Costume designers Max Tan and Yuan Zhiying skipped the ethnic garb for this year’s National Day Parade (NDP) and opted for a contemporary look instead.
They have parkour performers in “deconstructed” corporate wear, and dancers in bright, oversized dresses decorated with faces.
“Our main focus was expressing the diversity of our nation,” said Ms Yuan, 33. “We wanted to incorporate as many references to Singaporeans as we could.”
Mr Tan, 33, said there are many street influences in their 140 designs this year, which have been used to produce about 3,000 pieces.
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“What we really wanted to consider was us as a younger generation of Singaporeans. Where do we see Singapore, and how do we link all these modern influences with cultural references?” he added.
While each costume may appear different at first glance, there is also cohesion, they said.
For instance, in a banquet scene where different races come together in celebration, dancers are dressed in voluminous garments representing different racial groups – through motifs like faces, colours, and hints of traditional garment.
“From afar, what is presented is a cohesive picture of Singaporeans as one in a riot of colours, and you do not discern the individual differences between each culture and race,” said Mr Tan.
He added that the costumes have “a surprise at each turn”. Ms Yuan cited the example of celebrity Tosh Zhang, who will be performing with parkour enthusiasts.
“From a distance, they are wearing things with fluorescent elements,” she said. “But if you look closer, you’ll realise they are all in deconstructed corporate wear.”
She added: “They are wearing blazers, things that office personnel would wear, but with a twist. That’s something that you wouldn’t notice straightaway.”
This is their first time designing for the NDP. The associate designers for theatre group The Finger Players also included references to past parades.
For the Singapore Soka Association’s “transforming” costumes – used in their mass displays – Mr Tan said the pair referenced “geometrical, interchangeable coloured bodies that (they) remember from mass choir performances”.
Ms Yuan said one challenge was the need to balance design and the practicality of the costumes.
“We needed to make sure there is mobility,” said Ms Yuan. “This is something that we fine-tuned throughout the year, to make sure that everybody is comfortable.”