local designers new york
Photo: Desmond Wee, Singapore Tourism Board

Jewellery with Peranakan motifs, porcelain with images of HDB blocks and scarves with prints inspired by Singapore legends are taking centre stage at a retail space in the heart of New York City.

As part of the Singapore Design Now initiative organised by the Singapore Tourism Board (STB) and AsiaStore at non-profit organisation Asia Society, seven local design brands have been invited to showcase their work until Aug 5.

“Our partnership with Asia Society is designed to provide an authentic perspective of Singapore’s vibrancy and multiculturalism,” says Ms Kershing Goh, STB’s regional director of the Americas.

“Each eclectic piece on display will tell a personal story of the destination as narrated by the designers.”

The showcase is part of the ongoing Singapore Season, a five- month-long initiative by Asia Society and STB that highlights the Republic’s fashion, retail and food culture.

Asia Society, located at 725 Park Avenue, is a non-profit organisation that aims to promote Asia in the United States.

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Choo Yilin
Photo: Mandarin Gallery
In Good Company
Photo: In Good Company

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AsiaStore is the retail shop at Asia Society. The Singapore products are on sale at AsiaStore and its online shop (asiastore.org).

The seven chosen labels include jewellers Choo Yilin and Carrie K, fashion label In Good Company, scarf brand Binary Style and porcelainware designer and gallery shop Supermama. Bag label Ling Wu and design studio Onlewo have collaborated to present a collection of clutches.

The items on sale cost between $38 for a porcelain plate from Supermama and $705 for a jade necklace from Choo Yilin.

“Singapore’s global branding is traditionally associated with a few things: good food, amazing architecture and a modern cosmopolitan workforce,” says participating designer Choo Yilin, who is the founder of her eponymous label.

“What I hope to achieve at an event like this is to extend that awareness of what Singapore’s known for to something else – world-class design that meaningfully references its culture and heritage.”

Supermama founder Edwin Low hopes that through this showcase, he can gain a better understanding of the US market, which the brand has been trying to enter.

“It’s necessary to get them interested in our local culture. I think a lot of people still misunderstand our country,” he says, pointing out that many people are still surprised by how modern Singapore is.

While his brand’s designs, which includes prints of HDB blocks and orchids, may not be as familiar to an international community, he says the medium of his products, porcelainware, will help catch attention.

Binary Style
Photo: Desmond Wee

“It’s already a familiar and popular medium. But we’re giving it a different twist by showing localised elements, so hopefully it gives them a taste of Singapore.”

Like Mr Low, Binary Style’s founder, Ms Santhi Tunas, says good aesthetics will help connect the US audience to her brand.

At the showcase, Binary Style’s scarves are arranged to “tell the Singapore story from the very beginning to its modern form”, says Ms Tunas, an Indonesian who has been based here for the past 15 years.

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For example, scarves depicting Sang Nila Utama, a prince who, according to local legend, gave Singapore its name, Samsui women, Chinese female immigrants who worked as labourers in Singapore in the 1920s, and the Tiong Bahru estate, one of the oldest estates here, are showcased in that particular order.

“As someone who’s not originally from this country, there is a bit of a twist in our perspective of Singapore. We’d like to invite others to see Singapore through our eyes.”

From: Straits Times