"Part of Xun’s creative process when working on his fun, balloon-like graduate collection Fembuoyant – the recent fashion design graduate from Lasalle College of the Arts is one of the most promising and outspoken young names on the scene now, pointing out that in a commercial design scene like Singapore, resilience and a sense of groundedness are key to staying in the game."
“It’s important to have a sense of reality as an aspiring fashion designer. Many students decide to explore this career path maybe when they’re around – what – 16 or 17 years old, but at that age, people tend to be in a bubble. When I was that age, I thought knowing of a designer like the late Alexander McQueen made me different – as if I had some superpower over my ‘basic’ peers. Enter a room filled with other fashion people however and you would realise that you’re not that special. Everyone knows their references; some even have better, more obscure references than yours – obscure being a somewhat naive mark of superiority.
There will be others whose skills surpass what you thought impossible. And that’s all just in a school environment. The outside world will be an even bigger culture shock. You have to be grounded while knowing your worth. What has helped me is knowing that this is a continual journey of self-improvement.
Also be prepared for a crash course in business studies... Singapore is the lovechild of globalisation and money and we have to understand deeply how that relates to us as designers. In my opinion, for example, Dover Street Market didn’t just set up a branch here for fun or because we have such a vibrant fashion scene that warrants its presence. It’s here because we are a financially and politically stable location for a regional HQ. We also have such a dense population of millionaires.
On a similar note, there’s this common misconception – or alternative perception – that we are a small market and that this correlates to our design scene and its standard. According to multiple reports, a brand such as Love, Bonito saw a revenue of about US$14 million (S$19.1 million) in 2017. I don’t know about you, but that doesn’t seem like the inner workings of a small industry... The Singapore fashion retail scene is sizable.
Our fashion design scene meanwhile needs to be discussed independently. Many of our most successful fashion brands tend to be in fast fashion and when one has to produce upwards of 1,000 pieces per colour, per style, being adventurous with design can become a financial liability. At the risk of sounding critical, many of the people behind these brands tend to come from a business, not design, background.
To study or be a part of the fashion industry, be prepared to be resilient. It also helps to have sound finances. I can’t stress enough how mentally strong you have to be to survive, let alone flourish.”