This Is Kim And She’s Wearing Kimono

And it is clearly not a Japanese dress. Do names still mean anything?

 

Kim Kardashian enjoys many descriptions, but imaginative isn’t one of them. Case in point: her debut underwear line, just announced, is called Kimono. And many people are not charmed. It’s obvious the name is a play on her own moniker, but it also happens to be the traditional clothing of Japan. We can’t say for sure if there is cultural appropriation here, since there is no material component, but many people seem to consider it so—enough that #KimOhNo quickly emerged, within hours of her Instagram and Twitter announcements. However we see it, it is ignorant of the lawyer-in-training to think that Anglicised words no longer have provenance, meaning, or cultural connection.

To be fair, Mrs West (her Mr, too) has a penchant for unusual, un-name-like names, such as those for her kids (the latest, Psalm! Is that religious or musical appropriation?). A mother, we suppose, can name her children anything she wants. But a line of underclothes? That’s quite another matter, especially when lingerie, even post-Victoria’s Secret fashion shows, is still linked to something not quite as mundane as bras and panties, never mind if they are sold as “shapewear” and known to her as “solutions”. To call them by a name that is a national dress not related to the namer is understandably insensitive. It’s like a Korean wig-maker calling a new range of blond bobs Cornrows. Who’s buying—you, Kim K?

Photo: Vanessa Beecroft

Update (1 July 2019): Bowing to public outcry, Kim K has announced that she will not used the trademarked name Kimono for her shape wear brand. Watch this space for the next name that she will come up with

Not All-Leather!

Hender Scheme teams up with Adidas, like you’ve never seen them before

 

Adidas Originals X Hender Scheme ZX 4000 4D.jpg

By Shu Xie

I am so used to seeing Hender Scheme’s vechetta-tan, full-leather uppers with their take on Adidas’s classic styles that when this newest style appeared, I felt I was looking at something with missing garb. Undressed anything these days hardly surpises, of course, but that this collab is visually more Adidas than Hender Scheme is perhaps a little unexpected.

That’s not to say that the signature tan leather isn’t applied, only a little stingy in its use. On the ZX 4000 4D, they come in bits: above the mid-sole for the foxing and the trim beforw the toe box, for the eye stay and tongue label. Which is to say, more the cubes on the chriashi don than actual sashimi, but, still, no less appetising!

The choice of Adidas ZX 4000 4D is a weird one, if you ask me. Hender Scheme has always worked on more recognisable and classic Adidas styles, such as the unadulterated ZX, rather than what’s technology-driven. After all, fans pay a not inconsiderate amount for their hand-made shoes.

Admittedly, the ZX 4000 4D is not my fave sneak; the mid-sole—the Furturecraft—is a peeve because it’s a major dust and dirt trap. In addition, Hender Scheme’s simple artisanal leather patches, with their red zig-zag stitch, is a little at odds with the latticed “4D” mid-sole.

But, I know people who love it (shoe and sole!), even when they frown at the price. Well, better this than the seriously over-rated, over-hyped Yeezy, dare I say.

Adidas Originals X Hender Scheme ZX 4000 4D, SGD550, is available today at Club 21 Four Seasons. Photos: Adidas/Hender Scheme

About Time

Swatch has not only gone bold, it’s gone Big Bold. Better to ensnare the living-large influencer-shopper?

 

Swatch Big Bold

By Mao Shan Wang

Gosh, I don’t remember when I last looked at a Swatch. My father just told me that he bought Swatch watches when they were a single brand, not a luxury conglomerate—The Swatch Group. How many decades past was that? Thirty-four years ago, or in the year 1983, when Mario Bros debuted, pre-Pokémon! He then went to unearth a pair of Swatches, still in their clear cases, to show me. One is unambiguously inspired by the Kama Sutra, the other, similarly erotic (or perhaps just suggestive), sports hands that are two parts of a woman’s fully-naked body, both circa 1993—clearly a visual that’s way before #metoo and a particular NUS saga. Looking at the pristine straps, they have never been worn. Strangely, they do not make me curious about my father’s wrist-watch choice. Nobody looks at their father that way!

