(2017) Winter Style 6: A Bomber Re-Imagined

Christian Dada Jinbei Bomber AW 2017

A military-style bomber jacket, also known as a flight jacket, has in recent years been de rigueur, thanks to its omnipresence in the street style choices of pop and Instagram stars, so much so that retailers everywhere are pressured into selling at least one, although likely a totally uninspired version.

When we encountered this bomber jacket, we were enamoured. Regular readers of SOTD realize how much we love hybrid garments and this one by Christian Dada is in top form. The front is especially appealing because of its semblance to traditional Japanese jinbei (甚平) top, essentially a summer garment (that also includes a pair of shorts, which, therefore, is not like the yukata, which is more of a summer kimono), mostly worn at home and, if outside, usually no further than the gate to collect mail or newspaper.

Christian Dada’s take is, without doubt, meant to be worn much further than the front yard. In place of the tradition ribbed collar and zipper closure, the quilted nylon body has a front with the eri (衿or collar) of the jinbei and is fastened by tape of similar fabric as the jacket. The left sleeve sport a utility pocket no different from a standard-issue bomber jacket. It even has the orange (polyester) satin lining that is usually associated with rescue missions. The padded jacket, we were told, is reversible, but we doubt anyone would want to turn out with the bright orange as a front (although, if you do, you’ll be wearing on the upper left chest sans-serif black text that says ‘nirvana’ in English and Japanese).

To be sure, this is not a Japanese flight jackets worn by kamikaze pilots. This is very much the punk/military idea of designer Masanori Morikawa, who is never afraid to mash things up to yield an effect that is aligned with street sensibility. There’s an element of surprise in this too, which is often missing in clothes that mostly serve to bundle their wearers. Sometimes, it really is not that cold, and you don’t have to zip up to the chin.

Christian Dada ‘Jinbei’ bomber jacket, SGD850, is available at Christian Dada, 268 Orchard Road. Product photo: Fake Tokyo. Collage: Just So

(2017) Winter Style 5: The Sock Sneaker

Buddy sock sneaker

The whole sock sneaker trend does not seem to be abating, not when Balenciaga’s monkish Speed Trainer, already a year-old, is still very much the one to cop, at least according to a survey by e-retailer Lyst in partnership with Business of Fashion. The knit upper on a sneaker mid-sole is, of course, not new since Nike created the Flyknit and preceded most (dare we say all?!) with their Sock Dart and Sock Racer. On the high fashion front, Chanel took it a notch higher, literally, by affixing socks on heels some three years back.

Amid so many sock sneakers available this season, from Adidas’s Crazy Explosive to Zara’s Stretch Fabric High Top, we’re partial to this pair from the Japanese shoe (and bag) brand Buddy for one obvious reason: they really appear like a pair of socks (that you might buy for the Christmas season) sitting atop old-school rubber mid-soles. Once you slip into them, the palpable comfort aside, they stare back at you as socked feet in Converse Chucks with invisible uppers!

We are not certain if these sweater-knit-like sneakers will be warm enough for severe winter weather (they are definitely not water repellent for snow or rain), but they are truly an easy-to-put-on sneaker, with a welcome snug too. And they sure are much more fun and attention grabbing than a pair of severe black boots. Be warned: your foot, however, won’t survive the inattentive, heavy-footed commuter in a crowded subway train.

Founded in 2012, Buddy makes rather classic looking sneakers with supremely good materials and includes details such as zips for their lace-ups (in case you prefer the easier way to get out of your shoes). So admirably well made are their shoes that Dover Street Market Ginza offered an exclusive Mary Jane, early this month, called the “English Pointer” that quickly sold out within weeks of its release. What’s truly special about Buddy is the refinement in which every pair of of their shoes is infused with. These are reliable sneakers for every day, year in, year out.

Buddy knit sock sneaker, SGD199, is available at Robinsons The Hereen. Photo: Zhao Xiangji

(2017) Winters Style 4: The Bib-Hoodie

COS padded hood AW 2017

Jackets and coats with a hoodie are, for many, winter staples, but they may look a smidgen too street. But sometimes, a hoodie is useful, such as during times of inclement weather or when you need to be really bundled up to feel warm. What if you can add a hoodie to any outer you already own without actually buying one that comes attached?

When we first spotted this at the COS store in ION orchard, a sales assistant helpfully told us that this is a “fake hoodie”. Quite amused by the on-trend description, we wanted to see how forged it was. In essence, this “padded hood”, as COS officially calls it, is a hooded, zip-up bib, so compactable that it’s really a very handy extra to carry in even a handbag.

The sleeveless top comes cropped—ending slightly below the bustline—which, to us, makes it more fetching than a vest. It, too, allows for much more interesting layering since you can play with different lengths as counterpoint to a heavy and possibly ponderous overcoat.

The same assistant also told us that a man’s version is available as well—reason to look like a romantic twosome! When we asked if the “fake hoodie” is filled with down, the reply was simple: “polyester”. Were we expecting too much?

