She Just Wants To Show Some Skin, So Let Her

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

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

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

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

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

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

Choice, that’s a powerful thing to have.

Photo: Getty Images

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What Does A Pair Of Nude Sisters Say About Fashion?

Nothing. Zilch. Naught

The naked Hadids for Vogue.jpg

By Wang Mao Shan

The Hadid sisters: Is there nothing they won’t do for attention? Well, I suppose it’s not entirely their own doing if British Vogue wants them to go naked to help improve the magazine’s sales, or its declared inclusiveness (naked girls deserve editorial space in decent publications too). Well, to be clear, I don’t know for sure. I am uncertain if this is editor Edward Enninful’s specific request to communicate a particular hitherto unexpressed heterosexual leaning. I am not sure if this is the result of lensman Steven Meisel’s urging—some photographers are known to be good at making models take off their clothes. For all I know, maybe the stylist did not bring enough threads, and a page had to be filled.

Still, Vogue is a fashion magazine. It is not Treats!. Those of us who still flip a hard copy (how archaic that sounds!) magazine do so for the fashion (that, too, is outmoded, no?). Sure, in the old days, there were topless photos, but at least there were skirts or pants to look at—oh, how wide the waistband. Okay, even panties—look, how skimpy there are! The Hadids didn’t even have shoes on. Or, we could have said something like how fierce the heels are. Nary a pink pussy hat too, or is that too one-year-ago? Is that why Kim K posted a bare-breasted photo of herself on Instagram about the same time the pre-newsstand publicity for the Vogue shot went viral: not to be outdone?

In an age of #dresslikeawoman (primarily a reaction to Donald Trump’s alleged dress code for his female staff), we have a duo ready to spawn #undresslikeawoman. They are, however, not setting the precedent; they are mere followers in an increasingly pornified media-scape. You could boil it down to female empowerment (as per Hillary Clinton’s encouragement, “To every little girl who dreams big: Yes, you can be anything you want.” Anything!), but would assertion of self be less powerful if there were any shred of clothing? Or is bare-all see-all, know-all, understand-all?

It’s not easy to make clear why British Vogue saw the necessity of publishing these two sisters looking pre- (or post-) coital, nor do we want to. Surely this isn’t a sisterly, after-a-shared-shower moment! It’s more problematic because Bella and Gigi, to me, don’t really look related, which gives this same-sex pairing a not-quite-mundane, “creepy”—as the Guardian so succinctly put it—(front) side. Or am I—a damsel from more covered times, who likes seeing clothes on models, not without—just not “woke” enough?

The thing is, people do things that defy comprehension, more so decency. Fashion be damned. In the end, who cares about clothes? Vogue knows you don’t. If you want fashion, go to instyle.com. How about “30 Most Nude Dresses of All Time”?

Photo: Vogue/Steven Meisel/stevenmeiselphoto, Instagram

Fashion From Her Makeup Bag

Veteran makeup artist Pat McGrath has gone from painting faces to designing clothes. Does a flair for pretty pigments mean a talent with paper patterns?

Pat McGrath Labs AW 2017

By Mao Shan Wang

I know there are many people in the creative field who turn to fashion design to express themselves and to make money, but I have yet heard of a makeup artist who takes that route. Sure, there are those who try their hand at retailing clothes, such as Yuan Sng, celebrity makeup artist and one of the partners behind the charming pop-up for K-pop fashion, StyleLoft 3. But a makeup-artist-turn-designer is as rare as permanent lipstick.

Pat McGrath, I presume, likes the appeal of this rarity. In the fashion world, she’s a brilliant, creative, sort-after makeup artist, but she’s not the only one. Her fashion venture may, thus, place her in the firmament of the uncommon. Unfortunately, I can’t say the same about her debut ‘Apparel 001’ collection, launched on the multi-channel platform known as Pat McGrath Labs—according to her website, “a playground… to introduce divinely disruptive discoveries”. And how many labs does she have or need? Even Nikelab has only one!

