Blue, Black, Beribboned

Is this what happens when you apply couture sensibility to sneakers?

 

Dior B24 Runtek

By Ray Zhang

It is hard to find exceptionally new forms in sneakers put out by fashion houses. Of course, there are Louis Vuitton’s Archlight and Balenciaga’s Triple S, but I think they are rather uncommon. Many luxury brands are happy to just base their kicks on what sports brands have been doing forever—just look at the astonishingly persistent lazy replication of Adidas’s Stan Smith or Superstar. I guess some sneaker styles are so repeated that they have become a classic, just like the five-pocket, straight-leg denim jeans—any brand can have their own. Innovation be damned.

Dior for men under the watch of Kim Jones has released the B24 Runtek. The blue/black/white colour story here caught my eye recently for not trying to be the next over-the-top shoe with humility issues. I like that the ripstop upper is not overly complex or excessively panelled. There is the black ribbon that zig-zags the middle, and appears to secure the lace guard. Another strip (with branding), emerging from the toe cap, stretches parallel to the midsole and wraps the heel like a handle (before continuing the other side), just above the heel clip. Is this the couture touch that Mr Jones talked about in his men’s wear?

To be sure, B24 Runtek looks like an amalgamation of all the sneakers you’ve loved before; the best bits in a new whole. To me, there’s a strong whiff of the Karhu Fusion 2. Or should that be the Nike Air Max Triax? Or maybe the New Balance MS850 Tre? Well, you know what I mean. But at least it isn’t the Converse wannabe: Mr Jones’s first for Dior, the B23 High-Top and Low-Top.

Still, the shape of the B24 Runtek feels rather new to me. Or perhaps it’s because it doesn’t try to be a father figure. When worn it has enough bulk without looking like it’s trying to outdo Shoes 53045’s and yet it feels slender enough without seeming to make Nike Tailwind appear to be on a diet. If the four-figure price won’t make you choke on your avocado toast, I say this is the kick to have when you need a break from the bombastic.

Dior B24 Runtek, SGD1600, is available at Dior stores. Photo: Zhao Xiangji

(2019) Winter Style 1: The Graphic Sweater-Knit Dress

A knit dress not only travels well, it lends a touch of elegance in what would otherwise be too casual a travel wardrobe

 

Uniqlo X Marimekko dress

Packing a dress for a winter holiday is not a thing many women consider wise for the luggage. A store buyer told us that a dress is not preferred when it comes to those that can shield against big drops in temperature: “A dress worn here daily won’t be useful when temperatures go below ten. One that can be worn in Seoul, for example, at this time of the year won’t be suitable here.”

But a dress is always a stylish (not to mention, feminine) addition to any practical winter wardrobe. The one-piece that we are drawn to this season is this almost maxi-length wool sweater-dress from the Uniqlo X Marimekko collaboration. You’ll agree that the simplicity of silhouette will ensure that you could wear it for many more winter holidays to come.

Admittedly, we’re not really a fan of this particular collab. Marimekko’s prints and shapes tend to attract women of a certain age and carriage (as seen in the horde that flocked to Uniqlo’s flagship this morning). Sure, we do think fashion should be inclusive—it’s good that Uniqlo caters to a certain demographic, but certain associations sometimes diminishes the sartorial appeal (or edge) of a brand, no matter how creatively the designs are executed.

Yet, we’re still drawn to some of Marimekko’s item if the visuals used aren’t so self-consciously cheery. Such as this fine-gauge merino wool-blend sweater-dress that would carry you from day to night if that transition is important to you. It scores big with the thick, windy black line that meanders down the body as an S-shape or an F1 track, depending on how you see things.

The dress is cut to swing away from the bust. With the fully-fashioned, slightly wide crew neck, it means you can layer it over a shirt, for example. (Layering is key, Uniqlo will tell you.) Over that, a slightly oversized puffer jacket, we think, will look just swell.

Uniqlo X Marimekko merino-blend long-sleeved dress, SGD79, is available from today at Uniqlo, Orchard Central. Photo: Uniqlo

Like So Many Before Him, Gone Too Soon

Obituary|Godfrey Gao’s sudden death, to his fans, means he’ll be “forever handsome”

 

Godfrey Gao in an Earl Jeans campaign in 2012. Photo: 小苏 for Earl Jeans

The news that Godfrey Gao (高以翔) died in a fall while filming the sports-themed reality TV show, Chase Me (追我吧), in Ningbo, China, had members of our local media keep their WhatApp chats abuzz. Mr Gao had worked with quite a few stylists and photographers here, and was known to be a much sought-after subject, even if only for those who profiled him, to be close to someone considered the best-looking Asian male specimen on the planet. The shock is understandable.

Many in the fashion industry here knew him as a model, whose career culminated in the 2011 appearance in the now “legendary” Louis Vuitton campaign, a first for LV involving not just an Asian male model, also one not from Japan or Korea, but from unlikely Taiwan. In it, Mr Gao’s striking looks rivaled any Caucasian male’s; his sharp jawline, unshaped by the likes of Pao Facial Fitness (yes, the one Christiano Ronaldo promoted) and so sharp it could have cut the suit he wore.

