Fashion veteran Daniel Boey is panicking. At least, that’s what the founder of virtual fashion festival The Front Row (TFR) says when he appears onscreen for our video interview. With a smile that reveals just a hint of his frazzled state, he shares how recent pandemic restrictions disrupted the production timetable for this year’s installment of TFR.

It is early August at the time of our interview, and the free-to-view festival is slated to kick off in three weeks. Says Boey, “We’re panicking because our beautifully planned schedule of doing two shoots a week went awry because an XR (extended reality) studio had to be closed for two weeks. So, right now, we are catching up by shooting three or four videos a week.”

Daniel Boey The Front Row 2021
The Front Row founder and creative director Daniel Boey.

Despite his confession, however, one is confident that the industry veteran of more than 30 years has everything under control. Having launched TFR last year, Boey and his team at Daniel Boey Creatives are back, and more ambitious than before. This year’s designer roster includes 10 local brands and eight regional and international labels.

Aside from the aforementioned short videos – which feature the latest collections of participating designers – and live discussions, the virtual fashion festival has expanded this year to include livestreamed hybrid fashion shows and webinars, digital exhibitions and even Miss Universe Singapore. (For more on what’s new, see below.)

Of the multifaceted nature of the event this year, Boey says, “Last year, everybody was in a different place. We were all in the process of pivoting, and things were very uncertain. The goal then was to give everyone a leg up. This year, designers have become more confident, and my team and I have also learnt many new skills in terms of technology and production. So, we have become more garang (local slang for enthusiastic).”

Adopting a “Netflix-style model” this year instead of having scheduled online broadcasts, most of the pre-recorded videos have been made available for viewing on TFR’s website (www.thefrontrow.style) as the event kicks off today. The hybrid shows and webinars, however, will be livestreamed at various times over these two months. Generating sales for designers remains a priority: Aside from partnerships with local designer retail space Design Orchard and now online store Robinsons, all clothing shown will be available for purchase at the brands’ websites.

Sounds like a lot, but Boey has greater plans yet: “My hope is that The Front Row eventually becomes something that goes on for 12 months, and we can populate it with new content all the time. Fashion goes on all the time; it’s not just Spring/Summer or Autumn/Winter.”

(Related: Fashion veteran Daniel Boey celebrates 30 years in the industry)

New initiatives to watch out for at The Front Row 2021:

01: Miss Universe Singapore

The Better Diamond

 “The Miss Universe Singapore organisers spoke to me about being the creative director for the show, and I told them that a lot of things need to change.” The MSU event will be a hybrid one, involving both pre-filmed and live elements. Boey wants to use the event as a platform to showcase the work of local designers. Additionally, jewellery designer Marilyn Tan and local lab-grown diamond startup The Better Diamond (pictured) will create a tiara for the competition.

02: Greater diversity

The Front Row Rae

Since its launch last year, TFR has included not just local designers, but also overseas labels as well as brands founded by Singaporean designers based abroad, such as bridalwear designer Celest Thoi. Boey also wants to spotlight models and local modelling agencies, a major and often underrated part of the fashion ecosystem. There will be a series of chats with agency owners about topics such as representation in fashion. Watch out for fresh campaign faces such as curvy model Alexis Cooke and virtual influencer Rae.

03: Virtual exhibitions

Marianne Guely The Front Row

Inspired by the virtual tours conducted by major museums such as London’s Victoria and Albert Museum, Boey has planned digital exhibitions showcasing the works of talented photographers. The line-up includes top fashion photographers ChuanDo & Frey and celebrity photographer Filbert Kung, as well as up-and-comer Hans Goh. Another featured artist is French paper sculptor Marianne Guely, who has crafted her fantastical works for brands such as Dior (pictured) and Piaget.

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