Go East For A Feast For The Skin

Beauty | Jyunka, Singapore’s premier skincare brand, launches its third concept centre in Bedok


Jyunka @ Bedok Point P1B

Singapore skincare label Jyunka has always been somewhat of a secret among those who use their products. Their efficacy—underscored by their marketing tag “we can change your skin”—is something users understandably want to keep to themselves. But despite their relatively off-the-radar standing, Jyunka is picking up a following large and fast enough that the brand has recently opened their third concept centre in a year. This pace is not inconsistent with market trends. Figures on the Singapore market at the time of this post isn’t immediately available (although analysts suggested at least 5% growth through 2025), but published reports suggests that the global beauty and anti-ageing segment of the wellness industry presently exceeds USD1 trillion.

Jyunka’s trio of centres (quartet, if you consider one in Bangkok that opened a couple of months back) is indication that beauty services that reply on effective therapies and, crucially, no sign-ups are scoring with customers. Their latest is a boon to those who live in the east. Although housed away from the obvious choice of Bedok Mall, Jyunka’s siting in the less buzzy, 8-year-old Bedok Point suits the quiet environs that such a face spa needs. Its neighbours are eateries, but you don’t sense that this is a foodie haven where makan (or unwelcome smells) will somehow stand in the way of treatment that enhances beauty.

The rather compact size of 494-square-foot (or 46m²), with three treatment cabins, belies the thoroughness and luxury of its new signature therapy, the Jyunka V Ageless Treatment. Jyunka has always taken pride of place in the skincare business with their strength of product offerings, but in their own therapy centres, their conceived-in-house, anti-aging and skin-rejuvenation treatments have won them not only accolades among Industry watchers, but also die-hard fans.

Jyunka mottoThe Jyunka motto, seen on the side wall of the concept centre

The Jyunka V Ageless Treatment is a facial that is built on the brand’s Five-Step Treatment. Interestingly, the ‘V’ does not stand for V-shape, as one may be tempted to assume, but the roman numeral five, alluding to their signature facial of five separate components involving hands and machine. Jyunka’s menu of treatments basically comprises Expert (those that are offered using only the facialist’s hands) and Technology (those that are administered by using advanced tools imported from Korea). The V Ageless Treatment involves both, and comes with an extra constituent part: a Stimulation Massage, which is described as “quick pinching motions to physically engage muscle movement”. All in all, its like a string quintet with an added piano!

In many salon treatments, facial muscles are often neglected, according to Jennifer Leng, Jyunka’s founder and the brand’s technical director. “It’s like an old person,” Ms Leng explained further. “When he doesn’t exercise, his muscle slacks. When he does, he gets his muscles back.” There is a misconception among both customers and facialists that working on facial muscles means tugging at the skin. “It doesn’t involve any stretching of the skin if you do it correctly,” assured Ms Leng. “The firmness of the skin is also depended on the quality of your facial muscle. Lifting—real lifting—requires physical work, not just the products.”

The thing about multi-step facial treatment is that experiencing it is more pleasurable than reading about it. Without going into details may, in fact, arouse your curiosity. From deep cleansing to the massage, the Jyunka V Ageless Treatment’s use of both the fingers and tools are calming and bliss-inducing, with the result palpable and visible. The skin is refreshed, rejuvenated, and re-energised.

Two facial junkies share their experience of trying the Jyunka V Ageless Treatment

Perhaps, only one question matters: Was it good?

Lauren Ng

“Frankly, I fell asleep the minute the facialist started cleansing my face. I have to say she is skilled and has talented fingers, if I can describe her digits as such. When I woke up, it was to her telling me she was going to apply the mask—a thick gooey paste that I can’t see, but can feel: senses-awakening cold. It was as if she was applying some precious volcanic clay on my face. It felt good. The rest of the treatment passed too quickly. I like it that she asked me if I needed a sunblock before the session ended. Thoughtful, I thought.”

Immediate result: “The result, I have to say, was very noticeable. I thought it was someone else when I looked into the mirror. No kidding! Before the treatment, my skin looked kind of grey-ish, as though my face was shrouded in a permanent shadow. After the 2-hour session (can be longer!!!), I was convinced my complexion looked brighter and my pores seemed to have looked less visible. This was the face I want to bring along when I meet my Tinder date!”

A week later: “You wouldn’t think it’d last beyond three days, but even 10 days after, I felt my skin remained clear, so much so that my boss asked me if I had secretly gone to to Seoul over the weekend!”

❝ You wouldn’t think it’d last beyond three days, but even 10 days after, I felt my skin remained clear, so much so that my boss asked me if I had secretly gone to Seoul over the weekend! ❞


Ray Zhang

“It’s what I like in a facial: thorough and methodical. It was also a good mix of hand and machine work, much like the best cakes. It got to a good start with the cleansing and scrubbing, which I later learned is what they call ‘deep cleansing’. The metal-plate ‘scrubber’ they used in the two-part cleanse was surprisingly gentle, not the stuff used for scrapping bumps off walls to prep them for paint work. In fact, I really like the hi-tech aspect of the treatment, which included a warm radio-frequency wand that is supposed to tighten facial contours and the cryotherapy, which consists of a cold tool that help deliver the active ingredients of the cream mask used into the skin. Very shiok!”

Immediate result: “I didn’t think the result would be so noticeable, but it was. Before I looked into the mirror, I thought my skin felt different. Maybe it was a clean that I had not experienced before. When I did get to see my reflection, I saw not only a clean, but really fresh face. It was as if I had slept uninterrupted for days and woke up to new skin.”

A week later: “My skin definitely looked good for the next three days. Beyond that, I think I would need the home care products that the therapist recommended, but I was too cheap to invest.”

The Ageless Series

Jyunka Ageless Emulsion and Eyes P2

Part of the expanding ‘Ageless’ range. the Ageless Emulsion and Ageless Eye

Now in its 10th year, Jyunka has recently added a new product to the slowly expanding Ageless line, part of a 25-product collection that includes the in-demand M+ Fluid (often sold out as only 5,000 bottles are yielded in each production in France). The Ageless Emulsion joins Ageless Eye to offer a pair of preparations that will be easily enjoyed by those who like their skincare routine simple. Simplicity is augmented by the ease of use and the highly spreadable consistency of the two products.

The new Ageless Emulsion, with its gel-cream texture, truly stands out for its viscosity: it flows easily and spreads just as easily too, which means absorption is immediate. What goes into the skin are two proprietary formulas: Senestem and Neroguard. Together, they deliver a cocktail of active ingredients that reduce melanin synthesis (for fairer skin), as well as increase collagen synthesis (for reduced wrinkles). To this, centella asiatica (a culinary and medical herb that’s also known as Asian pennywort or gotu kola) extract is added to improve the overall appearance of the skin. As Jyunka’s business development manager Nora Tien said, “You’ll see the difference.”

