For all the flak Singapore has received for being cultureless – all wealth and little soul, it’s been said – last week saw the tropical island put on Asia’s biggest menswear fashion event. Much wealth, certainly: Men’s Fashion Week (MFW) cost an estimated S$8 million (£4 million) to execute. Nearly 40,000 visitors flocked to the tropical island over five days, filling casino resort Marina Bay Sands with good vibes sure to reverberate through the capital.
The avant-garde movement exploded with the IT boom, as a generation discovered imaginary worlds within their smart phones, and demanded individuality. I feel that’s about to end; for me, what happens next can be explored through volume
Pushing for a niche normally means establishing some over-arching national aesthetic but MFW corralled a whole other industry – the music industry – for its second season. In between catwalk shows, guests were treated to live music from talents around the region, from YouTube sensations Jung Sungha to K-pop group Se7en.
But what of the fashions that showed? Singapore’s fragility is also its strength; designers felt that they could test designs away from Paris or London. Offering food for thought, Mr. Songzio said: “The avant-garde movement exploded with the IT boom, as a generation discovered imaginary worlds within their smart phones, and demanded individuality. I feel that’s about to end; for me, what happens next can be explored through volume.”
Other highlights included Korean label Vandal; inspired by the post-apocalyptic surrealist painter Eerip, designer Heemin Yang offered his view on the “poetic underground” – where designs were sensual but dark and protective. “For menswear to be interesting, it doesn’t have to become more ‘feminine’. I want to emphasise the man’s figure, not hide it,” Dong-Jun Kang of another Korean label D.Gnak said. His army of Charlie Chaplins – penguin walk and all – effectively exhibited Kang’s manipulation of the blazer.
Japanese label Factotum, whose collections are very much designer Koji Udo’s travel journal, took home a sewing technique from Whitehorse, Yukon after a Jack London novel led him there. In his first show out of Tokyo, Udo displayed flair for layering laid-back, nifty pieces to a well-turned-out whole.
Does MFW aim to be a necessary event for international players to get a real sense of the creative direction in Asia? Or is the aim largely commerce? Perhaps they have the resources to achieve both. And that it takes an average of five minutes to clear its airport immigration is something global fashion jetsetters will surely appreciate. A stronger curation of designers – and musicians, for that matter – is essential next season.
Dazed gets acquainted with Afton Chen and Louis Koh, the duo behind Singapore label Reckless Ericka and who produced a collection that was happily androgynous.
Dazed Digital: What’s the inspiration for A/W12?
Afton Chen: Michael Garlington’s pictures of retired performers intrigued and we wanted to translate these characters into clothes. It’s fun with a touch of weirdness.
DD: Who’s Reckless Ericka?
Afton Chen: Ericka is a fictional character in the book Whatever you think think opposite by Paul Auden. In a story, Ericka does whatever she feels is right, she doesn’t care about what other people feel…
Louis Koh: And that’s simply the essence we put into our designs.
DD: Is there a Singaporean aspect to your designs?
Louis Koh: Our choice of materials – lightweight wool to Japanese cotton – is really suitable for our humid weather.
DD: Can you tell us a little about the local male fashionista?
Afton Chen: With the influx of many fast fashion labels here, Singaporean men have become less apathetic towards fashion and are willing to try new silhouettes and styles.
DD: What does masculinity mean to you?
Afton Chen: Portraying confidence.
All photo by Men's Fashion Week Singapore