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.

adidas - XbyO Seven-Eighth Pants pic 2

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”.

adidas - XbyO Seven-Eighth Pants pic 3

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

Is Adidas Desperate?

yeezy-season-4-g1Kanye West’s Yeezy Season 4 shown last week during New York Fashion Week. Photos: Yeezy

Everyone’s keeping up with Kanye (too), so let’s not talk about the Yeezy Season 4 show (or what some members of the media called “a hot mess”) that was staged last week. (In case you’re allergic to hoodies and really don’t know what happened, it was, by most accounts, a “disaster”.) Let’s discuss, instead, what Adidas is doing with Yeezy.

Back in June, Adidas made a public announcement of the formation of adidas + KANYE WEST, an “entity” that the German company sees as “the most significant partnership ever created between an athletic brand and a non-athlete”. That, marketing students, is an example of puffery. What we shall see, expectedly, is more of Yeezy sneakers, clothing, gear, and even eponymous stores. 

It was also widely reported that Adidas bankrolled the Yeezy Season 4 show after keeping away their cheque books for 3 and 4. Staged on New York’s Roosevelt Island and so poorly managed that it fanned the chagrin of those who attended, it isn’t clear how the show could benefit Adidas in the long term.

Sure, there’s publicity to be had from the media grumble, but is this the kind of foundation for adulation an established brand would lay with a potentially successful collaborator? Added to the incomprehension are the Yeezy clothes that have, hitherto, not escaped the bland and uncreative designs, first seen in Season 1. Has the man been so busy with blinding his followers with his publicity antics that they cannot see that he’s in a fashion rut?

yeezy-season-4-bootsThe Yeezy boots that caused more than one model to trip. Photo: Nowaygirl

Perhaps Mr West knows that he can’t push Yeezy any further. In an interview with Vogue.com just hours before the Roosevelt Island show, he said he prefers to substitute fashion for “let’s say ‘apparel,’ especially for the style of clothes I make.” A seductive euphemism if there ever was one. He then qualified his word choice by claiming, “I’m not saying that this is a fashion proposition, I’m saying that this is a human proposition.”

That sounds pretty close to Adidas’s game plan for the collaboration. As the brand’s chief marketing officer Eric Liedtke said to the media when the pairing with Kanye West was announced, “This is what Adidas has always been about, empowering creators to create the new.” Or giving celebrities, rather than sportsmen, what they have always been good at doing: ring up the noise.

It is often said that, unlike Nike, Adidas isn’t big in the sporting arena—at least not in the US of A, where success there often means global recognition. For Adidas there is also the niggling problem of Under Armour closing in. Adidas probably had to rethink endorsements after a series of failed partnerships with sport stars. These include the high-profile but still-not-rising NBA player Derrick Rose, who, in 2012, was awarded a “lifetime deal” rumoured to be worth around USD260 million over 14 years. Then he got injured and injured and injured, and Derrick Rose fronting Adidas became less and less and less visible.

yeezy-boost-750The first sneaker launched by Adidas and Kanye West in spring last year: the Yeezy Boost 750. Photo: Sneakernews

Big-name athlete association is integral to sporting goods brands. Nike had their money on the right guy when they signed with Michael Jordan, a Chicago Bulls star player. That pick was so spot-on that in no time, Air Jordans became a legit sub-brand under the Nike umbrella in 1985, and the launch of each style, till today, is still closely watched by sneakerheads and collectors alike. That the shoes were associated with Nike’s celebrated designer Tinker Hatfield didn’t hurt either. Adidas closest sport-celeb offering is the Stan Smith (named after the tennis player of the ’70s), a basically one-product category that’s been flogged to death.

So Adidas had to look outside of sport to raise its profile among consumers. Turning to celebrities—especially singers—isn’t a surprising move. The Three Stripes have always had the support of rappers as early as the ’80s, culminating in the RUN DMC single My Adidas of 1986. In the music video, not only were the trio decked in Adidas, they were even shown emerging from a RUN DMC/Adidas chopper! Street fashion, brought to music television by rappers, was on its way to being a multi-million business.

