[Continuing our feature on promising young designers within the Singapore fashion scene. Click here to read Part I.]

 

Name: Manfred Lu

Age: 21

School: Nanyang Academy of Fine Arts

Collection Title: Deflower

 

What is your earliest fashion memory?

It’ll have to be chancing upon the documentary Dior and I. I can’t recall why I watched it, but its effect on me was almost magical. Watching Raf taking control of his craft and his artisans to create, in my opinion, one of the best collections in recent memory, instantly convinced me to be a part of this industry.

Why did you choose fashion design?

It was an unorthodox decision. I’d been trained in fine arts from young. My best medium was pen and paper, and there have been moments when I felt certain about pursuing fine arts. But as I grew older I wanted to do something more practical, but still with a medium that requires some artistic authorship. Fashion design was an obvious choice.

What/who inspires you?

I can’t count the times I feel inspired by something. If I had to choose, I’d say art. It’s what I depend on when I’m looking for colours, silhouettes, ideas, etc. For my graduate collection, it was the hyper-realistic photographic journals of male youths by artists  Ben McNutt and Matthew Lambert that inspired certain pieces. I’ve also been inspired by vintage porn. It’s the intimate documentation of male sexuality that resonates with me as a designer and the ideas I want to convey.

Describe your style.

It combines contemporary male sexuality with traditional elements. I’m not sure if that’s the best way to describe it. It’s definitely sexy, slightly surreal and minimal. It’s certainly not ostentatious. I’ve never enjoyed flashiness, so it’s also a reflection of my personality.

What’s the story behind your collection?

Deflower is a personal odyssey in masculinity. In today’s context,  orchids are frequently used to represent female genitalia. In Grecian art, however, orchids were symbols for testicles. I used that to acknowledge the fragility and ambiguity that masculinity and orchids share. The work is quite personal, as it mirrors the conflicts I have with my own masculinity. I’ve always tried to appear tough so as not to seem feminine, and I’ve always been shy about my sexuality. I took traditional men’s wear items and opened up (with cut outs) around the most intimate areas of the male body, as if a flower was blooming.‍

What would you like to see more of in the future?

I’d like to see more a more collaborative and open-minded industry. Fashion, at least in the context of Singapore, is repetitive. The industry is comfortable with that because it brings in money, but it’s unmotivated and restrictive. By refusing to try new things, you set an outdated template for all to follow. Things could turn out differently if we attempt to set aside the individualism that has plagued the industry for decades and work together instead. I believe the results will inspire future designers and create sustainability within the industry. It is what I signed up for as a fashion designer.

What kind of change would you want to bring?

I want the industry to be a sustainable platform for emerging designers. We’ve seen so many talents disappear because of the lack of support and confidence they ought to have. I would also want it to be less competitive and more collaborative. It won’t be easy but I’m confident it should and will get better.

Name: Putri Adif

Age: 21

School: Nanyang Academy of Fine Arts

Collection title: Red Thread

 

What is your earliest fashion memory?

My earliest fashion memory was my grandmother’s bajus. She would dress up in her kebaya and many types of baju kurungs to weddings, feasts or events. She takes great pains to ensure her hijab, brooch, kitten heels, gold necklace and bag would match her baju. Her dedication amazed me because my grandfather would have to dress in matching colours to her outfit.

Why did you choose fashion design?

As a child, I enjoyed making DIY pouches and tie-dyeing them with my mother. The fashion route felt natural to me as I thought it’d be a great skill to have. While studying fashion in school, I found satisfaction in creating. I enjoy putting narratives into my works.

What/who inspires you?

My family is my biggest inspiration. Like in any family, we don’t necessarily agree about everything. We’d have intense conversations about our heritage, religion and culture. And these often get me thinking about my identity.

Describe your style.

I add Malay and Javanese traditional details to simple design ideas. I try not to restrict myself but enjoy taking inspiration from culture and tradition and interpreting them for today. Embracing the beauty of my cultural history feels rewarding.

What’s the story behind your collection?

Red Thread was inspired by the controversial issue of Female Genital Mutilation (FGM). It started with a conversation with my mother, where she revealed that I had been circumcised as a baby. She informed me that in underdeveloped countries, young girls are coerced into abstinence and chastity by having their privates sewn up. What she said had a huge impact on me.

What would you like to see more of in the future?

I would like to see more young designers find the courage to speak up for themselves and to design for what they stand for. Fashion designers that revolutionised fashion were the ones that did what they believed in, and I’d like to see more of that. We need to break away from feeding consumer needs.

What kind of change would you want to bring?

I’d like to change the public’s minds and what they think about fashion. I think it’s time to put away stereotypes.

Photos Lucas Jong

Grooming Wee Ming using Ears + Kevin Murphy

Models Srri Ramm/Now Model Management, Tan Ya @Inntya

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