Hello There, Honey
Monday, 18 Jun 2012
We love our power women, and Honey Lee is one heck of a role model.
To add to her long list of achievements, Honey was also the captain of her school’s basketball team and a back-up dancer in Korea – she even danced in the Olympic stadium! We speak to this stylish lady (who’s also a total sweetheart with a productivity rate that’s just off the charts) about her life, work ethic, and best-kept secrets.
P.S. Check out her house in Korea – it has a tree growing through it!
All images c/o Honey Lee
Tell us a little about your childhood. Where did you grow up and where is home now?
Born in New York City, bred in New Jersey and Seoul, Korea. No, not the Jersey Shore but Bergen County, New Jersey. Grew up in the suburbs only to move to a metro city (Seoul) in my teens. I was always active- captain of the High School basketball team and also a part-time backup dancer in Korea. I will never forget the feeling of dancing in the Olympic stadium. Hmm, given the KPOP wave happening now maybe that was the career path I should have stuck with.
I found my way back to New York though and went to undergrad business school at NYU Stern. At the same time, I started my own dance group in the city and travelled to perform all around the east coast. Stuck by the city until I moved out to Singapore 4 years ago. New York will always be home in a way but now I call Singapore home. It’s where I got married, started my own company, and plan to settle so I’m here for the long haul.
Tell us about your family and your home here.
My family here in Singapore is made up of my husband Peter and my crazy corgi Ritz. We live in City Square Residences which houses probably 50% of all the expats in Singapore. The condo is convenient and simple and my style is apparent through our home styling. I like to mix modern pieces with antiques and original décor elements. Silk cushions, woven throws from Jim Thompson, lots of floral arrangements by yours truly, antique chests and cabinets, and various takeaways from mine and Peter’s travels- it’s a big mish mash.
My home in Korea is a bit of a different story. It’s located in the midst of the mountains with trees and nature all around. We actually have a real tree that goes through part of the house. It takes 70 stairs to get up to the house but it’s a breathtaking place and the view and air quality are simply amazing. We have lots of dogs and flowers of every color in bloom in the spring, a gorgeous snowy landscape in the winter. The house looks like it came right out of a magazine spread.
OK, so we’ve heard a lot of great things about your style… how would you describe it and who are some of your favourite designers?
My style is pretty much parallel to my personality. I like a bit of everything and anything but always with a lot of color and sparkle. Neon colors, sequins, buttons, that sort of thing. I like to dress according to my mood so I make sure my wardrobe is interesting and diverse. Mostly, I like to mix classic/timeless pieces with a bit of flair whether it’s a black and white ensemble with hot pink shoes or a pair of jeans and a white polo button down with an 80’s Judith Leiber belt.
I have a bit of an obsessive personality when it comes to glasses, jewelry and shoes. I’ve got a shoe closet with over 100 pairs of shoes and about 40 different sunglasses/glasses. Yes, it is over the top, but once you get to know me, you’ll know I am too.
Trends do not appeal to me. I wear what I want and my wardrobe is a good testament to that. Most of the things I own have been with me for a very long time.
Designers… so many brands that I adore but Theory, Chanel, Tibi, Matthew Williamson, Paul & Joe, Céline, and Jill Stuart have a tendency to keep popping up in my closet. I also love going wholesale shopping in Korea so often times there won’t be a tag.
You recently came back from Seoul. Are you a frequent flyer?
Yes, indeed! I fly back to Seoul every 3 months to do the friends/family visits and also for HANCulture. I meet with my designers and also my wholesale reps to make sure I’m constantly keeping fresh when it comes to HAN. It’s one of my absolute favorite cities. You can’t beat the food or shopping.
Other than Seoul, I make sure to take advantage of the whole region with trips over every public holiday and some weekends. So far we’ve managed to get in getaways to different areas in Thailand, Australia, Hong Kong, Bali, Cambodia and Malaysia. We go back to Melbourne (Peter’s hometown) and New York once a year as well. This year we’ve got Shanghai, Taiwan, Vietnam and Mexico on the roster.
Please share your top three travelling tips! (God knows we need them)
1. Find/engage a local friend- it makes all the difference knowing where to go and where to get the best deals, particularly in countries where English is not so universal. If this is not possible, then I always get a categorized rundown from at least 2 friends with similar interests. Recommendations are key.
2. Pack light- I never overpack when it comes to trips. I always leave with an empty bag and come back with a full one. Plan to shop!
3. Take care of your skin- I always bring my OHUI (Korean brand)spf50 roll on sunblock and my Sum:37 (Korean brand) mineral mist with me wherever I go. Whether it’s sun or snow, I take care of my best accessory.
If you’re looking for travel tips on Seoul:
1. Go to the wholesale night market (pyunghwa, shin pyunghwa, jeil pyunghwa). These are the ones that tourists don’t hear about. They’re for retailers and it’s a wholesale wonderland that opens from 10am-4pm. You’ve got all the shopowners going and you’ll find the best stuff (clothing, accessories, etc) for unbelievable prices. I spent $400 and came back with over 10 things!
2. Eat more than just Korean bbq. There are tons of places to go, particularly Korean style sushi restaurants, Korean style Chinese food and streetside food stalls late at night.
