Can the little red dot stand shoulder to shoulder with the little black dress? A native islander and friends look at fashion (and such) in Singapore, and, occasionally, among her neighbours, and a little further afield
Au naturel. Left, Thomas Sabo. Right, Adidas. Photos: respective brands
We are starting to see quite a few ads that show women in their natural state. Sure, going unshaved up there as I-can-do-whatever-I-want expression of confidence has been noticed since 2019, when Nike, always more forward thinking than other brands, shared on Instagram a photo of a model in a bra top, with right arm lifted to frame her head so that her fingers could be hooked to the strap of the top on the other side. The pose would have been quite regular if not for what was viewable under her arm: not a hairless pit. It isn’t hard to imagine that the world of social media went wild. Yet, Netizens were not that divided over the hairy reveal, with most expressing disapproval of the look. Defenders of body positivity were not the least amused.
While movie and pop stars and those living their lives publicly have already been seen sparing underarm hair scissors, tweezers and depilatory creams, models representing brands, especially clothing labels, have largely gone smooth before standing before the camera. Julia Roberts (remember that incident?) and her clean-ketiak sisters did not really initiate a social/style revolution. And we soon fussed not with the fuzz (even the striking Nike initiative) that for many women is totally natural and deserves to be kept, even long, where it belongs. Then, at this year’s Met Gala that had attendees salute American fashion, Madonna’s first-born Lourdes Leon posed before the cameras in glittery pink and unabashed tuft. Like mother (in 2014), like daughter. Under the watch of the world, armpit hair is back in the spotlight.
The Nike Instagram post from 2019 that possibly started it all. Photo: nikewoman/instagram
We did not really pay much attention to all the exposed armpits and their crinite glory. But this week, two ads appeared in our news feed and they had us wondering: Is it back? One was by Adidas, featuring a Stella McCartney support bra—the model posing with arms up like a victory hurray. The other (surprisingly) by the new jewellery brand Saboteur (by Thomas Sabo and his son Santiago), showing their model with her arm lifted as if readying herself for an inspection of her axilla. What was striking to us weren’t just the clear clumps, but the way they caught our attention. The fuzz did not peek from the crack where the arm meets the body, like some shy Baby’s Breadth. The models posed to bring their underarm(s) into full attention. In the case of the Saboteur photo, the necklace they were presumably promoting was secondary to the more eye-catching auxiliary hair. The mind boggles to think that, these days, when a brand casts models, the brief to the agency is, send only those not shaved/plucked/depilated.
Standards of beauty have, of course, changed. Dramatically. If nipples can be shown, what’s a little hair? But what’s also different in the case of underarm growth is that more guys are, conversely, removing hair there. A look at the Instagram pages of the many males who use them to share images of their shirtless selves, the majority, unlike, say, Japanese gymnasts, have quite bare armpits. Are what’s acceptable for men and for women reversed now? We shared the Adidas shot with a few women to have a sense of what the ladies may feel about the new, naturally-fringed area to show off. All of them are not comfortable with what they saw, “Is this the new beauty that we are not aware of?” “Don’t like; don’t understand.” “Sorry, I’m still old-fashioned.” “Don’t think will catch on with Asian women.” “How do I unsee this?” “😱” “My mother will force me to shave.” “I want to keep my husband!” “I never liked fatt choy, anyway.”
Raf Simon’s skeletal-wrist bracelet doubles as arm clasp. They are eerily beautiful
By Mao Shan Wang
Halloween is over. But a skeletal wrist is still making the news, delighting many who desire the grip of its spindly fingers. I don’t know about you, but this is one grab of the arm I do not the least mind, even in a crowded train! And for those of you celebrating Thanksgiving, that quieter transition to the madness that is Christmas, possibly just the accessory to have on your bicep to either delight relatives or annoy them. Bad fengshui? It sure would be a conversation starter. Studded with Swarovski crystals, this ‘Skeleton’ bracelet by Raf Simons looks to me to be the bling to have this festive season.
Frankly, I have had quite enough of the skeletal wrist’s other related bodily part: the skull. In fact, I don’t own anything bearing the bony framework of the head, even when they are similarly blinked out. Not for me the skull’s supposed status as the symbol of sub-cultures, desirable or not; even the outsider status the wearing of it supposedly bestows. By now the skull has lost all that. The skull is, to me, more Phillip Plein than Alexander McQueen, more Chomel than Chrome Hearts. And when it starts to appear in Ang Mo Kio market, I really wish some pirate would take it all back, whether underscored with crossbones or not.
But the skeletal wrist, that is newer. Raf Simons debuts this piece of accessory this season. And the beauty of it, apart from the glitteringly obvious, is that it can be worn on a wrist of flesh and skin, as well as on the arm as the above photo shows, like a sleeve garter, but you won’t look like a like a ragtime pianist! Yet, the Skeleton bracelet can be similarly worn to adjust the length of Mr Simons’s increasingly long sleeve lengths. The bracelet comes in two sizes, so that the guys can have one—or a pair—for themselves too (I’m not sure they would fit the developed arms of gym bunnies).
Wearing it on the wrist is somewhat predictable. Grab my arm, I’d say, even when it is bare. Given how dismal things still are in yet another (!) pandemic year, perhaps it is the shot in the arm that we really need?
Raf Simons skeleton bracelet, €940, is available online at historyofmyworld.com. Photo: Raf Simons
Although they have been around for five years, they have remained relatively low-key. Is the Goodluck Bunch the best streetwear store on our island?
On Bali Lane, the shop houses are not as spruced up as those on both sides of Haji Lane, just one street away, towards the Sultan Mosque. Built in the mid-19th century, the Bali Lane shophouses, numbering around 30, have rather simple façades, described as belonging to the Early Shophouse Style (1840-1900), distinguished by their lack of ornamentation. They are part of the area known by the road that links Victoria Street to Beach Road: Arab Street. Bali Lane is only one of two named after Indonesian islands (the other is Java Road), rather than a place in the Middle East, such as Bussorah Street and Muscat Street. It is a rather short lane. At about 100 metres, it less than half the length of Haji Lane. Most of the businesses here are of F&B persuasion. Between a halal restaurant that serves Japanese grilled meat Waku Waku Yakiniku and an empty shop lot is the only one of its kind on this motley makan row: a clothing store.
Without a striking shop front, it is easy to miss Goodluck Bunch (GLB). But the visual restraint is also its allure, the relative plainness and lack of sheen often make up secret addresses among those in the know. Devoid of obvious swank, it has an absence of pretentiousness to match. Stand on the five-foot way and peek inside the heritage shophouse, and the space, bathed in incandescent glow, beckons like a treasure trove, within what is often considered the exemplar of indie cool: white walls and concrete floor. But there is something more welcoming in GLB’s not quite calculated relaxedness, with merchandise displayed in a free-hand manner that will doubtlessly encourage browsing and touching. It is the market vibe too, which we refer to, in the best possible way. After all, one of our island’s best multi-label stores is self-touted as a market too.
