Spirited Away

Felipe Oliveira Baptista steadies Kenzo with a strong debut by going places, and with some desirable outerwear


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For a long time, Kenzo the label has lost its way. Under the stewardship of Opening Ceremony founders Umberto Leon and Carol Lim, the brand began to waver after a promising start, adrift in the sea of aimlessness. At some point, Kenzo became what is thought to be “entry-level fashionista”. It, too, was street in a way founder Kenzo Takada probably never intended, and lost its initial cool veneer just as Open Ceremony was beginning to shed its down-town edge. Under their watch, Kenzo became widely associated with T-shirts and hoodies bearing the frontal face of the house tiger, with the Kenzo logo across an already busy delineation, what some euphemistically called “playful branding”. The tiger and the logo were, at one point, gaudily embroidered, and so poorly that the standing joke among some local fashion professionals was that even the same-same on the road side stalls of Guangzhou, shoppers are not picking them up. Kenzo became the de facto brand for shampoo girls trading up to designer labels.

Then in came Felipe Oliveira Baptista, who was head of design at Lacoste until 2018 (his position filled by Louise Trotter, formerly from Joseph). Prior to his tenure with the Alligator, the Paris-based Portuguese had his own eponymous haute couture label before ending it in 2009, reportedly to concentrate on his remunerated duties. The media was mostly thrilled with Mr Baptista’s surprising appointment, noting that his eight years at Lacoste allowed the French label to earn in access of €2bn annually, mouthwatering  enough to lure LVMH, owner of Kenzo, into making him an irresistible employment offer. A couturier with a flare for sportswear must have added to Mr Baptista’s professional appeal.

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What’s heartening is that Mr Baptista did not merely expand on what the Opening Ceremony duo did before, except to reprise the tiger, but differently (it was said that the two found running tigers inside waistbands and jackets in the Kenzo archive, and introduced the first of the embroidered cat on a sweater in the autumn/winter season of 2012). This time, the tiger takes the form of those imagined in the ’80s by Lisbon-based painter, the late Júlio Pomar.

Or, make it Lacoste 2.0. Rather, Mr Baptista salutes Kenzo’s nod-to-nature heritage through the eyes of an adventurer/traveller who absorbs the dress of a people as readily as the heritage of their land. Acknowledging to Financial Times that “there’s a nomadic spirit to Kenzo,” Mr Baptista delineates a world traveller with exploration, rather than expedition in mind. You have probably seen these individuals seized by wanderlust, backpacking to lands less travelled or coming from there, and then busking to earn their way back. Their clothes are oftentimes variations of the tunic, placing blanket-like comfort above trend-led restrictiveness.

Mr Baptisda’s Kenzo is, however, not Jungle Jap—Mr Takada’ first Paris store in Galerie Vivienne, opened in 1970, as well as a visual style that saw him wildly pastiche what he brought from Japan and what he saw in Paris. But, aesthetically, Kenzo the label was never identifiably Japanese, nor was it thoroughly French. Mr Takada drew from varied sources, from continents, from tribes, embracing globalism before it became the thing to enfold. In his final Paris show in 1999, that diversity came together in a delightfully heterogeneous collection that predates today’s call for inclusiveness amid the risk of cultural appropriation.

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Mr Baptista takes the obvious, but paces them through less trodden routes. He adopts, for example, Mr Takada’s love of flowers, working them into avant-garde, cocoon-like forms (or as lining of coats), rather than the latter’s playful shapes, and the babushka by attaching large veil-like pieces to hang from the rear of caps and hats, sometimes covering shoulders like a blanket. Itinerant, too, does not have to mean embracing the gaudily exotic. Mr Baptista casts his sight beyond the usual ‘resort’ styles, beach wear, or details that tell of cultural character for what seems like those that hint at places further afield: the highlands, the grassland, possibly deserts, too. Appealing are the tunics (including those for men), the ponchos, the sweater dresses, all with the spirit of non-city travels.

It could be the clear break away from what Mr Leon and Ms Lim had established for Kenzo or the redefinition of a brand that, at least for now, appears to be merging borders. Regardless, this is a good start for Felipe Oliveira Baptista. And an exhilarating refresh for Kenzo. Question is, will the new abstract, painterly tiger face appeal as much as the former cartoonish, logo-like version? Much, much more, we hope.

Photos: Isidore Montag/gorunway.com

Uncommon Opulence

When one show dulls the senses, another awakens them. Thank heavens for Dries Van Noten


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If fashion is about dreams, imagine this one: the ghost of Paul Poiret haunts, and a phantom collection emerges. It is styled by another ghost, that of Anna Piaggi. Art deco florals swirls amid inner-city checks. When you’re awaken, the clothes are those of Dries Van Noten’s spectacular autumn/winter 2020 show. If there is a dream that we do not want to wake up from, it is this—a dream that could keep us away from a ‘reality’ of “When Women Strike the World Stops”. In the context of fashion, we do prefer When Women Look Striking, the World Stops.

And what striking women at Dries Van Noten. But apparently we were in the wrong dream. Or, wrong era. As Mr Van Noten told the media, his inspiration came from Eighties’ party girls (also the gritty/seductive song by Michelle Gurevich that soundtracks the show), in particular those who frequented The Mud Club and Camden Palace in London. People then did indeed dress up to go clubbing (unlike these days, when any ratty old singlet and shorts will do), and some clubs admit by fashion, which in those days, did not necessarily mean designer, although the young, post-punk crowd was partial to anything put out by Vivienne Westwood and Malcom McClaren through Sex, Seditionaries, and later, Worlds End.

Back to Dries Van Noten! Striking, too—and remarkable—is the Sam McKnight hair, all slicked and spot-coloured, which looked like they share the same pigments as scarlet macaws, as well as the Inge Grognard makeup, which is evocative of Serge Luten’s dramatic work with Shiseido in the Eighties, and, simultaneously, projecting the femme fatales of Tamara de Lempicka. Oh, we are in the wrong era again! The thing for us is, this is Mr Van Noten’s Gilded Age, to borrow Mark Twain’s phrase, an afterglow from last season’s wondrous collaboration with Christian Lacroix, the non-practising couturier still on everyone’s mind.

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We have never described, in eight years of SOTD, a collection as gorgeous. But that was what came to our mind again and again, and again. From the first look, the plaid biker jacket teamed with granny cardigan and marabou skirt, to the last, a sleek shirt-and-long-skirt combo, with sleeves pushed up to reveal opera gloves, we saw a procession of unceasing gorgeousness, in colour, in print, and in texture. Mr Van Noten is a master mixologist who seems even more sure-footed in bringing together the disparate after his outing with Mr Lacroix. Rare is opulence this intoxicating.

