Bejewelled Or Blemished?

Nike’s latest collaboration with crystal maker Swarovski is an Air Force 1 with strange surface protrusions

By Shu Xie

Among Nike’s many reimagined sneakers, the Air Force 1 seems, to me, to be receiving the most collaborative makeovers. And here is another AF1 iteration: with the Austrian producer of crystal glass Swarovski. This collab, the third (if I remember correctly) between the two brands, is not quite what I would expect from a purveyor of bling. Unlike the Dunk from last year, which was completely covered with crystals, or the Air Max 97 from this past March, which was not entirely smothered (and this time with crystals so tiny, they could have been dust), sneak-peeks of the AFI show that it comes with something entirely different. As I see it, the shoes have a second skin. And it is an outer that really obscures the recognisable silhouette of the Nike classic. Looking like something that could have been 3-D printed, this membrane immediately makes me forget that the AF1 is the first among Nike’s sneakers from the ’80s to incorporate the brand’s Air cushioning technology.

But that is not really what I find most intriguing. It is what’s on the overlay. The amoeba-shaped piece with fancy cut-outs is dotted with silver ball-studs that look pressed into tiny bulbs on the surface of this second skin. These are not Valentino’s Rockstuds or those spikes on Christian Louboutin kicks. Frankly, they look like pimples to me. Like blackheads! Still there is something oddly appealing about this AF1. I think I am drawn to the fact that the extra layer can be taken apart. Yes, by removing the screws on the mid-sole that hold the additional skin down. They are flat-top screws and each pair of the sneakers come with a screwdriver, should you need to do some handyman’s work. These days, the Nike basketball shoes for women do not only come with trinkets to feminise the kicks (the Blazer Mid LX, for example), they are now dressed with a flashy, removable cloak. Shoelaces, even fancy ones, are really not enough.

Update (20 November 2021, 18:00): The Nike X Swarovski Air Force 1 will be available on on 2 December, from 10am

No official release date of this collab is announced. Watch this space for more information. Product photo: Nike. Photo illustration: Just So

The Guy Who Gave You This Green

.…is leaving Bottega Veneta

The intrecciato weave in the Bottega Green. Photo: Bottega Veneta

We know that in fashion, it’s the coming and going that keeps the business in momentum. But when a designer, credited for reviving an unexciting house, leaves after just three years into his buzzy tenure, it’s hard to say if the leaving will do the the brand any good. Daniel Lee, as you have probably heard by now, is leaving Bottega Veneta. This comes just weeks after his show, Salon 3, staged in—of all places—Detroit. The loud collection was praised to the heavens by the media. It would seem Mr Lee, who posed shirtless on the cover of Cultured magazine for the fall 2020 issue that included the blurb “Prodigy”, could do no wrong. And then this surprising or, to better reflect the sentiment of the industry, shocking news. And just like that, he would be no more. Would the Cassette bag still be cool next month? And that gleefully bright Bottega Green? What happens to the stores given a new coat of paint?

It is not an easy green to wear, for sure. And it was not one to be the new black. Yet, some publications called it “colour of the year”. Fashionistas took to it like the proverbial moth to a flame. If there was one colour that dominated social media it was this green, so saturated that it could be considered too much. This is not Valentino red or Schiaparelli pink; this is green, with a particular brightness and intensity usually associated with goblins, the clothing of Leprechauns, and, of course, St Patrick’s day. No, not Starbucks, but—oh, yes—Grab! We tried to like it, but it was not speaking to us. Bottega Veneta’s spring/summer 2021 had so much of the green that it would make a convert of any green-averse, but we could only stand in a distance and observe, without, frankly, any envy.

The unmistakble and unmissable green that is the façade of the men’s store at MBS. File photo: SOTD

The truth is, we could not quite decide if we really liked the work of Daniel Lee, former ready-to-wear director at Celine, during Phoebe Filo’s stewardship. Not even after this many seasons at BV, not after he won four awards at the 2019 British Fashion Awards, not after the wild success of the crazy green. Mr Lee is no doubt technically skilled and chromatically gifted, but it is hard to describe one overaching aesthetic that could be ascribed to the brand. One tai-tai told us, “He started quite good at BV… but then he got weird. No one can wear his clothes.” We think there is sexy somewhere in his modern take of somewhat traditional shapes, but we can’t pin-point something so amazing that we’ll remember it even after Mr Lee’s Pouch bags and Wellies are long forgotten. Martin Margiela’s stint at Hermès was just three years longer than Mr Lee’s time at BV, but we do remember the house’s vareuse, that deep-V neckline that he had made quite his own, appearing on tunics, for example, worn over jumpers cinched at the waist with wide belts.

Many industry watchers thought Mr Lee’s resignation to be bad news for Kering, parent company of BV. No reason was given for their star British designer’s impending departure, or when his last day would be. Something did happen to precipitate the sudden exit, but we may never know. Although he told Cultured, “I’ve always been a people person and I like to be surrounded by world citizens from a richness of backgrounds”, WWD reported that he “clashed with several people within the company and was defined as ‘uncommunicative’.” In a statement issued to the media, Kering’s chief executive François-Henri Pinault thanked the designer for “the unique chapter” he brought to the house, which said the split is a “joint decision”. In January this year, BV removed all content on their social media accounts, purportedly to start on a clean slate. Could the end of Daniel Lee’s tenure allow Bottega Veneta to do the same with the design and the merchandise? Stay tuned.

