Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Fide Fashion Week 2013

This year's Fide Fashion Weeks (FFW) kicked off with two renowned ready to wear brands - Bread and Butter, and Pierre Balmain. These feature shows definitely set the tone of the event throughout the two weeks as trendy and loud. It's also almost impossible to let the fashion week escape from being labelled as one of the social events of the year in Singapore. I was really excited to attend this year's event for several reasons and I would love you guys to see the event for yourself the next time you're in Singapore. We are not as dull anymore!

I have been to Fide Fashion Week (sometimes referred to Singapore Fashion Week) here since it started in 2011, and it has been growing ever since. Sure we have fashion week in Milan, Paris, London and even New York, but why go so far when you can have it in Singapore? Better yet, it's happening right on our backyard. Besides, what's there is always available online - for a change, why not watch something that you've not seen or never knew before?

Which is why I always look forward to fashion week! Apart from meeting my gorgeous friends, I also get to see models donned in art. Anything that is wearable, but not practical is art to me. Don't get the wrong message, because I think art has to be hard to fit in otherwise it wouldn't be exclusive would it?
Sofia Wakabayashi walking the runway in Guo Pei's.
Photo credit: Jeri Soh
Guo Pei's show was amazing because it really set the bar for haute couture. Fashion too high no one can carry. It takes a really fit model to wear that and I am sure whatever Victoria's Secrets model were wearing on the runway, were not as heavy as this. It was crazy that for one of the dresses, they had to prop two men in order to support the train and the dress. It's a wonder how those female models don't sweat in that dress. Guo Pei really took suffer for fashion to a whole new level. Guo Pei was really over the top, I can't say enough on this. It is definitely a treat to the eye with her latest theme - 1002 Arabian Nights. Yes, 1002, not 1001. The show was full house - her designs speak for itself.

Flowy dress by Yumi Katsura.
Photo credit:  Jeri Soh

Yumi Katsura's has always been my ultimate favorite - her designs were more practical for wedding dresses (after all that was how she started) and her dresses were meant to be admired by many. She never fail to surprise her audience with her glow-in-the-dark Merlion that was embedded on one of her dresses, and dual colored dress. You know how some jackets are double sided, now apply that on couture dresses. Maybe to her, embroideries are little too cliche. She managed to put the basics to her intricate work which was really something worth clapping for. Some would call it cheap because of its dual function - well first of, we are Asians. We dig anything that's practical and maybe cost saving. Secondly, I heard that one of the dresses cost about 2.8 million? Not sure about that, but cheap or expensive, her business is still running! Of course, her show ended with a standing ovation from us - besides, the anthem was aired with models waving our national flag, it wouldn't be inappropriate to stay seated! We love her don't we?

Sebastian Gunawan's designs were appealing because it shows a strong culture to his dresses - elaborated and sparkly floral. He won me in terms of color because he was one of the many designers that uses blue extensively - which is my favorite color.

Models donned in Gunawan's designs
in my favorite color!
Photo credit: Sebastian Gunawan
Also, Frederick Lee - he is the first Singaporean to showcase his dresses in this year's fashion week. He literally brought Halloween forward with his dark, mysterious and Gothic dresses.
A design by Frederick Lee.
Photo credit: Jeri Soh
There were many other designers that I wish I can talk about but we will have to leave that to another time, more pictures coming up next!

Thanks everyone who made my attendance possible! You know who you are! See you next year!

Monday, October 21, 2013

Men's Folio 16th Anniversary

Men's Folio just celebrated its 16th anniversary and I would like to wish them a happy birthday!

Men's Folio anniversary party was held at Chameleon club lounge and it was my first visit there. All these while whenever I'm in Dempsey, I'd just spend time like how Brits do - drinking tea and maybe have some ice cream but this time, it's a little different.

Located at the heart of Singapore, 22 Dempsey is definitely an ideal location for events because it has a restaurant, cafe and a club to choose from and the lightings make it look magical at night.

The party was amazing because I get to meet some of my friends whom I've not met for quite some time, and everyone was having their fingers crossed for the Bell & Ross lucky draw. Which was one of the reasons I was there - kidding!

Men's Folio has been my favorite lifestyle magazine because it does not only cover about fashion, but also dining, skin care and many more. They always have fresh faces and style which I can never get bored of. Being at the anniversary really makes me feel appreciated and honored! Their latest issue is out on the newsstands, grab them now!

This month's issue does not only have some of my favorite guys as the cover, it also featured one of my favorite athletes, Marcel Nguyen, looking sharp as ever in that suit for Ernest Borel. These guys does not only have the looks and money, but they have the drive. Which is really inspiring to me and should also be the same to you.

