Becca D’Bus is in a mood. “People used to have an actual emotional relationship with this road – it was cool and coming here meant something.” The drag queen persona of producer and host Eugene Tan, she’s referring to Orchard Road – the thoroughfare that’s home to Design Orchard, where her latest project The Non Season is based.
The Non Season project brought a new artistic energy to the Design Orchard building – bringing on unexpected names and collaborators across various artistic disciplines in order to disrupt things at this retail space (and having fun while at it).
Jointly started and conceptualised with arts consultant May Leong and DJ/party organiser/owner of Super Freak boutique Bobby Luo under the collective Hyphen BB, The Non Season is considered an artistic intervention.
Revealed in February, it brings together more than 20 Singapore creatives, artists and designers to rethink and reshape what this renowned street stands for; its name originating from how the usual global fashion calendar has little relevance to local labels. (As the institutionalised flagbearer for Singapore fashion, Design Orchard became a natural choice for ground zero.)
The project is also intended to be an homage to the various communities and subcultures that have formed and collectively make up Orchard Road, in spite of intense urban planning.
Artist Marla Bendini created a work filled with reflective butterflies titled Where Else Can We Go? It’s meant to allude to the fact that domestic and other foreign workers who occupy space in Orchard Road aren’t always welcome.
Since its launch, there have been vogueing and butoh performances; tours to appreciate the neighbourhood’s fauna (we heard you, Javan mynas); clothing-mending workshops; the list goes on.
There has also been a rotation of multidisciplinary installations by artists within Design Orchard’s retail floor – among them several star, boundary-pushing names like Marla Bendini, Masuri Mazlan, Aki Hassan and Divaagar.
Artist Divaagar’s installation Tropique Exotique on the retail floor of Design Orchard – the artwork was inspired by a probe into local nightlife and cabaret histories and is intended to be a nod to the salacious nightlife venues of yesteryears.
Suffice to say, The Non Season has injected a new energy and playfulness into an address that some might have previously considered a tad wan with many of its programmes enjoying robust – even sold-out – crowds.
Artist Robert Zhao conducted tours in tribute to the Javan Mynahs that roost in the thousands on Orchard Road – yet another brilliant example of how the various communities (be it human or otherwise) that make up Orchard Road are acknowledged through The Non Season.
“When given a chance to work on a space like Orchard Road, it’s a missed opportunity to not try to challenge its status quo,” says Becca, citing the empty retail spaces pockmarking buildings along the strip as evidence that more – and more experimentation – is needed to make it a truly great street.
“If people were to leave happy and comfortable, I’d say that we’ve not done our job.”
Photography Angela Guo Art Direction Imran Jalal Hair Ying Cui Makeup Beno Lim, using Make Up Forever Leong’s dress Friesenguys/Super Freak Boutique
This article first appeared in the April 2022 Humans Of Fashion edition of FEMALE