Opinion: The best, the worst and the scandals at Singapore Fashion Week 2017 …

I sat through three days of Singapore Fashion Week 2017 to gather the best, the worst and spot the odd scandal just for you … Here’s my opinion

Yes, yes, Singapore apparently doesn’t really have a ‘fashion industry’ per se, but that doesn’t mean the country doesn’t have more than a few people designing clothes (and shoes, and handbags). And it certainly doesn’t mean that when Singapore Fashion Week arrives in October that there aren’t a bunch of people looking forward to dressing up, lining up, drinking up, sitting up (on the benches) and then bitching up after a bunch of clothes have gone down (or around, depending on your perspective) the runway.

For 2017, Singapore Fashion Week was pared back to 3 days of shows plus one day of talks, and a much reduced line-up. Ironically, this actually meant that the whole experience was actually better… more curated, more emerging designers, less big names from overseas. There was only Jason Wu this time.

Still, any sort of fashion week (or fashion long weekend in this case) is sure to throw up – in some cases exactly what viewers wanted to do – a slew of dramas. There were some great highlights, some WTF-were-they thinking moments and even a mini scandal of sorts.

THE BEST AT SINGAPORE FASHION WEEK 2017

Wai Yang lived up to her hype

Despite the smaller line-up, there were some really great clothes on the runway this year. The highlight for me on Day 1 was definitely the capsule collection from first-time designer Wai Yang. The London College of Fashion graduate’s runway collection was all we could have hoped for and more. The all-metallic-silver opening look was probably the most Instagrammed piece of the day. The designer mixed it up though by interspersing some layered looks in muted caramel and blue with accents of white to tie the 8 looks together. Since Wai Yang is already known for her outerwear, it was no surprise to see that her jackets were the bomb; not only the opening silver bomber jacket, but also a fabulous sheer double-breasted overcoat and another white reflective oversized varsity jacket were stand-outs. The overall vibe of long lines and loose fits gave an innocent, girlish feel to the collection with the oversized outerwear adding a layer of early Yohji Yamamoto or Comme des Garçons to the pieces. Wai Yang is definitely a designer to watch.

Unfortunately the collection is not yet available for sale, but you can contact the designer directly via her website if you want to buy something in particular. Go to www.waiyang.co/contact.  

Two Singapore fashion stalwarts get together for a perfect collaboration

Gin Lee and Ling Wu are two Singapore fashion brands that have been slowly plugging away at the industry making names for themselves when it comes to beautifully detailed and well-finished products at reasonable prices with a distinctive aesthetic. On Day 1 of Singapore Fashion Week, the two designers came together for a perfect collaboration of clothing and accessories. First up was Ling Wu; better known for exotic skin handbags, the designer showed her new season bags with some very elegant, brightly coloured pieces that featured some really cool knits – not something that is often seen from Singapore based designers – combined with some great, loose silk tailoring and self-pleated easy-wear fabrics in casual dresses, tops, cardigans and white-legged pants.

Gin Lee opened with one of Singapore’s coolest girls, Nadia Rahmat (who was featured in a Marc Jacobs campaign, FYI) who kicked off the show with a bit of vogue-ing – so appropriate really – in a tailored white dress and towering platform shoes. She was followed by a series of loosely tailored, laid-back clothes in silk paired with some nice pieces of outerwear, and, of course, some great bags courtesy of the Ling Wu collaboration. One of the reasons the two collections sat so well together was the use of similar fabrics including the self-pleated fabric which Gin Lee used in a very simple but elegant dress with leather shoulder straps. There were a few looks that came across rather ‘auntie’ and old fashioned, way too basic for the runway, but the overall collection was saved by the standout looks like outwear – including a boxy sheer jacket – the wrap dresses, a metallic silver dress worn by top Singapore model Aimee Cheng Bradshaw and the finale look of semi-tailored top and fitted trousers in black.

You can shop the runway for some of Ling Wu’s bags and some of Gin Lee’s clothes from the show thanks to Zalora, who also carry pieces from two of the other Singapore designers that showed at Singapore Fashion Week 2017.

Modest fashion is more interesting than ordinary fashion

Dian Pelangi at Singapore Fashion Week 2017

A new entrant to the Singapore Fashion Week line-up this year was the inclusion of ‘modest fashion’ (sometimes described as hijabi fashion) sponsored by major modest wear online store Modestyle.asia. The three shows held on the final day encompassed everything from totally bling-encrusted modest wedding dresses, to some really superb modest streetwear. The four standout collections all focused on one thing, making modest clothing that was fashion-forward and interesting.