His fans (surprisingly only 550K on IG) remember him as an actor, whose career never quite matched not-shoddy-in-the-looks-department Mark Chao’s (趙又廷, of the Inspector Dee series), but it did lead up to a smallish Hollywood part in 2013’s The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones, in which he took on Magnus Bane, a flamboyant, bisexual character of Asian descent that Mr Gao played in such a campy manner, observers thought it was risky as a breakthrough role.

Godfrey Gao for LVGodfrey Gao in an Louis Vuitton ad in 2011. Photo: Louis Vuitton

That, however, did not put the brakes on leads heading his way. His biggest role came in the relatively short, 38-episode, 2016 Chinese novel-turn-TV-series Encountering Lichuan (遇见王沥川, aka Remembering Li Chuan’s Past). It sealed his heartthrob reputation as the titular character, also called Alex, is considered so well casted and performed—more turning on the born-for-camera charm than acting—by Mr Gao that fans were convinced he “wasn’t eye candy anymore”.

That he was, at time of death, filming for a China reality TV show indicated that he was big enough a name to be sold to a mainland Chinese audience, who isn’t quite tuned into Taiwan’s male-star offering when they have their own, such as Shawn Dou (窦骁, also a fellow Canadian) and Kenny Lin (林更新) who starred with Mr Gao in God of War, Zhao Yun (战神赵子龙). All that came to a halt in that fall, attributed to (or as a result of, it was not immediately clear) a cardiac arrest, a cause of death not typical of Mr Gao’s 35 years of age or a basketball player, but may be aggravated by the reported “17 straight hours of filming”. As one of his best friends, the Taiwanese basketball player (and one-time actor) James Mao (毛加恩), who was always referred to by Mr Gao as his “brother” (both were last here in September for F1), IG-ed, “This is not how it’s supposed to be”.

What was supposed to be was Godfrey Gao’s face. His was what traditionalists would call classically handsome and what the many young women who are mad about him would consider 帅呆了 (shuai dai le, awesomely suave or, literally, handsome till you’re struck speechless). Mr Gao had an extremely easy to shoot face. Those who had worked with him, make-up artists too, told SOTD he “had no bad angle”. One Singaporean stylist who had collaborated with him on commercials told us that “he doesn’t have a bad photo”, deliberately using the present tense. “I feel it’s the proportion of the head in relation to the body. And of course, it’s also because he has many good angles.”

19-11-28-13-48-27-659_deco.jpg

Godfrey Gao certainly knew his angles and wasn’t afraid to use them, such as in this series of overtly sexy ads for Earl Jeans. Photo: 小苏 for Earl Jeans

Cameras loved him and he loved them back. For some behind the lens, their work with Godfrey Gao was unforgettable, formative years. James Hsu, the Tawainese art director of the ad campaigns for Earl Jeans (the LA-based brand loved by the Hollywood set, now owned by Nautica) that featured Mr Gao for several seasons told us, “I’ve worked with Godfrey constantly for over three to four years. And it’s the time where I started everything (directing & producing). Now saying good bye to him feels more like saying goodbye to my youth.”

Godfrey Gao was the personification of youth— in his case, tenacious youth. He was enigmatic, media-ready, and willing to bank on his face. But, as it’s often said of the photogenic, what the camera sees isn’t necessarily an intimate portrait. In person, we were told, he was not always the personable idol that those who swoon at his mere presence think. One former marketing head, who had worked with Mr Gao in a paid project in Shanghai in 2011, recalled what he wasn’t prepared for: incommunicado and resistance to cooperate.

“He was not friendly, leaving all dealings and speaking to his personal assistant, appearing not for rehearsal, just the event proper, which was to walk out onto the stage at the end of a fashion show, but he didn’t emerge when he was introduced. The upbeat host of the event later surmised that because he was a guo ji ju xing (big international star), he probably didn’t want to appear alongside the other regional celebrities, sharing the same intro. She had to re-introduce him and allow him his own spotlight on stage.

Godfrey-Gao-Esquire-Singapore-March-2015-Cover.jpegOn Esquire Singapore in March 2015. Photo: Chuck Reyes/ Esquire

“We had arranged a dinner for him following the event, which he was told about earlier. He vanished after the appearance on stage, leaving his assistant to inform us that he won’t be joining us for dinner. No reason was given. My Chinese colleagues accepted that as unsurprising of an “international star”. When I later mentioned this to a Taiwanese editor friend, he said in Mr Gao’s defence, ‘He doesn’t speak Mandarin very well.’” Nor write, probably. On his social media accounts, Mr Gao posted only in English. The Singaporean stylist concurred that his Mandarin was “competent at most”.

Godfrey Gao was born in Taipei in 1984 to a Shanghainese father, who was in the auto-tyre business, and a Peranakan mother from Georgetown, who was a 1970 Miss Penang beauty queen. The young Godfrey emigrated to Vancouver with two brothers when he was eleven—his family, like so many Hong-Kongers before 1997, was likely attracted to the pleasant climate and slower pace of life in the Canadian city that was ideally situated on the Pacific Rim. Mr Gao completed his tertiary education in University of Capalino in northern Vancouver, where he was, unsurprisingly, given his 1.93m height, a member of the school’s basketball team. It is not known how well he played (or how Jeremy Lin-gifted), but it was reported that he did consider a career in the sport, but did not pursue it. He continued to play basketball throughout his professional life, counting some members of Taiwan’s national players as friends.

