These Are Without Tongues

Puma X Andrea Pompilio Monte Sandal AP.jpg

By Shu Xie

Onitsuka Tiger’s collaboration with Andrea Pompilio has always yielded some rather atypical kicks. This season, apart from those with the usual patchwork uppers, they have come up with a sneaker, conspicuously missing the tongue.

The tongue-less shoe, which Onitsuka Tiger calls ‘sandals’, could be a blessing if you, like me, are easily annoyed by those tongues that do not come with two slots in the centre through which you can guide the laces so as to better hold the tongue in place. Although tongues gone askew is not a pretty sight or comfort to the upper feet, many sneaker makers still do not consider how they can be secured.

Onitsuka Tiger X Andrea Pompilio’s Monte Sandal AP appears to solve the problem of the movable tongue by dispensing with it altogether. The lace guards and eyelets are also missing. In their places are a simple strapping system—forming a zig-zag—for laces to go through. Although the leather straps can be a little abrasive if you choose to go sock-less, they can be kinder to your feet if they’re first treated to a good shoe conditioner such as the Saphir Renovateur before use.

When you slip your feet into them, they feel like kungfu shoes. If you look at them from the top down, they look like Mary-Janes (with lace harness). Either way, these are kicks that, to me, will go well with wide-legged pants or, if you’re so inclined, ‘skorts’.

Onitsuka Tiger X Andrea Pompilio Monte Sandal AP, SGD169, is available at Puma, Suntec City. Photo: Puma


Just One 👗 Emoji

Today is World Emoji Day. Come 2019, emojis would have been around for 20 years. After close to two decades and more than 2,500 ideograms later, there is, interestingly, only a single dress emoji in the small, shared wardrobe


Fashion emojis

By Clara Wong

It’s amazing how fashionistas, Twitterers, and Instagrammers have done so well with only one dress emoji. Yes, a sole, singular, solitary sundress. Social media diehards would not repeat-post a dress that they have worn, but emoji creators would have us believe that when we’re communicating online, one belted dress is enough. Yet, no one; no KOL is complaining. Sure, there is a blouse in the offering, but as many of you would attest to, that’s not a dress. You can buy a blouse on its own, but you wouldn’t wear a blouse just by itself. A blouse is only half an outfit, an incomplete ensemble, or, as my boyfriend would say, a plug without the socket, a bolt without the nut… until I told him to stop!

Today is no-holiday World Emoji Day, an occasion that should appeal to the users/senders who have reportedly sent 814 million emoji-containing messages via mobile phones in 2016. Apple has announced that it is “celebrating” this day by offering “more than 70 new emoji characters” to their slew of gadgets millions own. These emojis include “more hair options to better represent people with red hair, gray hair and curly hair, a new emoji for bald people, and new smiley faces that bring more expression to Messages with a cold face, party face, pleading face and a face with hearts.” People do look different—hair, smiles, et al—but apparently they don’t dress differently.

Emoji clothing & accessoriesThirty items in clothing and accessories emojis

Give or take an item or two, Apple and all other OSes and apps have mostly availed about eight articles of clothing in their tiny selection. Under the category of Clothing and Accessories, which falls under Smileys and People, there are 30 items, compared to at least 88 facial expressions available (not including the selectable skin colours ascribed to each) from a reported 2,623 official Unicode emojis in 2017. What’s puzzling to me is the presence of the graduation hat or even the top hat. Oh, there’s the crown too! Are our wardrobes akin to costume shops?

To be honest, I don’t use clothing emojis at all. The limited representation does not, well, represent my wardrobe. In fact, on Line, I like it better when the earliest iteration of Cony was without clothes (okay, Cony is a sticker, not an emoji)! If, for whatever reason I have to tell the person I am WhatsApp-ing with that I am going to wear a dress, I’d have texted, “I will be wearing my striped shirting Sacai dress”, not that I would ever need to be so specific. Or, even announce that I would be wearing a dress, but you know what some friends are like: they just have to know! 🙄

Dress emojisDress, according to OSes and apps: from top left (clockwise), Apple, Google, Microsoft, Twitter, WhatsApp, and Messenger

To be fair, while there is one dress emoji used by different OS or app, each is depicted differently from the other. Still, they’re all based on a single dress silhouette, as if drawn from the result of searches. Apple’s is the most three-dimensional and realistic of the group although I am not sure who’d wear this colour that could have been derived from the chart of emulsion paint—misty teal, perhaps? It is noteworthy that while Apple has aligned itself with the fashion industry, its emojis are not terribly fashionable or fashionably attired. Twitter’s dress sports very short straps which could mean the wearer likes it very high above the bust and snug at the armpit. Facebook Messenger’s strapless piece would be a delight to those who wants fashion to be more inclusive: it is generously girthed and the bustier-bodice looks proportioned for a well-endowed woman.

