Nike’s Next

…designer collaboration will be with Jacquemus

It really is not surprising that Simon Porte Jacquemus of his eponymous label would choose to collaborate with Nike, but it is rather unexpected that he has opted to present a woman’s-only line. Nike announced two days ago that the Nike x Jacquemus apparel and footwear (interestingly, available for guys too) will debut next month, on the 28th. The collaboration is aimed at what both brands call “integrated aesthetic”, not just between the two names, but also clothes and shoes worn on courts, track or field that are also suitable for those times that are off them. It does not sound too differently from what Nike has achieved with, say, Sacai.

According to a Nike media release, the collaboration “invites sport style into everyday life” too, something that the sportwear giant is already doing, regularly and with considerable success. How else can we describe their work with Comme des Garçons and Undercover (excluding the for-running Gyakusou line)? As the Swoosh further expounds, “Nike x Jacquemus follows a belief that sport isn’t simply about performance, it is also an expansion of style and self.” It is not yet clear what that would look like, but Jacquemus is very much a trending brand, so expect a craze to follow.

Nike X Jacquemus will be available on 28 June at select Nike stores and online. Watch this space for more details. Photos: Nike

Practically Nothing

If little is worn and clothes matter not, is there fashion? Or, will we have another word?

Julia Fox in Alexander Wang out grocery shopping. Photo: Rachpoot.com/Splashnews.com

We call ourselves a fashion blog. But more and more there is treasured little left to write. Fashion is reduced to a veritable nothing. Increasingly, there is more skin shown by wearers than cloth. Fabrics are inconveniences, hindrances, barriers, and, if their use necessary, too opaque. Little bits are a lot simpler. Pasties are easier to design and produce than brassieres! A narrow bandage has more potential than a full-form bandeau. Once-upon-a-time-private parts are no longer completely undisclosed. Free the nipple is very near reality. In fact, if what are worn by many well-followed stars are to be noted, clothing as we know it—with the fundamental purpose of covering (which is sounding oddly dated)—would no longer have a future, or, if we were to be more hopeful, a dim one.

A recent photo of Julia Fox—in head-to-toe Alexander Wang from his recent autumn/winter 2022 presentation—shared online truly made us realise that there is nothing we can say about her clothes: She was not wearing much; she was basically in underwear. Is this fashion? Or, has fashion come to this? Her fans would say she was not entirely nude (she has, of course, worn a lot less). There was the denim blazer, but was that even a jacket worth talking about? Or should we compliment how destructed and crappy it looked? Or that she was carrying a beautiful jurse (jeans-as-purse!)? Ms Fox has, of course, mostly dressed (admittedly, a poor choice of word) like that since she came to public attention for her brief, for-all-to-see affair with Kanye West. And that’s the daunting and unnerving prospect: the near-nudity is here to stay.

As one fashion designer told us when we showed him Ms Fox’s photo, “I am thinking, since so many pop and film stars are flashing themselves for the world, they have, naturally, created a new normal. The public, who looks up to them, will think, if their favorite stars can do it, so can they.” But the question is still unanswered: Is it fashion? The designer replied indignantly, “Of course not, not to me. It is purely styling; it is not Gaultier doing innerwear as outerwear!” A follower of SOTD, who formerly worked for a luxury brand, agreed. She said, “It’s just ludicrous and I think these women wear such rubbish on purpose to get attention. It’s really looney bins and not fashion at all—their own invention of fashion and the press lapped it up.”

“It is purely styling; it is not Gautier doing innerwear as outerwear!”

We have, indeed, been wondering, too: Has the media encouraged this stripping (not merely revealing)? For every star baring herself—from Doja Cat in gold pasties under mere chiffon at the Billboard Music Awards two days ago to Kim K in nude bra and panty for Sports Illustrated’s current swimsuit issue—the press gleefully say they “rock” or—our extreme peeve—“stun”. If readers needed to be told that a certain actress or singer in close to nothing astounds, they already know she is not predisposed to, without the without. She needs the costume of a stripper. In fact, when she “stuns”, there’s a good chance she is as bare-skinned or as bare-breasted as it is legally possible. And that she is satisfying her (insatiable?) hunger for attention than fashion. Why would a lover of clothes not wear them?

The press not negating the lewdness once associated with strip clubs is operating within present-day necessity: The imperative embrace of inclusivity, now considered conducting oneself in a conscionable manner. Julia Fox in a narrow strip of fabric across her chest must be accorded equal opportunity to raves as Thilda Swinton in Haider Ackermann, if not more. Inclusivity is so compulsory in the business of fashion, as well as among adopters of fashion, that the unattired can be free of disapproval. Criticism is unacceptable because it would be shaming. We can’t say Ms Fox isn’t dressed for she can, as we are often reminded, wear whatever she wants, or omit. All women can, including the expectant. There is so little to say about what is worn these days since hardly any is; it’s no wonder more columns go to sneakers or meta-clothes.

To be certain, we are no prudes. Scanty dress as desirable dress is so omnipresent that anything that does not, in fact, amount to a dress is hardly terribleness of epic proportion. One fashion writer told us, “Nudity, in a post-OnlyFans world, is not sin, it’s just skin. Skimpy clothes is the future. Designers now need to go to school to learn how to make barely-clothes, but we may have soon another word for ‘fashion’. How about unfashion?” Come to think of it, un is a prefix of profound relevance. It’s skimpy too! Just two letters, yet with such descriptive power. So much of fashion today can be described with the simple un and so effectively: unattired, unclothed, undressed, unclad, uncover, unravel, untie, unline, unfuse unzip, unpick, unpin, untack, unsew, unseam, unseemly, unsuited, unfixed, unveiled, unfolded, unfurled, unrolled, untidy, and, of course, underwear and undies. Oh, for sure, unlovely and, definitely, underwhelming.

Gucci’s Cosmos Not

The cruise show might be themed along the lines of the origins—or structure—of the universe, but that does not mean there is reference to an orderly, harmonious system. As usual, bright was the flashy chaos

The cruise collection is increasingly less about the clothes that one can pack for a holiday than what can be kept in a wardrobe for the day when a statement-making outfit is needed. Gucci’s latest offers scant semblance of what might be reserved for the Viking Orion or anything akin to a holiday in the sun (perhaps, some of the sheer pieces could be worn down at the beach?). But, based on its theme, Gucci Cosmogonie, could these clothes be offered to the suitcase destined for the SpaceX or even the International Space Station, if it could one day be a tourist hotspot? Frankly, it is hard to say. For all the cosmological references and whatever could be up there, the clothes look decidedly bound for some corners of our earth, where burlesque is the main business. Or, could the substantial near-nudity be at one with the universe?

