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Times Shopper: Singapore

Home-Grown Styles From a Designer Society

November 08, 1987|JENNIFER MERIN | Merin is a New York City free-lance writer .

Singapore is a famous shopping center for designer label clothing and accessories. All the French, Italian and Japanese fashion moguls have boutiques in chic arcades along Orchard Road. But this town offers exciting values in home-grown fashion, too.

The source of Singapore's fashion pizazz is the Society of Designing Arts, an organization of talented Singaporean couturiers whose clothes are the rage with fashion-conscious Singaporeans and savvy tourists.

The designers' stylish and unusual clothing is beautifully constructed and sells for a fraction of the cost of European and Japanese designer fashions. And these Singapore designers offer a broad range of styles.

The society's designer collections regularly premiere at gala fashion shows staged by C. K. Tang's Superstore (320 Orchard Road), one of Singapore's most sophisticated department stores. In addition, Tang's second floor, recently redesigned to display a wide fashion range in attractive salons, has two boutiques featuring designs by society members.

Singapore's Best

In Tang's Singapore Designers boutique you'll find fashions by Celia Loe (generally acknowledged as Singapore's best), Esther Tay, Arthur Yen and Lam Wan Lai.

Collections include sophisticated business suits, day dresses and evening garments that are ideal for mature, conservative, fashion-minded women.

Celia Loe's beautiful double-breasted, black-and-white stripe cotton dress with a clean, crisp, slightly tucked-in shape and black-and-white polka dot collar and cuffs, costs about $50.

Esther Tay's lovely two-piece ensembles with bright blue, straight-lined sleeveless dresses and plaid broad-shouldered jackets are about $70, and her vibrantly colored, double-breasted three-piece suits cost about $90. Finish off these outfits with matching shoes for $20.

Arthur Yen's dressy outfits combine clinging tops with plunging necklines and slinky skirts trimmed with bows or fuller gored skirts. Fabrics range from knits to satins in bright solid colors, polka dots or patterns. Tops and skirts are about $25 each.

Wan Lai Lam creates functional separates in bright orange, yellow, white and black (about $35 each), and shift dresses with black knit appliques stitched asymmetrically over a shoulder and down the front of the skirt (about $50).

Tang's "Fashion Activist" boutique is appealing to younger, avant-garde dressers. The styles to look for include designer Juit Leng's "Future Scene" and "Future Shock" labels, with bubble dresses (about $100), gabardine Mao jackets (about $75) and gray linen fitted two-piece dresses with several sashes around the midriff (about $120).

Yang Derong's body dress is long, flowing and gold knit (about $95). His other outfits combine knee-length, sleeveless, clinging dresses with heavy knit leggings ($75).

David Wang makes fun of label-consciousness with his unisex initialed T-shirts. His initials, "DW," arranged to resemble Louis Vuitton's "LV," are gold-stamped on black shirts ($12). More serious are Wang's men's classical suits in black-and-white linen (about $80) and women's two-piece outfits with tux tops worn over fitted trousers or culottes (about $70 an outfit).

Casual Fashions

Bobby Chng's men's fashions include heavy knit gray ski pants fashioned for street wear ($25), multipatterned shirts ($20) and Bermuda shorts ($18). For women, Chng makes marvelous tiger-print knit ensembles ($40) and prints zany gold patterns on large black T-shirts ($18).

Khee's collection includes knickers ($22), bolero jackets ($18) and flouncy knit dresses ($30).

Look for more fashions by these and the society's other designers in Hemispheres (Third Floor, Delphi Orchard, 402 Orchard Road), a collection of individual designer boutiques run by the SDA. Any society member may show and sell there rent-free, provided he or she continues to generate fashion excitement and has some promise of commercial viability.

The fashions in Hemisphere include both traditional and experimental styles. Of exceptional value are Taro Chan's brushed rayon big shirts, with self-belts, raglan sleeves and slits midway down the back seam ($25). He also makes hand-painted shirts with Georgia O'Keeffe motifs and sharkskin trouser-and-top ensembles.

Makes Plaid Suits

Nam makes blue and black plaid suits with fitted jackets and full skirts ($80), as well as white raw silk dresses with long kick pleats ($80).

Daniel's black satin dress has T-straps and culottes ($45) and his black leather and knit dress snaps down the front ($160). Black leather jodhpurs have knit patches inside the thighs ($100) and are to be worn with a short, black-knot, off-the-shoulder top ($50).

Kai's Mondrian-esque suits and dresses (about $80) are square cut and geometrically patterned. Ben Cheong makes two-tone trousers ($27), denim striped jackets ($18) and satin two-piece dresses ($60).

Clearance Sales

Stock in Hemispheres is renewed frequently, so the shop deserves several visits, and twice yearly clearance sales at seasons' ends cut prices as much as 50%.

Other Singapore retailers, including Isetan, shops in Wisma and Lucky Plaza arcades and others, also carry the society's designers. Each outlet has its own lines.

For further information on designers, outlets and fashion shows, contact the Society of Designing Arts (Fifth Floor, Delphi Orchard, 402 Orchard Road).

Prices quoted in this article reflect exchange rates at the time of writing.

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