In 2016 I was lucky enough to be one of the founding judges of the inaugural Singapore Fashion Awards organised by the Textile & Fashion Federation (Taff), the country’s main industry body. The winners of the 2017 awards have just been announced; here are some of my personal highlights.
Singapore, while being a geographically small country that punches above its weight in any number of industries, has had some difficulty in producing fashion brands and designers that have been able to go on to worldwide success. It’s not been impossible; accessories label Charles & Keith is a prime example and brands like In Good Company – which won the inaugural Designer of the Year – is currently making waves with its affordable fashion with a ‘designer’ sensibility. However, there have been a number of Singaporean brands that have recently downsized or closed – not just ‘designer’, in fact, previously solid contemporary and high-street brands have disappeared too.
Thankfully, however, there’s been some new blood to fill in the blanks and some brands who have been plugging away for years, have finally been recognised.
THE SINGAPORE DESIGNERS OF THE YEAR …
I was particularly excited that Chelsea Scott-Blackhall of contemporary luxury brand, Dzojchen, won Designer of the Year. Chelsea has been growing her label since 2013 and over the years has shown on runways in Paris, New York and Seoul. It’s also being stocked in major multi-label stores and showrooms. I actually sat front row at Seoul Fashion Week for Chelsea’s first show there, and I’ve been supporting her strong, personal take on luxury mixed with a sense of ease and nostalgia ever since I saw her first collection. A well deserved winner. Yay Chelsea!
Another well-deserved winner was jewellery designer Marilyn Tan. Marilyn has been creating artisan jewellery pieces for 20 years; the brand shows in Paris twice a year, and is stocked at the Museum of Contemporary Art Store in Chicago, plus at designer stores in New York, Miami, Toronto, and London. Marilyn is one of the loveliest people I’ve ever met; she’s always stayed true to her unique design sense that mixes precious metals and stones with a Singapore aesthetic and the organic shapes of nature.
The winner of the Emerging Designer of the Year, Elizabeth Soon of Ametsubi, may be a relative newcomer to the Singapore fashion world, but her win was loudly applauded by the fashionista crowd at the awards.
Ametsubi is an interesting mix of Japanese aesthetics and contemporary womenswear. These are clothes made for women who love fashion but aren’t necessarily into following trends. Although based and produced in Japan, the brand does have a more practical bent that shows its Singaporean roots. This is definitely a brand to watch. You will eventually be able to shop Ametsubi on its website (although it seems to be still under construction), but you can check out the new collection and then stalk the site. That’s what I plan to do – I really want this whole outfit.
The Emerging Accessories Designer of the Year award went to the team of Afzal Imram and Lin Ruiyin behind fine jewellery label State Property. The brand has a very modern aesthetic, quite geometrical and minimal, mixed with a Singaporean’s love of colour; it’s very easy to see that this is a label that can become international. There is also an artistic quality to the pieces; an interesting sense of balance between the materials, the skin of the wearer and the spaces between. The earrings are particularly clever – they look both current and timeless, something that’s very difficult to do. I personally like the Coda earrings.
THE CHAMPION OF THEM ALL … CAROLYN KAN
First up I have to declare that I’m great friends with this individual who I feel has done more for the Singapore fashion and design industry in the last 10 years than anyone else.
The designer and founder of artisan jewellery label Carrie K., Carolyn Kan, is someone who has been a tireless worker for Singapore’s design scene. Her jewellery brand is international, but what’s more important is that Carolyn has created numerous environments for Singapore designers to come together and make money; all on her own initiative.
Her positive personality, energy and genuine care for creatives in Singapore led to the Singapore Fashion Awards committee creating a special award just for her; the Champion for Creatives and Designers Award. Carolyn was behind the Multiply: A Majestic Playground event by Keepers Singapore and The Straits Clan – featuring over 50 Singaporean artists, designers, makers and craftspeople – and more than 6,000 visitors. Carolyn was also the driving force behind Keepers, a platform for Singapore’s creative businesses that has gone from pop-up weekends in the Carrie K studio, to a pop-up store on Orchard Road and now has a permanent space at the National Design Centre.
Carrie K. also won the inaugural Bespoke Award for a unique ring designed for a wedding anniversary that managed to combine not only the client’s many personal requests, but still held onto the Carrie K. design aesthetic. And, she won the Best Collaboration of the Year Award for the Carrie K. and Disney Beauty and the Beast Collection (another personal favourite – I’ve got two of the rings).
We all love and adore Carolyn.
THE SINGAPORE FASHION AWARDS EVENT …
I have to say something about the actual event for 2017. This year it was held at W Singapore and the organisers went all out on creating an environment that was an eclectic mix of Singapore, luxury and dare-I-say, fun. The was a real sense of occasion created by Singapore’s ‘Godfather of Fashion’ and author, Daniel Boey … towering flowers, fabric, Singaporean models, crazy lighting, an actual triumphal arch on the stage and lots, and lots of Singapore fashionistas in their best Singapore designer threads. Congrats darling! It was definitely ‘fashion’.