Cover (Image: Héctor J. Rivas/ Unsplash)

Meet the homegrown fashion figures who are making a name for themselves

1. Lai Chan

Singapore couturier Goh Lai Chan has become a household name when it comes to designing the classic qipao. He has transformed this tapestry of heritage into timeless works of art under his eponymous label, Lai Chan. Like any astute designer, Goh combines traditional techniques and contemporary styles, but what sets him apart is an unwavering commitment to handcrafted details. Hand-stitched piping, the use of gemstones in place of buttons, and figure-flattering cuts are just some of his signature handiwork. 

“I take inspiration from contemporary lifestyle pieces and weave certain elements of it into the qipao,” Goh explains, adding that he is currently working on modernised qipaos for performances by traditional arts company Siong Leng Musical Association. To keep the art form alive and give back to society, he plans to work with autistic young adults in the near future. “They can illustrate and I will refine these drawings with them using different techniques before translating them into products. Hopefully, this not only provides them with a source of income but also extends a platform to them to showcase their talents.”

2. Thomas Wong

Alvin Lin, co-owner of tailor The Prestigious, which specialises in bespoke suits, recently made this observation: the sartorially savvy here have developed a penchant for tailor-made clothing. “There certainly has been a rising consciousness among the masses for sharper looks, especially with the popularity of outfit-of-the-day posts on Instagram,” he says. Along with veteran tailor Thomas Wong, who has been in the trade for almost 60 years, Lin hopes to further this growing interest in traditional suit tailoring and nurture a new generation of tailors by offering full-time apprenticeships as well as short-term courses. 

Wong oversees and trains a team of young apprentices aged between 24 to 28 who go through rigorous training that can take up to three years. The strict programme, which was incepted in 2010, has since paid off as some of his former trainees have gone on to win international competitions such as the Federation of Tailors Guilds Malaysia Competition in 2019.

3. Nida Shay

Hand embroidery is fundamental to bespoke fashion label Nida Shay, and zardozi—a form of gold and silver thread embroidery with Persian roots—has become a signature of founder and creative director Nida Tahir Shaheryar’s collections. Her creations are intricately embellished with crystals, pearls and other semi-precious elements, and the handsewn designs are produced in partnership with artisans in rural Pakistan. 

The former banker hopes to encourage a continuation of this art form within the communities, and pushes for initiatives such as vocational training and healthcare support to help these artisans. “We take pride in providing a comfortable and safe environment for [these artisans] to work in as we continue to train new talent so that we can preserve this beautiful craft,” she says.

4. Textile and Fashion Federation (TaFF)

The economic fallout from the pandemic is causing fashion retailers to feel the pressure of staying afloat. Based on the latest figures from the Department of Statistics, retail sales saw a 27.8 percent slide after the reopening of shops and resumption of dining-in services at the end of the circuit breaker in June. To help homegrown design labels adapt to a volatile retail environment, the Textile and Fashion Federation (TaFF) recently unveiled an online shopping platform for shoppers to have easier access to local products. 

This e-commerce platform, which operates alongside the Design Orchard space in Orchard Road in promoting local brands, has in its line-up a selection of items, ranging from clothes and beauty products to home accessories. Since the launch of the online marketplace, TaFF has been supporting with marketing and promotion efforts. Digital content, including shoppable videos and lookbooks, have been conceived to engage shoppers and create a better shopping experience.

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