The Guys Were In Their Thoughts Too

Is this the island’s most considerate fashion retailer?

 

Men's waiting area in Love Bonito Funan op

By Low Teck Mee

It’s waiting men! Okay, that’s a bad pun, but that’s exactly what I thought when I saw these fellows seated behind drawn-apart black curtains, engrossed in whatever it was broadcasting from their smartphones. This was not outside the maternity ward of some fancy private hospital; this was inside the two-month-old store of the still-referred-to-as-blogshop fashion brand Love, Bonito. No woman, similarly absorbed or not, was seen.

The amazing thing about Singapore’s favourite womenswear label is their ability and willingness to provide, in their buzzy retail spaces—three to date, winning extras in lieu of smashing clothes. Their third brick-and-mortar, a 6,000-square-feet expanse in Funan Mall, is all sweetie-poo pink with an identity crisis: it could be orange, or a hint of it, but the result is definitely not, as I have been told, saumon. The girlish shade belies the store’s unabashed ‘phygital’ (physical + digital) leanings.

That, according to the fans of the brand, which could be every female on this island that is not pre-pubescent, as, you guessed it, I have been told, is a “wonderland” and a selfie-friendly/encouraging place of “Instagrammable spots”. Whether these really spur shoppers on to spend or “hang” with them is not quite clear. Other “tech” touches include screens on stout podiums and in niches that allow instant access to Love, Bonito’s website (assuming, perhaps, that shoppers have no smartphone or can’t be bothered to use it), an AR Walkway so that girls can, via an app, happily find themselves in a passage of unrealistic flowers or whatever smidgen of cuteness that can be found in the app, and selectable mood lighting in their much-lauded, bookable, bigger-than-my-bathroom fitting rooms.

These are all consistent with Funan Mall’s in-centre, pseudo hi-tech features, but are, in fact, superficial add-ons that, contrary to their marketing message, won’t “value-add” to whatever draws you to the six-floor complex. Have you tried the redundant, slows-you-down, order screens (probably a leasing requisite) at the ridiculously named Kopitiam Foodcourt, KOPItech? It is not certain how charmed the women who go to Love, Bonito are with the digi-all, but the salesgirls were happy to tell curious me that the non-merchandise extras are part of what co-founders Rachel Lim and Viola Tan have been touting to the media (and I was hearing again): “customer experience”.

For a woman’s clothier, that experience omits the guys who may have to accompany a girlfriend/wife/mistress/sister to the store. But, as it turns out, at the rear of the packed-with-merchandise space, a little empty room with windows that allow much natural light in and that reveal the building behind is where all the bored (and boring?) men come to, seated lined up on a bench against the wall. How nice, I thought.

Later, at the Sinpopo Brand take-away and food kiosk, two girls next to me delightfully and audibly share their “experience” at Love, Bonito: “love how thoughtful they are; so nice of them to allocate a space at the back for pregnant women, moms with strollers, and shoppers who come in wheelchair.” Yes, I was too presumptuous.

Photo: Zhao Xiangji

Holding The Ford

Tom Ford can’t help but do Tom Ford. His clients, too, expect him to be himself. Is this season then a good Tom Ford?

 

Tom Ford SS 2020 P1.jpg

Tom Ford has gone underground. But let’s not think of what that would usually suggest. Mr Ford has always been an atas kind of guy; he always projects an uptown vibe even when he tries downtown cool, stays on top of the game than slips to below par. Which means that even when his latest show during New York Fashion Week (NYFW) is staged in a disused New York subway station, you shouldn’t expect a post-design school moment, or a stride with the subversive. This is not homage to the homeless.

He-who-revived-Gucci-in-the-’90s is a devotee of glamour, not grit. Silk satin speaks louder than cotton twill! Sure, he pairs a satin jacket with shorts—basketball shorts(!), but that is no indication of edge—pluck maybe. And, in just-as-shiny fabrics are jumpsuits, which one suspects is for boogieing on down to somewhere fun than (even) to wear to facilitate the transaction of exorbitant art. The potential verve and irregularity that a location such as this may offer is not exploited. Rather, one senses that the celeb-centric clothes are conceived to be mostly worn to dance clubs, such as former New York landmark, the subterranean passage-like The Tunnel.

Tom Ford NYFW SS 2020 G1Tom Ford NYFW SS 2020 G2

What’s interesting to us is that this time, Mr Ford is leading the pack, so to speak, in the much-talked-about re-making of NYFW. He started in June as the new chairman of the Council of Fashion Designers of America (CFDA), and, as an important first move, shortened the duration of NYFW and, subsequently, initiated what the media has described as “experiential events”, which, from what we have seen online, exclude Mr Ford’s own show. Now that he is wearing two hats, it is not unreasonable to assume that he would want (a slowly fading) NYFW and his namesake presentation to make a significant mark.

However, venue alone—lit purple (liturgical colour?)—is not quite enough to cast the Tom Ford collection in a different light. There is no doubt that the designer courts a particular customer, man or woman. And that these people wear a certain category of clothing that do not include what most of us don to work and even play. These are clothes with an attitude tethered to sexiness and sundown, and society. Mr Ford can’t resist the halter neck, the bra-top, and the slinky dress even if he still offers sharp blazers, and the odd dress with slim skirt, which could be there to keep the collection within the now less important parameters of realness.

Tom Ford NYFW SS 2020 G3

Mr Ford is disposed to homages too. Consistently, he has showed, through his designs, a deep fascination with Halston, even reportedly bought the latter’s famous apartment in the Upper East Side, New York, designed by American architect Paul Rudolph, whose interior design for the Halston House Mr Ford called “one of the great American interiors”, as told to WWD. It is surprising that no one at the New York Metropolitan Museum of Art thought of a second Impossible Conversations, this time between Halston and Tom Ford.

This season, however, rather than influence coming from the man associated with disco and Ultrasuede, we see one that can be linked to Issey Miyake, specifically a fibreglass bustier top, first seen in Mr Miyake’s autumn/winter collection shown in Paris in 1980. Mr Ford’s versions—two of them—are shaped differently, and could be made of other material since we are not yet able to determine what is used, but that they immediately bring to mind a very specific garment from the past is hard to overlook. Even with new  stewardship, this, as we see it, is American fashion: a bit of theirs, a bit of others.

Photos: (top/main) Tom Ford, (runway) Vogue,com/Alessandro Lucioni/Gorunway.com