Market Izzue

The Hong Kong label Izzue may have failed here, but on home ground, they are still going strong, even introducing a food and home store

Here, Izzue came and went. In 2013, i.t, the Hong Kong multi-label store, opened its first outlet in Wisma Atria with Wing Tai Retail through what the latter called at that time a “collaboration”. That first (of three stores) on our shores culminated in the three-level flagship in Orchard Gateway a year later. Izzue was part of the brand mix of i.t. When i.t shuttered last year, a few of its house brands such as 5cm, and Izzue were available in Robinsons. Now that Singapore’s second-oldest department store, too, shall be no more, Izzue appears to suffer the same fate as other brands linked to Wing Tai Retail, such as Topshop.

But in Hong Kong, where the retail scene is palpably impacted by the present pandemic, the IT Group, parent company behind Izzue and its sibling brands, has re-imagined Izzue as a coffee shop and food/home store. On our island, the most prominent label to go from fashion to food is PS.Cafe (formerly Blood Cafe of the now defunct Projectshop Blood Bros). The first of the Izzue food ventures to open was Izzue Coffee in July, then Izzue Market and Izzue Home in August. Izzue Market presently has two stores, one in the basement of Island Beverly in Causeway Bay and the other in Cityplaza in Taikoo Shing. By most accounts and observation of in-store traffic, the brand’s new grocery store is doing well, despite recent media headlines, “Hong Kong Retailer IT Group Offers To Delist For (US) $168 Million, as seen in WWD last week.

Food, as we’re reportedly told, is recession-proof, and now pandemic-proof too. We don’t associate IT retail ventures with the selling of fine groceries. Yet, here they are offering what to us is reminiscent of Jones the Grocer. For those only now discovering food retail, perhaps a touch of Scoop Wholefood. Some observers think that after more than two decades, Izzue—opened in 1999—needed to reinvent themselves. While, as a fashion label, Izzue caters to the young with a weakness for work wear-meets-military-fatigues-meet-street-style (a feather on their cap: they are the first label in Asia to collaborate with Japanese brand Neighbourhood), the market reiteration appears to target the more matured consumer (possibly the Izzue fans who have grown up). A total transformation. This is City’super for the food aficionado with the economic security of a paid-up apartment.

The space is stylishly appointed and befits the IT Group’s visual strength. At the Taikoo Shing store, assorted tables are grouped together to greet shoppers, in a setting that reminds us of the old Dean and Deluca stores in New York. This is not your regular (small-scale) supermarket. Shoppers are enticed with assorted finds from all over the world that would not typically take up even an inch of space in the likes of ParknShop: premium Japanese rice from Hokkaido and Hyogo, truffle tagliatelle from the UK, corn-fed French poulet jaune, Danish sparkling teas, prepacked tapas platter, and, not forgetting Hong Kong, the artisanal offerings of indie food producer Nicole’s Kitchen, with such unusual mixed jams as lychee/apple/rose. There is also Izzue Market’s nifty, reusable shopping bags. In other words, curated. Here, despite the intense devotion to Fairprice, we can totally see a PS.Market in the horizon.

Photos: K S Yeung for SOTD

The Tassel’s Moment

One 2021 trend for guys is the use of tassels. Yes, the pendant ornaments. You ready to dangle one?

One of the danglies shown at the recent pre-fall 2021 Dior show is not some Kid Cudi-esque necklace or chain. Rather, it is a tassel—the pendant ornament (we’ve never heard it referred to as accessory or jewellery) that is essentially a column of quite tightly packed strings (referred to as a ‘skirt’) topped with a fancy knot or cap. Dior’s (left), fastened to what could be a belt (or waist bag?), has the girth of Chinese ink brush and the length of a man’s forearm. This particularly thick one is gradated, as if the yellow of monks robes is dipped into a vat of purple cabbage. It is fancy, for sure, and, an IG-worthy exaggeration. They are nothing like those leather tassels sometimes affixed to the vamp of loafers. From our perspective, Dior’s seems to glean from the world of Chinese wuxia, or perhaps scholars.

For those with less progressive leaning, we are, admittedly, putting a more masculine spin here. Since the Dior tassels look Chinese (or Oriental, definitely not those on English academic caps—Oxford or Cambridge, take your pick), we’ll look at China, where Kim Jones engaged local embroiderers to create the two-thousand-year-old seed embroidery (繨子绣 or dazixiu) for the Dior collection. Whether this was to expressly cater to a Chinese market or Mr Jones expressing his love for Eastern craft and exotica, it is hard to say.

Anyway, tassels were once used ornamentally on swords (剑 or jian). Broadly speaking, the sword tassel (剑繐 or jian sui) appeared at the end of the hilt of what was known as the scholar’s sword (文剑 or wen jian), used mainly for self defence and dancing, rather than at war, or to project an elegant image—possibly the same motivation as Pharrell Williams in pearls. The tassel was less evident on the martial sword (武剑 or wu jian), which was used on the battlefield. Historically, the tassel mostly hung from the scholar’s sword. If a sword was designated for offensive use, it unlikely came with a tassel, since it would get in the way of a duel. However, the swordsman blessed with cunning might use a long, deceptively limp tassel to target his opponent’s eyes!

But the Chinese tassel did not only hang on the hilt of the sword, it dangled from the waists of men too. These were known as waist accessories (腰佩 or yaopei)—the Dior belt above certainly qualifies as one. In ancient times, both men and women wore carved jade pieces from which hung a tassel (but never as thick as the Dior version). These were known as jinbu (禁步) or ‘forbidden steps’, which, in the case of women, may make sense, since the jinbu was used to hold down the skirt (including the men’s) and possibly preventing the wearer from striding. How this eventually became a check on female deportment isn’t clear. The men did not, however, appear to need to be held back (guys today who wear extra-long canvas belts left dangling from the box buckle could be mimicking the wearing of a jinbu). Apart from the jinbu, both men and women also wore the xiangnang (香囊) or a fragrance pouch. Made of silk and embroidered, they were often attached to a tassel. The xiangnang was usually stuffed with cotton and aromatics, and were used as personal perfume, air-freshener, and even to ward off evil spirits.

A few days after the Dior show, Nike announced the release of the Air Jordan 1 for Chinese New Year 2021 (no drop date was revealed). This basketball shoe—that Dior (again?!) made massive in June—sports one of the style’s most popular colour combo: ‘university red’ (and just as hongbao bright) and black. That the upper would partly come with a brocade fabric sporting oxen is hardly surprising, but that the shoe comes with a tassel is quite unexpected. The cord, red, is fasten along the collar of the sneaker, like a choker, and the tassel, gold, hangs to the side, near the eyestay, like an earring. This tassel, unlike Dior’s is really quite small. Its short fringe body is topped with what looks like a Chinese button knot. Pendant to a necklace. A neat way of wearing an anklet without actually wearing one?

Photos: Dior and Nike respectively. Collage: Just So