These Fraternal Twins

Onitsuka Tiger X Anrealage

Sometimes it’s more interesting if a pair of shoes is not identical. Sure, you risk making the wanbao headline, wondering if you’ve succumbed to some mental stress, or colleagues and friends speculating that it was still dark when you left your flat in the morning, but with everyone going for the same NMDs or Yeezys, wouldn’t that be a bit of fun?

And fun is, perhaps, the operative word for this Onitsuka Tiger and Anrealage collaboration. This pair (of two styles dropped, both known as ‘Tiger Monte Z’) is touted as the world’s first “augmented reality sneakers”.

Frankly, we’re not sure if AR for sneakers is any use other than some limited visual fun. We tried this pair but weren’t impressed by the AR component enough to download the app required to give it a spin. Somehow, we sense that our relationship with the digital link to the shoe would end up like that of Pokemon Go: no play.

But if you’re intrigued enough, this is how it works. Download the app (a surprising 300MB!), and through the screen of your handphone directed at the shoe (online reports state that only the left side works), the logo of Anrealage “pops”. As this draw your attention, mixed tape of music put together by the Hokkaido band Sakanaction is temporary replacement of your Spotify playlist. Yes, a little low on the excitement factor.

We’re, therefore, more enticed by the unalike uppers of this pair of ‘Tiger Monte Z’. True to Anrealage’s off-centre aesthetic, their kicks with Onitsuka Tiger is a step in the direction of the less ordinary. The sock-like shape with a pronounced tongue could be a truncated, Frankenstein cousin of the Chelsea boot.

What’s a boon to those who like to customize things is the lacing (not required to secure the shoe), which allows one to create any pattern on the gradated perforation. Perfect for boring plane rides?

Onitsuka Tiger X Anrealage ‘Tiger Monte Z’, SGD229, is available at Onitsuka Tiger, Suntec City. Photo: Zhao Xiangji

The Wordiest Logo?

Or do you prefer less?

TNF Junya logo

It’s a collaboration that spawned one of the biggest logos we have ever seen, with an unusually large amount of text. There are a total of nine words, 14 syllables, and 43 letters! And both brands seem like a match that has to be made: their logotype is in still-a-fave Helvetica!

It is, of course, a mouthful to say. There’s a reason WeAretheSuperlativeConspiracy—just five words but chock-full of 24 letters—is known as WESC, making the one-time lengthy Fruit of the Loom, with a now-modest line-up of 14 letters, a breeze to say. But The North Face Junya Watanabe Comme des Garçons Man isn’t, thankfully, quite a tongue-twister even when boasting three languages. That is unless you have a dreadful relationship with French pronunciation.

In fact, the coming together of the two brands (since we’re counting, three, if you consider CDG in there as a separate entity) is missing the typical X, as in the upcoming Erdem X H&M (designer Erdem Moralıoğlu’s full name may, indeed, be the tongue-twister here), which means Junya Watanabe’s collaborative work for autumn/winter 2017 would otherwise have 44 letters. But who’s counting? Okay, we are.

TNF Sacai

On the other extreme is Sacai, a brand that, interestingly, also collaborated with The North Face for the autumn/winter 2017 collection. But the logo is so succinct that you may miss the Japanese name. Comprising just four words and a grand total of 17 letters, The North Face Sacai is almost minimalistic. Similar to Junya Watanabe’s, it is absent an X. Perhaps it’s a Japanese quirk. Whether long or short, are we getting more or less with the respective brands?

With these Japanese burando, especially these whose designers are alumni of the school of Comme des Garçons (Sacai’s Chitose Abe was, in fact, a member of Junyta Watanabe’s pattern-making team before she struck out on her own), you are not likely to get less. Sacai’s collection dubbed “Cut Up”, does not spare any design their distinctive slicing and splicing, which means less is not part of their DNA. In addition, their collaboration is available for women as well.

In the end, a label with many words may look intriguing and, hence, alluring, but it really isn’t a matter of which. We say, why have one when you can have both?

It isn’t certain if Junya Watanabe and Sacai stockist Club 21 will bring the two brand’s collaboration with The North Face. We suspect the soon-to-open Dover Street Market Singapore will carry both capsules. Watch this space for updates. Images: the respective brands

Short-Time Supremacy

A day after the madness that was the launch of the Louis Vuitton X Supreme collaboration, the concourse outside the LV store in Ion Orchard is back to its usual tourist-dotted calm

LV X Supreme pic for SOTD

There’s enough queuing in our life, so we decided to sit this one out. Barely before 9am yesterday, a message came to us via WhatsApp: news from the ground that the crowd outside the Louis Vuitton store in Ion Orchard was “crazy”. We were not surprised, just as we were not impressed. Sure, there’s something amazing about such large numbers eagerly waiting the release of a fashion collection like those waiting for the new season of Game of Thrones. Louis Vuitton X Supreme for the autumn/winter 2017 was destined, the minute it was shown in January, to be bigger than anything Yeezy. But just as with the latter, our mind went into a silent yawn.