I suppose there could be two: one for makeup and one for apparel. Ms McGrath has already achieved “cult status”—as the media describe it—with her own makeup line, launched in 2015. But her fashion collection does not look like it is going to disrupt the business the way her cosmetics supposedly had. At launch, her first item, Gold 001 Pigment, impressed both pro and novice users alike. An intensely-hued dust that would be more the stuff of Halloween than even the CFDA Awards nights, Gold 001 Pigment can be used for the eye or for sprinkling moon dust on the face and casting starlight on body, or, when blended with an attendant Mehron Mixing Liquid (Mehron is the go-to stage makeup brand favoured by companies such as Cique du Soliel), can give eyes, lips, and nose (according to the Pat McGrath video demo) the gold of gold leaf, so realistic that only when standing next to a Thai Buddha statue will the wearer look like she has applied, well, makeup.

Pat McGrath

In comparison, the 8-piece ‘Apparel 001’ is somewhat underwhelming. However her people may wish to spin it, this is plainly atheleisure in the vein of Alexander Wang’s dalliances with Adidas. Or, the articles of clothing any skate fan desirous of his own fashion line would put out: T-shirts, hoodie, and bomber jacket. So much for variety, or even new category of clothing. The text running down the sleeves of the long-sleeved T-shirts, even with some in Japanese fonts, offers little to ponder over. Neither is there a colour range to talk about since everything, save one white tee, is in black. Seriously, these could be tops supplied by Fruits of the Loom, supported by a good metallic embossing facility.

Sure, the main motif of a golden eye, described to be Egyptian, and could pass of as a wing with an eye, is striking, in the way the logo of Red Wing Shoes is. If marketed well, Ms McGrath’s dramatic eye-logo, already proven to be more than one-dimensional as she has demonstrated its applicability on real peepers, could be the next totally desirable seven-letters-in-a-red-rectangle Supreme trade mark. But to get there, Ms McGrath has to work on the merchandise—for now, appearing unisex. What I see is this: they’re either fashion-y merchandise from the gift shop of a Cairo Museum, or concert merch of a performance (Ms McGrath no doubt excels) that Kanye West is simply better at. Either way, there’s no place, as yet, in my wardrobe for ‘Apparel 001’. And, to be sure, I am no Pat McGrath groupie.

Pat McGrath Labs ‘Apparel 001’ launches in Dover Street Market New York this Thursday. A spontaneous check with a staff member of the DSM here turned up “What’s that? We don’t know”. Admittedly, I should not have asked. The choice of DSM as launch pad is interesting: products sold here are often indication that they’re endorsed by arguably one of the most successful brick and mortar retailers in the world, and may reach a better audience that matters. For those who must cop the line (prices from USD60), click Pat McGrath’s website, and, as printed on the clothing, “Use Without Caution”.

Photos: Pat McGrath Labs

Nicki Minaj: She’ll Break The Internet, Too?

Or should it be ‘they’, since it is a “Minaj à trois”?

Just as you thought “break the Internet” is a one-time thing back in 2014, Nicki Minaj is offering triple the delight in a single page, thrice more than Kim Kardashian’s also-Internet-breaking Paper cover of that year. In addition, the rapper is titillating readers in the upcoming issue with not just full-frontal bum, but full-on boobs too. The thing is, Ms Minaj, as with Ms Kardashian, has lived near-nude so publicly, so unashamedly, and so often that surely by now many of us have seen enough of her bare breasts and buttocks to not consider them shocking or eye-catching?

It isn’t clear how no-clothes can be fashion, but perhaps Ms Minaj’s self-styled composite isn’t about fashion since there is hardly anything resembling clothes that one can be delighted or disgusted with. But it is notable that once-unimaginable sleazy in pink (millennial pink?) is possibly now a chromatic backlash from too much blush-coloured Barbie fashion and Elsa and Anna princess dresses. According to Ms Minaj, you can do pink, but you don’t have to look prim.

