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

From Maxi-Cash To Maxi-Dash

Local pawnbroker Maxi-Cash goes into luxury business, offering merchandise that are distinguished by the euphemism, pre-loved

Maxi Cash store @ Lucky PlazaMaxi-Cash at Lucky Plaza

The selection is impressive: a major-league medley of Chanels, Hermèses, Pradas, Guccis, Rolexes, Cartiers, Panerais, Audemars Piguets, and all the gold jewellery that you would need to make a very impressive trousseau. These were all available at the launch of LuxeStyle, a new brand by pawnshop chain Maxi-Cash. This, however, isn’t the pawnshop of your grandmother’s time; this is the pawnshop of today, one with verve, if not persuasive style.

And it was with palpable vigour that Maxi-Cash launched their sub-brand at the Grand Hyatt’s function rooms called Residences yesterday, accompanied by visual merchandising and styling workshop calibrated to impress. The major high-end brands were represented with such force that you would have thought that this was preface to the International Luxury Conference. Many of the items were in such pristine condition that it was hard to guess, at least initially, that they were second-hand. Could this be why Maxi-Cash is creating a parallel luxury shopping experience for those less inclined to pay full retail? Re-sellable is without doubt a very attractive condition for a pawnbroker.

LuxeStyle is, according to Maxi-Cash’s CEO Ng Leok Cheng, the company’s “latest pre-loved luxury retail line.” Despite what that suggests, LuxeStyle is less a line—such as their own brand of jewellery LeGold—than a retail concept that caters to an economic climate generating desirous wants and the appetence for material goods with appreciable value. Mr Ng added, “the objective of LuxeStyle is to provide more than just a transaction, we aim to be the leading styling resource in Singapore.” But when the members of his staff were asked where the displayed luxury items were from, they would only say, “we have our sources”, at the same time refuting the suggestion that the merchandise is unredeemed items from their pawnshops.

Maxi Cash store @ Lucky Plaza pic 2Maxi-Cash is also a retailer of their own jewellery brand called LeGold

Truth be told, we’ve never stepped into a Maxi-Cash outlet before. So we visited one—a branch on Victoria Street. Unlike the pawnshops of the past, at Maxi-Cash (and a host of others) you won’t be approaching a counter and peering through the grille. Here, glass-top display units, recalling those in department stores of the ’70s, line both sides of the store and house the stuff for sale in a manner as inviting as any jewellery shop. We did not see a single handbag or timepiece. Maybe it’s the store’s location: just next to the New Bugis Street (aka Albert Street), a veritable day-and-night pasar malam. So we thought we should check out what is touted as “the first-ever pawnshop to begin operations in Orchard Road” instead.

Contrary to its moderately high-brow show-and-sell at the Grand Hyatt, Maxi-Cash’s Orchard Road store—specifically in Lucky Plaza, about half a kilometre away from the hotel—is a modest shop and a very small depository of luxury goods. The interior is similar to that of the Victoria Street branch; only here, one of the two store windows was filled with what LuxeStyle is about: bags, watches, and jewellery from the major fashion houses. Inside, no more bags were seen, but watches and jewellery were hard to miss.

Despite its small selection, passersby were enticed by the Maxi-Cash window. Although during the time that we spent observing, no one took the attention beyond the shop’s door, it is clear that there is considerable interest in pre-owned Chanel Classic Flap bags and the like. The selling of used luxury goods has, in the past five years, become big business, if the success and growth of brick-and-motar stores such as the American chain What Goes Around Comes Around and Fashionpile are any indication, or online sites such as the hugely popular Paris-based Vestiaire Collective, now boasting over five million members worldwide and offices in five countries.

Maxi Cash watchesWatches are a key product category in the offerings of LuxeStyle

Also known as “re-commerce”, previously mainly associated with the bigger luxury markets of the West, this trade is quickly gaining ground in Asia, where China, despite the political clamp-down on ostentation, is leading the growth in the sale of luxury goods. Consumption, as we have seen in mature markets such as Japan inevitably gives rise to disposal, which itself leads to more consumption. And there have been companies such as the Nagoya-based Komehyo—a second-hand luxury goods dealer with more than a dozen stores throughout Japan—that have led the way in retailing used products. According to the Nikkei Asian Review, Komehyo has recently announced a joint venture to expand into China, underscoring the very real potential of peddling the pre-loved.

