The role of fashion is increasingly important as a medium to communicate different histories, develop ways of portraying, reimagine physical and virtual spaces to explore innovative ideas, processes, and business models. In the School of Fashion at LASALLE College of the Arts, we want to train creative individuals to become effective storytellers and develop compelling narratives from this part of the world.
The museum space becomes the perfect outlet to articulate debates and conversations through the interdisciplinary lens of fashion. My own practice as a fashion curator has allowed me to carefully craft stories addressing topics of diversity, inclusivity and empathy using objects and surviving garments to construct evocative narratives in the museum space. It is a skill we share and teach our students and that’s the reason fashion curation is at the heart of our fashion programmes. We conceive fashion curation as a collaborative practice, where staff and students interact to generate practice as discourse.
We position fashion as a “cultural phenomenon in a social and historical context” (Skjold, 2008).1 Through this approach, students are able to contextualise and translate socio-cultural and historical aspects of fashion and theory into contemporary fashion outcomes. We want our students to develop their own abilities to observe, analyse and evaluate objects of material culture through different lenses, in order to further interpret these objects within coherent and unique presentations that communicate to wider audiences.
The etymology of the word curate appeared first in the late 14th century, from the Latin word curatus, past participle of curare. Its use was as "spiritual guide, ecclesiastic responsible for the spiritual welfare of those in his charge”. This person was a parish priest who would mediate between the church and the congregation. The definition was making reference to "one responsible for the care (of souls)."2
In modern times the figure of the curator is, at its most basic, one of the carer of a collection of objects in a museum. Nonetheless, the role of the curator has expanded, evolving more towards a mediator between the exhibition and the public. It is in the essence of the etymology of this word which means to preserve and “taking care” of something which is the way we look at fashion. In our fashion programmes we look at fashion as a medium to create and communicate with care and empathy.
The pandemic has allowed us reflect upon many aspects of our lives, the current fashion industry and the fast-changing nature of fashion. The experiential process of design is emphasised to ensure that students learn to slow down and appreciate the local conditions within which they exist. Research and practice meet to give precedence to the value of their design process. After any pandemic there is an opportunity for a renaissance, and we want our students to continue re-imagining fashion in ways that can disrupt the system and create new possibilities.
This year’s #SGFASHIONNOW looks at the architecture of drape as inspiration; it focuses on the techniques of draping and wrapping garments in South East Asia and how contemporary designers use these techniques as a language for making. From the sarong, to the sari to the hijab, Singaporean designers grow up exposed to different expressions of drapes coming from diverse ethnic groups and cultures. Mixing these styles and techniques the designers give their own take to drapes bringing us closer to their own personal experiences and their own tangible and intangible heritage expressed through contemporary fashion.
Diversity as a noun is defined as “the condition or fact of being different”.3 In this exhibition Ethan Lai, our student curator wanted to represent and celebrate these differences and took special care to represent the Singaporean fashion ecosystem through a diverse pull of voices, including but not limited to ethnicity, race, gender, gender identity, age, social class and physical ability. As defined by Andrés Tapia (2009): “Diversity is about the mix. Inclusion is about making the mix work”. 4 Expanding on these ideas, Mary Frances-Winters (2014) defines inclusion as “creating an environment that acknowledges welcomes and accepts, different approaches, styles, perspectives and experiences, so as to allow all to reach their potential”.5
The exhibition includes a diverse group of voices and creatives composed by fashion designers, accessories designers, models, stylists, make-up artists, image-makers, students and entrepreneurs: Putri Adif, Nandita Banna, Latika Balachander, Rachael Cheong, Kenneth Chia, Edward Chong, Kage Chong, Lisa Van Duren, Jon Max Goh, Alyssha Hannah, Harry Halim, Keng How, Ashley Isham, Lucas Jong, Fahmy Ishak, Erliana Kamiti, Manasi Nair, Tamir Niv, Gin Lee, Junz Loke, Lina Osman, Mono Noor Othman, Firdaos Pidau, Andrea Razali, Joshua Suarez, Lucas Tan, Max Tan, Alley Teo, Shawna Wu and Bryan Yeo, Zoe Zora.
Our student curatorial team believes that diversity, participation and inclusion require all of us to take action. We hope this year’s edition of #SGFASHIONNOW can bring together different audiences to engage in this conversation with us to experience the ordinary and extraordinary experience of fashion from our Singaporean lens and point of view.