Oh, Hedi!

What’s your point?

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Is Celine Men designed for Hedi Slimane himself? If so, that shouldn’t surprise anyone. Our comments here then risk being redundant, but bear with us.

Recently, we looked, again, at Hedi Slimane’s last show for Yves Saint Laurent Homme (titled Black Tie), his first and last show at Dior Homme, and his first and last show at Saint Laurent and we came to the conclusion that having reshaped the silhouette of men’s wear as early as 2000 (that Black Tie collection at YSL was prelude to everything he did at Dior Homme later and further down the road), Mr Slimane probably has no desire to change what he was responsible for: that certain leanness and rock ‘n’ roll edge. That skinny jeans (even skinny track pants!!!) still dominate the male wardrobe is testament to his aesthetical influence.

Unsurprisingly, his first stand-alone Celine presentation for men could have been a Dior Homme show or Saint Laurent. The models walk similarly, if not look similar. The Celine collection is, we were told, called “Polaroids of British Youths”, but, to us, it really is Pete Doherty all over again. Or, even Liam Gallagher (sorry, chap!). Mr Slimane’s brand of indie-rock cool has always veered towards England, never mind if he himself lives in Los Angeles, and is known to be into the music scene there. The English just does it better.

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Hedi Slimane is not Hedi Slimane if he does not do slim—boyish to boot. To be fair, for Celine Men, the skinniness is not so extreme. The boys are still lean, maybe not quite skin-and-bones as before, but they are primarily boys, unlike the models at Junya Watnabe, who cast grown men, middle-aged and above, for his Silver Swagger collection. Mr Slimane has his signature down pat: the silhouette is compact (nothing oversized) and the line straight. As with his women’s wear, he is not partial to ample space between body and cloth.

On a whole, the clothes look rather basic despite their rock musician posturing. One duffel coat is so unspectacular that you are sure that if you wish to ape the look, a very similar version available at Uniqlo can be had for a song, pun intended. You sense, too, that you may have seen some of the items elsewhere. A couple of the leather jackets look like they have appeared at Saint Laurent during Mr Slimane’s tenure there, while others such as the trim blazers with narrow lapels, now already commonplace in TopMan.

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An unapologetic designer, Mr Slimane is not about to explain why he took the path he has with Celine Men. He dishes it, and fans will lap them all up. Some members of the media say he is firmly helping men to return to an elegant way of dressing; they point to the collection’s missing sneakers. We’re not sure that many guys will abandon their T-shirts and their joggers at Mr Slimane’s catwalk command. This does not sing of his Dior Homme moment. Additionally, other brands, too, are signalling the shift away from streetwear. What then will be his Celine’s allure?

It is hard to say. These days, fashion also includes the power of social media not just the dictates of the runway. Or, one trending shirt (yes, Jeff Goldblum’s!) We can’t be certain that those who educate themselves about fashion via the Net won’t say this is an uninspired variation of a theme. It’s been seen and if we didn’t do them then, we’re not going to do them now. Or next fall.

Photos: (top) Youtube/(runway) indigital.tv

All Stood Still

Kim Jones’s second presentation for Dior reminds us of the 1980 Ultravox song. “The turbine cracked up/The buildings froze up/The system choked up/What can we do?”


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What can we do? When it was released, Ultravox’s All Stood Still, the final track on the first Midgre Ure-fronted Vienna and no. 8 on the UK singles chart, could, by listening to it again, possibly be about paralysis as a result of the failure of things around you, including technology, which was, of course, not what it is today. Was Kim Jones then also saying something about a flop—the failure of fashion?—when he required no walking from the models of the show? Of course we’re speculating, but it is possible, no?

The glum-as-usual models of Dior’s autumn/winter 2019 show must be the envy of the rest not included. When was the last time you saw a fashion show when models need not flex a muscle to move in order to effect the action we know as walking? The travelator that brought each from point A to B could be something on loan from Changi Airport! Still and not being unique (such as strutting oddly), the guys’ immobility was good for those of us who want to look at the clothes closely and clearly. And we sure did.

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Kim Jones has always been a designer with a point of view informed by the things happening around him. When he held the reigns at Louis Vuitton (Men), he was mirroring the times rather than actually designing to put an aesthetic mark on the brand the way his predecessor at Dior, Kris Van Assche had. But Dior is a storied house, and, typical of legacy brands, it requires a better-defined look—to put it simply—that would encourage loyalty in shoppers. In this collection, Mr Jones has created something distinctive and appealing, with couture underscoring the supreme quality of the clothes and a discernible aesthetical sum that will score with those who stick to a brand that is uniquely identifiable. There seems to be a deliberate step away from mass/hypebeast appeal.

