by gilda rêvasseur on June 24, 2008

i am from singapore. 100% singaporean. and (surprisingly?) rather proud to be so. since moving to new york less than a year ago, i’ve had 3 people tell me they’ve never heard of singapore. i bet they’ve never watched or read the news.

we’re a small country in south-east asia at the tip of peninsula malaysia. we’re so small on the map (like a world map), the word “singapore” is bigger than the size of the country when you look at one. no kidding. we’re a young country with a mix of different races, religions and cultures. my ancestors were from china, so my roots are chinese. but being a 3rd generation singaporean, i think we’re very very different from what our forefathers used to be.

what’s terrible about singapore? we’re near the equator, in summer all year round. it’s hot and getting hotter because of global warming. and because we’re so small in terms of size, sometimes it just gets a teeny-bit boring.

what’s so great about singapore? everything else. the blends of everything – food, culture, people.

and having lived overseas in japan and america, i honestly do have a new found respect for our government.

and besides, it’s still home.

click*click to view! images of the older parts of singapore captured by my lomo cameras.

for our winter holiday assignment in the fall 2007 semester, our project was to be based on our ethnicity. some people i talked to argued i was just a chinese. i told them to shut up. yes, i am chinese. but i am a singaporean. it’s different.

i went home over the winter break, so i really did enjoy going out and around, especially to look at the old shophouses, many restored and preserved as cultural treasures. i basked in it and soaked in the sights, the colors and the smells of everything.

i drew ideas from our unique blends of culture. my aim was to create a collection for modern singaporeans. you can’t really see this (because i’m not going to upload the entire project and go too much into the details of the clothing), but a lot of tiny details that go into panels, are all based on the architecture of the shophouses.

when i presented this, the only criticism i had was that it was too modern and the person who said that couldn’t “feel” my ethnicity at all. she had expected that i would draw at least one girl in a cheongsam. i have to be honest and say i couldn’t understand that comment. after all, i’ve never worn a cheongsam in my life. it’s hard to explain what being a singaporean is all about, to someone who has never lived there, or at least visited long enough to experience what the country is really like.

i think there are parts of us that are very traditional. we’re all still very “asian”, especially in terms of family values. but the rest of us are as modern as modern can get.

to me at least.

ps: are you sick of my sudden influx of design posts? heh heh. sorry, but i’m lagging in posting these and want to put them all up!!

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{ 44 comments… read them below or add one }

Bridey June 24, 2008 at 4:31 am

I really liked Singapore when I visited for a couple of days.

It’s really different from New Zealand, but I could imagine living there quite happily.

And I also like your design posts – keep it up!


rozzypozy June 24, 2008 at 6:38 am

i cant believe that people havent heard about singapore. i think its brilliant to from somewhere where it has so much of its culture left.
i like the design posts as well ….keep going with it


Char June 24, 2008 at 7:08 am

Met 2 Americans in a Barcelona hostel. 1 said, “I know Singapore, at least I studied it in Tourism.” The other said, “Isn’t that the one where you get caned for chewing gum?” A Canadian walking in near the tail end of our discussion heard “transfer of power from father to son” and asked, “You mean Deng Xiaoping?” Apart from “Where’s that?”, those are probably the main remarks you hear when you say, “I’m from Singapore.”
Then there’s “Hey, you speak English really well, you don’t have an accent at all – which part of China are you from?” Which irks me most of all.


Chelle June 24, 2008 at 7:34 am

hahaha..i totally get you. ppl ask me, so ur malaysian, and ur chinese, but ur not from china?…-__-

ooh, are u doin fashion design?…


Elle June 24, 2008 at 10:32 am

aaargh I feel you…even if you are from a certain country, if you’ve never experienced the more traditional side of it (or certain stuff which your country is well known for) you cannot relate to it. people can’t seem to understand that.
I also understand the frustration when people call you Chinese. It’s amazing that even now people have no idea that Romania is NOT part of Russia OR Hungary OR Bulgaria!! (….sorry bout that heh…)
I love Singapore even if I’ve never been there. It’s actually hard for me to decide where I wanna go: to Japan or Singapore…hm
…aaaah I want the first 3 designs AND the last one >.<…



Carolina - Raiment Urbane June 24, 2008 at 10:43 am

People that haven’t heard about singapore? what ignorance.