Staged in Castel del Monte (Castle in the Mountain), Andria, southern Italy, the show— soundtracked by mixes of the recording of the first moon landing and Abel Korzeniowski’s Charms (from Madonna’s 2012 film WE)—is a moody celebration of meretricious Gucci, presented against projections of old constellation maps. The Castel was established in 1240 by the medieval emperor Frederick II, who reigned over a court of elites, from artists to astronomers. It is not really determined if this was a spot to observe and study celestial bodies, such as the Castillo in Chichén Itzá, Mexico was, but its very geometry (octagonal) and symmetry, with corresponding eight towers, even on a mount, seem to suggest something more secular. “Castel del Monte”, according to Gucci, “perfectly represents a crossroads of the different peoples, cultures, civilizations, and religions that have shaped the Mediterranean.”

The collection sure seemed to be for a melting pot of different people—or, to be more precise, characters. In his early years at Gucci, Alessandro Michele had proposed a sort of sexy-prim: the off-duty librarian look (some say secretary). Through the years, while he has given the impression that his mind is among books, his designs target less those with a penchant to visit a serious bibliotheca than someone else with a far more hedonistic or sensualistic pursuit on extra amusing and entertaining grounds. The librarians have become party girls, disco dollies, sexy starlets, exotic dancers, nocturnal adventurers, red carpet walkers, hookers, rapper-as-hookers, gleeful exhibitionists, and more. Therein lies the beauty of Gucci, if not in the design, definitely in the looks: eternally hedonistic. Now, hedonism is not necessarily a bad thing, especially if we go by the Greek definition—looking to get as much enjoyment out of life as possible.

It is, of course, preferable to dress as if an individual’s life is one of delight and pleasure than misery and depression. And Gucci offers clothes that project that plentifully. If Mr Michele has toned down the overt retro-ness of previous collections, he has also turned up the ostentation, augmented by faces underscored by ruffs, necks adorned with ropes of pearls, and faces marked by Indian naths (nose rings), except that the chains appear to be attached to the mouth. It is the flashy and the fleshy. One outfit, in particular, would delight Nicki Minaj and her rapper-sisters, even if somewhat belatedly: a one-sleeve top that covered half the upper body diagonally, leaving one nipple the protection of a pastie. In fact, much of the outfits ask for the dispensing of the bra.

Apart from the many sheers numbers (which, to be sure, have been there since Mr Michele’s first collection for Gucci in 2015), Mr Michele has offered, modestly, the opposite: construct of something measured but no less exquisite and polished. One ecclesiastical gown (worn with a choker made of strands of pearls and a necklace that could have come from some papal stash) would not alienate even Lily Tomlin. There’s a tailored, long-sleeved Op-Art dress (with ruffs for cuffs), the oblong, cinched-at-the-waist blouse (worn with a pleated skirt) and the ’40s-looking skirt suit (with the red shoulder piece) that an ex-wife might wear to court to (counter) sue her former husband. But, these are, as you would agree, few and, celestially far between.

Screen shots (top) and photos: Gucci

Clean Cut

The latest iteration of the Comme des Garçons X Salomon collaboration is a beautifully simple silhouette

As if to mock the purposely-filthy ‘Paris’ sneaker launched by Balenciaga last week, Comme des Garçons released a very pristine version of a Salomon’s trail-runner, the SR90. The ongoing pairing (second, in fact) between the French sports/outdoor brand has yielded a surprisingly clean silhouette, sans CDG’s usual eye-opening redefining of what is considered acceptable for sneakers (SS19’s Nike Air Presto Foot Tent!) and still appeal to sneakerheads. Of course, no one seriously puts on a pair of CDG—or co-branded—kicks for sporting pursuits, so whatever tweaks or add-ons they introduce to a sneaker, fans will lap them up because they won’t look standard-issue. But, with this Salomon, CDG is suggesting that looking near-OG is on the right side of edginess too.

We are not a major fan of all-white sneakers (or, for that matter, all-black). Regular SOTD readers would know that. But the Comme Des Garçons X Salomon SR90’s whiteness is not nothingness, or too much a part of a school uniform. A trail sneaker that looks like a retro runner, the SR90 sports a contemporary sense of minimalism that is more akin to what might be offered at Jil Sander. But there is nothing basic about this shoe. Salomon’s much appreciated tech, the Contagrip sole (mixed compound for different terrains and better traction) and SensiFit mid-sole (for customised and secure fit), are there. So is a water-repellent synthetic upper. The sum: a handsome sneaker, if not to go with a set of tux, will definitely pair well with anything less pristine and neutral from CDG’s main line.

Comme des Garçons X Solomon SR90 sneakers, SGD450, are available in black or white at Comme Des Garçons and DSMS. Photo: Comme des Garçons/Solomon

The Imaginarium of Louis Vuitton

Unfolded between the Brutalist buildings of the Salk Institute, and backgrounded by the setting sun on the horizon of the Pacific Ocean. Other-planetary? The clothes sure are

Chanel’s cruise collection, shown in Monte Carlo last week, marked the return of the inter-season line often staged in far-flung places. But there was nothing to say about that collection. Fast forward to yesterday evening (our time), Louis Vuitton’s cruise is a journey to some unknown desert planet (or known—how about Mandalore or Arvala-7 or Tatooine, for Star Wars nerds?) although the runway was winged with the Brutalist buildings of Louis Kahn’s Salk Institute for Biological Studies in Southern California. Against the stark setting with nary a plant in sight, the models are attired as if filming a scene of some movie not set on this earth or surrounded by earthly tech. Inter-galactic vagabonds, mercenaries, resistance fighters, or even Jedis? Some people say they saw Amazonians, but we doubt Nicolas Ghesquière, who, although reportedly used the word “goddess” in relation to this collection, was thinking of Paradise Island, home of the Princes of the Amazons, aka Diana. Yet, the Bracelet(s) of Submission made their visible appearance!

