Alfie Leong

The Little Voice

Singaporean fashion designer Alfie Leong, is the founder of fashion label mu and A.W.O.L. He is noted for his signature draping, unique cut and attention to detail. He won the Singapore Fashion Designers Contest in 1995; and subsequently received a scholarship for Raffles LaSalle International School of Design. He graduated in 1998. Over the years, Leong has represented Singapore at the Beijing Fashion Week and the Smirnoff International Fashion Awards. In 2001, he made the top 20 list of international designers at the Enkamania International Competition. At home, Alfie has made waves during the Singapore Fashion Week, the Mercedes Benz Fashion Festival, and the Singapore Fashion Festival. He has also collaborated with Swatch as well as homegrown street wear brand 77th Street.

In 1999, Alfie started his own label and by 2004 set up The Little Voice Pte Ltd, to create unconventional designs to inspire customers who want to express themselves. The two private labels of the company, mu and A.W.O.L., aim to blur the boundary between creativity and practicality. The designs of mu are unique yet affordable. The label offers constructed designs that are a fusion between east and west. A.W.O.L., an abbreviation for “all walk of lives”, embodies an originality and refinement that are complementary to the life of the modern women. It is achieved through unconventional construction, emphasis on details and the use of luxurious and sophisticated fabric. His practice gives him the opportunity to fuse the diverse world of inspirations and cultures that motivates him.

When designing, Alfie considers form, materials, technology as well as saleability. The creations fundamentally need to be wearable. His design process usually starts with draping. He establishes a fixed point in the human posture, typically a staple point under the armpit, where comfort is essential. Once that staple point is established, he starts to challenge the silhouette. He consciously creates new silhouettes and accentuates the form. Alfie is very unassuming about it, but the strength of his works is in his ability to apply functional details with impeccable finish. It is a skill that is honed and backed by 20 years of practice.

For Alfie, sharing industry experiences with other fashion designers is very important. He recalls experiences of bringing local designs outside of Singapore which were often not smooth sailing, sometimes even fraught with setbacks. Helping each other in the industry and bringing related industries together are important.

His belief motivated him to start Workshop Element, a label that hosts a community of designers. It seeks outlets and opportunities for local designers to showcase their works in a curated space. The first edition of Workshop Element, launched in 2012, was a pop-up store. It presented an ensemble of 19 brands and 16 designers and curators. The venture was driven by a passion to give back, inspire and inculcate values that have served him well over the years.

‘‘Young designers should be modest and stay that way. Always empty your glass and refill it, in order to absorb more and learn new things.’’

Insights from the Recipient

What does it mean to practise as a designer in Singapore?

It means challenges. It means having to be really self-motivated, looking out of the box, being open-minded, and staying humble. In the end, designers are designers no matter where we are from. The only difference is that we will be brought up influenced by different cultures.

What is the responsibility of a designer to the community or society?

There is no definitive responsibility. It depends very much on the individual or community. Personally, I hope to able to educate my clients about my design and philosophy in a way that they are able to come out of their comfort zone, and understand this new era of design whilst finding their individuality.

Where do you want to see design in Singapore go?

I would say that Singapore's design industry will change with technology, with the arrival of newcomers, and with the world's shifting politics. Each of these will have an effect on design. Furthermore, design will have no restrictions and no boundaries. In fact, to maintain one's aesthetics and unique viewpoint, it is important to communicate with consumers or one's followers. My wish is that Singaporeans and build a more open society that is even more accepting, keep to comprehend, and willing to encourage the fostering of better design.


‘‘Young designers should be modest and stay that way. Always empty your glass and refill it, in order to absorb more and learn new things.’’

Jury Citation

Singapore’s fashion industry is extremely challenging in terms of commercial viability, retail longevity and limited resources. In spite of these daunting conditions, Alfie has persevered and excelled. His success is due to his understanding of the entire value chain of the fashion design industry. Not only is he a role model but also a catalyst for the industry. He has a rare ability to fuse creative fashion design with the realities of business, manufacturing and marketing.

For the last 20 years, Alfie has been consistently unwavering in his design conviction: Asian influence coupled with modern sensibilities. His signatures are his attention to craft, fine detailing and technical excellence in cut and drape. His persistence in and dedication to quality compel him to operate his own factory, allowing him to control the finishing of his work. Despite his achievements, he remains humble and continues to exude positivity.

Alfie has an infectious personality. His desire to help emerging designers through his “Workshop Element” (W.E.) initiative, a retail pop-up, is testimony to his support for the fashion design community. The advancements in the export of his autumn/winter collection open up new possibilities for Singaporean fashion designers. His willingness to share his experiences and industry know-how makes him an inspirational mentor for the next generation of fashion designers.

Alfie is a beacon for the Singapore fashion design industry.


Nominator Citation


Alfie Leong graduated from Raffles Design Institute in 1998 and is founder of A.W.O.L., a clothing label known for its cutting-edge design. Alfie has won many awards including being the overall champion for the Singapore Fashion Designers Contest in 1995; the Smirnoff International Fashion Awards in 1997; and the Home Furnishing Fabric Fashion Design in 1998. He also represented Singapore at various international fashion events including the Smirnoff International Fashion Awards; and fashion week in Beijing, Japan, Seoul, Paris, Las Vegas and New York.

Alfie’s motto in fashion design is to construct garments in an unconventional way. He continually develops this individual style by improving his techniques. Alfie is never conceited. He strongly believes in continuous learning so that he evolves and opens up new innovations to his creations.


Hans Tan


Founder, Hans Tan Studio; and Assistant Professor, Division of Industrial Design,
National University of Singapore
Hans Tan Studio