We met up with Nick Oxborrow at home to talk about Fabulation, the perfect party and being a third-culture kid.
Growing up in Singapore you have seen the city change. What was it like growing up here? What was Singapore like back then?
The main difference is the growth – in various ways. 20 years ago everything was still very basic. Taking events as an example, one would order catering from a hotel and receive only a low standard package. Everything was the same. The network of suppliers and specialities wasn’t available. From a service perspective there is so much more variation of what people can offer. However, even now it’s still not fully developed, if you compare it to for example London.
The uniqueness of service, such as what Clubvivre is offering, is still developing. At the same time, the market in Singapore is opening up to what can be done in terms of events, flowers, weddings and so on.
How did the city shape you and your perspective on things?
I grew up here, but also went to a boarding school in the UK, looking back at my life in Singapore. I was joking that we didn’t have running water, when people asked me about living in Asia. Them being shocked, I explained with the example of the tallest hotel in the world that Singapore was developing. I realised that it was Europe that didn’t move forward. I was noticing the difference between Europe’s perception of Asia and what was actually happening.
What stood out the most over the years?
Singapore and the character of its people is actually quite the same. It hasn’t really changed that much. What has changed is the physical nature of Singapore. I remember when the Swissôtel was the tallest hotel in the world and it was the last building on Bras Basah – after that was nothing. Now you look at it and it’s filled.
Both you and your family grew up in different countries. Where do you feel at home? Or what makes you feel at home?
Not necessarily geography. I feel quite like a global kid or third-culture kid (TCK), which is someone that is being brought up outside their parents’ culture, but inside their parents’ culture in that new place. To a Singaporean I am still a foreigner and an English person doesn’t tell necessarily that I am a foreigner – but if you dig deep you will see that I am not British at all.
I feel living in Britain is harder than anywhere else, because I am spoken to as I should understand but don’t necessarily get all cultural nods. Home is who you are, as you will build up a personal sense of yourself.
Why did you start Fabulation?
I was working in events in London and I felt there was a lack of the style element. Events are often run by administrative people and I wanted to bring a decorative edge to it. Not just flowers, but the entire feel and look of it.
Coming to visit my family here in Singapore in 2005, I realised that Singapore was still producing these boxed events. I thought that my decorative interest and talent in events could thrive here – so I came here to do that.
What is Fabulation and how does it differ from a normal event company?
I have a F&B background and was trained in a Swiss hotel school, so my profession is actually service and F&B. Most event companies come out of administrative people, liking and having a creative flair. Very few event companies have a service background. Me being able to run an event from the F&B angle and the fact that I am bringing the interior design element in, sets Fabulation apart. I don’t think there is anyone else doing that in Singapore. Fabulation does flowers, styling and events – that combination you won’t find here.
Where do you source your inspiration?
I take inspiration from all over the place – from social pages, such as Hello Magazine, to fashion and style in general. But I don’t follow fashion as such. But I identify style trends and pick up on what people are saying, doing, and feeling.
The creative source for me comes from the space that I am in. If someone wants to have an event in a red ballroom then I will take a lot of inspiration from the fact that the ballroom is red and start creating with the dynamic and the space of the ballroom.
Combining pleasure and work – what’s the trick in finding the right balance?
I have three floors and on the top floor there is absolutely no work done. When I climb up the stairs, there will be no work element there – which is quite a geographical distinction. You learn how to create these boundaries over time. I also tend to switch off around 6pm and keep Sunday strictly as a day off.
What makes a party successful?
What makes a party unsuccessful is if someone approaches it from an administrative point of view. The big picture of a party is to have fun and a lot of people forget that in their mission to tick off a checklist.
What are the key elements that every party needs?
I see parties as a three-legged table: food & beverage, entertainment (which covers any activity or speech) and decor. Those three things have to be right. If you have for example an Arabian Nights theme, then these three elements should be arranged accordingly.
Organising parties and events for other, what would your ideal personal party look like?
I have had my ideal party already – my 40th birthday party. I did a Great Gatsby party with lights, sounds, music, invitation and everything else. If I had all the money in the world, I would throw parties all the time.