Paint It!

Fred Perry X Gary HumeFred Perry is no stranger to collaborations. They have been pairing with others for so long that we can’t now remember when the two-designing-minds-are-better-than-one approach started. But what’s noteworthy is that the brand does not limit its alliances to fashion designers only. They have a soft spot for artists too. Previously, they have paired with punk’s visual mouthpiece Jamie Reid and Japanese textile artist Hiroko Takahashi. This season, Fred Perry’s classic polo shirts get a brush stroke treatment by British painter Gary Hume.

Mr Hume, known for his high-gloss works done with industrial paints as well as the series “door paintings” (specifically hospital doors!), has created something rather a tad more boisterous than one imagines he would for Fred Perry. An exclamation mark to take the place of the shirt’s placket, for instance, could be a loud complaint or a strident protest—we may never know. But there could be something clever about his fashion endeavour that he’s trying to articulate. As his official statement on the collaboration reveals, “To me, Fred Perry is the uniform of the smart disgruntled youth. I might not have been a smart youth, but I was definitely disgruntled. Finally given the opportunity to get smart, how could I resist?”

Wouldn’t you want to get smart too?

Fred Perry X Gary Hume polo shirts, SGD209, are available at Fred Perry, Mandarin Gallery

Pearl Ardour

Xiong Dailin @ MikimotoChinese model-turn-actress Xiong Dailin, garlanded with pearls worth S$355,000, at the launch of Mikimoto X Hello Kitty

You wake up one day and the world’s most famous cat isn’t a cat anymore. Do you still love the non-feline? Loving an indeterminate can be hard. That’s why the world was shocked by the LA Times report just last month that the cat is a British girl (with an Americanism for a name!). A representative for its creator would later attempt to clarify: “We never said she was a human.” But they have never said she wasn’t! Should we even assume she’s a she? And then we learned that she’s a “personification of a cat”! A mere personification. How lovable is that?

Suffering from an identity crisis or not, truth is, Hello Kitty will not be less loved. Many brands know that; the high-end ones too. Hence the unrelenting fixation with putting the mouthless cat onto countless products, from biscuits to bracelets. Hello Kitty sells. McDonald’s knows it, so does Mikimoto. That’s why, as part of the first anniversary of their store in The Shoppes at Marina Bay Sands, they introduced the Mikimoto X Hello Kitty collection that was launched in Japan early this year. Pop culture and haute joaillerie may not make the most synergistic pairing, but these days, to get your brand out there to those populating Twitter-sphere and its surrounding universe, you have to hit at what’s relevant. And what is still relevant, for so many customers of today, is Hello Kitty, never mind the cat hasn’t said a word since its birth in 1974.

Hello Kitty & Hello KittyHello Kitty’s distinctive face and her always present bow are outlined and fashioned into a S$1,140 silver bangle with an akoya pearl embedded in the centre of the bow

The absence of Hello Kitty’s mouth speaks louder about its desire to talk than its lack of a voice. If a name can be taken literally, surely Hello—used primarily to express greeting—is utterance even only in written form. Hello usually denotes friendliness (a warm hello is common, not a cold one), and is used to attract attention (a call out). Hello Kitty projects a friendly image and, attached to different products, calls for attention, even more so in her different guises. The fiasco surrounding the mad rush for McDonald’s release of “Singing Bone” Kitty in June, part of the Fairy Tale series the restaurant was selling to make fast food disturbingly extra appealing, attests to the cat’s ability for generating irrational interest in itself.

Hello Kitty isn’t the pinnacle of design, yet it has the power to attract and fascinate. The missing mouth has been attributed to a minimalist design option, but the products associated with it are rarely themselves minimalist. Yet, in its simplest form, Hello Kitty is an unfussy delineation of a “personification”, as uncomplicated as it is expressionless, like a stick drawing. There are other cuter creatures in the Japanese pantheon of kawaii immortals, but Hello Kitty sits at the very apex, unsmiling, reportedly netting USD7 billion a year, not bad for a 40-year-old.

Mikimoto X Hello Kitty neck wearClockwise from left: 18k white gold necklace of akoya pearls, rubies, white diamonds, yellow diamonds, pink sapphires, and onyx, S$355,000; 18k white gold choker of akoya pearls, rubies, white diamonds, yellow diamonds, and onyx, S$202,000; 18k white gold pendant with diamonds and south sea pearl, S$12,600

As blank as Hello Kitty’s countenance is the pearl, a gem born of molluscs. Unlike a diamond, which is mostly sold faceted to articulate its brilliance and worth, the pearl is usually left uncut so as not to spoil its natural sheen. Pearl and the maybe cat would, therefore, seem to go well together. The cute factor of the beribboned one, however, is at odds with pearl’s undiminished reputation as ladylike. What ties the two together is the conservatism that they represent: both never associated with the wild, the crazy, or the immoral. The two are pearls of the Orient! This is augmented by Mikomoto’s designs—hyper-femininity spread across very traditional products categories for hair, ear, neck, and wrist. These are points often considered sensual, and should ideally be prettified.

