Kenzo Tribute Tees

Some wearable mementoes to remember him by before he is completely forgotten

Do people even remember that Kenzo Takada was a real person? Many Gen-Z consumers that we have spoken to recently did not realise that Balenciaga is the moniker of an actual human being (there were those who struggled to recall the first name)! Ditto for Saint Laurent—few remember Yves, let alone how to pronounce it. None could describe how either designer looked like. When we asked who among designers no longer around that they might recognised, all said Karl Lagerfeld. Not surprising: up till now, two and half years after his death, brand Karl has not stopped producing images and dolls, such as the K/Ikonic collectible, in the likeness of the man. Even without these playthings, who’d forget the Kaiser when his silhouette is part of his logo?

Eleven months after Kenzo Takada passed away due to complications from COVID-19 and just a week after the announcement that Nigo will take the helm as artistic director of Kenzo, the Paris-based house has announced that a capsule Kenzo Takada Tribute Collection will be launched this week in Japan via the e-commerce platform Zozovilla (part of Zozotown) that is dedicated to luxury brands. This release could be an attempt to enshrine the legacy of Kenzo Takada by personifying, even just graphically, the man himself on something as mundane as a T-shirt, a sweatshirt, and a hoodie. In death, Kenzo Takada becomes a streetwear icon?

This trio of tops (in different colours), reportedly part of the autumn/winter 2021 collection—a reinterpretation of archival pieces, put together by an in-house team—sport a lined silhouette of the designer with his longish hair and what appears to be spectacles, taking up sizeable real estate on the chest. His recognisable signature is placed under the left jawline. The sum is part kawaii, part hippie. According to Japanese media, the T-shirt will be sold for ¥22,000 (approximately S$269), the sweatshirt for ¥39,600 (S$485), and the hoodie for ¥53,900 (S$660). Not too wallet-straining if remembering someone you admire by wearing his likeness close to your heart truly matters.

The Kenzo Takada Tribute Collection launches in Japan on 25 September. It is not yet known if it will be available in the Kenzo stores here. Photos: Kenzo

What’s Juergen Teller Doing In The JW Anderson Lookbook?

Oh, we are living in body-positive times. And there’s a place for middle-aged men in briefs among young girls

An almost-naked middle-aged man, posing with rubber tyres, however artistic we are led to believe, is still the almost-naked middle-aged man, posing with rubber tyres. That the photos were shuffled between those featuring young models, some scantily-clad, isn’t supposed to caused discomfort to the viewer. It is, after all a fashion shoot executed in inclusive times. The placement of said man is beyond problematic or controversial too because he is, in fact, the photographer who has appointed himself as the non-Adonis counterpoint to the nubile lasses. This is what it is this season at Loewe. The LVMH-owned Spanish brand has engaged the German photographer Juergen Teller to lens it, as it is, the brand’s spring/summer 2022 lookbook. Mr Teller gleefully places his self-portraits among the images of models he, too, shot for Loewe. Sure, he is no stranger to the inclusion of himself in commissioned work. In 2019, he shot and starred in the Asics collection designed by Kiko Kostadinov. He was not doing Eric Rutherford, for sure, yet those trashy images seemingly bothered no one. And here he is at it again, in Speedo-skimpy undies (or swimwear?), sometimes caught in the middle of a tyre—in one photo, his buttocks towards the viewer.

We know what Mr Teller is saying as a photographer, but what is he communicating as a model? Is there a sexual message when he places his avuncular body through the centre bore of those tyres or through a stack of them? Or are they just innocent and playful poses? It has been suggested that he is satirising the annual calendar of Italian tyre maker Pirelli. Really? Or is his holding of a tyre in each hand a parody of Herb Ritts’s 1984 shot Fred with Tyres? Presumably he will be paid as a photographer, but does that mean he too will be compensated for being a model? Photographers, as far as we’re aware, do not place themselves in the pictures they shoot for clients. These photos of Mr Teller are too numerous to be considered a professional intro to the work the brand is presenting. Certainly no photo byline or credit. Of the 26 photographs shared, six are of Mr Teller, which amounts to a not insignificant 23 percent. What value does his aberrant participation bring to the fashion of JW Anderson? Frankly we do not know. These are indeed difficult-to-understand times.

What about the clothes? That man isn’t wearing any! So we examined the models who are—some scantily clad, like much of this season, so far. As fabric is increasingly immaterial in fashion, it requires close scrutiny—not necessarily successful with these ‘action’ shots—before we could make out what the key message JW Anderson is trying to communicate for next spring, apart from being cheeky by planting Juergen Teller in the series of photographs set in a tyre yard. Did the dirty-looking space, traditionally the domain of men (no?), enhance the choiceness of the clothes? Are they prettier when you can even discern the smell of rubber? Are they more delicate when juxtaposed with the heftiness of the tyres. An average car tyre will apparently last about 60,000 miles, according to the U.S. Tire Manufacturers Association (or 96,560 kilometres; about going from the far east of our island to the far west 1,931 times). Are these clothes as durable?

It appears that Mr Anderson is in a playful mood. The models are not in a can’t-be-bothered-to-do-anything pose. They seem to be discovering the enjoyment potential of a working-class surrounding normally not conducive to a fashion shoot. There is no clear theme in the designs, but they bear the JW Anderson hallmark for artsy details on clothes that look like the result of some advanced home-sewing class. There are short ultra-circular skirts, dresses with handkerchief points (one with an impossibly low back), and more slips for the cocktail hour than you’ll ever need. Accessories (still searching for a teeny bag?) seem to be as important as the clothes, and the footwear, in particular, will massively appeal, especially the heeled, thonged sandals. The collection points to the anticipated return of social fun, even if, for now, the models look like they were not posing for posting on Instagram. OnlyFans, perhaps?

Photos: JW Anderson

It’s A Menagerie!

With Louis Vuitton now joining the zoological race, ‘It bags in the shapes of animals seem to still hold petting appeal

Clockwise from top left: Nigo X Louis Vuitton Duck bag, Loewe Bunny bag, Loewe’s Mini Elephant Anagram bag, and Thom Browne’s Hector bag that started it all

Photographs of a new Louis Vuitton bag were supposedly ‘leaked’ a few days ago. They showed a new bag, purportedly conceived with one of Virgil Abloh’s favourite collaborators, Nigo—now ready to join Kenzo. The bag, made of the unmistakable brown LV monogram canvas, comes in the shape of a duck! Apparently an airplane bag is not enough, now they’ve moved from a hangar into the animal kingdom, specifically a pond. It is not clear why Nigo chose a member of the Anatidae that looks to us like a common mallard rather than, say, a swan. But what other animal comes to mind when we think of Louis Vuitton (at least Hermes can be linked to a horse)? Certainly not cousin of Donald? Perhaps for ease of design, the duck makes practical sense—the wings easily provide for two zippered side pockets (as shown in the photos). And the body capacious enough for present-day necessities. But is the duck cute? Or, sexy?

These are, of course, not insipid, flat bags in the silhouette of an animal (e.g. an owl. Or, Hello Kitty!), easily found anywhere, and online. We are not even referring to Loewe’s elephant-headed raffia basket bag, attractive as it is. We are pointing to those that are fully fleshed-out, in three-dimensional forms, such as those in Loewe’s very own increasingly large animal farm. These are mostly not predatory animals, and are designed to accompany the user like a pet. But the real advantage of these is that, unlike a companion animal, the LV duck and the Loewe rabbit can be carried anywhere, even on a plane (when the time comes). Or, to a restaurant, Michilen-starred or not. And you don’t even have to feed it, except with whatever you want it to stomach!

The creature that started it all is Hector, the canine-carrier Thom Browne first showed in his Autumn–Winter 2016 collection, based on his actual pet, a dachshund named, of course, Hector. The realistic-looking bag caught on so quickly that even grown women were smitten by it. Like most designers’ dogs, Hector has his own Instagram account and, as you can imagine, is extremely famous, but is outdone by a cat—the late Karl Legerfeld’s Choupette. Although Hector typically costs around USD4,000 to USD5,000, depending on its hide, one of its early forms—in crocodile—was asking for USD35,000! The price of LV’s duck is not yet known. But it’d be less dear, we suspect, and a one-time payment. No additional grooming costs and charges from visits to the vet. This is no quack!

