Tote Of The Season

If the latest Burberry collection is any indication, the tartan tote is the bag to have now. Joining the fray is this love child of JW Anderson and Uniqlo: a padded, nylon version that is totally able at playing cabin carrier or baby bag.

The partnership between JW Anderson and Uniqlo is launched today. It is one more to add to Uniqlo’s growing collaborations that adhere more to the Japanese brand’s strive for beautiful practicality than practically beautiful.

Lest we’re misconstrued, there’s nothing unlovely about this collaboration. Everything is very Uniqlo. That’s where it risks being a non-event. Mr Anderson is currently one of the UK’s most beloved designers and a much lauded innovator at the Spanish house of Loewe. With such an evocative name, more—reasonably so—is expected, but, as we know, rain doesn’t always come after thunder and lightning.

This is supposed to be a take on British classics. It is, however, no more English than Ines de la Fressange X Uniqlo is French. Inevitable are outers and sweaters that suggest country (or collegiate) life, shirts (for men and women) that won’t enliven a wardrobe, and scarves that look positively part of the uniform of Hogwarts. One skirt stood out, though: a flounced, maxi piece that wouldn’t be out of place on a flamenco dancer.

Back to the tote, this is one of those that we can never have enough. A roomy and light carryall (also available in red and black) that’s not too big, it is as ready for the gym as a weekend jaunt in Bangkok.

What’s especially useful is the little PU patch on the bottom right. In roughly one and half times larger than that found on the right of the rear waist band of jeans, it not only allows the JW Anderson logo—a stylised anchor— to be identified, it is also a pocket that’s perfect for totally wireless ear-buds or the CEPAS card. Now, that’s nifty.

Update (11.30am): all the tartan bags are sold out.

JW Anderson X Uniqlo tote, SGD49.90, is available at Uniqlo, ION Orchard. Photos: Zhao Xiangji

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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

Adidas Originals Goes Nude

Is adidas Originals’s latest collaboration a little belated?

It’s one tone close to the shade of our skin—unless you’re especially swarthy—and in that unmistakable vegetable-tanned leather: it’s Hender Scheme. Now, Japan’s premium sneaker maker has paired with adidas Originals to reprise three of the German sneaker maker’s most iconic shoes: MicroPacer, NMD R1 and Superstar.

Hender Scheme’s Ryo Kashiwazaki has divided sneakerheads with his creations even before this latest collab, when, in 2010, he created some of his favourite kicks strip-down the barest form, all constructed by hand. In particular, his take on Nike’s Air Force 1 high tops caught the fashion sneaker world’s attention. Some people call him a rip-off. Hender Scheme labels it Homage.

For the present salute to adidas Originals’s instantly recognizable styles, released worldwide on 1 September, Sneakerfreakermag calls it a “high-class overhaul”. We don’t see a real revamp with these shoes, but the high-end feel of the make is indisputable. But we’re not sure if these are any longer a class of their own when so many shoe brands have released—in homage, too?—their own take of footwear in unblemished, supposedly un-dyed leather.

MicropacerHender Scheme X Adidas Originals Micropacer

NMD R1Hender Scheme X Adidas Originals NMD R1

SuperstarHender Scheme X Adidas Originals Superstar

Truth be told, we have never tried the Hender Scheme, but we have taken into consideration online complaints (such as this one) that these shoes, spared of the tech used in their original versions, are not terribly comfortable to wear. It is, thus, not outrageous to compare them to raw denim jeans. You probably need some time (months?) to break into them. What struck us is the weight of the shoes. They’re by no means as light as the originals they are based on.

But to most, the deterrent could be in the pricing. These reiterations are sold at more than USD$900 a pop!

So do they, therefore, come with adidas Originals’s sole technology? Hender Scheme is known for complete handwork using very old-school methods of shoe-making. And Adidas won’t say if any of their technologies are incorporated into the collaboration. Looking at the collab’s NMD R1, it seems that it does not sit atop Adidas’s Boost sole.

