A recent ranking of fashionable countries by CEOWorld magazine placed Singapore at number 13, above South Korea at 16th. But is Singapore really one of the top 20 most fashionable countries in the world?
Looking around the streets of Singapore, checking out the sea of berms and slippers on the MRT, you might not think so, so I reached out to some of Singapore’s top fashion industry people to see what they thought about this possibly dubious ranking.
What is the definition of ‘fashionable’ anyway?
Debra Langley is a Singapore-based fashion industry veteran with experience from the top end of the fashion world, down to the most cutting edge of fashion and technology investment and innovation. Her central point about the ranking itself was the source of the information.
“First, what is the definition of ‘most fashionable’? If you are a consumer it will mean stylish or on-trend, but the definition [from CEOWorld magazine] is wrapped up with so many different measures ... ‘using factors like the number of fashion schools, global fashionistas, perceptions of fashion journalists, affordability, and market size’,” points out Langley.
“I would be more inclined to give this weight if the rating of all these criteria was presented as ‘country with the highest fashion IQ’, which may or may not relate to how ‘fashionable’ its population might be considered.”
Top Singapore stylist Randolph Tan was also a bit bemused by the definition. As he pointed out, it was odd that the ranking placed Singapore above South Korea, “which has built an international name for its iconic style and multiple fashion brands linked to the K-wave of Kpop and Kdramas”.
“Most ‘fashionable’ should be determined by originality. When I think of the majority of the Singapore population,I think of t-shirts and jeans or shorts, something that was influenced by American casual clothing, and not really specifically Singaporean,” explains Tan.
“The source is more focused on technology and financial measures for CEOs and upper management,” points out Ms Evon Chng, one of Singapore’s top editorial and commercial stylists, and founder of digital creative agency Beast.Corp. “The data is sourced from sales from retail, and I would agree that Singapore fits those criteria to a certain extent for retail fashion.”
However Chng’s personal definition of ‘fashionable’ is less about numbers and shopping, and more about a personal response to dress. “Most fashionable is to have a personal sense of style that makes others want to imitate it,” she explains. “It could be something novel, does not necessarily be fresh, but rather a look that goes against the grain or hasn’t exactly been popular in the past few years.”
Fashionable, then, is more about personal style rather than just following the trends.
Singapore’s fashionable future
So, where to from number 13? Will Singapore become a more fashionable country based on personal style, over retail sales?
“It is definitely slow, but the Singapore fashion scene is growing with the rise of social media platforms,” says Tan. “Young Singaporeans are influenced by international styles and the outfits of their favourite style icons, but when it comes to creating a specific ‘Sing-Fashion’ look, we are a long way away.”
Langley believes that there is a future for Singapore fashion based on the increased use of technology and industry innovation.
“I think the future of the Singapore fashion industry lies in leveraging Singapore's USP, which is a very tech enabled society, a strong startup and investment ecosystem with government support; and also being a gateway to Southeast Asia with a huge population of Gen Z digital natives,” explains Langley. “There is also established infrastructure and cultural knowledge to support expansion into North Asia, especially into Japan and China, when the time is right.”
Langley suggests people look into various initiatives that are merging fashion and technology in Singapore like The Bridge Fashion Incubator programme to learn more about what is going on in the fashion industry.
“I want to stress, however, that you still need a good idea, great products/services, and a team that can execute, or no amount of access to people and funding will get you there,” says Langley.
Still, hope is not lost for Singapore to become a fashionable hub according to Chng.
“I see the younger crowd being more experimental and trying to stand out by having a personal style that’s unique to their generation. This leads to them not purchasing from the [usual] retail outlets, but rather supporting independent designers or having stuff customised,” she explains.
“As long as this continues, it will provide an opportunity or an environment for local fashion, and fashion designers to thrive.”
So, there you have it. Is Singapore really worthy of being ranked the 13th most fashionable country, or not? Leave your thoughts in the comments.
Interested in Singapore fashion and lifestyle brands? Read our story on where to shop locally and consciously.