Product photos: respective brands. Illustrations: Just So

Visited: Leftfoot

Our island’s earliest indie sneaker store Leftfoot has always been a trail blazer in terms of product offering and shopper experience. Their new store at Mandarin Gallery sees the retailer in fine facile form

By Ray Zhang

Fond memories accompany me whenever I visit the Leftfoot store. I still remember their first in Far East Plaza in the mid-2000 (yes, Far East Plaza had a lot more going for it than their sad present (but Gen-Zers won’t remember). Leftfoot exposed me to the world of limited-edition kicks, as well as those in colours not offered in the regular releases available elsewhere here, before I visited Tokyo’s Atmos and Mita Sneakers for the first time. The Far East Plaza store closed, as were other cool stores such as the buzzy bag shop Trever, led by former Bodynits designer Gary Goh, and multi-label Ambush and Surrender (the first stockist of Supreme) set up by Earn Chen (also, later, Cherry Discotheque And Potato Head Folk), invariably dubbed “the poster boy” of the SG streetwear scene. In fact, if you go further back to, say 1982, there was even designer fashion—Thomas Wee’s first boutique! Yes, Far East Plaza was that happening even if, looking at it now, you would never have guessed.

Leftfoot was founded in 2003 by Anthony Ho and Kevin Lo, considered pioneers of the streetwear scene back then (Mr Ho started in the retail of vintage clothes). After their Far East Plaza venture closed around 2008, to the dismay of fans, they reopened Leftfoot in Cineleisure Orchard, then a youth-oriented shopping destination that seemed poised to take over from the old Heeren, but never quite did (now, in fact, it’s also, like Far East Plaza, a shadow of its former self). A larger store, intriguingly called Leftfoot Entrepôt, followed at The Cathay; it was a space put together with an edge not seen in sneaker retail then, designed as if for hanging out, with a wood-wall store front that practically obscured the going-ons inside. When both the Cineleisure Orchard and The Cathay stores closed in the middle of this year, some of us thought that what we considered an SG institution had come to an end, until they posted on Facebook that a “new location will be announced soon”. Sure, they continued to sell Via Facebook and Instagram (even offering free delivery for purchase above S$60) in the mean time, but, for me, seeing the kicks personally and being able to try them on makes a difference—massive difference. Moreover, I missed the indie vibe of their physical stores, which often made me feel like I was shopping overseas. Leftfoot is not Limited Edt.

That distinction is again made clear with the new Leftfoot store, opened on 16 July in the hard-to-defined (maybe that’s good) Mandarin Gallery. Since its reincarnation in Cineleisure Orchard, Leftfoot always has an edge about it. The store turns footwear retailing quite on its head, and in doing so, draws the attention of sneakerheads. (Sure, Limited Edt also sells, as its name suggest, some merch considered rare and available in limited numbers, but, to me, their stores have no personality and the friendliness level—even in not-quite-atas Queensway Shopping Centre—leaves little to be desired.) Leftfoot never has a window, at least not in the traditional sense of store windows. At Cineleisure Orchard, I remember, the first shelving unit of a single row of them on the left of the compact space, was situated right at the store front. Shoppers were picking up their fave kicks and trying them on the corridor of the mall! Conversely, at The Cathay, there was only an entranceway and shelves of shoes to the right. At both stores, no particular brand was given upfront prominence. Leftfoot seemed to draw mostly those in the know and those who know their kicks.

Their new space is, in contrast, a lot more orderly than I remember them to be. Not that Leftfoot was chapalang (messy) to start with, but at the Mandarin Gallery shop, the striking use of shelving units akin to cabinets in a compactor storage and archival system is eye-catching, and allows shoppers to zero in on the kicks they want quickly. The pale office-grey, too, heightened the pleasing orderliness. Additionally, I thought I sensed a seriousness about what they are doing, as if they are now really curating what they sell—the one-side sneakers on those metal shelves like prototypes ready for mass and limited production. The store has nothing blocking its full-glass front, not even a name. On the left, what looked like vintage traffic barriers were the only display, while on the right, a table on a pair of similar-looking trestles stood. I was in the store on a Thursday afternoon and it was, to my surprise, busy. I already had in mind what I wanted, but no sales staff could, at first, be spotted. When she finally appeared, she quickly came to my assistance, found the sneakers in my size for me to try (I sat on one of three small wooden stools dotted in a row in the centre of the store), and then offered to hold it for me at the payment counter while I made up my mind, and continued browsing. And then I spotted a watchman near the entrance, his vigilant gaze deterring would-be shoplifters, but when I left, he said “thank you” with a nod, amicably.

The Leftfoot Family and Friends Pop-Up Store

The Left Foot pop-up store at Mandarin Gallery

Like the old Leftfoot in Cineleisure Orchard, the store at Mandarin Gallery is accompanied by a sibling sale outlet on the same floor (interestingly also on level two). The staff at the main shop happily referred me to the Leftfoot Family and Friends Pop-Up Store as it’s known, “just behind the escalator”. This sale shop contrasts dramatically and charmingly to Leftfoot itself. While one is all sleek and minimalist and bright, the other is groovy with bohemian vibe, made even more palpable with the discernible smell of incense, wafting in a romantically-lit shoe-box space. Once inside, I thought I was transported to a store lost somewhere in the winding lanes of Harajuku, Tokyo. Nothing about the modestly-appointed pop-up screamed sale. Shoes and bags and other items—even mugs—were mixed with no discernible order, but neatly, as if in a sample room. The bazaar energy intensified the store’s browsability. This space, as I understand, is also an event area of sort, having played host previously to Obey and The Lucky Shop (aka 福乐店 or fu le dian). I would have loved to linger, but it was getting a tad crowded, and the shoppers, probably excited, were speaking too loudly.

It seems that Leftfoot has found itself in the right ’hood. Their immediate neighbours are Carhartt WIP (across) and the multi-label store Manifesto (next door). While not exactly a streetwear haven, Mandarin Gallery—with ‘big’ names fronting the four-story mall—seems to be attracting retailers that offer a street-centric point of view, such as the Euro-cool Manifesto, the goth shop L’amoire, and the alt-bent menswear store Supplies & Company. Some observes think Mandarin Gallery should better define their positioning, but I think it makes a better shopping experience if the mall is less predictable, less like its neighbours, less opposed to unknown/unfamiliar names. And more willing to go with an adventurous retail mix, which now, for a discernible on-going and distant good, includes the 18-year-old Leftfoot.

Leftfoot Family and Friends Pop-up Store will open till the end of year. Photos: Galerie Gombak

Strictly For Winter

Images of the Uniqlo X White Mountaineering are released. There is nothing we can buy to wear on our gloriously sunny island

Just as we suspected, the collaboration that we have been looking forward to will give us very little reason to buy. And just as designer Yosuke Aizawa of White Mountaineering earlier revealed about his collab with Uniqlo, it’s really about outerwear, and just that. In fact, it’s a surprisingly small capsule—tiny. Just two items for women, four for men, and three for kids. Every piece is designed to protect from the wearer from the cold, i.e. winter, not cinema hall air-conditioning. The one jacket, for example, a parka, (available for women, men, and kids) is padded with “absorbent bio-warming” material. The thought of it in this mid-September heat is enough to make people sweat. There are six pockets on the jacket and two of them serve as hand warmers. Unless you work in an ice plant or even the meatpacking department of Cold Storage, you very probably wouldn’t need the jacket here.

It is surprising that Uniqlo did not consider expanding the product offerings. Or, to include tops such as shirts and T-shirts (we do not consider fleece pullovers the equivalent). This is more so considering that the brand has a huge presence in Southeast Asia, where, for the most part, winter clothing is not required. Although White Mountaineering is the go-to brand in Japan for outerwear or, in the case with Uniqlo, those “created with a common language (easy to understand?)”, Mr Aizawa does design compelling items that are not outers. Sure, Uniqlo produces all the U tees, as well as the UT tops that will feed the world’s appetite for those items of clothing, but if they had allowed White Mountaineering to express their own ideas of what, to them, are truly basic, the result might be irresistible and crowd-pullers too.

Rather, we can only look at the items that do not have a real place in our daily wardrobe. Fleece and down, for most people here, are those kept aside in unemployed language until the time arrives for their use: travel! And there is usually inadequate reasons to buy more. It is therefore curious that Uniqlo bothers to avail the collab here when their own winter outerwear would suffice for the few people who’d be travelling. Perhaps representation is necessary for Uniqlo’s merchandising, but as one sportswear buyer told us, “It’d really be a bummer not to be able to buy so that we can wear the items soon. It is doubtful that many people will be holidaying soon enough or that 95% of Singaporeans will travel abroad for leisure (2013 and 2014)”. It appears that, for those whose resistance is low, buy now, wear much later would be the order. That sole jacket we mentioned is S$149.90 for women, S$199.90 for men, and S$99.90 for kids. It may be good to invest in, considering that a similar piece from White Mountaineering would set you back ¥60,500 or approximately S$742.

