Two Of A Kind: Sock ‘Em!

SS 2014 Sock-Shoes

Hybrid shoes are not new, but socks affixed to soles as sock-shoes are, perhaps, rather. Chanel’s summer shoe range features such footwear. They’re really clear-cut two-as-one: functional cotton-knit socks atop soles akin to those of court shoes (above, left). Chromatically, the cream and black colour combination is in the spirit of Coco Chanel, but visually, the fusion of foot gloves and shoe soles is more Victor Frankenstein!

But who really got there first: giving lazy feet a chance to wear shoes and socks at one go? It is not immoderate to assume that high fashion took a leaf off the pages of athletic wear, like they have before.

In February 2012, Nike introduced the Flyknit, a shoe upper technology that took four years to develop. The idea was to give runners a pair of shoes that fit like socks. The knitting, however, is not quite like those employed in socks—the construction process was engineered in such a way as to yield a seamless tubular upper that has a snug fit while respecting the contours of the feet. This proved to be such a compelling and practical idea that Adidas, too, shortly launched their version: the adiZero Primeknit. But unfortunate for the German brand, Nike was reported to have sued them in September of 2012 for “patent infringement” and applied for an interim injunction against Adidas’s said shoe with the District Court in Nuremberg.

The early versions of sneakers featuring this new material, the Nike Flyknit Racer, did not immediately look like socks sitting on soles. Not until the latest version, the Nike Free 3.0 Flyknit (above, right), that we really get to see the combination clearly, just as with the Chanel heeled interpretation. Regardless, both are really more sock than shoe. We can’t vouch for Chanel’s, but the Nike Free 3.0 Flyknit is an incredible piece of footwear: the fit is amazing, the comfort supreme, and once in them on the track, you can really fly.

The word sock, interestingly, came from old English socc, which means “light slipper”. The footwear reference makes sense since those leathers used in early times to wrap feet were really the most basic form of shoes. The one question that begs to be asked is, how does one wash these Chanel sock-shoes (with the Nikes, you can launder them in a washing machine)? It is reported that the feet produces close to 0.5 litres of perspiration a day. Surely, even the most dry-footed Chanel wearer would want to clean her socks once in a while! And if she does, will she risk missing a sock in the wash?

Chanel sock-shoe, SGD1,390, is available at Chanel boutiques. Nike Free.30 Flyknit, SGD259, is available at official stockists island wide

Tait That!

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Thomas Tait autumn/winter 2014 at Audi Fashion Festival 2014

A short while ago, it was announced in Paris that Thomas Tait has won the inaugural LVMH Young Fashion Designer Prize. The first winner! If anyone knows what that feels like, it has to be Kelly Clarkson. While designing is not quite like singing, to be the earliest victor of any opening competition must be the most exhilarating, life-changing experience one could wish to go through. Among the twelve finalists (picked from a pool of 1,221 hopefuls!), Mr Tait is possibly the least known, but the appeal of his designs is most impactful. This could be augmented by the influential supporters he has garnered, among them Cathy Horyn, the ex-fashion critic of The New York Times, who once called him a “maverick as pragmatist”.

The non-conformist-meets-the-down-to-earth vibe was evident almost two weeks ago, when Mr Tait showed his now prize-winning collection at Audi Fashion Festival. While only a contender for the award at that time, his collection was generally well received even when it did not enjoy the rave accorded to more established designers such as Prabal Gurung and clearly established designers such as Oscar de la Renta. Yet, for the discerning eye, not the indiscriminate wallet, Mr Tait’s clothes on the catwalk in the Tent @ Orchard had a special quality about them. It was not unimaginable that fashion icons such as Anna Dello Russo would want to wear them ahead of the season.

