Open Sesame: Inside The House Of Bijan

Bijan P1The interior of the Bijan store in Rodeo Drive, Beverly Hills

By Zul Rahman

I must say, Malaysians have a sense of humour. When it was recently revealed that among Rosmah Mansor’s stash of Birkins were Bijans, they wondered if Bijan is the disgraced former PM’s own luxury brand, since the name is Najib spelled ke belakang. Such clever anagram busters they are too! But the accidental semordnilap (word which makes sense when read backwards, but has a different meaning when read forward) aside, Malaysians, it seems, have forgotten that bijan in Malay means sesame seed!

Sorry to be such a wet blanket, spoiling the awe (or disdain, depending on who you ask) our northern neighbours hold for the ex-chairman of 1MDB’s and his wife’s luxury possessions with one of the oldest-known oil-seed crop. I am sure Ms Mansor wouldn’t be too pleased that I have compared her expensive handbags with bijan, but since her husband was fond of weighing in on the country’s economic woes with the falling prices of kang kong, perhaps she can appreciate that I have picked a dearer cultivar.

The handbag cache that Ms Mansor horded comprises so numerous a tas tangan that they were, according to Malaysia’s Federal Commercial Crime Investigation Department (CCID), time-consuming to count, just like a bag of bijan. Reports in the local media cited some rather staggering CCID figures: from six residences (12 locations, according to some reports), 567 handbags—with the combined value of RM51.3 million—were seized during the operasi, and 37 luxury brands were identified. It is interesting that the Bijan bags were highlighted instead of the Birkins. Apparently, journalists at the news conference even had to ask how the brand is spelled (as in the benih, I imagine the authorities replying). I say the Malaysian authorities do have a nose for news.

Bijan handbagThe Bijan handbag thought to be in the possession of Rosmah Mansor

When I first read this in The Star (the paper that also reported Bijan was “Wednesday’s top search on Google Malaysia”), the first thing that came to my mind was perfume. To be exact, a particular fragrance housed in a doughnut-shape bottle with a loop on top that looks like a ring grip of a baby’s soother. Bijan the perfume was, in the mid-’80s, very much on trend; it was a particularly heady scent (they were mostly strong-smelling in that decade—remember Yves Saint Laurent’s Opium or Christian Dior’s Poison?). The advertising, I recall, always featured owner Bijan Pakzad himself, in a sweatshirt bearing his first name, in a surprisingly unabashed, somewhat tacky self-promo that was rather unusual for a time before Instagram. The main man, to me, looked like a less noble Oscar de la Renta.

In the US, Bijan Pakzad was not known by his family name. As the media reports of that time went, he was an Iranian who had started his fashion career in Tehran in a local boutique called Pink Panther. Coming from a wealthy family (his father was said to be an “industrialist”), he was eventually able to go to school in Switzerland and Italy, where he “studied design”, according to the New York Times. He eventually moved to the United States (this was pre-Trump!) in 1973, and settled down in Los Angeles. Bijan, a boutique that catered to men with all the money in the world but little discernment, opened in Rodeo Drive in 1976, the year two Steves founded a small company called Apple. It was never clear how Mr Pakzad could invest in this extavagantly-appointed, by-appointment-only store, but in no time, he was able to lure rich and powerful men to Bijan, like sheikhs to a harem.

Unless you were a White House resident or, at least, a habitué, chances were, you’d never have stepped into Bijan. News coverage in later years revealed a yellow-walled, Mediterranean-style, double-storey store, where—in particular, on the second floor and on one wall—framed photographs showed who and who had been, and still were, the store’s customers. Unsurprisingly, they were headline names, including the Shah of Iran, Hollywood bigwigs, and too many American presidents to count. Among them the Bush clan—so regular they were as customers that one of the fitting rooms was decorated to honour them. I didn’t think there would be men who need to feel so important that only a Bush fitting room would do, but apparently there are.

Bijan was very much an ’80s brand and it reflected the era’s admiration for cash, more than dash. In case you miss the store’s air of moneyed exclusivity (and you likely would), a yellow (their corporate colour) continental car—often a Rolls Royce—is always parked in front of the main door as mascot. Inside, you only get to step in when arrangements have been made. Everything is laid out in a way that would have made Ralph Lauren quiver: over-the-top, or, think chinchilla bedspread as a throw. If you are lucky enough to be invited upstairs (past the chandelier dangling with filled Bijan perfume bottles!), you would be shown to a series of doors. Behind them, looks put together by colour, including matching fresh flowers and fruits, beckon. These are dioramas of lifestyle choices even super-rich you never thought you’d adopt, until now.

Bijan perfume adBijan perfume ad, featuring the man himself, in publications such as Vogue

For over 40 years, Bijan sold mostly (unattainable) men’s wear, jewellery and fragrances (for both men and women). Three years after he died in 2011, aged 71, Mr Pakzad’s son Nicolas, who now runs the business, launched a made-to-order line of handbags fashioned from what merchandisers like to call “exotics”—in this case, alligator skin. Bijan does not reveal prices and on their website, an ‘inquiry’ button is available for the curious to click on. According to the Los Angeles Times, the bags with palladium hardware retail for about USD65,000 and those that come encrusted with diamonds on the fastenings, USD175,000. It is not made known which Bijan bag (or bags) is part of Ms Mansor’s koleksi, but it is not hard to figure out how CCID came up with the RM51.3 million estimate—a sum, I imagine, susah sangat for Malaysians to swallow.

