Take Five: Fashion Most Wanted

Written by three seasoned (and well-respected) former fashion journalists, this book chronicles the fashion history of Singapore over the last five decades. Called Fashion Most Wanted, the fashion tome, which is fast becoming a required reading for fashion schools in Singapore, was put together by Tom Rao, John de Souza and Cat Ong. 

A little bit of background information on them: According to the Straits Times Press, the publishing arm of Singapore Press Holdings, John de Souza began covering fashion and lifestyle news at The Straits Times in the 1980s. He then moved on to edit the fashion and beauty sections at Her World magazine for eight years. He was also a group editor of various fashion and lifestyle titles at MediaCorp Publishing and went freelance in 2009.  

Cat Ong, on the other hand, was a fashion correspondent with The Straits Times and The Sunday Times between 1984 and 2001. Since then she has dabbled in doing marketing for Singapore Fashion Festival (2005 to 2007), and later joined Elle Singapore as its fashion director. She also helped launch the trade fair arm of Singapore Fashion Week, called Blueprint. 

Tom Rao was associate fashion editor with Her World in the 1980s and editor-in-chief of the Singapore and Malaysia editions of Marie Claire in the 1990s. He has been teaching Fashion Communication at the Department of Fashion Studies in Nanyang Academy of Fine Arts since 2006. 

Indeed, the three of them are akin to walking encyclopaedias on Singapore fashion. Putting together what they know and their experiences into one book, therefore, make sense. So far, there isn't any like it in the market - at least not one that's filled with anecdotes, archival pictures and interviews with the main players of the Singapore fashion industry. 

According to the book's press release, Fashion Most Wanted is "both an analytical and an anecdotal testimony of what we wore and how Singapore evolved from a traditional kampung into a fashionable global city". Before its launch, The Straits Times ran a story on the book saying that the 160-page book is not "just a historical text". The article further explained that the three authors spent more than a year interviewing 80 people - from models to major fashion retailers to entrepreneurs - to "document Singapore's fashion identity as described by the people who lived and built it".

The book contains insights from great fashion figures of yesteryear, including renowned composer Dick Lee (who had his own fashion label called Ping Pong and a ran a fashion boutique called Hemisphere), Singapore-born Malaysia-based luxury retail queen Farah Khan, and former top model Ethel Fong, who was the face of Giorgio Armani and a muse for the Italian designer. 

Nonetheless, much like many others before it, Fashion Most Wanted is not a comprehensive, all-in-one account of Singapore fashion in general. Because it is written by former journalist, the style and tone of the book mimics that of The Straits Times and a couple of its publications under its umbrella. 

There are some names that are regrettably (or, should we say, curiously) missing from the book, or wasn't given enough coverage. Plus, if you're looking for salacious gossips or fashion feuds the level of Yves Saint Laurent vs Karl Lagerfeld (I mean, come one, it started in 1953 when both Lagerfeld and Saint Laurent joined a design competition and the latter won. The feud lasted for decades), or even supermodel feuds the level of Naomi Campbell vs Tyra Banks, you'll be disappointed. There ain't nothing like that. 

Nonetheless, this book is a good start and we're pretty sure that a follow-up, if there is one, will be more exciting and comprehensive.