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Singapore Enters Its Studio 54 Era With The Launch of its First EDITION Hotel

A nightclub unveiling kicked it off, naturally.

Singapore Enters Its Studio 54 Era With The Launch of its First EDITION Hotel
Courtesy of EDITION Singapore

One of the first people I met in Singapore was Brando. Perched at the lobby bar at the brand-new EDITION Hotel, with its Lalique-esque decanters bathing in lilac light, Brando wore an emerald green Issey Miyake pleated coat, a floral button-down shirt, and a pink bespoke milliner-made fedora above Gucci Pink Mirror Shield sunglasses that shone from chartreuse to magenta like a metaverse sky. It was 8 p.m.

Mesmerized, I approached him. Brando said he was there for a Daum Crystal party; I asked if he worked for them. He drawled, “Iiiii don’t work for aaanybody.”

Brando epitomized a nightlife archetype I’d loved since 2008 when I cocktail waitressed at the Boom Boom Room in New York City. There, it seemed more accurate to say I worked surrealist’s balls, not shifts; perched on our suede marshmallow barstools and Terrazza sofas were flame-haired Carmen de Alessio (a co-founder of Studio 54), Patrick McDonald with his top hats and Cleopatra eyebrows, and Daphne Guinness—who hung out at Dali’s house as a child and was mentored by David Bowie–with her Cruella de Ville hair and Ex Machina ensembles. Amanda Lepore, Beyoncé, and Debbie Harry might be braiding through the room at any given moment.

Back then, I loved the LCD Soundsystem song “Losing My Edge.” The song is about an aging hipster who worries that the next generation is coming up behind him. But he swears “he was there,” calling out all the white-hot moments and places in his past.

My “being there” was in that NYC orbit in my late twenties. My friends and I were especially fond of Avenue on Tuesdays and Thursdays, Rose Bar at Gramercy Park Hotel on Thursdays, and Sway on Sundays (The Smiths night, IYKYK). I even studied nightlife; my best friend was a designer for Andre Balazs Hotels, and we were obsessed with the history of after-dark institutions like Area and Max’s Kansas City.

Courtesy of EDITION Singapore

Fifteen years and two children later, I live in Los Angeles, far removed from that orbit and more like the person who talks about “being there.” I’ve had mixed feelings about that, much like the tension in that song.

When I received an assignment to cover the launch weekend of The Singapore EDITION hotel, I was intrigued. The three-day event promised “a secret surprise unveiling,” and I wondered if it could recapture the cigarette and champagne-fueled magic of my past—or perhaps a different, glittering future.

After all, the EDITION brand was founded by Ian Schrager of Studio 54, arguably the best club in the history of nocturnal pursuits. Without Schrager, I wouldn’t have had my hall-of-fame experiences in NYC at Rose Bar.

In 1984, four years after Studio 54 closed, Schrager invented the boutique hotel with Morgans Hotel in NYC. “When I went into the hotel world, I knew that you have to create a visceral experience, and I learned that from the club,” he told the New York Times in 2018, the same year he opened EDITION hotels in Shanghai, Bodrum, Times Square, Barcelona, Bangkok, and West Hollywood. EDITION hotels strongly emphasize design, architecture, and nightlife, from the signature Pop Art-colored felted billiard tables to the Kubrickian light fixtures to the nautilus-shaped staircases that have spawned a million Instagram posts. Today, there are 20 EDITIONS, with my editor covering the Rivera Maya EDITION at Kanai launch mere weeks ago.

Back at the lobby bar, I said goodnight to Brando and retired to my minimalist dream of a room to wonder if this weekend would restore a modicum of my lost edge. Deeper down, I nervously wondered: was I even cool enough to be there?

Where the Hanging Gardens of Babylon Met Bladerunner

The morning after meeting Brando, I headed to the rooftop deck for 8 a.m. Pilates and a sound bath with instructor Dawn Sim, who was doing a one-legged king pigeon on a raised bed in the middle of the pool when I arrived. Singapore, resembling the Hanging Gardens of Babylon meets Bladerunner, was hot that second weekend in May. It also felt a bit like being inside a cloud, with humidity topping 76%.

A busboy handed me a tray with a rolled cold towel, two shots of watermelon juice, and headphones. Sim asked if anyone had any injuries or pain points; my back was throbbing, but I was too embarrassed to admit it (age being the culprit again). She led us in some light stretches with pulsing, then announced the soundbath portion of the experience.

“Our bodies are about 60% water, and vibration affects water,” she said, circling a singing bowl’s rim with a mallet a few times. The water inside the bowl bubbled up like it had 20 tiny fountains inside it. We donned the headphones, laid down, and slow, spa-like music filled my brain.

At one point, Sim placed the bowls on our bellies. She tapped the mallet on my bowl, and my stomach vibrated. I thought about water and molecules and Dr. Emoto, who famously exposed water to positive speech and thoughts, then froze it to create visually “pleasing” ice crystals instead of distorted crystals when exposed to negativity. What was this water doing to me, and what was I doing to it? I wondered in my sound bath delirium. I hoped we left each other better; as I sat up straight for my namaste, I noticed the pain was gone. Maybe I was Benjamin Buttoning.

Afterward, I enjoyed caramelized banana oatmeal in the hotel restaurant and headed to Gardens By The Bay, a Biodome-style plant extravaganza that felt like Pandora from Avatar, with a diaphanous Dave Chihuly exhibit. Before I even walked in, a man was playing Pachelbel’s Canyon on piano at the entrance, and as corny as that is, I started crying. Singapore was burrowing into my vintage soul.

A City Known For Its Vibrant Greenery and Cuisine

“When we created this hotel, we obviously wanted to embrace the fact that we’re in Singapore,” Singapore EDITION General Manager, Ranim Ben Romdhane, told me in the hotel’s Punch Room, a rhapsody in Yves Klein blue. In that vein, the Singapore EDITION was designed by Moshe Safdie (who also imagined Singapore’s lotus-shaped Art Science Museum and Marina Bay Sands, resembling a surfboard atop two towers). Romdhane explained that Singapore is still 50% natural, a philosophy extending into the Singapore EDITION, which has 300 plants in the lobby alone and 162 preserved fern spheres dangling from the ceiling like upside-down Truffula trees from the Lorax.

That night, we headed to the Lau Pa Sat hawker market, with its smoky, open-air, neon-lit diner stalls, à la Wong Kar Wai. Drenched in the aroma of sizzling satay, a man who delivered our food explained that Singaporean cuisine is rooted in its three primary cultures: Malaysian, Chinese, and Indian.

I talked to Frank Roberts, VP of Brand Experience at Edition Hotels, between bites of vegan Briyani with rice, naan, dal, and hari chutney. Within minutes, we realized we both ran in the same New York circles in the late aughts and early 2010s: he actually opened Rose Bar in 2006; when I mentioned the DJ David Katz and my predilection to Thursday nights there, he nodded; we both remembered meeting owner Nur Khan’s 40-pound African serval cat, which lived in his Soho loft and was nicknamed “the tiger.” Roberts was also familiar with the epic parties thrown at Sway on Sunday nights. We were there.

Roberts is responsible for executing the brand’s vision through its restaurants, press, nightlife culture, and programming to create the right vibes for each property. This made me think about the next night’s “secret surprise unveiling” again. Not only did it seem like Roberts was always there, but he was the one making it happen.

The Club Was Giving Silencio

On my final full day in Singapore, the pre-unveiling event started at 6:30 pm. The lobby sparkled and pulsed with camera bulbs, curiosity, and local influencers in full regalia. The cool kids wore designer gowns; a woman around my age sported a half-ponytail, skinny tie, and giant men’s dress shirt that fell trapeze-style over her fuchsia tutu. She was radiant and made me feel more like I belonged in the present. Threading through the room at any given moment was a Thailand footballer, a martial arts movie legend from Hong Kong, and a Singaporean actress/high-end streetwear designer.

