Wide Angle, Narrow Vision

In March last year, the SG50-themed exhibition Fifty Years of Singapore Design opened to scant fanfare. After a year, the “permanent” exhibition still languishes without a crowd on the second floor of the National Design Centre


50 Yrs of SG Design Pic 1

Our second visit to Fifty Years of Singapore Design took place on a Friday afternoon. It was deathly quiet, the stillness not unlike that in a forgotten ancestral shrine. Only the faint murmur from the always busy Tanuki Raw, the café situated at Kapok, the National Design Centre’s (NDC) only retail outlet not connected to anything it exhibits, could be heard. As with our first visit last year, we contemplated and completed the display in a flash.

For an exhibition that chronicles 50 years of design, it is surprisingly undersized. During our first visit a few days after its official opening, we had allotted about an hour to take in all of Fifty Years of Singapore Design, but we finished it in twelve minutes. Fifty years of nationhood may not seem like a very long time, but five decades of design evolution is. Yet, this exhibition painted our island-republic’s business with design in one short, skinny brush stroke. Five decades, it seems, deserve only a feeble précis.

The smallness of the exhibition is magnified by the space in which it is installed: on the second-floor gallery of the NDC that’s about the size of a 4-room HDB flat, possibly less. In the opening month, Fifty Years of Singapore Design sat above what appeared to be the key event of the Centre: New British Inventors: Inside Heatherwick Studio. Staged in the building’s re-purposed indoor courtyard, the exhibits of the Heatherwick Studio (best remembered for their design of the London Olympics Cauldron in the summer of 2012) drew attention with their suitably impressive models, although regrettably crammed in a fairly tight space. In contrast, upstairs, tucked away from the main hub of the Centre, Fifty Years of Singapore Design looks like a transplant from an atrium exhibition at the National Library, just across the street.

50 Yrs of SG Design Pic 2From left, the designs of Thomas Wee, Tan Yoong, and Benny Ong

Even in NDC’s sleek SCDA Architects-designed interior (headed by one of the recipients of the inaugural President Design Award, Chan Soo Khian), there is a community-centre (now called club) vibe to the exhibition. You would have thought the People’s Association commissioned the exhibition rather than DesignSingapore Council (DSC). It is likely that the aim is to reach out to as many people as possible, including those not design-savvy, rather than to a growing public interest in and consumption of design. Hence a non-alienating, visually-tame, all-can-understand approach was adopted to downplay the potentially high-brow status design may project. The flat, some parts dim, lighting and a distinct lack of atmosphere, and playroom cubes that were used as compositional elements, therefore, suited the original use of the space: the most community-focused of spaces: the classroom. It, too, was like walking into a set of RTS—Radio and Television Singapore, circa 1975, and Ahmad Daud was about to sing.

Design, however, deserves a more engaging and visually stimulating platform, even when not installed in an actual museum. The NDC is, of course, not a museum. It is not bound by the traditional goal of museums to collect, record, research, and then display what they have amassed for public enjoyment and education. It offers exhibition spaces just as the National Library avails its atrium as exhibition space. So, we venture to suggest that the onus is on DSC. It is really not immoderate to expect the Council to demand a more inspired approach to installation and to ask the curators—(curiously from the French architecture/design firm WY-TO) for more rigorous selection to spotlight Singapore’s design history.

It is, of course, tempting to say that design in Singapore, despite five decades of growth and discovery, has not reached a level of excitement that deserves a grand display. It has been said that Singapore design deserves what it gets: boring begets boring. However, we tend to agree with Irene Etzkorn, co-author of Simplicity: Conquering the Crisis of Complexity: “There is no such thing as a boring project. There are only boring executions.”

50 Yrs of SG Design Pic 3From left, the qipao of Gary Lau/Kang’s Boutique and the shirt of Dick Lee

Since this is a fashion site, we shall not comment on the other disciplines of design except fashion, specifically clothing design. And that, sadly, is the biggest let down of the exhibition. With boutiques now designed to place products for maximum attention in spatial terms–museum-like almost, it is surprising that 50 Years of Singapore Design is so diametrically opposite even the simplest retail design seen in mass labels such as Bershka, only a stone’s throw away at Bugis+. The NDC is situated among design schools, yet the exhibition, too, isn’t able to scale higher than those of graduate shows.

As clothing is best appreciated when worn, it is mostly exhibited on mannequins. It is no different here, but we did come to the conclusion that the mannequins used for the exhibition are either donated by a supplier or picked up from a few clothing shops that have been served bankruptcy notice. Headless dummies of different stock, some with ill-fitted caps at the top of the neck, mean the clothes do not fit properly. Each designer submitted one outfit, and since none are based on one-size specification, the mannequins have to fit the clothes, not the other way round. This hampers the viewer’s ability to truly appreciate a garment’s cut and fit since, in a couple of cases, the bust darts, for example, are off-point. In addition, some of the clothes look like they are not granted a requisite meeting with an electric iron.

What Charles Eames once said came to mind: “The details are not the details. They make the design.” We really should state that we were not expecting ICOM (International Council of Museums) standards for handling valuable dress in a museum (or the Costume Committee’s Guideline for Costume). However, unless the clothes are accorded the respect they deserve, and the acknowledgment that there are talents behind these designs, the exhibition is no different from those retail events staged in “event halls” of department stores put together to clear stocks. No one expects OCBC’s very publicly displayed Henry Moore sculpture—the bronze Large Reclining Figure—to be poorly installed, and for the same reason, no one expects 50 Years of Singapore Design exhibits—clothes no less—to be less than perfectly set up.

50 Yrs of SG Design Pic 4From left, dresses by Hansen and Raoul

Sadly, they are not. Mannequins too large or too small for the clothes aside, the handling of the garments could benefit from nimbler and abler hands. Even if the exhibition is not about scale or ambition, surely there could be some vestige of quality in the execution. It is disturbing—and the designers are partly to blame—to see the history of Singaporean fashion reflected in clothes that are displayed in a manner that could not hold up to close scrutiny. Whether a dress that requires pearl-head pins to stay up or another with a bodice that won’t remain flat after buttoning, they’re all there to our horror.

The choice of clothes on show, too, throws up questions on the curatorial decisions made. It is understandable that putting together an exhaustive list of fashion designers who have impacted how we dressed as a nation is near impossible. Given the historical breadth, 50 Years of Singapore Design should, instead, establish the link between clothing forms and the general psyche of the time(s) and illustrate how fashion has played out in the building of our nation, how it reflects our aspirations or moral dispositions. We did not see this connection in the clothes and designers selected. The final nine (why not ten?) given a mannequin to hold a signature look seem to reflect desperation to get anyone willing to participate than true scholarship.

