Keeping It Loose

adidas - XbyO Seven-Eighth Pants

By Ray Zhang

Skinny and skin-tight pants have so dominated the wardrobes of Singaporeans that it is a wonder anyone would be interested in Adidas’s latest iteration of the sweatpants availed under the new sub-line XYBO. Well, I am wondering.

Last year, at the launch of Uniqlo’s U line—helmed by Frenchman Christophe Lemaire—in their Orchard Central flagship, a couple was seen picking a pair of sweatpants. The guy tried on what he chose and when he emerged from the fitting room, looking pleased, his other half said audibly while shaking her head, “Nope, too baggy.” And the guy retreated, defeated.

Don’t ask me why sweatpants have to be fitted, but there are men and women who wear them limb-hugging as if the legs of the pants are one extended ribbed cuff! So you can imagine how surprised I was when I spotted this pair at the Adidas Originals store. I really like them, but as my friends are wont to say, when I like them, they won’t sell.

But let’s give the Adidas pants a chance.

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First, XYBO. Not sure what it means. Or if it is even written in this manner: full caps. On the Adidas website, it’s spelled in both lowercase and uppercase sans spacing: xbyo (or XBYO), which prompted me to read it as X.B.Y.O. But on some online reports, the name is spelled XByO and XbyO, which could mean it’s collection X by an unknown entity O. Perhaps it is not an abbreviation (surely it does not stand for X, Bring Your Own!), just a random mix of letters—not dissimilar from Japanese naming convention. (For this post, I shall stick to XYBO.)

And the Japanese-ness of the line is unmistakable, especially the cuts. So it surprised me not to learn that XBYO, conceived for both men and women, built its design cred on the skill of Japanese pattern maker Satomi Nakamuri, an accomplished technician who has cut for Comme des Garçons and the denim label Johnbull. Pattern making is, of course, not the same as designing. While Adidas has been enthusiastic in touting Ms Nakamuri’s contribution to XYBO (an unusual marketing angle), its US website is careful to state that the brand “revisited the archives with expert pattern maker Satomi Nakamura to bring an artisan approach to Adidas heritage. Designed in Germany and crafted in Japanese-made Yamayo terry…”

And that’s another highlight feature: the terry cloth used is from Japan’s “premium terry cotton manufacturer” Yamayo Textile that, I suppose, could be considered the Kurabo Mills of fabrics for sweatshirts. So vital is this distinction to XBYO’s USP that the fabric mill’s name is identified in one of the garment’s hang tags. And truth be told, this fabric is extremely comfortable to the touch, and Adidas is not exaggerating when they describe it as “luxe”.

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Well, so far, so clear. But in case you thought that this was some wayward Japanese fantasy for world athleisure domination, or Y3 part 2, Adidas would have you know that XBYO is essentially a “street style”. But I’m not sure if the collection is street by way of Harajuku or Copenhagen’s Strøget. The minimalism of the look is evocative of Danish designs, yet there’s something rather Japanese in the styling, especially the cropped length of the sweatpants (which explains the name: ‘Seven-Eighth Pants’). They remind me of those Red label engineered jeans launched by Levis in the ’90s, reportedly conceived, if I remember correctly, with Japanese consultants.

Perhaps it’s in the side seams: they meander forward around the knee before going backwards, forming a veritable less-than (or more-than, depending on which side you’re looking at) symbol. More exaggerated than those engineered jeans, I say. Will it fall nicely when worn? I had to try them on to find out.

These have to be the easiest to wear sweatpants I have ever tried. Perhaps it’s because of the absence of cuffs. There is, of course, the roominess (and the surprisingly generous crotch): you won’t feel like you’ve slipped into a pair of ‘jeggings’. And the unconventional seam placement does not affect how the pants hang and move with the body. Now that joggers are jostling with jeans for prime position in our wardrobe, the XBYO Seven-Eighth Pants may be the one to take on the alpha role. I’m all for that.

