10 Young Singaporeans Blazing Their Way Through Their Eclectic Style
Nicolette Yip – streetwear guru, culture hound & dynamo (pictured here with her pet dog lola)
For most of the six years that her streetwear label The Salvages – co-founded with the local streetwear pioneer Earn Chen – has been around, it’s built a cult global following on little more than graphic tees and sweatshirts big on insider cool. With the Spring/Summer 2022 collection that hits stores this month though, it’s revved up to offer a more holistic wardrobe that includes footwear and “activewear-meets-ready-to-wear” – think punk-inflected tailored pants and shorts made of moisture-wicking nylon with a four-way stretch so one can actually go running in them.
On the next most exciting thing in streetwear and culture: “A growing grassroots spirit, decentralisation and the support for it all. It used to be that people outside of the creative fields were not as participative in the arts here, but now there are engineers, the NFT investor, families with children – there’s a lot more involvement from audiences of different backgrounds. And with so many different platforms, anyone can create something, put their work out there and find gratification from those that they connect with. I’m thrilled to see where this all leads to. Culture is such a fluid concept and even more so in these fast-changing times.”
Yip wears Celine by Hedi Slimane leather jacket, Celine; and The Salvages cotton T-shirt, and suede and rubber sneakers, Dover Street Market Singapore. All other clothes and accessories, her own
Negar Iwana – independent barber
As one of the few female barbers in Singapore, the 22-year-old embodies Gen Z’s fascination with traditional, pre-digital mediums and crafts – and reshaping them. Fun fact: Since last year, she’s had a growing number of women customers who reach out for a new look and give her carte blanche when cutting their hair.
On the most popular hairstyle now: “Short, layered, ambigender… The stigma of who goes to a barbershop no longer exists. And people are realising that there are female barbers and that we are pushing boundaries.”
Negar wears cotton top with sequins, Chanel. All other clothes and accessories, her own
Syarifah Ma’rian – visual artist & thrift aficionado
The 26-year-old has a penchant for film photography, vinyls, ’80s-influenced graphic design and print magazines, but her biggest obsession from the past are the clothes – or more specifically, thrift store fashion finds. When she was a student, she would make it a point to hunt down and visit bundle and charity shops on her travels (her thrift destination of choice: Japan), spending hours on end in them. “I love thrift stores because they’re free-spirited places for free-spirited people,” she says. “You can be rich or poor and no one would judge you or disturb you while you shop. You can take your time and try on as many pieces. That’s the best kind of fashion retail.”
On Singapore’s thrift scene: “Like many parts of the local fashion industry, thrifting here is very commercially driven. For example, a lot of shops focus on pieces from the ’90s and 2000s because they’re trendy. Prices also tend to be on the high side possibly due to import costs. This does dilute the spirit of thrifting, but it’s heartening to see more young people here join the scene and adopt the thrift store model to digital platforms like TikTok and Instagram. An important part of thrifting is variety, so the more people get into it, the better.”
Ma’rian wears polyester top and leather pumps, Prada. All other clothes and accessories, her own
This 31-year-old’s Instagram account @azraay portrays two seemingly disparate sides to him: ultra-fit, sun seeking cycling buff; and devotee to the temple of Rick Owens, Undercover and other legends of the dark arts in fashion. Tying it all together are captions with the same sardonic humour as, say, the fashion columnist Evan Ross Katz or fashion meme creator Hanan Besovic of @ideservecouture fame, which have made them the industry’s much admired antiheroes. Exhibit A: To accompany an OOTD of another one of his all-black outfits taken with him facing the side of a building, Azri wrote: “Legend has it, he’s still looking at the wall.”
On why fashion is so meme-able: “Because everyone takes it too seriously. You look at OOTDs and the people in the pictures seem so hardcore about fashion only to be very different in real life. Just look at this photo that you’ve taken of me!”
Azri wears Celine by Hedi Slimane leather vest and boots. All other clothes and accessories, his own
Xener Gill – aspiring supermodel
Seeing her cousin take part in the Miss Universe Singapore competition as a child sparked her interest in being in front of the camera, but parental objections and being “an obedient kid” put those aspirations on hold. Then she met the fashion photographer Lenne Chai three years ago. “She was the first person who had confidence in me as a model and told me so,” says the 25-year-old, whose quirky freckle-faced beauty; height (1.73m) and physique (she was formerly a physical trainer) would easily make her a top fashion and commercial face today. Signed to the modelling agency Mannequin, she also holds a sales job in the medical line (“to help pay the bills while I continue to pursue my dreams”).
On how modelling builds self-confidence: “I’m a bit of a people-pleaser especially when it comes to my family. It explains the courses I took in school and why I did not get into modelling earlier, but now I have the confidence and drive to be a model. It’s become one of the few things that I do for myself and I’ve seen a big change in the way I carry myself and interact with people. And I really like this side of me.”