LV’s latest collaboration is devoid of the freshness, surprise, and rebelliousness of its first, 16 years ago: the Marc Jacobs commission of Stephen Sprouse’s neon, graffiti-style scribble, used to deface the LV Monogram, which until then, was thought to be sacrosanct, hence untouchable. It was very daring, which explained its appeal. As our contributor Mao Shan Wang recalls, “I was in Paris that year, and it was madness at LV’s Champs Élysées store. I was with a friend at that time. People snatched the bag off her hand when she merely looked undecided.”

By the second collaboration—with artist Takashi Murakami, the idea of the LV monogram overlaid with patterns from non-in-house designers became less novel, but Mr Murakami’s motifs were cute and endearing (and he enjoyed higher name recognition that Stephen Sprouse), making the joint output another massive success for the still in reinvention mode LV.

All quiet the day after the Louis Vuitton X Supreme launch17-07-15-21-15-09-743_decoScreen grab of IG post by The Straits Times

With the recent Chapman Brothers collaboration, initiated by LV’s men’s wear designer Kim Jones (who also linked up with Supreme), the surface rejuvenation of classic LV bags became appealing only to those who consider anything produced by the brand to be objects of desire. Even the latest ‘Masters’ series with Jeff Koons just look tacky, like something out of a museum shop, not the least wearable art.

Supreme is the streetwear label du jour, but LV is not the first designer name to align with Supreme, itself a serial collaborator. This past April, the increasingly accessible Comme des Garçons launched a new capsule with Supreme, having paired with the New York label since 2012. The line was supposed to be available at the Dover Street Market Singapore’s E-Shop, but it seemed like it was a no-show. Or, perhaps, it really sold out the minute it was available.

When was the last time LV drew a crowd (not counting the short queues outside their stores, created to give the impression that it’s really busy inside)? When the ‘Twist’ bag was launched in 2015? Handbags, as it’s often reported these days, no longer have the irrational lure they once had. The thing is, even a giant of a luxury brand such as LV needs a crowd puller—literally. Their executives are probably aware of the long lines each time Supreme launches a collaborative effort, from London to New York, and how willing to spend the Supreme addicts are.

On Saturday, signs at the entrances of the Louis Vuitton store in ION Orchard to inform the hopeful

Singapore fans and speculative resellers are lucky. Just four days or so ago, there were on-line reports that LV was closing their sales channels (so-called ‘pop-ups’) of the (so far) one-off. No actual reason offered and the provocative online talk was that there was fallout with Supreme as the New York brand did not feel that they had as much to gain from the collab. The discontinuation of the line was later said to be untrue, with LV announcing that it will be available later. Whatever the case, it’s considered a major fashion coup for our island since we are the only city in the whole of Southeast Asia to get this Supreme, never mind that even when you are ready to spend top dollar you’d have to participate in a raffle in order to get a chance in copping the goods. Yet, as reported, the masses went crazy, including 13-year-olds. We have no idea why any child just crossing into puberty should need to carry a USD$1,800 LV crossbody bag (the Danube PPB), but it is pointless to ponder.

While we are not keen on the LV and Supreme collaboration, we appreciate the irony in the pairing. Back in the early days of Supreme, the brand was force-fed a cease and desist for patterning a skateboard with the florals of LV’s Monogram Canvas. Does the present collab mean LV bears no grudges or does it indicate that luxury fashion and streetwear are now on equal footing?

This is consumerism in its most blatant (and unappealing?) form, which means these clothes are not going to add anything to the design legacy of the French house—let’s say they won’t make LV great, or any conversation about bringing newness and innovation to fashion. There is really no challenge to either LV or Supreme in producing the brand-blaring merchandise. This only illustrates unequivocally that no matter how sophisticated fashion consumers have allegedly become, logos and brand names must stand out and speak for the wearer.

Illustration: Just So. Photos: Zhao Xiangji. 

Demise Comes As The End

Ominous as that sounds, come December, what is often considered the coolest store in Paris will come to the regrettable fate called closure

ColetteColette at 213 rue Saint-Honoré in 2011. Photo: Jim Sim

By Raiment Young

To be honest, I am not terribly saddened by the recent news that Colette (Paris, not Orchard Road!) will close. A sense of regret, perhaps, but I am not about to create a Kickstarter account to save Colette from Yves Saint Laurent wanting its prime space. I am, however, dispirited by the reality of yet another retail casualty. In the present retail climate, and not just on our island, the closure of an “iconic” store (Forbes called it “the trendiest store in the world”) is heart-breaking. It is especially so if the store has made an impact on a “glocal” level.