What’s perhaps even more difficult is finding those clothes that truly represent the decades that the exhibition depicts. Nothing from the ’60s is represented (Roland Chow received a cursory mention). The ’70s is reflected in a single uniform: the Singapore Girl’s Pierre Balmain-designed kebaya, suggesting, perhaps, that it was time of work as we pursued economic wealth, even if an air stewardess’s dress is so far removed from the reality of a citizenry with a much more mundane life pursuit. The golden age of Singaporean fashion design—the ’80s—is represented by Thomas Wee, Tan Yoong, Benny Ong, and Dick Lee. The rest of them are only mentioned in the descriptive texts that accompany the exhibits. Of “The Magnificent Seven” cited—the septet that not only created ripples in the local scene, but also brought Singaporean designs to Paris, only Mr Wee’s and Mr Tan’s clothes are shown.

50 Yrs of SG Design Pic 5From left, the designs of Depression and the stage costume of Frederick Lee

To the uninitiated, this decade may not look like it produced some of our best fashion design talents, or that many of them have laid the foundation for what we see today. It was as much an issue of aesthetics as the substantive. Thomas Wee’s yellow and black skirt suit is supposed to be from the designer’s most successful line: Mixables. The curators, unaware that Mr Wee no longer designs such styles and unable to find clothes from that period, had the designer re-produce something for the exhibition. The result is clearly not anything akin to what Mixables was about. The shoulder of the jacket, for example, is very telling: Mr Wee has shaped and proportioned it in the aesthetic of today. What we saw isn’t an iconic garment of an era, but the uniform (again) of an off-duty cosmetic salesgirl.

Benny Ong, considered the Singapore boy made good in London (on that note, Andrew Gn, who succeeded in Paris, is curiously omitted), is summarised by a strange, low-waist dress with notched fichu-collar of velvet and a sort of calvary bodice of shantung silk, and in a black and orange pairing that recalls Halloween. It was hard for us to reconcile this frumpy ensemble with London, and even harder with Princess Diana, who once wore Mr Ong’s conservative designs before she embraced Gianni Versace’s and the like. Dick Lee, the multi-hyphenate, jolted our memory that he was once a fashion designer. His dress-avatar is a cutesy men’s shirt that is in the happy colours of Stephen Burrows and had more than a whiff of teen spirit. The close-up allows one to examine Mr Lee’s not-perfected tailoring skills, made worse by a mannequin with a neck too thick for the shirt’s collar.

Of the group, Tan Yoong’s dress stood out. Here is without doubt the work of a master, whose ability to translate something as potentially clichéd as petals into sumptuousness of pure visual pleasure is, hitherto, rare and unmatched on our island. Inspired by the cattleya orchid, and based on the iconic William Travilla-designed dress that Marilyn Monroe wore, standing astride a subway grating that blew the dress up in the Billy Wilder film The Seven Year Itch, Mr Tan’s version should go down the history of Singapore design as a classic. Lest we’re mistaken, this is no copy; this is completely the designer’s take, and it boasts the technical finesse—those baby-lock stitches on the hem to stiffen the gauzy silk petals-as-skirt’s edge so that, when tacked at discreet points, the skirt appears to be caressed by the wind—that corroborates his standing as one of our best and most accomplished designers.

50 Yrs of SG Design Pic 6What’s amiss? Clockwise from top left: the collar of Dick Lee’s shirt collar is too small to fit the mannequin’s neck; strange tape and marking, and poor finish below the add-on collar of Depression’s shirt; the crumpled, bunched-up bust line of Benny Ong’s dress; and the exposed velcro and fastenings of Frederick Lee’s “dress”

Except for Tan Yoong’s cocktail dress, most of the other designers are represented by clothes that seem to suggest that local women’s clothes went no further than the humdrum, or that they dressed as an act of instinct, not adornment, with none of the exhibits reflecting the different tempos of the passing eras, the disparity of rising and shifting urban life. It is as if nothing has changed. Indeed, the exhibition, like so many of the SG50 events, is just a show or a product of what has been called a “catwalk economy”; it is not particularly reflective or critical, and is not a platform for debate to establish those Singaporean designers who have truly contributed to our contemporary culture.

Singapore’s fashion history is not long enough to leave behind a legacy. It is also too short to reflect the social strata of fashion. Even society women, conventionally the adopter of the latest dress designs, were not visible enough, until recently (thanks to social media), to set trends or influence what women wear. None are cited as exemplary bearer of Singaporean fashion. Television and pop stars are similarly passed over since there are not that many of them or, perhaps, because they have no real influence on our lifestyle and fashion choice. Scanning the displays of the different decades, it is hard to determine if these are indeed fashionable clothing of the day, and if they speak of the zeitgeist of the respective eras. It is even harder, tried as we did, to see any ‘design’, the principal theme of the exhibition. In the end, they are just clothes.

A puzzling inclusion is Frederick Lee’s costume for Wild Rice’s staging of Stella Kon’s play Emily of Emerald Hill in which Ivan Heng wore the designer’s glammed-up and far-from-bibik-looking frock. In an accompanying description, Mr Heng was shown in a sleeved dress, quite unlike the one on display. Upon closer inspection, the strapless dress is unable to sit properly over the bust. It is too small and, in fact, requires the aid of flat and pearl-head pins to stay up on the mannequin. From the side view, the short front and long back of the outfit suggest that, perhaps this is a skirt worn as a pretend-dress! If art imitates life, then may be this costume illustrates that Singaporean fashion design is still in want of a good fit.

Fifty Years of Singapore Design is on at the National Design Centre till March 2017. Admission is free. Photos: Jim Sim

Sans Flowers, Is Lace Still Lace?

Maison Margiela MM14 T

Following our previous post, someone mentioned to us that her objection to men wearing lace is due to “the unholy combination of lacy and floral that guys should just stay clear off”. What then, we wondered, if the lace were stringy and graphic? Just to be sure we don’t get it wrong, lace, according to Georgina O’Hara’s The Encyclopaedia of Fashion, “is a textile patterned with holes and designs created by hand or machine”. There was no mention of flowers or florals. In fact, Ms O’Hara cared to trace the word’s origin to the Latin laqueus or “knot, snare or noose”, which sounds rather nautical to us, even executional!