These are not clothes that many would immediately call “pretty”. There are enough pretty clothes in this world—a surfeit, in fact. What Mr Ghesquière has proposed do not even look like they are destined for a holiday wardrobe (let alone be considered for a cruise). Battle-ready? Or for climate change? Who knows? This isn’t Mr Ghesquière writing the story of LV in plain hand. There is exaggeration beyond the paniers of the current spring/summer season (Gemma Chan wore one of them at the Met Gala, looking somewhat mis-clad and misplaced). Mr Ghesquière has offered aesthetically-challenging clothes before, but this time, they are extreme to the point of being, strange, otherworldly. As one stylist said to us, many women here who buy French RTW are not into such looks as they do not make them look feminine, like Dior does. And the very straight shoulders of the shell tops, for example: “too aggressive”.

The clothes are not hostile-seeming in a way military fatigues (or the mish-mash of them worn on the Mad Max movies) could be. The show opened and closed with three silhouette-curious looks that seem to serve as eye-opening parentheses, within which the more accessible but no less convention-defying outfits arouse the imagination. The first three, with their tented shapes and floor length, are no gowns we imagine any film star would wear to a movie premiere or on a red carpet. But they are no doubt gowns, as well as some ceremonial robes of an unknown religious order. Glamour is not the intended effect. The last three have even less spots to be seen in: the considerable tops with what could be some flying saucer landed on the shoulders, under which a possible geomagnetic storm raged, would be for parties where the stranger you dress among strangers, the better.

Discounting those, the collection has a discernible wearability about them, but probably just so. The above-mentioned shell tops, cropped (to better fit the squares of the Instagram grit, assuming you still crop your photos to that shape?) and looking anything but sexy. A few are composed of ‘scales’, (some matte, some irridescent. The idea appear as trims too), and are draped with scarves or throw-ons (some with one sleeve, worn), all a tad ancien. The are also the X-shaped tops and those dresses and skirts made of strands of assorted shapes that gives off something gladiatorial. To augment the fierceness of the looks, there is a suggestion of something vaguely dominatrix: The grommeted leather belt worn on the bare skin of exposed stomachs (and the loose end hanging between legs) hint at something that might be construed as S&M. It’s hard to pin the looks or decode them, and therein lies the frustration and the thrill (or, perhaps, just a tingle). We are of two minds about the collection: Not (yet) sure if we like it or do not. The dilemma stems from the unnecessary showiness of the designs (or over-designs?). As one headline went, “Eve Jobs Holds Court in Thong Sandals, Bralette and Skirt at Louis Vuitton’s Cruise 2023 Fashion Show”. These days, you don’t hit the scene, you make it. That is annoying.

Screen shot (top) and photos: Louis Vuitton

Battered At Point Of Purchase

You can pay Balenciaga to wear out your shoes before even wearing them. Is pre-mature ageing the new cool?

Why wait till your sneakers get dirty and beaten up to wear them vis-à-vis current trends? With the rotations we give to our kicks, few— if ever—get really worn beyond fixable or recognisable. If you want your shoes to look like that have barely survived everything thrown at them, Balenciaga has just the pair for you. Their latest iteration of their Paris high-cuts are deliberately dirtied and ripped in the manner similar to how some new jeans looked severely soiled, like they were retailed after first allowing mechanics to wear them in their grimy workshops. Or, in the case of the Paris kicks, a chance with contestants in a dirt bike race! That Balenciaga would do this to its otherwise unblemished sneakers is understandable: They have a recent history of making ugly cool.

To be sure, Balenciaga is not the first to offer new dirty shoes. Back in 2016, Raf Simons released a pair of Stan Smith in collaboration with Adidas that was intentionally unclean. But they were not this soiled and tattered. Balenciaga’s remake of the cotton canvas, made-in-China Paris trainers are self-touted to be “fully destroyed”. For certain, the actual shoes do not look as down-at-the-heels as those seen in the publicity images now doing their obligatory online rounds. The worn-out pairs for sale are actually more descent and in a wearable state, although we do find the destruction a tad too calculated, even meticulous. That the Balenciaga name had to be inscribed on the mid-sole like a graffiti by a novice, and then smeared is really rather studied.

It is interesting, though, that Balenciaga has chosen the Paris sneakers to soil. The French capital was, from the 17th to 19th century, a filthy city, by many accounts of the time. According to Holly Tucker, author of City of Lights, City of Poison, “The filth of Paris was inescapable. It attached itself ruthlessly to clothes, the sides of buildings, and the insides of nostrils.” Why was this so? “Slosh from chamber pots thrown from windows mixed with dirt in the city’s unpaved streets to form a sulfurous-smelling stew”! The rues of the city were such an indiscriminate brown that even fashion was inspired by it, as well as the bugs that lived happily in the nasty grime. As one story went, a chestnut brown was popular in the summer of 1775. When King Louis XVI saw it, he exclaimed, “That is puce!” Or, (the colour of) fleas. Puce became the veritable fashion. And, now, Balenciaga’s Paris too.

Balenciaga ‘Paris’ sneakers, SGD895 are available in stores and online. Product photo*: Balenciaga. Photo Illustration: Just So

*Actual product differs

Facing Fendace

Up close with the curious collab: It is as terrifying as imagined, even when not much is available

Fendi and Versace equal Fendace, a name that rings of Pantpong of the past. We still do not know what to make of this collaboration (we were, in fact, reminded not to call this as such. It is a “swap”). Is it a joke that we do not understand and, therefore, can’t laugh along? To be sure, Fendace speaks to a very specific target: those who are nostalgic for Versace loudness pied-pipered by the house’s Medusa head, those who have never enjoyed the ostentation, and those who would wear anything that scream something. For those who have lived through the garish-florid excess of the ’90s (before the demise of Gianni Versace), this is very much a revisit. It certainly was for us.

We went to the Fendi store at Takashimaya Shopping Centre this afternoon to view the brand’s take on the Versace aesthetic (we skipped the Fendi looks at Versace as they are, to us, too Donatella Versace). Except for two mannequins flanking the entrance, there were no others in windows featuring the Fendace merchandise, nor any lightbox announcing its launch today. The two mannequins—female on one side and male on the other—were not togged to the nines, as we had expected, just simple pieces you’d have missed if you, walking pass, did not pay attention to the dummies’ attire. There were stanchions and rope outside, but a queue had not formed. We walked straight inside.