A Break From Flowers

Sometimes, you really just want grasshoppers

They are known to be the most ancient of chewing herbivorous insects, which may explain the grasshopper’s particular appeal to Loewe. Ancient being the operative word. The Spanish house is, after all, known for their support of old-world crafts that are sometimes associated with agrarian life, but these pieces are nowhere near, for example, the Thai craft of making insects out of palm leaves. Loewe’s grasshoppers are fashioned with leather, a material very much part of the heritage of the house. What we find relatable is that the grasshopper—rather than, say, a cleg (horsefly)—is very much an insect we are familiar with, even if we do not see much of them in this urban sprawl we call home. In Thailand, they are not only seen, they are caught and eaten, deep fried!

At Loewe, the grasshopper appears on the front of a coin-cum-card holder, looking somewhat well-fed. And, as a pin charm with a 3-D grasshopper—possibly in the process of moulting—that bears some resemblance to insects made out of reeds or grasses. Both look more adorable than the serious pests that the insects can be (larger and when in swarms, they are the vermin known as locusts!). We are not sure who these small accessories will appeal to when flowers and kin are the preferred motif (even sculls). But Loewe looking across the food chain may be just the exercise to keep the excess of boring blooms in check!

Loewe Grasshopper coin/card holder, SGD690, and pin charm, SGD490, are available at Loewe. Product photos: Loewe

After The Puddle

Bottega Veneta releases new Wellies, just in time for the rainy season

We don’t often see fashion folks in Wellingtons even when the weather is terribly wet, as it has been these past weeks. We have witnessed women rush to Cold Storage when it was pouring outside to ask for plastic bags to, well, bag their expensively-shod feet, but not those who chose weather-appropriate, water-repellent gumboots. The better option, really, is to slip into a pair of them Wellies. But many might consider such footwear for kindergarten children or the rubber tappers in Segamat. The good news is that, these days, they don’t look like footwear you’d purchase from retailers of garden supplies. We are referring to Bottega Veneta’s, a firm fave of the fashion set; the first being the Puddle Boot from last season.

This time, there is a new version, one each for men and women. For the fellows, there is the Stride, a mid-cut slip-on, rather than a boot, made from a single piece of rubber that could have come from Segamat! This is an easier to slip on, rather than a tall boot. It’s lined in cotton, which makes the the foot glide in easily. The women’s version, going by the name Shine, takes after Balenciaga’s Crocs: comes with heels—9cm (or 3.5″) to be exact. Although available in five gleaming colours for the men’s style and three for the women’s, including black and ‘sea salt’ (cream, really) for both, we think this blue-green called ‘blaster’ is really a blast!

Bottega Veneta Stride boots, SGD950, and Shine, SGD1,160, are available in stores now. Product photos: Bottega Veneta. Photo illustration: Just So

Is This Really Fun?

A video of three silly girls dancing to a song with lyrics they likely do not understand as prelude to an online sales session: Someone thought it so fabulous that it had to be shared online, but others were quick to say it is racially insensitive

In ‘woke’ times like the present, you’d think that the number of the socially uninitiated would have dwindled. Amid repeated calls for us to be racially sensitive, you’d think that however ignorant a person is, they’d be aware enough to not dance to ethnic music that is unconnected to their own ethnicity, and post the questionable video online. But that’s no and no. Last Thursday, one online clothing retailer chose to work during the Deepavali holiday. Dear19 kept up with their ““regular daily livestream sessions”, the brand stated on Instagram recently in response to public disapproval, “however, since it was on a festive day, we decided to celebrate it by incorporating some music and dance move…” By now, most would have seen the video, first streamed on Facebook Live, and would be aware that the music is of Indian provenance—some Netizens quickly pointed out that it is a “devotional Hindu song”—and the dance moves by Chinese-looking lasses with hand gestures that could easily be construed as mocking, rather than dancing. The video has been removed from Dear19’s social media pages, but the damage is rapidly and irreversibly done.

The unfortunate reality in these online-everything days is that brands, especially those that are digital-native, are compelled to promote themselves online, constantly. In doing so, these brands and their owners are likely to be trying everything except thinking before the proverbial leaping. Despite manic social media traffic, it is possible that they do not even look right, and then left before getting off the ground. Online hoopla and hard-sell require the open concept of content creation—the content and the creation not frequently a synergistic pairing. And, the commercial and the personal are not necessarily separated. It’s all rather do-it-yourself. The creator is likely to put out content influenced by a life circumscribed by the four-sided perimetre of their TikTok life. They live and work, and content-create within the same digital space.

The particular video shared on Facebook came with a banner “Live with Dear19” and a hashtag “everyBODYisBeautiful”. The production was put out in “partnership with Iconic Medicare”, a Malaysian manufacturer of PPE. At the bottom of the screen, we were told that the video message was to promote “Dear 19’s (yes, with spacing) Deepavali Sale”. Three women togged to go out, in identical clothes (including headwear), were dancing within the narrow screen. Their moves appeared to mimic Indian dance, but two of the dancers were stretching their hands as if to demonstrate the making of teh tarik. And they took turns to go before the camera to show them shaking their heads side to side within hands upturned and placed by their jaw line, like parentheses. It required no stretch of imagination to see what they were trying to show. And how ill-conceived the attempt was. All to generate the requisite of online communication: fun.