You’d think that by now the Internet—broken and mended—has gutted the appeal of female nudity. And that the banalisation of nakedness has reached a zenith that can’t be repeated enough without challenging the domain of pornography. Yet, here is Ms Minaj—not only in dresses that by themselves offer undress, but also in poses that, away from the glare of studio lights and camera lenses, could have constituted sexually predatory behaviour.

How will this brazen display play out in the present explosive exposé of sexual harassment and rapaciousness for sex? Or is the touching and tonguing of oneself, even publicly, self-gratification that does not cross the trammels of decency? Is fashion even part of the communication? What are we missing here? Or are we, ironically, just too prudish for the breakable Internet? Honestly, it’s hard to fathom. These are confusing times, and Nicki Minaj—à trois—adds to the puzzlement, three times more.

Photo: Paper magazine/Ellen von Unwerth

Michelle Chong Spoofs Vogue’s 73 Qs

Michelle Chong for Dorothy Perkins

By Mao Shan Wang

You have the opening scene of 7+3 Q’s with Sonia: Michelle Chong, reprising the character from her cheesy little S$1.5 million film Lulu The Movie, walks in akimbo; her back to the camera. A guy with a Caucasian voice calls out to her and she turns around—deliberately, pretending to be surprised. I thought I heard the perfunctory applause. She then talks to the unseen male and proceeded to indulge him in what would be a Q&A involving a set of “7+3” questions. I thought I was going to sleep.

This is no doubt a spoof of the Vogue.com series 73 Questions—cheery interviews that make the interviewees shiny examples of my-life-is-perfect-that’s-why-I’m-so-contented celebrity, all set in domestic bliss or professional calm. Even the reputed ice queen Anna Wintour, in Season 1, appeared to be in high spirits although still playing up her to-be-expected coldness. An un-wintry Anna Wintour would be a letdown. Although the questions were posed to her in her Architectural Digest-worthy office, she offered no hint of editorial stress, let alone semblance of editorial work. Stilted and aided by minions, she revealed inconsequential and trite details about herself such as the fact that she’s not a discerning coffee drinker (breakfast = Starbucks).

Participants of 73 Questions are, in fact, often made to look so unshackled by the woes of life, but fettered by the insipidness of a positive video persona that they appear positively dull, even when flipping on a trampoline. It is, of course, all harmless fun, but not quite fun enough to beguile a long, lazy, humid afternoon. The questions themselves are to be blamed: “What’s the best piece of advice your mom has given you?” and, repeatedly, “What’s your spirit animal?” I have more engaging conversations with the Hubei fellow who sweeps the void deck of my block.

Why 73? According to Joe Sabia, the creator and director of the series, the figure came about after a process of elimination from the original 100 proposed questions. And “it sounded like a good number”. Why “7+3”? Because it sounds better than 10? But, perhaps more significantly, do you want to hear inane answers to inane questions for an insane 10 minutes? Not from Sonia!

Michelle Chong for Dorothy Perkins 2

Michelle Chong’s soporific turn as Sonia is a lame counterpoint to the Shanghainese lian Lulu, first fleshed to life in the TV series The Noose. Or her lian pang counterpart Apple Tham. Sonia gives me the impression that she might be the sister of Nida Goodwood, the newscaster, also from The Noose, who speaks with an accent that sounds like she had been schooled somewhere in the Philippines, but, as I later learned, is supposed to be slightly RP (received pronunciation or, simply put, what you hear on the BBC). In Lulu The Movie, she is scripted to be haughty and go-getting, and a fierce spelling police (“How many times have I said that fashion is spelled with an H?”) and, thus, unlikeable, but in 7+3 Q’s with Sonia, she’s shown to be sisterly, BFF-worthy, and—perhaps open to dispute—fashion-y.