Goodluck Bunch looks to us like something out of the arterial streets of Tokyo’s Daikanyama; a cross between the area’s long-serving Hollywood Ranch Market (that word again!) and the rock of an outdoor store High! Standard, with a touch of Nanamica and the posturing of Kikunobu. GLB has been described as a streetwear clothier, but the merchandise includes a spirited mix of Normcore and Gorpcore labels thrown in for good measure. The selection of clothes is augmented with practical accessories to allow shoppers to purchase a complete look, including less common items such as shoulder bags for water tumblers or the odd bottle of Ayataka green tea. And just as you thought everything stocked is for those with an inherently casual wardrobe, immaculate business/dress shoes from the Thai label London Brown incongruently greet visitors near the entrance.
There seems to be a subtle Asian slant to the merchandising approach, with Japan being an obvious source. While there are brands from the US (we’re talking about streetwear after all), it is the Japanese offshoot of American labels Ben Davis, Chums, and Gramicci, and born-in-Japan Mont Bell that shoppers seem to enthusiastically target, as well as the now-sold-out tote bags featuring the simple and striking drawings of Tokyo-based illustrator Noritake. Given the Japaneseness of the store, the Nippon connection makes sense. But rather than evoke Harujuku, the heart of the not-readily-definable Tokyo street scene, GLB takes on the indie spirit of Japanese retail that is found in other neighbourhoods, such as aforementioned Daikanyama, and situates itself on a street here that has virtually no shopping. The dissimilarity to its neighbours probably stood it in good stead.
The two founders of Goodluck Bunch are not newcomers to clothing retail. Quek Swee Ying (known on social media as Swee) and her husband Lee Hong Ping started GLB in 2016 on the weath of experience Ms Quek had gained from her typical blogshop-made-good label Runway Bandits. First hosted on LiveJournal in 2008, two years after Love, Bonito began as BonitoChico on the same platform, Runway Bandits, “catered towards students with limited budget”, as Ms Quek told the press. These school-goers were spending, and two years later, business was so encouraging that a bona fide e-commerce site for the label was created. When Plaza Singapura remade its basement 1 into a haven featuring “leading local fashion blogshops” in 2018, not-marauding Runway Bandits was there with their first physical store, diagonally across from rising star Fayth. Ms Quek told us then that it was “a pop up as trial”. On what made her brand stood out, she said that it was the “soft and neutral palette” and that they “engaged customers by allowing them to vote for their favourite colours”.
Of the half-a-dozen or so stores that opened on-theme at Plaza Singapura that COVID-19-free year, only three have survived, and that include Runway Bandits. In June this year, the brand was renamed From There On, catching fans quite by surprise. Where “there” might be, it does not say. Why the change of moniker, it is not yet known. One retail consultant told us that “‘bandit’ does not have a positive connotation”. Even after more than 10 years of use? Outlaws aside, the word, informally, also refers to individuals who take unfair advantage of others. Neither runway or bandit, the brand was a misnomer. The new name, a clear departure from the old, however, is no indication of a fresh aesthetical direction. From There On sits comfortably on the same-old plot of unconstricted shapes, immediate everyday-ness, and sassy girlishness of Runway Bandits. A clear lineage. One chirpy shopper at the store recently, who said she was “doing a course at SOTA”, told us that she was a regular because she liked the “better basics” there.
For many, the two-storey, 1,300 sq. ft Goodluck Bunch is also likely the place to score better basics. To be sure, despite their veritable street cred, GLB is not quite the same as, say, Undercover’s Madstore. Yet, there is no denying the clearness of their merchandising direction. With about 30 brands in-store, what you’d get is a happy wearable jumble that includes Danton (the French label that’s so Normcore-cool that even DSMS—yes, that market!—and Hong Kong’s i.t are stockists), Gorpcore heavyweights Kavu and Patagonia, the fun-centric Chinatown Market, hip-hop’s fave hat brand Kangol, Singaporeans’-must-buy-when-in-Japan Champion, and Jil Sander’s latest collaborator Arc’teryx. The mix is varied and a joy to uncover. The staff told us of their other boss Lee Hong Ping: “he treats this as his playground”. A clothier who has fun with the stocking of his store often allows that pleasure to shine through in the merchandise. This is totally palpable at GLB.
Going through the stuff after you enter will take you some time. And then you remember that there’s upstairs. (The staff will happily remind you too.) So up you go. As the view of the second floor unfolds, the Japanese vibe again hits you. Up here, there is a faux tree in the middle of the space, a shade provider that seems to bring the disparate brands together, like a group of well-togged friends convening at their favourite spot. On the weekday afternoon we were there, we heard giggling behind a curtain. As it turned out, some girls were trying on the Ben Davis. Although GLB stocks mostly menswear, it also attracts women with a weakness for jendaresu-kei (genderless style) or too-big T-shirts, sometimes inexplicably massive. In fact, most of their social media posts are photos of girls dressed in tees and bifurcated bottoms. One of them in the fitting room emerged to have a better look at the mirror. She could have just leapt out of Goodluck Bunch’s Instagram grid.
Goodluck Bunch is at 26 Bali Lane. Photos: Zhao Xiangji
Regular readers of SOTD would have noticed that we’ve been rather partial to retro-looking sneakers that do not appear to be sitting on a mountain of cushioning technology. Or, worse, contraptions that pass of as heels (in fact, enough of fancy rears or mid-soles that gape!). Sneaker designs have had so much “ugly” piled on them that these days we’re looking at ‘classic’ as a palate cleanser. One of the brands that do this classic we speak of really well is the often sidelined Reebok. And the most alluring we have seen this past month is the leather version of the unisex Legacy, which Reebok enthusiastically calls “rad ’80s running style reimagined”. Yes, not looking at the ’90s, as fashion seems to be this season, is a good thing.
And reimagine, Reebok sure did. The Legacy seems to be lifted from the past (even as far back as the ’70s), yet it is has a spirit about it that is contemporary. Perhaps it is the colour combo of this particular pair: four tones of what might be called earth shades, plus that grassy green that Reebok intriguingly—and invitingly—names midnight pine. It is a colour that is dark enough (but not black) to give the shoe visual heft and provides an effective base (nylon) on which the overlays (suede) criss cross beautifully. Even with the many pieces that form the upper, the Legacy is light and looks sleek yet modest, even reserved. Without doubt, the humbler looking, the better.
