The final looks from the five finalists (from left): Irene Calista Wiratma, Mia Zhang, Justin Chua, Sheree Toh and Rabiatula’dawiyah Binte Ismail

Making a foray into a designer’s world takes more than just sheer talent. Sometimes what you need is for someone to give you a break—and that’s what Harper’s BAZAAR Asia NewGen Fashion Award 2021 is all about. 

First initiated in 2013, this annual design competition for final year students studying fashion design was created to discover and nurture young talent while helping emerging designers across the region find a launching pad for their work. 

Related article: Singapore’s 2021 Graduating Class Of Fashion Designers Poised To Make Their Mark

A Destiny In Design

What makes this competition noteworthy is not just the $10,00 cash prize up for grabs, but the winner will also get sponsored for a one-year master’s degree course on the London campus of Istituto Marangoni worth £30,000 (SG$55,569).

In addition, they will also gain the priceless opportunity to develop their final year project into a legitimate fashion brand and have their collection showcased in a Harper’s BAZAAR Singapore fashion spread—all while being mentored by Harper’s BAZAAR Singapore and CHANEL Singapore over one-on-one and group sessions.

Evaluated for their creativity, originality, commercial viability and technical ability as well as business acumen, the judging criteria also includes the designers’ vision for their brand and how they foresee possible expansion of the collection. 

That’s not all. The five finalists have also been tasked to create one new look as an extension of the collection they presented.

Related article: Lasalle’s Fashion Graduates And Lecturers On Future-Proofing Fashion

Meet the Finalists

After much deliberation, the finalists have been shortlisted for Harper’s BAZAAR Asia NewGen Fashion Award 2021. Meet the young designers—and their outstanding collections—who made the cut this year:

Related article: What’s Next For BAZAAR Academy Alumni Rena Kok And Silvia Teh?

1. Justin Chua 

LASALLE College of the Arts Singapore
BA (Hons) Degree (2018-2021)

Collection: POLYMORPHISM

Photo: Courtesy

Creating under his contemporary label CONCEPT : 20559, Justin Chua believes in breaking free of societal boundaries and stereotypes. Which is why his collection POLYMORPHISM is purposely gender-neutral and unisex, with the aim of being inclusive while manifesting self-awareness through one’s clothing choices.

Featuring thoughtful pieces designed with ergonomic functionality in mind, what makes this collection stand out is that each garment can be seamlessly transformed to cater to different needs, so you can get the most out of each piece. As the term “polymorphic” exemplifies, garments or accessories can be altered in appearance for functionality or aesthetic purposes, thus allowing them to be multifunctional. 

“As we learn to adapt and transition with our environment, so must our garments,” says Justin. “With the transformative aspects and the crossing of gender boundaries, we prolong the life and usage out of each individual piece.”

His ingenious designs mean that a pair of trousers can be easily transformed into a skirt by removing the crotch component with the help of open-end zippers. Once removed, the sides of the trousers are joined in the centre front and back to form the skirt while the open-end zippers become the side seams.

For a quick accessory, turn a kimono jacket into a tote bag by detaching it from the waist. The centre back seam becomes the base of the tote while zippers across come together to form the sides. Meanwhile, the jacket retains its function in a shorter, cropped version.

Tell us more about this final look that you’ve produced?

Emerging Fashion Designers Showcase Their Talents At Harper’s BAZAAR Asia NewGen Fashion Award 2021
Look #0 by Justin Chua

The collection “POLYMORPHISM” represents a shift in change, a new perspective in how I perceive the future of fashion as we learn to adapt and transition with our environments.

Keeping in line with the main collection, the overarching concept for this new look and how I would describe it would be “Concrete Growth”, meaning “to grow together” or “connected by growth.” 

It is a celebration and commemoration of Harper’s BAZAAR 20th anniversary, as well as the first collection from me. It signifies the celebration of growth and a constant state of change, in terms of what has been accomplished up till now and what will be accomplished in the future by both Harper’s BAZAAR and myself.

