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August 23 2014

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In Singapore, Asia’s Couturiers Get A Boost

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Lie Sang Bong

There’s no questioning Asia’s importance in the fashion market, and Western brands have more than taken note. This month in Hong Kong alone, Tory Burch, Kenzo, Moncler, and Calvin Klein all hosted events within days of each other. And at Singapore’s FIDé fashion week (FIDé is an organization that aims to promote regional and international designers in Singapore), European brands like Pierre Balmain and American ones like Burkman Bros and Ari Dein similarly made the trek eastward to show their collections. “It was the first time both brands participated in a full-length fashion show,” Steven Kolb, the CEO of the Council of Fashion Designers of America, said of the latter two. “Fashion is no longer defined by borders, and the more we can nurture global relations, the greater the success for our designers.”

But the region is also increasingly interested in holding its own in global fashion, and the eleven-day event in Singapore, which typically features several days of presentations by French haute couturiers and Asian couturiers, included the latest step in that direction: the founding of the Asian Couture Federation (ACF). Now, the Asian couturiers (dubbed by the ACF as “Asian Couturier Extraordinaires”) will have a support system of their own. Its inception was an act that won FIDé executive chairman and ACF founder Frank Cintamani (below, left) France’s esteemed Chevalier des Arts et des Lettres honor. Even Shinzo Abe, the Prime Minister of Japan, offered Cintamani a pat on the back, calling the Federation’s establishment “a significant event for all of Asia,” at a time “when we consider that fashion until recently was generally seen as the domain of Europe and the United States.”

Frank Cintamani and Kenzo Takada

The ACF is similarly modeled after the Chambre Syndicale and other not-for-profit trade organizations like the CFDA or the British Fashion Council, which aim to support and protect their home industries. Cintamani and the ACF’s executive board have selected established designers across the region, which include Japan’s Yumi Katsura and Junko Koshino, South Korea’s Lie Sang Bong (above), Indonesia’s Sebastian Gunawan, and China’s Guo Pei, to maintain the Federation’s prominence. The process of selecting which designers to induct is simple: They must demonstrate excellence in design, artistry, great commercial success, and be based in Asia. This, Cintamani hopes, will help prove the point that Asian designers can thrive both in their home countries and regionally. Its acting president is Kenzo Takada (above, right), the founder of Kenzo. “We chose him because a generation and a half ago, he was a pioneering Asian designer that made it huge in Paris,” Cintamani says. “You could not penetrate Paris back then, and for him to actually come back to Asia and say that this is the mandate he believes now, that this is where he thinks Asian designers should go, speaks volumes.”

“I think it’s a travesty that Asian designers feel that they need to be in New York, London, Milan, or Rome to find commercial viability or to be recognized as a ‘real’ designer,” he adds. “I don’t think that should be the prospect of Asian designers.”

Photos: Courtesy Photos

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