When it comes to doing business, Singapore is regularly ranked as the easiest place in the world. With its global transportation links, and financial and political stability, it’s not hard to see why investors flock to this city-state. International fashion brands that set up shop here have long reaped the benefit of an affluent population with shopping as its favourite pastime. Now, local designers are getting in on the act and Singaporean fashion labels are enjoying some well-deserved success. Aimed at local women, these brands also have an international appeal, and many are starting to make waves abroad as well as at home.
Elegant womenswear from Collate
One such brand is Collate, founded by Velda Tan in 2015. Despite its recent arrival, it is already stocked at Tangs department store and Keepers: Singapore Designer Collective. Last September, Tan even took her debut collection to New York in order to participate in the prestigious Coterie trade show.
Currently, Collate is stocked only in Singapore, but plans are afoot for overseas expansion. Asked about the domestic market’s unique needs, Tan explains, ‘Singaporean women are hard workers, juggling multiple roles and responsibilities. They look for classic designs, with the flexibility and quality to see them through different occasions and seasons.’ This timeless, effortless aesthetic can be seen throughout Tan’s entire collection. Whether it’s a knit dress, a long vest or a pair of crêpe trousers, these are pieces that can be incorporated easily into any woman’s wardrobe.
Speaking about her choice to start a business here, Tan says, ‘Being based in Singapore allows for stability and support to grow a fledgling business. It has great technological infrastructure in place and the government gives a lot of assistance to new businesses. This, for a young label like ours, sets the right foundation for further development.’
Think outside of the box with Depression
For those looking for a more individual aesthetic, Kenny Lim and Andrew Loh’s label Depression, established nearly a decade ago, is one to watch. Although Lim feels that ‘it’s risky being based here because our aesthetic is very non-Singaporean,’ the label’s self-described ‘Asian Street Goth’ style is going down well both at home and in places as diverse as Tokyo, Dubai, Los Angeles and Paris.
Such an international audience is fitting for a brand that looks beyond its own city for inspiration. ‘We love international names from Japan, such as Yohji Yamamoto, Rei Kawakubo and Undercover.’ However, Depression has a loyal fan base in Singapore, along with two concept stores. These multi-label boutiques, both called Sects Shop, offer the best of Depression alongside pieces by other names – both local and international – that follow its dark, fashion-forward aesthetic.
Fashion for the whole family at In Good Company
In Good Company is a stylish brand that is winning fans with its minimalist approach. Co-founded by four friends – Sven Tan, Kane Tan, Jaclyn Teo and Julene Aw – in December 2012, it was originally conceived as a childrenswear brand. This soon developed into a ready-to-wear womenswear line, though it continues to create capsule collections for girls and boys. Speaking about this unusual evolution, co-founder and designer Sven Tan says, ‘We are delighted to have two or even three generations of women shopping with us.
A mum will come in with her daughter, along with the grandmother, and they all find something.’ No doubt this can be attributed to the brand’s design philosophy of classic silhouettes and well-made outfits. ‘In Good Company, pieces are meant to last beyond seasons. We don’t follow trends or international fashion calendars.’
In addition to having its own flagship store at Ion Orchard, In Good Company is also available in Hong Kong and Jakarta. However, Tan is clear where priorities lie: ‘We currently see Singapore as the most important market for us. We even design our pieces according to how it would fit our customers’ lifestyles – the climate, the prices, how to wear it, ease of maintenance … We are proudly Singaporean; it is the defining basis of our label.’