Autumn Muses

As I peer through the rustic window back home in New York, I see leaves starting to change colour. The brisk zephyrs pass through trees with sombre sighs; the light is slowly growing melancholic and moody, signifying the beginning of my most favourite season—autumn. With ambient music playing in the background, I am sipping tea, deep in green with the essence of roasted rice, and musing upon my summer.

‘Elegance is not about being noticed, it’s about being remembered,’ articulates Giorgio Armani. And, the HP Spectre is an unforgettable one.

I never thought that I would fancy another laptop other than the one I owned for the past 4 years, but the Spectre provided me with a new perspective into my art, which allowed me to reinvent my creative vision.

This past summer, I aimed to nourish my adoration in travel to a foreign land far away from the metropolis as well as increase breadth in my travel work. Some were a bit surprised at my newest travel location, as it is the opposite from the hustle and bustle characteristic of the city that I gravitate towards. However, it is reminiscent of my work as a mere child, when my passions in photography blossomed, and I took special interest in capturing the beauty of a simple dandelion.

I typically do not bring my old laptop on travels because it is quite cumbersome, but the Spectre is so incredibly light, it was fitting to bring along with me everywhere I went. This laptop challenges the future of computers—the extreme thinness of the Spectre without the compromise of power is the feature that I found to be the most striking. As I admire the Spectre bathing in autumnal light on my windowsill, I can see just how unbelievably thin this laptop is.

Moreover, from the i7 Intel Core to the artisan craftsmanship with carbon fibre, aluminium, glass trackpad, and gorgeous keyboard—the attention to detail is stunning, making this gem elegant, yet solid.

Being an urban soul, as I have written in in my previous Journal entry, I predominantly captured the ephemeral, quiet moments in urban cities. But with my Spectre, I traversed the ocean to rural Iceland and my artistic expression has distinctly evolved, evident as my visual storytelling of my magical adventure slowly unravelled. My Spectre became the perfect summer companion and will continue to be in the future.

Escaping the city with my beloved Spectre was incredibly exhilarating—it was the highlight of my summer. My heart is full.

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Partnership with HP


Spectre in Iceland

Little 1.5m me and my 13cm platform boots hiked across a mysterious post-apocalyptic planet through endless kilometres of rocks and black sand, and stumbled upon a mysterious plane wreckage peeking through thick fog. I stood on top of a mountain amongst the clouds, breathless, revelling in its mystifying allure. I am finally herethe land of fire and ice, Iceland. 

Iceland is a magical place that I have dreamed of visiting ever since I was a child, thumbing through old issues of National Geographic. I diverged from my comfort and familiarity in urban cities and ventured to a more remote land that breathes magic and wonderment through the untouched beauty of naturemy most adventurous escapade yet. 

Admittedly, I have always been a city person. My upbringing is deeply rooted in Brooklyn and I am studying at Columbia University, which is adjacent to Harlem. I grew up living most of my life in New York City. But, spending more and more time with my Spectre, I was struck with a delightful spark of new inspiration, which led me to reinvent my creative catharsis. 

My creative work encompasses city lifefrom the forgotten ruins and remnants of old cities around the world contrasting with the architecture of the 21st century to food and still life moments present in urban settings. However, because the Spectre is extremely feather-light, versatile, and powerful with a long-lasting battery, it provided me with confidence to venture with it outside of Reykjavík, the capital and largest city in Iceland.

I felt that I was not bound to the city. My creativity deepened as I lost myself in more landscapesmountains, glaciers, and waterfalls, to places that I have never been to before. I even had the pleasure of seeing Aurora Borealis dance in person, the stunning Northern Lights. The Spectre allowed me edit in the mountains and visualise my work on screen on site, breathing in the crisp air, overlooking the water. 

I am becoming more obsessed with the Spectre since my previous Journal entry, as it is expanding my creativity into landscapes and nature. I am reinventing my obsession. 