Reebok Classic Leather Legacy in stucco/midnight pine/sepia, SGD129, is available at Reebok, Orchard Central. Photo: Chin Boh Kay
The thieves of the West Coast of the US have upgraded
A passerby taking photos of the smashed and looted Louis Vuitton store in San Francisco. Screen grab: Yealenne/Twitter
The situation in the US has become this dire, especially in the West Coast. According to a KPIX CBS SF Bay Area news report, “a big heist” took place last Friday at the Louis Vuitton store in Union Square, San Francisco. And you thought the looting of LV last year is now but a memory. The lastest incident did not take place during a protest gone uncontrollably wrong. KPIX‘s field reporter said a witness saw “more than a dozen people could be running at the store, clinging to merchandise and hauling as much as they could” on a regular Friday night. SFGate later reported that the thieves “emptied out” LV. Images and videos shared on social media showed (mostly) men running out of the store and fleeing, arms filled with merchandise. One getaway car was stopped by the police, who smashed its windscreen and windows. A man was seen leaving the car and the police apprehended him.
This is a stunning robbery, conducted during the store’s opening hours. Yet, the perpetrators were described on social media as “shoplifters”. In California, “entering an open business with the intent to steal less than US$950 worth of property is shoplifting under state law”, as the local media reported. Shoplifting is usually considered a “misdemeanor”. If the many photos of the empty shelves of the LV store are any indication, the stuff taken were likely more than US$1000 apiece. This brazen attack on a store of a highly popular luxury brand is, to many, an “upgrade” of the retail theft that has afflicted the Bay Area in the past two years.
Across the country, and also last week, “at least 14 people forced their way into a Louis Vuitton store” in Oak Brook, Illinois, and “made off with at least $100,000 in merchandise”, according to CNN affiliate WLS-TV. Footages from security cameras obtained by the station showed these individuals rushing in and grabbing what was displayed on shelves, mainly handbags, as far as we can make them out. The shoppers seemingly hurried out of the way. No one, it appeared, stopped the looters, not even the staff. This was not the first LV attack in the state. Earlier this month, thieves stole US$150,000 in merchandise from the brand’s store in the northern suburbs of Northbrook, for the second time!
Security camera showed the burglars at work in the LV store in Illinois.Photo: WLS-TV
One of the most alarming video-shots that circulated online in June, was of an apparent larceny that took place in a San Francisco pharmacy Walgreens. The man was seen stuffing a garbage bag with merchandise that was wiped off the shelves. Shoppers and a security guard simply looked on. The robber got away on a bicycle. Although the culprit was arrested less than a week later, according to local reports, similar incidents continue to make the news and be shared on social media. Not long after the Walgreens case, it was reported that four women fled after stealing from another pharmacy CVS, at two separate locations. Just two days ago, CVS announced that they would be “closing 900 stores over the next three years” (San Francisco outlets would be affected). Although retail theft was not cited for the closures, many observers believe that it is one of the reasons. Walgreens had also announced earlier the closure of at least five of their SF stores. According to a recent Wall Street Journal report, the figure is now 22.
Getting a grasp of the pervasiveness of the grab-and-go, without-compunction crimes is not easy. At least for those of us from this little red dot, where even plucking a fruit from a roadside tree is a chargeable offence. There is yet a comprehensive understanding of what drives these people to target the equivalent of our Guardian or Watsons, even in San Francisco. But, by the looks of things, these daring robbers are not slowing down or staying down-market. While we were speaking to our SF source about the storming of LV, he sent us another news report, showing attacks to more than just the maker of Neverfull, Keepall, and Speedy. According to KPIX CBS SF Bay Area, luxury stores in the Union Square shopping area, including “Burberry, Bloomingdales, and Armani were hit”—either burglarised or vandalised. An SFPD spokesperson told the media that the burglaries were “concerted… and was not unplanned”. Luxury fashion now the target of organised larcenists? Would the burglaries further increase the desirability of those targeted brands? Can crime boost hype? A frightful thought.
For almost the whole of last weekend, we thought that the most hyped exhibition on this island of the pandemic years was not happening. And then it was. Before we could caw KAWS, the blow-up doll basking in the blazing sun shall be no more. Today is the last day of the eight-day display, and a lie-down defiance against an injunction issued against it. If the organisers had taken the cross-eyed Companion and his look-alike companion down (the court order had initially demanded that the exhibition stop taking place), we may not be able to benefit from a re-installation. But Companion was destined to enjoying his spot on The Float @ Marina Bay. And we were able to watch him without further disturbance.
The wise would say great art challenges us. But who would have known that even the great Companion would be challenged? And of all places, on this little red dot, a barren land of art on a monumental scale; his first legal obstacle after having been to half a dozen or so places around the world, sometimes floating in the sea rather than lying on dry land. Hitherto, not many people know what truly happened last weekend that led to the initial closure of the seemingly harmless display. Was it an absolutely necessary action on the part of those who filed the court papers? What did it suggest about the future of staging world-class exhibitions here?
It is often said that the KAWS sculpture is a figure of our age, a personification of the Mickey in us all. Yet, to us, Companion does not appear to be jolly even if in other settings he seems to be clowning. Distressed? His eyes are a pair of Xs, as if crossed out, or cancelled. Is he hiding his unhappiness—even tears—from us, keeping us away from his eyes, the windows to his soul? When we did finally see him up-close, he quietly reminded us of the very surface-only world we are inhabiting; the artificial and the artifice. In both the physical and digital world, clever fakeness and artful contrivance come together to hold sway over us. Perhaps, Companion is an image of our modern selves: all plastic and hot air. Happy to have met him.
KAWS:Holiday Singapore opens at 2pm and closes at 9pm. Photo: Chin Boy Kay
Your kicks deserve a clean break, if not materially, perhaps smell-wise?
If there are those who love to smell like fresh laundry (consider the original Clean fragrance), it is not unreasonable to assume there are sneakers that love to smell like they have just come off the factory floor. To be sure, we do not know who would like to go so close to your shod feet to determine if what you have put on smells new, but in case you fear that your kicks are an affront to the olfactory glands around you, consider this fresh offering from French “aesthetic perfumer” Officine Universelle Buly, grandly called Eau Gymnastique (or gymnastics water). Made in France specifically for sneakers, they promise shoes that are not merely clean-smelling, but new-smelling, As the brand describes it: “Designed for athletic shoe perfectionists, the Eau Gymnastique is ideal—if not necessary—for sneaker collectors obsessed with the immaculate appearance of their treasures maniacally stored in their original boxes.”
