Yeezy Yucks!

Adidas and Kanye West’s love children, the Yeezy Boost sneakers, may have been an unusual silhouette at launch, but after three versions, it still is a seriously unattractive shoe

Yeezy Boost 350 V2 Creamy White

By Shu Xie

It’s easy to dislike the Yeezy. Well, it’s easy for me. Some things just don’t click at first sight; some things just repel. The Yeezies (Yeezys?) are definitely them. Firstly, I am not a fan of the knitted upper as I like firmer yet supple fabrics, such as leather. Secondly, I do not, with respect to the engineering and design team at Adidas, consider the Boost sole to be terribly original since Nike’s Roshe Run was way ahead with their minimalist, one-piece, no-visible-air-pockets Phylon midsole, as well as the Waffle-inspired outsole, which, according to the latter’s designer Dylan Raasch was meant to be evocative of the stepping stones of a Zen garden. Now, that’s conceptual heft.

From the first, the Yeezy 750 Boost, to the latest, the 350 V2, I have always thought the range to be a bit like footwear for abominable snow creatures. Sure, the 350 has become a hit, but they still look primitive to me. This has nothing to do with the fact that it wants to stand apart from the hi-tech kicks, and bombastic ones too, that the market is flooded with—Adidas boldly thinks it “transcends footwear trends”; this is to do with a form factor that does not make feet look attractive.

The ‘’Cream White’ version (because they can’t decide if it’s cream or white?) of what is officially known as Yeezy Boost 350 V2 Design by Kanye West is launched worldwide today. According to media reports, people around the world have been queuing up outside official retailers at least a week ago, with some setting up camp to make the wait bearable. In Singapore, Adidas held an online ballot this past Wednesday and the lucky winners were able to pick up their prized 350 V2 at the adidas Originals store at Pacific Plaza this morning. Not too much to go through for a pair of shoes linked to a rap artiste with a reality-TV-star wife? Or, are they truly capable of inducing a dopamine rush?

I want to be fond of the Yeezy Boost, but it’s like falling in love with the first person you meet on Tinder: hard. None of the three versions has a pull that many other hot sneakers have. No matter from which angle I look at the 350 V2, I can’t see its aesthetic value, even when Adidas call it “classic”. There’s the roundish shape of the top, which, when you look down at it, makes the widest part of your foot appear even wider. Because of the sock-like upper, there’s the tongue that, together with the collar, looks like a truncated proboscis with a concave lip that has gulped down the ankle. And that cryptic code SPLY-350 that, for some reason, is utterly discreet in the ‘Cream White’, but still there, possibly to identify the wearer as belonging to the tribe that is besotted with anything remotely connected with the Life of Pablo. The ‘Cream White’ just looks like footwear that will delight the nursing sorority.

It comes with what Adidas calls “a security feature”: a stripe that runs down the middle that can only been seen in UV light. This, it seems, is to help identify the fakes. Such a measure is enough to make the latest iteration of this low-cut even more desirable, to the point that in Denmark, three days before the official launch, thieves relieved a truck delivering the 350 V2 ‘Cream White’ to a shop its entire content. See, you can deter the copycats, but you can’t stop bandits.

On the SG Adidas site, the announcement is clear: “Yeezy Boost 350 V2 Design by Kanye West Sold Out”. Photo: Adidas

Mad For Mud

PRPS Barracuda jeans

Unless you live in a cave that nature miraculously made free of dirt, you’d know that the dirtier the jeans, the more desirable they are. Despite the scarcity of cave dwellers, people are still amazed that dirty-looking—and actually dirty—jeans are available to buy. And expensive to boot.

Nordstrom, the American department store that dropped Ivanka Trump’s fashion line, was thrown into the filthy path of Twitter ridicule yesterday when shoppers spotted a pair of USD450 muddy ‘Barracuda’ jeans at shop.nordstrom.com and could not believe what they saw, particularly the accompanying price tag. A Twitter storm broke out (although the jeans have been on sale for quite a while), with one Tweet describing the five-pocket “perfect jeans for men who work corporate office jobs but still haven’t given up on their dreams of being a cowboy”.

Even news channels weighed in, with CNN declaring “dirty denim is the new black” and The Washington Post stating that “a few people with jobs that involve getting ‘down and dirty’ are pretty miffed”. They’re even joining the fun across the Atlantic, with the BBC informing us that Nordstrom was “castigated” for peddling those “mud-coated jeans”.

