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Singapore’s Kebaya Gets a 21st Century Glow-Up: When Heritage Meets Modernity

October 17, 2023

October 17, 2023

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Sitting in that sweet spot between tradition and innovation, Singapore Fashion Council‘s Singapore Stories 2023 was a fashion show like no other. Hosted at the Pan Pacific Hotel, this year’s theme, “Kebaya, Re-imagined” served as a brilliant backdrop to the blend of heritage and modernity that Generation Z and Zillennials are known to embody.

In a salute to the re-opening of the Peranakan Museum and the National Heritage Board’s nomination of “Kebaya: Knowledge, Skills, Traditions and Practices” for UNESCO’s Intangible Cultural Heritage list, over 30 designers spun their magic. The outcome? A harmonious cocktail of creativity and cultural significance.

“We are proud to provide a stage for Singaporean designers to showcase their creations within and across borders alongside like-minded creatives,” said Wilson Teo, President of Singapore Fashion Council. He adds, “This year, we are placing the spotlight on the timeless elegance of the kebaya.”

Eco-friendly and Evergreen

Sustainability took center stage as designers reinvented the kebaya, embracing a more eco-conscious approach. Anseina Eliza, for instance, showcased a kebaya crafted from leftover fabric scraps and upcycled denim jeans, epitomizing sustainable fashion. Whereas, Aurelia Carissa introduced a denim kebaya with detachable elements, ensuring longevity and multiple wearability.

“The denim kebaya not only complements all skin tones but is also a timeless and durable design,” commented Aurelia.

Designing for the Soul

The kebaya is more than a garment; it’s an experience. GINLEE Studio and Josephine Ang emphasized this philosophy, designing not just for the hanger, but for the heart. GINLEE Studio incorporated traditional Nyonya kebaya elements, while Josephine Ang’s design celebrated the female form.

Twists to the Tradition

Adelyn Putri and budding designer Evelyn both introduced their modern takes on the kebaya. While Adelyn blended traditional and contemporary prints, Evelyn opted for simplicity with plain fabrics, seeking wearability and durability.

Masculinity Meets Kebaya

Chee Sau Fen and athflow label FINIX, blurred gender lines in their designs. Chee incorporated leather lace patterns, hinting at masculine design cues. In contrast, FINIX introduced an ensemble, merging their signature Noragi Jacket and Harem Jogger with traditional batik, creating an adaptable, unisex design.

FINIX mentioned, “I’ve chosen soft, flowing fabrics that resonate with the FINIX lifestyle while paying homage to the graceful elegance of the kebaya.”

Spotlight at Design Orchard Singapore

For those yearning to experience this fusion of past and future up close, there’s good news! Five top designs from the Singapore Stories 2023 will be showcased at Design Orchard from 1st November to 31st December. It’s a front-row seat to Singapore’s bustling fashion scene, where tradition meets innovation.

In an era where Gen Z and Zillennials are reshaping the fashion scene, the Singapore Stories 2023 has been a testament to the power of reimagining heritage in the modern age. Kudos to the designers and the Singapore Fashion Council for making history while honoring it.

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