Around 8 p.m., we were marshaled into the dining room, where guests slid into Castelvetrano olive and emerald-hued chairs and booths at FYSH restaurant. As we dined, I thought about FYSH’s chef Josh Niland, whom I met the day before and was one of the most fascinating interview subjects I’d ever had. Niland is one of those people who live in the Venn diagram center of disparate worlds: he didn’t just speak about his multi-award-winning, cookbook-garnering philosophy on scale-to-tail fish cookery or seafood steakhouse approach with FYSH; he connected his techniques with research he’d conducted in an optometry book (TL;DR: FYSH offers fish eye ice cream).

At around 10:30 p.m., we descended the snail-like EDITION staircase and snuck past velvet ropes, where someone whispered that 800 people were waiting to get into the secret unveiling. I knew that feeling; it was the breathless feeling I had while standing in front of doormen at Beatrice Inn, Jane Ballroom, and The Box in my nights of yore—the feeling that anything could happen. We traversed a mirrored portal-of-sorts leading into a dark, cavernous space with barreled ceilings.

This was it, the mysterious unveiling! Unfolding before me was the Wonder Room, where velvety, curved banquettes hugged the walls. Down the center was a stage with Baz Luhrmann-esque theatre curtains pulled aside. A trio band called Mantravine, led by the singer Nathan Hartono, sporting a pompadour and celery-colored, boxy-shouldered suit, played a rambunctious set, magnetizing a semi-circle of champagne-sipping guests.

Of those guests, one woman wore a Chanel gold lamé bomber jacket, black hot pants, and white platform sneakers with sequined leg warmers. She was the prom queen of outer space. I noted that many guests had haircuts that called up Karen O and the Misshapes from my aughts nights. Again, my sense of belonging surged. Sadly, I didn’t see Brando, but his spirit loomed in the sartorially brazen room.

Next, DJ Mademoiselle Yulia took the stage, and behind her, a screen swirled with what looked like Dippin’ Dots in glitter. The crowd started dancing. After her was fashion designer and DJ Nicolette Yip’s set. Both women rip-roared through songs I’d never heard and club anthems I had: Kylie Minogue’s “Can’t Get You Outta My Head,” and ABBA’s "Gimme! Gimme! Gimme! (A Man After Midnight).”

LCD’s James Murphy also sang in my head, “I'm losing my edge to the kids whose footsteps I hear when they get on the decks.” But surrendering to the all-ages move-busting around me, I decided to make peace with my own earthly tenure.

Around 1 a.m., I was on the dance floor, reliving every best nightclub moment I’d ever experienced: Opening night at Boom Boom Room in 2009, Le Baron in Paris in 2010, followed by Berlin’s Cookies a few nights later, and of course, all those Rose Bar and Sway nights in NYC. More than nostalgia though, I was adding another epic night to the annals of disco ball-lit time. The event officially ended at 2:45 a.m., and as I returned to my plush room to text my boyfriend and 10-year-old son, lingerers moved into the boudoir-like Pink Room for a nightcap.

Weeks later, when I sat down to recall my time at the EDITION launch, I discovered another quote by Ian Schrager, who once said, “You can’t kill that social urge to meet people, to have fun, and to dance. It was with us thousands of years ago when civilization began, and it will be with us until we cease to exist.” I related. I know I will always have that urge to experience nightlife on a Studio 54 level like I had in the past and present until I cease to exist. And while I may not experience it as often, sometimes the yearning and build-up before nights like the Wonder Room launch make it even more magical.

And maybe the best way to belong is to simply believe you do, therefore contributing to the bright energy of an exceptional room.

Listen, I may be losing my edge, but on this night, I. was. there.

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