Happy, Happy New Year

What a year it has been. 2021 was tumultuous, and what would likely remain dominantly problematic is the still-raging pandemic that is getting many people quite fatigued by it. One good thing for us at SOTD is that, with more people spending time at home, weather working or just avoiding the crowds outside, more are reading our posts. These past 12 months have been the best for us—we see the highest viewership in all of our nine years of bringing fashion news to you. And it shows us that many people still enjoy reading, no matter how dated some are making blogs in general out to be. Or, saying that no one wants to read in-depth analysis or back stories of fashion and such happening around us. We like to thank all of you for your tremendous support and encouragement, and for continuing to believe that this is where you would always find something informative and enjoyable to read. From all of us here, a better and healthful 2021 to you. And, great style, too.

Photo illustration: Jim Sim

Closures: The Top Three Reads Of 2021

It appears that the closing of stores permanently is what many like to read

We have never really been too concerned with figures or looking back, but it’s interesting to see, as we look back at this past year—still pandemic-stricken, that the top three reads of the year are those about brands and businesses closing here. It is always regrettable and sad that good businesses close down despite their best efforts to stay afloat. The many closures this past year, not just these three mentioned in this post, suggest to us that other than real economic factors, retailers are indeed facing declining shopper numbers. No real study has been conducted to understand why people are no longer shopping at physical stores other than the general belief that most consumers prefer to do it online, as attested by the popularity of Shopee and the rising tide of livestream selling.

At the top of the list, and sitting way above the second and the third, is the closure of Pedder on Scotts in September. The “it’s hard to say goodbye” closing down sale of Pedder on Scotts, after five years operating on the entire second floor of Scotts Square, surprised many. On Pedder at Takashimaya Shopping Centre remains open. Also totally unexpected was the closure of AW Lab. Headquarted in Italy, AW Lab has considerable presence in Europe. On our island, they had four stores. They closed all of them at the end of November last year. The least unanticipated permanent shuttering was the closure of Temt. Sitting on the third place of the most read post, the Australian fast-fashion brand seemed to enjoy a heathy fan base, but that was not sufficient to keep them buoyant and alive.

It is hard not to see that many of our shoppers here are attracted to reports of stores that would no longer exist, as if they have been placing wagers on who would go next. Interestingly, our top read last year was about the closure of Topshop (and Topman) here. The subsequent media coverage was about how “fans mourn” the passing of an era. With the pandemic still very real, it does appear that shopping in a physical store would increasingly look like an activity of an age past and forgotten. No one is too concern with the rapid vanishing of real spaces in which you are able to see, touch and feel tangible merchandise (since, as the common refrain goes, “you can get anything online”). We have lost our position as a shopping destination a long time ago. It does not seem we would be reclaiming that status any time soon.

File photos: SOTD

Not Against Type

…but still appealing. Beyond the Vines introduces cotton canvas sneakers

Beyond the Vines has done good things with the humble cotton canvas. Their Carryall 01 in this fabric, for example, is an east-west tote that deserves much more attention than it really gets. It’s simple and smart, and those are the qualities that the brand has extended to their debut line of footwear, Type 01 (never mind that Nike, too, has a ‘Type’), also made with similar cotton canvas. In view of the unceasing love of bombastically-designed footwear, these lace-ups may look a tad too low-key, even juvenile, but their classic construction would stand them in good stead, in the face of constantly shifting trends.

Made of a 12-oz plain-weave canvas, also known as cotton duck, these sneakers are available only in one style, but it is the colour-blocked pair that spoke to us. Sure, they are nothing like the more daring chromatic schemes of Moonstar X Fennica kicks (available at Beams, Japan). Or the whimsical Comme des Garçons Play X Converse All-Stars, with the now-recognisable smiley-hearts, or the ‘Converse Addict’, which is N.Hoolywood reimagining the Chuck Taylor with archival fabrics of Undercover. Or, for those with edgier taste, the more advanced silhouette of the OAMC ‘Inflate’, with the exaggerated rubber corridor. Nope, Type 01 is not cast against type. They are, without doubt, classic plimsolls, but the subtle colour blocking does set them apart. And with the nicely rounded, slightly pointed toe box, perhaps the ideal shoes to strut into the New Year.

Beyond the Vines Type 01 canvas sneakers, SGD139, are available for men and women, in stores and online. Photo: Chin Boh Kay

Postponed: Dior X Travis Scott

It is reported that the launch of the doomed collaboration would be deferred. Nope, not cancelled

That one of the most hyped collaborations has to come to this is not surprising. As announced on WWD, Dior’s collaboration with Travis Scott—dubbed Cactus Jack—is “postponed”, the news site emphasised, and “indefinitely”. As stated in the report, based on an “exclusive” statement that Dior availed to WWD: “out of respect for everyone affected by the tragic events at Astroworld, Dior has decided to postpone indefinitely the launch of products from the Cactus Jack collaboration originally intended to be included in its summer 2022 collection.” They were careful not to use the now-divisive and unpleasant word “cancelled”.

