In the wake of the global financial meltdown, Singapore’s government has promoted the fashion and arts industries as a means of diversifying its economy. Resulting new cultural and economic policies were in evidence at the second installment of the Audi Fashion Festival and Blueprint trade show held from April 28 to May 2, 2010.
The Audi Fashion Festival, not technically a “fashion week” in the traditional sense, was held in a tent on the busy main shopping district of Orchard Road located in Ngee Ann City’s Civic Plaza. The five-day event was intended to showcase a selection of international and regional designers. Caten brothers’ Dsquared2 label presented its AW10 collection to open the show, which included Carmen Kass, flown in for the occasion and evidence of the “no expense spared” feel of the festival. Buyers and press from the region and around the world were flown in on state carrier Singapore Airlines and were treated to a busy schedule of shows, presentations, events, and parties. Homegrown labels such RAOUL and alldressedup were featured, as well as an eclectic assortment of invited international designers, including indie darlings KTZ, Roberto Cavalli, Henry Holland, and Marchesa. Started by Tina Tan and her husband, alldressedup has an independent spirit reflected in it’s wearable and collection that plays subtly with shapes and textures. The design and creative team are Singapore based and reflect the emergence of home grown brands on the international scene. Sponsors such as Tiffany & Co., Herve Leger, Samsung, and others offered presentations including the Atelier Swarovski/Nicholas Kirkwood collaboration.
These diverse designers and brands reflected the city’s saturated and multifaceted retail scene. Orchard Road is home to scores of large luxury and high-street shopping malls, with many new retail developments in the pipeline. As architect and writer Sze Tsung Leong has noted, “Not only is shopping melting into everything, but everything is melting into shopping.” The idea that shopping is an integral part of urbanization and that such environments are quickly becoming defining elements of the modern city can be felt everywhere in this ambitious and rapidly growing region.
The concurrent Blueprint trade show platform has come a long way since its inception in 2004. Held in the Formula 1 pit buildings near the fast expanding marina area, the aim of the event was to support the growing number of brands vying to access the Asia Pacific market. The private and publicly funded initiative led to expanded exhibitor and show schedules, with appearances from powerhouse regional retailers Club21, FJ Benjamin, and Joyce, as well as international retail stars such as Browns Focus, Matches, Seven, Tearose, and Harvey Nichols UK. Local and regional brands and collectives such as Front Row’s presentation of Thai designers (Second Issue and Greyhound) and a British collective showcase (KTZ and J. Maskrey) were given catwalk slots. Standout brands at the trade show included Korean designer J. JS Lee, Joanne Sykes, and Nsha Atelier. The latter was designed by former I-D magazine fashion editor Erika Kurihara and consisted of wardrobe classics such as white shirts, cotton drill skirts, shorts and summer knits rendered in a bold palette inspired by artists Mobius, Alajandro Jodorowsky and Pavel Pepperstein. The weight of fabrics and materials employed by Kurihara reflected the seasonless approach to dressing in tropical countries. The label commissioned a work by filmmaker Cameron Smith to premiere at Blueprint.
Both events were testament to what can be achieved given cooperation between the public and private sectors. Local designers and brands are keen to raise the bar in both creativity and their international appeal and there will surely be an emergence of important talent from this part of the world. Next year’s events are already being planned and organizers promise to be more focused and cohesive. The week’s daytime events were matched by equally action-packed evenings as Zouk, La Masion, and the Biscuit Club–amongst others–hosted parties and events. Singapore is a rapidly growing city state that is trying to strike the right balance right between work and play, something which went down very well with its international visitors.