Colette, opened in 1997, is first of its kind not just in Paris, but much of Europe. But for many of us in Asia, a multi-label store such as Colette is not really a big deal when our very own Club 21 and Hong Kong’s Joyce, and later, I.T (at first known as Greenpeace) have been at the game much longer. What made Colette stand out? A merchandising approach that is synonymous with museums: curation.

At Colette, the curationship fell under its founders Colette Roussaux and her daughter Sarah Andelman (who eventually became the store’s sole buyer). They conceived the three-story boutique very much in their own taste, selecting—or curating, as it were—merchandise to reflect their lifestyle or, perhaps, life in Paris. In fact, they were not the first retailer to put together a space that reflects the proprietor’s quirk and keen eye for the au courant. In neighbouring Italy in 1990, former Vogue Italia editor Carla Sozzani started a little art gallery in Milan that, a year later, would become 10 Corso Como, the hipster haven, arguably the precursor of Colette.

Balenciaga in ColetteSpace currently dedicated to a specially commissioned Balenciaga collection. Photo: Colette

While 10 Corso Como was, in its early years, a fashion insider’s address (since it’s located in what could be considered a “hidden” place and not on the city’s main shopping drag of the time), Colette enjoyed mainstream exposure as it is prominently situated: on rue Saint-Honoré, not, however, near the temples of style such as Hermès, about 800 metres down the street, into the faubourg. Favoured by editors who descend on the City of Lights during fashion weeks and buyers who hit the store for ideas, Colette very rapidly turned ultra-hot.

While Colette may be trendy, it is not off-puttingly high-brow. In fact, fans laud its high-low mix. How high? How about Chanel? How low? How about Uniqlo?! In fact, the store is known for collaborating with designers and brands to launch exclusive merchandise or to bring in the first, such as the Apple Watch, which to me is how it ameliorates itself to a wider audience. Indeed, I feel it is better with merchandise that has mass appeal than those that do not. The Rihanan pop-up in there last year spoke volumes.

Why am I then not moved by Colette’s impending closure, despite its standing among the fashion elite (apparently it is the only store that Karl Lagerfeld visits with some regularity)? The thing is, Colette does not feel new to me the way Dover Street Market, conceived much later in 2004 by another woman with very exact tastes, feels novel, even now. Sure, the merchandising is an intriguing mix, but it is mostly the books, and sometimes, the gadgets and digital peripherals that I find have more pull.

Colette colonThe announcement of their coming closure via Colette’s logo. now, unsurprisingly, trending. Image: Colette

In one of my visits, a substantial corner of the second floor was converted into an all-white Maison Martin Margiela space: why would I want to explore this when the main MMM store is not far away? Colette is an ardent supporter of Japanese labels, and they stock, for example, Comme des Garçons, but why would I be enticed by the relatively small collection when CDG—itself a multi-label emporium, even if it stocks mainly kindred brands under the group—is a stone’s throw from the said Hermès store?

If you ask me, I find L’Eclaireur far more interesting (for some reason, it reminds me of Tokyo’s Loveless, or is it the other way round?) and it’s been peddling its avant-garde merchandise since 1980. Sure, L’Eclaireur is a lot less friendly in terms of merchandise and it’s interior design than Colette, but if you want to see and experience fashion, not necessarily something you’d buy for a date that very day or a flight the next morning, this store has more to engage passion and desire.

My first time in Colette was in the early Noughties. It was, by then, such a visible blip on the fashion radar of Paris that it was inevitable that I would end up there. I remember how surprised I was when I stepped past the entrance. Right before me was a glass ‘room’ lined on both sides with a rack of T-shirts (once, next to this was dedicated to Billionaire’s Boys Club!). It seemed like I had stepped into a gift shop of some design museum. Behind that felt like I had stumbled into Tokyo’s Bic Camera meets Rome’s Bookabar.

But what surprised me even more were the shoppers. These were not fashion folks; these were the future voters of Donald Trump! They came by the busload, just as they did at the nearby Louvre. In France’s most famous museum, you go to view antiquities. Here, you go to see cool. Colette, especially in its latter years, has become a tourist attraction—a must-stop, much like Paris Disneryland, only here, it’s a fashion Disneyland.

On 20th December, Colette will open its doors for the last time. This, however, may not be the end of Colette. As we know, the dead do come back.

