Asian Civilisations Museum: Bridging the Past and Future of Asian Fashion


Known for his exquisite sartorial sense, Kennie Ting, the director of Singapore’s Asian Civilisations Museum (ACM), never fails to impress. From a floral Ted Baker tie to a rose-patterned changshan and an airy scarf from Anokhi, he is an embodiment of panache and style. His choice of a gold embroidered robe, a gift from Thai King Chulalongkorn to a Danish navy admiral in 1902, as his favorite from the museum’s vast collection, speaks volumes about his appreciation for the fusion of styles and cultures.

The Evolution of Fashion at Asian Civilisations Museum

Since assuming the role of director in 2016, Ting has worked tirelessly to shift Asian Civilisations Museum focus towards fashion. Utilizing the museum’s extensive assortment of clothing artifacts, he aims to display heritage designs alongside modern ones, demonstrating fashion as a vibrant part of our history. Ting’s approach to the museum’s fashion collection is forward-thinking. He views designers as artists and strives to build a canon of iconic Asian designers. And then, each exhibition is a unique experiment, with shows taking the form of fashion-runways. It putting a spotlight on critical milestones in design and craftsmanship.

Modern Asian Fashion: A Continuum of History

A notable outcome of Ting’s efforts is the creation of first-of-its-kind exhibitions, including a fashion and textiles gallery focusing on historic Indian trade textiles and exhibits featuring acclaimed designers like Singapore’s Andrew Gn and China’s Guo Pei. Another groundbreaking initiative is #SGFASHIONNOW, an exhibition featuring works by emerging and established Singaporean designers. And then, the museum’s fashion-oriented approach has drawn an exceptional number of visitors. It confirming the increased interest in the intersection of clothing, culture, and history.

Singapore: The Melting Pot of Fashion

Ting describes Singapore’s fashion as “port-city fashion,” a style that constantly reinvents itself through materials and techniques from around the world. Furthermore, streetwear labels like Youths In Balaclava reinforce this theme by catering to the urban and edgy fashion genre that Singapore known for.

A Fashion Vault Navigating Through the Pandemic

The pandemic has created some disruption in the narrative flow of ACM’s exhibitions. Despite this, Ting maintains a positive attitude, looking forward to the imminent restoration of order. And then, he anticipates an exciting show by couturier Tarun Tahiliani, who set to create fresh couture inspired by the treasures in the museum’s vault.

Asian Civilisations Museum: The Fount of Inspiration

The museum serves as a “creative library,” from which the next generation of designers can derive inspiration. Ting believes in the continuum of old and new, arguing that historically, the West has looked to Asia for luxury fashion inspiration. And then, the influence of Asian fashion can be found in sophisticated gold jewelry and Indian chintz. Museums like the Asian Civilisations Museum provide the creative backbone for these designs, fostering a future of fashion that is grounded in the rich tapestry of the past.