Here, Maxi-Cash’s entry into prime vintage, which according to CEO Ng Leok Cheng “was formalized this month”, is seen as somewhat belated. Competitor Money Max has introduced Love Luxury, a marketing initiative that even piques with programs such as “Learn How to be a Smart Fashionista”. Before pawnbrokers came into the picture as a serious player, brick-and-mortar operators such as Madam Milan and The Attic Place, and online portals such as Bagnatic were taping into the slow but steady acceptance of used designer bags. But unlike many of the physical stores, the public-listed Maxi-Cash enjoys a visibility that comes with 41 outlets on our island. LuxeStyle, although not present in every one of them (13 for now), has the advantage of leveraging this network.

Pawnbroking as financial service has a long history in Singapore. In the 1800s, when it slowly enjoyed economic visibility, a pawnbroker was considered somewhat condescendingly to be a “poor man’s banker”. According to reports, Singapore’s first known Chinese pawnshop Sheng He Dang (生和当) opened in 1872. By the mid-1900, pawnbroking was a thriving business that, interestingly, saw mostly Hakka proprietors. The pawnshop that many remember from their younger days took its form and look from those that emerged in the ’70s, when the pawnshop was starting to be seen in more places. At that time, registered pawnshops totalled 50. Despite the advent of modern credit products, pawnshops have not succumbed to the threat of obsolescence. In fact, according to the Ministry of Law website, there are presently 224 registered pawnshops here.

Maxi-Cash launch product displayThe product display at the launch of LuxeStyle

That pawnshops such as Maxi-Cash have to change is part of the shifts that have affected all manner of retail. These days, people not only pawn but sell their prized possessions as well at a pawnshop. The re-selling of unredeemed pawned items or those sold outright to the pawnshop should move to the same momentum as any modern retailer. Yet, none (as well as specialist re-sellers) has approached the sale of luxury items the way Komehyo and their Japanese counterparts have: set the goods in a surrounding that they deserve.

Instead, the luxury bags, watches and jewellery share space with existing merchandise in display confines that are not initially built for their more posh inhabitants. It would seem, therefore, that the target audience of many pawnshops-turn-purveyors-of-luxury-goods is more attracted to the lower price (in the case of Maxi-Cash, “at least”, the staff chirpily pronounced, 30 percent less than regular retail) than the trappings of luxury.

At Maxi-Cash’s Lucky Plaza outlet, flanked by a minimart that goes by the name Asagao and another pawnshop, the competitor Money Max, the presence of LuxeStyle is not discerned, except for what is seen in the Orchard Road-facing window. Inside, members of the staff are friendly enough, but amid the loud chatter of a seller trying to get a good price for what could be his wife’s valuables, it is easy to forget that it was bags—maybe watches—that you had come in for.

LuxeStyle is in Maxi-Cash stores islandwide. Photos: Zhao Xiangji

Cable In Disguise

By Low Teck Mee

It’s amazing how frequently devices and peripherals are now given a touch of fashion. I’m not talking about the odd iPhone case made more desirable when marketed as designer product. Or the digital bits and pieces given the tech colour of the season (don’t you remember “rose gold”?). I’m talking about those that are rightfully a fashion item, such as this Kyte and Key bracelet, under which lies a very useful charging and data cable.

The question I am hearing now is, don’t we already carry such a cable? Of course we do. Most portable devices that we buy come with an OEM cable—on one end, either a lightning or micro-USB connector, but, in practice and everyday life, do we remember to bring it along when we are not at home or in the office?

A friend of mine has a forgetful boyfriend (their relationship is, thankfully, not quite 50 First Dates). When not desk-bound, he carries along without fail a portable battery charger in his scruffy Eastpak messenger, but somehow, the charging cable is prone to be left behind. Kevin McCallister will know what that feels like. To make matters a little perplexing for my friend, her lover’s smartphone is an iPhone 4s with an equally aged 1,432 mAh battery that goes flat faster than a can of Coke. Since the battery charger and the cable are frequently not a twosome, he often finds himself with the former, but not the latter. Until she decided that he has to find away to strap the cord on a part of his body. That’s where the Kyte and Key wrist wear comes into the picture: she bought him one.

