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The Globalisation of Luxury & Fashion: Random Thoughts & Impressions.

Dec 11 2012

Shoppes at Marina Bay Sands Singapore

"Wait! Where am I?"

While I was in Singapore last week, I took part in a Symposium on the Globalisation of Haute Couture organised by Fidé Fashion to kick off their French Couture Week. One of the subjects we touched upon during the panel discussion is the effect of Western fashion and luxury brands' overwhelming presence in Asia.

Singapore, like other Asian capitals, is awash in Western luxury, premium and mid-range fashion brands. Walk through any of the bright, brash upscale shopping malls such as The Shoppes At Marina Bay Sands (part of the Marina Bay Sands Resort) and the effect is disorienting. For all you know, you could be in Vegas or Dallas or Toronto. To put it bluntly, it seems to be sucking the oxygen out of the local design scene leaving very little room for Asian designers to establish a foothold. As a result, you need to look long and hard to find examples of local design and even then, you may not find much.

Not surprisingly, this wave of European luxury washing over Asia also seems to be having a perverse effect on creativity. Following the symposium, I had a chance to chat briefly with various members of the local fashion and design industries. In speaking with Lionel Roudaut and Emily Wills, both members of the Faculty of Design at the Lasalle College of the Arts in Singapore, they related to me how they struggle to impart a sense of cultural pride in their students: "All they want is to replicate McQueen. Even when we give them an assignment that requires them to interpret their culture and history, they complete the assignment and then go right back to replicating McQueen. It's frustrating."

It certainly wasn't always like this. In the mid-18th century for instance, wealthy French and British aristocrats splurged lavishly on Asian design and luxury goods. To possess fine Chinese porcelain or Japanese lacquered cabinets was considered the height of refinement and sophistication for courtiers and those who sought to emulate them. A brief walk through Musée Nissim de Commando in Paris or the V&A in London is a testament to this.

To be honest, I was a bit disappointed by what I found. As a consumer, when I go to Asia (or anywhere else for that matter), I want to feel transported. I want to experience the local point of view not just on fashion but on design, architecture and culture generally. I certainly don't want to travel half way around the world merely to find the same brands and merchandise I can find at home. If fashion and design are indeed a reflection of a culture or a bellweather of sorts for society, then what does it say that the globalisation of Western luxury and fashion seems to be stifling Asian design and creativity?


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N.B. In keeping with my policy of full disclosure, round-trip travel to Singapore and accommodation at the Marina Bay Sands Hotel were paid for by Fide Fashion. No further payment, gift or remuneration were offered or solicited.


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ive been to marina bay sands last year and thought it was the most vile place. i hate a lot grand "luxury" malls in asia. the ones in hk are similarly bland and lacking in personality as well.

I think the reason why Asian aesthetics have declined in recent years is simply due to marketing. Before China was known as the down dirty "Made in China" label, it was revered for it's chinese porcelain dinnerware, which held much prestige just 20-30 yrs ago.

I'm sorry to say that promoting asian influenced designs from Asia to the Western world won't work. The West has far too much influence, it will only happen from the West reintroducing local asian designs to the masses. The reason "Gangnam Style" Psy even made it as a worldwide hit was due to western promotion from well-known western celebrities first, and the internet second. Had Psy not been picked up at all by westerners, he'd still be the weird Korean singer confined only to asian markets.

I would say it is the same for asian designers. They only need to sway a few big game changers in order to shoot to superstardom. The question is, who is willing to give them that chance and continue to support them after their debut?

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The Luxe Chronicles is a collection of interviews, profiles and musings on various aspects of the luxury industry and occasionally, a rant on our celebrity obsessed culture and the dumbing down of our collective sense of style and esthetic.

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