I saw a show on travel and living about singapore, it looked so nice & they showed food that made my mouth water haha.


Allison June 24, 2008 at 10:52 am

I had an acquaintance from Singapore & a few years ago after encountering some stupidity from some people about how she was “truly Chinese” – was laughing & ranting about how it would be like telling Americans that they were British. ;]


melly June 24, 2008 at 11:34 am

you wrote it so well, that tho our values are pretty much ‘asian’, we are indeed modern as modern can get.

and pfft to a cheongsam, seriously!

and yes i havent seen you since then, and when i left JC to go to poly, hockey pretty much didn’t go hand in hand anymore. so the closest thing to hockey i have now is hanging out with Farah and Melanie. :}

i’m sure your parents stay so supportive cos you do so well, in everything! as for me, i hate to say this but i don’t wanna get associated with the ‘scene’ here when it comes to illustrators. i started a business with my bf doing interactive web design so that’s my bread and butter. i paint for friends and boredom but i do hope i paint well enough for it to take me somewhere.


Couture Carrie June 24, 2008 at 12:35 pm

I would love to go to Singapore someday . . . you’ve made it sound even more alluring! I posted one of your sketches today and it’s already getting raves! Loving the vest in today’s series. Smooches! CC


Cammila June 24, 2008 at 5:04 pm

I love how you approached this. Heritage is a deeply personal thing. The only way it has any meaning is the way YOU interpret it for yourself! Good for you for creating something so awesome and artistic while embracing what your culture means to you.


gilda June 24, 2008 at 5:35 pm

ooooooh!!! i’m really happy that this post about my design garnered comments that were not just about my work, but went deeper into the subject of the purpose of the project itself – our roots!! it’s really satisfying because i tried to tell a story about it, so i’m glad it reached through to you guys. xox!!

as much as i might bitch about singapore sometimes, it really is so easy to live in, like you said. life is easier there, somehow. although i can imagine it being far more relaxed in nz!! by the way you are spending far too much time overseas and i’m so envious. hahaha. ;) i wish i’d known beforehand that you were going there. i would have told you all the best places to eat!! (i’m a food tour conductor whenever friends come into town. heh heh.)

i know right? i mean we’re a really small country and i don’t blame them if they don’t know where it is. but to have never heard of it is really ignorance. i sound so patriotic. hahaha.

ahahahah are you serious!! gosh i would have been so peeved. and can people please get the law about chewing gum straight!! you can chew gum, and bring in small quantities for personal chewing. you just can’t sell them! and personally, i think gum should be banned if the people can’t dispose of it properly. i’ve stepped on gum at least 5 times since i’ve been here and it’s no fun with your shoe sticks to the floor. new yorkers just spit them onto the pavement. i hope those people get gum in their hair. :) and i know what you mean when people say we have “no accent”. i reply that my dad speaks better english than most people and he taught me well. but you have to admit that some kids in s’pore nowadays can’t speak proper english though. they can’t differentiate between proper and singlish, especially when talking to foreigners. i hate that.

i think asians are just too confusing for caucasians ;) it’s like if you’re malaysian you have to be malay. what!?

well i don’t know that much about romania but certainly they should know it’s a country of it’s own!??! even if they don’t read the news, they have to have watched at least one miss world or miss universe competition before, to know that romania appears as a country represented by a miss romania?? not miss russia etc? haha, some people are just funny!

omg you have no idea. the food!!! the FOOD!!!! i miss it so much. everytime i go back home, i spend about an hour on the flight, writing down a long list of things i want to eat when i go back. i’m not joking. then when i’ve eaten it and satisfied my cravings, i cross it off my list. hee hee!!

really!!?!? that is soooo clever!!! i am going to say that the next time! :) that would be hilarious! yowza!

i mean seriously, can you imagine any of us in a cheongsam?? i think we would be on the floor rolling around laughing till we cried.

is the scene that bad for illustrators too? i feel like it’s hogged by a small group of people who are so-so talented. the fashion scene seems to be picking up but back then before i left, it was the saddest thing ever. interactive web design!! oh man maybe i should hire you. you’ll go somewhere with your painting if you make those connections!