Jyunka V Ageless Facial Treatment, SGD380 for 2 hours, is available exclusively at Jyunka Concept Store, Bedok Point. For appointment, call 6214 3025. Ageless Emulsion, SGD298, and Ageless Eye, SGD142, are available at all Jyunka outlets. Photos: Galerie Gombak

Two Of A Kind: Long and Puffed

Cold Wear vs Moncler

For many fashion folks, it isn’t unclear which came first. Moncler announced their Genius collaboration in February this year. One of the contributors is Valentino’s Pierpaolo Piccioli. His capsule collection for the Italian brand known for their down jackets is thought to be aesthetically the strongest among the eight designers invited to take part in the interpretation of the Moncler classic.

Mr Piccioli’s stunning versions, available at Club 21 last month, took Moncler’s familiar shape and quilting and gave them a simple but exaggerated silhouette. The most talked about and shared are the floor length, hooded coats (right, the Agnese) that has a familiarity that can be linked to Mr Piccioli’s rather renaissance silhouette he conceived for Valentino intermittently. Moncler’s puffer coats, for the first time, has a couture sensibility about them.

The long duvet coats, in the house nylon Laqué and with their horizontal quilting, recently had the spotlight shone on one of them when Erza Miller of the Fantastic Beasts series wore a black version to the franchise’s—The Crimes of Grindelwald—Paris opening early this month. Fashion tongues were wagging, and the most striking of the Moncler collaborations took centrestage.

Not long after Mr Miller’s red-carpet strut, this version (left) was spotted at the entrance of the Coldwear store in Tampines One. The version, as we learned, is not for sale. But, as the saleswoman told us, it can be made-to-order. And how much would that set us back? “Eight hundred to a thousand,” she said hesitatingly in Mandarin (the Agnese is on the other end at USD4,135). Why was it on display if it wasn’t for sale? “I don’t know,” she continued unhelpfully, “the boss wants it here.”

Cold Wear is a Singapore-based subsidiary of one of Indonesia’s largest manufacturers of winter wear. Their in-house label Coldwear’s coat in question comes in a white that has a hint of blue or grey, depending on the ambient light, sort of the colour of snow after a day or two. The nylon used isn’t as fine as Moncler’s—to be expected—and the down filling is rather thin and limp.

As we allowed the coat to feed our fascination, one of two women walking past the Coldwear store who caught sight of the mannequin’s outfit at the entrance, said to her friend, “Wah, can wear for a wedding!”

Photos: Zhao Xiangji

Shopping Offline Is Not Quite Dead

Phew, there’s life on the streets and in the shops after all


Outside Robinsons on Black FridayThe buzz outside Robinsons at 11pm on Black Friday

By Mao Shan Wang

It’s Cyber Monday, but I’m thinking of Black Friday. I don’t remember the day after Thanksgiving, essentially an American holiday, to matter so much to people here, but as it turned out, it did. I have not seen Orchard Road this packed for close to ten years. It was as if this was the only place that mattered last Friday: people thronged—yes, that’s the word—what Orchard Road Business Association boldly calls “A Great Street”

The day started at about noon for me. I had arranged to meet two friends for lunch at Golden Mile Food Centre for the famed chilli mee. Consistent with our national habit, we went shopping after our taste buds and stomachs were duly satisfied. Orchard Road was our destination. To get there, we succumbed to Grab. The driver, on the instruction of an app on his Samsung Galaxy phone, took the PIE, exited the CTE to get to Cairnhill, but before we could leave the PIE, a bumper-to-bumper jam had formed.

Orchard Road P1Congested Orchard Road at sundown

When we hit Cairnhill, it was clear to us that Orchard Road would be at least another 30 minutes away. We had spent close to an hour in the slow-moving traffic; we were not willing for more. Back in the Kampong Java Tunnel on the CTE, we decided to make a detour, and get off at York Hotel, where, in one of their rentable function rooms on the ground floor, an FJ Benjamin clearance sale of the few brands the public-listed company still distributes was taking place. Unsurprisingly, it was not even a faint shadow of the usually-worth-looking-forward-to Club 21 Bazaar.

We left the York Hotel and walked down Mount Elizabeth to get to Paragon from the Bideford Road side. One of my companions wanted to go to Metro to get some Triumph nipple sticker covers for an Indonesian friend she’ll be seeing in Jakarta some time this week. The minute we walked into Metro from that side entrance, we were wondering if we should leave right away. The crowd was not only unbelievable for a Metro store, it was manic. Unwilling to come back again, my friend decided to make the purchase that she had come for. The ensuing line was a 25-minute queue to the harried cashier. After that, we left Paragon in a flash.

Orchard Road P1The crowd that won’t thin even close to midnight

We were finally on Orchard Road. This crowd, on the street (and in the malls), I had not seen before—not in a very long while. This was Sunday afternoon times three, a Chingay horde, charged up, all moving with a self-satisfying purpose. Not to be slowed down, we turned right for ION Orchard by way of Lucky Plaza, diagonally above us the annual light-up that, this year, the National Council of Churches of Singapore found, regrettably for the rest of us, “disappointing”. Once inside the mall where Louis Vuitton and compatriot brands beckoned, but queuing, as we later saw, preceded entry, the frenzy really picked up. I sensed this would be wading in a sea of humanity. I wasn’t wrong.

My friends wanted to go to Sephora. As we approached, we could make out a queue. When we were close enough to smell the mashed-up perfume permanently scenting the store’s air, we could see that the line was way too long to consider joining. Inside, it looked like shoppers had come for free stuff (it was, in fact, a 15% off store-wide)! Forget it: we confirmed by telepathy. We walked on and saw another queue. This time, it was outside of the unlikely beauty shop of Yves Saint Laurent, glamour for now cast aside. Women were waiting patiently for something impossible to see. There was a bottleneck at the foot of the escalator next to this crowd. We turned back. As we past the Chanel beauty specialist store, I heard a woman say to her shopping companion, “This is ridiculous. Can’t pick a lipstick without someone’s arm in my way!”

Outside YSLThe mad crush outside Yves Saint Laurent beauty store

I have always thought that Black Friday was more an online affair. Sure, we have all heard and read about the mad crush—scuffle too—in American stores just past midnight on Black Friday itself, but I consider that an American retail tradition or what their media call “the American sport of deal hunting” (or what ours call kiasuism), not a seasonal madness we’d put ourselves through. But increasingly (actually, evident only in these past two years), retailers, offering no pleasurable shopping experience, started adopting ideas from the West and North Asia (China’s “double-one” [or Single’s Day] shopping festival on the 11th of November and Japan’s fukubukuro [福袋 or lucky bag] offered during after-the-new-year sales). Based on what I saw, online shopping may be going through a one-day lull. The ominous-sounding Black Friday looked like it would be here to stay. If only GSS—now languishing—is just as exciting.

