“There has never been a club kid culture in Singapore.” This coming from Bobby Luo might seem a tad surprising. Besides being a DJ, independent party organiser and owner of cult multi-label boutique Super Freak, the 48-year-old is best known for co-founding the madcap, now-defunct 2000s nightclub, The Butter Factory, and the colourfully outrageous outfits he tends to wear on nights out.
It’s led to him being tagged – probably too often – a club kid, a reference to the counterculture tribe of experimental, fashion-obsessed youths who ruled New York’s underground party scene in the ’80s. After all, it’s easy to foist uncalled-for labels onto others and let appearances dictate impressions. The soft-spoken Luo, however, would like this clarified.
“When we started (The Butter Factory), we adopted some of the key Club Kid sensibilities such as freedom of expression, the embrace of diverse identities and (the curiosity of) exploring characters,” he says. “(Strictly speaking though), there isn’t really such a scene here. If anything, we’re too busy being individuals!”
Club Kid or not, individualistic sums up the baby-faced man’s aesthetic and MO to life. For this year’s Pink Dot gathering, for example, his outfit included a top fashioned out of a gaggle of Pink Panther stuffed toys that recalls what Lady Gaga would wear in her early years. But while even the said Lady has toned down and slicked up her image these days, Luo continues to do his thing.
His current project: the reinvention of his five-year-old boutique at Orchardgateway. Originally named Superspace and solely carrying fashion labels like Bernhard Willhelm and Tata Christiane, it now also boasts areas for art, music, gifts, and a thrift marketplace with everything emblematic of independent culture – think statement costumes designed in collaboration with local creatives.
“After five years, I want to give the shop a last shot, and it’s only fitting that I continue to explore this narrative of statement dressing; of celebrating misfit/freak culture and being your most authentic self – even if it means being extra AF,” says Luo.
Also in development: a website to accompany Freakdom, his art book that chronicles a year’s worth of his outfits, launched at Dover Street Market Singapore in May. A work-in-progress, it’s meant to be a “style bible” for the like-minded around the world, he says.
“As soon as you stop trying to blend in and be like everyone else, you can follow your own passion and make the experience that you want. I’m ready to slay the next chapter of my life and continue to break genres and stereotypes; to innovate and create something new.”
Helping to keep him inspired is his coterie of creative allies that’s grown to include some of Singapore’s boldest young artistic talents, including the Gen Z artists Howie Kim and Polina Korobova. “I love them. They bring so much energy and vibrancy and life to the table,” he says.
“It’s really very exciting to see youths breaking new moulds and challenging stereotypes… As they hone their own individualism, their weirdness will become their greatest asset.” Here, Luo and his “freak clique” – young and OG – discuss creativity, fashion and true individuality in Singapore today.