Despite these shortcomings, shoe freaks are not going to miss the chance to cop one of these, even if only to re-sell them on e-Bay later.

Hender Scheme X Adidas Originals is available at Club 21. Photo: Adidas Originals

The Wordiest Logo?

Or do you prefer less?

TNF Junya logo

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

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

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

TNF Sacai

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

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

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

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

Short-Time Supremacy

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

LV X Supreme pic for SOTD

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Illustration: Just So. Photos: Zhao Xiangji. 

Now, Fashion For The Blue Bag

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

Stunsig ‘Manga Eye’ by P Demirdag/V Renate

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

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

Stunsig’s dedicated space in the store

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

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

Stunsig ‘Branch’ by M Grundström & A Gustavsson

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

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

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

This Power Pairing (Updated)

Streetwear biggie Supreme and Japanese designer powerhouse Comme des Garçons collaborate and the world goes mad

 

Supreme X CDG shirt

By Ray Zhang

Frankly, I don’t quite get Supreme. Perhaps it’s because I am more of a Palace guy. But it’s Supreme we’re talking about, so let’s stick to the label that always makes me think of a particular Motown girl group. Let me admit: I am a bit of an authenticity snob. I like streetwear labels to stay close to the street, and I don’t mean Avenue des Champs-Élysées. Yes, I am referring to Supreme dipping into the high fashion pond fed by the head water Louis Vuitton.

What was once skater kids’ go-to label, Supreme is now, to me, a lackey of luxury. LV is going to sell loads of that bag, the Supreme box-logo alive as a Speedy or could that be the Keepall—entirely bleeding red and screaming. But does that make Supreme more desirable? Unless, of course, they’re not so pleasing to begin with. Still, it’s Louis Vuitton as partner, which means the goods end up on rich kids with no taste than on cool kids with edge. While GQ gleefully calls it “a collaboration of dreams”, for real fashion folks, this sort of high-low partnership is somewhat—and sadly—déclassé.

Supreme X CDG shirt tees

My first (and belated) encounter with Supreme was in Tokyo last summer in its Shibuya store, situated in the hipster neighbourhood of Jinnan. It was a disappointment so huge I was totally consumed by it. Perhaps it was because Supreme was my last stop in the area that is home to some of the most exciting retail concepts in the whole of Asia, such as the indescribable WARE-mo-KOU and the always intriguing Beams. I was quite intoxicated with seeing so many things I do not get to see here—to the point that a glimpse of plain tees with some mindless graphic on the chest was like being smothered with chloroform.

Supreme is in a side street with nothing but its own silent company. The façade is a concrete sea with the familiar red logo afloat like a life buoy in the ocean. It was close to sun down when I arrived and the coveted logo was illuminated by two lamps above it in such a way that the light formed a heart-shaped halo around it. The exterior hints at a minimalist interior and, true enough, it was a space as plain as a warehouse, save a blue, Sphinx-like creature prostrated right in the middle of the shop. The clothes were on racks that were lined up against the walls. I flipped through the mainly T-shirts and thought how much nicer Stussy in Daikanyama was. The Supreme store was empty except for a Thai couple who was buying the 3-in-1 pack of Supreme/Hanes Tagless Tee.

Supreme X CDG shirt suit

So what does it mean when Supreme now pairs with Comme des Garçons, the label that, in less than a month, will be saluted at the Met Gala, the prelude to this year’s spring exhibition Art of In-Between? Okay, I am conflicted with this one. I am tempted to say that Comme des Garçons deserves more. The label does not need to validate itself with this alignment. No one will go to the Metropolitan Museum to see the streetwear adjunct of Japan’s leading designer brand. To be sure, this is not the main CDG line at work. It’s the sub-brand Comme des Garçons Shirt, which, in part, sometimes has a whiff of street sensibility. Still, CDG will not be less desirable if it does not adopt something so blatant as sharing Supreme’s name. After all, it’s has Gosha Rubchinskiy in its stable of brands.