But making what we wear look like they have survived BMT field camp during the rainy season is not really new. Back in 2014, Adidas tried something dirty when they released a pair of sneakers—the ZX 750—with Japanese graphic/fashion designer Kazuki Kuraishi (under the label KZK ZX 750 RG 84-Lab) simply called “Mud”.

Adidas ZX 750 MudTo make the soiling really obvious, Adidas had the effect created on an all-white ZX 750. While no wet earthy matter was used, the effect was rather realistic and jokey enough that, for many sneakerheads, justified the asking price of USD175. Here is a pair of shoes you would not wear into anybody’s house without incurring the displeasure of the host. But those who bought a pair consider the sneakers a terrific joke. Let them think you’ve been running through a Kranji farm when, in fact, you have been cruising on your moped.

The humour and the tease are terrific—fashion is not always a lover of wit (and you didn’t think the Japanese have a funny side). But on the Barracuda jeans, by the New York denim label PRPS—founded by former Nike designer Donwan Harrell, the muddy stains seem too serious, too desirous to mimic what Nordstrom calls “Americana workwear that’s seen some hard-working action”. If you check PRPS’s offerings, they’ve made dirty and immensely soiled jeans a signature, closely reflecting their marketing tag “Bruised, Never Broken”—torn is equally favoured as muddy.

That Nordstrom got the flak rather than PRPS is a reflection of social media’s disposition for knee-jerk reactions: I see; I can’t stand it; I shoot. The Adidas ZX 750 ‘Mud’ did not get such a reception. In fact, by most reports, the soil-stuck soles were a hit and were sold out in no time. The Barracuda was criticised because most see it as an insincere attempt at replicating worn, bespattered clothes the result of much toil and grime for wealthy consumers who have never had to slog and be dirtied their entire life. This is clean, manufactured muck. Both sneaker and jeans are not coated with real mud; they’re all bluff.

Photos: Nordstrom and Adidas respectively

Gently Ganryu Goes

Ganryu SS 2017 Pic 1Denim ensemble of Ganryu spring/summer 2017. Photo: Fashionsnap

By Ray Zhang

Sad, but apparently true: Ganryu, as we know it, shall be no more.

One of the quietest of what BOF calls the “children of Comme des Garçons”, Ganryu Fumito is reported to have closed his eponymous line. According to the Canadian online streetwear stockist Haven, “The Spring/Summer 2017 collection marks the final releases of Fumito Ganryu’s Comme des Garçons imprint Ganryu.” This was confirmed three days ago when Highsnobiety broke the news that, according to a CDG representative, Mr Fumito has left the company.

Launched in 2007 under the CDG umbrella and the auspices of its owners, Ganryu has been the go-to label for those of us who desire everyday clothes that are not too casual and not too Gucci-ish in their need to be visually intrusive. In fact, Ganryu is a respectful sibling that has made CDG one big, happy, avant-garde-leaning family.

The label’s closure is surprising to me because it seems to be doing fairly well in Tokyo, where it has its own free-standing spaces in Hankyu Men and the now-closed-for-rebuilding Parco in Shibuya. The line is also available in CDG’s own stores, as well as Dover Street Market. It saddens me to think that Ganryu’s final collection may not be stocked at DSMS when the latter opens here in July.

Fumito GanryuGanryu Fumito in a sitting for an interview for Oki-Ni

Moreover, Ganryu has been popular among those for whom CDG was getting a tad too successful for its own good. Apparently, the numbers are not large enough for Ganryu to sustain its slightly off-beat but ultimately wearable clothes. A former pattern-cutter for Junya Watanabe, Mr Fumito’s designs have the technical finesse not usually evident in the collections of American streetwear labels, and is more playful (and more attractively priced) than the output of his previous boss. I am especially drawn to the traditional silhouettes within which Mr Fumito works his unexpected pairing of elements, as well as graphical patchwork and stitch work.

Ganryu has been described as streetwear. It is true to a point, but it isn’t street in the convention of, say, Hood by Air (now in hiatus) or Off-White (now the new HBA. Interestingly, Mr Abloh told style.com in 2013 that “streetwear has a one-trick-ponyness to it”). I see its aesthetic more akin to work wear, but tweaked, as CDG-linked brands are inclined to be, for a more fashion-forward audience. Like Sacai, whose designer Abe Chitose is a CDG alumna, Ganryu is proficient in hybrid looks. A jacket, for example, isn’t a vanilla interpretation; it could be an amalgam of hunting and biker wear. Or, a T-shirt could sport oversized pockets usually associated with the parka. Split personality to me: that’s why I am a fan.

