In a world increasingly driven by algorithm-determined trends and short-term commercial viability, it is rare to come across original voices or carefully thoughtout views. Which is why for this year’s edition of the Harper’s BAZAAR Asia NewGen Fashion Award, we have chosen to celebrate the young designers who inject personal, psychological and physical realms in their crafting of modern, meaningful fashion.
Winner of the local judging round, Rena Kok—a recent graduate of LASALLE College of the Arts—centred her collection around quantum physics, motivated by a desire to question modern reality. Observing our digital age in which we grow ever more connected while disconnected in different ways, Kok wanted to stimulate our other senses, namely touch, with her highly tactile, tech-inspired fabrics. Her aim was to engineer garments for the future that spoke of a present that would eventually pass. To hammer home the point, she incorporated designs built on augmented reality technology—all cleverly layered into her collection of space-age silhouettes, sleek synthetics and a cyber-cool palette.
While Kok zoomed in on the future, her fellow LASALLE graduate Joanne Quak chose to cast an eye back to the past—riffing on the age-old Chinese tradition of lion dancing to come up with a collection that exploded in a flurry of colour, print and movement. Meanwhile, first runner-up Zoey Zhao from MDIS School of Fashion and Design dived into introspection, with a collection inspired by the chaos and confusion of modern living. She juxtaposed the idea with the aesthetics of urban concrete jungles, resulting in deconstructed, Brutalist-inflected garments that clashed the masculine with the feminine, and the rigorous with the romantic. Though all three approached design from different standpoints, each succeeded in fleshing out their highly personal, and thus powerful, visions.
“I started designing because what I wanted didn’t exist. In exploring techniques and solving problems, you can discover something new and that feels empowering.”
“The most powerful thing about fashion is that it reflects every culture. More than self-expression, it’s self-empowerment. I want people who wear my clothes to feel liberated.”
“Design is a way for me to express complex thoughts, ideas and concepts. It’s a way to leave a mark. I want my clothes to evoke emotions and questions.”
Ruffled dress; tasselled bag, Joanne Quak
OPPOSITE: Jacket; top; trousers; hat, Zoey Zhao
Model: Kaci/Basic Models Makeup and hair: Red Ngoh using Urban Decay, OSIS and Schwarzkopf Styling assistant: Navin Pillay
Photographed by Gan. Styled by Windy Aulia