If lace is “a fine open fabric of cotton or silk, made by looping, twisting, or knitting thread” (according to the OED—we wanted to be absolutely certain), then Maison Margiela’s T-shirt for men (above) is made of lace. Yet, we don’t think there is anything lacy about it, at least not in the vein of those made in Chantilly or Venice, just two traditional centres of lace-making. Net-like, yes, but lacy, not quite. In fact, we were very attracted to this top—the fabric in particular. At first glance, you thought it was a bonded fabric, but upon closer inspection, you’d see that it’s basically strings laid flat, but not straight, and then stitched over, much like quilting. This is applied to a black cotton/polyamide jersey base, which yields a vaguely bonded effect.

To us, there’s no denying the appeal of this otherwise basic T-shirt. The texture of the fabric treatment and the harlequin-check pattern of the stitch work are allowed to do all the talking. The T-shirt requires no bombastic design treatment to make it special. While no doubt artistic, the overall finish this lace reminds us is that of fishermen’s nets of yore, of which the making and mending was a masculine and life-sustaining chore. Interestingly, nowhere in our reading were there suggestions that openwork depicts only florals or are exclusive to female dress.

It’s not reported that John Galliano is involved with the men’s collection of Maison Margiela. It is very likely that the designs are left in the hands of the very capable technicians who have kept the line very much alive and vibrant since the departure of its founder. Innovative fabrics, technical and those with craft-like appearances, are the mainstay and continue to keep the men’s wear captivating.

Sadly, the Maison Margiela store in The Shoppes at Marina Bay Sands closes today. No official word on its closure was released, but it’s very likely due to what a despondent salesperson described as “slow” business. Whether the brand will completely exit the Singapore market, it is not immediately clear. In the mean time, Bangkok is the only city in Southeast Asia with a free-standing Maison Margiela store. Singapore, your fashion standing is fading fast.

Photo: Jim Sim

Lace Knows No Gender

Lace shirtsClockwise from top left: the spring/summer 2016 lace T-shirt of Givenchy and shirts of Gucci, Burberry, and J W Anderson

By Raiment Young

Unlike so many of the (by-now-not-so-new) new-media generation, I have a soft spot for magazines. Flipping through the March copy of The Peak in an airport lounge recently, I was intrigued by an editorial penned by the publication’s “Watches & Fashion Editor” Lynette Koh. A pull-quote from her opinion piece was especially pulling: “When I saw the lace tops on the men’s racks, I tittered to myself and thought, ‘What man is going to wear these things?’” You can imagine the delighted smile on my already silly face, which lit up also in reaction to the full-cap sentence, no doubt the misfortune of a lax house style. Naturally, I’d like to quote in similar type, just to be accurate, but you know what that would look like here.

A reaction to her question, however, is in order: what about popes and priests? Perhaps they’re not manly enough since so many are celibate, assuming we believe the papacy. Ms Koh appears to me to have her own definition of what makes a man a man, or more precisely, what clothes make a man. Of course she’s not alone. Many women do subscribe to a certain ideal of masculine dress (the synonym for clothes, not the frocks of Valentino) that goes merely as far back as the Regency period when men were dashing in their military uniforms. Jane Austen fans will know what I mean. Masculinity, with the added advantage of handsomeness, is, therefore, devoid of the frippery and foppishness that the donning of lace suggests. Women, tittering ones I suspect—so many Lydia Bennets among us, have a penchant for men in solid, plain-weave wools and cottons as they suggest strong hands unlike the intricate loops and picots that, quizzically, seem to denote limp wrists.

PassageThe page from the March 2016 issue of The Peak

I suppose Ms Koh is not a Catholic. Admittedly it is bold of me to go there, but such a supposition, even one that asks for trouble, is inescapable since it appears that she is unaware that some of the earliest adopters of lace for clothes were the clergymen of the Catholic Church. Up till now, the liturgical vestment (not to be confused with Vetements!) surplice is still worn with lace trims. In one Christmas mass I attended in Florence’s Duomo some time back, the priests conducting the service wore white surplices with trims and insets of clearly good lace, presumably from Venice, that was evocative of the lace of Dolce and Gabbana, only the priests’ were bridal, rather than Sicilian-widow sexy-mournful.

Lace is associated with kings too, if I may interest Ms Koh. The French king Louis XIV was known to spend heavily on lace for his clothes—fancy fashion clearly could express power as much as a fancy chateau. During his reign, the court demanded different code of dress for each formal occasion. Lace was popular, and unisex, and not at all out of place with the Charles Le Brun interiors of the Versailles. Prior to Louis XIV’s rule, it was on trend for the lords to adorn themselves with lace, which had to be imported from Venice, a dent, I suspect, on French sartorial and national pride. During his time, the luxury industries, lace included, were encouraged to strengthen France’s economic might over its neighbours. And the king led by example. Whether the policy worked, we leave it to the historians to debate. But lace, it did become more fashionable.

Lace shirts 2Lace shirt by Saint Laurent and embroidered lace tunic by Gucci

Gucci may have put lace shirts in the spotlight recently, as Ms Koh observed, but the use of lace in men’s wear goes further back. My earliest memory was of a Jean Paul Gaultier cotton lace pullover with contrast, ribbed cuffs in two layers of black and white. The top was teamed with a pair of extremely wide-legged trousers that, in those days (the early ’90s, I believe), was considered a skirt with an identity problem. Further down, the two Brits that took Paris by storm, John Galliano and Alexander McQueen, worked lace into their respective eponymous men’s wear lines with the same fervour seen in the women’s. Vivienne Westwood, no shrinking violet herself when it comes to delicate fabrics for men, too had lace—in some designs, patchwork, no less—incorporated into rather classic pieces, such as a cardigan.

And it isn’t really Gucci that kick-started the trend this time round. In 2014, Czech designer Vladimír Staněk introduced lace shirts for his own Stinak line, a strategy in sync with a collection that appeared to target what store buyers call “men with advanced taste”. In fact, lace is an open woven fabric, which means that some of Giorgio Armani’s gauzy and similarly textured cloths from the ’90s could be considered the precursor to lace for 21st century men. What, perhaps, could urge the raising of eyebrows is not the use of lace, but in what form they’re used. Dolce & Gabbana’s varsity jacket with lace bodice (and an embroidered owl to take the place of the alphabet used to represent the school—very Hogwarts, of course) is hardly the stuff to cause a snickering stir. Take, instead, J W Anderson’s lace shirts: not only is it sleeveless (too gay?), it is cut as a halter-neck! Will tittering, I wonder, give way to silent shock?

