As fashion models walk down the runway at the recent Fide Fashion Weeks, fashionistas can be seen admiring the haute couture pieces at the front row with nodding approvals (or revolting expressions), depending on what fashion means to you.
Prime seatings at such fashion events are generally reserved for the media, celebrities and fashionistas who do not mind spending a five figure sum for these one-of-a-kind pieces from internationally renowned designers from China, Thailand, Hong Kong, Japan and of course, France.
Welcome to Singapore, which according to the Boston Consulting Group, boasts the highest concentration of millionaires at 17 per cent, followed by Qatar and Kuwait.
Held at a tent on the open space at next to Marina Bay Sands, the Fide Fashion Weeks highlight just how far Singapore has come.
From a hub of commerce and banking and now as the epi-centre for fashion, the fashion week signals the first haute couture shows to be held outside Paris.
“Asia has the prominence of economic influence right now. We need to start needing more than just money. We need to get fashion involved in the entire thing. I don’t want Asia to be known as a region for manufacturing among consumers. We want to start leading in the fashion industry. Hence, this entire event,” said Dr Frank Cintamani, chairman of Fide Fashion Weeks.
Fashion equates investments for retail sector
Indeed, according to CBRE, Singapore is said to be the most targeted market in Asia for luxury European retailers with 39.9 per cent of European brands now present.
On a regional level, only Hong Kong beats Singapore hands down.
“This is testament to the successful evolution of Singapore as a global city and tourist destination,” said Letty Lee, director of retail services, CBRE Singapore.
Notable boutiques that recently opened in Singapore include Coach (4,600 sq ft), new to Singapore label – Tory Burch (2, 500 sq ft) and Tommy Bahama (1,900 sq ft) at the newly revamped Wisma Atria, Fendi, (2,200 sq ft) at Ngee Ann City as well as Swedish label, J Lindeberg, (1,200 sq ft) at Mandarin Gallery.
Haute couturist looking to expand label in Singapore
Brazilian Gustavo Lins, who is now based in Paris and has his own atelier, feels Singapore is ready for haute couture despite some limitations of such design.
“People here are sophisticated. I don’t think the climate is perfect for haute couture because the real houte couture dresses are a little bit heavy,” said Lins who is known for his highly-wearable and understated stylish designs for both women and men. “I like very much the relaxed way of being in Asia. You are much more soft and sensual unlike in Europe. Your garments in Asia are much more soft – your kimonos, your sarees and your sarongs. It’s very interesting how haute couture could match with your sensitivities.”
With Fide Fashion Weeks as his second showcase in Singapore, Lins said he has better grasp of the local market.
“I think my design is perfect for Asians because they prefer daily clothes and the clothes are very ‘clean’. My drapes and tailoring could sit very well with Asians. We have worked with the Japanese for many years but now the Japanese market is becoming very difficult. Here, in Singapore, we have some customers. We have customers in Beijing and Shanghai,” he said.
Debuting in 2011 at the inaugural Women’s Fashion Week, Lins is now looking at the possibility of opening his atelier here, subject to finding the right business partners.
“I am looking to develop my business in Singapore. I hope to have some customers. The last time, it was a very good opportunity to show my collection here. Now, it is more for the commercial viability to open an atelier here based on feedback,” said Lins who has worked for numerous Paris-based fashion companies including Agnès b., Kenzo, Jean Paul Gaultier, Louis Vuitton and Jean-Charles de Castelbajac.
Eastern label with global appeal
While the West is looking East, Thai designer and New York-based Polpat Asavaprapa feels his ASAVA Autumn/Winter 2012-13 Collection, while New York inspired, is suited for women everywhere.
Set against a fantasy of a sassy woman wandering through the flower gardens in Central Park of New York at night, his pret-a-porter collection is still relevant be it for women at Singapore’s Botanical Gardens or Bangkok’s Lumphini Park.
“The clothes themselves are very practical. That is one of my DNA. I believe that women has to be able to wear my clothes. My collection is very comfortable from casual pieces like shorts to evening gowns. You can get anything no matter who you are,” said Asavaprapa.