The name’s sudden appearance in the context of the CCID investigations into the 1MDB scandal comes not long after Bijan, too, caught the attention of Americans. Like their Malaysian counterparts, when the name Bijan was suggested, Americans drew a blank. According to media reports, Paul Manafort, Donald Trump’s former campaign manager, now indicted for numerous crimes, had spent a huge fortune on clothes with his source-dubious money. Associated Press, followed by many other media outlets, reported that he dropped more than USD500,000 in “Vendor H”, later identified as a “Beverly Hills clothing store”, and speculated by sharp readers to be Bijan. Nicolas Bijan Packzad had refused to reveal the store’s clientele, even when on that wall, famous names still show who came by to shop.

To be sure, despite its prohibitive price tags, Bijan bags will not yet share the same prestige and resale value as the Birkin. The Beverly Hills store may bank on its reputation as “the most expensive store in the world”, but basking in such an estimation is surely of questionable taste. High price, as we often see, is not necessarily a barometer of haute. If Bijan is the pinnacle of fashion, surely there would be no need for many to use Google search to uncover its provenance. In 2016, Bijan was sold for USD122 million to LVMH. Perhaps, it can now be on its way to scaling new heights. While it is not known when Rosmah Mansor first laid eyes on a Bijan bag, I think she is a clever consumer of luxury after all.

Photos: Bijan

These Stand Taller

The Adidas classic Samba, first introduced in the ’50s, now comes atop rather ’60s platform soles for girls who need a little help with height


Adidas Samba Rose

By Shu Xie

I almost could not recognise this shoe until I saw the familiar gold emboss. Could this really be the Samba, a shoe my brothers used to love and I not, but for nostalgic reasons now found myself liking it? This was a football kick for off-the-field, but now it looks like the Samba was, gasp, forced into marriage with creepers!

That the Samba is re-introduced now—during the World Cup season—is understandable, but the new version for women, called Samba Rose, comes with a football-unfriendly mid-sole the height of a stack of toasts. If you want to remember the shoe as it was, you’d have to look at it from the top. From the sides, and I risk repeating myself, the upper seems to be going through the princess and the pea test.

Strangely, the Samba of 2018 has a for-men companion that looks like the shoe, as recognisable as another Adidas classic, the Stan Smith. Why the Samba Rose needs the extra height is anyone’s guess. Mine goes something like this: in the world of declining heel sales, women are eager to adopt sneakers as their shoe of choice, but are not quite yet willing to give up walking with some elevation, especially in a dress.

Adidas to the rescue. Will it be Stan Smith Rose next?

Adidas Samba Rose, SGD170, is available at Adidas Originals stores island wide. Photo: Adidas

The Welcome Light Of The Beach

As we watch closely who in Paris Men’s Fashion Week is cooler or edgier, have we forgotten that sometimes, clothes should just simply be articles of joy?


With all the attention this past week centred on big luxury houses and the design directors that steer them, men’s wear seems to be a divisive debate about where it’s really heading: onward march with street style or return to elegant tailoring. Between these opposites, Simon Porte Jacquemus launched his first men’s collection in the south of France, seemingly unconcerned with who’s traipsing on which path, back in the capital.

Presented on the beach of his boyhood home near Marseilles, Mr Jacquemus showed a collection so unconcerned with the directional dilemma of his competitors that this could easily be one of the most refreshing collections of the over-hyped season. These were happy clothes, worn by happy people, in a place radiating with happiness even if only because nature had blessed the show with inviting sea, sun, and sky.

For Jacquemus, happiness is a recurrent theme—the brand’s autumn/winter 2018 show was brimming with vibes that is best described as upbeat and uplifting. This positive charge was palpable in the newly conceived men’s line too. It’s in the cheerful colours, the uncomplicated prints, and the relaxed shapes. For this spring/summer season, the Jacquemus collection was, by far, the most sun-dappled.

Jacquemus SS 2019 G1

Jacquemus SS 2019 G2.jpg

While some may consider these clothes unchallenging, it should be noted that, contrary to what influencers would have us believe, the choices in fashion that many of us make usually have nothing to do with peacocking in a make-a-spectacle grounds of fashion week. Jacquemus has shown that stylish clothes can be those readily welcome in the clique that already exists in your wardrobe. These clothes look perfectly consistent with a season that usually means effortless ease. For those of us living in equatorial climes, the collection made a lot of sense.

Those shorts (never too short), those shirts (never too tight), those pullover (never too heaving)—they spoke of smile-inducing wearability, yet they are not pedestrian to the point that you would consider waiting for Zara to release their version. That the collection also communicated a sense of holiday, of a time when the hours ticked slowly, of those moments you can curl up in a quite corner for a snooze, suggested that designer clothes can be about living comfortably and well in them, and not about striking a pose or training surrounding eyes on the wearer. This should have been what Tomas Maier’s collaboration with Uniqlo looked like, not the bland clobber still languishing in the store more than a month after it was launched.