Alluring, too, is the tailoring. This season, a certain softness characterises the construction, with sashes to soften the suits and coats even further. We vaguely remember Mr Jones’s tailoring flair during his Dunhill days. Now his skill is even more evident as he puts the Dior’s tailleur facility to truly good use, creating silhouettes that have little semblance to professional garb (the play of matte and soft shine, for example), which may draw the younger set of Dior customers as the brand intended to when they reassigned Mr Van Assche (to Berluti).

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Apart from the tailoring, there’s a calculated minimalism about the overall styling that may be a deliberate reaction on the part of Mr Jones against our myopic focus on the increasing meretriciousness of streetwear. Sophisticated comes to our mind as we write this. You probably have a better word. But the point is, Dior this season looks decidedly grown up, without anything Kaw-ish as the brand’s likely quick-to-expire UPI. In that sense, it reminds us of the the excellent work of Luke Meier (one half of the duo currently behind Jil Sander) for his label OAMC. Sure, Mr Jones’s use of harnesses and straps may be gimmicky even if they are masculinity-affirming (as opposed to skirts), but it doesn’t detract from the compelling elegance that stood out.

Mr Jones’s first collection for Dior did not quite move us. This time, there is something we can’t quite put our finger on, something that has design heft and visual strength, something that, we hope, has staying power.

Photos: Dior

Welcome To The ’Hood

Virgil Abloh’s second collection for Louis Vuitton affirms that black/hip-hop aesthetic is here to stay


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It’s not only a street thing; its’s a black thing. And the street is not any one of them in the 7th or 8th arrondisement of Paris, but possibly somewhere in East Harlem. Louis Vuitton’s setting for the latest collection left no doubt as to which street culture it is paying homage to. Virgil Abloh may have earlier said that the collection would be inspired by Michael Jackson, but the gloved one enjoyed only hints. Yet, it is not a murky patina that Mr Abloh’s sophomore outing for LV is an expression of blackness.

This, to be sure, is not entirely about race. It is a cultural thing, an assertion of self, the visual preference of an increasingly visible group of people. Mr Abloh is going all the way with putting black aesthetic sensibility not just centre, but the entire length of the catwalk. The audience faced a section of a neighbourhood Mr Abloh may be familiar with, complete with a closed-for-the-day barber shop (from which he will later emerge to take his bow), but not, perhaps, for many of the attendees. Towards the end of the presentation, flags of different nations (apparently to reflect the nationalities of his design team) were attached haphazardly on bags and appeared as patchwork (print?) on outers and a skirt, but while they may sing We are the World, they offer little to score the plurality that Mr Abloh appears to propose. This is, and perhaps even more a black collection than his debut last year.

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Follow-ups are never easy. To be fair, this was more amiable than the first, a confident stride forward, but do skirts for men, even if pleated and of uneven hem, offer the difference that would make us gasp, whether in disgust or delight? This is our problem, if we can call it that, with the collection: it is not devastatingly good nor horribly bad. It straddles the banks of trying to be elegant on one side and maintaining street cred on the other. A pastiche of ideas put together to delight Mr Abloh’s circle of friends, the hip-hop moguls and artistes that support him, the bros of the ‘hood. Not to mention those sneakerheads who need shoes with parts identified in bold font. But this isn’t the hybrid styles that Japanese designers such as Kolor’s Jinichi Abe do so well. This is Fenty for men.

Admittedly, we have not entirely digested the onslaught of street wear into luxury fashion. And the continued push for tailoring at other houses—including, unmistakably, at LV and the LVMH-owned Dior—may be indication that the backlash is nigh. Yet, street style isn’t going away, not any time soon. Off-White and its ilk have set the ground work, LV is merely following, even if the brand’s two-season old designer is he pied piper. Mr Aboh is perhaps succeeding when Kanye West has not. Who remembers Yeezy now?

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There have, of course, been all-round rave for Mr Abloh’s work at LV, but we do wonder if it’s because this is the first time a black man is putting together (we resist the use of ‘design’ for the time being) a collection the way he does. Shades of Issey Miyake and Raf Simons aside, the aesthetical approach has not, as far as we can remember, been output by a black designer, particularly an American with deep ties to the country’s black cultural rise. There is no discriminatory intent here. Mr Abloh is expressing himself as a black man. And if the successes of Pyer Moss’s Kerby Jean-Raymond and born-againer Dapper Dan are any indication, black aesthetical vision, even if tempered by the styles of the ’80s/’90s avant-garde, is no mirage on the horizon.