The new look will be called Look #0 as a reference to the colour used and  the numerical 0 being used to represent a new beginning, a fresh start as we move forward.

Tell us what is so special about this piece that you’ve produced?

Look #0 comprises two main pieces made with taffeta and nylon. The overall aesthetic approach aligns with the main collection POLYMORPHISM and the concept of polymorphic design still applies here.

The inner is a layered dress with asymmetrical panelling and darting details. It has a metal zipper across the waist allowing the dress to be converted into a separate top and skirt piece, offering varied styling options with the other pieces from the collection.

The outer piece is a cropped jacket with panelling and pleated details. It has a metal zipper hidden inside the jacket that allows the inner layer to be detached and converted into a crossbody bag when needed. There are concealed zipper pockets in the crossbody bag and they are still usable when attached to the jacket. Patch pockets can be found on the front of the jacket as well.

Website: www.behance.net/justinchua

2. Mia Zhang 

LASALLE College of the Arts Singapore 
BA Degree with Fashion Design (2019-2021)

Collection: Tulip Fever

Photo: Courtesy

Designing under her ready-to-wear brand MIAMIAMEW based in Ningbo, China, Mia Zhang aims to create minimalist pieces that are at once whimsical and ethereal, yet bold and dramatic at the same time.

Her spring/summer 2022 collection, Tulip Fever, is inspired by the 2017 movie of the same name. Representing the spirit and ephemerality of priceless tulips as a symbol of passion, Mia’s exquisite floral designs celebrate the traditions of renaissance fashions and feature vintage paintings of blooming silhouettes. 

Using natural dye and recycling smithereens, combined with skilled craftsmanship, high-quality fabrics are transformed into voluminous beauty while flattering the female form simultaneously. From delightfully sweet tube slip dresses and floral organza dresses to sheer organza blouses and silk floral blazers, this feminine and floral collection offers a contemporary take on what it means to be a woman who wears her womanhood with alluring confidence.

“Women have an innate connection with flowers,” Mia elaborates. “This collection complements the brand theme of ‘exploring the beauty of all nature’. The flower-printed fabrics represent the purest love and appreciation of nature while satisfying an innate human need for all things floral.”

Tell us more about this final look that you’ve produced?

Emerging Fashion Designers Showcase Their Talents At Harper’s BAZAAR Asia NewGen Fashion Award 2021
The final look in Mia Zhang’s collection ‘Tulip Fever’

This final look for was inspired by MIAMIAMEW S/S 2022 collection ‘Tulip Fever’. Using romantic baroque love story as the springboard, I use “soft” materials to emphasise female power, with sexy posture to give women confidence. This feminine look, based on the female body form, echoes the support and power Harper’s BAZAAR has given to women, inspiring real confidence and encouraging women to dress up in any way she likes.

Tell us what is so special about this piece that you’ve produced?

This final look echoes MIAMIAMEW’s brand spirit of longevity. Without the label, the dress should exist as a work of art. The exquisite fabric chosen, embroidery and handmade beads are fused in this dress, creating a unique aesthetic.

Email: miamiamew@gmail.com

3. Rabiatula’dawiyah Binte Ismail

LASALLE College of the Arts Singapore 
BA Degree with Second Class Honours (Upper Division) (2018-2021)

Collection: Nebula: The End to the Beginning

Photo: Courtesy

Regardless of race or religion, every woman can appreciate fine fashion. Recognising this, Rabiatula Dawiyah was motivated to create a line of luxury apparel that meets a niche market and makes Muslim women look good while still allowing them to conform to their religious observances.

Featuring loose-fitted or puffy silhouettes that emphasise modesty and comfort, Rabiatula’s collection Nebula: The End to the Beginning offers functional yet fashionable pieces for “women who would wear dresses yet ride a motorcycle, women who wear a suit while she commutes to work on a longboard, or hijab-wearing women in a tiered voluminous maxi skirt paired with a hoodie and sneakers,” says Rabiatula.