It is hard to imagine that sneakers are allowed to get so fetid before something is done. “Obsessed” is perhaps the key word—the quality that makes an indiviual desire to go to extremes, such as totally undoing the aquired funk of footwear, even if it’s not necessarily bad for every shoe. With the Eau Gymnastique in standby, he could provide what Officine Universelle Buly describes on the bottle as an “olfactory fix”, promising that “the scent of newness will embalm your sneakers… forever.” How is that possible? The spray dispenser, housed in what looks like a bottle of a household cleaning aid (500ml, no less! Clearly shoes need to be spritzed in larger amounts than bodies!), contains a water-based formula than has the benefit of “micro-encapsulation technology”, which provide long-lasting odour masking. Perfect for anything that covers despicable feet, really. Even if sneakers no longer look new, they could smell new. Just marvelous.
Eau Gymnastique, €58.33 (or approximately SGD90), is available online at the Officine Universelle Buly website. Photo: Officine Universelle Buly
Balenciaga defaced by Gucci. Welcome to the new wonderful
On both corners of the Orchard Road-facing side of Paragon, Kering brands occupy the spaces: Balenciaga and Gucci. Although both are in mutually hacking mode, it is Balenciaga, replacing Gucci as the most searched brand on Lyst, that is drawing attention. On its second-level glass façade, Gucci is scribbled in what looks like spray paint across the width of the window. As nothing blocks this side of the shopping centre, it is hard to miss the defacement art (‘graffiti’ would be too low for Balenciaga), especially when you are walking on the opposite side of the road, right in front of Ngee Ann City. It does look like the work of a vandal, determined to let Gucci overwhelm Balenciaga, even when the name of the latter, appearing twice on the front of the store, is in the recognisable full caps.
Inside the mall, as we stood at the entrance, blocked by a pair of stanchions with a black tape stretched between, waiting to catch the attention of the staff to let us in, a guy, dressed totally in black, who sat at the entrance earlier to ensure that visitors were scanned in, approached. Without going beyond the barrier, he waved at a male staff inside, who was similarly dressed, but had his shirt untucked. The first fellow lifted his smartphone and showed the other something on it. “Is it supposed to be like that?” The reply was swift. “Ah, yes. It’s like that. We’re doing an event here.” And to be sure he was not really the kaypoh one, the inquirer added, “Oh, customers were asking if something was wrong.” Unsmiling, the Balenciaga staff informed him, “It’s a collaboration with Gucci“.
The wait for us was at least 10 minutes long. There was no one else in the line. Paying attention to the Gucci monogram with the double B plastered on the windows flanking the entrance was a way to pass the time. Inside, there were three customers, none in any obvious transaction. Finally a guy let us in. He apologised for keeping us waiting. We were tempted to say that he didn’t have to make us stand there and not tell us how long more before we would be let into an empty store. But, we did not. A tote with the scribble, “This is not a Gucci bag”, caught our attention, but it was not speaking to us. There was really nothing to it.
The Hacker Project, as this “collaboration“ is dubbed, was presented hushly. Before us, the breadth of the merchandise available was not quite on the same scale as the desecration somewhere up there above us. We looked around for clear signs, but they were mostly hidden in drawers: SLGs and socks. Is this all there is to The Hacker Project? The same guy who showed us in was now showing us out. “Some item (sic), we keep,“ he said. Why is that so? “We don’t display everything. Is there anything you want?“ He was beginning to sound impatient. “If you want, I can take it out to show you”. He was now sounding irritable. “The launch already four days.” Should we apologise for not being enough of a fan to rush here on the first day? “We sold out many things.” Was he trying to convince us or tell us not to bother looking? And how much was sold? “About 60/70 percent sold out,” he intoned conclusively. He was not planning to bring out what was kept. We weren’t hoping.
The Washington Post called him “the maestro directing the chaos”. After this year’s Astroworld mahem, Travis Scott will forever be linked to the death of some of his rabid fans. Who would remember his connection to the world of fashion? Do we want to?
Warning: this post contains language and descriptions some readers might find offensive
Nike has made the first move, but Dior has largely kept mum. In the wake of the Astroworld tragedy, it is doubtful that Travis Scott’s very name can still move merchandise, massively. But his fashion collaborators seem to prefer to wait and see. Nike held on for more than a week before announcing that their collaboration with Mr Scott’s Cactus Jack brand on the Air Max 1 will be postponed “out of respect for everyone impacted by the tragic events at the Astroworld Festival”, according to a corporate statement issued on its SKRS app a few days ago. Delaying the launch is not canning it. At the moment, it is known that Nike has some ten styles in the works with Mr Scott. That is a staggering amount to do with a single fellow, without counting those already released and sold out, a sell-through situation no brand can resist. How long more does the owner of Air Max intend to wait is not known.
Also in with Nike’s now-troubled partnership is Japan’s Fragment Design. As we have noted before, collaborations these days can consist of three brands (or more), not just two. To triple the allure of the initial pairing, Fragment Design joined Nike and Travis Scott three months ago to reimagine not only the Air Jordan 1, but also to put out a three-piece apparel collection (that was, as expected, sold out), which Nike described as one “that satisfies the ‘rule of three’”. Hiroshi Fujiwara of Fragment Design has not issued a statement with regards to his past pairing with Mr Scott or future partnerships. His association with the rapper now under investigation, it seems, would not be severely affected as Fragment Design is still associated with credible, fashion-forward brands such as Sacai.
But perhaps the label that has to really deal with the increasing ignominy of the rapper is Dior. Hitherto, the LVMH super brand has not uttered a word about what has happened, nor the pal of Mr Scott, Kim Jones. It is known that Mr Jones had conceived the spring/summer 2021 collection almost entirely to benefit from Travis Scotts’s fame, more as a consumer rather than designer of fashion. In fact, the collab was dubbed Cactus Jack Dior, after the rapper’s own Cactus Jack Foundation. The first drop will likely appear next month, but would it have any pull? There is no doubt that, there would be those shoppers who will still bite not matter how contentious the sale of such a collaboration would be. The question is, how would Dior play down the fact they paired with a performer whose concert reportedly resulted in the death of nine people and who apparently went on singing even when attendees were screaming for the show to be stopped? Or is it too late in the progression of the production of the line to stop now? According to a WWD report two days ago, Dior is merely “evaluating the situation”.
