Personal branding and fashion are always closely related–and who says Singaporeans are not fashionable?
We interviewed the folks from Shentonista, a popular website which showcases the fashion and cultural landscapes of Shenton Way (located at Singapore’s Central Business District, hence the name Shentonista) and other parts of Singapore.
IKIGUIDE: What inspired the creation of Shentonista?
Shentonista: It’s a bit of a funny story, actually — Shentonista was started by Darren (Lee), because one of his friends had remarked that there was no way that he could find well-dressed Singaporeans in the central business district.
What started out as a simple means of capturing stylish Singaporeans has evolved into features about people, their workplaces, and their lives. It is our way of documenting both the fashion and cultural landscape of Shenton Way and Singapore.
IKIGUIDE: You guys take fantastic photos of fashionable people in Shenton Way. Who does the phototaking? How do you all decide who to feature and what were some of the most interesting experiences?
Shentonista: We are just one small part of UNIFORM, a content and communications company.
Our team at UNIFORM is very small, and while Darren handles the campaign shoots we do for brands, we have a small team that goes out to Shenton Way to shoot the everyday Shentonista features.
We’ve all learnt how to be consistent in terms of the photography style for Shentonista, and our photographers at the moment are Samantha and Marlene.
When we go out as a team of about 2-3 people, we all look out for individuals who stand out from the crowd. Colour and patterns are definitely some of the things we spot first, because of the prevalence of black/white/neutrals in the CBD. But it could also be as simple as an interesting pair of shoes, or a striking accessory.
A lot of times it’s about the whole look, and how a particular person carries it off. Some people just have that something about them that we’re immediately drawn to, and we immediately think to ourselves, we need to shoot this person. All in all we want to inspire people, so we first have to be inspired by the people we find.
We wouldn’t say that any particular experiences stand out, but sometimes when we approach people, it’s always extremely nice to hear them say, oh, I’ve heard of Shentonista!
And some of them are actually really flattered to be featured, and genuinely love what we do. That’s always uplifting and reaffirms what we’re doing.
And then there are the people that have become more than just subjects. We’ve become good friends with quite a number of people that we’ve shot!
IKIGUIDE: Within a span of less than 5 years, you have nabbed a number of prestigious fashion awards. What do you think are ingredients behind Shentonista’s popularity and success?
Shentonista: We’d like to think it’s because we try to stay real, and human. We’re just as interested in the old uncle rocking a pair of suspenders as we are in the young, trendy professional in a structured shift dress. The tagline for Shentonista is “People, Faces, Style”, and so we see the people wearing the outfits as even more important than just their look.
Similarly, we don’t just ask people about what they’re wearing, but also how they work, live, and play.
We give them a chance to share about what inspires them, and their own thoughts and opinions. Because we think that everyone has a voice and everyone likes to be heard.
And it’s always a pleasant surprise to realise how much people are willing to share once you are open to them as well.
IKIGUIDE: Personal branding and fashion are so closely related. Yet Singaporeans are not known to be fashionable or trendy in terms of clothing and style. Do you have any comments on this?
Shentonista: Over the years we have seen a change in the way people dress. And even if Singaporeans aren’t always on-trend-fashionistas, we see more and more people who aren’t afraid to put their own spin on things. They also dare to dress against the norm.
If we can’t change perceptions, then at least we can inspire other Singaporeans to be more open-minded and experimental when it comes to dressing up.
IKIGUIDE: Give us three top tips on how to dress fashionably.
- We’d recommend dressing well, not fashionably. Actually — trends aren’t for everyone, so it’s best to find something that works for you, specifically. If you can pull it off, and it’s something you personally like, then by all means, go ahead. But don’t feel pressured to buy into every trend that you see.
- Dressing expensively does not always equate to dressing well. You might be tagged in designer clothing from head to toe, but taste and style are things that can’t be bought. Wear your clothes, don’t let them wear you.
- Ladies — if it’s short, it shouldn’t be tight. And vice versa.
IKIGUIDE: Will there be a ‘heartlands’ version of Shentonista in the future?
IKIGUIDE: Fashion and design seem to be something very close to your hearts. What advice would you give to aspiring local fashion designers?
Shentonista: Be realistic. Fashion is a tough business, even more so in Singapore, so you’ve got to be clear about what you’re doing, why you’re doing it, and who you’re doing it for.
Find partners or people that can help you run your company, because a lot of designers get too caught up in the creative side of things and fail to create a sustainable business. Also, never compromise on quality — it’s the one thing that can really set you above the multitude.
IKIGUIDE: Let’s end this interview with some tips towards a great personal brand from the fashion perspective. What are some ‘must haves’ for both guys and girls respectively?
- For guys: socks, ties, pocketsquares, lapel pins. Basically, little accessories and touches that you can add on to instantly make any outfit that much more interesting. More than the actual clothes, we also think it’s very important for guys to get the fit right. You could be wearing the simplest shirt-and-pants combination, but if it fits perfectly, you’re good to go.
- For girls: that one dress that you can throw on no matter the occasion. And a pair of basic heels in either black or nude, regardless of whether you’re a girlie girl or tomboy. Sometimes it’s more about being respectful and being appropriately dressed for the occasion than individual expression. You shouldn’t turn up at a formal reception wearing sneakers or flip-flops.
Also, don’t forget to be well-groomed. That’s half the battle won.
Photo credits: Shentonista