Mae Tan, Fariz Jabba And More Weigh In On The Appeal Of Culture Cartel

They spoke on sneaker culture, personal style and their hopes for Asian fashion in 2020

Culture Cartel 2019 at F1 Pit Building

Photo: Culture Cartel 2019, Powered by Mercedes-Benz

This past weekend saw the return of Culture Cartel at the F1 Pit Building. 

For the uninitiated, Culture Cartel is a convention committed to spotlighting the various local and international subcultures, from street style to tattoo artistry and toys. Their goal? To celebrate and promote all subcultures and street culture. To that end, the people behind the convention hosted a three-day event, held last week from Friday through Sunday, and is Asia’s first and only dedicated street culture convention. At Culture Cartel 2019, attendees got to shop exclusive sneaker drops and independent design labels; get tatted by world-renowned artists; and sit in on panel discussions comprising the likes of Yeezy’s artistic director Steven Smith and online personality and singer Preeti Nair. It was also a celebration of creativity filled with eye-catching digital campaigns and artistic pop-up installations. 

We chatted with five personalities at the event to find out their thoughts on street culture, personal style and more. Read on to find out what they had to say. 



Mae Tan, 24, Influencer and star of Netflix’s
Singapore Social

What brings you to Culture Cartel 2019?
I’ve decided to take all of my personal stuff (belongings) out and sell it for a good cause at Culture Cartel Convention, where I believe there’s a lot of people from different cultures with different interests, whom are coming together. And I’m donating 100 percent of the sales to two causes really close to my heart. The first is of course the climate. So I’ve decided to give half of the proceeds to WWF Singapore. As for the other 50 percent, I’ve decided to go with the future of education, which is The Contentment Foundation. It’s trying to bring mindfulness to children all around the world through education. Not only is this for children but it’s for teachers, families and businesses as well.

How would you describe your personal style?
My personal style is eclectic—it’s all over the place. I’m not shy to try new styles and try different things. I would like to think that I’m not a sneakerhead, but based off the amount of sneakers I have, I guess I could.

What are your thoughts on Asian fashion?
It’s definitely a mishmash of cultures. And I think it’s growing slowly, and creating its own sense of style—especially in Singapore as it’s a melting pot of cultures. You can really see all kinds of styles gelling together here, which is nice. For example, my relationship with fashion is all about self-expression. It’s a reflection of myself. 

What is your hope for Asian fashion in 2020?
I just hope that people can be themselves; be authentic to who they are and reflect that in the things that they do in the lives that they lead. And I think that will naturally flow into their fashion. 

Related article: Mae Tan Reveals How Singapore Social Has Changed Her Life



Fariz Jabba, 23, Rapper and Recording Artist

What brings you to Culture Cartel 2019?
I have a performance with my Def Jam South East Asia family. And I’m also here because I wanted to check out all the fashion, art, shoes and everything else the convention offers. Not to mention the food—me and my boys have a burger named after us at 21 Sliders, and it’s made with the flavours I grew up with. There’s a lot of things that I’m here for. For instance, a lot of my friends are setting up booths and I wanted to check them out. I was here last year and it was amazing.  

How would you describe your personal style?
On days when I don’t want to alert people to my presence, I would wear a full black outfit—a fitted t-shirt, work pants (so I look dapper), and accessorise a little bit, and fly shoes. And then on days like today when I’m performing, I would dress to stand out. I used to have coloured hair, but I dyed it back to black because it (my hair) looked unhealthy. I’m working with Tommy Jeans right now because I like the burst of colours—I love bold colours and to try new things. For example, when it was trendy to wear neon green, I didn’t want to be part of it because I don’t want to conform to a certain style. I can’t describe my style exactly because I’m still developing it. But if I had to describe it, I’d say it’s colourful, bold, confident and original.

What are you thoughts on Asian fashion?
I feel like Japanese fashion is on top of the world right now. I feel like they’re bigger than American and European fashion, in terms of originality. Take their shoes, for instance; there are always Japan exclusives—and every sneakerhead knows that. Brands like BAPE by Nigo have created sort of a template on how streetwear should be worn way back in the day—almost 10 years ago. And now, people are still wearing BAPE. 

What is your hope for Asian fashion in 2020?
I would like rappers to get more involved with fashion. And I would like to see brands working more with rappers, for example, in music videos. Give them a campaign because they can do it and make it cool. 