Wendy Tong, the social media manager who managed to arouse controversy. Photo:imwendytong/instagram

But one “social media manager” Wendy Tong was so impressed by the video, she shared it on her IG page two days after it appeared. To her, it “really stands out from the crowd”, with its “friendly hosts, good products, entertainment”. It is not certain if she received renumeration from Dear19 for her effort and effusive praise. After receiving negative, even angry, comments on her post, Ms Tong issued an apology via IG with a pink square on which “I’M SORRY” appeared. She wrote, “I would like to sincerely apologize for what I have posted on my Instagram yesterday. I am insensitive and did not understand the culture well before using it as an example.” She went on to explain her motivation: “As a social media person, I share things that catch my eye and when I posted this video, it was not with any intention to mock or insult any religion.” The IG newbie (she joined in March this year) made no mention of the racial slight.

Dear19 is reported by the media here to be a “Singapore retailer”. But from the livestreams posted, we sensed that they are from Malaysia. The sellers/performers/entertainers/hosts/etc speak a brand of Mandarin with a distinctive Federation accent. On Facebook and on their website, prices quoted are in ringgit. Those with an enquiry may call a telephone number with a +60 country code or write to a Gmail address that is directed to “89malaysia”. Furthermore, at the end of August, they demonstrated their patriotic streak by staging a “19 Dearies Merdeka Party (19宠粉国庆排队)” on FB. And the language used is unmistakable too, and would do the CEO of Night Owl Cinematics proud. On one video post shared to peddle a cardi-top, the message read: “今天的款式sibeh美 (today’s design is *rude adjective* beautiful)”. Or with a photo posted earlier, “Gotta look chio first before the paparazzi take pic of me 😎”.

That e-mail address is also revealing in that “89” is in the name of the Malaysian online store Nineteen89, also known locally as a “blogshop”, which began their operations in 2013 out of Bukit Jalil, a suburb in Kuala Lumpur. On Dear19’s IG page, the brand states that they are “formerly known as (but the link led to an empty page). Once ranked as one of Malaysia’s “Top 5 Online Boutiques”, Nineteen89 was founded by Sandakan native Irene Sin (aka Yen姐 or Big Sister Yen) and her friend, known online as Huey Ing. Both are also presenters on the brand’s FB livestreams too. On 5 May this year, Nineteen89 was renamed Dear19. It is not known why the name change and not merchandise change (they still sell unremarkable disposable clothes), but it is our understanding that Nineteen89 is also the moniker of an Indian fashion label by Divya Bagri. Ms Sin did attempt to explain her decision via video: a mix of hackneyed reasons, including wanting to elevate the brand, improve shopper experience, and taking the brand global. On why the name Dear19, the company explained on FB (and we quote verbatim), “Dear – as everyone know we practice a word we call ‘together’ constantly bringing everyone together. So dear is to promote ‘togetherness’ within you & I”.

The homepage of

Despite calls for increased sensitivity towards others around us and their culture, there are brands—and individuals—still unable to be aware, or to err on the side of caution. In Dear19’s online apology posted a few days ago, the statement read, “like many of you had pointed out, we could have executed it differently while still being respectful. We realize our mistake and we would like to apologize to everyone. Thank you for educating us and holding us accountable for our actions.” It appears that there are still those who, despite close to a decade of online sales and communicating with their shoppers, have remained ignorant of the ways of digital commerce and life. They cleverly position themselves as beneficiaries of those who watch out for jejune behaviour and problematic conduct, instead of the obtuse individuals that they are.

Dear19 videos are not exemplars of productions that arouse the mind and consequently empty the pockets. The shows, part TikTok videos, part Mdada livestreams (recently reported to enjoy “unaudited revenue of S$15 million”, which may give an idea of the earnings of Dear19), are presented mainly in bad Mandarin and worse English, and a smattering of Cantonese and Hokkien. The presenters, usually a pair, are mostly in a narrow room by themselves, but by their shrill chatter, could be among their friends. In fact, there’s a strange chumminess between them and the unseen shoppers. It is possible that the Deepavali video is created to be viewed by these buddy-buyers, people who would not judge them for their silliness, however inappropriate. In a recent Halloween video, the segment that prefaced the selling was similarly unscripted and unfunny as the Deepavali equivalent, except that it did not cross into the territory of race stereotyping. In many livestreaming e-commerce sites, the privilege to sell does not necessarily come with the decency to self-regulate.

According to the brand’s About on Facebook, “Dear19 was founded to create a platform where all women able (sic) to gather together (sic). We hope inspire (sic) all ladies to stay confidence (sic) through fashion. We believe that only by building one’s self-confidence, it (sic) will bring more positivity into our life”. But just one video and the confidence, whether in self or brand, may fade. The strange thing about the online world is that people, even when offended, do forget and then the offender will return, with more self-created content—their rise once again as inevitable as a start-up’s Facebook account, which, disturbingly, has the conflicting duality of scourge to society and betterment to business.

