Photo: Ace The Place / Ong Wee Jin
Outfitting the family in matching threads seems to be a trend, with Member of Parliament (MP) Vikram Nair, his wife and daughter wearing matching clothes to yesterday’s National Day Parade. Mr Nair, who is the MP for Sembawang GRC, and his family wore orchid-print outfits that were part of a Singapore identity-inspired capsule collection designed by Ms Phuay Li Ying of home-grown fashion label Ying The Label, known for its watercolour-artwork prints.
Photo: Ace The Place / Ong Wee Jin
The collection was done in collaboration with a group of volunteers – Ms Sim Ann, Senior Minister of State for Culture, Community and Youth, and Trade and Industry; Mrs Joy Balakrishnan, wife of Minister for Foreign Affairs Vivian Balakrishnan, and her daughter, Natalie; and Mrs Faye Nair, wife of Mr Nair. The capsule collection, with designs reflecting Singapore’s identity, comprises five tops, two dresses and four skirts made with fabrics such as Japanese crepe, silk satin and Duchess satin. There are also matching scarves. As the politicians tend to be photographed from the waist up, Ms Phuay designed more tops. Tops are also easier for the women to mix and match with their own pieces, such as skirts and pants.
Some politicians and officials preferred to order the fabrics to have their own garments made. Ms Sim, who has a short-sleeved top with a red orchid motif from the collection, ordered the red orchid- print fabric to be made into palazzo pants. Mr Nair’s shirt and his 1 1/2-year- old daughter Indira’s dress were custom pieces commissioned by his wife. “I asked Phuay to design something for my husband and baby,” says Mrs Nair, 39, who also has a customised white sleeveless top with dark red piping detail from the collection. “It came out really well and we (also) wore it to the Admiralty National Day Dinner last Saturday.”
The collaboration came about when Ms Sim reached out to Ms Phuay after coming across her label at the Fuze Fashion Technology summit this March, which was organised by the Textile and Fashion Federation Singapore. “I constantly hear from women representing Singapore at various international, diplomatic, corporate and cultural platforms that they would really like to wear something that represents our national identity,” says Ms Sim, 42. “It can be a tricky dress code to nail.”
“We hope to create fabric and garment options for women who are interested in a ‘wearable Singapore identity’.”
The group decided that the National Day Parade was the perfect occasion to test out its concept. Ms Phuay had only four months to go from concept to the finished product, but she welcomed the challenge. “It was very interesting to work on it and it was a push to (put out) something so unique and fluid for a formal style of clothing,” she adds. “I am very honoured to be a part of this initiative, which is a first step towards a bigger goal – to create a Singapore collection.”
The 28-year-old designer came up with three design concepts, including one that centres on the Singapore skyline and another on the Republic as a diversified country. Her orchid concept, inspired by Singapore’s national flower, the Vanda Miss Joaquim, was chosen as it looks classy and allows for versatility in design. Ms Phuay says: “The petals were designed to look painterly, but they are still distinctive enough for people to know that it is an orchid. We hope this design can be adapted across many avenues.”
This is not the first time ministers have worn outfits designed by a home-grown label. For the 36th annual Asean Tourism Forum held here in January, Ms Vivienne Lin, 36, of home- grown womenswear label Fuchsia Lane was commissioned by the Singapore Tourism Board to design shirts with Peranakan orchid embroidery for the male ministers and scarves with Peranakan embroidery for female ministers. The capsule collection is currently not available to the public, although Ms Sim encourages Ms Phuay to consider making it so.
Ms Sim hopes to collaborate with more Singaporean designers and welcomes interested parties to get in touch with the group. She says: “Our group believes that there are many possible motifs, prints and textures that can help tell the Singapore story.”
This article was first published at The Straits Times, 10 August 2017.