A Canadian based in London, Mr Tait’s designs captured a certain spirit that speaks of his adopted city: vibrant, irregular, lively. Unfortunately, the same cannot be said of another London-based designer: Ashley Isham, who, too, showed at AFF. While Mr Isham tried to capture, as usual, a certain red-carpet pizzazz that could exist in any celebrity-centric city, Mr Tait vivified the English tradition of tailoring with his shape and cut. His use of colour within collages of asymmetrical forms—although sometimes bordering on over-design—could be a reflection of the vibrant mosaic that makes up London today. In terms of skills, there is a discernible following of the footsteps left behind by fellow Londoners such as Lee McQueen and John Galliano.

Even without the prize, Mr Tait’s achievement is not short of amazing. At just twenty four, he has earned an MA in fashion from Central Saint Martins (making him the youngest to receive the degree) without completing the BA course. He started his own label (fresh out of grad school) when others were still dreaming of a debut collection. Despite his youth, his work reflects maturity, sophistication, and refinement way past his age. These are qualities rarely seen in the work of our compatriots, even the older ones and those with many more years of experience. Some of them showed at AFF—a daring move since they offered nothing that could be added to the conversation about modern fashion in Singapore. Does this reveal our island’s lack of credible talent or AFF’s desperate need to fill the stage in the Tent @ Orchard?

There are—even when the numbers are small—talented designers in our city-state, and most of them toil quietly away in their little ateliers, not completely restrained or discouraged by the lack of resources. One good thing about Mr Tait’s triumph is that it spotlights young designers putting together a label that’s huge in spirit and undersized in funds. He himself has admitted, when he was here, that he “does not sleep and can’t afford dinner”, a plight many rookies would not be unfamiliar with. He cited production limitations too: his orders do not meet factory minimums, another constraint that local designers know so well since production for majority of them here is off-shore. Mr Tait’s prize money of €300,000 will be of help, so will the mentorship from LVMH that comes with the win, as well as the corporation’s immense influence.

Perhaps this is what young Singaporean designers need as a kick-starter programme: the generosity of a private corporation that has the foresight to nurture budding talents. But this isn’t Europe. Here, we wait for the government to make the first move.

The Curious Allure of Ong Shunmugam

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Back in February 2012, in an interview with TimeOut Singapore, Priscilla Tsu-Jen Shunmugam was called a “cheongsam designer and tailor”. As though to validate the pronouncement, she went on to say how she would “dig deep at our sartorial and textile history and incorporate familiar influences into the modern wardrobe”. You got the impression that Ms Shunmugam was about to start a conversation about national dress—the elusive country identifier through clothes local authorities mooted in the Eighties and Nineties that came to nought. From the onset, the 4-year-old Ong Shunmugam label that she founded was built on the cheongsam (long dress in Cantonese), something Ms Shunmugam considered “too relevant a garment to ignore”. Relevant to what or who, we were not told. The cheongsam, like sweat, clings to her.

It made its appearance in various permutations again in the label’s autumn/winter 2014 collection, presented on Friday at this year’s Audi Fashion Festival. The Ong Shunmugam show was, arguably, the Festival’s most anticipated. The hype, however, fell short. As cheongsams were earlier reported—and, hence, expected—to appear, their emergence, not in their authentic form, was bereft of surprise. You waited for the pièce de résistance, but it didn’t show up. Ms Shunmugam sent out cropped tops and many dresses, nearly all crowned with a Mandarin collar. But a Mandarin collar does not a cheongsam make.

The dresses mostly adhered to the shape that Ms Shunmugam seems to love: lean, form-fitting, and waist-accentuating. Or, as so many of today’s fashion writers and bloggers have come to consider characteristic of Ong Shunmugam: “flattering silhouette”. This acclaim is hard to make out. The cheongsam is, traditionally, not an easy garment to wear, and not many women look flattering in it. Even women in Shanghai, where the genesis of the cheongsam can be traced to, avoid it. “They’re for slim girls,” is a common response, “and we have to wear our hair and carry ourselves in a certain way: too much trouble.” In addition to the figure-revealing contours, there’s the impractically high collar, not exactly a godsend to women who aren’t Nancy Kwan or Maggie Cheung. There’s also the nip-in waist, one that does not fare particularly well with mid-section protuberance. And, of course, there’s the side slits—clearly for trim thighs and lean legs.