As its name “Nebula” suggests, the collection symbolises a new beginning for Muslim women—by empowering them to embrace their femininity through fashion. The phenomenon of nebula occurs when a giant cloud of dust and gas—flung up by the eruption of a dying star—collapses from its own gravity and creates a hot core, resulting in the beginning of a new star. Hence, the idea of new beginnings came about.

Driven by a love of monoprints, Rabiatula uses natural fabrics such as linen, silk and cotton to create her textile designs which involve dye and water. 

“For this collection, I applied my signature textile techniques, Ice Dye, as well as Weaving/Tapestry and Pull Thread. I love the monoprint silkscreen method that uses reactive dyes painted on silkscreen and transferred using sodium alginate to release the print onto natural fabrics,” she explains. “As for the silhouettes, I used the gathering method to imitate the irregular puffy clouds and hot gases of nebulae.”

Can you tell us more about this final look that you’ve produced?

Emerging Fashion Designers Showcase Their Talents At Harper’s BAZAAR Asia NewGen Fashion Award 2021
Rabiatula’dawiyah Binte Ismail’s final look represents a concept of time and memories.

When I think of anniversaries, I think of time, and time carries memories. It represents a concept of time and memories, similar to my Final Year Project Nebula: The End to the Beginning. All of our memories are imprinted on our lives, which is what this dress represents. Harper’s BAZAAR’s 20th anniversary marks the end of the decade and the beginning of a new journey into the 20s. Yarns represent the timeline, which contains all of Harper’s BAZAAR’s memories, each second or day intertwined into a picture. The tapestry is placed on the top back to represent memories being carried.

Can you tell us what is so special about this piece that you’ve produced?

It is the one-of-a-kind tapestry and the technique used to create the textile prints. The organic tapestry was created to resemble how memories are perceived, with events that stand out more than others and voids that we sometimes overlook. The organic shape also represents the irregularity of nebula clouds. Another representation of memories filling up the wearer is the textile print — it was created using the Ice Dye method, which produces unpredictable but beautiful results. It is similar to how we can’t predict the future, but in the long run, it creates beautiful memories. The linen fabric was selected for this look because of its characteristics — it can keep the wearer comfortable and cool, is more durable and stronger than cotton, and has a visible weave pattern that reflects the concept of woven time.

Email: weeyarh@gmail.com

4. Irene Calista Wiratma 

LASALLE College of the Arts Singapore 
BA (Hons) Fashion Design and Textiles (2018-2021)

Collection: Begin Again

Photo: Courtesy

Introducing a unique twist to fashion inspiration human imperfection—particularly stretch marks (yes, you heard right)—is what sparked the idea behind this collection of athleisure by Irene Calista Wiratma, aptly titled Begin Again

In a nod to embracing one’s imperfections (stretch marks and all), Irene envisioned a collection that empowers women, as she believes that “society should not dictate who we are or what we wear”. 

Designed for dailywear, the sleek athleisure pieces in this collection incorporate intricate lines, undulating volumes and bold colours, and most importantly, feature ribbing, which is intentionally used to emulate irregular stretch marks as a way to embrace them. 

To portray the idea of the skin’s imperfections, Irene initially came up with the idea of using bubble wrap for sleeves while adding beads to create depth. She also considered using channels for cords around the hem of jackets to mimic the irregularity of stretch marks. 

In this collection, elastic cords play a big part in creating a ribbing effect in the asymmetrical tops and cut out ribbed pants. Made using a combination of woven and knit materials, the garments are designed to accommodate people of various sizes and silhouettes. Adjustability of the cords also help to provide flexibility and stretch.

“With the exposure and impact of social media, the need for self-love and confidence is more crucial than before. This includes embracing one’s imperfections,” says Irene. “My hope is that these garments will become part of women’s journeys in helping them find their inner confidence.”

Can you tell us more about this final look that you’ve produced?