The thing is, face emojis can often be more specific than words, but the dress emoji is not. A red pouting face is the face of displeasure: nothing ambiguous there. But what does Microsoft’s red-dress emoji say? It is not evocative of Valentino; it does not communicate power or passion; nor does it say you’re a creature of fashion. If anything, it suggests to me something generic, standard, common—a dress unencumbered by trends. It’s girlish, which is not surprising, considering that the majority of emoji senders are young and likely sundress-loving (reportedly between ages of 25 to 29), and hence not threatening. It’s season-less too, which could mean the dress emoji, like all emojis now honoured on World Emoji Day, are timeless—to be used year in, year out, again and again.

Two red dressesGoogle ‘red dress’ and chances are, you’ll quickly find a match to the search giant’s own emoji

The red dress offered by Microsoft is perhaps the most consistent with what you may find online. While it may not get featured in Vogue, it is likely that this dress has its place in most wardrobes. As it turns out, the opposite is true too. If you search the hashtag of this dress emoji on IG (yes, it has its own hashtag #👗), you’ll be surprised that there are few dresses, sleeveless or otherwise, and fewer still in red. So it’s true: people tag blindly. To delve into this further, I looked at Google Trend, and the data today on the red dress emoji revealed that in terms of search, Iraq showed the most interest, followed by Paskistan! Maybe the Telebans aren’t rigorously enforcing rules and maybe it’s true what they say is worn under burkas.

Fashion has always been quick to adopt the icons of the online world. Emoji-emblazoned clothing, shoes, and bags are nothing new. Even Comme des Garçons launched an emoji collection, although theirs is nothing like what is commonly used in our messages. But the reverse is not the same. Emoji designers are not looking at fashion, not even Kim Kardashian’s Kimojis (admittedly there are barely any clothes there) or Virgil Abloh’s sweats and such. Which leaves us with one dress. And, oddly, that kimono, a leftover from the time emojis were conceived and first used, nearly 20 years ago, in Japan. Clearly, those Unicoders were no Hello Kitty fans.

Two Pairs Of Handles

Bimba Y Lola leather bag

By Mao Shan Wang

Sometimes, a pair isn’t quite enough. I mean, don’t you occasionally wish you have more than two hands? That is, of course, not possible (I don’t know what bio-science, sometimes aberrant, will think of next), but you can wish for a bag with two sets of handles. And Bimba Y Lola has exactly that bag.

The Japanese would be quick to call this a “two-way” tote because you can carry this in your hand, as well as over your shoulder. However, Bimba Y Lola, Spanish and as straightforward as Zara, simply calls it a bag, which, of course, it is. But those finicky about exact description will call this a tote, and merchandisers will gladly add that this is, give its orientation, specifically an east-west tote.

But let’s not quibble. If I can be honest, this tote is not exceptional. Even the Balenciaga-ish branding in white is extraneous despite some members of our local media call it “headlining”. It’s your usual, beach-bag-style quadrilateral with a top wider than the base. Yet, it attracted me. The handles specifically: a pair of long-enough nude leather straps that can be placed over the shoulder (but not for cross-body use) and another pair of short, rigid, metal grips not unlike those you’d find on old-fashioned, supermarket wire baskets.

Inspiration based on supermarket hardware is hardly new. Remember Chanel? An entire show was staged in a make-belief Chanel-branded store that prompted looting after the presentation. Bimba Y Lola does not pretend to be what they are not, but there is something cheeky about this tote that will appeal to those not-too-many women who want something highly usable yet quirky.

Bimba Y Lola is the label of sisters Uxia and Maria Dominguez, nieces of Adolfo Dominguez, who, together with compatriots such as Antonio Miro and the highly regarded Sybilla Sorondo, had successfully exported Spanish names abroad in the early 1990s. The Dominguez sisters’ father happens to be the founder of Sociedad Textil Lonia (STL), one of the biggest players in the Spanish textile industries. Born in Bilboa in 2006, Bimba Y Lola, named after the sisters’ dogs, appeared to be positioned as a more fashion-forward alternative to the likes of Zara, or anything under the Inditex group.

The news early this year was that the sisters were looking for a buyer to take over their label. This came around the time when their uncle’s public-listed brand was not giving investors a rosy picture. I was told that the Spaniards hesitate to lump Bimbo Y Lola with the rest of their high-street names, and it is understandable. Bimba Y Lola is far more interesting (sorry, that’s the only word I can think of now) than their Spain-born competitors.

In fact, they have consistently produced such stylishly gripping (better? 😁) clothes that many stylists here consider the brand a well-kept secret. Their bags, for example, are so whimsical and alluring that they make Kate Spade’s look staid.

