Plastic Makeover

Burberry SS 2018 Pic 1

The forecast for spring/summer 2018 at Burberry appears to be inclement weather. We don’t remember seeing so many pieces of rain wear in a Burberry show before. Or is this just a statement about the notorious English showers? Or, the hurricane season in the Caribbeans? It sure isn’t quite the reflection of the climate of Asia. In fact, the clothes looked a bit un-summer like, with so many outers—even a coat that looks like shearling —and rather chunky knits. Or, has Christopher Bailey chosen to remain largely in calm, bearable spring? But this isn’t a spring showing; this is The September Show!

Anything that can be made out of water-repellent “soft-touch” plastic, they were out there: raincoats, dusters, ponchos, anoraks, hoodies, and even skirts! It is not entirely opaque plastic, which means there’s quite a bit of flesh to flash and the only-fashion-types-get-it interplay of translucency (softly coloured!) and textures. It’s as if to deliberately blur the more interesting bits underneath—lovely knitwear, for example. Or, staying with the weather, is that saying something about London’s fog?

Burberry SS 2018 G 1

The shower curtain material must have disappointed animal rights activists, reported to have made a spectacle of themselves, shouting outside the show venue—Old Sessions House, a former London court—and causing delay to the start of the presentation. Will it be eco-warriors next to be up in arms in demanding that the plastic be bio-degradable?! Mr Bailey, a win is hard.

But for many fans, the media included, this is a winning collection, if not for its protection against precipitation, at least the revival of the Burberry heritage check, which, at one time, was considered unfashionable when it was associated with British bengs known as ‘chavs’. But it’s all very British—this part of the brand’s history and Mr Bailey isn’t afraid to confront it head on. He has, of course, made it all a lot more current, even when wearing baseball caps of the said check or the knitted sweater-vest (worn alone) that hinted at past chav style, by not being terribly serious about how things are paired and worn.

Burberry SS 2018 G 2

It is, therefore, likely that the collection is aimed primarily at the young, as chavs tend to be. The proportions of the clothes—including details such as large collars and lapels— parallel sizes popular in the ’70s and ’80s. This may be in keeping with the prevalent shape of things, but it’s not immediately discernible that the anti-fashion, working-class silhouette and mix of things (cocktail waitress on the way home after work?) will win the love of those of a certain age.

Targetting the young is also augmented by the clear nod to streetwear, a move few designers can afford to avoid these days—“a little street, sophisticated” the designer told Vogue Hommes. Although there’s something to be said of a 46-year-old Christopher Bailey designing for kids less than half his age (“it’s their world”, he conceded to Edward Ennful in a video interview for British Vogue), the sighting of Mino and Hoony of the Korean boy band Winner in the front row attests not only to Burberry’s intended audience/shopper, it bolsters the brand’s youth-oriented image and keeps up their strive for relevance in an age of the young and restless.

Photos: (top) Burberry and WWD

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Just Kors

Michael Kors

Now that Michael Kors has a “Southeast Asian flagship” on our shores, we’re told that he’s an important player in the fashion retail scene here—important enough that he has a local hybrid orchid named after him. So we thought we should have a look at his catwalk presentation—something we don’t do. The last time we took occasional notice of what Mr Kors did was during his 6-year tenure at Céline, the 72-year-old French house that dressed Rene Russo for her role as the stylish Catherine Banning in the 1999 remake of The Thomas Crown Affair, a film, at that time, considered to be “a fashion orgy”.

Presently, Michael Kors is, of course, not only a fashion designer, he’s also a multi-brand business owner, having just added Jimmy Choo to his bulking-up company, that, according to Forbes, has a market cap of USD20 billion. The label, however, isn’t roaring like it used to, with planned closure of stores in the US, up to 125 of them by the end of this year, according to Fortune.

Michael Kors P1

Still, Mr Kors is a buzz-maker during New York Fashion Week, and we suspect it’s to do with the front row than the catwalk. The show opened with Carolyn Murphy in a tie-dye sweatshirt-dress, something so shockingly underwhelming that knowing it’s made of cashmere won’t save it from blandness. Even Ms Murphy couldn’t make it look less Kuta and more Capri. Is that really fashion? Or is that the hailed wearable ease that has firmly placed the brand in the “casual luxury” category?