In the YouTube post, Sonia wears an ill-fitting black, long-sleeved blouse with an unmissable pussycat bow that, by now, should have been relegated to a recess of the wardrobe where so little light comes in that it’s a fashion graveyard. The top is tucked into a slim gingham skirt with a peplum in the front. Whether irony is intended or not, it deserves notice: In the film, fashion personality Sonia berates a couple of assistants presenting the outfits they have picked for her on-screen appearance. “Do these clothes,” she thundered, “look like they belong to a fashion program? Or, is this the rack for the 9 o’clock news?” Maybe this is payback time. In 7+3 Q’s with Sonia, she looks like she is dressed for the 1 o’clock news! Some people will call it karma.

Ms Chong has made a name for herself out of spoofing, especially the many stereotypes that exist among us. I don’t find her jibes particularly humorous, but, apparently, many do. Therein lies her success: she has a common touch. Not that that’s a bad thing. Look at Jack Neo and his protégé Mark Lee. They’ve become moneyed by poking fun at our foibles and flaws, using mannerism and language that are part of our foibles and flaws. Ms Chong has chanelled her parody skills into money-churning advertising appearances, sometimes playing multiple roles in one screen, as Eddie Murphy did, or a more contemporary example, as Tyler Perry does. But unlike these guys, she vacillates between two domains: one called funny, the other not.

7+3 Q’s with Sonia is, unsurprisingly, an ad of sorts. It’s conceived for the brand Dorothy Perkins, which, by the way, is not a designer name. Now owned by the Arcadia Group (Topshop/Topman’s parent company), it is apparently named after the rambling rose of the same moniker. That the video was commissioned to score with social media-struck Millennials isn’t a marketing coup. There’s no ambiguity to where between the points of high and popular culture it attempts to pivot. That, I suppose, is where Sonia comes in. She’s suitably mild and middle-of-the-road. Let’s just say, don’t expect Saturday Night Life. Michelle Chong’s initials may be MC, but her other name is not (Melissa) McCarthy.

Screen grabs: YouTube/The Michelle Chong Channel

The Kaiser Does Vans

In aiming to be hip, Vans has aligned itself with an octogenarian. Cool

Vans X KL teeBy Mao Shan Wang

The one thing that caught my attention and that I find intriguing in this latest Vans collaboration is one woman’s T-shirt. It has the up-to-the-torso photograph—although pixilated, still discernible—of the brand’s collaborator: Karl Lagerfeld.

This is not a symbol of the divine. It isn’t Jeremy Scott’s Jesus pants. Yet, the image calls out to me like some tua pek kong. This isn’t the traditional celebrity that we know; this is a force of fashion: narcissistic, omnipresent, inexplicable. Yet, it is Kaiser Karl reduced to a T-shirt, hilariously called the “Boyfriend Tee”! What would he look like in tumble dry mode?

Don’t get me wrong. I believe Mr Lagerfeld deserves to be worshipped as much as Elvis Presley and Mickey Mouse. Except that one would expect the customers of Vans—girls in high school or in junior high, according to Dabney Lee, Vans senior director of global merchandising—to be worship-wearing the visage of Justin Bieber or Harry Styles or, if they like them a wee bit older, Nick Jonas. Or, if fashion icons are imperative, then the cartoon delineation of Karl Lagerfeld, now available in his own Karl Lagerfeld line.

Vans X KL sneaksThe main draw, I suspect, of the Vans X Karl Lagerfeld collaboration is the shoes. These are classic Vans, six of them, such as the Classic Slip-On, given a KL makeover. It is perhaps interesting to note that Mr Lagerfeld may not have had a hand in designing any of these kicks. According to the Vans senior footwear designer, “Working in close partnership, our teams designed the collection to reflect the unique histories of our respective brands.” And she went on to say something about “a tribute to Karl Lagerfeld’s fashion DNA.”

Now, to me, this is the tricky part: Karl Lagerfeld’s own design DNA includes bouclé and quilting? Has Chanel been scratched out of the picture? What appears to be most true to his DNA is the all-caps KARL (with the man’s profile worked into the K) that peeks from between the flaps of the new Old Skool Laceless Platform. That’s DNA, legible and unadulterated.

