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Fashion

What Is The State Of Singapore's Creative Scene In 2019? Bobby Luo And His Pals Weigh In

Way before underground, misfit and weird became Gen Z buzzwords, DJ/boutique owner/nightlife impresario Bobby Luo was steadily living and dressing up by them. Here, he gathers some of his friends to discuss what lies ahead for Singapore's creative scene

ON HOW BEING A “FREAK” IS NOW PERCEIVED TO BE COOL

Bobby Luo (BL): “In this day and age, we should be a diverse and inclusive society, so I think we need to embrace everyone: flaws and all, freak or otherwise, whatever gender or expression of self, and no matter what inclination one leans towards.”

Eugene Tan (ET): “I think the idea of being a freak is more urgent than ever. We’ll always find ways to wrap what’s considered different into popular culture. Look at drag – because of shows like Drag Race, there’s this idea that it’s more mainstream than ever, but there’s actually a lot to it that’s not, and has very interesting, if difficult, things to express (and will probably never be popularly embraced). It is all the more important to celebrate and find ways to include these (neglected) aspects, and not sandpaper them away.”

Nathanael Ng (NN): “I feel like in Singapore, people are still trying to get used to (this philosophy), and that it’s a bit better overseas.”

Howie Kim (HK): “People like Bobby do help push for (the embrace of) ‘freakdom’, and I think that the scene here is changing. People are (more comfortable) being themselves these days.”

Polina Korobova (PK): “Yeah, when I first went to one of his parties, I was like, ‘Where were all of these cool people before?’ I never knew about all these creatives. Bobby’s like the godfather of freaks, and (he helps to) bring them together.”

Aaron Han (AH): “Growing up in the ’90s and early 2000s, being different was (something that brought) shame. At least now, there’s conversation about how one can be different and still contribute to society, or be a good person… I’m happy (that the younger generation) don’t have to hide themselves.”

ON THE EVOLUTION OF SINGAPORE’S CREATIVE SCENE

NN: “There are definitely more opportunities now.”

AH: “Yeah, but also more problems because we are not constantly exposed to creativity. Having said that, restrictions force (people to be) creative. The scene is definitely improving. We’re not there yet, but we’re getting there.”

BL: “The creative scene now is cool. The next generation is doing really crazy stuff, and I’m really excited for them. I’m always on the lookout for people who are up-and-coming and do what they want to do… without any limitations or worries about society’s expectations. Just break all the rules and see what comes out of it.”

ET: “I think there are a lot of creative people here doing interesting things, but as with any capitalist society, society will (find ways to) make money off them, and that is often antithetical to what these creatives are actually interested in.”

PK: “Hopefully the scene gets better. Already, a lot of our friends and classmates are doing very well in the various arts, and genres like performance or painting… I think people are becoming braver and not caring that much (about what others think.)”

ON WHAT SHOULD BE BROUGHT BACK FROM THE DAYS OF
THE BUTTER FACTORY

NN: “The community, because a lot of those in it have grown up, and are married and have kids.”

AH: “I would bring back the raw, creative energy that was always there. People will change, but
that feeling…”

NN: “The feeling of being home.”

AH: “Yeah, it was home. Where else could one be so crazy or different and still be accepted?”

NN: “Now I feel like people are doing a lot of pop-up parties, so there isn’t one constant (place to go to) – one that I know would be there, and where I know I would be able to find my (type of) people if I decided to go, like, tomorrow.”

BL: “This is impossible, but I would bring back the innocence of those days when people did not know what to expect and would change up (the status quo) a bit just to see what would happen next. A lot of times now, everyone’s really afraid to say this or  do that, and no one’s being in the moment or spontaneous. Everything’s on social media, so that kind of spontaneity (which used to be what made nightlife and popular culture great) has been lost. So yeah, I’d like to bring back that innocence and spontaneity, but I don’t think that’s possible.”

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Freakdom author and OG party monster Bobby Luo (opposite, far left) counts among his close coterie of creative pals – and inspirations – Gen Z artists Polina Korobova (this page, left and opposite, middle) and Howie Kim. Besides being an early supporter of their work, he’s roped them in to help with makeup and designing graphics for his events respectively.
Kim wears acetate sunglasses, Gentle Monster. All other clothes and accessories throughout, subjects’ own
Among Luo’s (middle) wildest fashion allies are designer Nathanael Ng (left), who also helps co-organise (with Luo) the alternative hip-hop party Baby Boy, as well as handle social media and visual merchandising at Super Freak; and visual artist Aaron Han, who was part of the original team behind Luo’s now-defunct club The Butter Factory.
The name whom Luo (right) is probably most synonymous with: Ritz Lim, creative director of Ritz Salon and his long-time partner in life, business (they co-founded The Butter Factory and Super Freak) and outrageous dressing.