The Harper’s BAZAAR Asia NewGen Fashion Award came back in full force Thursday night after over two years of pandemic-related restrictions, with plenty of star power and excitement to show for it. Inside the venue, entertainment agency NoonTalk Media, Serina Lee, 22, of LASALLE College of the Arts, walked away with this year’s top prize of $10,000 in cash, along with a sponsorship for a one-year course on the London campus of Istituto Marangoni worth over $50,000. Her collection will also be showcased in the January 2023 issue of Harper’s BAZAAR Singapore—along with those of the other five finalists, Joe Kean, Sit Shi Jie, Faith Lois Seet Fae, Arthur Chong and Choi Nakyeong—and sold as a capsule collection at Design Orchard and OneOrchard.Store early next year.
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First launched in 2013 to seek, nurture and equip the next generation of talents with the tools they need to make it in the fashion industry, the annual announcement of the award winner is Harper’s BAZAAR Singapore’s flagship event. Serina and this year’s five other finalists, Joe Kean, Sit Shi Jie, Faith Lois Seet Fae, Arthur Chong and Choi Nakyeong, were able to fulfil a dream many fashion students can only dream of – getting to stage a full-fledged runway show in front of top industry leaders, celebrities and other esteemed guests. That included Thai actor Nattawin Wattanagitiphat, better known as Apo to his fans, who lined up outside the venue for hours just to catch a glimpse of the star. He was joined by dozens of BAZAAR’s celebrity friends, like Singaporean actors Ayden Sng and Carrie Wong, and TikTok stars David Eung Hao, David Matthew Ubaña and Raynold Tan.
This year saw two runway shows, with one being held earlier in the afternoon to accommodate additional guests from BAZAAR Academy, a programme which gives students in Singapore the opportunity to attend exclusive industry events, exhibitions, talks and parties.
Before the show, guests were treated to a variety of snacks from local Singaporean sustainable brands and drinks by official BAZAAR NewGen whisky sponsor Chivas Regal—whose I Rise, We Rise ethos of elevating those around you blends seamlessly with the NewGen mission and designers’ unstoppable movement towards success. There was kombucha by Kombynation for non-alcohol drinkers, vegetable chips from Confetti Snacks, plant-based popcorn chicken from Shandi Global, plant-based crab by Vrab Protein, vegetable-based ice cream from The Local Farm, chocolate cupcakes by ROA, egg-free kaya puffs by Hegg and candies by Jewels Rock Sugar.
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Once guests were seated and the lights were dimmed, the real action began with emcee Hanli Hoefer introducing the six finalists. Featuring their best looks on a runway packed with their family and friends, along with friends of BAZAAR, Thursday’s show marked the culmination of a months-long programme which gave the young designers invaluable mentorship by top editors at the magazine as well as CHANEL Singapore. Serina was ultimately selected for the creativity of her designs and viability of her business plans by judges Vanessa Lim, General Manager of Communications at CHANEL Singapore, Singaporean couturier Laichan Goh, and Harper’s BAZAAR Singapore’s very own Editor-In-Chief Kenneth Goh and Creative Director Windy Aulia.
Aiming to bridge modern fashion with traditional Chinese painting and calligraphy in her collection, Serina Lee Ying Han has been studying Chinese painting and calligraphy since she was seven years old. A signature of her brand? Hand-painted textiles influenced by Chinese art – paired with digital art animations being sold as NFTs. “Serina is such an incredible talent,” says Harper’s BAZAAR Singapore Editor-In-Chief Kenneth Goh, “not only in design, but also in technique, artistry and calligraphy. She also goes further to future-proof that fashion skill by venturing into the metaverse with her outstanding NFTs. Her work is remarkable not just because it shows an evident passion for art, but also for the way it takes traditional skills like Chinese painting and calligraphy into the future. It’s Serina’s unending quest to seek new avenues for customers to experience her work not only as garments, but also as works of art, that makes her a true modern thinker and winner.”
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Nanyang Academy of Fine Arts graduate Joe Kean clinched the fan favourite Bazaar Academy Choice Award with his collection. Goh says he wasn’t at all surprised by the selection, expressing admiration for Joe’s talent. “Joe has showed incredible progress in his use of material, cut, tailoring and business plan. His eye for fashion is very sophisticated and his analogy of body inclusivity cleverly thought through with the use of colour and form. I thoroughly enjoyed the working process with Joe, who is so affable and willing to learn and take on constructive criticism with a very positive outlook. I have every belief that Joe will make it as a designer and be a success in the fashion industry with his charm, talent and clever eye for detail. I can see why the public voted for him simply by his designs on the runway.”
Based off the overwhelming applause and cheers on Thursday evening, it’s clear that all of this year’s finalists have a very bright future. As for Serina, there’s still so much to look forward to. “I feel very grateful, very overwhelmed with happiness,” Serina told BAZAAR, fresh off her win. Very much looking forward to her year abroad in London, Serina says “My favourite thing about London is the atmosphere and the people. It feels very exciting.” Her advice for young designers hoping to follow in her footsteps? “It’s important to follow your dreams and stick to your brand identity. Continue with what you love and the style you want to portray.”
Read on for more exclusive photos from Thursday’s Harper’s BAZAAR Asia NewGen Fashion Award runway show.