But, who am I to say? I know the man not.

Vans X Karl Lagerfeld collection is available at Vans, ION Orchard from today. Photos: Vans

Look What We Did To Taylor Swift!

Taylor Swift’s latest music video, Look What You Made Me Do, appears self-satirising (or, as her fans say, self-referential). But is she really mocking herself or laughing at her mockers?

TS LWYMMD 1

At 27, the “old Taylor” is dead, so goes the declaration in Ms Swift’s latest single Look What You Made Me Do. But it isn’t just one of her old selves that died. How many old Taylors were there? Quite a few, apparently—all deserving a grave.

And that’s exactly where she emerges in the MV track that debuted at yesterday’s MTV Video Music Awards, looking like she is auditioning for Night of the Living Dead, or, maybe, paying homage to Michael Jackson’s Thriller (both cemeteries look strikingly similar). Ms Taylor willing to look ghoulish is of course a bit of a surprise. She is, after all, the American Beauty.

TS LWYMMD 2

But that cartoonish living-dead look lasted for a grand total of 14 seconds. (It is preceded by an aerial view of tombstones that form the letters T and S: her reputation, as it were, may be dead, but not narcissism). For the most part of the video, she is her glamorous self: the white, blond, and blue version of attractiveness that Americans find especially appealing and digestible, in clothes that every prom-goer can identify with. Taylor Swift is the perennial homecoming queen. And she’s offered her viewers, in more than a dozen costume changes in the video, a greatest hits of the dresses she’s worn on stage and screen.

The video of Look What You Made Me Do was screened in lieu of her stage appearance. The media made sure to note her no-show. Of course it was a no-show. Can you imagine the more daringly-dressed host Katy Perry introducing the Shake It Off singer? Who knows if the Bad Blood is diluted?

TS LWYMMD 3

A music video, even in 4K, is also less a moving target for disgruntled fellow singers to go on stage to upstage the star, proclaiming her undeserving. This is all very harmless and it encourages more on-line viewing and appreciation. Unsurprisingly, it spawns another record for Ms Swift: at the time of this writing, YouTube announced that the MV, directed by Joseph Kahn (aka Ahn Jun-Hee, the Korean-born wunderkind of music videos), broke record for the most-viewed in a 24-hour period. Reportedly, at one point, it was drawing more than 3 million views per hour!

Is it any good? Well, Taylor Swift is not Björk. She’s merely traipsing the path well trodden by Britney Spears, wearing more clothes and affability than the Toxic singer (whose video of that song was also directed by Mr Kahn). It switches from (unconnected) scene to scene, augmenting the fact that, like Donald Trump, Ms Swift needs to live from one drama to the next. Look What You Made Me Do has the bombast needed for today’s MVs to hit the most-viewed spot, but it is as engaging as a cat doing her business in the kitty litter.

TS LWYMMD 4

Talking about cats, felines make their appearance in the video. Not groundbreaking there. Ms Swift’s love of cats, especially Scottish Folds, is no secret. In Look What You Made Me Do, she dons a white full-head mask of a cat alongside dancers with faces similarly obscured. There’s another cat: the face of a tiger on a black Gucci (but, in a flash, could be Kenzo) pullover. As if to reflect the animal’s fierceness, she swings a baseball bat a la Beyoncé in Hold Up.

Then there’s also the leopard print coat (above), and an actual leopard in a car-crash scene which seems to be taking aim at archenemy Katy Perry, a leopard print-loving pop-singing rival whose fans are known as “Katy Cats”. What seems to confirm our suspicion more is the conspicuously placed Grammy award in that scene. We know Ms Perry has never won one even with multiple nominations. Surely, that’s not a mere hint. Funnily, there’s something old-school about that: taking your grievances to music television rather than social media!

