20 Things to Bring for BMT that Your Packing List Didn’t Tell You

It all starts with a letter. A letter with the three iconic words that every Singaporean son knows of.

No, it’s not ‘I Love You’ from your girlfriend.

How I wish.

Rather, it’s this: ‘On Government Service’.

Several months before you’re required to report for enlistment, you would have received this letter in your mailbox.

I received mine in September 2017. Inside the envelope, two pieces of paper gleamed at me: one green, one white.

The white piece of paper was the ordinary reporting details to your enlistment venue. Chances are, for the most of you, it will look like this:

Source: @zuffwings on Twitter

This, my man, is a personal invitation to the holiday resort of Tekong Island at which you’ll spend the next two months of your life. Jokes aside, it’s a vital piece of information that you will need to adhere to. Don’t be late, and don’t turn up at the wrong place on that monumental date.

While the reporting details were important, it was the other green sheet of paper that stood out to me.

You see, that green piece of paper marked the beginning of my Commando journey with the SAF.

I’ll detail with you snippets of the Commando BMT experiences in separate posts, because this one aims to inform you what to bring for BMT.

Yes, I know you have a packing list at the reverse of your enlistment letter. But come on, we all know that that’s barely enough.

It’s been a while since my BMT days, so I’m not sure if the packing list has been enhanced to include any of these items. If it has been updated, great! If not, you know what to do.

Trust me, if you’re taking advice about tips to survive National Service, it wouldn’t be that bad an idea to learn from the Commandos themselves.

So let me share with you the 20 things you MUST bring for BMT that your packing list didn’t tell you.


Slippers

Your quintessential best friend that accompanies you to the shower. Slippers, slides, anything is fine, as long as you don’t wear some Gucci slides or something of that sort. Yes, I know that the SAF-issued sandals exist. But, this, my friend, is a lifesaver.

Recommended Quantity: 1 x Pair

Black tape

The lifesaving effect of slippers, however, pale in comparison to this: black tape. If your SAR-21 is your wife, this is definitely your mistress. You’ll use black tape for everything: wrapping the loose straps of your daybag, identifying your water bottle, and even securing your rifle sling.

Recommended Quantity: 2 x Black Tape

Tiger balm

This is extremely effective for muscle aches you might endure during physical training.

Recommended Quantity: 1 x Jar

Hangers

Back during my BMT, our wardrobes didn’t have any hangers. We had to bring all our hangers ourselves. This was vital to display our uniforms for those ubiquitous stand-by-bed sessions.

Recommended Quantity: 10 x Hangers

 

Extra underwear

Heaven is a fresh pair of underwear after a long gruelling day of training. You can never have too much new underwear.

Recommended Quantity: 10 x Pairs

Prickly heat powder

Think your buddy is your best friend during field camp? You probably haven’t met this: Prickly Heat Powder from Snake Brand. You’re bound to experience heat rash while outfield, and this is your saviour. It’s available in small and large containers, but I would recommend getting the larger one. After all, more prickly heat powder never hurt anyone. Except if you put it at your balls, that is.

Recommended Quantity: 1 x Can

Febreze

In Tekong, you’re alone. No mother and no maid is around to help you wash your clothes. Sometimes, the laundry area is so packed, the drying rack outside your bunk is full, and you’re nearly dead with fatigue from training. In a situation like this, Febreze will save you. I recommend the orange-coloured anti-bacterial variant (instead of the ordinary blue one) because it’s more effective at killing bacteria. But please, for the love of God, don’t rely on this every single day. Don’t be that guy, that guy who has a cloud of chemical odour surrounding him wherever he goes that even the ghosts on Tekong stay a five-metre radius away from him. Wash your clothes whenever you can; Febreze is just a backup option.

Recommended Quantity: 1 x Bottle

Pens/writing materials

In the first week of BMT, there will be lectures to attend and forms to fill. The SAF will issue one ballpoint pen and one notebook, and I’m almost sure you’re bound to lose the pen. Bring additional writing materials just in case.

Recommended Quantity: 2 x Pens

Wet wipes

Did you know that the camo you apply on your face cannot be removed by water? I didn’t know that until field camp, and ended up having to borrow multiple packs of wet wipes from my section-mates to remove my camo. Don’t be like me – bring more wet wipes. Get those multi-pack sets if possible. They’re good for maintaining your personal hygiene too.

Recommended Quantity: 3 x Packs

Tights

No, the hardest struggle you’ll encounter during your road march isn’t the distance. Nor is it the weight of your field pack. It is the unbearable agony of your legs rubbing against one another as you march left-right-left. To prevent inner thigh abrasions from happening, don a pair of tights.

Oh, and another road march pro-tip: Wear double socks (if your commanders allow it) in order to prevent blisters from forming at your heels.

Recommended Quantity: 1 x Pair

Ziploc bags

This is essential to keep all of your items waterproofed. Yes, the SAF will issue ziploc bags in three sizes – small, medium and large – but they will barely be sufficient for you to even fit your ten-pack items to fit into the field pack, much less the other items you’d like to waterproof.