Emerging Fashion Designers Showcase Their Talents At Harper’s BAZAAR Asia NewGen Fashion Award 2021
Irene Calista Wiratma’s final look

It’s inspired by the imperfections of the human body, especially stretch marks, plus it has a significant sculptural aspect too. The fabric’s texture is created using ribbings, which represents the abstractness of the stretch marks that we often see on the body. This look focuses more on the interlinking panels that subtly show the wearer’s skin, embodying the idea of embracing and celebrating one’s unique body. The design further connects to Harper’s BAZAAR as an extension of a lifestyle form, as shown by the contemporary silhouette and the courage to look different since BAZAAR is one of the forward-thinking leaders in the fashion industry. This is one of the reasons why the fabric changed from nylon to cotton twill and poplin.

Tell us what is so special about this piece that you’ve produced?

The mixed fabrication of weaving and knitting to create the fabric’s texture is both interesting and challenging — the different thickness of the materials plus the even distribution despite the many layers sewn together at once was not an easy task. The ribbing also creates interlacing panels to have more volume and distorted details for the outfit, which produces an interesting silhouette, especially for the trousers when worn with top stitches as the details of the garments enhance the athleisure vibe. The trousers also have a wide waistband to accentuate the curve of the wearer’s waist in the hip area with a side seam pocket. The top is the only garment with knit on knit. This is especially intriguing since it creates a different volume and drape on the body, not to mention the detail of the snap buttons that allow the middle panel to be styled inside or out. My favourite piece is the jacket, which has cut-out panels throughout the garment with drape features on the back panel to showcase the details of the top and trousers. Furthermore, the interlacing is visible from the front bodice to the back as well the sleeves.

Email: Irenecw21@gmail.com
Website: irenecw21.wixsite.com/icw21

5. Sheree Toh 

LASALLE College of the Arts in Singapore
BA (Hons) Degree (2019-2021)

Collection: RÜI蕊

Photo: Courtesy

In appreciation of history and heritage, the marriage of past and present takes centre stage in this striking collection called RÜI蕊. Featuring contemporary interpretations of archetypal garments “for the new rebellion”, Sheree Toh has brought the warrior figure in Chinese literature and its uniforms to life with her designs for a modern-day warrior, both male and female.

“In my design process, it sometimes feels restrictive to consider that I am designing ‘menswear’ or ‘womenswear’,” says Sheree. “I find beauty in blurring the lines and presenting genderless, or ungendered collections. If women are allowed to wear men’s clothing, why are men not allowed to wear skirts or dresses?”

Each look is heavily layered with garments that present the “warrior” silhouette. With a five-petal as a recurring motif and the fusion of denim with Chinese brocade, each piece is a “wearable talisman” that explores the cultural connections of today and yesteryear. 

Making use of textile techniques such as free-hand machine embroidery, foiling, knotting, digital print and mono print, the pieces are all fully bound in red grosgrain to create a cleanly finished look with distinct outlines.

Interestingly, the name RÜI蕊 refers to the pistil—or the heart of the flower—and signifies a call for its wearers to remain brave and true to their hearts. 

“There is a cultural disconnect today, with many disregarding their past,” says Sheree. “With this collection, I hope to encourage people to go back to their roots and make sense of their heritage and identity.”

Can you tell us more about this final look that you’ve produced?

Emerging Fashion Designers Showcase Their Talents At Harper’s BAZAAR Asia NewGen Fashion Award 2021
The final look by Sheree Toh a visual dialogue across time and space, between an individual in his/her current reality and his/her future self.

Titled Can You Hear Me From The Other Side, the final look is a visual dialogue across time and space, between an individual in his/her current reality and his/her future self in the ‘new’ world that promises hope and renewed optimism. 

The global pandemic over the last couple of years has greatly affected the lifestyles of many people, including myself, but it was also a phase of change that allowed me to delve deep, reflecting the way I work, live and perceive the world around me. It also allows me to rediscover and connect with why I do what I do.

At the core of what SHEREE TOH does, lies a strong passion and belief to communicate freedom of self-expression through garments for the ‘new’ rebellion, to celebrate and empower individuals and communities in their own unique voices. 