+couture carrie+
i wonder if i made it sound better than it is. haha! if you ever want to experience south-east asian culture, singapore is a good stop and then you can easily (and for pretty cheap) venture to nearby countries like indonesia and thailand and hong kong etc. thank you so much for posting my designs!! xox

thank you! it really was personal for me and you’re right, it was my journey to take, my feelings about it, and how i interpreted it for myself!


Times of Glory June 24, 2008 at 9:20 pm

I cannot believe someone never heard of Singapore. I love it when I visited there a couple of years ago – great people, great culture and great food xx


Miss Dot June 24, 2008 at 10:15 pm
Lou June 24, 2008 at 11:08 pm

I spent an entire summer in Singapore once, it was absolutely amazing. It was clean, beautiful, and vibrant. I loved it! It’s good you are proud to call such a lovely place home =o)

And 3 people haven’t heard of Singapore in NYC?! That’s atrocious, but most certainly not unbelievable.

I’m Pakistani, and I lived there, but I was born here, yet I have light skin so “i cant be Pakistani”….I totally understand how people want to hole you into one category. It’s so frustrating!


Leanne June 25, 2008 at 1:16 am

i would love to go to singapore one day! haha i know what you mean. i’m viet and people always think i’m chinese.. viet is totally different! but yeh i have friends who are from singapore, hong kong and taiwan and there’s a big difference between those countries and china.

ahuh family values is a huge thing in asian cultures. also being 1st generation australian, i’m caught between the two.


Leanne June 25, 2008 at 1:18 am

oops clicked submit before i finished.

hehe i liked the leg warmers adds a nice touch. it would’ve been wonderful to get in touch with your homeland again and using it as an inspiration for your work.


lindsey clare June 25, 2008 at 1:22 am

being from Australia, i can’t believe that people have never heard of Singaz either! but then some people have never heard of New Zealand (where my husband is from) and have no idea of the difference between Australia and Austria. ha!

this is a really great post, Gilda. i have lots of friends from different cultures, countries and ethnicities. it’s really interesting here in Australia where most people are either an immigrant or have cultural ties with another country.

good on you for sticking to your guns and designing with the modern Singapore in mind. how silly to think that cultures must be traditional only, without the beautiful blend of influences that makes up Singapore (and most countries!). this ain’t the 19th century anymore!


Darren June 25, 2008 at 2:52 am

First and foremost, I wanted to thank you for the comment you left on my blog (on the post “Summer Should Die” …). I don’t usually thank people for leaving comments, but yours was nearly a letter in response lol
It meant a lot to me, though, because it’s nice to be reminded that I’m definitely not the only person to go through something like what I’m going through.
It was really inspiring, too! And things are better and are getting better – my parents are getting me a digital camera for my birthday! So it’s a step :) Which, I know that’s what it’ll be: small steps. And those are something. I was just having a thoroughly bad day and it all just kind of culminated…
So thank you :)

And to be relevant to this post (ack! my comment is just as long as yours!) I love the designs you came up with! And I’m glad you didn’t conform to the expectations (though it doesn’t sound like you had to strict or clear directions). I feel like fashion is all about individual, unique vision, despite what is popular.


Katie June 25, 2008 at 7:54 am

there are people out there that haven’t heard of singapore? really? that’s insane!
btw. no need for apologies re: design posts, your work is really quite fabulous <3


sheryl wong June 25, 2008 at 11:02 am

i’m glad to hear that you are proud of Singapore. Me too! Most youngsters I meet (my generation included although we are not so young ever more) like to complain about the country blah blah.Our country has both pros and cons but ultimately it is home. :)

Most people also don’t realise that the cheong sum is not even a ethic Han Chinese dress (and most of us are Han Chinese, both in Singapore and China); rather it is a variation of the traditional dress of the Manchurians.