It was definitely a great start to the weekend because I was very surprised and thrilled to have bumped into one of my close friends! Thank you for having me Men's Folio! You can count me as one of your loyal readers!

Saturday, October 12, 2013

Sound of Ikebana: Four Seasons - Opening Party

Last night we drop by the Art Science Museum for the opening party of a renowned Japanese media artist, Naoko Tosa's latest exhibition.

Her latest exhibition entitled Sound of Ikebana:  Four Seasons features a series of four video artworks created by vibrating sound beneath painting, shot at 2000 frames per second with high-speed camera. I was curious about this art because it is not really a painting or a photograph but a slow motion video that allows us to appreciate life that pasts by us. It is a little bit like Time Warp in Discover Channel. Though science here were used in a whole new concept.

She has a Ph.D in Engineering (Art and Technology research), has exhibited her work at the Museum of Art in New York, New York Metropolitan Art Museum and many other museums, this must mean something right? So today, I would like to thank one of the National University of Singapore (NUS) professors who cordially invited me to view this spectacular art!

Yesterday's event was an evident that art and science can synergize. The full turnout for the opening party from different walks of life were there to grace the event. It does not only show how supportive these Japanese are towards art produced by their counterpart, but also support from international visitors from all over the world. Of course, not forgetting one unethical foreign visitor who violated the code of conduct of a social event. She was definitely one of the conversation topics over the standing table I'm sure.

The event introduced us to the exhibition - Sound of Ikebana which is an extension of her previous video artwork, An Expression.

One of the ideas in this project is to model the creative process of certain natural patterns - like the shape of snow or leaves, and then apply it in artificial process. Just like how you can make this art with computer graphics. But the downside of this is that, they tend to lack diversity. Hence, Naoko wanted something that is done using natural phenomena (in this case, sound) to introduce these creative designs - which are unpredictable.

If you are going to the Art Science Museum for this, you will learn that each art work refers to an absolute image of nature. What is it? Well you'll have to find out yourself! Sound of Ikebana will commence today till mid-January 2014. Catch it while you can!

On a personal note, thanks to one of my lovely best friend for accompanying me to this party. It was great meeting you and new friends!

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Islamic Finance Services Conference (IFSC) 2013

Hello everyone! I hope most of my schoolmates are having a blast over the holidays. There are several hiccups in my schedule this week and now I am almost mentally dead arranging my own schedule but no matter I am doing as much as possible to keep myself optimistic. Funny thing, organizing your weekly schedule can take almost half a day. No kidding.

Islamic Finance Services Conference (IFSC) 2013

Although some things may not go as planned, I am grateful that I am able to wake up today and drag my feet to the Islamic Finance Service Conference (IFSC) 2013. This event is held to discuss on the niche market in the banking and finance sector; Islamic banking. Its aim is to build a community of top service providers especially among companies and entrepreneurs in Malaysia and Singapore who are constantly seeking new ideas and providing solutions and services in the Islamic Financial sector, to create value for their customers, stakeholders and the industry.

I am so grateful to have been invited to this encouraging event. There's a lot that we don't know that I've learnt and whatever that I've learnt, I'll always feel obligated to share. Be it haunte couture, sports, study tips and everything else.

Before that, let's talk about the event. I mean, this is my first time attending a conference as a delegate. Back when I was in school, I was just a paid volunteer collecting pay check about a month after any event that I worked for. Now that I am on the seat as an audience, it allows me to pay more attention on what was being taught.

Oddly, I did not think through of my outfit. I was this close to wearing just tee and jeans. Luckily I checked out their website and happen to see some of their past pictures. Only then I was aware that I had to pick something presentable. Next time, it would be nice if they can put it in black and white on the dress code. Even the makciks there were well dressed in fancy turbans.

The event definitely attracted more Muslims naturally because they feel obligated to find out what's in there for them (we'll dive in later) and there are a significant number of non-Muslim attendees who are industry players. It was really good to see the former Member of Parliament, Dr Ahmad M Magad, and former Senior Minister of State, Mr Zainul Abidin Rasheed.

So briefly, what topics were covered in the event? It's an eight hour event, you should attend next years.

