One Yellow That’s Ochre Of Fierceness

Beyonce in yellowScreen grab of Beyoncé from the trailer of HBO’s Lemonade

By Raiment Young

Over the weekend, when I learned that Beyoncé’s new “visual album” was going to be called Lemonade, I shuddered; I really did. I am not receptive to the painful cliché of what one can do with lemons if given those citrus fruits, and I feared that somehow Beyoncé was going to lead me down that path. And true enough, she did. Beyoncé’s sixth studio album is called Lemonade apparently because during a family get-together, seen in one of the videos, husband Jay Z’s 90-year-old grandmother was heard saying, “I was served lemons but I made lemonade.” The grand-daughter-in-law, inspired, was then going to show us how she makes America’s favourite summer drink.

I thought yellow was going to be pervasive, a chromatic motif that will be used to tell stories in the videos-as-narrative. One frock stood out, but it is not in the yellow of lemons. The dress, part of a wardrobe that prompted Glamour to say the costumes of the videos were “beyond fierce”, is of a yellow that seemed to have been mixed with dirt, an ochre. There is certainly no sunshine in it, although to be more positive, it is close to the yellow of Van Gough’s sunflowers.

I was definitely not thinking of ribbons, birds, submarines, or bikinis. What did come to my mind was the mustard-hued poultice that was once offered to me to calm the painful sting of a jellyfish. What I also saw were the monks’ robes during the ordination of a friend in a temple in Nakhon Sawan, Thailand. These robes were once only made of used or discarded cloth. They were boiled with vegetable matter such as bark, flowers and leaves before being stained with spices such as saffron. I wonder if Beyoncé would make nasi kuning if life handed her turmeric.

What’s with R&B stars and yellow anyway? Just last year, during the Med gala in May, Rihanna wore a monstrosity of a Guo Pei dress in the shade of omelettes. In another era, Whitney Houston, too, was never averse to eye-popping yellow: she wore that aureate figure-hugging Marc Bouwer dress for Whitney: The Concert for a New South Africa in 1994. Could there be a visual advantage in donning a colour that can represent the sun or warn of the presence of poison?

Roberto Cavalli AW 2016Roberto Cavalli’s dress as seen on the catwalk during the recent autumn/winter 2016/17 presentation in Milan. Photo: Roberto Cavalli

Lemonade is a “visual album” (Beyoncé’s second, in fact) and that means it’s accompanied by full-length videos—every track, here, 12 of them, gets its story told in moving pictures, all made seamless by the reading of the poetry of Somali-British poet Warsan Shire. Clearly, the visual album is conceived to appeal to a visual generation that prefers to see a song than hear it. For such an album to be even more engaging, Beyoncé has to play up the fashion aspect of the presentation. Fresh from launching her new fashion line, the athleisure-centric Ivy Park, with Topshop, Queen Bey has to prove her worthiness as fashion royalty, even when she’s holding sway in the court of celebrity style.

The dress that her fans have been raving about is a seven-tier, off-shoulder gown designed by the two-season-old Peter Dundas for Roberto Cavalli worn in the track Hold Up. This crush-pleated dress that swings with distracting shagginess as you walk is not easy to wear, and especially less so if you do not have the girth of a walking stick. Beyoncé is a voluptuous woman, a tad too curvy for an essentially linear dress held up by straps that are as fine as strings. What are those two misshapen globes squashed through the opening below the neckline? Mrs Knowles-Carter, I’m afraid, you look like you’ve squeezed into one leg of a lion dancer’s pants!

The Cavalli dress appears in the video of the reggae-tinged Hold Up in which Beyoncé emerges from a building that looks like our old City Hall, with water gushing behind her and wind blowing in front. Much of the rest of the film sees her prancing in a sound stage dressed as an urban neighbourhood. As she smiles-seethes-sings through the video, she strikes what catches her fancy with a baseball bat that identifies itself as “hot sauce”. There’s considerable destruction while sprightly explosions bloom behind her. No one around her is bothered by what appears to be escalating into a war zone. Here you have a swaggering gladiolus in full anti-social, crime-abetting behaviour, and what is it for? She suspects (“something don’t feel right”) a man she loves cheated on her. As a consequence, the woman can’t tell “what’s worse, lookin’ jealous or crazy”. The woman is livid.

If Lemonade is holding the glass up and speaking for women, is it also a collective reprimand disguised as a visually rich music video? And is Beyoncé dressed to reflect how women want to be clothed when they wish to make a point angrily? When cross, wear yards and yards of floating fabric? Still, I don’t get what she’s trying to say with that yellow. If the crazy popularity of Vetements’s DHL T-shirt is anything to go by, there’s no fighting this colour most of you call cheerful.

Clutch A Circle

Loewe round pouch

It is not quite certain if an envelope of a bag in the shape and size of a dessert plate such as Loewe’s ‘Saturn’ can be called a clutch, but we shall stick to a description we know. This saucer-like bag is, according to a Loewe sales staff, considered a pouch, which sounds a lot more capacious than it really is. Regardless, we are rather drawn to this clutch that Jane Jetson would probably love.

What’s fascinating is the reference to the Land of the Rising Sun by a brand that originated in Spain. We’re not only referring to the 19-cm in diameter red dot, but also the manga-style illustration of a space ship that seems to be drawn in Sixties Tokyo. It’s cute but possibly a little too Harajuku-kawaii for use in a meeting with the chief financial officer.