To avoid the meandering crowd, we stopped for tea (actually soya milk and Chinese fritters) at the ION food court. When we emerged into the multitude again, it was the sunset hour. My friends chose home as the final stop while I opted to join another who would be off work soon. We agreed to meet at Takashimaya as he wanted to buy his mother a Happycall vacuum pot. The home/kitchenware floor was, as expected, packed, with women swarming a sale gondola filled to the brim with Wiltshire bake ware marked down to delight. While shoppers bought as if they had a new kitchen to equip, it was surprisingly not frenzied. It was, in fact, fun thinking I might uncover an attractive and useful gadget that would sit happily alongside my kitchen-top family, but I did not. A saleswoman tried to sell me a Japanese pig figurine to welcome the next Lunar New Year.

Inside RobinsonsIn Robinsons, the line to get to the escalator

By ten, after dinner, I was not satiated. The night before I had watched on TV a CNA news story about the Black Friday sale at Robinsons. Reportedly, shoppers had queued as early as 6am on Thursday morning so as to be among the first to enter when the store re-opens at midnight on Friday. As with last year, Robinsons is the only department store—not counting Mustapha—to welcome shoppers when Black Friday strikes at midnight. The store would stay open for the next 24 hours. This was truly a midnight sale, unlike those similarly marketed events in Bangkok that end, rather than commence, at midnight. Robinsons must be confident of the appeal of their Black Friday sale to think that people would sacrifice sleep for shopping.

That was fussing with my mind. The night would not be complete without finding out what was happening (or had happened) in Robinsons (once suggested by this blog to be SG’s best department store. That was, to be sure, years ago). What was offered that had shoppers appear in droves and leaving, as I later saw, with XL-size, eco-unfriendly plastic bags? After convincing my by-then-tired friend—who fears crowds—to go, we arrived at the front of the store seriously fearing for our sanity and safety if we were to go in.

Inside Robinsons P2The congestion inside Robinsons

Robinsons at Hereen was unbelievable. Less than two hours to closing, there were as many people going in as there were coming out. Once I passed the semi-circular sliding door, I thought for a moment I had set foot in a fire trap. I was not sure if it made sense to go further, but we were already inside, which looked like the place was being looted. There was a line to get to the escalator. Imagine! We snaked our way through the cosmetic counters to get ahead of the crowd. Going up, as it turned out, was easier then going down. Security staff was at hand to control the surging crowd. As we walked around the less congested aisles, it appeared that most of the stuff that was significantly discounted were snapped up. The heat in the store was too high to be bearable, and not conducive to browsing. We decided to go. Miraculously, we were able to leave—without any purchase, I’ll add—intact.

Surprisingly, the crowd and congestion did not irk me one bit. On the contrary, I found the experience—more than six hours of it—highly pleasant. I did not start out with anything to buy and ended the night empty-handed. But there was something satisfying about shopping in physical spaces with merchandise you can touch. That this was a shared experience, not just between my friends and I, but with fellow shoppers, made it more enjoyable. We so infrequently drag ourselves to a destination to shop that what I went through was now uncommon activity, and oddly nostalgic too. Sale-hopping that required everything you would not need if it were conducted on a smartphone meant there are some things and feelings online shopping simply can’t replace. For one day, I rather liked bring to cashier than add to cart.

Photos: Zhao Xiangji and Chin Boh Kay

Two-Tone Hender Scheme

The Japanese brand teams up with Adidas Originals once again 


Adidas Originals X Hender Scheme

By Shu Xie

The Japanese label Hender Scheme is so synonymous with single-tone vachetta-tan leather uppers of their take on classic sneakers that when this appeared, it took me by surprise. Their latest collaboration with Adidas Originals is a Boost-sole-bolstered iteration of the ZX, a running shoe that was first released in 1984, and is enjoying a bit of revival when Adidas announced early this month that they will offer a circa-1989 version, the ZX 4000, come December.

As with everything Hender Scheme does, premium is the mantra. But this time, in this version, the upper composes of both the said tan leather and a black mesh fabric that is, in fact, rather typical of the ZX. The bi-coloured effect is striking in its simplicity, even retro-vibe, especially when what is now considered cool is colour-blocked to death. Perhaps this is what Hender Scheme’s Ryo Kashiwazaki meant when he said that he “wanted to give more of a true sports feeling” to the shoe. In fact, this version, prefixed HS, is the most track-and-field-like of the Hender Scheme output with Adidas Originals, as far as I can remember. The effect also affects the price: since it is not a full-leather shoe, it is actually more affordable than the typical Hender Scheme kicks.

It will be interesting to see how, after long use, the aged leather—which will turn darker—pairs with the black. I think the contrast as you now see will be diminished. What I find especially appealing are the white, zig-zag, top stitches on the serrated-edge three stripes. There’s a dressmaking aspect to this, a detail that only matters to those for whom such small touches bring mysterious joy.

I have been always been intrigued by Hender Scheme and Adidas’s collaboration. It’s like Adidas doing couture. Okay, I exaggerate, but you know what I mean. The artisanal hand of Mr Kashiwazaki is unmistakable, and Adidas sneakers that shouldn’t be this beautiful are given a near-bespoke treatment that draws the eyes. Simply put, I like.

The Adidas Originals X Hender Scheme HS ZX500 RM (pictured, but also in white and tan), SGD340, is available at Club 21. Photo: Adidas Originals

Sorry Is The Hardest Word

The Chinese have a saying 后悔莫及 (houhui moji) or regret is too late. Does this describe the Dolce & Gabbana debacle?


Gabbana & Dolce apologise

Domenico Dolce and Stefano Gabbana have apologised, three days after we wondered why they had not done so in person, issuing, instead, a statement that sounded like it came from a well-paid lawyer. Their video appearance, broadcast first on Weibo and then picked up and shared by other media outlets, looked like something conducted in their corporate meeting room not without duress.

Who wouldn’t be stressed?

Two days after what rapidly became the most frightful PR disaster for Dolce & Gabbana, China’s e-commerce sites such as Alibaba, JD.com, Yangmatou, Kaola, and the Chinese platform of Yoox Net-a-Porter have confirmed that they have stopped carrying the brand. Luxury department store Lane Crawford has similarly dropped the label that fervently celebrates their Italian-ness and made pasta-eating a marketing statement.

By now, we know Chinese consumers account for one third of global spending on luxury goods. That does not include ethnic Chinese outside China, such as the roughly 75% of the population here or about 22 million in Southeast Asia. If there were to be a real and prolonged boycott of the brand, as called for by Netizens, Dolce & Gabbana is thought to face considerable financial setback. To limit the fallout, they directed their apology to “all Chinese people in the world”.

