Close Look: Japanese Take On Athleisure

Kolor X Adidas AW 2015

Hot on the heels of Sacai’s collaboration with NikeLab is Kolor’s partnership with Adidas. Sacai’s Chitose Abe is the wife of Kolor’s Junichi Abe, so it is interesting to see how these pairings turn out. Of course, the hype is nothing compared to Pharell William’s re-interpretation of the Stan Smith and Superstar, but Junichi Abe is expected to bring something only the Japanese can with performance wear. Look at Jun Takahashi of Undercover’s on-going collaboration with Nike, the immensely wearable and intriguing Gyakusou collection.

Launched globally on 25 September, Adidas X Kolor was released in Singapore at Club 21B with no fanfare. Our contributor Shu Xie, unaware that the Club 21 Group had exclusive distribution rights to the line, had gone to the adidas Orignals store at Pacific Plaza, thinking it would be available there, only to be greeted by staff who knew nothing of the collaboration.

Perhaps it isn’t quite accurate to describe what Junichi Abe has done as ‘athleisure’—that rapidly rising sub-category of sports performance wear made popular and highly visible by brands such as Lululemon, H&M, and, to a certain extent, Alexander Wang. Or the consequence of too many ‘elevated’ jogging pants seen in bars and clubs. Mr Abe’s treatment show immense respect to what these garments would be used for: athletics and training. It is doubtful that he would have designed with a club setting and strobe lights in mind, even when the high-shine technical fabrics used wouldn’t be out of place in the likes of Zouk. Like compatriot, JunTakahashi—himself an avid runner, Mr Abe has assembled a neat little collection destined for the track and field, and the gym.

Indeed, we were immediately enticed by the somewhat futuristic treatment of the 21 pieces. If there’s a running track inside the International Space Station, it is highly possible that NASA’s astronauts would want to wear these outfits to keep fit. The fabrics, many based on the tech Adidas has conceived (such as Climaheat and Climachill, and Boost for the footwear), are mostly synthetic, yet are of such pleasurable tactile quality that it really could be performance-enhancing. In a word (or two): super soft. Comfort alone could see them being worn in the gym and outside.

Is Adidas X Kolor better than NikeLab X Sacai? It’s hard to compare. The first is essentially menswear, while the other is targeted at women. Yet, there’s a sense of the avant garde that is evocative of what both do. There’s also the layering, an approach to dispel the belief that one-piece garments work better for sports. Husband and wife clearly approach athletic-wear with a ready-to-wear sensibility, and both have not sacrificed style to performance.

Adidas X Kolor is available at Club 21B, Forum Galleria.

Manhattan Transfer: Givenchy Courts The Americans In Their Own Court

Givenchy SS 2015 NYFW

The dramatic setting of the Givenchy’s Spring/Summer 2016 show at Pier 21, New York

The New York Times hailed him as “King of Fashion Week”. In the world of American fashion, where haute couture is conspicuously missing, Givenchy’s Riccardo Tisci is perhaps the real royal in the city. For the first time, Givenchy would be on leave from Paris, showing its prêt-a-porter collection for Spring/Summer 2016 instead in a metropolis where women going topless on the streets won’t pose a legal problem. New York Fashion Week (NYFW) fans and the countless who wanted to but couldn’t attend were eager to tout the Givenchy show two Fridays ago as grand, possibly on par with the impending visit of Pope Francis. Americans know their royalty, religious or secular.

No American designer has been bestowed such kingly accolade, not even two of their acknowledged couturiers, Mainbocher and Ralph Rucci. Mr Tisci’s present eminence is due, in no small part, to his relationship with American customers and supporters—two of the most visible, the double Ks, Kanye and Kim, whose current maternity wardrobe is blessed by potential godfather, Riccardo Tisci. It was, therefore, to be expected that his NYFW debut at Pier 26, off Manhattan’s West Side Highway, was to be front-rowed by a Hollywood-meets-hip-hop crowd—when “glitzy” described the guest list, you’d know what kind of attendance the show enjoyed. It was, therefore, predictable—bordering on the banal—when the 41-year-old Italian was dubbed by the NY press as “a bona fide celebrity designer”.