Recommended Quantity: 2 x Sets

Coins & Notes

Did you know that the haircut at Tekong will set you back $2? Bring some money along so you’ll be prepared. If you have the opportunity to get a drink from vending machines, don’t forget to bring some coins along too.

Recommended Quantity: $20

Snacks

Want to be the star of your section? Bring some snacks in to share with everyone. For us in Commandos, however, we were not allowed to bring snacks in during our confinement period of two weeks due to concerns about food safety. So to be safe, bring it in only after you obtain your commanders’ permission after confinement weeks.

Recommended Quantity: As many as you want

A book

In BMT, you will learn many skills such as teamwork, communication and discipline. Everyone knows that. What people don’t know about is the two unspoken skills you will also pick up: waiting and resting. There are bound to be times when you have to wait. Wait to rush, and rush to wait, as they say. Instead of sleeping around, why not read? I recommend bringing a relatively lengthy book that engages your interest; Sapiens by Yuval Noah Harari is a good option you might want to consider.

Recommended Quantity: 1 x Book

Portable chargers

I’ve heard claims that recruits are not allowed to plug their charger cables into the power sockets in Tekong. While I cannot verify its authenticity (since Commando BMT was not held in Tekong), I suggest you use a portable charger instead to provide your phone with juice while you call your loved ones at night.

Recommended Quantity: 2 x Sets

Plasters

You’re looking at another saviour here that provides relief from abrasions suffered during those long road marches or physical training. Bring the waterproof ones! They’ll last you longer.

Recommended Quantity: 5 x Strips

3-in-1 wash

The ‘3’ in 3-in-1 refers to the areas this soap can clean: Your body, hair and face. I highly recommend using a combined soap like this, instead of individual shampoo and body soap, for the sake of saving time. While there aren’t any time restrictions on how long you can spend in the shower, why sacrifice your precious admin time for that extra few minutes switching from shampoo to body soap?

In BMT, I used the exact Adidas gel soap as pictured above. Being a gel, it’s more hygienic than regular soap and can be used from head to toe. This was one of my most effective tips that helped me during BMT, so I’d like to share this with you.

Recommended Quantity: 1 x Bottle

Good facial wash

While the Adidas gel mentioned above does clean the face, I wouldn’t recommend using that for the face. During my BMT, I bought a small container of Garnier Men 6-in-1 Anti-acne foam to use. God knows what Garnier put in there, but it sure was effective. It was so good, that when I came back from field camp, not a single pimple appeared on my face. Now that, my friend, is some miraculous facial wash.

Recommended Quantity: 1 x Bottle

Spectacle bands

I think this might have been in the packing list on the enlistment letter, but I can’t really remember. If you’re bespectacled, a spectacle band is an absolute must.

Recommended Quantity: 1 x Band, if necessary

A positive mindset

I’ve saved the most important thing for the last: A positive and open mindset. You might have brought with you all the necessary equipment and more, but without an open mind, all that preparation is for nought.

Having the right mindset is crucial for one enlisting into National Service, but that is another topic for another day (which I’ll link here when complete).


For now, I hope this list benefits all you new enlistees who are about to step into the next monumental chapter of your lives.

All the best!

If you have any other suggestions to include which I haven’t, feel free to leave it in the comments below!

September: New Year, New Me

“September is the January of fashion.”

Have you heard that line? If you’re a hardcore fashion aficionado (if you are, high five!), you probably have. Uttered by Anna Wintour, it’s perhaps one of my favourite quotes from The September Issue, a movie about… well, the September issue (of fashion magazines).

To tell you frankly, I love September! It’s a beautiful month of rejuvenation and relaxation, a time to calm the cells frayed from the scorching summer sun. For some of you lucky temperate-climate readers, it’s a season when the crimson hues of the sun migrate to the fading burnt reddish leaves. For others, it’s the month that rekindles the spark of passion between you and music (remember Green Day’s oh-so-famous Wake Me Up When September Ends, or Daughty’s September)?

For me, however, September’s an excuse of sorts. That’s right. An excuse.

Before you go scratching your head and closing this page, hear me out.

To me, September’s an opportunity to catch up on the things that I’ve yet to accomplish. After all, Ashrr is a fashion and lifestyle blog. To heed the mantra of the legendary fashion maverick, September’s the arrival of a new year. New year, new me, right?

Here are some resolutions that I’ve envisioned that will guide the future of Ashrr.

1. Post more stories on Medium and Quora to direct readership to the blog.

2. Improve my CSS skills to give Ashrr a complete redesign (yes, it’s high time the blog gets a visual upgrade!)

3. Post more culture and lifestyle-related content that is timeless.

4. Reach out to unique individuals to absorb more perspective on issues (instead of only heeding my own), and transform Ashrr into a platform that gives individuals a voice.