COS ‘Padded Hood’, SGD115, is available at COS stores. Product photo: COS. Collage Just So

They Say M Is Marvelous

Skincare | What has been touted as the first “true anti-ageing serum” by a Singapore-grown beauty brand isn’t mere talk. There’s magic in the M+


Jyunka M+ Fluid

If you are a regular duty-free shopper up in the sky with Singapore Airlines, and the KrisShop magazine is your preferred source of reading material and retail therapy, you may remember seeing in the Beauty Hall pages a Japanese-sounding name that offers a potion simply called Jyunka M+ Fluid. In the accompanying caption, KrisShop raved that “many call this the Rolls-Royce of vitamin C treatments”. A possibly Nippon-born name with suggestion of English automobile engineering is intriguing enough until you learn that Jyunka, although a Japanese word (純華or kanji for ‘pure essence’), is, in fact, a Singaporean brand.

What’s also remarkable is that Jyunka products sell in the region of three figures, and sits mere pages away from skincare heavyweights such as Estée Lauder’s Night Repair and SKII’s Facial Treatment Essence. Yet, Jyunka M+ Fluid is able to hold its own, seemingly unperturbed by the presence of the prominent; its handsome little bottle hinting at efficacy and radiating luxury.

The M+ Fluid is Jyunka’s star product and the first in a line of science-based skincare that parent company Laponie, distributor of European heritage and salon brands such as Maria Galland and Filorga, has been developing in the past ten years. M+ Fluid’s debut back in 2007, while relatively quiet, left a deep impression in the business of beauty simply because no one had thought it was possible to capture what it did in a bottle. The selling, too, of the formula under a local brand name by a company—36 years old to date—mainly known as a distributor of skincare brands was considered chancy.

Jennifer LengFounder of Jyunka Jennifer Leng

Unlike discoveries of miracle liquids in Japan involving accidental findings in paddy fields, the story of the 10-year-old M+ Fluid and the founding of Jyunka are a lot more prosaic. As the corporate telling goes, founder Jennifer Leng has been on a quest for the ultimate skin-soothing and strengthening formula for her hyper-sensitive and oily skin. Ms Leng’s work brings her into contact with scientists working on the most cutting-edge of research, and one of them is a Japanese individual who had been developing a stable form of vitamin C that, when applied, can reach the basal layers of the skin via an advanced delivery system.

Scientists and dermatologists know that vitamin C is beneficial to the skin, but it is notoriously difficult to stabilise and transport into the deeper layers below the dermis where it can do its regenerative and anti-aging work. Getting deep enough is like going to the centre of the earth: it’s simply hard to make the trek. The Japanese scientist, who is presumably a trade secret and hence remains unnamed, was able to encapsulate l-ascorbic acid, considered to be a superior form of vitamin C, using QuSomes, trade name for a form of liposome that are like a spherical layered cake (kueh lapis?), consisting concentric films of the lipophilic (oil-soluble) and the hydrophilic (water-soluble) active ingredients.  Without getting more scientific, this means nano-sized particles that are supposed to be able to reach further and faster down the skin to make a visible difference on the surface.

The ability to send l-ascorbic acid unadulterated to where it is needed most in the skin led to the formulation of the precursor of M+ Fluid, the Multi-Action Miracle Fluid. So thrilled was Ms Leng with her new product and so unwavering in her trust in its efficacy that she had a small batch produced in Japan—enough to yield 300 7-milliltre bottles. Although commercial packaging was not ready, Ms leng was not willing to hold back the Multi-Action Miracle Fluid and, according to her son Keefe Chie, who joined the family business to expand Jyunka’s reach, availed it in small tinted pharmaceutical bottles, all affixed, by hand, with a hastily printed label. This was sold at S$80 a pop, and it would not be unreasonable to compare the sell-out to hot cakes. “My mom started in this business because she has sensitive skin,” Mr Chie said. “She’s allergic to dust and so she’s always looking for only the best products to use and sell. Junkya is a commitment to that.”

Jyunka M+ Fluid 1st Gen to presentEvolution of Jyunka M+ Fluid

Ten years, three packaging revisions, and one name change later, the formula that Ms Leng brought back from Japan in 2007 to launch Jyunka has not received upgrades that characterise, for example, the tech world: M+ Fluid remains exactly the same colourless and odourless potion that first appeared in those tiny, brown, black-screw-capped bottles. Now a ‘secret’ of aficionados and a fave of (gasp) beauty-bloggers, M+ Fluid is hailed as a Singaporean beauty breakthrough, even if it was conceived in Japan and is now produced in France (Japan became less ideal after the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster of 2011). Jyunka remains on the firmament of premium skincare lines despite the entrance of newer-comers such as Skin Inc and Dr GL.

What works in M+ Fluid’s favour is its total ease of use. If the texture of any skin treatment determines how it can convince adopters that there is indeed pleasure of use, M+ Fluid wins hands-down with its easy-to-like viscosity and lightness. Once the recommended five to six drops of the clear fluid touch the palm, they feel like oil, but when spread over the face, it has the weightlessness and the lack-of tackiness of water. The absorption of M+ Fluid into the skin is rapid and, surprisingly perhaps, the skin is matte. When a moisturizer is layered over it, the skin remains shine-free. The discernible result, even from first use, is truly rather remarkable, if not describable. After two weeks, the skin appears finer and brighter.