Americana is alive too in this collection, but not in the same vein as Raf Simons’s interpretation for Calvin Klein that could be one of the many reasons his relationship with the brand’s owners, PVH Corp, had come to an end. Mr Abloh’s take is more inner city than cowboy country, more hip-hop charts than B-grade movies, more Jean-Michel Basquiat than Andy Warhol. This is American style infiltrating French fashion that former LV employee Marc Jacobs did not quite as successfully launch. And, it looks set to stay.

Photos: (top} Louis Vuitton/YouTube, (runway) vogue.com

Close Look: Virgil Abloh’s Debut LV Collection

At the Louis Vuitton Men’s pop-up store in Tokyo’s Harajuku, you get to look at Virgil Abloh’s work in a setting that is nothing like the retail store. And that could be the problem—you may not feel like spending


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You will see it, from the train too—if you’re on the Yamanote Line heading towards Harajuku. The Louis Vuitton pop-up, all glass and steel and familiarly patterned all over, sits in sharp contrast to the nondescript buildings around it and, in particular, the verdant grounds of Yoyogi Park, just across the road. The serenity of the 54-hectare park, former Olympic village of the 1964 summer games, is surprisingly duplicated within LV’s temp store, erected to showcase—literally—the debut pieces of the brand’s star designer Virgil Abloh, now raved by the media as a “taste-maker”.

Inside, it is unlike any shop you have ever been to. But first, you’d have to get in. It’s not as easy as just walking through the front door. LV shops have a habit of making you wait, whether there is a queue or not. Sentries are there to ensure you don’t merely breeze through. Some stores, apparently, have a by-appointment-only policy and you will be denied entry without prior arrangement. Here in Harajuku, the front part of the store, where the one entry point is positioned, is manned (on the day we visited) by four suited guards. We were very politely ushered to the right side of the entrance where we were told to wait in line. Two minutes to opening, there was not one yet.

According to earlier reports in the Japanese media, entry is permitted when shoppers turn up with a ticket. These were supposed to be issued at 8.30 in the morning every day. People were told to start queuing at 6am. It seems there were those who did brave the winter morning cold to secure a ticket to get in line. According to a WWD account, “about 1,000 people queued up in the Japanese capital to be among the first to buy”. A week after the store’s 10 January opening, no ticket/keepsake, it seemed, was required since none was given to us.

DSC_6791.JPGdsc_6774The split level icon of Virgil Abloh’s current inspiration, the model Omari Phipps

Once you’re allowed in, an attendant greets you and guides you through a fixed route so that you end up in the inner section, where rope and stanchion indicate that another queue is to be expected. Here, the first attendant hands you over to another staff member who emerges from a line-up of about twenty-odd nattily attired sales people. The second, all smiling and eager to please, shows you to the actual retail space. This person will follow you throughout your visit till you leave the store, with or without purchase in hand, which may be of little concern here since it is reported that this pop-up already rang up 30 percent more sales in the first 48 hours of its operation than any other LV launches, including the collaboration with Supreme.

This is amazing to us. The essentially concrete store (distinguished by iridescent stickers of LV logos pasted on pillars, walls, and floors) is so well presented as exhibition that it seems to encourage viewing than purchasing. To be sure, retail space is increasingly a ‘curated’ space, and many are art gallery-like. This LV pop-up is clearly no exception; it seems to mirror the Espace Louis Vuitton Tokyo, just down the street on Omotaesando. Frankly, it’s all a bit of a show-off.

Standing—to be more specific, half-kneeling—in the middle is a statue of LV model of the season, Omari Phipps, the English lad who opened the LV spring/summer 2019 show back in June last year. The space surrounding the guy’s lower half is dedicated to nothing much except to displaying Mr Abloh’s installation sense, an expensive exercise to boot. You know instantly that you had come in for the experience, if not the merchandise.

DSC_6780.JPGlv harajuku p5Virgil Abloh fans, affluent and not alike, will possibly go quite mad on the two of the selling floors

It is experiential, alright, so much so that the experience—allow us to repeat—overwhelms the urge to buy. This was compounded, during our time there, by the sales attendant who stayed closed and urged us to try something, anything. The eerily bare and neat fitting rooms, lined on one side of a concrete corridor that looked like it could be the set of a film about a spooky sanatorium, do not appear inviting enough for one to peel off winter layers to try, say, a T-shirt or the knit pullover (a hooded and monochromatic version of the one featuring Dorothy and co of Wizard of Oz, which we were told “is exclusive to Japan”) that the sales staff had urged us to slip into. Someone outside, on a JR train, might see us try clothes, LV notwithstanding!

