COMMENTARY: Could this Singapore virtual fashion festival be the future of luxury retail?

Screen grab from The Front Row's fashion village

Over the past two decades, the trend in main street fashion appear to be moving towards dressing down and being casual. This is inspired by the casual dress codes of Big Tech CEOs like Steve Jobs and Mark Zuckerberg. The evidence of this is likely in the offshoot trend of athleisure in recent years – the fusing of office wear with comfortable workout apparel.

That’s about all I know about fashion. I’ll be the first to admit that I know near-to-nothing about high fashion. I just try to not to look like I’m from a different era when I dress up.

So, what does the Singapore’s first virtual fashion festival, The Front Row, mean to me and folks who aren’t fashion conscious?

Well, I think it is a glimpse into the future of luxury retail. E-commerce for everyday necessities and lifestyle products has gone from niche shopping to mainstream shopping; the pandemic being the catalyst. Alibaba’s Lazada, Sea’s Shopee, Red Mart, and Carousell has revolutionised the way we shop.

The Front Row serves up how luxury e-commerce could be like, and the key difference is in the customer experience. When you login to The Front Row, you are greeted by a world of iconic sights of Singapore’s skyline, past and present – the Merlion, the old National Theatre, and Gardens by the Bay’s Cloud Mountain. These structures are bathed in shades of pink and purple, in an immersive landscape known as the virtual fashion village.

The icon of Singapore landmark icons: The Merlion

Basically, the interactivity comes in the form of users navigating the fashion festival like you’re on Google Street View. You can visit the different landmarks, click through to enter, and explore the apparel brand’s websites. It’s a fun way for those interested in fashion to dip their toes in this local creative industry, with the festival’s showcase of 31 homegrown and 10 regional brands.

The origins

According to blogger Bakchormeeboy, the idea for The Front Row was borne out of a Facebook podcast series show ‘Creatively Unscripted With Daniel Boey:

During the circuit breaker, Daniel began podcasting the show Creatively Unscripted With Daniel Boey, and brought on creatives, models and people he’s worked with as guests on each episode. When Daniel had Malaysian producer Adrian Chee as a guest on his podcast, the two decided that once the pandemic was over, they would produce a fashion show as a sign of solidarity. It was then that the idea for The Front Row was first conceived. Not only would it be between Singapore and Malaysia, but it would now see a collaborative effort that would also involve Australia, the Philippines, Thailand, and others from the region. Daniel then sought advice from his fellow creatives on how they could make this happen, with the vision for a digital event that would lift the fashion scene amidst the gloom of COVID-19, showcasing and highlighting the work done by members of the industry.

The runway show

So far, I managed to catch the live stream runway shows of designers GINLEE Studios and TheKang, as well as Max.Tan have been streamed. I believe Digital Media agency AP Media probably conceptualised the filming and broadcast. In my previous capacity as a TV producer, I’d say it looks like a good effort, but I do have suggestion.

The idea of the virtual fashion runway show in itself is not entirely a new idea. South Korean fashion model, Han Hye Jin, had already pooled together a virtual fashion show earlier this year. Like Singapore, Covid-19 has hurt the fashion industry and shelved plans for fashion events. Hye Jin, thus, pulled together her own money and connected with people from the industry she knew, to help South Korean fashion designers put out their creations virtually. This was the sleek result:

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무대에 올리지 못 한 디자이너분들의 아름다운 의상들! 여기서 감상해주세요! 코로나19 싹 사라져서 다음 서울컬렉션은 저도 꼭 무대에 서고 싶습니다. 서울컬렉션 화이팅! 한국 패션 화이팅 입니다!! 최대한 짧게 만들려고 노력했어요😂 하지만 디자이너분들의 의상을 최대한 자세히 보여드리기 위해 최선을 다해 편집하였습니다! 끝까지 봐 주시면 감사하겠습니다!!!!😭 Thank you for watching the video! 😊 헤어 한지선 @han_jisun 메이크업 이준성 @juunszz 스타일리스트 김수린 @soorinkk 비디오그래퍼 김보성 @bosung_kim 모델 김원경 그리고 많은 도움 주신 분들 감사하고 사랑합니다😭

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Let’s compare it to what I’d describe as the ‘avant garde’-style of filming the runway in Max Tan’s show:

The latter is a bit like a movie trailer, while Hye Jin’s version has a ‘gamefied’ feel. I think the way the Koreans did it helped the viewer from home better visualise the designers’ creations, don’t you think? Well, my wife and I think so at least. But we’re not experts.

In any case, we will still be making sure to tune in to more livestreams from The Front Row. It is a powerful testament to what Singapore creative entrepreneurs can do, and we can’t wait for the world to discover the work of Singaporean fashion labels. Here are the activities from 20 – 25 Aug:

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