Lace jacketDolce & Gabbana bomber jacket with lace bodice

Lace shirts or “these things”, as Ms Koh calls them (disdain or euphemism, I couldn’t quite tell; a sneer possibly), seem to feed into a fear of a man’s world turning effete. Men have been confined to limited sartorial offerings for so long that breaking free from the incarceration may upset the social balance of things. Men have to be men, as we often hear both men and women say, and they must, as a consequence, dress like men. Women, however, have made great strides; they have been emancipated for so long (thanks, Coco) that they forget what it was like to be frowned upon for even showing their ankles. Or for wearing trousers.

It took a while, but pink is finally not a colour limited to women. Maybe a period of gestation, too, is needed for lace to be seen as a masculine choice. I understand Ms Koh is likely to appreciate men in Danish label Soulland’s gingham button-down shirt with the personification of maleness printed all over it: Gordon Gekko. However, men’s wear is going through a small-scale renaissance, and as designers redefine the definitive item of men’s clothing, the shirt, chances are, they will look at what has worked so well for women. The real beef could be in the crossing of lines. Perhaps men shouldn’t encroach on these last few aesthetic and textural symbols of femininity. If they take lace, also associated with lingerie, what’s there left for the fairer sex to call their own? After all, even the skirt is no longer exclusively female. Lace will possibly not materialize in a woman’s search for her knight in shining armour, but as Denzel Washington said of those idealised mounted soldiers in The Equalizer, “problem is, they don’t exist anymore”.

Paint Job

Dr Martens BW Pascal bootsPaint poured over shoes is so much a part of the original Martin Margiela canon of ideas that it is hard to buy into the same treatment proposed by another shoe maker. We’re not referring to splattering, as seen in the hugely popular 22 Replica—so popular that Puma’s classic Suede sneakers are given similar treatment. The all-over speckle does not, however, look that much an undisguised mimic as the Adidas ZX Flux “Splattered Toe” (can’t get more blatant than that). Nope, we’re referring to shoes that appear to have been dunk in paint.

This version by Dr Martens is, of course, not as severe since it looks like it escaped a Dulux bath. In fact, from afar, you’d think it’s a pair designed by someone from Looney Tunes with a Acme paint kit sent over by Wile E Coyote. This full-grain leather, 8-eyelet boot, actually the Pascal, is given what DM calls a “psychobilly update”. That means the inspiration is drawn from the branch of rock music that is a fusion of many rock sounds, very The Meteors, but could be what Justin Beiber might do if he sings Van Halen songs produced by Kanye West. Only thing is, Calvin Klein’s underwear model won’t have the wits to wear these splatter-ons.

Dr Martens Pascal “Paint Splattered” boots for men and women, SGD279, is available at Dr Martens stores. Photos: Dr Martens, re-visualised by Molly Ong

Orchard Fashion Runway: Pointless Street Show

Orchard Fashion Runway Pic 1The Raffles Privato collection, initiated by Raffles Design Institute and supported by Paragon, at OFR 2016

About a week after National Day last year, a postcard was found circulating on Orchard Road. The front of the card, dated August 18, 2015, mimics a tabloid cover of the ’60s and is provocatively blurbed: “Orchard Road—Doomed for the Future?” Other cover lines that suggest equally dismal prospects include “Bored Shoppers”, “Empty Streets”, and “Dopey Retail Stuff”. Flip it over, and you soon realise this is a cheeky little marketing material, distributed to entice shoppers into a deli for a meal to “get a free lemonade daily before 6pm”.

The consumers targeted to receive the postcard did not know then that the cover “story” of this fun title could be so portentous. According to research on Singapore’s retail sector published by London-based real estate services provider Savills, retail sales in the last three months of 2015 were “subdued”. In October, November and December, comparable figures against 2014 were down, with declines of 4.5%, 2.1% and 3.6% respectively. And these are, traditionally, supposed to be good months of the retail calendar. As Q1 of this year comes to a close, things do not look cheerier. On 2 March, The Straits Times ran the headline, “Rents in Orchard Road fall again for the seventh quarter in a row”. It requires no wild speculation then that retail business is, as The Business Times calls it, “anaemic”.

Something needs to be done. The solutions: Fashion Steps Out (FSO) and “signature runway show” and the FSO’s “curtain raiser” Orchard Fashion Runway (OFR). Orchard Road’s less-than-gleaming retail performance is, of course, not a recently recorded gloom. FSO to the rescue is, in fact, into its 7th year, and OFR has transformed 550m of Orchard Road into a catwalk—from outside Tangs Plaza to the Paragon—for 6 years. Our premier shopping belt has been in need of rallying since 2010, “when the Orchard Road shopping belt celebrates the Spring/Summer fashion season with local and international brands, as well as exciting events and shopping promotions”, according to yoursingapore.com, the Singapore Tourism Board (STB) visitor-centric website.

Orchard Fashion Runway Pic 2Orchard Fashion Runway Pic 3One-time Kato Jay Chou’s label Phantaci seen on Orchard Road for the first time

No one knows for certain if we “celebrate” any fashion season at all, but many are sure Orchard Road needs to be inspired anew. With the oft-mentioned competition from suburban malls, and, more significantly, online stores, our oldest shopping belt is facing a tough and protracted battle, yet its troubles have been only momentarily solved, with ideas that have no long-term gains. To be sure, the street itself has undergone many improvements—even busking, once frowned upon, is now allowed. The real step up should go beyond the cosmetic and token public entertainment. To give the entire stretch of Orchard Road the appeal it needs, a vibrant retail culture such as those seen in Tokyo’s various shopping districts—Shinjuku, Shibuya, Omotaesando, just to name three—must be fostered.

Instead, the powers-that-be are contented with something as lame as Fashion Steps Out (no prizes for where that name really came from). Touted as “Singapore’s biggest fashion festival” (now that the official Fashion Festival is no more, the description is up for grabs), FSO is a six-week “extravaganza”, according to the SPH Newspaper: Special in ST’s Life that ran last Friday. Whether there’s going to be any lavishness or opulence that’s alluded to, shoppers are none the wiser. A mere six weeks to enhance Orchard Road’s weak retail standing, however, is fodder for detractors to question the value and usefulness of FSO. And what happens during the 45 days? Nothing much. According to ORBA’s micro-site for FSO, from 25 March to 8 May, shopping vouchers and 15 sets of Samsung’s new Galaxy S7 4G+ smartphones could be won. It would take considerable effort to find the “extravaganza” in those.

