The Super Model: Iman Fandi
Iman Fandi is like Taylor Swift in the pop star’s You Belong To Me music video. As a student (she’s pursuing a psychology diploma in a private school here), she hides behind nondescript black framed glasses, keeps her wild, luscious curls in a ponytail, and dresses down in yoga wear and practical trainers. Pint-sized with a cherubically fresh face, she could pass off as a 15-year-old — that’s three years less than her actual age. Get her in front of the camera — something she’s been familiar with since age 5 with her celebrity sports family and statuesque former-model mum Wendy Jacobs — and she metamorphoses.
The first thing you’ll notice about her is how pretty she is. Her tawny skin is flawless (the only makeup that she’s got on in the photos here is mascara). Her features are almost perfectly symmetrical and take after her mother’s: bright, almond-shaped eyes; a straight, strong nose; slight bee-stung pout. Her cheeks are gently plump with youth, though this will refine with time to reveal an elegant bone structure that points at her exotic Javanese-South African heritage.
The other most striking thing about her is to be witnessed in person: a cool composure and intelligence that’s beyond her years. Growing up in the public eye and constant advice from mum and her industry pals have made her keenly perceptive. (The psychology background doesn’t hurt either.) On set, she knows her angles and is instinctive about art direction. Moving naturally and with grace, she appears much taller than her 1.68m frame. Off set, she’s affable yet polite — she credits her mother for instilling in her that in this line, “professionalism and respect for everyone are non-negotiable”.
Her dad Fandi and elder brothers Irfan and Ikhsan — two generations of soccer heart-throbs — might lend a Beckham-like air to the household, but there’s a Kendall/Kaia/Gigi quality to her; Tay-Tay Swift be damned. “I regard every shoot as a learning opportunity, for there are always improvements that can be made,” she says. “(I’ve always made it a point to) check in during shoots to make sure I am doing what the client wants, then seek their advice after to better myself for future shoots… The learning curve is important for me as I grow as a model and a woman.”
The Beauty Queen: Fiona Fussi
With her winsome German-Chinese good looks, she got her start winning the 2011 Elite Model Look competition in Singapore. She speaks multiple languages fluently: English, Mandarin, German, Cantonese and Japanese. She always appears to be have right mix of poise, playfulness and warmth.
In short, Fiona Fussi is quintessential beauty queen material — except that she’s completely redefined that title since going from teenage pageant winner to the 22-year-old budding idol that she is today.
In those seven years, she’s become the face of multiple beauty and lifestyle brands, travelling the globe — New York, Hong Kong, Tokyo, Paris — to shoot commercials and other marketing content for them. One of the most impressive is an ongoing series of makeup tutorials filmed in the French capital, a gig she’s had since 2015. (It can mean that she jets over multiple times in a month.) “I was living in Paris for three months then, and went for the casting not knowing what the job was,” she recalls. “The director asked me if I knew how to do my own makeup.”
Nope, it’s not just her personality and telegenic beauty — alabaster skin; pretty, naturally pink lips; Bambi eyes — that have won over clients and her 94.4K Instagram followers. She’s a self-proclaimed beauty enthusiast who’s careful and clever about taking care of her skin. Gran and mum taught her the importance of sleep and drinking plenty of water. Moisturising is a must, and she makes it a point to remove her makeup every night, no matter how tired she is. (The word she used was “adamant”.)
This practical, fuss-free approach applies to her taste in makeup too. She uses concealer only on areas that need it. She’s taken to eyebrow powders recently “because you don’t have to be as precise as when using a pencil”. Her other essentials? Tinted moisturiser or a BB cushion, mascara and lip balm (she swears by Chanel’s Rouge Coco Lip Blush).
As much as she likes things “fast and easy”, she’s quick to point out in true Gen Z fashion that “beauty is very individual”. “We are not entitled to define it for everyone. It’s about expressing one’s personality, being confident in your own skin, and working with what you have,” she says. And the prize for Miss Effortlessly Cool goes to…
The Digi-Pop Princess: Ysa Yaneza
A brazen presence, ability to churn out addictive earworms, and courage to butt heads with the status quo — these are the qualities of a bona fide pop star, and this 23-year-old anti-heroine is one of our next brightest. And it’s not just because of her penchant for bubblegum pink and shiny body-con. Entering the scene in 2017 following her college years in Chicago, where she found her footing in music, the Filipino-Singaporean singer-slash-producer purrs out post-millennial love songs coated with sugary slick electronic production. To go with her strangely addictive tunes like Tea and IRL: music videos laced with candy pop colours and ’90s kitsch that place her firmly as Singapore’s answer to Charli XCX.