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To be fair, Ms Shunmugam appeared to address these concerns. For the present collection, she reworked the proportion of the collar (they were at least half the traditional height and were less snug, but the fit, it should be pointed out, wasn’t necessarily evident); she added to the waist, panels in the shape of wrestlers’ championship belt (which, ironically, drew even more attention to the stomach); and she re-positioned the side slits (by moving them to the back, creating inverted Vs that arrowed the derriere). In cases where slits were not employed to facilitate ease of movement, she raised the hemline to above the knee. Yet, the sum effect seemed only cosmetic, more so if you consider the fixation with keeping mostly the front of the garment interesting by using geometrically placed patchwork, including, oddly, in one number, a centre-front (and back) panel that hung, way past the skirt hem, like a Dayak loincloth!

Prints are indispensable for Ong Shunmugam and the collection pulsed with them. The patterns were mixed up so that they yielded a calculated clash on the bodice and through to below the waist, some in combinations that vaguely recalled the 1930 Compositions of Sonia Delaunay. Unlikely pairings such as batik florals atop oversized zig-zags showed Ms Shunmugam’s bold touch, but the symmetry of not a few of the pattern placements had a whiff of those by digital-print maestro Mary Katrantzou. It’s a treatment that can now be seen from Bangkok to Barcelona, and is seriously on the verge of becoming an annoying cliché.

There seemed to be a vitality in Ms Shunmugam’s designs that was so thrilling to the audience who packed the Tent @ Orchard that you wondered how many will rush out to buy those dresses. The reality is that, for so many women today, the cheongsam (including its variants) is a special-occasion dress or one worn by senior womenfolk at weddings. Sure, there was a novelty factor to the Ong Shunmugam semi-cheongsam dresses. They embodied, although belatedly, popular design sensibility: mixed media assembled in symmetrical orderliness within contours that articulate unabashed femininity. This is especially conspicuous in an unrelentingly flooded marketplace of floaty fit-and-flare dresses cinched at the natural waist. To the uninitiated, there was newness in Ong Shunmugam.

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This admiration may be diminished if, despite the visual seduction, it could be noted that so many of Ms Shunmugam’s ideas had been expressed before. Whether to design the cheongsam anew or breathe new life into the use of batiks or find fresh pairing between East and West, they had their share of proponents. In the Eighties, Singapore’s Esther Tay created the hybrid sarong skirt (minis too!) that she was noted for with much commercial success. And she was never shy in her manipulation of ethnic fabrics such as batiks and ikats. Similarly, Malaysia’s Christopher Choo tempered the Eastern sensibility of his designs with songket, blurring the line between what was cultural and what was not. Indonesia’s Ghea, too, explored (and still does) her country’s textile heritage through her neo-hippie designs, yielding Western fashion that were cheekily Easternised. Presently, Guangzhou-born American designer Vivienne Tam re-invented the cheongsam with tongue firmly in cheek too frequently to be countable. Re-invention itself is so commonplace that you can find kooky versions in cheongsam outfitters such as Tong Tong Friendship Store on Beach Road. And if you thought Ong Shunmugam’s apron-like insets in her cheongsam-dresses were novel, you have not seen Phillip Lim’s 5th Anniversary show in Beijing in October, 2010.

(In the January 1993 ‘Ask Thomas…’ column that Thomas Wee wrote for Her World, the designer, who’s a skilled cheongsam maker himself, said, “The only women who look good in batik cheongsams are arty Theatreworks type. Otherwise, wear it only if you want people to call you Auntie!”)

