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SINGAPORE – How many of us will spare a second look at what the aunties wore when we walked past them at the market or sat across them at the hawker centre?
The flowery, bright clothes and prints on prints outfits that are a common sighting caught Rachel Loh and Bella Bray’s attention, and the duo launched Grey is the New Black: Unseen Singapore. Yahoo Lifestyle SEA understands more from Loh and Bray about their book, the inspiration behind it, and the charity they are supporting with proceeds from the book.
“We wanted to celebrate style from a different perspective. I’ve always looked to the older generation for style inspiration. I loved that they seemed so unique and comfortable in their own personal style, uninterested in following trends,” says Bray, an Australian model, who came up with the idea of the book.
Grey is the New Black: Unseen Singapore is a book inspired by Singapore’s auntie fashion, aiming to bring seniors back from society’s unseen.
Being the art director of the book, Loh shared that having lived in Singapore all her life, she was drawn to the perspective Bray had in being inspired by the aunties and uncles. “There are some things we would inevitably take for granted, and appreciating them was something I wasn’t used to.”
Inspired by the Fruits Mag series that captured Harajuku street style, the duo set out onto the streets without a fixed idea for how the book will be and took their inspiration as it came from the people they interacted with. “It happened really naturally, and we just knew what we wanted when we saw it.”
While #ootds are common for the youngsters, we could only imagine how surprised the seniors will be when approached by the pair for their stories and photos.
Bella shared that there was hesitation and confusion when being approached initially, but the seniors were excited to be involved once they knew more about the project. “Some were reluctant or shy, but for the most part, the seniors were just thrilled and flattered! A lot of them were also very open to having a conversation with us even after we’d already taken their pictures,” Loh added.
100% of the proceeds from the sale of their book will benefit Happy People Helping People (HPHP), a non-profit that helps the elderly in Singapore, in particular, the seniors who make ends meet by collecting and selling discarded cardboard.
“I wanted the book to be more than just a celebration. I wanted it to give back to the same age demographic of people we were celebrating, so it felt fitting to have HPHP as our beneficiary,” Bray shared.
After speaking to HPHP’s founder and his team of volunteers, and hearing from the seniors directly on how the non-profit had helped them, the duo decided to donate the profits of their book to this charity. “While working on the book for two years, we’d seen many seniors who are invisible to the everyday Singaporean. It was crucial for us that the charity we would ultimately donate to had the same perspective and also wanted to help make the invisible seniors visible,” Bray added.
Having interacted with so many seniors while they worked on the book, Loh let on that “finding out about how some of them were struggling to make ends meet in a society that often moves too fast for them was heartbreaking.” It was one of the reasons why the book is donating its full profits to HPHP.
More than just a book that celebrates the seniors, the duo “wanted to have the book surpass just style and besides just showing a different perspective, but have the book make a substantial impact on the seniors.”
“We couldn’t consciously take the money and profit off the seniors in the book knowing what we knew.”
Post-pandemic, Bray wishes to produce something like Grey is the New Black in other countries across the region. At the same time, Loh hopes to continue helping underrepresented Singaporean artists carve out spaces in the art world. Together, the duo hopes to organise an exhibition launch for the book, which is now stocked in Amazon Singapore (now S$34.37), Kinokuniya and Times bookstore islandwide.