Loewe ‘Saturn’ round pouch, SGD800, is available at Loewe, Paragon. Photo: Loewe

Purple Reign: The Indefinable Style Of Prince

Prince through the yearsClockwise from top left: Prince… during a performance of We Are the Word in 1995; on the 2015 album Hit N Run; at the World Music Awards in 1994; in the movie Purple Rain; performing with 3rdEyeGirl in 2014; on stage at the Cobo Hall, Detroit, in 1980; performing at Radio City Hall in 1983; on tour in 1997 at the San Jose Event Center in California, at the Fabulous Forum, LA, 1985, and on a publicity still for performances with 3rdEyeGirl. Photos: as indicated

Way before our lives became digitally represented and outrageous dress was necessary for photographs, in particular selfies, to pop when viewed on the world’s most used gadget—the smartphone, there was Prince. At the time of his biggest hit song When Doves Cry from the album Purple Rain, the man wasn’t just fashion forward, he was leagues ahead of everyone else. Yes, even Michael Jackson.

And before we could start to imagine the androgyny pervading men’s wear today, Prince was putting his dalliances with feminine forms or, more likely, the aesthetics of camp out there for all to admire and censure, equally. His style was gender-bending as his music was genre-bending, his look as intriguing as his sound was transfixing. It was all so natural to him—on stage and off stage—that fans consider his outrageous clothes part of his distinctive grooves. And he did not step back for a minute, even when wearing a suit, replacing the conventional with the unusual as easily as he swapped prepositions for numerals in his song titles.

What had Prince not worn?

A dress, perhaps, but even that, we’re not entirely sure. We’re, however, certain he beat Liza Minnelli to the matching, tunic-and-pyjama-bottom combo. That’s the curious paradox about Prince. Here was a man who wore the Western equivalent of the samfu with equal effortlessness as the ruffled shirts that he loved. Could a guy’s taste be so truly varied?

Prince album coversPrince was always agreeable to showing skin on his album covers. Clockwise from top left: Prince (1979), Dirty Mind (1980), Parade (1986), Lovesexy (1988). Photos: as indicated

Michael Jackson was hailed as the King of Pop and King of Style, but to us, it was Prince who pushed what’s acceptable that much further, musically and sartorially. Michael Jackson did not go nude until 1995, in the Wayne Isham-directed music video of You are Not Alone, shot with wife-of-that-time Priscilla Presley (so lacking in sexual chemistry it was that it could have been a follow-up of the 1971 film Melody, now The Grown-Up Years!). Whether that established Wacko Jacko as a red-blooded procreative male, it’s not easy to say.

It isn’t that Prince was an embodiment of overt masculinity, but not wearing set him apart as wearing did. Just a year after his debut album For You, Prince appeared shirtless on the cover of his second album, the 1979 eponymous LP, and, later, down to his skivvies on 1980’s Dirty Mind and, to the chagrin of implacable heterosexuals, undies and stockings during a show in Detroit in the same year. He performed with the flair of a stripper. Complete nudity came on 1988’s Lovesexy with the, perhaps, unsurprising feminine pose of cupping half his breast, allowing the right purlicue to underscore his left nipple. Like some of the artistes today, he didn’t need clothes to say something about his unconventional image.

And we really shouldn’t just credit Beyonce, Nicki Minaj, and co for the audacity to expose their butt on stage. Back in 1991, during the MTV Video Music Awards, Prince, in a yellow openwork suit (bolero-ish jacket and high-waist pants!), revealed to the audience a bare backside that could easily belong to any attractive woman. Delirium rather than disdain greeted the exposure. Rolling Stone magazine gleefully reported: “…Prince’s lithe movements and muscular guitar work remained the focus — especially once a few spins made it abundantly clear that his suit had holes in the seat to showcase his butt. ‘Let me show you, baby, I’m a talented boy,’ he sang.”

As any fashionista will tell you, it always helps to be lean and flat-chested. David Bowie certainly knew that. Prince was a five-foot-two (1.58m) fella with a leanness that he was always ready to flaunt; a diminutive figure who made buttons on shirts mostly superfluous. And there was the chiselled, ageless face, which he attributed to, among many unlikely concepts, not celebrating the date of his birth. As he told The Guardian in 2011, “If you look in the Bible, there’s no birthdays.”

Prince Rogers Nelson, RIP.

A Touch Of Brazil

Veja x G.Kero Esplar sneakers

Like smartphones, tennis shoes in the Stan Smith mould keep getting made over with no change to their basic shape. Despite their frequent updates, we’re not expecting an oval or triangular Samsung Galaxy just as we’re not expecting a winged tennis shoe (although in the hands of Jeremy Scott, there really could be). Perhaps that’s the staying power of Stan Smith and the like: they have resisted transmogrification.

However, some time last year, basic tennis sneakers unavoidably became a canvas on which patterns and prints can appear. One of the earliest to turn plain to fancy was Pharrell Williams, who introduced larger-than-our-one-dollar-coin polka dots to the till-then relatively vanilla Stan Smith. On the same track too is Marguerite Bartherotte, an artist-designer who has updated Veja’s ‘Esplar’ sneakers with an enlivening, all-over print of parrots.

