Windy Aulia finds himself inspired by a crop of talented young designers.
WINDY AULIA Senior Fashion Editor.
At the recent Singapore Fashion Week, Harper’s BAZAAR Singapore hosted the Asia NewGen Fashion Award Runway Show 2016. Now into its third year, the regional competition saw the top eight finalists from Singapore, Indonesia, Thailand and Malaysia showcasing their collections. Displaying promising talent and confidence, Indonesia’s William Utama emerged triumphant and walked away with a Master’s scholarship from the Istituto Marongoni and a cash prize of $20,000. His collection managed to capture that ephemeral spirit and energy of youth; fearless with a rebellious streak. An oversized hood, an upside-down jacket, an inside-out coat; all belted with Japanese obi-inspired sashes or trimmed with utilitarian drawstring fastenings. It was his bold use of colour that first made me stop and notice—the cardinal-red and black were used to great effect. His counterpart from Indonesia, Wilsen Willim, chose to rework the classic wardrobe staple of the humble white shirt— maximised with extravagant origami sleeves in spare, modern shapes. With a more commercial aesthetic,Wilsen displayed a savviness for producing updated workwear staples.
The two contestants from Singapore, Ng May Ee and Fedri Mak, made me realise how important it is to go with your gut. At the very beginning of the journey, May Ee came in with a portfolio bursting with inventive textile manipulation, winning over all the mentors. What started as mere snapshots from trips to London and Hong Kong became this wonderful mélange of prints, embroidery and Swarovski-crystal embellishments on a street-style-meetshigh- style collection. Her full skirt with a “torn up-poster” print was a crowd favourite, as were her embroidered, upcycled chambray shirts.
It was a different situation altogether when it came to Fedri, Singapore’s other representative. His dedication, armed with his great knowledge of fashion, revealed his penchant for the human anatomy melded with a sporty design aesthetic. There’s a Zen-like quality to his work, which is as spiritual as it is exciting.
Malaysians Junn Tan and Aaron Yong were deft in their execution of their pieces, perfected down to the last detail and handcrafted like they were works of art. Which they are—until it came to commercialising the pieces for sale, which is something that they will have to consider as bona fide designers. That’s where Thailand’s Seksit Perkchinnaworn’s label, Valentier, did so well with his lyrically beautiful floral embellished collection. In soft shades of nude and blush, the women in the audience were just itching to literally “ buy now”. Jirawat Thamrongkittikul went down the home-spun path—using cross-stitched fabrics from the Northern tribes in Thailand, mixed in with an urban sliced-leather jacket and a lace cut-out bomber jacket. With images from French photographer Charles Freger’s book Wilder Mann as a print motif, he displayed a daring and clever mix of urban with folksy elements, with a cool tribute to his own heritage (with a gentle nod to Sacai’s au courant aesthetic.)
There are so many other things that I learnt from speaking to the contestants but what it boiled down to was this—the runway show was a 45-minute-long lesson on Asian youth culture. A microcosm of what drives, inspires and feeds the imagination of the youth in each country. Thailand’s designers are unaffected—they understand the power of commercial viability in a crowded sartorial landscape. Singapore’s youth want upbeat, colourful, sporty and easy looks—there’s an inherent naiveté that’s insulated from the economy. Malaysia believes in the art and power of craft that has yet to be balanced with commercialism. Indonesia promotes individuality and a personal point of view, and luckily has a thriving and relatively cheap production market. Ultimately, NewGen gives kids a platform to express themselves. And that’s the wonderful privilege of youth. Send me your comments on Instagram: @windyaulia.
From top: Wilsen Willim’s spin on the white shirt. A graphic look from Junn Tan. Ng May Ee’s print-heavy collection. Seksit Perkchinnaworn’s romantic vision for Valentier. One of Fedri Mak’s sports-luxe offerings. Sustainable bleached denim and knits from Aaron Yong. Jirawat Thamrongkittikul’s mash-up of colours and prints. The winner of Harper’s BAZAAR Asia NewGen Fashion Award 2016, William Utama.