The heydays of pearls were in the Twenties and the Fifties, and their history meandered differently, thanks firstly to Gabrielle Chanel. Indeed Coco should be credited for treating pearls less preciously than they were regarded. In the 1920s, she would team her rope of natural pearls—gifted to her by a Russian exile, Grand Duke Dmitri Pavlovich Romanov (one of the few Romanovs to not have been slain by the Bolsheviks), whose pearls were part of what little heirloom he had left—with strands of costume jewellery, and wear them with casual clothes. This seemingly flippant mix would become her trademark, and pearls (and more pearls, worn not neatly) had the company of fun until the 1950s.

Mikimoto X Hello Kitty hair clipThe only item in the collection that can be considered cute just as Hello Kitty is thought to be adorable is this S$147,000 hair clip of 18k white gold, akoya pearls, rubies, diamonds, yellow diamonds, and onyx

In the decade that saw the rise of rock & roll, fashion was shaped by Christian Dior’s New Look silhouette that first emerged in 1947. It continued to influence women’s dress-shape choices throughout much of the Fifties. Pearls, worn shorter and closer to the neck than Coco Chanel did in the Twenties, gained popularity as they went extremely well with the stiffly neat and ladylike aesthetic of those years. By the time Audrey Hepburn, playing a call girl called Holly Golightly, wore that five-strand pearl necklace over that Givenchy dress in the 1961 film Breakfast at Tiffany’s, pearls had sealed their destiny as the gem to authenticate a woman’s decorous, genteel, and elegant repute. It would also come to be connected with sweater sets and what one wore to church or in the White House.

Its association with feminine prim and proper has never really waned. It wasn’t until John Galliano’s spring 2007 couture show for Christian Dior that pearls had a chance at fashionable stylishness. Mr Galliano’s collection—inspired, as he said, “by Pinkerton’s affair with Cio-Cio San”—wasn’t heavy on pearls, but in a wedding dress-like gown at the end of the show, model Jacquetta Wheeler had on her neck a 20-strand pearl creation that ran the gamut of pearl necklace lengths, from collar to matinee, something the English Princess, Mary of Teck, might have worn in the early 1900s before being Queen Consort to King George V. Mr Galliano’s Madam Butterfly reference and his use of pearls were noteworthy, as Japan was and still is very much the centre for cultured or akoya pearls.

Mikimoto X Hello KittyThe communication design of  Mikimoto X Hello Kitty collection that was launched last Wednesday

And no Japanese name is more synonymous with cultured pearls than Mikimoto. Although, in China, cultured pearls were produced as early as 400 AD, it’s the Japanese who perfected the production (there’s even a Mikomoto Pearl Island—the birthplace of what the company calls “cultured pearls aquaculture”) and perpetuated pearls and their lustre. Japanese pearls have both history and romance to heighten their allure, including stories of those brave ama divers—dubbed “pearl diving mermaids of Japan”, so beautifully immortalised by photographer Iwase Yoshiyuki in his documentation of the fading traditions of coastal Japan.

Back at the anniversary celebration at The Shoppes at Marina Bay Sands, 33-year-old star Xiong Dailin, more noted for being Aaron Kwok’s (ex-) girlfriend than an actress of note, wore the most dramatic piece from the Mikimoto X Hello Kitty collection—a 12-strand necklace with just a hint of Hello Kitty’s visage on the right, discernible by the ruby ribbon, diamond nose, and onyx eyes (no idea why the whiskers were omitted). Predictably, Ms Xiong was conservatively attired, pairing the jewellery with a black dress that has sleeves of lace, relegating, even if inadvertently, pearls back to their disposition of the past. That left much of the charming to Hello Kitty. You see, Hello Kitty will enthral, even if she is no pearl of wisdom.

Mikimoto X Hello Kitty collection is available at the Mikimoto boutique, level 1, The Shoppes at Marina Bay Sands

A Blooming Clutch

Christopher Kane tulip clutch

Christopher Kane, being Christopher Kane, does not make his leather goods the way, say, Tory Burch does. Conventional is not part of the process. There’s always a touch of tech even when motifs are traditionally romantic, such as this eye-catching leather clutch. Using lenticular printing, which deploys special lenses to create images that beguile you with depth, or, in the case of this bag, intrigue you with what’s also known as “flicker pictures”, Mr Kane is able to make the flower change and move when viewed from different angles. The tulip on this bag (above) grows as you move it, going from early bud to full bloom.

