Fashion photographer Lenne Chai, who started her career in photography a little over a decade ago, has a portfolio that spans editorials for both glossy and alternative magazines, to independent work that’s lensed through her signature nostalgia-steeped eyes. She was based in New York City until last year, when she returned to Singapore because of the pandemic, but has plans to return soon.
These days, Chai is pondering her craft. It might be dangerous thinking for someone in her position to wonder aloud if fashion photography is becoming obsolete. But it’s perhaps a sign of the thought that she puts into her image-making, as well as wider photography’s changing role and importance these days. Here, she talks about making fashion images, and how things are shaping up for younger photographers today.
A fantasy editorial shot for Issue Magazine that imagines a same-sex wedding in Singapore.
What’s your take on Singapore’s fashion identity today?
“Is there one?”
What’s the first word that comes to mind when we mention Singapore fashion?
“Slippers. It’s tropical weather, so, no shade. I mean, people now are styling up their Crocs, so shout out to ugly fashion.”
What’s one defining memory of Singapore fashion for you?
“At the first Audi Fashion Festival show I ever attended, I ran into Gareth Pugh outside the toilets at Takashimaya. He said “I gotta go, I’m late for my show”. That was kind of mind-blowing. There was a real sense of glitz and glamour that the AFF lent to Singapore.”
Some of Chai’s most resonant work stems from topics and themes close to her heart, that passion a fuel for shoots and projects that she self-funds.
Favourite Singapore fashion label?
Is Singapore a fashion city?
“We’re maybe the second biggest city in the Asia Pacific region for luxury brands, so yes in that sense.”
What do we need to make it better?
“Better infrastructure for our fashion and creative industries so that young creators can pursue a career without the fear of not being able to eat.”
Complete this sentence: In future, I hope that in Singapore fashion…
“Will be more inclusive, in terms of homegrown designers and the people, sizes, races and genders they design their clothes for.”