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Partnership with HP


New Obsession | HP Spectre

Although a bit camera-shy, I pushed myself out of my comfort zone. Perhaps you have been following my Twitter and saw little hints or seen me on the big screen in theatres across America as film pre-roll, but I am incredibly honoured to officially reveal that HP featured me in a cinematic short directed by the talented Tatia Pilieva, which documents bona fide reactions to the new Spectre. Weeks before filming, they were awfully mysterious and did not disclose any further details. I must say, it highly piqued my curiosity! Upon arrival at Siren Studios in Hollywood, I was quickly ushered through hair and makeup, and finally onto a full production set. Admittedly, I was quite hesitant at first as I have never been on a production set in Hollywood before, however, I was utterly impressed. 

The new Spectre is a stunner. There's thin and there's thinner—the Spectre is 10.4mm in thickness and weighs only 2.45lbs. As a travel photographer, I am obsessed with the smart Artisan craftsmanship and revolutionary design—feather weight without sacrificing power or battery life. The Spectre is the first HP laptop to integrate a hybrid battery—four polymer battery cells are allocated throughout the device in order to maximise battery capacity, enabling me to work longer on a single charge no matter where I am in the world. As a scientist, I am immensely keen with HP's unique method to cooling. The laptop is so remarkably thin that it requires special progressive hyperbaric cooling technology that actively draws cool air in and directs it over the processor, rather than simply venting it out. 

The Spectre is the ultimate sensorial masterpiece as well—Bang & Olufsen audio (my favourite) and a full HD IPS display with exceptional sound clarity and crisp visuals guarantee that I never miss a detail, whether I am editing on the plane, watching a film, or conducting experiments at the lab, deep into data analysis. I will be taking my Spectre on my next adventures and I cannot wait to share my experience with you.

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Partnership with HP



Up + Away

I will be jetting off very soon, up and away, on my most adventurous escapade yet. I will be flying to a magical place that I have dreamed of visiting ever since I was a child, thumbing through old issues of National Geographic. I will be deviating slightly from my comfort in urban cities and travelling to a more remote land that breathes magic and wonderment through the untouched beauty of nature. Follow along through my lens as I slowly whisper my story. 

As I wrote in a previous Journal entry, I travel super light and rarely bring checked luggage, so I was delighted to discover Away, a 'one size fits all' case that I could take anywhere in the world with ease. I gave my Away Carry-On a test run on a short trip to LA and I cannot recommend this Carry-On enough. It is the perfect travel companion and will be coming along on the journey with me.

The exterior is crafted from premium German polycarbonate and the interior features an original Away compression system, removable laundry bag, and a high capacity USB charger. Additionally, the 360° spinner wheels ensure a smooth ride. 


ONE SIZE FITS ALL
Designed to comply with major airlines regarding size regulations at 21.7" H x 13.7" W x 9" D (44.4 linear inches). Custom inset wheels offer 10% more packing space.

POWER TRIP
A removable interior 10,000 mAh battery and two USB ports let multiple devices charge at once. Wall adapter and luggage-charging cable are included. 

LOCK IT DOWN
Away built a TSA-approved combination lock into the top of the bag. The zippers slot right in, so items are safe. 

BUILT FOR LIFE
The hardshell exterior is made of 100% Bayer Makrolon polycarbonate, a material unrivaled in strength and impact resistance. It is so light, the entire bag weighs in at only 7.2 lbs.

STRONG FINISH
Topped off with luxurious touches with premium interior mesh, YKK zippers, 360° Hinomoto double-wheel spinners, and a leather luggage tag. 

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awaytravel.com


Marble La Roche

CLUSE tells a story of people who find beauty in simplicity. However, simple does not mean plain. According to CLUSE, it means being grounded, sophisticated, and true to oneself—freeing your mind of diversions and focused only on the truly important aspects of life. With this philosophy, CLUSE is committed to creating timepieces that exude minimalism, class, and the epitome of refinement. "CLUSE is there not only to indicate time, but to define your best moments and captivate attention in all simplicity." 