Mr Kane is partial to optical effects, and more so in the current collection, as seen in his 3D-printing on vinyl cut-outs which are applied on viscose crepe skirts—just one example. He admits to “liking some sort of embellishment that can transform a garment instantly” and would look to science for ideas such as last year’s that were inspired by the MRI scan of a brain. We love this clutch, not only because of its photo-print that can transform, but also because we truly enjoy things that are not static.

Christopher Kane leather clutch with lenticular print, SGD850, is available at Club 21, Four Seasons Hotel

Are You Suffering From Stan Smith Fatigue?

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

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

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

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

Not The Dark Side Of The Moon

Lyle & Scott X Jonathan Saunders FW 2014 T-ShirtT-shirt with the playful clash of patterns designer Jonathan Saunders is partial to

Just last week, the Scots said “yes” to staying with the rest of the United Kingdom, and the attention generated could elevate Scottish brands to a new level not seen before. One of Scotland’s favourite fashion sons Jonathan Saunders is creating a bit of a buzz with the country’s premier heritage label Lyle & Scott. In his collaboration with the 140 year-old knitwear label, it’s aye to colour all the way. Yes, bright colours for guys who aren’t afraid of them, and patterns too. For some reason, we’re seeing a transgressive Happy Days directed by John Waters!

Print and colour from Mr Saunders are to be expected. And Lyle & Scott—sometimes considered the UK’s Lacoste—is also not a brand to shy from a vivid palette. The pairing seems to be made in colour wheel heaven. What’s a joy to see is Mr Saunders’s unabashed clashing of prints in some of the styles, which rides on Lyle & Scott’s 1960s golfing heritage. It is also, according to the Glaswegian designer, inspired by “Peter Saville’s artworks and traditional iconography that was translated in a sort of op-art way” (as revealed in an interview with The Independent last month). The result is sports-geek-friendly, yet won’t be out of place in a discotheque.

Lyle & Scott X Jonathan Saunders videoScreen grab of the promotional video of the capsule collection

The psychedelic vibe is further boosted by a video released to commemorate this collaboration, possibly to keep pace with so many posh brands augmenting their artistic standing by releasing fashion films of art-house aspiration. Lyle & Scott’s short is, however, a frenetic Vimeo-worthy film that captures Mr Saunders’s bold aesthetics unapologetically, with loads of graphic interplay to enhance the clothes’ colour-infused patterns. This should lift the standing of Lyle & Scott above golf-playing men of a certain age, without having to drastically redraw or wreck the label’s blueprint.

Mr Saunders, who presently celebrates his 10th year as a designer, has been winning accolades since graduating with an MA from London’s Central Saint Martins College of Art and Design in 2002. In fact, it was reported that two days after his graduation show, Mr Saunders was commissioned by Alexander McQueen, whose label was then freshly acquired by the Gucci Group, to design prints for his spring/summer 2003 collection. The result was a burst of colour that came together to form what would be known as the bird of paradise dresses. His prints continue to win him fans and commissions, especially by fashion’s big boys such as Chloé (under Phoebe Philo) as well as Pucci (under Christian Lacroix). In 2008, the Italian label Pollini (the shoes, designed by Nicholas Kirkwood, are stocked at Robinsons The Hereen) appointed Mr Saunders as creative director, a position vacated by Rifat Ozbek, the Turkish-born designer who was quite a sensation in London in the late Eighties and early Nineties.

Lyle & Scott X Jonathan Saunders FW 2014 ShirtCotton colour-block shirt cut slim for a modern fit

Lyle & Scotts’s pairing with Mr Saunders isn’t the label’s first outing with a non-mainstream designer. Back in 2012, they collaborated with Junya Watanabe (under the “Eye” line) for a capsule collection of polo shirts that had the usual unexpected details Mr Watanabe is known for. Lyle & Scott sits alongside other heritage brands to have their polo shirts re-imagined such as Lacoste and Fred Perry. Whether with the eagle, the alligator, or the laurel wreath (or other creatures or fauna), we say, keep the creative coupling coming.

Lyle & Scott X Jonathan Saunders tees, SGD139, and shirts, SGD299, are available at Tangs Orchard

Selvedge Denim: Do The Japanese Make Them Better?

Not all denims are created equal. The same, too, can be said about the selvedge siblings, even those that are made in Japan


Uniqlo men's denim jeansUniqlo slim-fit straight selvedge jeans 

Selvedge (from the phrase self-edge, and also spelled selvage) denim has been so hyped that denim jeans sported with a selvedge on the underside of the out seams are invariably considered “premium” and, hence, superior. This is as near to the truth as the waist is close to the ankle. It is also not accurate to say all selvedge denim comes from Japan. It, too, isn’t entirely correct that selvedge denim is raw denim, and equally untrue that they only come from old artisanal looms. The Japanese make a lot of selvedge denims, that’s certain, but their reputation as weavers using only discarded American looms is spun from more myth than fact.

