Singapore has been said to be the third most densely populated independent country in the world. Even with that title however, our population of only about 5 million is probably the biggest challenge faced by various industries. In the Fashion industry, a lack of clientele hinders the growth of local designers. Similarly, in the Hospitality industry, the shortage of manpower can be seen to be a problem in an industry where the total number of employees in a hotel alone can amount up to the thousands. I will go on to talk about these challenges and suggest how a sustainable Fashion & Hospitality industry can be developed.
The problem of a small population is not that simple in the Fashion industry. In fact, seven of the world’s top fifteen luxury brand companies like Hermes and Rolex have chosen Singapore as their regional headquarters. Casual and street wear brands like Uniqlo and Topshop have also opened numerous branches, with the largest Uniqlo store in Southeast Asia located at 313@Somerset. Capturing the attention of international brands is no longer the challenge and so I turn to the problem faced by local designers. I strongly believe that local designers can be as good as their foreign counterparts and that their designs would be better suited for our local consumption. While foreign designers have different collections for each season, local designers know too well our tropical climate and can design clothes to be worn all year round.
However, have you ever wondered why locally designed clothes cost so much more than international labels? The problem is that these designers are unable to manufacture their designs in bulk because of the lack in demand, thus the cost of a shirt by local designer can out price a Topman shirt by at least $40. Also, initiatives like the Asia Fashion Exchange have the aim to identify local talents and nurture them, but fashion shows last year, like the Audi Fashion Festival focused largely on foreign fashion labels, ignoring the local designers that could possibly be on par if given the opportunity to present themselves. Why encourage us to buy clothes from foreign labels when the local ones are just as good, or even better? By positioning Singapore as a central fashion hub in Asia, we already have the advantage of conquering the Asian markets. I believe that we will then be able to attract investors to come and provide sponsorships for the designers to break out of Singapore and make it in places like New York, the biggest fashion capital of the world. With such international acclaim, these local designers will now have the power to produce their designs in bulk as there would be sufficient demand, thus driving the spending power to homegrown brands instead of foreign ones.
Similarly, by positioning Singapore as a central figure in Asia, we can attract hotels and other related Hospitality Industries to set up businesses and regional headquarters here. Due to our multi-racial and religious make-up and open immigration policies, we are opened to new ideas, cultures and innovations. These companies can use Singapore as a testing bed for different ideas and concepts and disseminate them into other parts of Asia, or even the world. At the same time, our high education level, and the fact that English is our first language, makes it easy for foreign countries to assimilate into Singapore, as compared to other Asian countries. However, the dilemma lies in the fact that it is precisely because of our high education, we have a lack of manpower for less skilled jobs. Perhaps companies can come in with their own pool of manpower. With our accepting multi-cultural background, we are sure to find someone who can work with and manage these groups of people.
I feel that these can be some of the key initiatives that Singapore could embark on in order to develop a sustainable Fashion & Hospitality.