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Our Answer To Pharrell: Yung Raja
From street-savvy odes about Mustafa Centre to viral parodies of the “Gucci Gang” brouhaha, there’s nothing this charming rapper won’t do. The 22-year-old started flaunting his silver-tongued flow and show-stealing charisma as a hype man at clubs, and has since become quite the budding hip-hop phenom, complete with fashionable Pharrell-esque pink hair. His X-factor: his authenticity and devotion to his roots — he’s a self-professed “brown superstar” who raps in Tamil and English. Just check out his infectious, M03 Records-endorsed debut single Mustafa — its hyper-stylised video’s already racked up over 600,000 Youtube views.
The Chameleon Chanteuse: Ffion
With breathy, velvety smooth vocals reminiscent of R&B crooners like Corinne Bailey Rae that’ll give you goosebumps, this demure songbird’s rise to fame is inevitable. UK-born and SG-bred, she first gained attention doing Youtube covers seven years ago. Now 22 and having worked with industry veterans like Vanessa Fernandez and the producer Fauxe, she’s confidently whipping up sensual, close-to-home tunes about romance and relationships. Heart-tuggers like Rumours and I Miss You, released last year, have clocked over a million streams on Spotify. The new modern pop sound of Personal, her debut single release (Oct 26) with Warner Music Singapore, is likely to mean even more.
The Fresh Prince of Rap: Fariz Jabba
This fledgling emcee could very well be our Fresh Prince. Since blowing up last year with freestyle rap videos on social media, the 21-year-old has graced top-tier stages like Baybeats and the Ignite! Music Festival, winning the ardour of both wide-eyed punters and regional rappers like Malaysia’s Sonaone and Joe Flizzow. Aside from being a grandiloquent rapper who spits rhymes in both Malay and English — nod your head to his fiery hit Ape Sia — he also shines as a singer, dancer and actor, making him one multitalented maverick who’s giving the scene a cool new edge.
The Indie Idol: Celine Autumn
Her band, Sobs, has a nascent yet triumphant reputation, and as frontwoman, this 21-year-old commands with infectious insouciance and an understated swagger. Despite this endearingly lackadaisical disposition, she’s been instrumental in thrusting the 2017-born act into the spotlight. Her rounded, swell-for-summer vocals perk up her bandmates’ soporific guitar hooks, completing a ripe indie-pop package that modern-day beatniks can’t get enough of. If you’re one of the latter, pick up their sparkling debut Telltale Signs, a full-length album that launched in June, or head to this month’s Neon Lights music festival, where they play alongside globally acclaimed acts such as Caribou and Rhye.
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The Artist: Polina Korobova
There’s a certain pretty-but-basic connotation attached to glitter (blame Mariah Carey for that), but not in the hands of this 22-year-old, who will perform an art piece covered in — what else — glitter at this month’s Neon Lights festival. Based here since 2013, she swathes everything from canvases superimposed with family portraits to her entire body in sparkly dust, as well as other materials that look right out of a pink-and-rhinestone-obsessed child’s art kit. Coupled with an unmistakable feminist slant (cue lacy undies suggestively tainted with glitter) and there’s a rebellious edge that recalls ’90s punk icons like Courtney Love.
Other works nod at another definitive, politically charged moment from Korobova’s birth era: the dissolution of the Soviet Union. She blanketed a map of the region with glitter, for example, as a response to growing up in Moscow during those bleak post-USSR years. Describing her art media of choice as something that “effortlessly brings joy”, she says: “(Existing) perceptions of objects can be changed if you place it through a different (light).” Who says that Gen Zs aren’t optimistic?
