For two days on 18 and 19 June, Mandarin Gallery treated 10 fans to a VIP Personal Shopping and Styling session for two. This unique experience was themed around small luxuries – even as shoppers enjoy great discounts during the shopping season, they do not have to discount the experience. This initiative was part of Mandarin Gallery’s Gallery Experience series, in which the mall would create pop-up experiences to enhance the shopping for the public.
Out of sheer curiosity, I decided to have a taste of this exclusive experience. Never been professionally styled, I imagined it would be a glamorous occasion where professional stylists would choose some fitting apparel and I would get to don beautiful outfits. I even imagined taking photo shoots after. That would be fun. It turned out there was no photo shoots or donning of fashionable wear; what I got instead was a truly engaging conversation with creative and image consultant Jeffrey Tang.
I was never a fashion student. I might have read some issues of Vogue, done some photo shoots for school, and gone to a few fashion events during New York Fashion Week, but with Jeffrey, I was humbled. I heard a fashion insider’s perspective firsthand, and enjoyed every moment I had with him.
The first thing I noticed about Tang was his black aesthetics. Everything he wore was black, from his loose black apparel to his rings (he wore many). He had the classic stylist look. I, on the other hand, was not wearing any special. I had grabbed a H&M turtleneck crop top, paired it with shorts and rushed out of the house for my appointment. My ensemble could hardly be termed as suited for the occasion. I felt really under-dressed for the occasion.
But hey, what I lacked in fashion, I could make up in the eagerness to learn. I looked around me and saw that the collection of clothes in the gallery was eclectic. From frilled black blouses with asymmetrical cutting, to regular jeans and heels, and colourful semiformal dresses, there was something for everyone.
When I got the chance to speak to Jeffrey, he told me he studied in Fashion Institute of Technology (F.I.T), in the same city as my school. My interest was piqued. I attend college in the same city, and I had friends who studied in F.I.T, too. Of course it has to be in New York City, one of the fashion capitals in the world. I wanted to know about Jeffrey’s own understanding of fashion, trends and style.
Jeffrey remarked: “The fashion industry is a creative industry. It gives designers the platform to showcase their latest ideas and products. There will always be something new, so trends change all the time.”
Style, however, he stressed, is very different from trend. Style can incorporate trends, but style is also personal. It cannot be defined by trends.
“One cannot simply be layering the latest trends. They may not look good together, and some trends may not look good on you. I don’t think that is what the fashion industry is about.” Instead, he saw the fashion industry as the one providing the options, and him as the stylist, giving suggestions.
“The stylist’s job is to allow you to reconsider your wardrobe options, and be open to new possibilities. Sometimes you have to step out of your comfort zone to discover what suits you more, or what you are doing right. The decision is up to you.”
Jeffrey believes that style has to be a form of self identity, and evolve with the self. However, just like our identities, the fundamentals would remain the same. I thought that was an apt parallel being made.
When it came to my turn being styled, he suggested I try something that would give more volume to my upper body, and accentuate the length of my legs. “Do not be afraid to flaunt what you have,” he advised. Well, fashion is supposedly about celebrating oneself, right?
“Hybridity is also very in. If you aren’t comfortable with high fashion, don’t hesitate to pair something high-fashion with something regular. There’s no point looking like you just walked out of a fashion asylum. The point is to feel comfortable with yourself and what you’re wearing, and to feel that it represents you well.” He proceeded to pair an asymmetrical blouse with a pair of jeans. It looked manageable, something that could be worn for work. I would not mind wearing them on the streets.
I connected with Jeffrey over our shared New York experience, and how difficult it was to pursue creative arts in Singapore, but how fast that was changing now. Fashion that used to be almost irrelevant in a pragmatic society, has become increasingly important. People are now seeing value in their outward appearance, and how they present themselves to the world. It is no longer extraneous or superficial; it accessorizes life, quite literally.
It is all logical, easy to understand in theory, but finding one’s own aesthetic takes time, practice, a keen eye and lots of stumbles along the way. Furthermore, there is the money obstacle, and that can be a huge one. As a student I still have a painfully limited budget. And, it takes time and perhaps some inherent talent to know how to bring out unique parts of yourself, honing the ability to do that smoothly, and finding a natural right fit. But what you lack in talent, you can always learn more, from stylists like Jeffrey. I would love to be styled again.