Winter Style 4: A Seventies Classic Revisited

NikeLab X Stone Island AW 2015 Windrunner Bright BueNikelab X Stone Island Windrunner jacket in bright blue

By Raiment Young

In my quest for functional winter wear with design edge, I ended up looking at online stores. One of the trending pieces I found myself looking repeatedly at is Stone Island’s remake of the Nike classic, the Windrunner jacket. First released in 1978, Nike claims that “the silhouette has been a fixture on medal stands and city streets ever since — seen on everyone from distance runners to spinning b-boys.”

This, however, is no retro gear. Stone Island has given it such a modern makeover that you’d not likely link the present version with the past. While I have to admit that I am feeling a little nostalgic (including fond memories of the Italian brand Stone Island that was once available in Singapore at the first Tangs Studio), I am also looking at the Windrunner as a piece of very able all-weather gear.

NikeLab X Stone Island AW 2015 Windrunner 2Nikelab X Stone Island Windrunner jacket in other colours

In a hooded jacket, this is what matters to me: lightweight, streamlined, and technically advanced. These qualities do describe the Nike X Stone Island jacket, and the pairing clearly expounds both brands’ expertise in performance wear and flair for forward-looking styles. It’s a result not always evident in collaborations.

The reality is, there seems to be so much more innovation in outerwear among sportswear and outerwear brands. I am not just talking about how two brands can come together to make a difference; I’m referring to the innovation that has become absent among fashion labels who only care about going the safe route to generate looks, rather than design, so that they can sell in massive quantities. This approach can be burnished with, say, rock cred, but that’s just a high-shine veneer. When that peels off, empty is the core.

Nikelab X Stone Island Windrunner jacket is available at Photos: Nike/Stone Island

Winter Style 3: The Down Standard

Moncler Amiez jacket AW 2015

By Raiment Young

Two years ago in Paris, around this time, I was walking on Rue du Faubourg Saint-Honoré when I spotted, across the street, a queue outside a shop with its entrance blocked by so many shoppers that it was not possible for me to know what it sold, or under what brand it was selling that it could draw forth such incredible pull. On my way back, still on the same rue, I came behind the last man of the same line that had not shortened since I past it. For a lack of something better to do, I decided to join the queue.

Most of the people waiting were Asians, and from the audible Mandarin of not a few, I realised that whatever was at the end of this orderly queue, it would have to be something utterly irresistible to the Chinese. My curiosity only made the wait unbearable, and I turned my attention to the Christmas decorations that prettified the facade of the Hermes building opposite. Ten minutes into the wait, a group of seven guys ladden with paperbags emerged from the store. I saw with no uncertainty what the people in front of me were queueing for: Moncler.

The go-to label for stylish and functional winter wear is finally here in Singapore. Moncler, a long-time favourite among the snow-loving and apres-ski set, debuted at Ion Orchard last month, much to the delight of those who frequent powder-perfect slopes of winter escapes such as Hokkaido at this time of the year. A label synonymous with down jackets, Moncler became a favourite among celebrities when it took a more fashionable route in its design and styling. It, too, became a collaborator of choice among those who value the tradition and authenticity that easily synthesise with innovation—designers such as Junya Watanabe and Thom Browne (who is, in fact, behind the sub-line Moncler Gamme Bleu) are still in on-going partnerships.

Does sun-soaked Singapore need a Moncler store? My curiosity was, again, aroused. How does it feel, coming in from the equatorial heat, to buy a down jacket even when you require it?


No sooner had I stepped into the gleaming store than a jacket found my gaze. The hood-less nylon top spoke to me like none of the others did. As I picked it up, the salesman in attendance was eager to tell me that the one in navy that I was holding (in size S, which is a letter never found stitched solo to my clothes) was the last one. I asked him why that was so, and he said, “Our price is the most competitive in the Asia-Pacific region. People have been buying by bulk!” To be sure, I was not looking for bulk, but “buying by bulk” completely boggled my mind.

Still, I chose to try on the jacket. The fit was too snug, but I could feel that, in the right size, this was what I would want in a winter jacket: warm, light, not too long, easy to layer underneath, and not at all bulky. The set-in sleeves, unusual for active wear, enhanced the slimming silhouette. But it was the design details that seduced: Under the Mandarin-style collar that yielded a funnel neck, there’s a secondary ribbed, knit collar that seems to serve as a facing. A tri-coloured trim borders the jacket on the collar (both sides), zip, fly, cuff, and hem. While this seems to bear more than a passing nod to Thom Browne’s way with stripy details (or, er, K-Way’s), it is also in keeping with Moncler’s modern sportif sensibility.

I had to slip the jacket off. After about three minutes in it, I began to feel like I was coddled in a sleeping bag. Not far-fetched if you consider the history of Moncler (an abbreviation of the French mountain village of Monestier-de-Clermont). Founder René Ramillon started the company to produce quilted sleeping bags, which, due to its warmth, eventually lent itself to the design of the brand’s in-demand down-padded nylon jackets. Necessity, as it turned out, birthed invention.