Kyte & Key Cablet

Kyte and Key is known as a maker of “luxury” connectivity units posing as fashion accessories that easily become your personal devices’ BFF. Fashioning cables as wearables is, of course, not a new idea. If you go to Sim Lim Square, where it is not quite the PC and cellular haven it once was, you’ll be able to find all manner of USB and lightning cables that are in the form of bracelets (bangles even!) and key holders and such. Many of these look more suited to sit among your daughter’s play things than to peak from under your sleeve during a board meeting.

These days, many of our gadgets are no more single-purpose devices (when was the last time you used your phone to make a phone call?). It is, therefore, not unexpected that our connecting and charging implements (already dual use there) serve more than what they have come to be used for. And since USB OTG (or by the full name, universal serial bus on the go) has become a mobile standard, allowing your smartphone (or other digital devices) to ‘talk’ to each other, you can basically add peripherals to it, such as a card reader or fan. The cable is more necessary to our digital lives than before.

This cable-ID bracelet, which Kyte and Key calls a “cablet” not only looks, but feels like a premium product. The cable is concealed within a braided leather bracelet and the connectors are hidden under the ‘hood’ designed as a quick-to-open hatch. I’m impressed that they have even bothered to acquire MFI certification for the lightning version. As a luxury item, the cablet comes with a carry tray that slips out of the packaging like a drawer. This tray, which looks like something you might find at Hermès, is also ideal for those stuff you also tend to lose when not assigned proper storage: more cables, memory cards, USB drives, cufflinks, or earrings.

Founded by Antonio Bertone, former chief marketing officer of Puma, in 2013, Kyte and Key alludes to the experiment that scientist/statesman Benjamin Franklin purportedly conducted in 1752 to understand the nature of lightning. The makers of the cablet may not have struck on power that can change the world, but they sure have created some very handsome and useful things indeed.

Kyte and Key Cavoletto Cablet for iOs and Android devices, from SGD19.90, is available at Robinsons and Tangs. Photos: Kyte and Key

(2016) Winter Style 4: The Blanket Wrap

uniqlo-2-way-stoleUniqlo’s handsome blanket stole. Product photo: Uniqlo. Collage: Just So

As the drapey silhouette is increasingly preferred over the structured, some of us are retiring tailored outerwear such as the Chesterfield coat until they are road-worthy again. One of the easiest ways two lend softness to the outline of any outer is to throw on a shawl. This season, the blanket wrap (also known as a stole) is making a splashy entrance like never before. Oddly, though, few retailers are offering them in addition to the standard scarves.

That’s why it is surprising to us that such a stylish piece could be found in the stores of mass retailer Uniqlo. Thanks to Japan’s biggest fast fashion brand, those bound for wintry lands are now owners of at least one down jacket, and, this season, perhaps also the blanket wrap. Uniqlo’s version, called the stole, is especially appealing because it can be worn on both sides, each a different colour or colour-block. To make this an even bigger draw, Uniqlo has called it a “2-way” and touted its versatility as a wrap and a scarf.

journal-standard-blanket-shawl-aw-2016Journal Standard blanket stole for men. Photo: Journal Standard/Baycrews

Scarves, as a practical accessory, are gender-neutral, yet, puzzling as it may be, the brand is peddling this blanket wrap only to women and has availed them only in the women’s department. Perhaps the problem lies in the name: men don’t wear stoles! The striking thing is, none of the pieces available are particularly feminine. And with a size that’s no different from an airline blanket’s, these are not exactly filmsy-bitsy pieces to be tucked away in a handbag until you need it when the MRT train is unusually cold.

Interestingly, the blanket wrap is also available in Muji and, similarly, is stocked in the woman’s department, possibly due to the how-to-wear hang-tag with a figure that’s clearly female. This seems to us at odds with what many retailers in Japan are doing. One of them is Journal Standard, and they’ve made their mono-tone versions (above) a must-have of the season to update the winter wardrobe of both men’s and women’s. If a friend is in Tokyo now, do ask a favour.

Uniqlo acrylic knit 2-way stole, SGD29.90, is available at Uniqlo stores

 

Bamboo Strong, Bamboo Square

In the Chinese classic The Twenty-Four Filial Examplars (二十四孝), compiled and written by the Yuan dynasty scholar Guo Jujing (郭居敬), one exemplary act of parental love was from the military-man-turned-magistrate Meng Zong (孟宗), who also made literary appearances in the Romance of the Three Kingdoms (三国演义). Meng Zong was so filial that no less than five stories described the selfless acts he did for his mother. Among them (and the most famous) was the incident in which he was able to move the heavens so much that he was bestowed a life-saving gift.