Designed to compliment one's individuality, this CLUSE La Roche watch features a genuine white marble dial, crafted from raw stone. Every piece is one of a kind with a natural veining pattern, which makes each La Roche timepiece entirely unique. Loyal to the CLUSE minimal aesthetic, this collection features a 38 mm case with a matte black finish and a black leather strap for a bold, yet elegant look. 

As someone who owns nearly everything marble or marble-themed, I am incredibly keen with La Roche as it is one of the few watch designs available currently that implements genuine marble.

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Partnership with CLUSE


Tavalon Tea

I am sure most have come to realise that I am quite the tea aficionado—I consume more tea than I do plain water. As mentioned in a previous entry, tea is much more than a refreshment to me. It is a daily ritual, a precious moment to reflect upon my life—a rumination of self-improvement, contemplation, and quietude. Moreover, I find tea to be exceedingly versatile in terms of the infinite flavours which it can be blended, its countless methods it may be prepared, and its immeasurable health benefits. Needless to say, I hold a high standard and take my teas quite seriously.

However, tea is often eclipsed by the seemingly omnipresent coffee empire, so I find it especially rare to stumble upon high quality full-leaf teas. I am often disenchanted by the commercial brands prominent in the market today. Because the vast majority of teas are imported from across the globe, by the time the tea reaches your teacup, it could already be half stale. Over the years, I have discovered that most teas are undistinguished or extremely brittle and resemble the texture of sand—unnecessarily over-processed and frequently contain preservatives or artificial flavouring, often leaving a dry, chalky aftertaste on the palate. 

In this journal entry, I am unveiling the future of tea—Tavalon. I remember opening one of their beautiful canisters for the first time and being instantly put under a spell by the heavenly aroma of Earl Grey Reserve, a colourful spin on the timeless black tea blend entwined with bergamot oil and blue cornflowers. Tavalon's notable freshness and high quality are undeniable, which led me to explore other blends, and I discovered my favourite Tavalon tea—Genmai Matcha, a classic Japanese blend of organic green tea with partially-roasted rice, and dusted with matcha green tea powder, resulting in a sweet, slightly 'toasty' flavour.

One day, while buried in scientific analysis on my laptop at Joe Coffee on the corner of Columbia University, I faintly heard someone call my name, "Koi?" I looked up and it turned out to be John-Paul Lee, the Co-Founder of of Tavalon, who is also an advisor for Columbia Business students. We connected over our mutual thoughts regarding the current tea market, which are very much akin. I was pleasantly surprised to learn that Tavalon teas utilise premium essential oils instead of artificial flavouring, and are blended and carefully hand-packed at the time when one places the order in the country of the order. This enables the tea to retain its properties and extend its freshness, increasing its shelf-life to the fullest.

I am pleased to share an all-time favourite—Tavalon. For a discount on your entire order, please use my code at checkout: urbanxkoi

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tavalon.com


Oak + Fort

Emphasising the synthesis of art and life, Oak + Fort curates wearable collections with an appreciation for culture, creativity, and community. Living as leaders and visionaries, their mission is to provide quality apparel and be the catalyst for exploration and new innovations. 

I fell in love with Oak + Fort since their launch in NYC and was intrigued to discover that it is a Canadian brand with a Korean-inspired touch. Their aesthetic is minimal, modern, and aligns with my personal style. I have included Oak + Fort in my daily essentials as they can be dressed up or worn casually. Admittedly, I have been wearing their pieces to work at the lab as well as on weekend nights out. 

In my recent interview with Oak + Fort, I reveal the meaning of my name, Urban Koi, as well as my aesthetic and a bit about my life in NYC.