5. Improve the art of visuals on my blog!

These are just some goals I’ve set for the direction of Ashrr for the new year.

Onwards and beyond!

Cheers,

Thaddeus

Summer 2018: A Look

With the Summer Season being in full force, it’s time to commit yourself to a challenge: Dress yourself down while still maintaining that sense of classiness and style. Bearing in mind how print shirts are all out in vogue this season, throwing on a printed overshirt atop your trusty basics injects a refreshing sense of cool to an otherwise humid, scorching summer.

 

You Need Only One Personal Finance Tip

We live in a world swarming with information. Type ‘personal finance advice’ into the Google search bar, and instead of learning how to ride above the waves of personal finance management, you’d probably find yourself drowning under the tides of information swirling around you.

Thankfully, there is a one-size-fits-all piece of advice that resolves this issue.

Recently, I came across a piece of personal finance tip that changed my life.


To be rich, live like you’re a broke university student. Even better if you’re a foreign student in a university thousands of kilometres from home.


This golden nugget of insight embodies all the commonly held virtues about personal finance and managing your money.

Don’t believe me? These are the skills you’ll learn:

Paying yourself first: As a broke university kid, you can’t spend all your money on that newest pair of kicks or trendiest dress at once. Instead, if you’re a responsible individual, your first thought would be: How much could I allocate to groceries and meals for this month? Is this enough to cover my rent? Survival and necessities always come above luxuries; you automatically devote a certain percentage of your income to your savings for your future benefit.

Living below your means: With a fixed budget every month, this becomes a necessary skill to possess. Before you know it, you’ll be forced to find cheaper alternatives or adjust your lifestyle to live within your budget. Sure, the first few months may be painful and if you’re like me, you may exceed your planned budget in the beginning. Don’t fret, and continue to create an efficient financial system that best suits your lifestyle. Soon, living below your means will become habitual, and later in life, you’ll be thanking yourself for picking this skill up early.

Having multiple income sources: As a university student who’s short on money, you’ll be forced to think of ways and means to earn more income. Embrace this struggle! In the future, you’ll be thankful for possessing the resourcefulness to find other income streams.

Learning financial intelligence: I’m pretty sure your university experience was swarmed with texts and books. Reading became so ingrained into your lifestyle. Even if you’ve graduated, read up to enhance your financial education! The first book I would recommend is Rich Dad, Poor Dad by Robert Kiyosaki. There are plenty of other books I would recommend after that, but that’s another post for another day.

Tracking your expenses: A tiny university budget forces you to be mindful and aware of where every cent is flowing out of your pocket to. By tracking your expenses, not only do you account for your spending, but you can also analyse your spending patterns every month.

Recognising that it’s not how much you earn, but how much you keep: Those remaining dollars left unspent from your meagre budget gives you more satisfaction than the routine feeling of receiving a monthly allowance. It demonstrates your ability to live below your means, implying how you’ve effectively managed your money.

Managing one’s personal finance when you’re young is simple. Life’s responsibilities haven’t caught up with you yet. You need not experience sleepless nights about kids, or your home mortgage, or even your retirement funds yet.

More often than not, we as humans tend to overcomplicate things. We like to provide layers and layers of complex information and use cryptic jargon to express the most basic of ideas. See what I mean?

However, managing your personal finance when you’re young is simple, provided you follow these values above. Everything can be condensed into one line, which is your mantra from now on:

Live like a broke university kid.

Screw Perfection. Just be Good Enough.

Photo by Bryan Minear, Unsplash

Last week, I was reading an article on Medium.

Thomas Oppong, the author of the piece, encourages us to reject the pursuit of perfection, and focus our energy and time on accepting a “Good Enough” outcome instead.

“But wait, Thaddeus, doesn’t this contradict all those motivational videos I’ve watched?”

You’ve probably watched one of those videos. You’ve probably felt those bursts of adrenaline running through your veins, as you clench your firsts and feel your mind ignite its engine, ready to take on the world. You’ve probably basked in that oh-so-uplifting aura of motivation.

“Good enough isn’t good enough if it can be better! Better isn’t good enough if it can be best!”

Well, they’re wrong.

Photo by Andreas Dress, Unsplash

Before you pick up your pitchforks and flaming torches, ready to hunt me down, take a second to hear me out.

The notion of being the best is destructive. It’s mentally unhealthy. If it were truly something worth attaining, why are the top athletes and artists and entrepreneurs always trying to achieve more? Even if they have been hailed by the world as number one, why are they still going on? Why don’t they just strike their chests, glance up at the golden sunlight with a huge smile across their faces like in those motivational videos, and exhale in gratitude, screaming “I MADE IT!!”?

Because perfection is a myth. It’s not a benchmark. Perfection is an unattainable ideal created so we have something to aim towards, as we improve ourselves continuously, every single day of our life.

Photo by Mark Jefferson Paraan, Unsplash

Instead of perfection, we should strive to be good enough.