What Ganryu Fumito will do next, no one, accept the man, knows. I hope he will go solo as former pattern makers at CDG, Junichi Abe (of Kolor) and his wife Chitose Abe, did, and successfully too. Despite the alleged rise of Korean designers, the world still needs the Japanese to keep fashion forward and infinitely interesting. Ganryu may no longer be a child of Comme des Garçons, but it will never lose the DNA of beguiling creativity. I, and many others, shall wait for your comeback.

Dress And Behaviour

The recent Toa Payoh food centre incident shows that “smartly-dressed” does not mean one has the smarts to temper an explosive situation with social grace. Clothing, as we know, is—and has been—mostly a façade

Smartly dressed 1

By Raiment Young

People are obviously easily deceived by appearances: the smarter you look, the more intelligent you are perceived to be, or least inclined to succumb to publicly unacceptable behaviour. This, however, was so quickly and easily debunked just last night.

That berating and that shoving of the seemingly harmless elderly gentleman in Toa Payoh Lorong 8 food centre on Friday evening that has gone viral were the responses to the rage of the couple that Netizens enthusiastically described as “smartly-dressed”. Such gossip! Some of them, as well as a report on alvinology.com, portrayed the duo as “well-dressed”. Such fake news!

I’ll be the first to concede that what constitutes smartly-dressed and well-dressed is subjective, and smartly-dressed and well-dressed may be diametrical, and are not necessarily indicators of fashion or trend. But I have seen enough disgraceful behavior on the part of the smartly turned out to realise that just because you look clean and tidy does not mean your manners are as impeccable.

Like the rest of you not at that food centre at that time, I saw the foul-mouth and the assailant in action online. Although the footage was no cinematic oeuvre, I could still discern that the now-infamous couple was no Bonnie and Clyde. Yet, despite the hazy video, it was their manner of dress that people remember, since, for most, spiffiness does not beget insolence. Smartly-dressed, of course, could also refer to the two’s office attire, which, by convention, is supposed to project professionalism, if not civility.

Here’s what I saw: the woman was in a white sleeveless top (battle-ready since she did not need to roll any sleeve up for a fight) and a pair of cream-coloured, high-waist pants. Her prone-to-push companion was in a long-sleeved shirt (so fitted at the torso that it’s obvious it’s darted at the back. Note, also, the pen in the pocket)) and a pair of dark-coloured trousers that formed a (’70s-looking) silhouette to better enhance his samseng stance. The female’s aggression seemed to indicate that she was completely able to hold her own, yet the man saw it fit to come to the expletive-loving maiden’s rescue, in crash and bang fashion. Hantam first, talk later.

Smartly dressed 2Screen grab from the viral video showing a man and woman and their elderly victim

Heroism has a long historical link to the smartly-dressed. In fact, in the annals of comic-book heroism, the superheroes that are dapper in dress when not in life-saving costume have a better chance at liberating the world from evil and saving maidens from tyranny and dramatic death. From Clark Kent to Bruce Wayne to Tony Stark, sartorial smartness enhances machismo and valour. In the case of the food centre Super Shove, people remembered that he was smartly-dressed because he operated in the traditional swank of comic-book superheroes. Rarely do bravery and brutality in a food centre come in such a package, so you keep the image in mind.

Bad behavior at communal dining tables appears to be more associated with the smartly-dressed set than the not so. The habit of choping, which appears to be a factor that led to the Toa Payoh kerfuffle, is more prevalent in food centres and food courts that are visited by the smartly-dressed office crowd. In fact, it has been suggested that it was “office ladies” that started the trend of using packs (one is no longer adequate) of tissue paper to chope seats.

I did a random, admittedly unscientific study and found that makan places such as Changi Village Hawker Centre and Old Airport Road Food Centre see less—a lot less—patrons wielding tissue packs/umbrellas to hold a seat/table than their CBD counterparts, such as Lau Pa Sat and Golden Shoe Hawker Centre (also known as Market Street Food Centre). Where the blue-collar smartly-dressed throng, choping is commonplace. And you’ll likely find a patron ready to attack you should you dare to question the rationale of a pack of tissue representing a living person.