Now, remember Taylor Swift is a vengeful lyricist, and she does not forget. She draws much from her pain, and her resentments are hardly a subtle subtitle in what she writes and sings. “You”, you would have guessed by now, isn’t just one of her lovers (here’s looking at you Calvin Harris and Tom Hiddleston). You is employed in plural form and you are the nosy, noisy multitudes.

Calling out her detractors, Ms Swift seems to be including people in the industry: Kim Kardashian (that bathtub with diamonds and pearls); DJ David Mueller (the one-dollar bill, also in the bathtub, that could symbolize the USD$1 she sought for damages); and people who have allegedly betrayed her, such as Kimye (in one scene of the throne and the snakes, a serpentine couple serves her tea!). In the end, even with a scene (above) that brings together the past Taylors in a mutual verbal attack (only Taylor Swift can criticise Taylor Swift?), she’s really having a go at all of us.

Photos: screen grabs of the music video Look What You made Me Do on YouTube

Is This The World’s Tackiest Belt?


By Ray Zhang

The recent Floyd Mayweather and Conor McGregor 12-round fight is over and you know who won. Apart from the reported “at least USD100 million” that each of them will receive, Mr Mayweather will also walk away with the champion’s belt, a flashy waist clincher that, to me, beats any trophy or Olympic medal in lurid ostentation.

Don’t get me wrong. Winners of any competitive sport deserve to be bestowed tokens of triumph. But in this boxing match, winning the Super Fight (why any of the competitions that Usain Bolt raced in aren’t known as the Super Run beats me) means you get the “Money Belt”, so called presumably because it is supposed to cost more than USD1 million, but more likely because it is a predictor of Money Mayweather’s win!

A monstrosity that is shaped like a wrist watch for the torso, the Money Belt (how does one say that without referring to a travel accessory mostly associated with budget travel or, worse, sounding crass?) has, according to the World Boxing Council (WBC) president Mauricio Sulaiman, “3,360 diamonds, 600 sapphires, 300 emeralds, 1.5 kilograms of solid, 24-karat gold, and alligator leather that comes from Italy.” Doesn’t that sound like something that will thrill Rosmah Mansor (also known as Mrs Najib Razak), even if it is small change compared to the USD$27.3mil, 22-carat, pink diamond necklace she is reported to have bought? And, did you know there are alligators in pasta land?

But maybe I am missing the point (to be noted, I am no boxing fan). This is the comeback fight of the decade: an un-retired Floyd Mayweather boxing to retain his undefeated record. Professional boxing, unfortunately, is not unlike pro-wrestling—both are flashy events and the flash augments the excitement of the fight. Mr Mayweather himself is not exactly the epitome of Normcore (nor his opponent Mr McGregor). Don’t tell me gold boxing gloves are nondescript.

The Money Belt, spelled out in emeralds (!), matches the hoopla. And the sleaziness—how else do you explain the Corona-sponsored bikinis worn by the two models who presented the Money Belt during its introduction at a WBC press conference? Even if it is doubtful Mr Mayweather will wear the belt as part of his everyday dress (you never know!), its existence is a reminder that today, flashiness is part of many sports.

Photo: Steve Marcus/Reuters

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

Clothes Become Her

Even when she’s finally willing to wear something that can be discerned as clothing in her new music video, Miley Cyrus proves she’s a better singer than dresser

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By Mao Shan Wang

Unlike many of her fans, I have never considered Miley Cyrus much of an influencer; at least not in the style stakes. You see, I have a problem with women who fashion themselves as style icons but do not use clothes. Or, use very little of them. What was Ms Cyrus wearing in Wrecking Ball? Underwear and, in parts, nothing—she had more fibres in her lashes than on her body. What fashion statement did that make?

Maybe it was what she was riding that counted, such as the wrecking ball and, in the Bangerz tour, the hot dog. Free of outrageous props in her new video for the single Malibu, Ms Cyrus needed fashion to carry a message: I’m no longer the trollop that I once appeared to be; I am again a girl-next-door (thinking of marrying the completely not deviant Liam Hemsworth). Or, as Wendy Williams recently raved in her eponymous show, “cleaned-up Miley”.