In the early part of the event, they mentioned about the Islamic finance ecosystem, the technology, guidelines set by each country's authority and the different views of Singapore and Malaysia towards Islamic finance. The jist of the talk was that in Malaysia, industry players see Malaysia's plan as wanting to be the Islamic financial hub of the world. This can be clearly seen in the robust effort that they had put in since the late 90's with the start of Tabung Haji (Haj funds), takaful and so on. Singapore on the other hand, sees Islamic finance as a subset. Which means to say, Singapore aims to be a financial hub, with Islamic finance in it as a niche market. Hence if you are aware, Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) has implemented some framework to assist the transactions in Islamic finance. What the speaker (honestly, I don't remember names, apologies much, but be honored I remember what you said) was saying was that the Middle East (where majority of the Islamic funds are) wants to see a collaboration between Malaysia and Singapore, working together for a better system because Singapore has the technology and Malaysia has deep knowledge in Islamic finance. So by synergizing these two together, it will produce a better ecosystem in Islamic finance. One of the challenges that they are facing now is the demand because in this region there's a pool of talent in banking and finance sector as well as Islamic finance. However, there's a lack of transaction in this market segment. Here's why -

To put it in simple terms we have a dual financial system namely the conventional system - our mainstream system where you earn interest, and the Islamic system - which is believed by Muslims as the halal (permissible) way of banking. However, apart from shariah (Islamic law), the system depends on the sub laws by scholars (fatwas) too. It is unsurprising to see a dual financial system where they have purely conventional banking, and either shariah embedded banking products or shariah compliant Islamic banking product. These two are just different. How so? Shariah embedded are usually products approved by the scholars, has so called the Islamic spirit in it, where as compliant are created by bankers but complying shariah. It's a little bit confusing but it's just like the difference between 'No pork, no lard' and certified halal food. So one of the reasons why the transaction volume is low is partly because consumers are confused and inconfident of the system. Or rather, illiterate about the system. However, we are just talking about Islamic banking in Southeast-Asia (SEA) as a whole because, while two-third of the Islamic assets are in the Middle East, two-third of the Muslim population are here in SEA.

Whether the financial product is shariah embedded or compliant, both are still acceptable from the shariah's point of view. But take note, 'no pork, no lard' still does not constitute as certified halal, buyers discretion advised! Another challenge faced in this region is that we want to close the gap between shariah knowledge, and financial knowledge. There are many scholars out there who are graduates, who are well versed in shariah. However, it is also imperative for them to have the financial knowledge of conventional banking. This way the industry can leverage on human capital of the shariah scholars.

While Islamic finance is still new and being explored, it is also important to know the type of financial instruments that Islamic finance uses because there are certain criteria that determines whether that financial product is Islamically permissible or in other words, halal. For example, in the issue of sukuk (Islamic equivalent to bonds a little bit like a zero coupon bond. According to Investopedia, the issuer of a sukuk sells an investor group the certificate, who then rents it back to the issuer for a predetermined rental fee. The issuer also makes a contractual promise to buy back the bonds at a future date at par value. In Islamic finance there are few requisites that an instrument or investment has to meet. So that you can digest easier, here are the main points, less elaboration.
  1. No elements of interest.
  2. No elements of gambling. 
  3. No elements of uncertainty.
  4. Should there be a mixture of halal and non-halal elements, the quantity has to be very small. (For example, to invest in a supermarket that sells non-halal food, the ratio of it has to be very small)
  5. Ultimately, it has to respect the adat (culture) of the location you are at.
The next question comes, are non-Muslims allowed to participate in Islamic finance?


I think it is like the food analogy again. If it's not against their moral principle, a non-Muslim is still able to eat at halal restaurants, don't they? Unless stated by their own religion that they are not supposed to get involved in any of religious trade or customs. Islamic banking here provides an ethical space for those who wants to comply to the above elements stated. Hence the term, Islamic. It becomes a little bit like an adjective to show a characteristic of a banking system.

One of the non-Muslim participants asked the panel. What is the significance of the Islamic finance in Singapore? And why can't Malaysia, who are have more and better Islamic banking products bring it in to Singapore?  It was responded by also a non-Muslim (moderated by a Muslim) and the response to the first question went like this. The MAS recognize the existence of Islamic finance, which is hard to ignore because of its robust growth albeit being still a small segment. The growth of Islamic finance in fact is way robust than traditional finance. However, not much publicity was given because this must not be seen as a favor to a particular religious group because what was provided are frameworks. Whatever that MAS does bound to have media fanfare and if these news were to be widely spread,  it will send a wrong signal to the majority who are non-Muslims - who still has concerns and reservations towards Islamic finance. It was also added that if the Islamic financial market is beginning to fade, their jobs would cease to exist!

The reason to the second question was that to bring in these products we need the capital and technology and should there be no demand - especially from the Muslim population in Singapore, then it would be a waste of resources. Hence, it is not as simple as it seems.

Honestly it was great that this kind of initiatives were taken to shed more light onto these vague issues. Afterall, religion is a form of guidance and innovations (bid'ah) have to be made to cater to modernization. That's all I have to share with you beautiful readers. I hope with this all of you learnt something new and valuable. See you again!