Unfortunately, those two words have been condemned by society. “Good enough” seems to carry with it a connotation of defeat. It sounds like a second option, because we weren’t able to achieve more. Yet, it’s the only achievable target that we can aim towards and propel us to improve.

Photo by Patrick Tomasso, Unsplash

In my National Service days, I was fortunate enough to be enlisted as a Commando. In Singapore, to be a Commando is a big thing. The Commandos are Singapore’s elite fighting force of soldiers, who are usually the first to be deployed during wartime to infiltrate the enemy’s territory. For fifteen years in a row, they are crowned Singapore’s Best Combat Unit. In the entire Army.

During my stint with the formation, one thing I took away from my training is this: Not once did they pursue being the best. Instead, they focused on achieving mission objectives. They strived hard to achieve success in mission objectives in the quickest, most efficient manner. Whenever they trained, they would give their best effort. Hard work was a consistent expectation that they took pride in fulfilling. Putting mind over matter, all their missions were conducted effectively as a team. Progressively over time, their skills deepened and they became a stronger, more lethal fighting force. That resulted in them being the best.

 

This lesson can be adapted from military training and applied in our everyday lives. Instead of pursuing the idealistic notion of being the best, we should always aim to achieve our planned objectives for the day. Focus on taking action instead of pursuing perfection.

LeBron James trains for about two every single day, instead of twelve hours every weekend. Today, he’s one of the best athletes in the NBA.

Nicolas Cole writes every single day, before he emerged as a Top Writer on Quora. Today, he’s published his own book and has articles featured on numerous top publications like Inc. Magazine and TIME.

Warren Buffet reads 600 pages every day at the beginning of his lifelong investment journey. Today, he’s the third richest person in the United States.

Every time you complete your set of objectives, pat yourself on the back for being good enough, for that actual day. You may not reach optimal performance or achieved perfection, but you’ve done good enough for that day in improving yourself by one percent. Soon, over time, this one percent will compound.

Before you’ll know it, you’ll reach a best version of yourself, better than you ever thought possible. All from the fact that you did “good enough” in achieving your objectives, every single day.

Sustainability and… Sex?

What do you do when your gay friend invites you to go for a sexual wellness event? You go, of course.

 

According to Chinese tradition, it is considered extremely taboo to gift your relative a clock during a significant event, such as their birthday or for a marriage. Associated with notions of a funeral ritual, the gift of a clock is symbolic of time running out in a person’s life. Likewise, the concept of sex is still regarded as highly taboo and sensitive in Singapore, especially within the Singaporean millennial community. Talked about with vigour underneath the covers (literally in this case, if you know what I mean ;)), the concept of sex is still a topic that not many of us are comfortable to speak out about in the public sphere. In fact, given the considerably conservative cocoon of the environment that I have been brought up in, sex is an enigma, an elusive achievement that is to be unlocked only after a certain age.

 

The sheets of uncertainty and ignorance surrounding my understanding of sex were parted at SPARK Festival, a sexual wellness event that I attended at the invitation of my good friend. Held at The Hive’s Lavender headquarters, the event featured things ranging from vegetables to vibrators. Talks about sexual wellness were held, in which renown individuals such as Anita Kapoor and Farhan Shah were invited to speak on issues ranging from the definition of masculinity in modern times to a sexual revolution in China. Outside of these talks, visitors to the event could also shop at a Marketplace, in which objects ranging from menswear subscription boxes to condoms and sex toys by independent retailers were on sale. If lengthy talks or shopping were too basic and not your cup of tea, the festival also had an installation section where viewers could appreciate photographic series of models expressing their sexual pleasure through the ubiquitous act of orgasming.

Although albeit extreme, orgasmic could be a term that describes my entire experience at the festival. For some strange reason, attending the festival made me feel liberated, confident and hopeful. At the festival, I was blessed with the opportunity to meet a variety of individuals. From a middle-aged consultant whose face looked so young I wouldn’t have been able to guess her age had she not told me, to a stout and extraordinarily hilarious British lady who promoted dick rings to me after rubbing coconut oil on my arm, saying that it could be used as lubricant, to a handsome bespectacled American video-game designer who cursed freely after taking swigs of his rosé, all these individuals were so unique in their own way. As different as these people may be, I could see a common thread running through their diverse personalities: the virtue of open-mindedness.

In a progressive and modern society, open-mindedness is a value that citizens of this society need to embody. In my opinion, open-mindedness is a key driver of an increasingly diverse, tolerant, and innovative society. If only one more percent of Singapore’s population learnt to listen to other people’s ideas instead of stubbornly holding onto existing beliefs and traditional values, think of the possibilities of innovation and progressiveness that we could experience as a society! For instance, take the Instagram account @nocarrierpls as an example. Traditionally, the social media-savvy millennial tribes only subscribe to Instagram accounts that are rendered aesthetic and entertaining. However, an increasing number of millennials are beginning to follow accounts that act towards a cause, such as environmental sustainability in the case of @nocarrierpls. I’m certain that both you and I can agree that @nocarrierpls isn’t exactly one of the most aesthetically-pleasing accounts on Instagram. Even Rachel, the creator of the account, agrees with me! Despite this, I find it so heartwarming and encouraging to see how people my age are so actively involved in doing their part to reduce plastic and disposables usage, and how open-minded they are to changing their lifestyle habits as part of the cause that they feel strongly about.

