It’s been quite some time since we’ve came across anything like Why Not? – a local collective comprising of six young fashion designers and creatives that aims to, in their own words, “disrupt the way we consume fashion presentations and products in Singapore”.
The six menswear and womenswear designers who make up Why Not? are recent graduates Khairyna Mazin, Lydia Kok, Manfred Lu, Miyuki Tsuji, Putri Adif and Sheree Toh, supported by creative director Izwan Abdullah and freelance PR maven Racy Lim. The product of their efforts: a multi-segmented performative runway show held two weeks ago at The Substation that saw each designer fully in charge of how their designs would be showcased – as opposed to the typical graduation showcase where they’d have little to no say.
There have been various (typically government or “establishment”-led) efforts to bolster Singapore’s fashion scene and its designers time and again but perhaps the closest we can recall that resembles Why Not? is the +9 collective mentored by Jonathan Seow of Woods & Woods fame back in the late Noughties. But in the decade since, there’s hardly been the same sort of raw, take-no-prisoners spirit among local fashion designers until lately with Why Not?.
We speak to the Why Not? team on what changes they’d like to see in Singapore’s fashion landscape and why commercial viability shouldn’t be the be-all and end-all – especially for nascent designers:
How did the idea for Why Not? come about?
Manfred Lu: ‘Why Not?’ was the result of lengthy conversations with Izwan. The idea of creating a fashion show, one that focuses on giving each participating designer full authorship of their crafts and vision, came from my own dissatisfaction with the way institutions carry out their graduation shows.
It gets very underwhelming with how fashion shows are put out today. The opinions and ideas of students are usually considered invalid or not fit for industry standards. We saw how fixated the industry was to simply produce shows that are more or less gentrified by the ‘visions’ of people who are stuck in the industry for decades. And every time you try to voice out on something, the replies are all ‘No, it won’t work. It’s too much’. So we named it ‘Why Not?’. It was simply just our reaction to all the rejections. The name became a new opportunity for us to fulfil and direct the most honest and true to form version of our works in a self-directed environment. An opportunity we’ll never get unless we made them ourselves.
Izwan Abdullah: Somewhere back in January, Manfred proposed that I do a series of visuals for him to showcase his final year project. He was dissatisfied with how his school’s grad show would turn out. I wasn’t really sold on the idea of having his garments shown online so I suggested that we do our own fashion show. I told him to rally like-minded designers to participate in the show where they would self-direct their own segments from all aspects including music and choreography. The show would be entirely student-led and we wanted it to be an alternate version to what our schools’ graduation showcases could be.