Orchard Fashion Runway is, thus, the flag bearer of the FSO. Its star billing this year is augmented by the presence of local and, for the first time, regional personalities: singers JJ Lin and Malaysia’s Aisyah Aziz, a couple of models (that did not walk the show), a fashion stylist, and the ever-important “influencers”, five of them (two Singaporeans, a Taiwan-based Malaysian, a Filipino, and an Indonesian). Whether their presence will make a difference (and who the influencers will influence) isn’t quite clear, but the ST supplement seems certain that the important invitees “will make waves”. A day after the event, Instagram was not inundated with selfies shot on Orchard Road the Runway.

Orchard Fashion Runway Pic 4The cute-as-hell, kitschy-like-mad designs of the irrepressible Mash-Up 

Given the dreary shows of the past years, it is admirable that ORBA, supported by STB, has not given up the idea of doing a runway presentation. It is said that, despite retaining the “curtain raiser”, ORBA still desires change. In the past, OFR was put together by the externally appointed creative director, Jeffrey Tay from ModernAge Design & Communication, a company that was involved in OFR since 2012. In his place this year is Daniel Boey, a seasoned show producer known for his theatrical productions and his good relationships with Singaporean designers. Mr Boey told ST that he’s directing the spotlight on local labels (and some Asian).

If that sounds like a familiar refrain, it’s because the show last year—SG50 year—was about local designers too. On the surface, Mr Tay and Mr Boey appear to have tremendous support for our home-grown names. There’s no negating that local brand owners are easier to cajole than their international counterparts, who do not participate in shows that are not at one with their own brand management and marketing plan. There was never any question about involving those names with strong global standing. It would have been more convincing if the organisers simply stated that Singapore’s “iconic street’ is the ideal platform for Singaporean labels.

Not that we have that many deserving a concerted national display, or that there are those willing to share street exposure with a motley group of designers with steeply varying degrees of design flair. It was, therefore, surprising to see Thomas Wee showing alongside those whose references are clearly not in the same line of sight as the veteran designer. Although he closed OFR with a wow factor more suited to a hotel-ballroom catwalk than a torrid tarmac, Mr Wee’s lost-era elegance stuck out, like his white, silk taffeta jumpsuit, against a jumble of jokey costumes conceived to humour the young and stand out, even absurdly, for the sake of standing out, and for the final destination: social media.

Orchard Fashion Runway Pic 5Orchard Fashion Runway Pic 6No clowning matter: Révasseur puts a circus and its principal designer (in harlequin check), Gilda Su, and her dog out there

ORBA’s objective is, therefore, rather clear. The need for influencers and clothes that will turn up well in the likes of Snapchat suggests that Orchard Road is scrambling for a trending makeover. No place along this street, not even the swanky ION Orchard, is uploaded to social media sites with the same frantic regularity as Bangkok’s Siam Paragon, which, in 2013, made it to the Most Frequently Instagrammed place on the planet, and has, hitherto, remained in the top 10. Siam Paragon’s achievement is all the more remarkable when you consider its location; it is not situated on “A Great Street” (in fact, that stretch of Rama I Road is a traffic and pedestrian nightmare!). Orchard Road’s lack of geo-tagged snapshots in the digital media-sphere seems to suggest that whatever is happening (or not happening here), it is not scoring big with youngsters or selfie-eager tourists.

OFR should have been what Mr Boey calls “a fashion Mardi Gras”. And the runway a sambadrome. If you’re assembling a group that mostly communicates via madcap visual antics, stay consistent to the zany miscellany. If Révasseur’s costumes for the non-practising, but ever-posing circus crowd are clothes of the moment, then send in the clowns. If fashion is only so when it is steep in street vibe and drips with way-out (or daft) excess, then strip away the artifice of deportment-class strolling and flood the street with badass, ass-bare individuals who can truly rock the malls down.

Unfortunately, Orchard Road is unable to use humour, wit, and daring for its own betterment. If “retail is stuck in its own mud”, as experts are inclined to say, then Orchard Road is trapped in its own perceived greatness. Still branded as “A Great Street” by ORBA, it forgets that it is the experiential component that determines what is great about a street. “Enhanced experience” is often bandied about on Orchard Road—in the malls too—as the way to differentiate itself, but rare is the enhancement palpable. If ORBA must persist with Orchard Fashion Runway, then it must deliver exhilaration that shopping inside one of Orchard Road’s increasingly dull malls cannot offer. Last Saturday, that, regrettably, did not happen.

Photos: Helena Tan

A Key Ring With No Pocket To Call Home


Givenchy key ringCould this be something from a time capsule? In this day of card access, pass code or biometric entry, a large key ring this huge could be mistaken as a hoop earring. Givenchy, under Ricardo Tisci’s watch (and egged on by his celebrity fans), is not known for discreet, barely noticeable designs. This circle of polished silver is no exception. Since it comes with its own key, there’s no mistaking what the oversized ring is for. With a diameter of about 11 centimetres, the keys to the lockers of an entire military battalion can be threaded through it. Still, as much as it can hold, the function assigned to it may not be anything more than a decorative one.

It is, therefore, not surprising that in the Givenchy boutique, (it really first appeared this way on the catwalk) the key ring is paired to a lanyard and worn as a sporty necklace, not unlike the way a track coach puts on his stopwatch or whistle. However, against the brand’s dark, romantic, sometimes mysterious clothes, it looks like a prop from the 1940s film Rebecca, brought forward to fit snugly into an Instagram square.

Givenchy silver key ring, SGD650, is available at Givenchy, Paragon. Photo: Givenchy

That Polka-Dotted Midsole

Reebok Furylite Cloud Pack Stone

By Shu Xie

I’ve always liked Reebok’s Instapump Fury, especially those in the craziest colour-and-print combinations, but each time I try on a pair, I feel I am treading in Titanics. Of course I am contradicting myself since it’s the massiveness and the height that I am drawn to. With each re-imagined version, in particular the Darth-black pair by Factotum and Atmos (sadly, available only in Japan), I convince myself that they’re boat-sized enough for me, but, in the end, they still look, even from up here in my best posture, too much a tanker.

That’s why I’m attracted to the scaled-down sibling, Furylite, since it is just sampan enough for my regular-size feet. The Furylite is not a new shoe, and there’s no denying that its lineage can be traced to what was once considered a monstrosity. But the less-fierce version is no slouch. In fact, to its detriment, the Furylite is considered a “hipster trainer”. But I give no thought to its street cred; I like it because of the Roshe-like body and a padded quarter that is oddly space-age. In this iteration that caught my eye, it is given the ‘pack’ treatment known as Cloud. I am not sure what the designers at Reebok saw, but the print looks like camo-for-the-desert to me. What is unusual is that the shoe is underscored by a polka-dotted midsole. Macho camo and dotty dots—some of us just love odd couples.

