Meet Lynn Ban, stylish and charismatic Singaporean in Netflix series Bling Empire: New York

Lynn Ban in an iconic Balenciaga bodysuit (left) and with her husband. PHOTOS: LYNN BAN

SINGAPORE – It is evening in New York and Singapore-born jewellery designer Lynn Ban is kicking back at home in the American city, enjoying her last few days of relative anonymity.

Her name might not ring a bell with most Singaporeans now, but this may change with Bling Empire: New York, which premieres on Netflix on Friday.

“I’m just trying to kind of get my rest before everything next week,” she tells The Straits Times over a video call, referring to the highly anticipated show, a spin-off of Netflix’s hugely successful Bling Empire series (2021 to present).

Ban, a mother of one who celebrated her 50th birthday with her family in Morocco last May, is the quintessential Asian beauty, with long, black tresses and a sculpted body.

“I exercise every day. I dance, play tennis and do pilates and yoga. I work out so I can eat,” she says, laughing. “I usually eat six meals a day when I go home to Singapore.”

Ban’s parents live in the Orchard Road area, and she returns to visit them every summer. A property tycoon, her father David Ban, 79, is the executive director of Kuala Lumpur-based developer Venus Assets, which owns Four Seasons Place in Malaysia, an integrated development comprising a mix of private residences, hotel and retail space. He also launched Japanese eatery Genki Sushi in Singapore and Hong Kong.

When Lynn Ban was just four, the family decided to pack up and move to the Big Apple because of her father’s job.

“He was a banker at the time. When the opportunity to work abroad came up, we all went. It’s a classic immigrant story. He studied in business school while he worked (at Chase Manhattan Bank),” says the designer, who has a younger sister.

Propelled by Mr Ban’s career, the family continued to move every few years, living in different cities around the world. They then returned to Singapore briefly when Ban was a teenager.

An old photo of Lynn Ban (right) with her parents and now teenage son. PHOTO: LYNN BAN

“I think that moving frequently from a young age has definitely made me more adaptable and open to new experiences and opportunities. I am not afraid of change, but welcome the challenge and adventure that it brings,” she says.

She also attributes her strong work ethic to her father. “My dad is self-made and I look up to him and all his accomplishments.”

Ban’s mother, Patricia, is a Gemological Institute of America-certified gemologist and nurtured her love of fashion. The style-savvy former secretary, 78, left her career to focus on her children.

Lynn Ban spends summer at Lake Placid Lodge in the Adirondacks Mountains in New York. PHOTO: LYNN BAN

Ban remembers their little shopping detours to US luxury department store Bloomingdale’s on her walks to and from school.

She decided to settle permanently in New York City after graduating in art history and literature from the Gallatin School of Individualised Studies.

Drawn to vintage clothing and jewellery and “their unique, timeless designs and provenance”, Ban launched Lynn Ban Vintage at Barneys New York in 2002, selling vintage couture from Chanel and Valentino. But she closed the outfit when she started her eponymous custom jewellery line in 2011.

She got her big break not long after, when the cuff she designed was spotted on Barbadian pop star Rihanna during a performance on American Idol. 

While Rihanna is Ban’s biggest champion, wearing the designer’s jewellery on her tours, appearances, music videos and her Fenty Puma collection, she is not the only celebrity fan.

Ban’s clientele reads like a who’s who in the music industry, from pop queen Madonna to rapper Post Malone.

Armour rings designed by Lynn Ban. PHOTO: LYNN BAN

“My design philosophy is to create a statement piece, something that hasn’t been seen before or a twist on something traditional. Its design should still be timeless, bold yet functional,” she says, adding that one of the most extravagant pieces she designed is a custom gemstone-encrusted full-finger claw ring with a 10-carat emerald as its centrepiece.

Her jewellery, which can cost upwards of five figures, can be found at Club 21’s flagship boutique at the Four Seasons Hotel in Singapore.

Ban also doubles as a social media influencer, with more than 139,000 followers on Instagram. Her account @lynn_ban provides a glimpse into her unique sartorial choices, from a psychedelic Jean Paul Gaultier jumpsuit at a ski resort to a vintage emerald Pierre Balmain couture blouse and Valentino hot pants combo out on Lake Placid in New York.

These clothes send a clear message – that Ban is anything but boring.

Fate had other plans for the designer as well.

At the end of 2021, she was approached by American television producer Jeff Jenkins, whose hit reality series include Keeping Up With The Kardashians (2007 to 2021) and The Simple Life (2003 to 2007).

Lynn Ban (centre) at the launch of Bling Empire New York at House of Red Pearl, on Jan 18, 2023  PHOTO: AFP

Jenkins was looking for cast members to star in the spin-off to his latest show – Bling Empire, already one of Netflix’s most-watched docuseries at the time. Ban was the perfect fit.

“Initially, I was apprehensive about being filmed 24/7 because, even though I’ve done many photo shoots and interviews, it was never anything like this. But it was an exciting opportunity,” says Ban, adding that she is familiar with Jenkins’ work and is a fan of the Los Angeles series and cast member Christine Chiu, a Taiwanese-American businesswoman.

She also knows Singaporean cast member Kane Lim: They connected on social media and would send each other messages from time to time.

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Ban eventually said yes and the team began filming her every move for three months from January to March in 2022. She soon realised that the cameras were the least of her worries.

“After a while, you forget the cameras are there and I was just myself. (It turned out) the biggest challenge was deciding what to wear,” she says.

Bling Empire: New York will offer viewers a glimpse into her personal and professional life which, judging from her Instagram posts, can get pretty busy, with vacations at far-flung tropical islands and fashion shoots for magazines.

Her teenage son is now off at boarding school in London, but Ban’s husband and business partner of 27 years – former producer and reporter for MTV Jett Kain, 54 – will appear alongside her in the series.

“He’s instrumental in building our brand. He’s responsible for the publicity and all the projects that we did,” she says.

Lynn Ban with her husband Jett Kain. They will be appearing on Bling Empire: New York together. PHOTO: LYNN BAN

It also helps that Ban believes in being her “authentic self” at all times. She insists she is the same person, whether on camera or off it.

“I am very direct, respectful and honest. What you see is what you get. I think if you try to portray something else, it wouldn’t look natural,” she says.

When the series airs, she will be tuning in to Netflix along with the rest of the world. “I saw the trailer and it looks good. I can’t wait to see it,” she says. “It’s kind of like Christmas.”

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