Audrey Hepburn and Kim KardashianLeft: Audrey Hepburn in Givenchy. Photo: Paramount Pictures. Right, Kim Kardashian in Givenchy. Photo:

Complimentary or not, many consider the original “celebrity designer” to be the founder of the house himself—Hubert de Givenchy. A master at spinning elegant clothes, Givenchy had an enviably long, wardrobe-supplying association with the actress Audrey Hepburn, from a year after the house’s founding in 1952 to 1993, when she died of colon cancer. His relationship with Hepburn was so close that he called her his “sister” and she considered him her “best friend”. They first met in 1953 when she, then 24, was in pre-production for the 1954 movie Sabrina. According to Hollywood lore (or legend, depending on who you ask), the fated and feted meeting came about when director Billy Wilder decided, as he was reported to have said, to act on Hepburn’s suggestion of having a real French designer supply “Paris originals” for the movie.

This being Hollywood, disgruntlement was to be expected. The official wardrobe supervisor was Edith Head, the legendary, star-in-her-own-right costume diva who had earlier conceived Hepburn’s outfits for Roman Holiday. With the actress bent on going to Paris, she was left with providing only three insignificant outfits for Sabrina. Head’s loss was Hepburn’s gain. After that first meeting at the Givenchy atelier, Hepburn became, as life imitated art, the film’s Sabrina Fairchild—a raw diamond polished. Monsieur Givenchy would continue to supply Hepburn’s next seven film roles, culminating in Holly Golightly wearing the iconic little black dress in 1961’s Breakfast at Tiffany’s. If payback was destined, the score was settled when, ironically, Edith Head won the 1955 Oscar for Best Costume Design for her work on Sabrina, not Givenchy.

Ina Claire and ChanelIna Claire and Coco Chanel, 1931. Photo: Corbis

French couturiers’ relationships with movie stars were not unique to Givenchy. Two decades earlier, in 1931, Coco Chanel was invited by Samuel Goldwyn to design costumes for films put out by his production company United Studios. Despite what was seen at that time as a couture coup, the collaboration was short-lived. Chanel was involved in only three films—Palmy DaysTonight or Never, and The Greeks Had a Word for Them—and all were such unpleasant experiences for her (including tension with the pregnant Gloria Swanson in Tonight or Never) that she had only one option: depart Hollywood. So willing to let her go was the studio that Goldwyn did not advise her against it. She would later describe Hollywood as a “capital of bad taste”.

Whatever the taste of Hollywood, the stars have always had a taste for French fashion, and French houses play to their whims. No matter how the stars may represent each label, it all boils down to what Christian Dior called in the late Forties “goddess of our age—Publicity”. And he, too, acknowledged that “the name America is synonymous with publicity.” Dior knew it then, so does Ricardo Tisci now. (Dior, too designed for Hollywood films, including Indiscretion of an American Wife, Man About Town, and, with Marlene Dietrich, Stage Fright.) In fact, Mr Tisci is keeping to the publicity tradition of Givenchy more so than sticking to the house codes in his designs. For French labels, no French celebrity, no French actress—not even Juliette Binoche, Marrion Cotillard, or Audrey Tautou—could bring the kind of publicity the likes of Jennifer Lawrence could and does, even, perhaps especially, when falling on the steps during an Academy Awards presentation. Hollywood stars are walking and stumbling, constantly generating, publicity machines. No one, however, did as much for a fashion brand as Audrey Hepburn. According to her biographer Alexander Walker in Audrey: Her Real Story, she “never received money for the way she promoted the house of Givenchy”.