Although the nine-piece collection (different colours for all styles) look rather similar to some of Uniqlo’s own winter wear, it is in the unexpected details that set them apart (even when only the wearer knows), such as the vertical pocket opening along the placket of the men’s oversized quilted down jacket. As Yosuke Aizawa said in a promotional interview, “Sport and outdoor details can be used effectively in our daily life, such as going to a park or taking a walk. These are not just cool as a fashion, but also by combining various elements of functionality for movements, outdoor details, texture and heat retention effect, I presume I was able to feed back the technology and knowledge that I had gained through outdoor wear into Uniqlo.” Let’s see if resistance would be futile.

Uniqlo X White Mountaineering will launch in mid-October. Exact date not revealed. Photos: Uniqlo

Naiise To Be Back?

The multi-brand retailer returns. Will the baggage of a troubled past weigh them down?

Designer names used to be enduring. These days, retail brands are the ones that don’t die. Once born, they can’t be rid of; they can’t self-destruct. One of them here is Robinsons, the other is Naiise. Announced on Instagram last night, Naiise’s comeback is a return to their founding format: an e-store. The big reveal struck at nine this evening, their “witching time of night”, to borrow from Shakespeare (it is unclear why the store is launched three hours to midnight rather than during the day). However, unlike the return of Robinsons, there is no fanfare prior, no media walk-through, no build-up. One post on the brand’s Facebook and Instagram pages each appeared yesterday evening, followed by two more—six hours apart—that announced their sudden re-emergence. The second post stated that followers of their social media were missed. A comment followed: “We know it has been a while, but we are coming back online”. At the time of this writing, it garnered 126 likes.

One of the earliest media outlets to report on Naiise’s re-opening is Vulcan Post, an ardent supporter of the brand, then—and now, as well as its founder Dennis Tay. In an editorial, they wrote that “this comeback is not too surprising as the previously-defunct website had the words ‘opening soon’ emblazoned across”. In their social media announcement, Naiise also stated: “We’re gonna continue our mission in championing local creatives, designers and artisans. Come on a journey with us as we inspire creativity and connect communities!” Despite their cheeriness, the new Naiise is aware that the fallout of the past (just this year, in fact) is not quite forgotten, yet. In the final post before the online opening, they wrote/assured: “The new and improved marketplace platform allows sellers to be paid instantly upon every successful order fulfilment.” However, it is not known if those to whom money was owed were all paid.

If this is the Naiise still associated with Dennis Tay, now largely held in disesteem, perhaps the declaration of prompt payment would be taken with a generous pinch of salt. But the confidence is now expressed by a new company. By Naiise’s own reveal hours earlier, seemingly written by a legal advisor, “the WestStar Group has completed its acquisition of Naiise Pte Ltd’s (the “Company’s”) online marketplace (“Online Marketplace”) as well as its accompanying trademarks and social media accounts”. It also quoted the group’s CEO Ong Lay Ann saying, “in line with its mission of inspiring creativity and connecting communities, Naiise aspires to be at the forefront of aggregating a community that has always appreciated local designs.” Mr Ong is the former CEO of Honestbee, an also-embattled company once self-touted as “Asia’s leading online lifestyle concierge and delivery service” that is now described by the media as “insolvent”. One PR manager cheekily said to us, “from the frying pan into the fire!”

The new Naiise homepage

WestStar Group is an 18-year-old Malaysian company with multifarious business activities, namely automotive, aviation, construction, defence, and engineering, according to their corporate communication material. We are not sure if they have been in the lifestyle retail business before the acquisition of Naiise, but Mr Ong told The Straits Times online that he had been “on the lookout for good quality companies that have potential to scale, and this was one of the companies I was interested in”. He did not say how the dent to Naiise’s reputation—slowly nicked by many years of consignor complaints of tardy payment—would impact the stewardship of the company henceforth. Or how he would “scale” his new charge when the former owner too tried to set the stage to enable and support the growth of Naiise, but failed, dramatically. But in the last social media post before the new Naiise went online, the company did say that “the priority will be to built and improve on the Naiise platform to ensure its long-term sustainability and scalability for a wider creative ecosystem”.

When we spoke to a retail marketing manager about Naiise’s present potential, he said he is “keen to see how they’d reinvent themselves”, adding, “Naiise, as a retail concept, is not really damaged, not in the way the name of the founder is. His name may need rehabilitation, but Naiise, through the eyes of consumers, may not. It is still the store to go to when they want to buy products with distinctly local identity, not necessarily of design brilliance”. It is possible that WestStar sees the investment value in the brand recognition—even in Malaysia, where Naiise’s MY IG page, interestingly, still remains, suggesting that the brand may also be brought back there. Hence its potential “scalability”? Conceptually, Naiise was plugging a hole in the market that, in the early years of the brand’s existence (2013 to 2015), saw few place, if any, similar to the “fancy pasar malam”, as one shopper recalled, that it was.

On Naiise’s social media pages, Mr Ong also said that “the creative ecosystem is fragmented and the reintroduction of Naiise marketplace, will allow both consumers and merchants to connect through a dedicated platform”. The new e-shop (and a refreshed logotype that is now in colour) came online on the dot, . Although it looks quite like its past site, it now lacks a certain buzziness of the former, including the snappy, even if hackneyed, copy that was rather unusual for an SG e-shop. On the new homepage, there is the call to “Meet Your Familiar Brands”. We are not able to ascertain if these 20 are those that were sold on the former Naiise platform, but Dennis Tay’s favourite curry puff cushion by local, food-themed, home-ware brand Nom Nom Plush—purportedly one of the best-selling items in the heydays of Naiise—is conspicuously missing. As in its previous incarnation, the e-store’s merchandise mix is predictably a mish-mash of the kitschy and the retro, with Singaporeana the identifiable USP. Now that Naiise is back, every day can be National Day.

Illustration (top): Just So. Screen grab: naiise.com

Another Surprising Pick

Nigo has been appointed the new designer for Kenzo. Really!

It was announced a short while ago that Japanese multi-hyphenate Nigo will join the LVMH-owned Kenzo as the brand’s new artistic director. This appointment is surprising as few had thought that the creative helm of Kenzo would be returned to the Japanese. Born Tomoaki Nagao, the founder of A Bathing Ape (the brand pulled out of our island in May this year) is often described as “the OG designer stalwart” of Japanese streetwear and the street culture that followed. The 50-year-old is no longer associated with the simian brand he created, but his links to streetwear is undiminished, not just in his homeland, but throughout much of the world, cemented by his friendship with Pharrell Williams and the like, even helping the Happy singer launch The Billionaire Boys Club and Ice Cream. The news of Mr Nagao’s appointment, released on Kenzo’s official Twitter account, was met with tremendous enthusiasm online. Twitter user and streetwear retailer @ChaseNCashe posted, “Sign me all the way up for the Nigo Kenzo wave”.

LVMH’s pick for Kenzo leaves no doubt as to which direction the luxury conglomerate wishes to point Kenzo to. The world’s largest luxury group has installed a streetwear designer to oversee the artistic direction of one of their brands before—most notably Virgil Abloh, a Nigo admirer, for Louis Vuitton’s menswear. Kenzo itself, in fact, went through the oscillation of aesthetic change when Carol Lim and Humberto Leo of Opening Ceremony joined the company in 2012 as co-creative directors. The brand took a decidedly street-bent turn and was, by many accounts, successful because of that. It found new, younger customers, but such a following came at the expense of design quality. With gaudy graphics and loud logos to keep the brand buoyant and customers spending, Ms Lim and Mr Leo turned out to be two of Kenzo’s longest-serving CDs—seven years in total—after Antonio Marras (also seven).

When the Opening Ceremony duo departed Kenzo in 2019, LVMH picked Lacoste’s designer, the Portuguese, Felipe Oliveira Baptista as their replacement. Kenzo Takada died a year later from complications due to COVID-19. We are fans of Mr Baptista’s output for Kenzo. He kept to the original spirit of the brand without traipsing too aggressively into the territory of streetwear, yet, at the same time, he was able to give the brand a renewed vigour that was decidedly modern. But, like his predecessors after Kenzo Takada’s withdrawal from the brand he built, such as Gilles Rosier and Mr Marras, both passionately retaining the “romance” of the label’s DNA, Mr Baptista was not able to make Kenzo the cash cow that other brands of the LVMH stable are.

Kenzo store at MBS

A corporate statement was posted on LVMH’s website. It quoted Mr Nagao saying, “I am proud to have been appointed Artistic Director of Kenzo. I was born in the year that Takada Kenzo san opened his first store in Paris. We both graduated from the same fashion school in Tokyo. In 1993, the year that Kenzo joined the LVMH Group, I started my career in Fashion. Kenzo san’s approach to creating originality was through his understanding of many different cultures. It is also the essence of my own philosophy of creativity. Inheriting the spirit of Kenzo san’s craftsmanship to create a new Kenzo is the greatest challenge of my 30-year career, which I intend to achieve together with the team.” Yes, we noted the capital F for fashion too.