This is not just about Chinese national identity; this is as much to do with Chinese ethnic identity


Many Singaporeans think we shouldn’t be concerned with comments not directed at us. If the world is small, Asia is smaller. This is not just about Chinese national identity; this is as much to do with Chinese ethnic identity. The Chinese diaspora isn’t unconnected. Should we, therefore, hold a brand (or individual) in any esteem for attacks on any nation and its people? What’s to stop Dolce & Gabbana from repeating themselves even if they are “certain”, rather than promise, “it will never happen again”?

Some Chinese fashion folks think the impact would not be great as they do not consider those who made the loudest noise to be Dolce & Gabbana customers. Does this mean that those who buy and wear Dolce & Gabbana are willing to accept what is considered xenophobic slights? There is, it would seem, little to be gained from associating oneself with such online bluster and not-isolated behavior regardless of how appealing their clothes may be. Not even if you had spend a fortune on the brand to get yourself the privilege to swagger on stage for what would have been The Great Show.

But was it really an apology?

More importantly, did they sound sincere? What was perhaps disconcerting was how Domenico Dolce and Stefano Gabbana firstly framed the charge of what the whole PR disaster was about: “we have thought very much with great regret about what has happened to us…” What happened to them?! If that did not sound remorseful for an opening sentence, it’s because it didn’t. When an entire nation felt insulted, one does not apologise by saying first what happened to oneself. One immediately apologises to the 1.4 billion people of China.

It is interesting that Mr Gabbana made no reference to the perceived-to-be-racist comments he made on Instagram, as if the “Not Me” reaction, plastered in red over the remarks he allegedly made to Instagrammer Michaela Phuong, was adequate in denying the over-enthusiastic lashing out at the people of China. Ms Phuong had subsequently posted five times to confirm that the chat between Mr Gabbana and her did take place. Can the fiasco blow over by simply negating guilt? Regrettably, “Not Me” is not the same as I am sorry.

Can the fiasco blow over by simply negating guilt? Regrettably, “Not Me” is not the same as I am sorry


In fact, there was no reference to the IG disaster that sealed the fate of The Great Show. To Dolce & Gabbana, they only “made mistakes interpreting your culture”. Interpretation on a private basis is very different from one made publicly—the latter comes with the social media-rare quality called accountability. In an age when we tend to glorify fashion designers and exalt those who dare say what they want, we may care less about a moment’s folly than a designer’s design fancy. It may be tempting, therefore, to separate talent from online behaviour, but we shouldn’t yield. We must not. Really.

In the video apology, Domenico Dolce and Stefano Gabbana mostly look glum, as if succumbing to social coercion that is beyond their ken. Throughout the one-minute-twenty-second take, delivered in Italian (more Chinese are likely to understand English than Italian, but to the two men, that probably did not matter), they did not use the word sorry until the end, and only in Mandarin, saying in unison “对不起 (duibuqi or sorry)”, as if they were two tourists trying to win the hearts of a Chinese host they’re meeting for the first time by attempting a feeble 你好 (nihao or how are you?). You may be amused, but are you impressed? Or, in the present context, assuaged? 服不服?

Photo (screen grab): HKFP/Youtube

The Daring Duo And The Gaffes A People’s Republic Won’t Forgive

Hacked account or not, Domenico Dolce and Stefano Gabbana, in particular, have a history of hitting out with controversial words


D&G IG P1The first of two: apology by Dolce & Gabbana posted on Instagram

Note: this post contains what some readers may consider offensive language

It was supposed to be a spectacle, but it quickly descended into a debacle. Italian brand Dolce & Gabbana has cancelled a headlining, 500-look, one-hour-long fashion show in a 20,000 square meters space in the Shanghai Expo World Museum that was supposed to open at 9 o’clock this evening (forty-five minutes before the scheduled start, they posted what is presumably a backstage clip on their FB page). This came after the online circulation of screen shots of a shared IG post in which Stefano Gabbana, in a chat with one Michaela Phuong (reported to be a fashion business student), was widely considered to have insulted an entire nation when he allegedly wrote, “the country of 💩💩💩💩💩 is China” (recalling Donald Trump’s comment on African countries) and “China Ignorant Dirty Smelling Mafia”.

Known as 杜嘉班纳 (dujiabanna) in China, the brand had earlier already upset Netizens after three 40-sec promotional videos were posted on Weibo (they are still on Dolce & Gabbana’s IG and FB page at the time of this posting) that showed a Chinese model, dressed like a tuhao (土豪 or uncouth rich), using chopsticks to eat Italian food—pizza, pasta, and cannolo—with difficulty. This bad light was compounded by a male Chinese narrator pronouncing the names of the two designers as “Dols and Gaberner” and calling chopsticks 小棍子形状的餐具 (xiao gunzi xingzhuang de canju). Little, stick-shaped eating implements! Admittedly, there’s nothing funny or charming about the videos, ironically hashtagged #DGLovesChina. Whether timed to provoke or generate interest, this came not long before what was to be the brand’s The Great Show.

DG on IGDG on IG: screen grab of the first video of three that Dolce & Gabbana posted on their Instagram page

Dolce & Gabbana responded with an IG apology, considered by Weibo users to be insincere. Understandable since it sounded like it was written by a lawyer than someone banging on bigotry’s door. Why, we had thought, was there no in-person daoqian [apology] for something of this magnitude? Dolce & Gabbana explained that their IG account had been “hacked”. Convenient an excuse, no doubt. To be sure, the veracity of the alleged disparaging chat was not ascertained and Ms Phuong (if she exists) did not say if she knows the two Italian designers personally and explain why she was chatting with one of them that led to the offensive comments. If Dolce & Gabbana’s social media account was hacked so that the hacker could put the brand and its designers in bad light, does that mean that they have more haters than Dolce & Gabbana imagined?

Controversy involving words that should not have been said or sent is not new to Dolce & Gabbana. Increasingly, provocative proclamations put the brand and duo in the news rather than the flamboyant clothes. There was the 2015 spat with Elton John that resulted from the two calling IVF babies “synthetic”. And, in June, there was Mr Gabbana’s fan-enraging online remark about Selena Gomez: “she’s so ugly”. Last year, reacting to those who expressed their dismay at the two designers for enthusiastically willing to dress Melania Trump, the brand released, somewhat arrogantly we thought, a USD295 T-shirt emblazoned with #BOYCOTT DOLCE&GABBANA, which is still available in their online store.