The Tischi clanRiccardo Tischi with Kim Kardasian in the latest issue of Sorbet and, in the August issue of Vogue Japan, with Kanye West and fave models, including Kendall Jenner

While it is hyperbolic to say Kim Kardashian is a modern-day Audrey Hepburn, Mrs West, too, did her bit or, as Jessica Simpson would have said, “a lot of bit”. It is not clear if she stands to gain financially (apart from custom-made clothes she could have received without paying for them), but she has no qualms declaring her preference for Givenchy and her love for its creative director. As she told CNN Style, “Riccardo is the first designer that took a chance on me. I’m so grateful that he saw a vision and was willing to dress me.” So BFF was the relationship that she did not hesitate to appear on the cover of the fall issue of Sorbet—incidentally called The BFF Issue, holding on to Mr Tisci like a chum she never had. The affection is understandable: Givenchy was the first label to put her on its front row at a time when most cognoscenti shunned her. She was only a reality-television star and in her show, Keeping with the Kardashians, she did little than screamed at her siblings. To Mr Tisci, however, reality-television star is still a star, and she could one day be bigger.

Today, on Instagram alone, Kim Kardiashian has 47.3 million followers, a big that’s close to the population of Ukraine. Even Time considered her massive and listed her as one of this year’s 100 most influential people. In a world driven by digital content and the front row being very much a part of it, Ms Kardashian’s every move remains as compelling as the 2003 sex tape involving her and then boyfriend Ray J, leaked in 2007. It is not surprising that there are so many willing to clutch the skirt of—to paraphrase Christian Dior—the goddess of publicity. No one is certain if Ms Kardashian moves products, but, following her style rehabilitation in the wake of her marriage to Kanye West, she helps draw attention to the barely-there clothes that she loves to wears. Pre-Givenchy, in a reveal to CNN, she said, “I thought I had the best style… I look back at outfits, and I’m, like, mortified.”

Kimye @ GivenchyKimye at Givenchy’s Spring/Summer 2014 presentation in Paris. Photo: WENN/ aceshowbiz

She credits her husband for her transformation. “I really think that my relationship with my husband Kanye really changed everything.” It may not be easy to imagine Kanye West as Professor Henry Higgins, but the rap-artiste-turned-fashion-designer has been hard-selling his wife even when they were just dating. In that infamous cover story for Vogue (April 2014), he said, “Kim is like a fantasy, period. She’s like a dream girl and I think a dream girl should live in a dream world.” That dream world is mostly dreamed up by Kanye and Kim. Combined, the couple is a perpetually powered vehicle for hype—Givenchy’s publicity machine like no other. They are a part of the intimate coterie of stars that Mr Tisci banks on to push his strikingly ornate dresses, from the catwalk to the red carpet.

Some observers blame designers’ obsession with celebrity on magazine covers’ fixation with stars. Anna Wintour, to many, is culpable. Until she took over American Vogue in 1998, the magazine’s covers featured mostly models, some not at all household names. In the 1990s, Ms Wintour featured a few starlets here and there, but by 2000, big-name stars were fronting Vogue. No matter who she picks, however, each must abide by her standards. Oprah Winfrey, for example, was reportedly told to lose weight before she would be allowed to grace Vogue’s October 1998 cover. By presenting what she sees as perfection, Anna Wintour asserts tremendous power over what constitutes impeccable style. It is, however, unknown if what she promotes actually moves on the selling floor. But, it is no secret that she has a soft spot for French labels (particularly Chanel), and has championed Parisian designers within her pages. Kim Kardashian wore a Lanvin wedding dress on that cover of Vogue.

Carmel Snow and Anna WintourCarmel Snow, second from left, at Christian Dior’s presentation, Paris, 1940s. Anna Wintour, right, at Givenchy’s show, New York, 2015

The editors (of American fashion magazine) who love French couture, in fact, go back to the Forties. Two of the most noted were Bettina Ballard of Vogue and Carmel Snow of Harper’s Bazaar. Among the two, Snow would go down the annals of fashion history as the astute editor who exclaimed, at Christian Dior’s debut collection (originally called Corolle), “It’s such a new look”. And the silhouette of a nipped-in waist and generously full skirt would, in the end, go by an American’s exclamation rather than its French moniker. Snow, who adored Paris, was known to be ardently loyal to haute couture; her devotion matched by Ballard’s determination to let American editorials rave, and, consequently, promote it. American Vogue in the Forties wasn’t what it is today. Then, the Paris office chose for New York what fashions were to be published. Ballard decided that she would put herself in charge of the two annual editions given over to the collections. This might have appeared to be turning her nose at the French, but what Ballard did was, in fact, a reflection of America’s rising clout as consumer of expensive European clothes. Ballard, probably unaware then, set a precedent that was to be followed later by the legendary Diana Vreeland.

