Short Is Not A Cut Above

A Singaporean journalist was booted out of the Oscars press room early this week for not wearing a long evening dress to the event. If only the folks at the Oscars knew: she was just just showing them a typical Singaporean


By Mao Shan Wang

That poor girl. She didn’t know, perhaps. Or, maybe she knew but couldn’t be bothered. Formal attire at the Academy Awards is standard. She should have asked me and I would have told her to stick to baju kurong—they’ll definitely let her in. Instead, she chose—and, gosh, felt fabulous—in “knee-length shimmery dress, killer heels and formal blazer”, a combination that, as it appears to me, look right on an auditor attending her company’s D&D, but at the Oscars, could be something belonging to Elisa Esposito on her day off, stumbling onto the red carpet by mistake, minus her love interest, the humanoid amphibian.

That she had survived the kick-out and was keen to tell all about it showed that many Singaporean girls are not embarrassed by their lack of sense of occasion. This is typical of the young today: I am in my best dress—that’s good enough. And it shimmers! That’s evening enough. I pair it with a “formal” jacket! That’s grand enough. And don’t forget my killer heels! They’re high enough!

Just as not all that glitters is gold, all that shimmers is not necessarily evening wear. Short and shimmery, less so, unless you’re headed to 1-Altitude. And just because it’s a jacket—even a double-breasted one—does not mean it’s formal. A blazer, especially in Prince of Wales check (or similar), is definitely not part of a formal ensemble. As for those killer heels, I am sorry to say, the more killer they are, the more they will spell death to red carpet elegance. Girl, this wasn’t the night your boyfriend took you to his mother’s birthday party at a hotel coffee house.

And feeling sorry for yourself is definitely not Night-at-the-Oscars-smart. Even Ryan Seacrest wore a tux! Who cares if you were “nursing jet leg”? Or, that you would leave the day after? Those invitees arriving from London were probably jet-lagged too, and would scoot off just as quickly. It is convenient to blame lack of style on lack of sleep. If you ignore the dress code, you will look like you missed the memo, or the girl who turned up as Olaf when everyone else receiving the right invite came as Elsa.

I don’t know why so many women can’t be bothered with dress codes or think them a bother. Journalists are especially guilty, ST journalists in particular. It’s as if they’re saying, “We’re here to report the news, not to look nice.” And dressing appropriately would impede on their ability to do their job. Or, diminish their credibility. Maybe journalists won’t look nice because no one wants to look like Sumiko Tan? Maybe? As a friend pointed out to me, I have to understand that there are many people who see nothing wrong with attending a stated ‘gala’ event in T-shirt and jeans—they simply don’t care. Even when attending the Oscars in LA, apathy, like the passport, can’t be left at home.

Assuming you “made the mistake of not paying attention” to the “formal attire policy that everybody needs to adhere to at the Oscars”. It’s tempting to ask: Isn’t paying attention part of your job? And, let me add, have you never watched Red Carpet Live? Even the ushers are in evening wear. Did you not, for one moment, desire to not look like you just fell from the bleachers? Those there don’t wear a gown. Did you not know this isn’t the same as the Star Awards?

I have never quite understood why dressing appropriately is so difficult for some women. Is there no pleasure in donning a dress less ordinary? Are special occasions not so special anymore? Nor do I understand why throwing a jacket—any jacket—over the shoulder like a shrug can save them from a thousand scenes. For goodness’ sake, it’s not the le smoking and you’re not posing for Helmut Newton! Kid yourself not. It’s time to graduate from the campus chic (yes, oxymoron!) approach to fashion; it’s time to step up from killer heels that are already a huge misstep. Dress codes are imposed for a reason. Flouting them will not make you a cool fashion rebel; it’ll get you kicked out. This was the Oscars; this wasn’t your sister’s wedding.


The Scallop Age

Valentino AW 2018 P1

Well, perhaps not an age of the scallop, but the scallop edge has a new edge, and this, we fear, will be the most copied fashion detail in the coming months, especially the scallop edge seen at Valentino. Make a date with Zara—you’ll soon see it there, if not among the dresses, definitely with the skirts, even in the company of T-shirts. This is not the scallop edge of your mother’s time, those hemlines of repeated less-than-half-of-circle or those along the opening of short jackets on which an oversized button is centred atop each scallop to better emphasise the convex curve of the latter.