Moncler Amiez Down Jacket, SGD1,509, is available at Moncler, Ion Orchard. Product photo: Moncler. Collage: Just So

A Hunk Of A Coin Purse


Loewe elephants

If you don’t think coin purses can come in the shape of a very three-dimensional elephant with nicely sized proboscis and pillar-like legs, you do have to look at Loewe’s very adorable version. True, this may be a little too kawaii for the serious handbag in the most exotic of skins, but sometimes—during the holiday season especially, a cute mammal may just be the thing to lift the spirit strained by year-end gift-shopping stress. Gift ideas are not what we’re inclined to offer here, but it’s a week before Christmas. No other reason why we have picked the red and the green.

In fact, these calf leather coin purses are available in a range of colours. Apart from the appealing chromatic offering, these are rather roomy receptacles. In place of a bejewelled howdah, the carriage seen on the backs of elephants of the Maharajah’s entourage, a zip is stitched to it (detail: puller of the zip forms the tail!). Opened, the elephant reveals its capacious inside. The (only) problem with the roominess? Deep in the belly of the beast, you really can’t tell the difference between a fifty and a twenty cent coin!

Loewe Elephant Purse, SGD450, is available at Loewe, Takashimaya Shopping Centre. Photos: Loewe

Winter Style 2: East Meets West

Onitsuka Tiger X Andrea Pompilio Sweat Zip Parka

Onitsuka Tiger X Andrea Pompilio ‘Sweat Zip Parka’

By Raiment Young

I have been paying attention to winter wear these days because it seems to me that increasingly those who choose to holiday in colder climes fill their suitcases with kit from Uniqlo. Nothing wrong with that, of course: Uniqlo makes practical and functional winter clothes that are amazingly affordable. For basics such as their Heattech Innerwear, they’re hard to beat for wearability, comfort, and price. But sometimes, one does want to stay away from the obvious choices even if only to avoid the likelihood of sitting next to someone in the plane wearing the same pocketable Ultra Light Down Jacket.

My search in the past weeks has taken me to sportswear labels rather than fashion brands, and sometimes I encounter a meeting of the two. One of the most appealing is the collaboration of Japanese label Onitsuka Tiger and the Italian designer Andrea Pompilio. This isn’t their first partnership. In fact, the coming together of these two brands dates back to the spring/summer 2013 season. Hitherto, it has been the footwear that seems to be gaining attention and following. If only more shoppers take a step up and give the clothes a chance in the fitting room.

Onitsuka Tiger X Andrea Pompilio Sweat Zip Parka close upCloseup of the details of the ‘Sweat Zip Parka’

At the newly opened Onitsuka Tiger store in Suntec City, one item that caught my approving eye was the Sweat Zip Parka, an asking-to-be-cuddled outer that stands apart from the rest with its lower half of the right sleeve in a contrasting black, picking up from the same colour of the college crest in the shape of a tiger’s face. Upon closer examination, I realised that the hood can be unzipped to be removed. Underneath is a rather unusual ribbed crew neck that, when worn with a same-tone sweatshirt inside, will yield an athleisure twinset!

This does not appear to typify the Andrea Pompilio ready-to-wear line. The street vibe seems to take its cue from otaku culture. The collection (sadly there were no more than five styles available in the store for both men and women), in fact, wouldn’t be alien to those who throng Tokyo’s Akihabara. Perhaps Mr Pompilio is stretching himself so that he’s able to go beyond the aesthetic he has fine-tuned from those years with Prada and Calvin Klein. Sometimes, one has to explore the other side, dark or otherwise.

Onitsuka Tiger X Andrea Pompilio Sweat Zip Parka, SGD499, is available at Onitsuka Tiger, Suntec City. Photos: Onitsuka Tiger


Is This The Best-Looking Selfie Stick?


Momax Selfie Pro ChampagneBy Low Teck Mee

There could be a reason why so many museums ban the selfie stick. Most of these sad excuses of an extension of your woefully short arm for holding a smartphone afar to capture the comely face that is yours are downright ugly. I say, in a gallery of beautiful art or objects, the average selfie stick is at odds with its surroundings. And, of course, there’s the safety issue; safety to the priceless wall-hung and pedestal-sitting residents of the museum. A selfie stick astray or with a mind of its own could be a million-dollar (or more) disaster.

But what if yours is an attractive selfie stick that makes the owner look like a respectable selfie professional? What if yours is the Momax Selfie Pro? When I first saw one of these, I thought it was a reincarnation of a marine telescope, also known as a pirate’s spyglass. Once in your grip, they’re even lovelier to behold. The handle is wrapped in what the company calls “leather-felt” and finished with a decorative cross-stitch—you’d want to caress it.

The telescopic arm extends up to 90cm in length, and at the end, a phone mount can be screwed on (which means, if you’re using a compact camera with a female threaded receptacle, you can mount it on this stick too). The unit comes with a Bluetooth shutter control that comes with a clip to be attached to the handle of the stick. You can, therefore, control the shutter while holding the stick with one hand.

Each set also allows you to download an app from for both iOS and Android. With this activated, you can shoot without even touching the shutter control. All you need is just gesture to your smartphone, such as a wave, and the app does the rest for you. It’s called Grab to Shoot. Very nifty.

And Is This The Handsomest Power Bank?

