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You can almost smell the anticipation in the air—or is that Le Labo’s Santal 33?—while the excited clicks of red-heeled Louboutins and glitter Jimmy Choos on the polished marble floors of the National Gallery Singapore echo through the room. It’s a less than usual scent and sound for these hallowed halls. But then, it is the first day of Singapore Fashion Week and the fashion crowd—including Instagram star Nicole Warne (a.k.a. @garypeppergirl), who has flown in specially to lend her support—has turned up in full regalia to support the Harper’s BAZAAR Asia NewGen Fashion Award 2017.
Held in collaboration with Swarovski, the regional competition is the only one of its kind to be spearheaded by a media masthead in a bid to discover Southeast Asia’s new wave of emerging fashion talents. And after months of mentoring sessions and hard work refining their collections, six names from Indonesia, Thailand and Singapore have come together to compete for the top prize. Melding originality and creativity with commercial viability, their designs convinced the judges that they have the acumen and drive to be the next Asian designer to keep on the radar.
Back at the competition, as the lights dim down and the designs make their way down the runway, guests are treated to a showcase that drips with ingenuity and fresh perspectives across genres. From the frilly flounces on Victorian-style dresses to sporty bomber jackets bursting with an urban vibe, the show worked as a reminder of the breadth of talent to be found within our region. In the end, it was Singapore’s very own Phua Chun Huen who clinched the top prize, thanks to a sophisticated collection that showed denim in a new light through innovative fabric manipulation, sharp tailoring and modern silhouettes. (Even Senior Minister of State, Ministry of Culture, Community and Youth, and Ministry of Trade and Industry, Sim Ann, was heard marvelling at his innovative play on the fabric from her front-row seat). He walks away with a Master’s degree scholarship at the prestigious Istituto Marangoni in London, $10,000 cash, and $15,000 worth of Swarovski products.
“Initially, it was stressful but I told myself that I did not want to finish this race without putting up a good fight. I never expected to win, so, after the announcement, I was surprised, delighted and extremely grateful to the Harper’s BAZAAR Singapore team for being there with me from the start of this incredible journey, and rooting for me till the very end,” says Phua of his win.
“With each year of our NewGen Fashion Award, we see a new breed of designers rising up the ranks with creations that show a clear understanding of what is needed to survive in this fast-paced world of fashion,” says Editor-in-Chief of Harper’s BAZAAR Singapore and panel judge Kenneth Goh. “I am so happy that the eventual winner, Phua Chun Huen, represents the new face of Asian fashion with designs that combine craftsmanship, modernity and urban spirit. Most importantly, he has a willingness and openness to learn everything he can from the Master’s degree programme at the Istituto Marangoni—and that hunger and thirst for knowledge are what make him the perfect candidate for this win.”
By Charmaine Ho and Gerald Tan
Photographed by Gan
Styled by Windy Aulia
Models: Faith V; Choi Ji Seon; Han Seok Yeon; Monique D; Kyiona C/ The Nu Management
Hair: Junz Loke/ Hairloom using Kevin Murphy
Makeup: Manisa Tan/ PaletteInc using YSL Beaute
Styling assistant: Gracia Phang
Fashion intern: Nur Shahfiqah Bte Muhd Sukor