The controversy that has plagued Japanese selvedge denim recently intensified as more brands are charging astronomical amounts for jeans made with this long-lived blue cloth. Did the Japanese really buy up all the old looms when the Americans decided to move jean production off-shore, as woven by popular belief? Well, it depends on who you ask. There are those who want to deem this true to protect the romantic story so as to keep consumers paying for what are thought to come from vintage looms. There are also those who think that the truth is vital as the way to guard America’s reputation as home to original blue jeans—that the looms, as jokingly proposed by Mike Hodis of Rising Son & Co to The Crosby Press, “ended up in the bottom of the ocean” (for us, more likely, junk yards), not on some factory floor in the Far East. The story remains mystifying especially when the Japanese themselves have not really come out to clear the air. But the fact that even Japan’s most expensive denim label Momotaro uses local Toyoda vintage shuttle looms rather than those once disposed by Americans may help demystify expensive Japanese denim.

SelvedgeThe selvedge: here, stitched together on the out seam and ironed flat, distinguished by the narrow white tape on which a red thread runs lengthwise through it 

The introduction of Uniqlo’s jeans made from “premium selvedge denim” this season, too, may help to shed some light on the question. The clue here is the price.  At S$59.90, what are the chances that these pants could be fashioned out of fabric woven from antiquated looms?  The problem is compounded by the quantity Uniqlo produces too. Old shuttle looms are known to be slow. Can they fabricate the amount Japan’s largest fast fashion company would require to reach a world-wide market, from the UK to Australia? And can Uniqlo produce the uniform quality required to convinced consumers they’re not buying inferior products (never mind if denim woven from old looms tends to be inconsistent in finish, and therein lies its charm)?

Uniqlo’s selvedge jeans come with a hang tag labelled “Original Fabric Selvedge”. The underside tries to explain what selvedge denim is, but does not state with certainty that the jeans you have in your hands are made from the fabric they have described. “Selvage refers,” it says, “to the self-finish edge of denim material created using old-style narrow shuttle looms to prevent fraying. Often referred to as ‘red selvage’ because of the red thread used, the selvage technique is typical in jeans made using original narrow-cut (29-inch) denim.” There is no mention if indeed this is the “Original Fabric Selvedge” as depicted—fabric that comes out of “old-style narrow shuttle looms”.

Unqlo selvedge denim jeans hang tagHang tag on Uniqlo’s premium denim jeans emphasising their use of selvedge denim

But on its website, as well as at an event to intro the company’s denim jeans last Tuesday, Uniqlo does identify the manufacturer of its selvedge denim. It comes from Kaihara, one of a handful of active fabric mills in Japan producing high quality denim. Unlike in the US, where only one mill (and believed to be the world’s oldest)—Cone Mills Factory—is reportedly still in production, Japan is home to several mills producing premium denims that are admired globally. Kaihara isn’t Japanese oldest mill, but it is one among a few truly famous that include institutions such as Kurabo and Nisshinbo. Kaihara is noted for their innovative approach to weaving denim and is not opposed to working with brands to come up with new fabrics such as those seen in use by Evisu and Baldwin, brands that they supply to.

Kaihara did not start as a mill for denim. In fact, they began in 1893 as a manufacturer of indigo kasuri for kimonos. It wasn’t until 1970 that they started making denim, and developing an indigo dyeing technique known as “rope dyeing”, considered by denim aficionados as the best dyeing method for yarn since the threads are twisted into a rope and then pulled to and fro through rollers and vats in a repetition of dipping and oxidization to yield the deep blues Kaihara denims are known for. It is also reported that Kaihara uses only American Pima cotton, which, for some—certainly the folks at Uniqlo—is the best for making denims. Furthermore, the yarns are re-spun 64 times for durability. Kaihara’s vintage-style denims (which presumably includes selvedge denims) woven from narrow shuttle looms began only in 1994.

Uniqlo denim jeans 2The sleek and modern finish of Uniqlo selvedge jeans

In naming Kaihara in its marketing material, Uniqlo is giving its premium jeans snob value (note: not all Uniqlo jeans are made from Kaihara denim). While it is doubtful that Uniqlo uses Kaihara’s top-of-the-line denim, that does not mean its selvedge jeans are inferior. Far from it, these are rather handsome jeans, and would be acceptable to any stylish individual who takes smart to mean neat and devoid of fake wear and tear such as grossly artificial whiskering and shredding. They’re sturdy looking despite being made of a light 13-ounce denim (standard, as top quality denim can be of 20 ounce in weight). We’re not sure if the denim is sanforized—a patented method of shrinking the fabric to “fix” it so as to reduce shrinkage after washing, but we suspect the denim is singed and calendered (so as to yield a smoother cloth) since it has a nice hand-feel. For the price, these jeans are even more desirable, for they look a lot more expensive than what Uniqlo is charging them for. Admittedly, these may not be jeans for denim heads, especially those who won’t settle for anything less than jeans made from raw or loom-state denim.