Rather, designer Pierpaolo Piccioli employs them boldly— deep, half-a-circle scallop (any craft book will tell you that the shallower the scallop, the easier it is to sew)—as if they are Chinese cloud motifs, only a lot less ornate. And the placements are rather unusual: on one one-arm dress, black on more than half of the front side, the over-sized scallop edge is placed against a narrow strip of white to better accentuate its boldness and graphic appeal. Elsewhere, the scallop edge appears on a bib-front (that runs to the hem of the floor-length dress!), on the hems of a diagonally tiered dress, and as perimeter of a cape. And nowhere does it transmute the outfits into something dreadfully girlish, or garish.

Unencumbered by over-femininity, Mr Piccioli has consistently, since the departure of co-créateur Maria Grazia Chiuri in 2016, forged a rather dreamy vision of today’s woman of means and power. It’s quite a pull away from the Victorian primness that the duo was proposing towards the end of their partnership (“too much fabric, too covered up”, as one make-up artist once said to us), yet it does not shirk from the Valentino-esque vision of moneyed dress-up, or the perceived harmony and contentment alit within those who carry themselves in these clothes.

Valentino AW 2018 G1

Today, Mr Piccioli ascribes his aesthetic to “romanticism”. In its post-show communication material, Valentino touts that “romanticism is strength. It places sensibility before rationality, authenticity before stereotypes.” And suggests that “being romantic is a way of living life. Giving form to the freedom of being, subverting clichés.” Non-marketing types may consider all that verbiage, but even if the words don’t give form to the collection, something can be said of Mr Piccioli’s way with putting “authenticity before stereotypes” or “subverting clichés”. He has subscribed to a sense of beauty that harks to an era when magnificence mattered and also takes into consideration what that might mean when seen through a smartphone’s camera lens.

Now that many media outlets are charting “this month’s Instagram winners” to see which brand is getting the most influencer buzz, there is pressure among labels to produce clothes and to style them to generate the optics that today’s online rhapsody is about. Designers ‘project’ clothes so that they can be better seen the way actors project their voices so that they can be better heard. What, to us, is rather amazing is that Mr Piccioli is able to say so much without shouting, without desperately rising above the din that is, quite sadly, current, Instagram-worthy fashion.

That he is able to straddle the online/offline divide (even if that is increasingly narrowing) reflects Mr Piccioli’s natural affinity with the balanced, the proportioned, and the nuanced—a poise of perfection that transcends age. His are clothes that do not veer towards the too-young or the past-their-prime. His is not an overly conscious, try-too-hard attempt at staying on the right side of uncompromisingly now, unlike, say, Karl Lagerfeld, who, for Chanel, must align himself with youth-oriented consumerism or place his finger firmly on the zeitgeist, with the result that’s neither here nor there.

Valentino AW 2018 G2

Valentino AW 2018 G3

Some people have a very performance-linked relationship with clothes—every drop of the sleeve a gesture, every swish of the skirt a dance, which seems to us rather old Hollywood, during a time when stars not filming in a studio had to look immaculate and ready for the paparazzi. Fashion, in its need to be attention-grabbing, seems to have gone that way since many women no longer dress for fun, for friends, but for the opportunityself-offered mostlyto cavort before a camera lens.

Valentino does not negate the likelihood that their clothes will support the popularity of the hashtag OOTD, but they are not, as far as we can discern, conceived for the sake of social-media bang. Sure, this season’s oversized, embroidered and appliquéd flowers and Little Red Riding Hood-worthy hoods are the stuff fashion-hungry IG-ers look out for and will cop, but beyond that, there is salute to the dressmaker’s craft and the blessing of the couturier’s eye. Pierpaolo Piccioli, we are quite convinced, is going to steer Valentino to higher ground.


Big In Balenciaga

Balenciaga AW 2018 P1

How many coats do we need? Not that we, living near the equator, would really know, but if Balenciaga’s latest collection is to be accepted, quite a few. And not just for different days, but for wearing them at one go. Kiasuism (or should that be kiasiism?!) is well and alive, and has found its way to Paris, and is happily expounded by Demna Gvasalia. As it appears, you may not be warm enough until you look warm enough.

