Gabriel Q Chan (@gabrielqchan), co-founder of Bless Inc Asia, a boutique Public Relations consultancy that’s committed to sharing clients’ good news—their products, services, brands, and philosophies, through effective communications. We got the privilege to interview Gabriel, whom we believe truly embraces the duality of ourJekyll Hyde bags.
1. Hi Gabriel, can you tell us a short story about yourself?
I’ve never really had to tell a story about myself much; most of the time, I tell the stories of others as part of my work consulting clients on their PR issues. I guess that makes me a storyteller of some sort. Often times, people consider PR as merely a publicity tool to sell products or brands, but it is definitely more than just that. We tell a story about someone, something, or to champion a cause. I have been involved in this line of work or some variant of it since I was in school. Back then, I was actively participating in youth social movements, and part of the involvement meant that we had to constantly create engagement with the student body to generate interest for them to participate in social and charitable outreach programmes. When it was time to choose a field of study in college, I guess I was naturally drawn to PR and journalism, without realising it at that moment where that would bring me in life. You could say it’s passion, or interest, or nurtured skill, but I find a sense of satisfaction when a good story is told and made an impact on people. It is not always frivolous, how else would people know about a revolutionary technology, or an innovative product, or a value-added service, or get involved in a social cause, if not through the power of mass media, and in recent times, social media?
2. Can you tell us the story behind Bless Inc Asia?
A dear friend of mine, Dee founded Bless Inc Asia about five years back. I have always admired her drive, talent and tenacity, and when the time came for me to explore the next stage of my career, we decided to have a serious conversation and that was how I came to be part of the Bless family. The ride has been filled with lots of amazing adventures, ups and downs, but as with life, that is to be expected. Bless is not just a PR consultancy, we treat the company as an institution where we spend a lot of our time in, working and connecting with people, and to groom the next generation talents. Between Dee and I, we have a combined experience of over 40 years, and we have been fortunate to have great mentors and bosses who helped train and shape who we are today. As the saying goes – pay it forward, we want to share what we have learnt with the younger generation and in the process, do good work for our clients. For me personally, I always believe in something a mentor once told me – In life, you gotta learn, apply and teach.
"Life’s short, play hard" - Gabriel
5. What does storytelling mean to you?
Storytelling comes in so many forms and functions. Whether or not we are conscious of it, we are always, constantly telling a story to the world. It doesn’t need to be a verbal storytelling session or a written article – what we wear, where we eat, what we drive, or the zip code we live in; tells a story. In the age of Facebook and Instagram, social media is now a very powerful tool in storytelling. We choose and curate what we want the world to see on social media. But to me, I feel storytelling can take on a more subtle approach that speaks of who we are. How we interact with people is a form of storytelling of our personal values. People relate to us through actual interaction, not the online persona that we put up on social media. That is where the real human connection lies. Call me old school, but I prefer a face-to-face meet versus a phone call or FB chat, anytime.
6. What is your favourite form of storytelling and why?
I don’t think I have a particular favourite form of storytelling. However, I am usually drawn to songs, and sometimes you come across a particular song at a particular moment in time in your life, and the words just made so much sense and resonate with the situation that you are dealing with then. I feel that music is very powerful and it evokes a certain kind of emotions that can tell so many stories. Music is like a soundtrack to my life, there are some songs that will bring me back to a certain period in my life, and sometimes I feel like songs are like little messages that the universe is sending my way if you just listen close enough and ponder on the words.
Life’s short, play hard. I remember coming across this tag line when I was really young, on a Reebok T-shirt! It somehow stuck with me throughout my childhood and most of my adulthood. But the word ‘play’ means to me more than just recreational play, it’s about playing the game called life! There are still times when things get a little rough, I would remember this simple line, and tell myself, keep playing. If I want to win the race, I have to be in the race.
8. Do you have a favourite fictional story?
I have read and watched many works of fiction in my life, but there is one particular book that somehow lingers on my mind. It’s this gem of a book I discovered when I was still in college by Tony Parsons – Man and Boy. The story was very simple, yet complex in terms of relationships between the characters. The relationship issues dealt with in the story were all very real, which I can easily relate to even as a single gay man. I don’t know how it has influenced me, but it got me an ‘A’ when I translated part of the book into a screenplay in my film class!