Reebok is, perhaps, enjoying a bit of a moment now that Gosha Rubchinskiy, the Russian wunderkind backed by Dover Street Market, has given the decidedly low-tech-looking Reebok Phase One sneaker a makeover. In the wake of so many celebrity collaborations that push Adidas to the noisy, crowded front, sometimes it is just more fun to jog along with those unconcerned with the finishing line.

Reebok Furylite Cloud Pack ‘Stone’, SGD110, is available at Star 360 stores. Photo: Reebok

Welcome Flowers

Liberty London for UniqloLiberty London for Uniqlo men’s linen shirt in heart fern print. Photo: Jim Sim

Liberty London is so linked to floral prints that those who have not been to the UK’s capital city may not realise that it is foremost a department store, and a really nice one too. It may not be as swanky as Harvey Nichols, where the crush of their Boxing Day sale is almost legendary. However, in the West End’s Regent Street, in a building with a quaint Tudor-style façade, you’ll find a carefully stocked emporium that is as fascinating as a cabinet of curiosities. And it is on the third floor of the store that you will be smitten with what Liberty has come to embody: the happy floral patterns, stashed in the Liberty Print Room, still enveloped by bohemian air.

Some of that flower-patterned happiness arrived on our shores this morning via Uniqlo. Here’s another collaboration that the Japanese brand knows they have got right. In their design cache now is a print pedigree that can be transformed into modern clothes if applied judiciously. While girly dresses and mumsy tops with full-on flowers are unavoidable, and Uniqlo obliges, there are pieces with a graphic sensibility that reflects the brand’s increased love for patterns paired with solids, such as the women’s graphic T-shirt (below left) that are akin to those seen in Tokyo’s Ships and Beams. To be expected, however, are unimaginative ways these clothes will be worn by women who do not differentiate between bed clothes and those for social engagements such as a movie date.

Liberty London for Uniqlo product picksFrom left: women’s graphic T-shirt, S$19.90; men’s premium linen shirt, S$59.90; women’s graphic T-shirt, S$19.90; cotton pouch, S$14.90. Illustration: Molly Ong

Liberty has been around for more than a century. While the immediate association would conjure prints and fabrics, their history can be traced to an early basement space called the Eastern Bazaar. As the name suggests, Liberty was quite the destination for “decorative furnishing objects”. Heritage department store standing aside, they’re also at the forefront of modern British fashion, championing the work of Vivienne Westwood and Alexander McQueen and, at the same time, attracting brands and designers to their prints. In the past decade, Liberty has collaborated with some of the most illustrious names such as Fred Perry and Mastermind Japan, and sneaker giant Nike, even street wear powerhouse Supreme, but brand partnerships were, in fact, forged as early as the ’60s.

Back then, Carnaby Street (now home to English brands such as Pretty Green and Barbour), really a stone’s throw from the Liberty store, was the heart of “Swinging London”. It was both convenience and Liberty’s authentic prints that drew designer such as Mary Quant and Jean Muir, as well as retailers such as Biba to work with the store. The cool English-girl vibe, still strong at Burberry, could be traced to those days. Then in the ’70s, Cacharel’s Liberty-print maxi-dresses sealed the store’s reputation as the go-to purveyor of pleasant petals.

Liberty London for Uniqlo posterTo augment the Britishness of the collaboration, Uniqlo enlisted Nick Knight to shoot the images, and CHAOS Fashion’s Charlotte Stockdale and Katie Lyall for creative direction. Photo: Jim Sim

Given today’s penchant for more aggressive motifs such as Givenchy’s Doberman, there’s something innocent about Liberty’s dainty flowers. These are blooms that hark back to simpler and gentler times. They recall sewing machines atop the kitchen table and a mother diligently sewing her daughters’ clothes in time for the approachng Lunar New Year. One of SOTD’s contributors remember her grandmother making quilts of similar prints that are still in appreciative use. While the parental associations may put a damper on cool, so vital in the urbanite’s turnout, sometimes a little homespun has more heart.

Select Liberty London for Uniqlo pieces are available at all Uniqlo stores. For full collection, check out Bugis+, Jem, Parkway Parade, and Suntec City

Strap Your Glasses

Croakies eyewear retainer

Given how practical they are, it’s strange we don’t see much of their use. The eyewear retainer seems to be employed mainly by mountain climbers who need to secure their shades close to their body or women of a certain age who need glasses on them when they have to read.

Perhaps that will all change, given eyewear’s prominence in fashion today. It’s quite right to say Gucci got it all started by making geeky eyewear the look to go for, never mind if you risk appearing like a bespectacled Carrie White en route to the prom that won’t be receiving her with open arms. After viewing the streams of the autumn/winter 2016 season, one thing that struck us is the conspicuous appearance of the eyewear retainer at Demna Gvasalia’s Balenciaga, those that were hung in front from the ear like a hip-hop artiste’s gold chain.

In fact, it is rather hard to find a retainer that isn’t a chain. For functional and forward-looking pieces, we had to look at an outdoor goods supplier. And there it was: the perfect pair from retainer and lanyard maker Croakies. What caught our attention were the Terra System braided cord (in fact, a skinny climbing rope) attached to rubber ends and L-shaped brackets that easily allows the length of the retainer to be adjusted. At its shortest, it hugs the rear of your head comfortably, doing away with a dangling cord that may irritate the neck. Croakies categorised these as ‘Sports’ rather than ‘Fashion’ retainers, but we’re certain they’ll go with any stylish eyewear, Gucci’s included.

Croakies Terra System eyewear retainer, SGD14.90, is available at Outdoor Life, Wheelock Place. Photo: Jim Sim

Work. Twerk. Jerk. How They Irk!

Rihana WorkScreen grab of Rihanna, beer in hand, dancing in her new music video for the single Work

Launched last month, the music video of Rihanna’s January-released single Work comes in two flavours: an “explicit” film of a sleazy, smoky, sepia-shaded club and a clean one staged in a small studio designed as a living room set and saturated with light so pink that it would not be out of place in a dream sequence of a Teochew opera. On music television channels of the West, you get both played back-to-back, which result in a two-in-one that lasts about seven-and-a-half minutes. MTV Asia has been broadcasting the safe and sanitised (by Rihanna’s standards, anyway) second version—no surprise there, and that was what we saw. However, a search on YouTube will quickly turn up the muck many would relegate to the heap of morally bankrupt.