Yet, it is not all swirling florals and lush feathers in the haute sphere. If you looks closely, there are elements of grunge (that sometimes dreaded, sometimes adored aesthetic that had once tanked the career of a particular designer). Glamourous grunge? That biker jacket with the marabou skirt, checked shirt tied around the waist, floral camo trench over floral denim jumpsuit (with the upper also similarly tied)—they offer a seductive slouchiness, but not sacrificing the effect of the dressed-up or the polished façade that might, in truth, conceal a messy divorce or adultery, or a court case against sexually predatory behaviors.

And there are not just the traditional haute fabrics, such as silk and velvet, but also those that are especially suited to plaids—poplin; stand outs being the shadow check in that almost glowing blue and, conversely, the strange dusty versions, recalling those that you might find as shirts in the thrifts stores of Tokyo’s Shimokitazawa. Casual can walk hand in hand with glam. Other designers showed plaids and kindred checks too, but none yet, this season, have yielded the sum of such magnificence.

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And if you look even closer, you’d see that, while the clothes look like only special occasions would do them justice, they are, in fact, composed of wearable pieces and separates. The beauty—and desirability—is in the fact that they don’t look totally accessible. It is possible that there are already best-sellers in the making: the full-length day dresses, the slouchy pants and their leather cousins, and those Bowie-esque boots (Marc Jacobs could be hyperventilating). And—we keep coming back to them—that biker jacket and the skirt.

As the show progresses, Ms Gurevich sings, in the near-masculine voice of hers, “It doesn’t matter what you create if you have no fun”. This does not, of course, reflect the output of  Mr Van Noten. He was reported to have later told well-wishers back stage that the collection was “about nightlife, about going out, enjoying life, having fun”—the last, increasingly, is something missing in much of today’s make-money-for-the-master runways. Still, some shows just take your breath away. Dries Van Noten’s this season is one of them.

Photos:  Dries Van Noten

What’s The Point?

Dior strikes a raw nerve. Again


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These days, watching a Dior show—the live stream for us—means trying not to succumb to a dulling of the senses, best described as maddening. That is, of course, not possible. Actually, in the Malay language, there is a perfect word to term the feeling after even giving Dior a cursory glance: geram. This can be translated to mean angry, but is really dosed with annoyance and certainly, disdain, especially in reaction to something that should not have to be exasperating. Hard as it is, we try convincing ourselves that we have not viewed something akin to a mall show. That, too, is not possible.

Maria Grazia Chiuri has created fashion week high by going low—raising the bar not. Make pretty clothes. Let them be young-looking. Better still, common-seeming. These are, by her own admission, reminiscent of her teenage years and—no service to Dior—they look it. These are clothes that don’t augment the wardrobe or challenge the eye, certainly not the mind.

Just as Ms Chiuri is not able stay away from the average, the unexceptional, the quotidian, or move beyond those sheer panty-revealing skirts shown since her Dior debut (is “consent” required to look?), she is unable to dial down the volume on her feminist call to arms. Slogans have now gone from T-shirts to stage set, blaring like a sale announcement in a hypermarket. Yes, feminism is well and alive. The #metoo movement has its oxygen. Harvey Weinstein is a convicted felon. Let’s get on with fashion.

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Perhaps, not. Season after season, Ms Chiuri creates a Dior for the Dior novice, the fashion newbie, for the humble masses. A humbler Dior? Why not common then? Or is that already achieved? In fact, many of the pieces are painfully pedestrian. Is it any wonder why Miuccia Prada and Raf Simons want to get together “to relook at how creativity can evolve in today’s fashion system”, as Mr Simons told the media.

Ms Chiuri’s reference points are not entirely comprehensible too. Several fringed dresses (yes, by now we know fringing is key) look like something a hooker in movies made in the ’90s would wear. As we have said here at SOTD, the irony is that even hookers today don’t want to look like one anymore. Every single fringed dress is cringe-worthy. One, in black, brings us to Britney Spears. Or is it the newsboy hat? To be sure, this isn’t a Jennifer Lopez in a green dress moment.

It has become increasingly clear that Dior wants to sell the likes of a trucker jacket, but must they be placed on a runway show? Do low-barriers-to-entry designs require a spotlight? Can’t they go straight to the store? Most brands want to be commercial (no longer a dirty word in the trade), but many also offer something more directional—20% of the collection that might be difficult to sell. But Dior is 100% what one fashion designer describes to SOTD as “clothes that have no special technique in execution. They are so easy to produce, the ROI for LVMH must be delightfully high.” Given that they charge so much, he added, “shouldn’t women expect more?”

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There is more: more of the Book tote (yes, it appears on the runway again, the one Joanne Peh, aka Mrs Qi Yuwu, uses as a grocery bag). Its recognisable fascia means it can morph—box logo et al—into a blanket-poncho. Or, anorak. These could pave the way for more profitable bag-to-garment transmutation in the future. As any CEO would say, you do need to work (flog sounds too cruel) the good ’ol cash cow. Oh, yes, those transparent skirts, too.

At the risk of sounding harsh, not a single outfit paraded deserves a runway. Ms Chiuri’s work easily fuels the inspiration behind many of today’s copy-to-survive brands. This is not, as some will misconstrue, having a misogynistic go at Ms Chiuri. Regular readers will know that we admire Rei Kawakubo, Miuccia Prada, Consuelo Castiglioni, Phoebe Philo, Jil Sander, Chitose Abe, Vivienne Weswood, Clare Waight Keller, Lucie Meier, Donatella Versace, and, lately, Silvia Venturini Fendi. To this cohort, we should add Phoebe English, Mary Katrantzou, Ann Demeulemeester, Maureen Doherty, Iris van Herpen, and Woo Young-Mi (this list isn’t, admittedly, extensive). To us, it is really the depth of design. When Ines de la Fressange for Uniqlo is better than Maria Grazia Chiuri for Dior, it is perhaps understandable why we are geram.

Photos: Dior

Not Quite Near Delicious Perfection

Bottega Veneta is, as most media outlets have dutifully ensured, back in the news. Majorly. Both leather goods and the ready-to-wear are selling like hot cakes, but are they truly baked?


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We have resisted writing about Bottega Veneta’s dramatic resurgence. British designer Daniel Lee is very much in the news, of course—the ‘It Boy’. But given the dubious history of the descriptor ‘It’, we did not want to rush into making a firm opinion of his walk with the brand. He’s now only into his third season, and already journalists are saying “he has the goods to back that up”. Has he? Rare is the designer who can grab headlines and hearts when newly installed at a house, but Mr Lee could, cleverly introducing a new bag silhouette as teaser and signature of what he hoped to forge for the house. For Bottega Veneta, the wait was over, sans protracted interim. The fashion world is constantly waiting for the next Boy Wonder—from Tom Ford to Simon Porte Jacquemus—and in Daniel Lee, he has arrived.