Everything is displayed in such a manner that one wonders if touching is allowed. In fact, some props and merchandise are indistinguishable. Accessories, such as eyewear, bracelets, and key rings beckons from within glass cases, distancing themselves from shoppers’ desire even when they gleam invitingly. Others such as the semi-transparent, embossed PVC Keepall—“the most wanted”—are placed like precious sculptures, to be admired, not caressed. When we reached out to touch one (the blue, if it interests you), the person trailing us offered to bring one for our inspection. Such attentive service was so at odds with everything we are used to here that we didn’t feel it was natural even if it was strangely appealing. Or, was this just Japan?

lv harajuku p6The special and limited edition Wizard of Oz hoodie that is available exclusively at the pop-up

Up close, Mr Abloh’s Louis Vuitton has that hyped-to-death ‘elevation’ seen in his Off-White. Sure, the clothes and the bags and the accessories looked interesting from far, but when you consider them individually in your hands, the barely more-than-basics don’t break new ground in terms of construction or reveal a creative nous. They feel luxurious, for sure, but it isn’t certain they’d look luxurious when worn, especially on those that, had by then, started to populate the space (no more than 30 at one go, we were told), whose main aim, it appeared, was to dress like hip-hop stars. The spare, but artistically appointed setting certainly made the clothes look attractive, but once out if it, on a body not a mannequin, we can’t be sure.

Although our guide/sales staff was polite, friendly, and informative (it appeared that there was nothing about the merchandise he didn’t know), his constant presence left us no opportunity to even have thoughts to ourselves. Just as we wondered—silently—if there were any sneakers in this launch event, he pointed to a shelf with two chunky, hardware-heavy kicks and asked, undeterred, if we would like to try a pair. When we declined, he guided us to another part of the store, and introduced other items to us. When we finally decided to leave, some 15 minutes after entering, he accompanied us to the door, bowed, and said cheerily, “have a nice day”. To be sure, it was.

Louis Vuitton’s Harajuku pop-up store for the men’s spring/summer 2019 collection is open till 30 January. Photos: Jiro Shiratori

Close Look: The Bulges Are Hard!

We didn’t think that the maternal bumps of the Comme des Garçons outfit would be as rigid as anti-riot shields


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We have to state for the record that we were mistaken. The Comme de Garçons protuberances that we blogged about in October last year are not stuffed body stockings. Now that we have the opportunity to look at the spring/summer 2019 separates—launched yesterday— up close, we saw for ourselves that they are, in fact, three completely different parts.

Rei Kawakubo’s base garments that bring back memories of her 1997 spring collection are in fact a body stocking, leggings, and a sort-of tank top made of fibre glass,  accompanied by those intriguing two bulges. One male shopper at the CDG store was heard telling his friend, “which woman wants to let people think her jugs fell to there”. We shall pretend he only came for Play.

The sales staff was trying to explain to us what these truncated torpedoes are about, alluding to the designer having not experience pregnancy. It is rather hard to see how these bodily extensions—organically shaped (giant silk cocoons?) and symmetrical as they may be—can be about child bearing. We were surprised how hard the bumps are, and could imagine how surprised the person who bumps into the wearer might be. There goes the thought of using them as transit lounge pillows.

For you ardent collectors of runway pieces, Comme des Garçons tattoo rose-print body stocking and legging set, SGD590. and fibre glass tank top, SGD6,550, are available at CDG. Photo: Chin Boh Kay

More Pigs: Gucci’s Company Of Three

Like so many other brands, Gucci is taking their pick in the pen. So which 🐖 does Alessandro Michele use to help the Chinese welcome the Year of the Pig?


gucci x three little pigsDisney’s Three Little Pigs prances in front of Gucci’s three stripes. Photo Gucci

Actually, there is more than one. A trio, to be exact. Why, indeed, settle for a single swine when you can have three? And which of them is more famous than the three little ones?

Problem is, odd numbers are not usually preferred during CNY. But the Italians may not know that. Then again, times have changed. Even Mediacorp’s not delightful and dreadfully named zhu baobao (猪饱饱, and a pun too awful to deserve translation) comes in threes.

Gucci chose to work with Disney (who isn’t these days? ORBA, for sure!) and to tap one of their oldest animated characters, the Three Little Pigs, never mind that the trio is not one of Disney’s best or most loved, or cutest. Or, that they were created in the 1930s, hence sans the cuteness of rival Warner Brothers’ rather dapper Porky Pig whose bow tie easily beats two of the Three Little Pig’s pussy bows in the style stakes. But there is perhaps some similarity between the hogs: with the exception of the one who built his house with brings, the other siblings, like Porky, go about with bare bottoms!