Jacquemus SS 2019 G3

Mr Jacquemus attributed the look to the “Mediterranean boy” or le gadjo in local parlance, but from a visual standpoint, it was more men than boys—such as those seen in many a Parisian runway—even only in terms of musculature. Mediterranean may suggest Orlebar Brown, but Mr Jacquemus was clear that however beach-ready the clothes were, they were also ready for a stroll down the heart of any city without trying to out-street the zeitgeist. As the confident among us are wont to say, “You put these clothes on and forget about them.”

Them equals some very fine trousers (and shorts) with pouch pockets or pocket flaps, relaxed suits that would not look out of pace in a beach wedding, and polo shirts that would likely be seen in a cruise rather than on a court. One polo shirt was worn with a tie— evocative of what Bruce Weber might have shot for GQ in the early ’80s. In all, these could be the clothes the cast of Call Me By Your Name would have worn if the tale took place in France rather than Italy. And because it can be compared to rather than contrast with the everyday, Jacquemus for men may be off to a very fine start. This is not a collection that will stoke raves, but it will find its place in male fashion gratification.

Photos: (top) Studio Premices (others)

In The Crowd, It Stands Out

Kolor’s Juniche Abe takes the less-than-ordinary and makes them everyday. And vice-versa. The result are clothes that stay above the humdrum


Kolor SS 2019 P1

Shibuya, Tokyo. Any day.

If you have been to what is repeatedly dubbed as the second busiest mass rapid transit station in the world (after Shinjuku, about 4km away), you’d probably know that moving through the crowd leaves you no space to people watch. If you don’t notice the commuters, chances are, you won’t notice their clothes. This is the part of Tokyo that is a little vexing for fashion watchers. In the hustle and bustle, the moving mass is not quite a collision of individualists.

Yet it is in Shibuya that Juniche Abe chose to film his spring/summer collection. That he chose to present video clips rather than the traditional show that he has been staging in Paris for the past six years is perhaps indication that Mr Abe is making a statement about the street when such a point need not really be made in the present Men’s Fashion Week climate. With the stills evocative of Japanese street style, this could be a declaration that street wear in Tokyo is as valid as street wear in any part of America. For us, it’s better.

Kolor SS 2019 G1

Kolor has always been a label that rejects the tag classic, yet Mr Abe is an adherent of rather classic ways of clothes-making, especially with his fondness for technical outdoor wear. This is not quite the technical of White Mountaineering—fashion that can test the tough conditions of a climb, but Kolor does pull components of technical garments to work into those pieces culled from sportswear and even collegiate clothes (and the occasional preppy blazer). Hybrid would be a lazy description as Kolor is not about amalgamating but enhancing.

Take their outwear. A blouson always looks like a blouson but it’s what Mr Abe adds to or subtracts from it that makes you wonder what to call this garment. A lightweight Harrington jacket from the latest collection, for example, is given a ribboned bib-front and is worn tucked into the trousers like a shirt. So is this a shirt or a jacket? It is not really a hybrid either, is it? Whatever you might wish to call it, the shirt-slash-jacket is not without its charm. And that is why Kolor is always so intriguing.

Kolor SS 2019 G2Kolor SS 2019 G3

Furthermore, there is the colour. For a name that plays on colour (the K predates Kardashian’s vulgar fame), it would be strange that Mr Abe does not have a sharp chromatic sense. He does not use colours the way Raf Simons does, but Mr Abe has a rather keen sense of those that do not owe their brilliance to modern pigments. The hues he uses has almost a retro vibe: the burnt orange, hillbilly green, the rain-wear blue—these and their combinations border on the off-beat, something that will appeal to the fashion geek.

At times, it feels that what Kolor proposes is typical of Japanese labels also walking down this path, such as Sacai and Undercover. We can’t negate the fact that is Japanese aesthetics and motivation: never to quite leave a garment alone and unwilling to reject the desire to create the unexpected from standard forms. The most powerful street wear designer today Virgil Abloh owes much of Off-White’s DNA to the Japanese. Let’s see him deny that.


Mighty Fine

The women’s wear of Lanvin may be a series of missteps after Alber Elbaz departed, but for its men’s collection, still-going-strong Lucas Ossendrijver delivered one of his best seasons yet


Lanvin SS 2019 P1

Lanvin isn’t what it used to be. With the brand’s corporate troubles, it has not only lost its prestige, but also its standing in French fashion’s current pantheon of greats. Men in the know, however, consider this the distress of the women’s wear division, not the Lanvin they have been buying. And those particularly unswayed by the social-media savvy of trending star designers continue to support Lucas Ossendrijver’s vision of the unconventional yet solidly contemporary.

Mr Ossendrijver remains true to what he and Alber Elbaz co-created following the former’s appointment at the house in 2006: never too classic, nor too casual, just the right dash of the nonchalant. In fact, it can be said that Lanvin was one of the first brandsif not the firstto propose the boundary-blurring idea of teaming athletic wear with tailoring, way before sweatpants are so scarily common. The whole relaxed approach to men’s wear truly found its proponent in Lanvin, culminating in the hugely successful collaboration with H&M in 2011.

