be self-sufficient to a degree. It’s fantastic that we have 30 by 30 (where Singapore aims to produce 30% of its nutritional needs by 2030), the Green Plan, and these big industrial farms coming along. That’s a great top-down approach, but it can’t create community and make people more mindful of their food in the way we believe the One Kind Block will. There’s an opportunity to give back and be kinder to ourselves that we think we can make use of, and hopefully after reading this you do, too,” says the wise-beyond-his-years Soh. He is also working with various homes for the elderly to encourage seniors to reconnect with nature and improve their mental health through planting.

Here’s to more inspiring Gen Z youths like him who are helping build a better tomorrow!