Annabelle Fernandez uncovers the food and fashion tribes of Singapore
If the French philosopher Roland Barthes were still alive today, he’d have a field day updating his seminal text from 1967, The Fashion System, which examined how clothing is a language through which people transmit their ideologies. In 2017, people show their allegiance to particular tribes through the vast vocabulary at their disposal—there’s also the fitness fad you’re into (barre versus HIIT?), the director whose visual aesthetic is most similar to yours (Sofia Coppola versus Baz Lurhmann?) and, as expected in a food-obsessed nation like Singapore, the places you eat at. One look at a Singaporean’s Instagram feed and you can come to a pretty accurate conclusion of who they are. Below, a tasting platter of some of Singapore’s food and fashion tribes:
THE COFFEE CONNOISSEURS
The food: Singapore’s deep in the throngs of the third wave coffee movement, but for this discerning crowd, it takes more than a state-ofthe-art La Marzocco machine to impress them.The beans should be single-origin (or at the very least, an in-house blend); brewing options should include Aeropress, Chemex, V60 or syphon techniques; and, most importantly, there should be no menu beyond the words “black” or “white”.
The fashion: The monochrome outlook extends to their outfits: They worship at the altar of conceptual Japanese designers Rei Kawakubo and Yohji Yamamoto—minimalist attire perfect for meditating over a cuppa at Omotesando Koffee, Nylon Coffee Roasters and Jewel Coffee.
The food: Before any media outlet has so much as penned a word about the latest restaurant-slash-bar to open in the Keong Saik-Duxton-Amoy neighbourhoods, this tribe has already made its way through the menu of (what else?) small plates and cocktails. Neon signs of ironic phrases, tropical accents, decidedly mismatched ceramic serving ware (all handmade, of course), beverages generously garnished with botanicals... with this crew, you eat with your eyes first.
The fashion: There is no missing the scenesters’ eclectic choice of attire. After all, their modus operandi is to see and be seen. Gucci’s Alessandro Michele and Saint Laurent’s Anthony-Vaccarello will help them do just that, via sequins, leather, florals and prints galore.
THE ARTISANAL ARMY
The food: Be it bread baked in wood-fired ovens built brick-by-brick on-site at Firebake or coconuts that take nine hours to clean and juice by hand before being used to make the nasi lemak at Coconut Club, this tribe swears by craft and artistry. No need for pomp and pageantry— just good food that goes back to basics; where the ingredients, not serving techniques, shine.
The Fashion: No need for logos here—just clothes and accessories made using luxurious fabrics and artisanal techniques that only those also in the know will appreciate. On this front, Nadège Vanhee-Cybulski’s work for Hermès and Tomas Maier at BottegaVeneta have them covered.
THE OOZE CREW
The food: If there is #eggporn, foam or smoke involved, you can count on members of this tribe being there. Trekking to remote parts of the island is not a concern, being one of the first to upload Boomerangs of the latest food fad is. Whether it’s Non-Entrée Dessert’s lava cakes sitting atop a bed of gelato or Chock Full of Beans’ Snorlax latte art, theatrics rank high on their list.
The fashion: Naturally, they are fans of brands that know how to make a statement. See: The boots that appeared on the fall/winter runways of Balenciaga (as stocking-boots) and Fenty Puma by Rihanna (as thigh-highs). Perfect for that #OOTD shot in front of the latest restaurant mural spotted all over Instagram. Send me your comments on Instagram: @neonwatermelon
From top: Ding Dong’s neon-lit sign. Gucci fall/winter 2017. Pourover coffee at Nylon Coffee Roasters. Hermès fall/winter 2017. Coconut Club’s signature dish. Yohji Yamamoto fall/winter 2017. Balenciaga fall/ winter 2017. Non-Entree Dessert’s Chocolate Avalanche