A beaming sales staff came to ask if we needed any assistance. The only Fendace merchandise we could identify were the bags, so we asked her if the full collection was in store. “Is there anything you want?” She sounded eager to help. Not specifically, we want to see the pieces first before we decide. “Actually,” she continued with a hint of regret, “most of the items are sold out.” We were taken aback. She then showed us a rack the width of a large armoire: Only three items were hung there. “Is there anything you want? Do you have a picture?” We were really surprised they were this low on the Fendace stocks, this soon. “We brought in very few pieces each—one or two.” Why is that so? Is it because our market is too small? “Yes,” she agreed with a smile. “We think the prints may not do so well here. Our buyers feel they will do better in China.”

Not long after the Fendace show in Milan last September, the hashtag #Fendace was followed by 80 million Chinese on Weibo, according to Chinese media reports. In a Jing Daily (精奢商业观察) editorial, it was noted that netizens were divided when it came to how appealing the high-high coupling was: “Some believed it was simply a marketing stunt and even found them “ugly,” yet others saw them as great value.” China is a huge market, even if there are more of those who find Fendace unattractive, those who think not would still be a larger number than any sum here. The sales staff added, as if sensing our skepticism, “it is also popular with the Chinese (residing) here.”

If the proclaimed sell-out is based on the “very few pieces” availed to the store, it would be an exaggeration to say that the collection was met with great success here. But with so little to see merely four hours after the store opened, it was perhaps good optics for Fendi and Versace. “Sold out” is the best marketing strategy and catch phrase. We were also told that there was a private session for VIP customers to pick their Fendace; we were, naturally, not privy to that. Without much on offer, the salesgirl tried to interest us in the few bags left on the shelf, including a SGD4,850 Baguette in the printed silk designed for the collection (and for the bag’s braided handle), although we were intrigued by the much smaller Mini Sunshine Shopper. When we did not seem keen in either, she told us there were some scrunchies we could look at. Presumably we appeared to have only SGD375 to spend.

Tried as we did, it was hard to distinguish between Fendi and Versace in the products. Perhaps, that’s the whole idea: to look indistinguishable. However new and fresh the pairing of luxury labels, the melding of two high-end brands has its precedence: the Chinese knock-off market. In the heydays of affordable bootlegs, to appear without outright copying, some producers of pirated goods bring together unlikely names and aesthetics to blur the lines, so to speak. Fendace, to us, had that spirit, but now the smudging of aesthetical borders is legit and blessed with the finesse of Italian craftsmanship. But does it make Fendace really covetable now matter how gaudy it looks? Or is Fendace really too hot to be anything but?

Fendace is launched today. Most items are sold out. Good luck. Photos: Chin Boh Kay. Illustrations: Just So

And This Is Miu Miu?

Rihanna does not need to mimick no runway look. She can, as we have been repeatedly told, wear anything she wants, however she desires, modest or not—mostly not

Rihanna, out for the night, scantily clad, again. Photo: Backgrid

In the duration of her internationally-viewed-and-followed pregnancy, Robyn Rihanna Fenty has exposed more of her body than the average expectant woman. But Ms Fenty, as we have been made aware, is not an average woman or mother-to-be. So whatever she has worn (or not) isn’t standard either, or maternity wear. Her visible stomach is the focal point of most of her outfits, from the first trimester to the present. The outers, if worn, do not provide cover either. Even if you follow the growth of her baby bump, it may not mean it grows on you. Not many women are comfortable putting their enceinte body in near-full display. Ms Fenty has not only been at ease; she has been eager too. And that, for many COVID-era societies of the West, is admirable, if not exactly imitable.

Such as the above look she adopted two days ago when she went out with A$AP Rocky to have dinner at their favourite restaurant, Giorgio Baldi, in Santa Monica. On social media, so many said she looked “wonderful” or “beautiful”, but no one said they wanted to dress like her. At a glance, it should have been an immediately recognisable ensemble, but Ms Fenty has taken considerable liberties with it and a double take would possibly be necessary to identify the brand. She would not wear something as it was intended (to begin with, she picked regular RTW pieces, nothing, as she vowed, from the “maternity aisle”). So this Miu Miu two-piece, part of the current spring/summer collection that is much loved, was given a Rihanna remake (she is, after all, a fashion designer!): The skirt was lobbed off to shorten it. And she dispensed with Miu Miu inner wear for—presumably—her own Fenty undies. The genius here is making Miu Miu as un-Miu Miu as possible.

Adut Akech on the runway in the same Miu Miu outfit for spring/summer 2022. Photo: Gorurway

Media reports were all raves and more raves: “Rihanna Bra & Skirt Set… Deserves All The Fire Emojis”, “Stuns In See-Through Set”, and our favourite—from Vogue—“One For The Record Books”. Some choice words excited journalists used included “glamorous”, “inspiring”, “incredible”, “style-forward”, “effortless”. The beauty of all this worship is that the goddess is, fashion-wise, faultless. Even if there was discernible wardrobe malfunction. Fans and journalists alike noticed her body glitter, her tattoos, even the linea nigra, but no one mentioned one exposure: In some photographs of her in the silvery crystal mesh top (and matching customised-to-be-mini skirt), part of her left nipple could be seen above the top edge of her brassiere that appeared to have slipped down on that side (it isn’t known why her bra was so loose). Or was that insouciant slide part of what Vogue euphemistically called the “risqué look”?

Just because the Miu Miu set appeared fetching on the model (in this case, Adut Akech), on the runway, it does not automatically mean the outfit would look good on the rest of us. Ms Fenty is, of course, a determined woman. Not to be told what maternity clothes are, or not, she is happy to break all rules (is there any rule in her rule book?) and go the opposite way by not covering a—not just the—large part of her body. It is possible that she was emboldened by the frequent rhapsodising of the press and social media. The more she revealed, the more she was lauded and encouraged. The reciprocal flaunts even gained her a Vogue cover. There was really no need to hold back. It is said that Rihanna’s pregnancy is important to expectant women—she empowers them, to the extent that she needs to be immortalised with a marble statue of her pregnant self sitting in the Metropolitan Museum of New York, among priceless antiquities of stone. If any pregnancy can be this powerful—and political?—and public, it would be Rihanna’s.

The Strange Love For F-Words On Clothes

Is one particular profanity the new cute? Or, worse, today’s logomania?

