There’s a good chance that you know Josiah Chua from his viral customized BTS sneakers. Yes, those headline and attention-grabbing sneakers decorated with the cardboard packaging from McDonald’s meal collaboration with K-pop juggernaut BTS.
Those independent projects, which Chua often works on with photographer Jayden Tan, are just one facet to this fashion lover’s body of work. Before becoming a fashion stylist – at magazines previously, independently now – Chua was trained in fashion design at Lasalle College of the Arts and then the prestigious Bunka College of Fashion in Tokyo. He had, for a period, his own label of wacky, experimental clothes. A feather in the cap moment that made news: Lady Gaga buying an outfit.
Less-spoken about, though, is the archive of Singapore designers that Chua has been building and collecting since 2014. The collection focuses specifically on the work of designers from the late 2000s, a particularly vibrant period of time for local brands. According to Chua, it’s a conscious decision to preserve pieces from a formative period in his life when he was a design student.
A dress from the resort-friendly luxury label Alldressedup designed by Sven Tan
What’s your take on Singapore’s fashion identity today?
“I don’t know if there’s a fixed aesthetic or way to describe it. We’re a mix of pop culture, what we see on social media, and a mish-mash of what we think looks great.”
What’s the first word that comes to mind when we mention Singapore fashion?
“Rojak, because it’s a melting pot.”
What’s one defining memory of Singapore fashion for you?
“When Jonathan Seow launched his +9 collective. It was defining for me because it gave me hope and inspired me to pursue fashion more seriously.”
A jacket by the architecture-influenced designer Pauline Ning
Favourite Singapore fashion label?
“Kwodrent by Grace Tan. She’s transitioned from being a jewellery designer to an artist, but I look up to her approach. I remember as a student going into Asylum at Ann Siang, where she was stocked, and wanting to own a piece. I managed to buy one for my archives – a green organdie neckpiece in the shape of chrysanthemums.”
Is Singapore a fashion city?
“It’s a work in progress.”
What can we do to make it better?
“A strong pool of creators with interesting perspectives. And not just in fashion, it has to do with architecture, art and design. It’s a holistic thing, it can’t just be fashion. The whole city has to offer something exciting.”
Complete this sentence: In future, I hope that in Singapore fashion…
“Will be sensational.”