For the longest time, like sex, sustainability and environmental consciousness aren’t exactly very widely-discussed topics in Singapore. Parallels can be drawn between how both issues will affect our lives at some point in time. However, these issues are not yet actively discussed by a large percentage of the population, nor are significant actions being taken to raise awareness about them. With fingers crossed, and faith in the new generations to come, I believe that we will be taking incremental but effective steps in creating a more open-minded and sustainable society. If a sexual wellness event can be so widely attended and received with much fanfare, I’m optimistic that the virtue of open-mindedness will soon weave itself into the fabric of society in future.

Retail 2.0

What would retail in the future look like? I envision the retail scene of 2050.


Mention the term ‘Sustainability’ and more often than not, images of the environment, greenery and recycling pops into your mind. Yet, our perspective of sustainability as a concept cannot be so narrowly focused on the environmental aspect alone. Sustainability embodies the most efficient usage of resources and minimising waste. It is the driver of the future. In the future, retail seems to be a concept buried deep beneath the ashes of the past. Even in the present, the traditional retail mall is breathing its last raspy gasps, with the term Retail Apocalypse emblazoned conspicuously on headlines of media sources all around the globe. However, is retail actually, truly, dead?

No, retail is not dead. According to the 2018 Global Powers of Retailing report published by accounting firm Deloitte, it is a “transformative time in retail.” Thanks to the fresh sets of demands of the millennial consumer group, traditional methods that retailers have used to lure customers into buying their products are no longer effective. Millennials are shunning the typical retail mall and department stores, and are instead flocking to groovier, more progressive stores like Dover Street Market. Why is this so, and how can retailers ride on this new wave of change instead of drown under this cataclysmic social shift?

 

To answer this question, I believe the fundamental principles of retail have to be established. Without having a clear grasp of what retail is, it is challenging to innovate new solutions for your brand, and to implement sustainable retail strategies into your business. At its core, retail is the “sale of a good or service to the public in relatively small quantities for use or consumption rather than for resale.” 2 However, in my opinion, retail is so much more than simply a transaction. Especially through the lens of fashion, retail is about an experience of gratification, of feeling rewarded, of gaining something. Retail is therapeutic and vital for our contemporary survival. Nothing beats the pleasure of finding a garment that you like that looks good on you after hours of searching.

 

How, then, can the experience of retail be enhanced in a world that is transforming to digital? How can brands and malls ride the digital wave? I outline some suggestions from a customer’s perspective. As a nineteen year old who is part of the millennial demographic, these are the features of retail that would more often than not attract me to step foot into a shopping mall, or even visit your website.

 

1. Curation

As a consumer, I’m keen in variety that has been purposefully and tastefully curated for a certain type of customer. Not only does curation in this sense refer to the selection of products for sale, but also the aesthetic of the store. I appreciate thought that has been put into the creative direction of a store. For instance, independent retail stores like Dover Street Market or The Assembly in Singapore offers a more upmarket selection than stores like Giordano. The former also has distinct artistic interior designs that appeals to a more polished and discerning customer.  Sure, I may be comparing apples with oranges in this instance since both categories of stores do not appeal to the same target customer. However, when we look to retail in the future, I strongly believe that a larger majority of consumers will be more mindful about where they shop.

In a hyper visual world of Instagram, Netflix and YouTube, appearance and presentation are everything. A store is no longer a place where people go simply to buy clothes. In the future, a store is an experiential space. By walking into a store of the future, I’m speaking volumes without saying a word. I want to be part of an exclusive group of customers who shop at this certain location because they portray a certain identity (creative, discerning, successful, bold etc.) or share a similar belief (environment-conscious, fulfilling a necessity3 etc.) As such, this space could be viewed as an “exhibition space” for the customer to experience an emotion or identify with a certain exclusive group of people. To create a memorable, effective and successful retail space in the future, the retail store and its offerings has to be purposefully and artistically curated for a target customer.

To put this into perspective, if you were an artist who’s endowed with the responsibility to design an exhibition space, would you put thought into making this space unique, or just randomly scatter everything around, expecting viewers to appreciate them?

