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Hugo is putting the spotlight on men who celebrate, not dread, their liberated singledom. Here's why

Self-love

Text: Ryan Sng

Interview: Jolene Khor


Buro x Hugo: Young, Wild and Free from IMV SG on Vimeo.

The tons of rituals — socialising, feasting, gifting and spending to excess — pegged to every holiday can get a little fatiguing. It's little surprise, then, that we're seeing a countermovement to over-indulgences on special occasions, which despite good intentions often make us lose sight of what we intend to celebrate in the first place; family, friends, renewal, and hope, to name but a few. More and more of us are forgoing lavish presents and Insta-bait voyages in favour of quiet staycation Christmases, while splashy CNY dinners culminating in lots of unconsumed food are being traded for more subdued, yet equally convivial gatherings.

Valentine's Day, however, is particularly fraught, since pop culture has always pushed the ideal of finding 'the one' who will complete our lives. But what if getting there first requires one to feel independently whole? Just as plane crashes can serve as good analogies for failed relationships, in emotional terms, should we not put on our own oxygen masks before attending to others? It may sound daunting to face an event as romantically charged as V-Day without a significant other, but Hugo is celebrating the men who have more than made their peace with their bachelorhood, with their spring/summer 2019 collection. In hopes of discovering the same serenity within ourselves, we quizzed them on their thoughts on romantic love, the benefits of personal growth and their definitions of freedom.

AYDEN SNG, PRODUCT CONSULTANT / ARTISTE

What is it like to be a single man in 2019?
Ayden Sng (AS): Humans are a social species, tribal by nature. I believe we have a constant yearning to belong to someone, to something. However, the method by which we satisfy that natural desire is constantly being reinvented. Increasingly so, you find younger people being fully invested in their work, their friends and even their hobbies. The value of being attached has not decreased, it's just that there are now more options that can fill a similar gap... at least temporarily. Ironically, I do think this reduced dependency on being attached makes it even more meaningful and rewarding to find someone who truly matters.

You're single this Valentine's Day. Thoughts?
AS: You win some and you lose some. Nowadays, every other day is celebrated; there's Valentine's Day but there's also Singles' Day. If you're single on Valentine's Day, it's normal and reasonable to feel lonely and left out — you just deal with it. Go out, have a night out, hang out with friends. Face the FOMO if you have it. If you don't, good for you. It's not a crime to feel dejected by what you don't have, but it's an injustice to yourself if you don't do what you can to fight for what you want.

Do you feel liberated?
AS:
I don't, but I don't think that's a bad thing. I have obligations to my family, friends, bosses, colleagues, and most importantly, myself. I feel free when I've done justice to all my responsibilities.

Is freedom given, or earned?
AS:
Freedom is earned — I work hard to give myself the luxury of choice. My freedom is illustrated by the decisions I make — the way I spend my time and my money on the activities I love, and the people I surround myself with. I get to choose how to live my life, and that, to me, is freedom.

When you think of 'the norm' in a Singaporean context, what comes to mind? And how have you gone against it?
AS:
I try my best not to think about what that is. Life isn't that complicated; I just do what's right for myself and the people I love, and I believe everything else will fall into place.

JASPER TAN, FILM-MAKER

How do you feel about singlehood?
Jasper Tan (JT): To be honest, singlehood can be both a lonely and a fruitful journey. When I got out of my last relationship, it was all about learning how to be alone and how to love myself again. I had so much time to myself! I partied a lot, spent all my free time with my family, shopped and travel everywhere too.

Is being single liberating?
JT: I do view being single as being liberated. I get to plan my days without needing to consider anyone else, I get to do whatever I want without having to compromise. But being single and being attached have their own sets of ups and downs — it's nice to share your life with someone too. In my experience, being single (maybe for too long a period) has a strange way of pulling you back into a relationship. [Laughs]

Do you feel liberated?
JT:
I do feel liberated, but that's not the same as not having responsibilities at all. I have the freedom to wake up as late as I want, to do what I want, and to be selective about my clients at work. I don't have to answer to anybody except myself and my deadlines.