But, I know better. This is really a commercial venture, as much to elevate the CDG brand as making Dover Street Market, where the collab will be available, an attractive emporium for another group of wealthy consumers with pretensions to skate style. Supreme and CDG have been partners since 2012, when both came together to produce a capsule for the opening of DSM in Ginza. It was, by most accounts, a wildly successful output, with Supreme fans going quite frenzied trying to hunt down the limited pieces out there. Every Supreme X Comme des Garçons Shirt release since then has been a baffling, queue-forming global phenomenon—Supreme’s hometown New York City the centre of the madness.

Supreme X CDG shirt shirt

I am, of course, inclined to sit this one out. Supreme is a brand I have been reading about and seeing on social media for years, but somehow it’s always not on my radar. Yet, I am curious, because I want more for CDG. So, I visited DSMS’s E-Shop last night at about eight. The site was not accessible, with the error message “This page isn’t working (or HTTP Error 503)” appearing repeatedly enough to see me get quite vexed. Finally at about ten, I had access, but nothing was for sale yet. Then the same error message again. Okay, according to an earlier blurb on DSMS’s main page, the Supreme X Comme des Garçons Shirt 2017 release will be available in Singapore on 15 April, which is tomorrow. I was early, I admit; I just wanted a sneak peek.

Although we don’t get to buy, images of the collection are available to arouse temptation. There are the destined-to-be-sold-out T-shirts with a newish logo reportedly inspired by the Comme des Garçons Shirt 2010 spring/summer campaign featuring the distorted images of conceptual artist Stephen J Shanabrook, hoodies with said logo, a trio of rayon shirts with repeated patterns, some suits, a fish-tail parka, a Nike Air Force 1 Low, and some wallets—clearly for die-hards. So who’s copping?

Supreme X Comme des Garçons Shirt is available at Dover Street Market Singapore E-Shop from tomorrow. Photo: Supreme X Comme des Garçons Shirt

Update (16 April 2017, 9.30am): Comme des Garçons Shirt X Supreme is taken off the listing on the DSMS E-Shop. SOTD checked the site at one minute past midnight on 15 April, but was unable to find anything from the collaboration on sale. Six hours later, it remains the same. One last check on the launch date at 10.30pm saw the situation unchanged. More than 24 hours later, it seems that the line is no longer available for sale in the E-Shop

Art In Street Style

Surrender collab pic 1

Whether fashion can be considered art is a constant debate among practitioners on both sides of the divide. There may not ever be real consensus over the matter, but that has not deterred Surrender from presenting fashion as art. To augment its status as Singapore’s premier outlet for street style, the store has put together a display of nine one-piece-each-only jackets, the DRx Romanelli X Cali Thornhill De Witt Capsule Collection for Surrender as evidence that art is very much alive in street wear.

And they are priced like art—S$4,750 each, a sales person told us. Well, that may not be so staggering if you consider the price of a Gucci denim jacket embroidered with flowers, butterflies, and birds: US$4,950. Who are Surrender’s collaborators to daringly ask for such a handsome sum?

DRx (Darren) Romanelli is an LA-based designer and marketing wunderkind associated with the 2014 revival of the New York sneaker brand British Knights although his shoe collaborations go back to 2010 when he paired with Converse to amp up the Chuck Taylor All Star And Stripes. Those familiar with Japanese street wear may know Mr Romanelli as the designer behind Sophnet’s F.C.R.B Collection, also known as Football Club Real Bristol—only thing is this club is an imaginary one dreamed up Sophnet’s founder Hirofumi Kiyonaga. But so credible and legit is F.C.R.B Collection that Nike has an on-going collaboration with the brand.  Interestingly, Surrender had been a stockist of both Sophnet and F.C.R.B Collection, which may explain the rather cliquish approach to their merchandising.