Photos: Dear19/Facebook and

Travis Scott: Before This Shoe Drops

La Flame’s latest collaboration with Nike is overshadowed by the shocking deaths at his concert in Texas. But it won’t be doused

Three days ago, reports appeared that this Nike X Travis Scott Air Max 1 will launch in the middle of next month. The autumnal colours are expected to be a hit for this iteration of the Nike classic, as sneakerheads are also drawn to the impertinent mirror image of the Swoosh on the side of the shoe. Before Nike could even list the sneaks on their SNKR site, a tragedy related to Mr Scott unfolded in Houston, Texas earlier today (evening, US time). At the music event Astroworld Festival, the headlining show of Mr Scott, also the event organizer, saw an attendance of 50,000 people swarm the sold out mega-show, according to CNN. Tragedy struck past 9pm when ardent concert-goers who thronged the stage, surged forward, crushing people in the front. At least eight have been reported dead, with scores of people injured, including a child believed to be aged 10.

Initial reports stated that even before the deadly crush, attendees “were rushing through a VIP entrance, knocking metal detectors and sometimes other people” earlier, as CNN described. Videos shared online showed near-stampede: people dashed forward impetuously, with the same determination to get ahead as those waiting behind doors of stores on the eve of Thanksgiving to be the first to take advantage of the Black Friday sales. There were already reports of injury (even fights) during this early part of the annual music Festival. It is not certain what the rush was for or if the concert had already started and these people were late.

Travis Scott stopping his performance. Screen grab: CNN

According to the BBC, Mr Scott had “stopped multiple times during his 75-minute performance” when he saw the potentially devastating crush. He had also asked the security to help. But, things escalated too quickly and the emergency resources were, according to local police, “overwhelmed”. Netizens, however, thought that the rapper did not do enough. Many believed that he should have halted his performance altogether after seeing even the slightest problem. Why did he allow the show to go on for that long (this excludes the “30-minute countdown” before the appeared on stage during which the pushing already intensified)”? Videos started appearing on social media showing the audience chanting “stop the show”(one even revealed a young woman climbing up to a platform on which a crew or cameraman was standing and saying the same thing), but the consumate performer continued to sing and urged his audience to make the “earth shake”, as reported by Reuters. Others blamed the ongoing pandemic: “people were desperate to live again”, one commentator wrote on Facebook.

As more of what happened came to light, attention, too, was drawn to Mr Scott’s own record of ensuring safety when it comes to the unruly audience in his concerts. Back in 2015, the rapper was arrested and charged with “disorderly conduct” after he encouraged attendees of Lollapalooza (another music fest) to “climb over security barricades and storm the stage”, according to Rolling Stone. The father of Kylie Jenner’s daughter Stormi further incited the crowd with chants of “we want rage”. He was again arrested after a 2017 Arkansas concert when that “rage” was also vehemently encouraged. In his 2018 song Stargazing, which referenced Astroworld, he even rapped, “it ain’t a mosh pit if it aint’t injuries”(his mosh pit, according to Forbes, is “a febrile atmosphere Scott stoked from the stage”), adding, “I got ’em stage divin’ out the nosebleeds”. In rap speak, the highest seats in a stadium are referred to as the nose bleed sections. His fans—he calls them “ragers”—would jump from these elevations and literally suffer from nose bleeds. It is also possible that he was referencing a New York City show when a fan was pushed off a three-story balcony—he was paralysed.

Kim Jones and Travis Scott in a publicity photo shared by Mr Jones after the Dior menswear spring/summer 2022 show in June. Photo: mrkimjones/Instagram

It is hard to say how this latest “mass casualty incident”, as authorities have called it, will impact the many fashion-related products with Travis Scott’s name stamped on them that will be up for grabs. As of now, the Air Jordan 1 Low that came from the Nike X Travis Scott X Fragment trinity in August—“the collaboration to end all collaborations, according to Highsnobiety—is asking for more than USD2,000 in the resale market, a staggering 100 times more than the original retail price of USD150. Hip-hop stars have become far too powerful, not just through the music they make, but also the wide range of ridiculously hyped products linked to them, never mind the controversy they have stirred. We are not referring only to concert merchandise. Apart from the ongoing collaboration with Nike, Mr Scott has also paired with Dior, an upgrade and a highlight of his fashion career. He gratefully referred to Mr Jones on Instagram as “my bro 5 (sic) life”.

In fact, his tie-ups with popular brands go back to 2016 when his name appeared atop A Bathing Ape in the limited-edition pieces of Baby Milo tees. In fact, they span the high- and low-brow—last year’s with McDonald’s being the more accessible. While fashion folks are divided over whether there is truly a wow factor to his personal style, or whether he’s a taste-maker or a hype-maker, Travis Scott—“one of rap’s most ambitious figures”, as The New York Times described him—is doing everything to put himself up there, god-like, so that devotees, unable to be satiated by sneakers and such, can bask in his mighty presence—only this time, deadly. Are fans no longer able to tell the difference between scoring kicks and getting kicked? Or, must the show, amid people dying, really go on?

Updated: 7 November 2021, 8am

Product photo: Nike. Photo illustration: Just So

Is K-Pop Just More Progressive?

Korea’s first all-LGBTQ boy band released their debut single, Show Me Your Pride, two days ago. And it’s seriously good

Out and proud: that’s not something you associate with South Korea, and even less so with the world of K-Pop. It is ironic that when members of Korean boy bands can (and do) put on so much make-up and even sell just as much cosmetics, gay anything is generally frowned upon. Or barely talked about in popular culture. As CNN noted in a report last year, “in the camp world of K-pop, it’s hard for stars to be gay”. But things may soon change. A new boy band from South Korea, Lionesses (nope, we did not get the gender wrong), has just released their first single, Show Me Your Pride, and it is joyfully good and deserves to be played on loop. It does not, in fact, require repeat listening for the hit vibe to emanate. As with coffee, you’d know how good it is at the first whiff.