Back to the two-handle leather tote. I suspect many women will find the metal handle a tad too hard to hold (even with the plastic guard) and may hurt the palm when the bag is too well-stuffed and there isn’t a willing boyfriend to share the weight. If so, go to Tokyu Hands and buy a padded PU handle grip. You can do yourself that favour.

Bimba Y Lola leather bag, SGD625, is available at Bimba Y Lola stores. Photo: Bimba Y Lola

A Lull There Was

Positively a lull. Has ready-to-wear taken the excitement and excess away from haute couture?


Chanel couture AW 2018 pic 1Screen grab of Chanel haute couture autumn/winter 2018

All the talk (bluster?) about streetwear pervading ready-to-wear and impinging on popular imagination seems to be taking its toll on high fashion. The recent couture season that ended a few days ago was perhaps one of the dullest in recent memory, as if designers were taking a defeatist stand against what are unavoidable aesthetical changes sweeping through luxury brands. The usually rousing presentations of Chanel, for example, gave way to an uninspiring, drab-as-pavement-stone show, set on a recreated promenade with the bustle of a cemetery.

For most part of fashion today, marketing and the resultant hype have taken over design. Haute couture, once distant from the brouhaha that characterises ready-to-wear, is now 4G, but on which frequency does it connect, it isn’t clear. Nor is it evident that it’s as connected as other product categories brands are now expected to percolate. It appears to be in re-evaluation mode, with designers going back to what their respective houses are known for, not trying to narrow down to what is modern. It is in the past, when it was an exquisite time for couture, that createurs of the present can find something glorious to bring back or to reminisce or to parody.

Despite Valentino Garavani’s tearful reaction to Pierpaolo Piccioli’s superb collection for the house that the former founded, this couture season had not been one that was particularly moving. Presentation-wise, pret-a-porter has already stolen the show for years; it has taken the leadership role (do haute couture still sell perfume?), with cruise as its commercial director. In terms of design, commercial consideration is a prime concern, so is millennial appeal. Even the young not financially endowed enough to buy need to be adequately thrilled so that their wealthy contemporaries would bite.

Yet, haute couture has lost its ability to stir us deeply, a kindling not palpable since the heydays of the art in the ’40s and ’50s, and, maybe, Yves Saint Laurent—a collection or two—in the ’70s or Christian Lacroix in the ’80s or John Galliano’s Dior in the ’90s. In fact, not until Raf Simons’s debut at Dior in the fall of 2012 did we hold our breath when the clothes came out, model by model, look by look, airy sumptuousness by airy sumptuousness. And we have not since. Gone are the times when “clothes were devastating. One fainted. One simply blew up and died,” as Diana Vreeland said of Balenciaga.

Don’t get us wrong. Haute couture isn’t down-graded in any way, craft-wise. The clothes are still the epitome of the best in handwork and hand-guided dressmaking. But is it in high fashion’s favour that only upon close examination do we get to see its magic? Has it become a mere crucible in which the metiers can be put on their mettle? Or has designers become tired (or old) battling the reality of casual dress everywhere in the world to want couture to be more about dreams? Unremarkable—no matter the fabric, the beading, the embroidery—will just be conspicuously ordinary.


Chanel couture AW 2018Photos: Chanel

The house decided to set the show on one of the most recognisable boulevards in Paris, not as a nod to streetwear, but as proscenium to a collection that would otherwise lack both context and vitality. Karl Lagerfeld has so successfully lend commercial clout to Chanel couture that it is increasingly harder to tell it apart from the ready-to-wear or even the cruise if you don’t, for instance, unzip the slit on the sleeve—a recurrent idea this season—up to the elbow to see how exquisite the inside is.

While Mr Largerfeld is wont to repeat an idea that he likes, the zipped sleeves appeared so frequently that what was unexpected quickly became tedious. Perhaps such a detail is necessary for otherwise quite a few outfits would be rather standard Chanel skirt suits of characteristic tweed. And there were so many of them suits, in the not-so-arresting colour of concrete. When dresses did appear, they looked like they belonged to a doll’s wardrobe, until Ant Man came along with his blue Pym Discs.


Dior couture AW 2018Photos: Dior

Dior’s pale hues and kindred nudes have been said to give the collection a “sombre vibe”. It’s surprising no one said that the colours threaded on the edge of dull. Or, on the conventional silhouettes that Maria Grazia Chiuri had preferred, as cheerful as sampling room toile. These colours may have been alright if the designs on which they were tethered to weren’t so impassive, so unimaginative, so ordinary. The nearly one-silhouette collection is generous to the many customers for whom embroidered silk tulle nipped-in at the natural waist is the epitome of moneyed femininity.