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I am not sure if a scrubbed Princess of Twerk can be transformed into a High Priestess of Fashion, but Ms Cyrus seems to be trying. In Malibu, she was in no less than nine outfits, with one strange voluminous, off-shoulder dress that was made even more capacious with the puffiest sleeves and widest train you ever saw—more cloth in one outfit that everything she ever wore in her entire singing career.

So what does it mean now that ex-Hannah Montana is clothed? I don’t know about you, but when I first saw the MV of Malibu, I thought it was Forever 21 that had an arrangement with her wardrobe mistress. Who would have thought Billy Ray’s hitherto provocatively dressed daughter would take to a style more akin to Nashville’s off-stage Juliette Barnes’s?

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I understand that Ms Cyrus’s main audience is young, school-going, and in need of an idol that can provide dress ideas for classes (in the US, they don’t wear uniforms), going to the mall, traipsing the beach, as Ms Cyrus did in Malibu. Ordinariness for every day seems to be the main message. Like you, she need not rely on the weird and crude to be likable.

Her choice of tiered frilled frock, bra top and harem pants, cropped funnel-neck pullover and bikini bottom, lightweight sundress, itsy-bitsy tube top and shorts, beribboned sweater-top and diaphanous shorts, and more sweater-and-briefest-briefs pairing meant that she could make herself more relatable to the Republican-loving girls that now could be her core listeners and admirers. It is likely that this is a Gaga-esque, post-meat-dress sartorial breakthrough; this is also the singer-songwriter at her most heartfelt—no frightfully cute or wildly sexy outfit to distract, or worse, augment. She is not wrecking anymore.

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To be sure, Malibu is not that bad even when many critics think otherwise. For sure, it’s inoffensive, which, when weighed against the Miley Cyrus repertoire, may be the first of her songs that would be welcome at Fairprice. This is clearly conceived for a summer release. Close your eyes and you can feel the sea breeze (or “birds catching the wind”), even taste the salt in the air. The singing is so earnest and un-bombastic that you’re strangely drawn to her confessional: “I never would’ve believed you if three years ago you told me I’d be here writing this song”—a reference, no doubt, to her 2013 break-up with fiancé-once-more Liam Hemsworth.

There’s a sweetness that may not be immediately digestible until you open your eyes and see her—seemingly sans makeup—frolicking on the beach, hand clutching a flying bouquet of balloons, all the while the folk-poppy guitar jangle remind you this is rather serious, songwriter stuff.

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This cleaned-up Miley Cyrus was, in fact, already seen in the past years in The Backyard Sessions (to support her Happy Hippie Foundation)—YouTube posts of her and her band doing some of her favourite covers, which include the impressive rendition of Dolly Parton’s Jolene and James Shelton’s Lilac Wine, with no hint of Auto-Tune at work, only colouring that sometimes makes me think of Amy Winehouse.

In these sessions, she wore a sleeveless skin-toned lace top and a no-nonsense black skirt. Her hair was tied into a casual chignon, as though she had just pulled the curls into shape before hitting the mike. You sense that she wanted you to hear her voice rather than be distracted by her dress. And she certainly wasn’t going to sit astride anything ball-like or phallic.

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The pared-down Miley Cyrus continues her Trump-supporter look in the cover of the latest issue of Billboard magazine on which a pink dress would not look out of place in Alice in Wonderland or downtown Denver. Is Ms Cyrus reprising her Hannah Montana look or embracing her country roots? I’m not sure. Either way, there’s no mistaking the grassroot aesthetics of her new-found, clothes-galore wardrobe. 

This does not seem like a one-off. But how long will she stick to the normal-girly before another clear plastic of a dress, or bits of straps as top come acalling? To me, one thing will never change: those blemish-bits of tattoos on her arms and hands that, despite the Sunday church-worthy dresses, suggest Ms Cyrus needs a bath.

Photos: screen grabs of Miley Cyrus’s Malibu video from YouTube