It was reported that the Adidas mention was completely self-initiated. Regardless, that song led to a USD1.6 million endorsement deal signed between Run DMC and Adidas. Hardly unexpected when you had rapped to the world, “my Adidas and me, close as can be/we make a mean team, my Adidas and me.” Their Adidas referred specifically to the Superstar, worn without laces. As if to relive those glory days, Adidas release a RUN DMC-co-branded line this year. Are we to expect a Missy Elliot collection? Maybe not, since we already have the Yeezy. Kanye West, the hip-hop star, will now change the fortunes of Adidas as RUN DMC did. Sport can wait.

run-dmc-adidas-teeRun DMC Adidas T-shirt, featuring the two names’ original logo. Photo: Adidas

The retreat of sport in the Adidas branding became more palpable with the push of adidas Originals (no idea why they prefer to spell it with a lower-case ‘A’), as part of a new division conceived in 2000 to advance the emerging popularity of “sport style”. It is under adidas Originals that Stan Smith was reborn and aggressively promoted. Yeezy too benefitted from the marketing might of Originals, but Kanye West isn’t the only rapper it has tapped. Others include Mr West’s G.O.O.D. Music label mates Big Sean (e.g., last year’s ZX Flux) and Pusha T (e.g., EQT Running Guidance ’93, also last year).

Do rappers have a particularly appealing taste that other singers in, say, rock or jazz do not? Or is it their visibility, as well as what can be heard from them that entices? One of the most audible (and still remembered) is Mr West’s very public outburst directed at his ex-collaborator Nike. It built up to the concert rant of 2013, when the rapper taunted Nike via the audience in a packed Bridgestone arena in Nashville, Tennessee: “Do you know who the head of Nike is? No, well let me tell you who he is: his name is Mark Parker, and he just lost culture. Everyone at Nike, everyone at Nike, Mark Parker just let go of culture.”

There must be something appealing about publicly berating the hand that once fed you, so much so that Adidas is willing to risk the same thing being done to them to go into partnership with a known hothead. It does look like it is true that publicity of any sort is better than no publicity. Let them talk about you, never mind if it’s a rant. Since its launch, Yeezy has spawned equal parts rant and rave. Or maybe it’s something else. Maybe Adidas is keeping Mr West so happy that they will not receive the same treatment if things should turn sour between them.

adidas-x-alexander-wang-ss-2017Revealed this week, Alexander Wang’s pairing with adidas Originals. Photo: JP Yim/Getty Images

adidas-x-alexander-wang-ss-2017-editorialadidas Originals by Alexander Wang editorial for Vogue. Photo Juergen Teller/Vogue

Why has Adidas become so bent on banking on celebrities to push their wares or elevate their brand? Because, these days, it is the thing to do, even if the best you can get is Rita Ora. Tommy Hilfiger, too, was once preferred and endorsed by rappers, but look at where the brand is today. They’re so threatened with irrelevance that they’ve (re)aligned themselves with celebrity—this time, the K-clan mirror image Gigi Hadid. And it isn’t enough that she is their face; she has to have a collection purportedly co-designed with her. Celebrities these days have more clout than designers. Designers have to be celebrities or use them to yield similar influence. Just ask Olivier Rousteing.

While Adidas continues its on-going collaborations with designers such as Stella McCartney, Yohji Yamamoto—Y3 is considered to have presaged the current love for athleisure—and Kolor’s Junichi Abe, they have not quite earned the cred and clout that Nike has with Junya Watanabe, Undercover’s Jun Takahashi (who, a runner himself, created the running-centric label Gyakusou), and recently Sacai’s Chitose Abe (a stunning collection conceived with Nike Lab). Nike has generally been rather judicious with their designer collaborations. Up next is Louis Vuitton’s men’s wear designer Kim Jones, whose last sport-brand collab was with the British label Umbro ten years ago. Nike has mostly paired itself with those considered the crème de la crème of the fashion business—champions of design, rather than seekers of fame.