Ms Leng said, via a media release, that “ageing skin is a key concern that everyone faces, and our products are designed to not just heal and restore, but also to prevent and protect from deep within the skin.” While that may be read as PR persuasion, a visit to the newly opened Jyunka Concept Centre—retail space and face spa—in Pacific Plaza could illustrate that Ms Leng wasn’t merely talking. Former model Nora Tien and now Jyunka’s Business Development Manager, who was there when we visited, showed us two photographs on her smartphone. One was of her before she joined the brand and the other a couple of months after she accepted the post. “This is real,” she emphasised, “The ‘after’ is really what I look like now. I never thought this could be possible: believe it.”

Jyunka M+ Fluid, SGD344, is available at Jyunka Concept Centre, Pacific Plaza. Photos (main): Jim Sim; (others): Jyunka

West Goes Eastwards? Or Is It The Other Way Round?

American classic courts Nippon innovation: Timberland pairs with Porter. Should the Japanese have budged?Timberland X Porter 2-Way Boston BagBy Ray Zhang

Who proposed first? That is the question, but it’s probably inconsequential to those who consider this a marriage in heaven. To me, the Japanese bag brand Porter is so strong in its designs and its branding that it really requires no collaboration with an American brand to elevate the former’s standing among serious bagaholics. Yet, it is with Timberland that one of Japan’s most recognisable bag brands has chosen to co-output a capsule collection.

However I see it, the pairing is still a little mismatched. Sure, Timberland has attained cool status among those who let their footwear do the talking, and its 6-inch boot is still considered an ‘icon’. But Porter could possibly be on a higher rung of the status ranking, considering that the parent organisation Yoshida & Co (also known in Japan as Yoshida Kaban) are the go-to manufacturer of bags for many of Japan’s high-end labels, from Sacai to White Mountaineering. Outside of Japan, the eagerness by designer brands to collaborate with Porter—from Marni to Christopher Ræburn—has made the bag maker well loved to the level of cultish.

Admittedly, I am a Japanophile and I do have a weakness for Porter bags. Going to the B Jirushi Yoshida store in Tokyo’s Daikanyama—concept space conceived with the retailer Beams—is like a child stepping into Kiddy Land in Harajuku: it’s a bewildering experience and you cannot go against the urge to spend. Everything in there is, to me, worlds apart from and more covetable than anything seen in an LV store. It’s really how Yoshida & Co is able to make Porter totally practical and yet aesthetically appealing. Long-time collaborator Beams has a simple but on-point description: “basic and exciting”.

The Timberland X Porter collaboration yields two styles of bags in two colours (black and olive): The Boston (above) and a knapsack called a ‘daypack’. I was not too impressed with the latter, so I gave the carryall closer inspection instead. Face to face, you can’t mistake the silhouette: it’s a Porter standard seen in such styles as the Black Beauty ‘duffle’ and even the slimmer take in the form of the Master Navy ‘brief case’. To me, the all-time favourite in the Porter cache wasn’t given an imaginative makeover, not even the colour-blocking, already a Porter signature. Yes, I see it: the natural shade on the side and handle is possibly a nod to the Timberland’s “original yellow”, but elsewhere in and outside of the bag, the Porter signatures are too strong to let anything “Timb” stand out: the bright orange lining details and the unmistakable black and white Porter label discreetly stitched to the left-hand (or right, if you’re looking straight at it) bottom corner, but still conspicuous.

I guess, for many, that little rectangle is reason enough to cop one (or both) of the two bags. As for me, I can wait till Tokyo’s energetic streets are again beneath my feet.

The Timberland X Porter capsule collection of bags (SGD529 for the backpack and SGD599 for the Boston)  and 6-inch boots (SGD399) are available at Robinsons The Hereen. Photos: Timberland/Porter

(2017) Winter Style 3: A Soft And Light Mid-Cut


Nike Komyuter

When heading abroad to where temperature dips, travellers are inclined to go for sneakers that can cover the ankles. But rather than hitting icy tracks in something chunky and heavy, why not try kicks that are quite the opposite?

This pair of Nike Komyuter has the profile of a sturdy winter shoe, but comes with less than half the weight of the typical. It helps that Nike has chosen a relatively thick nylon upper and, in place of laces, a canvas strap that are held in place with buckles. These are no ordinary buckles as they clasp securely with the aid of unseen magnets. Unbuckling is, therefore, as easy as buckling up.

The advantage of the nylon upper is not only its light weight, but also its water repellent quality. Seasoned winter holiday makers will know that in the cold, precipitation is to be expected—weather snow or rain. While the Komyuter does not completely seal the wearer’s feet from moisture since it does not hug the ankles, it does repel enough so that stepping on puddles of rainwater or piles of wet snow won’t mean instant soggy socks.

Nike Komyuter close-upAlso known by the abbreviation KMTR, this mid-cut was originally conceived as part of the Swoosh’s not often seen here ACG (All Conditions Gear) line. The sock-like construction and suppleness of the upper had early adopters compare it to the Nike Moc, which, to us, is a lot less handsome than the KMTR. In fact, we kept thinking that the Komyuter is very much a silhouette that Yohji Yamamoto would conceive for his main line.