Grace Lim, 27, Freelance Fashion Stylist

What brings you to Culture Cartel 2019?
Culture Cartel Convention is filled with all sorts of brands and street culture vendors, which you would otherwise rarely get a chance to explore unless you make your way down to each respective store. When you visit the convention, you get the opportunity to find a lot of fashion, arts and culture in one place. So it’s a really great place to be. 

How would you describe your personal style?
I dress according to my mood. Sometimes I’d like to dress really girly and other times, I’ll just be in t-shirts and jeans. I like to incorporate colours into my outfit, and wear oversized clothing which I find very comfortable. I also like to juxtapose my outfit with accessories, so that I don’t end up with an ensemble that’s one-note

What are you thoughts on Asian fashion?
I think that Singaporeans are slowly becoming more comfortable with the idea of layering. Singapore has a tropical climate, and so does Thailand but people there dare to dress up more. I’d also like to add that Singaporeans don’t seem to want to stand out, even if they’re into street style. They’re always shopping from the same brands that everyone else are into, instead of going for more independent brands which may speak to their personalities better. This is an aspect in which I think Asian fashion, particularly, Singapore fashion can improve on. 

What is your hope for Asian fashion in 2020?
My hope for Asian fashion in 2020 is that instead of just shopping online, people will do so at brick-and-mortar stores. I hope to see more people walking into stores and trying on clothes so they can figure out the right fit for them—even if it’s about fitting their personality. I also hope to see more fashion brands in Singapore and for Bugis Street to become more like Harajuku in Japan—a destination for street style shopping.

Related article: Exciting Events Happening In December



Keyana K, Model-dancer

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What brings you to Culture Cartel Convention?
I’m a huge fan of streetwear and Culture Cartel is one of the only events that bring all parts of it together in one place. Everyone just comes here to share their love of streetwear and buy things—I just love the energy. 

How would you describe your personal style?
It’s very confusing. There are days when I really just want to chill out and just wear sweatpants and a top out. Then there are the days when I want to glam it up and be really feminine. But I will always incorporate a little bit of street style in my outfits, either way. For instance, I would wear sneakers with a dress, or baggy pants with a bodysuit. I’m a little feminine with a little street. 

What is your hope for Asian fashion in 2020?
My hope is for people to be more bold and just go crazy with it. Everyone has a little bit of a wild side in them, and I just want people to channel that and express themselves. 



Bella, 20, Freelance Model

What brings you to Culture Cartel Convention?
I heard about the convention last year, and have seen it appear a lot on social media and thought it was really interesting. I think it has a lot of art which brings people together, so I really wanted to check it out. 

How would you describe your personal style?
I’ve been told that I put outfits together that people normally wouldn’t, and still be able to pull it off. Personally, I feel that I just have a vision of what I want to look like and I feel like it’s just different from what others would envision themselves looking it. Overall, I would say that mine is different, daring and hyperactive. 

What are you thoughts on Asian fashion?
I feel like Asian fashion, especially from places like Japan, is very interesting. I look at a lot Japanese fashion and they’re able to put together an outfit that you wouldn’t normally think would look nice but do—and that inspires me a lot. I really appreciate Asian fashion, and much prefer it to Western fashion. 

What is your hope for Asian fashion in 2020?
My hope is that people would stop looking for inspiration outside, and instead, search for it from within. What I mean by that is for them to put together an outfit just because they want to, and not because they want to look a certain way. 

Related article: Stomp The Streets With These 8 Combat-Like Sneakers



Muz K, 25, Content Creator and Model

What brings you to Culture Cartel Convention?
I’m here for the culture—street fashion and hip hop, mainly. I’m also interested to see what’s new in street style and music. 

How would you describe your personal style?
I don’t have a specific style because I like to be adventurous with my fashion. I think that men’s fashion is something that’s underrepresented. So I like to play around with different looks to educate men that it’s possible to take risks with menswear, without looking overly feminine—which is also a stigma that most men have about the term “fashion”. 

What are you thoughts on Asian fashion?
I feel like Asian fashion is definitely evolving towards street style, especially in South Korea. Even my outfit today is inspired by South Korean fashion. BLACKPINK, for instance, is incorporating military motifs into street style and that’s something I’m really into. I think that street culture in Asia is going through an experimental phase. 

What is your hope for Asian fashion in 2020?
My hope is to see people be more adventurous with their style and do away with all the stigma, so that they can just be free because fashion is an expression of freedom—it has no agenda, regardless of gender or sexual orientation. In fact, it brings people together. So, on that note, I feel that people should be more invested in trying new things. 

Responses have been edited for clarity.

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