From 28 to 31 January 2021, ASEAN International Digital Fashion Week will broadcast on the THG website at 2100 hrs (+8 GMT) for 4 nights. Watch the showcase here.
Our unofficial national uniform of singlets, shorts and slippers may draw a lot of flak for being, shall we say, overly casual, but that doesn’t mean you should sniff at Singapore’s style scene. In fact, veteran designer Hayden Ng believes that the local fashion industry doesn’t get nearly as much credit as it deserves. Which is why he founded the ASEAN Fashion Designers Showcase (AFDS) back in 2015, with the goal of cultivating a greater awareness of and appreciation for fashion talents not only here in Singapore, but also across Southeast Asia.
Bolstered by almost four decades of experience in the industry with his eponymous label HAYDEN, in addition to stints as a costume designer for the Singapore Repertory Theatre and the Miss Universe Singapore pageant, Ng has devised an annual showcase that highlights the finest interpretations of haute couture and ready-to-wear by established and emerging designers in the ASEAN region and beyond.
The ASEAN International Digital Fashion Week
This year, in light of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, Ng has envisioned a fresh twist to the concept – by going virtual with the ASEAN International Digital Fashion Week (AIDFW). Featuring an array of over 50 short films and runway shows by 64 designers hailing from 21 different countries, the AIDFW will get underway this Thursday, January 28 with a four-day event that will be broadcast “live” here on TheHomeGround Asia (THG).
Ahead of the start of AIDFW, THG sat down with Hayden Ng (in accordance with social distancing rules, of course) to suss out what to know about and expect from the upcoming showcase.
A Q&A with Hayden Ng
Could you describe the role the international participants play in the showcase?
Well, ASEAN comprises just 10 member states – plus China that makes 11 countries – so by opening it up to the international market, we have international designers come in to support us, just as we go over to support their showcases. It’s an exchange of cultural ideas and different views of fashion. To put it succinctly, we want to grow the [fashion] scene for both ASEAN and international designers into a more global matter.
How did you go about enlisting the participants?
Well, because this is our first time hosting [the showcase] in Singapore and also the first time we’re doing it on this level, we didn’t want too many designers, but at the same time, we wanted the best out of all the designers – it’s a very Singaporean kiasu approach [laughs]. In cooperation with our international partners, what I’ve done is to select the designers who are not only good, but who are also willing to be on this platform and to work together with us.
We noticed a number of guest designers were brought in for the show. Could you describe their role?
Guest designers are basically independent designers, who are not signed up with any of the organisations that the ASEAN Fashion Designers Showcase has partnerships with. Whereas for the international designers we’ve worked with at Aspara Fashion Week, FNL Network, International Digital Fashion Week, Serbia Fashion Week, Mad Mood Milano Fashion Week, Stockholm International Fashion Fair, Marbella Fashion Week, etc., they are all associated with the AFDS.
As an organiser, did you have to curate a particular look or style?
I would say there’s no curation [in that respect] because at the end of the day, it’s about each designer’s aesthetics. The designers send in their aesthetics to us, but I think what’s more important is understanding and compiling the aesthetics, and bringing it all together to create a beautiful show for the audience.
You have 64 designers from 21 countries in the showcase. Are you excited with the turnout?
I’m fairly excited, but let’s talk about planning for the next one soon [laughs].
And how many local designers are participating in AIDFW?
We have 34 ASEAN-based designers, out of which there are five designers from Singapore, including myself.
Do you foresee the pool of ASEAN and Singapore designers growing?
Look at it this way, we all know that COVID-19 is here for a while. It isn’t a case of – hey, the vaccine is here and the virus goes away tomorrow. We can’t have physical [runway] shows at this point in time, and realistically, over the next two to four seasons, we’ll still have to go digital.
So in terms of moving it further, hopefully we’ll be able to do [the AIDFW] either annually or biannually, and also allow more designers to come in and showcase [their work] to both international and ASEAN audiences.
With that many participants, what was the most challenging aspect of organising the AIDFW?
To be honest, the most challenging aspect was getting the videos done. During this process [of organising the event], many countries were in lockdown mode and unfortunately, several designers were struck down by COVID-19. But, because of their determination, persistence, and passion for fashion, they recovered and were able to shoot their videos.
At the end of the day, it was a timeline issue. But I have to say that everyone’s commitment is amazing, and I’m very, very proud of all the designers. They were faced with different challenges throughout the whole process, and yet they were still able to come up with the goods. I think that’s a sign of pure passion, and I’m very proud of that.
You founded the ASEAN Fashion Designers Showcase. What led to its creation?
What led to its creation is that, to be honest, in fashion everyone wants to make money. But there is no organisation that really represents designers. So I thought, why not start with [one for] ASEAN-based designers first? There are so many designers in ASEAN, why not put them all into one organisation and then let the whole world see what ASEAN has to offer? Instead of focusing on designers from the norm of mainstream fashion, which most audiences are already familiar with, let’s take those that are not yet exposed, and expose them. That’s it!
You’ve probably seen all the submitted designs and show reels. Is there a specific look or a designer that stood out? What can we look forward to in the AIDFW 2021?
It’s fairly exciting! Every country, every designer, every model has a different aesthetic. I would say that the whole look is diverse. So if you want to see what ASEAN and international designers have to offer, come and have a look. It takes just one hour of your time, but we promise you beautiful aesthetics throughout the whole show, and you’re sure to be amazed.
Is there anything else you’d like to add?
Our message is very simple: Support local, buy local, and think local.
Broadcasted live from Singapore, the fashion designers and models in the showcase comes from Singapore, Brunei Darussalam, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, Philippines, Thailand, Vietnam, and China. Catch over 50 runway shows and fashion films from 28 to 31 Jan 2021 at 9 p.m. (+8 GMT) on AIDFW 2021 via this link.