With souvenir jackets and tropical prints that suggest idyllic holidays quite the rage this season, these sneakers are on trend, but they don’t necessarily talk to those who prefer a Prince or Babolat, and Ms Bartherotte is certainly not addressing the needs of those who know Adidas also has a (now long discontinued) court sneaker named after another tennis star—Arthur Ashe (other than Robert Haillet that Stan Smith replaced). Through her fashion label G Kero, this collaboration with Keja is more skewed towards women who consider sneakers their flats when not wearing heels.

Made-in-Brazil French brand Veja’s ‘Esplar’ has the styling of old-school tennis sneakers. It’s a sleek, low-cut kick with the details expected of such footwear: the top-stitched eye stays that go all the way to the sole, flanking an unbranded tongue; the obligatory contrast-colour heel tab that sits atop the back stay; and the rubber sole with bumper that’s scored in harlequin check. The discreet details belie a nobler genesis. Veja shoes are eco-friendly and ethically correct.

Launch in 2005, their leathers are vegetable-tanned (hence, rid of chrome or metals) and cottons are GMO- and fertilizer-free, and organically grown. The rubber that goes into the sole are sourced from tappers who worked among wild trees of the Amazon forest. Veja does not ship its products by air—the shoes are transported by ship from the Brazilian factories to France, and onwards to Paris on a boat. Logistics are farmed out to Ateliers Sans Frontières, a French social enterprise that rehabilitates those who have erred on the wrong side of the law or have had a hard life by offering them employment.

Their efforts have paid off. Contrary to what many perceive of brands with a social mission, Veja’s sneakers speak in a contemporary voice, and their designs have won the patronage of French stars such as Marion Cotillard and, across the English Channel, David Beckham. The currency is now further enhanced by G Kero: birds of the Amazon do reflect the beauty of the rain forest, if not draw attention to a slowly but surely vanishing expanse of earthly green.

Veja X G. Kero Esplar leather sneakers, SGD225, are available at Rue Madame, Takashimaya S.C. Photo: Jim Sim

Another Bag To Have Forever

Jennifer Lawrence with DioreverDior girl Jennifer Lawrence looking pensive with her Diorever

In the wake of Loewe’s off-kilter, now-on-the-arms-of-many Puzzle Bag, Dior’s new Diorever looks oddly old-fashioned, or mostly serious and sedate. It’s the kind of bag, we imagine, Margaret Thatcher would have used if she were “to handbag” her opponents.

As a structured bag, the Diorever is akin to the Be Dior rather than the all-time favourite Lady Dior, but its introduction does not feel as new as its predecessors’. In fact, one suspects that its conception has very much to do with the unceasing popularity of a competitor’s bag, the Birkin. Dior is perhaps hoping women are looking for an alternative that’s equally a status symbol, but unrelated.

What eggs on comparison is the way the Diorever is designed to be carried. For most users, it’s likely, as Dior intended, to be held in the hand with the flap-cover opened, and hung at the rear. This allows the bowel of the bag to be viewed by the outside world, as is in the case of a simple tote, or as in the case of the Birkin, a bag carried by those in the know without its flap-cover over the opening so as to reveal the tiny gold-embossed Hermès logo-type at the top edge, a precursor to the shiny branding now widely seen on bags of brands without similar pedigree.

Many ways with DioreverThe details of the Diorever and the various ways to carry it

While the Birkin was not designed to be used with the cover not serving its purpose, the Diorever is conceived to be carried with the cover shirking its main function. To make this work, the designers learned from what the Birkin’s cover can’t do: sit without getting in the way. The Diorever flap-cover has two leather-encased circle magnets that work on both sides. When positioned backwards, it stays relatively secure on the rear side of the bag with the aid of another set of magnets secured on the body’s hind (and it looks rather fetching if you select the Diorever with contrast leather lining). When you need to close the bag, bring the flap-cover forward, and it shuts almost automatically as another set of front magnet draws it close to the body like a waiting lover.

It’s nifty design, really, but is the use of magnets typical of the fastenings of luxury leather goods? Although quieter—certainly more silent that a clasp (or, possibly, a certain Twist?)—it has as much appeal as a tab of Velcro, no? What may go against the Diorever reaching popularity of long-waiting-list madness could be the prevalence of handbags of its ilk. Walk past Delvaux and you’ll know what we mean.

Dior’s Diorever, SGD 4500 (small), SGD5,200 (medium), and SGD6,000 (large) are available at all Dior stores. Photos: Dior

Two Of A Kind: When Peacocking Fails

Two peacocksLeft: Ion Orchard’s now-pulled Spring Magnificence ad, and right: a Tim Walker photograph

It seems to have taken the industry by surprise, but why should anyone in advertising or retail be astonished at all?

Last week, the website of Australian-own Mumbrella Asia (“Everything under Asia’s Media and Marketing Umbrella”) ran a report that told of a Facebook post by Malaysia-born, Singapore-based freelance fashion stylist CK Koo, who had pointed at an ION Orchard advertisement that bore a striking similarity to a photograph by British lensman Tim Walker. Mr Khoo had remarked, “Sadly, when copying in this industry becomes common.” His post, unexpectedly, has been deleted.

In a subsequent report, Mumbrella alerted its readers that ION Orchard has removed the “image accused of plagiarism”. A check on the ION Orchard’s website truly uncovered no such photo. A Google image search of “ION Orchard Spring Magnificence” still shows a single, full-bleed picture linked to the mall’s site, but a click on the view image tab will bring you to a photograph of a garden setup outside the mall. It looks like a hastily shot and posted photo. A visit to ION Orchard over the weekend found no trace of the snap that has aroused curiosity and earned disapproval, not even half a standee is left standing.