When we mentioned Mr Nagao’s appointment to an SG designer who formerly worked in Tokyo, he merely said, “Aiyo”. It is debatable if A Bathing Ape is still what it was. No one could say for certain why the brand was sold to Hong Kong’s I.T Group in 2011. Mr Nagao left the brand two years later. He joined Uniqlo in 2014 as the creative director of the retailer’s sub-brand UT (a T-shirt line), after creating Human Made four years earlier. Despite his seemingly prolific output and unceasing global projects and collaborations, it is hard to determined if his brands are that successful or if he, as a designer, is that creative. To some, Mr Nagao is just a T-shirt designer. One successful item associated with Nigo is A Bathing Ape’s first footwear, the Bapesta sneaker, which, popularity aside (BBC’s Jonathan Ross describes it as the “epitome of collectable footwear”), is really based on another sneaker, Nike’s Air Force 1.

Tokyo is not only the capital of Japanese fashion, it is also the heart of Japanese streetwear. It is curious that in this throbbing hub, only Nigo stood out for LVMH. When we discussed this with a marketing consultant who keenly observes the Japanese fashion design scene, he said, “I can understand Kenzo preferring a Japanese designer, but if they need a streetwear fellow, why not Undercover’s Jun Takahashi, a contemporary of Nigo’s. Undercover is unjustly described by the Western press as a ‘streetwear brand’. While I can see the appeal to streetwear consumers, Jun Takahashi in my mind is a better, technically superior designer, who’s also good in womenswear. Kenzo needs someone with a more sophisticated sense of how to bridge the past and the present.”

Updated: 16 September 2021, 15:30

Illustration: Just So

‘In America’, The Europeans—And A Horse—Won

You’d think that with New York Fashion Week just concluded, attendees would have so much to choose from to meet the dress code that, on the invite, read, “American Independence”. But on the steps of the Met Gala, who really cared? Why choose American when they could have European?

Two extremes: Kim Kardashian (top) in Balenciaga. Photo: Getty Images. And Billie Elilish in Oscar de la Renta. Photo: Shutterstock

By Emma Ng

The Met Gala is where, for one time in a year—even a pandemic year, you can look ridiculous and everyone will call it fashion. I sometimes wonder if Anna Wintour organises the event and encourages everyone attending to “dress up” so that she could have a good and hearty laugh later. There is something juvenile about the idea of the Met Gala—it’s, to me, fashion folks’ prom night. Fashion is, of course, not important as long as you’re the belle of the ball, or whatever you call Saweetie’s I-don’t-have-enough-fabric-for-a-saree look. In fact, I do think that it is under Ms Wintour’s watch (since 1999!) that the Met Gala is the circus of the ridiculous that it is today. In fact, if you Google Met Gala and ‘ridiculous’, you’ll get at least six links in just one page (‘outrageous’ is in there too). The ridiculousness, sometimes teetering dangerously close to tackiness, is augmented by the chair’s and co-chairs’ outfits—often so bland and proper, they seem calculated to make everyone else look like they didn’t get the memo.

Queen bee Ms Wintour and her four worker-bee co-chairs—all more than half her age younger—were in clothes, not quite the costume that has come to characterise the Met Gala. The “most powerful woman” in fashion was in a predictably pretty, tiered, floral Oscar de la Renta dress (was she attending a wedding at a country club?). Amanda Gorman was in a short, studded Vera Wang bustier-thingy, with a sheer overlay; Timothée Chalamet in a satin Haider Ackermann tuxedo jacket, and Billie Eilish in a cotton candy of an Oscar de la Renta gown, probably her first-ever floor-sweeping dress and of this volume (a truly sharp contrast to the black and baggy tunic-and-skirt combo by Takahiromiyashita The Soloist that she wore at the VMA a day ago). Only Naomi Osaka looked the Met Gala newbie and fashion victim in a combo by Louis Vuitton that supposedly celebrated her heritage. I was expecting all of them to lead (or set the standard) by example, but I did not see the American-ness in anything they wore, least so Ms Osaka, with the un-American obi belt, deliberately tied askew.

Anna Wintour in Oscar de la Renta. Photo: Getty Images

Perhaps, I took the theme and the dress code too seriously and literally. But why would I not. What was the point of a theme and dress code if not to abide by? Could the attendant exhibition at the Anna Wintour Costume Center and other parts of the Met, then, be a very chin chai affair too? Would Andrew Bolton gasak buta with A Lexicon of American Fashion? The American attendees looked to me devoid of wit and irony (okay, the latter not so trendy anymore) in the choices they made that were supposed to honour the American heritage of fashion (let’s just say, for now, there is. Jeans are, to many Americans and non-Americans alike, a very real and iconic American fashion item). But, of course, country themes are tricky when the brands that can afford a (USD) six-figure table—or two—are mostly from out-of-country—European, specifically French and Italian. Common knowledge, at least in the US, would remind us that the stars and celebs do not buy tickets; they are invited by brands (and approved by Ms Wintour). Invitees, therefore, will be required to be outfitted by the brand doing the inviting.

Yet, according to Vogue’s own pre-event reporting, “the theme for this year’s Met gala is a celebration of American Fashion.” E Online earnestly called it “a deep dive into American ingenuity.” Yes, the livestream was quite early in the morning, but I was wide awake watching it. What celebration, what ingenuity? Although there was the discernible presence of Thom Browne and, to a lesser degree, Prabal Gurung (his deplorable excuse of a dress for Diane Kruger made me want to strike him out), I thought the Europeans won the night, in particular Iris Van Herpen, Valentino (even Ms Wintour’s daughter Bee Carrozzini, expecting her second child, was dressed by the house), and Balenciaga. And, as Vanessa Friedman pointed out via Twitter, Cartier.

But, perhaps, it was Balenciaga who may have enjoyed the last laugh and a clear win when Kim Kardashian appeared incognito, completely swaddled in a black fabric, a look attributed to Balenciaga’s Demna Gvasalia, and believed to be conceived with Ms Kardashian’s (estranged, is it not?) husband Kanye West, who was also there on the Met Gala steps, in all-black, the kuroko (stagehands in traditional Japanese theatre) to the missus—the leading lady—(he was seen assisting her and adjusting her dress). Rihanna, the last to arrive, wore Balenciaga too, but it was the two Ks who stole the show with their black nothingness. Was Balenciaga mocking the excesses of American red carpet looks? Some Netizens think the couple were mourning the death of American fashion. I think they were merely acknowledging that it does not exist.

The Co-Chairs

Clockwise from top: Billie Eilish, Naomi Osaka, Amanda Gorman, and Timothée Chalamet. Photos: Getty Images

Her fans are not wrong. Billie Eilish, in her Met Gala debut, “killed it”. She did not come ready to be filmed for TikTok, but, with her old-Hollywood styling (Marilyn Monroe is really rather close), she could be filmed for a major movie role. She truly played a—and her—part. Would she be invited back again? I’m not sure if that would be in the affirmative if the question is posed to Amanda Gorman and Naomi Osaka. Ms Gorman might be disappointed that few saw the poetry in her Prom Store dress and Ms Osaka might be similarly let down to learn that her fussy outfit and the amateur kabuki makeup were no victories for her. Timothée Chalamet bravely tackled more than one brand for his total look. Apart from the satin Haider Ackermann tuxedo jacket, he wore a Rick Owens turtleneck under that, and unidentified sweatpants. On his feet were Converse Chuck Taylors. There were even some 1920s Cartier brooches pinned to the sweats. Okay, that’s a bit much. No pin should ever go so near there!

The Show-Stopper

Lil Nas X in three different costumes. Photos: Film Magic, Wire Image, Film Magic

Someone had to do it. Why leave it to only Rihanna when just as willing was Lil Nas X, the fashion sponge who’d wear anything, and would come wearing everything. Lil Nas X is not one to shy away from an outfit that looks like a haberdashery fell on it. At his Met Gala-as-VMA appearance, he was inspired by Met Galas past. Either that or he forgot that Lady Gaga already did multiple costume changes back in 2019 (she revealed four, while he showed three), that the exhibition Heavenly Bodies: Fashion & The Catholic Imagination (2018) is over, ditto for Manus ex Machina (2016). The only look that the Met has not quite paid tribute to is Michael Jackson as Catwoman. So Lil Nas X, with the help of Atelier Versace, did the most fashionable thing: at the end of the strip-down, he wore a derriere-enhancing, exotically-patterned catsuit.

