Finally, the year draws to a close. I have rarely, if ever, been so happy to see the end of one. Twenty-twenty has been tumultuous and, in all honesty, a big pile of poo. The economy has been dire, there have been bushfires in Australia, there was Brexit, the matter of George Floyd, the protests in Hong Kong and Thailand, and let’s not even start with Covid-19. Five of my relatives were infected with the virus, with three of them still suffering quite badly—both physically and psychologically. I have not returned to the office in more than eight months and have yet to physically see all my team members for as long. And I will not be able to visit my folks for an extremely long time, as they live in Sydney (the last time we were together was during Christmas last year).

But all this has also brought into sharp focus my blessings: I have my health and my job; my parents are well and reasonably happy. And if there’s a silver lining that any of us can hold on to, it’s the fact that the conversation on ecology has gained momentum, with a heightened sense of appreciation for nature, which has remained the one immutable constant.

The rhythm of nature and the cycle of seasons have helped regulate our lives when so many other factors have been uprooted. We’ve all had to dramatically adapt to a world on pause and in the process, we’ve sought comfort, joy, inspiration and encouragement in the natural world around us. Which is why I decided to dedicate not one, but two issues—December 2020 and January 2021—to the theme of “Nature”. This month, I wanted to focus on the primal forces of nature—the powerful, the mighty, the formidable and the glorious. I’ve always found the elements of down under extremely inspiring, simply because the landscape is so rugged, so pure, so extreme. Thus, I commissioned fashion photographer Simon Upton, our long-time collaborator, for a cover spread in New South Wales. The resulting visuals (see page 144), with vibrant colours and prints set against the most rugged terrain, are a true expression of creativity. Our cover, in particular, which shows model Charlee Fraser perched on the edge of a cliff , standing tall with a flag-like scarf fluttering in the wind, depicts the strength of a woman ready to take on the challenges of 2021.

For this issue, I also called on the very talented Australian photographer Luke Shadbolt, for the special report on page 34. Focused on the ocean, his sculptural, abstract photography examines the duality of nature, of language, of the sense of place, with the aim of renewing an awareness of and appreciation for the environment. I paired select images from his book Maelstrom with the words of Danielle Lim, an award-winning Singaporean author whose works touch on the essence of what it means to be human, especially when faced with extraordinary circumstances—much like those we currently find ourselves in. As she says: “If we are to hope for a better world, then we must try to create a better world ourselves, by our own beliefs and actions, no matter how small. And to be able to do this, we must search for the small pockets of beauty and hope amid all the trials and struggles.”

I hope you will find in this issue, and the next, beauty and solace in the wonders of Mother Nature and with that, strength and fortitude to push for a better tomorrow. My very best wishes to you and your family for a safe, happy, lucky and healthy 2021.

—Kenneth Goh, Editor-in-Chief 

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Photographer: Simon Upton
Stylist: Jana Pokorny
Model: Charlee Fraser / IMG Models
Hair and Makeup: Koh / Vivien’s Creative