ION Orchard may be quick to hush a potentially noisy response to a faux pas, but the damage is done and noted. We will never know what really transpired during the project brief to the agency, reportedly a local firm called Tofu Design, but some of us in the media won’t go soft on certain “standard practices” that could easily apportion the blame to as much the client as the agency.

Fashion communication is tough to put out to consumers these days. The challenge is to rise above the din already made shrill by social media. For so many marketing heads—themselves no fashion plates, fashion isn’t fashion until it looks like fashion. And that mostly refers to the fashion someone else has already adopted or communicated. As part of the modus operandi, a standard request by many marketing managers supervising an ad campaign is the “references”. By that, they really mean photographs with every element in there that they could deem “fashion enough” to sell their wares.

The agencies’ creative directors—the all-powerful geniuses, but themselves also no fashion plates—pander to the clients’ whims by providing these references, which could be a printout of a photographer’s published work or, more popularly, tear sheets of magazines. With the magazine library a crucial part of the agency, and sites such as Fashion Gone Rogue a click away, references are easy to find, and willingly provided to clients. The unfortunate scenario is one when a client expects the result to not differ from the reference.

The white dress of identical silhouette, the seated pose, the white peacock feathers protecting the model like a Hindu nāga sheltering a deity, the onlooking albino peacock: they point to a definite visual source

It’s not surprising that the ION Orchard ad is based on a reference: here, from one of Tim Walker’s works, distinguished by the dramatic setting that is often confined to a room. The photo first appeared as a spread in W featuring Jennifer Lawrence with all sorts of birds. The similarities of ION Orchard’s picture are too uncanny to be considered a coincidence, even if the agency, in its defence, may claim that it is. The white dress of identical silhouette, the seated pose, the white peacock feathers protecting Ms Lawrence like a Hindu nāga sheltering a deity, the onlooking albino peacock: they point to a definite visual source.

What annoys many creative souls is the poor imitation. This is a mall trying to boost its fashion standing and underscore its fashion leadership, yet its ad depicts fashion that, at best, is a parody. The main focus of the picture is the gown, but it looks like something sponsored by a Tanjong Pagar bridal shop rather than a reflection of the sumptuousness in the Tim Walker photo that is evocative of the couture plumage of Maison Lemarié. Even the pose of the model appears awkward and speaks of an inexperienced mannequin cornered into a shoot beyond her abilities rather than the graceful beauty that she attempts to imitate that hints at the old–world elegance of Truman Capote’s “swans”.

Requesting for a reference is a media industry-wide practice. Even magazine editors are known to demand them so that they’ll know exactly what to expect. “No surprises from the stylist” is the common justification. If references from the same sources are doing the rounds, it could perhaps explain why fashion pages of magazines are looking dismally the same. Of the present crop of young stylists occupying editorial pages with their work, so very few have a distinctive, let alone identifiable style.

Mr Koo, who took a hiatus from fashion to dabble in F&B before returning to styling recently, contributes to publications such as Nuyou. The latest issue, in which a fashion story he styled is featured, comprises five locally shot fashion spreads by three different stylists, but you wouldn’t have guessed that they are the output of a trio of individuals. Three of them are so similar visually (all with blond models glaring at the reader with smokey eyes) that two of the pages (67 and 109) from two different thematic spreads even sport the same Prada jacket. It’s of no help that fashion editors, like creative directors, are not necessarily able to discern the mono-look.

The sameness that afflicts our image-making industry is exacerbated by the smallness of the pool of fashion stylists, many also engaged by creative directors to style shopping mall ads based on the client-approved reference. The trifecta of creative types too shares similar ideas of what makes an image fashionable—usually edgy or over-the-top, mostly a snapshot of a fantasy existence, enhanced by deft Photoshop manipulation. The problem, for a lack of a better word, is that they all like the same things! It is, therefore, unsurprising, for example, that, while Raffles City and ION Orchard are about 3 kilometres apart and appeal to different shoppers, their communication materials seem to share similar aesthetics. Take away the text that identifies the malls, and you’re left with two sets of images with no distinguishable USP.

If only business owners could see the irony of it all. In desperately trying to be different from their competitors, they end up with a product that is a facsimile of the creative output of someone else. Imitation may be a form of flattery, but rarely is it sincere. Let’s not pretend. Whether ION Orchard will consider this a salutary experience, we can certainly hope.

Photos: source

Chung Brings Finesse

Alexa Chung

“In real life, I rarely think about clothes,” so said Alexa Chung in a Harper’s Bazaar interview last year. With the just-launched M&S collaboration, it would seem that her brain cells are doing some work, even if it’s not heavy lifting. Britain’s perpetual It girl—after Kate Moss—has done what It girls do, lend her aesthetic sense to fashion labels in need of, to quote Carmel Snow, a dash of daring.

Marks and Spencer is not a Savile Row outfitter despite its Mayfair-sounding name. Neither is it a cool high-street label, always at the cusp of something revolutionary. In Singapore, and quite possibly the UK, M&S (as it is usually called) is very much associated with one’s mother, even grandmother, or, if you’re a foodie, the All-Butter Sultana Cookies. Its presence in our city dates back to the Fifties. For those old enough (ageing population that we now are), M&S was first St Michael, appearing in 1958 in John Little, the oldest department store here, established in 1842. The name change was effected only in 1994, but it has never really discarded the frump that St Michael has made of itself.