It is admirable that Ms Shunmugam is keen to “fashion a rethink of traditional garments” so as to forge something a contemporary audience can accept. But was what she did a radical re-envisioning of the cheongsam, as some fans (including the National Museum of Singapore) seem to think? The hybrids she created married traditional elements of a cheongsam to contemporary dress shapes that, regrettably, were not on the side of exciting or innovative. To be certain, the cheongsam itself is a meeting of numerous influences, and, in the same spirit, the Ong Shunmugam dresses were a fusion of styles. They, too, could be lauded for their chromatic boldness. However, if you looked at the overall shapes, seam work, placement of darts, and the fit of sleeves, these harked back to dressmaking of a less technologically advanced past. It was hard to see why so many of the dresses merit showing on a catwalk.

It is not certain if Ms Shunmugam casts herself as cheongsam designer or tailor, but as an agent of change, she is not. Tinkering with icons of the past needn’t be a futile experience (or experiment). But to effect a persuasive synthesis of the old and the new, the sleek and the kitschy, Western and Eastern, it has to be done with finesse. Some things need to get better before they can be good.

Atelier Ong Shunmugam is at B1-36, Hong Leong Building, 16 Raffles Quay

Highland Fling, Not Singapore Sling

Prabal Gurung @ AFF P2

Last night, Prabal Gurung opened this year’s Audi Fashion Festival (AFF) to a 650-strong audience. The collection was met with such rapture you’d have thought they were presenting the retrospective of some long-gone French couture great.  It was, instead, a welcome-home embrace for Mr Gurung, who accepted it with a smile not often seen on the catwalk—these days a display platform on which any sign of mirth is as congruent as shouting in a library. Home is, of course, only figurative since Mr Gurung resides in New York, and any connection to Singapore, where he was born in 1979, weakened when his parents took him and his diapers home to Kathmandu not long after. Yet, the idea of home-coming is so powerful and appealing and newsworthy that The Straits Times could not resist featuring Mr Gurung on the cover of today’s main paper.

Until Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge wore one of his dresses during her visit to Singapore in 2012, few here had heard of Mr Gurung. That off-white, slim-fit silk dress with swashes and swirls of purple that could be abstract representation of Vanda ‘Miss Joaquim’ stood in such contrast to what her co-host at the event she was attending wore that you were inclined to commit the outfit to memory. The Duchess is known to don clothes that acknowledge design talents of the host country: it was no exception during her sojourn here. There was the Raoul dress, but, following that, it seemed there was nothing else she could pick that shone with Singaporean pedigree. For the Duchess, Prabal Gurung was the next best thing. For Singapore, he was the best thing. Suddenly we have an overseas designer we can call our own, underscoring the obsession with foreign talent that has made us the nation we are today. Great, isn’t it? Watch out, Ashley Isham.

Prabal Gurung G1For AFF, Mr Gurung showed his autumn/winter 2014 collection: a look that may be summed up as Hollywood-hottie-goes-to-the-Himalayan-highlands. The wrapping, draping, and twisting—they were a nod to those non-city folks who have a flair for turning swaths of fabric into clothes, and will be alluring to those celebrities who love outfits that appear assembled by artisanal hands. The appeal was in the narrative too, the long and short of it meandering through a mountain-scape, picking up ideas seeded in Mustang, the Nepalese/Tibetan source of Mr Gurung’s declared inspiration. And since this landlocked district aloft ancient kingdoms is mostly alien to the audience, it was amazing how they could buy into his depiction like a child sold on Disneyland.

The collection could have been ponderous under the weight of the exotic and a scene set so far away but it wasn’t. It could have been an expression of something spiritual—Shangri-La discovered—but it wasn’t. Not monastic, not austere; not bucolic, not severe. In Mr Gurung’s landscape of fashion, flat and plain were not discernible. It was, and has been, rolling hills of rich and varied vegetation. This season, he mixed textures—plush pile with wispy drapes—and combined shapes that appeared to be built upon sportswear. And he showed he could tie scarves!