Adidas Originals XBYO ‘Seven-Eighth Pants’, SGD129, is available at Adidas Originals stores. Photos: Adidas Originals

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This Is No Lady Dior

A visit to the Dior store in ION Orchard this afternoon to acquaint ourselves with the debut collection of Maria Grazia Chiuri brought us face to face with the Dio(r)evolution calfskin bags, first seen on the runway last October. We knew they would be loud, but we didn’t realize they would be this loud. By that we don’t mean that the bags are bombastic by design. Rather, it is the brand name screaming in full caps that caused our eyebrows to rise higher than usual.

Not since John Galliano’s J’Adore Dior T-shirts of 2004 has there been such bold and blatant branding on Dior merchandise. The four letters emblazoned on the front of Dior’s newest bag make the dangling charms of the Lady Dior look terribly discreet, and definitely far more charming.

However we looked at it, the Dio(r)evolution is not quite the marked change that the name suggests. A symmetrical and structured oblong of a bag, it is not particularly large. Inside, lined with suede in the same colour as the exterior, is a single compartment, with a pocket attached to the front. It is a purely functional interior designed to be capacious enough to accommodate the mobile possessions of a modern lass.

A window is cut out of the lower half of the flap cover. It reveals the “slot handclasp”, a horizontal band that allows the user to slip four fingers behind it (thumb aside, outside) should she wish it as a clutch. On this is the large “aged silver-tone metal Dior signature”, which, interestingly, is a letter for each finger. At a quick glance, the user holding the bag could be wearing a knuckle duster!

This bag debunks the myth that Dior touts only the lady-like Lady Dior and those made in its image. All the visible hardware on the Dio(r)evolution looks like supplies from the ironware section of a craft store. So are the swivel clasp snap-hooks. The strap, too, looks hardcore—as wide as a razor strop, more akin to those of a camera bag than a shoulder bag. Step back: the Dio(r)evolution looks ready to go with a pair of creepers than kitty heels.

Oversized alphabets fronting bags are, of course, nothing new. Look at Louis Vuitton’s Twist. That, however, has a decorative and functional aspect to it as the letters are cleverly fashioned as a clasp. Those on the Dio(r)evolution are there for the same reason Supreme’s are on the latter’s products. Designed as an inset—a framed glorification of its name, the Dio(r)evolution serves only to remind us that conspicuous consumption, like the tide, may ebb, but it always comes back in.

Dio(r)evolution Flap Bag with Slot Handclasp, SGD4,700, is available in black or white at Dior stores. Photo: Zhao Xiangji

Yeezy-Peasy West-Fest

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The Washington Post’s Robin Givhan Tweeted very recently that “Kanye West finally stopped talking and complaining and just showed some clothes. And well, they weren’t bad.” Does that mean it isn’t “boring” (she told New York magazine last year that Yeezy 4 was “worse than bad. It was boring.”) In the latest review for the paper, she wrote, “That doesn’t mean the clothes were eloquent— to say that is not cruel criticism of West.”

It is not hard to get used to the blah. Fashion churns out so much without meaningful content that after a while, we are no longer disappointed with blandness. Ms Givhan was not the only one who took to the 5th Yeezy collection kindly. The New York Time’s Vanessa Friedman also Tweeted somewhat approvingly: “Kanye West’s latest Yeezy show was an exercise in—restraint? Believe it.”

Just five seasons ago, the media was indignant with Kanye West’s Yeezy debut, with most, if not all, keeping to various descriptions of boring. Last season, so many were mad about “the hot mess” they were thrown into that the immediate reaction was, never again. But now, with Season 5 (is it still so serialised?), they are back and seem to have gotten used to Mr West’s A-to-A-and-back-to-A design path. The disapproval of Kanye West cannot be extended indefinitely. Instead, you try to factor his creative output in the present scheme of things. Mr West is so important to American popular culture—so at its forefront, it seems—that you can’t dismiss him for too long without appearing out of touch. In addition, to the media, he is a “news maker”.