19-01-12-16-27-45-321_decoThe pigs is placed in the centre of bags, such as this knapsack. Photo: Chin Boh Kay

The retro pigs, of course, suit Gucci’s current aesthetic preoccupation. While this is not the first time, Gucci is using Disney characters, the choice of the monochrome version of the cartoon pig-brothers is. In an embroidered cut out of the triumphant three (possibly after defeating the ill-fated wolf) and appliqued on various items in the 19-piece collection—which includes shoes and bags and small leather goods, this could be Gucci’s high-end take on what has been all too common at Uniqlo.

Perhaps the use of Disney characters is a lot more convenient than creating your own mascot. The Three Little Pigs have been around since the first printed version of the fable, believed to date back to the 1840s. The moral of the story—that hard work and fortitude is rewarding—may be alien to those who have bypassed traditional routes to success by using digital means or talent shows, but Gucci’s adoption of the trio not destined for the abattoir may be indication that there could be a comeback of old-fashioned values, just as there have been a return to retro styles.

Alessandro Michele is, of course, the mastermind of all this. But if the success of Gucci is any indication, who’s afraid of the big bad wolf? 

Gucci Chinese New Year collection is in stores

The One With The Stripes

CK Calvin Klein looks at awnings for inspiration for its Year of the Pig boar


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We knew at least one of the fashion brands will have an embroidered pig logo for the left side of the chest of a polo. We thought it would appear at Paul Smith. But we were wrong. It showed up at CK Calvin Klein.

This could not have been the work of the Raf Simons-led design team, we’re quite convinced. Was this planned without Mr Simons’s knowledge, prior to his departure, we wondered. It is highly possible since it is not quite conceivable to us that Mr Simons would even think of something neither cute nor creative. This is mall rat-friendly, the direction—it seems—that parent company PVH Corp has apparently hoped for the cheaper brands under Calvin Klein.

This striped pig on polo shirts is not the only featureless beast to seduce you into adopting one for Chinese New Year. There is another which appears as all-white fluffy clouds/repeated pattern on crew-neck T-shirts, as well as another, emblazoned on tops, including sweatshirts, that is a stylised outline of Porky’s relative, which could be inspired by the much-maligned Chinatown hogs lined up between Eu Tong Sen Street and New Bridge Road.

Could this be the foretaste of the blah that the sub-brands of Calvin Klein is expected to slip back to? Or, an interim aesthetic? Wait and see?

CK Calvin Klein Chinese New Year ‘Pig’ capsule is in stores. Photo: Chin Boh Kay

Here Comes The Pig

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Chinese New Year is a period in the Chinese lunar calendar that is so connected to spending that many Western fashion brands find it more and more necessary to reach those of us who need to buy to make CNY complete. From Nike to New Look, small on-season collection, featuring Oriental motifs and lucky colours, abound. The key players are no longer just Metro and OG.

No less connected is Louis Vuitton. The world’s most recognisable fashion brand is, of course, often in tune with what is happening in this part of the world. This CNY, they too have released a small collection of festive, pig-themed products—namely accessories and such—for the festive season to look even more so.

Among the small leather goods and things you don’t really need (for CNY or other occasions), this key holder stood out for us, not because of its moderate cuteness, but its unexpected lavishness. The brand known for its signature Monogram canvas has assembled quite a posh melange of materials in an item that’s really quite small.

Stand out is the mink. Yes, mink, genuine mink, or what LV calls “natural” But perhaps the puffball is not of an amount large enough to mobilise PETA. The front or face is in calf leather, rather than pigskin, which, one would have thought, would be more appropriate, but for those who are sold on the cuteness, may be a bit much. The V, in “gold-colour finish”, is oddly missing the L, which is rather like the D without the C. Or, Rolf minus Viktor.

As biometrics, cards and apps now help us open doors and almost anything that comes with a door lock, LV is aware that shoppers might not be in the market for a key ring. They have thus also marketed this as a “bag charm”. Hence describing it to have “dual function”. We suppose that’s, therefore, more bang for your buck.

Louis Vuitton Chinese New Year collection and this key holder, SGD1,110, is in store. Photo: Louis Vuitton

Oh, Another One!

The mainland Chinese are annoyed; they are complaining that the new Burberry Chinese New Year ads are mirthless and rather ominous. They obviously have not seen the British brand’s creepy Christmas campaign


burberry cny 2019 p1Why so glum? Even 小燕子 (xiao yanzi, little swallow) Vicky Zhao (right) can’t lift the Burberry CNY 2019 ads from gloominess. Photo: Burberry/Weibo

Burberry ended last year with a weird ad; they started this year with another just as weird. Or, eerie, as some Netizens felt.