Perhaps, as a result of these women’s contribution to popular magazines, Americans are predisposed to adoring French fashion. Kim Kardashian, too, can be seen as carrying on with a tradition, picking up where Audrey Hepburn stopped. Her role, however, is less an arbiter of style than a mannequin of clothes, especially since she mostly allows her husband and designers such as Riccardo Tisci to decide what she wears. Ms Kardashian’s rise and omnipresence coincided with the arrogation of the front row by celebrities and stars not remotely connected to fashion. A fashion show is now as much a celebrity show. It is reported that 20 percent of photographers in the pit at the end of the runway are interested only in the seats right in front of the catwalk. This figure does not include the horde of the star-struck with smart phones and action cams.

Givenchy SS 2015 Pic 1

Givenchy Spring/Summer 2016 show opened by Italian model Mariacarla Boscono

Under such a glare, it is unsurprising Riccardo Tisci would want to participate in NYFW, considered to be the most circus-like of all fashion weeks. No matter the tableau, this was no Robert Doisneau’s portrait of a city. Yet, however manic, whatever the spectacle, America has always played a pivotal role in the consumption and spread of European fashion, a part that goes back to the post-war years of the Fifties. It is an important market for European luxury brands that predated Asia’s voracious appetite of the Eighties and Nineties. In fashion, there’s no such thing as sovereign style. There may be what is perceived to be a French aesthetic, just as there is an Italian one or English, but fashion goes to where it is most in demand. Americans, too, play a part in the diminishing elitism of fashion. These days, the demand isn’t just at retail level; it’s at celebrity level, and social-media level (which is the most significant leveler of all, removing the class divide that once defined fashion). Nowhere is the multi-platform demand more evident than in America. One of the earliest to realise this is Hedi Slimane, who, upon accepting the appointment as Saint Laurent’s new design head in 2012, moved the atelier to Los Angeles, not the most obvious choice, but clearly where the multi-platform action is.

Furthermore, designers these days are both couturiers and vendeuses. They design and they sell, often by highly visible association with the highly visible. Few marketing programs work as well as the designer promoting his collection next to a wearer with star billing, completely outfitted in his clothes. For the celebrities and stars, all they have to do is show up and take their seat. That’s hardly saturated with effort. If the designer shows for the first time in that city, that’s even better. Ricardo Tisci’s pre- and post-show appearances and television interviews amounted to thousands of dollars worth of air time (CNN Style has a five-part video special on him!). Even NYFW heavyweights such as Marc Jacobs and Alexander Wang can’t top that.

Does Givenchy showing in New York mean the importance or influence of Paris is waning? We seriously doubt it.

Two of a Kind: The Sole Of The Matter

Prada vs LV

Prada on top of Louis Vuitton’s chunky rubber-soled shoe

By Shu Xie

It’s really not the same as serving coffee in a jam jar: one café does it, and the rest follow. Coffee is common man beverage—with the exclusion, perhaps, of kopi luwak—and a receptacle for marmalades can be an inexpensive and bold, although affected, statement on the virtues of recycling. But fashion at a certain level and price point should ideally not be about the reprocessing of ideas, especially not yours to begin with.

When I saw the shoe in the window of Louis Vuitton’s Ion Orchard store this morning, I thought a Prada shoe ghost was haunting its neighbour. I did consider the said footwear to be a doppelgänger to Prada’s by now recognisable hybrid hunk of a shoe, but, seriously, it looked much more like a fraternal twin. Were they separated at birth? Or a mistake of the cobbler-as-midwife? And why was it making an appearance now? How did the mother react to it aligning itself with the competitor next door?

Like most fashion mysteries, there were more questions than answers.