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Therefore, to be more positive (and we should in these acrimonious days of the new American era) is one step forward in the understanding of how things came to be the way they are. Kanye West is in a solid partnership with Adidas to be a bona fide fashion designer with global reach. Adidas is, of course, a big player in the clothing and footwear business, with marketing muscle to influence the media to be more supportive, even just a wee bit.

Mr West himself seems to be playing along. He has remained low-key (even not taking the customary bow at the end of this catwalk finale and not granting interviews thereafter) and he staged the presentation in a fashion venue (Pier 59 Studios), not in a stadium or on an island. The show was to show off his clothes, and not, as a side piece, to launch or preview an album. Although he still did things differently (most of the presentation was a video screening), it was, by most account, a semblance of a fashion show. No model limped or fainted. And, as reported by Cathy Horyn for The Cut, they were styled by Carine Roitfeld. There was an attempt at infusing the show with credibility.

Still, were the clothes really that palatable? By now the Kanye West slouchiness and street-wear fierceness do not encourage the lips to part with uttering WTS or WTF. We really wanted to see something refreshing this time, but, admittedly, our prejudice got in the way. To be certain, the clothes do look pulled together even if in a way already established by Vetements, whose designer Demna Gvasalia Mr West considers a genius. Mr West even declared on Twitter last year that he’s “going to steal Demna from Balenciaga.” So there is nothing more to say about Yeezy that won’t sound trite or persistently negative. So let’s concede: Yeezy isn’t going to convince the non-fans and Kanye West won’t be in the running to lead Givenchy, and the brand is here to stay.

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Nevertheless, we are intrigued by the new sub-brand apparently called Adidas Calabasas, now already trumpeted and worn by the Kardashian-Jenner brood. These were not immediately identified in the show or in the images now circulating online, but it seems that, more than the main line, they bear an obvious Adidas branding: the trefoil or the three stripes. From what we could see, Mr West has not covered grounds that Adidas’s other collaborator, the Japanese brand Kolor, has not already tread. Sports clothes tweaked for city pavements and airport departure lounges are as refreshing as another Yeezy Boost release.

Still we should not underestimate Calabasas. We thought nobody was going to buy the Yeezy clothing line, yet, if the reports are to be believed, they have constantly crossed into the sold-out category. This is even more remarkable when the line so far has not really been blessed by the press. So Calabasas could be destined for unimaginable success on the support of fans alone. Pablo definitely knows that.

Calabasas, as we have noted before, is a city in the hills of west San Fernando Valley, Los Angeles. That is why on some of the Yeezy/Calabasas tops, the words “Lost Hills” appear. Calabasas is possibly Mr West’s nod to his wife’s influence or appeal. It is here that the Kardashian sisters initially dabbled in fashion retail when they opened their first shop in 2006 called Dash. Anyone who keeps up with the Kardashian knows that at the start of the series in 2007, the sisters were not exactly the epitome of fashion, even when they captured what may be considered the Calabasas look. It appears to us that this aesthetic fits no other description than the apt ‘lian’. Kanye West, too, isn’t doing his Calabasas differently.

Photos: Yeezy

(2016) Winter Style 2: The Hound’s-Tooth Jacket

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How do you fashion a down jacket without making it look like something that walked out of Shanghi’s Qipu Lu wholesale malls, where Michelle Chong’s alter ego Lulu found immense pleasure? You create three-dimensional hound’s-tooth jackets, just like they have at Moncler.

The hound’s tooth by itself is, of course, not new. This woven or printed pattern of jagged checks can be traced to wool cloths used in the Scottish Lowlands in the 1800s. They’re primarily in two tones—traditionalists would stick to black and white. This is why Moncler’s version is especially interesting: it’s all-black, and relies on texture—smooth and grained—to show the contrast of the hound’s-tooth pattern.

This fabric (100% polyamide to better serve as a lightweight shell for a down garment) is found in the Moncler Grenoble line’s ‘Orelle’ waistcoat (with detachable hoodie). The oversized lacquered hound’s tooth, in a six-point quilted shape that resembles an arrow, is an immediate draw. It’s a check that asks to be touched as it does not appear to be a fully-quilted garment.

