Two Pairs Of Sisters: No Blood Ties But So Alike

Do the Hadid and Jenner sisters come from the same model-making womb?

The Hadid sistersThe Hadid sisters, Gigi and Bella, in Tommy Hilfiger and Alexander Wang respectively. Photos: vogue.comThe Jenner sistersThe Jenner sisters, Kylie and Kendall, in Versace and La Perla respectively. Photos: vogue.com

There are sisters, and there are sisters. As we know, sisters are not created equal, but some sisters, linked by fame, reality TV families, and the very public lives they lead, rather than blood, can be quite equal. Fashion’s most visible model-sisters, the Hadids and the Jenners, share commonalities of behavior and style that are rather uncommon in the age of fierce individualism. As the Hokkiens would say, they seem to come from the same ang koo kueh mould.

Just look at them at the Met Gala. They’re not your usual sisterhood, characterised by something mutual; this is kinship, characterised by sameness. Not only do they look alike, they dress alike. Swop one sister from one twosome for the other, can you tell them apart?

They sure have the same taste; one pair a mirror image of the other. Is Gigi the Kylie of the Jenner duo and vice versa, or Kendall the Bella, vice versa? Surely this is calculated when one pair of sisters is in the same colour coupling as the other? Even the silhouettes seem deliberate: Gigi and Kylie in sheer, flowy skirts; Bella and Kendal, both in lingerie fabrics that were so see-through and back/posterior-baring that you wonder why they even bothered with clothes.

Are they the present-day equivalent of the Bennet sisters, only just more lian? They like to attend galas (in the 19th century, they were balls, with the Netherfield ball being especially irresistible) and they like to dress up to attract the attention of camera lenses (in the 1800s, it was notice and interest of a potential husband). We do not know for certain if the Hadids and the Jenners like to dance (we can only assume they do—“every savage can dance”, noted by Mr Darcy), but unlike the era of the Bennets, we think the model-sisters totally dispense with propriety. Near-nakedness to express twentysomething muliebrity is the Hadid/Jenner lure.

Kendall Jenner IG PostGoing low: Instagram post of the BFFs in derriere-accentuating pose during the Met Gala. Screen grab: Kendall Jenner/Instagram

The deliberate display so thrilled the media that the Daily Mail ran in their headline, “fashion’s new darlings: Gigi and Bella and Kendall and Kylie were fawned over at Vogue‘s Met Ball” (now, who’s really fawning?). They may be fashion’s current favourite, but are they really anyone’s “darlings”? Sure, the number of IG followers of just one of them easily exceeds the population of our nation—with Kylie Jenner’s at a staggering 93 million (as of today)—but “fawn over”? The Queen of England has about 65.14 millions subjects in the UK (significantly less than the online adorers of Kylie Jenner), but are there people who actually “fawn over” her?

It seems that it is not enough to gauge young women’s success—professionally or socially—from her social-media following, you have to take note of those inclined to secure the former’s notice by servile behavior or by cringe-worthy flattery. The Jenners and Hadids may reign for now, but why do we have to fawn over them? Isn’t their individual omnipresence enough, the collective overbearing? Or do we need the excess, ostentation, dizziness, self-importance, self-promotion, tawdriness, predictability, visual disturbance… times four? And marvel at how not stiff, how not self-conscious, and how not sanctimonious they are as they stare back at you from your smartphone?

And who are these millions who supposedly derive pleasure from looking at them? It beggars belief that there are this many followers so utterly inadequate in their own being and their own style that they should follow every move, every dress (or no dress), every vapid utterance of this quartet to support the certainty that there are those who need to behave like a pet to enjoy dubious fashion taste. It does not require mature perspective to see that photos of youthful prettiness in glamourous settings offer, by way of returns, very little long-term satisfaction for the amount of time spent tracking and looking at them.

It’s probably tiring to read our having a go at these young women’s empty showiness. For many IG junkies, our criticism is almost certainly socially naff and not original. This is not hater’s rant, just something to get off our chest, while Kendall, Kylie, Gigi, and Bella walked down some pavement in Los Angeles, four-abreast, encouraging tabloid-press and social-media delight.

Looking Foward

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It has been an eventful 2016, as we have been recounting here in SOTD. Thank you for your unceasing support and for continuing to enjoy the long read. From all of us at SOTD, Happy New Year!

Orchard Road Killer

shopandbox-pages

By Low Teck Mee

The one appeal of our increasingly digital life is its immateriality. We listen to music, watch movies, and view photographs by playing files. We read—assuming there is still appeal in that—on an e-reader or phablet. We ask for paperless bank statements, movie tickets, and boarding passes. We organise social events and put out invitations on Facebook; we even request the company of our friends at our wedding with e-invites! The Cloud, where we now store so many of these possessions, has practically de-materialised our very material world. Even the “cold hard cash” that Madonna once happily sang about is meaningless with the advent of Paypal and Apple Pay. Yet, ironically, it is online that we’re acquiring and purchasing very material things.

In a virtual vastness pregnant with products, limited offerings in real-world destinations such as Orchard Road look decidedly dull. Fact is, no one can negate that online shopping has adversely (and triumphantly) affected Singapore’s major shopping stretch. What’s disheartening is that Orchard Road is not seriously fighting back. While it (still) laments that there’s a dire lack of shoppers looking beyond shop windows, cyberspace is bursting with stores that out-stock, out-thrill, and out-sell the busiest spot on what we’re persuaded to believe is “a great street”.