Is freedom given, or earned?
JT:
That's a difficult question... But I think freedom is earned. Our Asian culture takes away our freedoms. I'm not saying that this is true for everybody, but I was brought up in a very controlling environment, having to study as hard as possible and achieve the best grades. My mom decided what schools I'd attend and what courses I'd take; I had few choices and didn't think that a hands-on, creative career was an option. I even studied engineering in ITE when I didn't perform well academically in secondary school.

I think that going against your parents and society's expectations — especially in terms of career choices — will always be difficult. Through the years I've learnt that anything is possible, it all just depends whether you choose to see it that way. I initially chose to follow the path that was set for me, but I ultimately went against my parents, and pursued my passion. Even when they scolded me and withdrew their financial support, I did some hairstyling, tattooing and wedding photography to make ends meet before getting into film-making. Even then, I continued to work part-time jobs and be an Uber driver. My success didn't happen overnight.

When you think of 'the norm' in a Singaporean context, what comes to mind? How have you gone against it?
JT:
To me, 'the norm' is following what society views as being successful, whether that's having a high-paying job, working for a big company or being well-known. In the past, I went against the old-school norm of getting into a top university, then landing a 'good' job. Instead, I quit school, did odd jobs and learned more hands-on skills. Then I got into music videos, which paid very little. For a few years, watching my friends earn a regular living while I struggled to balance my passions with my subsistence work was hard. It made me question myself. But I'm happy now! I'm free, and I can at least say that my persistence paid off. I wouldn't say that I'm super successful now, but I'm more than content.

YAFIQ AND YAIS YUSMAN, PHOTOGRAPHERS

What are your thoughts on singlehood?
Yais Yusman (YI): Being single is freeing; I have the freedom to explore myself and focus on my work. I'm not in a rush to be in a relationship. If one comes my way, I'll bite. But I'm in no rush for sure. 
Yafiq Yusman (YF):
I'm fine being single; I know what my responsibilities are. I'm a family-oriented person who loves my family dearly. I want to make my parents happy first before making myself happy. Family first for now.

What does Valentine's Day mean to you?
YI: I don't celebrate Valentine's Day but I like to believe that it's Singles' Awareness Day too. Valentine's Day is not really a big deal but I'm happy for the couples who celebrate it and wish them eternal love.
YF: Nobody is obligate to celebrate it, even those who are in a relationship.

Do you feel liberated?
YI: Yes. I used to work full-time, and always answered to a superior. Now, working freelance gives me lots of freedom.
YF: I do feel free! Being a full-time freelancer and working to my own schedule is pretty much the freedom I've been longing for. It's like I'm my own boss.

Is freedom given, or earned?
YI: It's depends on the situation. Some people were given freedom from an early age, but for most, freedom comes with trust.
YF: I think freedom is earned and it goes hand-in-hand with trust. You've got to trust in yourself before others will trust you!­

How do you utilise your freedom, and how do you exercise your individuality?
YI: I am flexible when it comes to time, which allows me to explore and to do what I want. But I never take it for granted.
YF: Everyone deserves to feel free. I exercise my freedom by always telling others to be themselves, and to not be pressured by what others say is right or wrong. Just do you.

When you think of 'the norm' in a Singaporean context, what comes to mind? How have you gone against it?
YI: In Singapore, most people think you need a degree to be successful. I don't have one, yet I don't feel any less accomplished than my friends who do have degrees.
YF:
Everyone goes to school, finds a job and gets married. To me, it's less about taking a specific journey, and more about enjoying your own more. You can attend school and not do well, but still excel in your career.

All clothing from Hugo spring/summer 2019 collection. Hugo is located at Ion Orchard, #03-12A and The Shoppes at Marina Bay Sands, #B2-19.

Director: Vanessa Caitlin
Director of Photography: David Bay
Fashion Direction: Jolene Khor
Sound and additional video editing: Hazirah Rahim
Grooming: Fiona Bennett
Fashion assistant: Isabel Kua
Special thanks to: Joyce Teo

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