Dior’s predicament, if it sees itself in one, does open the postern into the persistent creative pair-ups between luxury brands and mega-successful stars that frequently ditch true design for brazen hype. It is often said that Travis Scott’s style “is as popular as his music”, admired globally, but no one can say with certainty that his talent in design is tantamount to that of his music. Or, that he understands what it takes to put a piece of clothing—any—together. The ability to dress himself in some semblance of what is deemed fashion overrides practical ability or manual dexterity. Popularity alone is often enough for brands to want to be associated him, from Bape to Saint Laurent. The merchandise, one Gen-Z fan described on Quora, “goes higher and higher in value just like brands like Supreme. Our generation loves that. We love status symbols.” That Travis Scott is a “status symbol by which the social standing of the possessor of his goods could be derived/assessed is not unusual—even if staggering—when consumers are eager to surrender to the power and prevarication of social media influence.
Mr Scott’s status in fashion is so lofty that collaborator Nike would even allow him to tamper with the Swoosh, a trademark so entrenched in popular consciousness that it would normally be considered sacrilegious to meddle with. In the Air Jordan 1 and the Air Max 1, to name just two, the Swoosh is placed as a mirror image on the sides of the shoes—the longer, narrower end does not emerge from the heel notch, close to the collar. While no Tinker Hatfield, he was able to have leeway to do as he pleases. It did not occur to Nike that it could perhaps be more convincing if he were to create a totally new silhouette, like mentor Kanye West has with the Yeezys. Could that be indication that Travis Scott has scant design flair?
Most alluring for both fans and some members of the media is his personal style. Last year, Esquire called him “a tastemaker par excellence second to none”. The taste, CR Fashion Book wrote, “typically features vintage t-shirts, denim, baseball cap, relaxed joggers, oversized jackets with bold brands like the Louis Vuitton LV logo or bright colors like pink and Nike sneakers”. Esquire also stated that Mr Scott “tends to stick to a few variations on the same theme when it comes to getting dressed, at least casually”. How all that is sufficient to allow him to be a trendsetter or dip his hands in the process of design is not clear. As the Rolling Stones correctly noted, “for close to a decade, Travis Scott has carefully positioned himself squarely at the center of hype”. He barely traipses into the unconventional, let alone groundbreaking. For sure, no dresses/skirts of A$AP Rocky or Andre 3000 for him. At the 2019 “Camp” Met Gala, he skipped the theme entirely, appearing in a brown Dior top and pants, with what appeared to be military webbing. Camp? Perhaps to those going from Ah Boys to Men.
From left to right: Cactus Jack Dior spring/summer 2022, Nike X Travis Scott X Fragment T-shirt, and Nike X Travis Scott Air Max 270 ‘Cactus Trails’. Photos: Respective brands
Although Mr Scott is known to encourage reckless behaviours during his performances and has, in fact, faced two charges before the Dior show in June for “disorderly conduct”, the French house did not see that their star collaborator’s brush with the law would be problematic or a blemish to their impeccable couture suits. In 2015, Mr Scott had allegedly urged his unthinking fans to climb over barricades at the Lollapalooza music festival in Chicago, leading the repetitive shout, “we want rage”. According to media reports, the scene was so tumultuous that the police had to detain the rapper after just five minutes into his performance, but he fled. He eventually pleaded guilty to the charges. In 2017, during a concert in Arkansas, he again encouraged “rage”—so rapidly it escalated that the police accused him of “inciting a riot”. Just weeks after that, one of his concerts in Manhattan was said to be so riotous that a fan fell off a balcony and was left paralyzed after suffering a fractured vertebrae. Mr Scott was often quoted saying in past performances, “it’s not a show until someone passes out”. Does that apply to the fashion he peddles? Is raging and the resultant injuries, if not death, compatible with the culture of clothes?
Despite his disturbing track record, no one anticipated the tragedy of Astroworld. Earlier that fateful day, before the 500,000 concert goers stormed the NRG Park, Mr Scott released a single ironically called Escape Plan in which he rapped, “but wait, it opened gates and this shit just start paradin’, olé (Let’s go)”. While we are not certain what “it” refers to, the rest of the sentence seems to preempt the disaster that struck Astroworld. As much as this is considered a hackneyed view, rap music does seem to laud destructive behaviour. Mr Scott’s own lyrics don’t negate violence and such. In the 2018 release Sicko Mode, Drake used the expression to introduce his friend in the song: “Young La Flame, he in sicko mode”. The phrase, it is believed, refers to the rager mentality that Mr Scott encourages (his fans are known as “sickos”), with clear consequence now. But more than that, death was suggested too: “And they chokin’, man, know the crackers wish it was a noose”.
Born Jacques Bermon Webster II, Travis (also TRavi$) Scott and his rap contemporaries make and break in equal measure. However, some, such as Mr Scott, just more destructively than others. Stars are cancelled for saying and doing stupid things, but he, for whom inciting his fans to “free the rage” characterise him as a performer, is often lauded. In fact, after the Arkansas drama in 2017, he dropped a T-shirt on his website with those three words printed on the back. Unsurprisingly, they sold out. Now ensconced in his Houston “retreat”, Mr Scott seems to be waiting for the rage of the community to abate. How did he, a college dropout, become this powerful? Not that much, in fact, is known about him other than the rebelliousness with a rock-star stance that seems to have served him in good stead. Uncontrollable is a credo, a virtue, a merit. But, if social media is to be believed, many are now ready to denounce the unstoppable rager-rapper. Is Dior, then, brave enough to douse La Flame? And rip out Cactus Jack?
Ordered to close on Saturday, the giant sculpture Companion is now viewable, up close
It is a sunny day, unlike most of the past two weeks. The sky is adequately clear, with wispy swirling clouds overwhelming the shy blue and the reserved sun. Way below, on the rectangular grass platform that is The Float @ Marina Bay, a very still KAWS sculpture, Companion, holding a smaller version himself, is lying on his back, seemingly enjoying the happy heavens. He and his charge are sun-bathing, taking up a substantial space on which the National Day parade is often staged, surrounded by some of the most expensive real estate on our island. Whether he knows what has happened these past four days, he isn’t letting on. The drama that unfolded last Saturday has ended, for now. The gloom cast over the anthropomorphic inflatable has lifted. The sunshine is a heavenly thumbs up.
Lying there for anyone who cares to see him IRL, Companion the colossus has brought the company of a rather curious case of alleged “breach of intellectual intellectual property rights and misuse of confidential information”. Last Saturday, during the unveiling and preview to special guests, the exhibition, officially named KAWS:Holiday Singapore, had to close. The organiser of the event AllRightsReserve (ARR), a Hong Kong company (described as a “creative studio” on their website), was served with a court order to immediately suspend the by-then-hyped-to-the-max solo exhibition of the artwork. According to a CNA report that afternoon, “an interim injunction” that Singaporean arts promoter The Ryan Foundation (TRF), applied for was granted in time. “It orders that the exhibition stop taking place, as it is in breach of the foundation’s intellectual property rights and confidentiality”. It was all rather vague, which unsurprisingly led to online speculations, as many waiting to go were disappointed that it would be a missed opportunity.