Not to be outdone, Adidas has gone to team up with Alexander Wang, who showed an all-black capsule collection with the Trefoil logo given the dao treatment—turned upside down—during the recent New York Fashion Week (now considered season-confused since there were designers who showed autumn/winter 2016). Adidas latest choice is, of course, far from unexpected. Mr Wang had given the Stan Smith top billing when he designed a whole range of clothes inspired by Adidas’s most-known sneaker in 2014.

barrack-obama-in-adidas-2016An undated picture of Barack Obama wearing Adidas tracksuit circulated on Twitter this year. Photo: Kristoffer Tripplaar-Pool/Getty Images

His latest is homage to the Adidas tracksuit, all black, as most fashionistas desire. But do they bring anything new to the table, or, if you like, jogging track? Yes, he has toyed with the logo, but so has Junya Watanabe for Lacoste. He has outlined the three stripes, but so has Y-3. Mr Wang’s take on the tracksuit picks up after Gosha Rubichinskiy’s resuscitation of those by Sergio Tacchini and Kappa (even the Juergen Teller-lensed communication material featuring Madonna’s son Rocco Ritchie shares Mr  Rubichinskiy’s eastern-bloc aesthetic). And the all-black get-up? Even Barack Obama has worn his version, Adidas no less.

The thing is, Alexander Wang, whose own design does not distance itself from the aesthetics of fast fashion (that’s why his collaboration with H&M was a better fit than that with Balenciaga), need not have to try that hard. Adidas isn’t known to excel in the marketing of design-centric lines such as the critically-acclaimed but doomed sub-brand SLVR (launched in 2009 and discontinued in 2014), last designed by Dirk Schönberger, Adidas’s creative director for its Sports Style division. With Mr Wang, Adidas can simply let the former’s online and offline cool do the work.

Adidas’s ardent embrace of Kanye West also attests to the prevalent sentiment that design doesn’t matter. Mr West may offer what, in New York parlance, is “dope shit”, but it’s the shit that seems to rile observers such as Project Runway’s Tim Gunn, who, in a taped interview with Access Hollywood Live two days ago, called the outfits “dumb basic clothes” and the designer behind them “a sphinx without a riddle”. Mr Gunn deserves more fans.

Adidas Originals Pairs With An Independent

Adidas Originals X Italia IndependentBy Raiment Young

When it comes to fashion eyewear domination, Italy’s Luxotica group has remained largely unchallenged, so I am repeatedly told. Yet, there are those labels that have been able to go on and do their own thing and still offer creative designs and sensible price. One of them is Italia Independent, the label created in 2007 by Lapo Elkann, dubbed as “the coolest Italian in the world”, who also happens to be Gianni Agnelli’s grandson, and, accordingly, the heir apparent to Fiat.

Perhaps, owner of the label is less important than the designs. Until its debut store in New York last year, not many know of Italia Independent. I had an upfront encounter with their much lauded eyewear eight months ago, during a visit to Florence. It is somewhat inexplicable, even up to now, that although I was in the leather capital of Italy, I was very much smitten not with shoes or bag, but with eyewear. And those of Italia Independent were so alluring that I was seeking them out at every eyewear shop I encountered, all the way to Rome.

Adidas Originals X Italia Independent sunglasses AOR003The sunglasses were especially fetching not for the reason that they were attention-grabbing, oversized, or radiating obvious Italian-retro-cool (such as Persol, another Luxottica brand), but because they imparted a certain sleekness that has nothing to do showiness, such as those of the brash love children of Raybans and some designer shades, you know the type that seems to attract look-at-me fashionistas.

One of the earliest labels to tap Italia Independent’s indie appeal is Adidas Originals. Launched first as footwear in 2014, the Adidas Originals X Italia Independent sneakers did not immediately make waves. I was not particularly impressed as they appeared a tad too designed to me. It would take what the brand is truly known for to bring attention to the collaboration. Last year, their eyewear debut was considered one of the most appealing and also testament to Italia Independent’s strength and ability to built fun on top of the technology behind the glasses.

