An acclaimed New York Times fashion photojournalist once said, “Fashion is the armor to survive the reality of everyday life”. As the pandemic continues to sweep the country and drag on with no clear end in sight, we turn to fashion to provide some form of respite. What better way to don our armour and take on the day, than to do it while carrying the “Made in Singapore” label with pride?
Here are five Singapore-based labels that are making their mark on the international stage. From well-loved, homegrown brands to bespoke collection pieces showcasing the juxtaposition between tradition and the modern, we spotlight local fashion designers committed to dressing the contemporary Asian woman. It is our belief that Asian fashion designers are a force to be reckoned with — watch out world, the Singaporean-led fashion wave has arrived.
Scrolling through the Ong Shunmugam website, it’s evident how thought and care permeates every aspect of the brand. From meticulous attention to detail paid to the design of each collection — in part, a modern reinterpretation of batik art, native to our Southeast Asian region — to its ethical use of sustainable materials and methods, it is clear that Ong Shunmugam is highly conscious of its embeddedness in our cultural landscape.
Reflecting the sign of our times and the precarity of our existence in the face of climate change, these efforts taken at reducing our carbon footprint, no matter how small, deserve praise. Did we mention its Ready-To-Wear collection is manufactured domestically at its Chip Bee Gardens studio in Singapore?
Clearly moving to put its beliefs into practice, one can’t help but marvel at this brand’s concerted effort to transcend simplistic characterizations (no tigers or dragons to be found here!). Instead, it puts forth a meaningful translation of what being an Asian woman entails. Valuing inclusivity over diversity, its mindful and progressive approach in honouring Asian silhouettes with respect and consideration keeps us on our toes and excited to see what follows.
Founded in February 2017, mumpreneurs Anseina (Ans) and Erlyn (Ein) came together to establish their fashion brand, ANS-EIN: a wearable art. Coming from different complementary backgrounds and sharing a similar appreciation for art in various forms, their Ans-ein patterns are created in-house, based on the inspirational brush strokes of their passionate artists, both young and old alike.
Putting quirky spins on familiar sights (think: prints inspired by the modernist architecture of Tiong Bahru, the lush greenery of Macritchie, or the national flower Vanda Miss Joaquim), their abstract interpretations of Singapore’s icons elevate everyday wear, while still keeping things stylish.
One of this brand’s more interesting partnerships sees it upcycling with Singapore Airlines. Giving the airline’s yellow life vest (literally) a new lease on life, the three-dimensional ruffles purposefully created out of this non-degradable material is incorporated into its designs.
Other intriguing initiatives include giving free reign to its customers. Working off the premise that “Everybody is an artist”, Ans-ein allows you to create and personalize your designs, a practice in vogue at present, so you can take ownership of your own creation.
Founded by prominent social media influencer Beatrice Tan, Klarra has proven to be a fashion label that can stand on its own. Designed specifically for the Klarra girl — an independent individual with a contemplative mind — it personifies what it means to be a woman in contemporary times.
Muted tones wash over most of its latest collection, Of Memento, with nature forming the idyllic backdrop buttressing its signature sophisticated tailoring. With poetry written into its collections, styled with each set showcasing its muse’s interaction with the elements, its brand philosophy — to give the modern woman the freedom of expression — clearly holds true.
Featuring interviews with inspirational women and their curated pieces from the collections, Klarra reveals the multi-faceted ways in which one can express one’s femininity, and ultimately, what it means to become a woman.
Our Second Nature
The warm rays of an inviting sun welcomes you on its landing page, casting light on the simplicity of the brand. Serving up #momwouldapprove looks, Our Second Nature focuses on comfortable, everyday wear. Dressing people for all seasons, its ethos that clothes are personal and instinctive serve as the focal designing point for its collections.
Reminding us of the little things that matter — such as slow walks in the park, or the nostalgic song that plays on the radio — Our Second Nature creates garments for all genders (yes, gentlemen, that includes you!).
Diversifying its offerings to create a host of various collectibles: totes, printed scarves, headbands, and swimsuits (including those for mini-me’s), its products are always tastefully designed.
Providing a glimpse into its creative process in the form of a journal on its site, Our Second Nature presents the motivations behind some of its collaborations, and exhibits the activities undertaken that have paved the way to better connect with the community.
What better way to round off this article than to introduce Love Bonito (LB), a social media star helping women around the world sport a flattering and flexible wardrobe? No stranger to the scene, a cursory look on Instagram (IG), the holy grail of marketing channels today, unveils the many markets Love Bonito has ventured into. Its sizable 400K main Instagram following aside, its expansion abroad into the region — Indonesia, Malaysia, and Cambodia, amongst others — along with the dedicated IG pages for all, is impressive.
Moving beyond Southeast Asia, LB has even gone on to conquer the East Asian lands, setting up shop in Hong Kong and Japan. Together with numerous hashtags associated with the brand and shared by the community, it is clear that Love Bonito caters to the discerning sisterhood. As their co-founder, Rachel Lim, likes to emphasize, “[LB] is not in the business of fashion, but in the business of women”.
Striving to empower women to be themselves — unabashedly, uninhibitedly and undeniably — the many initiatives LB has spearheaded only serves to reinforce the safe eden it seeks to build, a universe where women are able to be themselves and discover their fullest potential. Journeying with women through the various life moments, its LBCreate social impact mission to highlight women’s issues and create a better world for the generation of women to come is laudable, and explains the driving force behind its success today.
As we wait anticipatedly for the breath of fresh air the “Made in Singapore” brands will inject as they progress further in the fashion scene, it seems only fitting (pun intended) to conclude our fashion audit of businesses led by strong women founders — and our homage to International Women’s Day (and month) — with this quote:
“Here's to strong women. May we know them, may we raise them. May we be them.”