D&G IG P2A little too late: Dolce & Gabbana reaching out via IG the second time in a couple of hours

Culturally insensitive social media images, too, seem to be their forte. The present videos came after last year’s spring/summer images tagged “DG loves China” that Chinese Netizens thought belittled their homeland with a “stereotypical” depiction of a place that fashion stars such as Sun Feifei and Liu Wen call home. In the ads, models in flashy clothes and ridiculous head and eye wear pose with locals that appeared to be less privileged and sophisticated, and in settings that suggested third-tier cities instead of those such as Shanghai or Beijing (ironically the city in which the ads were shot), where the inhabitants are more likely to be Dolce & Gabbana customers.

Anger with the latest videos is understandable too. Dolce & Gabbana had picked a gangly model who, for most Chinese, is not mei (pretty) enough to front a major campaign targeted at them. As one former marketing head who had worked in China told SOTD, “the Chinese view beauty very differently from the West. What is beautiful to D&G may not be so to the Chinese. For that matter, what is clever to the Italians may not be clever to the Chinese.” To make matters worse, the model was made to handle chopsticks in a manner that the Chinese from young would have been told is never acceptable. If that wasn’t enough, the narrator asked suggestively, when she tried eating the unusually large tubular canollo (a sweet Sicilian pastry), 对你们来说这是太大了吗?(dui nimen laishuo zheshi taida le ma). Is this, to you, too big?

Huang Xiaoming IGActor Huang Xiaoming was not ambiguous about where his loyalty lies. Photo: Huang Xiaoming/Instagram

The outrage came fast and furious. Dolce & Gabbana first reacted by removing the videos from Weibo. Then came those remarks. It was just too late to reverse course. Public outcry was so serious and palpable that The Great Show, said to be the largest in the brand’s 33-year existence, had to be called off. The cancellation (as first reported), then postponement (later corrected, but no one is certain which is correct since Dolce & Gabbana have not responded to media queries) came when celebrities due to attend and models due to participate had pulled out unequivocally. Models and actors alike took to social media to express their disapproval and dismay, with many expressing clear support for the 祖国 (zuguo or motherland). The China actor Huang Xiaoming, also Tissot ambassador and London, Paris, and Milan Fashion Weeks regular, posted succinctly on his official IG account, “祖国第一!毫无疑问 (zuguo diyi! haowu yiwen).” Motherland first, no doubt.

Were the Chinese over-reacting? Or, crucially, were Dolce & Gabbana over-reaching? Did the Italians think their brand of Eastern exotica and taste-dubious visual and video communication would charm the Chinese? Did they really consider themselves so culturally superior that they could teach the Chinese how to 起筷吃饭 (qikuai chifan)? That in the land of chopsticks, the people had to be schooled on how to “lift a pair of chopsticks to have a meal”? Or, is the fashion design community of Italy so tone-deaf that they ignore the attention they have drawn to the delivering of messages that ignore racial, cultural, and religious sensitivities, such as those by compatriot Gucci?

Dolce & Gabbana @ IONSilent night: not a soul on the women’s floor at Dolce & Gabbana, ION Orchard. Photo: Dawn Koh

Earlier this evening, we dropped by at Dolce & Gabbana, ION Orchard to see for ourselves if the China fiasco had any impact on the consumption here. It had been hours since the indignation on Weibo, and it is not immoderate to assume that people here, apathetic as they can be, had an inkling of what happened and may be disconcerted enough to avoid the store if they were not inclined to say something in disapproval. On level one, a few men—tourists we assume since they spoke in a different language—were browsing. Upstairs, where the women’s wear and accessories are offered, it was as silent as a churchyard at sundown.

It isn’t clear yet what brand damage this fallout will cost Dolce & Gabbana or what losses will be incurred in the cancellation of the show (the last dispatch on the show that we read before we hit the sack: it was “cancelled by the Cultural Affairs Bureau of Shanghai”). According to reported estimates, the brand, in 2016, enjoyed 30% of total sales in the Asia Pacific region—China alone has Dolce & Gabbana stores in 25 cities. Boycott is now the rallying cry in dealing with the foolish, unthinking duo. Or could a higher road be an option? As one SOTD follower commented, “Aiya, they’re just a couple of angmo bengs; they don’t know any better.”

Photos (except where stated): Dolce & Gabbana/Instagram

Keep It Flat

Small, neither deep nor thick bags are very much seen across the body these days. Do they constitute a trend or, maybe, micro-trend? Are these ultimately clutches with shoulder straps?


Muji labo bagMuji Labo nylon ‘Sacoche’

By Ray Zhang

According to earlier media reports, 2018 is the “year of the bum bag”. The comeback of pouch that was meant to be worn close to the posterior, while evident on the catwalk, is not quite the sac du jour on the streets, where people seem to prefer something less connected to beer ladies at coffee shops. While the bum bag may have its own bag-atop-footwear moment, its real appeal among those without the Supreme/Louis Vuitton version is not immediately discernible since I do not see its visible presence.

The bag to have, if we believe those carried on the streets are a better gauge of their popularity, is compact and pancake-thick: what in Japan is known as the “flat pouch shoulder bag”. Some retailers, such as Muji, call it a sacoche (in various spellings, as expected in Japan), which in French roughly means saddlebag, and may also refer to messenger bags commonly used by cyclists, only smaller—a lot smaller.

Outdoor bagSeen in Tokyo, a lad with an Outdoor ‘Sakosh Shoulder’

In fact, it was in Japan that the trend began to emerge a year ago. So numerous was this bag style seen on the streets that we believed it was going to take off outside the country. And it did. As with many of the bags they carry, the Japanese are far much ahead of everybody else. The so-called bum-bag craze, too, can be traced to what young Tokyoites have been strapping diagonally—and stylishly—on their backs for years earlier. The small, flat bag, similarly, was seen on trendy fashion folks, from Tokyo to Sapporo, before even Louis Vuitton started issuing their own versions.

A helpful salesman in L-Breath Tokyo, one of my favourite outdoor specialty shops in Shinjuku, told me that such bags were originally used by trekkers who wanted to carry their personal effects close at hand rather than in their backpacks, which do not facilitate quick retrieval. These are worn cross-body, but with the bag itself held in the front. Practicality aside, many of these bags by even traditionally conservative brands such as Outdoor are stylishly made. It explains why the stylish folks of Tokyo shop for accessories in the likes of L-Breath.

Gregory bagsOne of the few brands that carry the flat shoulder bag is Gregory at ION Orchard

If you’re used to capacious sacks, these are more envelopes than bags, more cases than pouches. They could be considered, in fact, formerly trending clutches, now with shoulder straps. Users, I suspect, find appeal in their flatness, which is diametrically opposed to the bulk of the bum bag (no fat-shamming here!). These thin satchels are mostly devoid of gussets, so they’re not expandable. In fact, its limited capacity may not appeal to those who have a load to carry when moving about. Some of these bags may even find welcoming an umbrella a daunting task.

