Themed ‘Fashion United’, the finale of Singapore Stories 2022 saw five homegrown fashion designers debuting six looks that honour our diverse cultural fabric at the Asian Civilisation Museum. The annual fashion design competition organised by the Singapore Fashion Council involved an eight-month mentoring process and its theme aims to position Singapore as an innovative, multi-cultural fashion hub within Southeast Asia.
As for the winner who walked home with the grand prize? Kavita Thulasidas, creative director of Indian fashion boutique, Stylemart. Her winning collection, ‘Heritage Reinterpreted and Beyond’ is dedicated to our immigrant forefathers who worked hard to make Singapore the country it is today.
The designer’s line offers a fusion of contemporary silhouettes and elements from indigenous cultures in the region, highlighting intricate embroidery techniques that are fast disappearing today. Thulasidas’s ready-to-wear collection is now available for purchase at Design Orchard till 9 November 2022. Come 2023, she will be showing her work at the Asian Civilisation Museum and making her debut on the global stage during Paris Fashion Week.
Sharing why Thulasidas stood out in the competition, museum director Kennie Ting says, “Kavita’s collection speaks to the very essence of the stories we tell at the Asian Civilisations Museum. Each design pays tribute to Singapore as a cosmopolitan port city, deeply rooted in our shared East-West heritage, particularly her red crane dress that’s inspired by a bodhisattva sculpture from the Tang dynasty in our collections.”
Ting also adds that he hopes the museum’s collection—a rich, “bottomless pit of a resource”—will become a place where local designers can find inspiration and build knowledge about Asia’s history and interactions with the West.
To celebrate Thulasidas’s win, we catch up with the designer on her Singapore Stories journey and her hopes for the future of local fashion.
Congratulations on winning Singapore Stories 2022, Kavita. How do you feel?
I’m very proud to have won after this long journey. I’m at a stage in life where I’m looking at what’s the next big leap for me and I see myself like the crane in my collection, ready to take off. I’m really excited and full of gratitude.
What was the inspiration behind your Singapore Stories collection?
The collection incorporates various indigenous craftsmanship from the South Asian regions such as Parsi embroidery that travelled from China to India, and textiles such as woven silk brocades with over 400 years of Asian history. The finalists had the chance to work with the Asian Civilisation Museum and we had access to the national archives. On a tour of the museum’s special pieces, I found inspiration from a Peranakan wall hang. It had details of symbolic flowers like peonies and lotuses as well as auspicious birds. I resonate with the motif of cranes so I wanted to feature it constantly throughout my collection.
What does the symbol of the crane mean to you?
The crane is a very prominent symbol in East Asian art and it is also a bird that signifies longevity. To me, it’s the crane encapsulates the idea of taking a leap of faith in life and where we’re going forward. I think it ties up with Singapore as well. We are a small nation but when the lion roars, the world listens.
How has Singapore Stories impacted you as a designer?
Being a part of this competition has been a wonderful opportunity to reflect on our collective traditions, roots and values. I’m proud of our rich and diverse background. With this award, I feel encouraged to continue creating designs that tell our Singapore stories to the world and pass our tradition of craftsmanship to the next generation.
Finally, what does Singapore fashion mean to you?
For me, Singapore fashion is exciting because we have a diversity of cultures. We bring to the world a lot of colour and vibrancy. One of my biggest inspirations is Guo Pei and I think we can learn from her example. She’s unapologetic about her Chinese traditions and values, and incorporates them into her designs. If we take that approach, we can make the world fall in love with Asia.