Or, perhaps, there aren’t that many. It’s just an illusion, as the Imagination song goes. Maybe they are simply more-than-twofers. It is possible they are fourfers, or maybe fivefers! We couldn’t tell from in front of our Surface Pro. The streaming was too well edited, and we were too amused, borderline entranced: Can outerwear look so delightfully monstrous— malformations that will do Victor Frankenstein proud?

Mr Gvasalia understands the importance of keeping the shapes of Balenciaga intriguing. The house was built on that. In fact, he has always made a statement in body-obscuring outerwear, the way other designers underscore the histrionic possibilities of gowns. Remember the oversized anoraks of his debut women’s collection around this time in 2016, or the weird, boxy, rigid coats of his first men’s wear collection not longer after? Big is key to Mr Gvasalia’s Balenciaga, misrepresenting the size of the body is the idea. Not Fernando Botero-big, but certainly Niki de Saint Phalle-distorted. The outerwear immediately gave the show (and subsequent ones) the imprimatur of youthful, if geeky, hipness.

Balenciaga AW 2018 G1

The distortion, in fact, can be likened to Cristobal Balenciaga’s imagining of silhouettes that broke away from what was considered appealing at that time. Looking back, the cocoon must have been rather shocking for women who were used to what came after Dior, but it was pivotal to the couturier’s exploration of the spaces between body and garment, which in itself can be traced to the east—to Japan, where the kimono, too, embody this complicated, ultimately sensual, relationship.

It is hard to resist the temptation of joining the dots between Mr Gvasalia’s outsized, warped outers and developments in the east. The over-layering seems to challenge the very notion that looking like a country-bumpkin cousin of the Michelin man is not really stylish. In fact, the idea of Uniqlo’s winter-travel must-have Heattech is to allow one to don fewer pieces or to trim down the volume, but that preference for bulk-reducing sleekness is now delightfully barred from Balenciaga’s doors.

In addition, those big jackets, teamed with scarves covering the head, truly remind us of the 1992 Zhang Yimou film The Story of Qiu Ju (秋菊打官司) in which Gong Li, playing the protagonist, goes to the city from her rural home in what, to her, must have been her finest threats, but were, in fact, her version of maternity wear, styled for the sophistication and snobbery of the city. Qiu Ju, as it appears now, was rather ahead of her time! What must costume designer Tong Huamiao, who was also behind Raise the Red Lantern (大红灯笼高高挂), be thinking now?

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The shape shifts/enhancements are also applied to blazers and overcoats—fairly straight forward styles with stiff, almost linear shoulders, but with rounded, unnaturally pronounced hips, a silhouette that debuted in Mr Gvasalia’s first collection for Balenciaga. We admit that, back then, we didn’t take to this strange constriction, as well as the exaggeration with delight. They appeared, at first gawk, like subjects of Velázquez’s painting adopting waist-down bumps for their riding coats. It truly looked odd, as if of another era, Spanish or not. The modestly panniered jackets appeared once more, but this time, they are like selfies—you get used to them.

Even the men’s jackets and coats have exaggerated hips, as if they’re some kind of cardboard cutouts for a new hour-glass ideal of the male species. Designers have been feminising men’s wear for many years, using fabrics and colours usually preferred for clothes with bust darts, and giving guys skirts—in some extreme cases, dresses—to wear. But nothing is perhaps more feminine that according a man prominent hips! A diminishing of conventional musculature, of primal motivations, and a visual leveler of the power between sexes that’s part of Balenciaga’s ‘agender’?

Perhaps, therein lies the newness: the man with child-bearing hips. Stud not! Sometimes, with Mr Gvasalia, you wonder if this is really a gag, or a detail to draw the sexes closer. Unisex designs have, till now, largely been about making clothes that align with men’s aesthetics rather than with women’s: that’s why unisex clothes have largely been shirts, T-shirts, hoodies, and pants, sized to accommodate the girls. It is rarely, if ever, the other way round: there are unisex shirts, but no unisex blouses. Is Mr Gvasalia making a point about gender rather than sex?

Balenciaga AW 2018 G3

For sure, it’s hard to say that Balenciaga is sexy. This season, however, the show opened with six short, body hugging dresses, but when the “Time’s Up”, it’s hard to look at these dresses and think that the wearer wants more than to look good. These are likely more merchandising anomaly than sexual aggression. Mr Gvasalia has made quirky-stylish-norm so much a part of Balenciaga that it is hard to imagine he’s doing an Anthony Vaccarello here. Sure, these clothes are not for clambakes or curry chicken potlucks, but they are far from taking the Tatler Ball by storm.