Warning: This post contains language and illustrations some viewers might find offensive

By Ray Zhang

There are worse things to wear than ugly clothes; there are rude clothes. But what makes our clothes unmannerly? Or, in the case of the South Korean disc jockey Deejay Soda’s track pants, “offensive”, so much so that she was asked to leave a plane, and, allegedly, made to strip before others at the departure gate? Why would an inanimate article of clothing, secured to the wearer, cause transgressions, social or moral? Most of you would take the stand of the “silent majority”: We live in a conservative world. And there are always children around. But I don’t mean clothes that show more than half of the wearer’s private parts (in the case of Deejay Soda, she was completely and impenetrably covered); I mean those with words, in particular one deemed crude, uncivilised, hostile, gross, low, insulting, contemptible, vulgar, obscene, and good ’ol offensive. I mean, fuck. No offense intended: If I am going to write it, I might as well spell it.

I don’t know why, but, of late, I have been seeing people wearing this particular four-letter world, without asterisks—and the like—between the first and last letters, on the visible parts of their clothes (not just reading about them). The word fuck is not any more offensive than buttocks exposed below the frayed hem of crudely cut off shorts. Well, not. We can’t go to a woman and eff her off for shorts that are too short just as we can’t tell her her sweatpants are too offensive (unless you are a staff with United Airlines?), for as long as they are already dressed in that manner and as long as they are able to leave their home with no objection from family members, and are not arrested until the point we meet them, they are allowed to dress-speak as they like. To me, asking why there are those who like using ‘vulgar words’ or wearing them is like wanting to know why clothes are (now) so trashy. Or why some pregnant women like wearing next-to-nothing. The time has simply come.

Does it all semaphore something more pervasive? Frankly, I don’t know. I hope not. But if those shorts I mentioned were once derided for being indecent, but have survived and are now so much a part of our national dress; along with just-as-skimpy slippers, I expect fuck-in-place-of-Gucci as all-over print, in spite of the absurdity, would enjoy a higher adoption rate and get even more popular. But is the word only more appealing to those who choose to wear them because they are still, in many quarters and, no doubt, in our society, an expletive—one that has a repugnant ring, made more so when the utterer emphasises the F, as if it must only be said with a capital letter? Or, is wearing clothes with the F-word some defiance of youth or a badge of emancipation?

Some people tell me that “fuck you” is better than a slap, or The Slap. It does not cause physical pain, they insist. In fact, it can be uttered silently and the target of the profanity could still make out what is merely mouthed, no respiratory fluids involved. But these days, when the word appears with astounding regularity on social media, used by young and old, is it still really that detestable? If so, why has it then become such a choice word in speech and in text? If not, its visual presence can still cause enough offense to render a plane journey intolerable? I am not sure if it’s really the word or the world that riles people. After all, we do live in an angry world. In the case of Deejay Soda, the repeated pattern that comprises the F-Us, laid out diagonally, could be some rage against whatever or whoever was around her, contempt for everything that’s thought to be contemptible to her and deserving hostility, even when her strike-first was worn innocuously as trousers. If anyone can wear their anger on their sleeves, why not on trouser legs? I recall, after reading her posts, JD Salinger, who wrote in Catcher in the Rye, “I went down by a different staircase, and I saw another ‘Fuck You’ on the wall”: The key word, “another”.

English’s favourite bad word is not born recently. Thought to be of Germanic origin, its use in the English language, as I understand it, began around the 15th century, possibly earlier. Contrary to what supporters of its open, ardent use tell me, the word is not abbreviation of For Unlawful Carnal Knowledge, or similar, and always involving forbidden pleasures of the body. Wherever that came from, I have no idea, but acronyms were not popular before the 1930s, if used at all. Old England was not post-independence Singapore! Still, fuck survived—through war, economic hard times, changing word trends, and definitely pandemics. Its longevity also proves its versatility. From disgusting interjection, it has become useful verb and noun, with attendant adjectival and adverbial forms. Even punctuation! Its use here so publicly and, in particular, textually has a fairly recent history, as I see it. I was not aware of its expanded adoption until I read the blog posts of Xia Xue in the mid-2000 (or thereabouts) and then later on, the forums of Hardware Zone. I also remember a friend telling me that when he was in the army, and a sergeant barked “fuck you” in anger, he merely replied, “don’t make promises you can’t keep.”

Printed on clothes, the practice goes even further back. The first time I saw the word on a T-shirt, it was implied. This was in the mid-’90s and the faux-French British high-street brand, French Connection, was rebranded as FCUK (in 1991). When I saw the items sold here and guys (mainly) were buying and wearing brandish with the evocative acronym, with relish, I was impressed that the sale of said garments did not somehow contravene some law insulating people from public nuisance (it was not until 2014 that we had the Protection from Harassment Act [POHA]. Foul words, including fuck, when directed at any individual, I was told, “constitute abusive and insulting behaviour”). In the UK and the US, there were, initially, calls to boycott the brand, but few actually took heed. FCUK knew well what its targeted young audience wanted. A buddy of mine said then, “but it is not spelled out, what!” Trolls today would post, “we can overpower them with fashion”! Tempered and euphemistic representation continued with the fashion website Go Fug Yourself. Why? “Because Fugly is the New Pretty”! That moved on to a T-shirt from Vetements autumn/winter 2016, and the full-on “YOU FUCKIN’ ASSHOLE (yes, in full caps)”. Fuck won. But really? For me, that will be the day when Anna Wintour wears F-Us in place of pretty florals. Better still, at the Met Gala.

Illustrations: Just So

Celine Equals Cool

But coolness is not necesarrily fierce or edgy

It takes a certain woman to wear Celine. She must be of a certain age (young, of course), have a certain height (tall, of course), a certain weight (thin, of course). And a certain insouciance (haughty, of course). If that’s not particularly inclusive, that’s because it is not. Hedi Slimane has a very specific woman in mind for Celine. That’s why in the show credits of the autumn/winter 2022 collection, it is clearly stated that it’s Mr Slimane who casted the production (and did almost everything, including the directing and filming). That is why he very specifically chose the pride of Thailand, Lisa (born as Pranpriya) Manobal of Blackpink, pictured above, as his purported muse (her second video-runway presentation for the house). Ms Manobal, of Swiss and Thai parentage, is 25 years old, 1.67 metres tall, and weighs about 45 kilograms. With a look that is part sexy, part schoolgirlish, and part ingénue, she is perfect. A native of the Isan province of Buriram, Ms Manobal is now the face of Parisian street-style cool, starring in Celine’s current ad campaign, Portrait of a Musician.

