Fashion season continues with Asia Fashion Exchange 2012, held from 16 to 20 May. AFX comes with 4 events under its umbrella: the 5-day Audi Fashion Festival, trade show and public emporium Blueprint, Asia designer reality competition Audi Star Creation and fashion business conference Asia Fashion Summit. Our first peek into AFX comes with Audi Fashion Festival and the introduction of two sub-shows: runway-to-retail show Future Fashion Now and spotlight show Singapore Designers Showcase.

The tents are coming up once again at Orchard Road, a familiar sight come May. Uptown Singapore relishes once again at the herald of Audi Fashion Festival, a 5-day fashion week featuring a curated selection of Singapore, regional and international talent. The show has been in competition with Fide Productions’ lineup of menswear and womenswear fashion weeks and is set to face stiffer competition when STORM Creative Events Agency launches Digital Fashion Week, the world’s first live-streaming only fashion week and one to champion mostly Singapore designers. With many players fighting for a slice in the fashion market, Audi Fashion Festival has had to undergo various changes to its modus operandi; it was only in 2010 that Singapore Fashion Festival made way for its Audi reincarnation as well as its three sister events. The holistic think-tank approach to fashion is one that is beginning to ping on the radar of the Asian fashion scene as more talent comes to show in Singapore.

Nicola Formichetti of Mugler, Roland Mouret, Zac Posen (Pictures: WENN.com, AFF Facebook)

Nicola Formichetti of Mugler, Roland Mouret, Zac Posen (Pictures: WENN.com, AFF Facebook)

This year, the lineup of opening/closing shows remain; labels Mugler and Roland Mouret will walk the shows respectively. Mugler’s creative director Nicola Formichetti and Roland Mouret himself will be coming to Singapore to stage their shows. Interestingly, Nicola has been in the news recently for announcing the start of his own online-only fashion label geared towards meshing technology into fabric and fashion. He will definitely be mulling over a couple of ideas for his line when he comes to Singapore, which could provide an excellent scoop for the media here. Also in the lineup is Zac Posen, who has had a rocky period getting back into the fashion radar after garnering a negative reputation within the industry a few years back. Things are now looking up for Zac: his dresses are popping up in red carpets, he can count on besties like Coco Rocha to vouch for him and he released a capsule collection under diffusion line Z Spoke for retailer Lord & Taylor. Venturing into Asia is just another bold step for a label looking for a fresh start and a new lease of life.

A big ethos this year for the fashion community is the support for emerging designers, most vividly seen by Blueprint’s “Wear Emerging Designers” campaign and Men’s Fashion Week’s lineup of rising Asian menswear names. A calculated push by Singapore fashion media is seeing some household names pop up in recent times, and labels such as Mae Pang and Max Tan are receiving their time in the spotlight in new retail-to-runway concept Future Fashion Now (FFN). According to Couture Troopers, a look that walks down a FFN runway (livestreamed on AFF’s website) will be uploaded on the FFN website simultaneously, allowing the online user the chance to zoom and pan the image before adding it into their cart and paying straightaway. That is right: the possibility of you buying the label even before the final group walk is here. The first night will see Yeojin Bae debuting sister label YB J’aime together with Esther Perbandt and Timo Weiland. Jonathan Simkai, Saena and Juma will walk on Night 2, before Mae Pang, Max Tan and Dzojchen light Singapore night on fire on Night 3. alldressedup‘s runway show on Saturday will also be under the FFN label.

Timo Weiland, Yeojin Bae, Esther Perbandt (Picture: AFF Facebook)

Timo Weiland, Yeojin Bae, Esther Perbandt (Picture: AFF Facebook)

A show that goes heavily noticed by the media but swept under the rug by general public perception is the Parco Next Next show, held at an early time which discredits its power. It is full house at each show every year, which is something you will never see on the opening and closing shows. Fashionistas decked out in Singapore’s best mill the tents as the incubator’s selected labels walk down the runway, most of them showcasing their maiden collections. However, Parco Next Next seems like the token “Singapore fashion” runway show to the average layman. Not anymore, if AFF is to decide: on May 8, the festival announced the introduction of the Singapore Designers Showcase to fill a gap between upstarts and Singapore labels who have the resources to stage a solo show. Cult labels a.w.o.l. (all walks of life), S A T U R D A Y and Depression will walk the show. These labels come wielding their own set of chops; the latter two brands count collaborations with Vice and Vanity, and Actually… respectively. a.w.o.l. remains a celebrity favourite, with Vivian Lai wearing the house’s polka-dot maxi dress to this year’s Star Awards.

a.w.o.l., S A T U R D A Y, Depression (Pictures: Designers’ Facebook pages)

a.w.o.l., S A T U R D A Y, Depression (Pictures: Designers’ Facebook pages)

They will show 15 looks each from their upcoming Fall/Winter 12 collections, which also highlights a seismic shift of sorts: the show kills the 6-month advance of runway shows and brings back normalcy to the fashion cycle. Magazine editors everywhere are choking on their cuppa latte, but there comes a point when it is just sheer ridiculousness to seek refuge from the sweltering heat and sit through a collection of overcoats, scarves and knits. Parco Next Next‘s lineup is also the strongest in years: buzzed-about labels such as Mils (back from a rad showing at Aussie Fashion Week), Mash-Up (its DIY-kitsch ethos scored a feature on Catalog Magazine’s denim issue – the first under new editor Jazmin Kelly Six) and Lion Earl (which has picked up a second stockist at Threadbare & Squirrel and counts rising blogger Rana Wehbe-Flinter as a fan) are walking the runway together with Quainthood, 20:Two:Three, Episene and second-term labels Pauline.Ning, Veira and Evenodd. Does it sound like a huge leap forward for Singapore fashion? A resounding yes, it is.

Labels like Raoul, alldressedup and Swarovski as well as the Cleo Runway Search will be coming back to AFF to showcase their latest collections as well. Look out for AFF face Fiona Fussi to make a splash on the catwalk too. It is baby steps for a fashion festival that is now beginning to realise its global ambitions but this year could be a turning point in a festival that has relied on heavyweight designers to life its brand: will Future Fashion Now and Singapore Designers Showcase be stalwarts in AFF’s calendar and given the chance to grow and be differentiating points in the region, or will the novelty of instant buying and Singapore presence fade away, just as the other headline designers have in past years? It seems industry and public reception will tell, but for a fashion festival that is placing Singapore on the world map, populist indicators may not be the way to go insofar as an awakening that the AFF brand now has a responsibility to spot and lift not only the future of fashion but those associated with it. Big shoes to fill, but for a namesake like Audi Fashion Festival backed by the government, the job is already half-done. See you at the shows.

Tickets for selected shows are available on AFF’s website. See the calendar of shows here. AFF runs from 16 to 20 May at [email protected]