Sunday, December 12, 2010

Singapore Style, have we got it?

When it comes to fashion in Singapore, there really isn't much of an opinion.

Yes, Singapore is hot and humid all year round with bouts of thunderous rain that may lead to floods, which actually lets us get away with lounging around town in tee shirts, shorts and flip-flops. Convenience? Check. Comfort? Check. Presentation? Zero. Style? Maybe.

Fashion is so affordable these days; anybody can keep up with with fashion’s fluidity and fun without burning a hole through the pocket. The island-bum attire is not going to cut it if Singapore is to become a world-class city. Why not get a quick fix at retailers like Cotton On or spend 30 minutes online shopping at blog shops for a trend update?

That is the immediate reaction when it comes to solving fashion crises. There is nothing wrong with that, after all, shopping is the most practical (and fun) solution to fashion problems.

However, there is a proliferation of the same retailers in every mall. Take Topshop for example. Let’s count them: 3 on the Orchard belt alone, including the spanking new mega store at Knightsbridge. Raffles City, Suntec, Marina Square and Bugis each have an outlet (note that these stores are all within walking distance). That makes seven outlets in town. There is one more at Vivo and another at Tampines. That’s nine Topshops on our tiny island!

Blog shops often have overlapping products as well. Everyone shops at the same shop and unconsciously yields to the style as prescribed by that particular brand. So what we have along the sunny streets of Singapore are the ‘Topshop girls’, ‘Cotton On girls’, “blog shop girls’ and so on.

Perhaps there is a fear of being too different which explains why people do not shop outside of so-called ‘safe’ brands such as Topshop. Liking a brand is one thing but going totally overboard is just overkill. I am against blindly following fashion for the sake of doing so, especially if it does nothing for your body shape or style or size for that matter.

Oh, I like Topshop, don’t get me wrong, but I always prefer to mix and match my clothing items so that I don’t wind up with an entire outfit from just one retailer, unless that is my intention. I find that it adds a touch of personality and uniqueness to any outfit. Force yourself to think of as many different combinations as possible and choose the few that suit your personal style.

There is surely a lack of clear direction in our local fashion scene. Our inspirations are laden with foreign influences. We turn to the Internet for fashion information and trend updates and follow the designer collections shown in major fashion capitals like Paris, Milan, New York, London and Tokyo. A simple search on Google for ‘Singaporean fashion’ presented me with lists of fashion retailers (not designers) in Singapore.

Maybe there are too few local designers. Maybe our design schools just aren’t doing enough? Also, the few established designers that have made it big (locally or overseas) are still obscure to the ordinary Singaporean. Fashion thus has a slow up-take in Singapore as we don’t have a unique fashion identity and it takes time for non-Asian influences to trickle into the stores and then impact the fashion scene.

There is hope however as Singapore begins to take baby steps toward developing a stronger local fashion identity. In June this year, 25 new designers unveiled their collections at PARCO next NEXT as part of the Fashion Design Incubator initiative. These initiatives could go a long way in helping budding designers get a foot in the door especially through rental subsidies and mentoring from industry insiders.

Since time in memorial, Singapore has been a mash-up of diverse cultures, languages and religions. Globalisation and the Internet have only accelerated this phenomenon leading to more creativity and exposure as designers, readers and viewers integrate their predisposed fashion knowledge with what they learn from the Internet. I guess it would take time for us to develop, define and refine our fashion identity. Perhaps something as unique as Singlish will come to define our fashion scene soon.

And that’s when we can say, "Yah, we really got style."



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