Journeying into the past is an act that the wise and optimistic tend to avoid.
“Embrace the future!”
“New doors will lead to new opportunities!”
Mantras like these have been indented in our social media feeds, likening the past to an obscure, dingy disease to be avoided at all costs. Like the feisty girl who dons an untucked school uniform, however, fashion sometimes assumes the role of the sole rebel that disregards conventional rules and trends that guide and engulf the bulk of society. Retrospectives are often heralded as celebratory milestones to be relished and savored, with an increasing collective of designers drawing upon prior experiences to weave elaborate, unpredictable stories. To list a few notable trendsetters, take Maria Grazia Chiuri of Dior, or Demna Gvasalia of Balenciaga, for example.
In Singapore, the past also acts as a benchmark on which local designers base their collections. For Vernice Goh of Aphré, the nostalgic aura of her mother’s sartorial choices during her own youth in the 70s was the springboard on which her Spring Summer 2018 collection was born. Especially for women, the 70s was the beginning of a golden era in fashion that embraced and championed the expression of one’s self. The bold, rebellious essence of this period is aptly captured in Aphré’s collection, with several pieces of this colorful ensemble bearing colloquial slogans that blatantly reject the blind adherence to social conventions. Even the garments speak for themselves with a hint of fashion anarchy – ‘Sorry Lor’ is emblazoned onto the extended hem of an asymmetrical jacket, and you could almost hear the sarcastic Singlish tone radiating from the garment itself. The ubiquitous rebellious phrase ‘WHAT EVER’ is embroidered by hand onto the hem of a pair of flayed pants, a nod to the seventies’ tight top, loose bottom trend, whilst giving a subtle finger to the contemporary association of beauty with figure-hugging or revealing apparel.
The rebellious streak continues with the apparent juxtaposition of textures, colors and asymmetry spanning across various looks. Order and harmony is disrupted by a pleasant touch of imbalance, such as the moss green, off-shoulder jacket in the first look. Yet, these jarring visuals do not exist in the shapes of the garments alone. Tonal contrasts evident in almost all the garments of this collection inject a youthful freshness, and are a nod to the wild, funky atmosphere of the 70s.
For the unfamiliar, fashion in the 70s could be described with one word: Whimsical. Loud, bold and unapologetic, this era was symbolic of the birth of global pop culture and disco music, with clothes that represented and accentuated this explosion of energy. Stayin’ Alive, one of the Bee Gees’ signature songs, was written in 1977. (In fact, most of my inspiration for this review came from their Saturday Night Fever music video!) While savoring the waves of creative energy and dynamic vibes seeping from that music video, I could not help but imagine how the garments in Aphré’s collection would certainly complement the compelling mood of that era, whilst adding a modern touch. Local slang embroidered on flayed, billowy pants and jackets with oversized lapels gives rise to a contemporary interpretation of the past, juxtaposing heritage with the future.
If fashion were to be an indicator of imminent social trends, perhaps in the future, an individual’s history would become the source from which she draws her strength and inspiration. Often times, an immense amount of courage is needed when facing one’s past. Sure, one may even be shrouded by an unsettling vulnerability when confronting her past, as suggested through the nakedness and exposure of skin in a few looks of this collection. Yet, as this collection reveals, products of modernity and freshness can be created only when the conventional ideals are defied, establishing room for more independent, bolder visions.