But these days, a pack of tissue is not quite enough to indicate that the seat/table is taken. Last year, at a Kopi Tiam food court, I saw something I did not imagine could happen: a person had placed his OCBC name card on the table in lieu of a pack of tissue. When he returned with his lunch, I could see that, like Super Shove, he was smartly-dressed. I was tempted to write to the bank to enquire if this is how a business card should be used, but I, like many of you, succumbed to whatever-for.

What was even more astounding was this incident in which an umbrella had a starring role. I was with my 77-year-old mother at another Kopi Tiam food court. She spotted an empty table and walked towards it. As she was about to reach her destination, a woman from behind her quickly whipped out and extended her compact umbrella, and placed it across the table. In one swoop, an old lady was denied a seat at a food court table. My mother was stunned. From where did the umbrella shoot forth, she wondered.

Mom, a smartly-dressed woman.

Photo: A. B. Tan. Video screen grab: The Local Society

Two Of A Kind: Flounce To Trounce

Pan Ling Ling in Francis Cheong & Zuhair Murad CoutureLeft: Pan Ling Ling in Francis Cheong. Photo Facebook/ Pan Ling Ling. Right: Zuhair Murad Couture SS 2017. Photo: Zuhair Murad

Whatever is said about imitation and flattery, it is not always flattering for the wearer of the look-a-like.

Pan Ling Ling must have been elated with the Life declaration that she was one of the best-dressed actresses at Sunday night’s Star Awards (红星大奖). But would knowing that her gown, designed by Francis Cheong, looked too much like a Zuhair Murad diminish the elation for the Star Awards 2011 Best Supporting Actress?

Mr Murad showed his in January this year in Paris during Couture Week spring/summer 2017. An asymmetric gown for gala nights, its resemblance to the one Ms Pan wore made the accolade bestowed on her rather interesting. Should wearing a less-than-original design qualify the wearer for the best-dressed honour? Or can her likely ignorance and a big smile be her saving grace?

The version in red that appeared on Channel 8 (like most of you, we saw the presentation from the comfort of home) was familiar perhaps also because it’s typical of those you would see in gown conventions such as the Icon Ball (also known as fenghua wanyan or 风华晚宴): never too ang, never too flouncy, never too sexy.

Mr Murad makes statement gowns to be worn on red carpets or under chandeliers. His latest couture collection, named ‘Fires Waltz’, seems to be conceived with very specific customers in mind: debutantes, prom queens, beauty queens, and ball regulars. Mostly bearers of standard evening glamour, these women, like Pan Ling Ling, easily succumb to swishy gowns that can’t help looking dated or from another era, another stage. Mr Murad, in fact, admitted to Vogue.com that the silhouette of the collection was inspired by Dynasty—that ’80s TV homage to glamour and excess.

Thrilled by what Life proclaimed, Mr Cheong thanked The Straits Times early today in his Facebook page “for voting my pre fall (sic) 2017 Couture vermillion Duchess Satin gown that Pan Ling Ling wore as one of the Best Dressed List (sic)…” What was curious about the post was the accompanying photograph, which was a shot of a part of the Life article. The adjoining picture of fellow best-dressed pick Jesseca Liu was deliberately defaced, to the point that she was obliterated. Amusingly, Ms Liu was wearing Zuhair Murad. The discomfort of seeing one’s creation appearing next to the real deal must have warranted the blotting out!

Francis Cheong's post on FBScreen grab of Francis Cheong’s Facebook post

Life’s Alyssa Woo first called Ms Pan’s dress a “column gown”. We have no idea how the shapely form could be mistaken as that of a pillar’s. She later described it in the photo caption as a “gown with exaggerated ruffles”, which sounded like she was referring to the traje de flamenca. But there’s nothing about Mr Cheong’s design that is evocative of the costumes of Andalusian dance. The “ruffles” look to us to be a flounce, one that fell like the ends of valances of stage curtains, so different from the much softer and petal-like folds of Mr Murad’s design.

In the online edition of Elle Singapore, Ms Pan was described as “a vision”. The theophany escaped us, but, as with Ms Liu and Julie Tan (in a strangely bridal number with also a left-side flounce by Jessicacindy Hartono), Ms Pan’s conventional glamour was perhaps a lovely picture, even when the photographs that circulated online, including those of other Star Awards attendees, were mostly shot against bare walls that look like the corridor between the changing rooms and the MES Theatre at Mediacorp.

One make-up artist did not mince words: “All should be in the worst-dressed list.”

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

Is Puma Doing A Chanel?