For the full interview, please visit the Oak + Fort Blog


A CONVERSATION WITH @URBANXKOI | #OFTAKEOVER

This week, we invited Koi, the creative mind behind @urbanxkoi based out of New York City to takeover our @OakandFort Instagram account in our #OFTakeover series. We were mesmerized by her carefully curated feed that encapsulates the beauty in every day moments. She uses her surroundings as the perfect backdrop to her subjects; creating a contrast between colour and textures. We had the opportunity to learn more about Koi and we are excited to share with you her story accompanied by her own snapshots. — Lauren


Oak + Fort: Tell us a little bit about yourself. Where does the inspiration behind Urban Koi come from, and how did you come up with the name?

Koi: I am an art director, photographer, and scientist at Columbia University Medical Center.

I have always had a deep fondness for art and science. I am often asked how I balance two seemingly different fields. Although art and medicine are two distinct fields, I feel that they are more interconnected than one would think. When one formulates an experiment or treats a patient, one must be creative and critically think of the best solution—each project and each individual is unique and may require a spectrum of methods.

Urban Koi encapsulates two meanings.

The first is literal and depicts a koi fish dwelling in the urban sea. Much of my childhood upbringing is rooted in Brooklyn and I feel a deep connection to New York City. It is said that koi swim up rivers and climb waterfalls with bravery like samurai warriors. Hence, the koi symbolises courage, perseverance, and strong character. These elements are reflective of my life and are what I value as a person.

‘Koi’ is also a Japanese homophone for ‘love’, and alludes to the second meaning—my adoration for cities. All of these elements percolate into my work—the moody, sort of gritty urban textures, but portrayed in a softer, subtler way.

Oak + Fort: Your Instagram is filled with minimal, muted tones. What is it about this style appeals to you?

Koi: There is a certain tranquil feeling that is exuded when I am surrounded by quiet colours—I find muted tones to be mysterious, yet soothing. The hues of the sky at the break of dawn, the cerulean reflection that is illuminated by water—the ambience and mystifying essence of melancholic tones in nature lull me into deep reveries. I am also drawn to shadows and the scarcity of light, so my work tends to emanate a dark, moody timbre.

Oak + Fort: What are some of your favourite spots in the city to escape to and draw inspiration from?

Koi: I often escape to DUMBO, Brooklyn. I am enamoured by the abandoned industrial factories, cobblestone streets, and old train tracks—there is just so much history contained in its heart. I often take walks by Brooklyn Bridge Park, sample fare, and explore little shops. One of my favourites is Shibui, a Japanese antique shop hidden underground. It really feels like a brief step into Japan. I also frequent the rooftop lounge at the Wythe with close friends for a spectacular view of the Manhattan skyline. I love Greecologies, a Greek yoghurt lab and café in Little Italy—I am decidedly keen with their menu, interior design, and lush courtyard. Lastly, I adore The Cloisters of the Metropolitan Museum of Art as I am particularly fond of Romanesque and Gothic architecture. It explores the wonders of medieval Europe through its art, gardens, and architecture.

Oak + Fort: As a photographer, which moments do you like to capture the most?

Koi: Photography is my catharsis—I am inspired when I travel and I delve into a multiplicity of cultures. I am enticed by wistfulness, minimalism, and idiosyncrasies—the harmony of symmetry and asymmetry in life. I tend to photograph moments that we sometimes take for granted. I see the quiescent beauty around me and I like to capture the transient moments to show others that there is elegance everywhere, even in the ordinary.

Oak + Fort: How do you stay connected with the creative community in New York? 

Koi: Ever since I was a child, I have been remarkably shy about showcasing my work to others. Instagram made it easier for me to share my daily musings, and through the platform, I found it thrilling to learn that there are other passionate creatives all over the world. From its inception, I found myself connecting with a vast multitude of creative talents—I even bonded with my best friend, Louise (@glassfauna), over our mutual interests in photography and science, and we have been communicating daily ever since. 


