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An Interview with Daniel Boey: The Godfather of Singapore Fashion

July 29, 2015

Dubbed the “Godfather of Singapore Fashion,” Daniel Boey is one name you can’t escape when working in the fashion industry in Singapore. And rightly so. This year, as our nation turns 50, Daniel Boey celebrates his 25th year in fashion with an autobiographical book aptly titled, “The Book of Daniel: Adventures of a Fashion Insider.” A man loyal to his favourite brands and clients -and Robinsons being one he is most loyal to- we speak to Daniel over email on his long-standing relationship with Robinsons in light of his upcoming fashion show, A Love Affair with Fashion Through the Ages, held at Robinsons the Heeren this 6th of August (Thursday).


The Robinsons Store, then located at Raffles Place

A brief history

Citing the 80s as the Golden Era for local fashion designers where, “one would pair their Thomas Wee with their Jean Charles Castelbajac”, Daniel mulls on the transition from the once celebrated local scene to the shift in focus towards the international scene. “Looming above this evolution was Robinsons, the first department store that was established in Singapore, a ground breaking concept here.

They were the first to bring in British fashion and stage in-store fashion parades, and quickly became the go-to place for the chic and the fashion-forward.” Stating in his book, Daniel first heard of Robinsons in Primary One, when the store, then situated at Raffles Place, caught fire on 21 November 1972. Back then, he said, “Robinsons was known to be the place for fine British fashion, and hosted intimate cabine runway shows frequently.” His first memory of Robinsons was (as with many of ours) accompanying his family to one of our annual famous sales.


An Evening of Glamour gala dinner, held at the Tanglin Club. Image courtesy of Daniel Boey

Robinsons was the first to hold their own in-house fashion shows.

Working with Robinsons

It was only years later, in the mid-nineties, did Daniel’s relationship with Robinsons really begin. Tasked to produce the Evening of Glamour, a gala dinner held at the prestigious Churchill Room at the Tanglin Club, Daniel was referred to Ms. Phua, who was then the marketing head of Robinsons.

Known in the industry as a “no-nonsense dragon lady who made even the toughest men pee their pants,” Daniel recalls walking into the office at Specialists Centre “with trepidation” in his book. As luck would have it, Ms. Phua turned out to be a childhood friend’s mother, whom he candidly refers to as ‘Aunty Lena’ in his memoir. Needless to say, Daniel went on to showcase Robinson’s best occasionwear and most dramatic jewellery that night.

“Robinsons has evolved from a classic store for sophisticated ladies to one that caters to a wide spectrum of fashionistas from all age demographics. The one thing that hasn’t changed, however, is the fact that they are always the epi-centre for all the hip trends of the moment,” states Daniel, “from being the go-to store for McCalls and Vogue patterns in the 60’s and 70’s to sophisticated occasion dressing in the 80’s and 90’s.” This still stands true today, with Robinsons holding exclusive distributional rights to many hip labels such as British contemporary label, The Kooples and Detroit-based artisanal label, Shinola. Since the Evening of Glamour gala dinner, Daniel has gone on to produce a slew of opening events for our stores across the past decade and a half from Marina Bay Sands, JEM and of course, our flagship store at The Heeren.

When asked about the woman that comes to mind when producing a show for Robinsons, Daniel states, “I have seen the store dress multi-generational of women, from the granny to the mom to the daughter, each introducing the next generation to the store, and every woman looking chic and age-appropriate.” He goes on, “case in point- I used to accompany my mother to Robinsons at Raffles Place (and subsequently at Specialists Centre and Centrepoint) where she would shop for the latest McCalls patterns with her friends, and pick up the latest occasionwear for the seasonal balls. Today, my sister pops by the store for her fashion fix (and their men’s department is a go-to staple on my shopping list as well).”

A Love Affair with Fashion Through the Ages, August 6th (Thurs) 2015 from 6:30pm

25, 50 and a 157 years on….

This year, all milestones seem to culminate in our beloved nation’s Golden Jubilee. Next Thursday, Daniel Boey returns to Robinsons to produce A Love Affair with Fashion Through the Ages. This time, the drama and theatrics will happen outside of the flagship store, along Orchard Road for all to see.

When asked what we can expect, Daniel wrote, “Robinsons has been around for more than 150 years, and they have been such an integral part of Singapore’s style history. We wanted to pay tribute to that and show how the fashion evolution of the past 50 years is paralleled to the evolution of the fashion department at Robinsons. However, it is not just a nostalgic, indulgent look-back in time. We are not styling the models in a “60’s till present day” costume parade. Rather, we are taking inspiration from each of the five decades since Singapore’s independence and showing the public how they can adapt the best elements of those decades in a contemporary style.” He adds, “and, in keeping with the tradition of collaboration, the music will be provided, live, by Singaporean band 53A, who have created a special medley as the backdrop to the show.”

On his personal life, Daniel hopes to continue creating groundbreaking events and beautiful shows. He is also in the midst of creating The 15th District (a name inspired by his childhood home-Katong) that serves as an online platform and centre of fashion information for ‘real folks who wish to know how to look good in clothes.’

Fashion, after all, “is for everyone, not just for people with money to splurge or only for those who are sample-size…. Watch this space,” he writes, “and look out for our special 15th District-Robinsons collaboration.”

A Love Affair with Fashion Through the Ages takes place on 6th of August, from 6:30pm to 9:30pm outside Robinsons The Heeren. RSVP on our FB event page now.

Cover image credits: Raymond Lee (Photographer), Audrey Ong (Stylist), Beno Lim (makeup), Evanda Loh (Hair), Outfit by Robinsons