As with Chanel, the visual divide between Dior couture and its pret-a-porter is seam-narrow. Ms Chiuri has steered Dior in the direction of consumption and political reality, and what she, as a woman, thinks the majority of womankind wants to wear. Hence, there won’t be the second coming of the New Look. The selling point would be its familiarity, not only of the Dior of yore, but also of the present. Vive le classique?

Dolce & Gabbana

Dolce & Gabbana alta moda AW 2018Photos:

Although not on the Paris calendar, Dolce & Gabbana’s flashy Lake Como presentation—part of the Italian couture offering, Alta Moda—was very much tribute to the haute of dressmaking. Or, was it to show that they could surpass Gucci? If not in goofiness, at least in over-the-top camp? In case we do not already know that Domenico Dolce and Stefano Gabbana could out-shine, out-bead, out-glitter, out-embroider, out-lace, out-appliqué everyone, the duo piled everything into their couture, minus the kitchen sink.

To some (or many, considering there are loads of their supporters), only such visually thrusting fashion is fashion. If fashion is of the moment, these clothes are the now that seizes you. Who needs mileage? Not today’s see-now-buy-now customers. Seeing now and buying now could also mean forgetting by tomorrow. Which, perhaps, explains why Dolce & Gabbana’s clothes don’t differ that much between collections, couture or not. More is more. No one needs to remember the seasons past when there will always be more more. Rather, it’s about the ostentation that can delight at that very moment. For that you don’t really need a description.


Givenchy couture AW 2018Photos: Givenchy

Claire Waight-Keller is on a high as people have not forgotten her design for the Duchess of Sussex’s wedding. She has not only done English monarchy proud, she has done all of England proud, and, in doing so, shone the light on the couture might of a house once associated with royalty, both of the ones based on thrones and those based in Hollywood.

These are clothes, one assumes, that duchesses and their ilk would wear. And between them some gowns actresses, inspired by duchesses, would pick for a red-carpet night. On that note, Ms Waight-Keller knows who she’s targeting. She has looked hard at the Givenchy archives, just as Maria Grazia Chiuri had at Dior, and hoped that among her audience and customers there may be an IG-gen Audrey Hepburn, never mind the latter’s kind of elegance on a inimitable gamine frame does not exist anymore. These were precisely-cut, moderate clothes for an imprecise and immoderate world.

Guo Pei

Guo Pei couture AW 2018Photos:

Even after setting up an atelier in Paris, Guo Pei has always seen fashion through her own Chinese, post-Mao, pre-market economy lens, offering couture that has, up till now, been a Beijing fantasist’s idea of what Western dress is about. Surprisingly, her latest collection was less fairy tale than usual, and, in fact, showed a maturity and—dare we say—sophistication that we never thought possible from her studio, named Rose.

This time, Ms Guo’s collection projected the “beauty of strength” of architecture by way of Gothic churches. It appeared, perhaps, a month and a half too late for the Med Gala. Still, the working of architectural forms and details into her designs was far more controlled than anything she had done before. If the reading was too literal—cupola equaled skirt, for example, this is because she has yet aligned herself with the art of subtlety. The clothes, although still stiff and probably not too comfortable to wear, were at least not inverted hulls of ships.

Jean Paul Gaultier

JPG Couture AW 2018Photos: Jean Paul Gaultier

Freed from the need to do two pret-a-porter collections a year, Jean Paul Gaultier would, one might guess, have quite a lot of time in his hands to dream up a stupendous couture collection. He did not. Some said this was classic Gaultier: reworking traditional tallieur—this time, the le smoking—and not, as usual, discounting the camp. The thing is, 28 years after the advent of the conical bra that Madonna adopted faster than she did the children of Melawi, is Jean Paul Gaultier still the enfant terrible of French fashion?

To be sure, Mr Gaultier appeared to be still having fun. These clothes would probably appeal to those nostalgic for the days when he was not following the beat of other houses, when he wanted to “modernise” haute couture, when his clothes cheekily challenged gender conventions. However, are there still any rules in the book to break? Now, when nothing in fashion shocks anymore and there are those such as Nicki Minaj who dispenses with the brassiere altogether, Jean Paul Gaultier’s glammed-up camp looked somewhat unrelated to the present. In fact, Mr Gaultier no longer needs to show us his jabbing at conventional tack and taste, or How to do That, to steal the title of the dance single (“house couture”, featuring a young Naomi Campbell and a pair of pirouetting scissors!) that he released in 1988. We’re not suggesting he pares down, but he could do with some reining in. The time is right.