To show you how informal and laid-back things can be, Mr Kors offered a light-as-a-sea-breeze collection that’s heavy on the suggestion of “somewhere on the beach”, as pal and fan Anna Wintour told vogue.com. That means styling a white shirt with same-tone lei! Or, offering prints that are tropical fronds, such as those you see on the sand and don’t bother picking up. There are more dresses for a romantic seaside dinner than we bothered to count and the obligatory flip-flops that are best left to the likes of Havaianas.

Michael Kors G1

We wondered, therefore, if the collection would have been more appropriate for the Cruise season. But for the brand’s core customers, it probably does not matter. Despite the collection’s usual lack of fashion elements that can put it on par with, say, Céline—Mr Kor’s former employer, the luxury basics, as fans prefer to call the merchandise, that he churns out are the wardrobe fillers that can satisfy those willing to pay for a pricier but just-as-accessible Banana Republic.

Michael Kors dresses a very specific woman: she’s successful; visibly feminine; not girlish; married (or wants to be); glad to always talk about her beau or husband; considers strolling on beaches most romantic; spends a small fortune on aromatherapy candles for her home and office (where she wants her dress to just about stand out); and declares she loves fashion, but, really adores Lululemon more. If this, to you, sounds like Blake Lively or, gasp, Sumiko Tan, you’re not off the mark.

Screen grab and photos: YouTube and indigital.tv

What? The Cold Hip Is Next?

Tom Ford spring/summer 2018

The cold shoulder, still a stubborn trend, seems to be moving southwards. And it could be cold hips, going by the looks of two high-profile, no-stranger-to-provocation collections.

First Tom Ford and then Rihanna for her full-fledged Fenty by Puma were proposing that you wear your trousers low enough and your inner wear high enough to show hips. It’s the new sweet spot that looks set to provide fast fashion retailers with a cold shoulder replacement.

Both brands showed leotards cut so high at the leg that when worn with low-slung pants revealed substantial skin of what gym instructors will know as gluteus medius. Is this the new erogenous zone, the triangular patch to show the skinny side of the panty, just as the cold shoulder is inevitably a window for the stray bra strap?

Fenty by Puma spring/summer 2018

The one-piece top has been pointed out by many in the media as the French-cut swimwear. The French actually do have a name for it: maillot (de bain). It is doubtful Mr Ford intended his for the beach or pool since they are styled to look destined for a bar (pool bar?) or anywhere such attire might be appreciated. But we may not really know as beach wear often appears in the city centre.

The hip for specific exposure is only a matter of time. It’s as if some designers are putting thumb and index finger of one hand to the corresponding two of the other and through the opening, scanning the body to see what other areas should be marked out next for fabric subtraction and eye-catching display.

The cold knee has had a long exposure, so too, staying on the limb, the cold heel—again (thanks to mules, especially Gucci’s fur-trimmed Princeton “slipper”). The cold breast has been in the spotlight, but the take-up rate appears to be a bit slow. The cold buttocks have had had their time in the sun, not to mention what’s between them cheeks (at one time underscored by the thong). What part of the body next can be framed for attention? We don’t know, we’re not Tom Ford.

Photo: indigital.tv

Marc Shots

Marc Jacobs SS 2018 P1

Is Marc Jacobs waking up to the potential of the modest fashion market, one that the upcoming Singapore Fashion Week will be dedicating space to?

For his spring/summer 2018 show, Mr Jacobs and co-conspirator, the milliner Stephen Jones, had the head of every model on the runway—Gigi Hadid’s too!—swaddled. They’ve been described as turbans but some could easily be gift wraps, except for Ms Hadid’s, one of two that looked like how you may fashion a towel on your head after washing your hair. Nor are they anything like Rosie the Riveter’s. And definitely not the staggering towers of Erykah Badu’s.

The wearing of the turban is, of course, not necessarily connected with modesty. Hollywood of yore saw many actresses wearing turbans as fashion wear unrelated to proclivity for concealing their hair, among them Greta Garbo and Joan Crawford. Is Mr Jacobs trying to revive past glamour? What cultural appropriation would he be accused of this time?

