If Ying the Label is named to suggest yin, then a yang in the designs may be what is needed to lift the brand from blandness. Meet, however, the twain did not. Showing for the first time at this year’s Digital Fashion Week (DFW), Ying the Label sent down the catwalk clothes bereft of newness, amusing itself, instead, with the familiar. At the end of the presentation, the Label is just the inert outfit that it is, like so many countless others in an already crowded marketplace catering to the smartphone-totting, selfie-ready clothing consumer. One unremarkable button in a bag of many unremarkable buttons.
What this year’s Digital Fashion Week (DFW) lacked in terms of local designer names, it made up with brands linked to Singapore’s burgeoning fashion e-commerce. Of the four Singaporean fashion labels (shirt maker CYC not included), two of them have their roots in blogs/blog shops. Apart from Ying the Label, there’s Run After, the line conceived by “social-media star” Melissa Celestine Koh and put together with players of the future-undetermined Whole 9 Yards. Fashion born of blogs was having its day.
The look of these labels won’t be alien to DFW’s target audience, as well as the many “influencers” that were invited to the event. In fact, the clothes could have been exhibited as part of an audience-participation segment. The separates or ensembles do not differ from those seen off-runway. You sensed you were watching a sixteen-year-old’s Pinterest page come alive on the catwalk. They, too, were homage to KissJane, to Love and Bravery, to the brands in Taobao. The shows themselves could have been mall productions at Bugis Junction. At some point, they looked like a mise en scène of Sunday in Lucky Plaza.
There’s nothing wrong with churning out clothes that typify the blandness of blog-shops and the preference of their followers. So many of these brand owners (also models of their own brands) have, by their own admission, a “strong passion for fashion, shopping and the social media”. They know what entices their admiring audience and why the latter keeps coming back. Those who make it a habit to visit these online outlets mostly do so out of admiration of the bloggers or blog-shop owners. These are often young, lovely (to look at), and feminine women who have turned their love of self and own clothing choices into successful online businesses. By making purchases at these sites, these consumers are living vicariously through these women; each buy ratifies the seller’s perceived-to-be flawless taste. Question is: do these clothes deserve to be shown on a catwalk of a major fashion event, such as the DFW?
Ying the Label, like so many of its counterparts, work with design acuity and parameters that speak to a community of women between 20 and 30, women whose fashion education is largely provided by the daily updates of bloggers. The clothing choices of these online stars are invariably a kind of sales pitch. The clothes fall into very specific categories: feminine, girly, sweet, cutely-patterned, and moderately sexy.
Designed by social-media-savvy, brand founder Phuay Li Ying, Ying the Label was launched in November last year as “a highly wearable range of clothes which distinguishes itself with a whimsical colour palette and friendly silhouettes”. Its spring/summer 2016 collection succeeded in presenting the same wearability and friendliness; in other words, what have been consistently seen in the blogosphere in at least the past eight years: camisole tops, shell tops, tented slip tops, peplumed tank tops (presently a fave), housewife-y blouses, cute shorts, high-waisted culottes, high-waisted skirts, circle skirts, pleated tulip skirts, and column dress… what you really want to sell online.
To be sure, this is not about Ying the person. Yet, the clothes are largely the results of skills honed through experience rather than training, taste shaped by sisterhood rather than scholarship. The lack of refinement is evident in the details, the finishing, and the proportions. There was a pair of rather shocking knee-length shorts with wide cuffs embellished with over-sized bows at the outseams. Questionable too was the origami rose that appeared like an afterthought just below the end point of the V-back of a sack dress. Attempts at tucks of fabrics on the bodice looked like napkins in the hands of an especially inept hostess.
Consistent with the branding, there were the prints. As explained in Ying the Label’s homepage, “We are not just a designer (sic), we seek to inspire. We sketch, fold, paint, stitch, deliver and celebrate.” The “paint” aspect was intriguing. Playschool paper cutouts that adorned the catwalk were a foretaste of things to come. On the clothes, there were inky lines punctuated by splotchy, coloured dots, vaguely recalling the kitschy work of Jo Soh of Hansel. Referring to those brush-stroke lines, Ms Phuay said, in an interview that was broadcast prior to her show, “Everything is like art.”
You almost believed her.
Photos: Jim Sim