Adidas Originals X Italia Independent sunglasses AOR010And one of them tech is what Italia Independent calls “thermic”. A special treatment is applied to the surface of some of the frames, and when these are exposed to temperatures above 30 degrees Celsius (yes, our daytime temperature), they change colour to expose a base texture, in this case, a repeated pattern based on Adidas’s trefoil logo. This technology is developed by Italia Independent and was awarded Innovation of the Year in 2014 by MIT Review Italy.

Not that I am charmed by this chameleon quality since colour mutability on eyewear, to me, borders on gimmicky, but I have no doubt many others would. What really is even more appealing is the construction of the glasses. They are undeniably sturdy and incredibly light, with a fit that’s really comfortable. Fitted with lenses that protect the eyes from UV rays, these are sporty shades that are destined to face the harshest mid-day light. And since Italia Independent eyewear is, as far as I know, not yet available here, these are the ideal intro to what you’ll otherwise miss.

Adidas Originals X Italia Independent sunglasses for men and women, from SGD185, are available at Nanyang Optical and select retailers. Photos: Italia Independent

Stan Smith: New Dirty Shoes

adidas Originals X Raf SImons SS 2016

Raf Simons and Celine’s Phoebe Philo OBE were the first two designers who elevated the profile of Adidas’s nearly-forgotten tennis sneakers, the Stan Smith, by wearing the white pair on the catwalk to take their customary bow at the end of their show. Mr Simons went one step further; he walked out onto the runway in soiled and rather beat-up Stan Smith that no mother will approve in her Lysol-ed home.

If people can be a hit in an Insta-second, so can shoes. In no time, fashionistas—interestingly, not sneakerheads—considered the sullied tennis classic positively cool and the only way to wear them. As if to ratify this thinking, Mr Simons belatedly released a version this season that is possibly a facsimile of his own shoes. These are definitely not tried-to-death display kicks.

By now, however, the Stan Smith, although still considered iconic, risks becoming the hackneyed choice of stylish footwear. Only a cursory glance is required to catch the many versions available, at all price points. So omnipresent is the plain tennis shoe outside a court that it is quickly nearing tear-your-hair dull. But, like clothes, they can be refreshed by not making them look fresh.

Dirtying perfectly clean shoes are rather similar, in terms of merchandising objective, to bleaching, staining, or paint-splattering otherwise perfectly good jeans, one of the very few garments of the fashion sphere that actually costs more when not looking perfectly new, or clean. Newness, as product development pros posit, surfaces from the appearance of old. Flog the horse and you can sell a more spirited steed. In fact, there’s such a desire and demand for tatty clothes and footwear that an entire industry has sprung up to make the new old, or at least, less new.

This really means, now you don’t have to go through extra lengths (or even step outside the front door) to get your pair of Stan Smith looking grubby, just as ragged jeans can be had without putting them through the paces in a coal mine. When improved digital products get tagged with a numeral mostly larger than the previous editions, should aesthetically worse-than-the-original shoes get named with a negative number? To be fair, Stan Smith Version -1.0 is really not the Raf Simons interpretation. The latter’s is far from tawdry. Like whiskered jeans, however, there is something oddly appealing about its scruffy appearance. When something looks used, you know it has had an earlier life, even if manufactured.

adidas Originals X Raf Simons ‘Aged’ Stan Smith, SGD499, is available at Ltd Edt Chamber, The Shoppes at Marina Bay Sands

Two Of A Kind: Pool Sliders Face-Off

Adidas vs Gucci slides

Top: Adidas ‘Adilette’ slide. Bottom: Gucci ‘Pursuit ’72 Slide’ sandal

Which came first? That shouldn’t be hard to guess, but for those whose retro-sense goes only as far back as 1990, when Tom Ford was installed as Gucci’s creative director, then it may require stating that the slippers seen here—now known as slide sandals, pool sliders, or simply slides—first appeared in 1972, when Adidas introduced the ‘Adilette’. Back then, these were thought to be for use in the bathroom or, worse, a descendant of the cha kiak—wooden clogs from a bygone era—that mothers gladly pointed out. Yet, there was something so anti-establishment about them, an alluring counterpoint to the favoured flip-flops of the time, that they caused a mini craze.