BTW, love your designs!

I did some Alice bags before too. Let me see your Alice shoes and bags if you have photos!


Carolina - Raiment Urbane June 25, 2008 at 6:47 pm

hahaha that’s so awesome, there’s no place like home food!.


enc June 25, 2008 at 11:06 pm

I like your design posts. I hope you keep them coming!


Kori June 26, 2008 at 12:36 am

Oh Gilda, you are so talented! I love hearing about different cultures, and while I think I’ve heard a bit about Singapore, I don’t know much. I remember there was a line in the first Pirates of the Caribbean movie “clearly you’ve never been to Singapore” that everyone (myself) laughed at but barely understood. Ha!


gilda June 26, 2008 at 3:14 am

oh wow, first of all, can i say that i wish my teacher from last semester could see all your comments. he’d be so proud of me! he always talks about how fashion is secondary to the world that we live in. designers like ourselves, take their inspiration from what they have experienced, from a feeling, from something their world is revolved in.

so to discuss about fashion you need to dive deeper into what inspired that certain look or collection. in this instance, i guess it was personal for me because it was my own roots and culture is something i’m sure all of us are interested it!! :)

+times of glory+
great food is right! :) and i do love our culture. i’m really glad that i have friends from so many different races.

+miss dot+
hello, you! no, i’d never heard of her. she’s australian..? i read a bit of her blog though. are you a reader? her sons are so cute.

hahaha!! i know! you’re think that in this day and age, people would be more open to differences and wouldn’t bat an eye to what our skin colors were. but i still get stared at for being asian, so *shrug*. some people are brought up racists. but wait. are you 100% pakistani? why do you have blue eyes! or are they colored contacts. i have a friend who is totally chinese and her eyes are a green-grey area. so unfair! it’s like she got hit with a weird gene pool but it’s so cool that she has green eyes when she isn’t supposed to!

ahh, 1st generation in a different country/culture is always though. but after living in different countries and opening my eyes to them, i decided that even if i were to bring up my kids in a western culture, i’ll make sure that some values will forever be asian. i do prefer some of the asian family values, that’s for sure.

singaz! that’s so funny. and i have heard of people who don’t know that australia and austria are different!! aren’t they crazy? australia is like way down south and austria is soooo far away north! and yes, thank you. to think of it, i couldn’t have done that collection any other way. singapore, as a country, is only like 43 years old! that’s younger than my parents! :)

hey, you’re so welcome. although saying “you’re welcome” is kinda weird too. it just sort of struck a note in me and i started tying and suddenly i felt like i wrote an essay or something! whoops, sorry. but i’m so glad things are picking up for you. we all have our bad days. a digital camera!! i need one too! lucky you! and you’re right, fashion is all about the individual, which is what i also believe in, so i usually don’t follow trends!

yes, i was honestly surprised, a little shocked, and quite very disgusted at their level of ignorance. but that’s another story. :) thank you you’re too nice!!!

+sheryl wong+
heyyy don’t say we’re not young anymore. i don’t wanna grow up, i’m a toys r us kid… (do you remember that tv ad? ahahahahah) kids nowadays *shakes head* sometimes i go back home and see all these teenagers and i wonder if i ever behaved like some of them when i was younger. gosh. i never knew the cheongsam was from the manchurians!! but now that i think about it…. you must be right!!! i guess it’s just the most “recognised” chinese dress so that’s why. wait… what IS our traditional dress then…? ahaha! you did some alice bags?? i looked at your online shop but didn’t see them. are they on your blog? if you look at my sidebar on the right you’ll see a link to “queen of hearts” under “designs by gilda”! :)

there really really isn’t! i love food, and i love eating and trying traditional foods of the countries i visit. but when you crave home food, you just really reeeeally crave it! :)

hee hee! thanks!!! they will ;)