In China, Burberry’s yet-to-be-fully-launched Chinese New Year campaign is eliciting remarkable dismay and disapproval. The advertising stills that were first posted in Weibo last Thursday surprised many when it was revealed by Burberry to be for CNY. As fashion ads go, they’re frankly unremarkable, but as those targeted at a very specific occasion, one considered to be the most important on the lunar calendar, they stood out for their stupendous gloominess.

The Burberry ads suggest a family coming together for a portrait, or possibly some wefies. They appear to be unwilling participants, photographed against their better judgment, surrounded by people they are unhappy to be near: a tableau of the inauspicious. Two Chinese stars are enlisted to give the pictures the glamour factor that luxury brands typically require of their visual presentations, but even Vicky Zhao (赵微) and Zhou Dongyu (周冬雨) are not able to bring a mood of 喜气洋洋 (xi qi yang yang or full of joy) to the set with a backdrop that, for most Chinese families, should have been tossed out with the spring cleaning.

burberry cny 2019 p2Unhappy family? Or is this how CNY has become these days? Photo: Burberry/Weiboburberry ad @ ion orchardThe same ad, as seen suspended from the ceiling and perpendicular to the Burberry store at ION Orchard. Photo: Zhao Xiangji 

Or, is Burberry smarter than what they have led us to believe? Could this be Burberry saying something about how the young luxury consumers of today are reacting to Chinese New Year? Are we looking at a typical of Chinese family celebrating CNY now?

In the close-crop photo of Vicky Zhao and Chou Dongyu, the women look like distant cousins confronting other relatives that have come with danger (or dagger?!) rather than good tidings (aka ang pows), with the older holding the hands of the younger protectively before they run for the safety of the panic room (aka the toilet). Ms Chou wears an expression that, when brought to any CNY visit, would be considered ku (苦 or bitter)—best left at the door.

Yet, increasingly, this is what many families, especially the older folks, see during Chinese New Year, when they open their front door. So unhappy and unwilling are the young to go CNY visiting these days that many of these reluctant folks have opted to go abroad during this season, a trend that encourages those who are staying put to not answer knocks on the door or the ringing of the phone so as to pretend they are away.

burberry cny 2019 p3Evil intent? The creepy photo that prompted one Weibo user to suggest that there was a plot here to kill the grandmother for her riches! Photo: Burberry/Weibo

Could this then be Burberry reflecting the sign of the times (that’s why the ad campaign is named “摩登新禧” or Modern New Year)? Or the other sign—that western luxury brands will continue to market to Asia with little or no understanding of the market?

We resist comparing this to the Dolce and Gabbana fiasco of two months ago. To be fair, both incidences are very different, but 新浪财经 (Sina Finanical News) may be on to something when they headlined this poser: “Dolce & Gabbana 之后 Burberry 或也将‘败’在广告”. Or, “after Dolce & Gabbana, Burberry may be defeated by advertising”. It sounds like the Chinese media (and Sina isn’t alone) is saying that Chinese consumers, perhaps more than their Western counterparts, pay attention to adverts, and that brands should be mindful of what they communicate to the Chinese.

Or, have the mainland Chinese for too long projected themselves to be a rather uncultured lot when overseas that there are brands who think that, back in the motherland, culture is inconsequential to the world’s most populous nation? Or have the Chinese become, as some say, unduly sensitive when they themselves have been culturally unaware when on foreign soil? Insensitivity begets insensitivity?

burberry cny 2019 p4Something’s going on? The evil and the snubbed! Photos: Burberry/Weibo

It is rather puzzling that following the Dolce & Gabbana uproar, brands are still not taking into consideration the textual and visual implications of the messages they deliver in markets not their own. We wonder if it can be narrowed to one thing: an Italian failing. Like Domenico Dolce and Stefano Gabbana, Burberry’s Riccardo Tisci is Italian, so is the company’s CEO Marco Gobetti. To be sure, we are not playing the nationality card here, but it did have us wondering if this is a possibility: that there is scant understanding of China and much of Asia among present-day Italians.

This is glaringly ironic considering that compatriot Marco Polo, the 13th century merchant, is known to be a serious Sinophile and had written much about zhongguo. But he isn’t the only one who held the Chinese in high regard. Later, in the 18th century, the Jesuit priest Giuseppe Castiglione served as court painter to three, not one (!), Qing emperors: Kangxi, Yongzheng, and Qianlong. In fact, Italy’s bilateral relations is believed to date back to the times of ancient Rome.