Gucci’s, as far as we can remember, appeared in June last year, when they released a white version of the one above. The fact that this style is called ‘Pursuit ’72 Slide’ suggests that Gucci is not even thinly veiling its homage to the Adilette. Just look at the placement of the brand name! In their compositions, these made-in-Italy slippers are not so different from Adidas’s made-in-China ones. Even Gucci’s upper is synthetic, rather than leather. But with Gucci’s distinctive coloured bands—red-and-green—that are inspired by saddle girths of horseback riding, these should have as much prestige as anything with their repeated interlocking Gs.

Adilette SS 2015 @ adidas OriginalsThe current season’s Adilette slides at adidas Originals stores

There’s no denying that luxury brands are increasingly taking their cues from athletic brands, specifically where footwear is concerned. Gucci, in this instance, does not only want to dress your feet for the office or for a date, they, too, want your soles atop their sliders so that you don’t need to go pick your free copy of Today in generic flip-flops. Desiring to cover all categories of footwear is understandable since a business will find all means to grow, but the need for luxury brands to ape the product offering of sports brands is curious. You won’t find Adidas doing leather horse-bit loafers to capture the hearts of fashionable urbanites. Sure, they have their Princetown loafers, as well as those colourful penny loafers conceived in collaboration with Jeremy Scott, but these have a sports aspect to them. Or in more marketable parlance, they’re hybrids.

In Gucci’s heydays, many of their products, from bags to shoes, set the trend, and were much looked at by lower-market brands for inspiration. These days, the reverse is too noticeable to ignore. The bubble up effect is truly effervescent.

Adidas ‘Adilette’ slides, SGD49, are available at adidas Original stores. Gucci ‘Pursuit ’72 Slide’, SGD220, is available at Gucci, The Paragon

Adidas Goes For The Top But Is It The Apex Of Design?

Adidas X Topshop 2015Adidas is no stranger to collaborations. What they can’t do better, they pass to others. What needs re-imagining, they tap the minds of those outside the company. This can be seen as far back as 2001 in one of their earliest collaborations: the pairing with Japanese masuta of the avant-garde Yohji Yamamoto. Mr Yamamoto designed only a few styles of sports shoes then, but they sure did generate enough interest for Adidas to eventually advance the Y3 line. As Mr Yamamoto told Interview in 2011, “we created something that did not exist before and completely projected into the future”.

Fast forward to the future or, specifically, the present. When it comes to collaborations, Adidas is one of the most prolific among sportswear brands. In just the first half of this year, they have launched enough successful design/brand pairings to make those by H&M seem lame. They’ve worked with popular singers, in-the-news designers, and hip retailers, yet there’s more to come. According to an Adidas Group press release, the Three Stripes enjoyed a 17% swell in profits of €4.1 billion (SGD6.1 bil) in the first quarter, no doubt a direct result from pairing with Kanye West and other high-profile stars. Whether it’s the hyped-to-death launch of Yeezy Boost with the indomitable Mr West, the retro-ghetto-fabulous bombast of Run DMC,  the chromatic excess of the Superstar re-coloured by Pharrell Williams, or the comic-cute, street-art-bent jumble of Rita “I’m-a-designer-now” Ora, co-creating has strengthen the Adidas branding rather than dilute it, no matter if some day consumers may forget the label’s association with sports.