Mr Slimane, as it is popularly known, has a thing for singers and songwriters. This season, he has specially commissioned (and even co-produced) for his stubbornly still filmic runway, a track, Byron is Dead, by the American indie hipster-rocker Leah Hennessy, performing as Hennessy, her New York band. The song is a catwalk-as-disco extension (spin-off?) of their charming and infectious and immensely likeable dance-punk cover of The Waterboy’s We will not be Lovers (from the 1988 album Fisherman’s Blues), which purportedly first drew Mr Slimane to the alt-leaning artiste, looking somewhat Byron-esque in the MV of that single. It is admittedly a delicious pairing—the electro-moody pulse-thrust contrasts with the first venue, the 18th century interior of Hôtel de la Marine in Place de la Concorde of the French capital (designed by the same man behind Versailles’ Le Petit Trianon, Ange-Jacques Gabriel) and beats suitably in the “architectural pavilion”, as Celine describes, of the second that Mr Slimane has designed on the grounds of Hôtel des Invalides. It is doubtlessly a controlled affair, based on the exact obsessions of one man.

Mr Slimane told Vogue in 2020 how crucial music is to the clothes: “I just immediately recognise the sound that reflects the character I want to depict in a show and that could give a rhythm for a specific allure and walk for the models,” adding, “the soundtrack and cast are what define the styling, its degree of credibility, its authenticity. What you hear and what you see are all part of one thing, one world as a whole.” It is, of course, Mr Slimane’s world, his whole—an aggregate comprising everyday staples that have been raved by fans as “elevated” (the hoodie now an elliptical dress?). This has always been his approach, but whether anything is raised to a higher level is not always discernible. It is as if he plays the wardrobe master on tour with a rock musician. Mr Slimane does not design the way, say, Glenn Martens does. He has a keen affinity to ‘looks’ of the past and recreates them with the vernacular of today, born on the streets of Paris. There is always a vintage-y vibe. As one fashion journalist told us, “give me a few hours in Chatuchak, and I’ll be able to style a collection like that!”

Called Dans Paris (in Paris), the collection purportedly harks back to Celine’s roots. But it has less to do with the decade of its founding (in the ’40s) than the years of its heydays (in the ’60s and ’70s). Turtlenecks are the base for many of the ensembles, worn with thick chain-link necklace, under tops/outers that would be familiar among work-wear aficionados. Jackets are either oversized and slouchy, or boxy and cropped. Denim jeans of a lighter wash are prominent, with their stitched/laundered/unstitched hem. So too are slim-fitting skirts of varying lengths that suggest either secretarial sleek or party-girl scantiness. Leather this or that are aplenty too. Hedi Slimane’s Celine is the go-to label when women need something considered “dressed up” and the compulsory cool, whether a night with the BFFs or impressions-are-important dates. The dress with a ruffled top, the side-boob-revealing halterneck blouse, the long sheath with cutouts at the waist and the slit in the middle—and others—attest the truth of that observation. These are feel-good clothes for a good-time out. And the times are back.

Screen shot (top): Celine/YouTube. Photos: Celine

Dress Watch: An Intricate Sheath

This Prada sheath dress would be spellbinding to those who appreciate design as much as dressmaking, and the efforts that go into something this complex that looks not quite

This season at Prada, much attention is paid to the double-faced silk satin, very abbreviated mini-skirts that come with an origami-ish train. They are all over social media, although mostly worn without the more covered-up tops that Prada probably intended. The brand called this wee piece of garment “seduction by reduction” and the public-transport-unfriendly train “a spontaneous gesture”. But long-time followers of their design development know nothing at Prada is ever reduced—stripped of details to nothing. And, despite the suggestion of insouciance, definitely not impromptu or offhand.

But more compelling is our favourite dress from the house this season: First seen on the runway (and the sales person was quick to inform us), this one-piece is, at it most elemental, a shirt-dress worn back to front. But, as we’ve noted, few item of Prada’s RTW are as simple as they first appear. The dress is of a conventional enough silhouette (to us, a whiff of the Forties), even with the considerably dropped shoulders. The focal point in the front is the waist, positioned not too high up. It is gathered by means of boning, inspired, presumably, by the corset. But unlike the close-fitting undergarment of the past, this boned treatment is not worn to constrict the torso. Nope, nothing as Victorian as that.

In fact, the boning is not discreet. Of different length placement (but symmetrical), the stiffening slips (we do not know if they are whalebone, nor the staff at the store), which looked to be half an inch (about 1.3 cm) wide, are hidden as well as exposed, allowing a graphically decorative interest. In addition, they keep the gathers in place and the bodice stiff, but not quite. This dress is not worn for body-shaping, and it is made in linen, which isn’t a rigid fabric. And that is, to us, deeply alluring about the dress: the idea of stiffening but executed with fabric that is somewhat limp, made more so by the slubbed finish.

In the rear, the dress is held together by a row of buttons from the collared opening at the neck to just below the posterior (the rest is an inverted-V opening). If you thought that would mean needing assistance getting buttoned-up, then take comfort in the knowledge that Prada intended the dress to be unbuttoned to the waist, which means you can fasten the last three or four buttons and get into the dress without any effort at all. Skin-baring, but without the sleazy exposure of Julia Fox.

Prada Slub Canvas Dress, SGD 7100, is available at Prada stores. Photo illustration: Just So

Gilded, Filtered, Twisted

As usual, attendees of the latest Met Gala stayed away from the theme as far as possible, or as abstrusely. From Gwen Stefani’s fluorescent pouf to Katy Perry’s black-swathe-on-white-mini-skirt, most were rather off the track, er, carpet. And the most anticipated guest came unexpectedly understated

Officially a couple, Pete Davidson and Kim Kardashian. Photo: AP News

It has often been said: All that glitter is not necessarily gold. Similarly, all that is gilded is not necessarily glamour. Sure, the Met Gala, specifically the show that is the red carpet, will have you believe that this year’s theme, Gilded Glamour, will be a showcase of stars all aureate and alluring, and not one bit absurd. Fashion and prosperity are all there for the green of envy to overshadow the gold of excess. Ironically, this abundance was not truly the case back during The Gilded Age (approximately 1870—1900), from which the Met derived this year’s theme. Historians will concur that The Gilded Age, from Mark Twain’s 1873 book The Gilded Age: A Tale of Today (co-written with Charles Dudley Warner), was used to disparage a time that was largely two sided: materialistic excesses on one and extreme poverty on the other. The Met Gala red carpet flaunt, of course, has never been a live history lesson.

