Renowned Singapore couture designer Frederick Lee is no stranger to larger-than-life costumes. The brains behind the highly-discussed national costume for Miss Universe Singapore 2015, Frederick is pretty much at home in his latest project – designing costumes for getai stars.
He shares how he tackles creating loud designs for bold characters on the stage of GE TAI – The Musical.
Tell us how you approached the design of the Miss Universe Singapore 2015 costume?
It was a good challenge which I love as it always inspires something new and different from me. I loved looking at things from a different perspective and challenging traditional notions of what is beautiful and desired.
Designing the Miss Universe Singapore national costume gave me an opportunity to showcase an outfit that captures the spiritual aspects of my country.
For Miss Universe Singapore’s costume, Frederick fused avant-garde elements with tradition by including a cheongsam top made from batik fabric, a headdress inspired by those worn by Malay brides and a larger-than-life back structure inspired by the kavadi carried by Hindu devotees.
The back structure makes a comeback in GE TAI – The Musical when the protagonist Shen Yi Fei (played by Hao Hao) appears on stage with a snowflake back structure that is taller than he is.
Designing for couture and musical – are they similar or different?
Actually, these are two very different audiences. For couture, I create garments that are generally made from luxurious fabrics requiring numerous time-consuming hand-sewing techniques. It’s also tailored specifically for one client to her specific measurements through various fitting sessions.
For this musical production, it is my role to ensure that the costumes reflect the visual style of the era in the show and help the actors perform their role. The designs must provide strong visual support and enhance the characterisation of each role.
What inspired your character costume designs in GE TAI – The Musical?
Getai has been a part of Singapore entertainment culture. When designing, I look at the specific time and place to get a sense of the historical context and existing styles in art.
For Shen Yi Fei (played by Hao Hao): His stage costumes conveys his character before he even speaks. For him, it’s the bigger the better. He has flamboyant and lavish styles and loves feathers, jewels and above all things glitter.
For Liu Ge (played by Desmond Ng): The character is known for his outlandish outfits that are ostentatious yet control and respected. For his style, I made use of fully beaded suits with funky mix of patterns and textures, bold colours and sequins.
For Star Sisters (played by Bao Bei Sisters): Their costumes are influenced by the K-pop’s preppy, girly, swag and yet over the top outlandish looks. They stand out more because of their bold use of colour and accessories. They’re pushing the boundaries when it comes to getai fashion and stage styles.
See Frederick Lee’s design for yourself at GE TAI – The Musical, staged at Resorts World Theatre from 20 April to 29 May.
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