M Craftsman power bank

I’m saying this at the risk of irking iPhone fans, but I’ll say it: the new iPhone 6S Smart Battery Case is a Quasimodo of a slap-on phone case. Like selfie sticks in general, it’s ugly. I don’t know how smart it actually is (does an increased talk time of 25 hours count?), but it sure does not look smart.

So elsewhere it is that some of us would have to look, not necessarily for a battery case (they do add extra weight to your phone), but for a power bank. I do like carrying my extra juice separately since I, being a gadget lover, have no qualms in bringing an extra device along when I am out and about. Shortly after discovering the Momax Selfie Pro, I found this beautiful M Craftsman power bank. If you want a smart portable charger, you won’t find another smarter-looking than this. And it does not have to be called smart to look it!

The M Craftman Neon is a 6,000mAh beauty (to compare, the iPhone 6S is equipped with a 1715mAh cell). The compact body belies the generous capacity, but what truly entices is the case. The upper is in leather (genuine or PU, I am not sure), and if not for the on symbol, you’d thought this is holder for something like a cigar cutter. Inside, the charger is powered by a Samsung cell (Galaxy users rejoice!), and a full charge takes about 4 hours. That’s quite long, but if style and portability matters to you, this won’t be out of place in a Kelly bag.

Momax Selfie Pro selfie stick (90cm), SGD89, is available at Gadget Plus, Bugis Junction. Photo: Momax. M Craftsman Neon portable charger (6,000mAh), SGD70, is available at leading digital supply shops. Photo: M Craftsman

Yes, There Will Be A DSMSG, Just As There Is A DSMNY!

Possible DSMSG logo!SOTD imagines what the Dover Street Market Singapore logo may look like

So it’s true. Adrian Joffe wasn’t leading us on when he parted with SOTD during a CDG party last month by saying, “See you in DSM Singapore!”

According to a Channel NewsAsia report this evening, Dover Street Market’s (DSM) Singapore store (and Southeast Asia’s first) will debut in Dempsey Road. The project will be spearheaded by Como Lifestyle, part of Club 21 owner Christina Ong’s Como Group, which has largely been establishing hotels and resorts around the world such as The Halkin in London and Uma in Bhutan and Bali, all offering “luxury with a deep respect for authenticity”, as indicated in a company statement.

It is still unclear if the store here will be known as Dover Street Market Singapore, Dover Street Market Demsey, or Dover Street Market COMO, but DSM will be part of COMO Demsey, a multi-concept destination where visitors will also be able to find eateries that include a new restaurant by Jean-Georges Vongerichten, as well as COMO Cuisine (featuring dishes from COMO hotels and resorts) and Candlenut, the COMO-backed Peranakan restaurant started by chef Malcom Lee. Apparently, the tender to develop Blocks 17 and 18 of Demsey Road in a cluster of Tanglin Village, where COMO Demsey will dominate, was conducted in August this year. No opening date was reported.

World DSMsSingapore ready to join the DSM family

DSM, considered to be one of the world’s most exciting retail concepts, was conceived by the founder/designer of Comme des Garçons, Rei Kawakubo, in 2004, and managed by her husband Adrian Joffe. When it first opened in London’s Dover Street (hence its name) in Mayfair, many retail observers were surprised that the couple had chosen to situate their quirky store in what was essentially a lane that had no retail presence of significance. (DSM Singapore’s Demsey address is, thus, in keeping with the retailer’s preference for more obscure places in a bustling city, except, perhaps, Tokyo.) DSM has since moved to a much larger building in Haymarket, south of Piccadilly Circus.

In its previous location, it was a favourite stop among many Singaporean fashionistas holidaying in London. When one of our correspondents visited the store back in 2011, he met the one-time fashion photographer Kirby Koh (he was working there), who exclaimed enthusiastically, “I keep seeing so many Singaporeans here. Last week, it was Dick Lee!”

wp-1450343532057.jpgOne of the most sort-after items is the limited-run Supreme X Dover Street Market, available only at DSM. Photo: DSM

Since its London store, there has been DSMs in Ginza, Beijing (known as Beijing I.T Market, but is conceptually similar to DSM), and New York. It is hoped that our very own DSM, which will no doubt add much needed boost to retail excitement here, isn’t going to be a scaled-down version of the DSMs of the world. We already hear fans say, “We want everything, including all the DSM-only merchandise!”

Until then, watch this space for updates.


(When) Simple Is Sublime


Joseph, according to the Bible, had a “coat of many colours”. In the 20th Century, Tim Rice and Andrew Lloyd Web upgraded the garment to an “amazing technicolour dreamcoat” In the case of Joseph, the London fashion retailer, their coats are a lot more subdued. In merchandising parlance, they’re “muted”. When loud—not necessarily voluble—still speaks volumes in the world of fashion, hushed tones do stand out.

Just as quiet was the entry of Joseph into Singapore’s fashion retail scene in October. It surprised some observers who thought the brand was going to give our island a miss—it opened in Bangkok and Manila first. But came it did, even at a time when not many people associate aesthetic perfection with discreet elegance. Joseph is one of those rare breed of labels that has not succumbed to the extreme changes in fashion. It’s presence in Singapore is very much welcomed. At the Capitol Piazza store’s official opening yesterday, a fashion stylist known for his not-so-conventional style said approvingly, “This is one of the most beautiful labels to open recently.”