From the dad look to one that is mom-sy, Balenciaga sometimes appears to be Mr Gvasalia’s private joke. Take those pencil skirts, for example. The primness is underscored by their high-waist and past-the-knee length, yet the front overlap slit reveals an additional panel that looks like exposed, unlined inside, which, if one remembers, were once considered so unsightly that women had to wear petticoats under their skirts to conceal exposed hems and over-lock stitches. It’s now a design feature and it has a rather home-sew feel to it; yes, mom.

Balenciaga, in its new aesthetic form, was, admittedly, hard to digest in the beginning. The turning point for us here at SOTD was the spring/summer 2018 collection, now seen in the stores. We were sold on those seemingly plain work shirts and were even more taken, seeing them up-close, with the collar—button-down in the front (to the disapproval of the office sex pot, we’re sure), but gently scooped in the rear. That’s the beauty of Balenciaga now: it’s not so straightforward black and white, and, certainly, not front and back.

Photos: Balenciaga

The (Possible) Comeback Of Chic

Jacquemus AW 2018 P1

The joy of Jacquemus: This is easily one of our favourite collections of the Paris season, if only for the ease of the clothes—unaffected, consumable ease. Jacquemus has not really been known for such straightforward styles. Sure, they had been largely wearable, and designer Simon Porte had steadily remained au courant, dabbling with concepts more judiciously than those disposed to sprinkling sequins. This time, there’s perceptibly more: no fuss, no excess, no ambiguity. The young label delivers an immensely likeable collection that will be welcomed in many wardrobes.

This season, Mr Porte’s Jacquemus, a moniker that is derived from his mother’s maiden name, took a trip to Marrakesh and soaked up the souks. Back in Paris, whatever Mr Porte had gleaned was given a left-bank spin. This isn’t to say that Jacquemus is handing us Yves Saint Laurent, who, enamoured with Marrakesh, had made this part of North Africa his second home. In fact, it was, to us, exhilarating that almost nothing pointed to YSL, the label or the man. Sure, there was a hint of the Seventies—those shirt-dresses!—but the allusion is hardly the neo-beatnik influence that weighed rather heavily on Mr Saint Laurent’s output in his heydays.

Jacquemus AW 2018 G1

Instead, Mr Porte seemed to build his collection on the definitive Northern African garb: the caftan. But he did not create any self-limitations by restricting himself to one garment. The show opened with a caftan-as-shirt-dress, and, while versions of that did appear later, it did not set the tone for the collection, nor characterise it. Instead, Mr Porte explored the idea of a relaxed silhouette with pieces—dresses, shirts, even coats—that, while roomy, still skim the body in an alluring manner, much like lounge wear, but smarter and deserving a place outside the home.

There’s a refreshing slinkiness to many of the styles, a seductive hang, but nothing too clingy, and certainly not adhering to overly laid-back languor. The generally long lengths are proportionately matched to comfortably fitted bodices and adequately capacious sleeves. No subversive twists! These are clothes that you slip into, forget about them, and go about your day, and you do so without a care about whether you’re going to look too dressed up, or, worse, too foolish. Fashion needs such built-in confidence and locked-in flair so that a woman knows the minute she’s dressed that she is ready to face the world beautifully.

Jacquemus AW 2018 G2

Jacquemus AW 2018 G3

We are partial to the drop-waist shifts; the dramatic cowl-front shirts; asymmetric tops that refocus the otherwise centric openings of the garments; hybrid jackets that seem to be wedded to a cape on one side; knit skirts with fold-down waists that look like skewed corsets; the quirky, floating lantern hemlines of skirts, and so much more that it is hard to say there is anything we do not like. And those shirt-dresses: they would put Diane Von Furstenberg in a re-think mood! The colours, too, captivate. They’re not the spice colours of the souk, as you might expect, but dusty, aged shades of brown, green, beige, and sand that you might find in an old Maghreb book of illustrations.