Surrender collab pic 2

Cali Thornhill De Witt is a Canadian who was relocated to Los Angeles when he was three. As a teenager, he was linked to Courtney Love’s band Hole after touring with them. And has largely been a part of the music scene in LA, having worked for Geffen Records and, later, his own record company Teenage Teardrops. He has also directed music videos and designed album art, and is known as a “cult artist”, with works that seem to mirror skate life and lean heavily on text, such as “Crying at the Orgy”: an all-round, multi-tasking creative type. But the largest feather to his cap was designing the wildly successful merchandise for Kanye West’s The Life of Pablo tour. Unsurprisingly, both he and Mr Romanelli are friends.

The jackets, therefore, have a whiff of the hotchpotch perspective of US West Coast music, fashion and art scene (which Hedi Slimane was—notoriously?—smitten with), calculated to be visibly and achingly cool. All reversible, they are made from different clothing, or what the original Maison Martin Margiela Artisanal called “found pieces”. It is not clear if these are used clothes, but if they are, it is not surprising: Mr Romanelli is, as Hypebeast calls him, “the mad scientist of vintage clothing.”

Each of them—from hoodie to blouson—sports a white letter painted conspicuously on the back and they come together to spell the name of the store. Hence, the nine. Placed together, they do make a rather compelling installation piece. But are they really art? We leave that to you to decide.

Photos: Galerie Gombak

One And Only

elle-my

People love first times, even if they’re the umpteenth firsts. One of them is Elle Malaysia’s managing editor Emma Chong Johnston, a brave soul forgoing sleep to live-Tweet her overnight experience outside Kuala Lumpur’s Lot 10 and, the next morning, seize hold of her favourite pieces from the Kenzo X H&M collaboration.

Ms Chong Johnston, of course, it was the first time! Question is, was it as good for you as it had been for them?! Now that it’s daylight hours, H&M should be chided. They can produce such a striking paper bag that you so triumphantly display, but they can’t communicate clearly to you that Kenzo has never collaborated with H&M before. As with any H&M collaborations to date (frankly, we’ve lost count), it would have been the first time for anyone, even if she had queued for all of them!

Webmd.com is not wrong when they say “sleep loss dumbs you down.” 🙂

The Queue Begins… Perhaps Not

hm-ion-orchardAll quiet at H&M Ion Orchard on the eve of the Kenzo X H&M launch

By Raiment Young

I had expected snaking humanity but this was so quiet I could hear myself breathe. The H&M X Kenzo collaboration releases tomorrow, yet the storefronts did not look like a prelude to mayhem, such as the one seen at last year’s issue of the pairing with the house of Balmain. Maybe it was because of the rain that so few people were making the narrow space behind stanchion and belt overnight home. “If only this was tomorrow morning”, I heard a corpulent girl say to her friend as they walked past the Ion Orchard store, clearly not willing to commit herself to a night on a shopping centre corridor.

This was supposed to be one of H&M’s hottest collaborations (didn’t they say that about Alexander Wang and Balmain as well?). Surely Kenzo’s Carol Lim and Huberto Leon—who are acknowledged to have rebranded a Kenzo that taps into the zeitgeist—have a considerable following here? When I stopped by at the Ion Orchard outlet at 4pm, I was so surprised by the presence of only passersby that I wondered if they had omitted this branch this year, until I saw one solitary figure seated outside, preoccupied with his smartphone, clearly no source of trouble for the hovering security men. No fashionistas, no Instagrammers, no influencers.

I was tempted to ask the guy if he was alone or if he was choping spaces for others (there were no tissue packs or umbrellas to be seen), but he did not look like he wanted to be disturbed. About ten steps away, a guy in a Jordan ‘Aquas’ tee, Uniqlo ‘joggers’, and Havaianas look-a-likes peered intently into the only store window dedicated to the collaboration, and quizzed his female companion, who was dressed like him: “Are they seriously selling these things? Who’s going to buy?”

hm-grange-roadA short line that looks like a queue at H&M Grange Road. Those waiting were using the H&M-issued umbrellas to shield against the rain

An hour later, at H&M’s Grange Road store, I saw a semblance of a queue. There were twelve young people in it. Again, this was so unlike last year. At the head of the line, two twenty-something girls told me that they had started queuing since 8pm last night. Did they think that was too early? “No lah, I’m so used to it; I do it every year!” Why? Is it because she thinks the collection is good? “It depends on what you like,” she replied, as if she studied diplomacy all her life. “I like the colours,” her friend chimed in, “You should join the queue. It’s an event, lah!”