Lionesses is a quartet from Seoul. Not much is yet known about them. They described themselves as “openly LGBTQ+”. However, their openness presently goes only as far as revealing the face of the group’s leader Bae Dam-jun, who told the Korean media that the key message of Show Me Your Pride is “we are us”. How they are in terms of what they look like—key ingredient in the success of K-pop stars—is yet to be clear. The rest of the members wore a cat mask for the accompanying MV of the track. On naming themselves after wild felines, Mr Bae said, “It is easy to think the apex of the African ecosystem that we have seen through the mass media is a male lion with a rich mane, but in the end, the ruler of the plain is (not) actually a lion. It’s a group of lionesses who are in charge of hunting for the pride”.

As with many boy bands, Lionesses comprises different characters that might appeal to their target audience. There is the chubby diva Mr Bae; another who shares the same silhouette as the lead (could they be siblings?), but more willing to show his moves; a tough/fit-looking rapper; and a mysterious, seemingly andro-type who hits the high notes—really high. Visually, the boys have not made a distinctive mark, yet. They would not have Louis Vuitton come acalling tomorrow. Two of them are dressed positively Normcore, one of them as aspiring hip-hop star, completely with obligatory chunky chain-necklace, while the fourth, the sleekest, is probably the fashion plate of the four. Still, better than the bengness of so many the average K-pop boy band. What they have in common, if not in the style stakes, is their ability to sing, each bringing something of their own to the song. They are not smooth as butter—thank the hallyu gods for that!

To be sure, there are queer pop stars in South Korea. Holland (aka Go Tae-seob) is believed to be the first openly gay pop soloist, whose stage name was chosen as homage to Holland being the first country to legalise same-sex marriage. His first self-funded single Neverland received over 1 million views on YouTube in the first 20 hours when it was posted in 2018. The accompanying MV showed two boys kissing; it was rated in South Korea R or “Adults Only”. And there is Aquinas (aka Minsoo Kang), who came out on Instagram with the announcement: “I’m bisexual” in Korean and English, just three months ago, not long after he released his debut EP It Doesn’t Matter. There is also transgender star Harisu (aka Lee Kyung-eun), who has released five successful albums to date, but she and the others are not quite representative of a wider acceptance of the LGTBQ community in the K-pop industry. While there are individual members of groups who have been open about their homosexuality, such as real-life couple Seungho (Jang Seungho) and B.Nish (Yoo Bon) of D.I.P, a boy band comprising gay guys is unheard of, until now.

Show Me Your Pride is dance pop with flourishes of charming experimentation. It is cheerful as it is confident, with an anthemic quality—that love is love/show me your love chorus—that would not be out of place as love theme of a gay movie (not with the lead transcribing and playing classical music!) or the closing song of a pride parade. But, not the Pose-ready, neu-handbag house of RuPaul. As Show Me Your Pride plays, it could sound like K-pop you are already streaming daily, but, with headphones on, you’ll hear, apart from some eye-opening vocal harmonies, grooves so sleek that they could be, like kimchi, a delectable pickling of the funky smoothness of Skylar Spence (formerly Saint Pepsi, aka Ryan DeRobertis) and the infectious danceability of The Garland Cult, all wrapped with the palpable exultation of Sakanaction. It is such a handsomely packaged track, with such remix potential, that we suspect Towa Tei might be keen to take a dip. What is, perhaps, the most amazing is how the verse in which one of the boys, singing in falsetto, could really wake your goosebumps. Not quite Dimash Kudaibergen, but definitely groundbreaking for K-pop.

The track is written by the leader of the group Bae Dam-jun and compatriot Zantin, a now US-based producer, formerly of YG Entertainment, the company behind Blackpink and Big Bang. Show Me Your Pride addresses the still-real strife of the LGBTQ community. But it has a positivity about it too. “No matter how much you shoot at us with your tiny keyboard,” the rap goes, “we are bulletproof/we are bulletproof”. To the affected, it urges: “You don’t have to hide or try to avoid it/That bright sun is on our side/Just before dawn is the darkest time/And if you feel trapped in the darkness/Just call us ‘friends’/Then we’ll be the candles in your dark room”. There is a sweetness to that. Believable assurance too.

Screen shot: Lionesses/YouTube

Gucci: Hollywood’s Costumer

Alesandro Michele brought the Gucci spring/summer 2022 collection to where it belongs: the world’s movie capital, right on Hollywood Boulevard itself

Gucci and Tinsletown are meant for each other. When Gucci arrived this particular night, it was a gilded key in the right key hole. That is why when Gucci sent their dressed-to-the-nines models down Hollywood Boulevard, the key turned and opened the door to a display so flashy that even the best Hollywood gala night could not rival. It was a trip not down memory lane, but a cruise to where it can call home; the motherland. After all, Gucci and movie makers and their stars have always had a chummy relationship. The impressive part was the action on the very street that many associate with Hollywood, the now-closed-to-Gucci Hollywood Boulevard—tourist attraction and home to some of the most famous theatres in the world, including the El Capitan, the Dolby (once the Kodak theatre, now aka the home of the Academy Awards), and the TCL Chinese Theatre, where the models emerged to begin their bored walk on the sidewalks. There is nothing laid-back or cool about this part of Los Angeles. It’s pure kitsch, often bordering on questionable taste, and Gucci, through their clothes reflected all that.