As we understand it, the men’s spring/summer collection is almost “entirely” conceived with Mr Scott. For many, it is inconceivable that a complete collection would not be available to purchase. WWD reported that Mr Scott’s team shared that the postponement was a mutual agreement. Dior did not say what merchandise plans would be in place for their spring/summer 2022 season. This is their first time pairing with a musician, and reports had predicted it to be “major”. Merchandisers we spoke to told us that at the time the Astroworld tragedy struck, it is likely that the clothes were already in production. And that is very possible since spring/summer drops can take place as early as this week, or next.

Many of those who commented on the emerging reports of the postponed collection felt that Travis Scott is wrongly blamed for the Astroworld deaths and that the brands were too quick to disassociate themselves with him, once a star who could do no wrong. One commentator wrote in response to a Hypebeast post, “He isn’t responsible for the actions of thousands of fans, even if they can prove he incited raucous behavior.” Die-hard Travis Scott fans are also burning with curiousity: What would become of the already produced merchandise. Burn them? Or let them be available at a discount store?

Runway photo: Dior. Photo illustration: Just So

Growl: The Tiger Cometh

Japan’s Onitsuka Tiger can’t wait for the Lunar New Year to arrive

You would expect that, with 2022 being the Year of the Tiger (from 1 February, of course), many brands will be releasing tiger-themed products. And you’d expect rightly. One of the earliest to announce their adoption of the tiger for a capsule collection is Japan’s Onitsuka Tiger. But that is not surprising. In five days’ time, it’d be what the brand calls the “Year of the Onistsuka Tiger”. As it coincides with the Chinese zodiac tiger, this occasion comes only once every 12 years. A symbol of the brand, the tiger—confident, brave, and thrill-seeking—would be seen not only on shoes, but in a limited range of fashion items for those born in the year of the tiger or those who consider the panthera tigris its spirit animal. These include tees and hoodies, socks, and bags.

But the most eye-catching and desirable would likely be the Serrano sneaker with the tiger-stripe upper. At first glance, the interpretation looks a tad too literal to us, even for Chinese New Year! But we are not, admittedly, big fans of animal prints. However they are used, they frequently would result in a form that borders on the camp. And to us, the Serrano of the Year of the Onitsuka Tiger is no exception. In fact, the more we look at it, the more it reminded us of another shoe: the yellow and black Mexico 66. Yes, the pair worn by Uma Thurman in Kill Bill, a movie with such deliciously intense artifice that even the gory revenge and growling violence cannot dial the camp down.

It is not yet known when the Year of the Onitsuka Tiger capsule would be launched. Watch this space for updates. Product photo: Onitsuka Tiger. Photo Illustration: Just So

When Céline Paid Homage to Joan Didion

Orbituary | The American writer was, at age 80, a style icon, thanks to Phoebe Philo

Joan Didion as model for a Céline advertisement in 2015. Photo: Céline

In reports bursting all over the Net like opened Christmas presents, we learned that Joan Didion, the high priestess of American “New Journalism” and literature, and a former Vogue writer, has died. Her publisher Knopf said in a statement that the cause of death was Parkinson’s disease, a brain disorder that often sees sufferers shaking or walking with difficulty. Ms Didion passed away at aged 87 (as did Coco Chanel), in her home in Manhattan, New York. It is not known how long the disease ailed her. Regular readers of her work would know that Ms Didion had a nervous breakdown in the summer of 1968, as she recounted in The White Album. Consultation with a psychiatrist revealed that she was ill with vertigo and nausea, and multiple sclerosis. She was also suffering from migraine—so frequently and so badly that she was inclined to write about it. “Three, four, sometimes five times a month,” she described in the 1968 essay In Bed (also published in The White Album), “I spend the day in bed with a migraine headache, insensible to the world around me.”

But the world did make sense of her. Or, many women of the ’60s and ’70s did. Unafraid to express what was in her mind, Joan Didion spoke for her peers—hippies, liberals, English majors, especially would-be writers. She was born in 1934 in Sacramento, described as “the dowdiest of California cities”. Yet, Ms Didion herself said, “It kills me when people talk about California hedonism. Anybody who talks about California hedonism has never spent a Christmas in Sacramento.” Her forebears came to Sacramento in the mid-1900s, and their pioneer experiences affected her growing up, which informed her debut novel Run, River, about the coming apart of the marriage and family of a Sacramento couple whose great-grandparents were pioneers. Ms Didion would, in the book of essays, Where I was From, censure her first novel as the work of someone “homesick”, and considered it spun with false nostalgia, creating an idealised picture of life in rural California that she would say did not exist.

