The Audi Fashion Festival this month kicks-start Singapore’s busy roster of fashion festivals. But do these retail-centric events make Singapore a true fashion hub?
There are times when it seems the shows are staged just to make it harder for you to run your errands. If you have a legitimate reason to be in the mall, say to pick up your dryclean, or pop down to the supermarket to forage for food, there’s bound to be women’s magazine editor blocking your path and insisting that you look at how she’s balancing her Blackberry and Starbucks while clutching her trophy handbag and stumbling on her bizarre platforms.
She can’t walk properly because she's not wearing her prescription glasses and can’t Whatsapp through her gigantic shades while simultaneously pretending there are street-style bloggers snapping at her heels.
This caricature of a fashion creature is just symptomatic of the derivative nature of our fashion festival scene. They saw it on a blog, and then it slowly dawned on them that they could borrow that sample and toss it together with something from River Island. Same concept writ large: Our fashion festivals are retail events that have all the sound and fury of a real fashion week (read: season-making ones in Paris and Milan) signifying nothing more than our ability to furiously self-promote, and maybe sell a dress or two.
Surely to be a truly influential fashion capital you need to show newsworthy, influential and groundbreaking collections and not just glorified trunk shows no matter how many red carpets you roll out for C-list celebs and “couturiers”? Peopling the front row with socialites dressed to attend a gala and “editors” whose only ability is shopping, at ticketed consumer events with warmish sponsored cocktails, does not a fashion hub make. It does make for a busy shopping mall, and a great hindrance to real shoppers but that’s about it – otherwise any city with a fashion week (and its attendant pretentious fashionista) can call itself a fashion hub. Bear in mind that places as far-flung as Mongolia and Dakar have fashion weeks too. OK, they probably do call themselves fashion hubs, just as their denizens have Blackberrys and Starbucks.
According to organizers, our shows are in part (a big part) staged for consumers who otherwise might not get a chance to attend a show in London, New York, Milan or Paris. In other words, our fashion shows are obviously ticketed entertainment — just like rock concerts or the circus (if it looks and sounds like a circus, then it probably is one). It is time that our fashion festivals take fashion seriously and promote the local designers and labels that need to be recognized by the tiny pool of influential international editors. We have the talent. We just aren’t pushing them enough. Originality, intelligence and creativity make fashion, not an ability to emulate and “recreate”. Zeal is wasted on pushing that lowest-rung recognizable name as if a gift was being bestowed on the city. So-and-so will close the festival at midnight after a heavy prolonged black-tie supper. Such and such a celebrity will grace the catwalk. How much was he paid? Really? Who cares? Anyone who cares about fashion, any professional whose business it is to care about fashion, would have seen the original show a few months ago, probably in sweatpants on his sofa.
For the rest, there’s Cirque du Soleil Amaluna.
A version of this essay appears in the May edition of Style magazine.