The Actresses

Clockwise from top left, Kristen Stewart, Yara Shahidi, Sienna Miller, Lupita Nyong’o, Hailee Steinfeld, Indya Moore. Photos: Getty Images

For Kristen Stewart, it’s all in a days work, in Chanel. It is not a bad look if she was going shopping at Bloomingdale’s. Or lunch nearby. Actresses are not pop-stars—no day is the Grammy’s. So safe is the best dress. When an actress turns to the present-day Dior, safe is what she seeks, and safe was what Yara Shahidi got. And secure in the body-skimming Gucci was Sienna MIller, in a colour so safe, it’s called nude. Or, match-the-carpet! Conversely, Carey Mulligan braved a bright-pink Valentino, but looked just as safe, if not safer. Some actresses try. Lupita Nyong’o opted for denim and some bling by Versace and appeared rather like Wakanda royalty, not American. More challenging was Hailee Steinfeld’s Iris Van Herpen mini-dress with wispy leaf shapes, arranged artfully, revealing almost nothing, even if it came this close to a nude dress. Indya Moore, in Saint Laurent, clearly wore shorts (with a velvet bow as waistband), but it’s hard to be certain if she had anything else under that coat.

The Models

Clockwise from top left, Kaia Gerber, Cara Delevingne, and Kendall Jenner, Imaan Hammam, Gigi Hadid, Winnie Harlow,. Photos: Getty Images

Models, like actresses, are drawn to safe. They are supposed to be better at fashion since fashion is basically their job, but safe is chicer than sorry. Kaia Gerber, in Oscar de la Renta, looked like she prefers the taste of girls who won’t (can’t?) grow up. Cara Delevingne, in Dior, seemed like she was on her way to fencing class, but changed her mind. As for the red text—“Peg the Patriarch”—on the vest, there’s no doubt it’s a political message. If you were hoping for her to throw some light on what “peg” means, she said to an interviewer that people should look it up “because I’m not going to explain it, right now”. If an explanation is needed right now, pegging is, simply put, a sex act in which a cis woman plays the role of the opposite sex in a heterosexual union. Okay, that’s far enough! Kendall Jenner did not look like she the pegging sort. She wore a nude dress by Givenchy that, to me, flashed 2015, the year both Beyonce and Kim Kardashian wore see-through gowns to this very same event. Not to be outdone was the Dutch model Imaan Hammam in vintage Atelier Versace. And similarly see-all were also on Zoe Kravitz in Saint Laurent and Irina Shayk in Moschino. Gigi Hadid did safe too—old-Hollywood safe—in Prada. Vogue.com reported that she “offered a modern take on Audrey Hepburn”. I saw not. It was more like a modern take on Julia Roberts. Which brings us to Winnie Harlow in Iris Van Herpen. Even when I still do not see America, what’s there not to like?

The Singers

Clockwise from top left: Olivia Rodrigo, Teyanna Taylor (photo: Shutterstock), Jennifer Lopez, Megan thee Stallion, Rosé (photo: Wire Image), Jennifer Hudson. Photos: Getty Images

Super-young pop star Olivia Rodrigo wore a Saint Laurent lace catsuit with a wide marabou fichu, looking every bit the teen that she is, testing the dangerous waters of sexiness. Ms Rodrigo does not have a powerful breakout look as Billie Eilish did, so this was far enough for an 18-year-old newbie to show her granny knickers. Going the other extreme was Teyana Taylor, who wore so little in the Prabal Gurung that I hesitate to call the held-together-with-cords clothing. Surely there’s a difference between dress up and dress not? Surely the Met Gala deserved more cloth than rope, more dress than train? Even Jennifer Lopez, the one-half of born-again Bennifer, had to show cleavage and thigh, which I remember to be her very thing. But getting Ralph Lauren to do sexy is like asking Bob Mackie to do preppy. Surprisingly, Megan thee Stallion chose sweet, but Coach gave her part shrink-wrapped strawberry cheesecake, part dalgona froth. Blackpink’s Rosé, escorted by Anthony Vaccarello, was one of the few Asians in attendance, which was unexpected, given that this is the year of Shang Chi. In Saint Laurent, Rosé looked the ingenue I never thought she could be. By contrast, Jennifer Hudson picked an AZ Factory gown and a massive matching coat only for them to be underwhelmed by her bigger, bubbly personality. At some point on the stairs, Ms Hudson removed the coat to pose. Unfortunately for her, somewhere in the crowd, Isabelle Huppert, in Balenciaga, was in a similar fish-tail dress.

The One-Names

Rihanna, Grimes, Lorde, Maluma, Saweetie, Rosalía, Photos: Getty Images

Rihanna was the last to arrive, as expected, but there was no equivalent of an omelette to be seen. In fact, she was cocooned in Balenciaga couture of rather intense black. While the shape of cloak is beguiling, Rihanna needed heavier clothes for her to conquer those cumbersome stairs (that omelette coat was 25kg!). Grimes chose Iris van Herpen; she looked less a couture wearer than a cosplay newbie. Lorde had an unusual look. Her gaping Bode two-piece (interest-arousing also because designer Emily Bode is a menswear designer), with the floral appliques, was fetching, but why the headwear? Spanish pop star Rosalía’s Rick Owens heavily-fringed shawl wrapped more fetchingly than some dresses. Case in point: Saweetie. In Christian Cowan, she really showed how she punished her misbehaving boobs, and saw, I believe, many did. The Colombian singer Maluma wore a red leather Versace trucker jacket that was studded and fringed. There were matching pants and shoes too. Okay, no rhinestone cowboy here, but definitely a strutting Beng gaucho.

The Athletes

There has not been this many athletes at the Met Gala. Maybe it’s the Olympic year and athletes are making the news. But many sports people are not necessarily fashion folks. Sure, Lewis Hamilton bought a table and invited designers of colour, but they did not make the scene (Mr Hamilton curiously wore a sheath of café curtain on his right leg). It would take Serena Williams in a Gucci cape of ombre feathers to trail the spotlight on athletes, reminding us that, like her rapper sisters, sports stars enjoy OTT clothes too, especially those not made of plain fabric. As with Ms Williams, Simone Biles (fellow gymnast Nia Dennis attended too, outfitted in blue bodysuit to do cartwheels!) enjoyed relief work on the surface of her bustier-gown, which she wore over a floral (were they sparkly snowflakes?) bodysuit. The silver embroidery of the former reportedly weighed 40kg. The design team at Area X Athleta that put the outfit together might have forgotten that Ms Biles is a gymnast, not a weightlifter.

The Guys

Guys on the red carpet are usually no news, but on the cream carpet of the Met Gala, the guys are a braver breed. Surprisingly, the more unusual look didn’t come from a celebrity, but a techie, specifically Adam Mosseri, head of Instagram, who wore a Bode suit with diamond-shaped pieces stitched to the bodice and arm. Others who abandoned the tuxedo, I’m not sure, did so for better choices. Poor A$AP Rocky—Rihanna was looking all couture-serious, but he appeared to have been dragged out of grandma’s bed. I think only Rihanna knew why he saw it fit to turn up at the Met Gala in a blanket made by ERL, the abbreviation of the name of the LA designer Eli Russell Linnetz, collaborator to Lady Gaga and Kanye West, who, by the way, was there, and equally blacked-out as his (former yet?) wife. Aussie, Troye Sivan, in choosing a slinky dress that Kim K might have worn 20 years ago (with cut-outs on each side of the waist!), continued to push the non-binary agenda on the red carpet—okay, cream. But the most begging-to-be-understood look went to Dan Levy, in Loewe. I don’t know why, but the getup, with puff/balloon sleeves and a map of the world in the shape of two men kissing (powerful message, no doubt), made me see a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle. I don’t know why, but I did.

The Designers

Clockwise from left, Donatella Versace, Vera Wang, Tory Burch, Virgil Abloh, Kerby Jean-Raymond, Tom Ford. Photos: Getty Images

Designers often take the bow at the end of runway shows in very nondescript, practical work clothes. But I think deep down inside they want to dress up. Some designer dress others better than they can dress themselves. I mean, look at Vera Wang. Did she spend too much hours making the bloomers that she had time only for a curtain as the rest of the outfit? Donatella Versace, on the other hand, dresses others as she would dress herself: not at all subtly. Tory Burch wore an interesting dress, but she looked too eager to please. The guys might score a tad better. Tom Ford couldn’t break away from black tie (it’s also safer), playing the suave charmer he has cultivated himself to be. Kerby Jean-Raymond, in a red Pyer Moss suit held in place with a matching hybrid vest-harness, was beaming with designer-to-watch energy. I’m just surprised he didn’t come in a peanut butter jar. Wouldn’t that be American? Meanwhile, Virgil Abloh, presumably in Louis Vuitton, came as the Easter bunny, lost in a party he shouldn’t have crashed.

