To stay relevant in Singapore’s highly competitive retail scene, two home-grown fashion designers are doing things very diﬀerently: Max Tan, who shuttered his store, is now bringing his clothes to you at home; and Elyn Wong still creates only backless pieces.
MAX TAN, 32
For the last several years in Europe, the Middle East and China, Tan has been our answer to Martin Margiela and Ann Demeulemeester. His intellectual designs are stocked in multi-label stores like Dublin’s Rock Baileys, Dubai’s The Cartel and Guangzhou’s Fashion Door.
Tan made this season’s broadshoulder blazer sexier by chopping oﬀ one side. Cotton top, $499, and polyester pants, $309. Socks and leather boots (worn throughout), stylist’s own.
“My designs can look quite complicated and daunting, but if you take the pieces apart, they are very wearable.” – Max Tan
Here at home, it’s the opposite. It’s a constant challenge. “I think a lot of traction comes from Europe and China because women there are more receptive to conceptual pieces. My designs can look quite complicated and daunting, but if you take the pieces apart, they are very wearable – save for a few statement pieces, of course – and can be easily incorporated into everyday looks.”
Tan opened a store in Singapore in 2015, but it closed within a year. Yet, he wants to keep pushing on. “This year, I was chosen to be part of international fashion business development programme Fashion Futures 2.0, a Singapore Fashion Week initiative.
“I travelled to New York and saw how labels like Rebecca Minkoﬀ and Carolina Herrera worked, from development and creative process to PR and communications.
top, $239, and
“When I closed my store last March, I felt there were many local customers in Singapore who enjoy shopping online but still want to look at and feel the items before dropping $400-$500 on a brand they have never heard of,” he says.
“So I started the come-home-to-shop service in October last year.” Here’s how it works: First, visit www.max-tan.com
, select as many pieces and sizes as you’d like to try, and make an appointment with a sales associate, who will bring them to your home. “We’ll even help identify pieces that work well with your current wardrobe. This service is free of charge – you only pay for the clothes you pick.”
$209, Sass raw
linen and Japanese
organza top, $189,
and Simone linen-blend
organza skirt, $289.
ELYN WONG, 40
We mean it literally when we say Wong has your back. From her first Stolen collection in 2012, her work has centred around the back – to make it sexy and appealing.
“This tank top
has three diﬀ erent
types of layering.
You can only
see the play of
you put it on. The
the fabric against
the skin makes it
“Naysayers discouraged me from entering such a niche market, but I’m glad I held on,” Wong says of her six-collection-old label, which is now carried at multi-label stores Trixilini, Nana and Bird, and department store Tangs at Tang Plaza. “Working with such a small perimeter allows me to exercise more creativity and come up with more designs.”
Overcoming the many limitations and considerations of creating backless pieces has boosted her confidence. “I know where to cut, how far down to go so that it’s sexy without revealing your underwear, and how much to show from the side in order to keep the silhouette slim.”
organza top, $269,
Nila linen-blend and
dress, $369, and
piece, $209, and Dion
raw linen, rayon and
crepe dress, $489.
All her backless creations oﬀer support.
“I have seen sexy backless pieces held up by skinny straps with no other support, so women can’t stand, sit or walk properly. They feel self-conscious instead of sexy. My pieces come with what I call ‘security straps’, either drawn across the shoulders or from the side of the arm, to hold the top or dress together. No matter how much you move, they won’t fall oﬀ .”
The V-back is the best. “The flabby bits tend to be at the sides. A plunging V-back covers your sides, shows oﬀ the middle of the back, and instantly slims you down. Avoid scoops that are too wide, because even if you have a toned back, you may still look quite broad.”
“I know where to cut, how far down to go so that it’s sexy without revealing your underwear, and how much to show from the side in order to keep the silhouette slim.” – Elyn Wong
Complement backless designs with a good bra.
“For more support, pick a bralette. It’s meant to be shown, so get one with back detailing. Otherwise, go for silicone Nippies. They’re more comfortable and have better shape than regular paper nipple tapes.”
The back is one of a woman’s sexiest bits.
“It’s also where you can reveal as much as you want, yet the eﬀect remains elegant. Not everyone can wear a plunging neckline or short cropped top, but the back is something almost everybody feels comfortable revealing. No matter your age or body shape, you’ll still look good.”
PHOTOGRAPHY FRENCHESCAR LIM / ART DIRECTION PATRICK SIN / STYLING KARIN TAN / HAIR KENNETH ONG, USING LA BIOSTHETIQUE / MAKEUP GINGER LYNETTE, USING SEPHORA COLLECTION.