After spending the whole day looking for some specific fabric, I gave up and decided to write this instead. It is very simple:
1) Singapore doesn't have a domestic manufacturing base. Most garment factories have long moved over to China or other neighbouring countries, the very few left (and you can count them on one hand) supply for the large US market and mostly make items like activewear.
2) Singapore imports all its materials. As there is no domestic manufacturing base, we do not manufacture our own textile, trims and so on. Thus, everything has to be imported. Whereas in LA, HK or even China, the markets for these materials can be huge 6-7 floor shopping malls, we only have People's Park Center, Arab Street, and Spotlight, and almost all these are retailers.
3) Singapore does not have the qualified labour to do the job. Sewing is a dying trade in Singapore, most workers employed in the few factories are actually from overseas. Don't forget, garment manufacturing also employs pattern makers, technical designs, spreaders, cutters, packers etc. Most locals do not have the skills to do these jobs.
4) Apparel manufacturing is a sunset industry in Singapore. Due to the above reasons, you hardly find garments with a "Made in Singapore" label anymore. We just don't have the expertise or machinery to do domestic production.
Merchandising firms have all moved to HK or closed down. Only large factories sew knitted garments; small tailors will claim that they don't have the machinery. Textile shops and firms are too spread out, and have little variety. It is difficult even just to find the right fabric or get a fabric swatch because there is so little variety of fabrics sold or offered here.
5) The domestic market is not large enough to support sales of these garments.
To become a fashion hub, you need a strong domestic manufacturing base to support it. Without it, there will not be a reason why people will come to Singapore for apparel manufacturing or to base their clothing line here. And without this, why should a clothing line want to hold its fashion show here? Why would regional companies come here to showcase their line at a trade show when they can go to HK or China, where you can go to the trade show, source for fabric AND check out new trends? What advantages do we have to make this city a fashion hub?