No major reason was offered to the deeply curios about his return to Taiwan in 2004. Some said, as an Asian model, opportunities for him in Vancouver would be few and far between. In Taipei, he did make a mark through modelling, and was part of Fashion F4, a media-bestowed collective, unashamedly named after the attractive clique in the manga series Boys Over Flowers (BOF). The Taiwanese real-life Fashion F4—not to be mistaken for the pop group F4 comprising Jerry Yan (言承旭), Vanness Wu (吴建豪), Ken Chu (朱孝天), and Vic Chou (周渝民), formed after the 2001 TV series Meteor Garden (流星花园, loosely based on BOF)—was a deft self-promotion based on the good looks of those also born into wealth (贵公子).

The Fashion F4: (from left) Victor Chen, Sphinx Ting, Godfrey Gao, and Gaby Lan. Photo: source

Mr Gao, together with fellow models Sphinx Ting (丁春诚, also turned-actor, but continued to be a popular model), Victor Chen (陈绍诚, turned-producer/TV host, but mainly managing his family business) and Gaby Lan (蓝钧天, also turned-actor, as well as member of the hip-hop outfit Maji), became such a high-profile quartet in the Taipei beau monde that the local media initially named them 社交 F4 (Social F4). Their collective good looks and smoulder culminated in a 2008 photo-book Meet Fashion 4, a publication similar to the scores in Japan that cater to vapid pop fandom.

That Godfrey Gao moved among a certain social set wasn’t surprising. Good looks and Western education tend to find company with those similarly blessed (his close friendship with basketballer James Mao, a University of Austin grad who also speaks and posts in English, may attest to that) and attract the attention of influential TV and film producers/ executives. Mr Gao’s early roles were considered small parts in ‘idol’ dramas: forgettable. His first leading character finally came in the to-be-expected sports-themed TV series Volleyball Lover (我的排队情人, 2010), in which he played rich-kid Bai Qianrui (白谦睿), an only-silly-school-girls-will-like Sudoku champ and volleyball player, enlisted by a lass he doesn’t at first love to help train the team she was in, only to find how different things between them will turn out. One regular Taiwan TV series follower at that time called the show “lame” and his acting “strictly for pre-pubescent girls who can’t tell the difference between woods”.

Until his casting in The Mortal Instruments, few thought his acting would go far, let alone to Hollywood. But he was offered a leading role in an American film, 2017’s The Jade Pendant (金山), as an American-born cook caught in the events of the 1871 mass Chinese lynchings in the Old West. It was considered by some to be a “stand-out role”, but did not win him critical acclaim, as the film had a limited release, going almost straight to DVD. His last film, Shanghai Fortress (上海堡垒)—premiered last August—was largely a Lu Han/Shu Qi (鹿晗/舒淇) vehicle. With his part in Chase Me unlikely to be televised, Godfrey Gao had yet, at the time he left this world, shown us the thespian he might become. But, as James Dean, also gone too soon, once said, “If a man can bridge the gap between life and death, if he can live on after he’s dead, then maybe he was a great man.”

Godfrey Gao (Tsao Chih-Hsiang, 高以翔), model, actor, basketball player, and KOL, born 22 September 1984; died 27 November 2019

Doing The Opposite

Is Prada’s version of the Superstar in their collaboration with Adidas a jab at the prevalence of overwrought, clunky sneakers? Or is boring the new ugly?

 

By Ray Zhang

Last week, to announce their collaboration, Prada and Adidas teased with an image of a Prada paper bag packed with two shoe boxes—one of them in the blue we’ve come to associate with the maker of the Stan Smith. Someone sent me that photo accompanied by a two-word text: “nice meh?”

I wasn’t sure if that question was directed at the photography, the styling of the shot, the two shoe boxes stuffed side by side in a bag, or the thought of Prada pairing with Adidas. It couldn’t be about the shoe since we don’t know until today that the Superstar would be the object of Prada’s collab desire. I left that as an open question.

I don’t know about you and I can’t say for that enquirer, but when I saw the above image that went online this afternoon, I was massively disappointed. Was Prada designing the footwear for a nursing school? Sure, sneakers of white (now a season-less colour) are a staple in any collector’s stash, but for a brand that never shies away from colours that err on the odd (and chromatic pairings that are offbeat), white—a blinding “Optic” white, to be precise—is a little lame. And, too easy.

As these kicks involve Prada, they are made in Italy and come with full-grain leather upper, except the rubber shell-toe. This pristine composition sits on a rubber cup-sole with herringbone pattern on the underside. For those who like their kicks sold in limited numbers, this Superstar will delight: serial digits appear on the side of the heel tab to affirm the shoe’s quantity control. A total of 700 pairs will be released and each pair is numbered.

Repeatedly dubbed “a pop-culture icon”, the Superstar is celebrating its 50th anniversary this year. That may explain Prada’s interest in a sneaker known to be exceedingly minimalistic—only the Stan Smith looks plainer. As I look closer at the sole image released then (and enlarging it to be sure I didn’t miss the details of the shoe), I realise that Prada had no intention of doing Yohji Yamamoto’s Superstar, with stitching to represent the Three Stripes that are so long, the wearer risks triping over his step. Or, anything that appears overweening.