Marks & Spencer Celebrates A Unique Collaboration With Style Icon Alexa Chung

Alexa Chung poses with models at a launch party hosted by Marks and Spencer in London 

Alexa Chung’s present involvement seems to say that the dowdiness that many folks can’t (no longer?) find beautiful is being given a new lease of life. Unlike the typical fashion collaboration involving fashionable celebrities, Ms Chung did not have M&S access her wardrobe for inspiration. The reverse became the work flow and she, instead, visited the M&S archives. M&S used Ms Chung’s eye and tapped her flair for making things of the past sit well in the present. These archival pieces have morphed into fashion-correct clothes for a generation of women—Alexa Chung included—rediscovering stuff of lost eras to take the place of what they cannot conceive for the future.

To be noted, what Ms Chung has done for M&S isn’t as lack of craft as what Kate Moss co-produced with Topshop. The proportions, for example, have clearly been reworked for the contemporary consumer. We were quite taken by the double-breasted Ada blazer, for example. The shoulders are now cut slanted, rather than ’80s-straight, and hang a little lower; the effect is a slouch that is rather becoming over a wisp of a dress—the way Ms Chung wears hers. The obligatory tennis sneakers are tweaked with a sense of humour, changing Adidas’s perforated lines into ‘yes’ on one side and ‘no’ on the other. This IT girl clearly isn’t averse to a little fun and wit in her clothes.

Archive by AlexaClockwise from top left: Ada double-breasted blazer, S$169.90; Ada wide-legged trousers, S$119.90; Harry pie-crust top, S$119.90; Eliza high-neck dress, S$1549.90; Lydia, A-line gingham skirt, S$89.90; and Helen ‘Yes/No’ trainer; $129.90. Illustration: Just So

And it is this irreverence doused with thought that truly sets her contribution apart. She may, as she said, “rarely think about clothes”, but it’s the consideration in how she puts clothes together that has made her very much a fashion star. Nothing on her is not deliberate (no woman wears overalls without first thinking how she will turn out!), yet she’s able to come across as one with better things to ponder than fashion. That in itself is more a womanly attitude than a girly one, which perhaps explains her appeal among those in their late twenties and early thirties than in their teenage years.

Alexa Chung’s style, therefore, deserves more study than, say, Kate Moss’s since one appears to dress for an exigent purpose (such as a profession) while the other seems to be attired just for hanging out. Ms Moss frequently looks like she walks into an older cousin’s wardrobe and tumbled out while Ms Chung seems to have visited a store and carefully picked her buys. If one is Gucci, then the other is rather possibly Prada! M&S is not off the mark, therefore, to be associated with the TV presenter in the hope that their clothes will be cast in new light. Problem is, any of these pieces won’t make you look as good as Alexa Chung. You have to be Alexa Chung to look this fine.

Archive by Alexa is available at M&S, Wheelock Place, and online at Photos: Marks and Spencer

The Slip-On Sneaker Slips Into The Big League

Slip-onsThe comfortable ease that the slip-on sneaker projects. Shoes: Flesh Imp. Photo: Jim Sim

By Shu Xie

The first cotton-canvas slip-ons bought for me was in my first year of primary school. The giver, my mother, called them “lazy shoes”. When I was curious enough to know why, she told me that only people who are too lazy to tie shoe laces wear them. Whether that was directed at me, I wasn’t sure. Certain, too, I wasn’t if that made sense, but it was lazy shoes for me outside school throughout much of my pre-pubescent years. When I was old enough to think that perhaps what my mother said was baloney, I was informed by a magazine article that, in fact, any footwear that allows one to only slide the feet into them is considered “lazy”. Somehow, I was still not convinced. Why humiliate the shoe when it is the wearer who is lazy?

These days, while shoes such as the loafer can be classified as lazy, they’re known by their better-regarded names even when, in the case of the loafer, one would usually think of an idler. In fact, the moniker has very much lost its ring in an age of even lazier footwear such as Crocs. These days, the cotton slip-ons that so many of us have worn when we were young are elevated to “sneaker” status. If you know your kicks, and I believe you do, cotton-canvas slip-ons—almost synonymous with summers of the West—have been upgraded to “premium” versions. Online and among knowing consumers, they’re “slip-on sneakers”.

However highly perched they may seem, these easy-to-wear shoes have, in the past two years, become increasingly ubiquitous, even when the tennis shoe—defined by Adidas’s Stan Smith—seems more visible than any other casual footwear. If the tennis shoe is the ultimate plain sneaker, than the slip-on—best represented by the skate wear brand Vans—is the country cousin, untethered to urban fabulousness, bare to the point of boring. That, however, wasn’t how things played out.

Dienme slip-onsSlip-on sneakers don’t only come in plain cotton canvas; they’re now attractively patterned too. Shoe: Diemme; jeans: Uniqlo. Photo: Jim Sim

Two years ago, when I revisited the slip-on sneaker and bought a pair of Diemme ‘Garda’ in woven leather (tight ketupat style), I realised that the “lazy shoe” was no longer indolent on the design front. By then, brands such as Kenzo were putting on retail shelves their versions in eye-popping prints. Increasingly, more shoe makers climbed aboard the bandwagon, from Christian Louboutin with full-on studs to Saint Laurent with gaudy leopard spots, illustrating, once again, the bubble-up effect that has washed over luxury fashion.