At first sight, Joseph appears to be one of those neutral-hued, discerningly stocked, and simply laid out boutiques that are so tasteful all round that they border on the unapproachable. Far from being standoffish, the store, in fact, allures with its deliberate insouciance and clothes that are devoid of excess. These are designs that salute form and function with a confident nod. While it may seem like dwelling on the previous decade to note and praise the clean lines, Joseph’s stripped-down-to-the-essential elegance is significance rather than anomaly in a culture that admires those who dare to express themselves, via dress, flashily, even overbearingly. It’s a sophisticated minimalism that predated COS, now gaining traction among the fashion-literate.

The name Joseph comes from an actual person: Joseph Ettedgui, a man so far-sighted that his vision still lives today. Mr Ettedgui died of pancreatic cancer aged 74 in 2010. In an obituary, The Guardian called him a “fashion legend” who “understood that fashion and lifestyle were interchangeable”. As it turned out, Mr Ettedgui was an accidental clothier. Trained as a hairdresser, he started selling clothes in the late 60s by displaying in the window of his King Road premises, Salon 33, a few sweaters designed by his chum, the Paris-based Japanese designer Kenzo Takada. By the 70s, Mr Takada had become the toast of Paris after opening his first boutique in the mid-19th Century Galerie Vivienne in 1970 called, with hippie verve, Jungle Jap. Two years later, in London, Joseph the standalone fashion store opened.

Joseph Women 3

Although not a native Londoner (Mr Ettedgui was born in Casablanca, Morocco), he was very much a part of London’s fashion retail aristocracy that includes Brown’s Joan Burstein. Like Mrs B, as she is known in the trade, Mr Ettedgui was able to single out talents that would later prove to be commercially successful. In his shops he stocked John Galliano, Margaret Howell, and Katherine Hamnett, just to name three of the very British names he favoured. But selling the designs of others weren’t entirely enough for the entrepreneur and budding designer. In the 1980s, Joseph Tricot, a knitwear collection was introduced, and by the mid-90s, Joseph retails its own fully-merchandised ready-to-wear line. So desirable were its own-name goods, that Singapore women were known to go to London to buy their “incredibly-cut pants”, as one fan enthused.

Although Mr Ettedgui had an eye for more forward-looking designs and was eager to promote them, his own aesthetic was far more subdued. Joseph’s multi-label stores may house the likes of Alexader McQueen, but the eponymous label is never unsettlingly off-kilter. Even today, the brand has not forsaken the supplementary role it plays to modern attire: “An entire wardrobe can’t be made up of only designer clothes”, as Mr Ettedgui once said. Joseph was sold in 2005, and is now own by its Japanese licensee Onward Kashiyama, yet there was never an attempt to rewrite its DNA. At the Capitol Piazza store, superbly designed and made shirts, pants, and knitwear—for both men and women—that the Joseph emporia has come to be known for are all there, in updated shapes and volumes that no doubt will complement any wardrobe. These are clearly clothes that will outlive many of the others in any closet.

Joseph Men

The question is, do consumers care about the longevity of clothes like they once did? Do they even want their clothes to last over many seasons when it’s so easy to just go purchase something new? Why do they want clothes to hang indefinitely in a wardrobe when something inexpensive somewhere is waiting to be bought? According to Joseph’s Paris-based creative director for women’s wear Louis Trotter, “The JOSEPH woman is defined by her attitude and style. She wants well-designed clothes that work with her lifestyle; that she can wear every day. She wants clothes that are unfussy, with a sense of ease. She has confidence on her own style and is intelligent in her decision making.”

We’re not certain if this is the Singapore woman, but we’re sure that even inured to outré styles, there will be those who want to come home to what may be considered comfort clothes, just as they would like to seek solace in comfort food. Sometimes, even if not every day, straightforward pieces that you put on and do not think about thereafter are what you need in a world of frantic shifts in trends. The understated, as Joseph knows, should’t be underrated.

Joseph is at level 1, Capitol Piazza. Photos: Jim Sim

Winter Style 1: Bracing The Cold With Dash

TNF hoodie

The North Face M Lighten Hoodie, one of the more fashion forward pieces in the brand’s current autumn/winter collection

By Raiment Young

The death of The North Face (TNF) co-founder Douglas Tompkins two days ago has brought attention to the brand that, in Singapore, is very much associated with outdoor gear and winter wear (and the best looking crampons or ice grips for non-snow shoes). Mr Tompkins was reported to be in a kayak that capsized in a freezing lake in the Patagonia region of southern Chile. He succumbed to complications from hypothermia and died in the hospital where he was sent to.

The ensuing media attention (Mr Tompkins, incidentally, is the husband of Sue Tompkins—both founders of Esprit) prompted me to visit The North Face store at the refurbished Marina Square. I have never really taken a close look at TNF in Singapore until this morning, and I was pleasantly surprised to find some rather forward looking clothes. I am singling out the M Lighten Hoodie (above), a rather light, 57% polyester, 43% recycled polyester (known by the trade name Repreve) double-knit hoodie, so tech-bent that it could have come out of the more hyped NikeLab. This hoodie is fashioned with the requisite dry tech—in this case, TNF’s own FlashDry Eco treatment, but it is the styling that truly drew my attention.