How well a collection works can sometimes be discerned on the models. The Jacquemus girls emerged genuinely pleased to don the clothes, and there was a palpable sense of pleasure, to the extent that when the girls stepped out in the finale smiling, with a spring in their steps, you, too, wanted to stand up and join them in their sprightly strut. Jacquemus proves that wearable ease is not a bad idea in fashion. And carrying a nifty handbag makes more sense than a severed head. These are, happily, the stuff of sartorial joy. And, perhaps, the making of the comeback of chic. Fingers crossed.

Photos: Jacquemus

Comfort Factor: A Jil Sander Perspective

Jil Sander AW 2018 P1

It was an inspired follow-up. Our excitement with the debut output of Lucie and Luke Meier for Jil Sander was obvious. In their sophomore outing, the Meiers held us spellbound. Again. It was a collection that kept to some of the Jil Sander codes, but yet eschewed thoughtless two-pieces-of-oblongs minimalism trend of the past years for ideas and details that enhanced the duo’s concept of what is comfortable clothing. Comfort, it seemed, had to do with padding, wrapping, insulation, and the spaces between. We wanted to immediately slip into the coats, the dresses, the pants, and feel the fabrics against our skin. This is tactile and aesthetic high, even in front of a tablet screen.

So much of Italian fashion these days have been wanking around weirdness, circumventing comprehension, and dodging discernment that what the Meiers proposed was a veritable feast for the eyes, more so since dress excess has not reached a tipping point. These were immensely desirable clothes in as much as themselves as the feelings they arose. They stood out: we wanted that and that and that… and that, to be sure, was a good feeling.

Jil Sander AW 2018 G1

We sought out the contours and the textures; we wanted to be coddled by the clothes, never mind if the chance of wearing so many of the pieces would be slim when September comes. The Meiers were unapologetic in their pursuit of supreme comfort, a quality we seem to have abandoned in favour of the outrageous and the overwrought. They’ve put comfort centre-catwalk and it beckoned. The clothes looked like bedding transmogrified, blankets re-purposed, and, as Linus van Pelt knows, in them, there isn’t just comfort to be had, there is security, too.

While augmenting the idea of palpable comfort with models carrying what appeared to be folded duvets (but could be oversized clutches) might seem a tad ridiculous, we did find the belted wraps worn by the guys somewhat intriguing. Could they be some kind of side-way, underarm capes? Less effective was the quilt used as a sort of obi belt. You’d have to have to be encased in a corset to look good in it, or be very, very thin.

Jil Sander AW 2018 G2

Jil Sander AW 2018 G3

Something else the Meiers brought back that we, too, thought was alluring: asymmetry. The knitwear sat askew across the neck, across the bodice, across the hips; a dress sported, on one side, rows of what appeared to be darts, but looked like gills; and tulip skirts puffed like slightly deflated lanterns. Under all that comfort was visual discomfort, orderliness disorderliness. The sum effect of comfort need not be perfect or uniform. Comfort can afford creases, folds, and rumples. With them, we’re more comfortable.

In terms of references, there was a hint of Orientalism. Nothing Sino-centric, just Chinese blanket prints visualised on coats and skirts, tunic-like shapes that hinted at Manchurian robes, arm bands that could be the contemporary cousins of those used in Red China, and a shirt opening that followed the meander and direction of the qipao. These were allowed European winds to warp their providence. Obviousness is not a modern trait, evocation is. And Lucie and Luke Meier have certainly evoked something in Jil Sander.

Photos: Jil Sander

Prada’s Feminists Work In A Hazardous Lab Of Sorts

Prada AW 2018 P2

For the Prada autumn/winter 2018 collection, the well-shod models wore heels, boots, and galoshes with cut-off, toggle-secured shoe covers usually seen in contamination-free environments. These girls, it seemed, were going somewhere that needed to be super clean.

This idea of an additional layer of protection was also extended to the clothes, although they were not as obvious as what were seen at floor-level. Some dresses, for example came with sheer outer layers, as if to protect the wearer from incident, contaminant-irrigated or not. And some outerwear looked up-cycled from suits destined for chemical warfare. (Thankfully, nothing as macabre as Gucci’s body bag!)

And the colours: They seemed to warn of unsafe conditions further on. Even a few of the prints looked acid-ruined. This is Prada in pre-apocalyptic, post-#metoo mode. This is Prada shielding and protecting against a world still awash with uncertainty and populated with sexual predators. And what better hues than danger-ahead neons?