Lanvin SS 2019 G1

Lanvin SS 2019 G2

No matter how informal the styles he’s been showing, Mr Ossendrijver, who cut his teeth at Kenzo, then Kostas Murkudis, and then Hedi Slimane’s Dior Homme, has always made construction and proportion the crux of the Lanvin identity. His latest collection continued to underscore these crucial components while enhancing its visual complexity. The observant may think that much of these have in common with Japanese labels such as Undercover, but Mr Ossendrijver has definitely put his own stamp on them.

On the surface many pieces may look like hybrid garments, but it is essentially the styling that gives the impression of hybridisation. Outdoor wear, often worn askew (also seen last season), was teamed with conventional shirting, for example, but brought together in such a way as not to give the impression of composites of disparates. These are no doubt the work of a sophisticated mind and discerning hands. It is true when Mr Ossendrijver told the media that guys are attracted to Lanvin because of its “elaborate workmanship”.

Lanvin SS 2019 G3

Lanvin SS 2019 G4

They, too, would be attracted to an abbreviated polo-shirt-as-cape worn like a gilet or the cropped cousin slipped atop shirt sleeves, or boxy jumpers pulled over T-shirts the way much of the young do these days. Although there was much more layering than what is typical of the spring/summer season, Mr Ossendrijver was careful to keep the silhouette fairly lean, not ultra-skinny, adequately roomy, not unusually voluminous. In this regard, he did not appear to deliberately stay clear of extremes—the either-or approach of many showing in Paris.

At times, there seemed to be the sensibility of football blokes in the way the pieces were pulled together, as if in haste, or missing a mirror. These were all the more charming considering how the most popular shows of the season were careful compositions of precise tailoring and totally low-key—as counterpoint—in controlled harmony. You see, for some of us, the truly wicked is in the devil-may-care.


Destination Uncertain

At his first men’s wear show for Dior, Kim Jones did not appear to be taking the brand anywhere


Dior Homme SS 2019 P1

Two anticlimactic debuts in a row! Is this turning out to be the dullest men’s wear season of recent years despite the big-name hype? Expectations were high for Kim Jones’s remake of Dior (Homme now removed)much higher than there was for Virgil Abloh at Louis Vuitton. The letdown, however, was more pronounced because for some of us, seating patiently for the live stream, the Kaws-conceived staging, including their famous BFF character, so colossal that even the Oscar at his tallest wasn’t so imposing, was sadly not prelude to something equally striking.

Regular show goers always say that you’d know if you want to go on watching a presentation by how the first five outfits wowed you. The men’s Dior spring/summer 2019’s didn’t: its initial quintet was remarkable for being unremarkable. The very first jacket immediately had us in a oh-no mood: the contrast sleeve and paneling so typical of what fashion students will turn out when they have to present something ‘designed’. Or, when Savile Row wants to do something young and against what the masters taught, much like tailors elsewhere, in fact,

If you decided to stay with the show, as we did, you’d have also seen baseball-style jackets and other kindred blousons that on a body not less young—a lot less—will look decidedly uncle, not, as current fashion adores, dad. And here is our problem with the designs of Kim Jones. It is something that has bugged us for a while. Back when he was directing LV’s men’s wear, the clothes may look interesting from afar, but were far from interesting when seen up-close. On the catwalk, they had the advantage of the wearer’s youthful swagger and imperturbable indifference, but in the stores, unstyled, they look ready for the wardrobes of unimaginably wealthy Indonesian bapaks. Or land-owing Chinese tuhaos. Mr Jones appears not to have completely pulled away from what he had made a habit of when he was designing for Dunhill from 2008 to 2011.

It can be argued that the Dior customer is young, cultivated since Hedi Slimane’s tenure, so it does not matter that the clothes appear suited to a particular demographic. When you look adolescent, you can get away with clothes that don’t. But shouldn’t clothes stand on their own merit, untethered to the age of the wearer? Perhaps Mr Jones is re-calibrating the clothes-to-wearer’s-age relation and now prefers to target the post-post-teen set since, as he indicated to the media, he is no longer pursuing the craze for street style.

Dior hOMME SS 2019 G1

Dior hOMME SS 2019 G2

Some people suggested that this is the next wave of men’s wear—a return to more tailored silhouettes or, at least, one that is diametrically different to street fashion. According to what was reported by WWD, Mr Jones “has mined the Dior archives for inspiration related to the women’s couture heritage of the house”. There’s something to note there because over at Maison Margiela’s first ‘artisanal’ collection for men shown days earlier, John Galliano seemed to be working on the same premise. Mr Galliano has even introduced the bias cut that he excels in for men, perhaps as a deliberate rebuff of Off-White and co’s—generally fashion’s—street leanings.