There’s a sportif element to most of them: nylon body, waterproof zipping, para-cord-as-straps—with carabiners to secure them to the bag—and all manner of hardware that one associates with mountain climbing gear than urban leather accessories. That could explain why outdoor/trekking/camping brands lead the pack. From Japan-only The North Face Standard to American camping gear and equipment specialist Kelty, these flat bags also augment their standing among Tokyo’s many fashion tribes: they simply look cooler than anything you’ll find in Gucci.

Flat bags on SG streetsFlat bags seen on SG streets

On our island, these bags are not as available as, well, socks. Since the particular style is still popular in JapanI assume, I thought that the best place to look for them would be in Japanese stores. My first stop was Tokyu Hands in Orchard Central, but the flat bag’s conspicuous absence here, in a sizeable bag department, was a disappointment. As I had expected, I found a nice one in Muji (under the Labo sub-brand) and in Uniqlo, where the U line offered one that could double as a waist bag. Unfortunately, they did not have a mountaineering vibe; both, while handsome, looked a tad too garden variety.

Thinking I might be able to court lady luck at a specialist shop that deals with camping and climbing equipment, I happily headed for one of my favourite stores, Outdoor Life in Plaza Singapura, but found nothing there. At Outside in Orchard Central, I was more fortunate. Other than the surprising large Chums collection of bags and such, there were also enticing ones by the Japanese bag maker Fredrik Packers, among them the flat sacks I sought. A couple of days later, while killing time at ION Orchard, I found the object of my affection at Gregory, the 41-year-old American backpack specialists, now also makers of the sacoche—their version, as outdoorsy as the bag could get. I succumbed, finally.

Photos: Chin Boh Kay

Towering Cortez

A vintage sneaker gets a vintage treatment: platforms


CDG X Nike Cortez AW2018

By Shu Xie

Comme des Garçons is a frequent collaborator with Nike. To fans of both brands, it’s a pairing made in heaven. Their output, as far as I can remember, is never boring or not whimsical. I can’t say it’s the same with Off-White’s, which banks on hype than edge to create desire. But that’s another story altogether.

CDG and Nike’s latest is a take on the latter’s Cortez, the Swoosh’s first track shoe issued in 1972, when many of us are not even a single-cell form. What the the Comme team has done, and rather spectacularly I think, is not give this classic kick a 2018 look, or splashy tech. Instead, they put the shoe in context, circa 1972. The Cortez was launched in America during that year’s summer Olympics in Munich and is believed to have truly launched Nike. But rather than connect to the sneaker’s sporting roots, CDG has opted to look at the major fashion footwear trend of that era. I don’t need to point to you what that was.

Launched today, the new kueh-lapis-like mid-sole of the Cortez and the shoe itself prove that, in footwear, retro styles can be relevant, look new, and easily lend themselves to reinterpretation. The CDG version comes with a leather upper and a foam platform that looks to be at least four-inches high (I have yet to put a measuring tape to it, but when I do, it will be reflected here). The mid-sole bears the cheeky imprint of CDG: the in-step and out-step of the striped platforms are mismatched.

Nike seems to be scaling the heights when it comes to their new kicks, which I suppose is a boon to women who wants sneakers to wear, but find them generally too low (hence the intro of other platform sneakers such as Puma X Buffalo London’s Suede Buffalo and Stella McCartney’s Eclypse?). And I remember the Spice Girls, do you? I guess I am going too far back.  I don’t know about you, but these giants look mighty collectible, even if your Yeezy-loving other half thinks otherwise.

Comme des Garçons X Nike Cortez, SGD760, is available at Comme des Garçons, The Shopping Gallery, Hilton. Illustration by Just So based on original photograph by rosrosroc

Official: The Dad Look Is The Look Of 2018

Not your boyfriend’s jeans, but your dad’s jacket that made the cut


Zara Check Blazer AW 2018.jpg

This dad is no dud. What was initially a term to describe a shoe style that should have existed with regrets, dad has moved to a look for men (thank you, Balenciaga). It has also now inspired women, and aroused mass curiosity, if not outright adoption. According to the Year in Fashion report by the e-commerce site Lyst (also the compiler of The Lyst Index), dad the look is the “unlikely fashion icon of 2018”.

This is amazing considering that boyfriend (from jeans to T-shirts to sweatshirts) didn’t come close, even when it has been, for many years, the go-to aesthetical choice of women who don’t want to dress up. The dad look requires considerably more effort, and not literally what your father used to wear (although his old Zegna, custom-made blazer may help), unlike the boyfriend style which could be anything as long as you look like you had jumped out of bed in your guy’s rags.

The figure is astounding. According to Lyst’s search data, there has been a staggering 439% rise in views of “slouchy cardigans, fleeces, and ‘ugly’ shirts”. And, may we assume, oversized jackets. It isn’t clear if these views equate with women who actually shopped the look, but these days, proof of interest (or ‘likes’) constitutes a trend, which may explain why many brands, from Asos to Zara (above), have variations of dad to tempt.

Perhaps it’s a passing cloud, as with “nomcore”, which could have paved the way for what Vogue called Balenciaga’s men’s wear spring/summer 2018: “dadcore”. However long more the trend will exist, let’s hope that it won’t continue to be what girls will never think of their fathers: ugly.

Photo: Zara

Ugly: An Absurd Comedy

The buffoon Balenciaga has made of us, one year after the launch of the Triple S


Balenciaga Triple S originalThe shoe that started it all: the Balenciaga Triple S

By Raiment Young

I see it so often on Instagram that it is, in all honesty, starting to wear me down. Some observers think that the Balenciaga Triple S is cresting. A year after it was launched, it should be, but it isn’t. The shoe that started the craze for what would become dad—and then ugly—shoes, is still too big, too visible and too attention-grabbing, and a teller of how trendy you are, and how you are able—and willing—to spend four figures on sneakers.

I didn’t realise what an impact this one shoe style has had on people’s sneaker choices until a friend of mine rejected a suggestion I offered when he finally succumbed to dad shoes by saying that my humbly-priced pick “wasn’t chunky enough” (did he also mean inadequately ugly? To be fair, he still bought it in the end). Not long after, at the Fila store in ION Orchard, a skinny girly flatly rejected her boyfriend’s selection of the Disruptor II, telling him flatly “my friends’ Balenciagas are more bigger (sic)”. Looks like Balenciaga has set the standard for big, ugly shoes just as Kim Kardashian has for ample, round posteriors.