The Japanese are specialists when it comes to denim production, and the details—often those that escape the casual observer—are what set them apart. But that’s not extraordinary considering how intensely passionate they are when it comes to fashion of any sort. Leading American jeans wear retailer Self Edge’s co-founder Kiya Babzani told (a “shopping and style intelligence” site), “The Japanese eye is very different. The mentality they have towards garment production is very different.” And it is this difference that makes Japanese selvedge denim, well, different. And desirable.

Uniqlo’s premium selvedge denim jeans in different fit and washes are available at Uniqlo stores islandwide. Photos: Jim Sim

A Moment With Yasuhiro Mihara

Miharayasuhiro @ Club 21 Pop Up StoreMiharayasuhiro at Club 21 Pop-Up Store

Contrary to some instigation, good riddance has not come to Japanese fashion. The combination of Tokyo Fashion Week shrinking, K-pop style tide not ebbing, and China’s design stars rising may spell doom for Japanese labels, but the truth is—at least for those unable to tear away from the pull of Tokyo-centric fashion—the distinctive Nihon no sutairu is still very much alive.

While no one can say with certainty that there’s a next wave of Japanese designers after the first ground-breaking group that showed in Paris in the early ’80s, it is undeniable that there are creators today who have not ceased to keep Japanese fashion visible and out of the ordinary. One of the labels that continues to enthrall is Miharayasuhiro. Its designer Yasuhiro Mihara was in Singapore recently to intro his newest collection, currently given the spotlight in Club 21’s latest multi-label mini-emporium, simply named the Pop-Up Store (it temporarily takes over the previous unit in Forum The Shopping Mall that was vacated by Emporio Armani).

Yasuhiro MasakiMr Mihara (left), by accounts of a couple of seasoned Club 21 buyers of Jap labels, is an open and affable man, who, despite his limited spoken English, is eager to communicate with his customers, and he did. He was quick to thank attendees of the quiet launch party last Friday evening for their presence (in some cases, for wearing Miharayasuhiro), and was happy to engage in small talk. An excited PR professional was quick to point out to Mr Mihara a discontinued design of an old hand-carry bag that he loves and wishes to see come back. As soon as the designer was aware what the object of the guy’s desire was, he said apologetically, “Sorry, not that. We can’t do that anymore. Hermès is very big,” referring to the controversial bag that he had designed back in 2011, which was dubbed the “grunge Birkin”, and presumably intolerable to the French brand when so many fans had called it a “statement piece”. Interestingly, shoes can be inspired by the Birkin (yes, Buscemi! And we still have no idea why sneakers would need lock and key), but not bags.

While there was a collective lamentation that the clever and cheeky interpretation should be so quickly halted, the 42-year-old Fukuoka native revealed no regret that he is no longer able to produce the bag in question, pointing out to a new tote (also with the brand’s distinctive raw-edge leather flap) that his audience could consider instead. Good designers, it was seen, do not harp on ideas that can no longer be developed; they simply go on to others. Many Japanese designs, despite their seemingly incomprehensible avant garde output, are really about ideas, particularly how an idea (or ideas) could be used to re-imagine classic designs. Miharayasuhiro is, in fact, a label noted for applying ideas, gleaned from so many sources, onto clothes that are mostly reworkings of well-worn traditional garments.

Miharayasuhiro G1The Miharayasuhiro autumn/winter looks as seen on the brand’s website

His men’s autumn/winter 2014 collection, for instance, is almost based on everyday wear, even when it is inspired by “Tokyo mods” (whether they’re an off-shoot of the London mods, or an urban tribe of their own, we can’t say), but on top of the collection’s recognisable garments (sweatshirts, rider’s jackets, duffel and trench coats—the outerwear has always been especially strong) are details that can be traced to some kind of Japanese artisan’s workshop (the prints, however, appear to be from some poet-as-painter’s studio). The result is a passive-aggressive continuum that has all the cool a Tokyo urbanite who centres his stylish live between Aoyama and Daikanyama could want. And there are many of them.

What’s also characteristic of Miharayasuhiro is the label’s predilection for the twofer, such as this season’s blouson-and-car-coat outer. These two-in-one clothes also reflect the duality of Mr Mihara’s distinctive two-as-one footwear or the half/half shoes. In fact, for so many, Miharayasuhiro is associated with unusual sneakers conceived with Puma, such as the MY-70 series (the front half looks like it is dipped in paint). Despite the successful partnership, which is into its 14th year, few know that Mr Yasuhiro started as a footwear designer. Entirely self-taught, he conceived a shoe line in 1997, even before graduating from Tokyo’s Tama Art Universtity (whose alumni include Issey Miyake and the industrial designer Naoto Fukasawa), where he graduated in textiles. His footwear designs were hybridized versions of classic and athletic forms, and they challenged what was considered urban elegance. This vision caught the attention of Puma, and the rest is cult-status history.

