This morning I woke up to an FB note on Singapore Fashion by celebrated politician Chen Show Mao.
To be honest I didn’t quite appreciate some of the fawning responses, but no names here, darling, no names. That’s not to say the note wasn’t a helpful one. Mr. C distilled a number of common features he spotted amongst the local threads on sale at Tangs — “the liberal use of tropical colors, light materials, halter tops and the sleeveless look”, but ended the statement with a self-deprecating “what do I know”. Oh, you do know many things, sir.
He then drew a link between these commonalities and the fabric of our nation (OK, fine, I chucked this phrase in), which I suppose was the main point of his note, but not that of mine this morning. Instead, I’m thinking about the same old question: what is so Singapore about Singapore fashion?
And then more questions: Is there something New York about NY fashion? Should local labels trying to get onto the international runway introduce local flavour into their work? Must a local label have local flavour? Can a brand story like “Singapore” have the same effect as something like “Chinese tradition” on foreign consumers?
I suppose “tropical colours” are really the flavour of the season, since it’s summer and colour blocking is in. Light materials, halter and sleeveless tops seem to be responses to the tropical climate, but what then separates Singapore fashion from that of our neighbours in the SEA? What, for example, sets Singapore designers apart from their counterparts in Thailand and Indonesia?
I don’t have answers to these questions — but that just means more reason to window shop this summer. Also, more reading and thinking is in order.
These same questions also drifted my head the other night in the Tent at Ngee Ann City as we watched the Greyhound show. I love Greyhound/Playhound and I spend an inordinate amount of time at their Siam Centre stores each time I visit Bangkok. What’s so Thai about Greyhound (apart from the awesome chicken wings at Greyhound cafe that nobody fails to mention each time this label finds its way into conversations)?
I don’t know — the truth is I think Greyhound (and maybe Playhound) has broken out of this “We are Thai” mentality in design. For a while I saw a lot of exaggerated shoulders and puffy legs in Bangkok — partly inspired by the big runways, and partly inspired by Thai traditional dancers? What I do know is that Greyhound has very much taken on an international — or at least, not uniquely Thai — flavour these days.
Should it? The lack of a definite answer here should start to annoy you; as it is annoying me. Maybe there is merit in young labels running the local campaign; but things change as we all get older. Still, one clear conclusion I can draw from my thoughts this morning is that it is extremely interesting to watch brands and designs as they grow organically over time.