Meng Zong’s mother, as the story went, was suddenly seriously ill and had requested for bamboo shoot soup to make her feel better (some Chinese texts told of 笋尖湯 or soup of bamboo shoot tips). Always giving his mother what she wanted, Meng Zong set forth to look for bamboo shoots. There was, however, a problem: it was the middle of winter. Undeterred, Meng Zong continued his search, but it was to no avail. Thinking of his ill mother’s wishes unfulfilled, the fellow cried. But it was no ordinary tears of disappointment. According to one account, “tears began to fall in rivers to the ground”.

Such a watercourse must have been visible to the gods above. In no time, Meng Zong stumbled upon shoots among the bamboos and was able to gather enough to make his mother’s desired soup, which, consequently, made her well. The story not only impressed the neighbours who believed that filial resolve moved heaven to ask earth for a favour, it produced the four-character Chinese idiom 哭竹生笋 or crying to the bamboo sprouts shoots.

c-blu-stacked-ringSilver stacked bamboo ring

Creator of the new jewellery brand Chinoiserie Blu, Way Tay, did not have to cry into bamboos to encourage the shoot of his label to sprout, but it has been a near-tears experience. The birth of C Blu (as the brand is affectionately called among members of the media) is the result of hard work, not miracles—diligence and drudgery in equal measure as Mr Tay is not a jewellery designer by profession.

Until jewellery design came a-calling, he was (and still is) a graphic designer. Mr Tay, a graduate of Massachusetts College of Arts & Design, runs a successful creative and PR agency he co-founded in 2002, yet he gives in to the passion that has consumed him for a long time: making beautiful tactile things. The journey began two years ago, meandered through courses in computer-aided design, metal-smithing, jewellery design, as well as understanding of gem stones, before coming to the naissance of C Blu.

“From young,” Mr Tay said, connecting the dots between the two-dimensionality of his prior work and the three of the present, “I was always making and building with Plasticine. In school, I took sculpting classes and made models that were derived from 2-D drawings during ‘live’ drawing classes.” The recall is made with palpable pride just as the showing of his new jewellery collection is made with considerable satisfaction—the contented father and his commendable brood.

SONY DSCGold-plated silver bamboo square within a square pendant

Launched last Wednesday, C Blu’s debut is a small collection of five pieces in either rhodium- or 18k-gold-plated silver, all inspired by the panda’s favourite food: bamboo. Essentially a grass, the evergreen bamboo has 700 years of history and is sometimes the stuff of myth, which perhaps explains the endless fascination it elicits among designers.

In fact, the bamboo, although a plant of Asian origin, has been copped by European brands, such Gucci, who has made the bamboo handle and the toggle closure identifiable details of its signature bag. So successful has the bamboo been for the brand that bamboo-shaped jewellery— bangles, no less—are in store too.

The bamboo’s linearity and distinct Orientalism are especially well-suited to jewellery design and they show. From the storied American house of Tiffany to the trendy British jeweller Dinny Hall, and in China, from the Hermès-backed Shang Xia to the Richemont-owned Shanghai Tang, bamboo is not to be missed. Mr Tay is well aware of the bamboo’s popularity among designers, noting that it, too, appears in the works of Bali-based John Hardy, but he is unfazed by the possibility that it may be a design cliché. “A designer’s challenge,” he maintained, “is always to innovate from a basic concept and create something unique or unexpected. Otherwise, one can always say everything has been done.”

c-blu-banglesChinoiserie Blu’s distinctive pieces, the square bangles

Furthermore, “the point of difference is in our design and pricing. Our pieces bridge the market and target those looking for high quality, hand-made jewellery, in limited pieces, with a very accessible price range. This is a new luxe available to all,” he enthused. Accessibility, while a necessary starting point for a competitive business and a purse-tight customer base, is, perhaps, secondary to design. C Blu’s refined pieces are striking at first encounter because they speak a relatable modern vernacular, even if the source of inspiration is as old as flowers.