We sometimes wonder if we want the old Céline so badly and missed Phoebe Philo so desperately that we’d quickly open our arms to anything that hints at the French brand’s old DNA or anyone who had crossed paths with the once feted designer. Or, are we so eager for Bottega Veneta to return to its former glory that we are keenly willing to pat the shoulders of whoever comes along to revive it? And, as Mr Lee does, amassing fans—consuming and not alike—he has effectively presented himself to be a millennial designing for fellow Gen-Yers. As Female noted in a headline, echoing so many other mags, “Bottega Veneta’s Fall/Winter 2020 Collection Might Be Its Most Instagrammable Yet”.

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This is how fashion is now judged: not on design merit, not on extreme creativity, not, hack, on how good they would look on consumers, but how “Instagrammable”! These clothes would not be sold and worn, and worn by the enamoured; they have a date with IG and following that, a rotational life in Style Theory. As such, they need not bear the weight of designs that won’t be picked up by any one of the four lenses that now come with many smartphones, or be registered on their OLED screens, even if they’re 4K-ready. They need only to be photogenic, appear cool and, in the case of the new Bottega Veneta, seem subversive (a Vogue obsession). Everything else is relative and immaterial; everything else is besides the point.

These clothes may be Instagrammable, but they strain to stand out. You may look good (good is, sadly, good enough) in them, but they jostle with what other influencers, IG regulars, or the minions that make Fashion Week the veritable circus that it has notoriously become tend to wear for attention. Many pieces would not be out of place on an as-amped-up Michael Kors runway. Two sweater-knit shirts and layered fringed skirts certainly are evocative. Or, an open-work shirt with a tank-dress in the same fabric. They share a similar relaxed glamour, involving movable, shimmy parts, that Mr Kors has a weakness for, as well as the halterneck, and the oversized notch lapels commonly seen on fur and shearling coats. One shimmery, high-neck, long-sleeved gown in beige—we totally see Rene Russo falling for. And, yes, Rene Zellweger too.

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This season, one detail stuck out like ripped knees on pants: the deliberate placement of shirt collars over lapels of jackets. It appears a little too newscaster-proper to us—CNA would certainly relate to. The broadcaster might want to consider Kaia Gerber for the afternoon news, whose outfit is memorable only because the wearer looks like she’s strolling, on the first day to work, at a small law firm. Yet, Highsnobiety, was bowled over enough to imagine Ms Gerber a potential rock star: “Your pals have just started a new indie band and have somehow convinced Kaia Gerber to play the bass”. How that look can be evocative of “a lascivious dollop of rock and roll” may be beyond the ken of an average live stream viewer, with No Time To Die playing in the background.

Cleverly, Mr Lee does not crib from his previous tenure. It would be impetuous to say he tried to, but it really does not appear that he did. After all, Céline was not Maison Martin Margiela. It’s been only three seasons, we hear those who differ say. To that, we agree. Let’s not gush yet; let’s wait to see real subversion.

Photos: Alessandro Lucioni/gorunway.com


Two Distinctive Voices To Speak As One

Clearly, what Calvin Klein can’t appreciate, Prada can. What sweet sounds will Miuccia Prada and Raf Simons produce?



Prada has announced what might be the most powerful pairing in fashion today. And unexpected, too. Miuccia Prada and Raf Simons will be jointly designing the Prada collections from spring/summer 2021 onwards. Two strong voices—not entirely dissimilar yet so unalike—co-designing as a working arrangement is not groundbreaking. There are designing couples such as Luke and Lucie Meier (Jil Sander) ; Christophe Lemaire and Sarah Linh Tran (Lemaire); Vivienne Westwood and Andreas Kronthaler; and, on our own soil, Yong Siyuan and Jessica Lee (Nuboaix). But Ms Prada is not married to Mr Simons. What bedfellows would they make?

Prada has been the singular vision of one clear-sighted woman. As a designer, Ms Prada always follows her (march to, a physical move, is at odds with her persona) own drum beat, which in itself is often not any beat at all, or anything toe-tapping (popular), or mensural. Ms Prada, who was well ahead of everyone in the ‘ugly’ movement, sees what many other createurs do not. Or, refuse to? She has paid the price for not catching up. Even in sneaker collaborations, she was many moons late. While still critically lauded, Prada isn’t drawing the crowds like they used to. When was the last time you saw a line outside a Prada store? That’s not to say the brand isn’t still compelling. It just means that there is space and merchandise for true fans.

The Belgian has, of course, worked with the Italian before. Well, sort of and briefly. Between 2005 and 2012, Mr Simons was the creative director of Jil Sander. At that time of his appointment, Jil Sander was owned by the Prada Group. It was acquired by the London-based Change Capital Partners in 2006 and then, two years later, sold to Japan’s Onward Holdings (also owner of Rochas, Chalayan, Woo Young Mi, and others) via its European subsidiary Gibo Co (also a manufacturer for brands such as Marc Jacobs, John Galliano, Michael Kors, and others). It was reported that Ms Prada’s husband Patrizio Bertelli was first to approach Mr Simons in 2005 with a job offer at Jil Sander, and he proposed again when Mr Simons left Calvin Klein.

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Before anyone could peddle succession theories, Ms Prada was fast to illuminate to the media that she intends to continue designing. At the same time, Mr Simons is said to be offered a “lifetime” contract. If true, he’d be the only designer after Karl Lagerfeld at Chanel to enjoy such an uncommon pact. But Mr Lagerfeld had free reign to do as he pleases while Mr Simons would have to co-create. This, however, could also reflect Mr Simons’s known disdain for the fashion system and the musical chairs that have been played at luxury houses. In what BOF described as a “secretive conference for select press”, Mr Simons was quoted saying, ““Miuccia and I had a conversation about creativity in today’s fashion system. And it brought me to open dialogue with many designers, not just Mrs Prada. We have to re-look at how creativity can evolve in today’s fashion system.”

Two-as-one the solution? But, how will the two “co-design?” How does a duo with very different minds share “equal responsibilities for creative input and decision-making”, as stated in the official Prada statement on the pairing? It may work, but to what degree of success? Ms Prada may have introduced some of the most influential looks of the past 31 years, but in the recent, have not exactly matched the aesthetical punch seen (and felt) at other houses. Mr Simons was able to make his mark at Jil Sander and Dior—marvelously, it should be added—but his tenure at Calvin Klein, which closer mirrored his own visual and cultural obsessions, could hint at the importance of chemistry and affinity with a brand.

That’s not to say there’s no tacit understanding and mutual appreciation between the two designers. It has, in fact, been reported that more than being one-time employer and employee, both are friends. But creative temperament has a strange way of coming between people or hamper the creative process itself. When one’s vision is more compelling and relevant than the other’s, how will they square? This is the first time Prada has enlisted an outsider to share the creative reign. If you recall, when Donatella Versace tapped talents from outside her own studio for Versus (conceived by Gianni Versace as a “gift” to his sister), it didn’t last. Christopher Kane (2009—2012), JW Anderson (2013—2014), and Anthony Vaccarello (2014—2016) were, at best, guest designers. None was able to put the shine back to the faded glory that was Versus.