Maison Margiela

Maison Margiela Artisanal AW 2018Photos: Maison Margiela

John Galliano’s Artisanal collection for Maison Margiela forced the eyes to look—front and back, top and bottom. The eyes has to travel! From Martin Margiela to Mr Galliano now, Artisanal—launched in 2006 and blessed by the Chambre Syndicale de la haute Couture—has remained a challenge to the visual understanding of what is wearable on a body, or attachable (iPhones clamped to wrists and ankles?). And that makes it compelling. Mr Galliano’s vision this season perhaps owed more to Comme des Garçons—the bonding, the missing/hidden armholes, the body-misshaping wraps—than the maison’s predecessor/founder, but it continued to test perceptions in haute couture of what can be constructed, by hand no less.

“At least there was effort,” said a follower of SOTD in response to a “quiet” couture season. That is without doubt. Yet, sometimes one wonders if there was too much effort, to the point that this collection was almost a parody of Mr Galliano’s uncommon creativity, bordering on the absurd or the alien (Na’vi people, perhaps?). These were complex creations and there was much to unpack. No vanilla shifts for Mr Galliano, nothing so undeviating. While other designers sought to project outward from the body, he opted for ligature: he Christo-ed the body. The tulle binding was, in fact, previewed at Mr Galliano’s first men’s Artisanal collection a month earlier, but it was more constricted in the women’s version, as if restriction is a new covetable aesthetic, the way the wasp waist—shown in the men’s Artisanal—once was. Trust John Galliano.


Valentino Couture AW 2018Photos: Valentino

Pierpaolo Piccioli’s Valentino couture begged to be seen again. And you did because, frankly, it was too sumptuous to take it all in in one WiFi-dependent viewing. Mr Piccioli explored the myriad possibilities couture offers as if he had stumbled into an atelier for the first time. He is, of course, not new to the support of the skilled hands and he has charmed before, but the exuberance of the collection felt like this was a maiden effort, a prodigious showing, a tour de force. For a moment, you thought haute couture has always been this wonderful.

This was affirmation of the mysterious enchantment a designer is able to offer when he stokes his imagination with the skills available to him, and magnify the sum of the parts. And such high degree of pleasure: Those ruffles! Those flounces! Those bows! Those tiers! Those shapes! Those poufs! Those prints! Those patterns! Those colours! Those embroideries! Those feathers! How they held you spellbound! In a reality/data-driven world, it was nice to see dreams come vividly alive.

Viktor & Rolf

Viktor & Rolf Couture AW 2018Photos: Viktor & Rolf

Viktor Horsting and Rolf Snoeren celebrated their 25th year with a collection that revisited what they have done before—the complex, the astounding, and the beautiful. This time, they seemed to say that they can do them even more complex, more astounding, and more beautiful. White was the predominant colour, a clean palette with which to better imprint their boundless imagination and make a pitch for couture’s special place in the fashion universe. And Mr Horsting and Mr Snoeren did not hold back. By this, we do not mean an injudicious use of the crafting arsenal available to them. Rather, both brought to the fore a very persuasive, not manic, display of wearable art—a theme that they explored in the autumn/winter 2015 season, tempered by a unique, high-brow, alluring elegance.

In that year, Viktor and Rolf, like Jean Paul Gaultier ten months earlier, ceased the operation of their pret-a-porter. Their dedication to haute couture is clear to see in the collections they produce: always above the ordinary, with ornamentation that reflect deft hands and keen eyes. Both Mr Horsting and Snoeren are not shy, for example, of ruffles and bows: they applied them with a fervour not even Marie Antoinette’s dressmakers can match. Few designers of today handle these flourishes as nimbly and imaginatively as these two. With them, the craft of couture is celebrated. No applause would be too loud.

Through Thick Than Thin

Like most things in fashion, heels are not created equal, We are, of course, not just talking about height. Some heels are simply more desirable than others despite their falling popularity. And some are re-imagined to bring heels, well, to another level, forgive the cliché.

Jacquemus, in the brand’s usual cheeky fashion, are proposing that women wear the pumpkin of heels, not asparagus. And if the amplitude of girth isn’t enough, it has made both sides quite unalike. Mismatched shoes are nothing new, of course (for a long time, anti-establishment types have been known to buy two different shoes and swap sides to wear), but mismatched heels, they’re a recent fascination. And Jacquemus is a leading proponent, with Selena Gomez one of the earliest adopters.

These 13-cm (5-inches) heels are made of solid wood, and their massiveness disqualifies them from being vertiginous even when they are by no means stout. Body-positive heels! Like wedges, these heels give the impression of steadiness, defying gravity. And since they are weighted, unlikely to buckle. Practical considerations aside, are these as attractive as their anorexic cousins, the stiletto?

Well, it depends. For as long as the stiletto is an article of seduction (sometimes weapon for murder!) or the symbol of glamour and status (Manolos!), slender will triumph over stumpy, limp over butt, Louboutin over Fenty.

