It’s a Mad World

Singapore Tatler - - FEATURES - Pho­tog­ra­phy DARREN GABRIEL LEOW Fash­ion Di­rec­tion DES­MOND LIM

The colour­ful char­ac­ters fea­tured in the pages of Sin­ga­pore Tat­tle, er, we mean Sin­ga­pore Tatler Tatler, lead lives that truly em­body that crazy rich Asian spirit

If re­al­ity is stranger than fic­tion, then you wouldn’t be sur­prised to know that the colour­ful char­ac­ters fea­tured in the pages of Sin­ga­pore Tatler lead lives that truly em­body that crazy rich Asian spirit. Cal­ista Cuaca, Dick Lee and Peggy Jeffs look through their crazy, rich and Asian lens to dis­sect what fash­ion means to them. Ch­eryl Chan joins the clique

Say the name cal­ista cuaca and any mil­len­nial worth their weight in In­sta­gram likes will be fa­mil­iar with so­cialite Jamie Chua’s daugh­ter. Bet­ter known as @xca­likins on In­sta­gram, this so­cial me­dia su­per­star lives a priv­i­leged life, hit­ting the best par­ties in town, and al­ways togged out in the coolest gear. And while this James Cook Univer­sity mar­ket­ing stu­dent boasts an en­vi­able style, this is one fash­ion­ista who doesn’t be­lieve in over­hyped pieces, gar­ish lo­gos and head-to-toe de­signer looks.

DO YOU THINK MONEY CAN BUY STYLE?

No. A lot of peo­ple just buy the most ex­pen­sive things or a shirt that shows the logo in a re­ally ob­vi­ous way. Maybe it’s just not my style, but I feel like that’s not fash­ion, that’s just show­ing off.

DO YOU THINK YOU WOULD BE LESS STYLISH IF YOU DIDN’T HAVE AS MUCH MONEY?

I don’t think so. I al­ways wear clothes that make me feel con­fi­dent. If I didn’t have money to buy some­thing that I like, I’d find a cheaper al­ter­na­tive that’d still make me feel good wear­ing it.

IS LUX­URY FASH­ION AC­TU­ALLY GET­TING WAY TOO EX­PEN­SIVE?

Yes, in some ways I think it might be. But there are also many pieces where hours of hard work and crafts­man­ship go into them. They could be heav­ily em­broi­dered and em­bel­lished or com­pletely hand­made by the ar­ti­sans in the atelier, so they de­serve to be priced that way.

DO YOU THINK HIGHER PRICES ARE A GOOD WAY OF EN­SUR­ING LUX­URY FASH­ION RE­MAINS EX­CLU­SIVE?

Yes, this en­sures that the items re­main valu­able and are not eas­ily ob­tain­able. So in that way, maybe it’s a good thing.

WHAT IS THE MOST EX­PEN­SIVE ITEM YOU OWN?

My Richard Mille RM 037 watch, which was a gift from my dad.

DO YOU FIND THESE ITEMS WORTH PUR­CHAS­ING?

Logo tees: Yes. De­signer Crocs: No, I can’t even walk in them! Nov­elty purses: Yes. Fur slip­pers: Yes! I love them. A brick from Supreme: Yes, for

the aes­thet­ics. Gowns you can only wear once: Yes, it’s great for spe­cial oc­ca­sions!

He doesn’t call him­self the Mad Chi­na­man for noth­ing. A cel­e­brated en­ter­tain­ment in­dus­try veteran, one must ap­plaud Dick Lee for in­ject­ing an Asian flair and “Sin­ga­porean-ness” into every­thing he does, from mu­sic to fash­ion—and all with an in­tense pas­sion for love and life. As some­one who’s had a big hand in shap­ing Sin­ga­pore’s fash­ion in­dus­try in the 1980s and ’90s, he shares with us his thoughts on the fu­ture of Asian fash­ion and where Sin­ga­pore’s fate lies in it all.

WHY DO YOU THINK IT IS SO HARD FOR ASIAN DE­SIGN­ERS TO MAKE IT BIG GLOB­ALLY?