Marc Jacobs SS 2018 G1Marc Jacobs SS 2018 G2

Watching his music-free, joyless show (no matter how colourful, it just felt glum), it is not easy to reconcile the hint at bygone head-wear glamour with the clothes. Mr Jacobs seemed to be trying to capture the Zeitgeist. He offered the volume of the moment, the cross-cultural hybrid of the day, the iridescence prevalent in the pop/social media sphere of the generation. There was a bit of Hollywood, a dash of Harlem, and whole lot of street (wear).

It is all fine (and dandy?) to reflect the taste of times, but does it adequately say anything about Mr Jacobs as a leader of the pack? The oversized suits, which really looked like they were the wrong size, came seasons too many after Demna Gvasalia’s Balenciaga (alright, somewhere among them is a zoot suit!). Those big sweaters and cardigans, they are, by now, too associated with Raf Simons. And the retro prints: Pucci and Prada bedded?

Marc Jacobs SS 2018 G3

As we were writing this, a WhatsApp message from a reader appeared, interrupting our pondering: “What would Marc Jacobs do if he didn’t have YSL and Rei (Kawakubo) to be ‘inspired’ by?” What indeed? But Mr Jacobs has become so adept at iterating his obsessions that he has become a parody of his own parody, obliterating possible inspirations. When we looked at those boiler suits (worn with flashy jewellery) and the fanny packs that already had their day at Chanel, we can’t help but think of the grunge collection of so many years ago that nearly destroyed him.

Marc Jacobs is in many ways like the garish pairing of accessories of the collection—for example, dangling and sparkly earrings with those bum bags (worn in front! If we were to wear it similarly, we’d look like the kopi tiam’s kopi soh!): a chronic contradiction who succeeds when he is able to swing between YSL and Rei, or straddle the two. In his world, still coloured by the excesses of Studio 54 and informed by the flashiness of hip-hop-era-on African-American dress, Marc Jacobs is phoney flamboyance and calculated irreverence. All at once.

Photos: Marc Jacobs

Yankee Oodles Of Luxe

Coach 1941 SS 2018 P1

Are Europeans lured to American brands to make American fashion great? Let’s, for now, put aside “again”.

Over at Coach 1941, the English designer Stuart Vevers opened their spring/summer 2018 season with a Western shirt. This isn’t the same as the one that Raf Simons also sent out first at Calvin Klein, but they have a common genesis: American West. Nostalgic Americana is what Mr Vevers built the Coach 1941 aesthetic on from day one, and he’s not, as it appears, letting up. The hip New York crowd, it seems, likes a little bit of Roy Rogers in their wardrobes, minus kippy belts. Or, as crazy as this may sound, making up for the relative rarity of westerns coming out Hollywood? If only this was launched during Madonna’s Music rhinestone cowgirl phase.

Mr Vevers has what the industry, especially in America, looks out for: pedigree. His first job after graduation at the University of Westminster was with Calvin Klein. He has worked with Marc Jacobs at Louis Vuitton. Just these two American names are possibly quite enough to let his American employer know that he has what it takes to give Americans what they want.

Coach 1941 SS 2018 G1Coach 1941 SS 2018 G2

What does he think the Americans desire? What Michael Kors knows all along: nothing that requires figuring out. Coach is not Loewe, where Mr Vevers worked before joining the former. Loewe took the route of Louis Vuitton—which acquired it in 1996—when the latter launched a ready-to-wear line in 1997, designed by Marc Jacobs. Coach, like general stores of the past, retails practical goods that people need—fashion as a selling point only a recent consideration, when it launched its own clothing collection with Mr Vevers just 4 years ago. They’re somehow all connected there. Take some time to join the dots.

So it is articles of clothing that the Americans are familiar with that Mr Vevers is giving “the world’s largest market for personal luxury goods”, according to a June report by Bain and Company. That inevitably means souvenir and trucker jackets, the varsity variety and the biker cousin; sweatshirts; over-sized sweaters/cardigans; sundresses; Hawaiian shirts, and everything in between that New York’s downtown types would love to wear.