 

2. Streamlining the Omnichannel Process

Recently, I bought a wallet from Yves Saint Laurent. To splurge such a hefty amount of money on one wallet is not an everyday decision that normal consumers like me have to make. As such, we tend to put more thought into our purchasing decisions. Prior to buying this wallet, I went online to Mr Porter (www.mrporter.com), Farfetch (www.farfetch.com) and MatchesFashion (www.matchesfashion.com) to browse the possible wallet options that fit within my budget. I believe that many consumers have similar browsing patterns like myself when they have an item in mind they would like to purchase, but are unsure of from exactly which brand they want to buy yet. They go online to shop first, to look at the design, features and colours available for each product. Next, they shortlist the possible options from various brands they will be selecting from. Only with these ideas in mind, then they visit the boutiques for that experiential feeling of retail outlined in earlier paragraphs. I didn’t buy the wallet until I had a first-hand experience of how the wallet felt, smelt and looked in person. As such, I believe that the omnichannel method of retail is integral to retail of the future. This method is more efficient for contemporary consumers like myself to shop, and does not waste my time as much as, say, visiting every boutique in one mall just to look for a wallet. However, for retailers to truly thrive in an increasingly competitive and loud retail sector, the omnichannel process has to be streamlined and efficiency maximised. Both the online website and physical store have to demonstrate a similar aesthetic and feel that follows an overarching marketing strategy. After all, be it on the web or in real life, a retail brand is ultimately a space that consumers go to to fulfil their needs. Making this process more convenient, attractive and innovative will ensure the survivability of your brand in the future.

 

3. Ethics

Playing the Corporate Social Responsibility card as part of your marketing strategy might work and inspire more millennials to step foot into your store or visit your website, but what I want to see is transparency and following through your words with concrete, visible action. Marketing your company and brand as ethical, sustainable and environmentally-friendly are wonderful ways to inspire more millennials to shop from you. However, to what extent do practise what you preach? When I first heard about H&M’s Garment Collection bins and its initiative to recycle old garments to create new garments as part of its sustainability strategy, I was taken aback. I was so excited to realise how fast fashion brands, which are traditionally thought of us pollutive, wasteful and cheap, are taking more steps to contribute to a greener environment. However, disappointment greeted me when I realised that H&M actually donates most of our recycled clothes to third-world countries instead of shredding 100% of these discarded garments to form fibre that can be remade into gorgeous clothing4. While I understand that the company is trying to convert more garments into fibre to make into clothes, I was quite upset when I realised that they were simply giving them away in the first place. Now, I am not against donations. However, what are the ramifications of transporting all these clothes to another country on the environment? The staggering transport costs and waste (when the recipients no longer want those clothes) will not lead to a more sustainable future. Instead, they seem to be pushing the problem to be solved by another group of people in the future. While I applaud H&M for taking an initiative with their garment recycling programme, I do hope that in the retail store of the future, sustainable strategies are implemented with heightened authenticity, visibility and transparency for the layman consumer.

 

4. The Role of Technology

Two years ago, as part of research for a social entrepreneurship competition, I remember watching a video of ultra-futuristic changing rooms as part of the retail store of the future. Today, I no longer remember the details of the competition. However, the modernity of the changing rooms are still etched in my mind. The changing rooms were large and spacious, and featured large, clear touchscreens that allowed the customer to swipe though a selection of the store’s inventory. When the customer selected a piece, a inside the changing room would open, and out came the garment that the customer wanted. You may be thinking that this invention had just completely eliminated the purpose of retail assistants. This entire invention seemed to align with the global fear of AI and technology replacing humans and their jobs. However, in my opinion, changing rooms like these just reduced the job scope of retail assistants, thus creating more time for them to do other tasks in the store. Retail assistants are vital to answer unique questions from customers that technology may not be able to complete as well. Retail assistants could help with customer feedback, creating marketing strategies for the brand (since they’re the ones in direct contact with customers instead of the upper echelons of the management) and so much more, instead of simply spending their time delivering clothes to customers. In the future, technology has to be integrated into the day-to-day operations of retail stores. In fact, we need not wait ten years to observe its effects on retail. Even today, RFID tagging is such a vital tool for business to understand the consumer patterns in relation with their brands, allowing for more efficient operations and the creation of garment designs that more customers would buy so fewer garments would end up as deadstock. As such, these innovations and technology will lead to a more progressive, sustainable retail future.

 

In conclusion, retail will not die. It is only human for us to desire more, crave new and unique items, and spend money on items. However, the ways in which we do this will change dramatically over the next thirty years. In essence, the retail mall is simply a space. What will truly stand the test of time is the activities that we humans conduct within this space, and to what extent we optimise the use of this space. I’m certain that we humans can exercise our imagination and creativity to create an even better, more immersive experience for customers in the future of retail.

 


Footnotes

1: “Global Powers of Retailing 2018”. Deloitte.
2: Oxford Living Dictionaries.
3: In this instance, fulfilling a necessity refers to buying something because they are obliged to. For instance, I visit Benjamin Barker to buy a suit for Prom. By walking into Benjamin Barker, I’m subconsciously identifying myself as dapper, focused on quality, and not a cheapskate who views any suit as acceptable). At the same time, I’m fulfilling my need to buy a suit for Prom.
4: https://about.hm.com/en/sustainability/get-involved/recycle-your-clothes.html

Breathing New Life… in Your Wardrobe

1     Camp-Collar Indigo-Dyed Printed Twill Shirt by Blue Blue Japan, S$362

I’m really digging the dyed indigo of this shirt. This shirt is so versatile, and can be styled in so many ways!