i don’t blame you if you don’t know much. it really is such a small country!! shockingly small i think. we must be one of the smallest. and YES YES YES!!! pirates of the caribbean!!! how did i forget about that! i was so shocked when the delicious johnny depp said it! was it captain sparrow who said it? hmm… was it the first movie? well, whatever, one of them! when they had the asian pirate played by chow yun fatt! (one of asia’s prized actors)

basically, to explain that, singapore is right below malaysia and one of the big channels in the sea that run along-side malaysia, towards singapore, is called the straits of malacca (malacca being the name of a town in malaysia.) singapore, used to be called singapura back in those ancient days, and it flourished as a central sea port because of its location. and ships would go through the straits of malacca to singapore before embarking elsewhere. so the asian pirates would pirate the entire straits and ships always had to be very careful not to run into them when on their world trade journeys!

whoah. history lesson there. i can’t believe i remember all that. obviously my history teacher drilled it in well enough when i was 14!!! ahahaha!


Stephanie June 26, 2008 at 4:49 am

This is wonderful. I honestly can’t believe that there are people here who have never heard of Singapore. It really makes me wonder what kind of country this is, wow! I love learning about different cultures, and it’s so fun that you did a project about your ethnicity. I can’t imagine that I’d ever be able to do that, seeing as I am about 15 different things (really, my family apparently got around, heheh) and I don’t have a specific ethnic identity or culture. It actually makes me sad to not have a focal heritage, but I guess it is kind of neat to have a big mix. I love that you are so proud of where you come from, and Singapore is obviously an awesome country. I love it, and I love the design posts =)


Queen Lazy June 26, 2008 at 8:24 am

Love your drawings! Did you make any of the designs? I sort of know how you feel about your nationality, I’m from England but I hate it when people call me British as I consider myself English! xx


Anairam June 26, 2008 at 11:38 am

I love your banner, Queen Gilda! Also your fashion drawings, in particular the middle one of the 7 styles. It is so my style – I love 3quarter coats, esp knitted ones, over above-knee skirts with black stockings. Lovely! And thanks for your beanie-advice!!


The Clothes Horse June 26, 2008 at 3:09 pm

I love your pictures with your lomo camera. I would love to travel to Singapore one day, I have many friends in Hawaii from there and it seems wonderous to me!


Lou June 26, 2008 at 4:13 pm

lol Gilda I do have naturally blue eyes, and my family all have green or blue eyes too. It’s slightly uncommon, but my grandparents came from Kashmir, so that might explain some of it =O . but just like your post was about, i dont really consider that where im from exactly, =o) !


Laura June 26, 2008 at 5:11 pm


your blog is awesome! I can’t believe how ignorant people are; when I’m feeling particularly ignorant, I shut up and listen, hoping to learn something new. that comment regarding the cheongsam was pretty annoying.

i think your designs reflect your culture, I’m just sorry your classmates have such a hard time understanding them.


gilda June 27, 2008 at 1:22 am

ahahaha oops!!! i don’t want to bitch a little about usa and get deported! :) i love learning about cultures too. i think it’s one of the most interesting things ever. you’re 15 different…things!!! that’s insane! i guess not having a local heritage could be good too. it’s like you belong to so many different places, no?

+queen lazy+
i had a friend tell me the same thing before! englsh is england itself and british is with wales and ireland? did i get that correct!! haha. i do many some of the designs that i draw. i used to do them a lot more often before i started at parsons, but i haven’t had that much time to sew since parsons started. i have started sewing again this summer though! so i’m really excited about it. :)

thank you so much! i drew those girls very long ago. :) ooh thanks! i think that girl is pretty fierce too. hee hee! yes i love little lace or flounces peeking from under a hem!