The square is the main shape of the entire collection. Using this rather than the obvious and omnipresent circle could bode well for the brand. The square, to the Chinese, is, interestingly, not quite the same geometrically as it is perceived in the West. In the Chinese language, a four-sided shape is known by the basic word fang (方) and a square is known as zheng fang (正方), while the rectangle is chang fang (长方). The word zheng also means straight and denotes uprightness, both qualities associated with the bamboo.

c-blu-pull-quoteThe pieces, sensuous to the touch, are all individually handmade in Singapore of three-percent palladium-enriched sterling silver (an alloy known for its strength that, for some jewellers, is the same as that of 14k white gold, and, in the case of jewellery, appreciated for its definition and durability) to better mimic the toughness of bamboo, and rhodium-plated to maintain shine and prevent tarnishing.

Despite bamboo and the West’s unceasing love affair, Way Tay is certain his interpretation won’t cut the plant’s inherent aesthetic appeal or, conversely, exoticise its charms. “When luxury brands create products with Chinese motifs,” he laments, “they become cool and are in demand, but when local brands do the same, it takes time for the market to accept. That’s the irony.” Undaunted, he says, “I hope to re-shape the thinking and perception in this area through Chinoiserie Blu.” As with Meng Zong, the gods may just be looking kindly down from above.

Chinoiserie Blu’s debut ‘Bamboo 1 Square’ collection, from USD70, is available at chinoiserieblu.com. Photos: Jim Sim

Offline Emojis, Wearable Smileys

By Mao Shan Wang

SOTD got me into a smiley (and smiling) mood. No sooner had I downloaded the Comme des Garçons Holiday Emoji than I realised I wanted a smiley to wear, not to send via an app installed in my smartphone. I don’t want something on a T-shirt—an easy-to-fade digital print—either, but a physical thing that can swing and be twiddled with, like a pendant.

This matter of keeping the fingers busy is the unfortunate result of a childhood habit of pinching and twisting the corners of my pillow case, a preoccupation left curiously unchecked by my mother. The love of smileys is an on-going affair with adorable circular things delineated in an age when cuteness was a lot simpler, if not innocent. We don’t easily lose the fixations of our growing-up years, do we?

I first saw this Ruifier smiley bracelet on the wrist of a friend’s mother who had just returned from a “conjugal refresh” in London. I thought it looked totally charming on her, especially when she had paired it with a Breguet watch that looked like it was born in the Belle Epoque. For many her age, a jade bangle is the preferred wrist adornment. But as SOTD had pointed out before, women of a certain maturity are susceptible to cute. Smileys really don’t recognise age or marital status just as they know no gender.

Ruifier is marketed as a “fashion and fine jewellery brand”, which I surmise, is for grown-ups with mature taste, but its designs are contrary to anything as staid as those of, say, Tiffany’s (even when Holly Golightly’s favourite jeweller has fine-tuned their image with the help of Grace Coddington). It’s reported that G Dragon is a fan: that should cast an interesting light on the label. There’s no denying that fine, as with luxury, these days has to look accessible even when they may be unattainable. Ruifier’s smiley accessories may perhaps look entry-point to some, but they belie the brand’s high-end quality and points of sale.

Conceived by founder, Central Saint Martin’s alumna Rachel Shaw (a Londoner of Asian descent), Ruifier jewellery seems to extol the belief that a smile is infectious. A happy countenance is, in fact, Ms Shaw’s design constant. Especially alluring are the rings set with either eyes (represented by Xs) or lip (represented by a stretched U), and when the two are worn together or “stacked”, as the brand describes it, they form an expression of catching gladness. I definitely second that emotion.

Ruifier bracelets and other jewellery are available at Club 21 e-store and Pedder on Scotts. Photo: Ruifier

They Come in Pairs

northskull-london-mantz-necklace

A single pendant is a lonely pendant, and a lonely pendant is likely to remain so. As Charlotte Brontë once said, “The trouble is not that I am single and likely to stay single, but that I am lonely and likely to stay lonely.” So that loneliness does not become the pendant, the British men’s jewellery label Northskull London makes sure theirs come paired.

It might be said of the buying of jewellery for a man that few would consider the undertaking to be as worthy of encouragement as the buying of a PlayStation for him. And since the world still has no “courage to raise sons like daughters” (although daughters are raised more like sons), as Gloria Steinem noted, we are less inclined to bestow upon men the gift of jewellery.