This is likely Prada’s response to the unmissable and exaggerated sneaker, ‘dad’ versions included. Leave the NMDs to Pharrell Williams, the Ozweegos to Raf Simons. The Superstar—it shall look like a blank canvas. For a brand that has come up with countless unimaginable shoes and is loved for them; bare, empty, plain, as I see, give boring a clear, audible voice.

Prada X Adidas Superstar is reported to be out on 4 Dec 2019. No pricing is available yet. The shoe is pictured with a Prada X Adidas bowling bag, but it isn’t certain if the shoe comes with it, or is sold separately. Photo: Prada/Adidas

Something Is Missing

Rows and rows or cascades after cascades of fairy lights on holiday leave at Christmas Light-Up 2019

 

Orchard Road Xmas 2019.jpg

By Ray Zhang

After 35 years, perhaps the novelty of the Orchard Road Christmas light-up has worn off. I look forward to it as I would the arrival of noon-day heat or the opening of another bubble tea shop. Still, it is the only Christmas draw that Orchard Road can offer, and even that increasingly borders on the lame. It is not clear what purpose the Light-Up now offers other than obligatory decorating of a street that otherwise would have as much pull as Far East Plaza.

A week before the Light-Up was officially switched on, I was in Orchard Road. Seeing just the lamp post decorations up, I thought perhaps, the work was incomplete. Last night, when I was out to catch the festive lights in their full glory (“A Great Gift”, as this year’s theme will have you believe), I was quite surprised—shocked would have been a better word, but I resist—to see emptiness directly above Orchard Road itself. There was nothing, not even a string of fairy lights. You could see the blackness that was the dark sky clearly. Unobstructed.

This year, for reasons not entirely clear, Orchard Road Business Association (ORBA, ) and its design company opted for a noticeable change: just road-side adornments, mostly lamp-post decorations and scant ornaments dangling from the trees that line both sides of the “great street”. This year’s decoration, however colourful pedestrians think it is, looks half-done.

 

Orchard Road Xmas 2019 P2

ORBA’s executive director Steven Goh told The Straits Times that “The Christmas street light design is refreshed in a new showcase format with the objective to create a more immersive pedestrian experience designed for visitors who walk along Orchard Road during this festive season.” If, in addition, there were no decorations from the buildings on both sides of the street, I wonder how immersive those one-dimensional “great gifts” up there can be.

As with window displays, street light-ups during this time of the year are notoriously unable to please everybody. I would be the first to admit that I’m not at all easily thrilled, especially when the embellishment and trimming look like they need more work—and lights (even when we’re told that the exact length of LED lights are the same as last year’s, some 60,620m of it)—to complete. A street light-up just has to have lights strung across or along the road. Call me old-fashioned.

I am baffled, too, as to why Mr Goh thought that the “light design is refreshed” when it looks to me a total break from last year’s much-maligned Disney theme-park blandness. The “commercialisation” of Christmas—as new as Santa itself—upset quite a few last year, rather that the light-up’s aesthetic value. Some, for whom Christmas must not move away from tradition, took umbrage at the crassness of Mickey Mouse enjoying Christmas. It was as if Be@rbrick characters were doing the nativity scene.

 

Orchard Road Xmas 2019 P3

I sometimes wonder if there’s a need for complete design change to our light-up every single year. Would that not result in eco-unfriendly waste? Could we not have recycled past decorations with thematic variations? If we don’t put up new ornaments on the same plastic tree every year in our living room, why should Orchard Road boast a new festive wardrobe every November/December? Some argue that the same light-up every year may be repetitive. But in other cities, where street illumination is festive necessity and tourist draw, recognisable consistency is not necessarily unvaried or uninteresting.

In London’s Oxford Street, light canopies of one colour have been used for many years, yet each time, the light-up seems different as the themes are changed (this year, it has been reported that there will be an upgrade to “LED light curtains”). And, the Oxford Street light-up has not seen a decrease in visitors. Similarly, closer home, the decorations on Tokyo’s Marunouchi Naka-Dori Avenue (just across from Tokyo Station) has remained somewhat identical through the years, yet the queues to get into the stretch with the most dazzling lights in the days leading up to Christmas have not, as I am aware, shortened.

Orchard Road’s aspirational days are, sadly, left behind like the fairy lights in this years Christmas light-up. Its feeble display is a lady of a certain age togged in finery that are no longer fine. Even the christmas.orchardroad.org website strains to convince us to “revel in the gift of the holidays at this wonderland of light and colour”. Wonderland. No characters or avatars except jolly Santa. This year, Orchard Road is carefully staying clear of controversy.

Photos: Zhao Xiangji

A Striking Balance

The collab between Puma and Helly Hansen yields some fine kicks. This is one of them

 

Puma X Helly Hansen Trailfox.jpg

Among those in this equatorial hothouse who seek outdoor wear for cooler climes, Helly Hansen (HH) is likely an unfamiliar name, if compared to, say, Timberland. But HH is a heritage brand, one that was founded in Norway 142 years ago, making it more than twice the age of the Boston-born Timberland, which started in 1952.