The Prabal Gurung aesthetic wasn’t always like this: his designs tended not to betray his early training with Manish Arora and the later years with Bill Blass. His woman: more Anna Wintour than Audrey Taotou; more Michelle Obama than Michelle Williams, and you’re usually conscious of what she wears, or as he puts it to, “a femininity with a bite”. Let’s chew on that.

Audi Fashion Festival is on at the Tent @ Orchard, Ngee Ann City until 18 May 2014. Prabal Gurung is available at Tribeca, Forum The Shopping Mall. Photos:

Victoria Beckoned


VB @ MBS day

Last Monday, she was in New York with husband David to attend the Met Gala. Four days later, Victoria Beckham was in Singapore, announcing her arrival via a Twitter post with greetings in four languages (including Chinese written in Chinese!). A day before she came, she microblogged, “What shall I wear?” You have to admit that this is an astonishing revelation: it’s not hard to imagine other women saddled with such a problem, but Mrs Beckham, she who designs clothes? Her predicament was, perhaps, exacerbated by the misfortune that, as she noted, “it’s hot” here.

Victoria Caroline Adams, once also known as Posh Spice, came to our searing island to present a barely made-known show at Marina Bay Sands (MBS). This preceded the more publicised promotion of her accessories at On Pedder in Scotts Square this evening. The fan turn-up outside the boutique wasn’t outsized enough to stress the security detail, yet it was sufficient to cause minor paparazzi mayhem when Mrs Beckham, in a burst of maternal bravado, went against the planned sequence of her entrance. To the shock of her minders, she stepped away from the photo wall to approach the onlookers about ten metres opposite and, gasp, held someone’s baby! It was all very ministerial walk-about, except for the approving screams, which, unfortunate for On Pedder, wasn’t likely to transpire over the bags and such she was to promote inside the store.

Victoria Beckham, third from fright, with models

More screaming may have been heard if the Saturday event at MBS was not so covert. This other appearance was, in fact, a two-part affair: a late afternoon show at the SkyPark, and an evening version at the ArtScience Museum. It was reported that guests comprised the clientele of VVIPs of MBS, some possibly with one ‘V’ less since a number had to content with the tea show while others benefited from a more glamorous cocktail presentation. Two, however, did not double the exposure, and the near hush surrounding the shows was uncharacteristic of events attended by Mrs Beckham.

It was also curious to some fans that official distributor of the main Victoria Beckham ready-to-wear line, Club 21, had apparently no part in the MBS shows (nor Pois, the store that carries the diffusion line Victoria, Victoria Beckham). While On Pedder had made known that the designer was invited to launch the leather goods that the store was carrying exclusively, little was announced about the MBS catwalk presentation, which led some observers to speculate that MBS was courting Mrs Beckham, known to be a savvy businesswoman, to open a free-standing store in their property. This may not be an immoderate supposition since what MBS had staged for Victoria Beckham was, in essence, a trunk show as attendees were allowed to place orders for those pieces they liked.

At both the MBS catwalks, Mrs Beckham showed some from her Spring/Summer 2014 collection, some from the pre-Fall season as well as what she called the “Icon” collection—select pieces she considered iconic since her first season. For the evening segment at the ArtScience Museum, that meant the white sheath of a dress she wore just last week to the opening of Charles James: Beyond Fashion. While that dress was not unattractive, it was lost in a sea of more arresting gowns, and a cop-out considering the theme as well as the subject of the exhibition. Mrs Beckham did not look like she belonged. But here, among her equally minimalist dresses, it was arresting, regal even, and was, as expected, a star attraction.