Prada AW 2018 G1

Prada AW 2018 P3

The Prada world has always been an alternative one, but it isn’t an alternative universe. It shares our troubles, our intimidations, our humiliations. Miuccia Prada is the Creative Commander-in-Chief of that world. And she knows how to protect her people against the threats of that sphere. She gives them a protective layer for both feet and body, and everything else in between that can empower.

These could be clothes to dress the staff of the high-security government lab in Guillermo del Toro’s The Shape of Water (perhaps not cleaner Elisa and her colleagues, but certainly the likes of Colonal Richard Strickland’s secretary Sally). Or, if we were to look back a year earlier, the NASA-employed women of Theodore Melfi’s Hidden Figures. Ms Prada’s predilection for uniform-like clothes of man-made fabrics in lab-like or retro-sci-fi, even manga-cute, environs is not new. This time, she’s made them more evident, complete with staff security ID, clipped conspicuously to chests.

Prada AW 2018 G2

Prada AW 2018 P4

But, as usual, nothing Ms Prada proposes is as straightforward as they seem. Amid the somewhat strict attire and possibly man-repelling layering, there was much feminine flourish, as if in the corridors of secret government projects, one can still succumb to the lure of fashion; in some cases—embroidered and beaded overlay—to offer pre-cocktail allure. Beneath the hard-to-figure-out mix of hard and soft, textured and sheer, twisted and flat, Ms Prada was still able to underscore the confidence that clothing can protect against the elements, contagion, and unwanted advances.

The thought on hazardous contamination was momentarily disrupted by the appearance of Amber Valletta, a blast from the past in a coat with a print that suggested galactic bangs and bursts. Ms Valletta did not look out of place in Prada’s hallway of germ-battling, science-big, fashion-proud clout-on-show. And the 44-year-old certainly did not look any less confident and attractive than much younger entrants to the Prada world, such as the babyish Kaia Gerber. And that, for many of us, is the irrepressible appeal of Miuccia Prada: inconspicuous feminism with stupendous reach.

Photos: Prada

Before They Could Cop These Off-Whites, They’ve Soiled Them

Grown men fighting over sneakers simply makes the exposure all the more over-hyped… and a little dirty

Pharrell Williams X Adidas Hu Holi Blank Canvas sneakers

By Shu Xie

I really don’t get it: Fighting over shoes! I can understand men squabbling among themselves over a woman (even if that’s juvenile), but over sneakers that will past their prime by tomorrow, that is inexplicable. And in full public view, that is tacky, tasteless, and low.

As reported all over online media—local and international, a fight broke out three days ago in the queue at Pacific Plaza for the latest release of Pharrell Williams’s collaboration with Adidas: the Hu Holi Blank Canvas collection. Not only had a video of the scuffle subsequently gone viral, it allowed Malaysia’s New Straits Times to gleefully headline their report, “Near-riot breaks out in orderly Singapore over limited-edition Adidas.”

Ok, it was nowhere near a riot, but anything disorderly in “orderly Singapore” is usually seen as riotous. There was finger-pointing fuming and security staff warding off possible threats with their forearm, but was it close to an insurrection? Unfortunately, Adidas didn’t get the extra marketing advantage.

What’s puzzling is that, according to someone I know who was there, the people in the queue were not “fashion types”. Fashion folks don’t fight, do they? Rather, the guys (mostly) in line looked like those who might hawk knock-offs in a wet market—“between the taugeh/taukwa seller and the butcher”, so helpfully described. Which sounds to me like these were guys who would put their purchases on Ebay or Carousell to gainfully tempt the moneyed and the desperate.

Unfortunate also for the Hu Holi Blank Canvas collection—the blank canvas is now stained with the un-“holi” taint of violence. So are these shoes more desirable now that guys are fighting to cop them? Even if they are, you have no chance of getting your gentle hands on them. They’re sold out. Every one of them.

Photo: Adidas

Versace: Still Brash, But With Some Dash

Versace AW 2018 P1

According to Versace’s own description on their website after the autumn/winter 2018 show was posted online, the latest collection is “Strong. Loud. Confident. There are no compromises. A clash of cultures between past and present, old and new, sneakers and stilettos”.

