FEATURE: WEIQI YAP
Today we're with Weiqi Yap (Visual Arts '14) to talk about her time at London College of Fashion (LCF) and the work she's undertaken. With her heart in the identity of fashion between the worlds of London and Singapore, we have a chat about what the industry has been like for her so far, and the conversations she hopes to spark with future projects.
Freshly Pressed: Hi Weiqi! Where are you now?
Weiqi Yap: I'm currently back in Singapore for winter break and in between my third and final year at LCF. It's been a little over a year since I was last home so it's been amazing to finally satisfy my chicken rice cravings.
FP: How has your time at the London College of Fashion been?
WY: It's been really eye-opening and sobering, I think. My tutors are some of most supportive people I’ve ever met, and they really push me to go further with my ideas – something that reminds me a lot of my VA teachers back in SOTA. LCF is massive and there are so many other creatives who are also looking to collaborate and create. Journalists working with stylists, makeup artists working with photographers and creative directors – it’s like a taster of the industry, except less intimidating probably.
I say ‘sobering’ because I’ve learned so much about the unseen labour behind different areas of the industry, and I think it’s often easy for fashion enthusiasts to be caught up in the myth that fashion is just pretty dresses on a catwalk, or some Devil Wears Prada fantasy – I know I was! I can't speak for the design side of things but the media side of fashion entails a whole network of different roles that all work towards representing and communicating fashion.
FP: Can you share some of your favorite projects with us, or what is to come?
WY: One of my favourite projects I worked on was a print magazine based on Peckham, a district in London. Taking it from conception to the final printed copy was really satisfying, and even though looking back, I would change so many things about it, it taught me a lot about things like content flow, digital strategy, visual layout and catering to your reader.
As for the future, I’ll be starting a platform on Singaporean fashion called Attire, a biannual publication and a YouTube channel featuring fashion films, studio tours and panel discussions with local fashion designers and industry figures. Essentially, it hopes to start a conversation surrounding our local fashion climate and sartorial identity. Fashion in Singapore is still very much tied to commerce and luxury, and while there’s nothing wrong with that (fashion is a business, at the end of the day), there’s so much to be explored beyond “the top 5 must-have bags” or “the latest summer trend”.
Attire is largely born out of a dissatisfaction with the current state of our local fashion media – how it’s dominated by mainstream glossy magazines, very little room for alternative aesthetics and critical discussion, and a serious lack of inclusive representation. I’d love for Attire to act as a space for emerging local designers to showcase their work and creative process, particularly work that might not necessarily align to the commercial interests of our local scene.
I think fashion tends to either alienate or intimidate most people, and hopefully Attire’s content will help expand what fashion can encompass. It’s really about contextualising the wider fashion system for the local reader; so think street style snaps of the aunties in the void deck, to profiles of our Peranakan tailors, to the impact of the latest Versace runway, and everything in between.
FP: Attire sounds awesome and I'm excited to see it happen. You describe yourself as being both fascinated and frustrated by fashion on your website. Can you shed some light on what you mean by this?
WY: I’m probably going to sound like a grumpy fashion troll but my frustration with fashion doesn’t end with Singapore haha! As much as I’m fascinated by the level of craft, research and dedication that goes into fashion and textile design, the industry poses some serious environmental and social issues that are hard to ignore. Fashion is one of most polluting industries globally, and adopts unethical supply chains that disregard basic human rights and labour wages.
Also, representation! Runways and magazine covers continue to be majority white, skinny and able-bodied. And while that’s slowly changing in recent seasons, there’s still a long way to go. And this extends to Singapore too. Our fashion media largely reflects a monolithic standard of beauty that is often Chinese or Pan-Asian. So yes! As alluring as the fashion industry can be, there's a lot that still needs to be addressed.
FP: Is there a difference in writing about fashion in Singapore and London?
WY: There are definitely more opportunities in London, considering it’s one of the four major fashion capitals. I also feel like I get more editorial freedom writing for a London-based publication or website as opposed to a Singapore-based one. I haven’t written as much in Singapore as I have in London, but from what I’ve engaged with so far, Singapore fashion journalism almost always veers towards native advertising or product-pushing. And while that’s the case for most fashion journalism worldwide, London has a community of alternative niche fashion media that steers away from that, which is something I would love to see happen in Singapore.
FP: Can you tell us about what internships you've done and tell us what it was about/was like?
WY: Right after SOTA I had the chance to work at Singapore Fashion Week for a short while, where I assisted with copywriting and social media management. That was probably my first encounter with the fashion industry and it was surreal being able to watch everything unfold backstage and onstage in such close proximity. I’ve also since interned with Büro 24/7 Singapore, who I still continue to write for whenever London Fashion Week rolls around; and a retail data site EDITED in London; and the Fashion and Textile Museum in London. It’s been fascinating to witness how an idea goes from being pitched in an editorial meeting, to finally being published. Fashion publishing is super fast-paced by nature, and even more so if you’re on the digital team. I’ll be interning at The Sunday Times Style this coming spring, so it’ll be exciting to see how differently a fashion desk functions at a national newspaper as opposed to a digital platform.
Photos by Ethan Lai
FP: You have some longer writing as well that that kind of brings the fashion review to a more contextual or culturally examining standpoint. Can you tell us more about them?
WY: Prior to LCF I wasn't really exposed to long-form fashion writing, and was under the impression that fashion journalism was mostly short, snappy runway reviews, product articles, interviews – that sort of thing. But having read more diverse forms of fashion writing – investigative pieces, trend features, and even academic texts – I've tried to push my articles past reportage, and it helps that we've had units that require that of our work!
I'd say 80% of the work lies in research – so talking to different sources, gathering as many viewpoints as possible then surveying that information in order to craft and frame whatever it is I'm trying to convey. The writing bit only comes in later on, and usually if I've done my research thoroughly, the actual writing can be done in a day or two. I think a large part of journalism is presenting information in a way that's stimulating and accessible for your reader. My writing used to be so dry and verbose even I didn't want to read my articles, haha. And it's definitely a work-in-progress, I'm constantly refining my writing style and voice and of course, depending on the outlet I'm writing for, sometimes I get to inject more of myself, and sometimes it's about being completely absent from the piece.
FP: Can you refer us to some of the publications or profiles that inspire your writing and/or visual taste?
WY: I read The Business of Fashion religiously – it’s great for staying up to date with the latest industry news and has great in-depth pieces on current issues in fashion. I also really enjoy Vestoj, Address, DAZED, System, The Fashion Law, Disegno, AnOther, and the style sections of The Guardian, The New York Times, 1843 and The Cut. SHOWstudio is amazing for video content, and is definitely worth a look if you’re into fashion film. You might also have heard of @diet_prada, which many are calling the “fashion critic of our generation”. They call out knock-offs in fashion, but in a really accessible yet critical way – definitely check it out!
FP: As graduation is rolling around, what are your coming plans?
WY: I’m considering pursuing a Masters in Fashion Curation after I graduate! Working in the newsroom has made me realise that I probably don’t have the sharpest news sense, haha! And while I still really enjoy writing about fashion, I’d love to be able to engage with fashion in a different context, and to present my research and ideas in alternative mediums such as an exhibition or museum space.
FP: Thank you for your time Weiqi! Any closing comments?
WY: No worries, thanks for having me! If you’re thinking about pursuing fashion communication or have any questions regarding LCF at all, just hit me up or slide in my DMs! Oh and if Attire sounds like something you’d be interested in being a part of, feel free to get in touch too and we’ll work something out!