Alessandro Michele is a storyteller, a knowledgeable raconteur. The evening’s Hollywood street feature was homage to the entire cast that makes this town as it is: colourful, like the meretricous souvenirs sold that inevitably make their way into a tourist’s bag. Not the likes of Blanche Dubois or Holly Golightly for the high-minded. But every other character you can think of, every B-grade actress still unable to hit A; every starlet still aspiring; every former child star clutching to bits of their former glory, every off-duty waitress waiting to be discovered; every weirdo thinking they are part of this movie town; every flashy, cocky executive managing just as flashy and cocky stars; every cowboy hoping to be hired as a grip crew; every wide-eyed, here-to-soak-it-all-up visitor hoping to meet their idol; every member of the hidden mafia, possibly still ruling the town; right down to the hookers from South Los Angeles (if you thought we were imagining things, consider the sex toy accessories!), even their pimps—they were all there, out and about, with nowhere to go, but right there. Oh, yes, even she who was hoping to audition for Cleopatra!

The 30-minute-long show, featuring 115 looks, and soundtracked by the music of Björk (not, surprisingly, one of the 22,705 songs that mention Gucci, as highlighted in the brand’s 100th anniversary travelling show) was dubbed the Gucci Love Parade. But it was less a procession than a walk-past. Not a carnival either, but the clothes were right for carnaval. Each look was deliberately considered: from headwear to eyewear to footwear, every piece in its place to effect something not quite ruly. Sure, there were some gowns that were right for a tidy red carpet, but for many of the separates, the sum is Calabasas meets the costume department of Columbia Pictures, including the pasties some rapper must have recently discarded. It is heady stuff, no doubt. Beautiful chaos, fans would say, but is the disorder not rather repetitive? To be fair, the clothes increasingly resist the anti-fit of Mr Michele’s earlier years in Gucci. Yet, they all looked somewhat familiar, whether we were thinking of Aria or Guccifest, or much earlier. What goes around comes around?

Shortly after the Gucci livestream, social media commentators were agog with excitement. Some thought it the most entertaining runway presentation ever. Perhaps all the showiness is deliberate, never mind the parade seemed overwhelmed by the boulevard itself. Ridley Scott’s House of Gucci, starring Lady Gaga, will hit the big screen in two months’ time. The Gucci family has disapproved the film’s casting, describing the leads as “horrible” and “ugly” (no mention of the costume). This has aroused even more interest in the film. The latest trailer shown on YouTube has enjoyed 4.9 million views in five days. Gucci the brand has always been Gucci the movie-in-the-making. And Gucci parading on Hollywood Boulevard will, no doubt, benefit brand and movie, mutually.

Screen grab (top) and photos: Gucci

This Is A Bodysuit

You may not think you are wearing a piece of athletic garment

It is sometines easy to forget that Nike’s Jordan Brand is really tethered to basketball. Or that it bears the name of former athlete Michael Jordan of the Chicago Bulls. It began as a label dedicated to producing shoes the star player would put on to play and to compete, but somewhere along the brand’s 36-year history, “style clothing” for both men and women were introduced. Aesthetically, the products often do not quite leave the boundaries of basketball courts, although some of the shoes might appear to be better suited to fancier stomping grounds.Yet, occasionally, they will issue an item that would not stick out in a fashion-strong wardrobe, such as this colour-blocked bodysuit.

The composition of graphic shapes is fetching enough, so too the colour combination of dove grey, baby blue, and white, but it is the long sleeves—themselves rather unusual for the cousin of the leotard—that stand out and make this bodysuit a fashion contender. The bishop sleeve, to be more specific, is set raglan style on the shoulder and meets the neckline where the band collar sits. Its volume contrasts with the close fit of the body. We like the front opening with the zip that stretches to the belly button, allowing a larger opening that would make the wearing and removing of the garment easier and quicker.

Those concerned with the impact fashion has on the environment would be happy to know that the fabric used in this bodysuit “is made from at least 75% recycled polyester fibres”, according to Nike. Presumably the elastane added to the fabric composition to make it comfortably stretchy is not part of the percentage. In any case, the appealing design may reign supreme. It is not hard to see how well this one-piece would go with the recent Nike X Sacai pleated skirt—the one with the buttoned side-tape (like those on retro-style track pants), which can be unfastened to reveal shorts underneath. And, yes, in a matching grey too.

Jordan Cosy Girl bodysuit, SGD119, is available at select Nike stores. Photos: Nike

Visited: The Editor’s Market Flagship

One of our oldest apparel stores opens their largest Orchard Road store in Takashimaya Shopping Centre. But, is big necessarily better?

Newly-opened The Editor’s Market at Takashimaya Shopping Centre

By Emma Ng

With the pandemic not quite over, many clothing brands have found themselves unable to survive and have, therefore, shuttered their business. Yet, the dismal retail climate does not deter some local brands from raising their visibility. Rather than downsizing, they are expanding, both in terms of selling space and merchandise breadth. One of them is eleven-year-old The Editor’s Market (TEM). Its flagship-to-replace-the-313@Somerset-flagship—opened just last Friday—is massive, larger than any of their physical stores that I can remember, including, what to me was their best—at Orchard Central (OC). This time, like at OC, the store is stocked to offer more than apparel, even when there’s a dizzying dominance of clothes that I’m sure I have already seen elsewhere. There are household items too, as well as a plant counter by Soilboy, a set-up that’s part of the lofty, “Flagship Opening Festival”, one of no specific duration. There’s even a small café, with a not-related-to-caffeine-or-java moniker, Found. I overheard a shopper saying delightfully in Mandarin to her companion, “this is great. My boyfriend can wait for me while I shop. Can’t complain I’d take too long.”