My lack of notice of Swatch is, I think, commensurate with their lack of notable timepieces, especially after the advent of the smartwatch. Until now. Launched today is a watch that is gigantic—by Swatch standard anyway. An eye-catcher no doubt conceived for the age of conspicuous wear. It is not certain why Swatch decided to launch the Big Bold, as it is known, but let me guess: The traditional Swatch—the one that disrupted the timepiece market in the ’80s—is a mere 25mm for women and 34mm for men, dimensions possibly considered minuscule by the needs of social media habitués. The Big Bold is almost double the size of the women’s style, at a generous and, more importantly, unmissable 47mm.

Swatch Big Bold P2

According to Swatch, the “Big Bold is an attitude, a mindset, a way of ‘being’ in the world”; it “longs for those that embrace being noticed”. You see! 🤭 And, to be caught sight of, it’s not enough to be bold, it has to be “big bold”. Since one is not synonymous with the other, it’s perhaps best that one augments the other. Big and bold, the way loud and proud, too, go together.

In terms of size, this appears to be as conspicuous as 2011’s Swatch Touch, one of the earliest digital watches and an oddity of a timepiece with a wide, rectangular screen in portrait orientation, predating smartwatches. Big Bold, admittedly looks more conventional then the Touch’s hard-to-place font; the numbers, although just four, are readable.

Look-wise, the Big Bold reminds me of the customisable Pop Swatch, but designed by a military type, possibly a pilot! The pop was gleefully infused with the Swatch aesthetic, but was too targeted at teens. I see the similarity perhaps because the Big Bold is just as resolutely circular! Launched in 1986 (and re-introduced in 2016, thirty years later), Pop was as playful as it was ingenious (or irreverent), but perhaps due to the (overtly?) fun leaning did not quite catch on with the serious fashion crowd, except Debbie Gibson fans.

Swatch Big Bold P3

However, the more I look at the Big Bold, the more it appears to me like a 3D-printed watch! It’s hard to say why. Perhaps it’s because of the simplicity of form, the modest styling of the bezel, and the dotted-bumps of the strap. These days, 3D printing is not churning out some figurine from your manga dreams. Anything can be 3D-printed. Jewellery, I have been told, are now popularly produced this way and sold. If bangles and such can be 3D-printed, then why not watches? Besides, Swatch is not new to the use of polymers.

In fact, when it hit the market back in 1983, Swatch’s thermoplastic-molded, weigh-next-to-nothing wrist watches were thought to be a life-saver of what the Swiss industry called a “quartz crisis”, one thought to be the result of the profusion of Japanese quartz watches such as those by the quickly rising Casio. Swatch took the world by storm, enthusiastically releasing delightful timepieces in all sorts of colours and, then, un-thought-of prints and patterns, and, in doing so, was the first brand at that price point to create collectables that drove those who hoard things such as McDonald’s Happy Meal figurines and stuffed toys quite crazy.

What will draw similar reaction this time round is Swatch’s pairing with Bape (aka A Bathing Ape) to make the Big Bold fancier, and simultaneously launch the collab when this hunk of a watch is released. I’m not sure if this will create the same buying frenzy as the recent KAWS X Uniqlo team-up, but I have no doubt the Big Bold X Bape (yes, I, too, spotted the delightful alliterative visual of the branding) won’t be around by the time you read this and head to the flagship store at Orchard Gateway, where it is rather discreetly launched today.

Swatch Big Bold P4Limited-edition collaboration with Bape

With Bape, Swatch, it seems, is riding on an icon of youth and reaching out to a new gen of watch users, which may be a small, small group, judging by the attendees at the launch event, held at the Substation yesterday afternoon. Of the 12 people around me, only two wore a watch. When I moved to another spot near the food wagon, among the 19 munchers there, nine wore a timepiece (one was an Apple Watch).