 

2     Checked Leather-Trimmed Textured-PVC Holdall by Burberry, S$1796

We all need a timeless, elegant holdall, and this one fits our needs perfectly.

 

3     Black Baies Scented Candle (300g) by Diptique, S$92

Yes, yes, this doesn’t actually come under a list of things to include in a wardrobe, but it’s such an essential for our homes.

 

4     Grosgrain-Trimmed Cotton-Poplin Shirt by Thom Browne, S$592

I’m so in love with the tasteful touches of Thom Browne’s signature red and blue lines along this shirt’s sleeve, elevating this basic white shirt into a classic statement piece.

 

5     White Web Logo New Ace Sneakers by Gucci, S$1088

Gucci Ace sneakers… need I explain more?

 

6     Paint-splashed Cotton T-shirt by Junya Watanabe x Comme des Garcons, S$465

This t-shirt adds a dash of fun and playfulness to an otherwise stale and neutral wardrobe.

 

7     Oil-Free Daily Moisturizer (50ml) by Tom Ford Beauty, S$115

Moisturisers are an essential in mens’ grooming, and this one by Tom Ford Beauty is elegant and classy.

 

8     Satin-Panelled Leather Bomber Jacket by Givenchy, S$3520

This would be my ultimate splurge piece! I’m totally digging the edgy look of this bomber.

 

9     City Leather-Trimmed Suede And Canvas Backpack by Saint Laurent, S$1822

Backpacks could be described as a man’s handbag – essential for carrying our daily necessities. For me, I can imagine myself traveling round Singapore with this elegant, timeless backpack by Saint Laurent.

 

10     Off-White Vintage Logo Rhyton Sneakers by Gucci, S$1262

Again… Gucci sneakers… need I say more?

 

11     Paint Splashed Parker Coat by Faith Connexion, S$2177

This Parker coat by Faith Connexion really caught my eye, and I felt it would be a quirky item to add to my wardrobe.

 

How I wish I could add these wonderful garments to my wardrobe. Alas, my wallet says no… Nevertheless, these are the items I would add into my wardrobe if I were to breathe some new life into it. What about you? What are your favourites? Let me know in the comments below!

 

 

A New Direction

I know, I know… it’s been a while since I posted. Thanks, National Service. However, I’m not dead! I just haven’t been really active. Instead, I’ve decided to use these few weeks to carefully consider the direction I’m heading in my life. Being in National Service really jolted me and made me recognise the reality of adulthood – expenses, cash flow, time, responsibilities, independence, you get the gist.

Despite all these responsibilities of adulthood, I’m just so excited to be an adult. I can’t believe I just said that. Excited?! Who in their right mind would be excited to have responsibilities flung at them?! Well, moi. Sure, my income is low and my cash flow needs some adjusting, but this period of time really allows me to truly make my own decisions and consider what I’d like to explore in the future. Be it university courses, skills I’d like to pick up, countries I’d like to travel, or people who I’d like to date, the possibilities for my life are now limitless. And I’m finally in control of it all.

‘But, wait, what about during the days when you were a schoolboy? Did you not have freedom then?’ you may ask. Having graduated from high school, I finally realised how sheltered I’ve been during my days as a schoolboy. The hardest decisions I had to make then were the food I’d get for lunch or the sequence of events I’d plan in the tight 24 hours I have. The most nervous I’d been was the moments before the results of a test came out, and the most responsibility I had to accept was when I was in charge of running some event or program. I never had to worry about money or expenses (I’m extremely, extremely grateful to my family for providing me with enough.) Now, things are so different. Those tough decisions and worries seem like peanuts in the face of National Service.

Despite it all, graduation from high school finally gives me the liberty to tread in a new direction. Sure, not every single person I known back then is still in my life today. Yet, I remember a quote from a Vetements hoodie: “May the bridges I burn light the way’. I trust that whoever stays in my life is here for a reason, and whoever goes… maybe they weren’t meant to be in my life. And that’s okay. Because I’ve so much more to look forward to. So many more opportunities to seize. So many untrodden paths to tread on. And so many horizons to discover.

This year, I want to get started. I want to get started running a fashion business that is focused on sustainability. As hinted in my previous post, sustainability is something I’m getting more interested in, especially in a day and age of mass consumerism. For the most part, fashion still follows an extremely linear model of manufacturing then disposing garments without recycling them. Sure, brands like H&M, Zara and independent brands are beginning to implement strategies in their business model that focus on being environmentally and economically sustainable. Slowly, the model of fashion is transitioning from a linear one to a more circular one. And I want to be part of that. As a millennial, and as an individual who adores fashion, I feel a strong responsibility to transform the system into a more sustainable one while allowing millions of people around the world to look and feel good.