The puffer jacket, however on trend, isn’t a winter option women embrace with the same fervour as picking a cashmere sweater. Concerns of looking too, well, puffed up, often influence the decision to buy. If there’s the fear of looking like a potential Michelin Man’s just-as-puffy cousin, the ‘Orelle’ sans sleeve in a silhouette that hints at ’60s après-ski chic may just vastly distant that relation!

Moncler Grenoble ‘Orelle’ quilted waistcoat, SGD3760, is available at Moncler, Ion Orchard. Product photo: Moncler. Collage: Just So

Sacai: The Waves Get Bigger

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Not many women designers from Japan get to take the world by storm. Rei Kawakubo did in the early ’80s after facing initial ridicule and derision. The setbacks, if it they can be so called, however, lead the way to the upcoming exhibition dedicated to her at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in May next year. Ms Kawakubo would be the only second living designer in the Costume Department’s history to be given the honour, after Yves Saint Laurent in 1983, following the debut of Comme des Garçons (CDG) in Paris two years earlier. Chisato Abe, the designer behind the label Sacai (actually her maiden name), did not have it quite as hard and daunting mainly because she came into her own in what may be considered the post-Japanese era.

Sacai is no CDG, but Chisato Abe is not an isolated designer working in an obscure corner of Tokyo, selling her wares in a small shop in the hipster neighbourhood of Kamimeguro. In fact, the Sacai flagship, opened in 2011, is in the swanky Minami-Aoyama district where edgier Japanese designers tend to concentrate. The red-bricked building, although situated in an area where Prada, Costume National, the Embassy of the Kingdom of Morocco, and the two-level shopping complex Glassarea are neighbours, looks like an unlikely spot to house Sacai’s eye-catching designs—you’d expect to find a convenience store here. But it is here, far from the maddening crowd that is the nearby Harajuku that fans get an appreciative peek into the world of Sacai.

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Ms Abe cut her teeth at Comme des Garçons before assisting Junya Watanabe (also under the umbrella of CDG designers) for 8 years, both experiences the ideal springboard to her own line. Sacai was established in 1991, after the birth of her first child (interestingly, Ms Abe is married to another-Japanese-label-to-watch Kolor’s Junichi Abe). Despite her design pedigree (she’s also know to be a talented pattern cutter), she does not create what she described to the media as “typical Japanese design”. She said that what she does is “more international”.

And it is on the international stage that Sacai has won accolades and the loyalty of many a fashion editor. The label debuted in Paris Fashion Week in 2012 with the kind of response her former employer received only after the world realised they were witnessing history in the making. Ms Abe has said that she learnt well at CDG and that Ms Kawakubo herself has told her “to be your own designer and create what you want.” And she did just that, producing striking clothes that, unlike some of her fellow CDG alumni, do not even hint at a Rei Kawakubo hand guiding the designs.

chitose-abe-x-nikeChitose Abe with model in Nikelab X Sacai (2015), shot by Craig McDean. Photo: Nikelab

So confidently executed was her work, so sure her voice and so ardent her audience that in no time, she was collaborating with multi-billion-dollar brands, such as Nike last year, in her first sportswear collaboration. The Nikelab project showed that Ms Abe was ready to take on new challenges. Those pieces, based on classic Nike men’s track wear, turned performance-enhancing athletic apparel into visually stunning Sacai clothes that women were buying not for jogging in a city park (where you would need good-looking clothes rather than regular gym togs), but dancing at the chicest downtown clubs.

That she would chose to pair with Nike was not surprising as her former boss, Junya Watanabe, is a Nike fan and serial collaborator, and his taste could have rubbed off (her husband’s Kolor, interestingly, paired with Nike’s greatest competitor Adidas!). What makes her take on Nike exceptional is her willingness to incorporate her sense of quirky femininity into sports clothes that, by definition and function, have to be frills-free. Yet her tops and jackets have pleated and swing backs that open up like a ballerina’s tutu when in sporting motion.