Some speculated that it was probably hard to work with women designers who have very specific tastes and are possibly inflexible when it comes to aesthetical/creative differences. In that respect, could it be even harder to shape the will of Ms Prada, she who started the brand’s ready-to-wear line in 1989, and knows it only too well? As one fashion observer said to SOTD, “Miuccia has a certain level of ‘trend’ (practically her own), a certain amount of novelty and definitely change for each season. Those things are not Raf”. Who will come up tops? We look forward to Milan Fashion Week, come September.

Photo: (top) cameramoda.it

The Devil Is In The Skirt

Prada once again shreds what we think is elegant


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You’d have to give it to Miuccia Prada for shifting the conversation to the skirt. Again. Now that even men wear them, what more issues can we skirt—actually, encircle—without sounding like we’re raising more social/political/gender questions in what’s essentially an ever shape-shifting sphere that is fashion? Ms Prada is known as an “intellectual” and that she was reported to have said that women can be “strong and feminine at the same time” does not mean there is an urgent need to read, once again, a message of empowerment into the clothes, especially the skirts. By now, women are able to wear whatever they want, skirts too, regardless of the shape or the amount of fabric that goes into their making.

The focus on skirts this season appears, to us, as additional emphasis to an already impressive body of skirt designs, and less about the power—now surely an antiquated obsession—a wearer can yield in them. Ms Prada had already impressively stated her case, as seen in the 2004/05 travelling exhibition Waist Down, a display that Cathy Horyn had described as “not burdened by self-reference or gloat”. Ms Prada has never shied away from skirts as an old-fashioned garment or something women should be emancipated from to assert their modern femininity. In fact, she practices what she preaches, faithfully showing skirts, which she told The New York Times to be ”my T-shirt”, and mostly appearing in them at the end of the Prada show, which, she, conversely, does not this time.

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But what else can she do to skirts that she has not already? Look to what cafes used to put up at entrances in place of the air curtain? Or the car wash, hence the name of the skirt that is supposed to be inspired by those plastic, panelled dividers? While watchful individuals may think this introduction a little belated for Prada since “The Car Wash Skirt Is The Fall Trend You Never Knew You Needed”, declared Huntington Post (and other media outlets) in 2015, Ms Prada, as we know, does not succumb to trends or designs to meet anyone’s expectations. Or, desires. A car wash skirt may be nice to look at but do you really desire one? What if the panels are decorated, with sequins and beads?

The swing of the skirts bring to mind those worn in the ’20s. And although they would show considerable skin at some point of wearing, Ms Prada is somehow able to make them prim. And, that tired word associated with the house, lady-like. Or, probably for some, executive. If car wash panels are not your thing, how about fringing? Surely those are sexy? Actually, not. Prada and sexy are like chalk and cheese: they just don’t mix, not when you team it with a belted, slightly oversized blazer (belatedly). Other than those with parallel panels and strings, there are skirts that are draped at one side, of maxi length, and that are sheer so as to show whatever one wishes to reveal beneath (not necessarily underpants).

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A Prada collection isn’t quite the same without the eff-what-you-may-think quirkiness. Even a diaphanous tank dress is off-beat rather than suggestive. Or, a knit jumper with fringing in the front, across the bust, is teasing rather than proper. How the clothes all come together is refreshing, too: one cropped shell top, fringed at the neckline and shoulders, and hem, goes over a sleeveless shirt and a tie (yes, the neck wear many men are abandoning except Donald Trump) and them teamed with a car wash skirt. Or, pyjamas—what we know here to be samfus—with Prada’s graphic, skyward facing flowers. Or, Interesting arm-revealing layering is achieved by pairing a conventional vest over a near-capped-sleeve blouse.

Some members of the media call Prada’s looks “power glam”. Prada, in their PR material, describe them as “surreal glamour”, which, by their own admission, “mirror the pluralism and complexity of female identities.” That sounds to us like ideas the guys won’t get. Try showing the “surreal” to a guy! Not that appealing to men has been the mission of Prada’s blending of so many elements that encourage not the male gaze. In fact, Prada may be considered the earliest man-repelling label. It is hard to imagine women wearing the blazer version of the puffer to a hot date. Again, therein lies the appeal of the brand: geeky and goofy can be in the aesthetical equation. And those irresistible, feminine skirts.

Photos: Prada


Walking Out Of The Shadow Of Karl Lagerfeld

Is Silvia Venturini Fendi now tracking her own path? Or did she learn well from a former part-time employee?


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Fendi. The moment they tried moving the focus away from the founding business of fur (for obvious reasons), the Roman house has placed significant emphasis and resources on its ready-to-wear unit, which is today 43 years old. While the late Karl Lagerfeld has been credited with modernising Fendi’s fur designs, not many—even members of the press—seriously note (or remember) that it was Mr Lagerfeld who launched the furrier’s RTW in 1997. And steered its direction till his death last year. Fendi and Karl Lagerfeld were synonymous. Although Mr Lagerfeld did credit third-gen Fendi, Silvia Venturini (she of the Baguette bag fame), as co-creator of the RTW, the designs had been in the aesthetical signature and whim of the German designer.

It has been a year since Mr Lagerfeld passed on rather suddenly. There was no known succession plan at Fendi. His design partner at the house since the mid-’90s decided that she could go on. Alone. Ms Fendi largely kept to Mr Lagerfeld’s codes for the house in her first solo RTW outing last season. A theme (something “solar”, if we remember correctly) running through the collection, however, saw Ms Fendi dancing dangerously on the grounds of parody. In addition, it was too post-Lagerfeld, a wobbly stance between homage and breaking free, which led to some observers fearing that Fendi would be like Chanel: lost. Perhaps it was take-over jitters. However, Ms Fendi now seems to have found her footing. Or, able to express herself without the “captain”. And the collection she presents for next fall is surprising, and a joy to view.

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Ms Fendi has learnt well from her former collaborator: don’t let a good idea fade into the surfeit of the mediocre. This season, there are those statement sleeves, based on the idea of what could be a baguette shape (that bread again!), pulled down and away from the edge of the shoulder. Sticklers of conventionally-set sleeves may find Fendi’s elongated puffs ungainly, but we do consider them a welcome study of volume for a part of the body usually preferred when slender. What’s amazing is how, with manipulating the size and proportion, it is then applied on a wide variety of garments: coats, blazers, dresses, cardigans, blouses (sheer, as well), even rompers!

Ms Fendi’s known love of cinema is also captured, saluting how and what it was before in the movie world, on screen and off screen. That the clothes are imbued with bygone romance than cliched cinematic glamour make them more than facsimiles of period trends. A couple of beautiful dresses with seemingly thrown-on scarves (but are, in fact, part of the outfits), forming an X across the upper bodice fall in with the gracefulness and elegance of those designed by Hollywood costumer Adrian. Others could have been gleaned from Italian movies—vintage-y prints; contrast collars; slim, calf-length skirts—are in sync with the Italians’ love, this season, of lady-like dressed-up given just the right touch of the kooky. And la dolce Roma.