Nixon Time Teller

I have a penchant for men's watches and while I was looking for a new one, I stumbled upon the Nixon Original Design—the Time Teller. I was aiming for a design that was simple, understated, yet exuded undeniable character, and this watch bears an unpretentious, yet versatile style—perfect for my travels. My favourite aspect of this watch would be the bold black face in contrast to the stainless steel fixed bezel, hardened mineral crystal, and triple gasket stainless steel crown. I look very much forward to wearing it on my new adventure. 

MOVEMENT: Miyota Japanese quartz 3 hand.
DIAL: The dial includes applied indices, and custom molded hands.

CASE: 37 mm, 100 meter / 10 ATM , custom solid stainless steel case, solid stainless steel fixed bezel, hardened mineral crystal, triple gasket stainless steel crown, stainless steel screw down caseback and spring pin lugs.
BAND: 19.5-18 mm tapered custom 5 link stainless steel jewelry style bracelet (or leather/canvas) and stainless steel locking clasp.

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Partnership with Nixon


Skincare Favourites

Although I rarely use makeup, I am quite keen on skincare. Presented here are a few favourite moisturising products that I use on a daily basis and carry with me on my travels. Most of my skincare is from the STELL, a fantastic curation of quality products so one may sample from different brands.


MULTI-USE OIL - NO. 2

This oil is a blend of forget-me-not, peach blossom, and mandarin green tea enriched with apricot, sweet almond oils, and Vitamin D, accented with beautifully preserved flowers. I use this oil to keep my bleached hair healthy and just one drop instantly restores moisture in my driest skin. 

SOUL SUNDAY BOUGIE LITE FACIAL OIL + RICE WATER

The facial oil was created from red raspberry seed and contains high levels of Omega-3 and 6 fatty acids, which replenish and soften skin. Squalane, a plant-based emollient, very similar to skin's natural lipids that decrease with age, helps create a balance of moisture and a light, protective barrier. Essential oils of geranium flower and sandalwood promote skin clarity and balance. The refreshing rice water was carefully combined with brightening Vitamin C, Bulgarian rose, and soothing cucumber; I typically use the rice water after I shower or to freshen up mid-day. 

BYREDO BLANCHE HAND CREAM

This is my favourite hand cream of all time. It travels with me everywhere I go, whether it is in my uni backpack or camera bag. It is deeply moisturising without a greasy residue. Top notes: aldehyde, pink pepper, white rose. Heart notes: neroli, peony, violet. Base notes: blonde woods, musk, sandalwood. 

GROWN ALCHEMIST SWEET ALMOND + SAGE HAND CREAM

This is another one of my essentials, which bears a unique hydrating and potent formula that consists of tyrosinase inhibitors from the rumex plant, phyto-peptides, sweet almond oil, Vitamins A, B1, B2, and B6, which visibly reduces sun damage pigmentation and redensifies thinning skin. As a scientist, I took great delight in this detail. 

GROWN ALCHEMIST CAMELIA + GERANIUM BLOSSOM HYDRA-REPAIR DAY CREAM

This is a non-greasy, nourishing facial moisturiser that contains camellia and rosehip essence with aloe vera and jojoba oil. I adore its scent and I use this cream on my face daily. It doubles as a rich body cream, and as you know already, I am highly pragmatic and love multi-functional products.

L:A BRUKET NO. 102 BERGAMOT + PATCHOULI HAND CREAM

This was my first product from the Norwegian natural skincare company based in Varberg, a coastal spa town in Sweden well-known for it's 200 year old traditions of bathing in saltwater and seaweed, and I was not disappointed. The essential oils in the cream have astringent, cleansing properties, and a slight antiseptic effect, which helps treat extremely dry skin. Meadowfoam is astringent, nourishing, and rich in Omega-6 and 9 fatty acids. Comfrey is also astringent, moisturising, and known to heal small scratches and sunburn as well.

