asian fashion revasseur
Revasseur wool felt hat, and polyester cotton tulle vest (worn as top), Superspace

The Asian fashion scene here has not been this lively in decades, a buzz reminiscent of the local retail scene in the ’80s and ’90s. That was when veterans from Esther Tay to Thomas Wee were household names – she designed for the modern working woman; he was known for beautiful bespoke creations that resembled sculpture (and recently opened a boutique at Mandarin Gallery). It was the era of Hemispheres, Singapore’s first-ever multi-label boutique opened by the sartorial Dick Lee. Located at Delfi Orchard, it supported local brands, was where the hip crowd shopped, and the place to see and be seen.

asian fashion max tan
Cotton-blend dress with twill, Max.Tan. Leather Chelsea boots, designer’s own.

The emergence of global labels – first luxury, then high street – might have caused that scene to dim, but while these international players remain, the Asian fashion renaissance is unmistakable, in part thanks to the often fickle, Instagram-bred generation. Says Jennifer Yii, chief executive officer of Mporium’s parent company Qishop: “Social media platforms have… made people more confident and willing to try out new looks. Shoppers are now more adventurous.”

asian fashion pleatation
Pleatation polyester pleated halter-neck maxi dress, Mporium. Plastic hand chain and knuckleduster, Bimba Y Lola

The same can be said of the designers, who have not only gotten more creative, but are finding bold and clever ways to produce quality that’s on a par with,  if not better than, the global fashion houses. Take Chiang Xiaojun, founder of Singapore label Pleatation, who took over a local company offering the unusual service of pleating. Two years later, her own brand was born. It works on a simple premise: functional pieces that celebrate pleats. There are only two styles, the halter and the wrap – both maxis, available in a wide range of pleats, and can be worn multiple ways (the halter, for example, can be transformed into a toga or a cross-back dress).

asian fashion max tan
Neoprene outer and cotton viscose T-shirt dress with neoprene patch, Max.Tan

Then there’s Max Tan, a favourite among industry insiders for his artistic eye. For S/S ’16, the 31-year-old decided to ditch everything he learnt at fashion school. Instead, he started by taking pictures of earlier works, then cutting, mixing, warping and pasting the pieces together to create his looks. He says: “I thought, if I were a kid who didn’t know anything about fashion design, how would I do it?” .

asian fashion mporium
Yodyoko viscose chiffon hand-painted kaftan, Mporium. Polyester sandals with rubber, Bimba Y Lola.

The result: a collection of dramatic dresses and jumpsuits with deconstructed finishes Rei Kawakubo would approve of – frayed, shredded, and even one swathed in strips of fabric that flutter as one moves

Photography Elvina Farkas/Anue Management Creative editor Jeanette Ejlersen

An adapted version first appeared in Female’s January issue.

Like this? Check out these stylish, modern cheongsams from Singapore designer Peter Kor’s revamped label.