The timing of the injunction, for many, was rather odd. Some even thought it rather impertinent. Why on our scorched earth choose the launch day? The dramatic potential could not be dismissed. When it was revealed that there was an earlier failed negotiation that began in 2019 between ARR and TRF to bring KAWS:Holiday here, some suggested that the halting of the display was a “revenge” move, beautifully planned to gain maximum exposure. Did ARR do something sneaky to TRF, even if the former partnered with the Singapore Tourism Board (STB) to let Companion lie here in the sun for eight days? Was it payback time? Or, as many Netizens suggest, “a case of sour grapes”? One of the earliest to report on the halt was South China Morning Post (SCMP). It stated that “a large group of VIPs in Singapore were attending the official unveiling… but at 4.30, a court injunction ordering both the immediate suspension of the artwork’s display and the accompanying sale of merchandise was delivered to the event’s Hong Kong organisers” at the very site. In attendance was the American artist of the sculpture Brian Donnelly. SCMP added, “all this attention would be enough to give any public artwork an inflated sense of its own importance”.
And attention was inevitably cast on The Ryan Foundation too. Until then, few outside the business of art have heard of the non-profit. “Similai?” was repeatedly posed on social media. A YouTube video of a CNA interview of its founder Ryan Su started circulating. In a follow-up report yesterday, CNA wrote that TRF promotes “arts awareness in Singapore”, and that it was established nine years ago by Mr Su, “a lawyer and prominent art collector, who had studied Art Law in the UK. Mr Su is known for his art exhibitions” and, according to online publication High Net Worth (HNW), “no one holds an art exhibition like Ryan Su”. It began with 2016’s Andy Warhol: Social Circles at the Gillman Barracks, which reportedly saw over 2,000 visitors on opening night. The last exhibition in 2019, Unhomed Belongings, featured the works of American actress Lucy Liu and Singaporean artist Shubigi Rao. Mr Su was bestowed Patron of the Arts Award in 2017 by the National Arts Council. Two years later, he sat on the Asian Art Circle of the Solomon R Guggenheim Museum in New York.
On TRF’s birth in 2012, Mr Su told HNA, “I started it as a joke. I said, let’s donate $10 to something and just call it The Ryan Foundation, instead of all the art in the warehouse. We weren’t serious”. “We” include partner Adrian Chan, who is also the director of TRF. The “joke” turned into an entity that contributed noticeably to the art calendar of our city. But, following the stunning injunction, stories emerged of the unconventional working methods of the foundation, even as far as Kuala Lumpur, where the Andy Warhol exhibition travelled to after its SG debut eight months later. Those with less than desirable experiences with TRF are saying how not surprised they are by the way things turned out for the exhibition on The Float. Which makes the KAWS:Holiday stop here more notable since the travelling display has been to at least five other countries prior, without a hitch.
In an introduction on the Court for Arbitration website, Mr Su is described as “a mediator and arbitrator… a specialist in disputes involving galleries, artists, dealers, exhibitions… (in a list of more than 30 items)”. Curiosity was piqued: why did he not apply his many skills to his dealings with ARR? Was there no mediation before going to court? Yesterday, Mr Donnelly posted on Instagram Stories, “Ryan Su talk to us! Why did you do this lame action?” In a statement quoted by the media here, TRF said that the interim injunction was a “temporary court remedy”. What it was remedying, it did not say. But, according to Mr Chan, the spotlight isn’t just on TRF, it is also on the community of the self-employed. “This long case that will be fought for all freelancers and creatives whose ideas and pitches and work has been stolen or used without authorisation,” he maintained. It is not clear how long TRF intended to go with the matter. But, as announced yesterday evening, a court has lifted the injunction and TRF was ordered to pay the legal costs.
With KAWS:Holiday Singapore now allowed to open, ARR has said in a statement to the media: “The court further ordered that there will also be an inquiry into the damages sustained by AllRightsReserved by reason of the injunction.” It appears that we may not have heard the end of the case. ARR added that “When our exhibition at The Float @ Marina Bay was forced to shut its doors, we felt wronged and frustrated… This is not what our company, or the world, would like to see.” While the decision to halt the access of the display is reversed, some observers wondered how the entire episode involving an exhibition that has garnered international publicity would impact our city as a venue for large-scale installations or, indeed, any promotion of the arts, or the arts awareness that TRF is keen to advocate. Who, in the end, really gains?
Ironically, the news has aroused tremendous public interest in the project. It is an hour before the 2pm opening. Many passers-by and cyclists are converging on the Raffles Avenue side of The Float, taking snapshots of the companionable 42-metre long installation, as well as wefies with the inanimate object. According to AccuWeather, the temperature is 32℃ and humidity 95%. There is no breeze. It would take some fortitude to bear with the searing heat. Yet, behind the barrier that surrounds one side of The Float, under no shelter nor shade, the KAWS sculpture has lured the young and the old, locals and foreigners, fans (at least two wearing the KAWS X Uniqlo tee) and the simply-there. The gathering seems to meet what Mr Connelly had hoped for: “to give more people access to art” and to allow the installation to be “a door to inclusiveness”. Across the sea, on the Helix bridge, a man has set a drone, ready to take an areal view of the exhibit. The small flying machine eventually takes off, its small body soon becomes too tiny to see from a distance. But Companion and his small self, held close to the bosom of the larger are totally visible and occupy a large part of the platform. Amazing how a sole object can make you forget, for a moment, that The Float does, in fact, accommodate all the participants of the National Day parade.
KAWS:Holiday Singapore opens daily from 2pm to 9pm, until 21 November. Photos: Chin Boh Kay
Brands selling through platforms such as Facebook Live are on the rise, but must each session be such a by-the-way and pasar affair?
Uniqlo on Facebook Live on 11.11, with hosts Fauzi Aziz (left), Felicia Poh (right), and model (centre). Screen grab Uniqlo/Facebook
As shoppers are spending more time online and staying away from physical stores, more brands are bringing the store to the shoppers via social media. Digital consumerism is truly becoming the heart of civic life. Livestream retail, while not a new way of selling, is fast gaining traction on our island. This primarily involves a host or more—brand owner(s), staff, or their friends—introducing or recommending products in a live video through platforms such as Facebook or Instagram, presently the two most popular. The shows are often productions with budgets so low, they’re probably zero, shot in a corner of an office or a store, even a warehouse with what, in many cases, appears to be a smartphone. As they are streamed live, editing is virtually absent and what you see is what you get. And, what you often do see and get are not exactly examples of polished videography or even compelling selling, nor funny jokes. In the age of TikTok videos, we are constantly told, no one cares about finish or finesse.