Helly Hansen is known for their pro-grade gear for skiers and sailors, and their outerwear is especially popular in Japan, where they are sold through retailers such as Nanamica (a cult fave) and Beams, as well as in their own free-standing stores. So sort after is the brand among the Japanese that Undercover has recently collaborated with HH to tap into the growing demand for rugged and handsome outdoor styles.

The curious and uninitiated here now can get to savour Helly Hansen goods (girls, they’re not connected to Sally Hansen!) as the results of the brand’s collaboration with Puma, which have been available since late September, includes clothing too, are available on our shores. So this is not off-the-factory new. Yet, this pair of trainers caught our attention again recently when we visited Puma’s flagship at Jewel, and it looks even better the second time round, perhaps because the trend in outdoor styles is so prevalent and is more compelling than the persistence of street wear.

Helly Hansen has chosen to work on Puma’s Trailfox, a sturdy-looking poly-terrain, originally designed for trail-running, but now assigned the role of a “training shoe”. Given the anything-goes attitude of the footwear wear choices of gym-goers, it won’t be out of place on a Nautilus track. Nor with anything trendy; as an affordable and no less stylish alternative to the Balenciaga Track.

The Norwegian brand does not remake the Trailfox into an out-there shoe. In fact, HH keeps to a conventional black suede-and-fabric upper atop a two-tone—white and a dove gray that is subtly perforated—middle, underscoring the logo-on-logo branding. Attached to this is an IMEVA mid-sole, under which is a rubber out-sole that offers traction and durability, and a distinctive cool touch: spot colour of hi-vis orange. To us, that seals the deal.

Puma X Helly Hansen Trailfox training shoes, SGD199, is available at select Puma stores. Photo: Chin Boh Kay

The Show’s Over

For some of us, it’s about time

 

Victoria's Secret show.jpg

It shouldn’t have to take dwindling TV ratings and rising wokeness for the producers of the annual Victoria’s Secret fashion show to realise that there is no more appeal in a staged and televised presentation that sells little else other than sex. But, apparently, those are the main reasons—along falling sales—that led to parent company L Brands (also owner of the less-hyped La Senza, as well as Bath & Body Works) announcing, on a quarterly earnings call, that the 2019 show would definitely be cancelled. The alert, of course, knew this months ago.

What took L Brands so long? Audience size believed to (once) number in the tens of millions and the many models who consider an appearance on the show as an Angel, not ASEAN’s Next Generation Leader, but a part of a constantly changing roster of women, who consider the title an honour and even a career high. For those fans who weren’t tuning into live streams of fashion week shows, Victoria’s Secret’s parade of the bevy of the bra-and-panty-clad was a real fashion show—“extravaganza” was how it was often described.

…the mardi gras for flashy underwear-as-outerwear excess was never toned down, only played up

 

The Victoria’s Secret event was never broadcast on any of our local channels—the sexiest show we’ll ever get is Michael Chiang’s Mixed Signals—yet its strong appeal at one time meant that sports bars were showing the show (past years’) on nights when there wasn’t a game that could encourage patrons to order an extra pitcher of beer. That it was the live-action version of FHM magazine (closed in Singapore in 2015) for NS boys (and army regulars alike) only augment their standing as a “girlie show”.

After 24 years of high-profile existence, the Victoria’s Secret presentations were still largely pageant-for-entertainment, with virtually no change to its over-the-top tackiness and objectifying scantiness. Sure, in later years, they added not-quite-Coachella performances by the likes of Shawn Mendes and the Chainsmokers, but the mardi gras for flashy and campy underwear-as-outerwear excess was never toned down, only played up.

Liu Wen in VF.jpgChina’s Liu Wen, even with a good-girl image and a lucrative Estee Lauder contract, was eager to strut down the Victoria’s Secret runway in 2016

It has been suggested that the Victoria’s Secret shows were the fantasies of heterosexual bosses conceived for other heterosexual males—an FTV cruise liner on a catwalk. Donald Trump, reportedly, was a fixture at the staging. That many models love to appear on the show suggested a possible complicity in their choice. The show is an expression of feminism in an era when, contrary to #metoo, ogling was no longer offensive. It was even emancipation from the convention that women’s underclothes should remain, well, under.

Adriana Lima said to The Telegraph in 2011, “Actually, the Victoria’s Secret show is the highlight of my life.” Many of the models called the experience “amazing”, so much so that Kendal Jenner told Popsugar that at her debut in 2015, she “did (cry) a little bit (during) my first fitting. I had tears.” So known was the desirability of the Victoria’s Secret show to top-tier models that E! New wrote yesterday, “Sorry Angels, the Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show is now cancelled”, calling it “the end of an era”.

Much criticism had been leveled at the show (the press announced the cancellation with palpable glee), but inadequate was the acknowledgement that it had, in fact, influenced many others too, including a copy-cat staging in Chengdu, China in 2015. The shows were expensive to put together—reportedly, USD20 million were used in the 2016 production. However, few look-a-likes came close to its OTT, feathered-angel-wings lavishness. If there’s a Victoria’s Secret fashion show legacy, it was the massive good it had done for society by putting the Playboy Mansion on stage.

