A high-fashion designer claimed he was under demonic influence when he was unable to show up at an arranged meeting to execute a paid job, and then he disappeared, as the client chased him to have her money back
Scandal to start the year: a S$1,000 photo shoot that did not materialise, the victim who reached out to The Straits Times to expose the service provider—a self-proclaimed “couturier” who seemingly vanished. The tale is not the equivalent of The House of Gucci, but it is still a story with cinematic potential, one that might interest Mark Lee (although it is unlikely he would cast himself as the main man). According to the ST report, admin assistant Katrina Rawther approached the paper with her story/grievance in October last year, claiming that the Singaporean “couturier” Dicky Ishak had not honoured the thousand-dollar photo shoot they had agreed to do and for which she had paid in full in two payments. Ms Rawther had, apparently, not been able to reach him after November last year. It is unclear why the ST report appeared only yesterday.
Dicky Ishak, who calls himself “Mr Dicky” (even in Malay, he is referred to as “Encik Dicky”), is a “bespoke” high-fashion designer, known for gowns and special occasion wear, in particular, baju nikah (wedding dress). Reportedly a professional since 1990, he claimed to have “designed the wardrobes for the Miss Singapore World contestants (yes, in plural)”, as well as those of “international beauty pageants such as Mrs Global, Miss World and Mrs Asia Pacific” although ST stated that he only “once designed a dress for the Miss Universe Pageant”. That single dress, according to a 2020 Berita Harian report, was supposed to have been made for Miss Universe Singapore Bernadette Belle Wu Ong of that year for the National Costume segment at the delayed staging of the event last year due to the COVID-19 pandemic. But as we know now, Ms Ong wore a dress designed by Filipino Arwin Meriales, with a cape that had “Stop Asian Hate” written on it.
As Mr Dicky told the Malay-language paper, national director of Miss Universe Singapore Valerie Lim had sent him a letter with the “opportunity to sponsor the national costume, evening gown and cocktail dress, accessories and shoes” that Ms Ong would don at the finals in Florida. He said that, in the midst of the pandemic, designing the Miss Universe costumes: “ia bak bulan jatuh ke riba (it’s like the moon has fallen on your lap)”, by which he meant something good unexpectedly happened to him. With Ms Ong’s red-and-white dress making the news globally, she revealed on Instagram that she “reach(ed) out” to Mr Meriales “to create a design of my own”, It is not known what happened to the gowns Dicky Ishak had agreed to design or if he completed them at all. But, according to Low Hwee Lee of Red Carpet Invite (a “models and talents agency”), who shared on FB, “Designer Dicky Ishak is the key sponsor for most of MUS gown (sic)”.
A month after the Miss Universe staging and telecast, Mr Dicky met his potential client, Katrina Rawther. According to ST, Ms Rawther had organised a photo shoot of herself in “traditional costume” with “a local bridal services company”. Mr Dicky was reportedly hired as a stylist for the session. It is not certain if they spoke in person, but he told Ms Rawther that he was a fashion designer, experienced in dressing contestants of pageants, and “suggested that she hire him in the future”, To bolster his creative credentials, he allegedly showed Ms Rawther media coverage of his work (presumably the Berita Harian story was shown, although Mr Dicky himself claimed on Facebook to have been “mentioned” in The New Paper and the now-defunct Lianhe Wanbao [联合晚报]) and identified the talk shows he was on (these were not named).
About a month after that (and the traditional costume shoot we assume to have taken place), Ms Rawther was contacted by the baju nikah designer with a seemingly attractive overture: for S$1,000, he would organise a shoot and “loan her three costumes he had designed for her to be photographed in”, according to ST. It is not understood why he had three dresses “designed for her” when she did not ask for them, but she seemed to be happy with the fee and agreed to the service offered. Apparently, she thought the makeover would be a lovely birthday present to herself. The photos were to be ready by her birthday—16 September. To initiate the agreed project, Ms Rawther revealed to ST that she transferred, via PayNow, S$300 to him as a deposit on 17 July, followed by the rest of the payment eight days later. They now agreed to a shoot scheduled for 6 September.
When that day arrived, Mr Dicky called to postpone the photographic session. He told Ms Rawther the “photographer had tested positive for COVID-19” (then, before the emergence of the Omicron variant). It is not known if the S$1,000 that was paid included the photographer’s fee or those doing the hair and makeup. Stylists that we have spoken to said that the quote Mr Dicky offered to his client was likely a “package price” and that it was “competitive” if “a top photographer is not used”. It is, therefore, unlikely that he considered backing out for under-quoting her. He told Ms Rawther that he would get back to her for a new date for the shoot by 16 September. He contacted her on her birthday.
