Google Doodle Salutes Eiko Ishioka

Google Doodle 12 Jul 2017

Movie fans, especially film costume aficionados, would know Eiko Ishioka. Therefore, if you use Google Search today, you may recognise the five illustrations that appear on Google Doodles: Ms Ishioka’s costumes from 2006’s The Fall, a film so fantastical, outlandish, and unlike any out there that Roger Ebert calls it “a movie that you might want to see for no other reason than because it exists”. In fact, it is in the genre of fantasy films that Ms Ishioka made her mark.

Ms Ishioka passed away in 2012. Today would have been her 79th birthday. And Google—a salute to them—decided to honour one of film’s most creative costume designers. If The Fall is unfamiliar to you, consider Francis Ford Coppola’s Bram Stoker’s Dracula of 1992. It scored Ms Ishioka an Oscar for best costume. We remember quite vividly the outlandish ruff worn by the coquettish Lucy Westenra (played by Sadie Frost) and how it stood beautifully even in the midst of an exorcism.

This is not the first time Google Doodles pays tribute to fashion figures. Back in 2013, there was also homage to another film costume name: Edith Head. Last December, there was animation to celebrate the work and invention of Charles Macintosh, whose namesake outerwear is synonymous with rainwear. Since its introduction in 1998, Google Doodles has celebrated the works of giants of design such as Sir Norman Parkinson and Zaha Hadid.

Eiko IshiokaEiko Ishioka. Photo: Brigitte Lacombe

The choice of Eiko Ishioka proves that Google does not hide from less conventional fashion figures or those not immediately identifiable by the average Google user. Ms Ishioka did not share Colleen Atwood’s fame and vast body of work; she did not, in fact, have her start in films. She was trained as a graphic designer, began with Shiseido, and later made her mark in the advertising scene in Tokyo, where, for those old enough to remember, her work for the retailer Parco caught the admiration of her peers. In one of Parco’s television commercials, Ms Ishioka art-directed a chiselled-face Faye Dunaway to do nothing other than crack, peel, and eat an egg!

Her Oscar win led to other film projects. Apart from Bram Stoker’s Dracula and The Fall, there’s also Paul Schrader’s Mishima: A Life in Four Chapters (her first film in 1985) and those by her partner-in-crime Tarsem Singh: The Cell, Immortal and Mirror Mirror (not just The Fall). She also designed for the stage, garnering two Tony nominations in 1988 for M Butterfly. Proving that the art director in her never left, she won, a year earlier, a Grammy for the Miles Davis album Tutu.

While her creative output was varied, including the monochrome and minimalist music video for Bjorg’s Cocoon which showed almost no clothes (a break from costume design, or, as Tarsem Singh told WWD, “Eiko had only two gears: full-out or no gear at all”?), it was her costume work for strange worlds that continue to capture the adoration of fans. These included Cirque du Soleil’s Varekai and the massive stage wear of Grace Jones’s 2009 Hurricane tour that only the singer can pull off.

Many of Ms Ishioka’s fans note that she made a success for herself in an industry dominated by men. But we think it is more remarkable that she had left such a legacy in show business that was, and still is, the domain of the West. Eiko Ishioka, you are missed.

Weird Eventually Is No Longer

People who understand and love Comme des Garçons talk about the “transformative power of the clothing”. On the eve of the Met’s latest spring exhibition The Art of the In-Between, SOTD looks at how CdG, in particular, its designer Rei Kawakubo, has transformed our perception of what can or cannot be clothes and how the unconventional becomes conventional

Rei KawakuboRei Kawakubo (centre) in Paris. Collage: Just So

People break rules all the time, but few are serial rule breakers. To smash established notions of anything, for some, leads to emancipation. In fashion, liberation from the past era’s, century’s, decade’s, previous generation’s, yesteryear’s idea of what is wearable, can-face-the-day clothes has been effected for as long as garments are made and worn. From Paul Poiret to Coco Chanel to Yves Saint Laurent to Mary Quant to Helmut Lang to Raf Simons to Demna Gvasalia to so many more, fashion codes have been rewritten, and clothing has, in many ways, become the freeing of oneself from the constraints of the markedly contemporaneous.

