Dr. Frank Cintamani For Luxury Trending Magazine
Dr. Frank Cintamani For Luxury Trending Magazine | Foto: Dr. Frank Cintamani For Luxury Trending Magazine


Por: Edward Rueda

12, May, 2022 en Business Concept

Dr. Frank Cintamani

Chairman, Asian Couture Federation

CEO, Guo Pei

Chevalier de L’ordre des Arts et des Lettres

Championing Couture Across Asia and the World

“ Couture is the Antithesis of Fast Fashion” Dr. Frank Cintamani

Interview by Heide VanDoren Betz

Dr. Frank Cintamani is a Singapore-based entrepreneur and philanthropist for entertainment and the arts. Of Indonesian and Chinese descent, he has worked with some of Asia’s most prominent families on wealth planning and succession. After living in the UK for 20 years, Dr. Cintamani settled in Singapore where he launched the Asian Couture Federation (AFC) in 2013, an organization to inspire, support, and promote the best design and fashion talent both in Asia and the world.

Due to his long-standing dedication to the Asian and international fashion industries, Dr. Cintamani has established several Asian regional talents, including couture designer Guo Pei. He is also one of three founders of the new fashion platform Couturissimo, launched in Paris in 2016. The platform’s objective is to invite exceptional couture designers to create limited-edition ready-to-wear capsule collections with accessible price points.

Dr. Frank Cintamani For Luxury Trending Magazine
Dr. Frank Cintamani For Luxury Trending Magazine

Dr. Cintamani has held the position of Chairman for various fashion weeks across Asia having pioneered some of the most commercially successful fashion marketing events in Asia. As Chairman, his initiatives were credited by CNN and VOGUE Italia for positioning Singapore as ‘the 8th most prominent fashion capital in the world’. Presenting the very first Men’s Fashion Week in Asia (and the third in the world after Paris and Milan). FIDé Fashion Weeks was also instrumental in positioning Singapore as ‘the second city outside of Paris to present French Couture Week as a collective’. He has built a considerable international network with key influencers from the fashion industry and works in close collaboration with the Council of Fashion Designers of America (USA), British Fashion Council (UK), La Chambre Syndicale de la Haute Couture (France), AltaRoma (Italy), Council of Fashion Designers of Korea (Korea), and Bunka Fashion College (Japan).

Dr. Frank Cintamani was knighted as Chevalier de L’ordre des Arts et des Lettres by the French ambassador to Singapore, Benjamin Dubertret, as a recognition for his significant contribution to exposing French fashion and haute couture to a wider market and creating a new genre of couture in Asia.


  • Governor of the Council of Fashion Designers of Korea, (2016)
  • Doctor Honoris Causa (2014)
  • Chevalier (Knight) de L’ordre des Arts et des Lettres (2013)
  • President of the Jury, Atelier Chardon Savard (2013)
  • President of the Publishers Association (2010/2011/2012)
  • Man of the Year – Singapore (2008)

Heide VanDoren Betz for Luxury Trending: As a revolutionary in the couture fashion industry, having established the Asian Couture Federation and putting Asian Couture on the map, will you tell us a little about your background?

Dr. Frank Cintamani: My formative years were spent growing up and being educated in both the United Kingdom and Singapore. As such, I was very privileged to have been exposed to both Western and Asian ideas, cultures, and influences, which is something that I value tremendously.

LT: What was your early career?

FC: My early career was focused on finance and property development, and I think that helped to hone my sense of entrepreneurship, business, and marketing. About 20 years ago, I moved back to Singapore, and this coincided with the tremendous economic growth that took place in Asia – the ‘Asian Tiger’ so to speak. The implications of this were the incredible growth in the fashion and luxury goods sector where Singapore was very much at the heart of it all.

LT: Why did you decide to enter the Fashion World?

FC: With the somewhat strange and fortuitous way that life unfolds, I found myself increasingly getting involved in it. I could see that there was an opportunity to create and deliver world-class events and content for many of the luxury brands that were establishing themselves in the region. It wasn’t long before I had created businesses, notably Fidé, to undertake Public Relations, Marketing, Branding, store openings, gala dinners, closed-door functions, and a dizzying array of other events.