The Cultural Documenters: Gabe Tan (left) & Christian Julian
What do two Gen Z guys craving for more colour in the way people dress do to get their message across? Go to the hippest fashion events and underground parties thronging with like-minded Gen Zs, photograph the coolest and most stylish, then share them all on their seven-month-old Instagram page @whatsingaporewore. Far from typical portraits of image-conscious, cookie-cutter partygoers, their images capture youths in a distinctive mix of streetwear and vintage posing confidently for the lens.
In an age when preening selfies have become the mark of a good night out, their work brings back the raw, intrinsic glamour of nightlife chronicled by The Cobra Snake in the 2000s and Gene Spatz in the ’70s and ’80s, reinterpreted for the hype generation. The goal, says Tan, 23, is to “cast a spotlight on people who love fashion” and inspire with this personal project, which has since earned commissions from Highsnobiety. And, no, it’s not meant to only focus on Gen Zs or the hype crowd. Says Tan: “We approach people as long as they look good and have an authentic sense of style. Age, gender and the type of style don’t matter. Fashion is for everybody.”
The Makeup Maven: Kellie Tan
Most Kylie Jenners and Gen Z beauty Youtubers of the world might have you think that makeup ought to be sexy, pretty or cute. This 19-year-old, who’s also adept with the camera (she’s behind the two images here, as well as the ones on her Instagram @bykellie), prefers something more “real”. By that, she often means bold strokes in unexpected colours. Think ice blue lippie, graphic blocks of eyeshadow in contrasting shades like orange and purple, or brows drawn with black stitch-like little “X”s.
In short, anything that celebrates individuality and isn’t your conventional idea of beauty. “Makeup is fun and like art to me,” says the Pat McGrath fan. “It’s not so much about being glam, but more about expressing one’s self and being creative with it.”
Instead of ugly or absurd though, her work is playful yet sophisticated thanks to her light, painterly hand, which might explain why she’s a favourite collaborator of other alt-influenced Gen Z creatives like up-and-coming photographer Julian Tan. Created using colours from the latest Holiday collections, this is her first shoot with an established fashion magazine — and we’re sure that it’s far from her last. See below.
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The Anti-Influencer: Ai-Ni Chung
Her brows are shaved. She dresses like a character out of a Japanese manga (her favourite is the iconic Naruto, a coming-of-age tale about ninjas) crossed with a gothic punk, complete with irreverent facial stickers. And she does it all under the moniker and Instagram handle @yungbabygod. No, her following — 940-strong at press time — would not make her a KOL by today’s marketing standards.
Like many of the digital natives of her generation though, this 20-year-old sees social media not so much as a platform to find fame and fortune, but as an outlet for self-expression. Individualism — not influence — is their main currency, and her extreme style makes her one of the boldest and most intriguing names on the scene. “It’s hard for me to describe my style because I get bored easily, and the last thing I want to do is get tired of myself,” she says with classic Gen Z candour. She counts the underground-inspired, gender-queer Matty Bovan and Dilara Findikoglu among her favourite brands, and is now pursuing a fashion design diploma at Lasalle College of the Arts in the hopes of doing something else that’s become usual for go-getting Gen Zs: Start her own label.
The “Fashion Agent”: Li Wanjie
“L’enfant terrible” reads the bio section of Li’s Instagram page @uuanjie — a fitting description considering the 18-year-old’s affinity for the weird yet wonderful as both an independent lensman and co-founder of the five-month-old talent agency Blu. As the former — a pursuit he started at 16 — he channels the same poetic irreverence as global up-and-coming young photographers like China’s Leslie Zhang and Korea’s Min Hyunwoo (unsurprisingly, they’re his idols). Whether he’s capturing the rebel R&B artiste Sam Rui or doe-eyed beauty Fiona Fussi, his filmic, often light-soaked portraits conjure a sense of nostalgia and the surreal.
At Blu, where he scouts, casts and shoots together with co-founder Nicholas Kent Tann, unconventionality is the highlight, with its current stable of eight models (including Serena Jane McNeill and Ryan Ong, pictured here) spanning a diverse mix of faces, races and body types that would easily make the runway cast of today’s most progressive labels. Says Li: “We’ve been told that our models look a lot more ‘real’, and I think that underscores the inclusive, industry-disrupting direction we’re trying to head towards.”