AĒSOP REVERENCE AROMATIQUE HAND BALM

This balm contains bergamot rind, vetiver root, petitgrain botanicals, and skin-softening emollients that deliver rich hydration to the hands and cuticles. It is enhanced with skin-softening Potassium Lactate and Lactic Acid for sustained hydration. Its scent is a bit strong for me, so I typically use this balm for my feet and it works wonderfully.

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thestell.com


UK Highlights

“Travel makes one modest. You see what a tiny place you occupy in the world.” — Gustave Flaubert


Travel Favourites

With parents who speak contrasting languages and a family tree diverse in ethnicities, I was brought up open-minded, accepting of all cultures, and I have learned to embrace my multicultural heritage. From linguistics to cuisine to fashion to lifestyle habits—it is all incredibly fascinating to me. So, I am onto my next adventure—I am returning to the UK for study abroad to delve deeper into my British family history. Although this is not my first time travelling overseas, it is my first time studying abroad and I am excited to be exploring Manchester, Leeds, and more of London—to name a few cities.

I am a light packer as I value functionality and practicality, so I typically do not bring any luggage that needs to be checked. Most of the time, I bring a roomy carry-on duffel or capacious backpack and a camera bag (which bears ample pockets for toiletries) and utilise military-style packing. Anything else that may be found, provided, or easily purchased abroad if needed, I leave behind. Displayed here are some travel favourites.


Gypsy Water + Blanche Hand Cream: Byredo
Travel Kit: Aesop
Charcoal Bristle Bamboo Toothbrush: Ernest
Void Watch: Anekdote
Leather Gloves: Coach
Button-down: Korean Boutique in NYC
Flats: ASKA
Boots: UNIF
Bow Ties: Topman
Waterproof Clutch + Drypack: Vicious Venom


LA x Gallery

I reckon it has been a while since my last post, but if you are familiar with university, autumn and winter seasons are pretty involved, naturally dense with disquisitions, presentations, exams, and more specifically for me, conducting research at the laboratory—channelling my inner mad scientist. Nevertheless, even offline, I continue to compose and record floating thoughts on my old typewriter or in my leather-bound notebooks, and those who follow me on Instagram are well aware that nothing hinders me from documenting memories through the camera lens.

In November, I was deeply humbled to have my photography work displayed on my own wall in the Eye for an Eye exhibit, hosted by Hands Down, alongside the masterpieces of National Geographic, Time, Getty Images, and numerous other brilliant contributors from around the globe. It was incredible and inspiring. It was the first time I had my work framed 20x30” in a gallery and my first time in LA—as well as the West Coast of the United States. I have been to Alaska, but I suppose that is a different story. Nonetheless, LA was a convivial and invigorating experience.

Besides flying across the country for the exhibit, I took the chance to explore LA a bit. Presented here are a few favourite memories cherished with my better half. I shall return to experience more of the city in the future.


Griffith Observatory: a facility resting on the south-facing slope of Mount Hollywood Griffith Park. It showcases a spectacular a view of the Los Angeles Basin, including Downtown Los Angeles to the southeast, Hollywood to the south, and the Pacific Ocean to the southwest. The observatory contains a stellar view of the Hollywood sign, and an extensive array of space and science-related displays. Since the observatory opened in 1935, admission has been free, in accordance with Griffith's will.

Stahl House (Case Study House #22): a modernist-styled house designed by architect Pierre Koenig in the Hollywood Hills section of Los Angeles, California. Photographic and anecdotal evidence suggests that the architect's client, Buck Stahl, may have provided an inspiration for the overall structure. In 2013 it was listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

Built in 1959 as part of the Case Study Houses program, the house is considered an iconic representation of modern architecture in Los Angeles during the twentieth century. It was made famous by a Julius Shulman photograph displaying two women leisurely sitting in a corner of the house with an eventide panoramic view of the city through floor-to-ceiling glass walls. The house has been featured in numerous fashion shoots, films, and advertising campaigns.