The Others

Clockwise from top lfet, Whoopie Goldberg, Iman, Erykah Badu, Kim Petras, Debbie Harry (photo: AP), Ella Elmhoff. Photos: Getty Images

Whoopie Goldberg does not really wear dresses, so when she does, the world takes notice. Her yurt of a gown by the esteemed house of Valentino was, to be sure, not the same tent that Carey Mulligan wore, both flanking Pierpaolo Piccioli when they arrived. While Ms Mulligan was predictably saluting pretty, fashion iconoclast Erykah Badu took a different route: she abandoned her famous towering turbans in favour of a top hat and a lace face-screen that, together with the tuxedo skirt-suit and quilted cape, was designed by Thom Browne, seemingly the most worn American designer name of the evening. Ella Elmhoff, famous for being Kamala Harris’s stepdaughter, wore Stella McCartney to prove that the WFH look, even if more amped up, was still relevant, however glamorous the occasion, no matter how many women still preferred trains for evening wear. The biggest outfit of the night went to Iman. The former model wore a massive hooped cage that was the result of the collaborative effort of Dolce & Gabbana and the young, Central Saint Martin alum Harris Reed. With the just-as-large hat, she looked like some African fertility goddess. Rock star (still!) Debby Harry also wore a hooped cage (by Zac Posen), visible under a crinoline made of panels of fabric that, together with the deconstructed denim jacket, represented the colours of the American flag.

Perhaps nobody does America better than a foreigner. German singer Kim Petras (now based in LA) certainly expressed herself. In a wearable—aka piñata—by the sustainable brand Collina Strada, Ms Petras seemed connected to her animal spirit. The dress came complete with a face of a horse (could it be a donkey?) with eyes strategically covering the breast, pannier for the animal’s body, and hair styled as a long pony tail to represent the beast’s tail. Frankly, I could not tell where the head began and the tail ended. Or, was this the night’s best visual lexicon of American fashion and designers—heads or tails, they’re just horsing around?

New York Fashion Week: Visible Is The Bra

In a few months’ time, get ready for the show-your-brassiere trend. But you really don’t have to wait. The bra, or the sibling bralette, not under anything is already fashionable. NYFW merely confirms it

Bra as solo item at Michael Kors. Illustration: Just So

With lockdowns nearly behind us, people want to break free. Escaping the grasp of the pandemic and the social restrictions that followed it means showing how hot one feels—in all sense of the word. Or, according to the (mostly) IRL New York Fashion Week, how one should be released from the restrictions of certain clothes, mainly tops. It should have been called Freedom Week, just as many in the West look forward to the end of lockdown or social restrictions as Freedom Day. American designers, it seems, want shoppers and fans to know that now (or a few months later) is the time to, if not shed your clothes, undo all the buttons. The bra—and bralette—takes centrestage, alongside those that look like one, but may not, by definition, be underclothes. It’s one article of clothing that keeps popping up in the shows, from Altuzarra to Ulla Johnson, as base garment to disco wear. This will all, no doubt, be good for real brassiere makers—nobody’s secret, such as Triumph. When thwarted movement is no longer the norm, isn’t it rather peculiar that women will say the bra is the new sweatpants? Bra-less at home for too long translates to bra-for-sure outside?

Cathy Horyn, reviewing the NSFW shows for The Cut, wrote, “sex is on everyone’s mind”, calling it the “new freedom” (oh, that word, again!). As many dream to be on the other side of the closed-for-too-long door, did they think the pandemic dampened everyone’s urges and then amped depravity? We don’t know. But Ms Horyn seems to suggest that there is not just sex appeal at play, but something “primary”, rather than primal. Nothing, thankfully, like the unsexy visual categories on social media suffixed by the flaccid word “-porn”. We are, of course, creatures of needs, and the need now is to show the bra. Yet, these bras are, mostly, conservatively black, as if chosen because the designers forgot to include a top in the final styling and decided to just throw an easy-to-purchase-from-anywhere bra in the mix. Some are fancier, such as those at Moschino and Coach, but these aren’t quite sexy as they are too pretty, the kind women buy for each other for birthdays or Christmas. Since it’s NYFW, there are, unsurprisingly, designers who prefer no bra at all. But, exposed breast we do not consider fashion because there is not even a shred of fabric used.

Top row: Tom Ford, Maryam Nassir Zadeh, Michael Kors. Middle row: Coach, Altuzarra, Jonathan Simkhai. Bottom row: Brandon Maxwell, Moschino, Coach

The bras, plain and simple—a cross between the plunge and triangle bras (no conical cups like Madonna’s, adopted during 1990’s Blond Ambition Tour)—are mostly worn under something, mainly a shirt or a jacket. Or, sometimes, over a top—at Maryam Nassir Zadeh, for example. Ms Zadeh’s collection is an interplay of light and opaque, so she hints and, when that is not possible, shows. Michael Kors, too, showed, sending out half a dozen or so looks featuring bras, but if you were hoping for something that is raise-the-temperature hot, you might be disappointed: a triangle bra under an unbuttoned cardigan above circle skirt, for example. This is all the sexy Mr Kors could muster? The thing is, you would not ask Kate Spade to do sexy, would you?

Stuart Vevers, too, came up with six visible bras for Coach’s skater-edgy collection, all worn under outerwear, suggesting, perhaps, that it has to either be a T-shirt beneath, or a bra. To play down exposed underwear’s potential provocativeness, some designers have theirs under suits, such as Altuzarra and Jonathan Simkhai. Smart sexy? But allowing the bra to be what it often symbolises, apart from protective inner garment, is Tom Ford. Unapologetically sexy and glamourous in equal measure, Mr Ford’s bras are a move to deliberately dispense with tops to contrast with shinny (sometimes glittery) bottoms, as the world prepares to boogie or, as the Fifth Dimension sings in the soundtrack, Let The Sunshine In.

The bra is, of course, just a small part of the everything-is-fashion mantra of the Big Apple. In all-inclusive America, every designer deserves a runway; every model deserves it too, even the non-model; every dress, even the non-dress; every bra, even the no-bra. Not at any other of the major fashion weeks will we see such knock-out diversity, gloriously celebrated, even by those in a wheelchair. The runway, as Thom Browne showed, sending models in full, animal-head mask, riding penny-farthings, is for wheels, as much as for legs. But despite its mish-mash, passed euphemistically off as diversity (even when, sometimes, it’s down-right freaky), is American fashion still respect-arousing? Just as the nation of America has lost its standing among the world’s leading nations, the fashion of America, too, matters less and less to those who consume fashion. Or, is The New York Time’s Vanessa Friedman right when she posted on Twitter, “So long #NYFW. It’s been real”. Really wanting.

Photos: gorunway.com, except Maryam Nassir Zadeh, courtesy of the designer

The Shoe Companion

Sean Wotherspoon is not the first to plonk a mini-bag on a pair of sneakers, and he won’t be the last

Sean Wotherspoon X Disney X adidas Originals Superturf Adventure SW

Who’d guess that sneakers will one day get their companion bags? Or, as sneakerhead-turn-retailer-turn-designer Sean Wotherspoon is wont to say, “No waaaay, duuude”. Our kicks these days must serve more than what they were originally designed for: sports. As fashion items, brands and collaborators need to do more to them. They can be accessorised! But, it is not good enough to hang useless danglies on them a la Off-White. There must be more that can be attached to a pair of sneakers, but not something pseudo-useful such as Mason Margiela’s iPhone holder strapped on to boots. Sean Wotherspoon, co-founder of Round Two, “the streetwear empire”, as Vice calls it, has hooked up with Disney and adidas Originals (collabs these days are a triumvirate) to conceive the Superturf Adventure, which as the name suggests is for multiple terrains. This is, according to social media blurbs, a sustainable shoes that is “vegan”. But perhaps what is most attention-seeking is the pouch that, like a kiltie, obscures the shoelace.

It is still hard to determine the usefulness of a little bag placed down there. What does one store inside that does not need to be within reach? Isn’t a similar pouch more practical if hung to a belt loop with, say, the aid of a carabiner? Bending down to one’s feet to tie undone shoelaces is an action that attracts no attention. But, reaching out southwards to retrieve something stored away in a pouch above the foot is not only odd, it’s a bodily move few would not call elegant. Assassins might conceal a dagger in the ankle of boots, but fashion types hardly have anything to put away so far down the leg—not even unattractive Trace Together tokens! SOTD contributor Shu Xie told us that the pouch is for keeping money on days when one does not wish to carry a wallet. Mothers often tell us not to carry our wallets conspicuously as doing so is tempting to would-be thieves. Perhaps to the three brands, money on feet—an area of the body usually considered unclean, and barely acceptable to the average nose—is less tantalising or rousing to the discriminating stealer?