VB show @ MBSDespite the self-designation as fashion designer, Mrs Beckham has never really endeared herself to the fashion cognoscenti. It’s tempting to blame her Posh Spice persona, reality-TV past, and the playing of style icon to the hilt for the lack of respect. And you’re inclined to, thinking of the many pop-meets-fashion labels out there that can only be described as deplorable. Victoria Beckham is, however, not bad, and the collections have been well received critically, and commercially too, yet many have doubted that she’s really the designer behind her label. This disbelief is as old as her singing career, yet it endures. A fashion PR practitioner we spoke to on the day of her show at MBS is convinced that Roland Mouret is the ghost designer. That Mr Mouret is entangled in this splintered view of who designs Victoria Beckham is understandable because the person who backs both the aforesaid labels is Simon Fuller, the pop impresario behind the Spice Girls.

Whether Mr Mouret was ever involved in the design or production of Victoria Beckham, we may never know for sure. One is inclined to believe that newcomers usually desire some professional guidance. Rare is the individual who go from wearer to creator of fashion in one single bound. To set the record straight, Mrs Beckham had invited journalists to her studio to witness her in action. And the resultant reports portrayed a woman quite capable of putting a fully merchandised collection together, even if no one had seen her cut a paper pattern or made a sketch. Each season, the designs get bolder and better, and speak a clear, striking voice. These are clothes that attempt, with much success, what designer cruise lines (or pre-season showings) try to achieve: pieces that are stylish, wearable, and all the while adhering to house codes.

With the accolades she has been receiving, Mrs Beckham has inched herself closer to the heart of the industry.  For last year’s December issue of French Vogue, she guest-edited, allowing, in other words, herself and her interests to take up many pages in the magazine. In doing so, she has received the blessing of one of the most revered fashion publications: time to forget Posh Spice, Victoria Beckham has arrived.

Victoria Beckham leather accessories are available at On Pedder, Scotts Square

Dress Watch: Paper Lantern Revisited

Dior lantern dress

I call it a lantern dress. Maybe, you can understand why. But then, maybe not.

Today, when kids rely more on their parents’ iPads than on imagination for amusement, playing with self-made paper lanterns may be as familiar as occupying oneself with origami. Who uses paper anymore? Or folds them? Or cuts them? But I did and still do, and I remember. As a kid, I made a whole lot of them lanterns during the Mid-Autumn Festival. I took an oblong coloured paper and, in landscape orientation, folded it into half; then made slits of equidistance in the centre of the paper, right across its length, leaving a border at the top (which would also then provide the same border for the bottom whem the paper is unfolded). The paper was opened up, the breadths joined and sealed to form a column, which, when gently compressed at the top and bottom, yielded a slotted lantern. I made a few of them, and hung them up in a group. At that very young age, I believed I made art.

In my eyes, there is art in this Christian Dior dress. And seeing it up close earlier this afternoon, my interest was piqued by this wash of nostalgia. Raf Simons’s clever and skilful composition of a bustier-dress is, naturally, nothing like what I made out of paper. Here is a dress that is anything but flat. You sense movement even when it is still. The less aware may call it wash-bay curtains at the gas station or horizontal blinds at your office, but these panels are not left to catch the wind so that, collectively, they leave the dress formless.

While the use of un-joined vertical panels is not entirely new, applying horizontal ones to control their resultant shape is. The upper half of this silk dress is secured with a broad elasticised corset belt (possibly to underscore the bust). In the bottom half, panels in black are woven—almost ketupat style—across and around, forming soft hoops and effectively holding the bell shape of the skirt. In the rear, the vertical panels are allowed to hang from the top unsecured, cascading like Watteau pleats!

For a brief moment, I was drunk with awe.

This panelled silk dress, SGD12,000, is available at Christian Dior, Ion Orchard

Plain Flat Clunky

Doc Martens Aggy sandalsDoc Martens ‘Aggy’ sandals with patent leather straps

These are man-repelling shoes, and mothers frown on them too. Still, women are willing to embrace them even after being weaned on towering Blahnik stilettos or dainty Vivier heels. The almost-sudden love for styles that look like orthopaedic footwear, however, is not really a new affair. For as long as there have been Birkenstocks and Teva river sandals, women (and men) have loved being clunkily shod.