Comme des Garçons’s Rei Kawakubo is a serial rule breaker. Some designers challenge the zeitgeist long enough to see the desired changes and then revolutionise no more. Ms Kawakubo constantly contorts our view of what can be considered suitable to the body and what can be construed as clothes. As she told WWD in 2012, “The more people that are afraid when they see new creation, the happier I am.” If this fashion outsider’s success—culminating in the Met spring exhibition opening on 4 May in New York City—is any indication, Ms Kawakubo may be rather less happy these days.

Perhaps she is. “It’s a Met show for Comme des Garçons, not a Comme des Garçons show at the Met,” she told the media recently, in the few, possibly reluctant, interviews she granted to market the exhibition. And they detected or deduced that she likely had to compromise, something possibly unheard of in the modus operandi of Rei Kawakubo.

The Met 2017 exhibition catalogueThe Met spring exhibition catalogue by curator Andrew Bolton. Collage: Just So

But it wasn’t this way in the beginning. From the start, Ms Kawakubo was really the ready radical, a petite Oriental woman who dared to go to Paris in 1981 to show in the same city as then-newsmakers Thierry Mugler and Claude Montana. But hers wasn’t like the powerfully feminine clothes of her French counterparts; hers were new creations that she likes people to be afraid of, and they were, so much so that the media of that time described what she did disparagingly as “Hiroshima chic”.

She was not the least fazed, and has stuck to showing in Paris till today. Despite the coldness of her designs—mostly in black—people warmed up to them. By the mid-Eighties, CdG, though still odd, funereal, and boyfriend-repelling, appealed to the taste of women for whom ‘power dressing’ encouraged aversion. These were largely those who worked in creative fields, individuals not compelled to dress in the way corporate environments demanded.

Holes in pullovers, tops and shirts with puckered armholes, skirts with unfinished—meaning un-sewn—hemlines that did not accentuate the hips, dresses that could have led a double life as a sack for potatoes, these were novel to a new generation of consumers of designer labels not yet weaned on the elegance of the day. Torn and rough and imperfect, as opposed to refined and smooth and perfect, were visual cues to communicate the message that women were now dressing for themselves rather than for the opposite sex. Visually and obviously feminine styles took a back seat.

CDG Mode et PhotoPoster of the Comme des Garçons photo exhibition in Paris in 1986. Photo: Jim Sim

The growing success of CdG indicated to other designers—established, emerging and those waiting in the wings—that desirable designs need not follow the footsteps of French couturiers such as Yves Saint Laurent, who, in fact, preceded Ms Kawakubo as the first living designer to be honoured by the Met with a solo exhibition in 1983. Ms Kawakubo was in her third year showing in Paris at that time, and probably did not imagine that, 34 years later, she would share Mr Saint Laurent’s good fortune and be selected by the Met to display 150 pieces, as many as the latter, of her designs for public viewing.

Even Marc Jacobs, who does not deny that he’s inspired by CdG, has worn CdG to the Met Gala—a lace tunic shirt to the 2012 Schiaparelli and Prada: Impossible Conversations. Mr Jacob’s coping of CdG not only makes the label a designer’s label, it also elevated the brands visibility. By now, Comme des Garçons, although not an instantly recognisable name as Louis Vuitton, has become what rivals would call successful. Ms Kawakubo is still considered by her peers to be an iconoclast, but the label that she started in 1969 has gone somewhat mainstream too, with pop stars such as Lady Gaga wearing CdG to the delight rather than bafflement of her fans, and with fast fashion imitating their house codes of mixed fabrics/patterns, asymmetric hemlines, and strange proportions.

CdG was not conceived for the masses. It’s disavowing of conventions set it apart, pulling those who are not seduced by the ordinary to the brand. Yet, it has become a bit of a victim of its uncommon success. To be sure, CdG is, in the end, a business, and the company has to survive, and they did so rather well with commercial “non-fashion” items such as those of the popular Play line. Because Ms Kawakubo makes clothes unlike her contemporaries or creates looks ahead of them, her clothes seem to defy time—they don’t date. Vintage CdG is still so in demand (just look at Tokyo’s Rag Tag) that even the company reprises their past pieces in the ‘Evergreen’ collection.

Stalwart supporters of CdG will continue to embrace Ms Kawakubo’s what-will-she-think-of-next designs. For the uninformed, CdG clothes may not look “designer”, but as John Walters once said, “Only you know you spent money when you wear Rei’s creations.”