The call to shop is never more strident online. Our in-boxes and timelines are constantly besieged with messages, ads, and links to sites that help us navigate the infinite, yet crowded, online marketplace, never mind if we do not frequently end up on the landing pages. Amid the many sites and those exasperatingly pertinacious, one stands out: ShopandBox. Here’s not your average choose-click-buy platform. ShopandBox does not offer products per se. Instead, it connects you to stuff specified by you in a store/place/city stated by you. Subsequently, an actual—not virtual—personal shopper will do the buying and “boxing” (since these are mostly not digitisable products) on your behalf. It does, therefore, appear that many, many things are within your reach. ShopandBox looks poised to ring the death knell for Orchard Road.

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I did not explore the three-year-old ShopandBox until recently, and it was pleasure from first click, just like playing Pokemon Go for the first time (even if that initial encounter now seems such a long time back). Sure, it is hard to be readily lured to ShopandBox’s prosaic name, but if you shouldn’t judge a book by its e-cover, you should not assess a site’s appeal by what it’s called. No one will blame you for mistaking it as a storage service for your shopping. However, once you’ve entered their conversely more appealing, vaguely Kinfolk-ish portal, you’ll be so caught up with the seemingly endless possibilities that you’ll forget there’s laundry to be done and the baby to be fed.

Personally, I have not been getting retail kicks by clicking on “add to cart”, which seems to me a description of an act that’s evocative of a rural way of life, but I can see that e-commerce, specifically B2C (business to consumer) transactions, is not only burgeoning, it’s virtually exploding. Pervasive media reports inform me that by the end of this year, worldwide B2C online sales will reach USD1.92 trillion. Staggering figure considering that small-fry I probably contribute only 0.001% to that sum.

To my delight, ShopandBox employs a “submit order” button. But before you get there, there’s shopping to be done. The site spells the procedure in four, straightforward steps. There are, in fact, only three since the last won’t be done by you. To make things easier, especially for repeat and seasoned visitors, there’s a box on the homepage where you can request for what you already know you want and the system will do the rest. And rather swiftly too.

ShopandBox touts itself as a site for “global personal shopping”. Two words there jump at you: “global” and “personal”. You can really shop for almost anything, anywhere—28 countries, so far (discount all of Africa though)—and someone on the other side will pick the items up for you. Yes, it’s really having a living and breathing person run your errand (the Chinese have an excellent word for it: paotui or 跑腿, literally running legs). But those doing your bidding are not known as ‘shoppers’, since you, in front of your notebook or smartphone, are already the shopper. Instead, they’re known as ‘boxers’, which sounds like inductees of a fight club, but it makes sense since it is they who are the ones to box your purchases for shipping.

tai-xin-lung-and-rebecca-chuaCo-founders of ShopandBox, Rebecca Chia and Tai Xin Lung

The husband-and-wife team of Tai Xin Lung and Rebecca Chia (a Malaysian and Singaporean working out of Melbourne!) that dreamed up the idea for ShopandBox started by deploying those they know as boxers. “All of us have, at some point, asked our overseas friends to buy and send stuff to us,” Mr Tai said. “So we thought: why not develop this into an online service? We started the business by using our family and friends just as we had before.” These have since grown into a network of boxers around the world. Unlike shopping sites such as Qoo10, where anonymous handlers (and sellers) process your order, ShopandBox assigns a boxer to you. As your boxer—including a former beauty queen in the US—is known to you, some trust in the transaction can be established.

This one-to-one approach adds a personal touch to a normally cold and anonymous deal. When boxers are unsure if they have the right item, for instance, they could take a picture of the product and send to you for approval. If you need suggestions, the boxer could also offer them. In fact, some of the listed boxers have “recommendations” that you could browse through. What I find especially appealing is that you could also request for the boxer to go to a specific store in the city where they’re based to buy exactly the item you already have in mind. That could avail to you product releases specific to a certain country, which means you could be wearing or using something not available here.🙂

ShopandBox , in fact, goes beyond their perfunctory name. For popular items, such as the Playstation VR, they offer price comparison across five cities (cheaper in the US than in Japan—who would have thought?!). This can be found in the page called The Blog, where a host of ideas and suggestions can be found in the form of articles. Okay, the writing is not exactly the stuff of the Pulitzer Prize, but it does get you going, or, in the case of the city guides, in a mood for shopping.

shopandbox-blog-page

To me, the biggest appeal of ShopandBox is the freedom and flexibility it affords when shopping online. You start with knowing already what you want. Nothing is curated for you; well at least not when you don’t need it. And you’re not confronted with a mind-boggling array of merchandise. This is not Taobao, the gaudy online pasar malam that bombards you with so much that you do not know where to start. This is not Net-A-Porter, a site that many consider the “ultimate shopping destination”—now seducing you wih an e-mag on its homepage to better showcase its wares. This is not Luisaviaroma, with their categories and themes. This is not Amazon, which seem unable to completely shake off their bookseller image. This is not Farfetch, again just scores of merchandise even if they fetch from afar. ShopandBox may yet go to the end of the earth, but they have boxers in places distant enough to bridge desire and the desired.

When asked what’s next for ShopandBox or what is done so that it won’t be a convenient stop for the mundane, Mr Tai said, “We hope to grow the number of more sophisticated customers, not just the 18 to 25 year-olds.” Could this mean that the older, more affluent shopper isn’t embracing online shopping with the same fervour as the young?

With the world’s merchandise a click away, it is irrefutable that fewer people are doing their shopping on Orchard Road; fewer still the older consumer. The overall figures continue to look bleak. According to a May report in The Straits Times, retailers were raking in 3.2% less in February when compared to the same period last year (not that it was better then). If you exclude motor vehicle sales, the drop was even steeper: 9.6%. More than six months later, the situation does not seem to have improved. Orchard Road, I hate to say, ShopandBox is here to stay… and slay.

ShopandBox mobile app is available on Google Play and Apple App Store. Photos: Zhao Xiangji