Since we have been talking about Kate Moss in the previous post, it is, perhaps, interesting to note that the popularity of Birkenstocks has never really waned since she wore them in one of those iconic pictures shot by Corrine Day. And that was in 1993! Those double-strapped, thick-soled ‘Arizona’ slip-ons with the generously ample toe-box (perfect for wearing to the pedicurist) are still available today, and any time at the Birkenstock boutique in Wheelock Place, you’ll see them being snapped up.

Kate Moss by Corrine Day

Corrine Day’s shot of Kate Moss from the 1990s

While Ms Moss’s clothes received much of the world’s attention, especially those unsightly cut-off denim shorts, her choice of footwear too had far-reaching impact. Indeed, throughout much of the mid-Nineties, Birkenstock sandals (including those from the sister line Papillio) and similar were the deliberate choice of many savvy souls who could make the unattractive attractive, a proposition quite often witnessed at the house of Prada. Challenging conventional notions of what is beautiful does not have to start at the face or the body, it can, as Birkenstock has shown, begin at the feet. Prada, too, had made their share of so-nasty-they’re-cool shoes. As Miuccia Prada told T Mag last year, “The investigation of ugliness is… more interesting than the bourgeois idea of beauty”. That search has never ceased and can still be exemplified in the current line of sporty sandals, some festooned with faux gem stones (to augment its kitsch value?).

Prada sandals black SS 2014Prada’s canvas sandals

Back in the Nineties, the Birkenstock allure came hot on the heels of Doc Martens, a brand closely associated with grunge. Grunge—“a hippied romantic version of punk”, as defined by its proponent Marc Jacobs—may have largely exited the scene when Mr Jacobs was ousted from Perry Ellis in 1993, but the penchant for unfeminine thick-soled shoes was so pervasive that many designers wondered aloud if women will ever know how to wear heels again.

Today, Birkenstock sandals may not be everyone’s cup of bubble tea since the dubious beauty of their designs does not seem to commensurate with the steep prices they charge, but theirs is a lack of appeal that has, through time and one model endorsement after another (lately, Miranda Kerr), changed perceptions. They are able to do this by remaining unattractive, serving as counterpoint to the surfeit of ‘prettiness’ that has, for too long, prevailed in women’s wear. They predate, for foam resin clog lovers (!), similarly girthed and wide-toed, but covered Crocs. These shoes, unfortunately, are not “pretty ugly”, a deliberately oxymoronic compliment paid by Vogue in describing Birkenstock and its kind when the mag sang the shoes’ praises last July. With Crocs, a name that clearly alludes to a certain hideous-looking reptile, they’ve forsaken beauty for the beast.

Celine sandal SS 2014Celine cross-strapped sandal in patent calfskin

Lest we have been giving too much attention to Birkenstock, we should also point to Celine for those only concerned with recent developments. Phoebe Philo first introduced her take on Birkenstocks with those fur-lined ones, seen in the SS 2013 collection in Paris in the fall of 2012 (and now also reinterpreted by Givenchy as seen in the ‘Barka’ sandal). By Christmas that year, fashionistas were spotted on Orchard Road with their Birkenstocks in anticipation of an idea burgeoning into a trend. As we saw with Ms Philo’s first bag—the Paddington for Chloé, it was really a matter of time.

A year after the Celine debut, flat and clunky sandals have yet to retire to an ignored corner of the shoe cabinet. As the popularity of these shoes hit a high point, here at SOTD, we’re partial to the Doc Martens ‘Aggy’ sandals. We like the thick sole, the wide white corridor (with orange stitching!), and, as with a Birkenstock, the long-wearing comfort. Call us boring. We don’t care.

Prada sandals, from SGD1,250, available at Prada, Ion Orchard. Doc Martens Aggy sandals, SGD259, available at the Doc Martens, Wheelock Place. Birkenstock Arizona sandals, SGD99, available at all Birkenstock stores