There’s the gradient print: subtle but completely appealing to my graphic sense, and more so as I am not keen on all-black pullovers. What truly sealed the deal for me is the front zip placement. It is off-centre, and underscored by a trim of white that partially traces the V-shaped seam across the chest. When unzipped, there’s an attractive asymmetric neckline that works extremely well with either a shirt or tee underneath. And there’s also the hoodie itself; it’s designed to sit flat on your back, plus the zippered side pockets, placed on the side seams—perfect for securing valuables.

In Japan, The North Face is a brand I am partial to and take note of. There is the Japan-only The North Face Standard and the Nanamica-designed The North Face Purple Label, both so imbued with the refinement of the Japanese-led re-imagination of American work and outdoor wear that I am constantly drawn to them. The Gucci-crowd may go for Moncler and the winter holiday first-timers may throng Uniqlo, but for some of us, there’s The North Face.

RIP, Douglas Tompkins.

The North Face M Lighten Hoodie-AP in Black Tri Matrix, SGD186, is available at The North Face stores. Product photo: The North Face. Collage: Just So

The Difference A Dot Makes


Erik Schedin AW 2015

Comme des Garçons SHIRT X Eric Schedin sneakers autumn/winter 2015

While we may have declared that we’re getting bored with the Stan Smith, we are not entirely off the aesthetic of the plain tennis shoe. The clean, minimalist leather sneaker is, in our opinion, still the most ideal to carry any outfit, any day, anywhere.

One of our favourite reiterations of the court trainer is the version by Swedish designer Erik Schedin, conceived in collaboration with Comme des Garçon SHIRTS. Truth be told, we’ve liked it for three seasons now. There’s something completely alluring about its unabashed simplicity, quite the opposite of the attention-seeking and constantly sold-out Yeezy Boost.

While new sneaker brands try to find their own Swoosh or Three Stripes to distinguish themselves, Mr Schedin prefers something a lot simpler and painterly. For CDG, there are three distinctive markings on the side of the shoe: a dot, a stroke, and what looks like a reverse, compressed ‘C’, all drawn as if with a calligrapher’s brush. There’s something rather Oriental about them too—a quality we rather like.

Erik Schedin leather sneakersThe original Eric Schedin sneakers. Photo: Eric Schedin

Mr Schedin’s success is rather remarkable as it is essentially based only on one sneaker style. As it turned out, this particular shoe was a final-year class project when he was studying at Beckmans College of Design (Stockholm) in 2004. The end product was so defiantly minimalist, with a clear rejection of logo and labels that it stuck out in a sea of Air Jordans and their lookalikes.

In 2008, the designer decided to launch the shoe on his website, with e-commerce offerings of home ware (even cleaning aid!), stationery, and accessories. It wasn’t long before the clean-cut kicks attracted the attention of some of the most important retail buyers, such as those from Dover Street Market.

In January 2014, Erik Schedin paired with CDG’s SHIRT line to celebrate the 10th anniversary of the original shoe he designed when he was still in school. The re-issues came with the added graphics, and proved so popular that CDG has committed itself to a third season. While the first and second were based on white and black respectively, autumn/winter 2015 sees the shoes in blue and green.

Erik Schedin AW 2014Comme des Garçons SHIRT X Eric Schedin sneakers autumn/winter 2014

We’re partial to the blue, which reminds us of Ikea, and, when worn, Lego. While the blue, to us, isn’t terribly bright, it does attract attention since few sneakers get an all-over one-colour treatment these days. Interestingly, Mr Schedin’s original white version is still available at his web store, together with—no points for the right guess—black.

Apart from its design, our love for this sneaker is also based on the comfort it affords. These shoes are truly made for walking. Consider the details: an extremely supple and smooth leather upper, padded collar that’s extra kind to the ankles, padded tongue for dorsal comfort, perforated leather lining, leather insole, and vulcanised sole. The sum is a shoe that coddles the foot. If sneakers can love you back, these are the ones.

Comme des Garçons SHIRT X Erik Schedin sneakers (blue), SGD490, are available at Comme des Garçons, Hilton Shopping Gallery. Photos (except indicated): Jim Sim

When Louis Vuitton Flaunts

 The first two of the Louis Vuitton consumer exhibitions, simply known as ‘Series’, overlooked our little red dot. Now, Series 3: Past, Present, Future is here, and it’ll ensnare you into the brand’s world of heady luxury. If you’re hooked on the drug of their hype, this one’s for youLV Series 3 Pic 1

Louis Vuitton Series 3 exhibition for autumn/winter 2015 is the epitome of consumer goods posit as art. There’s a good chance you won’t sense it, caught, as you may, in a very persuasive narrative of the brand’s genesis, and what is deemed “iconic”: primarily the trunk, a sizeable suitcase secured by latches. These days, if any of us were to travel with such a capacious case/coffer, we’ll likely be mistaken for moving treasure, or loot! The trunk, however, remains a mascot of sort for the company, and it is this rectangular box of incredible girth and depth that welcomes you to the world of Louis Vuitton.