More Triple Ss.jpgMore pairs of the Triple S, including the Half & Half (middle), this season, as seen at Dover Street Market Singapore

I am not certain where this will lead to. Backlash is certainly not yet in sight. You’d think that by now, the second autumn/winter season after it was launched, the popularity of the Triple S would have waned, or mocked. But Balenciaga has released new colour ways for this time of the year, and people are still buying them, indicating that the market is yet to be satiated. But one silhouette may not be enough (even when there was the Half & Half colour iteration in June). To make sure you get your fill of horrifically chunky sneakers, the brand that Demna Gvasalia has made bigger added the even more bombastic Track to tempt. Or, fool.

I am not sure if the chunky sneaker rose in tandem with the general ballooning of fashion silhouettes seen some years back, but I do suspect that it is has everything to do with fashion’s near-obsession with going to the dumps to look for scraps that can be used to cook up a storm that can cater to a feeding frenzy. Sneaker designs have traditionally veered towards the sleek (aerodynamic?). Sure, Nike has had success with relatively hunky silhouettes (excluding basketball shoes) such as the Air Max 90 and the Air Huarache, but Balenciaga’s not-destined-for-court-or-track sneakers are deliberately designed to make anything Common Projects offers look anorexic.

Balenciaga TrackThe follow-up to the Triple S, the Track

The deformed chunkiness of these shoes have led them to be described as ugly. But ugly, by then, has lost much of its original meaning, and is suffering from an identity crisis. I remember once ugly was not desirable; it was not nice to look at; it was disagreeable to our sense of what beautiful was. Then I see ugly is ugly no more. It is not aesthetically- or optically-challenged. Ugly is declared so ugly that it is no longer so. Fans negate ugly’s former ugliness so that it can be embraced as wearable loveliness. Ugly has not gone astray; it’s simply gone, just as there is, today, no more ugly past, ugly behaviour, ugly choices.

Or ugly shoes. Fashionable folks took to kicks of what should have been unsightly looks as if the wearers’ feet, too, have transmogrified in tandem with the transformation of ugly. Women no longer want to have dainty feet (or the “incredibly narrow”, as we’re told, pair of Fantastic Beasts’ Porpentina Goldstein); they want to look clumpy at ground level. I once heard a diminutive girl in Gucci asking for a Rhyton, described by one e-tailer as “satisfyingly chunky”, in one size larger than her usual so that the sneakers will “look heaving”. When told that she may trip if she ran in them, she said disdainfully, “I never run.”

Gucci RhytonGucci Rhyton, another ugly shoe that stays stubbornly popular

Ugly sneakers now constitute such a legit category that shoppers refer to them unhesitatingly as such: I often hear even non-sneakerhead men and women say, “I need to get myself ugly shoes.” But ugly, as I recall, did not visit sneakers first; it went to heels—Alexander McQueen’s “Armadillo” boots come to mind. Surprisingly, ugly/clunky heels didn’t take off, perhaps because they did not look comfortable or sturdy. Sneakers, however, did. As the ugliness rest on the foundation of thick, fortified-looking mid-soles, it give the impression of robust built. Teetering versus grounded: it’s not a tough choice.

As with clothing, adopters of ugly sneakers take their pick with no consideration to suitability or proportion in relation to, say, limbs, specifically ankles. These catamaran-as-shoes often hold up mast-like ankles, making the wearer look like they are unable to manage the sneaker’s mass. In Starbucks one Saturday, I saw a woman, who looked like an Oriental Olive Oyl, seated with her legs crossed, the foot in the air was partially relieved of her Chloé Sonnie sneakers, exposing the heel of rather dilapidated socks. Of course, ugly is now inadequate and inappropriate to describe what I saw. What should I call it then? Pretty? In the hope that pretty will one day become so pretty that it is, well, ugly?

If current shoe trends are any indication, ugly alone may not be quite enough.

Decorations: Now, we need to adorn our kicks

Gucci Flashtrek (embellished)Love or reject? Gucci Flashtrek made more pronounced with dazzling embellishment

Ugly by itself, as expected, is not going to be adequate when you need striking sneakers. In the good old days (before 2017?), when we wanted something different for our kicks, we changed the laces. At most, to the laces we added cute snaps and latches. Later, those with the means (and the right service addresses), will have them customised. But now, sneakers come with their own jewellery! From Giuseppe Zanotti’s sneaker with studded straps that look like bracelets to Nike’s collaboration with Comme des Garçons that sees a chain bearing the CDG logotype strapped across the Shox’s upper (spring/summer 2019), shoe jewellery appears to be the next, er, big thing.

Leading the charge this season is Gucci. Their Flashtrek, already a flashy shoe, now comes in colour-blocked versions strapped with jewel-topped harnesses. Based possibly on S&M accessories but designed to project glamour rather than kink, the latest embellishment proves that sneakers are the most opened to any kind of influence, even from the wardrobe of a burlesque performer. Christmas, like before, arrives early this year.

Branding: Now we need to identify sneakers by its label

Fendi Logo Mania sneakers featuring a Fila-logo-like initial letter

The Swoosh or trefoil (or three stripes) must have been considered so discreet these days that brands, even non-designer ones, are stretching logotypes across any visible surface of the sneaker’s (possibly already fancy) upper. Even Nike, not usually a shouter, has emblazoned its four-letter name across the sides of the Air Max Plus TN as if text is better at crying out than symbols. Of course, if Nike can be so shameless, why can’t those with a billion-dollar brand name to boast and bluster? Over-branding is, in fact, so commonplace and such a virtue that Nike sees it fit in calling its latest Air Max Plus with an additional Swoosh by the side ‘Overbranding’. Or, is this self-mocking?

To me, it started with the Gucci Rhyton, both the word and word/logo versions. Those four letters are so alluring that the once mighty double G is now literally halved by its full name’s magnetic appeal. Not to be outdone, Fendi, working with the Instagram-published artist Hey (resounding exclamation?!) Reilly, produced a logotype with the initial ‘F’ similar to Italian sports label Fila’s logo. This spawned a capsule collection, that includes both sneakers and handbags, called Logo Mania. Obvious, just like ugly, is having the best time of its life. And both, I suspect, are having the last laugh.

Photos: Zhao Xiangji, Chin Boh Kay, and AB Tan

The Sophomore Store

Ray-Ban asserts its domination in eyewear with free-standing shop number two


Ray-Ban 313@Orchard.jpg

By Mao Shan Wang

After opening their first flagship in Plaza Singapura last year, you’d think that Ray-Ban would stop there. After all, the maker of Wayfarers are in virtually any eyewear store you bother to step foot in. But it has opened its second free-standing store yesterday at 313@Orchard, offering both the sunglasses they’re known for and an impressive range of frames for corrective lenses. To put into perspective, there is no Ray-Ban standalone in Hong Kong and just one in Tokyo.