Mr Wotherspoon could, in fact, be considered late to the bag-on-kicks club. In March, New Balance launched the ‘Utility’ version of the X-Racer, an already handsome shoe, now equipped with two flap-top stow-away pouches—in full-grain leather (including the upper)—on each side of each shoe, like a saddle, which means you would be walking about with a total of four pouches on your feet! The mini-bag is larger on the lateral side than on the medial side, which also comes with a zipper pocket on the upper. Plenty of storage, as it appeared, but, again, what can we real carry in them, all? The E-Race Utility came in three colourways, but the white is especially striking for the Hender Scheme-ish tan pouches and the similarly hued trail shoes-inspired outsole.

New Balance X-Racer Utility

Nike Jordan LS Slide

Prada Wheel Re-Nylon high-top

Perhaps it was Nike that foretold the future when, in May 2018, they released the Benassi JDI ‘Fanny Pack’, a slide, with an actual bum bag in place of the wide strap. Back then, we thought the fanny pack on bare feet to be an idea better on paper than on the metatarsus. After all, the waist bag was not going to include the foot bag as member of the family. Looks like we could be wrong now that fully-functional pouches are made specifically for footwear. Before the Superturf Adventure, there was Nike’s Jordan LS Slide. This too came with a removable pouch, or what the Swoosh distinguishes as a “stash pocket“ (that’s not the only detachable part. The slide can be given a heel strap so that it becomes a sandal!). Compared to Mr Wotherspoon’s fancier version (which includes elasticised slots and a ring) for Adidas, this pouch is rather basic, something national servicemen might recognise as a rifle magazine holder.

In fact, one of the earliest to incorporate little bags to their footwear is Prada. The “catwalk” Monolith mini bag lug dole combat boot, for example, is not only eye-catching, it certain draws your attention to the logo-ed oblong bag strapped to the side of the ankles. The idea seems to have come from the brand’s bags, such as the Re-Nylon shoulder bag, which comes with a similar pouch that can be attached to the shoulder strap. Their latest high-tops under the Re-Nylon series similarly spot the “mini bag”, which itself looks like something you can buy separately from their store’s accessory counter. The success of these unusually-placed pouches has even prompted Prada to include them on unlikely items such as gloves! Unsurprisingly, serial imitator Steve Madden has their version with the pouch-strapped Tanker-P boots too. Expect other brands to follow in no time.

Sean Wotherspoon X Disney X adidas Originals Superturf Adventure SW’s availability here is not known yet. Nike Jordan LS Slide, S$129, is available at nike.com. Prada Wheel Re-Nylon high-top sneakers, $1,980, is available at Prada stores. Product photos: respective brands

Two Rich Women

…wore T-shirts to court to receive the fines handed to them for “harassing a public servant”, which included the demand that the victim—a police officer—“talk to rich people nicely”

Money talks, and it often does. Two women made sure money rebukes too. In court yesterday, they pleaded guilty to verbally abusing—”harassing a public servant”, according to news reports—an auxiliary police officer who caught the pair smoking outside the designated area in front of Lucky Plaza. Many women do no like to be told that they have done something socially improper, even repugnant, but these two did not merely dislike. Caught in the act by the arms of the law is understandably infuriating, but rather than just expressing frustration at the misfortune, these self-proclaimed moneybags—one 49 and the other 50—took it out on the appointee of the National Environment Agency to enforce the no-smoking rule by snubbing and reproaching her.

When they were asked for their particulars so that a summons could be issued, they remonstrated by showing their utter disdain for the police officer, even profiling her as poorly-paid and impecunious. “Your salary how much?” the younger woman taunt-asked in proud Singlish. “One thousand only one month, I think.” It is not known how the officer responded, if at all, but one of the women seemed even more ruffled, and chided, “talk to rich people nicely, you’re a poor girl”. Still unsatisfied, she added what sounded like a dastardly curse: “I tell you, you careful walk, fall down… don’t bang to the car” and then further taunting, and adding an expletive, “So what, pay only what. I got money, cheebye”. The older woman, who didn’t want to miss out on the action, chipped in with “You shut up and ask for IC” and “You poor forever, you know or not?”

The incident occurred a year ago, while the pandemic was raging and there was yet talk about “living with an endemic”. Smokers who light up whenever and wherever they wish tend to see themselves as a different breed: manifesting concerns only for themselves, COVID be damned. While this ongoing pandemic has repeatedly shown us that many individuals prioritise their own needs above the interests, even health, of others (those not holding a cigarette as excuse to go mask-less do the same with a cup of bubble tea or a bag of curry puffs), the expression of this selfishness and the simultaneous disparaging of those who are only doing their job must never be condoned. Or, ignored.

Derogatory words were then followed by action taken to humiliate

The deliberate put-down did not end. The women, now seemingly high on the abuse, continued. The older one, in full look-down mode, went on: “crazy girl, better go back and hug your pillow and cry”, adding that the much younger officer’s salary alone would not be sufficient for the abuser to buy a pillow. It is unclear why the women thought the victim to be near destitute, despite a salaried job. As if there were limitations to the use of Singlish to scold, she hit out with a Cantonese insult mo ga gao (無家教 or no family upbringing) and, in Mandarin, shen jing bing (神经病 or mental case). Derogatory words were then followed by action taken to humiliate. The younger woman whipped out a S$1,000 note and shook it in front of the officer, telling the working girl to say no more and accept the money. The episode was captured on the police officer’s body-cam.

In photos published in the media, the two women were seen leaving the court complex wearing T-shirts. According to Lianhe Wanbao (联合晚报), they “wore famous brands and gold chains to court (穿名牌戴金链出庭)”. The younger of the two, who had her hair tied to each side of her head in limp pigtails, as if inspired by manga characters (Izumi Akazawa of Rough Sketch, perhaps?), had on a fitted, white Under Armour T-shirt, with massive black logo and logotype on the chest, crowned at the crew neck with a chunky gold chain and a medallion that would not be out of place in a hip-hop artiste’s get-up. The other reportedly wore the Gucci, evidenced by a “large logo”, according to the evening paper. Other images clearly showed her in an oversized ivory top with the blue logo of Paramount Pictures (the top is listed on Matches Fashion for US$650), above which a gold chain—less coarse than her friend’s—laid, and carrying what appears to be a white Valentino Supervee crossbody bag (on valentino.com, it is available for S$3,680). We are unable to independently verify if any of the items spotted are original, but we can see that they were picked for visual impact.

We live in an economically unequal world. Some people make sure you know that by telling you in your face that they are wealthier than you. Or, by wearing clothes that announce their financial ability in splashing on, say, T-shirts that usually retail for above S$500 (the cheapest women’s Gucci T-shirt presently listed on their website is US$490, or S$658). Perhaps we might soon find a slogan tee with that quotation “talk nicely to rich people” on Shopee, for an ironically more agreeable price? Wealth differential—large or small—between you and any stranger you meet anywhere is always there. Allowing money to put you above others is way lower than the hem of your logo-ed, look-at-my-wealth T-shirts.

Collage: Just So

Rakuten Fashion Week Tokyo: Nine Notables

These may not be names we get to see and buy here, but follow them we sure can

If the Japanese can organise the Tokyo Olympics in the middle of a raging pandemic, while the capital was (and still is) in a state of emergency, it would not be unreasonable to assume that they could put together a Tokyo Fashion Week (TFW). And they did. But the annual event no longer goes by that name. The old TFW had been struggling to stay on its feet, until Rakuten came along as official title sponsor in August 2019. The Japanese “e-commerce giant” Rakuten pulled out of Singapore in 2016, just after two years of operations here, and retrenching staff on the fifth day of the Lunar New Year—one ill-advised HR move that startled the industry. Known as “the Amazon of Japan”, it lost the accolade that year (website closures also included Indonesia and Malaysia, and in Europe) to, yes, Amazon. Rakuten Group’s business has become varied since, and now includes telecommunications. Still, its e-commerce connection is not severed, and, with the company’s motto “Shopping is Entertainment”, remains a huge part of Japan’s online shopping culture and hive.

To bring more heft to mere sponsorship, Rakuten also created the sibling “by R” project to “support the fashion shows” of Japanese designers (both new and established), “with the goal of broadening the horizons of talented young designers in Japan and showcasing the country’s designer fashion to the world”, according to a company statement. It does not say what the criteria of selection are. Only two are picked. Recipient of the support at the inaugural “by R” shows last year were Undercover and Beautiful People, both labels benefitted from “planning assistance and event management for the fashion shows”, as well as the “stream(ing) of videos of both shows on the Rakuten Fashion online fashion shopping website for free, with the goal of helping to further raise awareness of the brands”. This season, two awareness-not-quite-required names were selected for Rakuten to “power”: White Mountaineering and Kolor.

