Singaporeâ€™s got next. The tiny island nation is home to a budding street culture and in the heart of this city-state is Flesh Imp. Over the last eight years, the independent label has been crucial to the development of the urban scene in the young country, taking inspiration from overseas and injecting it with local flavor. Today, the brand produces both men and women lines, has three retail outlets, and has collaborated with everybody from Swarovski Crystal to Adidas. Format sat down with Flesh Impâ€™s Founder and Creative Director, Vincent Q, to talk about the difficulties of balancing creative vitality with commercial viability, and what he envisions for the future of his company and his country.
â€œHeck, if you wanna be the voice, be goddamn sure you make one heluva noise!â€
Format: What exactly is a â€œFlesh Impâ€ and where does the name come from?
Vincent Q: That was the first thing Eric (Haze) asked us too. I guess the nameâ€™s kind of intriguing and puzzling, but if you live in Singapore long enough, you should know that most people (here) are kind of conformed to the way of life here. Though itâ€™s gotten better the past decade, people still feel constrained and unable to express themselves due to social norms and the â€˜programmedâ€™ lifestyle.
We chose â€˜Impâ€™ because as you know, an imp is a mythological creature that is mischievous and bold and challenges normality. Most people would love to do that but they canâ€™t. So being an â€˜Impâ€™ is like an outlet â€“ an escape for them, and what better way than to do it, than on apparel.
Many people refer to clothes as second skin, but we felt it held more depth than just the skin, which we thought was more superficial. We are something that had more substance and deep rooted. Which explains the â€˜Flesh.â€™ We are more that just skin deep.
Thus, Flesh Imp was the name and the logo was designed, and you can see the â€˜Fâ€™ embedded in the logo that represents the â€˜Impâ€™
Format: Walk us through your creative process. How are you able to manage the design and production of such a wide range of products?
Vincent Q: We have a small design team right now that consists of a designer and merchandiser.
Usually we work on a theme and expand from there, breaking the collection down to range, size and color. I will oversee the design and production based on the mix and current trends, and my guys will take the direction from my end to work out the figures. We work within a 3-month timeline and our schedule is usually well planned (though sometimes we have issues with suppliers) and this is crucial to churning out our collection on time. Our team is very close and creativity is not a constraint. Ideas are endless and free flowing, so sometimes; donâ€™t be surprised to see something that is not in our usual collection.
Format: Despite its size, Singapore boasts a rich, eclectic culture. In what ways does the islandâ€™s diversity directly influence Flesh Imp?
Vincent Q: We have all sorts of influences here in Singapore- we are talking about the U.S., Japan, Taiwan, Hong Kong, and Europe. One thing about Singapore is that we are quite open to cultures, especially in terms of fashion, arts and entertainment. This is crucial to the evolution of the country, especially a relatively young country. Flesh Imp, like many other street brands, draws inspirations from all over and samples graphics, styles and design, and then redefines them into a distinct style that resonates with the local heads, yet able to connect with the global players.
Format: What sorts of challenges has Flesh Imp faced as an independent label based in a country as small as Singapore? What are the benefits?
Vincent Q: Being an independent label, the first challenge was the hecklers who did not believe in local labels. After pushing through that, the focus was to make sure our cause was heard and to ensure we werenâ€™t doing this for the wrong reasons (many brands who jump on the bandwagon usually donâ€™t get past the 2nd year). We made sure we keep to our vision and continue working with both local companies, as well as foreign designers/artists/companies to keep the brand and ideas alive and active. The next challenge is to make sure we keep our bottom-line, and because Singapore is small, the market isnâ€™t that big. Which is why we have to keep going on, making sure while maintaining our core values, we have to keep tabs on profitability. Balancing these two is sure a bitch!
The most obvious benefit is also its disadvantage. As we are a small country, it takes a shorter time for the news to spread and it is definitely easier to gain awareness.
Format: Over the last 8 years, Flesh Imp has established itself as one of Singaporeâ€™s leading Streetwear labels. How has the brand changed and altered over the years?
Vincent Q: Like I mentioned earlier, to keep the balance of keeping street cred and profitability, many tweaks and fine-tuning have to be done, and we are still doing it!
As much as we wanted to remain â€˜undergroundâ€™ and niche, we realized that Singapore was really too small to make an impact, because unlike bigger countries, remaining underground still meant a huge audience, due to the big population. For Singapore, this could mean just a handful. So we decided to open up a little more. After all, to advocate for the local community, you need to be more than just a hole in a wall to make a significant impact.
We keep things real by keeping connected with the people that brought growth and influence to this unique culture, and bringing these cultures to the companies that want to reach out to the youths that are already, or new to this culture. From being the conduit of street culture between local and international labels and communities, we hope to think that we are now able to bridge the gap between companies and artists/designers and clothing labels. Heck, if you wanna be the voice, be goddamn sure you make one heluva noise!
â€œFrom being the conduit of street culture between local and international labels and communities, we hope to think that we are now able to bridge the gap between companies and artists/designers and clothing labels.â€
Format: Talk about Flesh Impâ€™s current and upcoming collaborations.
Vincent Q: In the past, we have had a wide range of collaborations. They include artists like Bigfoot, DevilRobots, Sam Flores, and Andy Howell, as well as companies like Motorola, Samsung, Universal Music and Adidas. This July, we will be doing one with Coke Zero. We have designed a limited edition Tee and Hoodie for this collab and we are going to have our own bottle as well, which are not for sale- even in Singapore. The launch party will be held at The Butter Factory on the 11th of July 2008.
Format: Which designers or labels would be your dream collaborators?
Vincent Q: I am a big fan of Karl Lagerfeld, and in my opinion he is one of the most iconic designers of our time, still pushing boundaries and redefining fashion. I know he is a couture designer, but thatâ€™s the whole idea: an haute couture x urban street collaboration that will surely change the way of fashion as it is.
Format: How do you see the Streetwear scene â€“ and youth culture in general â€“ developing in Singapore?
Vincent Q: The street wear scene in Singapore is still growing and we have lots of potential compared to countries that have deep seeded street cultures that date way back to the 70s. Our evident growth of the street culture is only seen during the mid 90s.
For the youth in Singapore â€“ and I guess itâ€™s the same around the world â€“ the internet plays a pivotal part in shaping and changing how news travels at the speed of light and getting educated, getting information easily.
Format: What are Flesh Impâ€™s plans for expansion into international markets?
Vincent Q: We are planning for our online store to be ready by August. If things go well, we may do wholesale to established online stores or retailers, and we should be able to begin expansion into other territories.
Format: Do you think there will ever be a time where Asia will completely overshadow Europe and North America in terms of fashion influence and/or trends?
Vincent Q: I wouldnâ€™t say it will â€˜overshadow,â€™ but I guess looking at China coming up strong, it should be quite a strong contender. However, the way I see it, fashion is still predominantly influenced by Europe and North America. In time to come, I guess we should see a phenomenon where â€˜East meets Westâ€™ takes on a new meaning when it comes to co-creating â€“ a complete hybrid of fashion and trends between Asia and the rest of the world.
For more information log onto Flesh Impâ€™s website.