As soon as the foot goes into the Komyuter, the roominess is at once discernible. The advantage of this that can be added to the list: you can wear thick stocks and your feet won’t feel suffocated in there. But slender footwear lovers beware, these sneakers may look puffier than what you’re used to. While there isn’t the usual fancy cushioning system of Nike kicks such as those of the VaporMax, the Komyuter comes with a foam midsole that provides more than adequate underfoot comfort for those long treks in the countryside.

One more plus: the Komyuter is welcome in the suitcase: collapsible—you can pack it as flat as a pair of ballet pumps, well, nearly. And they are one up against boots, which are, sadly, not airport-friendly footwear. The Komyuter, unlike, say, a Timberland 6”, has such a nondescript profile that chances are, they won’t attract attention for the security staff to ask you to take them off so that the scanner could happily scrutinise them.

Nike Komyuter SE Black/Anthracite, SGD229, is available at Limited Edt, Queensway Shopping Centre. Product photos: Nike. Collage: Just So

(2017) Winter Style 2: The Knit Outer


When picking out an outer for winter, we often think of a heavy coat. One of the most overlooked articles of clothing is the knit outer wear. And one of our favourites is this poncho-like ‘Spider’ cardigan by the Singapore-born label Cavalier.

We first spotted this last year at Kapok when they were a Cavalier stockist, and are surprised to see that it is still available online. Cavalier, now available worldwide from Australia to Russia, is marketed as a line of kids clothing, but they size up so that adults can wear some of their styles, which, surprised us by their playful, child-like shapes that are not the least kiddy. This cardigan, intriguingly called ‘Spider’, falls Jedi-like (how timely!) over the shoulders, which the brand describes as “urban nomadic drapery”.

Cavalier was launched by designer Angela Chong and her husband/business partner Perry Lam in 2014. Both were heavyweights in the advertising business, but had chosen to leave the industry to “design for a brave and brazen freedom of expression.” This means clothes, even—or especially—for children, that defy the convention that they have to be made with a specific set of rules.

Cavalier Macaw Flight Top

Ms Chong’s approach has hitherto mostly been about play: the slubby ‘Macaw’ flight top (above), for example, is a French terry pullover made good-humoured by ‘wings’ of multi-layered-and-coloured tulle. The almost-2-D graphic approach is reminiscent of a child’s colouring book. Similarly, another version with the more boyish name of Condor has the wings formed with scallop-edged panels of grey tones, arranged for an ombré effect.

As for the Spider cardigan, the roominess and the flattering drape are totally in keeping with the penchant for tented shapes and subtle Orientalism that really wouldn’t be out of place on the set of Dr Strange. The texture and the monochrome of the cotton/wool/acrylic knit, too, are in keeping with a certain grown-up aesthetic that wouldn’t deny the wearer audience with the Ancient One.

It is perhaps odd that while the pre-spring 2018 collections are dropping in stores around the city, we’re recommending something from last year. The thing about winter wear is that an overtly trendy garment may mean you would not return to it the next time weather for layering beckons.

Cavalier is available at Threadbare and Squirrel. The ‘Spider’ cardigan, now SGD73.88 (original price: SGD147.77) and the ‘Macaw’ and ‘Condor’ flight tops, both SGD116.30, are available at cavaliervault.com. Product photos: Cavalier. Collages: Just So

There’s Always An Occasion For Pink Kicks

Pink sneaks

By Shu Xie

Pantone may have announced that the colour of 2018 is “Ultra Violet”, or what the colour matching company calls “a dramatically provocative and thoughtful purple shade”, but, as I see it, many brands and their followers are not quite ready to walk away from Millennial Pink, even if its sweet reign is nearly over. So prevalent is pink that even the tough-looking Adidas NMD now comes in a dusty rose pink (the R1 STLT), and even the usually sophisticated-to-a-fault Pedder on Scotts is offering an unmistakably pink ‘Wink’ lollipop for every purchase during this festive seaaon. Die-hards are no doubt delighted that pink is both wearable and ingestible.

Truth be told, despite its alleged popularity, I am not even sure what exact shade of pink Millennial Pink is, and describing it as Tumblr Pink, as the media have, is not quite the same as particularising a green as bile. But, I figured it isn’t the shiest of blushes, not the boldest of fuchsias—it’s probably somewhere in between, such as the pink of these two, clearly sweet, sneakers (pictured above) from Superga and Common Projects.

And it’s probably this sweetness that draws women of all ages to them. Inexplicably, all-pink sneakers—midsoles not spared—remind me of all-white shoes in school compounds and nurses’ stations: they’re the stuff and symbols of institutions; the monotone a badge of uniformity. Pink, this Millennial version, despite its Tumblr association (and Pinterest-readiness) is neither intense silence nor insufferable din, and has the call of bracing but not rousing morning breeze.

Superga’s all-over pink 2750, despite its on-trend colour and a “luxe” leather upper, has not quite shed its school-girlish patina nor its schoolyard destiny. Common Project Achilles Low, on the other hand, projects a more grown-up veneer, with its clean cut and caressable cowhide totally un-cute. Like I said, there’s a pink sneaker for every woman, young or old, young-old or old-young.