It has been reported in the past years that the watch has lost its appeal among smartphone users, since we now tell the time by just looking at a phone screen or be duly informed by the timekeeper, Google Assistant. Honestly, I don’t know how well for-millenials-by-millennials brands such as Olivia Burton is doing, but, apparently, they are making the young pick up watches in encouraging numbers. Perhaps Swatch is on to something.

Or perhaps celebrity-endorsement helps. A bespectacled, beanied, and prosperously-girthed, non-BTS fan Dee Kosh appeared; his presence visually and audibly felt. Indulging delightfully and loudly in nachos, the YouTuber-turned-radio-DJ gesticulated excitedly as he talked to a captivated audience. I looked at his bare, excitable wrist. The Big Bold can roost there—a striking face for an unabashed similar.

Swatch Big Bold, from SGD140, launches today. Photos: Chin Boh Kay

One Plus One

Once upon a time, Comme des Garçons was a logo-less brand. Not any more. Together with Nike in the re-release of the odd Shox, CDG made it clear that its visible branding—fully spelled out—is here to stay

 

CDG Nike Shox TL

By Ray Zhang

Back in 2000, when the first Shox shoe was released by Nike, I thought it was the weirdest looking kicks. There were high heels in the rear of the mid-sole, comprising four stout pillars—never before seen in a running shoe. From the side view, I remember thinking that if King Louis IV of France were to wear sneakers to jog in the Jardin du Château de Versailles, these might have been them. The thought won’t go away when Nike released, the Shox with red heels, which, if back in the day of the ancien régime of the Roi Soleil (Sun King), were not only an indicator of political privilege, but direct access to the monarch in his court.

On the court of fashion, Comme des Garçons paired with Nike to bring the Shox back, freeing it from its basketball association. Honestly, the Shox is the last shoe I expect CDG to work on. By now, despite a new reiteration, the TL (now, with a full-length Shox mid-sole, looking like sneaks on stilts!), the Shox is, to me, evocative of yesteryear tech. To be sure, Nike shoes, no matter how old, lend themselves easily for a remake. But, the Shox is, to me, a style that perhaps suits sitting somewhere comfortably in the farthest end of our memory.

However, as with most CDG X Nike collabs, things are not so straightforward or obviously retro, or even sporty. The is classic Japanese deconstruction meet as-classic hip-hop styling. CDG is the earliest proponent of the raw edge, which is a garment finish that appeared way back in the ’80s. With the mesh-upper, CDG now does not give the sneaker neat seams—around the lace guard (which stretches downwards and is conjoined with the toe box), at the top of the tongue, the foxing at the heel, and, unexpectedly, around the surprisingly discreet Swoosh.

CDG Nike Shox TL (2)

The curious thing to me is the chain with the full-name pendant, a hanging jewellery that is less Carrie Bradshaw than Missy Elliot. It sits above the lacing, under the upper end of the pronounced tongue, already boasting the CDG logotype. The gaps between the Shox’s columns in the mid-sole naturally allow something like a chain to be passed through, hence securing the eye-catching link. Sneakers have welcomed studs and other hardware, but not chains; not even used as laces.

I sense this placement is very much influenced by hip hop (what fashion isn’t?!). There’s more than a whiff of the neck-wear preference of the likes of A$AP Ferg and Drake (or if you look, further back, LL Cool J!) here. Also known as “rap chains”, these are part of a growing blink culture that has elevated the status of jewellers such as Ben Baller of If & Co and, naturally, the dynamic duo of Verbal and Yoon of Ambush. CDG, especially through their retail arm Dover Street Market, seem especially drawn to this form of ostentation.

I have, of course, seen this chain and pendant before. Back in November 2015, it was distributed as a door gift of sort at the CDG store’s autumn/winter party. And I continue to witness the same worn by guests at subsequent in-store events conducted by the brand. Did CDG produce so many of the chains that they still have enough of them to be re-purposed (as they have with some of their fabrics)? Could this, indeed, be some sort of up-cycling? If so, you can’t say that Comme des Garçons isn’t giving sustainable fashion a welcome shot.