As I stood there in front of the window with that shoe, conscientiously thinking of a trend that does not bubble up or trickle down, it dawned on me that despite the importance of novelty in a trade that that sees feet walking towards or away from the rage of the day—in a day, it is really all-the-rage that matters more than true newness. The movement is horizontal now since designers cast a more lateral view on trends. They seem to say, anything you can do, I can do too.

When Prada launched its menswear in 1993 (and later the Prada Sport line), footwear was part of their game-changing approach to fashion, which began with nylon bags in the late 70s as a counterpoint to the preciousness of luxury bags of the time. Prada men’s shoes have never been just classic brogues and Oxfords (although they do them well too); they’re always a blend of this and that, a meeting of the unexpected, and, increasingly, crossbreeding that results in both the beautiful and the banal.

While Prada shoes are not really cool-hunted anymore, they continue to intrigue with their myriad soles on which traditional uppers sit. If you care about shoes that are different but not crazily way out—just whimsical, you could be keenly anticipating each season’s what-will-they-think-of-next hybrids. I recall, as I write this, the Wallabee gone to the city as a wing-tip, the espadrille traded up as a brogue, the Oxford half-disguised as a galosh, the lace-up with kueh lapis sole gone decidedly punk… I could go on.

Fusion in food may arouse suspicion, but fusion in footwear has spawned quiet a following, and I mean shoe makers doing the trailing. Some of Prada’s bold ideas have such far-reaching influence that they could be seen in the workshops of shoe-making cities of the world, from Addis Ababa (in Ethiopia) to Guangzhou. And under extreme pressure from producing popular shoes that sell, even top-of-the-line brands are compelled to go window shopping.

I held the Louis Vuitton shoe—called Swirl Derby—in my hand. The sales staff was eager to tell me that what was atop my palm was “the star of the show”. Like Prada’s, it was the heft that struck me. The 4.5-cm sole, too, is made of rubber, molded to form layers and ridges, and includes a gap between forefoot and heel. The seam where the sole grips the upper is similarly undulating—a masculine scalloped edge. Both are lace-ups, but LV’s look more suited for a hike up some mountain at a city’s edge. Twins, as it’s often seen, do have different pursuits.

Prada Lace-Up, SGD1,400, is available at Prada stores. Louis Vuitton Swirl Derby shoe, SGD1,530, is available at Louis Vuitton stores 

Yikes, It’s Yeezy Again!

Yeezy Season 2Kanye West with his army of models showing Yeezy Season 2. Photo: Randy Brooke/Getty Images

The good news for any new fashion label is the reality of a second season. Kanye West’s Yeezy, following last February’s debut, makes the painful-to-grasp statement that Mr West, as a fashion designer, has struck again. So to whom is this news considered good? Following his show during New York Fashion Week, social media was rife with palpable dismay, even outright outrage. “Kanye is a joke!! NYFW is too much for his poor talent,” went one. “Kanye should donate these (sic) trash to the zombies of The Walking Dead,” suggested another. “Gosh!! Is this fashion?” fumed one more.

Sure, for every hater, there’s a lover. It is very likely that Mr West’s clothes will be adored by a rabid base that would snap up anything he produces, even if they have the same allure of discarded cardboard boxes. The crazy success of the Yeezy 750 Boost sneakers (reportedly sold out in less than an hour) is a possible prelude to the reception of his fashion line. Kanye West can do no wrong, although he had—specifically, with two disastrous collections in 2011 and 2012. They were so lacklustre that The Telegraph’s Lisa Armstrong advised him to “stick to his day job”.

The collection was dubbed Yeezy Season 2, and many in the fashion world had nearly forgotten about Mr West’s fashion ambitions until he suddenly announced the show date shortly before Givenchy’s debut presentation in New York last week. Breathless anticipation in the media ensued and it nearly drown out the fact that Mr West had—perhaps not inadvertently—clashed with two other designers showing at the same time. One, Anne Bowen, was so upset, she told Women’s Wear Daily, “It’s like we are David and he is Goliath. We have put our heart and soul into our show, and should not be stepped on like this.” Was this a Taylor-Swift-at-the-MTV-Video-Awards-moment? Only in place of the microphone, Mr West took over a time slot. It is possible that this is the only way he knows how to play.