LT: You are known as THE expert in Fashion and Luxury

FC: I also set up a series of successful magazines under the Designaré brand, and somewhat unexpectedly I found myself as something of a so-called ‘expert’ in fashion and luxury. Once again, through some fascinating conversations and circumstances, I was asked to spearhead several fashion initiatives in Singapore and across the region. From Fidé Fashion Weeks to the Asian Couture Federation, that then set the trajectory of my life over the last decade.

Dr. Frank Cintamani For Luxury Trending Magazine
Dr. Frank Cintamani For Luxury Trending Magazine

LT: Being in the Fashion World is a high-profile existence. Do you relish the limelight?

FC: I suppose, I have had what one might call a ‘portfolio career’, but it has fascinated me and given me very privileged access to some incredible people, experiences, and moments. Despite what would seem a high-profile existence, I am in fact a very private person. I value the family, friends, and people around me, and when time permits, I relish a quieter life and meaningful moments.

LT: What does the Asian Couture Federation do?

FC: In essence, The Asian Couture Federation (ACF) was set up to nurture and promote the very best couture talent from across Asia. It was a direct response to the recognition that to raise the profile and awareness of Asian couture, there needed to be an organization that could champion it. Its formation came at the right time. With the economic rise in Asia and a growing interest in non-Western creativity, there was a strong groundswell of support from across the region.

LT: Were there influential founding members for ACF?

FC: It was particularly gratifying that Japanese Prime Minister, Shinzo Abe, was an immediate advocate and called the ACF a “ground-breaking initiative.” I am extremely proud of that. Its structure and governance were established to make sure that we were representing the most elite designers in Asia. The late Kenzo Takada, Honorary President, was truly invaluable in lending his voice in helping us promote the development of the Asian fashion design industry across the globe. As such, much of the ACF’s activities focus on creating and identifying platforms and opportunities that will serve to raise the profile of Asian couture talent. In many cases, this is achieved through partnerships with other like-minded individuals, organizations, and businesses.

LT: Did the ACF become involved with other organizations?

FC: The ACF has also fostered some exceptional relationships with leading fashion federations such as the British Fashion Council and Council of Fashion Designers of Korea, fashion schools such as Bunka Fashion College, and numerous key fashion leaders from Suzy Menkes to Nick Knight. It has also worked closely with several global businesses such as Disney, Mattel, and Netflix. In all cases, this has helped to ensure that the ACF has undertaken a steady stream of meaningful events and activities. From presenting at London Fashion Week to exhibitions at The Legion of Honor or our ACF Awards, they all serve to recognize, support, and promote Asian couture-level designers.

You received the prestigious Chevalier de L’ordre des Arts et des Lettres. How did this come about?

FC: In my initial focus on couture, I spent a great deal of time on bringing couturiers and the world of couture from Paris to Asia. It was the first time in its storied history, that a dedicated couture week was officially held outside of Paris. We presented couture week in Singapore in 2011, showcasing French couture talent, and subsequently introduced Asian couture talent onto our calendar in the following years. Of course, individual French couturiers would have had occasionally presented in Asia, perhaps as part of an exclusive dinner, or in a small salon show.

Our initiative was very different, it was a unique opportunity for someone in Asia to see several of Paris’ best couturiers as a collective in one place and at one time during a week-long activity celebrating couture. For the couturiers, it was a tremendous occasion to engage with new clients and build out their relationships and knowledge of the region. Perhaps more importantly, it was a key moment in really educating and informing a wide audience in Singapore and across Asia as to what couture was. How it was made, why it was so rarified, all the pedigree, prestige, and heritage that goes with it – that is what we were sharing.

I had been working closely with the Fédération de la Haute Couture et de la Mode at that time, the French Ambassador, the French Embassy, the French Chamber of Commerce, Alliance Francaise, and other cultural organizations to make this vision a reality. I was, therefore, most honored that certain key individuals then put forward my name for such prestigious recognition.

Dr. Frank Cintamani For Luxury Trending Magazine
Dr. Frank Cintamani For Luxury Trending Magazine

LT: Was there a ceremony or special event for the presentation of this honor?

