Bringing fashion into focus in Asia
LIVIN' & LOVIN' - Tetta Matera () - May 30, 2012 - 12:00am

Emerging Asian fashion capital Singapore recently played host to the 3rd Asian Fashion Exchange, an annual one week-long series of events that brought together some of fashion industry’s most influential figures: Nicola Formichetti, creative director of Mugler; Daniel Saynt, influential fashion blogger, chief marketing officer of Rebecca Minkoff and CEO of www.socialyte.com; Nobuyuki Ota, executive managing director and MD Strategy chief of Matsuya, Japan; Ravi Thakran, group president of LVMH for South, South East and West Asia; Sarah Curran, CEO of MyWardrobe.com, a very successful online fashion retail business;  Andrea Bonardi, president of the Italian Chamber of Commerce-Singapore and managing director for Asia-Pacific of La Perla; fashion designers Roland Mouret and Zac Posen, to name a few.

 Organized by the Singapore Tourism Board and held in and around the city of Singapore, Asian Fashion Exchange provides a holistic platform to promote four vital sectors in the development of the fashion industry: trade via Blueprint, talent development via Audi Star Creation, business conferencing via Asia Fashion Summit and consumer awareness via the Audi Fashion Festival Singapore.

“We hope to achieve two key outcomes at the Asian Fashion Exchange — create a greater buzz and awareness of the fashion industry, locally and abroad; and tighter collaboration among different government agencies and private industry towards a common goal,” explains Sherina Chan, Singapore Tourism Board area director for the Philippines and Brunei.

From Lady Gaga To Mugler

First up after our arrival and a delicious Chinese lunch at the modern, superbly designed Taste Paradise at the ION Orchard was the Audi Fashion Festival Conference to meet with Nicola Formichetti, creative director of Mugler. Moderated by fashion commentator Colin McDowell at the ION Art Gallery, the informal press conference gave the media an up-close and personal encounter with Nicola. Seemingly shy and looking very boyish (but clearly toned and defined) in his T-shirt and jean getup, Nicola spoke of his fashion journey from growing up in Tokyo and Rome to his “fashion baptism of fire” in London and his serendipitous encounter with Lady Gaga, a creative team-up that has become one of the most celebrated and successful (if not somewhat controversial) collaborations in music and fashion history.

 Eager to have a private téte-a-téte with Nicola before the security whisked him away, I walked over to him and asked, “Do you speak Japanese?” after I found out his mother was Japanese. To which he replied, ”Of course, it is actually my first language.” “Watashi mo, Nihonggo hanaseru no (I, too, can speak Japanese),” I told him excitedly. Finding the ultimate icebreaker, we then proceeded to chat in Japanese and Italian, telling him my husband was also Italian. Not one to waste an opportunity, I asked if we could have a photo taken with him. He gamely posed with me, Daryl Chang, fashion director of Preview magazine, and Paul Herrera of the Fashion Institute of the Philippines. Feeling luck was on my side I went for broke and asked him if I could give him a big hug because we have such an affinity for Japan, Italy and fashion. Unmindful of all his handlers around him, he held out both arms, kissed me on both cheeks (Italian-style) and gave me a big tight hug. “Tu sei bellisima (you are very beautiful),” he told me before he left to get ready for the Mugler show that evening. Now, that’s what I call up close and personal.

Fabulous Fashion On Parade

The Audi Fashion Festival opened with the heart-stopping Mugler autumn/winter 2012 collection. Attended by Singapore’s who’s who in fashion and society, media from all over Asia and other fashionable guests, The Mugler show was a veritable feast for the eyes. The 22-piece collection was powerful, sublime and simply exquisite; each piece was a clear tour-de-force in precision cutting, expert tailoring, careful detailing and masterful styling and design. The show was over in the blink of an eye, leaving the audience wanting for more.

 Over the next few days, we were treated to other fashion presentations at the Tent@Orchard Ngee Ann City on Orchard Road by up-and-coming young international designers making inroads in fashion, a Singapore luxury brand, raw creative talent from several Asian countries, and a host of Singapore fashion designers making a name for themselves locally.

 The Future Fashion Show featured the pre-spring 2013 collections of Blueprint trade participants and designers Timo Weiland (New York), Yeojin Bae (Melbourne) and Esther Perbant (Berlin). Timo Weiland put to work his personal aesthetic sensibilities in easy, ready-to-wear flouncy, girly pieces with a vibrant and youthful vibe. Yeojin Bae’s bold-colored designs were infused with an edgy elegance and razor-sharp tailoring, reflecting fashion at its most chic. Esther Perbant went minimalist by using sheer material together with heavier fabrics in solid colors and utilizing treated wood panels with metal detailing to create a one-of a kind avant-garde top.

Singapore’s very own luxury brand Raoul paid homage to the ’60s era, very Ye Ye Vonnel! The colors — bold solids, striking prints, muted gold and silver, dramatic black and white in luxurious fabrics — all found a place in the fusion of simple, elegant and charming one-pieces, separates, jackets and long dresses. Trés chic best describes the brand’s autumn/winter 2012 collection.

To celebrate the Audi Star Creation, the annual fashion design competition of the Asian Fashion Exchange, the 2011 Star Creation winners Chen Zhi Gang (China), Tiang Boon Tieon (Malaysia) and Tsai Ming Hung (Singapore) showed their capsule collections after completing a one-year attachment program with Raoul. I particularly enjoyed Chen Zhi Gang’s clothes; he showed a clear vision in his work and displayed an uncompromising visual and thought-provoking interpretation of his designs.