Ethereal Designs, Ephemeral Life

Obituary | Tan Yoong, one of Singapore’s most illustrious and creative designers passed away three weeks ago. It is irrefutably our nation’s loss. There will never be another like him

tan-yoong-pic-1A ten-year-old, multi-layered silk tulle dress from 2007 that was a further exploration of one of Tan Yoong’s favourites themes: the cattleya orchid. Just last year, he described this as his “all-time favourite design”. Photo, courtesy of the House of Tan Yoong

Tan Yoong is known to be an extremely private person, sometimes solitary. Even in death: he died alone, away from Klieg and kin, in a manner not unlike the passing of John Keats. Comparing his demise to an English romantic poet’s is deliberate for Tan Yoong’s legacy is one of poetry with fabric. His designs bore the Keatsian hallmark: “a thing of beauty is a joy forever”.

If a thing of beauty is that rare combination of shape, form, and colour that pleases our aesthetic sensibilities, then Tan Yoong’s designs were irrefutably a composition of immeasurable beauty and more. SOTD rarely ascribe beauty to the work of Singaporean designers, but in the case of Tan Yoong, there is no description more apt, more telling, and more laudatory.

Since 1996 until the closing of his couture house in 2015, Mr Tan offered mainly beauty to brides. Yet, his ethereal sumptuousness was also appreciated by those not considered his target audience, both men and women. His designs for so many were “the stuff of dreams”, as one customer so ardently put it. Mr Tan once told a former journalist—when asked why he had chosen to concentrate on bridal wear— that “every woman wants to look beautiful, like a bride. So for me, a bride has to look even better than that.” He often said—whether out of humility or candor, it wasn’t certain—that he did “not cater to beauty and those with money. Women come to me because my gowns make women more confident and, therefore, more beautiful.”

tan-yoong-bridalDespite his obvious flair in fashion design, Tan Yoong was mostly known for his bridal couture and women swoon at the sight of his signature gossamer layers, swirls and twirls. Photo (originally for an ad), courtesy of Lightspade Studio and the House of Tan Yoong

Every woman can look beautiful if she thinks she is. How the mind can be seduced into this thought is often the result of what is worn. More than just an attractive outfit, a dress can also offer elements of fantasy, among them, the illusion of looking like a princess-bride. Fantasy is a powerful agent in the elevation of self-esteem. Mr Tan knew that, and he spun fantasy in spades. A fashion-designer-turn-educator said of Tan Yoong’s designs, “It’s the fantasy that I’ll remember him for.”

The fantasy is best exemplified in his drawings. A gifted illustrator, Mr Tan drew with a deft hand, expounding Western glamour with distinctive Eastern strokes—their sweeps and linearity akin to Chinese calligraphy. He drew from a young age and, prior to enrolling in Nanyang Academy of Fine Arts in 1967, made fashion drawings that were inspired by models such as Twiggy and the German sensation Veruschka. His girls were outfitted by clothes born of his imagination, which, by his own admission in later years, were attributed to the influence of Dior, Balenciaga, and Yves Saint Laurent.

Mr Tan’s unique fashion illustration style was honed in the post-design competition years (the last was also his most remembered: the Her World Young Designers Contest in 1978), when his eponymous label was taking definite shape. Aware of the artistic value of his drawings, and their accurate representation of his uncommon style, he used them—framed like art—in his Lucky Plaza shop window, in place of mannequins. This predated even Stilla’s use of illustrations to sell a line.

So captivating were his illustrations that magazines such as Her World (the first to commission him as an illustrator in the ’70s) and Female, both usually proponents of fashion photography, would happily publish Tan Yoong’s illustrations of his own clothes whenever he preferred the use of drawings to photos. They were never met with resistance from any editor or art director.

bridal-dress-detailTan Yoong’s couture dresses were about handcrafted details such as this feathered bodice designed to look like a bouquet of flowers. Photo, courtesy of the House of Tan Yoong

One former editor recalls, “Back then, I was only familiar with the work of Rene Gruau and Antonio Lopez, but when I saw Tan Yoong’s drawings, I was completely bowled over. He depicted his women in groups just as Gianni Versace did through his photographs lensed by Richard Avedon. As a student, I would go to his Lucky Plaza shop just to see those framed drawings in the window, hoping that he had put out a new one. But he did not change them often enough. Still, those drawings were totally entrancing.” Indeed, for many a young person struggling to pursue what was then an uncommon career in the rag trade, Mr Tan’s illustrations were catharsis by fashion.