These endeavours are not the moving of mountains, but perhaps they should be, given live commerce’s increasing importance as a sales channel. Most of the selling via livestreams that we have viewed in the interest of this post are not even an uphill hike; they are no better than the majority of the crappy posts seen on TikTok, which is now so influential in its visual aesthetics that even television commercials are mimicking them. One TVC producer told us, “these days, anyone with a smartphone can be the host and the director. Who bothers with script and pre-pro?” Which explains why many retail livestreams appear to be conducted extempore, with hosts often asking each other what to do or show next, or struggling to describe what they are wearing or have in their hands. Is this really the appeal: as if you have just met the sales persons in Zoom, and they are—lucky you—willing to do a lame song and dance just to sell you a dress.
One of the latest brands to join the preferred platform, Facebook Live, to sell their wares is Uniqlo. Two nights ago, they streamed a 24-minute session to “celebrate” 11.11, but it bore little celebratory oopmh. The show was video-recorded on a selling floor of their Global Flagship Store at Orchard Central, but looked like it could have been at any of their smaller suburban outlets. The host, Felicia Poh, “who handles public relations” appears, but it was after a palpable one-and-half minute wait before we could be acquainted with her yoo-hoo exuberance. She was then joined by Fauzi Aziz, marketing lead of The Smart Local, who gushed about how much he loves the brand. Both were so bubbly, they practically frothed. But nothing they announced was especially new or appealing, despite the promise of sharing “a lot of exciting stuff”, not even the news that the +J collection, already trending, will launch next week. What worked in their favour was that they did not have to go off-screen to change into what they wanted to sell. Rather, they had the best-looking members of the Uniqlo staff to model the looks, which, admittedly, were well styled, even when a binder clip could be seen clasped to the ribbed hem of a sweatshirt one of them wore, to tighten it over his waist. This model was put in an uncomfortable position when he was subject of ill-considered humour. Mr Aziz had said about the outfit: “I saw him from afar and I was like saying, ‘I could work this.’” Before he was able to complete what he wanted to say, his co-host outed him with “like your new crush“!
The indefatigable three of Mdada: (from letf) Pornsak Prajakwit, Addy Lee, and Michele Chia. Screen grab: Mdada/Facebook
Not all brands have the advantage of attractive-looking staffers to strut during a livestream or to excite the hosts. So for most, the girl/boy-next-door presenters, usually a pair, slip in and out of outfits between inane banter, and not always with the finesse of professional models or hosts who know what to do before a camera. But these livestreams are not television broadcasts. Anything goes, and it usually does. Typically, the videos appear and nothing really happens until minutes later. It is not clear why they can’t start at the scheduled time. As with most livestreams, the hosts would move about, pretending they are not videoed yet. And when the show does begin, peppy is often the way to start. The best example of this is Mdada (达达开播), the e-commerce company of former TV comperes Michele Chia and Pornsak Prajakwit, and hairstylist Addy Lee that generated S$15 million in “unaudited revenue”, according to The Straits Times. Mdada’s success is largely based on grassroots vibes and the rawness of hold-the-smartphone-in-front productions, from which viewers are pulled into their loud and goofy, but artless charm.
Started in September last year, Mdada illustrates that selling online the way they do is best conducted as if a bunch of friends got together for some boisterous fun. Gentility and grace are not part of the company. Typically, the hosts kick off with mindless banter so that you would get used to their raucous presence. A necessity as each livestream can go on for hours, up to a staggering twelve, according to the trio. This is sustained via what Mr Lee, also the CEO of Mdada and the godfather of Quan Yifeng’s daughter Eleanor Lee, described to the media as “engaging hosts” (he is one of them—about seven, including Shane Pow), delivering “engaging product demos, exclusive deals, and limited-time auction”. To engage, they seem to, crucially, grate: each of them need only be themselves, Bengness and Lianness to the hilt, with a body of words—Mandarin (primarily), English, and Hokkien—in a din that could be used to lelong anything from massages to Moschino. And the livestreams must also contain, what Mr Prajakwit told CNBC, “info-taintment”. It is not known if their audience—close to 35,000 followers on FB—are truly informed or entertained, or both, while the peddlers often perform in the presence of a sloppy pile.
Nor are we told of the demographics of their shoppers. It could be companionable to watch the Mdada hosts go about their business of silly-talk selling, but it is amazing that one does not feel the effects of the tight space in which the sales are conducted and, especially, when the hairdresser’s face frequently fills the screen. Who, we wonder, are inspired or aroused to shop when they see, for example, Mr Lee and his co-host hold up crumpled Prada paper bags in a dim hotel room, as seen on a recent teaser of their livestream from Italy? It is also not known if the selling that takes place on the opposite side of sophistication (merchandise in a mess before them, for example) is endorsed by the brands they so enthusiastically hawk. Mdada (or MLux, as the platform for selling luxury goods is called) certainly provides an experience contrary to what a shopper is likely to meet in an actual designer boutique (their livestreams from Italy appeared to be conducted in stores of an outlet mall). The days of experiential purchases are over? A former fashion buyer told us, “It is possible that most of the shoppers on Mdada are intimidated by the thought of walking into a luxury store. Buying on livestreams is less daunting and less likely to cause anxiety.”
Two is the company: Fayth Live. Screen grab: Fayth/Facebook
It is understandable that there are those who would not have the confidence to enter a Prada store, but would anyone be too anxious to walk into, say, Fayth, the SG brand with an unmistakable blogshop aesthetic? Founded by Ryan Ng and Janis Gan in 2012, Fayth’s physical shops are happy friendships between pastel shades and accessible prettiness. Still, their livestreams on FB can be a draw. In their last, posted in July, hosts Sarah and Yvonne attracted 284 viewers to their 42-minute show. Nothing really happened and the selling did not attempt to whip things up. As they bantered and giggled, and giggled, someone unseen (presumably the videographer) would ask them questions that viewers had presumably posted. The bespectacled duo tried their best to answer, as well as to offer personal opinions. They would move nearer the camera to show the details on their outfits (a particular favourite is the “concealed zip”—“can’t really see, that’s why it’s called concealed zip”) or bring a dress on a hanger closer to fill the screen so that those watching them would know “there’s also elastic band inside” or what shade ivory is: “so it’s a bit like creamy colour”.