3. Go to Garosugil (tree-lined street). It’s a lovely spot with tons of boutiques, bars, eateries, cafes and everything artsy. It’s also got a splash of your branded shops like Kate Spade. It’s your club street of Seoul just more jam-packed.
4. Buy makeup- it’s cheap and does amazing things. Facial care products (eg. faceshop) are all over and definitely worth buying in bulk. Popular brands include Nature Republic and Aritaum. BB creams, face masks and foot peels galore!
Beauty routine! What are the top five products you cannot live without?
Only five? If I must pick then here it is:
1.Maybelline the Falsies Mascara- the closest thing to fake lashes. I’ve tried them all and I keep coming back to this one.
2. Make Up For Ever’s Mist and Fix- I spray it on once in the morning and my make up stays put all day. No panda eyes, my worst nightmare.
3. Fresh Brown Sugar Hand Cream- I’ve used this since I lived in New York and stick by it. So glad that Sephora decided to bring it in recently!
4. Chanel N 5 parfum- an oldie but a goodie, it’s my staple go to perfume.
5. Urban Decay Eyeshadow Primer Potion- again, my makeup focuses on my eyes and the ultimate primer is what I need. Works like a charm.
What’s a typical day like for you? Are you a fitness bunny? A workaholic? Which parts of your work do you love and which can’t you stand?
A typical day is full of unexpected calls, interesting people and a lot of fun actually. It’s nice to work from home with a small team (4 other people). Work never really starts and ends with meetings too early in the morning and also too late into the night. However, we love what we do. Events are tiring but also really rewarding and we get to work some awesome brands that we personally love. It’s very fulfilling and the ethic and energy behind the day to day work is simply amazing.
So to answer your question, I would have to say the best parts of the job are my team, the clients and everyone in between including the media and our partners (like the honeycombers!). I’m a people person and I don’t think there’s a better suited job for me out there. On the negative, I guess we do have those extra demanding clients here and there that buy out your schedule for an entire month. Those people exist in any industry though so you learn to manage and keep moving!
On the fitness front, I used to keep up my dancing taking 2-3 classes a week but I started having less and less time for it. Now, I have my personal trainer, Rendy, who tailors my workout 2-3 times a week. We do everything from TRX to weights to circuit training and cardio so he’s my all in one work out plan. It’s great because he comes directly to me and works around my schedule so I would say he’s the perfect solution for the person who says they have ‘no time to work out’.
You manage HEAT Branding and you design jewellery too? Respect! What prompted you to start your own line and how do you manage your time?
I’ve always had a love and passion for jewelry, particularly that which is completely unique and one of a kind. My mother introduced me to a special Korean designer and her showroom and the rest was history. My entrepreneurial antenna was going off and I knew I had to get the stuff out there.
I started HANCulture to introduce truly talented and established Korean artisans as well as my own designs. I recently started designing my own pieces and I’ll be stocking them at Dejavu Vintage by the end of the month.
Time management wise it’s a constant battle managing HEAT, HAN, my dog, my social life and oh yes, my husband! I like to be on my feet all the time though, so I think the key is no sleep and cheating the clock. Multi-tasking has become my number one skill and I make sure I don’t waste a minute of the day if I can help it. I’m focused on the success of my businesses and I understand that I am the only one that can get me where I want to be. This genuinely motivates me to work to my utmost potential.
Are you willing to divulge some tricks of the trade? What are the top three qualities every PR consultant should possess?
Always happy to help. Top three qualities:
1. Perseverance: the communications business is not always glamorous. There’s a lot of calling, calling and more calling. Asking favors, begging for attention, and schmoozing are all essential to any PR person. Hence, not taking no for an answer is critical.
2. Personality: media get bombarded with requests all the time. How will you get noticed in the sea of PR cronies out there? Having a memorable persona and a distinct personality will give you a huge advantage. Yes, you have to be born with it however there are things you can do to stand out. Pay attention to the way you dress, make sure your language is clear, approach people with a warm tone and always smile.
3. Organizational skill – keeping track of your work, your requests, and to dos is half the battle. Being organized with your workload, scheduling, and daily requisites is the most important thing you have to manage.
Do you have any favourite restaurants or boutiques in Singapore?
Dimsum – Cherry Garden, Mandarin Oriental
Champagne Brunch – the Hyatt
Bacon & Eggs – PS Café at Ann Siang Hill
Japanese – Shinji (Raffles Hotel), Tatsuya (Goodwood Park hotel)
Korean – Hyangtogol at Amara Hotel
Inhabit (Mandarin Gallery)
I definitely go to the Club 21 bazaar, OnPedder warehouse sale and the rest. Most of my finds though are from overseas, particularly the US, Korea, or Hong Kong. I’m regularly on shopbop.com as well.
Obviously, you’re a very accomplished lady. Do you have any advice for people who are just starting out?
Don’t start a business to make money. Start it because you believe in the cause and the money will come. The sooner you realize and understand what you love to do, the faster you should actually start doing it. Often times people wait too long before they decide to pursue their dreams. They do their due diligence and wait for the ‘right time’ to present itself. There are too many talented people out there to put off your brilliant idea. If you have a vision and the drive (most important) to make it happen, then go for it.
The other thing- you’ll be eating cup noodles and sewing your own clothes for a while but keep at it. Your time will come and when it does, it will be glorious.
Thanks for the great tips, Honey!
All images c/o Honey Lee