Google Doodle Salutes Eiko Ishioka

Google Doodle 12 Jul 2017

Movie fans, especially film costume aficionados, would know Eiko Ishioka. Therefore, if you use Google Search today, you may recognise the five illustrations that appear on Google Doodles: Ms Ishioka’s costumes from 2006’s The Fall, a film so fantastical, outlandish, and unlike any out there that Roger Ebert calls it “a movie that you might want to see for no other reason than because it exists”. In fact, it is in the genre of fantasy films that Ms Ishioka made her mark.

Ms Ishioka passed away in 2012. Today would have been her 79th birthday. And Google—a salute to them—decided to honour one of film’s most creative costume designers. If The Fall is unfamiliar to you, consider Francis Ford Coppola’s Bram Stoker’s Dracula of 1992. It scored Ms Ishioka an Oscar for best costume. We remember quite vividly the outlandish ruff worn by the coquettish Lucy Westenra (played by Sadie Frost) and how it stood beautifully even in the midst of an exorcism.

This is not the first time Google Doodles pays tribute to fashion figures. Back in 2013, there was also homage to another film costume name: Edith Head. Last December, there was animation to celebrate the work and invention of Charles Macintosh, whose namesake outerwear is synonymous with rainwear. Since its introduction in 1998, Google Doodles has celebrated the works of giants of design such as Sir Norman Parkinson and Zaha Hadid.

Eiko IshiokaEiko Ishioka. Photo: Brigitte Lacombe

The choice of Eiko Ishioka proves that Google does not hide from less conventional fashion figures or those not immediately identifiable by the average Google user. Ms Ishioka did not share Colleen Atwood’s fame and vast body of work; she did not, in fact, have her start in films. She was trained as a graphic designer, began with Shiseido, and later made her mark in the advertising scene in Tokyo, where, for those old enough to remember, her work for the retailer Parco caught the admiration of her peers. In one of Parco’s television commercials, Ms Ishioka art-directed a chiselled-face Faye Dunaway to do nothing other than crack, peel, and eat an egg!

Her Oscar win led to other film projects. Apart from Bram Stoker’s Dracula and The Fall, there’s also Paul Schrader’s Mishima: A Life in Four Chapters (her first film in 1985) and those by her partner-in-crime Tarsem Singh: The Cell, Immortal and Mirror Mirror (not just The Fall). She also designed for the stage, garnering two Tony nominations in 1988 for M Butterfly. Proving that the art director in her never left, she won, a year earlier, a Grammy for the Miles Davis album Tutu.

While her creative output was varied, including the monochrome and minimalist music video for Bjorg’s Cocoon which showed almost no clothes (a break from costume design, or, as Tarsem Singh told WWD, “Eiko had only two gears: full-out or no gear at all”?), it was her costume work for strange worlds that continue to capture the adoration of fans. These included Cirque du Soleil’s Varekai and the massive stage wear of Grace Jones’s 2009 Hurricane tour that only the singer can pull off.

Many of Ms Ishioka’s fans note that she made a success for herself in an industry dominated by men. But we think it is more remarkable that she had left such a legacy in show business that was, and still is, the domain of the West. Eiko Ishioka, you are missed.

Close Look: Depression’s ‘Berlin Collection’

Depression AW 2017 Pic 1

Six months after the Depression boys—as Kenny Lim and Andrew Loh are affectionately known—sent out their autumn/winter 2017 collection during Mercedes Benz Fashion Week Berlin early this year, about a dozen pieces or so from that showing were launched at the designing duo’s multi-label store Sects Shops in Orchard Central last evening. This, as with Depression-related events, is a fan club greet-and-meet, with a token fashion show thrown in, not quite the gathering of the pugilist world (武林大会) that is part of the brand’s neo-Eastern image.

It is admirable that Depression, now in its 11th year, is able to capture the interest and purchasing power of its fan base despite what is willed to be unchanging aesthetic—heavy on darkness and bleakness, but light on cleverness and technical finesse. Called Vol 2: Dragon Vs Tiger, the collection may boast less T-shirts now than blousy tops, but the clothes have not (and probably will never) shed their Goth leaning. Depression is one of very few Singaporean labels that have stayed tenaciously true to its brand DNA: visual cheerlessness. And for that, we’d say the Depression boys have been triumphant.

Depression show at Sects Shop

By now, it is, perhaps, pointless to talk about Depression being unable to escape its propensity for the depressing. They are not going to go jolly suddenly, not at all. Surely in all the gloom, there is a bright spark. Amid the ‘wrongs’, they must have done something right—right enough to come this far. Lest you think we’re going to have a go at them, we are, in fact, going to look at the brand in a way that, as a cheery attendee at the launch party said, “could encourage the boys.”

