APART from housing and COE prices, the next most oft-heard gripe among Singaporeans revolves around our unpredictable weather. After all, spending time in glacial offices and malls, waiting for a cab in sweltering conditions, and then trudging through a flash downpour are just some of the activities the average little red dotter encounters in a day.
And schizo meteorological conditions aren't just a local affliction, if the latest Spring/Summer 2014 runway shows are anything to go by. At the recent London and New York Fashion Weeks, protective gear was the trend du jour: Model Cara Delevingne wore a clear plastic cape at Burberry, DKNY showed windcheater-inspired dresses, and there were patterned anoraks a-plenty at Band of Outsiders, Opening Ceremony and Preen. Conversely, as if responding to this year's summer heat waves, other designers like JW Anderson experimented with gossamer-like fabrics and silhouettes that left nothing to the imagination, while Marc Jacobs replaced de rigueur heels with toe-airing Teva-esque sandals at his presentation.
For half-Singaporean, half-Australian Faridah Turner, who has been based in Hong Kong for the past seven years, launching a chic, all-weatherwear brand was a no-brainer.
"I hate umbrellas," says Ms Turner, founder of Mosey & Lark who started her brand of waterproof coats after being made redundant as a sales and marketing manager in a multinational company. "When you live in a populated place like Hong Kong, you learn to hate getting poked in the eye. Plus they're really inconvenient for us girls because, depending on what bag you're carrying, you can end up with no free hands while trying to balance on the slippery pavement."
The watershed moment came when she had trouble finding a raincoat that was not made from plastic, or covered in childish patterns. Ms Turner then embarked on a mission to create coats that boasted solid waterproofing, fully taped seams, water-resistant coating and breathability, combined with stylish prints and silhouettes. Unveiled this year, her cowl-collared, double-breasted styles double as rainwear as well as fun outerwear.
Similarly, ready-to-wear womenswear designer Helen Lee introduced several waterproof coat designs for her last Spring 2013 collection, including a lace-embellished number complete with girlish peplum. The Shanghai-based designer explains that raincoats are already popular with Chinese women during the rainy spring and summer seasons. Her raincoats were also sold during a showcase of her label here, and Ms Lee adds: "I know my customers mix and match the coats in their own fashionable way, like this girl who says she wears it draped over her shoulders as part of an ensemble when she is out for dinner, and not just on a rainy day."
With young working women forming the core customer base of her label Youyou, available from e-retailer Asia Fashion Inc, versatile designs that could be adapted for different environments are key for young homegrown designer Zhiying Yuan.
"For example, we have a simple wrap vest dress in our Spring/Summer 2014 collection that could be worn with a long-sleeved shirt or a sleeveless singlet beneath, worn on its own, or paired with a pair of pants," explains Ms Yuan, who will also be incorporating breathable, athletic-wear fabrics like sports mesh into the collection for added comfort. "Since we are building our brand for the local market, we are always mindful to design clothes that are light and layer-able, which is most ideal for our climate."
For Perth swimwear designers Jessica Baxter and Dakota Gilbert, swimsuits aren't just for the pool or beach. They have been creating pieces that transition from water to land since launching their label Skye & Staghorn last year: A tankini top with a flounced hemline for Spring 2014 could double as a sportif-chic top for the office, and then as swimwear when its wearer hits the gym pool after work; and mesh-edged maillots serve as heat-friendly bodysuits to be worn on sweltering days or under a blazer in the boardroom.
When it comes to functional, adaptable fashion, the god is in the technical details. And in the case of Philip Lotko, founder of Danish rain gear brand Rains, geeking out on fabrication and closures is practically a religion when you live in a country where it rains an average of 121 days a year. The brand's minimalist designs, available at Mandarin Gallery boutique Inhabit, are even suitable for our humid weather, with lightweight waterproof material, ventilation holes and snap buttons to allow air to flow through the jackets.
"We started the brand in 2011 because we thought an alternative version of the raincoat was missing from the market," says Mr Lotko. "We made a high quality raincoat in strong, classic colours and all this ended being the DNA of the brand." Today, the brand also retails waterproof laptop cases, backpacks and wellingtons alongside its trademark, Scandi-chic jackets.
But no matter how utilitarian these threads may be, at the end of the day, it boils down to looking effortlessly stylish, despite the weather. "Almost all of the more fashionable coats you see out there are just water-resistant and don't have a hood, which means if you really get stuck in a downpour you're still going to need an umbrella or you'll get wet," says Ms Turner, who sources the same technical fabrics used by established brands selling outdoor gear. "The truly waterproof options come from companies like North Face, but who wants to wear a hiking jacket on a date?"