Everything about the exhibition, described by LV as a “sensorial journey”, is sleek. Even the short ride through the booking for (free) tickets (presumably for crowd control) is smooth and easy-to-navigate. You can do it via the LV website or event booking portal, where you’ll be offered e-tickets for either ‘entrance only’ or ‘guided tour’. When you arrive at the exhibition—in an obscure corner of The Shoppes at Marina Bay Sands called Crystal Pavilion South, you’ll be greeted by someone at the entrance way, who will show you to the counter where you register. Here, the staff will whip out an iPad and input your name, which appears on the screen instantaneously. Once you’re confirmed, you’ll be given brochures and told to enjoy the exhibition. From here, you’ll be directed into the exhibition proper. What’s amazing is that although we opted for ‘entrance only’ access, we were greeted at every entrance to every gallery (and even at lift and stair landings) and given personal explanation to every exhibit.

LV Series 3 Pic 2

What happened to Series 1 and 2, you may wonder. They went to cities northwards of us. Series 1 for autumn/winter 2014 wooed the urbanites of Shanghai and Tokyo in September last year, while Series 2 for spring/summer 2015 enthralled fans in Los Angeles, Beijing, Seoul, and Rome early this year. Series 3 debuted in London in September, and it now makes a sojourn here. We did not attend the London exhibition, but going by press accounts of it, Singapore’s version, in comparison, seems smaller. London’s Series 3 spanned 13 rooms, ours takes up no more than 9 (including a café). Have they down-scaled it for Southeast Asia’s only stop? No one at the exhibition could say.

Make no mistake, regardless of size, this is a grand exhibition, but, to be sure, it is not in the same breadth and depth as, say, those staged by The Costume Institute at The Metropolitan Museum of Art, or anything curated by Harold Koda or Akiko Fukai (of The Kyoto Costume Institute). In fact, Series 3 is not curated by a non-LV/LVMH professional. This is an inside job, which prompts one to ask: is this just a fancy way to sell a brand? That question is pertinent when you consider what Swedish ethnologist Orvar Löfgren called the “catwalk economy”—when runway antics influenced the corporate world. While some may consider Series 3 to be crossing the line of conceit, there’s no negating that Louis Vuitton is large enough, old enough, and far-sighted enough to write its own story and tell all of us about it. And relate it does, catwalk experience et al, with aplomb and visual splendour too.

LV Series 3 Pic 3

The first room, ‘Abstract Title’, where the exhibition begins, is dominated by an LED LV logo the size of giant lotus leaves. According to WWD, creative director Nicholas Ghesquière found it in the archives, and was instantly drawn to it. The beaming attendant was eager to tell us that this was originally the seal of the man himself, Louis Vuitton, and it’s now updated to appeal to a modern audience. All the same, it was just an LV logo to us. Sensing that we were not impressed by the nugget of information, he showed us to the next room.

From a dark space barely lit by an LV logo in red, you’re suddenly in ‘Master Mind’, a room that is walled on all four sides by video screens. The images move quickly and somewhat blindingly, showing models strutting (as if moving along the perimeter of the room), or flashing with collages of LV product images. In the middle, a gigantic white trunk takes its pride of place, the cover suspended above it to reveal what seems like a holographic image of an LV bag levitated. If you look ‘inside’ the trunk, another video screen reveals what are supposed to be Mr Ghesquière’s inspirations. The trunk is so huge that it is doubtful Monsieur Vuitton ever made anything this large for the travelling needs of his customers. If you’re all alone in the room, the solitary trunk is more funereal than surreal.

LV Series 3 Pic 4LV Series 3 Pic 5

Exhibition designer, Es Devlin, the OBE-awarded British stage designer who conceptualised the London 2012 Olympic closing ceremony, and who has been behind Mr Ghesquière’s last three runway shows, clearly relished marrying the old and the familiar to the futuristic. Series 3 has been described as an “immersive” experience. While it’s true that you’re almost completely surrounded by images and objects, and in juxtapositions not quite expected, it’s also true that you’re not quite wrapped up in the lore that is Louis Vuitton. The exhibition is designed to awe, but all the visuals are just that, and you’re only a watching bystander.

The most compelling room to us is ‘Artists Hands’, one floor up. Surrounded, again, by moving video graphics on the walls, five tables are placed in a straight line, one in front of the other. On each table are videos of different artisans at work. The visitor is encouraged to sit at the table (you will be told that that’s the best way to experience the room). Seated, and looking down, you will have the perspective of the artist at work—you become that person, and his hands seem like an extension of your own. It is an effective way to remind consumers that much of Louis Vuitton’s leather goods are made by real hands, not robotic ones.

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Once you’re aroused by the artisanal aspect of the brand, it’s time to move to something that will release dopamine and serotonin: the fashion show. Designer fashion is so synonymous with catwalk presentations that it is inevitable that one will be seen here. In this room, it’s called ‘Infinite Show’. As a staffer explained (after asking if we’ve ever been to “a real fashion show”), “this is designed to give you the feeling that you’re watching a real LV show.” We’re not sure if the realness is discernible. Sure, the double-sided vertical video screens are tall enough to project the models with their real-life height, but this is not a 3-D experience—you do not sense the models walking in front of you.