If Nike can be inspired by the Bao Bao, it’s not so outrageous that Puma is equally influenced by Chanel. Interestingly, both brands take their design cue from bags. In the case of Puma, the Clyde Dressed Part Deux sneaker seems to take after Chanel’s 2.55 bag, so named because it was in February of 1955 that the bag was released.

Now that Chanel’s first bag (actually, the 2.55 was modified in 1954 from an earlier version that came out in 1929) is no longer restricted to women of a certain age and associated with a certain refinement that reigned 60 odd years ago, people are using the distinctive bag as they like, anyway they like. And since the 2.55 is as likely paired with a pair of heels as sneakers, Puma’s Clyde, now available as Dressed Part Deux, is quilted to play its part.

Puma must have known the potential of the upper of the new Clyde: the diamond-shaped pattern, complete with running stitch that resembles Chanel’s, which, apparently (no one is really certain), was inspired by the riding coats of jockeys (Coco Chanel was a fan of horse racing). Although Puma’s quilted upper could be a deception of personality, many women are indeed enticed by the leather surface treatment that is associated with one of France’s most storied couture houses.

Although Chanel makes the occasional sneaker, theirs aren’t exactly kicks women weaned on the likes of the Boost are inclined to wear.  The Clyde is, according to Puma’s own telling, born of the request by the ’70s basketball star Walt “Clyde” Frazier, who had asked for a custom-made pair in suede. Puma obliged. Like so many classic court shoes now brought back to life, the Clyde is given a fashion makeover—presently called “Dressed”, no doubt underscoring it’s likely life outside the court. It seems that the Puma Clyde Dressed Part Deux and Chanel 2.55 are a match made in heaven.

Puma Clyde Dressed Part Deux, SGD170 is available at Puma dealers. Photo: Puma

E E Coming

Actually, make that arrived. The welcome mat was laid for Edward Enninful at British Voguewhere he will be the magazine’s first male—and black—editor-in-chief

Edward Enninful

In the world of fashion editorials seen north of the equator, black male stylists are as common as Kanye West X Bape Bapesta kicks (that first collab that got Yeezy hooked on creating sneakers). The British-Ghanian stylist Edward Enninful is considered to be up there among the best—in a pantheon dominated by Caucasian women. Now that he’s secured the editorship of British Vogue, all eyes are on Mr Enninful to see what he can do to bring the magazine out of the lull that kept on under the stewardship of the previous EIC Alexandra Shulman, who was with title for 25 years.

Sure, there is, of course, Andre Leon-Talley, long associated with (American) Vogue, but Mr Enninful appears to be the quieter of the two, with no perceptible predilection for appearances on the Oscar red carpet or America’s Next Top Model, bearing pronouncements such as “She’s conveying to me a volcanic sultriness under the iceberg of cold, frozen, incandescent beauty. She’s hot, and she’s cold.” Mr Enninful is less of a public face that way, and seemingly less voluble too (his appearance in the post-Trump filmlet I am an Immigrant could have been missed in a blink), but his work has always caught the attention of designers and fashion followers. The images that he styles have an edge that grabs, an over-the-top sensibility that does not, regardless of the excesses of the post-Internet age, spill over.

Vogue Italia 2005Edward Enninful styled this 2005 Vogue Italia cover featuring Linda Evangelista, and lensed by Steven Meisel

Most memorable were his contributions to Italian Vogue, in which, together with the late Franca Sozzani, Mr Enninful dreamed up some rather controversial editorials. One of them, in 2005, featured Linda Evangelista getting ready, going through, and emerging from cosmetic surgery, entitled “Makover Madness”. The spread brought attention to the photographer Steven Meisel (more than Mr Enninful), and critics were vocal about magazines promoting unattainable beauty by encouraging readers to go under the knife.

Another, three years later, was “A Black Issue” (and it was exactly that—the entire magazine was dedicated to black models and creative individuals). The European editors, it was thought, were more advanced than their American counterparts when it came to diversity, and Mr Enninful did not disappoint. “A Black Issue” was a huge success, so much so that, according to a Time magazine report, “after the original run of the July issue sold out in the U.S. and U.K. in 72 hours, Vogue Italia has just rushed to reprint 30,000 extra copies for American newsstands, another 10,000 for Britain and 20,000 more in Italy. The only complaints about the reprints might come from those currently trying to sell copies on eBay for (US)$45 apiece.” (Interestingly, Vogue Italia’s newly appointed EIC is also a guy: Emanuele Farneti.)