So encourage we shall. Let’s egg them on to seek therapy in order for them to get out of their decade-long despair. And point to them the maxim “the power to change one’s life lies entirely within oneself”, as stated in their online ‘About Us’. Darkness, you see, does not have to be eternal, just as black as a colour need not project misery, or the macabre. Even if you are, as a Turkish saying goes, “keeping each other’s company on the way to hell”, do stop and smell the roses. But not black ones.

Depression shirt

We’ll cheer them on for the visual tact built on Chinese expressions that are evocative of the literary and cinematic genre of wuxia (武侠 or martial arts) and the brand’s apparent appeal to the wuling (武林 or the pugilists’ circle): a small sect of fashion warriors who dress like the Depression boys. This season, their use of the saying 十面埋伏, (shi mian mai fu or ambush from ten sides) is played up prominently—it takes up the entire bodice of one shirt, for example. But there is no surprise attack, visually. This is not the chromatic splendour of the Zhang Yimou film of the same name (known as House of Flying Daggers in English); this is Depression’s usual hack (such as 2014’s 心魔 or evil in the heart)—patently manga, no subtlety or subtitle.

They also need encouragement in the use of more fetching typography. Chinese fonts need not only be in bold face to be effective. They need not appear as if they’re being employed for the movie poster of some cheap Chinese zombie flick. Perhaps the B-grade quality is deliberate or salutary, since Andrew Low is the graphic designer of the two, both having started out in advertising. Still, the people around need not be visually waylaid by the wearer of 十面埋伏. But the font choice is not only problematic for the Chinese text. Depression would like you to believe that what you have bought is “made from a mad dark place” and that proclamation is embroidered noticeably on parts of the garments. Sure, we’re not expecting the embroidery of François Lesage, but must they look like something done in a baseball cap shop in Queensway Shopping Centre?

Depression did, in fact, show some rather eye-catching embroidery other than their usual hard-edge, bad-ass decorative treatment. In keeping with their Dragon Vs Tiger theme, they’ve included a monochrome pair of the heavenly and earthly beasts, each in the shape of a paisley. The keen eye would see that their use is a little belated, considering that the souvenir jacket, on which such embroidery are commonly found, is passé, and a little too Gucci to be relevant or even interesting to their wushu (武术 or martial arts) garb sensibility. And the placement of the motifs—symmetrical and opposite the other, with no animalistic tension—is completely devoid of surprise or edge.

Depression hemThe hem of a Depression top

We, too, like to encourage them to get a quality control head and a product development manager, assuming they have not hired any, or can’t do either jobs themselves. We have repeatedly expressed our dismay with the make of Depression garments, the finishing, and the choice of fabrics. It is disheartening to still see, after these many years of their existence, uneven hems that refuse to sit flat, seams that pucker (and those that bunch up under the arm), and fabrics that are mostly associated with low-cost garments. It challenges comprehension that pullovers fashioned out of a knit fabric with loopback underside (generally comfortable even if the fibre is synthetic) should require thick-ply polyester lining, and only on one side—either front or back, resulting in a lopsidedness that yields saggy hems.

These problems are compounded by the presence of other clothes from Korea and the US that are sold alongside Depression in the Sects Shop. Next to the imports, Depression looks decidedly slapdash. Beneath the distraction of the exaggerated shapes, Oriental embroidery, and Chinese text, the clothes still show their shaky foundation. Perhaps the other Chinese character used this season is instructive: 忍 (ren, or endure). In view of Depression’s design progress, we really have to bear with the slowness.  Haste, in this instance, cannot be encouraged.

Sects Shop is at level 4, Orchard Central. Photos: Zhao Xiangji

G Dragon Goes For Gabrielle

G Dragon models Gabrielle Pic 1

G Dragon does not tire of Chanel, nor Chanel him. Both are collaborating again. This time, for the unspectacular Chanel shoulder bag, unimaginatively named Gabrielle Bag. G Dragon, aka Kwon Ji-Yong, appears in a video released by Chanel two days ago, showing him walking briskly in what appears to be a hotel hallway as he heads for a concert venue. He makes very little eye contact with the camera, and the bag appears less often than his face. To the ignorant, this could be a commercial for a G Dragon performance.

To launch a bag, they make films these days. They cast the coolest stars with massive following, and if their model of choice is unable to come for the filming, they sent a film crew to him. G Dragon reportedly shot this video while on a concert stop in Macau. This was part of his third solo world tour called ACT III, M.O.T.T.E. In fact, he performed at the Indoor Stadium this past weekend to a 7,500-strong crowd. While it was reported that he wore Chanel and carried the Gabrielle Bag during this latest concert as part of his garish stage costumes, it was not certain if this was the case for his show here. Do Singaporeans fans even care?