It’s understandable that with fashion within the reach of so many these days, collaborations at H&M, even now no longer a novelty, is an “event”. I don’t consider what Ms Lim and Mr Leon do for Kenzo as catalyst for adrenaline rush. Sure, they’ve tried to revive the original spirit of Jungle Jap, the first Kenzo boutique that opened in a former vintage clothing store in Paris’s 2nd arrondissement, but what would truly put me ahead of the queue would be H&M joining forces with Kenzo Takada himself. Mr Takada is still hale and able, and should still have the vim and verve to design a collection the way Jil Sander did when she was coaxed out of retirement to design for Uniqlo.

The thing is, no one outside H&M at Grange Road early this evening is aware of the real story or legacy of Kenzo. A young man in a striped T-shirt and khaki shorts, seeing the short row of seated shoppers, politely asked me if this was the line “for the Kenzo thing”. I told him that, yes, that was where he was to wait for admission the next morning to buy the result of the collaboration. “Who is Kenzo,” asked his accompanying buddy. “A famous designer,” he replied. “Famous for what?” “I don’t know. You want to queue?”

It was six years ago when I queued for the first time at an H&M store. Well, I didn’t really join the line; I stood by it for a short while. This was in 2010 and I had arrived in Shanghai for a meeting two days before the Lanvin X H&M collection was launched. The day before Alber Elbaz’s designs were to hit the store on Huaihai Zhong Lu, I dropped by to see what I had to do to partake in the grab fest. Upon seeing the line that went round the block, I thought I’ll try again the following day.

hm-ion-orchard-windowThe striking window with auto-sliding rear panels at H&M Ion Orchard

When I arrived the next morning at around half past nine (not aware that the store had, in fact, opened at eight), the queue was not long, so I joined it. In a matter of minutes, a spiffily-dressed young man approached me and asked, “要买腕带吗?便宜卖给你” (do you want to buy a wristband. I’ll sell it to you cheaply). And he went on to explain that admission is by wristband and with the one he was offering me, I would be able to get in at ten o’clock. “不需排队” (no need to queue), he assured me.

Without thinking if anything could be amiss, I asked him how much he was asking. He said, “五十块” (fifty dollars), and then quickly followed by “三十好了” (thirty is enough). I took out the exact cash and gave it to the guy, who quickly handed me the wristband when suddenly, out of nowhere, another fellow—this one burly—pushed both of us apart and said to my seller, “不可以。 不是说好了吗,不可以低价卖” (you can’t do this. Didn’t we agree not to sell cheaply?). What ensued was something out of a Stanley Tong movie.

The smaller chap was pushed and pushed until he hit the Sinan Lu-facing window of the H&M store with a loud bang. Fearing that I might be drawn into the potentially out-of-control brawl, I quickly joined the moving queue to enter the store, which, by then, had started admitting those bearing the wristband for that time slot. Suddenly I wasn’t sure I would be let in with what was acquired from a scalper. But I was not denied entry. Even then, I was still shaken by what had happened. Peace was not my companion when I shopped that morning.

By then, most of the items were sold out. I was only able to grab an ultra-supple trench coat, a cardigan-soft blazer, and a pair of wool, drawstring track pants (yes, they were already on-trend back then). When I left H&M just fifteen minutes later, the combatants were nowhere to be seen. In their place, a few youngsters, bearing the distinctive Lanvin heart H&M paper bags, were laying out their very recent purchases right there on the kerb of Huaihai Zhong Lu to be hawked. Yes, pasar malam style! In front of the store!

Unlike those ready to camp overnight outside H&M at Grange Road, I’m sitting this one out. Once, even without sacrificing sleep, as you may agree, is enough.

Photos: Zhao Xiangji