Vogue Italia 2008Vogue Italia’s “A Black Issue” styled by Edward Enninful and shot by Steven Meisel

Mr Enninful continued to embrace coloured models in his work, unafraid of the possible losing battle against what he called “white-out that dominates catwalks and magazines”. In fact, it is his visual acknowledgement that diversity can be fashionable that has set his work stunningly apart, such as the “We Are the World” spread for the September issue of Vogue in 2010. Half a dozen models of different races (including China’s Liu Wen) was probably unusual under Anna Wintour’s watch, but the editorial may have laid the groundwork for the magazine’s first “diversity” cover last month. Reportedly, it was Ms Wintour who championed the hiring of Mr Enninful, even when he already holds a full-time job as fashion and style director at W.

Although he may have let his imagination run wild in most of his influential works—no doubt goaded by the editors who commissioned him, these were not hangover from his teenage years. Mr Enninful had an early start in the business. It may be hard to tell now, but he was a model at age 16, and, later, assistant to one of the most influential stylists of ’80s London, Simon Foxton, whose editorials for i-D and Arena at that time made British fashion/lifestyle titles more compelling to read than those across the Atlantic. At 18, he was appointed fashion director of i-D magazine, which left for posterity his fate as the youngest ever fashion director with an international title.

Vogue US 2010A spread styled by Edward  Enninful for American Vogue’s September issue of 2010, also shot by Steven Meisel

By then, he was working with photographers such as Nick Knight and Corrine Day. His successful pairing with Steven Meisel and his striking output for Vogue Italia, placed him as one of fashion’s most important image makers. His advertising work for designer labels such as Calvin Klein and Lanvin underscore his keen commercial sense. And his close friendship with industry heavyweights such as Pat McGrath and model model Kate Moss, whom, according to Suzy Menkes, he has known since she was 14, makes him somewhat of an industry darling.

Mr Enninful’s appointment at the 101-year-old British Vogue as its 11th editor was met with palpable joy. Congratulatory messages on social media came fast and furious, from Grace Coddington to Vanessa Friedman. The media was no less fervent in their reports, with the Guardian rhapsodizing about him as “someone who shakes up mainstream titles, and makes them chime with the interests of younger readers”. It would seem then that Britain’s “most established magazine” made a well-supported choice. We’ve always been partial to British magazines, from the now-defunct The Face to the very present Porter for their willingness to be unconventional and exhilaratingly current. We can’t wait to see what Edward Enninful will bring to British Vogue.

Photos (from top): Giorgio Niro, Vogue Italia/Steven Meisel, Vogue Italia/Steven Meisel, American Vogue/ Steven Meisel

Not Quite Café Society

Coco Cafe

We knew this was going to happen: that Chanel would open an F&B outlet to tempt the tam chiak among their customers. The supermarket set for the fall/winter 2014 show in Paris was prelude enough (and how many people tried to swipe the products on the shelves?!). And now, we get to see and experience a Coco Café in our island. Nope, Chanel has not lost the plot. They still make expensive clothes, bags, shoes, jewellery, watches, perfume, face lotions, make-up, and, occasionally, USD5,000 headphones. For nine days, they’re just serving coffee—and cakes—to sell cosmetics.

Before you get too excited, this is not Paul, or anything that will remind you of Café Flores or Les Deux Magots, or those cafés in the Quartier Latin that capture the charm of Paris. This is essentially the Visual Arts Centre in Dhoby Ghaut Green, above the MRT station, that’s transformed into a Chanel pop-up, or more accurately, “café-themed beauty pop-up”. In Asia, Coco Café first appeared in Tokyo last month, in a swankier address than Singapore’s: Omotaesando.

Coco Cafe 2

In fact, retailers are surprised that Chanel has chosen this spot for its pop-up. You know what they say about “lower Orchard Road”. That Chanel is willing to be Plaza Singapura’s neighbour is both unanticipated and contrary to the belief that this area is too close to the education sprawl of Bras Basah and Bendemeer to be beneficial to luxury branding. On the bright side, this could bode well for this part of Orchard. If this stretch is good enough for Chanel, it could be good enough for retailers with less marketing muscle.