While the drawings of his formative years tended to be delineations of his favourite European models in the looks of the day, those that came later, during his heyday, were distinctive for their watercolour washes or coloured-pencil shadings over inked lines that gave form to sumptuous shapes. And there were those unmistakable eyes: multiple skinny strokes that seemed to suggest Cyclops’s visor, but it is doubtful Mr Tan intended for his women to be containing massive optic blast force. Rather, those eyes—obscured, thus mysterious—were complementary to the strikingly bald heads, sometimes punctuated with a clutch of flowers, that he favoured for a period.

It is thus not inaccurate to say that for Mr Tan, the foundation of his designs and attendant work was those drawings. Many of his signature styles first emerged from pen and paper. So sure was he of his drawings and so much faith had he in them that often times even photographic output was based on illustrations (interestingly, he never used a bald model). Most of his studio shoots were based on a prepared sketch or full-colour illustrations. Those who worked with him knew of his exacting demands. The creative director period of his life (specifically his time at Batey Ads in the mid-’70s), the story boards—they did not ever leave him.

tan-yoong-illustration-heartTan Yoong was as much admired as an illustrator as a designer. Illustration, courtesy of the House of Tan Yoong

tan-yoong-illustrations His illustrations captured the imaginations of scores of aspiring designers and students. Clockwise from top left: a sketch during his teenage years, Veruschka-inspired drawing from the late ’60s, poster illustration of the mid-’90s, the Her World Young Designers award winning collection, illustrations for the Cattleya collection,  and definitive Tan Yoong illustration of the late ’80s.  Illustrations, courtesy of the House of Tan Yoong

Photographer Joyce Choo, a constant collaborator in the ’90s, vividly remembers the shoot for the Seashell collection. “This was way before Photoshop, and back then, we shot on film,” she says. “Each composition could comprise up to three layers. I had to shoot all of them individually and then assembled them as seen in the illustration that he first showed during the brief.”

It can be said that spontaneity was not Mr Tan’s modus operandi. His style was a studied glamour—precise, deliberate, and appreciated by women that were, according to him, “sophisticated and chic”. The ingénue seemed less interesting or inspiring to him, unlike, say, to Hubert de Givenchy. This is reflected in his choice of models. One of Tan Yoong’s favourites in the ’80s was Susan Ang, a petite individual with features that were unmistakably Oriental. Ms Ang was no lass in the cusp of womanhood. She looked grown, worldly, and clearly able to carry designed garments that were not your every-day threads.

From the start, Mr Tan considered what he did to be couture (even when he did not specifically referred to his work as ‘haute’), and it was couture in the French (or European) tradition, not the glue-gun-and-feathers variety. As he is not known to open up his atelier to anyone except his staff, no one had had the opportunity to see how he worked. Ex-staffers recount that the designer was very hands-on and that he positioned every bead, every slip of lace, every wisp of appliqué on the dress-in-progress himself. As with the photographs of his collections, surface embellishments on the garment much corresponded to the sketch made before the commencement of the drafting of the item of clothing. Although not trained at storied couture houses, his insistence on finishing much of his designs by hand stood shoulder to shoulder with the practices of the maisons of Paris.

tan-yoong-risis-orchid-seriesFor his collaboration with Risis Orchids in the mid-’90s, Tan Yoong conceived a series of photographs that looked very much like his illustrations. Photo, courtesy of the House of Tan Yoong

tan-yoong-seashells-collectionThe Seashell collection of the ’90s shot by Joyce Choo featured Photoshop-style layers before digital imaging was the norm in fashion photography. Photo, courtesy of the House of Tan Yoong

Undoubtedly, his design aesthetic—at least in his formative years—was influenced by couture greats: Dior, Balenciaga, Yves Saint Laurent. Yet, his style was as disconnected to mode Française as he is to China, or wherever his Eastern flourishes could be traced to, outside his homeland. Although he did not see the need to maintain an “Eastern identity” in his designs, Mr Tan never negated his Eastern roots. His structured forms confined to a Western norm, but the details and the surface treatment of his designs bore an identifiable Oriental sensibility. And the reverse is true: on his famed cheongsams, the embellishments were conversely European.

Despite his own Western image and outlook, and the Western lands he visited so ardently in his retirement travels, Mr Tan was, at heart, an aesthete whose thinking was very Chinese. To those he knew well, the bilingual designer mostly spoke to them in what could have been his most comfortable language: Mandarin. He would also use dialects such as Cantonese to chat and joke with fellow designers.