The room is oddly cold, as in a foyer of a civic building, and after a while, the video screens become repetitive in their flashing, static isolation. It is dark, too, which contradicts the actual presentation in the Louis Vuitton Foundation in Paris—all bathed in light. The attendant asked us to sit down on the stepped platforms to watch the show. It felt anomalous to be seated, almost to floor level, amid what is essentially a video installation. Did we relive the excitement and wonder that is a Louis Vuitton fashion show? Did we feel like we’re under the oft-cited geodesic dome, built for LV’s catwalk performances? Frankly, no and no. If Tony Stark needed a virtual fashion event in his Mansion to amuse Pepper Potts, this could be it.

LV Series 3 Pic 6Accessories

While we’re told that Series 3 showcases Mr Ghesquière’s “creative process and influences” (the entire series, probably), it is also likely that a good part of it is to move merchandise. If not so, why would the next room, ‘Accessories Gallery’, be placed in the path to fashion enlightenment? We thought we had stumbled into a visual merchandising class, or an outsized window display. The most desired LV accessories—displayed on mannequins, all in the likeness of Dutch model Marte Mei van Haaster (Mr Ghesquière’s “muse”, we were informed)—stood out in the whiteness of the room. What’s amazing is, no one stopped us from touching the objects, or taking photographs of them.

In fact, the exhibition is designed to be shared, and photography—which is likely to be selfies for most attendees—is actually encouraged. One of the guides had asked us if we would like to be photographed. This is clearly unlike what goes on in a classic, high-brow exhibition space. Some giggly visitors had themselves shot, draped over a seated Marte Mei van Haaster mannequin, hands all over her school-uniform white body. So in-line with the zeitgeist is the exhibition that it has, unsurprisingly, a hashtag: #lvseries3, which, at the time of this writing, scored 23,415 IG posts (Mediacorp artiste Rebecca Lim’s post alone garnered 8,838 likes). Across all rooms, the guides—not quite docents—are young, chirpy, and eager to expound the values and meaning of Louis Vuitton in fashion as well as popular culture, never mind if they sounded like students who have memorised text to impress their lecturer.

If this is not to enhance brand equity, then LV is in a very generous mood: eager to spend on a temporary exhibition that is designed so that visitors will “be able to feel it”, as CEO Michael Burke was quoted to have said. This is perhaps what chief executive Bernard Arnault meant when he told the media—in 2013 following the announcement that LVMH intended to slow down worldwide expansion—that the company planned to offer customers a more personal relationship.

Walk In Wardrobe 2

The most engaging room to us is the ‘Walk In Wardrobe’. You don’t really saunter into a wardrobe as much as confront a see-through closet. Here, the clothes—pieces from the autumn/winter 2015 collection (some already seen in the store in the same building)—are hung behind clear glass boxes (or trunks, to continue with the LV visual motif) that are juxtaposed to form a large cupboard that Jamie Chua would no doubt approve. We spent the most time here, examining the fascinating details that Mr Ghesquière has incorporated into his designs: many depend less on design acumen than technology and machinery available to the house.

Since this is really about the artisans and their skills, the exhibition wouldn’t be complete without a couple of them engaged in a serious, full-on demonstration, or tell ‘A Tale Of Craftsmanship’. At the reception, we were told not to miss this part of the exhibition, and to ask questions if we had any. We did: we wanted to know what will happen to the bags they were making. We asked if they would be sent to the store to be sold. One of the craftswomen, a forty-something, bespectacled blonde, said in a mixture of English and French, “Non, ce ne sont pas parfaits (No, these are not perfect).” She picked up a piece of canvas on which she was working on and showed us the imperfection: it was warped. She then took a rivet and asked us to have a look at it. We were free to examine anything on the worktop, she said.

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This is the last room of the exhibition, and it is a fitting reminder that at the heart of Louis Vuitton, lies the craftsmanship. But this isn’t the end of the journey. Further ahead, you’ll come to a café. Food to put a period to your visit: Louis Vuitton wants Singaporeans to remember this exhibition! Even if you plan to depart famished and parched, you will not leave empty-handed. Behind the café is a wall of stickers. You’re free to take them: a wall-full to choose from. Is there a restricted number, we wondered. Someone in front of us scored a handful. Question answered. Before we could decide which one we wanted, a gentle voice belonging to an extremely young-looking boy asked if we would like stickers of our initials. He showed us the other side of the wall. There were more! We picked out the letters S, O, T, and D—in the same font as the LV custom monogram service for, say, the Speedy bag. A member of the staff handed the stickers to us, together with a rolled-up poster of the event, and said, “Hope you’ve enjoyed the exhibition.”

