Singapore. When you hear its name, you're inclined to think about Orchard Road, Marina Bay Sands and laksa. But for fashion girls, we're immediately transported to the glitzy and glamorous world of Kevin Kwan's Crazy Rich Asians. The Merlion city, however, is a place beyond these things. Its heart pulses to the beats of both the old and the new worlds, of the concrete and the tropical and of food and fashion. Below, ex-Preview.ph intern Andrea Parungao shares with us her early musings of Singapore, a country she now calls home.
1. How would you describe the vibe of the city?
"The vibe of the city can be best encapsulated in this single ensemble—a Chanel tweed jacket, a light-colored Zara silk maxi dress and Charles and Keith slingbacks. It exudes a sense of ease and effortlessness without being too lax. While Singapore is most known for its pristine cleanliness and structure, people often overlook how heavily embedded tropical elements are into the city. Infrastructure cannot be without a series of evergreen trees, and the high-rise skyline overlooks a peaceful stream or reservoir. It’s a city born out of the forest. Or maybe it’s the other way around?"
2. How do Singaporeans dress?
"Prior to moving to Singapore, my suitcase only carried corporate clothes in three shades— 65% black, 25% white and 10% beige (which, funnily enough, already happens to be my wildcard color). What I brought were classic pieces with hints of structure and finesse. With Singapore being the corporate district that it is, I thought that was the uniform."
"But in the words of one Chandler Bing, could I be more wrong? I was surprised to find out that Singaporeans, while chic, do not dress so seriously. In fact, among the millennials I see, there is a strong visual of streetwear that defines the island. Both inside and outside the office, I see women wearing loose dresses over tight shirts or plain white tees paired with origami skirts, oversized bomber jackets worn as throws, finished with either sneakers, loafers or sandals. It’s hardly ever heels, or if it is, it’s always in a retro block or kitten heel."
3. How about in terms of beauty?
"Thankfully, I digest beauty on a daily basis because of my work at Sephora! I tend to see a variation of looks in Singapore—I don’t think there’s a one size fits all. First, there’s the amplified no-makeup-makeup category. It strikes a balance between what we know as the Western aesthetic (think Kardashian) and K-beauty (think Jessica Jung). Foundation priority is more on exactness to the natural skin shade, eye shadow is usually a rosy-colored swipe, the cat eye is thin and discreet as opposed to heavily extended, and highlighter is a must! It’s a subdued version of what we see on YouTube, which tends to make it more versatile for transitioning from desk to drinks. There are also those who contour like it’s their job, don a vampy lip in the day and highlight as if to outshine the sun. It’s always exciting to see unique beauty looks on a variation of skin tones!"
4. Any SG shopping hotspots or hacks you want to share?
"I think I share the same experience with most Filipinos [who see] Singapore as a shopping destination. Years back, it was known for carrying brands that the Philippines was still waiting to have. I’m sure I’m not the only one who’s ever traveled to the city with an empty suitcase and went home three days later with excess baggage."
"What I appreciate most about shopping in Singapore is how there is no divide between luxe and fast fashion. You can see your favorite boutiques for either category which makes the experience both more efficient and also more deadly for your wallet. Orchard Road is lined with the best visually curated Chanel, Louis Vuitton and Gucci boutiques, juxtaposed with a lineup of new Zara, Love Bonito and H&M collections. The entire shopping vibe is reminiscent of Anna Wintour’s first Vogue cover, which cemented the identity of high-low fashion."
"I’m not too keen on the places, as most shopping districts I’ve been to carry the same brands. What I do make a point to define is the rate of turnover per store. For example, Mango usually changes their collection every three weeks and Pedro changes theirs every two weeks. And the best sale is always during Christmas Eve because all stocks, regardless of what season they came from, are on sale and available on-demand."
5. What about travel hotspots for the taste buds? Your favorite places to eat?
"What is Singapore about if not for good food, really? I used to always scout for the top-rated restaurants but I eventually found out that the hole-in-the-wall establishments and hawker stands were the real treasures of this city. My working strategy is the less I understand the menu, the more delicious the food would be. So if you’re on the hunt for local dishes like Hainanese chicken, laksa and noodles, walk along the carinderia-type places and you’ll be good to go."
"If you’re looking for exquisite fusion dishes and high quality ingredients, my go-to place is Dempsey Hill along the west. It’s a complex of restaurants and delicatessens serving the best wine, freshest cuts of meat and hard-to-find artisan ingredients. But if your itinerary requires an impromptu Instagram shoot, my underrated spot is Yong Siak Street, right behind the industrial park. It’s home to several third-wave coffee cafes, lifestyle bakeries (yes, they sell cupcakes and scented candles) and independent book stores with low-circulation international fashion magazines."
6. Any travel tips for first-timers?
"Tourist-y countries are best explored without an itinerary. Allow yourself to get lost and discover what the city has to offer outside of word of mouth or Trip Advisor ratings. Much like fashion and beauty, sight-seeing really isn’t a one size fits all."
7. Favorite thing you got in SG so far, or something you have that always reminds you of it?
"My favorite item from SG so far is my Céline Python Leather and Suede Trapeze handbag! It’s the perfect bag for work—comes predominantly in black, which makes it versatile, it's pristinely embellished with a gold buckle and python, and is very spacious. It can fit my notebook, wallet and kikay kit. But beyond that, it’s my first #adulthood purchase. I really gave it a lot of thought. I wanted to buy something that I could use for work and make me feel empowered when I carry it on my arm, and wanted it to come from my favorite clothing brand of all time. Every time I slip my forearm into the structured leather clasp, I am instantly reminded of where I am and how hard I’ve worked to get there."
8. How would you compare Singaporeans to Filipinos?
"Filipinos, by nature, are very positive, loud and vivacious people. We tend to crack a joke even in the most serious of situations. It comes so naturally to us that when no one dares to break the ice, the whole situation just feels lethal. I wouldn’t say the same for Singaporeans. They’re not as serious as most prop them to be, but they leave their jokes and wise cracks depending on the situation. Neither parties are wrong, but just very different. I personally feel humor is my lifeline. Jokes are what remind me of home the most, especially if it’s in pun or corny hashtag form.
"And of course, time is the name of the game. I’m glad to see Filipino time is a dying concept. We’ve managed to shorten an hour expected delay into half an hour, and are closely working to reduce it to the actual time discussed. On the other hand, Singapore feels a lot like yoga—early is on time, and on time is late.
No matter how many differences we may have, I am forever comforted by the fact that Singapore is both far enough and close enough. And Filipinos are everywhere! There is a strong community here and you’ll always manage to find support or someone to understand your brand of humor (again, very important) wherever you are."