Perhaps they would if the Gabrielle Bag filming was conducted during the leg of his tour here. But Chanel, priding themselves on the vastness of their marketing budget, sent their crew to Macau instead. In the end, it isn’t quite clear which really gained from the exposure: the bag or the concert, if at all.

Chanel Gabrielle Bag

But Chanel does score when they’re able to associate an unremarkable bag with a very remarkable Korean hip-hop star. G Dragon is, of course, not the first popular male singer to help Chanel market the Gabrielle Bag. In April this year, Pharrell Williams won the distinction for being the first male to avail his whole being to a Chanel handbag campaign (although he isn’t the first man to be associated with the brand). Pharrell brought his usual I-can-wear-Chanel-if-I-want-to stance to the video in which he was seen—with Chanel chains and pearls, no less—skating atop a crate across a warehouse in a guys-do-these-sort-of-things way.

It is G Dragon, however, that is far more gender-bending in his fashion choices for the Chanel short. And we’re not just talking about what looks like a lace scarf thrown over his shoulder and the ultra-skinny tweed pants (interestingly both he and Mr Williams wore plain T-shirts in their respective videos, as if that will help retain some masculinity a la James Dean, should doubt arises) and the posing and preening. There’s his full makeup and the painted fingernails: this is a get up that, in more conformist, less hip-hop dominating times, would be considered drag.

Despite his tendency to cross into female territory in dress, G Dragon’s maleness is rarely question, at least not among his female fans. In fact, all the lace and nail polish seem only to augment and underscore his all-male, oppa appeal. In allkpop.com, a fan ItsKDay commented on a report of G Dragon’s Gabrielle Bag video flaunt, “Gawd he has such a sexy manly body.”

G Dragon models Gabrielle Pic 2

The thing is, in South Korea, people seem less fixated on gender norms. Selling music or cosmetics to consumers is not gender-led. Just look at the casting for the skincare and makeup ads from the big players such as the AmorePacific Group (Etude House and Innisfree). Guys with strangely dewy skin dominate, making G Dragon’s foray into women’s accessory advertising no oddity. In fact, the lead singer of Big Bang seems to be utterly comfortable in what would be mostly (at least for now) considered female domains. Just look at the covers of the two issues of Vogue that featured him last year: China (August 2016, two covers, in fact, with Bella Hadid sharing the space in the second) and Korea (also August 2016, not two, but three covers!) And both editions with him sporting looks mothers usually do not expect of their sons.

G Dragon may use the Gabrielle Bag in the video ad, but will he really put it to use in his everyday life? The Gabrielle Bag looks like a practical bag, for sure, but so is Ikea’s Frakta—so practical, in fact, that it spawned a luxury version of it. Also known as the Hobo Bag, the Gabrielle Bag (not just Gabrielle) is believed to be unisex, but not quite a man-bag. Its regular looks and rigid form may just be unexceptional enough to attract those not in the pop music business to adopt one for their fashionable life.

Chanel is really pouring a hefty sum into the marketing of what could easily become a forgotten sibling of the 2.55. Kristen Stewart was the first to star in the series of Gabrielle Bag films, followed by Cara Delevingne and Caroline de Maigret. Reportedly Liu Wen is next, augmenting Chanel’s predisposition towards inclusiveness.

However, we do wonder: does the casting of a black and an Asian man for a primarily women’s wear label mean that non-Caucasian men are less fashion-forward and not amenable to fashion without the confines of gender? Or has men’s wear been so limiting in terms of variety that guys are looking across the divide for more to excite and to express with? Or, maybe, in Chanel, G Dragon has simply found his phoenix.

Chanel’s Gabrielle Hobo Bag (as seen on G Dragon), from SGD5,460, is available at Chanel stores. Video stills and product photo: Chanel

Two Of A Kind: To Dubai With Love

Michael Cinco & Frederick Lee

The photo (right) of Frederick Lee at work came to us via WhatsApp around 5pm, shortly after it appeared on the designer’s Facebook page. And it was not just once, but twice (from different senders)! It required no prompting for us to immediately think of Michael Cinco, circa 2014 (picture: left). Should we assume that it was ‘inspiration’ at work, as it tends to be these days?

We are in the era of the Trumps: Donald for “fake news” and Melania for “common words”. The latter’s speech at the Republican National Convention last year was called out for its similarities to Michele Obama’s in 2008. Well, better Michele Obama than Barbara Bush, no? While the media was quick to point out the resemblance, no one really called down the wrath of the plagiarism god. Her minders, conversely, passed her word choice off as ordinary and frequently used.

