Singapore-based designers Max Tan, Elyn Wong and Danielle Woo touched down in New York this week for the Council of Fashion Designers of America’s Fashion Futures program, launched last spring in partnership with Singapore Fashion Week. The second annual initiative took the trio to designer showrooms and ateliers (including Prabal Gurung’s and Carolina Herrera’s), boutiques and Garment District factories as part of an immersive, educational program aimed at fostering fashion talent in the Southeast Asia country.
To qualify for inclusion in Fashion Futures 2.0, designers were required to have at least six collections under their belts, a worldwide retail presence and solid branding. Tan, Wong and Woo are relatively established in their native Singapore but are each aiming to raise their global profiles.
Tan, whose women’s label Max.Tan is about five years old, described his collection as sophisticated, sensual and rebellious. “My mom is a seamstress. Growing up, I didn’t really know what fashion was; I thought it was just pockets, fabric and cutting pieces,” he said. “Then I studied fashion and eventually starting lecturing at the Nanyang Academy of Fine Arts.”
Tan’s mother doesn’t exactly understand some of the androgynous, oversize volumes signature to his aesthetic — she’s a bit more traditional — but she still helps out here and there in the studio. “We don’t have to agree on everything,” he said. His goal is to create more brand awareness for his label, which ranges from $250 up to $1,600 for more sculptural pieces.
Self-taught designer Danielle Woo founded her dress-focused label called Aijek, sold online at Shopbop, Gilt and Revolve, back in 2010. She had been working in public relations and marketing before designing a dress for herself on a whim to wear for an anniversary celebration with her husband. Today, that silhouette is the brand’s best seller.
“It’s about giving the everyday woman a good shape, with a focus on construction and fits,” Woo said of her collection. “When it comes to our silhouettes, they’re classic and timeless. Every woman needs a beautiful lace dress in her wardrobe that she’ll go back to again and again. This is essentially what I want to create — a classic wardrobe that’s trans-seasonal and stands the test of time.” Woo is rebuilding her brand’s Web site and expanding her team.
Wong, who doubles as an installation artist, officially launched her women’s line, Stolen, about four years ago, although it had been a “pet project” for several years before that. She culls inspiration from art and architecture — particularly the Brutalist movement — and every piece in the collection is backless. “When you tell people it’s a backless collection, most women think its body-hugging and overtly sexy, but it’s not,” she said. “I feel that there’s a gap in the market for what I like to call alternate sexiness, for women looking for something sexy but in a different way.…We do clean, simple silhouettes. Wearable pieces, all with a twist.”
During their week-long visit, Tan, Wong and Woo managed to sneak in a little time for leisure, visiting the Museum of Modern Art, Dia:Beacon and various shops. “New York is a little like Singapore with its energy, mix of cultures and people, and, at least right now, the weather,” Tan said. “It’s been really great for us to see a tiny little red dot in the Big Apple — how the designers work, the development, their processes. It’s really been very helpful.”