Photo: Getty Images

Clash Or Crush?

As subversive as the name of these rings may sound, Cartier’s and Chanel’s anti-pretty bands are, in fact, graceful and totally wearable

 

Clash or Crush

By Mao Shan Wang

Even for those who are not big on jewellery, rings have a special appeal. They’re usually discreet and, if not encrusted with gemstones, possibly wallet friendly. In a jewellery store, I tend to look at rings more often than I would other bigger, attention-grabbing pieces of bijoux. I avoid bracelets and bangles since my grandmother, blessed her soul, often told me how thieves would sever my wrists to strip me of whatever sparklies I might have on. It’s the same with necklaces, apparently—except decapitation, I’m sure you’ll agree, has a more frightening and gruesome ring—pun definitely not intended.

If you are in the market for a ring that is not a wedding band or not dependent on the generosity or wealth of a suitor, two with names that rhyme can be considered: Cartier’s Clash de Cartier and Chanel’s Coco Crash. Whether it’s a Clash (incidentally, also the name of a series of Comme des Garçons perfume) or Crash, both names are rather synonymous, and suggest confrontation with the conventional. Yet, to me, both are designed to appeal to those with a weakness for fine things, rather than tug at your predilection for those that tend to divide opinions. They hark back to symbolisms and visual signatures of the past without vitiating the respective brand’s sights that are cast further into the future.

Clash and Crush, both include bracelets and earrings, but, as mentioned earlier, I am drawn to the rings. Clash de Cartier, which recently had a pop-up event to promote the entire jewellery line, offers a more intricate design, which looks like cuff-links held together by studs you’d more likely find on MCM bags than on a piece of jewellery. The studs, which include the pyramidal and the conical, are evocative of a punk tradition, which Cartier admits to arousing, without calling out the name of a certain band from the height of the punk rock era. To me, that earns the Clash extra points, as well as its potential, forgive my imagination, as an defensive/offensive weapon.

Chanel’s Coco Crush ring is based on the house’s signature quilt, first introduced by Coco Chanel herself in 1955. The diamond quilting was initially used for handbags—specifically the 2.55—before it started to appear on wallets, shoes, jackets, watch straps, eyewear, even as imprint on cosmetics, such as compact powders. It has become a symbol of aspiration; one that is over-subscribed, which may be desirable for the many who find pleasure in the immediately identifiable, but, to me, has less of a draw because the obvious brings consumption too close to conspicuous. Or, perhaps it just requires persuasion to put me on a quilt trip.

Cartier Clash de Cartier gold ring, SGD4,250, is available at Cartier. Chanel Coco Crush gold ring, from SGD2,940, is available at Chanel. Product photos: respective brands

Meet In The Middle: The High And The Low

In just this month alone, two announcements of the union of the haute and the not. Will we really be better off buying not one or the other, but both-as-one?

 

Dior X StussyAn imagined logo of the Dior and Stüssy partnership. Photo: Lyle Low

The latest to join the still-important hi-lo brand pairing is the storied house of Dior and the once-a-surfwear label Stüssy. According to “leaks”, now circulating on social media and reported in e-mags, Dior, steered by Kim Jones, is repeating what he once did at Louis Vuitton, where he paired the French brand with an American, the hype-driven Supreme, to incredible ballyhoo and unimaginable success.

Based on what’s been shared, the Dior X Stüssy collab will comprise what the latter is good at producing: T-shirts, polo shirts and caps, and (what looks to us as) the odd bandana. It should be said that Stüssy is on a different level, design-wise, if you were to compare it with today’s choice collaborator, Supreme. Stüssy leans towards design with more discernible tilt than other streetwear brands. It is, therefore, understandable that the interest generated is strong. Dior and Stüssy have, so far, remained mum about the collaboration.

Conversely, Prada and Adidas couldn’t keep the lid tight on their pairing. About two weeks ago, the Prada communication team sent out an advisory about the collab shortly after the news broke online. Although there is, hitherto, no visual released about potential designs, the curiosity generated burns with enough heat to keep sneakerheads on constant lookout for unannounced drops. I, like others, speculate that it would be sneaker releases although why Prada needed to do that given their strength in cool, category-defining (or rejecting) kicks is a little beyond immediate comprehension.

Prada X AdidasThe Prada and Adidas collab is in the bag. Photo: Prada

There’s no avoiding it, these days: luxury fashion names aligning with streetwear and sports brands. It’s bubbling up and trickling down swirling simultaneously, the shang and xia meeting half-way or, in some cases, all the way. Fashion, of course, has to be inclusive, no exception. When the twain once shan’t meet, they now walk hand-in-hand. It has happened in art and music, but when it comes to fashion, the players are a little late in kicking elitism out of the door. It should, however, be said that the Japanese were already there: even before Junya Watanabe’s early collab with Nike and Levi’s, his mentor Rei Kawakubo, through Comme des Garçons had done high by exploring low and what can be further down that tatters?

The world was, of course, once a much simpler place. If you had money and appreciated designer clothes for design, you bought which ever designer name you fancied—decked out head-to-toe, underwear included. If you didn’t have the means and didn’t quite understand why north and south should meet when there’s is already the equator, you stick to those brands that said very little other than this was what you wore, end of story. Inclusivity, for better or worse, has wiped out such distinction.