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Sacai’s appeal is, perhaps, best encapsulated in those unexpected backs. Her clothes, in fact, do not have fronts and backs that correspond to conventional fronts and backs. She designs by looking at every side of the garment, improving and surprising where you do not think improvement and surprise need exist. She likes bringing contrasting elements together and often pairs military and utilitarian details with totally feminine components such as floral silk chiffon fabrics, proving that masculine touches can enhance femininity, rather than overt, skin-baring sexiness. For all her avant-garde tendencies, Sacai looks decidedly approachable; the clothes do look like clothes, wearable to boot.

Ms Abe may claim that Sacai is not “typical Japanese design”, but the brand is Japanese at heart, and the creative output can only come out of Japan. After that first wave of Japanese designers in the early ’80s, many observers think subsequent Japanese designers are not capturing the world’s attention like they used to. Their distinctive aesthetic, after 35 years, is perhaps no longer as particular or idiosyncratic. It’s not even sub-cultural, now that it has crossed so many borders, and aped by so many designers of the West. In addition, neighbouring Korea is attracting awareness with their kooky streetwear. But Japan, ever the relentless re-inventor, is still quietly challenging the standard issue. Sacai is leading the pack, cut by cut, fold by fold.

Sacai’s Autumn/Winter 2016 collection (pictured) is available at Club 21 and Club 21 Men. Catwalk photos: Sacai

One Flashy Kick: Does Football Need It?

NikeLab X Olivier Rousteing

The visuals of Nike’s latest collaboration are one flashy swan dive into what was once Gianni Versace’s territory in the 1990s. Well, it’s not unexpected when the collaborator is Olivier Rousteing, young master of what the media likes to call “opulent aesthetic”. After all, the Frenchman does share the Italians’ love of ostentation (well, he did kick-start his career with Roberto Cavalli). Now, he’s brought that opulence to, of all games, football!

The collaboration, called Football Nouveau, is done sans Balmain, but not without the OTT punch that Mr Rousteing has brought to the brand. This, in the end, is his code, or to borrow from English football, his “bend it like Beckham”. Question is, will David Beckham, the original metrosexual, wear these flashy clothes and shoes? Becks is an Adidas man (in 2003, he signed what was then the biggest endorsement deal: USD160 million lifetime contract), so it’s doubtful he will embrace the “opulent aesthetic”.

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Cristiano Ronaldo, however, endorses Nike, so he will, and he does. In fact, he is cast in the advertising campaign and happily supports Mr Rousteing too. It’s not clear how (or if) this will affect his deal with Giorgio Armani. Considered the “muse” of modern men’s fashion, Cristiano is probably the best bridge between fashion and the beautiful game. Still, it’s hard to see scores of footballers and football types crossing it, but one Tweet from Kanye or Kim may send many excitedly over to the dark—and gilded—side.

To be fair, these aren’t excesses as cringe-worthy as those seen in Mr Rousteing’s Balmain. There’s only the colour gold making its dazzling cameo in a collection that’s all-black. It’s athleisure glammed up for nights under dimly-lit mirrored balls, rather than to watch a match in flood-lit Wembley stadium, or Jalan Besar. Nike hails the pairing as “a golden touch” and let on that the output takes “the lifestyles of professional football players competing in Europe’s biggest championship this summer as inspiration”. Their lifestyles? If The Secret Footballer, writing in The Guardian is not sharing fib, the lifestyles of those in the Premier League are not that inspirational!

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Nike is perhaps trying to emulate H&M’s wild success with the French brand. To be more accurate, this is a project with the division NikeLab, which is known for their technically advanced garments and footwear, much of it predate Alexander Wang’s dabbling of so-called athletic wear. There are very few NikeLab stores globally, and not many stockists either. It shall be interesting to see what mayhem will break out when the line drops on 2 June.