Superga 2750 Leather Nude, SGD169.90, is available at Superga stores. Common Projects Original Achilles Low, SGD615 is available at Kapok. Photos: Superga and Common Projects respectively

(2017) Winter Style 1: Couture Shape For The Cold

The brrrr-weather travel season is upon us. Here, our annual pick of what we truly like…


Rick Owens coat

The puffer jacket is such a popular item these days—thanks to brands from each end of the price scale, Vetements and Uniqlo, and all those between—that the first thing many women pack into their suitcase is an insulated jacket  from the likes of The North Face. But a padded outer need not look like one destined for Mount Everest or the farthest reaches of Greenland. It can look like a stylish coat ready for an après-ski party or a night at the theatre.

This thigh-length coat by Rick Owens is one of those rare pieces that easily encourages love at first sight. The major pull here, for us, is how un-sportif it looks. There’s a clear nod to the ’60s—the round collar and the rounded shoulders, but there’s also an embrace of Orientalism: the wide cuffs of the sleeves that are reminiscent of those of the hanfu, and the origami folds that make the lower-half of the bracelet sleeves look like panniers for wrists!

What makes this coat even more interesting and decidedly modern is the use of the two fabrics. There’s the matte of the wool-blend gabardine of the upper body and the semi-shine of the nylon shell of the lower half. Together, they’re finishes that could mimic dusk and night, giving this coat a dressy edge, all the more welcome in the present era of perpetual casual dress. To be sure, this is part of Rick Owen’s pre-fall 2017 collection, which means it isn’t that new. But for winter, we tend to buy investment pieces, and this is one coat that is ready for the cold, for many winters to come.

Rick Owens wool-blend gabardine and nylon coat, SGD2,760, is available at Club 21. Photo: Farfetch. Collage: Just So

Let The Support Win

Two weeks ago, Textile and Fashion Federation Singapore presented the annual Singapore Fashion Awards. Despite news preceding the event that speculated on the Awards’ uncertain future, as well as the unexpected downgrade of the presentation to a “tea gala”, many attendees and industry stalwarts concurred: the show must go on


SFA 2017 P1The SFA presentation at the W Hotel, Sentosa Cove

It is heartening that Singapore Fashion Awards (SFA) isn’t leaving the stage. Two months before the sophomore presentation of the come-back SFA, rumours were afloat that organiser Textile and Fashion Federation (TAFF) Singapore may put SFA on a hiatus next year. Among designers and brand owners, this was disappointing news, especially when it was earlier reported that Singapore Fashion Week will likely be no more in 2018—one platform less, not that there are numerous to begin with, on which to trump home-grown fashion.

The initial talk was that TAFF was facing budgetary constraints in staging an increasingly expensive SFA. That this year’s event had to be put in the less glamorous, working-hour time slot of tea (inexplicably termed “gala”) in a place that’s far from the maddening crowd—the W Hotel in the hard-to-get-to Sentosa Cove—was suggestion that TAFF had too tight a purse string to pay for the venue and catering expense, and had to depend on whichever establishment willing to be the sponsor, putting them in a beggars-can’t-be-choosers position.

The sustainability of budding-again SFA was also called to question as the selection committee had a hard time coming up with names in the fashion categories that were not the usual suspects, or last year’s nominees, or winners. The names that were eventually shortlisted were so unexceptional that some of the judges felt this year’s SFA would be severely uninspired. It was heard that at the last minute, two labels were brought to the table and had delighted the judges so much that things started to look up. Nuboaix and Ametsubi were suggested for the Designer of the Year (Fashion) and Emerging Designer of the Year (Fashion) categories respectively to the surprise of many as the co-designers of both labels were unknowns. The two nominations, too, surprised the respective designers as none of them had considered themselves to be part of a fashion circle framed by individuals of cultivated visibility.

SFA 2017 P2The always in-control Yasminne Cheng holding the show together

It is now said that SFA will be presented next year and, thereafter, many more years to come. This was encouraging and uplifting news to not only the fashion community, but also to those who think design awards are instrumental in the raising of industry-wide standards and the visibility of the work Singaporean fashion designers do. The limit in budget is understandable and may be improved by better fund-raising programs or by welcoming a title sponsor. The lack of credible names, unfortunately, is very real, and may not necessarily improve in the years to come.

Should TAFF then field those already nominated before, or have been awarded already? There seems to be the thought that each year, SFA should witness a new set of names and labels. The reality is that, despite new entrants in fashion retail yearly, there is still a very small pool of designers that TAFF can turn to. Except for the Emerging Designer category, which, by definition, is to honour the new, all other categories do not have to shy away from those previously considered for the SFA. As one marketing consultant said after the presentation, “Does Meryl Streep not qualify for the following year’s Academy Awards if she is nominated for the current year?”

SFA 2017 P3Designers Keita Ebihara and Elizabeth Soon of Ametsubi holding a pose with their Emerging Designer of the Year (Fashion) award

Fashion needs a certain cycle, as it needs selling seasons. It also requires something that practitioners can look forward to. That TAFF was willing to resurrect the once thought to be forever departed Singapore Fashion Awards points to the Federation’s understanding of the value of an annual salute to those who have put their very creative best into their work. Fashion folks like the proverbial pat on the back regardless of how independent, how strong, how unaffected by the opinions of others they are. And nothing is more assuring than accolades from one’s peers and recognition from industry notables. A fashion award such as SFA may prompt designers to work harder, to embrace innovation more fervently, and to adopt originality more passionately. They may aim higher too, since winning once does not mean win no more.