The slip-on sneaker’s resurgence can be attributed to the persistent presence of Vans’s classic slip-on. And the design has not changed much. Comprising a vamp and tongue as one piece (and usually piped with the same or contrasting fabric near the ankle) and a quarter that goes under, the slip-on sneaker is best characterised by the side elastic inserts slot between the two. These allow the foot to be slipped in easily and also to help secure the shoe. Other details include a usually padded ankle collar, heel counter (or a heel tab, but never two together), and a foxing stripe (a mark of vulcanisation when heat and pressure is applied to bond the upper to the sole). The sole is usually made of rubber and is about 3-cm thick (women’s version can come in platform height). What amazes me is the slip-on sneakers’ ability to escape massive technological advances that have affected almost every athletic shoe. It has not even embraced air soles.

Slip-on sneaks in the MRTSeen in the MRT train: if even a pair of slip-on sneakers with a strong graphic upper is still too plain, bejewelled turn-up cuffs will do the trick. Photo: Jim Sim

If looks can be deceiving, then the slip-on sneaker is. It may appear comfy on the outside, but when worn, the internals can be annoyingly abrasive. It does not matter if under the vamp, it is lined or not. The main problem, in my experience tracking down the best pair, is in the way the elastic insert is attached to the vamp and quarter. When it is sandwiched between the upper and the lining, you won’t feel anything scratchy (and that still depends on the stitching). If it is stitched directly to the underside of the vamp and is exposed to the skin of the foot, there’s no guarantee you won’t feel anything. This is a problem not exclusive to cheaper shoes. A pair of MSGM slip-ons that I love was hate at first wear; its bite worse than an annoyed, temperamental terrier. While the hitch can be solved by a pair of low socks, or what Muji calls “foot cover”, finding a pair that doesn’t slide underfoot is another charmless challenge.

The Vans Classic Slip-On (or style #48, as it’s known to retailers) has a rather brief history. It was introduced in 1977 although the company was started in 1966. In less than 5 years, a revolutionary checkerboard pattern was introduced and it soon became “iconic”. But it was the 1982 film Fast Time at Ridgemont High that set the shoe on its upward trajectory. In the movie’s trailer, the character Jeff Spicoli, played by Sean Penn, memorably hit himself in the head with a pair of Vans, the checkerboard version, no less, and with the shoe box prominently placed on his lap, allowing the brand message “Off the Wall” to talk to the audience directly. I didn’t know then as I know now: that could be an early form of product place.

The slip-on sneaker has since refused to go into obscurity, lasting till now, even when they may pale next to a pair of Ultra Boost. Their popularity is enhanced when so many other brands are willing to work with Vans to release collaborations. In the end, it requires no styling skills to challenge Rachel Zoe to make a pair work with jeans, chinos, shorts, skirts, dresses, or just swimwear. The SOTD editor and I went shopping recently, and these caught our eyes:

Flesh Imp Laird Black

Flesh Imp Laird Black ShoeFlesh Imp, one of Singapore’s better known and oldest streetwear labels, has taken the classic slip-on a notch up by introducing a mock-croc version with a finish that belies, to my surprise, its pocket-friendly price. Unfortunately, the sizes do run a little small.

SGD65, available at Flesh Imp, Orchard Cineleisure

Sperry Top-Sider Striper Chambray Slip-On Navy Palm

Sperry Top-SiderThis is not exactly new since it was launched last season, but since palm prints are so on-trend, this pair by boat shoe maker Sperry Top-Sider has to be included. What’s also interesting is the cotton chambray upper, so perfect with a shirt (or dress) of similar fabric, minus the print, of course.

SGD89, available at Tangs at Tang Plaza

Supra Cuba Navy Stripe-White

Supra Cuba Navy White Stripes

I am not sure if this cotton slip-on by skateboard shoe label Supra is meant to look nautical, but I am attracted to the brushed-on stripes. More appealing, in fact, is the two-in-one. At first look, you see a pair of lace-ups, but then you notice a small discreet loop at the side—above the elastic insert—that allows the laces to be removed so that you’ll get a pair of classic canvas slip-on.

SGD109, available at Bratpack, Mandarin Gallery

Patrick Muret.M

Patric MuretIn 1990, French shoe label Patrick started a made-in-Japan production line and this pair, the Muret.M, is one of the recent outputs. On the white canvas are quirky drawings of people at leisure that capture a certain joie de vivre. This shoe is, unfortunately, sized for women only.

SGD199, available at Star 360, Wheelock Place

Closed Cotton Slip-On Allover Print

Closed slip-onThey’re known more for their jeans than their footwear, yet this season’s small drop of slip-ons, to me, just cuts it. Closed, the Italian label now owned by Germans, has incorporated Japanese wave graphics onto this canvas shoe without heady Oriental overtones.

SGD239, available at Robinsons at the Hereen

Spingle Move SPM 179

Spingle MoveHiroshima-based Jap brand Spingle Move is known for incredibly comfortable shoes that only came about after the maker “studied the foot type of the Japanese”. It’s quite safe, then, to say that the shoes will suit generally broader Asian feet. While they make familiar-looking slip-ons, this is the one that caught my fancy. I guess I am attracted to the unusual vulcanised rubber outsole: they say Zaha Hadid to me.

