Polytechnic students participate in songwriting, dance performance for UNIQLO’s store opening
The students share more about the “rare opportunity” to be part of something significant.
When UNIQLO opened its newest outlet at The Clementi Mall last Friday (Jun 24), it also provided a platform for youths to showcase their skills and talent.
Youths from Singapore Polytechnic’s (SP) dance group, Strictly Dance Zone, and Ngee Ann Polytechnic’s (NP) campus radio station, Radio Heatwave, got the chance to work with the clothing brand for its new store opening.
The SP and NP students helped enliven the atmosphere during the store opening through a dance performance and livestream.
Among the youths involved are 18-year-olds Thomas Chen and Shean Buligis from Strictly Dance Zone, and 19-year-old Alan Kho from Radio Heatwave.
Getting involved with a well-known brand
It came as a surprise to the Strictly Dance Zone and Radio Heatwave students when they received an Instagram direct message from the official UNIQLO Singapore account requesting a collaboration.
The dance team was surprised as they could not believe a well-known brand like UNIQLO would reach out to them.
“Personally, a majority of my wardrobe is actually UNIQLO, so when we all heard about this project, we were all really excited,” says Shean, one of the Strictly Dance Zone choreographers.
“Especially with COVID-19, after not being able to perform live, this was definitely something that we wanted to do. Because, we all really missed the feeling of getting out there and performing,” he adds.
While the opportunity was an exciting one, it also brought some anxiety for the Radio Heatwave team. This collaboration was Alan’s first major project with the club, as he only joined this semester.
“It was very exciting to have a major global brand reach out to us. But of course, working with a big brand comes with stress and worry, because everything has to be done properly. You absolutely cannot half-ass anything,” says Alan.
Well-equipped for the collaboration
Unlike the school projects and activities they were accustomed to, this project was on a wider-scale and to a larger, unknown audience. Thankfully, the students had the skills they learnt not just from their co-curricular activities, but also from the courses they were studying in.
Thomas, who currently studies Music Production in SP, realised that he could use the skills he honed from his course to add on to the Strictly Dance Zone and UNIQLO project.
“At first it was supposed to be us dancing to a pop song for their opening. But I got bored and sent them a song demo one day. The people at UNIQLO liked it.
“They wanted to record it and make it professional, so that’s how it started,” he explains.
Despite having to handle the entire arduous journey post and pre-production of the song, Thomas had no complaints as he enjoys making music.
He adds: “I’ve written a few songs (in the past), but most of them are unfinished because I just put them aside. But for this (UNIQLO song), I managed to finish it!”
The song created by Thomas for UNIQLO carries an upbeat and cheerful melody. It also contains a catchy rap segment, with lyrics reflecting the quality of the brand’s products and services.
“It means a lot because it’s a rare opportunity for me to write a song for UNIQLO. It’s unthinkable in a good way, and I’m very happy the song turned out the way it did.”
Alan, who is studying Mass Communication in NP, believes that modules such as radio and persuasive communication helped him prepare for this hosting opportunity with UNIQLO.
“General modules helped me be more confident in presenting. And since we were there to promote offers at UNIQLO, I have to be persuasive in that sense. So, the persuasive communication module really helped me know what to say to make things sound more appealing,” Alan shares.
And while Shean’s course of study does not directly correlate to his hobby, the experience has reaffirmed his love for dance.
“Dance was my first passion, and it will forever be my first passion,” he says.
But even with such preceding knowledge and experiences, Thomas, Shean, and Alan found themselves hitting a few roadblocks.
Overcoming challenges and gaining new experiences
Despite running multiple rehearsals, the UNIQLO app froze abruptly mid-live during the actual livestream.
Alan shares: “There were actually some technical problems. At that point, it was super stressful. I think the UNIQLO app actually crashed, so we could only continue the livestream on Instagram.
“When it crashed, I was quite nervous and scared. I was thinking ‘Okay, what do we do now? Do we just continue as normal?’”
However, with the guidance and reassurance from UNIQLO’s team, he professionally continued the livestream with nearly 300 live viewers on Instagram.
As Alan had the task of showcasing UNIQLO’s latest collection, he also had to introduce the new line of women’s clothing and promote it.
“I’m not an expert in women’s clothing. So, I had to take a lot of cues (from the UNIQLO team) to understand how to highlight the things guys usually wouldn’t notice or care about. So that was something I worked on, because I’m definitely not a fashion person,” he admits.
Through this, Alan had the chance to put himself out there and explore new things — not just in hosting live streams, but also in exploring topics he wasn’t too familiar with.
Similar to Alan, the Strictly Dance Zone team faced some roadblocks. For them, the challenges surfaced in the planning process of their performance.
In the initial stages of songwriting, Thomas struggled with the creative process.
He shares: “I was stuck at first because I couldn’t think of any lyrics and melody… I was stuck mainly at the rap part, and with the fact that rappers can have many different lyrics, rhymes, flow and emphasis, I was dealing with too many choices in a way.
“However, I just listened to the instrumental repeatedly, trying to find a suitable flow, and eventually chose the flow that I liked.”
Since Thomas was writing a song for a UNIQLO performance, the lyrics had to relate to the brand.
He adds: “UNIQLO gave me some terms like O2O (online to offline), extra sizes, and online alteration services for me to include in the song. So, I found a way to fit it into the rap. For example, one part of the rap goes “alter my clothes online, there’s really no hassle, order my clothes online, really just that simple”.”
The fact that Thomas created the song helped choreographers in the team better understand the music they are dancing to.
Shean says: “Having to choreograph is definitely not an easy task. It’s quite a difficult feat, especially with trying to find the right move to start on. But after that initial inertia, deciding on the direction we were going to go towards was a lot easier.
“I think what helped was that Thomas was the one who made the song… so we kind of had an inside view of the music and, because of that, were able to choreograph more closely to the music and feel the song.”
The first step to even bigger future opportunities
Thomas, who came into the project expecting just to perform a dance but ended up leaving with having written and produced a whole song, expresses his gratitude towards this rare experience gained.
“This would help boost my portfolio and hopefully make it easier to find a job in the music industry,” he shares.
For Shean, he believes that the chance to work with brands like UNIQLO allowed him and his team to grow and improve.
“…all our events are normally internal. But by being able to work with external parties, I think it’s really great because we get to see what the word is like out there, especially working with people in the industry,” he says.
With everything he went through and took away from the experience, Alan advises the importance of being open to opportunities.
He urges: “Just try. If you want to do something and the opportunity presents itself, just try even if you think you may not be good at it.
“You will never know until you try. The most important step is taking the first one.”