Singapore - Emerging Fashion Capital

Each summer, the Global Language Monitor ranks the Top Fashion Capitals of the World. Singapore and Berlin broke into the Top Ten for the first time this year. Singapore is ranked eighth in the World, coming in behind only Hong Kong in the Asia list.

The impact of Princess Kate and Alexander McQueen propel London over New York as the Top Global Fashion Capital for 2011. That may come as a bit of a surprise. However, to many, the bigger surprise must be the entry of Singapore into the Top Ten, jumping seven spots from last year and overtaking Tokyo.

Singapore is a young city known for its order and conformity. It was not too long ago that Singapore was described by quite a few as a boring, sterile place. It is fair to say that Singapore's fashion scene has been undergoing some dramatic transformation. For those who know how Singapore works, it would not come as a surprise to see government agencies playing a big part in creating a buzz in the fashion scene. When the Singapore government sets its mind on developing a certain sector or industry - whether it is aviation, pharmaceutical or the creative arts - spectacular success stories usually follow. Thus, when it is declared that International Enterprise Singapore, SPRING Singapore and the Singapore Tourism Board would jointly support the development of Singapore as Asia's fashion gateway, the foundation was laid for a fast track development of the fashion industry. The government agencies, in collaboration with the private sector, adopted a three-pronged approach to develop the fashion industry in Singapore by cultivating design talent, stimulating demand locally and internationally and positioning Singapore as a fashion centre on the international stage.

In 2010, Asia Fashion Exchange (AFX) was launched as an event which would comprise both business-to-business and business-to-consumer components, as well as talent development programmes to identify promising local and regional talent. Some 50 exhibitors and 1,000 buyers and visitors from regional markets, as well as from Europe and the United States, attended the AFX's Blueprint - the business-to-business fashion tradeshow targeting fashion professionals. The AFX also incorporates the Audi Fashion Festival which features top international designers and supermodels.

Globetrotting fashionistas now has reasons to add Singapore to their list of not-to-be-missed destinations. The fashion calendar in Singapore boasts AAMA-TEX (for buyers, textile and apparel producers and exporters), the Blueprint, the Asian Fashion Summit, the Fashionably Sustainable Competition, the Star Creation (design competition for new Asian talents) and hosts of other trade fairs and exhibitions. In 2011, Singapore hosted the first Men's Fashion Week in Asia. Singapore is only the third city in the world to host that event, besides international fashion cities Milan and Paris.

A wealth of fashion education programmes offered by good quality institutions, like LaSalle College of the Arts, Raffles Design Institute and Nanyang Academy of Fine Arts ensure a steady flow of fresh faces and new ideas. Its position as a regional education hub also helps to attract creative talents to Singapore.

A design incubator programme was set up where selected designers would have the privilege to be mentored by established professionals. Under the programme, the designers undergo an 18-month incubation which includes operating an actual retail business and attending group workshops and seminars and participating in overseas mission trip. The programme has helped to launch a number of exciting local labels such as Chalk, UNCVRD, Mae Pang, OwnMuse and Ready.Made.

A common characteristic of the major fashion capitals of the world is the strong support for local labels. This is something Singapore may still lack but things are also changing. Ashley Isham, having made his name in London, now has a loyal local following. He retails his own label at the flagship store at The Fullerton Hotel. Jonathan Seow's Woods & Woods, Keith Png's KOOPS, Al&Alicia and Nicholas and the likes are becoming recognised names among the fashion conscious. The increasing number of boutiques offering trendy labels of local designers is further evidence of growing support for the local fashion industry. Blackmarket at Jalan Pisang (Kampong Glam), [A-mod] at TripleOne Somerset (Orchard - Somerset Belt), Antipodean at Lorong Mambong (Holland Village), Egg3 at Erskine Road (Chinatown) and a string of similar boutiques stocking local labels have sprung up in different shopping precincts across the island.

Singapore is now a place that welcomes and promotes fashion innovation - a stimulating environment with buzz and creative energy. There is a vibrant fashion scene and an established platform for designers and creative talents to showcase and retail their works. There is a belief that designers can flourish, fashion business is viable and the whole industry is moving up in the world of style and glamour. The stage is set for Singapore to take its place among the top global fashion capitals. Eighth in the World is a great achievement - but don't expect Singapore to be content to stay there.

August 2011

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