If heels are less about sexed-up aggression, they could be wedges of wit or height of humour. Indeed, these Jacquemus fraternal twins would be a delight to those who derive more pleasure when their heels are not one plus one. Rather, when they are ying and yang.

Jacquemus mismatched wood block heels, SGD760, are available at Dover Street Market Singapore. Photo: Jim Sim

The Runner You Won’t Run In

More dad shoes. Are these adequately papa-like?


Alexander McQueen Runner

When Alexander McQueen collaborated with Puma in 2005 and released their first kicks a year later, no one thought of describing the odd sneakers with less than sleek looks “dad shoes”. More than ten years after the pairing, dad is no dud.

To be sure, the early Alexander McQueen X Puma sneakers—inspired by what was described as “Anatomical Veins”—were more sci-fi-looking than papa-off-beat, but the latter designs of the diffusion line McQ with Puma were, to us, rather prescient. We are referring to the Tech Runner, all chunky mid-sole and complex piecing of the upper. The Balenciaga Triple S, dare we say, arrived somewhat belatedly.

Alexander McQueen, without its founder—himself a known sneakerhead, reportedly with over 500 pairs to his collection—continues with the silhouette first seen in 2014, the year Ricardo Tisci re-imagined Nike’s Air Force 1, an exercise that comes years after Mr McQueen brought luxury fashion to sneakers by teaming up with Puma.

The latest, called the Patchwork Runner, has kept to the spirit of what was introduced four years ago. Even with “Tech” struck off its name, this Runner has not lost its technical vibe. Like much of the dad’s shoes now, there is a thick mid-sole—this slightly elevated at the rear. The mid-sole is white, today’s preferred colour, and is base to a mixed-fabric upper that is reminiscent of the older brother of 2014.

Overall, the Made-in-Italy shoe has the heft of what fashion-oriented sneaker fans love. This come from the generous padding, which envelopes the foot comfortably, Since this, is after all, expensive footwear of fashion, it is unlikely anyone—us included—will take it for a run. Those who cop a pair may not be certain of how it performs, but they could be clear that, while the Runner may not go on track, they are on trend.

Alexander McQueen ‘Patchwork Runner’, SGD1,195, is available at Alexander McQueen, Scotts Square. Photo: Jim Sim 


Dress Watch: This One Shape

Fashion search Jul 2018

By Mao Shan Wang

For a lack of something better to do, I Googled ‘fashion’ on my idle Samsung Note 8. Since I am still on 3G, the result came back at the speed of what the wired schoolgirl seated next to me would call “snail”. Still, Google responded, not with the result I was expecting, but a banner ad, first. This appeared under the Google search bar—after the tabs—and comprised a row of tile ads discreetly labelled “sponsored” in the right corner. Static banner ads appear so regularly in all manner of searches that I don’t really pay attention to them. But this time, I did because this one stood out, if only for the uniformity and banality of the product offering.

The header “Shop for fashion” did not exactly correspond to my search. The offering, too, did not match anything that I had searched previously: not specific article of clothing. To be sure, I looked at my search history: I have never searched for dresses. Google’s data is perhaps not quite reliable. To understand how this came about (although I could have guessed), I clicked on the light gray circle in which a small ‘i’ was centred, and was rewarded with a pop-up that asked “why these ads?” I clicked on the text and a small drop-down window appeared. A list of the websites that featured in the banner ad was provided. I clicked on the first and was immediately told that “This ad is based on: Your current search term; Your visits to other websites”.

So, fashion equals dresses? And I have visited other websites that would place me as the right customer for frocks of the same ilk?

Wanting to see where this would take me, I clicked on the first tile. The page that appeared is part of the mobile site of Light In the Box, which touts itself as a “a global online retail company”. I came face-to-face with the featured dress, not the homepage. No time to lose when you shop online, I suppose. The green floral dress on a cheery-looking lass was described as “Women’s Going out Plus Size Casual Swing Dress” (initial caps as captioned), which seems to me one-word redundant: we have as yet reached an era of men’s dress! In addition, the model was far from plus-sized. I am, as my friends would say, under-sized.

Unimpressed, I hit the back button and tried the second tile. This time, I was hyperlinked (a word unimpressive now, but was once, to me, the digital version of teleported) to the page of the said dress in My Theresa, “THE FINEST EDIT IN LUXURY FASHION” (all caps as headlined), now owned by the Neiman Marcus Group. The Dolce & Gabbana “cotton-blend lace dress” that greeted me was sans a model. It looked like an entity was wearing it, but nothing was there.