In design these days, work resembling the creation of others is easily and swiftly called inspiration or, just to be certain reverence is noted, homage. Alessandro Michele, he who has made Gucci over-the-top and feverishly loved, was recently charged for making a jacket for the cruise 2018 collection too alike a particular piece made by an obscure-in-these-parts designer Daniel Day, aka Dapper Dan. When Netizens pointed out the similarities and the original owner of the one-off jacket, Olympic gold medalist Diane Dixon, took to Instagram to announce, “As Fashion Repeats We Must Give Credit To The Originators”, Gucci issued a statement to say that the said garment is “homage” to Mr Day “in celebration of the culture of that era in Harlem.”

Similarly, Frederick Lee adulates without a shadow of a doubt when he’s ‘inspired’, not, however, just by birds and flowers, but by the works of individuals in the same trade. It’s not surprising, therefore, that his creativity would be aroused by the work of others, such as fellow designers of the Asian Couture Federation (both Mr Cinco and Mr Lee are members). Keep it within the family since the work of Asian designers is less scrutinized?

Now, he’s gone from China to United Arab Emirates, from omelette to doily. The white, shapely dress in question is, of course, not an exact repro of what we believe to be Michael Cinco’s gown from his couture spring/summer 2015 collection. But you can’t say the colour isn’t similar, nor the placement pattern of the lace/embroidery (here, both had a whiff of the symmetrical patterns of 18th-century damask and brocade upholstery), nor the hip-enhancing silhouette. Sure, Mr Cinco worked his on fine tulle while Mr Lee’s output is realised on netting, but both aesthetics stem from the same sprout.

That there is resemblance is as much the result of imitation as aesthetic similarity between the two designers. Both come from the school of fashion design where adherents love to closely trace the outline of the female body to better define the silhouette. Both have a penchant for dramatic effects and shapes, and both their designs attract women who have no use for the undramatic and the commonplace.

Both, too, have a weakness for dictums and truisms and, more often than not, inanities. Mr Cinco, a Filipino based in Dubai, says, sans irony, on his website, “A Michael Cinco woman is moneyed. She may not be born into royalty but she better be married into one.” Mr Lee loves to assert, as he does on Facebook, similarly stripped of irony, such as: “My brides are a class of their own. What makes you different makes you beautiful.” He is also prone to the lingo of Bryan “I’m so gay I sweat glitter” Boy: “You know you’re putting a good thing out into the universe when you put on glitter.”

Sisters, as the Eurythmics song goes, are doin’ it for themselves. Imitation be damned.

Photos: (left) Ian Gavan/Getty Image, (right) Frederic Lee/Facebook

Now, Fashion For The Blue Bag

Have you ever thought of going to Ikea for clothes? Those who love to visit the big blue box on dates can now buy matching tees or totes

Stunsig ‘Manga Eye’ by P Demirdag/V Renate

Ikea has been enjoying a lot of support from fashion folks lately. With its instantly recognisable Frakta bag a trend and meme, plus a reported re-design by Off White’s Virgin Abloh, it’s poised to take on fashion the way it has has with thin-stemmed wine glasses, making them affordable to the masses and party organizers fearful of drunken mayhem.

Its latest effort in the form of Stunsig is what the furniture giant calls “new artistic prints that are more fun, more unique, and more daring”, which really sounds like what many fashion houses are aiming for these days. Since Ikea does not have a conventional atelier, it offers Stunsig as a collaborative effort. Onboard are print designers such as Steven Harrington (US), Malcom Stuart (US), Frédérique Vernillet (France), Tilde Bay (Denmark), and others.

Stunsig’s dedicated space in the store

Despite the motley mix of participants, the result is rather consistent in its madcap prints—zaniness that would not be out of place in the kid’s department, usually situated at the end of the Ikea maze of a mega-store, near the Restaurant & Café. Instead, Stunsig has its own vaguely Cath Kidston-ish space upfront: a display area, in fact, so cartoon-like (sort of Kaw meets Manga) that it inevitably draws attention. But, when we visited, the offering of soft furnishings as well as tableware and stationery drew less interest than the fashion items. One shopper was heard asking, “Since when did Ikea sell clothes?” According to a staffer, since Valentine’s Day, when they released “very successful T-shirts”.

The thing is, even when Ikea is not primarily a seller of clothing, the store is visited for its textiles (a huge department, we should add) that appeal to the dressmaker as much as the homemaker. Women who sew, or those who have a good tailor, are known to have made all sorts of items from the fabrics it sells, from garments to bags to washing machine covers. These days, we call such enterprising ways “life hacks”.

Stunsig ‘Branch’ by M Grundström & A Gustavsson

For those less inclined to tackle a Singer, there’s Stunsig. We’re not terribly impressed with the home ware (or the totes), so we’ll talk about the clothes—basically just T-shirts. These made-in-China, 100% cotton tops are not designed with an athletic fit that are preferred by so many tee wearers. Instead, they are of a roomy cut with just a tad of boxiness that makes them veer on the side of the fashionable. Because of their wallet-friendly price (a revelation even to the cashier), the construction is not a tubular knit. But you won’t notice that. You will, instead, be surprised to know that it is made of rather fine-gauge cotton. Read: comfortable.