A few young Filipino designers have participated in past competitions but sadly, we had no entry for this year. Registration is easy, but the support of the Filipino fashion design industry in fielding deserving candidates every year is essential; knowing the immeasurable talent of the Filipino, I have no doubt any one of our young designers can win the US$10,000 cash prize and one-year internship with a fashion label in Singapore. This year’s winners were Roderic Wong (China), Ko Youngji (South Korea) and Soravit Kaewkamon (Thailand).

Last but not the least, we watched the Singapore Designers Showcase with Alfie Leong (A.W.O.L), Nicholas Wong (Saturday) and Kenny Lim and Andrew Loh (Depression). The collection was an eye-opener and a confirmation of Singapore’s emerging role as Southeast Asia’s fashion capital.  With very individual and unique take on fashion and design, the three labels enjoy a very loyal following among the Singaporeans and are “stars” in their own right.

Zac Posen and Roland Mouret closed the Audi Fashion Festival.

Buyers Beckon

Eager to know who the next big name in fashion might be? Look no farther than in Singapore at the Blueprint trade show. Held at Suntec Singapore, Blueprint is a one-stop fashion trade gateway for East-West exchange created to launch the fashion careers of talents in ladies and menswear, accessories design including jewelry, shoes and bags internationally. This year more than 100 international and Asian emerging designer brands from Berlin, Hong Kong, Manila, Singapore, Jakarta, London, Kuala Lumpur, New York, Paris, Seoul, Dominican Republic, Sweden and Tokyo showed their pre-spring 2013 collections to over 250 buyers from a wide cross-section of international stores. Our very own Amina Aranaz-Alunan, Vania Romanoff and Maggie Wilson-Consunji (Wanderlust swimwear) participated and exhibited their latest designs.

Formatted a la F.A.M.E, our very own annual home design exposition, Blueprint allows buyers to interact with the designers and inspect the products first-hand. Women’s and men’s apparel dominated the trade show with accessories coming in a close second. The venue was filled with creative energy and talent and it will be a boon to our fashion industry to have more Filipino designers participate in future Blueprint trade shows.

I’ve Got A Story To Tell: From Aspiration To Association

The two-day Asian Fashion Summit at the Raffles City Convention Center provided very engaging interactions between panelist and attendees on relevant fashion topics like “How New Technologies Are Transforming The In-Store Experience,” “Inside the Mind of a Buyer,” “Lifestyle Retailing,” “Taking Off in Asia: Where, What, How?” and “The Total Shopping Experience: Six Ideas for Now and the Future on Sales Boosting Strategies for Internet and Mobile Retail Business.”

Of all the chatter, conversation and exchanges I heard at the forum, the words of Daniel Saynt, founder of Fashion Indie, a successful and powerful online network with 5.4 million consumer following (which he has since sold), reverberated with me.

Currently the chief marketing consultant of Rebecca Minkoff and CEO of www.socialyte.com, Saynt is one of the most influential fashion voices in the digital world; he talked about the relationship between consumerism and technology and how blogging will remain an essential and popular way for people to keep abreast of fashion. But bloggers be warned, he added. “Bloggers will have to find a way to connect with their followers on a more personal and emotional level, they have to be able to tell a story about a product that a potential buyer can associate with rather than aspire to have. Bloggers can no longer just tell their followers to simply buy because they use or recommend a product or because some famous personality is using or endorsing it; it is no longer just about having front row seats at the shows in Fashion Week,” he explains. The tides are turning, people no longer want to be like somebody else, they want to be themselves and cultivate their own taste according to their own lifestyles. Consumers are paying closer attention to the personalities of the bloggers themselves and the substance behind the products they blog about. “When this attitude takes root, there will be a shift in influence among the in-demand fashion bloggers of today; truth be told some of them will disappear,” he said matter-of-factly.

“Facebook, Twitter and Instagram will lead the pack in fashion trends awareness and businesses that do not utilize these social media will suffer tremendously,” declared Saynt.  

The Asian Fashion Exchange is a highly commendable effort to bring fashion into focus in Asia, especially since everyone is looking to expand their business in Asia today, fashion not withstanding. So whether you are a designer, a buyer, a consumer, a blogger or just a plain lover of fashion, it is worth attending any one if not all of the Asian Fashion Exchange lineup of activities. 

World-Class Filipino Design

Our group of four wore Filipino designers proudly to all the Asian Fashion Exchange events; we didn’t plan it, it just happened that way. Between Daryl Chang of Preview magazine, Suki Salvador of Mega magazine, Paul Herrera of the Fashion Institute of the Philippines and myself, we wore Jerome Salaya Ang, Arnold Galang, Joey Samson, Ivarluski Aseron and Patrice Ramos-Diaz. At the press conference, Nicola Formichetti could not stop looking at Suki Salvador’s Jerome Salaya Ang pullover embellished with safety pins; he finally said, “I love it!” when we told him we were all in Filipino-designed outfits. At the fashion shows, bloggers and photographers kept taking photos of us — Filipino designer- clad and beaming in pride. One day, I hope we won’t just be wearing our local designs to the shows but we will be watching them on the runway at the Audi Fashion Festival. 

* * *

For information on the Asian Fashion Exchange, visit www.asianfashionexchange.com.sg; for Audi Star Creations log on to www.starcreation.sg; for all the fashion shows log on to www.audifashionfestival.com; for other inquiries, log on to www.asianfashionsummit.com  and www.blueprint.sg) 

ASIAN ASIAN FASHION EXCHANGE FASHION ONE SINGAPORE
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