As with Raf Simon for Calvin Klein’s salute to Andy Warhol, there was also homage to another still-popular-after-death American pop artist. This time, it’s Keith Harring—even the artist’s face appeared on a T-shirt. Elsewhere, on dresses and denim tops, Mr Harring’s famous graphic, almost naïve shapes of animals and people in motion make their visible appearance. It’ll be fascinating to see if these images will catch on when Uniqlo has already beaten Coach to using them.

Coach 1941 SS 2018 G3Coach 1941 SS 2018 G4

Sometimes one wonders if what these non-Americans are really doing is to indulge in the ‘optics’ that to them must be rather exotic: cowboy country. Or is this dalliance with what are considered to be American “icons” to boost America’s—or, perhaps New York’s—fragile self-esteem when it comes to their true contribution to the world of fashion. We sure know that the three letters U, S, and A now do not have the same allure they once had, ironically less when there’s the call by Donald Trump to get things made in the States again. Does American fashion need a makeover, such as business-y belt worn above exposed zips?

Stuart Vevers brings along with him a wealth of experience that covers a rather big swath of the European continent. He has learned the trade at English, (Mulberry), French (Givenchy and Louis Vuitton), Italian (Bottega Venetta), and Spanish (Loewe) houses. Yet, it is American western culture, rather than that of cities of glamour, that has captured Mr Vevers’s (and, hitherto, Raf Simons’s) attention. Does it mean the same for us Asian as it does for them? Picture this: a Coach 1941 cowboy shirt over an Ong Shunmugam cheongsam!

Photos: Edward James/style.com

Raf’s Americana For Calvin

Calvin Klein SS 2018 finale

The Western shirts with the texture of satin that opened the spring/summer 2018 show was, to us, a little ominous, and an indication that Raf Simons isn’t moving on from where he started—the autumn/winter 2017 season, when he showed his first collection for one of the biggest American labels, Calvin Klein. Mr Simons is now in America, and he’s showing Americans the America that Donald Trump is desperately trying to bring back.

The colour blocking of these shirts for boys and girls (only boys and girls will wear them, no?)—five of them, with contrast collars, yokes, and pockets; in colours that would not be out of place among participants of the Rose Parade, hinted at something brash that we have not really seen from Mr Simons, clownish even, if we were to ride on the current box-office hit that is It. Does America change European designers when they arrive on her shores just as she did to Hedi Slimane, who would go on to wreck Saint Laurent with West Coast rock-trash aesthetic? What does it say about the still-complicated Euro-American sartorial relationship?

Calvin Klein SS 2018 G1

The near-kitsch, colour explosion shouldn’t be surprising. Back in July, the new Calvin Klein flagship on Madison Avenue, conceived by Mr Simons and his serial partner-in-crime, the artist Ruby Sterling, opened to shoppers with a bang of yellow—walls, ceiling, scaffolding, fixtures—under which other blotches of colours punctuate the space like spilled paint. This is a Calvin Klein we have never seen before. The neutrals that Mr Calvin Klein himself was known for have stepped aside for the colours of Guanajuato, the Mexican city that’s a UNESCO World Heritage site.

Mr Simons is, of course, not alien to colours. We saw how good he was with them at Jil Sander, but back then he was still considered a minimalist designer. Now, he appears to have gone a little Willy Wonka, with the American customers his many Charlies. Watching the live stream on calvinklein.com, the collection felt to us like a costume designer’s first presentation to Gus Van Sant for an upcoming film.

Calvin Klein SS 2018 G2Calvin Klein SS 2018 G3

Our bad; we had not read the show notes. As widely reported later, the collection is homage to American cinema, particularly those films that shock and scare. “American horror, American dreams,” Mr Simons told the besotted press. Here’s a Belgian showing Americans, tongue possibly in cheek, how to dress American, with B-grade dash. What can be more charming than that?