Club 21 Pop Up StoreThe Club 21 Pop-Up Store at Forum The Shopping Mall where the Miharayasuhiro collections for men and women are currently available

The Miharayasuhiro menswear was not launched till 2004, which makes Mr Mihara a relatively late comer in RTW (the women’s line did not materialise till 2010). Belated entry aside, he has consistently been called one of the “most original” designers of his generation. Although each season a thematic approach leads the collection (in fact, usually sallying between rockabilly and punk), the one constant is what the brand calls “collapsing of stereotype”. This is not about dismantling the salaryman wardrobe, but adding value to familiar articles of clothing, no matter where they originate—work wear, street wear, club wear, and bringing them together in unexpected ways that could fit the plurality of urban life.

As the cocktail party with generous serving of Japanese finger foods wound down to an end, Mr Mihara moved not to the back of the store, but to the few remaining guests engaged in fashion talk over a tabletop of merchandise, chatting with them courteously, quietly, attentively—unwavering in wanting to know what his customers like. Endearing is the designer who listens.

The Club 21 Pop-Up Store is on L1 and B2, Forum The Shopping Mall

Quiet Elegance With A Touch Of Whimsy

Anteprima 1The classic elegance of Anteprima’s autumn/winter 2014 headlined by Holly Rose Emery and lensed by Ben Hassett

Tasteful and elegant are often bandied when talking about Anteprima. They’ve held on to the same aesthetic position since the mid-Nineties when the brand emerged in the wake of the rising tide of Italian fashion. More sort-after for their bags than their clothes, Anteprima has, in fact, propelled both to attain global visibility despite consumers’ increasing fondness for brash luxury. This is remarkable when, in today’s social media-led maelstrom that is fashion, so many labels are spotlighting their presence by approaching design as if there are Christmas trees to be decorated.

The reality is, elegance has been redefined by agglomerates of prestigious brands and re-represented by American pop stars with a penchant for extreme stages of undress. Ostentation is the new norm. Yet, Anteprima does not seem concerned by these shifts in a dismally massified society. They continue to produce elegance-infused clothes that are stripped of the voice to shout. These are quiet styles for women whose existence is marked by subtlety and whose wardrobe shuns gregarious colours. It has been pointed out that Anteprima treads the path paved by Italian vanguards of classics such as Max Mara, but the former’s timeless, practical, and versatile clothes have always been tempered by the light-heartedness of their accessories, in particular, the bags.

Anteprima G1Models parading in the latest Anteprima collection at the Paragon store

Unsurprisingly, the bags were the highlight at the opening of the new Anteprima store last Friday. It was recently relocated from the first to the second level of the Paragon, and in time to launch the autumn/winter 2014 collection with a ready-to-wear line that deserves more attention than it is likely to get. As usual, it keeps the under in understatement firmly in place, all the while clearly articulating refinement and superlative tailoring. These are not clothes for fashion peacocks, and fans of the label are happy the exhibitionists show no interest.

Anteprima was founded in 1993 by Japanese Izumi Ogino, a true global nomad even before globalism’s style-shifting role arrived to define 20th century fashion. Conceived in Hong Kong, inspired by Tokyo, and produced in Milan, Anteprima has a cross-cultural aesthetic despite its European leanings. Ms Ogino herself is a walking embodiment of her label’s carefully calibrated chic. Even with early success of its leather goods, it would take its Wirebag to place the brand among luxury good’s biggest names.

Anteprima Wirebag TipoThe ‘Tipo’ Wirebag gets the bling treatment: whimsically bejewelled to wow!

The Wirebag brings to mind Pleats Please’s Bao Bao bag. There are, of course, no aesthetic similarities between the two, but both have yielded expanded product lines based on one original idea. The Wirebag’s genesis can be traced to Anteprima’s parent company, Hong Kong’s Fenix Group, which started as (and still is) a knitwear manufacturer, and now mostly known among locals as the operator of City Super, a high-end provisions supplier. Exploiting Fenix’s knitting know-how, Ms Ogino created a new-look bag by using materials never considered before.

As the story goes, the designer was in Italy when she came across wire cords used for making spectacle straps. Inspiration, as is often noted, can strike when encountering the most unlikely objects. She brought them back to Hong Kong and had the new material knitted into bags, but apparently no one in the company thought them to be attractive. Rather than cast aside the trial pieces, Ms Ogino decided to display them in one of the Anteprima stores for a test sale. In 1998, the Wirebag was born.

WirebagThe earliest Wirebag, still in production, is now available in assorted colours

The fact that it did not die a premature death shows how well received those early ones were. The result was not only surprising; it soon allowed the Wirebag to take a mantel reserved for the iconic. In the beginning, the bags were sold with other Anteprima merchandise under the brand Plastiq (which, as we write this, reminds us of the ’80s Japanese New Wave band The Plastics: fun and irreverent. It’s not unimaginable that lead singer Chica Sato personifies these bags!). Unfortunately, a Plastiq bag has other connotation, and, in 2009, a name change was effected.