Comme des Garçons X Nike Shox TL, SGD490, is now avaialable at DSMS an Comme des Garçons, Hilton Shopping Gallery. Photos: (from top) Nike, Chin Boh Kay, DSML, DSML

Another Tough-To-Get

Really tough. Could the Nike X Undercover Daybreak be their React Element 87 of the year?

 

Nike X Undercover Daybreak

By Ray Zhang

I should have given up. Because in the end, I really shouldn’t stress over a pair of sneakers. Last year’s Nike React Element 87 was hard enough. I didn’t even try the collaborative version with Undercover. Even the regular release, as it turned out, was somewhat of a holy grail, unless you are willing to pay the ridiculous prices months later at Sole Superior.

Similarly, the Nike X Undercover Daybreak was so impossible to cop that I started to wonder if some powerful reseller has direct access to them before the rest of us could even have a glimpse of it, online or offline. The Daybreak by what I consider one of the best sneaker collaborations of the past five years is a shoe of palpable authenticity and, concurrently, Japanese quirk.

The Daybreak has been dead (or, on a positive note, hibernation) for 30 years. All shoes in Nikeland, as we keep seeing, can be undead. In resurrecting the Daybreak, Undercover has mostly kept to its original form—the for-running foam mid-sole and très old-school black rubber waffle out-sole!—except the heel counter, which looks like it came from outer space. Did someone dig his heels in on the garbage planet Saakar?

 

Nike X Undercover Daybreak P1

These days, heels are where designers concentrate their efforts. From Rick Owen’s pairing with Adidas (which sadly ended last year) for the Runners (2013) to A Cold Wall X Nike’s Zoom Vomero 5, with the blockish heel counter (and idea also seen in Sacai’s hybridising of classic Nike silhouettes), the rear is now more than ever an invitation for unseeing pedestrians/commuters/strollers to kick or step on.

The major lure for me, however,  is how the shoe is decidedly retro without venturing into dad-shoe territory. I find the nylon upper and the suede trim of the toe box and the eye stay a perfect match: classic case of opposites attract. That in Nike’s communication materials for this Daybreak, the sneakers are paired with a pair of corduroy slacks is certainty that it will have retro appeal.

Last night, I started monitoring the Nike website for the release of the shoe. Even at midnight, it said “coming soon”. Looking at the countdown counter, I knew I could go to sleep and wake up to buy it. At thirty minutes to nine this morning, when the Daybreak would be released, I sat in front of my PC and was ready. I readied my smartphone too, just in case. At nine, sharp, I clicked on the image of the shoe, chose the colour (blue!), and size, and clicked “add to cart”. The rejoinder was “Please try again. Sorry, there was a problem processing your request. Please try to add to basket again.” This went on for the next 30 minutes. In the end, I gave up.

Nike X Undercover Daybreak is launched today on nike.com and DSMS. It is, as we understand, sold out. Photos: Nike

Update (15 June 2019): After releasing the black and blue Daybreak sneakers, a green version will reportedly be out on 21 June. Good luck!

 

Two Of A Kind: Wide Shoulders, Narrow Waists

Fenty 2019 Vs A Wang 2020.jpgLeft: the suit jacket at Fenty. Photo: Fenty. Right: The suit jacket at Alexander Wang. Photo: Alexander Wang

Hers came first if only because she sold hers first. And is for the current season, not spring/summer 2020, a far-off six months or more later. Rihanna’s Fenty jacket, worn as a dress by the singer herself at the opening of her first store, a pop-up in Paris, has a silhouette not unlike Alexander Wang’s, shown in New York last Friday, as part of a segment purportedly homage to the now defunct fashion line of Donna Karan.

That the broad shoulders and nipped-in/shaped waist are finally expressed by hype-driven designers perhaps attests to the proportion’s mass acceptance… at last. Balenciaga under Demna Gvasalia’s watch somehow escaped American designers’ inspiration… until now. Is it uncanny that one Barbadian designer’s Parisian debut is echoed back in North America, where European aesthetics have always been dreamy aspirations, not commercial reality?