To be sure, there’s elegance to the clothes, even if there is, at least to most Calvin Klein Jeans and cK One consumers, an alt touch. Mr Simons re-imagines an America that few now recognise without excoriating the flashiness that has always attracted those who still take cheer-leading very seriously. Look beyond the gory movie references, the high-school pom-poms (that, in some cases, shroud bucket bags, or hang as tiered dresses), and the nod towards America that’s not along the coasts, and you may just find hints of ’50s couture and a way with transparency that is today’s nightie-for-day.

Calvin Klein SS 2018 G5

But Mr Simons also seems to be repeating himself. There’s the Andy Warhol photo-prints, which, undeniably reminds us of Mr Simons’s own collection of this past spring/summer season, which saw Robert Mapplethorpe’s photos applied onto shirts and outers at unexpected places. So which is more disturbing: Mapplethorpe’s male genitalia or Warhol’s car crash?

Reminiscent of his work at Dior (but in the colours that reprise those he did for Jil Sander) are the skirts—full and circular, only now, Marion and Joanie Cunningham’s present-day avatars might wear them. If we look at them from a filmic standpoint, as Mr Simons likely prefers, these are skirts the Stepford Wives (set in Silicon Valley?) would gladly and dutifully wear. How’s that for horror?

Photos: Imaxtree

There Will Be SGFW 2017

If you thought that Singapore Fashion Week will go into hiatus this year, you’re not alone. Many observers and those keen to attend consider it odd that, with just a month or so to go, SGFW has just about announced this year’s date, but not the line-up, or where the shows will be held

SFW 2017 home page as of 2 Sep 2017The Singapore Fashion Week homepage as of 2 September 2017 (and prior to this post)

Land on Singapore Fashion Week’s homepage, and you will be greeted with images and information that stood still since last year. The first photograph of the top slider announces the “highlight designer”, which, if you don’t remember, was Guo Pei. Just after that visual, under the crosshead Live Show, you’ll see the announcement of the first show, dated Oct 26, 2016.

Around this time in 2016, SGFW had already run almost six months worth of intermittent activities that, according to the event’s media release at that time, were put together “to increase interaction and engagement amongst designers, media, fashion industry experts and consumers”, all receiving obligatory exposure on SGFW’s Facebook page.

These included a LaSalle Graduate Fashion Show (a May presentation not connected to the main SGFW), an event sponsored by Nars that consisted of one “delightful morning of beauty-boosting breakfast and empowerment”, the accidental partnership for the launch of the book Fashion Most Wanted that lauded 51 women—“industry stalwarts”, a four-part video series on Facebook called Style on the Go that took “a peek into the busy lives of fashion week IT girls”, a #WeWearSG “campaign in support of local designers and labels” (just five: Max Tan, Stolen, Chi Chi Von Tang, Nida Shay, and ALT the Collection—all supporters of SGFW2016), and other un-stirring, for-sponsors shout-outs. There was also what was touted as the “very first Apprenticeship Programme”—above a designed-to-be-noticed headline “We’re Hiring”.

The lead-up to SGFW 2017, conversely, has been lacking in activity-led buzz. It is possible that “increased interaction and engagement” is not as required as before. One brand manager wondered: “Who attends those activities other than kaki lang (自己人 in Hokkien, or those on the side) of the organiser?” One (annual) activity did materialise: in February this year, the Tjin Lee/Mercury M&C-initiated programme Fashion Futures picked six brands into the fold: ALT, Ying The Label, Deboneire, Weekend Sundries, Nida Shay, and Wai Yang. It affirmed how much SGFW believes in this part of their commitment to supporting local.

SFW FB postOne of the earliest notifications that ran last month was a Mac visual, stamped with the SGFW logotype and a barely discernible date

Amid rumours that changes to the event are afoot, SGFW this year will run from 25 to 29 October, according to, first, a Facebook post on the page of Modestyle Marketplace on 24 July, and then in the top slider of their homepage early this month. Modestyle is a website/e-commerce platform dedicated to, well, modest wear. How did we get here? From the hashtag ‪#‎sgfw2017 in which Modestyle’s Facebook page was visibly linked.