The thing is, even if your friend is no Niffler (Fantastic Beasts and Harry Porter fans know what we mean), pieces for the neck, wrist, and fingers need not be the stuff of feminine charm to make them guy stuff. Military dog tags, although not ornamental by function, are jewellery nonetheless, and some dramatically impact the life and identity of the wearer, among them James Howlett, aka Logan, aka Wolverine.

This Northskull London twosome is, in fact, like ID tags in that they come as a pair, although not identical. Two silver-plated discs (the brand calls them “medals”), one with an arrow cutout and the other a chevron pattern, meet, not as Jekyll and Hyde, but fraternal twins. In them, we see long-term, handsome friendship with T-shirts.

Only seven years old, Northskull London already calls themselves “the world’s leading retailers of men’s jewellery”. Marketing speak aside, the brand does offer some very appealing pieces for men. Their Legacy signet ring, for example, is reason enough to not wait till the nuptials to consider dressing the finger—any finger.

Northskull London Mantz necklace and pendants, SGD420, is available at Pedder on Scotts. Photo: Northskull London

Clutch A Circle

Loewe round pouch

It is not quite certain if an envelope of a bag in the shape and size of a dessert plate such as Loewe’s ‘Saturn’ can be called a clutch, but we shall stick to a description we know. This saucer-like bag is, according to a Loewe sales staff, considered a pouch, which sounds a lot more capacious than it really is. Regardless, we are rather drawn to this clutch that Jane Jetson would probably love.

What’s fascinating is the reference to the Land of the Rising Sun by a brand that originated in Spain. We’re not only referring to the 19-cm in diameter red dot, but also the manga-style illustration of a space ship that seems to be drawn in Sixties Tokyo. It’s cute but possibly a little too Harajuku-kawaii for use in a meeting with the chief financial officer.

Loewe ‘Saturn’ round pouch, SGD800, is available at Loewe, Paragon. Photo: Loewe

A Key Ring With No Pocket To Call Home

 

Givenchy key ringCould this be something from a time capsule? In this day of card access, pass code or biometric entry, a large key ring this huge could be mistaken as a hoop earring. Givenchy, under Ricardo Tisci’s watch (and egged on by his celebrity fans), is not known for discreet, barely noticeable designs. This circle of polished silver is no exception. Since it comes with its own key, there’s no mistaking what the oversized ring is for. With a diameter of about 11 centimetres, the keys to the lockers of an entire military battalion can be threaded through it. Still, as much as it can hold, the function assigned to it may not be anything more than a decorative one.

It is, therefore, not surprising that in the Givenchy boutique, (it really first appeared this way on the catwalk) the key ring is paired to a lanyard and worn as a sporty necklace, not unlike the way a track coach puts on his stopwatch or whistle. However, against the brand’s dark, romantic, sometimes mysterious clothes, it looks like a prop from the 1940s film Rebecca, brought forward to fit snugly into an Instagram square.

Givenchy silver key ring, SGD650, is available at Givenchy, Paragon. Photo: Givenchy

Strap Your Glasses

Croakies eyewear retainer

Given how practical they are, it’s strange we don’t see much of their use. The eyewear retainer seems to be employed mainly by mountain climbers who need to secure their shades close to their body or women of a certain age who need glasses on them when they have to read.

Perhaps that will all change, given eyewear’s prominence in fashion today. It’s quite right to say Gucci got it all started by making geeky eyewear the look to go for, never mind if you risk appearing like a bespectacled Carrie White en route to the prom that won’t be receiving her with open arms. After viewing the streams of the autumn/winter 2016 season, one thing that struck us is the conspicuous appearance of the eyewear retainer at Demna Gvasalia’s Balenciaga, those that were hung in front from the ear like a hip-hop artiste’s gold chain.

In fact, it is rather hard to find a retainer that isn’t a chain. For functional and forward-looking pieces, we had to look at an outdoor goods supplier. And there it was: the perfect pair from retainer and lanyard maker Croakies. What caught our attention were the Terra System braided cord (in fact, a skinny climbing rope) attached to rubber ends and L-shaped brackets that easily allows the length of the retainer to be adjusted. At its shortest, it hugs the rear of your head comfortably, doing away with a dangling cord that may irritate the neck. Croakies categorised these as ‘Sports’ rather than ‘Fashion’ retainers, but we’re certain they’ll go with any stylish eyewear, Gucci’s included.

Croakies Terra System eyewear retainer, SGD14.90, is available at Outdoor Life, Wheelock Place. Photo: Jim Sim