According to Vogue, “Guests will be serving up their theatrical takes on white-tie dressing”. Theatrical is the operative word, but this year, the curtain was not fully raised, and the drama was not altogether fleshed out. Some even looked like stage hands enjoying the kindness of the costumer. “White-tie” really only applied to the men. The “fashion bible” quoted Anna Wintour saying, “What’s wonderful about the Met is that people feel very fearless.” Yet, Ms Wintour herself is, as usual, not quite the intrepid one. As the mastermind of this theatre, she appeared more like a wealthy patron on opening night than its marquee star. Or, rousing rebel. She is, of course, never a fashion radical, seeking safety in the deeply familiar—Chanel couture, and, this year, in a silhouette/look very identical to what she wore back in 2019. Still, attendees must abide by her bidding: set the scene, theatrically. As Ciara said later, “If you are not doing drama, why are you at the Met?”

References to the theatre aside, the Met Gala has more to do with films. Movie stars were also the more visible ones. The Met Gala is often referred to as the Oscars of fashion, and perhaps they aim to be. The presentation opened with host, former MTV VJ La La Anthony (in a body wrap of a LaQuan Smith dress and a ridiculous and distracting hat), speaking to the cast of the film Elvis. No one spoke at length about fashion or the theme of the night, instead they plugged the movie. So did Venus Williams, who wore a Chloe pantsuit and spoke about King Richard, the film based on her family, which won one public slapper an Academy Award. But there was no stage here and none of the evening’s hosts cracked a semblance of a joke. The evening was very safe, in more ways than one.

Quick Change

Blake Lively in two looks, Photos: Getty Images

Vogue says, “There’s a reason why Blake Lively is one of the Met Gala’s co-hosts this year. She never fails to wow on the red carpet.” And also why she keeps getting asked to come back. Ms Lively is no Tilda Swinton, and her “wow” attracts less fashion folks than those shopping for a prom dress. Yet, she has been the embodiment of the dressed-up Met turn-out. This year, she bettered herself with a change of look that simply involved the (assisted) releasing of a massive bow affixed to her hip. The Versace Atelier dress, inspired by the architecture of New York and engineering feat, the Statue of Liberty, as Ms Lively said, went from mostly copper bling to the bluish-green that the metal becomes when oxidation strikes, at a mere unfurling of that bow. Despite the quick-change finesse, modernity, as usual, escaped her.

Jordan Roth in two looks. Photos: Getty Images

But Blake Lively would be outdone. Theatre producer Jordan Roth may not be really known on our red dot, but after this Met Gala, he may be well remembered. Mr Roth, who has appeared mostly on-theme in past Met Galas, showed up in a Gothic Thom Browne construct: On top, a quirky black coat that appeared to be made to resemble a misshapen stereo speaker, complete with what could be the cone and diaphragm! At one point, he allowed the tented outer to slip down his lithe body, and it became a floor-length skirt. Then he stepped out of it, and that top-turned-bottom just sat there, waiting for the wearer’s re-entry! Was it a decompression chamber of sort as well?

Gold Slips

Golden girls. Khloe Kardashian, Kim Kardashian, and Sara Sampaio. Photos: Shutterstock, Getty Images, and Shutterstock respectively

Frankly, Kim Kardashian’s appearance—she was the last to hit the red carpet—was a much-larger-than-anyone’s-dress disappointment. After last year’s face-and-body-obscuring, red-carpet-negating anti-fashion of Balenciaga’s making, her subtle gold slip was not quite the daring we associate with her. Donning the Jean-Louis dress that Marilyn Monroe wore to sing Happy Birthday to President John F. Kennedy in 1962 was not a major reveal either, since the press had already reported, three days ago, that she spied the piece at Ripley’s Believe It Or Not! museum in Orlando, Florida. And was determined to wear it, so much so that she revealed on the red carpet to La La Anthony that she had to lose 16 pounds (or 7.25kg) by totally avoiding sugar and carbs to get into it. Excited fans called it an “iconic” dress. On Ms Monroe at that time, it was; on the SKIMS creator for the duration she was on the red carpet, it wasn’t.

Curiously, sister Khloe Kardashian, a Met Gala first-timer (“following years of snubs”), wore a gold Moschino dress that looked similar to the elder sibling’s. And just as sheer. It is not known if the sisters (all of them, including the matriarch Kris Jenner, were there) discussed earlier what would be worn, but it was revealed that the ex-Mrs West was ensconced in a “secret” dressing room, even when, by then, her dress was not so hush-hush anymore. On the same beat, too, was the Portuguese model Sara Sampaio, in a slinky Michael Kors, with cut-outs to reveal her taut waist, making the Kardashian sisters look unnaturally and uncharacteristically conservative.

Brighter Brights

The bright brigade: Sebastian Stan, Gwen Stefani, Kiki Layne. Photos: Getty Images

It is hard to link neon with the gilded, but there it was—a blindingly bright green. It is not, however, J Balvin’s hair we are referring to, but the two-piece gown Gwen Stefani chose. A Vera Wang creation, it came with a cautiously shaped bra-top, as if to prevent the insecurity that afflicted Nicki Minaj. If there was one colour that kept popping up through the night, it was hot pink: SZA in Vivienne Westwood, actresses Kiki Layne and Ashley Park in Prabal Gurung, model Anok Yai in Michael Kors, and the many more Anna Wintour would no doubt know. But it was the Valentino pink of the brand’s recent season that appeared repetitive: Sebastian Stan (white tie, really?), Jenna Ortega (with leggings!), Glenn Close (escorted by Pierpaolo Piccioli), and Nicola Peltz (escorted by her husband Brooklyn Beckham). Fortunately, the Met decorators did not go with a fuchsia carpet this year.

