My Bag

Fashion show producer Daniel Boey was bullied for his bad skin so he learnt to laugh it off

Fashion show producer Daniel Boey was bullied for his bad skin so he learnt to act tough and laugh it off

Fashion show producer and director Daniel Boey, often called the godfather of Singapore fashion, says he was bullied because of his bad skin when he entered the industry.

Speaking to The Straits Times last month, the 51-year-old, who has atopic eczema, says: "I've been told point blank that there's no place for someone like me in fashion. People have asked me what I'm doing in fashion because I don't look like a fashion person."

The skin condition results in itchy, red, swollen and cracked skin and for Boey, it can be triggered by things that he is allergic to, such as sweat, grass, crustaceans, dairy, eggs and wheat.

His skin also breaks out when he is stressed.

One photographer, he recalls, even nicknamed him lobster because of how red his skin could become when it flares up.

The bachelor says he probably would not have entered the fashion world had he known about the reactions he would get for his looks.

"I think I was naive about the fashion industry and I have to thank my naivety because if I had known how difficult it would have been and how bitchy people can be, I may not have had the guts to try it."

People told him he did not belong to the fashion industry, so Daniel Boey pushed himself hard to prove himself.
People told him he did not belong to the fashion industry, so Daniel Boey pushed himself hard to prove himself. ST PHOTOS: LAU FOOK KONG

He adds: "You just have to learn to grow thick skin. Put on blinkers and try not to let the name calling affect you. The more you show that you are upset, the more they will bully you. So you have to laugh it off and act as though you are not affected by it."

But he says his skin condition has also made him resilient.

"I think if I didn't have it, I would not have pushed myself so hard. It is 50 times harder to prove yourself when people think you don't belong and don't look the part."

His battle with the condition has also led to him penning his second book, Behind Every Itch Is A Back Story, which was released last month.

It discusses his experiences with various allergic reactions, how he was teased in school and the struggles he faced carving out a career in fashion.

The book, available at all major book stores ($28), also includes interviews with other well-known Singapore names who have struggled with eczema, such as musician Sara Wee, actress and radio DJ Vernetta Lopez and presenter Glenda Chong.

His first book, The Book Of Daniel, is a tell-all about his life in the fashion world and was published in November 2014.

"I wanted my second book to be something more personal, something that could touch people," he says.

An icon in the Singapore fashion scene, Boey fell almost unintentionally into the industry.

He graduated from the National University of Singapore in 1989 with a general degree in arts and took the first job that was offered to him.

  • ON HIS BAG

    A friend got me this bag about five years ago. It's a Cambridge Satchel Company limited-edition bag from a collaboration with Comme des Garcons. I've carried this bag around the world. I use it as my hand luggage on planes and you can see it is quite worn. It matches all my outfits whether I dress up or down and I think being in the fashion industry gives me the leeway to carry something more creative. It's flashy, but not wild. It is still professional.

"I organised many events and activities while I was in university. One of the production houses that sponsored a pageant I organised offered me a job. I took it since I didn't have to write a resume."

There, he honed his skills as a show producer. He was with the company for slightly more than a year before moving to another production company and then becoming a freelance producer in 1991. Both production houses are no longer around.

He would go on to work in countries including Vietnam, Indonesia, Thailand, England, the United States, Italy and Spain, and for fashion labels such as British brand Vivienne Westwood, Spanish luxury label Loewe and French labels Dior and Louis Vuitton.

In 2008, Boey started his own eponymous production company.

His recent work includes directing The New Paper New Face 2017 and the Miss Singapore Universe 2017 competitions (the latter will hold its finals on Oct 11).

He is also the producer of the Singapore Fashion Awards 2017 in November.

On how his skin condition has made him who he is today, Boey says: "When I was bullied, I thought if these people think I have no place in fashion, then I will work so hard and become so influential that one day they will be working by my rules.

"You push yourself and you work for it. I said to myself, one day I will make how I look the standard for fashion. I will make my shows the standard by which the industry is judged."


Things in his bag

MEDICINE POUCH

I got this waterproof pouch from the National Design Centre. I carry antihistamines for my allergies in case I have a breakout in the middle of the day. I have both drowsy and non-drowsy medication. I have some hand creams and moisturisers, too. This is basically like my own pharmacy.

HIS BOOK, BEHIND EVERY ITCH IS A BACK STORY

People have been stopping me and asking about the book so I realised I should carry a copy to show them. When I do interviews, I sometimes forget what I've written because it has gone through so many rounds of editing. So it is good to have a copy to refer to.

LOEWE BOOKMARK 

I got this in Singapore at the opening of the Loewe store at Marina Bay Sands. I love door gifts that are useful. I like that it's a bright colour that is not too bold so it matches all books.

FENDI POWERBANK

I got this at the re-opening of the Fendi store at Ngee Ann City a while back. It can recharge my phone once. I like it a lot because it's cute.

NAME CARD HOLDER AND NAME CARDS

For years, my name card used to look like a Polaroid picture. In June this year, we moved to a new office and I decided to modernise my namecard. So now it looks like an Instagram post. I don't want to be considered an old fogey. A friend made the pouch for me for Christmas a few years back.

ROSARY AND RELIGIOUS MEDAL

I got the medal when I visited Roman Catholic church Sacre Coeur in Paris in the late 1990s. I am Roman Catholic, so I carry this wherever I go. The rosary is from Israel. I got it last year when I was there for a pilgrimage. They are like a security blanket.

PENS

I carry a few pens so that I can take notes. I also need them for book signings.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 28, 2017, with the headline 'Developing thick skin '. Print Edition | Subscribe