Eileen and Casey
Founder of Sinagpore Fashion Runway and Singapore Fashion Youth Leader
Eileen Yap led a contingent of differently-abled performers from the Singapore Fashion Runway in the Chingay Parade from 2018 to 2020. Along with Casey Ng, they share their journey powering through adversity.
Everyone’s Got Talent
Eileen Yap founded the Singapore Fashion Runway (SFR), a community-led social enterprise for people from a wide spectrum of backgrounds and abilities. Through fashion, this initiative helps families and youths with special needs learn about Performing Arts, Creative Arts and Entrepreneurship.
When the People’s Association first approached SFR to participate in Chingay 2018, Eileen jumped at the opportunity because Chingay’s inclusive values resonate strongly with SFR.
“Chingay is an iconic cultural extravaganza created for the people regardless of age, race, language and creed. It brings people together. It is a dream come true for all of us to be able to present our talents to Singapore!”
Casey Ng, SFR Youth Leader and Chingay participant, “I enjoyed being part of Chingay because it encourages us to do good for others. I love how all performers were unified and did their best together.”
The Birth of A Contingent
Eileen’s excitement rippled through SRF—all the families and partners responded enthusiastically to the Chingay invitation.
“Dance is one of the art forms we promote to our members and their families. The chance to participate in Chingay will boost their passion in dance so priority was given to the SFR dance members, before opening up to other SFR partners. Due to the overwhelming response, we could only enrol the first 65 who signed up. That’s how our first contingent was born,” explains Eileen.
Chingay pushes participants to confront their fears: some were afraid of crowds, loud music, fireworks or the physical toil of training for hours under the hot sun. Casey remembered that although some participants needed more time to master their steps, nobody complained or gave up. Going through the practice sessions, rehearsals and actual parades helped them overcome these personal obstacles to emerge stronger.
According to Eileen, successfully completing the parade is no small feat as SFR members have conditions such as intellectual disabilities, autism, Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) and Down Syndrome. For example, picking up dance moves may take extra effort for some compared to participants without disabilities.
How Creativity and Compassion Triumph All
“Sometimes, we could not keep to straight lines; other times, some members lagged behind so we needed them to catch up over long stretches of road. Part of the travelling dance, we had to dance, run, walk, hop while looking good at the same time!
“As we are working with youths with special needs who may not be able to verbalise their needs, we plant caregivers and volunteers amongst the contingent to help anyone in need. Casey and I salute the Chingay personnel for their thoughtful choreography and checking on our welfare constantly. They ran along with us in the travelling contingent to make sure everyone was fine!
“This really sends the message that as a society, we embrace everyone. Nobody is left behind.”
SFR is a fashion-forward initiative and its Chingay association grew steadily from a travelling contingent to designing merchandise for the event. SFR also presented a catwalk runway segment in the first digital Chingay in 2021.
Chingay offered a platform to hone SFR’s entrepreneurial skills—its merchandise was featured in the online sales channel, Chingay Mama Shop.
“It was nice to see our President, Prime Minister and Ministers wearing SFR-designed face masks at the opening of the Chingay parade, demonstrating Chingay is indeed an inclusive movement,” Eileen shares.
Hopes and Dreams For Chingay
Both Eileen and Casey relish the return of the physical show: Eileen feels a hybrid physical-digital performance can capture a wider audience, including international viewers, while Casey loves the adrenalin of performing at the F1 pit engaging with people from all walks of life.
Eileen reveals her personal ambition for SFR, “We would love to have a dedicated SFR segment where we dance, design and model our creations in the Chingay Parade one day. Hopefully, we can gather many persons with disabilities and their families to present a strong contingent; it can help the wider community learn how to embrace diversity too.”