1880: Changing the world, one conversation at a time

1880 and Marc Nicholson – in a nutshell

Marc Nicholson, the man behind the members’ club 1880, has been a Singapore resident for the last 15 years. He had carried the idea of a members’ club that he wanted to create into a worldwide brand. In fact, he conceptualised the idea during his time in London in the 90s, where he was blown away with the fantastic aesthetics and business model of SoHo House.

SoHo House is a famous member-only club that caters exclusively to individuals in the creative business, worldwide. While SoHo's criteria to pick its members was ambiguous, 1880 was conceptualized with the idea of having more clarity over the members who could join.

Spread across a 22,000 square-feet area in Robertson Quay in Singapore, 1880 features an all-day-dining restaurant, cafe and cocktail bar, members’ lounge, co-working space, wellness events, multi-purpose room and outdoor terrace.

How the idea for 1880 was conceived

Marc believes that his life in Singapore played an inspirational role in moulding his vision. Over the years, Singapore has attracted the best talents in diverse fields, including business and art.

One of the ways 1880 differentiated itself from SoHo house was that Marc wanted to expand the club’s membership to a broader audience and not just have it restricted to creative individuals. 1880 was borne out of the belief that different minds could gather and have great conversations, which would then lead to excellent and fruitful ideas and partnerships - business or otherwise.

The crux of the idea was to have a social club with great ambience along with a mix of music, art, and doing good, where creative and exploring minds can get together, relax, and connect with each other.

The three wise men who gave shape to the idea

Following a stint in advertising, Marc founded the Singapore franchise of the global men’s grooming salon brand, Truefitt & Hill around five years back. It was during his time here that Marc met the three most important men who were to shape his future vision.

The first wise man was Luke Jones, who was the CEO of the luxury furniture brand, Timothy Oulton, which had done up the interiors and furniture for Truefitt & Hill, Singapore. The fact that 1880 has all its beautiful furniture and fittings designed by Timothy Oulton is a testament to this association.

The second person Marc met was a venture capitalist named Paul Gabie, who was keen to invest in business enterprises present in the emerging Asian market. Gabie also owned the famous bar, 28 HongKong Street at Clarke Quay; one of the most happening spots in Singapore.

As 1880’s business model began to develop, Marc was looking for the right place to build his vision, roughly around three years back in Singapore. After scouting around unsuccessfully for close to nine months, he met his third wise man, Kishin RK, who owned the real estate company, RB Capital, in Singapore. Being in the real estate business, Kishin had foreseen great real estate potential in Robertson Quay, and he believed that it would serve as a dynamic, round-the-clock vibrant space for the city.

Besides furniture from Timothy Oulton, 1880 has its beverage program developed by Proof & Co., which is a leading independent spirits company and consultancy based out of Singapore. Excited by 1880’s business potential, Luke Jones left Timothy Oulton and joined 1880 both as an investor and as the CEO of this venture, which set the ball rolling.

Why 1880?

As it is evident, 1880 was not designed to be just another club that catered to the recreational party lifestyle. The real emphasis was on creating a space for meaningful and effective conversations, which could also revolve around social causes (such as educating poor children in Indonesia), mid-life problems, planning the next adventure trip, and so on.

1880 would be just the right place in Singapore where individuals from diverse fields such as business, finance, art, and literature could get together in a friendly environment and have relaxed conversations. It also has historical significance as 1880 was the decade Robertson Quay was established in Singapore.

What is noteworthy is the space at which they are present - Robertson Quay. This is a beautifully developed part of Singapore, with a lot of modern businesses operating here; providing the perfect backdrop for 1880's target audience. Individuals working here would also appreciate the hard work that went into the creation of 1880, including the beautiful interiors and design.

Articulating conversation through art

Why is the art of conversation so important? Marc feels the emergence of social media has unfortunately cut off people from having exciting and interesting discussions face-to-face, which is probably the only way of solving problems and settling differences amongst people.

One of the most telling aspects about 1880 is the big crystal centrepiece that they had sourced all the way from Madagascar. The piece stands out amidst the tasteful decor and is something that will almost inevitably start a conversation amongst patrons. Also, the interiors of the place are built around the themes of Convergence, Contrast, Creativity, Energy and Flow and Versatility.

The art and decor in the club encapsulates these themes to breathe life into the aesthetics and provide a singular standpoint for many conversation starters amongst perceived intellectuals whom Marc feels will visit 1880. It also serves as Marc’s ode, if you may, to his parents who helped him create the seed behind 1880’s vision.

Marc’s parents’ contribution to 1880’s inception

Growing up, Marc’s parents hosted debates at their house every Wednesday night. Professionals from various walks of life such as politics, art, and banking would gather to have a civil discourse. Marc was allowed to sit at these discussions at times and this really helped him understand the true power of conversation as a tool to debate respectfully and spend evenings fruitfully. Marc’s thoughts and personality were moulded by these late night conversations and served as the seed behind 1880’s ethos.

The insights that Marc gained from these conversations paved the way for him in the conceptualisation of 1880 – the place where he hopes conversations that change the world occur.

The Next Chapter of 1880

1880 strives to serve as a place where people from different walks of life come together and engage in constructive dialogue. In addition, 1880 is focused on being gender-neutral, making it easier and empowering for women to participate as club members. Starting with Singapore, Marc hopes to spread the club franchise to other parts of the world and complete his ultimate goal.

Asia’s pre-eminent workspace design and build firm, Space Matrix, was appointed by 1880 to bring their vision to life. Fiza Malhotra, Head of Marketing, said they were extremely excited to partner with 1880 and share their expertise in coworking and workspace strategy. “The way people interact and work is constantly evolving and altering the real estate play in Singapore,” says Malhotra. “1880 uniquely offers a beautifully designed space engineered for social interaction, work and play that addresses the needs of today’s tech savvy, upwardly mobile and highly discerning workforce.”