Singapore is 50 and as we move towards becoming a progressive, first-world nation, it is widely known that this city-state of ours is fast becoming a hotbed for emerging design talents.
Thanks to initiatives created by organisations such as Spring Singapore as well as Textile and Fashion Federation Singapore, more attention and money have been invested in developing young talents in honing their craft and more help is being rendered to these emerging designers to develop their brands into commercially viable businesses.
The most recent effort to make Singapore into a fashion hub is the collaboration between Singapore Fashion Week and the Council of Fashion Designers of America (CFDA). This partnership aims to nurture emerging designers in Singapore and help showcase their talent abroad. This year, three homegrown fashion labels - Ong Shunmugam, Elohim and Dzojchen - have been chosen this year for the CFDA initiative. Through this partnership, the local designers will be armed with a seed fund of S$150,000 to promote and eventually sell designs to global retailers such as Saks Fifth Avenue and Harvey Nichols.
But as we celebrate the achievements of these young talents, we must not forget the old guards of Singapore fashion who have, in their own way, shape the industry to what it is today.
In conjunction with the Jubilee Weekend, THE FIFTH COLLECTION takes a look at three veteran Singapore designers who are still very much in demand today.
As one of Singapore's most renowned fashion designers, Goh Lai Chan specialises in made-to-order cheongsams and qipao.
For more than two decades, Goh has made a name for himself by offering his refined sensibilities and commitment towards quality, thus creating reputable name for himself in the local fashion scene. He has also designed costumes for the theatre and movies.
His boutique at The Raffles Hotel, which was unveiled in 1981, has become a mainstay and part of the iconic hotel's blueprint.
While Goh caters to a global clientele (French, American, Indonesian, and mainland Chinese for whom the cheongsam is commonplace), he was also the cheongsam designer for the late first lady of Singapore, Madam Ling Siew May (wife of the late President Ong Teng Cheong).
In a way, Goh Lai Chan was to Madam Ling what Oleg Cassini was to the late icon of style, Jackie Kennedy Onassis.
Considered as one of Singapore's premiere couturier, Tan Yoong has been in the business of designing for the last 20 years. While he does custom-made frocks that are ethereal and visually stunning, Tan Yoong is more known for his fantastical bridal creations (In fact, our editor-in-chief got married in one of his stunning creations years ago! How's that for #supportlocal before that even became a trendy hashtag?).
For Tan Yoong, what constitutes good bridal design is timeless appeal and his philosophy has always been to design pieces that are simple but stunning, where less is more but not necessarily minimal. And if you're looking for something that stands out for your big day, Tan Yoong advices to never stinge of a perfect fit for the sake of convenience.
He told Singapore Tatler: "While there are designer gowns available from international sites, they will not fit perfectly. What you see photographed online may not translate well on a real person’s body or appear exactly the way you think it is. Moreover, you might spend even more money altering the dress to fit your body shape than you would having it tailored from scratch. Having a trustworthy designer that you can have face-to-face consultations with allows you to be sure you get the exact gown you want."
His boutique is located at Lucky Plaza.
Much like how Yves Saint Laurent is still known for his Le Smoking Suit and Christian Dior is still known for the iconic T-bar jacket, Thomas Wee is Singapore's King of Jackets, for his precise tailoring aas well as innovative designs and cutting techniques. Also considered a premiere couturier, Wee has been in the fashion industry for over 30 years, since being a finalist in the first Young Fashion Designer Contest organised by Her World magazine in 1978. He was one of the designers known as “The Magnificent Seven”, who showcased collections in Tokyo and Osaka in 1980, and Paris in 1981 and 1982.
Wee, who is entirely self-taught and has been designing for the past 35 years, went into teaching in 1999, conducting master classes on fashion design and pattern drafting at Nanyang Academy of Fine Art’s (NAFA) School of Fashion Studies. In 2011, the veteran designer was recognised by CNN Power List as one, among thirty others, that have shaped modern Singapore.