The Design Wunderkind: Rachael Cheong
The alum of the Royal Academy of Art in The Hague only has her graduate collection from 2017 to show, but it’d be prescient to say that when she gets down to business (give her a year or two, she says), she’s bound to blow up. Inspired by dolls, the said collection boasts 19th century-style dresses made up of a pastiche of pretty, intricately ruched fabrics like lace-trimmed gingham. It might sound sugary sweet — except that the pieces are brazenly deconstructed, then paired with latex bonnets and disconcertingly lifelike masks. Its boldly twisted, fantasy quality is almost Richard Quinn-esque, and — coupled with her artful workmanship — earned her a spot in the Lichting show at Amsterdam Fashion Week that spotlights the year’s top fashion graduates in the Netherlands.
At 24, she fits into the tribe of Gen Zs reimagining ’90s Harajuku culture with their taste for the bizarre (she loves anime, antique fashion and the concept of “perverse innocence”), but her creative process is startlingly sophisticated. She says: “Designers have to ground their work in history, sociology and culture.” Concept development and studying other designers (among her favourites: Simone Rocha and Comme des Garcons) are also key. “They inform your design decisions so that you can make something uniquely ‘you’.” Now back after an internship with Marine Serre in Paris, she’s working with local band Aspidistrafly on their new album and music video. She’s also got the name for her label: Closet Children. We can’t wait.
Read more on the next page.
The Filmmaker: Clare Chong
If independence and gumption are leading traits of Gen Z, this 22-year-old makes a good candidate for the cohort’s poster girl. As a piano and violin-trained student at the School Of The Arts, she unexpectedly switched majors from music to film mid-way because she “wanted (to work with) a medium that would allow her to collaborate with different types of artists”. These days, she’s in her third year of pursuing a film degree at Lasalle College of the Arts — that is, alongside being director at Hei Studio, the media firm that she co-founded in 2016. Already, she’s established her aesthetic — in fact she has two.
The first is “vibrant, crazy and surrealist”. Her most popular work that reflects this would be the sensuous yet stylised video for R&B singer Sam Rui’s 2017 single Better, which has over 100K views on Youtube. Her most ambitious: Anderer, an ongoing series of experimental shorts with vivid colours and bizarre narratives that hint at her love for David Lynch and Kenneth Anger. Then there’s her poignant, introspective side that focuses on everyday moments and “quiet outcasts of society”, best seen in Please Dream Of Me, a 10-minute piece on dementia commissioned under Temasek Holdings’ filmmaker incubator project 20/20. Clients that have tapped on her eye include DBS and Singapore Airlines, but Hei isn’t about the money, she says. “We simply believe in making filmmaking fun… Whatever that’s earned goes to our own or friends’ projects to support them.” A strong sense of community — how Gen Z as well.
The Next Style Star: Savina Chai
As we write this, Savina Chai, 24, is in Milan getting her first taste of Fashion Week in a “Big Four” city, attending shows while dressed up in the season’s trendiest pieces, and documenting it all for Instagram and her namesake website. To many of her 76.4K followers and legions of influencer wannabes out there, it would seem like she’s made it — her trajectory from independent e-boutique owner to globetrotting, Prada/Louis Vuitton-kitted-out content creator the dream Gen Z success story.
It shows in her style. As the founder of the now-defunct label Eight Slate, she wore her tresses wispy; her wardrobe — like her brand — a fun yet affable adaptation of the minimalist Phoebe Philo look book. Now, those locks are straight and curtained by blunt bangs, while her outfits are equally slick. She’s into sophisticated insider labels like Gabriela Hearst and Caroline Constas.
She agrees that she has evolved, but readily point outs that, as much as she loves fashion, it’s a business. Her trip was self-funded. “I don’t think attending Fashion Week is a sign of making it,” she says. “It’s a matter of how much an influencer is willing to invest, and what’s her ROI.” And she’s not driven by follower count: “My goal has always been to build businesses, solve problems and provide for myself independence and knowledge.”
And this is why this eloquent, quietly confident KOL has made it. While many sell the image of being bona fide fashion stars, she’s honest about her interests, and knows that clothes alone don’t make the woman. It’s an ethic that she’s determined to instil in her students from Temasek Polytechnic’s apparel design and merchandising course — she lectures on sourcing and costing. Up next year: a new start-up. This success story has only just begun.
This story first appeared in Female’s November 2018 issue.