Six industry experts share their thoughts on what Singapore's fashion industry will look like post circuit breaker
The new normal
As many companies have been heavily affected by the economic impacts of COVID-19, so have their employees, with many forced to endure the brunt of downsizing and restructuring. While we may be two weeks away from the end of circuit breaker, news have already shown that there will only be minor changes to the reopening of Singapore.
As Singapore plans to restart the economy slowly in three phases, what will this mean for those in the fashion industry? With many magazines pivoting to free digital subscriptions, remote Zoom and FaceTime photoshoots as well as running their print-only titles online, how will they begin to pick up the pace? How will professionals across the industry — editors, stylists, photographers, educators, public relations executives, influencers, etc. — adapt to the new normal?
We spoke with six different experts on how they have been coping with the circuit breaker, what do they look for in a potential hire as well as the future of the fashion industry once measures have been lifted.
Desmond Lim, fashion director at Vogue Singapore
I started a new job during the circuit breaker and had my first meeting with colleagues over Zoom. It was exhilarating. But that excitement did dwindle when work kicked in. One can only make out that much sense out of a screen which occasionally breaks up voices due to laggy internet connection. It's also easy to misjudge statements if not for the extra cushioning of body language. I've found myself listening to more podcasts to manage my anxiety. Jogging at the park has definitely helped soothe my system after big global meetings too.
After circuit breaker, I would imagine the landscape to still be on its tippy toes for fear of setting off another wave of COVID-19 cases. It's likely that within the work environment, safety measures would still have to be adhered to: temperature taking, not having too many people on set at a shoot, being more specific with direction to maximise productivity within smaller teams. But more importantly, always have a plan b — in which case if new rules come into place, one could find alternative ways to carry on with work and not be too affected by them.
WFH could be a plausible mainstay for certain companies. Trust between employers and employees would be an interesting aspect to explore. Employers don't have to "see" employees at the office to know that they are working. Statistics show that people who WFH are actually putting in extra hours compared to the office. It's arguable that we're more productive when distractions at the office are cancelled.
Daryll Alexius Yeo, fashion stylist
The circuit breaker has been a harsh reality check on finances. Clients have put editorial and commercial projects on hold, until restrictions are lifted. I've taken this period to connect with my network, pitch new ideas, rethink my work strategy, and dedicate time for creative thinking again. Pre-pandemic, I wouldn't have had the time to do that.
I've enhanced my portfolio through virtual collaborations like fashion shoots on FaceTime and Zoom. My collaborators and I have managed to make it work. Workflow constraints have definitely brought out new and exciting artistic execution. It's not the most practical arrangement now, but we've adapted and risen to the challenge. When the situation clears up, I will be equipped with ideas, ready to act.
I don't look forward to returning to "business-as-usual". The ways things are will be forever changed. On the bright side, there will always be a demand for great visual storytelling. It will be a great time for narratives to integrate with non-traditional imagery like 3D animation, illustration, even sound design. We need to be at the forefront of creating what people never knew they craved.
Should I have the opportunity to lead a creative studio, I'd want to market new forms of storytelling. As a potential employer, I'd look for multi-hyphenates and well-rounded individuals who have strong aesthetic sense and creative intuition, and apply them with digital literacy; most importantly, they need to communicate and collaborate with empathy.
Shawn Paul Tan, photographer
I've been doing visual research: scanning my archives and processing my backlog and b-rolls to pass time. Meanwhile I've also been exploring remote shoots. The transition from being busy to this extended lull period has definitely taken a toll mentally, so shifting my focus to this has helped to keep sane.
I suspect the budget and size of productions will continue to drop, teams will get leaner and perhaps other forms of content creation will be prioritised — everyone will have to figure out how to do more for less in every way.
There will be less of an appetite to expand teams so potential employees who can wear multiple hats, and are able to creatively solve problems on the go with a certain level of ingenuity would have an advantage in getting jobs.
Myke Motus, senior creative producer at Charles & Keith Group
I've been grasping the digital work setting resiliently amidst the distractions. I'm currently missing work as my job requires me to be on production sets, sit in on photoshoots and video shoots as well as travel overseas.
Work will definitely have to adapt to the new normal: many companies will continue the WFH setup, refrain from huge gatherings and rethink on how to go fully digital.
Critical creative thinkers will be one of the key hires moving forward. This period has made everyone extra creative with all the time we have — through working out, making music, conducting photoshoots, cooking, even TikTok videos. This period made everyone think out of the box while inside the box. Employers will leverage on that.
It's been very sad to see some media publications and smaller businesses close down during this time. I honestly hope that the very talented professionals will be able to rise above this and find even better jobs in the future. There have been a lot more conference and video calls, and to avoid overlapping conversations (and lag) I have learnt to maximise the efficiency of good communication, knowing when to talk and when to listen. However, sharing wifi with three other people on video calls at the same time has been a challenge. I'm thankful to be able to break fast with my family promptly. I am appreciating this work life balance, it really makes me feel more productive and wholesome overall.
My personal take on the pandemic: The distance that we're going through locally within each city is somehow making the world closer globally, because the Internet. (Shoutout to Childish Gambino.)
After this pandemic, I think we'll see a huge shift towards digital marketing. We'll see cool, new and interesting ideas to reach out to people, and as a Millennial/Gen Z, I am excited and I am here for it.
Furqan Saini, fashion director/fashion consultant and adjunct lecturer
Spring/summer 2020 events have been canceled. Travelling for fashion week is over. Shoots have been postponed indefinitely. March and April have always been typically my busiest period but things took a downturn. In my other professional practice as a lecturer, we went online. Where one might see doom and gloom, I see this as a chance to make lemonade when given lemons. This unique situation we're in has given time for me to sit down and assess what is needed. For me, I wake up daily at 4am (it's fasting month as we speak), have a quick breakfast and nap till 9am. By 9.30am, I'm at my desk, keeping discipline and creating a new routine. I choose to not be in my pyjamas but instead, put on something I would wear to work (my only allowance to the situation is that I'll wear shorts LOL). I've set a goal of being able to finish 12 courses during this period and am currently working on my sixth. Pro-tip: also look at what courses are available online that can be used with SkillsFuture.
I would hope for us to take an even longer, harder look at the problems we cause as an industry and address this from a sustainability and systemic standpoint especially post COVID-19. I think things that have been status quo for work will change as well. Events will be treated with more intimacy. Fashion shoots need to bar close contact and a higher focus on hygiene. The warped reasoning of coming to work even if you're sick has to stop. Offices might downsize as staff are rotated in smaller numbers, perhaps even continuing to work from home.
When hiring, I look for a never-say-die attitude. The ability to be mentally strong and agile enough to change and respond to the environment whether it be through complementary skillset, a new language or just plain gumption. The measure of a man is not just by his work but by his character.