Truth be told, we weren’t sure. Perhaps we had expected more, but more is a little too much when Series 3 spanned only the entire season of autumn/winter 2015. While it largely stays true to “celebrating the past, projecting the future”, as Mr Ghesquière told Vogue UK, the exhibition (in retrospect, installation is more apt) would have been more substantial, hence satisfying, if it is not confined to the breadth of one season. Mr Ghesquière has designed for Louis Vuitton since 2013. Sure, it’s not long enough for a retrospective, but it is of adequate length to reveal the minutiae of his craft, no doubt honed at the house of Balenciaga. Yet, Series 3 mostly skims, rather than swoops into the heart of where and how he began. Perhaps the best way to gain more from the exhibition is to view all three of the Series. No serious Harry Potter fan delves into the adventures of the boy wizard from book three—The Prisoner of Azkaban.

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The fashion exhibition as a strategic focus for luxury brands to play up their valuable heritage and boundless creativity has proven to be effective and is likely to continue. In Singapore these past two months, Louis Vuitton Series 3 is not the only exhibition offering free access to creative sanctums. Happening concurrently, and nearby too, is Hermès Leather Forever at the Artscience Museum. The maker of the Birkin bag had previously staged the Gift of Time at the disused Tanjong Pagar Railway Station in 2012. Last year, also at the Artscience Museum, there was Chanel’s The Little Black Jacket, a photographic display of the house’s most iconic item of clothing: less about the garment than the celebrities that endorse it.

The single-brand self-promotion-as-exhibition, although a fairly recent craze, takes its cue from as far back as 1983, from the debut of Diana Vreeland as curator, who orchestrated the Yves Saint Laurent retrospective at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. At that time, the exhibition was criticised for glorifying a living designer. In addition, it was thought to benefit the commercial interest of the house, which was becoming a shadow of its success in the Seventies. Ms Vreeland was known to favour and adore and wear the work of YSL, compounding the disdain. The perceived ties to business rather than creativity, too, irked locals when Cartier staged in Beijing’s Palace Museum (home of national treasures, not showcase for commercial merchandise, went the collective grouse) in 2009 Cartier Treasures: King of Jewelers, Jewelers to Kings. This was somewhat ironic considering that the Chinese then were en route to becoming the world’s largest consumers of luxury goods.

LV Series 3 publicity poster

One rather odd omission in Series 3 is the model Fernanda Ly and her unmistakable pink hair. Ms Ly, an Australian-Chinese, co-fronts the exhibition’s communication materials. Her face, with kohled eyes looking pensively at you, is splashed across the Bayfront MRT station leading into The Shoppes at Marina Bay Sands, as well as at vantage points in the mall. After opening the Louis Vuitton spring/summer 2016 show in March, Ms Lye’s cognoscibility is considerably increased. In a city where her Asian beauty could mean something to many people, her lack of presence in Series 3 is puzzling. Perhaps it is an oversight on the part of the marketing arm of Louis Vuitton, perhaps not. A token representation is sometimes inclusive enough.

Louis Vuitton Series 3 is on at the Crystal Pavilion South, The Shoppes at Marina Bay Sands till 23 December. Photos: Jim Sim. Poster: Louis Vuitton


The Pill Form

Elecom Bluetooth Capsule Speakers

Back in 2012, Christian Louboutin released the Pilule shoulder bag—dubbed the Pill-Popper—as part of a capsule (pun not intended) collection to celebrate its 20th anniversary. The bi-coloured resin bag, shaped like an actual pill, sported the Louboutin name on one side, and “500mg” on the other. Given that substance abuse is very real in the fashion industry, many thought the bag to be of questionable taste (to be fair, a year earlier, Jeremy Scott had released, in collaboration with Longchamp, the even more startling Le Pliage ‘Pills’). But objects in the shape of a prescription pill continue to appear in the market for consumer consideration.

Elecom Bluetooth Capsule Speakers split

The tech world, for reasons not easy to grasp, is most predisposed to the shape associated with pharmaceuticals. Among the USB drives and such that caught our eye recently is Elecom’s Bluetooth Capsule Speakers. Released early this year, these wireless speakers, to be fair, are rather handsome looking, and sturdy to boot. Like a pill (but unlike Beats by Dre’s Pill) you can split the two sides of the Capsule so that there’s the right and the left. Placing them apart allows you to get a more three-dimensional sound, which is surprisingly well-rounded (the bass is adequate too), considering the unit measures a rather portable W60 x D71 x H62.5mm.

The Capsule boasts what Elecom calls “True Wireless” technology. In essence, it is NFC-enabled, which means pairing your device to the speakers is really a breeze (you may register up to 8 devices). Since no wires are needed to link the left and right units, you can place them separately at any end of your room with no deterioration of sound. The unit comes with a charging cradle so that you can juice the built-in lithium batteries for up to six hours of continuous playback. It’s not quite enough for a flight to Tokyo, but then, you don’t use them in a cabin of a plane.

elecom pill earbuds

This isn’t the first time Japan’s Elecom is releasing a gadget in the shape of something the doctor ordered. In 2010, there were the ear buds, also called Capsule, that looked like they had pills attached to them. When worn, they may look to the uninitiated like a strange way to remind yourself to take your meds! But what’s more puzzling is the text on the packaging of the in-ear pair. It read, ““Sundries Drug”. For now, we’ll just put it down to the Japanese propensity for strange word pairings.

Elecom Bluetooth Capsule Speakers, SGD169, is available at Elecom, Vivo City. Photos: Elecom