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IT'S ironic: In an industry obsessed about hemlines, silhouettes, palettes and prints, men, on average, still call the shots. From Bernard Arnault at the helm of the world's largest luxury group LVMH, to Karl Lagerfeld who is the creative director of Fendi, Chanel and his own eponymous brands, and who lends his name to a smorgasbord of collaborations, fashion would appear to be a men's club.
But slowly, however, the likes of Phoebe Philo, Sarah Burton and Stella McCartney are taking over the creative (and often business) reins of influential houses, while some of the top arbiters of style in traditional and social media are women.
"Celebrating women's empowerment and achievements is a big personal goal for me in 2015," says Tjin Lee, chairman of Singapore Fashion Week. "It was actually a conscious decision rather than an organic development, if you consider that despite fashion being an industry targeted largely at women, the power players and top designers are mostly men."
This year, the fashion event will feature a line-up of designers and celebrities such as designer and president of the Council of Fashion Designers of America (CFDA) Diane von Furstenberg, pop-star-turned-designer Victoria Beckham, actress Cate Blanchett and Russian street-style Russian style influencer and former fashion editor Miroslova Duma. Previously known as the Audi Fashion Festival and focused on being a consumer platform, this year, event organiser Mercury M&C has taken on the official name of Singapore Fashion Week, introducing a new direction that includes industry development and thought-leadership.
"I believe there is no better way for Singapore Fashion Week to make its comeback than to be led by some of the most powerful and inspiring female role models in the world," adds Ms Lee.
In fact, Ms Lee founded a social enterprise called Creating Responsible and Innovative Business (CRIB) to support women in becoming successful entrepreneurs through networking and business incubation initiatives. As part of her efforts, she decided to focus on women during this year's iteration of the fashion extravaganza - including a platform for boosting local fashion talent, including female designers such as Sabrina Goh of Elohim, Priscilla Shunmugam of Ong Shunmugam and Chelsea Scott-Blackhall of Dzojchen.
"With some notable exceptions, it may be true for designers in past decades to be mainly male," says Ms Scott-Blackhall, whose label was launched in 2011. "In more recent years, it's been changing very fast. Take this year's SFW headliners for example such as Diane von Furstenberg and Victoria Beckham. What's more, the majority of fashion editors are female and are very powerful influencers."
Fashion Futures is a platform that will see established Singapore designers showcase their collections and have the opportunity to be placed at renowned international retailers.
Supported by Spring Singapore as a business-focused internationalisation and talent development programme, Fashion Futures will also include a mentorship opportunity headed by a committee of international and local industry leaders, including the Council of Fashion Designers of America (CFDA).
"I don't think the industry in Singapore is dominated by men as of now," muses Ms Goh, whose six-year-old label is available through her flagship store at Orchard Central, Isetan Scotts and multi-label boutiques Workshop Element and Keepers.
"Perhaps, due to the system of meritocracy in Singapore, those who work harder will have their rewards. However, I do agree that assistance from industry players does play a part in determining your success in business."
One aspect of the talent development programme is a chance for designers to score face time with the likes of Ms Beckham and Ms von Furstenberg, who is known for grooming young women on her reality show House of DVF and fostering young talents as CFDA's president. The Belgian-born mogul just celebrated her 40th year in the business, having made her name as the creator of the iconic wrap dress.
"It is heartening to see that more women such as Phoebe Philo of Celine, Stella McCartney and (former Gucci creative director) Frida Giannini are taking the reins, but most of the biggest icons are still men," says Ms Lee. "SFW is a wonderful platform for being able to celebrate strong women in Asia, and we have taken that opportunity this year."
Meanwhile, the movement of female business powerhouses - particularly fashion heavyweights, sharing their experience with their younger peers might have been triggered by Facebook chief operating officer Sheryl Sandberg's book Lean In, published in 2013. Since then, Sophia Amoruo, founder of online retail phenomenon Nasty Gal, has published her own mentor book #Girlboss, while Ms von Furstenberg's memoir The Woman I Wanted To Be also features a blurb from Ms Sandberg.
"I think it is important to showcase your collection every season during fashion week, however not every Singapore designer has a chance to do so due to financial limitations," admits Ms Goh. "I am very blessed to be invited to show my collection to international buyers, Diane von Furstenberg and CFDA CEO Steven Kolb, in addition to engaging in one-on-one sessions with Thakoon Panichgul and Victoria Beckham - it is a heaven-sent opportunity to help take my internationalisation plan to the next level."
Alongside in-depth exchange programmes to study the business models and creative structures of large-scale fashion enterprises, such coveted interactions with international fashion forces may help amp up the efforts of local designers, regardless of their gender.
"I believe classical gender roles are being abolished," adds Ms Scott-Blackhall. "Talent and passion will speak louder than stereotypes and archaic perspectives."
'It may be true for designers in past decades to be mainly male. In more recent years, it's been changing very fast. Take this year's SFW headliners for example such as Diane von Furstenberg and Victoria Beckham.'