Dian Pelangi at Singapore Fashion Week 2017

My first favourite was Dian Pelangi. This designer has 4.8 million followers on Instagram so she’s also a major celebrity and influencer. Her designs feature her own prints and juxtapose beautiful traditional fabrics like ikat, with large modern block prints in very on-trend colours. There’s a slight ‘ethnic’ feel that combines with the lines, layering and pleating that’s reminiscent of major Japanese designers. Pelangi also uses embellishment in a very understated way that really does embellish, without taking over entirely. The long brocade and monochrome print coat with major sleeves was totally to die for; and another ikat short jacket would add ‘fashion’ to a t-shirt and jeans; another must buy item. The overall styling was also fantastic and totally runway worthy. You can shop Dian Pelangi at the brand’s online store dianpelangi.com/shop-2.

LKW Fashion Week at Singapore Fashion Week 2017

My next favourite – not second, as I loved all my favourites equally 🙂 – was the collection from Lim Kok Wing University in Kuala Lumpur. LMK Fashion Club was so bling it was practically a live version of the Kira Kira app, but in a totally awesome and modern way. The very sexy-but-covered looks had a totally ‘modest Rihanna on the red carpet’ vibe going on, with the equally bling-bling baseball caps the perfect accessories. There were capes! There were head-toe-sparkles! There were (modest) bodycon dresses! Plus more sparkles! These are the perfect dresses for aspiring divas, modest or not. You can actually shop some of the dresses from the runway online at www.modestyle.asia/lim-kok-wing-fashion-club, so go get your bling on right now.

Jovian Mandagie at Singapore Fashion Week 2017

Last, but definitely not least, the show we’d all been waiting for reaffirmed my love for fashion, modest or not. Jovian Mandagie is a Malaysian designer who is best known for fashion forward modest couture. He does, however, have just as strong a reputation for really good ready-to-wear, and that’s exactly what he sent down the runway on the last day of Singapore Fashion Week 2017. Imagine the latest streetwear from brands like Vetements, or what the coolest Kpop stars are wearing, then flip it a little to make sure everything’s covered up, and you’ll understand why this Jovian Mandagie collection is so cool. All in pale denim – a major trend right down – with his name embellished in red crystal, all the looks showed off major street swag. Even the styling was impeccable with signature fringed baseball caps and fringed slides with socks! Yes, there were influences from current streetwear trends, but the interpretation and the addition of the modest fashion requirements made this collection one of the standouts at Singapore Fashion Week.

You can buy pieces from Jovian Mandagie’s previous collection on Zalora, but personally I’d wait for the new one!

Some great Singapore models on the runway

Singapore model Aimee Cheng Bradshaw at Singapore Fashion Week 2017

I’ve already mentioned the awesome Aimee Cheng Bradshaw who walked for a number of shows throughout Singapore Fashion Week, as well as the cameo by Nadia Rahmat, but I’d like to point out that were quite a number of Singapore models on the runway at Singapore Fashion Week 2017, quite a few more than previously, which is always a great thing to see. One standout model was Mei Yue.

Singapore model Mei Yue at Singapore Fashion Week 2017

This high-school student has a beautifully quirky pretty face which makes her perfect for editorial work. At 178cm tall, and still being a teen, there’s great hope that she’ll hit the 180cm mark that makes for a very versatile runway model too. There was an incident when she almost slipped on the runway, but handled herself so elegantly that hardly anyone noticed it. This is one girl to definitely watch.

THE WORST AT SINGAPORE FASHION WEEK 2017

Nothing is ever perfect, nor is every piece of fashion created to suit everyone’s taste … But there are just some things that you have to admit are plain bad.

Somewhat dubious taste …

First up in this section were the rather odd collection of designers that showed as part of the Asian Fashion Designers Showcase on Day 2. It’s unfortunate that many people’s first introduction to Asian fashion might come via this hodge-podge of mediocre and WTF brands.

A WTF moment at Singapore Fashion Week 2017. No woman wants her hips emphasised like that, right?

The screamingly obviously, just-not-right was a particular piece from Japanese designer Zin Kato. It was variously dubbed The Broccoli Vagina, The Alligator Head, The Jumpsuit that Ate the Model, The Thing that Looked Like a Clownsuit etc, etc … by viewers at the show. That’s it in the image above; choose your own moniker. But honestly the rest of the collection was likewise a disaster with a finale dress that looked like it had just walked off a Shakespeare stage production.

WTF moment 2 at Singapore Fashion Week 2017

Equally theatrical were the designs from Bill Keith from the second Modestyle show. I can’t really remember what the clothes were like – apart from all being red – but the giant red croissant and the equally enormous devil’s horns are unfortunately stuck in my memory forever now.