Firstly, is Work even a song? The monotonous chorus with the repetition of “work” six times (followed by “dirt”, also half-a-dozen times) sounds like it’s destined to be a digital resident of a smartphone where it would forever be banished as a ringtone. Sure, one-syllable-word repeat is the preferred formula in hip-hop musical phrasing, but it’s odd that Rihanna would take this route when Taylor Swift was miles ahead with “Cause the player’s gonna play, play, play, play, play. And the hater’s gonna hate, hate, hate, hate, hate”. At least Ms Swift’s Shake it Off is catchy. Rihanna slur-sings in such a droning and unintelligible manner that a lyric search was necessary to determine that “der, der, der, der, der, der” is really “dirt, dirt, dirt, dirt, dirt, dirt”! (“Work, although sounded like “wer”, we could make out because of the title). Audibly clear it is that tunefulness is not a present-day requisite for successful song writing.

And the video: surely a club awash with alcohol (but oddly no bottle opener since a guy had to use his teeth!), with guests ready to roll a joint and gyrate to mimic frottage (or intercourse, you figure) —even one called, without charm, The Real Jerk—is no longer fascinating enough to serve as setting when much of what’s on Vevo these days are a lot more arousing. Okay, so few in music-video making aim for an Oscar for production design, but this MV needs, well, more than a little bit of work. Even the chemistry between Rihanna and guest rapper Drake—looking like, to paraphrase Iago in Othello, “prologue to the history of lust and foul thoughts”—can’t lift the lame choreography and weak twerking from encouraging a big loud yawn.

Rihanna and Drake and crewRihanna and Drake posing with MV director X (between them) posted on her Snapchat

So let’s look at the clothes, an area that, Rihanna fans would enthusiastically state, does not disappoint. She arrives in a car at The Real Jerk. She emerges from the black vehicle, wearing a fur hoodie that looks like a pink part two of the Guo Pei gown that she wore to the Met Gala last year. She moves mysteriously towards the club entrance, joining no queue to be admitted. It should be stated at this point that there’s really no narrative in the video, just a mise-en-scène, which, typically, is not defined.

Inside, the coat is shed, and the camera pans from her nearly-bare right foot up to her face. It does so with just the right speed for you to take in those manicured toes in the palest pink polish, made visible by a barely-there sandal held together with spaghetti straps that spiral up her lower limp to just behind the knee, from which you see other straps—more like garter and garter belt—worn not to hold up any stocking but for femoral adornment. The view of this leg, you’ll soon realise, is made possible by the single, hip-high slit of the dress she wears—a round-neck, ankle-length T-shirt in knitted mesh that, once the camera pulls back, reveals wide vertical stripes in the colours that recall some South American flags. Under that, a set of similarly-coloured bikini covers her (concealment optional) privates.

A Rihanna look is incomplete without accessories. Apart from the said sandal and garter and kindred belt, she wears an inordinate amount of rings, and some bracelets, as well as a three-band leather choker with a huge hoop in the centre that seems to echo Givenchy’s version for keys. The sum effect, to our untrained eyes, appears Rastafarian, an aesthetic not alien to the Barbadian singer, and possibly one she’s exceeding pleased with since, in the video, she seems to be enjoying dancing before a full-length mirror in full self-admiration. What would Rastas, who mostly “live a peaceful life, needing little material possessions” (according to barbados.org), think of the Bitch (who) Better Have Money?

Stan Smith: New Dirty Shoes

adidas Originals X Raf SImons SS 2016

Raf Simons and Celine’s Phoebe Philo OBE were the first two designers who elevated the profile of Adidas’s nearly-forgotten tennis sneakers, the Stan Smith, by wearing the white pair on the catwalk to take their customary bow at the end of their show. Mr Simons went one step further; he walked out onto the runway in soiled and rather beat-up Stan Smith that no mother will approve in her Lysol-ed home.

If people can be a hit in an Insta-second, so can shoes. In no time, fashionistas—interestingly, not sneakerheads—considered the sullied tennis classic positively cool and the only way to wear them. As if to ratify this thinking, Mr Simons belatedly released a version this season that is possibly a facsimile of his own shoes. These are definitely not tried-to-death display kicks.

By now, however, the Stan Smith, although still considered iconic, risks becoming the hackneyed choice of stylish footwear. Only a cursory glance is required to catch the many versions available, at all price points. So omnipresent is the plain tennis shoe outside a court that it is quickly nearing tear-your-hair dull. But, like clothes, they can be refreshed by not making them look fresh.

Dirtying perfectly clean shoes are rather similar, in terms of merchandising objective, to bleaching, staining, or paint-splattering otherwise perfectly good jeans, one of the very few garments of the fashion sphere that actually costs more when not looking perfectly new, or clean. Newness, as product development pros posit, surfaces from the appearance of old. Flog the horse and you can sell a more spirited steed. In fact, there’s such a desire and demand for tatty clothes and footwear that an entire industry has sprung up to make the new old, or at least, less new.

This really means, now you don’t have to go through extra lengths (or even step outside the front door) to get your pair of Stan Smith looking grubby, just as ragged jeans can be had without putting them through the paces in a coal mine. When improved digital products get tagged with a numeral mostly larger than the previous editions, should aesthetically worse-than-the-original shoes get named with a negative number? To be fair, Stan Smith Version -1.0 is really not the Raf Simons interpretation. The latter’s is far from tawdry. Like whiskered jeans, however, there is something oddly appealing about its scruffy appearance. When something looks used, you know it has had an earlier life, even if manufactured.

adidas Originals X Raf Simons ‘Aged’ Stan Smith, SGD499, is available at Ltd Edt Chamber, The Shoppes at Marina Bay Sands

Season’s Changed, Wardrobe’s The Same

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By Raiment Young

It’s the Ides of March, as they say in Roman times, circa 44 BC. So here I am, in the middle of the month, when once (date that to pre-Google times) the fashion-correct among us pondered on what to acquire (“invest” was preferred then) to get our wardrobe ready for the coming months. Never mind that we did not have the habit of putting away clothes worn during colder climes to mark the start of a new season. (So not in the habit that presently there are those still wearing neoprene tops from two winters ago—I saw one just now—in the punishing heat of March, the Ides!) What mattered was a chance to renew the wardrobe even if that renewal, technically, took place a month earlier during Chinese New Year.

The new fashion season may be upon us, but it is hard for me to get excited about it. In the past, it was easy to succumb to the thrill that consuming fashion offered. There was enjoyable build-up: you had to wait for at least three months after the respective fashion weeks before you were able to see the reports in a magazine (if you wanted them fast, it was not consumer monthlies such as Vogue, but trade titles such as Mode et Mode), from which you would succumb to the key, though not quite trending, pieces. There would then be another month or two before the clothes appeared in the stores. Anticipation was immense, and the reward, while variable, gave you a high.