We suppose, like this year’s “reserved” presidential election, SGFW is tweaked to be more inclusive (or exclusive?). Some observers consider this an act of desperation rather than inclusion as SGFW was suspected to be unable to lure enough designers—“international, Asian, and home-grown”, as Ms Lee told The Straits Times last year—to grace its catwalks. But modest fashion is a fast-growing and legitimate category. Even not-quite-modest Dolce & Gabbana is into it. To include it, SGFW appears to present itself as forward-thinking. It shall be interesting, therefore, to see how SGFW is able to elevate what until recently has been a fringe interest.

Is, however, SGFW’s courting of the modest wear market a tad belated? Back in April, there was the inaugural Singapore Modest Fashion Weekend (SMFW) staged at the Marina Bay Sands, and put together by event organiser RoseValley, with the lofty objective of “positioning Singapore as the region’s best destination for modest fashion brands”.

Second, a recruitment exercise for volunteers, which ran in Facebook on 1 August, with an announcement that applicants would have to be available from “26th to 28th Oct”. Three weeks later, there appeared, on 21 August, an SGFW Facebook message that Nars will return as official make-up partner. The accompanying product photograph sported the white SGFW logotype on the upper left-hand corner, and to the left of the three-line text sat the dates in red. It was so indistinct that you could have easily missed it. About an hour after that post, another photo appeared: this time of the LG Styler as “official backstage partner”. It, too, ran the said logo and date. And both also showed “26th to 28th Oct”.

Date changes of events that are usually planned a year ahead are not unusual. And there is the possibility that the wrong dates were communicated to Modestyle Marketplace, or the latters typographical error.  More important to potential attendees of the event: dates are announced. But what’s surprising is nothing extracurricular, as far as we could gather, has been scheduled this year in the lead-up to SGFW’s announced dates. Last year, up to September, there were 16 posts on SGFW’s Facbook page. This year, there have been 27 posts so far. Although they do not rally around SGFW with rousing cries, could this larger number be what we had initially thought to be the missing “increased interaction and engagement”? You be the judge.

SFW 2017 in ModestyleSeen on modestyle.com, one of earliest glimpses of what SGFW this year could be like and when it will take place

This year, Mercury has kept SGFW so well sealed that they make Apple’s notoriously secretive product launches positively open (the new iPhones were leaked before their reveal tomorrow. Surely you have heard of ‘X’ by now). But nothing these days are so air-tight. Just last month, there was talk in the industry that SGFW’s marquee name this year may be Cindy Crawford. When asked if it’s really true, the informer said that he isn’t sure, but he had heard that it was mentioned by “Cindy’s people”. We checked Ms Crawford’s Twitter page of 1.63 million followers, and found no excited announcement that she would be coming our way.

Amid this month’s fashion chatter, there was also the let-slip that the photographer Jayden Tan has shot some of SGFW’s publicity campaigns (he was one of their eager lensmen last year). Mr Tan himself has hinted at SGFW’s return when he posted and exclaimed at the end of August on Instagram that he “can’t wait to feel the adrenaline rush of @singaporefashionweek yet again”. Why, even the cover photo of his FB page is a snap of the backstage of the Guo Pei show!

One of the places we thought more information could be gleaned was Digital Fashion Week (DFW), which, last year, was absorbed into Singapore Fashion Week. The newest entry (as of yesterday) in DFW’s homepage is a retail event in a Jakarta mall: Rising Fashion, a “pop up (sic) store of curated designers from Singapore and Indonesia”. (That, regrettably, sounds devoid of elegance since you curate an art exhibition or a retail space and not designers. Even in a zoo, we doubt they are inclined to “curate” animals.) Word from that event was that DFW will still be handling the live streams of SGFW. Despite earlier pronouncements that DFW, by default borderless, will be brought to Jakarta, it is only the Bangkok leg that had materialised. Rising Fashion’s announcement on FB is preceded by a video blurb of sort that, like SGFW’s website, clearly showed an SGFW of last year.

Despite what some considered a poor match, SGFW and DFW coming together streamlined what had become a rather confusing and messy fashion week calendar. Two-as-one appear to comport with the needs and desires of the industry, at least on the surface. Notably, DFW’s adventure in Jakarta—hometown of DFW’s co-founder Charina Widjaja—seemed to have taken place independent of SGFW. A close look at the list of supporters of the Jakarta event saw a distinctly absent SGFW logo. Singapore Fashion Week in an Indonesian event may, of course, be a little odd.