All the display of refined tailoring still needed to be tempered by elements that reflect on-the-ground reality. You can’t really turn your back on the street when all around you, guys seem rooted to the style roadway over-trodden by sneakers and all the clothes that stand opposite to the craft associated with shirts and suits. Mr Jones engaged the assistance of Yoon Ahn of the street wear label Ambush, originally a fine jewellery brand, to design the accessories. What should have been left to Virgil Abloh to use with abandon was instead adopted by Mr Jones: those chunky, loved-by-hip-hop-stars chain-necklaces, now with a new CD clasp, which at a quick glance nearly passed off as Ferragamo’s logo buckle!

Dior hOMME SS 2019 G3

On closer look, the CDs, designed by fellow Brit Matthew Williams (of the hotly trending label Alyx Studio), were chunkier and had industrial (aeronautical perhaps?) written all over it. They remind us that, while Mr Jones may try to steer his Dior towards a look more akin to couture, logo mania is not dead. In fact, just like many kiasu kids of today, some of the models sported not one but two sets of the logo—one centred on the forehead, the other, directly below, on the waist. Could this be really the way forward for fashion or was this duplication of a visual identity that has brought tremendous success for LV? Balance sheets, as we are well aware, do inform design choices.

The Dior logotype too appeared: in the form of the recognisable repeated type, as seen on the undershirts. These were hardly subtle, but that’s the point. Just as there was nothing discreet about lining that looked like shorts under what presumably were linen pants. Nor the Saddle handbag (Dior’s most successful style under John Galliano’s watch), now re-imagined as bumbag and such for blokes. And just in case the relaxed suits (even the one-button asymmetric style) were still a tad stuffy, there were the singlets. We were instantly reminded that Kim Jones had once collaborated with Umbro. He may have set a “new course” for Dior, as the media proclaimed after the show, but you can’t be certain of the landing for there is still the lad in the couture-delving designer. However promising the present, you never know what lads will end up doing. Or dreaming.

Photos: Dior

It Pays To Belong

Louis Vuitton’s spring/summer 2019 was a triumph for Virgil Abloh. Would it the same for the future of men’s wear? Or were we witnessing one big brand trying to fit in?



The emotional hug between Virgil Abloh and Kanye West at the end of the former’s debut for Louis Vuitton was rather telling. Both men, it was reported, were crying. Tears of joy, no doubt, and also of pride, and, veritably, achievement. This was a moment of brotherhood for Mr Abloh and Mr West and the rest of their gang. This was a moment of acclaim for hip-hop. This was a moment of visibility for Black America. This was a moment of victorious Barrack Obama, all over again.

That the show opened with a parade of Wakanda-worthy black men (at least 16 of them passed by before a non-black emerged) is perhaps indication that Mr Abloh has pledged blackness as mainstream—the rainbow runway a sidebar to the story of diversity. This isn’t playing the race card as much as verifying that black culture is here to stay. This is the year of Kendrick Lamar, and Wendy Williams singing his praises with gusto. This is not even Off-White’s glory; this is Virgil Abloh’s, and his alone. And no one now can steer the course with purpose and buzz than Mr Abloh, not even his pal, the Yeezy himself.


Louis Vuitton’s positioning as a popular global brand means it no longer needs to celebrate its French-ness, or fashion the way the French had for decades, selling haute couture and, later, pret-a-porter to the world. Given how homogeneous clothing designs have become, it now needs to pitch itself in a market place that is awash with a sameness that Marc Almond laments in Monoculture, singing “why don’t I just give up/And submit to the great God of Bland?”

The thing is, fashion houses need no design directors to churn out what store buyers call “better basics”. Mr Abloh told the Financial Times that he wants to make “the most beautiful normcore clothes, but as luxurious as possible.” Anyone can do that, and many have—think the Olsen twins for the flavour-lite The Row. Furthermore, such clothing are already being produced through collaborations. It is, therefore, understandable when one observer commented to SOTD early this morning in total dismay, “This is what Adidas would do if Adidas did RTW.” Such as the immensely stylish, now-defunct SLVR line, once designed by Dirk Schoenberger?



Is this even about the clothes? Not really. Presently, no one can provide better optics than a member of American hip-hop royalty heading a French house. Such an appointment was Kanye West’s dream, but that did not come true for him. Still, he is able to now live vicariously through Mr Abloh, his long-time collaborator. The front-row display of emotion was, thus, to be expected: This was as much Mr West’s victory, more so when the hip-hop community’s foray into fashion design was very much shunned in the beginning. Mr West himself was snubbed, in Paris no less, where he showed two disastrous collections in 2011 and 2012. Could this be pay back time?

That was then, this is now. If you ever doubted hip-hop’s cultural impact on the fashion of our time, this collection may sent disbelief to some dark corner of your armoire. It is not certain if this is how Jaden Smith and his inner-city peers would like to dress, but it does evoke what’s pervading today: the grown-up styles of black youths who have graduated from fashion that glorifies the thrift-store. This is not about old Adidas football jerseys teamed with D&G when it existed. Nor, off-duty NBA stars. This is black culture celebrating one of their own. This is papa hoodie in procreation mode. This is post-post-Sean Jean; this is post-Hood By Air; this is when the ’hood is gentrified.



What does the urban black man of means, such as Virgil Abloh and his cohorts and those who look to hip-hop stars for fashion inspiration and guidance, like to wear? If LV is an indication, perhaps sheer, oversized T-shirts? Or, printed/coloured, baggy trousers? Or, shorts that look like bloomers? Or, holsters as one-sided vests? Or, sweaters featuring gay icons Dorothy and friends down the yellow brick road?

Ultimately is this still about street style? It’s hard to say. Fashion is long gone about design. It is about looks pulled together from various articles of clothing not necessarily connected to one another. Street style is, of course, such an amalgamation. But Mr Abloh isn’t delivering street the way OAMC’s Luke Meier (one-time co-designer at Supreme) does. He is, instead, offering what McDonald’s calls “upsized”: you get more meat, but at the core, it’s still the same flavourless mince.

If fashion is about a designer’s voice, what was Mr ABloh saying that wasn’t already said at Off-White? That should be the question. In a couple of the appliquéd badges that appeared on the clothes, a message was delivered: “Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain”. Was Virgil Abloh referring to himself? If he was, it was a genius pitch because you most certainly will, rather than not.

Photos: (first) Getty Images, (second) Louis Vuitton live stream, (others)

The Mid-Soles With Poh Chai Pills

Puma Jamming NRGY Beads

By Shu Xie

I don’t know about you, but when I saw this Puma sneaker, with its transparent mid-sole filled with beads, I immediately thought of Poh Chai pills (保济丸).

In my pre-teen days, these tiny TCM spheres were what my grandmother always gave me when I told her my tummy ached. I stopped taking them in secondary school because my mom had another remedy: a bitter decoction of hou po (厚朴 or magnolia bark), which I still remember to be as unpleasant to ingest as Poh Chai pills.

I didn’t know until a few years back that Poh Chai pills were reported to contain ingredients considered carcinogenic. It has been quite a while since I saw a stout and slender bottle of Poh Chai pills, until now—these teeny pearls, embedded in a sneaker, so evocative of stomach ache relief of my childhood!

Okay, these beads have nothing to do with medicine grannies were wont to dispense, so I really digress. In fact, these pellets are a part of Puma’s new cushioning technology known as NRGY beads, which, if you ask me, sounds suspiciously TCM!

Puma’s beads are free to move in the full-length pocket of the mid-sole, cushioning your every step, which, I suppose is like the distribution of qi. This distant relative of the ball bearing is but one in a list of cushioning tech that makes you part with quite a bit of money, from Nike’s now-ubiquitous Air to Asics’s less-loved Gel.

Unless you have extremely sensitive soles, possibly from training on pebble walking trails, you may not be able to tell if these beads are more effective than other cushioning systems. To me, they don’t feel any different from mid-soles currently favoured by runners. But for the heck of walking on these not unattractive balls, I am sold.

Puma Jamming with NRGY Beads, SGD249, is available at select Puma stores. Photo: Zhao Xiangji

Ganryu Fumito Strides Back


He returned just as quietly as he departed. Ganryu Fumito’s come-back to the men’s fashion week season is bereft of bang, but the discreet debut under his full name at the Pitti Immagine Uomo a few days back was anything but muted. The inspiration for his show, as reported, was water, and while this collection may not make waves, it certainly would send ripples down the right direction. First-hand reports so far barely contained the excited reactions.

The welcome return is understandable. Mr Fumito is considered a rare breed among those designers who are adept at melting the finest of sportswear, streetwear, and work wear, a Haroumi Hosono of fashion, if you will. His departure from his previous employer Comme des Garçons last year was not officially announced until a Canadian e-tailer broke the news online. The reveal was met with disappointment by fans, including many of us at SOTD, who had not expected such a pull-out, considering how respected Mr Fumito is. His back-to-the-fold of immensely captivating men’s wear labels is particularly significant in view of the many new appointees at major brands that will debut this month.


That the collection premiered at the Pitti Immagine Uomo is significant. The Florentine fair is known to launch the careers of designers who take a different, more audacious sartorial path, such as Thom Browne and Kolor’s Junichi Abe. Mr Fumito’s collection is bound to capture the attention of the world’s stockists and media. And it should. Not short of his usual inventiveness, the clothes are, however, relieved of any CDG imprint—none of the patchwork, none of the patterns, none of the surface extras associated with CDG made their appearance. Instead, Mr Fumito turned to what could be religious garb to show that he’s starting from a conscientiously clean sheet. The first look, a hooded robe, in all its monastic starkness, led us to think of Benedictine monks. But the robe, in neoprene, had a more sportif quality that was more post-game than ecclesiastical, more Gary Numan (Berserker?) than Gregorian chant.

This is not to say Mr Fumito has turned to the strictly pared-down or even rejected the secular. In fact, it appeared that he has not turned his gaze away from the street—not Paris, more Tokyo, not Gosha Rubchinskiy’s Muscovite skate headiness, more Y3’s soft, alt-sport kei. Evidently, he is not too high-minded to allow basic T-shirts to take to the catwalk—not those with crazy appendages. If you look closely, you’d spot familiar articles of clothing too, those pieces that are the staples of streetwear and those outers (yes, hoodies for the ’hood) that accompany you to the cinema. An elevation of a certain Life Wear? These are clothes not necessarily for the conventional office, but certainly for those who share start-up spaces or those who occupy professional environments not dictated by the shirt and smart trousers.


There’s no denying that the presentation relied heavily on styling tricks: extra clothing strapped on the body as one would with a backpack or messenger bag, layering that seemed unrelated to weather conditions, and outdoorsy mixes that were evocative of perhaps a decidedly urban The North Face (a domain of Nanamica’s Eiichiro Homma). And therein lies the charm and the assurance that Mr Fumito, like his one-time design head Junya Watanabe, does not have to rely on the far-out to make a strong statement. Indeed, take the ensembles apart and you have those clothes that won’t be step siblings in your wardrobe.

Mr Fumito also proved that street style can have a voice that need not be traced to a particular store on New York’s Lafayette Street or the din that is blaring from America’s hip-hop community whose fashion stars are enjoying worldwide attention, or lured to popular Parisian houses. Street style, in fact, need not be the souped-up treatment of what has been considered street since the ’80s, since Fame. It need not have to have a US worldview; it could be better, infinitely better.

Photo: (top) Pitti Immagine Uomo, (others)

That Suit And That Suit

They’re heads-of-state; they don’t have to dress like you and I. They can look worse


By Ray Zhang

As you know, even if you’re not a suit wearer, there are suits and there are suits. You probably also noted that none were more unremarkable and unfashionable than those worn by the key players of the Singapore Summit just two days ago.

At one of the most important meetings of modern times and one that, at least on the surface, was “historic”, as Channel NewsAsia repeatedly and annoyingly reminded us, Kim Jong Un and Donald Trump faced-off in what I saw were decidedly old-world clothes. Sure, this was not the IHT Luxury Conference, but neither was it the getting together of village elders. Yet one sensedI didthat although optics did matter, clothing did not. The handshake was what cameras zoomed into and what the media was effusive about.

Despite the 21st Century setting (in contrast, Capella, the hotel in which the meeting was conducted, is housed in a 19th Century building), the two men reminded me of the time, in 1979, when Deng Xiaoping and Jimmy Carter signed diplomatic agreements between China and the US. Like Mr Deng at the White House that day, Mr Kim—41 years younger—wore a dark Mao suit. His partner in the making of history Mr Trump wore a business suit not unlike what Mr Carter wore when the latter jointly signed those agreement papers with his Chinese counterpart. Thirty-nine years later, when new mass production and a renewed interest in bespoke both meant better-made clothes, the leaders of one of the last few communist states and the world’s most powerful democracy adopted fashion that spoke of another era.

I am not sure how we should read this or even attempt to read it. Should fashion, like the church, be separated from the state? Despite judgmental attitudes towards how we view each other in terms of dress, many of us still do not consider sartorial savvy an important part of a politician’s appeal. In fact, I believe many of us still view a nattily dressed MP with suspicion—can the people’s representative spend enough time on policy when he/she takes time to shop, to pick clothes, to groom? Perhaps dubious dress choices make finer politics. Perhaps a dated suit shows a more modern mind or conservative incline. Perhaps a dreadfully long necktie indicates the length in which a president makes strides to better his country and promote world peace. What do I know?

Photo: AP/Susan Walsh, Pool

Midnight Cowboys

Saint Laurent’s men’s wear under Anthony Vaccarello was presented in New York. Is this another of the brand’s attempt at Americanisation?


Saint Laurent P1

When bands in the European continent want to make it big, they record or launch albums in the good ’ol US of A. The Brits, in particular, consider North America the platform for global domination. From the Beatles to Depeche Mode to One Direction, bands see Uncle Sam as the father of immense riches or the repository of accessible pop. In the Trumpian world, could this be America, “the piggy bank that everybody is robbing”?

Fashion designers, like band members, see the allure of the United States too. Anthony Vaccarello is one of them. His spring/summer 2019 men’s wear collection for the house was shown, not in Paris but in the Big Apple, a city that provided, as he told the media, “the idea of New York, the idea of the icons of New York in the ’70s”. If that immediately sounds like a cliché, it is. The Americans have been robbing the accesses of the disco era for a very long time, so much so that many of them can’t forgo the lurid glam headquartered in the nightclub Studio 54. But the French, such as Yves Saint Laurent himself, want to show the Americans how to do it better. Hedi Slimane, Mr Vaccarello’s predecessor, was also seduced by the US. He even showed in—of all places—LA! Even in the West Coast, you can’t say “icons of New York in the ’70s” wasn’t on his mind.

Saint Laurent G1

Since Mr Slimane’s remake of Saint Laurent for men, the clothes have been part lost hippy, part rock star, part flashy pimp. Mr Vaccarello has not dramatically change the aesthetic, but has added to the equation part urban cowboy. At the New York show, he styled a sort of downtown dandy, a nocturnal peacock (in a beaded paisley blazer!) that occupies his time mostly hanging out with band mates (still the Pete Doherty vibe?), in the most underground of clubs, under the cover of darkness or the hypnosis of the strobe. It was not easy to see how the clothes would fit any activity of daylight hours, unless your line of work involves, say, entertainment. The outfits were mostly dark in shade, glittery in effects, and slim in silhouette.

In fact, the silhouette has not changed much. Since Mr Slimane exported hipster lean to Saint Laurent from Dior Homme, his successor has not deviated from the look. In fact, skinniness has remained central—a skinniness that has, by now, made oversized and baggy positively more interesting. There isn’t anything inherently wrong with slim-fit, but for those who have moved on to something less of a cling wrap, what Mr Vaccarello is proposing seems a little, well, narrow, or restrictive. The body of today deserves a variety of proportions.

Saint Laurent G2Saint Laurent G3

Within the overall slimness of the silhouette, he added Western touches that few men of horse and lasso would consider authentic. Then there were those unbuttoned-halfway shirts underneath leather jackets, punctuated by a neckerchief—throwback to the ’70s that appeared lame against the signature excesses at Gucci. In addition, those sheer sequinned shirts and sleeveless tops that would have more in common with men of a certain age unable to pull away from the past than the young living in the present. Noteworthy too were the surprisingly large number of jeans, more permutations than even Diesel would churn out per season. And what was the body glitter of the finale about? A nod to the month of Pride?

Look closely and the collection persuaded one to think that it is isn’t terribly inventive by design. Similar to Mr Slimane’s initially divisive approach, Mr Vaccarello had created looks using rather basic clothes in nightclub-worthy fabrics to effect his vision of what he thinks the Americans would like: styles of the ’70s, considered the breakout decade for American designers. The thing is, this may be the most exciting men’s wear season in a long while. Eyes and social media accounts will be trained on the debuts of Virgil Abloh at Louis Vuitton, Kim Jones at Dior Homme, Hedi Slimane at Celine’s very first season for men, Jacquemus’s own, and Riccardo Tisci at Burberry. By the looks of it, Anthony Vaccarello probably did not aim to be the first among peers.

Photos: Saint Laurent

Not-So-Hush Revival

Hush Puppies Bernard

By Shu Xie

If you walk into a Hush Puppies store these days, you’d be forgiven if you thought you have stepped into a shop your father/mother (or grandfather/grandmother, depending) visits. It was the same feeling I had when I went to the Bangkok department store Pata in Pinklao, on the western side of the Chao Praya river. Named after King Mongkut’s brother, Pinklao is a fast-changing alternative to downtown Bangkok. But Pata (it once housed a roof-top zoo!) is where time stood still. Exactly which decade, I could not tell. The place and products were evocative of those times you are probably too young to know—distant.

Truth be told, it is indeed at Hush Puppies that I visit when I need to buy my father shoes, usually during the lead-up to Chinese New Year. You see, my dad wears a very specific sandal and it can be found in Hush Puppies. This is not to paint Hush Puppies with an unflattering stroke. The American brand makes comfortable and lasting shoes, and considering that the footwear of choice among hipsters today are those that are, at best, off-beat, they could be erring on the right side of fashion.

In case you’re still in doubt, Hush Puppies will convince you with the just-released series of shoes based on the ‘Bernard’ silhouette, a handsome one that can be traced to some of the looks that defined the brand in its early days in the ’50s. Called the Decades Limited Edition Collection, this six-style release is issued in conjunction with the 60th anniversary of Hush Puppies. No prizes for guessing that each look “represents the fashion and pop culture of the era from the 1950s to the 2000s”, as the brand’s media release states.

These are clearly shoes conceived to draw attention to those feet shod in them. Accept for the black Oxford version that represent the ’50s, the rest sport visual volume that would be appreciated for their fortissimo—not at all, I see, contrary to the preference of the #OOTD brigade. The colours, too, are deliberately eye-catching and have more in common with sneakers of today than the smart shoes of the past. Hush Puppies have ushered itself into the era of the shoe-fie, even if a little belatedly.

This is, however, not the first time the brand has aligned itself with contemporary aesthetics. As I remember, back in 1994, American men’s wear designer John Bartlett gave Hush Puppies a brightly-coloured makeover when he showed vibrant suede ‘Duke’ slip-ons for his Forrest Gump collection to the delight of fashion editors and early adopters. In no time, others such as Anna Sui and Joel Fitzpatrick similarly featured those shoes, and Hush Puppies became a fashion phenomenon, saving the brand from a reported phase-out by parent company Wolverine.

Hush Puppies’s sudden popularity was remarkable perhaps because collaborations were uncommon in those days. The shoes, in fact, likely did better than initiator-designer John Bartlett’s own collection. Over here, I remember the shoes did not come in large quantities nor in all the available colours, and it was a big deal if you could score a pair. I am sure for the Decades Collection, Hush Puppies would not go small, even when it’s cleverly marketed as limited editions. The ‘Bernard’ shoes will no doubt stand out in the store as the ‘Duke’ once did. As they say, every dog—hushed or not—has its day.

The Hush Puppies ‘Decades’ collection, from SGD258, is available at Hush Puppies, Great World City, Tampines Mall, and The Clementi Mall. Photos: Zhao Xiangji