FC: During the award ceremony, His Excellency Benjamin Dubertet, French Ambassador to Singapore on behalf of The French Ministry of Culture, gave me a wonderful citation: “Dr. Frank Cintamani offers his knowledge and competency and his ability to adapt to a variety of fields to help market French Couture in Asia. His force of conviction and personal relationship skills are precious to our designers. Southeast Asia offers indeed a substantial number of clients to our designers. For his dedicated efforts in intensifying French presence in the luxury goods market and serving our cultural mission, puts him truly at the crossroads of our economic and cultural diplomacies. On these two accounts, it was proposed that Dr. Frank Cintamani should become Knight in the Order of Arts and Letters.”

In essence, I think they had recognized my own drive to broaden cultural awareness of couture, and in creating a significantly greater market for it in Asia. I am tremendously proud of having been a recipient of it, and I regard it as an affirmation of what I am doing now, and what I will always continue to do in championing couture and especially the tremendous amount of couture talent in Asia.

LT: Has fashion always been an interest of yours?

FC: In my younger years, I was what one might call a significant consumer of fashion. Like many people, I enjoyed the myriad of brands and collections that seemed to be inexorably created month to month. In that sense, I always had an appreciation for the industry, but it was a rather materialistic and commercial level of engagement. I certainly admired the inherent beauty or style of fashion, or lack of it, and the craftsmanship that often went into it.

LT: When did you become interested in the business of fashion/the fashion industry?

FC: In all honesty, a more sophisticated and nuanced understanding of it, really developed and coincided with my time back in Singapore in the early 2000s. The opportunity to work closely with various fashion houses and brands was a real revelation. With things moving so quickly in Asia, and the chance to partner with some of the world’s leading luxury brands and fashion houses, I could see first-hand the sheer amount of work, planning, and thought that goes into what we wear. Likewise, working so closely with some of the most revered, esteemed, and talented designers in the world, gave me tremendous insight into the creative process.

There is a depth of focus, talent, and time that is not readily apparent to most consumers. To conceptualize and finally develop a fashion collection, label or brand is an arduous business. It was a knowledge that has taken years to gain, and I don’t for one moment believe I have learned all I can. It is an industry that operates in a constant state of flux, and the relentless move to a digital world brings new and exciting changes.

LT: How many ”Fashion Weeks” have you produced?

FC: Over the last 20 years, I must have produced hundreds of fashion shows across dozens of fashion weeks internationally. To be honest, I have rather lost count. They are the most exhilarating and exhausting activities to be involved in.

LT: In couture fashion what interests you most – the intrinsic beauty, design, structure, the commercial or business value, the preservation of the culture a collection represents?

FC: My first foray into the world of couture was in Paris. Attending the various couture shows was a seminal moment for me. Without a doubt, the inherent beauty of exquisite clothing slowly making its way down a runway is quite breathtaking. I say runway, but a great deal of couture is shown at ground level, and it is a much more intimate experience than many ready-to-wear shows. However, my initial interest was sparked by the stories that are indelibly linked to the history and evolution of couture.

LT: Who inspired you in the history of Couture?

FC: From the trailblazing work of Charles Frederick Worth to the anecdotes given to me by an illustrious couturier who dressed Audrey Hepburn, I was immediately smitten. Every couturier has a story to tell, and I really wanted to be part of that process in telling others.

Couture is the antithesis of fast fashion, so it has an opportunity to allow the designers and collections to evolve and unfold in a truly unique way. I was determined that I wanted to create opportunities for others to share those stories, that did not require a trip to Paris, and that could be accessed in Asia. Every event or fashion week I have undertaken has always been about how can I tell the story of couture, and how can I create a platform for a couturier to share their creativity, vision, and craftsmanship.

How important is fantasy to the success of a couture line? Guo Pei’s couture is fantasy.

FC: At its heart, couture has always been about creating something truly special and unique for the client. Naturally, the process of fittings, craftsmanship, stunning materials, and embellishments is a reflection of the time invested and the sheer expense that it represents. However, I don’t think that goes to the essence of why couture is so captivating. Whether you are a couture client or someone who appreciates the artistry of couture, the ultimate appeal is certainly the ability of couture to imagine the impossible. I say impossible, but of course, it is rendered impeccably, exquisitely, and beautifully into a textile reality, and that is the sense of fantasy it embodies.