For some, to make sense of all this, we have to take into consideration that we live in a confused—and confusing—world. These are times when we can do and say anything we want just as we can wear whatever we desire, even if it’s an affront to the decency or culture of the person in front of us. Fashion has become less about design than the need for the wearer to be intrusively, even inappropriately, expressive. Blare without care.

burberry christjmas 2018 p1Burberry’s earlier gloom. A dining hall and Kirsten Scott Thomas divorced from joy in Burberry’s Christmas 2018 video commercial. Photos: Burberry/Weibo

Since Riccardo Tisci’s appointment at Burberry, there is a certain gloom when it comes to the brand’s big, holiday advertising. Just last month, their Christmas ad, specifically the “fashion film” format, showed stars of the movie, music, and modelling worlds in their Burberry festive finery. But no one seemed happy, not even the dog under the table, on which a most un-festive meal was laid, in a hall with as much Yuletide cheer as a funeral parlour.

Even with big names, such as actors Kirsten Scott Thomas (looking spectacularly despondent) and Matt Smith (looking disconcertingly evil), and hip-hop artiste MIA (looking positively bored), the advert has such a lack of merriment that this could easily be a trailer for some slasher-in-a-sanctuary movie. Or, has Westerners’ attitude towards Christmas turned to the unrecognisable just as Chinese people now look at Chinese New Year so rather differently?

None of the cast members of the Burberry Christmas ad looked more sinister than Naomi Campbell, who sat on the ground like a broken doll, with her head on her mother Valerie Morris-Campbell’s lap, both looking blankly at a TV screen in front on them, in a chillingly blank room. With an eldritch half-smile on both faces, the Campbells appear no different from the Hewitts—Leatherface’s crazy family in 2003’s The Texas Chainsaw Massacre. That, we think, is pretty creepy.

Breath Of Fresh (And Auspicious!) Spring Air

Who’d have guessed this is Levi’s?

levi's flannel shirt

By Ray Zhang

Levi’s may be many things to many people, but, to me, it’s foremost a denim jeans company , and a rather conservative one too. When this appeared in full view as I passed the Levi’s store at ION Orchard, I thought: this can’t be.

Levi’s is so connected to the denim, chambray, and broadcloth shirts, mostly in solid colours or, if the season demands it, checks that this is positively deviant. Sure, the bi-patterned shirt is nothing to shout about since so many men’s wear brands have succumbed to it, from Ralph Lauren to Raf Simons, but, for Levi’s to take this route, it’s like expecting them to make skorts!

To be fair, Levi’s does sometimes offer clothing that is less in tune with the denizens. Their Made and Crafted sub-brand, now unavailable here, sometimes trod the narrow line between craft and commerce. Those available in Japan, especially, delight the senses. Levi’s still offers production quality that recalls a time when clothing was a lot sturdier, to the extend that designers such as Junya Watanabe and Vetements’ Demna Gvasalia continue to collaborate with them.

This shirt—half tartan, half camo (dotted with a medallion print that includes the Chinese character 喜 [xi or happiness]), with a patina of red—is thankfully cut a little roomier than the usual Levi’s shirt, which, as you already know, is in keeping with the looser silhouette still preferred, although, for Levi’s—and I, belatedly. I only wish it was not made of flannel, a fabric that is so linked to cooler climes that come Chinese New Year, which the shirt is released for, the wearer would hope for a Year of the Arctic Pig. Never mind that there’s no such swine.

Levi’s CNY Camo Crimson shirt, SGD79.90, is available at all Levi’s stores. Photo: Levi’s

Not Looking Back, But Looking Forward

This was posed to us many times at the start of 2019: which new (or newish) brand do we think will be exceptional this year? To us, there may be only one: Ader Error


Adererror in Siam DiscoveryAder Error pop-up in Bangkok’s Siam Discovery in October 2018

We have always resisted making lists. This is no exception. We won’t, therefore, be looking back at the last twelve months of 2018 and tell you what we think was good, or what, regrettably, was not. But of all the new or new-to-market labels that came (and, for some, languished), perhaps one deserves mention, not because of how big they are here since no retailer brought them in, but for their very conspicuous absence.

We think that the Korean streetwear label Ader Error deserves attention even when we have never blogged about them. Although they have not received mention here, you probably have seen their wares in those social media posts that tout the very latest and hottest. Or, seen your fave K-pop stars wearing them. After all, Ader Error is reported to be “”the top choice of K-pop royalty”, such as Jin and V of BTS. They are also know for their Instagram posts, of which they have not one, but three handles, totaling 743k followers, as of now.

adererror x pumaAder Error X Puma at Robinsons at the Heeren

At this point, perhaps we should correct ourselves. It is not entirely true that Ader Error is not retailed here. In November, Robinsons at the Heeren carried the brand’s collaboration with Puma: a tiny, two-style buy of sneakers and slides. That went largely unnoticed, and are still available at Robinsons when elsewhere in the world they have been reported to sell out within days of launch. Could this be indication that we, as retailers and consumers, are slow to trends, as is the common charge? Or, simply uninterested?