Wedding Whites

Walking down the aisle or red carpet? Kylie Jenner, Miranda Kerr, Emma Stone. Photos: Getty Images

It’s always baffling when women appearing on a red carpet would want to look like a bride. Or, in the case of Emma Stone, a bridesmaid or flower girl. Ms Stone is often quite a red carpet eye candy, even if she is not usually a standout. But this time, afraid of outshining the brides (how did she know there would be at least one?), she chose a bland Louis Vuitton slip. Because conspicuous had to be Kylie Jenner? The cosmetic mogul wore her friend, the late Virgil Abloh’s work for Off-White: a bridal number with a bustier-dress over a sheer T-shirt. Really. Perhaps this was a bride off to a Calabasas wedding? And what about Miranda Kerr? Her Oscar de la Renta princess-bride dress was all audition-ready for the next Disney movie.

Falling Bustiers

Nicki Minaj and Nicole Peltz Beckham. Photos: Shutterstock

They did not amount to a wardrobe malfunction (at least not on the red carpet), but they looked uncomfortable, and they made for uncomfortable viewing. Nicki Minaj’s boobs appeared so very on the verge of popping out with every pose, at every turn that it was a wonder she had not screamed by the time she reached the top of the stairs. She revealed to La La Anthony that the reason she had to yank her Burberry dress up was “because they made the cup size a little too small”. Even that massive belt, presumably to keep the bodice up, was of no help. No idea why, even with the fact of the misfortune, she would not find something else to wear. Nicole Peltz was moderately better off. The newly-minted Mrs Beckham had on a sheer Valentino dress, with a scooped bustier neckline that was similar to model Quannah Chasinghorse’s by the largely jewellery-focused Antelope Women Designs. Although the former stayed more or less in place, it looked threateningly collapsible. Unsurprising that she clung on to her husband Brooklyn. Might she have worn a safer dress if her mother-in-law made it?

Heads Wrapped

Janelle Monae, Michaela Jaé Rodriguez, Precious Lee, Lily Aldridge. Photos: Getty Images

Just in case someone cracked an ill-placed GI Jane joke? Or was the air-conditioning in the museum too strong? The choice to have the head wrapped is an odd one. Both Janelle Monae and Michaela Jaé Rodriguez, in Ralph Lauren and Moschino respectively, wore rather similar-looking gowns, with halter necks and fitted, decorated hoods. Hard to say if they were inspired by synchronised swimmers or Joan of Arc. Interestingly, Ms Monae, while choosing to conceal her hair, did not hide her underarm tuft, confirming that such exposure is a very real trend, on the red carpet too. She confidently described her look as “gilded glamour from the future”. Precious Lee, in Althuzara, was on the contrary, more of the present; she did, in fact, look like the minute she ditched the sheer frock, she’d join a swim team. And then there was Lily Aldridge, dressed by her friend Cate Holstein of the “classic American sportswear” brand Khaite. Ms Aldridge sported a crystal embellished babushka to match her dress-and-train. Whether that was a statement pertaining to women of a certain nation at war with a neighbour, it was hard to say.

Oh, No!

Their own thing. (Clockwise from top left): Tommy Dorfman, Conan Gray, Odell Beckham Jr., Joe Jonas, Evan Mock, Cara Delevingne. Photos: Getty Images

It is never easy to guess why people choose to wear what they wear. After all, fashion consumers are encouraged to dress as they please, sans constraints personal or societal. So, we won’t start a worst-dresses list. Still, it has to be said that it’s ridiculous to wear a massive, floor-length puffer coat to a gala, as Gigi Hadid, in Versace, did, but is it not even worse to go rather topless to an event that celebrates clothes? Cara Delevingne wore something we can’t quite make out: did she even have anything on, other than body paint and large pasties, and the surprisingly modest Dior pants? Those who did not dare bare that much, chose cut-outs, such as Tommy Dorfman’s Christopher Kane dress with a bodice full of holes. And if you must feel cloth on your skin, but the nipples must not be completely obscured, perhaps Conan Gray, in a Valentino shirt-and-cape, had something going for him? Did he and Ms Hadid receive the same invite?

It is understandable that sports people want the ultimate comfort in what they wear to the point that even on the red carpet, they can’t part with what’s familiar to them. American footballer Odell Beckham Jr brought field side to museum steps in a Cactus Plant Flea Market velvet hoodie, made more expensive-looking with massive amount of jewellery. Joe Jonas, brother of Nick, pinched some poor bride’s (another one?) lace veil to lengthen his cropped Louis Vuitton jacket, leaving him looking neither bride nor groom. The most curious of the night is a suit of very un-evening persuasion. Model/actor/skateboarder Evan Mock wore one by Head of State. It has a cropped jacket with a scooped front that ended in the middle, above the crotch, shaped like a stomacher. Perhaps, he and Gigi Hadid received the same invite. Both of them had that torso-lengthening extension.

Fashion First

Standouts (clockwise from top left): Isabelle Boemeke, Renate Reinsve, Louisa Jacobson, Emma Chamberlain, Kodi Smit-McPhee, and Christine Baranski. Photos: Getty Images

Thankfully there were those who tried harder. And they were the proverbial palate-cleansers. Brazilian model Isabelle Boemeke wore a delightful Noir Kei Ninomiya gilet and dress that were equal parts hardcore Goth and romantic flou. Norwegian actress Renate Reinsve looked statuesque in a cropped Louis Vuitton top that could have been a pair of soften cathedral roofs draped over her shoulders. Star of HBO’s The Gilded Age Louisa Jacobson (an ideal invitee?), in Schiaparelli Couture, redefined the mermaid gown with one that was sheer and with the tail of tulle cropped to the level of her shin. Also redefining the ages—Gilded?—was Emma Chamberlain in a very cropped Miu Miu-esque cream Louis Vuitton jacket and a clean-lined white skirt.

Taking a more androgenous route was Christine Baranski in Thom Browne. Under her sequinned caped-jacket was a white corset-shirt that possibility tempered the sum effect of what could have been a tad too masculine, too white-tie. Conversely, the most bo chap (don’t care) look, but with incredible attitude was Aussie actor Kodi Smit-McPhee’s Bottega Veneta white shirt-and ‘jeans’ (in leather!) combo that saluted the influential American style invention Casual Friday. But something extra did not: Red opera gloves! Now, there is there a touch of glamour, even if not gilded.

Update (4 May 2022, 9.20am): As it turned out, Emma Stone actually wore something from her own wedding! According to Louis Vuitton, the house “specially designed (the dress) for her wedding after-party”