Singapore Day 4

Today started very slowly as there were phone conferences with Spain, Nevada, Melbourne and Laos. By the time work was over I just went out and walked around the giant shopping mall that is known as Orchard Road. I allowed myself to get lost in the underground labyrinth that keeps people out of the heat and still shopping.



Looking at all the shops I reflected on the importance of Western brands in Asia.

It's not as if there aren't fabulous designers in Asia. From Japan alone there is Miyake Issei, Mori Hanae, Takada Kenzo, Kawakubo Rei and Maruyama Keita to name just a few.


And there are stand-alone branded Asian fashion stores: Shanghai Tang from Hong Kong and Comme des Garcons from Japan. I got on the web and discovered that in Singapore there are four Shanghai Tang shops and one Comme des Garcons. But there are eight Bvlgari outlets, six Dior, five Fendi and three Chanel shops. As well as strong representations by Bally, Coach, Gucci, Zara, and Topshop and many more well known branded companies.

It is starting to look like a flashy, trashy airport shopping centre.


Singapore is not alone. I've seen this trend in Hong Kong, Shanghai and Tokyo. I realise the same brands are to be found all around the world but there seems to be a heavy domination by them in Asia. I personally have a problem wearing logos. I feel that if I am going to become a walking advertisement for a particular company they can pay me. These brands are expensive, by wearing them you are saying 'I can afford this' rather than an indication of your own tastes.


If you're not confident in your own style then self-identification with someone-else's brand philosophy could invest you with self-worth. But it can't give you a sense of identity.

It is borrowing another's values.


Another megacity that I visit regularly is Mumbai. Western brands are well represented in the shopping malls of the large hotels but in the main shopping centres everything is Indian. Does this mean that Indians are more confident than Asians in their own style and don't feel the need to adopt an alien identity?


This identification of Western style includes the mannequins. In India I have seen mannequins that have been changed to make them look Indian, I haven't seen the same in Asia. I simply don't get a young Chinese girl identifying with a blond-haired, blue-eyed fashion display.


Earlier I mentioned Shanghai Tang. All of their designs have a cultural link to Chinese heritage, whether it's with the fabric design or a subtly upturned collar. Their clothes are recognisable by their style without the need for giant logos (although some of their designs have a small logo).


Chinese culture has a rich history of wonderful silks and exquisite embroidery. You see none of this in the shops or on the streets.


I continued to wander through shopping heaven or hell, whatever you feel about endless consumerism, in the hope that I would find a style that reflected the geographic area I was in. No such luck.


Harley Davidson, Prada, Rolex, Tiffanys, Mui Mui and another Dior. Ahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh!


I was really disturbed by the lack of a 'Singapore" identity.


That night we decided to revisit a place that we had eaten at over a decade ago. We got a cab to Nelsons Circle. A long time ago the area was a ramshackle arrangement of food shacks in a vacant lot. It was noisy and colourful and full of amazing aromas.


It is now neat and tourist friendly. The dirt has been exchanged for concrete. It is all well lit and, like the rest of Singapore, incredibly safe.



But at least we found a true Singapore brand. Tiger beer.


Now you are presented with menus from the numerous touts but the crabs and the oyster omelets were still delicious.


It's just a pity that yet another chaotic area of Singapore has been turned into a theme park.



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