As a culmination of the notions of liberation, confidence, and a newfound perspective for the future, the genderless two-piece ensemble consisting of a pink collared shirt and denim dungaree celebrates and defines what an optimistic future means for both Harper’s BAZAAR Singapore and the brand — an array of textures and the valued notion of ‘touch’, the human connection that remains unwaveringly vital at the heart of what we do.

Associated with freedom and confidence, renewal and hope, as well as vibrancy and youthfulness, hues of blues, greens, pinks and yellow were chosen to heavily endorse the look. Not only does the look represent a positive outlook on the next few decades to come, it is also imbued with faith that my personal vision of contemporary fashion would resonate with the ‘new’ individual.

Tell us what is so special about this piece that you’ve produced?

True to my personal design aesthetic and background as a fashion design graduate specialising in textiles, the final look is heavily amplified through the multiple layers of textile treatment, as well as the human touch and emotion that is involved in every step of the process.

Presenting a steadfast faith and optimism in the decades to come, the hand-bleached denim dungaree offers an abstract and metaphorical dilution of the ‘now’ in preparation of the highly-anticipated future. In addition to the base print, the garment indulges in SHEREE TOH’s signature multi-coloured textile foil and free-hand embroidery stitches that resemble paint strokes, giving an added visual texture to the entire look. 

Contrasted with a full pink collared shirt in cotton poplin that softens the overall feel, there is a considered fluidity in movement that emphasises the expressive nature and confidence intended in the design for the contemporary individual.

Without compromising on comfort and versatility, this creation is a representation of my personal belief and hope that modern textiles and craftsmanship will find their place in the conversations of younger generations, and to be duly appreciated as a significant element within the contemporary fashion context.

Email: shereetohjj@gmail.com 
Website: www.instagram.com/shereetohstudio


Meet the judges

For this year’s edition of Harper’s BAZAAR Asia NewGen Fashion Award 2021, our panel of judges include:

Kenneth Goh (Editor-in-Chief of Harper’s BAZAAR Singapore)

Kenneth Goh (Photo: Phyllicia Wang)

Kenneth has played an intrinsic role in the success of Singapore’s leading high-fashion title for 18 years.  Kenneth and his team are responsible for the breathtaking fashion imagery and spreads that gain Harper’s BAZAAR Singapore much attention and recognition across the region and the world. His creative talents have also secured some of the most famous names in the entertainment and fashion industry—such as Christy Turlington, Cindy Crawford, Naomi Campbell, Janet Jackson, Victoria Beckham, Marion Cotillard, Alessandra Ambrosio, Lily Aldridge, Chiara Ferragni, Nicole Warne, Maddie Ziegler and Eddie Benjamin—on exclusive covers and spreads for both Harper’s BAZAAR Singapore and Malaysia.

Windy Aulia (Creative Director of Harper’s BAZAAR Singapore)

Windy Aulia Harper's BAZAAR Singapore

With over 15 years of experience at Harper’s BAZAAR Singapore, Windy, who oversees creative direction of the title, has been instrumental in the success of BAZAAR’s various projects. He has directed cover shoots and fashion spreads with international celebrities and style icons such as Hailee Steinfeld, Constance Wu, Gemma Chan and Millie Bobby Brown.

Lai Chan (Established Fashion Couturier)

Lai Chan
Photo: Courtesy

Singapore fashion legend Lai Chan is known for his beautiful and glamourous qipaos or cheongsams. The couturier has earned a reputable name in the local fashion circuit with his refined fashion sensibilities and unwavering commitment towards beauty and quality. With both local and international clienteles, Lai Chan turns traditional garments into stunning pieces with a classic touch of elegance and contemporary relevance.

Rebecca Ting (Co-founder and Creative Director of Beyond The Vines)

Rebecca Ting Beyond the Vines
Photo: Courtesy

Rebecca Ting wears many hats—she’s a designer, marketer, businesswoman, wife, and mother of two boys. Influenced by her artist father, Arthur PY Ting, Rebecca cultivated a creative streak and an eye for design from a young age. With her team at Beyond The Vines, the multidisciplinary design studio and retail brand co-founded with her husband, Daniel Chew, she strives to make good design accessible to all.