These days, luxury brands rarely pair with luxury brands. This season, Valentino and Undercover (and to an extent the next’s Dries Van Noten and Christian Lacroix) are exceptions than the norm. When previously a luxury name teams with a mass brand (not even ‘masstige’) to appeal to the latter’s customer base or to produce non-traditional products such as denim jeans so that the bigwig did not have to go into the non-luxury product category, labels today justify their pairings by loftier motivations. As Prada explained their collab with Adidas, “the aim of this partnership is to investigate the realms of heritage, technology and innovation—and to challenge conventional wisdom through unexpected strategies”. Believe and buy.

Walk Like A Skeleton

To be transparent, wear your X-Ray results

 

Skeletal AW 2010

By Ray Zhang

Halloween is over, but that does not mean we can’t wear a stark reminder of our mortality as if it’s a Rick Owens leather jacket. I know I can. But would I? The thing is, I have an irrational fear of the macabre and I am not sure wearing an outfit that reveals my skeletal whole is particularly appealing when I am already known among my friends as a broomstick. As they say, state not the obvious. Or, embrace not bad fengshui.

Yet, despite its place in Halloween celebrations and in the proverbial closet, skeletons are a bit of a fashion fave right now. First, it was Nike that dropped an Air Force 1 sporting the side view of a skeletal foot complete with tarsals, metatarsals, and phalanges that will make sense to (or even delight) an orthopedist, not the many of us. But unless its worn in a dark space illuminated by UV lights, the fright that it might inspire would be a mere boo from behind Teddy, Mr Bean’s BFF-bear.

Not to be outdone, Loewe, too, has up their sleeves, rather than one body part, a full skeleton, split into a sweater and a pair of shorts. It is as if designer Jonathan Anderson knew there would be Nike kicks to match. But as the house explains it, this is homage to the British tile designer (also potter and novelist) William de Morgan, whose works, including stained glass and furniture, featured fantastical birds—among them the Dodo, and were sold through Morris and Co, the design firm of his friend, the textile designer (and similar multi-hyphenate), William Morris, leader of the British arts and crafts movement of the Victorian era, who was just as known for his poetry and novels.

Mr Anderson is similarly into arts and crafts, especially for the house of his Spanish employers. The skeleton, while an unusual subject for needlework and much that is made by hand, is given an unmistakable craft twist—yarn emerging randomly throughout the sweater that Loewe calls “loose fringes”. The skeleton is interestingly anatomically correct in the front and back. Only thing missing is a skull. Loewe would need a balaclava for that.

The skull was once a hot motif, but that’s now so last decade. Or Meghan McCain (she told The New York Times in 2011, “I have 10 of them”. And why have just the head when you can have the rest of the body? Regardless of what I said earlier, I know I like the look of Shaggy Rogers electrified! If the late Alexander McQueen is thought to be the trend-setter when it comes to the skull (even as far back as his 1992 graduate collection), perhaps Jonathon Anderson could be the leader of the skeletal pack.

Loewe Skeleton sweater and shorts are not in store yet. Call for release date and price. Nike Air Force 1 Skeleton Black, SGD209, is available at select Nike stores or online. Product photos: respective brands. Collage: Just So

Playful Pyramidal Package

Bottega Veneta of late has been the go-to brand for soft, big bags, but amid all the potential pillows lie a Christmas ornament wanna-be. Or maybe an aroma diffuser?

 

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It’s homage to the ancient Egyptian tombs of the pharaohs, an immediate conversation starter, a centrepiece for dinner tables when there isn’t one, a reflective surface for accurate makeup application-on-the-go (or whatever grooming needs), a “who’s the fairest of them all” teller of truths, a defensive tool against unwanted male advances, a dashboard gadget when the rear view is required, a mobile device when the hind sight is needed to warn of errant PMD riders on a pedestrian walkway, and, oh, it’s a handbag.

We are still unsure if what Bottega Veneta’s Daniel Lee is doing for the house, two seasons after his appointment, is persuasively good, but we do think the accessories deserve their continual trending status. The Pouch bag is, of course, the must-carry-or-you’ll-definitely-miss-out holder of everything dear, with the Shoulder Pouch destined for similar success. But tucked among these huggable clutches is a not-quite-discreet little thing—a mirror-surfaced Pyramid bag.

This is clearly a more striking version than the leather ones, and not at all suitable for squashing close to the bosom. But it is almost like an oversized jewel, which might ensnare those for whom a handbag can double as a light-reflecting precious collectible. It is interesting how the bag opens up on all three sides (the top triangle acts as a clasp) to reveal its white, nappa-lined gut, which, frankly won’t hold even a foldable LCD smart phone, unless it’s the upcoming Motorola Razr.

To be sure, the pyramid-shaped ‘micro’ bag is not completely new. Last year, Chanel’s Egyptian-themed Métiers d’Art collection featured one that looked like the house re-purposed the mask of Tutankhamun. There’s also the logo-large Saint Laurent Minaudière, which guys have been spotted using. Regardless, Bottega Veneta’s version will only make bags that hold little stand as the most desirable.

