The Success Story Behind Singapore Fashion Week

Cities like Berlin, Tokyo and Sydney boast enough local talent recognized internationally to draw a small-but-influential pool of editors and buyers from the US, Europe and still-growing luxury markets including Russia, South America and of course, Asia. But when a city like Singapore throws a fashion week, there's got to be more to it than industry buzz. There's got to be a consumer angle.
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Cities like Berlin, Tokyo and Sydney boast enough local talent recognized internationally to draw a small-but-influential pool of editors and buyers from the US, Europe and still-growing luxury markets including Russia, South America and of course, Asia. But when a city like Singapore throws a fashion week, there's got to be more to it than industry buzz. There's got to be a consumer angle.
Raoul at 2013's Audi Fashion Festival Singapore.

Raoul at 2013's Audi Fashion Festival Singapore.

There's a Singapore Fashion Week?

Well, technically it's called Audi Fashion Festival Singapore. And it's part of the Asia Fashion Exchange, a week-long event that includes a traditional trade show (Blueprint), Audi Star Creation (the city's answer to Project Runway), and the Asia Fashion Summit (a conference targeting Asian retailers co-run by WGSN). But yes, to be clear, there is a Singapore Fashion Week, and like many regional fashion weeks across the globe, the organizers are trying new formats and tactics to make it stand tall against the Big Four. (You know: New York, London, Milan and Paris.)

Cities like Berlin, Tokyo and Sydney boast enough local talent recognized internationally to draw a small-but-influential pool of editors and buyers from the US, Europe and still-growing luxury markets including Russia, South America and of course, Asia. But when a city like Singapore throws a fashion week, there's got to be more to it than industry buzz. There's got to be a consumer angle.

Here's where ticket sales come in. That's right—just like a rock concert, a segment of the seats at the five-year-old Audi Fashion Festival Singapore were sold to the public, which means anyone who queued up early enough could buy tickets ranging from 40SGD (about $30) to 100SGD (about $80). For this fairly reasonable price, paying customers got to glimpse the latest collections from Hussein Chalayan, Carolina Herrera, Tsumori Chisato, and others. "Even if you went to London, New York, Paris or Milan for fashion week, you wouldn't get to attend the shows," the event's founder, Tjin Lee, explained to Fashionista. "We bring them here and give consumers a chance."

Guests were also treated to Belvedere cocktails and champagne flutes, which were passed around in the foyer area for an hour leading up to the show. For the tradespeople covering the event, this wasn't ideal. It meant the show started an hour late, a true crime for those of us who needed to file stories. But you know what? It was clear to me from the beginning that editors and buyers weren't the most important people at the Audi Fashion Festival Singapore. Instead, the customers ruled.

And rightly so in this market. At Peter Pilotto's Saturday night show, I spied at least 15 of the designer's dresses, maybe more, on members of the audience. These were not dresses Pilotto's publicists had loaned out. They were dresses these women had actually bought, most likely at luxury boutique Club 21, one of Pilotto's local accounts. "Club 21 is such an important partner for us here," Pilotto told me after the show. "They’re doing really well with the brand, so we always wanted to come here."

The shows also allow regional designers to further connect with their local customers. While the international designers are "hosted" by the Singapore tourism board and the Audi Fashion Festival, local companies—such as Raoul and Zardoze—pay for their slots on the schedule, benefitting from both regional exposure and the chance for their names to be in lights alongside globally recognized fashion superstars.

So far, the strategy is working. Over 20,000 people attended Singapore Fashion Week in 2013, up from 13,000 in 2012. Lee's next goal is to get some Asian American designers on the roster. "In the past five years, there's been a lot more interest in international Asian designers. I think a lot of that has to do with the buying power of Asian customers," she said. "Alexander Wang, Phillip Lim, Jason Wu: we would love to have those designers out here."