While we have read of Ader Error’s meteoric rise and followed them on IG, we have not seen their designs up-close until October last year. One of Bangkok’s more forward stores Siam Discovery—once a shopping centre, now a department store—had put together an Ader Error pop-up, complete with the Korean brand’s own fixtures. It was striking and unmissable, and an opportunity for us to examine the beguiling merchandise up close. Did they live up to the hype?

ader error coatOver-sized double-breasted wool coat: classic tailoring with street cred

Hype, as we all know, is often 80% social media build-up and 20% design finesse— sometimes, for the latter, less. Hype is the engine of consumption. Hype takes us for a ride. It can be either an enjoyable one or a dud that leads to nothing. Ader Error is, without doubt, built on hype, much of it its own making (rather than, say, through third-party or fan hashtags). It is hard not to see three IG pages (excluding website, Facebook, and Twitter) put out by one brand as hype, but the noise—thankfully, not bluster—they create is commensurate to the high grade of the products they sell.

It is encouraging, therefore, to see that Ader Error has quite a healthy percentage of design flair to the equation, more than a healthy quarter, as we see it. Sure, theirs is a path well-trodden: Supreme and its ilk have ambled on with repetition and, sadly, lacklustre offerings that bank quite solely on hype. Ader Error, more than most streetwear brands, conversely use design to fuel the hype, not the other way round.

ader error pop-upAs Ader Error intended, their sleek first pop-up in Southeast Asia

Ader Error was formed in Seoul in 2014. A collective of individuals from different fields, the brand is not led by any specific design director. One Kevin Lee is reported to be the group’s spokesperson. According to Mr Lee, the group got together because they had wanted to do something totally creative. Coming from trades as different as graphics and food, they produced clothing quite unburdened by what a street wear label should be. So steep in method, as well as madness that WWD called the work they do “intellectual street wear”. However, Mr Lee prefers to call it, as he revealed to Highsnobiety, “a culture brand based in fashion”.

What we found especially appealing is the polish of the designs, with the right balance of exclusivity and mass appeal. The pieces look like there are the result of thought (much if it), not afterthought. The retro vibe, like what dominates street wear now, is unmistakable. Yet, it is subtle enough for the brand to call their hark-back “futro”. That, to us, appears to be looking at shapes and designs of the past, but with the eyes unsquintingly gazing at the present. Additionally, you sense that the people behind Ader Error are sharing a private joke, but you aren’t sure what’s funny, except the obvious: on the bottom layer of the fly of a pants, the scribbled “not yet”!

ader error merchMore than just clothing, Ader Error offers a selection of fun accessories 

While Ader Error is touted as a unisex label, it is obvious that their strength is in men’s wear. The clothes are not designed to alienate. By that we mean there’s accessibility factor to the output. Yet, you don’t dismiss them for being too commonplace. A position that will attract otaku types, fashion-leaning gamers, and even the fashion-consuming CFOs. For most, there is appeal—and comfort—in clothes that, well, look like clothes. And smart to boot.

At present, Ader Error releases only two collections a year, and, unsurprisingly, in somewhat small quantities (which possibly bait collectors the way Supreme’s encourage long lines). According to the brand’s Kevin Lee, their sell-through is more than 90 percent per collection, which is not unexpected, considering that they sell in rather small number of stores, of which only one in Seoul is their eponymous outlet, a free-form space that could easily be a karang guni man’s den.

adererror in siam discovery l2From pop-up to permanent space in two months

Apart from garments, Ader Error offers small goods or what are known as “lifestyle items”. These include cups and caddies, key chains and kerchiefs, and everything else that allow you to show those around you that you buy into their “culture”. And people do. Two months or so after their Bangkok pop-up debut in Siam Discovery, they were given a permanent corner in the men’s department on the second floor, next to Club 21. A sales staff told our Thai eyes, Nah Kwamsook, that the brand is doing well (“kai dee mak” or sales is very good), and is especially popular with “fashionable young men.”

With only one store and crackling multiple social-media pages, the brand is doing something so right that British GQ wondered if Ader Error is “the world’s coolest brand”. We don’t quite know yet, but it is rather apparent to us that Ader Error is no mistake.

Photos: Jagkrit Suwanmethanon and Zhao Xiangji