9. Which is your favourite style and what is your all-time favourite piece?
That is definitely a very interesting question to ask myself! I remember having gone through so many style phases at different points in my life. Back when I was in college, I used to wear a lot of black – partly influenced by Posh Spice (cringe) and also the fact that my college’s official colour was black! I remember going through my wardrobe then and found almost all I had was black in colour, or at least grey. When I first started working, I was in mostly corporate shirts, ties and pants, but I attempted to brighten it up with colour matching and colour blocking. Then I went through a very colourful phase – bright orange jacket, pink pants, red snood; the works. My dressing has gotten more casual these days; I am mostly in jeans and a shirt or t-shirt. I choose plain basic t-shirts and jeans, and if I had to go for a meeting, I just throw on a jacket to style it up. I've also discovered that I currently have mostly white shirts! I have over 20 white shirts of various designs! One of my favourite styles has to be wearing a white shirt over a pair of blue denim. Right now, my favourite piece is my Faculty Denim 15 Damaged Jean. I also think that a pair of good shoes completes a look, so I make it a point to try and match my shoes to my accessories and bags.
Combining minimalist silhouette and timeless versatility
10. Is there a particular style that defines you or makes you feel comfortable in?
I would like to think that I am highly versatile. Most of my friends say that I have this knack to pull off all sorts of styles. I like to try different styles, from wearing a pair of Melissa Flox sandals (it’s unisex by the way) on a weekend with my linen pants, to suiting up and putting on a pair of Cole Haan Oxfords for more formal occasions. But if I had a choice, I would go with a shirt over my pair of jeans, or t-shirts over shorts, anytime. Friends who know me would say that I am almost always seen with my bags (mostly totes haha). I feel that a nice bag, and it doesn’t have to be branded mind you, can easily add a touch of sophistication to the whole look. My hairstylist actually finds it amusing that I tend to carry women’s bags, but somehow they look every part suited to my style. Style is so personal, you can’t pinpoint and say that a certain look is stylish, everyone carries styles differently and that’s what makes us all unique.
Gabriel in his go-to outfit; t-shirt, shorts and outerwear.
11. Do you have any style inspirations?
I don’t really have any specific style inspirations, but I do take notice of what I see on movies, social media or on magazines, and try to improvise a look that suits myself. I don’t really follow a lot of trends in a way, just what I like and as long as they don’t look too dated.
12. Name one style you think men should adopt?
I love jackets, as they are highly versatile, and can immediately dress up your looks. It’s a pity that the weather in Singapore is so hot and humid, so I choose linen jackets or light summer jackets. I always have a few handy in my office or in my car, just in case I need them. I think men should also consider dressing up plain t-shirts with snoods or scarfs, and invest in accessories such as rings, bracelets and nice watches.
13. Do you have any fashion pet peeve?
The biggest fashion faux pas has got to be CROCS! I know they have started introducing newer styles, but the Crocs clogs are absolutely a big no-no… even on kids!
Gabriel's everyday essentials
14. Can you tell us what are 3-5 everyday essentials that you carry and why?
I never leave home without my mobile phone because it has become a habit I guess; my car key because I drive mostly anywhere; my Paw-Paw just in case; a nail clipper because I have dry hands, and the skin on my fingers peel; and lastly tissue paper, because you can never be too “auntie”!
I was immediately drawn to the colour and material on the Milton Crossbody Clutch the first time I laid eyes on it. Then I was told that it tells the story of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde; that intrigued me further. I always liked a good story, so the concept of incorporating storytelling into the clutch design fascinated me. I especially love how the clutch is reversible – semi-formal and totally casual with a simple flip. It’s extremely versatile with the multi compartments and I mostly use it as a clutch. Even though it has dual sides, I am more attracted to the Jekyll side of the design, because I am just so in love with the beautiful midnight blue colour! I love the design so much so that I got myself the Jekyll and Hyde Strand Briefcase in the same colour too!
16. Describe how you can style your Milton Crossbody Clutch with?
The Milton Crossbody Clutch is very versatile with its dual-sided design. I particularly like the midnight blue coloured side, as it looks really classy and understated when paired with a casual suit for a semi-formal event, or just for a nice dinner with friends. The flipside of it with the motifs gives out a more casual feel, perfect for weekend brunches, matched with my linen shirts and shorts, and my sandals.
STORYTELLERS WE LOVEis a monthly series that sets out to uncover different forms of storytelling in the world, by engaging influencers in their own right and thought leaders in their industry. We believe that their stories and way of storytelling will foster Gnome & Bow’s vision to inspire personal storytelling without boundaries.
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