+the clothes horse+
ooh do you lomo too? i used to be SO into it. then japan and america made it a little expensive. singaporean friends in hawaii? i’m envious! i’ve never been to hawaii. since you have friends there you have to get the locals to bring you around for the best food. seriously.

ohhhh kashmir!! no wonder! that’s so wonderful though. indians and pakistanis have the most gorgeous, big eyes that never need lash extensions. a friend of mine used to bat her lashes and say, “i don’t need mascara like you chinese.” that little bitch. haha i loved her.

ohhh thank you!! well it wasn’t all of them. about half of them did realize what i was trying to portray and they saw my story. so i was lucky! phew!


Queen Lazy June 27, 2008 at 2:11 am

Yeah, Great Britain is Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland and England together, so someone who is British could come from any of those countries!

I’d love to see some of your designs if you sew them!


Lou June 27, 2008 at 2:59 am

“a friend of mine used to bat her lashes and say, “i don’t need mascara like you chinese.” that little bitch. haha i loved her.”

ahhh i just laughed out loud at that !!


Lou June 27, 2008 at 3:01 am

to clarify, the laugh out loud was upon reading the “that little bitch. haha i loved her.”


gilda June 27, 2008 at 3:10 am

+queen lazy+
oh yes! scotland and ireland!! how did i forget about them? eek. and am i the only one that takes at least a day to get used to their accents? i once met a very scot-scot, and i had NO idea what he was saying for the first 2 hours. i had to keep saying, “hah???” i was so rude. :( i will definitely take nicer pictures and put them up soon. unfortunately for some reason, i make a lot of winter clothes. well the reason is i love to layer. so it shocks me but i’ve hardly sewn any summer clothing before.

hahaha you’re so cute. no need to clarify!! only people with good humor are allowed here. ;) anyone else has to either bear with my kind of sarcasm or… or… or say something funnier.


whimsical delights June 27, 2008 at 4:18 am

lol, i know exactly what you mean. i’m chinese but i’m australian. hahaha!! afteralll your social surroundings influences who you are.


Beka June 27, 2008 at 12:54 pm

Thanks for posting this. It’s very interesting. I like to learn about other cultures, and this was awesome!


Marie June 27, 2008 at 2:46 pm

Tagged you in the 123 book tag! Interested to see what you’re reading!


gilda June 29, 2008 at 2:14 am

+whimsical delights+
ahahaha! social surroundings certainly influences all of us!! i had a chinese friend who was born in sydney, and she had the thickest australian accent ever. it was kinda funny! :)

you’re welcome! hee hee!

thank you for tagging. those charlotte bronte sentences are loong!! i’ll put it up soon. :)


Cat July 9, 2008 at 7:17 pm

I’m sorry but HOW can people not hear of singapore? how ridiculous! I looove singapore i went there once i and loved every minute of it. the heat hit me like a slap in the face but the cleanliness & the food & and the people were really nice.


gilda July 11, 2008 at 3:27 am

oh you’d be surprised! but i recently met this guy at a 1920s themed party that knew so much about singapore i was SHOCKED to bits and very pleasantly eating my words! :) i’m glad you enjoyed yourself while you were there. the heat is really crazy but i really don’t think it compares to like, new york’s summer! it’s crazy here! but yes the food!! OMG THE FOOD!!!


P.Hobbs August 13, 2008 at 11:37 pm

My mom is from Singapore. I was born there. Pretty much all of my cousins are over there as well…and I have not traveled there since 2005. I miss my family and the yummy FOOD so much. When I was living in LA, we would frequent this place called Little Malaysia. I swear their Char Kway Teow is better than getting it at the hawker stalls. They however have not mastered the iced Milo with the scoop of Milo powder on top. YUMO. Nice to see a Singaporean blogging and repping her roots.



P.Hobbs August 13, 2008 at 11:38 pm

Ps…the Great Singapore Sale is amazing too!!


gilda August 14, 2008 at 12:42 am

+p. hobbs+
isn’t the food great? haha. and i love milo! i really LOVE it!!! what you’re talking about, the milo with extra powder on top, is called milo dino. you know, milo dinosaur. ;) now there’s one that’s too over-the-top sweet, but it includes a scoop of chocolate ice-cream that’s called milo godzilla. crazy names huh? haha!


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