Bottega Veneta Pyramid Bag in Mirror, SGD7,100, is available for pre-order at Bottega Veneta stores. Photo: Bottega Veneta

No Skirmish, No Discord

But a senses-arousing engagement. Clash de Cartier, a three-day on-site event, is welcome experiential marketing

 

Big brands and flashy events are hardly a clash when it comes to reaching out to customers, regular and new. Cartier’s “pop-up studio”, set up to introduce the Clash de Cartier range of punk-inspired jewellery, is a marketing splash—in the tradition of Time, A Hermès Object—that, even with the a-little-way-out location, is an enjoyable stress-free experience. Despite the madness that was yesterday’s media preview, attended by Korean actor/singer Ji Chang Wook—“babyfaced”, as CNA decribed him—and local stars and influencers, the pop-up, minus the celeb clash, is, admittedly, an extremely nice way to spend an hour or two of a scorching afternoon.

Clash de Cartier, the jewellery line, was launched earlier this year (the party in Paris in April was a couture confrontation among the celebrity invitees!). The pop-up studio here is, according to the creator of the Tank watch, the first time it has made an appearance in South-East Asia (and thought to be one of the largest that has travelled anywhere). This is the spot to try the Clash de Cartier jewellery pieces without any obligation to buy. If service matters to you, this could be enjoyable as the chirpy staff are eager to let you try any one of the pieces that you like or every piece in the showcase.

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Upon entering the space proper on the second floor of what is part of the Singapore Tyler Print Institute, a staffer will greet you and request that you fill a questionnaire of sort on an iPad. This is a personality evaluation not unlike the many of those shared by your friends on Facebook (such as the numerous determining if you are dateable, fun-loving, or a bitch). The results will decide if you start at the book store or the record store, which, if you’re directed to, may escalate your hip quotient, considering vinyls’ born-again popularity.

Regardless of where you begin, the spaces have enough edge to let you feel a bit with it, if not exactly a major clash with the establishment, which, considering, is Cartier the 172-year-old luxury house. Among the books, if you’re able to single out Patricia Highsmith’s 1955-psychological-thriller-turn-1999-movie, you may be able to show yourself to be as talented as Tom Ripley. Here, you can have a haiku composed for your personality type (“Outwardly _________”) and typed out on an old Olympia typewriter. Cross to the room dedicated to vinyls, and if you’re able to immediately sing to The Slits’ version of I Heard it Through the Grapevine, you may be able to tell others that you’re, in fact, a post-punk with a weakness for a 1966 Motown song associated with Marvin Gaye, but was originally sung by The Miracles.

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Music is very much a part of the Clash de Cartier experience although we did not hear anything by the obvious choice of The Clash. Instead it was more indie-au courant: if the textile-factory-turn-hotel L’Hôtel Fabric in Paris had a soundtrack to its premises, this would be it. The playlist is put together by Michel Gaubert, dubbed “fashion’s leading sound director” and very much associated with the late Karl Lagerfeld for whom he put together the music for the designer’s own shows, as well as those by Chanel and Fendi. Commercially, he is known for the hotch-potch, Buddha Bar-ish ‘mixtapes’ that were conceived for the now-defunct Parisian store Colette. During our 45-minute or so visit, we heard a rather multifarious selection, from Soft Cell’s major hit of the minor 1964 song Tainted Love (by the now-obscure Gloria Jones) to the less-known ’80s German pop sisters Humpe und Humpe’s Yama-ha, a Miharu-Koshi-meets-ABBA-esque electro-ditty with lyrics that listed popular consumer Japanese brands!

Wander into the ‘Try’ space, which we presume should be the reason you’re here, you can examine in your hands (or wear) the necklaces, bracelets, and rings—either gold or white gold—till your heart’s content. No need to succumb to the unseemly discussion of price (but an arrangement can be made for you, if desired, to meet a salesperson at the store of your choice). The good-natured staff chat with you as if you have grown up in a Cartier store. It’s this bonhomie disposition that pervades the entire pop-up experience.

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Lastly, you’d be guided to a Two-Face of a café, with one half looking like a retro-cool interior Violet Oon would love to cop for herself rather than the neu-TWA posh of her present restaurants, and the other, with a sleek row of plush banquet seating that, for some reason other than chromatic, reminded us of the Alain Ducasse-headlined Chanel restaurant Beige. For all your efforts in the Clash de Cartier pop-up, you’re treated to surprisingly good coffee (from Bettr Barista) and an assiette de mignardises (plate of sweets) of a trio of the tiniest pastries you’ll ever pop into your mouth.

As we sat in the café to take in the extravagant marketing exercise, and enjoy Marc Almond’s urgent torch voice and Dave Ball’s seductive synth, it became apparent to us that the clash is not some abstract or implied idea, washed down by soothing caffeinated beverages, but manifestation for all to see. In the space of considerable thought and clear effort, a goodly number of visitors were togged as if en route to the neighbourhood Toast Box. Clash is surely here, perhaps more potent than Cartier could imagine.

Clash de Cartier Studio, 15—17 Nov 2019, is at STPI Creative Workshop & Gallery, 41 Robertson Quay. Ticketed entry only. Photos: Galerie Gombak