The similarity is truly remarkable: wide shoulders with enough padding so that they do not droop, the fairly large armhole, the natural-waist emphasis, and, in particular, the vertical lines below the bust used to accentuate the waist—boning for Fenty and reverse darts for Alexander Wang. Rihanna styled hers as a dress, and although Mr Wang teamed his with turtle neck and what appears to be jeans, the jacket looked like it, too, would work sans bottom.

This jacket shape looks to us to be without a dotted line that can be traced to European couture. Rather, it appears to be related to black tailoring of the Forties: the jacket half of the zoot suit, a garment that was, as Smithsonian magazine noted, “unbranded and illicit”. It explained further: “There was no one designer associated with the look, no department store where you could buy one. These were ad hoc outfits, regular suits bought two sized too large and then creatively tailored to dandyish effects.”

There is, of course, nothing “unbranded and illicit” about Fenty and Alexander Wang (who is now using his name as Calvin Klein did and does) and their suit-jackets are clearly not provisional nor standard-issue. It is perhaps easier and more convenient and less provocative to say that they both tap into the zeitgeist emerging from black America, and is going (gone?) mainstream.

Rihanna is today not only a high priestess of fashion, she is, as CNN puts it, “a godsend for curvy women”. Riri does not have the same body as the lass who released the debut album Music of the Sun in 2005. Now bigger, she considers herself her muse, who presumably represents the many women out there that designers, such as fellow LVMH employee Hedi Slimane, do not cater to. That her first male customer is reportedly British Vogue’s Edward Enninful substantiate her social enterprise spirit of wanting to design for non-traditional body shapes that fashion is not partial to, just like the Savage X Fenty underclothing line.

Alexander Wang may be Asian, but he’s American in every way. His Europeanisation of self via Balenciaga (2012—2015) was essentially a parody of what European couture looks like from across the Atlantic. His heart has always been in Harlem; his strength in streetwear. That a jacket of uncommon proportion should appear in his collection indicate that, like other American designers, Mr Wang is addling our understanding of what is street-influenced fashion by taking the tailoring-as-confirmation-of-arrival route.

For now, Rihanna and Alexander Wang are marching to the same drum beat, but who will march on?

The Polo Shirt Can Look This Fresh

With input from Engineered Garments, Uniqlo re-imagines their classic Dry polo. And it works

 

Uniqlo X Engineered Garments 2019

By Ray Zhang

Earlier today, Uniqlo launched the 17-style UT colleciton based on the recognisable graphics of BFF, the mascot/alter ego of KAWS, aka Brian Donnelly, whose Grover-like character is also loved by designers such as Kim Jones of Dior. In fact, the appeal of KAWs need no explanation here. By now, you must have heard of how difficult it is to score one of them tees, how shoppers where mostly left disappointed, how scalpers won the day. In China, it was reported, pandemonium broke out.

I saw the frenzied shopping; I saw the low merchandise levels, and I saw the over-purchases of a few individuals. To be sure, I was not at the Uniqlo flagship to jostle with gangly 13-year-olds and the mothers determined to acquire the tees that will ensure that their children are dressed cool. I came for something else. In another part of the store, a somewhat low-key launch three days ago is now barely drawing the attention of even one shopper.

Uniqlo has paired with Engineered Garments to rework its Dry polo shirts, not exactly the most exciting garment in the Uniqlo repertoire—therefore, will benefit from an update. I had thought that this would have come earlier, under their U product line, steered by Christophe Lemaire, but that didn’t quite happen. Sure, Mr Lemaire and his team has put out polo shirts. They made them boxier and baggier than what Uniqlo is accustomed to, but they did not really give the garment a major makeover. Or, has the hoodie risen to the point of detriment to the polo shirt?

