Sitting front row at the Parco Next NEXT show (the only show I sat front row out of the 5 I attended), I was encouraged by some of the designers' work, but yet felt a little put off by some others. With 8 designers (Coupe Cousu, Mae Pang, Polka, Chalk, Pauline Ning, AKA Wayward, Kenji and max.tan) showing a mix of their latest Cruise collections as well as past designs, the difference between each of their design aesthetics couldn't be more obvious.
My friends' labels - Mae Pang and Pauline Ning didn't disappoint with their futuristic designs and deconstructed outerwear. At Mae pang, the vests had sharply tailored peak and shawl leather lapels but with a pleated chiffon fabric incorporated, while skirts and shorts had slits running up the sides. Pauline Ning showed several dresses incorporating various fabrics as well - I particularly liked her black dress with cascading tulle and leather shoulder pads - and deconstructed trench coat with zippers that allows the bottom half to be conveniently detached into be converted into a jacket. Sometimes the 2 labels had such great overlap that you can mix up both of their racks and still form a singular, clear aesthetic.
Kenji, while showing a flair for drama and glamour having previously worked in the bridal industry, lacked originality. To 'untrained' eyes, his designs probably appear to be the most avant garde with its floor length gowns, lace trains and billowing capes. But as the looks came out, I found myself experiencing several déjà vus as I linked his designs to that of the ones seen on the runway a few seasons ago.
|Kenji vs Alexander McQueen's FW 03 billowing cape as modeled by Daphne Guinnes|
|Next to Givenchy haute couture S/S 11|
|Next to Doo.Ri beaded lace tights F/W 09|
Sure, it is always good to take a leaf out from the great coutouriers/designs showing at top fashion weeks, but it is never good to take it too literally. Some reinterpretation would've helped greatly. Kenji's ability to recreate those looks prove that he is not lacking anything in the technical department, so if only he had a bit more creativity, I would think that he would be able to go far. (By the way, you can DIY those beaded tights here).
AKA Wayward is the new kid on the block and their designs are very whimsical. Designed by my friend Foong, who didn't go to any fashion school nor had any formal training in design, AKA Wayward is a menswear label designed by a girl. That is rarely found in the industry; usually it's always male designers designing their there idea of this cool & confident woman, and the clothes that top designer labels create each season gets trickled down to high street stores, which inexplicably affects the average woman's self-perception and identity as she wears those clothes on her back. Foong wants her man to just "not take himself too seriously" and that can be seen through her pops of colour exposed on the pocket hems of chinos pants and prints of green apples. I particularly like the teapot printed on a mini cape on the back of a dress shirt – it's a tongue-in-cheek take on formal dressing.
I think the designers that showed did themselves proud by showing mostly original designs that stood out from the sea of other Singaporean designers doing draping in black and white colours. I feel that we have too many local designers that are more comfortable working with monochrome and too many people doing draping details as well as pleats in their designs, so much so that it almost feeds off one another in a spiral of cannibalism (of labels). Although Singapore is a rather small market, and clothes would only sell if they are commercial and wearable instead of avant garde – but I feel that we still need some designers to bring something new to the table in terms of design, or to take a more lifestyle approach to their marketing (such as local label Depression that seeks to question traditional ideas and raise new questions). Some of the designers at the Parco show has achieved a good balance of both, but definitely we still have much catching up to do.
PS: My favourite in this show is actually Max Tan - a feature on him coming up next week! (: