Believe It Or Not, This Is Converse

By Mao Shan Wang

I have always considered Converse a conservative shoe brand. Sure, since Nike bought the company in 2003, it has seen some semblance of innovation, such as the use of Nike’s Lunarlon sole, or when collaborating with the likes of Clot (the Fastbreak!), but for the most part, it too canvas, too school shoes for me, and too Chuck Taylor. Until this pair of boots popped up in my radar!

Mind you, this is all-new, which means it’s designed from the ground up. Converse releasing rather go-go era looking boots is, it course, reflective of the cross-category tendencies of fashion labels these days (Prada doing plimsolls, for example) and is not, I suppose, too far off from Kim Kardashian selling emojies: Because they can. We are, after all, living in an era of anything-goes—do whatever pleases you.

Back to the boots. This, known as All Star GR82, is quite a chunk of a shoe, augmented by the thick mid-sole and the block heel. Contrast black laces lay between Velcro-fastened straps (as those seen on the Nike Free Huarache Carnivore SP). There’s a whiff of the military, with a fierceness that wouldn’t look out of place in a ’60s-themed party that so typifies corporate D&Ds. I urge: Let not footwear be an afterthought.

No news yet from Converse stores here if the All Star GR82 will be releases locally. For the time being, you can find it for USD110 on Photo: Converse

Inside Sole Superior

What is it like at our very own (and the largest ever) version of Sneaker Con?


SS 2018 P1b

By Naike Mi

Sole (now also Street) Superior (SS) is big, but not massive. The place is huge, though—a 70,000 square feet expanse that looked to me to be as large as an Olympic-sized pool  complex. If you’ve been to Wheeler’s Yard (although, to be sure, not as large), you’d perhaps know what kind of place this. The merchandise hawked—new and newish—are, however, a little lean on variety, more geared towards the hyped than true collector value.

An annual event since 2013, SS is our own little Mecca for sneaker fans. Formerly at Zouk (even when the club was in Jiak Kim Street), it was a cosy, almost intimate affair, with sellers and shoppers in what was a socially-aware setting, much like a get-together of gamers. This year, the event is held, for the first time, at the Pasir Panjang Power Station (specifically power station ‘A’), decommissioned in the early ’80s and largely disused—perfect ground for haunting stories. Adjacent to Labrador Nature Reserve and with the waters of the Singapore Straits lapping nearby, this is as close to the southern tip of our city as you can get, without going to Sentosa. Although the Labrador Jetty is within reach, I don’t know of any boat service that will bring you here. Your best bet is the Circle Line of the MRT, which will take you to Labrador Park station, and the venue is about a ten-minute walk from there.

SS 2018 P2.jpgView from the other end of the Pasir Panjang Power Station

From the outside, the former power station is monumental and I suspect there would be more space to fill than there are sneaker sellers with unique merchandise to dispose of. I shall soon see that the organisers availed areas to kindred trades people, such as those that sell shoe laces or shoe cleaning liquids, creams, and wipes, as well as those that deal in clothing, and unexpected haberdashery such as iron-on patches. As this is no way within a hop of discernible civilization, SS also includes food and drink vendors. Which perhaps explains why this year’s Sole Superior is suddenly branded as Street Superior—an inclusive stance to better accommodate those whose offerings have nothing to do with soles.

I arrive early, at eleven thirty (no opening hours were given in their publicity material or social media shout out, or perhaps they escaped me), but others are earlier. The line, organised under a tented holding area, is not long enough to be considered staggering. In front of me, a teenage boy is engrossed with updating his friends, via a group chat, about SS. Behind me, a thirtysomething woman in a camo unitard above white Air Force 1 with fancy tongue that I can’t identify discovers that she has left her wallet at home. She asks her Caucasian male companion if he has brought credit cards. He shows her the cards in his wallet and she promises him, “I won’t buy two-thousand-dollar shoes.” Diagonally across from her, a young chap, Balenciaga-clad and Converse X Undercover-shod, tells his attentive—and equally young—female companion, “my father will give me the money to buy any sneaker I like.” Quickly, my ears again pick up from the wallet-free woman, “I can’t wait; I want to see my babies.”

SS 2018 P3Those with adequate stock have their table tiered

We are finally allowed in at noon sharp. Inside, the cavernous space seems to overwhelm the stalls in the distance. From the slightly elevated entryway, they look like the aftermath of a badly attacked buffet. But the first thing that hits me is the heat. Zouk, for all its shortcomings as a retail platform, I now miss. I am soon greeted by a display of shoes entombed in clear domes (read: not for sale) that are the output of sneaker customiser Mark Ong and his brand SGBT. The selling buzz ahead, I admit, is a bigger pull.

In the central stretch, sellers are installed behind four rows of tables. These comprise online-shops-turn-momentary-hawkers, as well as those, I am told, that are “grassroots sellers”, individuals who are not retailers by profession. Flanking this main area are separate lots assigned to sponsors and, presumably, the more VIP of seller-participants. Within this premium spaces, there is, oddly, a “trading pit” where it seems anyone can walk in to peddle what they have. I see three unsmiling boys seated on the concrete floor with their wares before me. It is hard to consider them enterprising when they really should be worried about grades, not glum about sales.

SS 2018 P6Bored boys waiting for buyers

It takes me less than an hour to acquaint myself with the stalls. I am not here to buy, but to see, and, with the quantity overshadowed by the space, it does not take long to satiate the eyes. This is a veritable market—in a pasar malam sort of way, or, for those who frequent Bangkok, with a Chatuchak vibe. I am not sure if that’s a good thing or a draw, but I hardly feel that sneakerheads are geeking out here. In fact, I sense that many attendees are using the opportunity to swagger in kicks of considerable cost than to uncover sneakers that they are deeply passionate about. Or just to walk-walk, as many do at Comex.

I am no collector; I wear what I buy and discard them when they are no longer wearable. So, I am not here for the rarest of the rare or the most trending of the trendiest. I am a sneaker fan who simply love beautiful sneakers, preferably unusual. But this feels too much like Salvation Army (on steroids!), and while there are some new shoes that are probably targets of those with too much disposable income or an unhealthy fixation with Sneaker Freaker, most of the “hot” items I see do not surprise me, such as the Yeezy 700 ‘Mauve’ and the black Nike X Off-White Air Presto, which, for S$1,150 one seller is asking (though not near the two thousand my queue companion had earlier vouched not to spend), is the kind of money I have never parted with at a market stall.

SS 2018 P3Getting rid of personal footwearSS 2018 P7An attempt at visual merchandising even if feeble

One grassroots seller Dimitri, in a Vetements tee, tells me he is selling to “make space”. What caught my eyes is his selection of size-12 sneaks, which are not common in the con. “Yah, I know I am not tall,” he adds, “but I have big feet”, stepping out from behind his table to show me what he means. Size twelves are ruthless space occupiers, and it’s understandable that he needs to free up real estate for more shoes. But others sell because of reduced desire. One chap tells me, “I have no feelings for them anymore.” And is quick to say, “but don’t worry: these are only worn once, or twice.”

Not every stall sells the pre-loved. Chris from DistriSneaks, an online destination for sneakers that tempt and collabs that matter, offers a staggering (compared to the rest anyway) selection and quantity of Nike React Element 87, all above S$300 a pair. This is his second time selling at SS. “I am a sneaker fan,” he tells me, “I even went to KL for Sneaker Lah.” On where he sourced for his React Element 87s when they are even hard to find on Nike’s legit points of sales, he would only say, “from all over the world.”

SS 2018 P5Clothing is a big part of Sole/Street SuperiorSS 2018 P8The interior of the Limited EDT’s stuffy store called Le ConvenienceSS 2018 P9Queuing for a stab at a ballot for an Adidas kick. You’d be forgiven for thinking these guys were buying a 4-D ticket!

I read that Limited Edt is here, but I am unable to spot them, until I see a queue in the far end of the hall, across from a dedicated karaoke room. True to form, Limited Edt has positioned themselves above—and away—from the rest, with their own little shop they called Le Convenience. There is, however, nothing convenient about getting in. You need to get in line to get inside, like you would outside an LV store. Once inside, it isn’t as packed as you’re led to believe. Unless you were in urgent need to buy something only they carry, which isn’t the case with me, you might be better off exploring the main grounds.

There is surprisingly a large amount of clothing, both new and used. As expected, Supreme tees top the selection, both new and used, followed by Off-White, both new and used. Their large numbers, on racks that threatened to collapse, and in boxes that looked like they once held bundled toilet paper, immediately diminish their perceived value and coolness. With prices ranging from S$150 to S$500, they cost as much as the sneakers. Several pieces of Louis Vuitton X Supreme T-shirts are spotted: I see two prices, one seller asking for S$980, while another boldly hopes to trade for “1.5K”, as indicated on a sticker placed above the familiar, desire-arousing box logo. No, my eyes didn’t fail me.

Shoes seen @ SS 2018The trendy and trending kicks seen at SS 2018: each of these sneakers appeared on at least 5 individuals during the 2 hours I was there

But I am here to look at sneakers. Frankly, I would be happier to see-shop in JD Sports. Surprise is what I seek, but, here, surprised I am not. I understand that many of the sellers are here to make a sale, and would stock what they think will sell, but this is a fair with Superior as moniker. I finally know where the Nike X Undercover Element React 87s went: snapped up to be traded here, for a neat sum of S$480 (original price around S$250). Interestingly, I see more of Nike than Adidas, and, unsurprisingly, more for men than women, except for one stall dedicated to Fila, in particular, the Disruptor II.

Sole/Street Superior isn’t vague about its target audience. One exhibitor stood out: Contiki (Tours). It hides not its ageist leaning, announcing unequivocally that they offer “TRIPS FOR 18 – 35 YEAR OLDS (sic)”. Old-bloke me can only turn away. SS is clear about the financial standing of its attendees too. Unlike at electronic fairs, admission fee is payable. If you’re planning to buy something, the S$20 (S$15, if you book online) charged to get in would probably mean nothing, but if you’re, like me, there to only see, the entry price is higher than a movie ticket and it may not be as entertaining as a film on the big screen. To make it less pleasant, no air-conditioning!

Sneaker/Street Superior is on till tomorrow (noon to 10pm) at the Pasir Panjang Power Station. Shuttle bus is available from the Labrador Park MRT station. Photos: Gallen Goh

Levi’s: Justin’s Take

Not quite cutting it, unless, for you, Louisiana—and the like—is home


Justin Timberlake X LevisAfter ranch work or post-rodeo? Justin Timberlake wearing shirt from his collaboration with Levi’s

By Ray Zhang

What is there in fashion that entices pop stars to put their fingers in the design pie? Or, in the case of Justin Timberlake, toes in the bayou? I am not sure, but brands are constantly seeking the big hit by teaming up with pop stars as if a recognisable name is all it takes for the garments to be desirable—Mr Timberlake, with Levi’s, the latest in a slew of singers churning out clothes that have nothing to do with concert merchandise.

Mr Timberlake’s collaboration with the venerable, 165-year-old jeans brand is an odd pairing that seems to have popped up from nowhere. While the media thought him to be a stylish artiste, I don’t consider Mr Timberlake a star with the flair to put Levi’s on a certain elevation the way, say, Pharrell Williams has been able to raise the fashion cred of G-Star Raw. The result with Levi’s is, sadly, more rural, conservative heartland than urban, progressive downtown.

Justin Timberlake X Levis G1A few pieces from the 20-item collection

Was Justin Timberlake ever a style icon? I do not remember. Maybe it’s because he has never registered in my mind. He may have, in 2006 (my, 12 years ago!), brought sexy back, but he hardly moved the needle for style. Some people, girls mostly, tell me that he was the Nick Jonas of his time. I am not so sure of that. Besides, you really can’t bank on looks alone to be a fashion icon. Fans thought he nailed it with this year’s Super Bowl costume: camo suit, with the jacket later replaced by a leather biker jacket. Between them, a bandanna, as well as a shirt with a wood/forest print featuring a couple of deer. I am not sure traipsing Yogi Bear land is fashion-smart.

This collaboration comes after last year’s, when the star and brand paired up for a customised Levi’s trucker to celebrate the jacket’s 50th anniversary. That followed with Levi’s designing some of the costumes of Mr Timberlake’s Man of the Woods tour. For their first capsule, out last week, Mr Timberlake takes to a theme that remains evocative of the name of his tour: “Fresh Leaves”. It appears to me that this would have been more interesting, even beautifully paired, if the collab was with Timberland. At least, it’ll sound good: Timberlake X Timberland, or vice versa.

In-store, the collection does not really stand out. Photo: Zhao Xiangji

The 20-piece collection features what may be considered clothes fabulous for fishing or the rodeo, or for dressing during a holiday with cowboys. Levi’s calls them “a modern twist on classic styles that have defined a generation”, which could mean you are not going to get anything terribly new. For some, the familiarity of the clothes may be appealing—comforting-as-apple-pie even, but if you don’t take your style cues from Malboro Man (quaint, I admit), this may be another country for you.

Because it’s Levi’s, there is the expected 501, now cut leaner to yield the 501 Slim Taper (apparently based on how Mr Timberlake wears his) and the Trucker, now given the ‘sherpa’ treatment and sporting laser-rendered camo print. Between them, denim shirts and the flannel variety (inexplicably, I’m thinking of hay!), and the obligatory T-shirt and hooded sweatshirt complete the look. Maybe Justin Timberlake, too, is helping make America great again.

Levi’s X Justin Timberlake, from SGD69.90, is available at Levi’s, Raffles City. Photos (except indicated): Levi’s

Is This Nike’s Most Elusive Release?

Nike React Element 87 p1

By Ray Zhang

It’s so hard to cop these sneakers that some people wondered if they actually exist. But since specialty retailers all over the world, except those here, have been publicly awaiting the Nike React Element 87’s drop since June and, in due course, keeping followers updated, these can’t be just an empty tease. While I don’t think so, you can never really know. Is Nike taking the limited release to such an extreme? To stir up some news? To better create pent-up demand?

I should not have been this mad about this sneaker, but I was. Perhaps I’m sick of clompy shoes. The first time I saw photographs of the Nike React Element 87, it was in online reports following the Undercover autumn/winter 2018 show in Paris in January. Those not-quite-sharp runway pictures of said shoes caught my attention, but it wasn’t until the product shots started appeared in IG (interestingly, the shoes didn’t show up in Undercover’s IG until eight days before they’re launched in Tokyo on 13 Sep) that I began noticing them with keen interest.

The bold colour combinations aside, the React Element 87 is, to me, the most compelling silhouette Nike has released in years. I don’t even remember my interest being so piqued when the VaporMax, with its all-new and astounding air soles, was launched. And not the current must-cop drops such as the Nike Zoom Fly SP in collaboration with Gyakusou or Comme des Garçons X Nike ACG’s Mowab.

Nike React Element 87 p2Part of the general release, but still exclusive to select stores: Nike React Element 87 in black/midnight navy

The first place I checked, like most people, was the Nike web page. No information was available. It was July and winter for fashion retailers, but I was not able to obtain release dates. By chance, I stumbled on a news site (I now remember not) that had availed the link to Nike’s own micro-site, SNKRS. This was in late August, if I remember correctly, and Nike even provided a countdown to the day React Element 87 would finally be available. But who follows weeks-long countdowns? As the sneaker god I worship would have it, I missed that day and was met with a photo of the kick of my desire, under which was a discreet but no less disappointing sign: sold out.

Just for the heck of it, I asked a sales staff at an Underground by Limited Edt store two weeks ago if they have this still-unseen shoe, hoping Lady Luck was smiling at me even if the guy wasn’t. Unspeaking, he turned away confidently, and turned back to me with the React Element 55 in his hand! Had I spoken indistinctly? If you’re a Mercedes fan, you know your S class from the C!

Perhaps it would be easier if I know some of the store proprietors personally. I may then have priority over a pair if, or when, the shoes drop. The problem is, I am not a top spender at any of the stores sneakerheads with no objection to price spend. Nor, am I a member of the media or an “influential influencer” who is on the marketing radar of both brands and retailers. I just happened to be a sneaker lover who waits for releases very much like the rest of you who do not go to all lengths to acquire the shoe of your interest. For most of us, our best bet is to shop online, but that, to me, is a little less than ideal because I would like to be able to try on the shoe first before I commit. Still, I gave it a shot. At most online stores, the React Element 87 is prominently featured, but when it comes to size selection, all the squares adjacent to the numbers are struck out, except 5… if I was lucky!

Nike React Element 87 p3The Undercover X Nike take on the React Element 87 seen on a local KOL not long after its release

If scoring a regular release was hard, the collab version was even harder. Just as with the VaporMax, Nike was going to let their designer version hit the market first. Undercover announced on IG, eight days before the launch on 13 September, the few places their iteration of the React Element 87 would be sold, with a reminder that only those who had won an “advance online lottery”, spread over two days, could buy it at the brand’s Aoyama store. News of the Undercover version stocked at Dover Street Market Singapore on the same date came to me shortly after the Tokyo announcement. As DSMS adopts the same raffle draw for a chance to cop the shoes, I was immediately uninterested. I have never even won a bar of chocolate at a D&D!

On Wednesday, a little bird with fantastically beautiful feathers told me that DSMS would stock the shoes I’ve been eyeing that very day. This afternoon, on a whim, I set forth for Dempsey Road to try my luck. The Nike React Element 87 turned out to be everything I had hoped it would be. Without an exaggerated shape, it does not try to be a dad shoe, nor mom, uncle, or aunt. The two colour stories available confirmed my initial suspicion that the Undercover version might have been a little too bright for me.

The shoe is incredibly light, with an upper that’s a semi-transparent, thermoplastic elastomer (TPE—a technical yarn) version of rip-stop and a mid-sole featuring a new foam tech known simply as React foam. While it’s comfortable all round, wearing the shoe sock-less, as you might with any Flyknit-kick, is not advisable since profuse perspiration is a possible bane. And the top edge of the asymmetric tongue, as well as the collar may be a bit abrasive, but that could be due to the newness of the shoe. What’s especially appealing to me about the React Element 87 is the close-to-the-foot form factor. Finally, it’s back to normal. And that, for now, is fresh.

Nike React Element 87, SGD239, is available in limited numbers at Dover Street Market Singapore. Photos: Jim Sim/(Bottom) Chin Boh Kay

Screen Time Is Play Time 👍🏼

And it plays music tooDivoom Tivoo P1

By Low Teck Mee

Some tech inventions, once gone, just won’t come back. The cathode ray tube (CRT) television, I am sure you’ll agree, is one. Conversely, the vinyl player is an exception since it is not a clunky piece of old tech. It’s analogue with charm an beauty. And I am guilty of resuscitating my old Rega. Sadly, not the CRT set. It may be charming as retro interior item, but no one wants to watch Netflix on it.

Still, some designers find the old television cute enough to want to resurrect its form. In the case of the Tivoo, a neat little gadget from portable speaker maker Divoom, the goggle-box is ideal for disguising a (mini) boombox. While the Tivoo may look like it could have come from the set of the Jetsons, “Family of the Future”, it is designed for the present digital age, and possibly for a little longer than after tomorrow.

Hong Kong-based Divoom is known for their Timebox and Aurabox LED-pixel-fronted speakers, which are both audio and visual companions to those who can’t get enough from listening alone. When I caught sight of the Timebox at HMV in Hong Kong two years back, I was quite attracted to it. The idea that I could also create pixel art on the front screen was especially appealing. What held me back was the square-blockish design: it felt oddly stiff and cold. A year later, when I saw it again in Loft in Sendai, Japan, I didn’t bite the bait.

Divoom Tivoo P2

With the Tivoo, things are different. Unlike the earlier Divoom iterations, it is conceived as a far more capable portable speaker. Fitted with a digital signal processor (DSP) that renders surprisingly clear sound and vocals for such a tiny little devise, the Tivoo also comes with a bass port to give a palpable thump to tracks such as BTS’s Idol. In fact, the Tivoo is a 6W, 360 full-range speaker that offers multi-directional sound from the top, unlike the Timebox and Aurabox, which had speakers in their rear. Okay, I’m not going to pretend this can take the place of the well-loved (and a lot dearer) Bose Soundlink Revolve, but as it includes a a full-RGB panel to support the LED screen, which is customisable to keep your eyes entertained.

To be frank, while I have no love for peripherals that blink incessantly, such as light-fitted USB charging cords, I do find the Tivoo’s pixel art very likeable. The 16X16, fully programmable graphic on the screen allows you to “draw” whatever you like with the Divoom Smart app that you can download onto your smartphone. Apart from pixel art creation, you can also edit the 256 LED config for your own lighting effects (bedroom disco enthusiasts, be warned!). Of course, the screen, too, provides a time-telling interface, which means this serves as an alarm clock as well. Frankly, this is such a playable device that I can’t begin to list all that you can do with the Tivoo.

I have to state clearly that if you’re looking for a HiFi audio companion and concerned with output power, you may be in the wrong end of the sound divide. If, however, you are in the market for something that could be as fun as, if not more than, mobile Pokémon, then the Tivoo might be your best AV aide. Not only is it quite future-proof (how about Bluetooth version 5.0, which means less power consumption and wider coverage?), it’s also multi-talented: it’s a DJ mixer, a voice memo recorder, a weather notice service, a game machine, a sleep aid (by producing melatonin-inducing light apparently), and a notifier of in-coming messages from your social media accounts. Seriously, almost everything except the proverbial kitchen sink!

Divoom’s Tivoo pixel art Bluetooth speaker, SGD89, is available at Gadget Plus stores island wide. Photos: Divoom

Father Figures

For late adopters and those not willing to shell out a chunk of a month’s salary for a hunk of a shoe deemed the height of fashion, but shall no longer be, there are alternatives


Dad shoes

It’s been a year since we were acquainted with clunky, heavy, thick-soled shoes so monstrous they had to be associated with dad to be evocative. What should have been a dud has, instead, become sneaker culture’s unlikely hero and energiser. From then, there are dad shoes and more dad shoes, and some are seriously daddier—or uglier (in fashion speak, glorious!)than others. One of them is not Adidas’s own Klump, the Yeezy 700. Despite their chunkiness and their so-uncool-they’re-cool oddball stance, these shoes are being released by brands like Buddhists freeing turtles into the sea (放生, fang sheng, or live release, for improving the devotees’ karma). Dad shoes, it seems, have quite a long life to come, now that even unlikely brands have come on board, from Aldo to Skecher, even Timberland!

It is, of course, a no-brainer to just go buy a pair of the slowly-fading Balenciaga Triple S or, if you’re the leader of the pack, the even flashier Track, but not many, although able, are willing to cough up close to S$2,000 for a pair of kicks. Rather than consider the likes of Gucci Flashtrek (or, gasp, the bejewelled version), auditioning real sneakers by sports brands could be a lot more fun and rewarding, not to mention easier on the wallet. Some fashion types think that fashion shoes should be purchased from a fashion brand and would, therefore, consider Zara or China’s not-too-shoddy Urban Revivo. But at a specialist sneaker retailer, you do get better value even if most of the desirable sneakers are above S$200, as well as the performance that come with the DNA of these shoes.

This could possibly be virgin territory for those used to the Stan Smith and co. While you are looking for a hunk, you do not wish for too much heft. And although the side of the shoe may be a pull, do not dismiss the top view: you do prefer architectural wonder than a slab of dough. Since these shoes are designed to look at least one-and-half times the length of your actual feet, be prepared for them to appear unusually large. Stick to your usual size and do not allow ill-informed sales staff to tell you that your feet are “too small”!

Nike M2K Tekno

Nike M2K Tekno

This is a sneaker that Nike, for reasons unknown to us, isn’t offering in large numbers. In fact, they’re not easy to find. The women’s version (above) has recently appeared and, as usual for most trending shoes, is available in fetching colours, such as this sweetest of pinks (and the strongest of reds). Colours aside, what works in Nike’s favour, as handsome dad shoes go, is its form. From the top view, the M2K Tekno is wickedly well-shaped, with adequate spread and corridor on the sides to give these kicks the right balance all shoes with a hulky silhouette should have. In this case, the shapely upper is unsurprising as it sits atop the equally dad-like, beautifully grooved mid-sole of the Air Monarch, which is another shoe to consider if only because it is a lot cheaper.

Style strength ★★★★★ Chunk aspect ★★★★★ Comfort factor ★★★★★

Nike M2K Tekno, SGD 159, is available at AW Lab

Adidas Yung 96

Adidas Yung 96

It isn’t quite clear if the current craze for the Falcon (women’s only) is because girls think they are handsome dad shoes or because Kylie Jenner is the kick’s near-billionaire model. If you don’t care about celebrity endorsement, you may prefer a cousin, the Yung 96. This kick may not score as the daddiest of dad shoes out there (that honour goes to its sibling the Yung 1), but it sure looks like the geeky kicks its pitched to be. The Yung 96 has the prerequisite chunkiness, but it also sports the three stripes that looks decidedly a relic from the ’80s. Nothing, of course, wrong with that since most shoes today are built on the very old soles of yore. Still, Adidas, could have given it a fancier spin, especially the somewhat lame mid-sole.

Style strength ★★★☆☆ Chunk aspect ★★★★☆ Comfort factor ★★★★☆

Adidas Yung 96, SGD159, is available @ Foot Locker and JD Sports

Puma Thunder Spectra

Puma Thunder Spectra

When the Thunder Desert first appeared two months ago (now in peach or peppermint shades for women!), many people thought this is the shoe the Ye should have designed. When the second iteration Thunder Spectra (above) launched last week, many consider it a worthy competitor to the Triple S. This is arguably the most striking sneaker release of the season, one that can be traced to Puma’s collaboration with Alexander McQueen back in the ’90s. Its handsome profile and the layers of colours are exactly the reasons people post shoe photos on IG. When worn, the snug is a delight and the total mass an eye-opener. However, the top view of the Thunder Spectra has more in common with a baguette, not those you’d find at Delifrance, but the corpulent versions at neighbourhood bakers.

Style strength ★★★★☆ Chunk aspect ★★★★★ Comfort factor ★★★★★

Puma Thunder Spectra, SGD201, is available @ Puma stores, AW Lab, Foot Locker, JD Sports.

Reebok Aztrek

Of all the brands seen here, Reebok has the potential to release striking dad shoes based on some of their past styles. But they have not done so in a big way—pun firmly in step. Their most dad-looking is the Aztek, first released the ’90s, but it is an uncle of a shoe if compared to the Adidas Yung 96. Still, the Aztek, cut higher at the ankles than others, is appealing because it is the most retro of the selection here. Serious-looking, even! With the Vetements collaboration on the brand’s revolutionary Instapump Fury still fresh in mind, many are turning to Reebok for kicks with street cred that do not—normally—shout out loud.

Style strength ★★☆☆☆ Chunk aspect ★★☆☆☆ Comfort factor ★★☆☆☆

Reebok Aztrek, SGD139, is available @ Reebok stores and Foot Locker

Fila Disruptor II Premium (W)

The comeback sports brand of the year (thanks to Gosha Rubchinskiy?) wasted no time in releasing flagship styles that are consistent with the craze for the thicker and the taller. The Disruptor II does not only has the bulk, it has the height to go with the girth, which is why, we were told, it is especially popular among women. This is the clunkiest sneaker seen in the stores, and, in large sizes, do take up space in the MRT train. And, offers less than ideal flexibility to sprint for the bus. While it may be mistaken for a Skecher, the Disruptor II, even in white, is the exaggerated kick that defines fashionable footwear now.

Style strength ★★★☆☆ Chunk aspect ★★★★★ Comfort aspect ★★★☆☆

Fila Disruptor II Premium, SGD269, is available @ Fila stores and Foot Locker

New Balance 99H

NB 99H

The New Balance silhouettes for its shoes have been rather consistent through the years: neither too narrow nor too broad—chunky not being the UPI of their past, which means they are not the first brand you’d go to for styles that are tagged ‘dad’. In spirit, however, there’s something quite papa’s shoe about the 99H. Sure, the mid-sole isn’t thick or complicated-looking enough (compared to the 990 that sneakerheads prefer or the 608 that girls are now gravitating to), but this is an elegant reflection of what’s trending, and possibly a shoe you’d still want to wear after the current craze is not even a vestige of our collective memory.

Style strength ★★★☆☆ Chunk aspect ★☆☆☆☆ Comfort aspect ★★★★★

New Balance 99H, SGD199, is available at New Balance stores and Robinsons at The Heeren

Under Amour Forge 96

Under Amour Forge 96

Under Armour, while a brand now frequently seen among gym goers, isn’t exactly known for their forward or trend-leaning ‘lifestyle’ sneakers that you might wear to Manhattan (the bar!). The appearance of the Forge 96 this month may change all that as it is the first pair (in different trendy colours, it should be said) that launched UA’s Sportstyle category. The Forge 96 is less retro than retro-futuristic and is, despite its appreciable hunk, rather minimalist, if placed next to the more expressive Puma Thunder Spectra. Strictly for (fashion-considering) fans.

Style strength ★★☆☆☆ Chunk aspect ★★★★☆ Comfort factor ★★★★☆

Under Amour Forge 96, SGD 159, is available at JD Sport

Calvin Klein Jeans Leather Chunky Trainers

Calvin Klein Jeans Leather Chunky Trainers

We’re hesitant to include this in our line-up, but since it’s sold in a sneaker store, we thought, why not. Calvin Klein Jeans, even in its re-branded form, is late in the dad shoe showdown, but, as it’s always said, better late then never. Their version, simply called Leather Chunky Trainers, are rather attractive even if they look a tad too close to those by Balenciaga. The mixed upper of mesh and suede (and those eyelet stays!) gives them a rather high-end, fashion-y vibe. And the colour combo of the above is what non-white sneaker fans would want to cop.

Style strength ★★★☆☆ Chunk aspect ★★★★★ Comfort factor ★★★★☆

Calvin Klein Jeans Leather Chunky Trainers, SGD260, is available @ AW Lab

Shoes are mostly available in men’s and women’s sizes unless indicated. Photos: Zhao Xiangji

One On One


Mao Shan Wang

I always turn to Japanese brands when I want something unexpected, especially in a pair of pants. This, by Kolor, appears, at first, to be a twofer, but is actually a pair of (smaller) cotton chinos split at the crotch and then spliced to a pair of wool slacks, giving the impression of conjoined fraternal twins. Okay, that’s a little OTT, but you get what I am trying to say.

Kolor’s Junichi Abe, one-time pattern maker at Junya Watanabe, has an adroit way with different fabric textures appearing in a singular/one-use garment, as exemplified in this pair of pants. There’s the casualness of the chino half and the dressiness of the Prince of Wales check of the other—odd couple that bed well.

What I especially like is the generous cut or, more precisely, the roominess of the fit, which means it’s likely to be fat-shamed by the jegging and her friends. I have cast aside skin-tight pants since the low-rise lost favour among fans of slacks. Even my jeans are baggy enough to store two chickens in each leg, as my mother would say. In this pair, it is roomy but not ‘hipsy’, which is a definite plus.

This Kolor trousers is partially lined (to the knee), which enhances the comfort factor, since wearing wool in our weather may be pricklier than sleeping in a bag of pine cones. If you are tall enough, the pants is calf-length, but I like it better when it reaches mere centimetres above the ground. Or, just two. Yes, fastidious I am.

Kolor two-panel trousers, SGD960, is available at Club 21, Forum The Shopping Mall. Photo: Farfetch

Wild Fire

Prada Flame Frame

Leaping flames, there’s something primordial about them. In fact, it was Darwin who considered fire—and language—two important achievements of humanity. So Prada’s playing with fire isn’t as frivolous as it appears to be.

Miuccia Prada turned up the heat for autumn/winter 2018 when she showed some bowling shirts with banana and floral prints caught above flames. But as early as June, stars such as Jeff Goldblum and Pusha T were seen wearing the flame motif on what could be two-different-shirts-come-together-as-one, and fashion news sites declared the Prada shirt “the hottest in fashion right now”.

But as anyone who has dealt with fire knows, it spreads. In her women’s show two months later, Ms Prada sent out shoes with wedge heels engulfed, a burning that had, in fact, previously appeared in the spring/summer season of 2012, on stilettos that could have been tourches, or giant matchsticks. Now, the same cartoonish flames—acetate laser cut-outs—arise on the frames of Prada eyewear, part of this year’s Ornate special collection.

The flames may be akin to those seen on fast cars and faster bikes—also known as ghost flames—but, set on the outer top left and right corners of the aviator-ish frames, have the feline allure of the cat glasses of the ’50s and ’60s. That, to us, is the immeasurable beauty of Prada: no matter how far out their designs are, they have never totally abandoned old-fashioned femininity.

Prada two-tone ‘Flame’ sunglasses, SGD550, from the Ornate special collection is available at select Prada stores and Sunglass Hut. Photos: Zhao Xiangji

The Talkative Us: Paris Fashion Week SS 2019

When two friends chat fashion


Conversation PFW SS 2019

One Monday evening—a stormy night—two individuals sought sanctity and peace, but found themselves giving Facebook more data to mine when they chatted, via WhatsApp, about a Paris season that had, as they saw it, neither vigour nor vim.

L: This season...

V: This season is a write-off! Paris now is a bit like 1982, or before Rei and Yohji came: flat.

Doesn’t it feel like that? We need someone to shake things up.

Unfortunately, fashion changers don’t come even every decade.

Definitely not Hedi, not this decade.

Pity the fashion editors who have to say nice things. Otherwise, no invites.

Even Karl stopped saying anything about him.

Haha, though he was in the audience. It’ll take two minutes for Karl to come up with this type of show.

Karl spins more variations on the Chanel jacket in one show than Hedi has for a dress the entire time he was at Saint Laurent.

True, but I didn’t see anything at Balenciaga either. Unnecessary $ for effects.

Projection on the wall is this year’s in thing. I feel like I have seen this show before.

He’s dialed back and is doing commercial and more wearable versions of previous stuff. Snore.

I looked at the current collection of Vetements up-close yesterday. Major snore too.

Irony can only go so far.

At least he has a point of view (and technical flair) for Balenciaga than the other one at Celine.

Since it’s Demna, I shall reflect for a week to see if he’s being ironical on his expected irony.

Demna does not depend on irony alone; he has something more innate. Although, for me, the Margiela influence is sometimes a bit too obvious.

For me, last year’s overcoat, pulled to one shoulder. Love! They were Beautiful. On every level. The intent was clear.

And the skill in meeting the intent! Irony atop expertise.

Or course, there’s not one shred of irony at Dior. Maybe the French are running out of steam. Paris = zero.

I don’t understand why everyone has a bloody social message to deliver. Why can’t fashion just be fashion? Or am I being ignorant—not woke enough?

Because that Maria made it cool, muahaha!!!

Maria is trite! Sumiko should interview her. They’ll enjoy each other’s company.

Unlike Galliano. No conscience, that one! All I want to know is whether he’s drug-free.

He isn’t—to style like that!

Waiting for another relapse.

Dior now just gets to me. I have never been so irritated by a label this much.

Can’t think of anyone else with her stunning lack of talent. Bouchra Jarrar has at least three silhouettes. Sarah Burton also has at least three.

It’s come to a stage when it’s about getting the bonuses to buy another house somewhere in the south of France. Or, being one’s own kick-starter to begin one’s own label.

Dunno, but we all know now which one of the Valentino duo has the talent. Before she left, it must have been her hand because every Valentino collection was the same camel tone and sheer.

I wonder what Pierpaolo thinks each time he sits there watching her show. Every time I walk pass Dior, I can’t bear to look. Too painful. More brain cells die.

That Dior ‘Blue’ collection: Has anything gone lower? Nothing excites anymore. Hence, I thought of pre-Comme/Yohji Paris. But readers of SOTD won’t go that far back.

How many people even go back to yesterday? That’s why we should. There’s nothing wrong with shuttling back. If things look better today, we wouldn’t have to.

They’re all doing what they’ve always been doing, even Galliano and Rei. I want something to shock me or disgust me. Demna came close a few seasons ago, but…

But Paris isn’t poised to shock when French fashion now is a multi-billion-dollar business. Shocking won’t pass the grade in any business plan. Ugly yes; shocking no.

I think the Dior windows this season can be a starting point for everything that is urghhh in fashion now.

But Anna said in that “everything was wonderful”.

She never says what she thinks. She’s no idiot. I’m sure she sees the malaise in fashion.

She loves Chanel too much.

I’m the only one saying this: Karl is younger and more inventive than the rest of them.

Inventive in styling and sets, but not quite in design. I don’t consider his clothes inventive at all. Maybe a little more so at Fendi. Or, why wouldn’t his own line ever take off?

Not everything works, but he’s firmly planted in the immediate. His play on the Chanel jacket, the fabrics, etc, I don’t think others can come near.

There’s some truth to that. In some ways, Karl is like Steve Jobs—he doesn’t truly innovate, but he does take what’s popular and give it a popular spin. You know it’s on trend but it doesn’t look like everybody else’s on trend. 

Agreed. He has never really ‘invented’ anything, but I think he’ll be the first to say he never intended to, anyway. Looking ahead, I think Marc at Chanel will be okay. Or even at Dior. Not earth-shaking, but competent.

It would be hard to replace Karl, but too easy to replace Maria!

Even Susie couldn’t bring herself to say anything about Dior, just praising the dancers. Sheer stretch tops + long tulle skirts. Genius.

Re-looking at Marc (sorry, divert to NYC a bit), that’s pure, pure retro-love. No irony, no attempt at 2019. Just a riff on YSL that’s not even contemporary—sort of YSL created for Alexis Carrington.

Marc always goes back to YSL (its okay, we’re in Paris again), sometimes by way of Comme.

Of course! I liked it immediately, but I knew exactly why it appealed to me—the taffeta, the satin, the flounces, the ruffles, the oversized bows.

To be fair, the flounces are not easy to handle. Marc has more in his repertoire than Hedi. Additionally, Marc had the rosettes of Ungaro, not just the flounces of YSL!

Marc did it all very well, especially the proportions. Hedi: short. slim, black, tight.

Like Hedi, Marc has gone through three houses (including his own). Marc has spanned a range.

But he’s not connecting to the now. In that sense, Hedi is more connected than Marc.

I am not sure if what he’s doing is “now” because now can’t stretch back to 2000 when he was designing YSL men’s (even before Dior Homme). 

Yep. I think fashion has moved on since his time at Saint Laurent. It’s dated, but Carine may like; she’s stuck in her Tom Ford era.

Why do you think Marine Serre is so well liked? I am not sure I get her.

I don’t even register her. The little I have seen, I did not even realise it was supposed to be ‘fashion’.

But many reviewers like her.

The only two I like this season are Thom Browne and Rick Owens, but they’re both in their own little universe.

I have no problem with that. Better in their own universe than in the same gutter.

Re-looking at Serre. Why am I seeing Demna and Ghesquiere? Did she intern, or was an assistant to them?

I see Vetements, too.

She just makes Demna more palatable.

Maybe she has captured the mood! Or, imagine getting stuck even before Demna!

That French woman designer—I can’t remember her name now. She’s very Vogue Paris.


She did a collab with Topshop, or was it H&M?

Oh, Isabel Marant! It was H&M.

Now, that’s stuck, stuck, stuck!!! I know you like Phoebe, but Phoebe and Marant, etc, all design in a very fixed and narrow aesthetic.

I see what you’re saying, but both are leagues apart. I admire Phoebe because she’s ‘technical’. Nothing she did was straightforward. She could make a simple shirt sing and soar! There was a certain mastery that even her contemporary Stella doesn’t have.

Hello?! There’ll be no Stella without Phoebe. I wonder how much of Chloe did Stella design. I bet Phoebe did it all.

Even a quintessentially French brand like Chloe is sleep-inducing. Why does Paris not excite any more? I have always skipped New York, been selective when it came to London and Milan, and totally followed Paris, but more and more, I feel let down by Paris. 

Paris—I just feel that every designer (even Rei, I’m sorry) was doing exactly what they were expected to do. Exactly!!!

Theyskens did not do exactly what was expected of him, but look at the result! He and the others seem weary of the business or unsure of the prevalent mood. And I don’t think they bother to carry the torch for Paris.

Aiyo, Theyskens was weak. Like he completely lost his mojo.

The worst is happening at resuscitated houses! Poiret! Why did they even bother? You might as well bring back Worth! But he’s not French. Maybe this is consistent with the nationalism sweeping across Europe?

Who even knows or cares about Poiret? Might as well develop a new name.

Poiret’s clothes were not even known to be well-made! He was better known for his ideas, not quite dressmaking. 

And did I hear Patou?

Why not Lelong too?

Rabanne—salah! Could be any label.

It’s such a waste of money and resources. Aren’t there enough unworn and unsold clothes? And those destined for the incinerators? How much can Rabanne sell to justify its existence? 

Who cares about anyone who would buy Rabanne?

Like who cares about those buying Lanvin now!

See how we don’t remember Alber Albaz? It’s telling.

You’re only as good as your last good collection: clichéd but true.

People praised him and dissed the Taiwanese owners, but he became rather formulaic too. His last few seasons were so blah.

By the time of his H&M collaboration, he was, in fact, coasting. The jelak effect set in. Even today, many brands still insist only getting us satiated.

As I said, this was Paris, 1982.

Even Sacai! She’s traipsing a plateau, not, as Kate Bush sang, Running up that Hill. Or, have I become easily bored? I was such a fan. No more. I think she sold out after that Colette thing. 

Sacai! Chitose is doing exactly what she has been doing. Sacai has now early-fossilised into, not a caricature, but doing the same thing because she likes it and her customers like it. That’s what I find about designers like her: they want to have their own voice, but it’s the same voice every season.

I think women are not quite as influenced by designers as they are by pop stars and KOLs. The catwalk is really for entertainment. I mean, people go to the movies, love a character, but don’t dress like the character (no more Annie Halls). Who’d want to look like Effie Trinket anyway? But pop stars and KOLs photograph themselves on a real beach, in a real bathroom, with a real ice cream cone, so that’s more real for most.

Maybe the idea of “iconic” and “fashion-forward” dressing is no longer relevant. Or even dressing as a challenge to the zeitgeist. Maybe these are outmoded ideas.

Because “icons” these days are not iconic and “fashion-forward” can be backward. Or, nudity in IG. Or, some trashy dress on the red carpet, even at the Met Gala.

Every city, big and small, has a designer who just survives recycling off-shoulder or one-shouldered satin dresses, mermaid/goddess gowns with beading or fish-tails, and tulle skirts. Best examples: Zuhair Murad and Elie Saab.

And Michael Cinco. 

[Yawn emoji]

Or feathers—McQueen plumage. 


Conversely, there’s this thing about wanting to look not polished and the love of the anti-fit. And aping hip-hop stars.

Sorry, that’s the black culture, which I don’t care about because it’s not fashion; it’s money. Never allow casual sportif New York to go to Paris.

Or anyone in Kanye’s orbit.

Nooooo!!! Cannot mention the Ye or Abloh. Cannot!!!

Oh! Yes! No!

I think the word we dare not use today is original.

I think that died with the corset. Or, may be, later, with Cristobal.

The finality and banality of SS 2019: Cathy being nice to Dior and Hedi. She took a long time to sell out, but she did anyway. When Cathy is being nice, I don’t believe in what she thinks any more.

I can’t say I was not disappointed, not because she was seemingly positive about Hedi, but because she, like Sarah, justified what he did. She probably missed going to his shows. Maybe she needs to get back into his good books.

I think fashion critics don’t matter anymore.

I still think they do because I want them to put into context for me what I would not be able to see or experience on my own. But at the same time, I do not lap up everything they say—Suzy, for example. Her IG posts are, frankly, embarrassing. And, contrary to Mark’s disdain, I do not “click on some poor designer’s name who (I) might think is about to get a drubbing”. I want them to tell it like it is. Even Rei has her moments of extreme silliness. Just say it.

No one reads them with the intent we do.

Read? Many fashionistas count looking at IG posts as reading. (Fashionista! Is that word still relevant? There is a website by that name!) #OOTD dos not require the reading faculty.

Well, we watch the live streams. (I did not even bother with Gucci!) and instant viewing.

[Gasp] You didn’t watch Gucci? Have you given up on Michele?

Not given up, but for the last two/three collections, he has moved on to a different aesthetic (not that most people noticed) that is not quite me. I can appreciate it, but I don’t want to wear it. Also, Gucci have raised their prices.

And the aesthetic shift is different enough to matter? He has gone through several shifts. I like his first two/three collections a lot, but not when he started pushing the already distinctive aesthetical force.

I don’t think it matters because his unquestioning fans will and have bought it, and when they wear it, I can appreciate it, but not on me.

Why are fans “unquestioning”?

For me (and fans), it’s about the unabashed explosion of colours, of textures, of colour mixes that are so off that they’re right, the nerdy feel, the totally non-gender specific individual items. The proportions are surprisingly “classic” though disguised by colours and the accessories.

[Photo reference]

Is there any other designer doing the totality of this look? Tisci can, but he’s too lazy now. People can get turned off by the runway or editorial look, but that’s what fans want, not the tees or just the shoes, but the whole feel.

Yep, not just one pair of Flashtrek with the crystal embellishments.

I can’t bear it, anyway.

It’s hard to say that isn’t gaudy. When will we know it’s excess?

There’s no excess in Gucci. It’s all built-in. A Gucci fan will immediately get Tony Duquette.

Kaleidoscopic! Or, maximum of maximalism?

You better pray I don’t die before you do. How to have this conversation with someone else in Southeast Asia?

Collage: Just So

Window Pain

When fashion and feminism meet on the storefront

Dior store front Oct 2018

This is a Dior window we have never thought we’d see. It is a print of a collage that includes the text “WOMEN” and “CES’T NON NON NON ET NON (“that’s no no no and no”, which is also on sweaters and other tops of the autumn/winter collection)” amid torn images taking prominence over the clothes. And somewhat hidden away from the full-cap messages, two other words peeked: “MEN” (afterthought?) and “YOUTHQUAKE”, which prompted an SOTD reader to remark to us, “Which era are they in?” And, on the window design, “Stupendous banality, beyond vapid”.

Dior is on a roll. After this season’s uninspired advertising campaign, now this lame window. Frankly, we did not expect Dior’s political stance to come this far, or to the storefront. No Dior designer, as we can recall (please correct us if we are wrong), has worn their political convictions on their sleeves or the front of their T-shirt. Neither had any emblazoned messages on wallpaper to be plastered on the brand’s store frontage. Christian Dior himself may have been a political science student (at the École des Sciences Politiques in Paris) and his New Look—with their extravagant use of fabrics—may be seen as a reaction against the rationing of cloth during World War II, but it is hard to say that Monsieur Dior was a ringing political voice.

It is not clear if Maria Grazia Chiuri is a political creature or a political opportunist. Or both. It seems that being the first women designer in Dior’s 70-plus-year history isn’t enough a political statement, she sees it necessary to lend her voice to the causes she believes in. Nothing wrong with that, but how effective can one be as fashion designer and political activist? Dior’s “YOUTHQUAKE”-inspired window display barely engages the political discourse nor offers a social mirror to the real vexations of the world. Despite its social message, it is still patently brand communication, made more unmistakable by the recurrence of the DIOR logo when the store is already well identified.

Dior store front P2 Oct 2018

You’d think if there’s anyone who would take their political conviction or feminist zeal to the fashion front, it would be the one-time communist Miuccia Prada, who, like Monsieur Dior, studied political science (graduating with a PhD at the University of Milan), who, according to popular telling, wore Yves Saint Laurent to protest. But Ms Prada, also a known feminist, has not succumbed to sloganeering to get her message across. As a designer, she used design instead.

Politically-correct/aware dressing of body and mind is, of course, trending now. That fashion should be embroiled in the current state of world affairs is emblematic of how passions and emotions are now easily and deeply stirred in people on either side of the socio-political divide. Fashion designers using their clothes (rather than storefront) as medium of political expression isn’t a Trump-era trend. One of the pioneers of political-slogan-as-fashion-statement—yes, emblazoned on T-shirts, Ms Chiuri—was Britain’s Katherine Hamnett. In the late ’80s, her messages were boldly printed on the entire front of T-shirts to be unmissable, although it is not certain if those who copped the tops shared her beliefs or were just interested in text on tees. In the UK’s fashion community, Ms Hamnett wasn’t alone. On and off, Vivienne Westwood, too, used similar methods to draw attention to what she felt fervidly about. Interestingly, women designers are the ones more inclined to speak their mind through their clothes. Ms Hamnett and Ms Westwood, however, wasn’t merely going afloat with the current of the their time. Theirs were ardent beliefs independent of social trends.

Dior’s collaged tear-sheets of newsprint images of women protesting in the ’60s with placards declaring “Mini skirts forever” (and such) are perhaps too distant and too grassroots for a luxury brand, and, thus, appear to be token engagement, especially when the windows and their encircling spaces offer little to shoppers that could arouse the mind. Bottom line: is it meaningful? As Miuccia Prada once said to Document Journal, “Someone who is superficial gets only the façade”.

Photo: Galerie Gombak

Phoebe Philo Fans, Some Possible Alternatives

In one fell swoop, the new Celine was effectively telling former, less-attenuated fans and customers to eff off! But all is not lost. Until the return of Phoebe Philo (or not), some names to consider


Celine SS 2018 adSpring/summer 2018, Phoebe Philo’s last collection for Céline, shot by Juergen Teller. Photos: Céline

By Mao Shan Wang

Enough of harping on what Celine is today or, come January, when the new collection drops, what there is nothing to buy. Trends come and go, so do labels: Look at Lanvin. Besides, loyalty is not as valued as it was before. Only tech companies appreciate loyalty. Apple wouldn’t be where it is today if customers were fickle about why they like the brand. But if there’s something that can be gleaned from the world’s second largest smartphone maker (okay, third-largest since Huawei has overtaken them in August, according to media reports), consistent aesthetic identity is key. An iPhone will always look—and feel—like an iPhone.

Fashion is, of course, not the same as communication devices. It does not have to be user-friendly and it’s a lot more manic and far more mutable, having to update itself up to six times a year, and, now, with monthly drops. But, perhaps due to this need for constant renewal or, rather, refreshment in most cases, some kind of brand consistency is necessary. Unfortunately, for fashion—the luxury business, brand recognition alone is enough, not nearly substance and not nearly astonishment. And since egomaniacs are often installed as creators of the brand’s products, they would like to obliterate what came before. It’s a matter of how ruthless.

Sure, we’re all going to move on to something else. No one died a sartorial death after Michael Kors decamped Céline to continue his own label. I don’t remember anyone knowing at that time that they desired the unsexy but alluring shapes that Phoebe Philo introduced until she did. Fashion is variegated, and there will be others, while not entirely the same as the Céline that, as The Gentlewoman rightly noted, “cut through fashion’s tired fantasy… for sharp reality and hyper-luxurious clothes”, are surely just as genial, pleasing, and intelligent. These are my pick.

Dries Van Noten

Dries Van Noten SS 2019Photos:

I was resistant to adding Dries van Noten to this list, but in his spring/summer 2019 show, I saw quite a few pieces those willingly labelled Philophiles would find compatible with their wardrobe: the loose-hanging jackets, the easy-fit shirts, the modern-sporty outers. Mr Van Noten did not always design like this, but his designs have a certain romance that is increasingly missing in today’s clothes, and an artsiness similar in spirit to what Ms Philo introduced in her latter years at Céline, a welcome flourish at a time when minimalism was being redefined for the post-Helmut Lang era customer.

Haider Ackermann

Haider Ackermann SS 2019 G1Photos:

This may not seem like an obvious choice. The designs of Haider Ackermann is, however, on track to welcome former Céline fans. The non-body-defining shapes, a slouchiness that suggests I-don’t-care androgyny, and a palette that has more in common with the holy than holi are, to me, the sensibilities that Philo followers can relate to and would desire to buy. What I consider a plus, too, is that Mr Ackermann, who, in 2010 was tipped by Karl Lagerfeld as a possible Chanel designer should the latter bow out, constructs in such a way as to never let the clothes look too dressed-down.

Jil Sander

Jil Sander SS 2019 G1Photos:

It’s hard not to be lured by Luke and Lucie Meier’s clean lines for Jil Sander, arguably the Phoebe Philo of her time. Amid all the noise that fashion now rides on, the Meiers’ quiet tones and gentle shapes are as refreshing as a palate cleanser. Some people think their aesthetic is minimal to a point that it’s almost suited to conventual life. But it is precisely the serenity that the clothes—with quirky details such as extra-wide, inside-out seam allowance and ungainly cuffs for sleeves—project that the more and less restrained Philophiles will adore.


Lemaire SS 2019 G1Photos: Lemaire

Christophe Lemaire and designing partner/wife Sarah-Linh Tran have a chemistry between them that fans and the media alike call poetry. Together, they have created a Lemaire that has more oomph than when Mr Lemaire soldiered on alone under his earlier eponymous label while simultaneously designing for Lacoste. Comparing the duo’s work with Ms Philo’s is probably not fair since Lemaire offers more intriguing details, such as odd pocket placements and alternatives to traditional fastening positions, which, in marketing speak, could be considered value-added. And what value!


Loewe SS 2019 G1Photos: Loewe

While Cathy Horyn thought that Loewe “might be getting too relaxed”, I thought that Jonathon Anderson did it, if true, for the right reasons. As counter stroke to the onward march of street fashion, other designers are pushing for tailoring, sometimes extreme tailoring that encases the body too closely and with shoulders that look ready for war. Mr Anderson, on the other hand, has guided Loewe on a different path. There is dressiness and crafting to the clothes, but with ease in mind. I don’t mean “relaxed” though, I mean freedom from constriction, from efflorescence, even the zeitgeist. Individualism doesn’t mean one has to forgo discernment.

Trotter Trots On

Louise Trotter@Lacoste.jpg

We have always been partial to Joseph under creative director Louis Trotter’s watch. We learnt that she had left the British brand around the same time we were told of the closure of Singapore’s only Joseph store (at the ill-fated Capitol Piazza), in early August: two pieces of bad news. Now with reports that she has joined Lacoste, things are looking up, not only for those of us who have enjoyed Ms Trotter’s work, but also for the Swiss-owned French brand Lacoste, somewhat languishing under Portuguese designer Felipe Oliveira Baptista, who succeeded Christophe Lemaire in 2010.

Miss Trotter may seem like an odd choice for Lacoste, given her latterly not-too-commercial work for Joseph, but she had been at sportswear-oriented Gap and Hilfiger before, as well as the British high street label Jigsaw. Joseph, founded by one-time hairdresser Joseph Ettedgui, was initially a multi-label store before it branched into the highly successful knitwear line Joseph Tricot. When Ms Trotter came on board in 2009 from Jigsaw, she immediately positioned Joseph’s ready-to-wear as a wearable, several-notches-above-basic label that moved towards the fashion-forward, but not in an alienating way. This came a year after Phoebe Philo’s appointment at Céline, allowing Joseph to move in tandem with the French brand’s aesthetic that was clearly coming on apace.

Ms Trotter kept to Joseph’s reputation for championing young designers by infusing a youthful vibe into clothes that have always been associated with the British wardrobe, such as the trench coat and the fisherman jumper. She’s not shy of extreme proportions, pairing boxy jackets with wide-legged pants, nor of eye-catching details, such as pleated ruffs, oversized pilgrim collars, and pockets large enough to house an iPad. Her solid hand with shapes and an eye for the unusual will be advantageous in restoring Lacoste the edge it had lost with the departure of Mr Lemaire. The alligator needs a new keeper.

Photo: Cyril Masson/Lacoste