DFW in JakartaThe Digital Fashion Week event in Jakarta in August

That SGFW 2017’s fairly late announcement may be due to the many obstacles that they have been up against is understandable. Unimpressive staging of SGFW and not-ideal venue when Mercury debuted the event last year aside, SGFW has been primarily disadvantaged by a serious lack of home-grown designers with products and means (cost is often cited as a main reason) to stage a fashion show. Also from the recent grapevine: not enough Singaporean designers have showed interest in participating, thinking that SGFW would not provide them with long-term benefit, valuable networking, and market recognition.

But the response previously was not so unenthusiastic. Priscilla Shunmugam of Ong Shunmugam told ST last year: “Designers should approach it positively as an opportunity to be discovered, rather than consider it an inferior platform”. However, this time, it is rumoured that Ms Shunmugam will not be participating in SGFW 2017, having staged her own independent show at the Violet Onn Satay Grill and Bar last month. If her opting out turns out to be true, the irony won’t be lost.

Singapore Fashion Week is not an inferior platform even if it’s stretching it to call our sole surviving major fashion runway event exceptional. SGFW, together with its former form, is one of the oldest fashion weeks in Southeast Asia. It would be a pity to see it relegated to memory, or overshadowed by new comers such as Vietnam International Fashion Week—presently in its third year. With their experience and an ambitious leader, Mercury M&C won’t be seeing anyone wrestle SGFW away from them any time soon. But that doesn’t mean they can’t do better.

Singapore Fashion Week is, as of now, from 26 to 28 October 2017. Watch this space for more details. Photos/ screen grabs: source

This post has been update to reflect Singapore Fashion Week’s official abbreviation: SGFW

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

The Bag, Not The Town

Timbuk2 Forge

The name may suggest Mali, Africa, but the provenance of this bag brand is really San Francisco. Timbuk2 did not, in fact, begin life with this evocative moniker. It was, believe or not, known as Scumbags—surely outrageous even for the left-leaning city in which it was born. It isn’t terribly clear why (but we can surely guess), the name was changed to Timbuk2 in 1990 by founder of the brand Rob Honeycutt, who created messenger bags to meet his needs as a bike messenger in the ’80s. According to the brand’s amusing telling, the settled name was inspired, in part, by the Devo-ish, American, post-punk band Timbuk3.

Timbuk2 is not new to Singapore. Its first stand alone store (reported to be it’s first outside the US) opened in 2013 at Bugis Junction, a corner unit so strikingly appointed—with a nod to its bicycling roots—that it stood in sharp contrast to its cluttered neighbours. Before that, Timbuk2 can be found at outdoor gear suppliers such as those in Queenstown Shopping Centre. With its own standalone space, now relocated to another unit in the same complex, Timbuk2 is able to let its products better project its pre-dot-com, post-hippy American image and heritage.

Messenger bags are synonymous with Timbuk2, but what drew our attention when we visited the store last week was this handsome roll-top tote named Forge (top). The make of Timbuk2 bags are solid, but their designs have generally been stolid. Forge is a gentle pull away from the relative same-same sensibility applied across their bags.

Firstly, there’s the tote part, a rather late entry for most American brands in the business of bags for men. Then, there’s the two-way mode of carrying the Forge (it’s a backpack too), even when the Japanese have put out similar binary styles much earlier. And, for this colour (above, cross between gray and khaki known as ‘Flux’), the bright blue of the straps and the yellow of the zip that looks like a related hue to McDonald’s Golden Arches.

Timbuk2 Forge (back)

Colours are, of course, not alien to Timbuk2 since one of their most distinctive bags is the tri-coloured messenger (known as the Classic Messenger Tres Colores, and can be customised to suit your taste). In the case of the Forge, the colours are accents and are used as graphic counterpoints to the overall chromatic solidness of the body.