Mr West always comes across, full of bluster, as a man constantly in need to remind himself and the people around him how great he is. He may have an overwrought personality, but his clothes have the strength of a cotton ball. Continuing last season’s liquid layers over unabashedly underclothes, the second collection, as in the first, broke no ground. Some people have called it costumes for apocalyptic movies such as the Mad Max series, but we saw a sham Rick Owens trying to reinterpret Donna Karan’s “seven easy pieces” from the mid-80s via Alexander Wang’s T-shirt product development team.

Bottom line is, do these clothes deserve a catwalk showing? Surely the world does not need more sweat tops, tank dresses, leotards, and leggings, in these cases, all worn monochrome, neck to toe. Or are these just props with which to show off the new Yeezy 750 Boost? The presentation tried to break away from the typical runway show. Choreographed (again) by performance artist Vanessa Beecroft, the bare-bones staging was, at best, pretentious. As in the February outing, models strode in looking glum, but this time, were barked at by some military sergeant to form up or exit stage. Someone should really give Mr West his marching orders!

Shield Your Eyes

Mykita X Bernhard WillhelmThe unrelenting haze has posed a style conundrum for many people who care about how they look. However you wear it, the N95 mask has more in common with chemical plants than city pavements. And while a mask can protect you from the unclean air, it can’t do anything for your eyes. With PSI hitting way past the unhealthy level of 100, our eyes sometimes smart—not exactly a comfortable condition when you’re trying to look your best.

In comes this pair of eyewear. It’s essentially a shield, rather than spectacles, or, to go by its proper description, a visor. And we think it’ll do a nice job protecting your eyes from hazy conditions, not to mention, actually looking nice. The Berlin-based luxury eyewear company Mykita has teamed up with fellow German, the fashion designer Bernhard Willhelm, for a design that is as sporty as it is avant garde. Either way, it is an attention grabber.

This ‘Daisuké’ visor first appeared in 2012 although the partnership goes back to 2009. Featuring Mykita’s hinge-less arms and a visor that has the tech advances of the face shield of a motorcycle helmet, it is hand-assembled in Germany. When worn, the surprisingly light visor stretches from above the eye brow to the just below the tip of your nose. No part of the lens touches the cheek. This means that a piece of N95 mask could easily slip under it: the sum is complete protection for your face. However, we’re not sure if they’d let you in at the bank.

Mykita X Bernhard Willhelm Sun Ocean Blue Blue Flash Daisuké, SGD845, is available at Salon by Surrender, The Shoppes at Marina Bay Sands. Photo: Mykita/Surrender

Will The Strap Make The Difference?

Apple Watch Hermes Strap

Apple has just announced new products, but, as usual, there are few gadgets that one can truly be excited about. Apple’s not-so-big reveal in the Bill Graham Civic Auditorium in downtown San Francisco yesterday (US west coast time), may thrill the die-hards, but for the rest of us, life goes on, unchanged. Apple has not produced anything earth-shattering for so long that the hopeful have long parked their money elsewhere for excitement. Kanye West would be running for president of the United States of America, and Apple would be releasing iPhone 9, and the device still wouldn’t teleport you to the moon.

Yet, we’d like to sieve through the offerings to see what could make it to the fashion hall of fame… or the lame. We found it not quite at the top of the pile—the iPad Pro took the spot. The new Apple Watch Hermès that was announced didn’t quite cause the heart to skip a bit. Since the launch of the Apple Watch, the company has been courting the high fashion fraternity for staff, ideas, and support. Suzy Menkes excitedly IG-ed the watch moments after its reveal; she even wondered if it is “born from the meeting of Jony Ive and Axel Dumas at our Conde Nast Luxury Conference in Florence in April”, an event Ms Menkes hosted. While it is not surprising that Apple would collaborate with Hermès (actually, we had thought it would pick Coach!), it does not negate the fact that they’re a latecomer to high-profile pairings.