As we on this island like to say, and with increasing frequency, they’re “cheap and good.”

Stunsig T-shirts (‘Manga Eye’ and ‘Branch’, as pictured, among others), SGD8.90, are available at Ikea stores. Photos: Jim Sim

Keeping It Loose

adidas - XbyO Seven-Eighth Pants

By Ray Zhang

Skinny and skin-tight pants have so dominated the wardrobes of Singaporeans that it is a wonder anyone would be interested in Adidas’s latest iteration of the sweatpants availed under the new sub-line XYBO. Well, I am wondering.

Last year, at the launch of Uniqlo’s U line—helmed by Frenchman Christophe Lemaire—in their Orchard Central flagship, a couple was seen picking a pair of sweatpants. The guy tried on what he chose and when he emerged from the fitting room, looking pleased, his other half said audibly while shaking her head, “Nope, too baggy.” And the guy retreated, defeated.

Don’t ask me why sweatpants have to be fitted, but there are men and women who wear them limb-hugging as if the legs of the pants are one extended ribbed cuff! So you can imagine how surprised I was when I spotted this pair at the Adidas Originals store. I really like them, but as my friends are wont to say, when I like them, they won’t sell.

But let’s give the Adidas pants a chance.

adidas - XbyO Seven-Eighth Pants pic 2

First, XYBO. Not sure what it means. Or if it is even written in this manner: full caps. On the Adidas website, it’s spelled in both lowercase and uppercase sans spacing: xbyo (or XBYO), which prompted me to read it as X.B.Y.O. But on some online reports, the name is spelled XByO and XbyO, which could mean it’s collection X by an unknown entity O. Perhaps it is not an abbreviation (surely it does not stand for X, Bring Your Own!), just a random mix of letters—not dissimilar from Japanese naming convention. (For this post, I shall stick to XYBO.)

And the Japanese-ness of the line is unmistakable, especially the cuts. So it surprised me not to learn that XBYO, conceived for both men and women, built its design cred on the skill of Japanese pattern maker Satomi Nakamuri, an accomplished technician who has cut for Comme des Garçons and the denim label Johnbull. Pattern making is, of course, not the same as designing. While Adidas has been enthusiastic in touting Ms Nakamuri’s contribution to XYBO (an unusual marketing angle), its US website is careful to state that the brand “revisited the archives with expert pattern maker Satomi Nakamura to bring an artisan approach to Adidas heritage. Designed in Germany and crafted in Japanese-made Yamayo terry…”

And that’s another highlight feature: the terry cloth used is from Japan’s “premium terry cotton manufacturer” Yamayo Textile that, I suppose, could be considered the Kurabo Mills of fabrics for sweatshirts. So vital is this distinction to XBYO’s USP that the fabric mill’s name is identified in one of the garment’s hang tags. And truth be told, this fabric is extremely comfortable to the touch, and Adidas is not exaggerating when they describe it as “luxe”.

adidas - XbyO Seven-Eighth Pants pic 3

Well, so far, so clear. But in case you thought that this was some wayward Japanese fantasy for world athleisure domination, or Y3 part 2, Adidas would have you know that XBYO is essentially a “street style”. But I’m not sure if the collection is street by way of Harajuku or Copenhagen’s Strøget. The minimalism of the look is evocative of Danish designs, yet there’s something rather Japanese in the styling, especially the cropped length of the sweatpants (which explains the name: ‘Seven-Eighth Pants’). They remind me of those Red label engineered jeans launched by Levis in the ’90s, reportedly conceived, if I remember correctly, with Japanese consultants.

Perhaps it’s in the side seams: they meander forward around the knee before going backwards, forming a veritable less-than (or more-than, depending on which side you’re looking at) symbol. More exaggerated than those engineered jeans, I say. Will it fall nicely when worn? I had to try them on to find out.

These have to be the easiest to wear sweatpants I have ever tried. Perhaps it’s because of the absence of cuffs. There is, of course, the roominess (and the surprisingly generous crotch): you won’t feel like you’ve slipped into a pair of ‘jeggings’. And the unconventional seam placement does not affect how the pants hang and move with the body. Now that joggers are jostling with jeans for prime position in our wardrobe, the XBYO Seven-Eighth Pants may be the one to take on the alpha role. I’m all for that.

Adidas Originals XBYO ‘Seven-Eighth Pants’, SGD129, is available at Adidas Originals stores. Photos: Adidas Originals