Nickergate, or why designers need to think about underwear

One of the more annoying things that turned up, or actually didn’t in some cases, was the question of underwear. Normally runway models either wear a nude g-string or sometimes nothing at all depending on the needs of a designer. On Singapore’s runways, however, models appear to wear whatever underwear they want to whether it suits the outfit or not. Now, I am totally not blaming the models here. Models are told to turn up with nude underwear by the show producers or designers, they are almost never told exactly which kind of nude underwear to wear.

Sorry about the image quality – I took them myself – but even here you can see the difference it makes when your knickers match, right?

If you have a collection of basically see-through sheer dresses going down a runway you need to do one of two things. 1. Design an appropriate ‘over-knicker’ to streamline your looks, or 2. Make sure your models are all wearing the exact same pair of underwear. In the case of the emerging designers from the Harper’s Bazaar Newgen Awards show, you can forgive the designers for being new to the game … but you can’t forgive the show producers, mentors, etc who should have showed the designers what they needed to do. What makes all this lumpy, VPL, odd-shaped knicker situation even worse is that sitting front row in a fashion show you are directly at eye-bum level. You see all the flaws and none of the designer’s beauty. Reminder to all designers enamoured with sheer fabrics: Remember the knickers!

THE SCANDAL AT SINGAPORE FASHION WEEK 2017

To many non-fashion-people seeing something that looks similar to a luxury brand fashion item at a price they can afford is not a bad thing. It’s all about fast-fashion and the democratisation of design. To fashion people, and perhaps lawyers, however, copying is NOT a sincere form of flattery, it’s illegal and a rip-off, lazy designing, and likely to get you sued.

So, for the sake of enlightenment, I just couldn’t not mention the ‘scandal’ of a few designers sending near identical garments from major international labels down the runway as their own work. You can be inspired, you can be influenced, you can even pay ‘homage’ but if the only thing you do is change the colour slightly, or in fact just do a cheaper copy of a piece, then you’re simply ripping someone off.

Unfortunately it was a Singapore designer, Nida Shay, who was perhaps the worst culprit. And in such an obvious way that within minutes of her show closing there were WhatsApp messages and Instagram posts about it flying around between stylists, media and fashionistas. Nida Shay opened her show with a pearl encrusted jacket that seemed almost a pearl-by-pearl knock-off of a recent season Balmain jacket. See the comparison pictures below. Making the situation worse, it’s a jacket that was worn by a Kardashian!

On the left is the original Balmain jacket. On the right is the jacket that went down the runway to open the Nida Shay show. What do you think? Does it look like a copy?

Sure, Balmain isn’t the first label to do a pearl embellished jacket, and if you look very closely the Nida Shay version does have some differences – mainly in the addition of a lot more pearls – but it also has the same placement and size of pearls in about 70% of the design, and the look was even styled with pants, the exact same way. To make it even worse, it was worn by Singapore model-of-the-moment Aimee Cheng Bradshaw, something that will ensure that photos of it will be used by a lot of non-fashion media. Nida Shay also sent out a few dresses that were remarkably similar to a recent Simone Rocha collection. I mean, if you’re going to send out a copy of a dress, at least wait a few years before you do.

Still, Nida Shay wasn’t the only culprit. Zin Kato’s styling on a few looks was too obviously a reference to a recent Proenza Schouler collection, and even celebrity fashionista Yoyo Cao couldn’t create a collection without coming just a little too close to a major designer’s work. Her ‘leather crop tops’ were entirely too similar to a recent Alexander McQueen collection, particularly the closing look that was worn by top Korean celebrity model Irene Kim … Yet another bad choice, as once again, photos of her in this outfit are likely to be used by all the media.

On the left is the Alexander McQueen dress and cropped leather bodice or top; on the right is the look that closed the Exhibit runway show. What do you think? Too similar, or not?

I know it’s hard to be a designer and have to come up with something new at least four times a year. I know that ‘everything’s been done’ to a certain extent. But when I see interesting and at least vaguely innovative design from emerging designers or those working within very restricted parameters like modest designers, I get rather peeved by designers who seem to just rip-off ideas. If you really can’t come up with something new and clearly yours, then just don’t be a designer. Either that, or make more of an effort to be less obvious about your influences. There are already too many clothing brands in the world, we don’t really need any more, especially if they all look similar.

So, that’s my roundup for Singapore Fashion Week 2017. As always, I want to remind readers that this is my personal opinion, and as with anything, you can always have your own.

This article was originally posted on The Honeycombers.

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