The Singapore Fashion Awards should, therefore, be prized as support, as much as encouragement to designers steering their brand in an industry characteristically faced with unabated challenges. Many designers, even after passing the industry-standard five-year mark that makes them no longer ‘emerging’, continue to manage their brands like fledgling businesses, with profitability a constant inconstancy, so much so that some of them have to supplement their brand’s income by taking on an extra job, often—the heart-wrenching truth—employment that has nothing to do with the perceived allure of fashion. SFA recognition may, thus, make the hardships easier to bear, allowing designers to continue to struggle, as artists do, for their craft, rather than the glamour.

Support for young, up-coming designers is especially important. There is a general lament that our island nation is utterly lacking in talents that can be nutured to fly the Singapore flag. It is also a reality that many budding designers, however gifted and prolific, are not able to propel themselves to a bigger audience without a more established organisation such as TAFF to act as some kind of launch pad. Private sector and government initiatives, thus, often allow greenhorns to see and learn more, and may expose them to markets not previously thought reachable. Case in point: This past Thursday, Singapore saw for the first time ‘Finland’s Fashion Frontier’, a fashion show featuring five of Helsinki’s best fashion design graduates that was organised by Helsinki New, a private enterprise that pairs Finnish designers and brands with the international marketplace, in collaboration with Aalto University and Helsinki Marketing, a company backed by the city itself. Sure, we’d probably not see these designers’ work for a while to come, but the satisfaction from witnessing talents in action from the Nordic land is immeasurable. It is not improbable that some day we may wear some of these names on our back.

SFA 2017 P4State Property’s Lin Ruiyin and Afzal Imran with their Emerging Designer of the Year (Accessories) award

But our young designers can only dream of support that has such far-reaching consequence. Sure, TAFF has, for many brands, acted as link to overseas markets though consultations and trade missions abroad, even if the trips have not enjoyed the visibility of those co-organised with the then Trade Development Board in the ’80s, of which those particular excursions that launched the careers of “The Magnificent Seven”—among them Tan Yoong, Thomas Wee, and Bobby Chng—are still talked about today. But can the Federation alone offer consequential reach with their woefully inadequate resources without members of the media, for one, helping to bolster the small efforts put together to give those designers a leg up?

Shortly after the SFA presentation, The Straits Times ran a report of the event on their online edition that curiously omitted the names of the co-winners of the Emerging Designer of the Year (Fashion). An update published a few hours later did not correct the irregularity; neither the follow-up the next day—save a mention in the caption that accompanied the main picture—or the version that appeared in the print edition two days later. It was not, curiously, an omission particular to ST. Other online reports, including those by the members of the Chinese media, published similar exclusion. This collective blank-out (in some cases, one-half of the duo was mentioned) prompted the whisper of conspiracy theories, including one that suggested that TAFF had wanted to play down the fact that the winning brand Ametsubi’s design studio is based in Japan, never mind that they’re a Singapore-registered company and label.

Carolyn KanCarolyn Kan of Carrie K won big this year, with three awards: Best Collaboration of the Year, Champion for Creatives and Designers, and Bespoke 

This was an odd development. It is not likely that TAFF would sanction such a reporting anomaly. Surely they would have ascertained all selected brands’ country of origin. As one creative director rightly pointed out, “In this connected world, where many of us do business from all corners of the globe, does it matter where the design studio is based? A designer can design in the middle of the Indian Ocean if he or she, or they wanted to.” Or, could the non-acknowledgement be the result of appeasing disgruntled nominees claiming unfair competition, as some attendees had later inferred? Even to that, it is possible that TAFF had anticipated such an unseemly expression of displeasure and planned a course of action to deal with it.

It is, therefore, possible, after a process of elimination, that the names of the winners of the Emerging Designer of the Year (Fashion)—Elizabeth Soon and Keita Ebihara—were excluded because these are monikers that do not arouse the interest of the respective editors, or will not ring even the lightest bell among the titles’ readers. If the suppositions are true, then some members of the media may be well served to be reminded that the biggest winner of this year’s SFA, Carolyn Kan, was a fashion nobody when she started Carrie K, even when she had made a name for herself in the advertising industry. The same can be said of the winner of Designer of the Year (Fashion), Dzojchen’s Chelsea Scott-Blackhall, who, by her admission, has been spending a lot of time in New York, presumably to design, and Vietnam, where she had acquired a factory to produce her collection. To not talk about those with a dream and the talent to make it big, even if that will happen in the distant future, is to deny them the hope with which many project their prospects.

Marilyn TanMarilyn Tan receiving the Designer of the Year (Accessories) award from Carolyn Kan

In tandem with the honours that they bestow, Singapore Fashion Awards should be produced to be worthy of Event of the Year. A “tea gala” in the resort hotel W on Sentosa is hardly the premise of something that would grab the attention of the industry or imbue the Awards with the prestige that would make a momentous difference to the honorees. While this year’s presentation enjoyed a significant improvement from last year’s, which was staged in the ill-suited space of the Supreme Court Terrace of the National Gallery, it could have been better appreciated and, indeed, attended if it had been held at a more accessible location. Nobody, it can be certain, expects the equivalent of the Royal Albert Hall, where the British version of the SFA, The Fashion Awards, also a sophomore outing, was held this past Monday. Nobody is going to pretend that the choice of the W, no doubt a lovely hotel, is an artistic decision.

