Story :HAI YEN
Singapore is a land of plenty, where art and fashion continue to bloom.
Working in the fashion industry and the arts, I often attend major events in Singapore. I visit the city at least five times a year and was even coming twice a month at one point. Along the way, I’ve grown to appreciate all that the Lion City has to offer, from high-tech urban settings to cutting-edge fashion to diverse cultures and culinary delights. In less than a century, this hyper-modern city-state has grown from a humble fishing village to a leading Asian economic powerhouse.
Fashion has long held a central appeal for this tiny island nation. On a visit to Singapore in 1879, travel writer Isabella Bird was surprised by a country “ablaze with color and motley with costume,” noting that the way locals dress “[makes] up an irresistibly fascinating medley”.
The fashion industry has evolved into major commercial sector in Singapore, with a market value expected to reach nearly USD 3 billion in 2023, according to research firm Statista.
Drawing on my own experiences of Singapore’s fashion scene, one feature that strikes me is the way brands utilize modern interactive technology. Many labels in Singapore allow their customers to work with designers through technological platforms to personalize creations by selecting details such as materials, patterns, collars and cuffs to their own preferences. Additionally, many famous labels allow shoppers to pick embroidered badges or 3D print on their items right in their showrooms. This city-state is an industry leader in the global trend of personalized apparel.
Another aspect of Singapore’s modern fashion world that caught my eye is its minimalism. Even at major events, local artists don’t dress flamboyantly. Perhaps because of the fast-paced lifestyle here, fashion tends to focus more on utility through comfortable and meticulously made clothing. I was able to test out a waterproof fabric that can be easily cleaned of liquids, even wine spills, yet remains environmentally friendly: another element that has cemented Singapore’s global reputation.
AN ARTISTIC MELTING POT
When I was in Singapore at the end of last year, I stayed in Little India on Tyrwhitt Road. As its name indicates, the majority of ethnic Indians in Singapore live here. This neighborhood bewitches visitors with saris printed with unique patterns, vibrant flags lining small alleys, Hindu temples and walls bedecked with beautiful graffiti.
Alongside fashion, the art world also takes center stage in Singapore. Since 1991 when the country’s leaders planned to turn Singapore into a cultural center through the establishment of the National Arts Council, they have constantly promoted the visual arts to the local community. The Singapore Art Museum and National Gallery Singapore opened their doors in 1996 and 2015, respectively, while seven Singapore Biennales have been held since 2006.
Lorenzo Rudolf, one of the founders of the Art Basel franchise, turned to the city-state to create Art Stage Singapore in order to showcase contemporary Asian art. Exhibitions on Level 1 of the Marina Bay Sands convention-exhibition center remain year-round artistic destinations for professionals and amateurs alike. The top floor of this building hosts special projects, with one room dedicated to exhibiting digital art and NFTs.
Much on the tiny island of Singapore has been made by human hands, including beaches, oases, waterfalls and tropical jungles. And it continues to be a vital source of creativity in arts and fashion, making it a destination worth visiting again and again.