Two dresses

Are these what women are buying? I have not heard of Light in the Box, yet I was shown a link to their site; I have never looked at Dolce & Gabbana online and here I was offered one of the brand’s dresses to buy. What is it about my browsing habit that allowed Google to suppose I share the same taste in dresses as other web users? I am assuming that other online viewers are attracted to these dresses because appearing in the ad side-by-side were a quartet of dresses of very similar silhouette—the first two almost identical, except for the USD2,488.40 difference in price.

I know dresses sell. I have been told by so many buyers I know working for department stores and private labels that the one-piece is never hard to move off the racks. While I suspect a certain style—round neck, body-skimming bodice, natural waist, and a flowy skirt—is popular, I did not expect it to be this popular: showing up in an ad four-in-a-row (and more!). Is this what makes a trend? Is this how women know what is trendy? Is this how women are guided to make wardrobe choices?

If this is any indication, women are buying the same things. Perhaps, the question to ask then is, why are women dressed alike?

It would appear that e-commerce have more influence on consumer fashion choices than catwalk slideshows or fashion editors’ picks or the best street styles from fashion weeks. To see what other styles Dolce & Gabbana offered in My Theresa, I continued my search by narrowing it to just one brand, and there they were: more dresses in the one silhouette that refuses to go away. For actual merchandise, it would seem that brands do not vary their offerings very much. This is a dress shape that sells, why try another? And when women are familiar and comfortable with such a dress, why would they want to experiment with something different?

Wondering what would show up if I had searched ‘dresses’, I gave it a go. My trusty Note 8 was as unresponsive as my wardrobe when it showed me the result. Again, the “Shop for fashion” banner surfaced. Of the four dresses showed at the top of my screen, one did not look like the others. It was a USD195.60 one-shoulder, slit-high-on-the-left-leg gown called the “Disco Drape Dress” from the multi-label e-shop Revolve. The other three were similar to the ones that coughed out from the search ‘fashion’. This time, the priciest was a printed Gucci linen dress tagged USD4,870. Frocks, as Google search proved, don’t discriminate: they align themselves to every price point. Rich or poor, women can look the same. And they do.

Badge Of Honour?

You’d think they won’t go further than smartphone covers. But with Prada’s ID case in stores, there’s nothing that you use in your life that luxury brands wont try to cover


Prada ID case AW 2018

In the past, carrying a designer key ring was a big deal. It said something about one’s economic status or love of things designer. Now that we are in the age of the key card and biometric authentication, key rings are not only less seen, they are reduced business  and licensing opportunities for luxury brands.

The product development divisions of fashion houses, however, don’t quite give up. From trinkets for bags to protective covers for smartphones, the product category keeps expanding, outpacing even those of department stores. Joining the ranks of non-fashion items given a luxury riff this season is the humble ID case; only in the case of Prada, not so humble.

These first appeared in the Prada autumn/winter 2018 show in February. It is not unreasonable if you had thought there were used as props. But Prada rarely shows things they do not intend to sell in their stores. We took a close look at the ID case recently and found it to be more decorative than practical.

The clip-on version comes with two slots, but neither are large enough for an EZ-Link card. The windowed slot on the right can be used to frame a passport photo, not an actual security ID you are likely to use to gain entry into your secured work space. Who, we wonder, would like to wear their selfie on their body like a badge? KOLs, don’t you think?

Prada Saffiano leather clip-on ID case, SGD290, is available at Prada stores. Photo: Zhao Xiangji

Gym Wear: This Or That?

For those hours preceding treadmill and weights or drinks with workout mates after, there’s Gucci-garish or Nike-natty


Gucci vs Nike 2.jpgThe flash and the dash of Gucci (left) and Nike (right)

The tracksuit has not been confined to a stadium for as long as many of us can remember or when people no longer feel awkward wearing running shorts and singlets in city streets or mall corridors. In fact, not many remember that the tracksuit is also known as the warm-up suit, a two-piece athletes wear over competition clothes before or after the contest. Now, the tracksuit is, more than ever before, an article of fashion.

These days, we do acknowledge that many people are more likely to wear tracksuits for a flight to wherever than for a match with whoever, to a class lecture than to a fitness class, to dance in than to keep warm in. Lines are indeed smeared. No other brand has demonstrated the tracksuit’s momentousness than Gucci.

In their latest offering of ‘activewear’, Gucci styles their track suits on models with jewellery and shod the girls with high heels. Although the category of clothing is made clear, the double-G-logoed tracksuit’s use and to where it would be worn to appear to have little to do with athletic performance. The ’80s vibe is unmistakable, which is a throwback to the early days of hip-hop when the likes of Missy Elliott’s tracksuits now seem the antithesis of Nicki Minaj’s boobs-baring, rear-showing fashion nothingness.