In fact, SFA does not have to be a splashy event in a plush setting. As an industry occasion, it can be a little more intimate, with the atmosphere of a family gathering that generates a sense of belonging for all. It could, for instance, be staged at the main atrium of the National Design Centre, a fitting location for an event that celebrates design. The best fashion often takes inspiration from previously unthought-of places, and tells stories yet narrated. TAFF may put SFA in better standing by trekking that path.

Chelsea Scott BlackhallChelsea Scott-Blackhall receiving the Designer of the Year (Fashion) Award from guest-of-honour, Senior Minister of State, Ministry of Culture, Community and Youth and Ministry of Trade and Industry, Sim Ann

If more boxes are to be ticked, it should also include calling out those nominees and winners who have opted to give SFA a noticeable miss. Support for the fashion industry does not come from only those watching or cheering from the sides or below the stage. It ought to also come from those who have the talent and the good fortune to be nominated. Even if you are not the winner, it is always an appreciable act of grace to be present to applaud those who walk away with a trophy. The high number of no-shows of those whose names were announced and flashed on screen, therefore, left a somewhat unpleasant aftertaste at the end of the presentation, not because of the indifference suggested by those individuals’ absence, but because of their plain rudeness.

Among the winners of the Marketing Awards—Most Popular Brands and Best Marketing, only Trixie Khong of By Invite Only and Rebecca Ting of Beyond the Vines attended and went on stage to collect their trophy. No one from Love, Bonito was present; no one from Benjamin Barker showed up to collect the Best Marketing award. It was a now-show, too, for Contributor Awards winners—the Fashion Hairstylist of the Year, Fashion Make-Up (Artist) of the Year, Fashion Photographer of the Year. Jeremy Tan, who won Fashion Stylist of the Year, had at least sent a friend to collect the trophy on his behalf.

For as long as you’re a nominee, attendance is expected. To not be able to meet that expectation would be akin to letting your brand skip a fashion season. Buyers may overlook the professional mis-step, but consumers may think your playing hooky is ignoring the fact that they’re watching you. Bye for now may not beget hello tomorrow.

Singapore Fashion Award 2017: Full List of Winners

Emerging Designer of The Year (Fashion): Elizabeth Soon and Keita Ebihara for Ametsubi

Emerging Designer of the Year (Accessories): Lin Ruiyin and Afzal Imram of State Property

Top Three Most Popular Brands: Love, Bonito; By Invite Only; Beyond the Vines

Best Marketing: Benjamin Barker

Best Collaboration of the Year: Carrie K X Disney

Honorary Award: Tan Yoong

Bespoke Award: Carolyn Kan of Carrie K

Fashion Hairstylist of the Year: Marc Teng

Fashion Make-Up (Artist) of the Year: Elain Lim

Fashion Photographer of the Year: Stefan Khoo

Fashion Stylist of the Year: Jeremy Tan

Designer of the Year (Accessories): Marilyn Tan of Marilyn Tan Jewellery

Designer of the Year (Fashion): Chelsea Scott-Blackhall of Dzojchen

Photos: Chin Boh Kay and Zhao Xiangji

Fashion From Her Makeup Bag

Veteran makeup artist Pat McGrath has gone from painting faces to designing clothes. Does a flair for pretty pigments mean a talent with paper patterns?

Pat McGrath Labs AW 2017

By Mao Shan Wang

I know there are many people in the creative field who turn to fashion design to express themselves and to make money, but I have yet heard of a makeup artist who takes that route. Sure, there are those who try their hand at retailing clothes, such as Yuan Sng, celebrity makeup artist and one of the partners behind the charming pop-up for K-pop fashion, StyleLoft 3. But a makeup-artist-turn-designer is as rare as permanent lipstick.

Pat McGrath, I presume, likes the appeal of this rarity. In the fashion world, she’s a brilliant, creative, sort-after makeup artist, but she’s not the only one. Her fashion venture may, thus, place her in the firmament of the uncommon. Unfortunately, I can’t say the same about her debut ‘Apparel 001’ collection, launched on the multi-channel platform known as Pat McGrath Labs—according to her website, “a playground… to introduce divinely disruptive discoveries”. And how many labs does she have or need? Even Nikelab has only one!

I suppose there could be two: one for makeup and one for apparel. Ms McGrath has already achieved “cult status”—as the media describe it—with her own makeup line, launched in 2015. But her fashion collection does not look like it is going to disrupt the business the way her cosmetics supposedly had. At launch, her first item, Gold 001 Pigment, impressed both pro and novice users alike. An intensely-hued dust that would be more the stuff of Halloween than even the CFDA Awards nights, Gold 001 Pigment can be used for the eye or for sprinkling moon dust on the face and casting starlight on body, or, when blended with an attendant Mehron Mixing Liquid (Mehron is the go-to stage makeup brand favoured by companies such as Cique du Soliel), can give eyes, lips, and nose (according to the Pat McGrath video demo) the gold of gold leaf, so realistic that only when standing next to a Thai Buddha statue will the wearer look like she has applied, well, makeup.

