This year, fashion producer and director Daniel Boey, also known as Singapore’s godfather of fashion, celebrates his 30th year in the business. The industry veteran commemorated the milestone with The Front Row, Singapore’s first virtual fashion festival – a groundbreaking event that might not have happened if it weren’t for Covid-19. Speaking to us via Zoom from his well-appointed apartment, where he also conducted live chats with the designers who participated in The Front Row, he reveals that the idea for the event first came about when several others he was working on were cancelled from as early as February. “It was quite scary. I was worried about how the designers, stylists and models were coping. While talking to my contemporaries from Malaysia, Thailand and the Philippines, we decided we should do something together.” He tells us more about the 10-day event that showcased 31 local and 10 regional labels and involved creative video presentations, workshops, live chats and podcasts. He also talks about how he hopes it will evolve in an unpredictable future.
The Front Row is Singapore’s first virtual fashion festival, and a first for you as a fashion producer, too. Were you daunted by the technological aspect of putting it together?
My team (Daniel Boey Creatives) and I started preparing for it in April. I put the word out that I needed tech partners who understood my vision and would allow me to boss them around while holding my hand through this journey [laughs]. Nick Tan, founder and managing director of AP Media, reached out. That gave me a lot more confidence. He once shot a video for me for Nanyang Academy of Fine Arts (Nafa) and I liked how it was a collaborative process. I also attended courses because I didn’t know a thing about digital technology.
What courses did you attend?
Mostly private sessions by industry practitioners and others organised by Singapore Management University. I am part of the Star (Singapore Talent, Artistes and Resources) Association and it has also been very supportive in helping us to update our skill sets and organising talks and classes. One of the talks I attended was by tech consultant Ang Ming Song, who taught us about the possibilities of working with green screen technology. I also spoke extensively with Benjamin Kee of digital entertainment company Anomalyst Studio, whom I eventually worked with on the Nafa virtual graduation fashion show that was part of The Front Row.
The Front Row website has a fashion village concept with different zones modelled after iconic local spots. The Runway Room, for instance, is modelled after the old National Theatre. Why choose this 360-degree 3D format?
The first thing I told the website designers was that I did not want a 2D site, where you just click on a label and it leads you to another flat 2D portal. I wanted something more exciting and with a bit of Singapore flavour, but creatively interpreted. However, we might have gotten a bit carried away. In the future, we need to make it easier to navigate while still retaining that element of creativity.
The Front Row’s designers included veterans like Max Tan and Marilyn Tan Jewellery and young names like Shirt Number White. How did you choose the brands?
I chose designers people wanted to see and buy. We started with a list of our favourite labels and asked the designers and their customers which labels they wanted to see. Also, the labels had to have a retail portal. I wanted this to be a B2C (business to consumer) event, not B2B. It was never meant to be a pretentious showcase. I wanted to help the industry to get money and actual sales.
You were the creative director for the videos showcasing the designers’ latest collections that were all shot at different locations. How did they go?
One of the challenges I gave the film team was that every show had to be different. Otherwise, it would be like going to a physical fashion festival, where you just sit down in the same tent every day. They had to be entertaining and educational – and make viewers want to buy the clothes. For the Singapore designers, we shot more than 20 videos over three weeks, not including post-production work.
What’s next for The Front Row?
My regional contemporaries and I were chatting with a Filipino blogger when we came up with: why not do an international edition of The Front Row? I’ve had designer friends from the UK asking how they can be a part of it. I’m also hoping to include Australian and Korean elements. You see this happening in Paris, Milan, London, New York; international designers fly there to show their collections. If it weren’t for digital technology, this may not have happened in this part of the world. Singapore can be the centre for this because our Wi-Fi is very strong [laughs]. Also, our tech creatives are some of the best in the world. I never realised that before and this makes me very proud.