SGD239, available at Star 360, Wheelock Place

Converse Deck Star ’67 Woven Suede

Converse Deck StarConverse is so associated with the cotton-canvas Chuck Taylor All-Stars that I find it strange holding a pair of rather premium looking woven suede slip-on from the brand in my hand. But shoes don’t perch on palms, so I slip them on. The moulded sock liner does its job beautifully: they’re supremely comfortable.

SGD279, available at Star 360, Wheelock Place

Disney X Master of Arts Mickey Portrait MD 07

Master of Arts X DisneyAlthough this is part of the fall 2015 collection, it is still a warm-weather shoe, made more adorable with Mickey’s countenance blown up large over both sides of the leather upper. This Florentine brand is known for their extreme patterns and vivid colour palette, but it’s with Disney’s most loved mouse that they have brought their leather slip-ons down closer to earth.

SGD259, available at Robinsons at the Hereen

Y-3 Laver

Y3 slip-onYohji Yamamoto’s partnership with Adidas is never about the straightforward. Even with a shoe as basic as the slip-on sneaker, Y-3 offers one of the rare few that looks technically advanced. The mesh accent is a nice contrast if the neon, computer-generated graphic is not enough. The perforation on the rear of the outsole reminds me of another architect: Tadao Ando.

SGD469, available at Y-3, Mandarin Gallery

Bottega Veneta Blue Cotton Denim

Bottega Veneta slip-onWhile Bottega Veneta’s slip-on may look the plainest among those featured here, they are appealing because they’re made of a cotton that will never lose its appeal: denim. Here, the denim is rather raw, cut as a one-piece upper, and luxuriously finished on the top edges with leather piping. Those who must have Bottega Veneta’s signature intrecciato woven leather will be glad to know that it appears as an inset within a four-leaf clover shape, located at the centre of the heel counter.

SGD800, available at Bottega Veneta boutiques

Gucci Tian Slip-On Sneaker

Gucci sneakersJust as you thought the double-G logo-ed Gucci canvas is a distant memory, Alessandro Michele has revived it. The recognisable fabric is, however, not plain as the unadorned original. Here, used on its ‘Tian’ slip-on, the canvas is painted with Oriental fowl, flora and fauna. I find the designs alluring and imagine Zhang Yimou’s costumer to use them if the director would film the lives of the rich, Chinese bourgeoisie rather than the fashion-deprived proletariat.

SGD800, available for men and women at Gucci, Paragon and The Shoppes at Marina Bay Sands

Prada Ben-Day Dot-Print

Prada slip-onFrom the side profile, Prada’s slip-on has the elegance of a loafer, making it moderately dressier than the casual others. Befitting the brand’s kooky graphics is the print on the calf-leather upper: arrows and bunnies, delineated from Ben-day dots. It smacks of art, rather than street cred, and it’ll be especially meaningful for those who appreciate the legacy of Benjamin Henry Day, Jr, I reckon.

SGD1,070, available at Prada boutiques

Dior ‘Happy’

Dior slip-onsThis comes hot on the heels of last year’s crystal-encrusted “Dior Fusion” (shoe that a 21st century empress dowager, I imagine, would certainly wear!) With a name that suggests high spirits, this season’s slip-on sneaker is truly a joyful shoe to behold. The back half of nappa seems to embrace the front half of dark denim, on which crystals flowers are stitched as if strewn.

SGD1,250 (women’s only), available at Dior boutiques

Christian Louboutin Roller-Boat Flat Toile

Christian Louboutin Roller-BoatIf someone took a bunch of iced gems—those biscuits topped with sugar swirls that we ate when we were kids—and threw them over a pair of Louboutin slip-ons, this is what you’ll get! Instead of the usual silver, gold or black studs that has made Louboutin footwear so incomprehensibly desirable, coloured points in Crayola colours are now enticing those who can’t get enough of all-over micro-hardware on their shoes. And over on-trend Hawaiian print to boot!

SGD1,700, available at Christian Louboutin, Takashimaya S.C.

All product photos of shoes courtesy of the respective brands

Screaming Fridges

In the still of the night, your insomniac grandmother has done the unthinkable: inspired by Christo, she wrapped your precious Smeg refrigerator with her favourite scarf. Now your fridge looks like a proud gypsy posing next to the Poggenpohl kitchen cabinet!

Any granny that does that probably risks getting committed to an institution. It’s, therefore, rather unexpected that Dolce & Gabbana has commissioned these flamboyant refrigerators by Smeg. Since they’re chilled with a designer name, these are not affordable ice boxes, as grandma used to call them, but for the S$45,860 (or USD34,000, the price tag according to GQ) leftover from buying the Amels ‘La Familia’ superyacht at the Singapore Yacht Show, it could be money well spent.

Decadence has always been in close proximity to the work of Dolce & Gabbana. Their colourful, and increasingly so, graphics reflect their sense of exotica Siciliano, a bombast that is very much in sync with the current craze for the unapologetically garish. And what better way for the duo to make a mark at Milan’s annual furniture fair Salone del Mobile than getting a few Sicilian artists to paint a hundred single-door fridges to stand out in a sea of usually quiet elegance.

