When Lynn Ban dials in for our Zoom call, it is late on a Monday night in Mexico, where she is enjoying a quick getaway with her husband. She is dressed simply in a navy blue kaftan dress, but true to herself—she still looks glamourous. Accessorised to the nines in big gold hoops and a stack of chunky bracelets, Ban’s statement signet ring flashes in the light as she gesticulates.
Ban’s love for jewellery led her to launch her eponymous fine jewellery label in 2011, offering a range of edgy statement pieces she designs herself—characterised by strong silhouettes, colourful gemstones and pop-art references. Ban’s designs have accrued a long list of celebrity clientele from Rihanna to Beyonce, and popped up in fashion spreads shot by Steven Meisel.
“I still feel like I have more to achieve and farther to go in my career. This is only the beginning,” Ban declares. While she has always had a dedicated Instagram following thanks to her idiosyncratic sense of style and unparalleled vintage fashion collection, Ban became a celebrity in her own right this year when she appeared as a main cast member in Bling Empire: New York, the latest spin-off from the hit reality series Bling Empire (think Crazy Rich Asians meets Keeping Up with the Kardashians) set in the Big Apple.
Amid all the glitz and glamour her co-stars bring, one thing is crystal clear—no one loves dressing up quite as much as Ban. At 50, Ban turns the streets of New York into her personal runway, showing up in head-to-toe vintage Chanel one day and a provocative leather dress covered in spikes from Noir Kei Ninomiya the next.
“Fashion is my passion and my creative outlet—whether I’m designing something or reinventing myself through a look. I love becoming a character through my style,” she says.
Ban’s first brush with the business of fashion came over two decades ago, when Jett Kain—her partner and husband of 25 years—sparked a deep love of vintage fashion within her. “Jett has always collected fashion books and design objects from thrift stores, flea markets and antique shops. When we first met, he introduced me to this whole new world of vintage.”
“You may be faced with tough decisions and conflict, but staying true to yourself is always the right choice”
Ban now has a formidable collection of vintage designer pieces in her archive. Having painstakingly found each unique item piece by piece, she describes the magic of vintage-shopping: “I still remember when Jett brought me to a Goodwill on the Upper East Side and I found a Courrèges couture gown from the 1960s for $20. Safe to say, after that I was hooked.
“When you shop in a department store or designer boutique, you know what you are going to find. In a vintage store, it’s the thrill of the hunt. You really have to keep your eyes on the prize and look through everything—good and bad.”
Ban’s talent for sourcing couture and veritable pieces of fashion history eventually inspired her to turn her vintage hobby into a business, once she realised that she had a ready clientele of fashion enthusiasts immensely keen on buying pieces that were one-of-a-kind, beautifully made and had great provenance.
Lynn Ban Vintage launched at Barneys New York, with pop-ups soon following in Tokyo and London, allowing a global body of customers to shop from Ban’s personal collection of vintage couture from Chanel, Valentino and Yves Saint Laurent among other brands. She quips: “What better reason could I have gotten to keep hunting for vintage treasures? I couldn’t keep everything for myself.”
Ban attributes much of her success in business to her husband, who now manages the public relations for Lynn Ban Jewelry. Her jewellery brand’s signature rock-and-roll aesthetic, is, in part, inspired by her husband’s love of music—and an ostensive reason for the large number of famous musicians who make up her clientele.
“My partnership with Jett is instrumental to my success in the fashion world. We are partners in every aspect of our lives—both professional and personal,” she muses affectionately. “Having a stable, secure and loving family has allowed me to whole-heartedly pursue my professional aspirations.” Ban’s family of three is completed by her 14-year-old son, who is currently in boarding school in the UK.
The style maven’s latest foray is in ready-to-wear—with a fabulous resort collection launching across the globe in partnership with Como Resorts. For her next chapter, she is looking forward to spending more time in Asia.
Ban’s parents live in Singapore, where she was born and still makes annual visits to. “I love being home and spending time with my family. Even on the business side, there is a ton of opportunity. Southeast Asia is finally having its moment in fashion. Everyone is waking up to the fact that there is a whole world of creativity, amazing designers and tremendous craftsmanship here.”
When I ask the optimistic Ban what her best advice for burgeoning young creatives in Asia and Singapore would be, she turns pensive. “Don’t underestimate the power of ‘no.’ You may be faced with tough decisions and conflict, but staying true to yourself is always the right choice. Remember that you can’t be all things to all people. I’ve been on both sides of rejection. It may be a hard lesson to learn on the receiving end, but it only makes you stronger and more resilient.”