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There is some aesthetic/visual contradiction too. Ms Fendi showed double-breasted suit-jackets and their leather cousins with boning that suggests corsets. Nothing wrong in emphasizing the waist, until two plus-sized models later appeared, with one of them in the similar suggestion of a constricted middle. Not to make an issue of it, but the incongruity is noticeable, and the different effect of the horizontal boning on the skinny and not are just as evident. It is not clear what the intention is other than to join the increasingly audible chorus demanding inclusivity. Would Fendi welcome diverse body types beyond this season’s token two?

Splendid coats, striking dresses, sapid skirts, and between them elements that come together to spell stand out—Silvia Venturini Fendi is on to a good (re)start. And a re-positioning for the now LVMH-owned brand beyond furs and accessories. In addition to the legacy of Karl Lagerfeld, Ms Fendi, too, has the input of two British fashion forces, the stylist Charlotte Stockdale (also one-half of the label Chaos), as well as Mr Lagerfeld’s right-hand consultant at Chanel, Amanda Harlech. Could this be the new power trio to re-energise Milan Fashion Week? Let’s see.

Photos: Fendi

You Spin Me

As usual, Gucci takes us on a dizzying twirl


Gucci AW 2020 P1

Gucci has earlier announced that, with the COVID-19 outbreak still a global health threat, few, if any, Chinese/Asian buyers/editors/influencers would be in town for its autumn/winter 2020 presentation. But the show must go on. And a show it is, a rotating fish tank of a show. Given what’s happening in our part of the world, forgive us for seeing the revolving, glassed-up presentation as evocation of a quarantine facility, with the models-as-potentially-infectious-individuals peering out, longing to be freed, but could not be until, the rotation (metaphor for the passing of time?) stops. Meanwhile, lab-coated dressers, the equivalent of medical staff in attendance, watched coldly. They might as well be in hazmat suits. In the middle, a fluorescent metronome ticks away, seen but not heard (save the brief intro) as Maurice Ravel’s Bolero played on: hastening the end of the confinement? When the time is right, fashion is finally freed. It’s a release passengers of the Diamond Princess, docked in Yokohama, know, and have experienced and tasted.

Before they stepped out, you’d have been introduced to the Gucci cast of characters, standing as stationary as those in an identification line-up: the fashionista, the IG star, the movie star, the starlet, the showgirl, the schoolgirl, her school teacher, the principal, the housewife, the mistress, the matron, the auditor, the geek, the punk, the hippie (of course), the ah lian, her BFFs, the war veteran, the war-time nurse, the housekeeper, the chambermaid, the novice nun, the harlot, the budget tourist, the wealthy traveller, the fashion swapper, the Salvation Army habitué, the ghost of Scarlet O’Hara. Surprisingly, the pop wunderkind is missing. There are, of course, the less straightforward: those that people such a diorama, those that stand indescribable, the motley brood that lends Gucci its zaniness and irreverence, and predictability.

Gucci AW 2020 G1Gucci AW 2020 G2

Some of the clothes look like they are pieces from previous shows, restyled, or from other eras, liberated from their owners’ wardrobes, pulled together to seduce those who are not sensitive enough to imagine that the separates can come together in such a seemingly haphazard way and still direct attention to a point in the past. There are those gowns that would not look out of place if you were to to time-travel back to the American Civil War, dresses that looked like what evil Anabelle might not want, suits revived from ’70s Burda, bondage gear and add-ons that could have come out of The Happy Hooker, and assorted outers that can be imagined as Empress Michiko’s cast-offs. It’s really a wonder that no one has yet thought to get Alessandro Michele to costume a period film.

For sure, there is yet a shift in Mr Michele’s maximalist playfulness. While he seemed to have toned down, even a smidgen, the men’s show, he has maintained the amplification for the women’s. This time, you could discern design, that elusive line between styling and creation. At first, a pair of intriguing sleeves is spotted—they look like deformed spools. Then, a pleats-meet-gathers bodice-to-waist, Balmain-esque flounces, and a negligee-dress that is, strangely, abbreviated at the waist into a bow. If only some of these ideas were expanded (another pair of those sleeves for men hardly count), there could have been more of what the eye has not yet gotten used to. As we know, the correlative of familiarity is boredom.

Gucci AW 2020 G3Gucci AW 2020 G4

Whether we are bored or not, no one expects less from Alessandro Michele. So he gives you the full monty. He has successfully pitched himself to be so adept at assembling clothes to yield a certain visual kookiness and, of course, excess, built upon obscure historicism that one notch down the scale of superfluity may, for fans and the converted, spell impoverishment for fashion. The more you see the more you’re going to be convinced that even five years after Mr Michele showed his vision for Gucci, you are not yet satiated.

That’s the amazing power of Mr Michele, an illusionist who can create desire by constantly turning up the volume of more is better. And that no one should settle for less. Even a fashion show has to offer extra by opening up the backstage in full, behind-the-scene mode. Seeing models get dressed, layer by layer, heightens the desirability of the clothes, perhaps? It was Tom Ford, the first to revive the Florentine house, who showed that, at Gucci, the cup has to runneth over. Mr Michele, although aesthetically different from Mr Ford, is just as good at keeping it just overflowing. It is true that in this social-media age, “nothing succeeds like excess”, as Oscar Wilde said. “Moderation,” he was convinced, “is a fatal thing”. Alessandro Michele shows he knows that well, too.

Photos: Gucci

Mask: A Fashion Statement

Looks like wearing a surgical—even industrial—mask is now fashionable, besides being a sickness-spreading-prevention necessity


Mask 2020 P1Given the present situation, masks are not a hindrance to fashionable turn out

Without sounding flippant, even frivolous, masks are now a fashion statement. Consider this: we were in the MRT train (the Downtown Line, to set the scene) and two girls suddenly appeared before us, leaning, as many girls are inclined to, on a grab pole. One of them, her young face was shielded by a mask that was too big for her. It did not, in fact, look anything like the gov-issued ones; it was nice-looking, it was fashionably black. Her friend, totally unmasked, asked her why she bothered wearing one when she was not ill. The reply was swift: “You don’t know, meh? Aiya, it’s now the trend, mah”. To their credit, they were dress fashionably (which should not be taken to mean well). The mask on that girl is face accessory as, some time, veils are, and she looked like she was doing what’s increasingly the thing to do among some lasses: obscure the body and, now, the face.

If one has to go through such trouble to don a mask, one might as well make it look great. As a matter of fact, some do. Billie Eilish has, as you’re probably aware, made mask-wearing her signature style, although, for hypochondriacs, it should be said that hers have no protective function other than a decorative, statement-making one. On those occasions Ms Eilish’s face isn’t blocked, we see a young Scarlett Johansson with shades of Patsy Kensit, and Miley Cyrus brushed in for good measure. We don’t know why we see the triumvirate; we just do. Nothing good or bad. A mask just makes it even harder to take a side.

