Main Image: Instagram (@hanis_hussey) via (@thefashionretrospective)
The ’80s and ’90s was the Golden Age for the local modelling scene. Singaporean models were superstars in the international circuit, fronting major global advertising campaigns and walking the runways at fashion capitals Paris and Milan. Back home, they were household names, gracing the covers of many a magazine here.
While the sheen dulled for the next two decades, some local models are slowly finding the spotlight overseas again. We look back with nostalgia at the top models of that bygone era and celebrate those that made it in recent years.
1. Ethel Fong
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Back when this head-turner became the first Singaporean to snag a contract with #FordModels and captured the attention of major fashion editors and designers from Paris to New York. In the 1980s, Ethel Fong was one of Singapore's biggest fashion exports. She walked the runways and modelled for the likes of Chanel and Dior. In 1986, this rare beauty went to a casting in Milan and met Giorgio Armani himself. The result: this international ad campaign for Armani which ran in all major fashion magazines around the world. Ethel Fong is ❤️. Who were some of your favorite Singapore top models from the days of yore? We want to hear from you! . . . #thefifthcollection #ThrowbackThursday #tbt #ethelfong #singapore #topmodel #Chanel #dior #giorgioarmani #singaporepride #singaporefashion #supportlocal
The first ever Singaporean to sign a contract with Ford Models in New York (known for representing elite supermodels such as Naomi Campbell and Christy Turlington), Ethel Fong modelled for Chanel and Christian Dior and appeared on the covers of many international titles, including Vogue Italia and W Magazine. Charmed by her exotic beauty during a casting in 1986, Giorgio Armani himself had selected her as his muse, and Fong became one of the few Asians to star in an Armani campaign during the ’80s, which ran in major fashion magazines globally. As of 2016, both Fong and her husband, Jean Chalopin, were active in charity work. They started StoryPlus, an online platform where parents were able to purchase stories submitted by different writers. This money was used to educate children from Third World countries with literacy skills.
2. Nora Ariffin
Nora Ariffin’s career took flight when she garnered fame and recognition after being named as Glamour Awards’ Model of the Year, as well as Studio M Awards’ Best Model of the Year and Best Photogenic Model in 1985. She left Singapore to take her modelling career to new heights, where she landed in the pages of Vogue Paris circa 1986 in a campaign shot by renowned fashion photographer, the late Guy Bourdin. Her journey did not end there — she appeared in the Italian counterparts of Harper’s Bazaar and Cosmopolitan, and starred in the advertisement campaigns of CoverGirl cosmetics in 1995 alongside big names such as Tyra Banks and Niki Taylor. She became a real estate broker in 2004 and is now working at high-end real estate company Halstead Property.
3. Hanis Hussey
Known as the first ever Singaporean model who appeared on the catwalk of Paris Fashion Week, she closed the Fall/Winter show of Yves Saint Laurent in 1983. Handpicked to be the muse of Yves Saint Laurent, she became the in-house model for his eponymous label. She went on to enjoy a glittering career, walking in the shows of coveted labels such as Balmain, Christian Dior, Givenchy and Lanvin. As recent as 2016, she served as the catwalk coach for the contestants of Miss Universe Singapore.
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