Just as with the Bao Bao bag, the Wirebag has evolved beyond its original forms—reticule-like carriers—to a staggering range that now includes totes and handbags with amazingly intricate knit work and unexpected colour play. Although not made of valuable materials, the Wirebag can look precious, and, as with so many things linked to Japanese aesthetic preferences, playful too. Bags in the form of a panda or Hello Kitty may now not be contrivances to sing about, but they do reveal many women’s fondness for outwardly cuteness, rather than containing function.

Anteprima is on level 2, Paragon

Two Of A Kind: Handling Transparency

Dior Vs KorLeft, Christian Dior Autumn/Winter 2014 and right, Michael Kors Spring/Summer 2015

In a post bursting with delight, HerWorldPlus was over the moon, declaring that “Michael Kors approves of our favourite 5 looks from his SS15 show”. One of the looks is, according to the website, “how Kors wants you to wear transparent pieces—the embellished see through skirt was ideally conservative with a tucked-in dress shirt so long that it covers all your lady parts.” And the thigh and knee are no lady parts? But that’s beside the point.

A season earlier, or on 28 February in Paris, the house of Christian Dior, led by Raf Simons, showed some evening wear that were sheer embroidered tank-dresses over sleeveless T-shirts—also embellished. The beautifully fitted tees were fashioned to be long, with the hemline going way past the hip so that by themselves, the T-shirts were really dresses too. What was exceptional here wasn’t so much the design of the two separates (although the graphic interplay of the deep scooped neckline of the dress against the adorned oblong of the tee is no less design!), but the proposal of pairing a sheer dress over an opaque inner that had the right length to guard a woman’s modesty.

Mr Simons’s Dior would never be considered “ideally conservative”, yet it embraces traditional dressmaking in the sense that the finished designs are never improper, no matter how Mr Simons juxtaposes or layers fabrics of different textures and densities. This evening ensemble for the current AW 2014 season isn’t classic red-carpet dressing, but its take on sportswear shapes is acknowledging how younger women like to dress on a glamourous night out: with no fuss, and with the ease of slipping on a tank top for a weekend trip to the suburban mall.

Mr Kors’s long shirt (not a “dress shirt” since a dress shirt would not have sleeves that are too long) worn under the diaphanous skirt may appeal to those unable to reconcile fashion and the potential exposure of “lady parts”, but in essence, the idea comes six months too late. Putting the two outfits side by side, one looks decidedly present, the other, belonging somewhat to the past.


Nothing To Watch

Apple WatchApple Watch: Just two of the 34 combinations you can choose from

By Low Teck Mee

The Apple Watch is not a game changer. There, I’ve said it. Some people want to wait and see, but I’m happy to state it now. And it feels as good as the moment Apple finally announced the existence of the wrist-bound wearable: other people can breathe easily and with triumphant delight; I am just relieved that the phantom iWatch can finally have a grave (possibly in the iCloud among nude photos of movie stars) and that many of you can put an end to years of mindless speculation.

Oh, this is not to knock the many ecstatic fans who cheered so loudly when Tim Cook teased on stage with “one more thing” that you’d have thought everyone was given a free trip to the moon. When the Apple Watch was finally revealed, it was a standing ovation inside Cupertino’s Flint Center for Performing Arts—a temporary church to the cult of the fruit that was once a pome of temptation at the beginning of time. No, this is to join everyone else in delighting in Apple’s big reveal.

Apple Watch on the wristThe Apple Watch on a wrist as seen in

But it’s no revelation that Apple is late jumping onto the already crowded smart watch bandwagon. Then again, Apple isn’t exactly a forerunner of mobile technology. As with the iPhone 6’s (and iPhone Plus’s) bigger screens, the Apple Watch is really just joining the club, which is fine since the club doors were never closed. But is this fashionably late?