Masks 2020 P6Masks are looking less and less destined for the operating theatre

To be sure, masks—specifically surgical masks—today should not be regarded lightly or be worn carelessly, no matter the prevailing winds of fashion. They do not constitute a trifling matter. Its shortage—not just locally, but globally—is a serious problem, especially in cities that are experiencing insufficiency and among people who need them urgently, such as hospital staff. The situation, as we have unfortunately seen, is made more severe (and ugly) by those who worsen the scarcity by stockpiling, as well as those who seek to profiteer by selling at higher-than-usual prices, sans guilt. This makes talking about masks used as fashion accessory possibly facetious. Yet, there are those who would wear the nose-and-mouth covering as a style statement.

If you Google ‘surgical mask’ and choose the Images option, above the expected photos of actual surgical masks (some modelled by individuals who look like medical professionals) is a tab that reads ‘fashion’. This is the first among 30 to choose from, and it appears before ‘nurse’, ‘anime’, ‘wearing’; way before ‘n95’ (the 7th)! It isn’t certain if the fashion mask coming before all others is a reflection of what’s trending or furiously searched, but the appearance of those masks in assorted colours—even in prints—is indication that mask wearers are as concerned of contracting a coronavirus as wanting to look good in something usually associated with hospitals or, increasingly, with the annual haze in the second half of the year.

Masks @ LV storeStaff and customers are similarly masked at Louis Vuitton

Things have changed. No need to go into details or quote published figures to substantiate how masks are now an urban necessity, regardless of what our government (or the WHO) has emphasised: “Do not use if you are well”, as seen on the literature that accompanies the pack of four distributed to residents early this month. Despite what many in this city calls a “scary” situation (so frightening, in fact, that masks were reported to be sold out island-wide even before the Lunar New Year), an increasing number of wearers are making surgical masks (and their industrial siblings) a part of fashionable expression. If you are, we suppose, going to be in a heavily monogrammed T-shirt by your favourite brand, a govt-issued one won’t cut it. As fashion folks repeatedly told us, “the minimum is all-black”.

While mask-wearing has become common in many cities in East Asia, it has not been widely seen on Singaporean faces, not even after the SARS outbreak of 2003. Like everything else we wear or do not, the weather is the root of all our sartorial shortcomings and physical ills, which include coughs and colds. Cities such as Taipei, Hong Kong and Bangkok could be unbearably hot, but the high temperatures have not deterred the folks to forsake a mask when there is a need to wear one. At one Kopitiam food court a few days ago, we heard a middle-aged woman tell her companion, presumably in response to MOH’s urging that a tissue should be used to cover the mouth when when one coughs (or sneezes), “Aiya, want to cough, got (sic) time to take out tissue, meh?” It is, therefore, eye-opening that masks are presently more visible than they have ever been.

Masks 2020 P2The wearing of masks is not necessarily a solo. choice

In Asia, the Japanese have, for a long time, worn surgical masks in public even when their cities are not under the equivalent of DORSCON orange. The habit (rather than trend) goes back even before the SARS outbreak, and is believed to have become more visible after the Fukushima nuclear plant disaster of 2011. City dwellers, subsequently, wore what is today known as “courtesy masks”, usually used when one is unwell (or even when merely thinking that one might be ailing), a practice that has become as much acquired behaviour as social etiquette. We have read in reports that, increasingly, Japanese women are wearing surgical masks to shield their makeup-free faces from the world (rather than apply colour on the way to work?), which may explain the striking range of masks in non-traditional colours available in cities such as Tokyo and Osaka. And not at street-side stalls, but in proper retail outfits such as the 88-year-old Matsumoto Kiyoshi chain pharmacy.

Masks in Japan are used by both young and older wearers as accessories, and very much a part of good grooming. Or, a shield to make some wearers more attractive, or even to, we were told, “block off communication with others” (Match-JP called it “struggling with social awkwardness”). One poll conducted in the same year of the Fukushima mishap by Japanese news portal News Post Seven found that, among 100 individuals—aged between 10 and 30—surveyed in Shibuya, the bedrock of Japanese youth culture, 30 percent of them chose to wear masks for purposes completely unconnected to health. Medical-grade masks for non-surgical use have since become so popular that its production in Japan has risen staggeringly. According to data by the Japan Hygiene Products Industry Association, in 2018, more than 5.5 billion masks across all categories were produced for a population of 126.8 million people (as of 2017). Of these, 4.3 billion were for personal use. And possibly, more than half of that for expressing individual style.

Mask 2020 P3Surgical and anti-pollution masks now come in trendy patterns such as the camo

As expected, the Koreans, too, were soon seen shielding their nose/mouth area of the face for no medical reason, with the boys of BTS (Suga and Kim Tae-Hyung are frequent wearers) making redundant usage trendier and seductively imitable. Even US stars, such as rap artistes Ayo & Teo—check out their music video for Rolex—and Future (the now pre-mature Mask Off) followed. The wearing of masks caught on in China too, especially in Beijing, where dust storms can seriously choke the city, making surgical masks and N95s comprehensible necessity. A new level of popularity of mask use was reached last year when during the protracted Hong Kong anti-extradition-bill-turned-political-protests, surgical masks—especially in black—became both a symbol of defiance and a way to conceal the wearer from police identification.

At some point, fashion has to be worked into the equation. We have noticed, when we were abroad, surgical masks of not just different colours, we, too, have seen and were amused by those in assorted patterns. The Japanese have not only created those of considerable fashion wow, but also pieces that are extremely well-designed and comfortable to wear (we came across one with an additional flap as bridge that cups the nose, eliminating the need to pinch the stiff upper edge of the standard-issue surgical mask to ‘seal’ the top). On home ground, it isn’t clear if the shortage of masks at legitimate retail outlets is forcing mask seekers to look elsewhere for them. Of late, masks are no longer the three-ply, one-side green (or blue) ones that you see hospital staff use or what many generally wear.

Masks street stalls BKKDespite reports of surgical masks sold out in pharmacies, Bangkok streets still see many of them sold, especially those in colourful prints

We hear that many of these “fancy” masks*, as one fashion stylist calls them, are bought overseas, or online. Despite the reported shortage, China—in cities such as Guangzhou in the south and Shenyang in the north—is apparently where for-fashion surgical masks are available to buy, in hospitals-will-likely-frown-upon colours, such as lime green, and prints, such as tartan, which in themselves raise the question, how legit are they?  Even popular e-commerce sites Qoo10 and Shoppee offer no assurance for those sold on their respective platforms. So shady have the proliferation of masks been that videos have appeared on YouTube instructing viewers how to tell the real deal from the fakes. Unsurprisingly, they do exist, like bootleg, well, almost anything.

