Cover From left, outfits by: Jalene Alyssa Seah, Jon Max Goh, Angeline Oei

After a gruelling selection process, nine candidates have emerged from 46 hopefuls to become the semi-finalists of Singapore Stories 2021

Growing up, Angeline Oei loved fashion drawing and fashion design, but always felt as though there was no space for such creative professions in Singapore. By chance, while on a university exchange program in the Netherlands, Oei visited the Antwerp Fashion Academy, alma mater to iconic designers such as Martin Margiela and Dries Van Noten, and found her passion instantly reignited. This led her to pursue a fashion education at the Amsterdam Fashion Institute. After working for several designers, she started her own independent brand, A.Oei Studio, in Seattle.

This year, Oei decided to take part in Singapore Stories in order to grow her brand, as well as to try her hand at creating a Singapore-inspired capsule collection. Oei, along with eight other semi-finalists, was unveiled at the Asian Civilisations Museum (ACM) on April 1. Organised by the Textile and Fashion Federation (TaFF), Singapore Stories 2021 is a fashion design competition which aims to nurture local talent and develop the nation’s burgeoning fashion industry. It invites designers to create a six-look capsule collection according to the theme "Fashion and Technology: A New Era" in order to spotlight Singapore’s accomplishments as a smart nation, as well as encourage candidates to approach their designs in a way that embraces sustainability as a facet of innovation. The winner of this competition will receive the Singapore Fashion Award and a cash prize, as well as an exhibit at the ACM, a retail showcase at Design Orchard, and the chance to showcase their work at Paris Fashion Week 2022.

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During the unveiling event, the nine semi-finalists were invited on a tour of the ACM to learn more about Asian culture and history, as well as to gain inspiration for their upcoming collections.

We took the opportunity to speak with three of the candidates about their thoughts on the competition so far.

Angeline Oei

To Angeline Oei, founder of Seattle-based A.Oei Studio, kinetic art best describes her personal style. In particular, the 35-year-old cites the works of American sculptor Alexander Calder, for their “simplicity and playfulness”, and “exceedingly precise balance between geometric and organic forms”. It’s easy to see the interplay of Oei's personal style and her design process, with many of her works inspired by art, design, and architecture.

Do you think your designs can truly embrace sustainability?

Angeline Oei (AO) Being an independent designer means I have much more control over the production aspects. I use primarily natural and biodegradable fibres like cotton and silk sourced directly from a Kyoto fabric manufacturer which can provide accurate information about the fabric quality. My designs are sewn in small batches or made-to-order by myself or by seamstresses in Singapore whom I work closely with to ensure quality control and a clean manufacturing process. Recently, I have been researching more into upcycled designs, using fabric scraps and unsold past inventory to create truly one-of-kind pieces.

Which gallery or section of the ACM were you most inspired by?

AO The Maritime Trade Gallery. I enjoyed seeing the craftsmanship of artefacts from the Tang Dynasty, and specifically how the textures of the artefacts had changed after being underwater for so long. Some of the pottery were encrusted with corals and I found that to be really interesting.

Jalene Alyssa Seah

Jalene Alyssa Seah, who began her career as a marketing and advertising executive, spent countless hours honing her dressmaking skills by attending night classes before going back to school to earn a diploma in apparel design and development at the Textile and Fashion Industry Training Centre. After cutting her teeth on various pattern-making and couture courses in London and Paris, the 32-year-old finally started her label Kinquo in order to realise her dream of creating beautiful yet functional clothing for the modern woman.

Do you think your designs can truly embrace sustainability?

Jalene Seah (JS) For Kinquo, we do take sustainability into account, from our materials to the design. In terms of design, I think it’s more of how a person can wear it on more than one occasion, so you can wear it for work, [or] for the weekend. And I think that’s the important thing about sustainability; it’s about reusing, not necessarily just buying the most sustainable thing out there. And I guess the materials that I use will also be some sort of sustainable for the design too. I will try to find the most sustainable version of that material, and that’s my plan for the competition.

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Which gallery or section of the ACM were you most inspired by?

JS I think the parts that inspired me were scattered throughout the museum, and these were the textiles and surface decorations from the different cultures in Asia, because I think a lot of effort and time went into making these fabrics and materials. And I really appreciate that in terms of the embroidery or even the motifs that they used, there is a significance behind each motif or design. That was also very interesting to me, and I might incorporate that into my collection.

Jon Max Goh

Jon Max Goh’s debut eponymous label, JonMaxGoh, draws inspiration from unique cultural environments and influences to create dramatic statement pieces that blur the lines between genres. A graduate of Parsons School of Design in New York, Goh, 31, decided to join Singapore Stories 2021 alongside launching his debut collection as a way to get connected with the larger fashion industry in Singapore, calling it an “amazing opportunity and platform for designers to showcase their work”.

Do you think your designs can truly embrace sustainability?

Jon Goh (JG) I think sometimes when we think about sustainability, we think of very lofty ideals of needing everything to be sourced organically, and no synthetics. But because this is my first foray into creating a collection, I think [of] maybe tapping it on a much smaller level—addressing how much is being produced. So, my idea is to just do one-off pieces. They are going to be more of statement pieces, and then be produced based on market demand.

Which gallery or section of the ACM were you most inspired by?

JG I’m interested to see how I can take some of these more traditional motifs and infuse them with technology in the way we produce some of these design pieces, so stay tuned!

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