Yes, it is classic Versace, but there is something else, something that expresses Donatella Versace’s in-your-face, I-can-wear-anything-I-want feminism. And, the man-baiting sexuality. It is Ms Donatella coming into her own, a confident assertion that this is how she now sees the brand her brother built. She is making Versace in her own image.

It is as if, after marking the 20th anniversary of the death of Gianni Versace with an homage show, she is finally able to purge all the obligations held to keep his memory alive and the expectations of her as a designer she could never be. Ms Donatella was finally able to breathe easy. And she did. And she came up tops.

Versace AW 2018 G1

Earlier suggestion and viral rumours that she contemplated stepping down was conventional smoke. Now that we know for sure Riccardo Tisci has gone to Burberry after persistent news that he would zip to the house of the Medusa head, we can lay all talk of Ms Donatella not designing the label she inherited a rest. This autumn/winter season is her strongest and compelling collection yet—a sure-footed discourse on what the Versace woman is today and a deft hand at melting the house codes into visuals that connect to the present time.

There is the obligatory lian-ness, of course, such as the over-patched Western shirt seen on Kaia Gerber, who is able to pull off such a top because she is very young. Sometimes you sensed that Versus has crossed over to the main line and some of the effects do throw back to Ms Donatella’s early years with the diffusion line, which she had led. The tartans were especially fetching—they did, however, remind us of how Christopher Kane, one time Versus designer, would have handled the highland checks. Gingham corset over tartan blazer!

There seems to be a need to pull the collection into street territory too. One outfit stood out only because it is un-Versace: a body-obscuring, studded (like a Chesterfield) puffer coat styled with an oversized padded scarf and worn with a short skirt that matches the former’s lining is a walk on Demna Gvasalia territory. It is, to us, a stray that could be seen as testing the waters. Versace could do with larger support from youths even if they have admirably seduced the young of the Chinese market.

Versace AW 2018 G2

Other times, you sensed a Versace for the careerist. Gigi Hadid looked Wall Street-bound! Ms Donatella has always called herself a working woman. And has often claimed to cater to those who have a career path to track and who desire powerful sartorial images of the height of corporate conquest. Her work clothes are not meek and secretarial; they’re unyielding and dominating. Her coats and jackets project power and the shirts and blouses that go with them just as fierce.

Fierceness has always been a Donatella trait—now, the intensity tempered with girlishness, often in the form of short, pleated, as well as flouncy skirts that straddle the narrow divide between school uniform and otaku fantasy. The suggestion of adolescent at play, too, can be seen in the pairing of T-shirts (some looking as if there were made from two halves) to huge, poufed skirts—a styling trick possibly gleaned from the Sharon Stone playbook.

Don’t get us wrong: Donatella Versace has not abandoned the very essence that has endeared her brand to stars such as Jennifer Lopez: sex. There is, in fact a healthy dose of it: sex as empowerment, ironically pronounced in a time of anti-sexually-predatory behavior. But what would Versace be without accenting the hips and flashing a limb? Simply put, no zest.

Photos: Versace

Gucci Not Good

Gucci AW 2018 P1

Gucci, there’s really nothing more to say about your clothes since there’s little that can be said of your offerings that we have not already expressed before. So, this season, we looked at how your pieces were styled for the catwalk: what (more) theatrics would you succumb to? And, boy, did you not disappoint. High drama made all the more apparent and discernible by your wonderfully bright staging (as opposed to last season’s eye-squinting/straining gloom), so bright that it was actually clinical—operating-theatre clear, as your set was designed to be every (cosmetic?) surgeon’s (or pathologist’s?) pride and delight.

And because all was distinct to see, we could not miss, not for a moment, the daastars—turbans that are unmistakably a physical part of the Sikh identity—placed on the heads of non-Sikhs. If they weren’t attention-grabbing enough, there, too, were hijabs, niqabs, and tudongs, additional headdresses that are traditionally symbols of faith, not fashion (as well as, oddly, what appeared to be a third eye, not perhaps dharmic, but definitely an eye between eyes). If they did not disturb sufficiently, there was the thoughtless (some say “wicked”) and inexplicable pairing of tudong and daatar!