At the new 8,000 sq ft TEM, which occupies the old Zara women’s store, I can understand why she won’t be done shopping quickly. Entering the inelaborate space, I could see what my not-20/20 vision allowed. It was really a sea of clothes, as far back as the barely visible rear wall. Although I noticed that there were relatively wide aisles between racks, the frightful abundance of clothes immediately brought to my mind aesthetically similar brands such as Iora at Wisma Atria next door, or Playdress at Suntec City. I struggled to see how this vast amount of merchandise would budge in bulk. It was hard to imagine any shopper needing this much choice. Even after giving myself some time to absorb what was before me, I could not pick out anything that spoke to me in the overwhelming much of muchness. It’s mass appeal sacrificing appeal for mass. The Editor’s Market in my memory was not like that. Or did I remember it incorrectly?

The simple decor of the interior

Almost no styling attempted on the dressing of the mannequin

Before they were The Editor’s Market, they were Hula & Co (both at one time brands under the parent company Hula Outfitters), a business that went as far back as 2002, three years before Love, Bonito was founded as a blogshop (then known as Bonito Chicco). At the very beginning, Hula & Co—which had nothing to do with the hoop or the dance—was a pushcart enterprise at Far East Plaza, a mall built even earlier, in 1983. I have faint memory of their stall of that time. While small, they did not begin as an e-retailer, as others did. It was completely a physical existence, started by three partners, with Vivian Low as the main spokesperson (the other two are mainly quiet). However, Hula & Co did not sell via a stall for too long. Sales were good enough that they eventually cast aside the pushcart and moved into a shop space in the same mall, on level three, if my memory serves me. Later, other stores opened—I do recall at least one: at Citilink, a humble affair with merchandise that barely left an impression on me. They appeared to sell similar products as the other clothing stores that dotted the shopping conduit, connecting City Hall MRT station to Suntec City. Hula & Co stopped spinning in 2009. The next year, The Editor’s Market opened at Cineleisure Orchard.

TEM was a breakaway from Hula & Co. For one, it looked better. Its first store was spacious, predominantly white, and interestingly zoned to encourage browsing. And when you bought something, the purchase would be bagged in a paper carrier with the eye-catching, straight-alternating-with-zig-zag lines. They were, I remember, a multi-label store during those early years. Unknown names were sold alongside recognisable ones such as House of Harlow (founded by Nicole Ritchie!), and the now-closed Cheap Monday. TEM even described themselves as “the ultimate hipster and fashion destination”. Additional appeal of the place came in the form of their pricing: three-tiered. The more you bought, the cheaper the items became (that pricing model was terminated last year in favour of the fixed price). Then they opened their most interesting store in Orchard Central, known as The Editor’s Market Avenue. More international labels were housed here under a concept “extension” known as Preview, where, among others, the tasteful French label Surface to Air and the gaudy American shoe brand Jeffrey Campbell were found. There was even a men’s collection. But in 2015, a fire broke out, and the multi-label store became one with namely an in-house brand.

In the middle of the store, a sort-of-pushcart, to remind the founders of their Far East Plaza days?

The “Life” section of the store dedicated to homeware

Yet, their latest, which brings the total number of outlets on our island to four, is not entirely a mono-brand store. Sure, the clothing is largely eponymously labelled—apart from local activewear brand Kydra—but other products are more plural. There are footwear labels Veja, Superga, and Havaianas. And bags from Afterall (their own sub-brand) and Baggu, an American brand that I first spotted at the now defunct multi-label store Rockstar, The Editor’s Market’s competitor at Cineleisure Orchard. In fact, a two-way tote in horizontal stripes, like the Breton tee, reminded me of one I saw at Rockstar back in 2013. It was then priced S$38, but today, the same bag at TEM is retailing at S$55. Non-fashion items sold alongside the clothes include mugs and tumblers by the Japanese brand Rivers. To bring back their former hipster vibe, hipster magazines are placed randomly among the merchandise: Another, Cereal, and Dansk. I assume they are for sale. It’d be too pretentious if they serve as props.

Single-bar racks dominate the flagship, all at barely varying heights that presumably syncs with how tall their shoppers are. I was pleased to see that the racks were not too tightly packed on both weekends I was there, which meant that I didn’t have to rummage. But no matter which corner I explored, I was bound to see something—a blouse, a dress—that I thought I saw just moments ago. In similar fabrics whose hand feel did not meet long-wearing comfort grade. What was especially disconcerting was that none of the clothes appeared to me to have been pressed. Not even those in linen. When I looked back at the service counter in the rear, I did not see a steamer. It is possible that, in rushing to open, they allowed the clothes to go directly from box to rack. If TEM offers predominantly “everyday wear” or what Her World would call “basic dresses you can wear on repeat”, I guess the clothes had to look the part. Aesthetically, TEM did not seem to have moved forward from the formative Hula & Co years.

