Officially this is really only my second round of Singapore’s “fashion week”, the multi-pronged event that covers everything from international runway shows, a merchandising tradeshow, fashion design competition and a series of fashion industry seminars.
The umbrella of the Asian Fashion Exchange convention arches over the various other events – Audi Fashion Festival, Audi Star Creation and the Blueprint tradeshow – tying together the different sections of the industry and offering a more “business” oriented face for something that is often considered rather frivolous.
But fashion, and the shopping is engenders, really is big business. According to a report in The Economist the income from luxury brands alone grew to about US$252 billion in 2011; that’s $319 billion spent on handbags, shoes and ready-to-wear from brands like Louis Vuitton, Gucci, Chanel, Prada, Fendi etc, etc. Factor in the enormous profits of fast fashion brands like H&M and Uniqlo, and you have a major global industry.
So it makes sense that Singapore wants to get its hands on a chunk of this substantial industry, which is why government organisations like SPRING and professional groups like Textile and Fashion Federation of Singapore (TaFf) are involved in our homegrown fashion week.
But you can’t create an industry out of nothing, which is why events like Audi Fashion Festival (AFF) and the Asian Fashion Exchange (AFX) are so important. The Blueprint tradeshow in particular is an absolute must for any Singapore fashion brand hoping to grow their business and get picked up by major distributors.
Although it’s only been around for a few years – it began as a runway showcase in 2004 – Blueprint is now host over 150 brands and more than 250 international and regional buyers.
And it’s the buyers that we need to come to Singapore. So far I have come across buyers for major online shopping websites like ASOS and my-wardrobe, large department stores like Lane Crawford and more niche multi-label boutiques like LN-CC, the cult London store.
On top of the increased interest from outside Asia at Blueprint, there was a record number of entries for the 2012 installment of the Audi Star Creation fashion design competition – with a corresponding overall improvement in the quality of designers entering.
Now the people behind Audi Fashion Festival, Mercury Marketing & Communications, has launched its new project the Future Fashion Now initiative. Basically it’s live-streaming of runway shows featuring up-and-coming labels that also allows viewers to pre-order the garments they see walking down the catwalk. It’s a combination of entertainment and online shopping.
The first show ran on Thursday, May 17, and while the girls were still on the catwalk, the first Tweet came in that an order had been made.
While the concept isn’t new – British luxe brand Burberry offered direct orders for a limited number of pieces from its Autumn Winter 2010 runway and grew that into a substantial amount of its Prorsum line for Spring 2011 with delivery in 6-8 weeks – this is a first for Asia and also a first in offering more than one brand.
Featuring US designer Timo Weiland, German designer Esther Perbrandt and Australian designer Yeojin Bae, the collections were all very different but equally well-produced and wonderfully wearable. Depending on your style, there was something to suit.
This concept is new, it’s innovative and it’s something that’s added an extra “buzz” to Singapore’s week of fashion. Added to the improved level of competition for Audi Star Creation, the very well curated pick of brands at the Blueprint tradeshow and the hype surrounding the international names gracing Audi Fashion Festival – Mugler, with the star power of Nicola Formichetti on board, Zac Posen and Roland Mouret – as well as the strong showing of Singapore labels like Raoul, alldressedup and the new Singapore Designers Showcase featuring emerging brands Depression, Sundays and a.w.o.l – it seems as though there’s “something” extra occurring this May.
Yes, but there is still a long way to go. Singapore has some very interesting young and emerging designers but in many areas there’s a lot that needs to be done before these brands can be considered of international quality.
In an excellent piece on the state of the Singapore fashion industry, Douglas Benjamin, an Audi Star Creation judge and the chief executive officer of FJ Benjamin and co-director of Raoul, highlighted some of these issues, particularly those regarding the actual production of the garments, an issue which trips up many small brands and one that even causes issues for a major label like Raoul.