I do be­lieve that Asian de­sign­ers have taken off, but there are few and far be­tween, and they’re all from Japan. Even Sin­ga­porean de­signer An­drew Gn has plateaued in terms of his vis­i­bil­ity and pop­u­lar­ity. But to an­swer the broad ques­tion, the fash­ion that we’re fa­mil­iar with to­day is of a West­ern tra­di­tion. His­tor­i­cally, fash­ion stems from cou­ture and that dress­mak­ing from the West was way more su­pe­rior that the qual­ity in the East.

DO YOU THINK THERE IS A FU­TURE FOR ASIAN FASH­ION?

We need to in­fuse our iden­tity into the West­ern forms that we’re work­ing with, which is why Comme des Garçons is so suc­cess­ful—it puts its whole Ja­panese aes­thetic into the brand. Glob­al­i­sa­tion and fast fash­ion have changed things. But I don’t know if it’s so much about cul­ture any­more. Do we care where our clothes come from as long as they look good? Maybe the time has come for Asia to rise. But is that im­por­tant? What’s the big deal?

WHAT DOES SIN­GA­PORE’S CUR­RENT FASH­ION IN­DUS­TRY NEED TO SUC­CEED?

Mar­ket size. We just don’t have the in­dus­try here to sup­port them. We have no fac­to­ries here, we have to go to China and that costs more. You need money to go global. Charles & Keith has gone global thanks to LVMH’S in­vest­ment, but ac­ces­sories are clearly eas­ier to sell than clothes. It’s hard for the cur­rent crop of de­sign­ers to suc­ceed be­cause they can­not af­ford the rents. Also, what cul­ture do we have? Who are we on the world stage? What is Sin­ga­pore to peo­ple? That’s what we lack as well. We need the sup­port first. But be­cause of glob­al­i­sa­tion right now, if some­one was to make a dress here, you have so many choices.

WHAT WOULD YOU CON­SIDER ASIAN FASH­ION?

Right now, the only coun­try that has de­fined the Asian style and has made a strong im­pact is Japan. They’re so unique and highly de­vel­oped in their cul­ture that they’re in a place where it can now evolve. When you look at all the in­ter­na­tion­ally es­tab­lished Ja­panese de­sign­ers, they’re unique and stick to what they do, like Issey Miyake. The Chi­nese as de­sign­ers haven’t been suc­cess­ful in deriv­ing in­spi­ra­tion from their an­cient cul­ture and re­fin­ing it. It’s go­ing to take a while, whereas the Ja­panese have had a few un­in­ter­rupted hun­dred years to do it. Now, the Chi­nese de­sign­ers’ only ref­er­ence is French cou­ture, and that’s what cou­turier Guo Pei is do­ing. But Guo Pei can’t just de­sign for the West when not enough peo­ple in China are wear­ing her cre­ations. When the Ja­panese de­sign­ers go out of their own coun­try and try to branch out in­ter­na­tion­ally, they were al­ready well-ac­cepted in Japan, and peo­ple sup­ported them. That’s what China needs to do.

AS AN ASIAN AND A FOR­MER DE­SIGNER, WHAT DO YOU LOOK FOR WHEN IT COMES TO FASH­ION?

I like prints. If I see a nice print, I’ll buy it. I don’t care where it’s from. When the whole be­spoke suits trend came about, I was in­ter­ested but Sin­ga­pore’s so hot! You need to be in air-con­di­tioned places all day to wear those. Now I like to have a bit more of a ca­sual style. I wear a lot of silk be­cause it’s cool­ing but it’s also warm enough to bring abroad. I love fash­ion, so I watch all the sea­sons’ shows. I look out for ma­jor trends, be­cause they af­fect every­thing I do, from my cre­ative de­signs, events and even mu­sic.

ARE THERE ANY ASIAN FASH­ION DE­SIGN­ERS THAT YOU LOVE?

There’s a Thai brand called Theatre. I bought my first se­quinned jacket from there for $150 be­fore Saint Lau­rent started mak­ing them for like $5,000. And that’s where Thai­land was a fore­run­ner—they started mak­ing hand­i­crafts, se­quins and beaded things way be­fore they be­came trendy. An­other one that I like is an In­done­sian la­bel called Dian Pe­langi. Her work re­minds me of Bel­gian la­bel Dries Van Noten but done in a more glam­orous way.

BTW, the watch costs a cool $250,000

171k fol­low­ers and count­ing

Throw­bac k to Ri­hanna’s omelette dress at the 2015 Met Gala

No orchid dresses please

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