The kitchen is brobably the last place untouched by painterly pictures usually associated with silk scarves. These refrigerators are a natural follow-up to Versace’s florid bedsheets and cushion covers that have characterised the latter’s interior products. No doubt, the Italians do like to paint paintable surfaces. Just look at their frescoes.

Fashion’s Gilmore Girls Moment


wp-1459273460253.jpgCindy Crawford and Kaia Gerber on the cover of Vogue Paris April 2016. Photo: Vogue Paris

If the latest high-profile pairings in the fashion media are to be believed, individualism is taking a back seat. Stylishness, we’re led to believe, need not be an each-woman-to-herself affair; it can be shared, even within the confines of an 85mm lens. However, it’s not the partaking in a same shot among friends; it’s post-Paris-Hilton-and-Nicole-Ritche-as-photogenic-twosome. The Noughties are clearly over. What’s made visible now is the pairing of parent and child—mothers and daughters especially, the celebration of girl-woman bonding bound by blood. But, we’re not talking about Sophia Petrillo and Dorothy Zbornak.

On the cover of the latest issue of Vogue Paris, Cindy Crawford takes a tight shot with daughter Kaia Gerber, showing that fashion can be shared among family, just like good looks. The smiles—not necessarily common on magazine covers—project a happy family, happy to dispense happiness. Erase the recognisable Didot-esqe Vogue masthead and you may really be looking at a picture photographed for Hello! magazine. The cheerful faces! Cheerfulness that Catherine, the Duchess of Cambridge will appreciate and approve. They’re very O too, of course.

For a fashion magazine based in possibly the most beloved fashion capitol of the world, the Mario Testino-lensed cover of one-time super-model and super-model-in-the-making is surprisingly weak in fashion, puny on trends. It’s the height of the spring season, and the Gerbers are wearing identical, semi-shiny, black, leather jackets by Courrèges, with the visual strength of the Petit Bateau school of styling.

wp-1459273917489.jpgLisa Bonet and Zoe Kravitz in Clavin Klein’s spring/summer 2016 campaign. Photo: Calvin Klein

Fashion for a magazine is, perhaps, no longer the point when you have a famous name gracing the cover. It’s also the same with brand advertising. This season, Lisa Bonet and her daughter Zoe Kravitz appear in a Calvin Klein “Life in the now” ad showing smiley happiness a touch more natural and convincing than the Gerber girls.

Although the photograph (laid out almost as magazine editorial) tries to capture the boho chic perfected by Lisa Bonet as Denise Huxtables (The Crosby Show) in the ’80s—a TV fashion fix that predated what Carrie Bradshaw offered a decade later, it has less to do with the ad’s allure than the recognisability factor of the two dreadlocked women. Unlike Ms Crawford, however, Ms Bonet seems happy to allow her daughter to take centre page. In fact, it appears that she reluctantly allowed herself to be dragged into the photo. Does not looking into the camera lens make celebrity less in your face?

Jerry Hall & Georgia Jagger for H&M

Jerry Hall and Georgia May Jagger in the Christmas 2011 ‘Togetherness’ campaign for H&M. Photo: H&M

Sometimes even when fashion is the point, it just comes out as a bunch of clothes. Ahead of everyone else in the mother/daughter modelling-duo biz was Jerry Hall (now Mrs Murdoch) and Georgia May Jagger in an H&M commercial that ran in the Christmas season of 2011. (Both of them, too, beat team Gerber to the cover of a magazine when they fronted Elle Brazil in 2013.) Once a catwalk favourite in Paris, Ms Hall’s fast fashion appearance in a Chanel-like jacket instantly dated her despite the expected happy smile. It was a showing of ultra-white teeth that seem to say, “I’m glad I have a daughter to give me the reason to be here” while average, bickering mothers and daughters  would ask, “Why can’t we be like them?”

What other mother/daughter pairings do we want to see? Yasmin Le Bon and Amber? Carine Roitfeld and Julia? Pat Cleveland and Anna? Chloe Sevigny and Jane? Or, gasp, Kim Kardashian and North? The last two, maybe in another ten years. Hopefully by then, fashion matters.

Double The Bridge

RB 4256

At a glance, this pair of shades looks a tad like Persol’s ‘Reflex Edition’, advanced to appeal to a new generation of consumers who have a weakness for retro eyewear. They are, in fact, a Ray-Ban conception: the RB4256. What caught our eyes is not the vintage look, but the two bridges, a design detail in eyewear that has been ubiquitous in Italy for some time now. This version has a slightly curved upper bridge that works extremely well with the rounder Asian face, and, especially, brows that are not linear or shaped to look like those of Hong Kong actors playing the pugilists of Qing-dynasty China. The gold tint of the hardware, too, gives it a touch of modern luxury.

The double-bridge frame is not new to Ray-Ban as its classic aviators (including the Aviator Light II that we love) sport the two parallel bars above the nose. What makes the RB 4526—a shape inspired the Gatsby series—unique is the vaguely N-shaped lower bridge that recalls 19th-century pinc-nez. As counterpoint to what may be a very classical detail, the lenses of this matte tortoise shell pair are covered by mirror coating of a rather vibrant blue: exactly the shade to draw attention and yet deflect the satisfaction shining through delighted eyes.

Ray-Ban RB4256 blue mirror sunglasses for men and women, SGD235, is available at authorised dealers nationwide. Photo: Jim Sim