LT: What makes Guo Pei’s Couture Fantasy different?

FC: It is transformative, symbolic, and imbued with myths, vision, and emotions. That is certainly the case for Guo Pei’s couture. Of course, it is beautiful, it would be churlish to say otherwise. What sets it apart can create a reaction from the viewer. A short intake of breath, a quickening pulse, or an exclamation of ‘my goodness.’ In that sense her couture is visceral – it provokes a physical and emotional response. It achieves this through her ability to render fantasy into reality, and it is central to her work and indeed her success. Her approach and execution are truly unique. As much as the word ‘iconic’ is really overused, I think in the context of Guo Pei, iconic is one that truly applies to so many of her works and creations.

LT: Do you think couture fashion is a vehicle to preserve the culture of a nation?

FC: In many ways couture transcends nationality. If you look at the world’s foremost couturiers, they have all developed their own style, approach, and interpretation of couture. It is what makes it so readily identifiable as being their creativity and work. Inevitably, aspects of cultural heritage or identity play a significant part in influencing, finessing, and impacting their interpretation. However, I am not entirely convinced that it is in itself a vehicle for preserving the culture of a nation. After all, culture is not immutable, and couture like much fashion reflects the times, places, and events we live in.

LT: Guo Pei’s experiences growing up seem to have influenced her extraordinary and poignant designs

FC: With regards to Guo Pei, it is undeniable that her experiences are shaped by her growing up during the cultural revolution and the tremendous changes that China has witnessed over the last 30 years. As much as her work explores those aspects, as beautifully shown in the award-winning film ‘Yellow Is Forbidden’, I don’t think she is entirely beholden to it. She has an ability to delve into China’s Imperial past and draw inspiration from it, but it is not a literal articulation of Chinese culture.

China is a much more complex, fascinating, and culturally rich country to be so defined. She effortlessly infuses many ideas, concepts, and motifs of Chinese culture while bringing in influences from global and Western aspects of art, culture, and mythology. Perhaps the idea of couture as a vehicle for cultural preservation does apply in the execution of it. A great deal of her research and craftsmanship has helped to give life to artisan skills that were once thought lost in China. Indeed, her couture has helped many historians to better understand the construction and techniques that were used in fashions of the past, especially rare Imperial pieces.

As China’s ‘Queen of Couture, I think she is a bastion of China’s past rich traditions, a beacon of China’s vibrant present, and a foreteller of its exciting future. Above all, global awareness and recognition of her work have helped to bring a broader appreciation and interest in Chinese culture.

LT: The Guo Pei exhibition at the Legion of Honor, San Francisco has left its viewers in a state of awe. Why is that?

FC: One of the reasons that I work so closely with Guo Pei, is her ability to provoke a response from those who witness her work. Rather like any art form, you don’t have to be able to buy it to appreciate it. In her case, there is tremendous pleasure in being able to bring her creativity to a wider audience. Media coverage, photos, videos, and social media simply cannot create the same impact as standing in front of one of her pieces. There is the immediate breath-taking moment when you first encounter it, and then it inexorably draws you closer and the details that are lost at a distance become sharp and equally mesmerizing.


LT: Do you have a favorite?

FC: There is no better example of this feeling of awe than her sublime Da Jing or ‘Magnificent Gold’ gown. Guo Pei regards it as her first ‘Haute couture piece. To me, it stands out as the ultimate articulation of both her genius and what is possible in her hands. It is fantasy as reality. The sheer impact of this vast golden gown, shimmering in the light, is a true showstopper. It is a statement of who she is and what she is capable of. While opulent, it is not gaudy. Close inspection reveals the intricacy of the gold thread, the subtle detailing, and the obvious 50,000 hours it took to make. To me, it declares of Guo Pei – ‘this is who I am, and this is what I can do’, and it is a statement that she has continued to fervently declare ever since.

LT: Is Paris still the center of the Couture World?