It is always thought that Nike prefers to work with less mainstream designers. One of the earliest to collaborate with the Oregon-based company is CDG’s Junya Watanabe. In fact, till today, Nike offers exclusive pieces in unusual colour ‘packs’ at Dover Street Market. However, after it’s pairing with Ricardo Tisci some seasons back, it seems Nike is now taking the same path as rival Adidas: choose partners whose social media presence can be felt even when you don’t check your IG account incessantly. Problem is, so many of them, such as He Who Loves To Rant, tend to err on the Beng side. Olivier Rousteing, to quite a few of us, is the same.

No news yet on the availability of Nike X Olivier Rousteing in Singapore. Photos: Nike/Nick Knight

Two Of A Kind: Pocket Issues

Tees with framed pockets

Which came first? In this case, it’s hard to say. Our Kuala Lumpur correspondent spotted the Nike (left) as early as March in the brand’s store in KLCC. In Singapore, it arrived sometime last month. We didn’t discover the H&M (right) until last week. Since we could not determine the production timeline of either, perhaps great design minds do think alike?

Framing the seamed part of the left pocket of a T-shirt is not a new design idea. In fact, Nike has already introduced something similar last year. With all manner of easy-transfer tapes available at the haberdashery, these strips are increasingly employed as trims on almost every part of clothes. Drawing attention to a plain tee’s otherwise unremarkable pocket, at one time by using a contrast fabric, appeared in Japan a few years ago.

Here, the black borders of the pocket on both tees are different. On the Nike, it is knitted into the bodice, which means no additional stitches to make the underside abrasive to the skin. The H&M, too, is stitch-less as the border is a print (the same T-shirt, in fact, appears with other geometric prints). The difference, too, is in the shape of the pocket: one is a rectangle while the other is a pentagon that’s usually seen on shirts.

If price determines quality, then the Nike wins hands down. Here’s no ordinary T-shirt and it isn’t made of cotton jersey. It looks like a sweater knit to us, but Nike calls it “body-mapped fabric” which is, in fact, computer-aided knitting with yarns of 55% cotton and 45% nylon. The selling point? It “delivers superior fit”. That, to us, means it is shaped to hug the body, not something terribly on-trend these days. The problem, if it is one, can be solved by choosing a tee one size up.

Apart from the fit described as superior, other details do make this T-shirt better. There’s the classic crew neck and the raglan sleeve (fashioned like a split yoke in the back), which sits beautifully on the shoulders. There’s also the looser-knit panel in the upper, centre-back that appears to be designed and placed for ventilation, a thoughtful detail since such a top could be a possible heat trap, given the punishment often meted out by our weather.

The H&M version—part of the new ‘Conscious’ range—is designed to appeal to those who are into more relaxed shapes. Its potential handsomeness is, however, somewhat negated by the oddly wide, slightly misshapen neckline in a non-ribbed 100% cotton that’s in actuality the same as the tee. Perhaps our obsession with details does not matter at all here. In fact, in H&M, that’s a tad silly.

Nike Tech Knit pocket tee, SGD169, is available from Nike, Shaw Centre. H&M ‘Conscious’ crew-neck T-shirt with pocket, SGD14.90, is available at H&M. Photos: respective brands

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

Is This Athletic Brand In Crisis?

Kylie X PumaSOTD imagines what the Kylie Jenner + Puma partnership may look like. Photo: #Kylie Jenner. Collage: Just So

By Shu Xie

The question popped up as soon as I read, with—I admit—distaste, that Kylie Jenner has signed with Puma to be “featured in the brand’s Spring/Summer women’s training campaign launching in April 2016”, according to a statement issued by the athletic brand. I am sure Puma’s enthusiasm has something to do with her 52.6 million followers on Instagram (even South Korea has less inhabitants), rather than her natural talent as a model who can communicate the brand’s messages to a sea of potential customers. Or her track record as a face for sporting goods. In fact, Ms Jenner had, until her collaboration with Steve Madden last year, been associated with nail polish (OPI) and hair extension (Bellami Hair). Yes, there was the Kendall and Kylie Collection of 2013, but I am not sure it means anything to the world of sports.