As the one-take production did not benefit from the input of a sound engineer, their giggly voices tended to echo through the relatively empty and surprisingly neat space. Sarah had the habit of dragging her feet, so the cluck-cluck of her short block-heels would interject her selling, even when she went off-screen or as she came back on. This continued even when she was in a pair of slides and, later, sneakers (since Fayth does not sell footwear, it is possible the hosts wore their own. The effort looked like an afterthought). Everything they tried was perfect: not too long, not too short; and all the dresses kept to one silhouette: tented. The girls changed and showed off the clothes with palpable delight, sometimes shaking their bodies, as if to prove that what they wore were truly hanging loosely. And if that was not enough, they encouraged each other to twirl. In fact, any dress that was not form-fitting was described with one word—“flowy”.
In most of the livestreams we have watched, the lack of fashion literacy is startling. You’d think that individuals hosting shows to sell clothes would know at least the basic terms relating to what they would be putting out for sale, but that is frequently not the case. For Uniqlo, Felicia Poh described a notch (similar to a fishtail parka’s) at the hem of the centre-back of the dress she wore as a “flap”, while Fauzi Aziz, who told the viewers he was “decked out” in +J, went rather blank over a grossgrain tape that covered the rear seam of the yoke of a sweatshirt, referring to it as a “thick woven fabric on the back detail”. To Mdada’s Addy Lee, who hawks with the resonance of a Hungry Ghost Festival auctioneer, every pair of footwear was a xie (鞋) or shoe, whether sneakers or Wallabees, and every bag a baobao (包包) until it became enough to kaishi baobao (开始包包) or “start bags” when the selling commenced. Sarah from Fayth was more informative, so much so that she pointed to you that a dress was made of “polyester material”, in case you’d think polyester is a vegetable or that the dress came with “inner lining” so that you’ll not mistake it for outer lining. And to help you further, a skirt over built-in shorts was called a “skort”, even when it’s not shorts pretending to be a skirt. And just as delightful, the invisible bearer of viewers’ questions asked earnestly, “what is the material of this fabric?”
In Good Company Live offers the company of five hosts (three seen here). Screen grabs: In Good Company/Facebook
The need to use relatable rojak language is understandable. As one marketing head said to us with a hint of regret in his voice, “we are not exactly sophisticated consumers.” It’s not just our irrational love of “actually”, “never” or “got”, used indiscriminately, but the disregard of words conveying information crucial to the appreciation of what we consume, in this case, fashion. That these hosts would inaccurately describe the clothes and the details that set the pieces apart from the competitor’s (there are, after all, so many tiered sundresses out there) or employ strange expressions with conviction is really rather curious communication. Their ebullience concealed nothing. When more retailers—even mass labels such as Uniqlo—are providing the right terminology on hang tags and sign holders on racks, it is regrettable that there are brands, even the really respected ones, that are not bothered by hosts of their livestreams using peculiar or made-up words.
What took us by surprise was In Good Company’s sales session, livestreamed from their Jewel store just four days ago. In a forty-one-minute broadcast, triteness was really the main show. Hosted by four women and a guy, Suwen, Maggi, Azrin, Jean, and Ning, it was as much a mutual admiration club as it was a selling opportunity. Less than three minutes into the livestream, Suwen described a cowl neck as a “boat neck… that’s not your normal (as it turned out, her favourite expression) boat neck neckline”. It was not difficult to see where they were taking the viewers. “It has very interesting sleeves,” she progressed to talk about a top with multiple diagonal panels, but did not explain why they were interesting, only that they were “slightly different”. Her hosting partner Ning would not be outdone. Of a pullover, he informed the viewers that “it’s made up of three different fabric pieces… stitched together”, possibly out of fear that potential shoppers might think that the panels were glued together. The two loved to suggest that tops could be worn “both tucked out or tucked in”. It would be more helpful if either of them showed the audience how he or she would “tuck out”. We like to believe that both meant untucked! But, “tuck out” was a clear favourite.
It is understandable if they struggled to talk fashion, but they strived to talk clothes too. They were not able to provide sufficient occasions or places the separates could be worn to, so they kept repeating how the ensembles could be “worn on a plane”, happily oblivious that travelling is still somewhat limited, even when Vaccinated Travel Lanes have been introduced between our island and some nations. But what truly made the broadcast for us was when Suwen called a romper a “shorter-length jumpsuit” and Ning specified seersucker as “corrugated cotton” (puckered cotton, yes, but corrugated?), possibly thinking of zinc roofs! To be certain, we do not expect these part-time hosts to be fluent in the language of fashion or textiles. Even a professional such as DJ Rosalyn Lee struggled while she presented on IG, the live preview of the autumn/winter 2020 collection of Comme des Garçons. Still, it was really surprising and disappointing that In Good Company’s marketing department did not provide the hosts with the knowledge necessary to make their presentation credible. And, in turn, more watchable.
Nike’s latest collaboration with crystal maker Swarovski is an Air Force 1 with strange surface protrusions
By Shu Xie
Among Nike’s many reimagined sneakers, the Air Force 1 seems, to me, to be receiving the most collaborative makeovers. And here is another AF1 iteration: with the Austrian producer of crystal glass Swarovski. This collab, the third (if I remember correctly) between the two brands, is not quite what I would expect from a purveyor of bling. Unlike the Dunk from last year, which was completely covered with crystals, or the Air Max 97 from this past March, which was not entirely smothered (and this time with crystals so tiny, they could have been dust), sneak-peeks of the AFI show that it comes with something entirely different. As I see it, the shoes have a second skin. And it is an outer that really obscures the recognisable silhouette of the Nike classic. Looking like something that could have been 3-D printed, this membrane immediately makes me forget that the AF1 is the first among Nike’s sneakers from the ’80s to incorporate the brand’s Air cushioning technology.
But that is not really what I find most intriguing. It is what’s on the overlay. The amoeba-shaped piece with fancy cut-outs is dotted with silver ball-studs that look pressed into tiny bulbs on the surface of this second skin. These are not Valentino’s Rockstuds or those spikes on Christian Louboutin kicks. Frankly, they look like pimples to me. Like blackheads! Still there is something oddly appealing about this AF1. I think I am drawn to the fact that the extra layer can be taken apart. Yes, by removing the screws on the mid-sole that hold the additional skin down. They are flat-top screws and each pair of the sneakers come with a screwdriver, should you need to do some handyman’s work. These days, the Nike basketball shoes for women do not only come with trinkets to feminise the kicks (the Blazer Mid LX, for example), they are now dressed with a flashy, removable cloak. Shoelaces, even fancy ones, are really not enough.
Update (20 November 2021, 18:00): The Nike X Swarovski Air Force 1 will be available on Nike.com on 2 December, from 10am
No official release date of this collab is announced. Watch this space for more information. Product photo: Nike. Photo illustration: Just So