Mr Tan’s primary school years were spent in an institution associated with Chinese schools (although they were no longer popular in the late ’50s and were phased out in the ’70s): Mi Tuo Primary, now Mee Toh School and a Government-Aided School since 1957. He continued his secondary schooling in the Catholic environment of Maris Stella High, and furthered his education at Nanyang Academy of Fine Arts, an education centre that was set up in 1938 in the tradition of Chinese art academies. Nanyang Academy of Fine Arts (the abbreviation NAFA was not officially used when Mr Tan enrolled in 1967; the school was mostly known by its Chinese name 南洋艺术学院) was a part of the art movement, Nanyang Style. One of Singapore’s most celebrated artists associated with the movement and also linked to the school was the Chinese-fluent Liu Kang.

Tan Yoong revealed very little of his fine arts training, his time in school, his relationship with classmates and his lecturers. It isn’t known how he reconciled his love for Western fashion with the education in a school so synonymous with the Nanyang Style. But the exposure to did-Singapore-proud artists must have bolstered the believe in his own talent and the willingness to salute other local artists such as Eng Tow, whose fabric and paper art inspired a memorable collection Mr Tan created in 1990. The product of fine art can be a result of a long, labour-intensive process. Mr Tan did not see fashion differently. He approached it as a painter would his canvas: using mostly hands, regardless of the medium. But fashion, to the trained artist, is not art. To a designer, it can be just as revered; it can be couture.

tan-yoong-pic-3One of Tan Yoong’s favourite models in the ’80s, Susan Ang, in a top that typified his play with sheerness and opacity. Photo, courtesy of the House of Tan Yoong

If one were to read Mr Tan’s designs the way the Chinese du hua (读画 or read a painting), one can discern a lyrical serenity, particularly in his early years (less so in the bridal designs, but that could be just a bridal thing—commerce being all-important), or, to put it more in line with the perspective of Chinese paintings, quiet poetry. Many of Mr Tan’s peers looked at his Eastern leanings with admiration since the expressions in his designs were original. Yet, sometimes, with disregard, for some thought he overly romanticised Chinese motifs and symbolism. Was a Westernized Tan Yoong making Oriental references similar to the Shanghainese of the 1920s copying modern occidental society and was tagged with what was then a derogatory term: haipai ((海派 or ‘Shanghai Style’)?

That thinking may be reductive just as the considering of Tan Yoong only as a bridal designer is reductive. Mr Tan passionately loved fashion and he did not let his lack of formal training in fashion design diminish his ability to traipse familiar and uncharted territory. Yet, one senses he tried harder and was more expressive than anyone else because he did not attend classes for fashion or cut his teeth in a fashion house. Designer Thomas Wee remembered Tan Yoong pointing out to him during one of the ASEAN Designer Shows in the ’90s that, among the regional designers presenting that evening, the two of them did not go to fashion school. He considered that “sao kar” (羞家, a now uncommonly used Cantonese expression that’s roughly the equivalent of the Mandarin diulian or 丢脸, or to lose face).

This rare revelation of professional inadequacy hinted at an insecurity that few knew or sensed. But it does explain why no one (except his staff) had really seen Mr Tan at work. A former magazine and commercial stylist explained, “Tan Yoong was a perfectionist and he never considered what he did good enough. Therefore, he wouldn’t show you how he did what he did.” One surprising act seemed to concur with this line of thinking. About a year before he closed his business in 2015, Mr Tan instructed his staff to destroy all the clothes in his archive and whatever was not sold. According to one ex-staffer, they were instructed to “cut everything up”and discard. Tan Yoong did not want to leave any trace of perfection or imperfection.

tan-yoong-pic-6Another signature design from the early ’80s: appliqué of sheer longitudinal stripes to mimic leaves and petals. Tan Yoong was the first designer here to use baby-lock stitching in place of hem as part of the decorative effect. Photo, courtesy of the House of Tan Yoong

Said the stylist, “I am not the least surprised that he had destroyed everything. Tan Yoong was very secretive about his techniques. Maybe he knew they were not standard techniques, and authenticity was very important to him.” Mr Tan’s evolution as a designer was never a journey to an end point; it was always a work in progress. Even the clothes he used to send for shoots were unfinished dreams. It was known among stylists and photographers that quite a few of those clothes were only completed in the front. Mr Tan often attended shoots with cloths and decorative fabrics such as his hand-cut cut-outs and laces that were used at a sudden moment to stitch onto the garment being shot. Every petal, every stripe, every curlicue was applied as if he was doing a collage on paper.