Perhaps as an extension of this interest in sustainability, I’m also interested in joining or starting a nonprofit organisation that champions an issue of sustainability in Singapore. I haven’t put much thought into this yet but I’d like to help the community around me and just get involved. I don’t want to waste my youth doing nothing. Might as well make mistakes, experiment like crazy, and have fun!

Apart from these ideas on sustainability, I’m also interested in learning new skills, such as CrossFit, investing or photography and filmmaking. During a dinner I had with an ex-teacher of mine, she remarked that the twenties will be the best time of your life, and I should experiment as much as I can. So, to reiterate my point above, why not just experiment? Maybe I might even venture into commercialising my fashion photography or start a YouTube channel, who knows?

As I enter into this new chapter of my life, new opportunities await me. Frankly speaking, I’ve had a terrible, horrible beginning to 2018. If you ask me, I really felt that this year on a whole has so far been crap. I’ve lost so many friends, nothing turned out the way I expected it to be, and things just all fell apart. Yet, despite these setbacks and unexpected experiences, I’m still attempting to stay positive, and focused on the long-term goals. National Service will last only two years, but hopefully, just hopefully, these goals and aspirations will allow me to focus on what truly matters… for life.

Where do Broken Clothes Go?

It’s still January. Yet, it already feels like an eternity, perpetuated by the monotonous routine of donning an identical uniform every day. As I spend the next two years in the Army, I realise how my mind gradually lessens its wanderings and curiosity towards fashion and creativity. At times, I can feel the creative juices in me slowly drying up. However, during a period of waiting time (you get A LOT of these times in the military), the details of my uniform caught my attention. Green, pixelised, extremely tough material… immediately, faint etches of utilitarian and military garments from the runway begin to appear in my mind. Oh, how I miss fashion. How I miss its ability to transport social and cultural ideas into the mainstream.

At the same time, I wondered about the toughness of this material. Where do these excess military uniforms go to after serving their time? Do they even have an expiry date, like fast fashion garments? Why can’t the durable fabric of uniforms be remade into something practical like rope to be used in tactical missions? With sustainability becoming a larger challenge that retailers have to tackle, a search online results in old uniforms being repurposed into objects like toys and quilts.

Repurposing old garments is one of the key actions that customers can take to assume an active role in creating a more sustainable future for fashion. However, there are so many other acts that we can do to promote this mission of incorporating sustainability into our lives.

 

  1. Adopting a ‘Less is More’ Mindset

What comes to mind with the phrase ‘Tumblr-worthy’? A series of carefully-curated objects, or a cluttered stash of messy items strewn around in every available space? Of course, most of us would gravitate towards the former. So, why not curate every item in your wardrobe? Why not select each garment in your closet with care instead of submitting to only statement pieces and ignoring timeless classics? This way, your tendency to purchase fast fashion will lessen, and your life will become more organised and stress-free.

Photo: Mr Porter

     2. Resist the Temptations of Temporary

What distinguishes a $2000 bomber from Saint Laurent from a $50 one that can be bought from H&M? Saint Laurent’s outstanding and durable quality, and perhaps more elegant design. Of course, I’m not advocating that you consume only from luxury brands and nothing else. Outside the fast fashion world, there are a plethora of independent designers who produce in a cleaner, more authentic and personalised manner. While curation can be carried out by us as individuals, these independent designers employ personalised curation at every stage of their supply chain. As such, this results in a healthier way of consumption that is also ethical towards the environment. Therefore, support these independent designers. You aren’t only buying into a brand, but you also act as an advocate for their vision.

 

3. Fuck Tees, Make Art

DIY is so 2017. Instead of making daisy dukes from jeans or crop tops from blouses, why not use fabric to make art? Textiles are a wonderful medium that can not only appear visually pleasing, but are tactile in nature, allowing your art to have a three-dimensional aesthetic.

In my three suggestions above, you might recognise how I mainly associated sustainability with the mind. In the end, sustainability is not only about recycling or repurposing, but being conscious about our actions. Right now, high fashion and fast fashion brands in the industry are still scraping the surface of sustainability. Sure, efforts like Conscious by H&M demonstrate that certain brands are taking some steps to be sustainable. However, to what extent are these efforts effective? Are customers’ consumption habits changing at all despite these campaigns?

Sustainable fashion is still a massive environmental problem that is not being discussed enough by the industry. In addition, efforts by independent designers to be greener and more sustainable are not as prominent as the marketing and advertising campaigns of established labels and houses. Hence, for independent bloggers, designers and creatives like us, we need to see these problems as opportunities to contribute something worthwhile to the very planet that raised us up. Like serving as a soldier in the Army, addressing and tackling these problems on sustainability and fashion is a challenge that I decide to undertake upon myself for my loved ones.

 

Cover Photo: Expo Outlook