Today, it’s too much, too quickly. Fashion is a speed demon, racing from catwalk to consumer, first via live stream, then through the hyper-effective distribution network of fast fashion. Inexorable, I feel, is the journey towards the much-discussed show-now-sell-now business model. Even inchoate, it will appease the appetites of an impatient generation consuming voraciously via online social channels. In fact, our digital lives have mostly taken the heat for it. Fashion is never far away and you can get up to speed, thanks in no small part to mobile technology, a fast-evolving one at that, and one that has widespread affect on our lives as active, no-respite-from-trends consumers.

When it comes to modern communication, adoption is discussed in terms of penetration rate. According to the Infocomm Development Authority of Singapore (IDA), for example, ‘mobile population penetration rate’ in 2015 was an average of 148 percent. The figure is staggering if we consider that Singapore has enjoyed 28 years of mobile phone use: we’re not a new market (in fact, a 2014 Deloitte survey stated that smartphone penetration in Singapore is the highest globally). If the IDA’s figures can provide a snapshot of how ardently we embrace cellular tech, I think it would be rather illuminating if the Textile and Fashion Federation (TAFF) look into the penetration rate of fashion, both luxury and fast: how quickly are we consuming fashion, and how widespread is this rapid consumption?

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Fashion is in a transitory state. When it’s been going this fast, it needs to slow down, if not to take stock, at least to catch its breath. No one can say for sure where it’s heading. Or if real change can be effectuated. All the talk about reducing the number of collections a year, even doing away with seasons, will only amount to something if there’s accord among designers on output periods and selling seasons, as well as scheduling adjustments with manufacturers. Simply put, timetables have to change, but marking calendars isn’t as simple as it looks, not when there are those who still would not play by industry-wide practices. If indeed designers like to supply with the same speed and regularity of high-street labels, would there be anything left to set both sides apart? Or would we, by then, be in an era of what Marc Almond calls “monoculture”?

In recent times, fashion is rather like electronic music: it doesn’t date much. Across all selling spaces, online or in-store, there’s a serious surfeit of fashion that has not distinguished itself from the past in a manner that can be considered truly new. It is ironic, considering how ‘newness’ is integral to the survival of the retail business. Instead, sameness seems to be the stock-in-trade. A fashion buyer I know rather well lamented that she has been buying nipped-in-the-natural-waist floral dresses for so many seasons that she would like to cut them up into something else each time she sees them. Clearly some items have longevity built into them—like in the case of skinny jeans—so much so that it’s tempting to consider the phenomenon a retail conspiracy to keep us buying the same things over and over again, thus saving retailers the need to innovate.

Electronic music, too, endures. In 1978, the German group Kraftwerk released a quirky little single called Das Model (the English version, The Model, came out in 1981). It wasn’t until February 1982 that the track reached no. 1 in the UK, where it stayed for 21 weeks in the top 75 of the singles chart. The four-year gap did not diminish the catchy and kitschy appeal of Das Model. And this was even before the rise of Linda Evangelista and co. Close to four decades later, The Model, is still a must in any synthpop playlist and regularly broadcast on Internet radio channels such as the Madrid-based Synth Hero Radio. No matter when and where you listen to it, and no matter which mix (old or new, electronic or acoustic), The Model does not sound like a musical relic of the past, and you forget that Kraftwerk took pop, like Burberry did with fashion, into the fascinating sphere of technology.

In 1997, the German electro-rock band Rammstein released a cover version of Das Model (I have counted 8 variants I like, including one by The Cardigans, but I revisit the first cover in 1979 by Snakefinger a lot). Later an “official” music video appeared, starring Keira Knightly in what seems to be scenes from the 2005 film Domino, in which she plays “the daughter of actor Laurence Harvey turned away from her career as a Ford model to become a bounty hunter”, as described by IMDb. The intro to the MV, in fact, features catwalking models in a slugfest. What is interesting to me are the clothes: the sharp-shouldered dresses that bear an uncanny resemblance to Hedi Slimane’s recent “haute couture” collection for Saint Laurent.

Okay, I concede; I digress.

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In the peer-to-peer sharing of fashion-consumption of today, there seems to be less about distinctiveness than be at one with the rest of the community. That, and the rampant mimicking of what celebrities wear—not always flattering to everyday lives, but who’s noticing. If shoppers can look to Instagram, Pinterest, and the like for ideas and inspiration, so can retailers. And those sites are where merchandising heads are training their professional gaze at, doing away with storyboards, since the narratives are already out there, already influencing thousands, if not millions. They need only to give what their consumers have seen and, consequently, crave. In reality, stores no longer need to provide context, not even temptation; they only need to lay out the familiar clothes. Problem is, the open-source nature of fashion means other retailers, other store buyers, too, can see what has been seen and circulated. It’s no surprise at all that selling floors are overstocked with clones.

The fashion connection between brands and consumers has changed too. In the past, luxury fashion was sold through distributors or local agents. Now, the parent company is behind the distribution. Gucci, for example, was once available locally via FJ Benjamin, the player behind Goyard and Guess and their house brand Raoul. These days what you see in the Gucci stores in Paragon and The Shoppes at Marina Bay Sands are put there directly by Kering-owned Gucci. The missing middleman is also evident in how fashion is communicated to us. When once our taste in clothes was influenced by fashion editors, especially those who could cut through the noise to inform us what is truly on trend, these days, we see fashion for ourselves through live streams, letting brands talk to us directly. And that’s a conversation we share with the rest of the world.

I find myself in the cavernous ION Orchard, unguided by social media, moving in and out of duplex stores and uncovering almost nothing that could entice me or fill the gap I think I see in my wardrobe. Some of the clothes I like aren’t so alluring on the rack, where they sit in pairs, spaced four fingers apart between the carefully coordinated twosomes. I’ve seen them via my PC and smartphone months ago and being there online in perpetuity means by the time I encounter them in-store, the freshness is relieved of these “new arrivals”, as the sales people invariably must inform me, which makes me think of refugees. I move to Paragon, and it is the same here. Except for a bag or two at Loewe, everything I am seeing is frightfully dull.

My afternoon of shopping brings me to 313 at Orchard. It is an indescribably annoying feeling seeing more of the same here, Orchard Road’s belly button where below twenty-fives gravitate towards. Yes, that camo-print is very familiar; that contrast sleeve too. By now, I do not want to recall where I saw them earlier. Not quite a glut, but what I am seeing is doing something to my gut. There’s only one unfashionable word for it: satiated.

Photos: Galerie Gombak