This going-by-gut-instinct approach to design is, in fact, rather couture in spirit, yet Tan Yoong was not necessary sure his was the right way. Thomas Wee recalled, “He used to come by my shop and would slowly push the front door open, peer in and sheepishly say to me, ‘来偷师’ (here to steal a master’s craft). He would examine my clothes very closely.” Mr Tan may not have started as the tailoring master that Mr Wee has always been, but he did progress to the point when his clothes exhibited a master’s hand with silhouettes. And his customers knew they could trust his cuts.

Yet, this was not quite enough to bolster his self-confidence. He kept his work day within his atelier and rarely talked about his design process, particularly to journalists, who he had an uneasy relationship with. He did not particularly trusted them to report accurately what he thought, led alone interpret his work, nor understand what he did. This is ironic considering that it was through press accolades and the ardent support of editors such as Her World’s Betty Khoo that Tan Yoong acquired much of his early successes.

tan-yoong-pic-7One of Tan Yoong’s last innovations (in 2014): multi-layer coloured silk tulle for what he called “water-colour effect”. He was adamant no one thought them to be “hand-painted”. Photo, courtesy of the House of Tan Yoong

One particular article turned him away from the media even more resolutely. In February of 2008, former journalist Michelle Tay of the The Straits Times (ST) opined in the Life column The Monday Interview, that Mr Tan “could in fact be mistaken for your friendly neighbourhood uncle.” A close friend of Mr Tan said that the designer had called to say he “was unhappy” with that description. “Why must she put it that way,” he had said. And he was not over-reacting. Would anyone have described Tan Swee Hian as an ‘uncle’, however avuncular he may look?

To Mr Tan, just as it was to Jane Austen when she wrote in Pride and Prejudice, “Vanity and pride are different things, though the words are often used synonymously.” No one who knew him would consider Mr Tan someone interested in dressing like a designer (or trendily, or flashily) even when he was partial to turning out impeccably, mostly in variations of beige, and some form of head wear. Mr Tan took pride in everything he did, including how he appeared in public, even when pushing his mother in a wheelchair—before she passed away—when they went for walks in Orchard Road.

Following his death, the lack of curiosity about Tan Yoong’s craft continued to characterise media reports. More eager to give an account of the cause and time of death than to mourn the passing of an indisputably great talent, ST’s first article by Melissa Heng approached his demise with the same snooping flare as those reporting a suspicious fatality in an HDB heartland. Her follow-up a week later had “fashion insiders remember the couture pioneer for his visionary designs and skillful craftsmanship”, never mind that it is doubtful young-ish designers such as Priscilla Ong Shunmugam and Mae Pang could “remember” Tan Yoong at the height of his career. Ms Heng herself had nothing insightful to offer. She availed a set of photos to her interviewees and asked them to “comment”. While she labeled some of the dresses “couture” (in fact, they all are), she had asked if they “would have been difficult to make.”

tan-yoong-pic-8A cocktail dress of multi-layered coloured silk tulle at Tan Yoong’s last catwalk presentation in 2008. Photos, courtesy of the House of Tan Yoong

It is hardly surprising that in his last years, Mr Tan had chosen to lead a quiet, almost reclusive life, completely away from media glare, uninvolved in the ignorance that spawns insipidity in today’s old and new media (his one social-media indulgence was an Instagram account that he maintained, where images of past work and current travels were posted). From the start, his designs seemed to suggest retreat from a regular world, recoiling from its woes and its increasing banality. Hence, the prevalent “fantasy”.

Some observers think that Tan Yoong did not, in the twilight of his eponymous label, really caught up with the celebrity-led redefinition of elegance—his was too old-fashioned, they say. Under and above his many, many ways with silk tulle, Tan Yoong had at all times strictly adhered to the pursuit of the ultimate expression of the most beautiful and the most creative. For the likes of Ms Heng, Ms Shunmugam, and Ms Pang, this is possibly quite beyond their ken.

The United Nations put it aptly when it said in a statement in response to Tan Yoong being selected to represent Singapore in the inaugural World Fashion Awards in the World Fashion Week (now defunct) in Hollywood back in 2008, “He is an active force in the growth and beauty of his own country’s fashion industry.”