A shorter Singapore Fashion Week to focus on business this year

Aside from runway shows, the three-day event this year will hold talks that discuss fashion as a business and how retailers can leverage technology

Singapore Fashion Week (SGFW) has been cut to three days this year - the first time in the show's 11-year history.

The event, which has been held annually over five or more days, has hosted big names such as Roberto Cavalli, Victoria Beckham, Diane von Furstenberg and Prabal Gurung.

This year, it will be held at the National Gallery Singapore from Oct 26 to 28 with a new focus: the business of fashion.

A series of technology talks will be held on the second and third days, featuring about 20 speakers. They include Goldman Sachs senior vice-president Andy Tai and digital influencer Gary Pepper Girl.

The speakers will lead discussions about fashion as a business and how retailers can leverage technology to shape future retail experiences.

The event, says SGFW Chairman Ms Tjin Lee, "should not just be about runway shows any longer... it's not that top designers are not important - it's that we have to do more."

The new format is also because securing sponsorship has become more challenging.

Designer Lai Chan of Laichan will re-create this look (right) with different colours and details for the opening show of the Singapore Fashion Week on Oct 26. Modest wear (above) by Malaysian designer Jovian Mandagie.
Modest wear (above) by Malaysian designer Jovian Mandagie. PHOTOS: SINGAPORE FASHION WEEK

Local designers' shows are funded by the designers themselves and topped up by funding from sponsors.

"It is very difficult to run one of these mega events solely based on public funding. Designers need to be able to pay for their own shows - and that has been the biggest challenge of sustainability," she says. "(Local designers) are simply not big enough to afford the costs of world-class shows."

It typically costs about $15,000 for a designer to hold a runway show at SGFW, including venue, set-up and lighting costs.

Introducing the talks, says Ms Lee, will hopefully attract a more diverse audience and help raise more funds.

"(They) are an opportunity for connecting the people who have funding with the people who have interesting or exciting business ideas they want to pitch," says the 43-year-old, who has served as SGFW chairman for 10 years.

The event will feature 13 shows, including one by New York-based Jason Wu. The Taiwan-born designer, who came to prominence after becoming a favourite designer of former United States First Lady Michelle Obama, will be making his runway debut in Asia.

Opening SGFW 2017 on a Thursday evening will be Laichan, an established Singapore label known for creating signature cheongsam.

Designer Lai Chan of Laichan will re-create this look (right) with different colours and details for the opening show of the Singapore Fashion Week on Oct 26. Modest wear (above) by Malaysian designer Jovian Mandagie.
Designer Lai Chan of Laichan will re-create this look (above) with different colours and details for the opening show of the Singapore Fashion Week on Oct 26.

Partnering leading Singapore- based modest fashion online shopping platform MODESTyle, SGFW 2017 will also bring in popular modest wear designers from the region. There will be three modest fashion shows, each featuring five designers, including Malaysia's Jovian Mandagie and Indonesia's Dian Pelangi.

When approached, these designers expressed immediate interest in showing in Singapore, Ms Lee says, pointing out that modest wear is one of the fastest growing segments of the market.

According to the 2015/2016 State of the Global Islamic Economy Report, Muslim consumers are projected to spend US$327 billion (S$458 billion) on clothing by 2019. Fashion powerhouses such as Dolce & Gabbana and DKNY have started including modest designs in their collections this year. London Modest Fashion Week was inaugurated in the London fashion calendar this year.

Ms Lee says: "I think modest wear is of growing importance in the world. We are in Asean and if you look at our neighbours, I think the relevance of modest is undeniable."

Besides Laichan, other Singapore-based designers who will show at SGFW 2017 are Goh Ling Ling with her label Ling Wu, Daniel Ngoo and Widelia Liu with their label Whole9Yards; and Arissa Cheo with Arissa X. Social media personality Yoyo Cao's womenswear label, Exhibit, will also be showing in collaboration with Charles & Keith.

The event will also feature six other Singapore-based designers from the 2017 Fashion Futures Programme, a mentoring and development programme for local designers; as well as an Asia Fashion Designers Showcase with prominent fashion labels from China, Japan, South Korea, Indonesia and the Philippines.

  • BOOK IT / SINGAPORE FASHION WEEK 2017

    WHERE: National Gallery Singapore, 1 St Andrew's Road

    WHEN: Oct 26 to 28

    ADMISSION: Ticket prices to be announced

Last year's event attracted 9,000 attendees. Ms Lee expects a turnout of 10,000 this year.

Designers and industry watchers say the new move may have been necessary.

"The SGFW platform has to evolve to survive. It has to stay viable financially," says designer Lai Chan. "For Singapore designers to thrive, we must be conscious that fashion is passion as well as a business.

"I think it can open doors to more investors, better collaboration and a bigger market."

For Dr Iroshini Chua, 41, who has attended past editions of SGFW, the focus on less well-known names in the local design scene may not be a bad thing.

Says the medical doctor: "Many local brands have to 'make it' internationally before they are recognised locally. I hope that being featured in SGFW will give these brands due recognition."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 14, 2017, with the headline 'A shorter Singapore Fashion Week'. Print Edition | Subscribe