In more than 10 years, the silhouette adopted at The Editor’s Market has not changed. Left: a Hula & Co spaghetti-strapped dress from 2011, Right: a similar dress from the current season of The Editor’s Market. Photos: the respective brands

Perhaps fashion does not change after all. Left: Hula & Co top and ultra-faded, high-waisted skinny jeans from 2011. Right: The Editor’ Market top and ultra-faded, high-waisted skinny jeans from the current season, a neat decade later. Photos: respective brands

To be fair, the brand does not pretend to be a clothier of elevated positioning. They sell what some members of the media describe as “democratic pieces”. Democracy is timeless, even aesthetic democracy. What was democratic yesterday would be democratic tomorrow. Could this explain why the silhouettes vary almost not at all, from the time of Hula & Co to now? As the brand’s business development director Spencer Wong (also Ms Low’s husband) told Inside Retail, “we do not zealously follow fashion trends”. He added that they “focus on creating clothing that is timeless and can be worn season after season”. Without ironing. And, timelessness, like democracy, can resist the restriction to a particular moment. Yesterday is no different from today. This is, perhaps, best exemplified in the how-to-style videos that co-founder Ms Low posted on Facebook. She wore what are popularly known as “romantic maxi-dresses”, and they could have been from Hula & Co from many years ago. Who, I wonder, has not progressed: the customer or the brand?

The lack of newness in the merchandise and, regrettably, compelling visual merchandising may work in TEM’s favour. Over the past weekend, most of the women I saw at the store seemed ready for more of the same. They paid no heed to any of the already minimal displays or what was worn on the mannequins. They zeroed in on the clothes hung on the racks, picked the pieces they liked—as many as they could carry, and headed for the fitting room, sometimes leaving behind racks not in their original state, while bored boyfriends, unable to secure a seat at Found, looked desperate to leave. I felt sorry for the staff as many were busy neatening the racks and returning clothes to their proper places, rather than standing by to assist the shoppers. There was a pasar spirit to the place, which may be considered a plus since it would be consistent with the store’s moniker. I was hoping to leave with a purchase, but the hope was, at the start, somewhat futile and destined to be dashed. Two teens next to me were truly excited to be in the sea of clothes. I asked them if they are fans of the brands. “Yah, for very long already,” one of them replied. Because? “Because they are cheap and good.” With that, they giggled and disappeared.

Photos: Chin Boh Kay

Tong Poo Refreshed

Following the special edition of the Yellow Magic Orchestra track for Junya Watanabe’s recent show, Ryuichi Sakamoto will release it later this month as a limited-issue vinyl

A single track from the B side of a 43-year-old record has just been re-released. Tong Poo by the seminal Japanese electronic band Yellow Magic Orchestra (YMO) is now a two-track vinyl that features the acoustic version of the original, played and rearranged by band member Ryuichi Sakamoto, who wrote the song. This new version debuted last month at the spring/summer 2022 show of Junya Watanabe. According to reports, Mr Watanabe had reached out to Mr Sakamoto for the latter to re-imagine the song in order for it to be used as soundtrack to his fashion show. It was a song that apparently impressed the designer in his younger days. The musician agreed, and Tong Poo for Junya Watanabe was born, a version quite unlike what was first released.

Tong Poo (東風) or east wind in Japanese was the first composition written by Mr Sakamoto that was used in the eponymous YMO album and the only track of his recorded by the band for their debut. At the time, YMO’s electronic sounds, coming in the wake of the likes of Kraftwerk, married arcade game e-blips with melodies that could be considered Oriental kitsch. Tong Poo was, according to Mr Sakamoto, inspired by Chinese classical music and the cultural revolution in China. He told the media around that time that when he wrote it (concurrently with songs for his own debut One Thousand Knives of Ryuichi Sakamoto), he was imagining the Beijing Symphony Orchestra playing it! In Tong Poo for Junya Watanabe, the BSO might actually be tempted to do so.

In the original version on vinyl, it appears as the first track of the B side, an almost lyric-free song, except for the short sing/speak of singer-songwriter Minako Yoshida that appeared in the US release of the album. Rather unusual for the time, Tong Poo seems to prelude the song that followed, the joyful La Femme Chinois, as the former flows rather seamlessly to the latter. Tong Poo was very much a part of the YMO setlist during their live shows. Similarly, it was a staple for Mr Sakamoto’s own live performances. Among the YMO inner circle, Akiko Yano, wife of Mr Sakamoto (and part of YMO’s live shows), recorded Tong Poo with Japanese lyrics for her 1980 solo album Gohan ga Dekitayo (ごはんができたよ). Her version, with her distinctive high-pitch vocals, sounded more Japanese than Chinese. Interestingly, an SOTD reader told us that he once heard a bootleg version as soundtrack to a porn film!

Although, Tong Poo for Junya Watanabe is arranged for a fashion show, it bears little semblance to what is often played at such staging: it’s not beaty. While not sounding quite like Mr Sakamoto’s film score, it does have a cinematic quality about it, although there would be those who thinks it is more akin to the music he created for Yohji Yamamoto’s shows. Listening to this largely piano interpretation with some synthesizers, we miss the input of band mates Yukihiro Takahashi on drums, percussion, and vocal, and Haroumi Hosono on bass. Alternating between the latest version and that from the original album, as it was for the Junya Watanabe show, seems rather cool to us. Past and present in a happy mix.

Unfortunately, Tong Poo for Junya Watanabe is only available in Japan. Photo: Ryuichi Sakamoto