Image from Dicky Ishak’s last FB post on 10 September 2020. Photo: Akram TheLove
This was when the story took a comedic turn. Not only did Mr Dicky fail to deliver the photographs by the anniversary of his client’s birth (as initially agreed), he called her again on that day, this time offering a bomo hokum: he was “possessed”! It is not stated what possessed him, but as he told Ms Rawther that he needed “spiritual healing”, it might be safe to assume that a supernatural power was involved. Aware that the excuse this time might sound utterly foolish, he provided her with “proof” of the control of his body by spirits (we do not know if they were malevolent): “pictures, videos and an audio file”, all purportedly ST was privy to. Once again, Ms Rawther agreed to a postponement. As fate would have it, she saw, on the same day of the possession reveal, activity on Mr Dicky’s IG page, and proceeded to text him on WhatsApp, but was ignored. Afraid of a bad outcome, she tried all social media options to reach him, but met a blank.
As many Singaporeans would, Ms Rawther filed a report with the Small Claims Tribunals, but was informed that there was no business license in Mr Dicky’s name, although BH did report of a “studio” in Prestige Centre@Bukit Batok Crescent that he was working out of last year. Clearly at the end of the road now, Ms Rawther went to the police, and then spoke to ST about her case in October last year. When the paper tried to contact Mr Dicky, he did not respond. On the same day, he reached out to Ms Rawther and offered to reschedule the shoot, again. But in November, he changed his mind and supposedly cancelled the entire project and offered to return the S$1,000 he received from her. That was the last she heard from him. When we called the one number linked to Dicky Ishak Couturier, we were met with totally no response, not even a ring tone—it appeared to be an unused number.
In a hilarious “Details about Dicky” entry in FB, he stated that (and we quote verbatim) “Mr Dicky is one of the designer in Singapore today. Since 1990, it has developed a unique style of its own, reflecting the Fusion craftsmanship in a contemporary vocabulary. Mr Dicky understanding individual designs and the innovative use of modern crafts has created a new classicism. Today his name is renowned for its distinctive use of colors, quality of fabrics, intricate embroideries and a gloriously rich Wedding wear.” It was perhaps this fame that landed him, alongside eight others, in the semi-finals of last year’s Singapore Stories design competition, organised by TaFF (Textile and Fashion Federation), also the operator of Design Orchard. He did not advance to the final.
Not much is known about Mr Dicky’s training in fashion. According to some media reports, he “was born into a family of dressmakers”. He told BH that his mother was in the busana pengantin (bridal wear) business and that he helped her from an early age, allowing “bidang fesyen mendarah daging dalam dirinya sejak kecil (fashion to be ingrained in him since young)”. He revealed almost nothing about his formal education. According to him, he began his vocational training in hairdressing at Toni & Guy before taking up a makeup course at Cosmoprof as “he believe it takes a package to make all happen to make them look good, From head to toe (sic)“. Somehow fashion design came into the picture, and he “started full blast into Fashion World once the time strikes right for him to express his goal”. Wedding dresses in both Western and Malay styles seem to be his forte. By most online responses, his output was much appreciated.
An earlier BH story from 2018, reported that Mr Dicky expanded his fashion business into Malaysia a year before. Butterworth native, “Mrs Most Elegance Malaysia Global United 2017” Sally Ong, shared a photo on FB of her wearing a Dicky Ishak dress at the Dolby Theatre in LA, “walking on the Oscars red carpet”, she wrote, in July! He was soon dressing celebrities there, according to BH. They included actress Rita Rudaini and singers Aiman Tino and Ziana Zain. Malaysia had been especially appreciative of his designs. In 2015, prior to his supposed venture into the peninsular to our north, Mr Dicky was the winner of the MEFA Malaysia (a “wedding festival“) Best Designer Award. This was followed by other accolades, mainly targeted at a Malay audience. In 2016, Mr Dicky participated in the Johor Fashion Week, held at the Persada Johor International Convention Centre. A year later, he started an eponymous online store on Carousell.
Although Mr Dicky generally receives positive responses online, he and his brand have minimal digital presence now, possibly a reaction to the ST report. On FB, which he joined in 2014, only one post from 10 September 2020 was left. There is nothing on IG or Tweeter. His TikTok account is set to private. Quite a few of his fans are unhappy with the ST report, commenting on the daily paper’s FB page that this is a “private matter” and that, based on a “single accusation”, the paper’s coverage is excessive. Moreover, he is, as one commentator, gripped by irrationality, pointed out, not “a serial cheat”. Sure, he is no Elizabeth Holmes, but now that the police are apparently involved, let them decide who is or not on the right side of the law. Perhaps, to quote BH, there is in this “pelangi selepas hujan”—rainbow after the rain.
Illustration by Just So