White Mountaineering in a garden

Kolor in a subway train

Rakuten Fashion Week Tokyo this year, which began on 30 August and ended last Saturday, surprised many industry watchers as it did not take place in the more traditional month of October. The orgainisers moved it to be even ahead of New York Fashion Week, which begins tomorrow. Two weeks before the shows started, The Japan Times called the new dates the “shock of the month” and reported that media and buyers were “caught off guard”. Some observers thought that the new dates were to better accommodate those brands that offer menswear, usually shown earlier than women’s. It is, however, unclear how this will affect international buyers’ timetable (are they still travelling?), but with the sudden rescheduling, the Tokyo shows seem to target the domestic market, which has always been sizeable, and continues to be encouraging. According to a Reuters report, published on the first day of the shows, “Japan’s retail sales rose for a fifth straight month in July (a rise of 2.45% from the same month a year earlier), beating expectations”. That was clearly off to a good start.

Rakuten Fashion Week Tokyo’s 48 brands offer a varied mix of IRL shows (with or without audience) and video-films, some more compelling than others. For many designers, a physical presentation is still the more desirable option, even when not all could present to an audience. As Yosio Kubo said through a video presentation, “There was a tendency that digital announcements were enough due to the corona, but there are still many things that cannot be done. After all, I think that the physical fashion show will continue. You can see it from various angles and smell it. I feel it and realize the importance of the parts that cannot be covered digitally. That is why I think that the fashion show will not end even though it is an old system.” Digital-only fashion weeks may be seeing the last of their heydays.

All of the following brands featured are not, as far as we are aware, available here. We have been following them in our annual visit to Tokyo, which unfortunately had to come to a halt in 2020, but this does not mean that we cannot continue to enjoy their creative output. We hope you’d take pleasure in them too.

De_Caffeine Homme

The Bunka Fashion College-educated, Seoul-based designer Avizmo Jo is a proponent of “New Normcore”, based on the big-in-Japan fashion movement Neo-Dadism—essentially the meeting of what is considered art and the minutiae of everyday life. The designer’s post-graduation label De_Caffeine Homme, conceived in 2018, offers “trendy style(s) that you can enjoy freely in your life, like decaffeinated coffee”, according to their communication material. It is not entirely certain if Avizmo Jo is a real name since it does not sound Korean (some members of the Japanese media refer to the moniker as a brand, even framing it with inverted commas), but his designs marry the realness of what men increasingly want—nothing too formal or business-y—with details that are often surprising, such as this season’s multiple collars/collarless treatment on a single shirt. Almost-traditional tailoring is strong with masculine silhouettes that are relaxed by not exaggerated.

Hare

Hare is part of the Tokyo-based fashion retail company Adastria’s stable of more than 25 mid-priced-to-affordable brands, such as Rage Blue, Lowrys Farm (that exited Singapore in 2015 just after three years here), and Niko and… (currently wildly popular). Regular visitors to Tokyo would be familiar with Adastria brands although they may not know which company is behind them. Hare is one such label, often seen in teen hotspots such as Lumine Est in Shinjuku. Established in 2003, the label, categorised as a “mode brand” in Japan, is put together by a team of in-house designers who translates the key trends of the season into looks that straddle fashion-school-graduation excesses and high-street salability. This season, oversized shapes dominate, with a welcome dose of technical fabrics and rich prints. The layering suggests a far more sophisticated leaning than what the brand is noted for in stores.

Hyke

Hyke was launched during the 2013 autumn/winter season, but designers Hideaki Yoshihara and Yukiko Ode—married to each other—have worked together since 1998. Their eight-year-old label is very much followed in their homeland, where could be consider the Luke and Lucie Meier of Japan. Winners of the 35th Mainichi Fashion Grand Prix in 2017, the designing duo is known for their strong tailoring with feminine touches. For spring/summer 2022, their strength in pattern making and modern fabrication are again evident. Menswear styles are tempered with puff-sleeved dresses, sometimes paired with unlikely accessories such as a helmet bag. Just as striking are the strong but simple tops, teamed with waist-gathered skirts that are cut from shinny, technical fabrics. A collection that truly stands out for its grown-up, intelligent attitude.

F/CE

Although the brand has a clothing line, F/CE is popularly known for their bags, including serious camping backpacks that could rival The North Face. And, their cool retail space in Shibuya called Root General Store. Founded in 2010 by Satoshi Yamane (with Asami Yamane designing the womenswear), F/CE is a go-to RTW label among those in the know. Mr Yamane has quite an impressive CV: a former designer at Men’s Bigi and, later, sales and marketing manager for Crocs Japan before moving up to become the shoe brand’s chief designer. Like quite a few of his fellow Tokyo creatives, Mr Satoshi is also a musician, playing the bass guitar with his post-rock band, cheekily named Toe (there are three studio albums to boot). Perhaps, it is this background in commercial footwear and indie, guitar-based music that Mr Yamane is able to lace F/CE with a considerable dose of edgy cool: utilitarian styles paired with outdoor wear and holiday garb, and the brand’s wearable and desirable bags.

Irenisa

Yohji Yamamoto alums Yu Kobayashi and Yuji Abe used to be the revered 77-year-old designer’s pattern maker and product development specialist respectively. Launched during the autumn/winter 2020 season, Irenisa is a menswear label that does not quite look back at the co-founders’ fashion pedigree. Instead, both men have forged forward with an aesthetic that they called “chic with sarcasm”. It is not certain that the sarcasm is immediately discernible, but Irenisa do not shy away from the elegant, and the the seemingly basic. Upon closer examination, one sees the three-dimensionality of the cuts and how they allow the comfortably-fitted separates to envelope the body without excess and without confining it. A jacket looks like a jacket, a shirt looks like a shirt—no needless deviation.

Rainmaker

In Tokyo, Rainmaker is unusual in that it is based in Kyoto, the cultural and historical heart of Japan. Although one does not associate the city with fashion, it is considered a textile hub, especially for kimono silks (the best are still hand-woven and hand-dyed). It is in this artisanal environment that Rainmaker was conceived in 2013 by Kohichi Watanabe and Ryutaro Kishi. The duo’s aesthetic for both the men’s and women’s lines have always been heavy on crafting that tends to characterise those brands not operating out of Tokyo. From traditional fabrics to dyeing techniques to the relaxed silhouettes, there is something refreshingly retro-urban about Rainmaker’s looks. This season, blue in all its glorious subtle shadings—indigo naturally not to be omitted—determines the collection’s Japanese-ness, if it can be so described. Set apart, the clothes will not stump the adventurous pattern maker, but when worn, these pieces feel like the best pieces of a mature wardrobe.

Sartograph

One of the newest labels of the season, Sartograph was launched only last year, yet designer Shinsuke Nakano’s collection is so confidently put together that the clothes feel like the work of much more seasoned hands. A Central Saint Martins graduate, who benefited from winning Alexander McQueen’s Sarabande Scholarship, Mr Nakano completed his PhD at CSM. Sartograph, although only into its second season, offers no lack of technical finesse. Mr Nakano has been described as a minimalist designer, but it isn’t the minimalism of say, the ’90s. Within the discipline of the traditional tailoring, utilitarian workwear details—sometimes in the form of wearable accessories—are incorporated, almost like graphic design. The result is unmistakably contemporary, without traipsing into the much trampled grounds of streetwear.

Sise

Seishin Matsui’s Sise is a Tokyo Fashion Week regular. Conceived in 2010, Sise came into prominence after securing a place as a finalist at the 2015 Woolmark Prize. The line is often described by Japanese media as “minimalistic”, but, increasingly, Mr Matsui explores more complex cuts and styling that are reminiscent of the ’90s Japanese avant-garde, seen, perhaps, through European lenses. Colours are mostly kept muted to better reveal the subtlest of details and silhouettes—still body-respecting that they avoid leaning on exaggeration. Although Sise offers menswear, it is the women’s collection that is presented at Rakuten Fashion Week Tokyo, and like the other stronger looks shown this season, Sise’s sits comfortably on the side of androgyny without jumbling too much the male/female sartorial divide.

Yoshio Kubo

Yoshio Kubo showed his modestly-staged IRL collection in his office/atelier in Nakameguro, Tokyo’s hotbed of edgy labels, marking a welcome return to the Tokyo calendar after showing in Milan and Paris for the past five years. Among the names in this list here, Yoshio Kubo is possibly the most internationally-recognised. In Asia, the line was sold in Bangkok and Hong Kong, and here at Club 21. Although Nr Kubo’s clothes are not considered so subtle as to escape the curious mind, he does hope to encourage consumers to “think about the design and details of clothes again”, presumably as opposed to the thoughtless consumption of fast fashion. A graduate of Philadelphia University’s school of Textile & Science and a former assistant with American couture designer Robert Dane of The Danes for four years, Mr Kubo’s work is not separated from impeccable refinement, even when the final looks—as in this season’s curved lines within relaxed tailoring—tend to place him among the leading Japanese avant-gardists.

Photos and screen grabs: Rakuten Fashion Week Tokyo/respective designers. Collage: Just So