Uniqlo X Engineered Garments 2019 P2bUniqlo X Engineered Garments 2019 P3b

With Engineered Garments, a New York label headed by Japan-born Daiki Suzuki, the polo shirts now look a lot more interesting, hence alluring. Mr Suzuki did not change the shape of the garment that Rene Lacoste made popular off-court, but within it, details were introduced in a way only the Japanese can. Engineered Garments is not exactly known as an advant-garde label. Fans note with delight how they handsomely rework and improve American work wear, and have more in common with brands such as Visvim than the more alt, such as Kolor. Their attention to detail is well-known. Some work shirts are reportedly sewn up with five different types of sewing machines!

This collaboration sees Engineered Garments incorporating details not commonly seen in polo shirts. I am drawn to the one with three, not-equal panels of different prints—animals, polka dots, and flora and fauna, all in subtle tones of grey on grey (there’s also a striped version)—so subtle, in fact, that some people thought them to be sweat stains! I also like how they’ve brought the side seams of the shirts slightly to the front, allowing a hint of the contrast fabric of the back to be seen. Other details include a pair of parallel seams on the side of the breast pocket—barely discernible, but the wearer know it’s there, subtlety so absent in an age of access.

Uniqlo has availed their Dry polo shirts for Engineered Garments to rework. These are not my favourite at Uniqlo, primarily because I don’t generally go for cotton-blend shirts. The Dry is, as the name suggests, a tad too dry for me in terms of hand feel, which means the fabric aren’t as soft as their 100% cotton cousin. Dry has 28% polyester in the blend, which isn’t a lot, compared to the 100% polyester Dry Ex version of the polos. To be fair, this piqué of the Dry feels softer even when the weave seems thicker, which gives the shirt a nice body that’s required for the boxy and loose shape. I’m rather taken by the fully-fashioned collar, which sits handsomely on the shoulder, without the tendency to curl up at the pointed tip.

Uniqlo X Engineered Garments 2019 P4

I have not bought a polo shirt for a long time. The last was a Fred Perry tweaked by Comme des Garçons to appear geek-approved. Or was it the Lyle & Scott made less traditional by Junya Watanabe? Or maybe Mr Watanabe’s unmaking of Lacoste’s preppiness. Or perhaps Gosha Rubchinskiy’s massive, almost goofy shirt no tennis player worth his salt will wear on or off court? Yes, I have quite a few polo shirts (read: too many), but I do not wear them as often as other tops. People these days seem to equate polo shirts with uncle wear. Maybe Ralph Lauren’s (tentative) return may change that. Or Uniqlo’s pairing with Enigineered Garments.

The first time I was taken with the polo shirt was when I came upon fashion spreads in GQ of the ’80s, shot by the now-humiliated Bruce Weber, in partnership with the magazine’s forward-thinking (then assistant) art director, the late Donald Sterzin, who would later work with Mr Lauren, generating those images the Japanese admired as ‘Ivy’. Mr Weber shot the polo shirts—from Ralph Lauren to Merona (a sort of Gap of the day)—not on models but undergrads, such as Michael Ives from Yale and Jeff Aquilon from Pepperdine, who would later become faces that defined the ’80s rugged handsomeness. They didn’t only look good, but stylish in what, to me, were totally wearable and relatable clothes. It was the looking that good that was the hard part.

Haters will think the polo shirt never quite left the ’80s. Perhaps it never did. While designers have re-imagined the garment once related to sports involving horses, Ralph Lauren’s colourful Polo versions—and later “authentic American clothing” Abercrombie & Fitch’s over-washed, over-appliquéd constructs—affirmed the garment’s (retro-) collegiate smart, which soon sailed to obscurity along with baby-boomer style. I am not sure if the polo shirt will ever reclaim its former glory, but it will continue to effectively straddle the space between the now-too-formal shirt and the always-too-casual tee. It is, I feel, not quite yet destined for the fashion graveyard.

Uniqlo X Engineered Garments, SGD$29.90 and SGD39.90, are in stores. Photos: Jim Sim