So, who would Adidas not collaborate with? At the moment, no one, it would seem. Collab fatigue is not on their mind as Adidas takes Topshop by the hand in the latest twosome-to-create. This is not the first time Adidas, specifically adidas Originals (spelled with a lower ‘a’ and a capital ‘o’, presumably to underscore originality), has worked with Britain’s most recognisable fast fashion store. Last year, they came up with a 20-piece collection to cash in on the sports-meets-fashion craze. While that debut appeared appealing (its street-strong aesthetic not lost on Alexander Wang followers), the current 7-piece capsule collection is a bit of a puzzler: does Adidas need Topshop to create something so regular, prosaic even?

Adidas X Topshop 2015 + 2014Topshop X adidas Originals 2015 (left) vs 2014 (right). Photos: adidas Originals

There’s the “reworked” Superstar jacket, a pair of brief running shorts, a T-shirt, a Trefoil-emblazoned sweatshirt, and two pairs of re-imagined Superstar sneakers. All no doubt smart-looking items, but this time, the street style aesthetic is not immediately obvious. In fact, it seems Topshop has wholeheartedly embraced the sports heritage of Adidas rather than push for a high-street sensibility. Not necessarily a bad idea, but couldn’t Adidas produce these garments and shoes themselves? What has Topshop brought to the table, or, rather, the clothes?

The payoff for either side is not immediately discernible, but we can take a guess at what’s likely: Adidas gets to tap into Topshop’s distribution channel and reach a wider audience, particularly the younger set that has ditched the likes of Abercrombie & Fitch, yet not quite a big fan of full-on sports labels. For Topshop, they get a sportswear line (unlike H&M, they do not have dedicated performance wear) and the association with a brand that’s very much in the news, thanks to loquacious singers with CVs that go beyond music-making. This coming together of forces leveraged both brands. However, when they should have created unique products, this season, Adidas and Topshop output merchandise that’s not exceptionally compelling or innovative. Not one of the seven pieces is anything that Adidas couldn’t do themselves—no celebrity cachet, no designer value.

It is understandable that this collaboration isn’t for fans of the Yeezy or clueless teenage girls with I will Never Let You Down on their Spotify playlist or regular, ardent shoppers at London Skateboard. This is really for fast fashion consumers who, seized by a moment, may just be interested in a T-shirt with an outsized Adidas logo. As a tree might tell you, spread your branches and you really get more sunshine.

Topshop X adidas Originals is available at TopShop, Ion Orchard and Jem

Dots: How Big Will They Get?

SS 2015 Dots G1Spring/Summer 2015 dots. From left: Kenzo Men, Marc by Mark Jacobs, Junya Watanabe, and Dolce & Gabbana

Not since George Clooney’s appearance on the cover of W in December 2013 as Polka Dot Man (well, not quite DC Comic’s supervillian) has polka dots been headline fashion news. How did things get so dotty is a little beyond our comprehension, but we think it has a lot to do with today’s weak preference for plain fabrics in solid colours. Of late, the fashion-consuming public seems to be enamoured of patterns, from floral to abstract shapes. We’re tempted to blame Givenchy’s Ricardo Tisci for it: thanks to him, stars (especially those that encircle the neckline) have led the way, peppering garments with repeated geometric shapes in the same vehemence once reserved for vintage illustrations.

The current fate of polka dots is sealed when Pharrell Williams introduced them to the Stan Smith, which, sadly, has lost much of its humbler looks since the pop singer re-styled the classic tennis shoe into sneakers that seem destined for the streets of Legoland. This is, to us, ironic as the Stan Smith’s appeal is in its inherent plain simplicity. Hipsters took to them as a stand against the over-designed excesses of designer kicks. Mr Williams’s initial dalliance with the Stan Smith saw him working bright colors into the shoe. Then he had them covered with micro-dots before spotting the current ones with those the size of doll-house saucers.