In Bangkok, a city that is still welcoming mainland Chinese tourists with open (and sanitised) arms, fancy masks are hawked on the streets and in markets—night and weekend—and snapped up by locals and tourists alike. There are coloured, 3M-branded (but not identified by their model number) N95s, surgical masks in cute repeated patterns, filter masks with beak-like fronts (some marked PM2.5, which is meant to be good against bacteria and viruses); Pitta masks minus any visible filters; and dystopia-worthy respirator-masks with indescribable attachments. Many urbanites, a local source told us, now have a wardrobe of masks so that there would “always be one in the right look, shape, and colour to go with the OOTD”.

Masks 2020 P5Assorted masks send to us by SOTD contributors when we said we were researching to do this post

From our own (admittedly unscientific) local observation, more men wear fancy masks than women, who tend to prefer the standard-issue-looking, but in pastel pink. Especially popular (hence, even harder to find) among fashion types are Pitta masks. “They look sleek,” one wearer on a Bugis-bound bus told us shortly after the DORSCON orange announcement. Pitta mask derives its name from the Japanese word pitari (ピッタリ), which means perfect fit. The snugness (face-con?) of the Pitta mask is its appeal and their popularity among celebrities gives them the all-important fashion cred. Despite their good looks, Pitta masks are not thought to offer adequate protection against the microscopic. To be fair, on the packaging, the manufacturer claims “99% effectiveness” for filtering pollen and dust particles.

One Singaporean chemical engineer Neo Kang Wei conducted testing on the Pitta for his employer Smart Air, a creator of “clean air tools”, and found that these masks “captured an astounding 0% of 0.3-micron particles and only 64% of larger 2.5-micron particles,” he concluded in a blog post. In other words, the “data shows that the Pitta mask is not effective at capturing small particles… it won’t do a good job filtering things like PM2.5, viruses, bacteria or fine particles.” Still, its popularity is unaffected. The preferred colour, we have been repeatedly told, is black (we, in fact, like the gray more—it isn’t so hard). The bus passenger told us that dark colours are preferred because “those close to nude look like Uniqlo’s Wireless Bras!” So, now we know.

Masks 2020 P4The many faces of surgical masks

As for actual ‘fashion’ masks, rungs below ‘fancy’ masks on the virus-shielding effectiveness scale, they have been around for a while. What comes immediately to mind are those by Marcelo Burlon, County of Milan, in particular the ‘Wings’ fabric masks and the Heron Preston “pollution mask” with para-cord serving as straps for the ears, as well as for framing the mask. Off-white die-hards will add to that Virgil Abloh’s loosely fitted ‘Arrow’ masks and Bape fans will, in response, include the brand’s popular ‘Shark’ mask. We, too, recall Marine Serre’s R-PUR filter-included masks from last year that were fashioned in a stretch-weave, sporting her signature double-registration, crescent-moon repeated pattern.

But it was, perhaps, Chinese designers who had initiated the trend much earlier, likely as a visual statement to respond to worsening air pollution in their capital city. In 2014, Xander Zhou and compatriots Qiu Hao and Masha Ma collaborated with Yoox to create stylish masks under the e-tailer’s Yooxygen initiative. Probably buoyed by the project’s success (which drew international attention), Ms Ma sent models out, for her spring/summer 2015 collection shown in Paris, in masks that were delicately embroidered and also encrusted with virus-fears-not Swarovski crystals. The potential of masks as fashion items may explain the recent proliferation of mask brands that marry fashion and function, such as Shanghai-based Airpop, Australian-owned AusAir, and California’s Vogmask.

Masks 2020 P7Mask-less, the odd one out?

With the novel coronavirus (now better known as COVID-19) rising and air quality plummeting, surgical masks and the look-a-likes (hopefully, work-a-likes) will become as prevalent and accepted as baseball caps. For the present, perhaps safety should supersede style. While much is said about its use by both authoritative and scripted voices—from physicians to stars, there is insufficient guidance on the safest way to dispose these single-use masks (not to be worn for more than a day, we’re told, and definitely not when they become wet). How they should be worn—and when—seem to have overshadowed what needs to be done when you’re done with them.

A used mask, however attractive or beautifully patterned, must be rid of in a sanitary way; it must not be placed in pockets or bags, or, worse, secured under the chin. Microbes do collect on the surface of the mask and can be spread by careless disposal or inappropriate/needless storage. The mask is best removed from the face by holding the ear loops or straps to avoid accidental touching of the surfaces. It should then be placed in a plastic bag and discarded in a covered garbage bin. No single-use mask can have a second life, not even after steaming it, as per one suggestion making the digital rounds. As with its disposal, there is no mention about how we’re going to manage these masks at the end of the outbreak. Are they environmentally friendly? That’s another issue altogether, but one thing must be clear and encouraged: say no to scalpers!

*Editor’s note: we cannot vouch for the safety or efficacy of these fancy masks or those not bought in, say, a pharmacy. We, therefore, urge purchase with caution. 

Photos: Zhao Xiangji, Iconiq Samsuddin, and Narak Kornkanok

Is This The Most Beautiful And Heartfelt Bond Song?

Billie Eilish delivers what’s possibly the most gorgeous 007 theme. And one to likely go beyond the limitations of the OST



By Emma Ng

Billie Eilish has really been in the news since winning four Grammys last month. Aside from the strides she has made in fashion, we have noted here in SOTD how lovely her voice is. And to that, I want to add: she sings, not scream. And that appealingly just-sing vocal is what makes her work in the latest Bond (25th) theme song so captivating. At the first listening of No Time to Die, what struck me—and beautifully so—is how free of histrionics the track is, not just vocally, but musically too.

I am now having trouble reconciling No Time to Die with the typical opening title sequence of Bond films, with their swirling graphics and the suggestively naked woman (women?) dancing as if the audience would not imagine she has no clothes on, or is near-nude (never mind if on occasions, body-con dresses could be discerned, or heels). How is Ms Eilish’s mellow sound and unrushed phrasing going to soundtrack what’s traditionally a visual expression that leans on art-as-titillation posturing? I try to imagine and all I can come up with is oversized, boxy Chanel pantsuit! Will Ms Eilish work into her contract that any visual accompanying her music must obscure, especially in the depicting of silhouetted women, any overt sexiness and sexuality (her own outline a perfect example)?

No Time to Die plays like Bond themes of yore coming together, but that would be simplistic, even if the chorus harks back to the melodic preferences of the past. To me, there’s something suitably Brit about Ms Eilish’s sound, made more alluring with a lo-fi warmth. It opens softly—almost a hush—with the piano, and then she intones, “I should have known/I’d leave alone/just goes to show/that the blood you bleed is just the blood you owe”. Ms Eilish turns 18 this December. Does that sound like a teenager to you? The opening lines set the mood and theme of the song: balladic, bleak, brill.