FC: Twenty or thirty years ago, there was (in the minds of most) a simple view that Paris was at the epicenter of couture. Since then, we have seen a much more diverse and challenging evolution of that statement. Paris is the spiritual home of couture, but the biggest step forward is the recognition that being French is not a prerequisite to being a successful couturier. Of course, there have always been several successful non-French couturiers in Paris, and the Japanese wave in the 1980s is a case in point. Kenzo Takada, Kansai Yamamoto, Yohji Yamamoto, Comme des Garçons, and Junya Watanabe, are all couture creatives whose impact on fashion still resonates today. The difference now is that even the membership of La Chambre Syndicale de la Haute Couture reflects a much broader range of cultural and national backgrounds.

LT: How has the Asian Couture Federation broadened this center of Couture?

FC: In many ways, the work of the Asian Couture Federation was a clarion call for diversity, and Paris has in its own way thought more widely about its membership. This is a positive and welcome step. By its very nature couture is a very niche area of focus, and couture needs a platform, which is what Paris and indeed the ACF provides through its activities. However, no city or country has a monopoly on couture creativity.

I am not sure if it is possible to say which country is leading the way in creating the most interesting and sought-after couture creations. I think it is more pertinent to think about it in the context of finding and identifying the emerging or yet undiscovered couture talent, wherever it is from. From that perspective, I certainly believe Asia has and will continue to flourish. If you look at the exciting talent in Paris, London, or New York a great deal of it has Asian heritage. Likewise, across Asia, numerous exceptional couturiers are creating exciting work from Tokyo to Jakarta. In a world that has hitherto been very western focused, a new Asian aesthetic is the one that I see offering some of the most fascinating work.

LT: The term “ Asian fashion” is spoken of frequently and (I think) incorrectly. I believe there are 14 different cultures over a vast geographic and geopolitical territory. How do you differentiate and work with this diverse artistry?

FC: When you consider that Asia stretches over a length of about 11,000 km from the Arctic Sea to Australia and from the edge of Europe to the Pacific it is quite evident that it is nothing more than a geographical and topographical shorthand for a vast region of the world. It is convenient, but it says nothing of the cultural, linguistic, and political variations and differences that inhabit it.

It is further complicated using ‘Asian’ as an ethnic shorthand for a similarly diverse array of people, countries, and cultures. As far as ‘Asian fashion’ is concerned it is certainly not as homogenized as so-called Western fashion, and that is in part a reflection of the power that the West has had on the global fashion industry. There have certainly been a few specific countries that have broken out and achieved wider influence and recognition, with Japan and South Korea being two of note. That has certainly been useful in gaining traction internationally with the rise of say K-Pop or Korean movies, but clearly, it doesn’t truly represent Asia. Such a disparate and diverse region simply can’t be contained within one term, but I do recognize its value in helping to focus the conversation and it’s a useful point of reference. And one that I use freely.

However, once that stage in the discussion is made, I always try to then refer to the key individuals and talents that I work with, and who are part of the membership of the Asian Couture Federation. It is one way of both illuminating the rich depth of talent that exists, and also underscoring how radically different they all are. The common thread of course is the level of artistry and craftsmanship that one would expect to find in couture. Most people see that very quickly.

What is very important is to ensure that those based outside of Asia, grasp that the region is so much more than China.

LT: Do you need to employ different strategies for different countries?

FC: My strategy is the same for any of the countries that I work with. The first step is to gain a good understanding of the talent pool and the key players within it. I also go to great lengths to understand what is important to say to the government, fashion bodies, or schools within the country, so that I am clear on what the opportunities and challenges will be.

It is also vital to find key allies, partners, and champions within the market that you can align and work with. That is where the ACF Governors come to the fore. They are all established and respected individuals, and they bring tremendous insight, guidance, and assistance within their countries of responsibility.

As a rule, Asian culture values relationships and trust. That means, I spend a great deal of time cultivating networks, engaging with key figures, and developing a rapport. This can take a significant amount of time, but in the long term, it generates a truly collaborative approach and a vast pool of support and goodwill. A former President of the La Chambre Syndicale de la Haute Couture once told me to always work with people you like and get on with. It is a lesson I always put into practice. Ultimately, my focus is to show anyone who cares to listen that Asia can operate at a global level, and then everything I do is to reinforce that point.

LT: Which city is the fashion capital of the world today?