And marketers are amused by a café that does not actually sell coffee or attendant comestibles. Yes, they’re serving, just not selling. What they do sell is Chanel’s newest lip product Rouge Coco Gloss. Well, that’s the star. Others include those from the skincare line Hydra Beauty, as well as make-up and fragrances, a happy mix that will no doubt allow you to partake in Chanel’s intoxicating luxury in case you can’t really bear to stress your credit card to acquire their bags such as the just-launched Gabrielle.

Coco Cafe 3

Inside, nothing will remind you of Rue Cambon. Coco Café (two Cs that pairs with Chanel’s interlocking ones) is a pop interpretation of a beauty store disguised as eatery that looks more Harajuku than Dhoby Ghaut. The watchful, oversized café logo, fashioned out of neon lights, could be something dreamed up by Hello Kitty. In other words, the café’s cute rather than hip.

Did Coco Chanel ever imagine her name lit up for a café? We doubt she did, but she would not have pictured either that the brand she built would one day have to seduce Millennials into spending with coffee and cake on the house.

Coco Café opens today till 16th April 2017, from 11am to 8pm. You need to register to visit the café. Unfortunately, all slots are taken. Photos: Zhao Xiangji

Model Behaviour: Soda Pop Peace Offering

Kendall Jenner Pepsi 1

Pepsi wants their cake and eat it too. Or, maybe, a can of soda and drink it too. In their latest commercial, they’ve engaged model du jour Kendall Jenner to do what Ms Jenner does: model. That is all rather swell until suddenly, in the commercial, she leaves her assignment at hand to join what appears to be a protest. That’s when things get a little iffy.

Encouraged by a passerby who communicates by tilting his head, she abandons what we assume to be paid assignment to join the action on the street. And why are they protesting? We don’t know. Anyway, Ms Jenner goes through a protesting crowd (inexplicably young and attractive), reaches the front line, and confronts a row of policemen. Instead of raising her hand in defiance, she singles out a handsome law enforcer and offers him a Pepsi. Peace, as it turns out, can be had in a can.

Social media blared with disapproval after the commercial was posted on Pepsi’s YouTube channel a day ago. Loudest was the charge that a “privileged, white” woman saving America from its civil-rights woes slights the real attempt to resolve race issues that plague the US. But is this really so startling—or new—when white America, on screen, has always saved the world, if not herself?

Kendall Jenner Pepsi 2

Pepsi pitches its latest commercial as a “global ad that reflects people from different walks of life coming together in a spirit of harmony.” And how “global” might that be? Or how “different”? Include an Asian cellist and a photographer in a hijab as key players among the throng of people with no anger or angst registered on their faces and you get diversity? If this is meant to reference recent confrontations, such as the Black Lives Matter protest in Baton Rouge, Lousiana, last year, how will a recognisable model who, according to Forbes, earned USD17 million last year (and continues to make more with this Pepsi commercial), diminish the anger that still simmers?

One of the earliest models to appear in a Pepsi ad was Cindy Crawford in 1992. In that version, she was all sex symbol, emerging from a vermilion sports car in the presence of two young boys who would become completely mesmerised by her sipping from a can of Pepsi. A sexy woman using her sex appeal to sell a product: that was it.

We’re now living in different times. A model’s beauty alone isn’t enough; she has to tell us that she’s socially aware and willing to go out there to take up a cause, even in the middle of a professional engagement, photographer and crew be damned. You see, the reality-TV-star-turn-model has a sense of right and wrong, and she can temper the tempest with an effervescent drink.

Kendall Jenner Pepsi 3

The Pepsi campaign may shout ‘Live for Now’ but its protagonist does not seize the moment since she, unlike the cellist and the photographer, has time to change out of her clothes to look like she could be a part of the crowd. When social justice calls, blond wig and Vamp-like lip colour are not protest material, nor metallic mini-dress, sheer duster coat, hoop-earrings, and black killer heels.

Suddenly she’s no longer a glamour puss; she’s a model who walks out of her work to follow a functioning conscience. That means joining the marching masses in nude make-up and in a cropped jacket, white T-shirt, and tri-tone denim jeans—an off-duty-model-pretending-to-be-an-ordinary-girl look that is completed by the perch of sunglasses on her head.

Like Diana Prince, she instantly changes from a fashion plate to a figure of justice. Only thing is, Kendall Jenner is no Wonder Woman. And Pepsi is no Coke—it can’t teach the world to sing, and definitely not in perfect harmony.

Screen grabs: YouTube/Pepsi

Update (6 April 2017): Pepsi has pulled this ad from circulation. It’s no longer available on its YouTube channel