Pat McGrath

In comparison, the 8-piece ‘Apparel 001’ is somewhat underwhelming. However her people may wish to spin it, this is plainly atheleisure in the vein of Alexander Wang’s dalliances with Adidas. Or, the articles of clothing any skate fan desirous of his own fashion line would put out: T-shirts, hoodie, and bomber jacket. So much for variety, or even new category of clothing. The text running down the sleeves of the long-sleeved T-shirts, even with some in Japanese fonts, offers little to ponder over. Neither is there a colour range to talk about since everything, save one white tee, is in black. Seriously, these could be tops supplied by Fruits of the Loom, supported by a good metallic embossing facility.

Sure, the main motif of a golden eye, described to be Egyptian, and could pass of as a wing with an eye, is striking, in the way the logo of Red Wing Shoes is. If marketed well, Ms McGrath’s dramatic eye-logo, already proven to be more than one-dimensional as she has demonstrated its applicability on real peepers, could be the next totally desirable seven-letters-in-a-red-rectangle Supreme trade mark. But to get there, Ms McGrath has to work on the merchandise—for now, appearing unisex. What I see is this: they’re either fashion-y merchandise from the gift shop of a Cairo Museum, or concert merch of a performance (Ms McGrath no doubt excels) that Kanye West is simply better at. Either way, there’s no place, as yet, in my wardrobe for ‘Apparel 001’. And, to be sure, I am no Pat McGrath groupie.

Pat McGrath Labs ‘Apparel 001’ launches in Dover Street Market New York this Thursday. A spontaneous check with a staff member of the DSM here turned up “What’s that? We don’t know”. Admittedly, I should not have asked. The choice of DSM as launch pad is interesting: products sold here are often indication that they’re endorsed by arguably one of the most successful brick and mortar retailers in the world, and may reach a better audience that matters. For those who must cop the line (prices from USD60), click Pat McGrath’s website, and, as printed on the clothing, “Use Without Caution”.

Photos: Pat McGrath Labs

Knit For The Chuck

Nike’s Flyknit uppers debuted with the Flyknit Racer in 2012. Five years down the road, not only has the knit-tech appeared on many Nike styles, it’s now also graced the Converse kick that the young can’t seem to get enough of: the Chuck Taylor All Star


Converse Chuck Taylor All Stars Flyknit

By Shu Xie

It’s really a matter of time. Besides, a good thing should be shared, right? That, I believe, was what Nike was doing when it availed the Flyknit upper to its sibling brand Converse. First released in April this year in the high-cut version of the Chuck Taylor All Star (in six colours, no less!), the newest iteration is a veritably sleek pair of kicks than can go further than after-school use.

Seriously, when I finally saw these shoes, I was not thinking of pinafores, or white socks, but a pair of Calvin Klein pants that are sharply shaped by Raf Simons. I’d wear these Flyknit-topped Chucks in place of those Western-style boots proposed by the house that Mr Simons now heads. In all honesty, Converse sneakers are not exactly my go-to footwear, as they look too much like plimsolls, those cotton canvas lace-ups that remind me of the always-soiled pair a secondary school classmate of mine used to wear. I do, however, like this handsome Converse in the knit that has brought Nike legions of followers and imitators.

If you look back at the past five years of the Flyknit’s high-profile existence, the Swoosh masters of new materials have been so successful with applying the Flyknit, that, unless you follow the fabric’s journey as closely as those who trail Kendal Jenner’s every move, you may not be aware that many of Nike’s classic silhouettes, from Air Force 1 to Kobe 9, come in versions with this knit upper. To me, not every one of those shoes work. Some of Nike’s popular styles, such as the Airmax 90, become bereft of the sneaker’s original bulk when fashioned with the Flyknit. Some sneakers should not lose weight.

Converse Chuck Taylor All Stars Flyknit side view

In the case of the Converse Chuck Taylor All Star—conceived in 1917, the shoe pairs beautifully with the Flyknit since they have always been rather aerodynamic in shape. And the Chuck—not a hunk, even when it is originally a baseball shoe—has frequently appeared in fabrics other than cotton canvas. And most, like the Flyknit, take nothing away from the slender silhouette, which attracts those who prefer their sneakers to be canoes rather than catamarans.

To make sure that no one doubts the origin of Flyknit, Nike has, in major kiasu fashion, dubbed this as the Converse Chuck Taylor All Star X Nike Flyknit Low Top. Not sure if the co-branding is necessary since we already know Converse is a division of Nike. Apart from the Flyknit, something else that can be traced to Nike technology is also used: the unmistakable Lunarlon cushioning—here, it is comes in the form of removable in-soles. Both come together to yield a very light Chuck Taylor All Star.

Adding to these two to make the Chuck look less its original form is the Flyknit toe cap which takes the place of the Chuck’s usual rubber version. It’s fused with TPU (thermoplastic polyurethane that interestingly renders the toe cap a darker shade) for a tougher front so that your toes can live to tell that you’ve kicked someone in the butt.

Converse Chuck Taylor All Star Flyknit Low Cut, SGD159.90, is available at Converse standalone stores. Photo: Converse