SS 2015 Dots G2Clockwise from top left: Kenzo Nylon backpack, Pharrell Williams X adidas Originals Stan Smith, Hellolulu Ottilie backpack, Fred Perry Mini Classic Bag, Nike Roshe Run NM “City Pack” QS “NYC” and Comme des Garçons leather zip-top case

To us, polka dots are evocative of Mini Mouse’s dress and, inevitably, the oversized bow on her hair: clearly a cartoon celebrity in need of Smurfette’s stylist! They, too, remind us of Comme des Garçons, a label that has made repeated dots attractively modern. In all sizes (big, apparently, is better),  they have been very much a part of the CDG graphic arsenal, and they appear in almost everything, such as those Croc-like slip-ons in collaboration with Native Shoes back in 2013 as well as those season-less Play cardigans worn by stars such as Justin Timberlake. That’s why, to us, Pharrel William’s new iteration for adidas Original’s Stan Smith (above, top right) is nothing new (the dots are embroidered on the leather upper, an idea first seen in Dior Homme shoes last season). It is really not beyond the ken of the average fashion follower that he took a page from the CDG playbook (perhaps to score extra points so that those shoes can be carried in Dover Street Market) rather than dream the pattern up.

IT Beijing MarketPolka dots are to CDG what rectangles are to Mondrian. In fact, CDG loves them so much that black-filled circles, sometimes way larger than dinner plates, are used in their visual merchandising or as decorative motif for shop fronts or building facades. In 2010, when I.T Beijing Market (left), an offshoot of the brand’s retail business Dover Street Market, opened in Sanlitun of the Chinese capital, the blockish building’s façade was half-covered with oversized dots. In a neighborhood of ultra-sleek luxury brands such as the Euro-chic Miu Miu next door, I.T Beijing Market stood like a defiant upstart, striking as it is cheeky—a Damien Hirst in a sea of unadorned glass and severe concrete.

The thing about polka dots these days is that they have become rather gender-neutral. When once mostly women embrace them (the odd bow tie favoured by a few fellows did not mean they were popular with guys), today they are not conspicuously absent from men’s wear. Even blokes’ label Fred Perry has embraced them, introducing polka dots—noticeably large—with such regularity that they have become as recognisable as the brand’s laurel wreath (interestingly nearly as circular as a dot). Has the repeated dot then clearly become a sign of change for men’s attitude towards patterns? We’re not sure it’s clear enough.

Are You Suffering From Stan Smith Fatigue?

Pharrell X adidas OriginalsToo much of a good thing can really be a bad thing. It wasn’t too long ago that we published an opus on adidas Orginal’s Stan Smith, the sneaker du jour. Since then, they have been so many new releases that we have lost count. Just a few hours ago, we read that Isabel Marant, too, has joined the fray by creating her own kicks, called the “Bart”, that look like Stan Smith, but are more akin to Saint Laurent’s too-close-for-comfort interpretation. Not that we really care, since we have amassed all the Stan Smiths we ever wanted, but something ticked: as soon as we thought we have found the shoe we could wear forever, we quickly really don’t want anything to do with it.

Several hours earlier still, we came face to face with Pharrell William’s much hyped Stan Smith. Just released, this is a collab, and it is, to be fair to Mr Williams, a rather fine-looking take. It is good to know that he did not do them in white, currently massively preferred, so much so that the all-pristine versions—such as those done in partnership with American department store Barney’s—are too cool to be cool anymore, and so much so that Alexander Wang has, for S/S 2015, created dresses inspired by them. Mr Williams, chromatic master himself (that pink Celine coat he wore with palpable fondness!), put out three one-tone colour ways: red, blue and black, all with insoles of cartoon-like graphics and marked on the heel tab with Adidas’s recognisable three stripes done in what appears to be brush stroke-filled oblongs. We found the shoes oddly alluring, even when we’re seriously suffering from seeing a surfeit of Stan Smiths.

While we’re no fan of pop-stars-turn-fashion-designers, we won’t pick on Mr William’s partnership with adidas Originals. We’ll save our energy for anything by Kanye West. Happy!

Pharrell X adidas Consortium Stan Smith “Solid Pack”, SGD 219, is available at Limited Edt Chamber, The Shoppes at Marina Bay Sands