The contract between the German label and the American reality star-slash-model was reported to be worth six figures. In addition, although she’s the face and body of Puma, Ms Jenner will supposedly be able to continue to wear Adidas, a necessary clause since she is likely going to carry on supporting her brother-in-law’s Yeezy line (an assurance to Kanye West’s rant that “1000% there will never be a Kylie Puma anything”?). It is puzzling that this isn’t an odd negotiation for Puma, considering that competitor Adidas is the other brand that emerged from the fallout of the two brothers who started in the shoe business together: Adolf and Rudolph Dassler (the company was originally known as Gebrüder Dassler Schuhfabrik or the Dassler Brothers Shoe Factory). Puma (Rudolph’s) is presently owned by Kering, the parent company of Gucci.

Signing Ms Jenner up appears to confirm the belief that, these days, merchandise alone—however appealing—isn’t going to ensnare the paying consumer. If a brand needs to mainly bank on celebrity to augment the desirability of its products, would that indicate that, at its core, their goods are perhaps not so appealing to start with? Puma has had cachet in the past (and, to a certain extent, still do), having collaborated with design heavyweights such as Alexander McQueen, Hussein Chalayan, Yasuhiro Mihara, and Hiroaki Shitano of Whiz Limited. Then in a surprising move last year, it appointed Rihanna as creative director of Puma Women, a move that recalls Lindsay Lohan’s appointment at Ungaro in 2009. Rihanna’s output is the Fenty line, launched at New York Fashion Week early this month. It looks to me like a she-Yeezy, only with less earth-caked colours.

The increased celebrity association could mean Puma is relying less on heritage or DNA. Even its long-time association with the game of football seems deflated. Surprisingly, its own design studio has not updated and re-branded classics such as the Suede (once also known as State) and my fave, GV Special, the way Adidas has with the Stan Smith and Superstar. As with the Stan Smith, the GV Special is a sports-star endorsed product: in this case, Guillermo Vilas, the tennis ace of the ’70s, and, for the TMZ fan in you, one of the era’s most noted playboys.

Ultimately, which brand are we supposed to buy into: Puma or Jenner? What puzzles me to no end is the dire inability for so many brand owners and followers of the members of the Kardashian/Jenner clan to see what the latter truly are: crass. Increasingly, marketing heads these days care more about reach than taste, visibility than discernment, bombast than subtlety. For as long as you (and your family) are a whopping news-making machine, who cares if you look like Kylie Jenner?

Winter Style 4: A Seventies Classic Revisited

NikeLab X Stone Island AW 2015 Windrunner Bright BueNikelab X Stone Island Windrunner jacket in bright blue

By Raiment Young

In my quest for functional winter wear with design edge, I ended up looking at online stores. One of the trending pieces I found myself looking repeatedly at is Stone Island’s remake of the Nike classic, the Windrunner jacket. First released in 1978, Nike claims that “the silhouette has been a fixture on medal stands and city streets ever since — seen on everyone from distance runners to spinning b-boys.”

This, however, is no retro gear. Stone Island has given it such a modern makeover that you’d not likely link the present version with the past. While I have to admit that I am feeling a little nostalgic (including fond memories of the Italian brand Stone Island that was once available in Singapore at the first Tangs Studio), I am also looking at the Windrunner as a piece of very able all-weather gear.

NikeLab X Stone Island AW 2015 Windrunner 2Nikelab X Stone Island Windrunner jacket in other colours

In a hooded jacket, this is what matters to me: lightweight, streamlined, and technically advanced. These qualities do describe the Nike X Stone Island jacket, and the pairing clearly expounds both brands’ expertise in performance wear and flair for forward-looking styles. It’s a result not always evident in collaborations.

The reality is, there seems to be so much more innovation in outerwear among sportswear and outerwear brands. I am not just talking about how two brands can come together to make a difference; I’m referring to the innovation that has become absent among fashion labels who only care about going the safe route to generate looks, rather than design, so that they can sell in massive quantities. This approach can be burnished with, say, rock cred, but that’s just a high-shine veneer. When that peels off, empty is the core.

Nikelab X Stone Island Windrunner jacket is available at stoneisland.com. Photos: Nike/Stone Island