Gill wears cotton cropped top; tweed skirt; metal necklace with glass pearls and strass; matching belt and cuff (on right hand); lambskin small flap bag; and matching arm coin purse (on left hand), Chanel. All other jewellery and boots, her own
Crystal Lee – natural dye expert
As the co-founder of the eight-year-old “natural dye house” Project Coal, Lee has been into the craft long before slow fashion and sustainability became buzzwords that have only grown in influence and hype with the pandemic. During our photo shoot with her, the 29-year-old revealed that she was moving away from working full-time in marketing to focus on Project Coal.
On slow fashion going mainstream: “It’s great to see more people getting into and talking about the craft and business. When I first started out, there wasn’t anyone I could bounce ideas off, but now there are brands such as Fassbender & Mellon Collie (a local label that specialises in hand-dyeing old garments to give them new life) taking the art of working with natural dyes in new directions… One thing people should know though: The time and labour that goes into what we do is a lot more than what an Instagram image can capture.”
Lee wears wool jacket, Gucci. All other clothes and accessories, her own
Lauren Khoo – independent jeweller & art collector
She’s been challenging the look and approach to wearing luxury jewellery since 2014 when she started her label Lauren X Khoo (see the notably hefty curb chain necklace encrusted all over with diamonds that she wears here – it’s among her latest designs). This idiosyncratically fashionable 36-year-old (her favourite brands span Celine to Oscar de la Renta) is also an art connoisseur – a visual arts trained collector who’s been on the board of the Asian Civilisations Museum since 2018. In short, if there’s anyone to mine for thoughts on the intersection of luxury, fashion and art, it’s her.
On the NFT movement in art and fashion: “I believe blockchain technology has the potential to disrupt the world as we know it – including the fashion industry. As for NFT art and fashion right now, I believe that further experimentation will have to happen before anything truly disruptive can take place. Introducing relevant regulations may be a good next step in creating a sound foundation for NFTs to live up to their fullest potential. The ongoing dispute between Hermes and a digital artist who goes by Mason Rothschild highlights the environment NFTs currently operate in. Until we can find a way to foster and safeguard legitimate collaboration, artists and designers alike will remain vulnerable to trademark infringement and counterfeiting that only serve to hamper originality and creativity.”
Khoo wears cotton poplin and lambskin jacket; silk cropped top; and cotton poplin cargo pants, Hermes. All jewellery and shoes, her own
Jaime Loh – fashion entrepreneur & unknown style star (pictured here with her boyfriend Ryan Drysdale)
Un Homme – the charming, retro-inflected fashion business Loh co-founded with Drysdale last year – might be targeted at men, but it’s hard to ignore how much of its aesthetic seems to draw from her personal style. Scroll through her Instagram account (@jamxae) to find OOTDs of the 24-year-old pairing leather with linen separates, socks and Birks; or her grandmother’s printed blouse with classic black pants all with a preternatural ease and elegance reminiscent of Carolyn Besette-Kennedy. How’s that for a refreshing take on Gen Z’s ’90s redux?
On how to do “basic dressing” right: “Mid-century menswear is a great source of inspiration – men took great pride in their dressing and looked put together even in the simplest of pieces. It has informed my own style and design philosophy: The fundamentals of a timeless wardrobe are a good button-down shirt and pants because they are so versatile; and always make sure that you feel comfortable in what you wear.”
Loh wears canvas and leather pinafore dress, Hermes. Drysdale wears cotton shirt, Prada. All other clothes and accessories, their own
Tyler Foo – oil trader & luxury fashion consumer
This 31-year-old is as versed with the latest collector’s items from luxury fashion houses as he is with the impact of global affairs on the energy trade. He’s been into fashion since he was a skateboarding teen – he “gets bored easily” and dressing up is his way of “experimentation and feeling different”. His latest purchase? A Balenciaga suit.
On the cult of Demna: “He draws from the experience of everyday people and this to create clothes and accessories that are truly multifaceted and relatable. They don’t just appeal to one type of person or one subculture. At the same time, his creativity means that the pieces are elevated and distinctive.”
Foo wears cotton T-shirt, nylon-blend stretch top (worn inside) and organic Japanese denim jeans, Balenciaga. Balenciaga sunglasses, earrings and shoes, his own
Coordination Noelle Loh & Imran Jalal Photography Phyllicia Wang Styling Damian Huang Hair throughout EC Tan/1tto+Lim Makeup for Ma’rian, Azri, Gill, Lee & Khoo Weeming, using Laura Mercier Makeup for Yip, Negar, Drysdale, Loh & Foo Keith Bryant Lee, using YSL Beauty