Conversely, Nikelab, an off-shoot of Nike and an ardent collaborator with designers such as Jun Takahashi of Undercover and Chitose Abe of Sacai, presents tracksuits that have performance cred first, followed closely by sartorial finesse. These are such sharp outerwear that you would be tempted to team them with, say, a shirt dress, or, for guys, a work shirt, even on non-workout days. Clothes with technical cred do crossover well to everyday garb.

Gucci vs Nike

The attention-seeking Gucci (left) and performance-enhancing Nike (right)

The irony is that Gucci calls their track tops “technical jersey jackets”technical referring to the fabric, a heavy polyester/cotton knit, rather than the construction of the garment. Fabric-wise, tracksuits have always been made of polyester or poly-blend. If we define “technical” fabrics as those that afford functional benefit, then these tracksuits are “technical” because polyester can provide warmth, and is also wrinkle-resistant. Sure, “technical” now goes into every category of clothing, from socks to sleepwear, but do we need “technical” threads as #OOTD for IG followers and fellow club-goers?

In the case of Nikelabs ACG Gor-Tex Deploy jacket seen here, technical is the fabric, the construction, and the make. It’s technical all-round, even the zips—they are water-repellent—which perhaps qualifies the Deploy to be branded as All-Conditions Gear (ACG), a line very much loved by athletes/outdoor types who are also fashion-conscious, such as Mr Takahashi, the instigator with Nikelab for the Gyakusou running line. As Nike explained, ACG is “designed with Acronym (the Munich-based design agency) founder Errolson Hugh” and it “embodies his form-follows-function ethos”. Nike does not mention style, but style does set Nikelab apart, so much so that the sub-brand has its own boutique-like store (such as the one in the trendy Tokyo district of Aoyama) or dedicated corners in all Dover Street Markets.

In the more and more indiscriminate pool we call fashion, wearing occasion/activity-specific clothing is perhaps no longer important. If we don’t dress differently when going to Toa Payoh Central and ION Orchard, perhaps there really is not need to differentiate Gucci’s gaudy homage to black culture from Nike’s dedication to outdoor sports.

Gucci GG technical jersey jackets, SGD2,640 (pictured, bottom) are available at Gucci stores and Nikelab ACG Gore-Tex Deploy jacket, SGD829, is available at Nikelab corner can be found in Dover Street Market Singapore. Photos: Gucci and Nike respectively

Three-Cornered Bag

Balenciaga bag AW 2018

By Mao Shan Wang

The triangle may not be the most obvious shape for a bag, but in the case of Balenciaga, that’s probably the point. So far, the brand that Demna Gvasalia has remade releases bags that seem to take a dig at regular carriers such as shopping bags. Their latest triangular handbag, conversely, appears to be inspired by something a lot more playful.

Such as a kid’s satchel? I remember seeing a rather similar shape at a housing estate trade fair, one that usually appears during in the weeks that lead up to a holiday, such as Christmas or Hari Raya. The bag that I now recall is in pink vinyl, with a scene from Frozen printed in the front. It hanged next to a ponderous-looking backpack in the same colour and of the same theme. Surely the stall-keeper must have thought that a girl who desires a backpack for school would like a matching handbag for after-school hours with her friends.

I can’t be sure that Mr Gvasalia saw the bag I did and was inspired, but I wouldn’t put it past him to single out something so kitschy or banal for ideas. Ikea’s Frakta carrier, I am sure, is still fresh in your mind. In fact, people are still carrying it as their regular tote, as if a season’s trendy irony never went away. Perhaps it did not, for the latest Balenciaga bag, known as the Triangle Medium Duffle, is in the same Ikea blue!

The bag feels a little strange in the hand, not because it is shaped like a photo corner and not because it is surprisingly rather light, but because it is stiff and small. In volume, it is probably as capacious as the 25-cm Hermès Kelly. In looks, however, it shares the same seriousness as a pair of platform Crocs that Balenciaga issued for the spring/summer 2018 season. Both are to be worn with humour and as counterpoint to the street style excess that’s getting a little too serious for its own good.

As it is a triangle with one point for the base, your prized possessions such as smartphone, battery bank, wallet, compact and such won’t lay flat at the bottom. They would have to be organised diagonally, which may cause some orientation problem when retrieving them. Ill organisation really means you have even less space to carry your life along with you. Do also note, the bag does not sit upright.

This bag reminds me of another bag: the almost-rectangular-but-quadrilateral Comme des Garçons X Beatles ‘Boat Bag’. The Balenciaga version is, of course, symmetrical, but both share something in common: they come from createurs who do not make fashion easy for their fans and users. Not that I mind.

Balenciaga Triangle Medium Duffle, SGD3,070, is available at Dover Street Market Singapore. Photo: Jim Sim