Apple sure knows it needs to get into the kid leather-bound good books of fashion folk. In Cupertino, fashion editors were in attendance even when New York Fashion Week hasn’t ended. Vogue stalwarts such as Franca Sozzani and Emmanuelle Alt showed up, so did unlikely watchers Gwen Stefani and Liberty Ross. Elsewhere, Instyle’s Kelsey Glein considered it “well worth the wait” and “an object of beauty”. Mobile and tech news site BGR quoted colleague Eric Wilson as saying that the design is “generic in the sense of its flexibility and individualization.”’s Tim Blanks was clearly seduced: the Apple Watch is “where art, luxury, technology, and romance (he was taken by the gadget’s ability to send out heartbeats!) meet”. Vogue China’s Angelica Cheung tweeted, “Standing ovation for #apple #iWatch (sic)”. On the same medium, three and half hours before the Cupertino event, British Vogue’s Alexandra Shulman claimed she was “looking forward to a life-changing watch”, but did not say after that if her life was changed. She did later blog to say that the watch she saw earlier “practically makes thinking redundant and it’s got the fusion of cool design, likeable graphics and techno wizardry that we expect from Apple”. Self-confessed “non-digital specialist” Suzy Menkes opined, “From a fashion point of view, the external aesthetic seemed neutral: neither super-stylish nor repellent. I would imagine that geeks would love it more than aesthetes.” GQ took rah-rah-ing one step further by posting a “fashion spread” on its online version: the Apple Watch peeking from under suit-and-shirt sleeves, underscored by leather bracelets. It seemed only New York Times’s Vanessa Friedman was willing to go against the grain, pondering, “Does it rewrite the rules of our aesthetic expectations?” And her answer? A firm “no”.

Apple Watch GQGQ‘s super-quick reaction: a fashion spread on

To be honest, I have not seen the real thing. What I have seen is what most of you have seen: from what is being posted online and on Apple’s song-and-dance homepage, now appended with a new tab “Watch”, filled with eye-popping images of its latest Swiss army knife of a toy. One of the earliest visuals to appear on Instagram made me think: Nano reborn. Then I saw a video-demo of the home screen and I thought it was an attack of emoji, only to realise, quickly enough, it was a galaxy of widgets! Cute UI and a techie’s idea of elegant form factor may not be comfortable partners to a Dior suit or handles of a Chanel 2.55. I’m sure Apple thought of that. That’s why the Apple Watch itself is a tad better-looking than what its competitors put out not long before. That’s why they will be offering two watch sizes in three different cases (stainless steel, anodised aluminium, and 18-carat gold), as well as a slew of straps that will bring the total styles to a not unstaggering thirty four. That’s why in their marketing speak, they’re eager to assure that “there’s an Apple Watch for everyone”. The thing is, I don’t see Patek Philippe trying to please all and sundry.

Maybe I am looking at this wrongly. Maybe this shouldn’t be viewed as a fashion item, an accessory as vital to one’s image as a bag is. The bag houses our entire life, but these days, it’s likely the smart phone that’s storing our increasingly digitised existence. Apple Pay—the electronic payment system, also just announced—will before long render our wallets redundant, hence possibly our bags too. The Apple Watch is Apple Pay-enabled. Is Apple Watch then a viable mobile addition, replacing our smart phones altogether? Many people seem to think and hope so. I wonder what will happen if, as a result of the rise of Apple Watch, Louis Vuitton loses a sizeable part of their bag business. The mind boggles.

Apple Watch digital crownApple Watch’s navigational tool “digital crown” (right)

I am also amused by how so many reviewers were bowled over by Apple Watch’s “digital crown”—no doubt nifty and qualifies the device as a watch—when the idea is really not new. Back in the days when Sony was making hand phones without the Xperia branding, pre-Sony Ericsson, it had incorporated into some of its handsets a neat little feature called the “jog dial”. Especially memorable was the compact Music Cellular Phone CMD-MZ5, a handset that predated the iPhone. Unlike the “digital crown”, Sony’s “jog dial” was able to scroll up and down, rock forward and backward, and be pressed inward to execute commands. At that time, about 2000, the “jog dial” was awesome. Today, with touch-screen tech, the “digital crown” really isn’t grand.

That’s the thing about the Apple Watch: it’s a product conceived to meet our expectations, not exceed them. Sure, there are gimmicks galore, but will we need them to navigate a day in our mundane life? Some of the features may be useful, but most of them require third-party apps. What’s most exasperating for would-be smart watch owners not propped by iOS is that the Apple Watch won’t work without an iPhone. What good  is a button without a buttonhole?

High On Hybrid

Ganryu shirt AW 2014The Japanese are known for taking two (or more) disparate elements, bring them together and somehow the sum is a sensible whole. No matter how unrelated the components of a shirt are, for example, the finished product will still look like a shirt, wearable to boot. That’s their mastery.

Take this seemingly commonplace shirt, something an insouciant urbanite would pick.  It’s from Ganryu, designed by Fumito Ganryu, part of the Comme des Garçons stable of designers. From afar, it looks like a chemise given the colour-block treatment, now so scarily common. But upon closer inspection—and you will look it over—the shirt is also a wannabe anorak! The cotton body is in micro-check and the sleeve in gingham, and across the chest is a solid-colour nylon pocket with invisible zipper. Athletic wear details do crop up in shirts, but weather wear elements are as unusual as a solar storm.

It’s geek-chic, no doubt, and with a touch of norm-core, but it’s a regular more guys should adopt.

The Ganryu micro gingham poly BD shirt, SGD390, is available at Club21B, Forum Galeria