The bag is equipped with a staggering dozen of pockets: two easy-access front-centre (one with zip) slots, two skinny ones by their sides (may not be that useful), and two roomy side slots that are definitely handy. Inside, one large pocket with additional four more attached to its front. In the rear, a zippered side opening allows access to that pocket inside, which is padded to better protect on-the-road necessities such as a tablet. There is also little a slip of space on top of that for MRT card and such, allowing you to keep valuables close to you.

But what we really wish to have—as an option—is extra compartments in the rear to hold and conceal the shoulder straps when not in use. The fashion-conscious, you see, may deem a backpack not cool enough. Tuck the stray straps away, and no one shall know of your bag’s other personality.

Timbuk2 ‘Forge’ tote, SGD159, is available at Timbuk2, level 3, Bugis Junction. Photos: Jim Sim

Close Look: Ines De La Fressange Designs Men’s Wear

The embodiment of Parisian chic Ines de la Fressange, together with Uniqlo, is trying to grab the sartorial attention of guys. Are you thrilled?

Ines X Uniqlo AW 2017

By Ray Zhang

There’s always the first time, as the saying goes, but was it as good for her as it was not for me? Ines de la Fressange’s debut men’s pieces for Uniqlo did not get my pulse racing the way the Undercover and (first) Lemaire collaborations did. To make matters less appealing, Uniqlo has to include pieces from their house line into the merchandise mix as the Ines de la Fressange collection was not large enough to fill the space dedicated to its somewhat quiet launch. If there is an essence—Parisian-ness, for example—to be discerned, it is, sadly diluted.

This is Ines de la Fressange’s 8th collection with the Japanese fast fashion giant. To be fair, she’s become quite an old hand at it. The woman’s wear is a confident mélange of the familiar and the ‘elevated’. It is nice to see that she’s not stuck to those tiny floral prints that seemed to suggest far, far from Paris (Alsatian wine country?) and have offered, instead, rather charming prints of small double blooms spaced apart on polka-dots. Nothing terribly sérieuse, you see. Oh, and those shirt-dresses; they make Diane Von Furstenberg’s look positively inspired by thrift-stores and ready to go back there.

Ines X Uniqlo Mens 1

But the men’s! Ines de la Fressange, were you picking up the clothes for your man’s wardrobe? I sense that Ms de la Fressange is like some women: they would look impossibly chic—they have to, but they prefer their male companions to be just about right—conventional, not too branché. How else do you explain the pattern of Fair Isle knitting on sweaters for men while the women get far more modern colour blocking? Or, with the same fabric, the men get a plain shirt and the women a Western shirt?

With Uniqlo’s collaborative efforts, people seek out pieces that are a little different from what the brand normally does. I know I do. The involvement of another entity seems futile if the output does not visibly distance itself from the exceedingly plentiful already seen on the same floor. Do we need yet another black or navy blazer? Do we need yet another check flannel shirt? Do we need yet another slim-fit Chinos (when less than 100 metres away, there’s a roomy, single-pleat-front pair that’s a tad more outre)? I know I don’t.

Ines X Uniqlo Mens 2Clockwise from top left: wool blend blazer, S$149.90; striped cotton shirt, S$49.90; check flannel shirt, S$49.90; cashmere sweater, S$149.90

Lest, I am mistaken, I do take into consideration that with Uniqlo, collaborators have to respect their successful concept of LifeWear, which means clothes have to be user-friendly—fashion, I assume, being secondary. Perhaps Uniqlo thinks that enough of us buy into proper nouns associated with glamour and that alone may be sufficient. Ines de la Fressange’s name may move fashion for women, but it may not do the same for men. Or maybe there are really those who are easily seduced by the Euro-association and its attendant romance, such as ST’s former music reviewer and current director of the Singapore Writers Festival Yeow Kai Chai, who was seen going through the pieces like an eager beaver.

Maybe I am just nostalgic for the good old days of +J. Conceptually, that pairing was the strongest ever for Uniqlo, and successful enough for a greatest-hits drop after the collab ended. There was the discernible LifeWear sensibility, plus Jil Sander’s masterful and subtle twist on things, which years later still communicates a certain sophistication not since repeated. And, dare I add, usable dash.

Ines de la Fressange X Uniqlo AW 2017 collection is available at Uniqlo, Orchard Central. Photos: Uniqlo