Those suffering from shortsightedness (and other forms of reduced acuity of vision), I feel, would also be delighted to know that they can now buy a Ray-Ban ‘Optic’ frame and have the respective lenses fitted too. As with the PS store, Ray-Ban 313@Orchard has an in-house optometrist who is able to offer examination and prescription. When I entered the first-floor store and immediately zeroed in on a pair of octagonal frames in a colour that I later learned was called ‘Havana’, the sales guy was quick to say that I could receive an “eye check”, but, after flipping through a folder, was unable to tell me the price although I had specified the type of lens I want.

Ray-Ban RB7151 2012The octagonal Ray-Ban RB7151 series of the ‘Optics’ collection

It is note-worthy (perhaps, satisfying for some) that the corrective lenses offered are by Ray-Ban, which is interesting to me because I did not know that they make lenses like Essilor and Carl Zeiss Vision do. Admittedly, I forgot Ray-Ban were pioneers in ‘anti-glare’ lenses. I was told by the same guy that it takes “up to four to five working days” before you can collect your glasses, which I thought was too long in these days of instant gratification when many optical shops allow you to pick your new specs in about 20 minutes, but conceded that for the best, a little waiting is needed. I was not discouraged, and was set on the pair with octagonal frames and Waferer arms (the RB7151 series). I later found out that there are eight colours available for this style, but only two were shown at the store.

Despite its American roots, Ray-Ban is increasingly adopting the Italian aesthetic to perhaps reflect the provenance of Milan-based owner, Luxottica, known to be the “the world’s largest company in the eyewear industry” and rumoured to own 80% of it. Luxottica acquired Ray-Ban in 1999, including its then owner, the Global Eyewear Division of Bausch & Lomb. I remember a trip to Rome a couple of years back. At every optical shop (and there are many in Rome), tourists were not looking for Italian brands such as Persol or fashion-linked names such as Prada (both, interestingly, Luxottica-owned). Many were asking for Ray-Bans. It is, therefore, oddly assuring that their standalones here have a solid, unflashy American flavour.

Photo: Dawn Koh, (product) Ray-Ban

Golding Hits Gold

The first Asian leading man becomes the first Asian cover star. But is Henry Golding too white that GQ has to style him to look unmistakably Asian, a la P Ramlee?


HG GQ December 2018

By Mao Shan Wang

I saw it coming and it has arrived. Henry Golding, from the minute Crazy Rich Asian (CRA) hit the big screen, was destined to be big, if not in the coming years, at least this year. He hadn’t been an actor that long (a year?), or in the global public’s eye that frequently, yet he’s made an effortless leap onto the spotlighted pedestal as one of GQ’s Men (and Women, right?) of the Year (which include three other cover stars: Michael B Jordan, Jonah Hill, and Serena Williams). Contrary to the prediction of my colleague’s here at SOTD, I thought a cover, or two, would be inevitable. In an age of obligatory inclusivity, Henry Golding on the cover of a Western/American magazine was a matter of time, and timing.

Excuse me while I look at this cover closely for a moment.

I applaud this GQ cover, but I am not sure I like it. It’s not bad per se, but I am not attracted to it. To me, there’s no pull: you know, the winsomeness that made countless women fall for Nick Young, or the earnestness of expression that says Mr Golding’s possibly Asia’s biggest movie star. I have seen thirty-one-year-old in person, and he’s handsomer and—judge me not for seeing him for the colour of his skin—fairer. The CRA leading man in GQ is styled to look unmistakably Southeast Asian, not just Asian—more abang than oppa.

Malaysia’s New Straits Times, in a quick-response online post earlier today, described Mr Golding on the GQ cover as “dashing”. Aesthetically, it is a dashing that has in common with the dusky debonair that was P Ramlee, who, according to what Mr Golding told the Hollywood Reporter, has been a source of the latter’s inspirasi. Perhaps it’s the colours and the styling, which in sum also reminds me of the Thai spaghetti Western Tears of the Black Tiger. Or, to refer to something more recent, Indonesia’s Buffalo Boys. It’s also the  pomaded, jet-black hair, and the matinee-idol eyes, both evocative of the cinema of long ago, more Cathay-Keris than Warner Bros.

HG GQ December 2018 P2

Mr Golding’s enhanced Asian-ness is, to me, ironic since, as argued in his casting, it is his not totally Asian looks that got him the part, which means, as some say, the leading man is easier to market to American viewers. The magazine conceded that they chose Mr Golding also because “he’s handsome, he’s suave, and that accent. A nation swooned, and GQ did too.” Looks, naturally, came first, but they were sure to emphasise his accent too. You see, not sounding Asian is also a plus. Of course it helps that he’s handsome and suave, but his handsomeness and suaveness is, to be sure, based on Caucasian standards. And old-fashioned too, which means he’s no Ezra Miller.

Hidden Tiger and Crouching Tiger— the highest-grossing foreign-language (possibly Chinese) film produced outside the US in American history—star Chow Yun Fatt is, to many Asian fans, handsome and suave, including his younger co-star Chang Chen, but the editors of GQ will never see them as cover material. Newer, more exposed, more experienced Asian actors, such as main-lander Li Gengxin (Great Wall and Detective Dee: Rise of the Sea Dragon), can be handsome and suave too, but they simply do not look angmo pai enough.

To me, Mr Golding’s CRA co-star, the Taiwanese-Australian Chris Pang is just as handsome and suave, if not more, but, in the end, the two men’s fate, I believe, is also in the Asian-ness of their family names. Golding is clearly a lot less so and more marketable than Pang. Although Pang, (which has an English meaning: sharp, sudden pain or sensation), is more pronounceable than, say, Ng, it is the two-syllable Golding that has more of a ring to it. Interestingly, Chris Pang’s Chinese surname is Wu (吴 and he is named育刚 or Yugang). I have not been able to uncover this discrepancy in the family name: how Wu became Pang. Still, neither shares the high tone of Golding. Also the surname of the author of Lord of the Flies, William, Golding has Anglo-Saxon roots and is thought to mean friend (or son) of gold, the colour of Oscar.

Fashion wise, GQ styled Mr Golding with one goal: so that you can call him suave. Tom Ford, his earliest sponsor, had already aimed for that. The thing is Asian men are rarely described as suave. To play down any perceived lack of suaveness, I suspect GQ deliberately played up the retro-sophistication in those jackets that, to me, recall P Ramlee-as-Sazali’s tuxedo in the 1956 film Anak Ku Sazali. For the cover, Mr Golding is in a maroon Dior and in one of the photos within the pages, a bright blue tux-jacket by Dolce & Gabbana. Few men wear such colours, unless they’re a dandy, which is also a rarer, even non-existent, breed among Asian men. This is keeping him in movie-star mode. I think good fortune is smiling on Henry Golding. There are forces determined to ensure that he remains front-row, red-carpet, and magazine-cover worthy.

Photos: GQ