How is it that Bond himself and the numerous screen writers have never thought that “licence to kill” could pay back, and that it takes a teenager (and her co-writer-brother, Finneas O’Connor) to see the deserving turn? I don’t profess to know what every line means even having heard the music on loop all afternoon (or try to see if the lyrics foretell what is going to happen to Mr Bond in the upcoming film), but there is something too mature and too true and too heartfelt when someone so young sings, “Are you death or paradise?/Now you’ll never see me cry/there’s just no time to die”. It really hit me. Or, maybe, it’s Valentine’s?

I have never been so drawn to a Bond theme, not even Adele’s grand-sounding, jazz-sure Skyfall. And I don’t even remember what Sam Smith’s Writing’s On The Wall sounds like. Ms Eilish’s pull is as much her close-mic singing as her ability to draw you in: she seems to be directing every word, every note at you, alone. She does not get pitchy; she does not belt, she doesn’t try to impress; she does not over-colour. (Doubters should listen to her sing Yesterday at the Oscars.) I, too, like that the arrangement of the track is lush, a compelling counterpoint to the writing duo’s often bleak, melancholic, and off-kilter style. The sum: tasteful. Never thought I’d say that about a Bond theme song.

Photo: Universal Music Group

Chuck Goes Psychedelic

Specifically the Converse Chuck 70 Ox. It’s delectably indescribable!


Pigalle X Converse

By Ray Zhang

I have been getting this vibe that sneakers shall soon be over until they’re back. People are telling me leather shoes in all their sensibleness will be 2020’s dad’s shoes. Really? Who knows how this prediction will pan out. I look at all the non-sneakers I own and I am not certain I want to wear them in place of my Air Maxes, all the time. In fact, I think it’s unfair that after weening us sneakers for more than ten years, those who have the power to wield are not telling us that the kicks we have so loved aren’t quite cool anymore.

I am not giving up on my sneakers. Nor looking at them, such as this pair of Pigalle and Converse collab, fashioned on the decidedly low-brow Chuck 70, a basketball shoe that’s now mostly not seen on courts. Truth be told, I am not much of a Converse fan. They are, to me, just too school-shoes-like, with little to no personality, making basic kicks such as the Adidas’s Stan Smith decidedly charismatic. But occasionally, someone (or some brand) comes along and gives the Converse a much appreciated makeover—these by the America-leaning French brand Pigalle, too.

The first thing that strikes is the colour. Rare is the Converse that is this multi-hued—gradated, too. The lightning streaks on the Chuck somehow make the mixed colours less hippie while the upper’s technical fused film (which gives the cotton canvas a nice touch) make it rather of the present. That most of the mid-sole comes in this bright lime green augments this Chuck 70’s deliberately anti-white appeal.

This is not the first time both brands have paired up. Pigalle, founded in 2007 in the French neighbourhood of the same name by Stéphane Ashpool, has become one of Europe’s rare streetwear brand that has found international fame. Its Converse collaboration, coming after major success with Nike, was widely noted in last September’s All Star Pro BB, as well as the Chuck 70 Ox, which, if I remember correctly, was a lot more pristine.

There is a palpable sense that sneakers, for those who still worship athletic kicks, are losing the exaggerated silhouettes of the past years. This Chuck, not chunk, is suitably streamlined and adequately forward. With its marine-coloured upper, this is the shoe to go with those printed pants we’re told will be big this year. I, however, have other ideas in mind. 😎

Pigalle X Converse Chuck 70 Ox in ‘Lightning Storm’, SGD179, is available at Lmited EDT. Photo: Zhao Xiangji


Chaotic Show, Muted Clothes

Marc Jacobs casts aside the theatrical for performance


Marc Jacobs AW 2020 P1

This is not the close of NYFW that one expects, not the bang that Marc Jacobs usually strikes. The expansive barn that is the Park Avenue Armory is, once again, free of sets, in which models and the like could set themselves free. And they do. If confusion sets in after the first minute, it is understandable. In one corner, you could have been seeing a Savage X Fenty show, in another, it could have been Yeezy (in colour!), and then suddenly, a march of Michael Kors!

It is frenetic; the video cameras unable to keep up. Dancers are dancing their modern, performance-art-type moves, and models are marching in their modern, performance-be-damned struts. Dancers are dressed by Marc Jacobs, models are in Marc Jacobs, but which are the runway clothes and which are costume? Perhaps there is no division since dancers and models are just in clothes—what in NYFW this season has been happily called “real clothes”. Marc Jacobs, believe it, gets real, even if it’s Insta-real.

Marc Jacobs AW 2020 G1Marc Jacobs AW 2020 G2

Or, is New York’s biggest name not pushing himself anymore? The present climate—political and social—not conducive to audacious creativity? Perhaps there had been enough homage to Yves Saint Laurent and Comme des Garçons? After all, excessive and prolonged adulation can lead to derivation, conscious or not. So this season, Mr Jacobs returns to his roots, with a bit of old Marc, Studio 52 Marc, Bleeker Street Marc, Mercer Hotel Marc, Marc by Marc Jacobs Marc, happily married Marc (those who have tied the knot tends to pare down, no?), and, for good measure, an imaginary Marc for Gap Marc. Well, Mr Jacobs knows he’s on home turf.

Amid the frenetic presentation (even Miley Cyrus’s unexpected appearance is missed), some of the clothes make you wonder why they deserve a runway: a trio of lame slip-like dresses, a few of the smart and neat skirt-suits, even those evening gowns that look a tad like the one Gwyneth Paltrow wore to accept her Best Actress in a Leading Role Oscar. Nothing wrong with the clothes per se; they could just go straight to the store(s), skipping the show. So much, in fact, appear to be just clothes styled to be fashion, with more than a handful of underpants to give a rising (and possibly threatening) Rihanna a run for her money.

Marc Jacobs AW 2020 G3Marc Jacobs AW 2020 G4

Somewhere in the mix is parody of the ’60s. How else would you describe an unconvincing Bella Hadid with big, comb-back hair, in that black dress—period does come to mind—and white opera gloves? If this was on a red carpet, any red carpet, she would not have made the best, nor worst dress list. What’s worse than being unplaced? What Ms Hadid wears isn’t necessarily bad, just pointless. But what is second-rate-and-cheap-looking are the one blouse, as well as two body-enhancing dresses, made entirely of flattened rosettes—the stitching together of hand-shaped florals, an idea fashion students love to adopt when they are short of funds to buy fabric of a certain sumptuousness. Besides, it looks too craft-like for someone allegedly enamoured with couture.

And those court shoes, with terribly pointy toes to boot! Are we seeing a return to heels, just as the other collections are suggesting we abandon sneakers? Well, if the dancers can dance in them, you can walk in them—that seems to be the message. But it is, in fact, hard to read this collection. Could this be just a lull for Marc Jacobs? Or are we, henceforth, seeing more of proper (but not prim) clothes that the brand has to sell, rather than for you to savour?

Photos:  Filippo Fior/gorunway.com