FC: The idea of a fashion capital is in my mind a somewhat archaic and increasingly meaningless term. Of course, the so-called ‘Big Four’ (London, New York, Paris, and Milan) are always referenced. However, even then they aren’t always competing on the same ground. Each has had to carve out a clear raison d’etre and focus – streetwear, couture, classic, etc. Sadly, Tokyo is not as influential as it once was, and arguably Shanghai now joins a new ‘Big Five’. If the metrics were simply on centers of talent, then many other cities are brimming with it, from Jakarta to Seoul to mention two.

The challenge is that a fashion capital requires a sophisticated level of infrastructure from fashion schools, fashion leaders and influences, a vibrant fashion community, and true plans of action to bring the talent to a wider audience. That was my focus at the start of the various fashion weeks. You can’t simply do shows, you need to create a platform and all that entails. For example, Singapore raced up the ranks to become the 8th Most Fashionable City in the World – in large part, as noted by CNN, by the various initiatives I had undertaken. With this being the Asian Century, I am quite sure we shall see Asia’s fashion sphere of influence grow and the balance of power tilt and shift increasingly East.

LT: AFC represents several couture designers. What are some of the criteria and problems you encounter in choosing a designer with whom to work?

LC: At present, the Asian Couture Federation represents 25 couturiers in Asia and on a select basis internationally. In all cases, they represent the very best couture talent. I spend a great deal of time, as does my team, scoping out the creative landscape and identifying potential members. Some are obvious and others take more time, largely due to a lack of recognition for their work.

Couture is, after all, not a mainstream pursuit. In all cases, we look closely at the quality of their work, the artistry, and craftsmanship, and importantly review it over time. It is vital to the integrity of what we represent, that they can consistently operate at the highest level. Of course, some designers are established and esteemed couturiers and others are still relatively new to the industry. Our membership structure makes allowances and distinctions for that level of experience and seniority. In all cases, they are admitted after a nomination by a membership subcommittee and are subject to criteria established by the Governor’s Committee.


However, talent is only one dimension, and I am very much focused on all our member’s potential. That is always a reflection of their either possessing or having access to a range of commercial skills, organizational resources, and overall personality to take their business to the next level.

In many cases, this is where the Asian Couture Federation can bring in its expertise, knowledge, and relationships to provide support. In that sense, not only does the federation realize its mission, but it also creates a symbiotic relationship with its members. I can provide access to a range of opportunities for our members, but ultimately, they need to be able to run with them. The degree to which they can is something that you only truly grasp over time. It is not so much a problem, as a simple reality and everyone works to ensure we can make the most of every occasion.

  1. What are your personal preferences in fashion?

FC: When it comes to formal wear, I favor classic, well-made, and durable looks – the less is more approach I suppose. I often have long days, and so sartorially being able to go from a breakfast meeting to an evening dinner is important. The joy of dressing is indeed an art, and I have certainly got to a point where I know what works and what doesn’t. I tend to choose understated colors and fabrics of the best quality possible.

It’s rather redolent of Polonius’ guidance of his advice in Hamlet of “Costly thy habit as thy purse can buy, But not expressed in fancy; rich, not gaudy.” When not working, I am extremely low-key and choose well-made, comfortable fashions.

LT: Are you a collector – of couture, works of art, jewelry, object d’art?

FC: As I have gotten older, I have to say that my interest in collecting has somewhat waned. There were moments in my life when I avidly collected art, jewelry, and wine. I am proud that they were noteworthy collections and brought me a great deal of pleasure. Though I have to say, that there is a great deal of responsibility that comes with it – from display to cataloging and storage to security. However, my passion now lies in the collection of quality-of-life moments and above all meaningful experiences and that can certainly be more rewarding.

LT: Can you tell us any plans for future Guo Pei couture shows or museum exhibitions?

FC: I am delighted that as the world opens once again, this will be a busy and productive year. There are a lot of initiatives being planned – all of which will be focused on raising the profile and awareness of Asian couture. There are at least two more exhibitions in the works, one at the Bowers Museum in Santa Ana, California, and another in Toronto in partnership with the leading property development group, Westbank. I am also busy developing two further projects that will entail couture shows for Guo Pei in Vancouver and another in Shanghai.