Gucci AW 2018 G1

Frankly, we do not know for sure what Alessandro Michele was thinking at that moment, or moments before that. Or, was he even thinking? We really want to frame this as inspiration, but appropriation comes to mind faster than we could say ‘head wrap’. Why is a daastar (and kindred head wear) important in the communication of a fashion statement? Is it even appropriate given the religious sensitivities/phobia of the present time? Could this be Mr Michele’s version of diversity? Or, are we too serious about something as flippant as accessorising models for a fashion show? Should we just take it as ‘fun’? Can having fun bear no consequences?

Some media reports in the past have noted Mr Michele’s “encyclopedic aesthetic”, but surely even Wikipedea would have informed him of the daastar’s identity to Sikhism, or, that it is men, not women, who wear them. And for sticking to what distinguishes a Sikh male, many have been victims of prejudice and attack, including mistaking daastar wearers for Muslims. It’s fine to live in your own head; it’s not when you trivialise what others put on theirs as identity of self. This, Gucci, isn’t like putting a crown on a head to satisfy some fantasy about royalty or beauty pageants.

Gucci AW 2018 G2

When once, designers depended on make-up and hair styles to augment their seasonal looks, we now have designers making their own wearables (which could then be credited to them, rather than to external collaborators), to replace the artistry of directional make-up (remember the single-line bright eye colours of Raf Simons’s Dior) and hair (remember Julien d’Ys coiffure for Comme des Garçons?). Even wigs and face jewellery are no longer enough.

Are head and face wear, as indicated and seen in nearly every look presented on the Gucci catwalk, really important fashion categories? (Not to mention severed heads!) Or, are the (sometimes outrageous) coverings merely a distracting “newness” to obscure what are essentially again-clownish clothes? The circus association here is deliberate: How else do you explain Mr Michele’s pulling together of the allusions to disparate times, cultures, and religions to yield goofy and OTT looks? Alessandro Michele is the ringmaster of ringmasters. Messrs Dolce and Gabbana, step aside.

Photos: Gucci

She Just Wants To Show Some Skin, So Let Her

Like the rest of us, feminism is confronting confounding times. Jennifer Lawrence, too. She wears a dress with conscious volition and she’s compared not with other women, but male co-stars! Suddenly, out in the cold, it’s all unfair. The men get to cover up, and the lass has to be all sexy, in a dress with a slit that went up to there. The dictates of photo ops?!

Would a woman who is vocal about unequal pay in Hollywood succumb to sexist pressure and don a dress to steal the thunder from the guys? Or have we moved inexorably from fat-shaming to slut-shaming to dress-shaming? When Beyonce wore next-to-nothing, the “naked dress” is hot. When Jennifer Lawrence takes to the sartorial path of Elizabeth Hurley, she is “poor Jennifer Lawrence wearing a small amout of fabric some might call a dress”.

Sure, it’s still winter in London, but some women can take the cold better than others. What’s five minutes (according to Ms Lawrence) of the cold (if it’s at all cold to her) to show of what she thinks is a “fabulous” Versace dress? Conversely, have you not seen girls in neoprene hoodies walking down Orchard Road in thirty-two-degree heat for the duration it takes to get from ION Orchard to Plaza Singapura? Like Ms Lawrence, they do it for fashion.

What’s more intriguing to us is her choice of dress. How did she go from Dior to Versace? Indeed, Ms Lawrence says she loves fashion. But a fashion lover can’t love all fashion, can she? Or are we just a little potted in our thinking, a little too unwilling to see a style star traipse the path of flashiness too easily available to those who need such meretricious looks to win attention, such as the safety-pinned then starlet Liz Hurley?

Ms Lawrence, thanks to her partnership with Dior, was a couture kind of fashion consumer, we thought, tripping/falling spectacularly during the 2013 Oscars presentation in a gown Raf Simons designed. Ms Lawrence, as we see her, is not quite inclined to bare as much as Rihanna; she has too much self-confidence and self-awarenesssmarts and goofiness, tooto need Donatella Versace’s brand of high-octane, sexy-wins glamour.

The red carpet moment, whether on an actual red carpet or not, has always been a chance to show some physical assets. Isn’t it the same for brides? Have you seen a bride in a coat? Which explains why few care for a winter wedding. As Ms Lawrence said in her passionate defence on Twitter, “And if I want to be cold, THAT’S MY CHOICE.”

Choice, that’s a powerful thing to have.

Photo: Getty Images