Apple Watch Hermes with diff straps

The first thing that impressed us was how similar the watch is to Hermès’s own Cape Cod series. The strap is clearly Hermès, especially in that leather, in that colour, with that top stitch. It is vaguely equestrian, too. Like watches offered by Hermès, it comes with straps in versions that you can twirl round the wrist or snap on as a wide band around it: the Single Tour, Double Tour, and the Cuff, all telling of what the style of straps they are. Wearables score better with consumers if they have the style cred of an elegant, luxurious fashion accessory. Or, in the case of the Double Tour, a distinguished provenance traced to one of Hermès’s earliest designers, Martin Margiela. Apple is not in the dark about that.

The target market, too, is clear: whichever that causes the unrelenting spike in Birkin sales. It is, thus, not unimaginable that Apple envisions attendees of Birkin auctions sporting the Apple Watch Hermès on their dainty wrists. Win the acceptance of the rich, and the rest will follow.

But does a strap really transform the desirability of this smartwatch? At its core, the Apple Watch, even with a luxury strap, hasn’t changed. You could use a new face with the Hermès logo on it, but that doesn’t modify the heart of the timepiece, which still only pairs with an iPhone. The Watch OS2 is announced to be released next week. If you care about such things, chances are, straps are immaterial.

Apple Watch Hermès with silver face is expected to hit stores in Oct. The straps are not sold individually. Prices start from USD1,100 for the Single Tour. Photos: Apple

Dress Watch: The Bows Make The Frock

Prada bow dress

This season, bows are big. It is a wonder that they haven’t reached their present popularity sooner, given women’s predilection for girlish looks. A bow, as Margaret Thatcher supposedly said, is “rather softening” and she should know, having adopted the pussy cat bow as part of her Downing Street uniform for years. For a public figure who did not downplay her iron lady persona, the irony is not lost. This softening effect could also be the reason Alessandro Michele at Gucci adopted the collar-tied-as-a-bow to give the Florentine label its new-found cool. Hedi Slimane may have revived the pussy cat bow for his Saint Laurent debut in 2013 as anti-chic statement, but its present-day cousins are more in concert with the all-pervading good-girl aesthetic. Prettiness, like femininity, has a long life.

However, the bows we’re more attracted to are not the floppy ones, but the firmer bows seen in quite a few of the dresses from Prada’s Autumn/Winter 2015 collection. Miuccia Prada has always treated surface embellishment in unconventional ways, but her bows are quite simply unlike anything you’d expect from something nearly always associated with hair accessories or Ferragamo’s ‘Vara’ pumps. In fact, hers are more akin to courtly regalia. So eye-catching and unusually placed are Prada’s bows that the dresses affixed with them have become a September-issue cover favourite.

Prada slip dress on mag covers AW 2015

Prada’s slip dress with bows on the bodice appears on the September issues of British Harper’s Bazaar (featuring Rosie Huntington-Whitely) and Vogue Japan (featuring Katy Perry)

The bows appear in pairs on shoulders and on the bodice; they impart a whiff of royal elegance, if not pomp, yet they seem rather girlish, too—debutante-girly. Up close, you’ll see that not all the bows are made of grosgrain ribbon as one might expect. Some are in the same fabric as the dress, some are in fur! Regardless, the bows are fashioned in such a way that they’re not entirely flat. In effect, they’re triple layers of confection. We’re partial to some of the colours used such as the one in the main photograph (top)—an off-beat green only Prada will use, and on that dusty blue!

The bows may distract a viewer from the dress, but it’s the dress that deserves attention too. Miuccia Prada makes simple shapes arresting, and she deftly incorporates the subtlest detail to make even a shift shine. Here, the waist is placed near the bust line, and that dimple of a pleat on the waistline to replace the vertical bust dart—that’s not only clever, it’s cute, augmenting the overall sweetness of the dress, even in the form of a cleavage-baring slip. Not surprising, then, that the UK’s Telegraph called the series the “dress that’s defining the new season”.

Prada bow dresses, from SGD4,670, are available at the Ion Orchard boutique