According to her, she did not dream of a profession in writing. “I wrote stories from the time I was a little girl,” she told The Paris Review in 1978, “but I didn’t want to be a writer. I wanted to be an actress. I didn’t realize then that it’s the same impulse. It’s make-believe. It’s performance. The only difference being that a writer can do it all alone.” But write she did. In her final year in the University of California, Berkley, where she read English, Ms Didion participated in a writing contest, ‘Prix de Paris’. It was sponsored by Vogue. She came in first, and was offered the position as a research assistant at the magazine, then edited by Jessica Davis. She moved to New York to take up the job. In the beginning, she wrote mostly captions (then, not the one lines they are today), but she would eventually have her pieces published in the magazine (it was during her time at Vogue that Run, River was written).

Joan Didion in her signature black top. Photo: Everett/Shutterstock

Much of the dates are quite muddled now. But reports suggested that she was with Vogue from 1956 to 1963. Ms Didion, apart from writing the caption, also had duties that “involved going to photographers’ studios and watching women being photographed”, as she recounted in Esquire in 1989. We can’t be certain if she had worked under the inimitable Diana Vreeland, but if Ms Vreeland joined only in 1962 and was made editor-in-chief a year later, it is possible they were at least colleagues, if not superior and subordinate. Ms Didion did not cover the fashion beat, but she did, as we understand it, contribute—sometimes, without byline—to the column People are Talking About, and she profiled stars, such as Woody Allen and Barbara Streisand (who did not appear on the cover of Vogue until 1966), and even reported on the death of Marilyn Monroe, whom Ms Didion described as “a profoundly moving young woman.”

She eventually left Vogue. Some reports suggested that she was “fired” for panning the 1965 screen musical The Sound of Music, which she described as “more embarrassing than most, if only because of its suggestion that history need not happen to people… just whistle a happy tune, and leave the Anschluss behind.” (If true, she was not the only one whose review cost her her job—Pauline Kael of McCall’s too was dismissed at the time for calling the film “the sugar-coated lie that people seem to want to eat”.) One good thing came out of New York: Joan Didion met Time staffer John Gregory Dunne (younger brother of author Dominick Dunne), whom she married, at age 28, a year after she left Vogue, and in whom she found a sparing partner in writing. The couple moved to Los Angeles and would stay for more than two decades, during which, they adopted a baby girl, their only child.

In LA, the Dunnes would come to be known as “Hollywood insiders”. Not surprising since Ms Didion’s brother-in-law Dominick Dunne was a Hollywood type, having started his career in television in New York and was later brought to Tinseltown by Humphrey Bogart to work on TV productions there. The younger Dunne socialised with the likes of Elizabeth Taylor (and would draw on his Tinseltown experiences for his later novels). The brothers collaborated on the 1971 romantic drama The Panic in Needle Park. Ms Didion and her husband wrote the screenplay and Dominick Dunne produced the film which had Al Pacino in his first leading role. The writing duo (and director Frank Pierson) also wrote the 1976 remake of A Star is Born that starred Barbara Streisand and Kris Kristofferson.

Joan Didion pictured on the cover of her book of essays. Cover photograph Hencry Clarke/Conde Nast via Getty Image. Photo: Jim Sim

While Hollywood appeared to suit them and their adopted kid, the movie town in Ms Didion’s writing was rather mercilessly dissected. In We Tell Ourselves Stories in Order to Live, she wrote: “California is a place in which a boom mentality and a sense of Chekhovian loss meet in uneasy suspension; in which the mind is troubled by some buried but ineradicable suspicion that things better work here, because here, beneath the immense bleached sky, is where we run out of continent.” She told Vogue UK in 1993 that “Los Angeles presents a real culture shock when you’ve never lived there. The first couple of years you feel this little shift in the way you think about things. The place doesn’t mean anything. Los Angeles strips away the possibility of sentiment. It’s flat. It absorbs all the light. It doesn’t give you a story.” As she wrote in A Trip to Xanadu, published in the collection of essays Let Me Tell You What I Mean, “Make a place available to the eyes, and in certain ways it is no longer available to the imagination.” She was even more scathing when it came to the film industry and, in particular, film criticism, calling the latter—which she had previously done—in her 1973 essay Hollywood: Having Fun, “vaporous occupation”.

Apart from her style of writing, she was also noted for her style of dress. The Guardian, in what could be a fan-motivated homage, recently called her “a luminary of California cool”. It is doubtful that Ms Didion would describe herself that way or relate to that praise. And she would likely attribute her getting the job at Vogue to her writing, not her dress sense. It should be stated that the 5-foot-tall (about 1.5 metres) Ms Didion was an attractive young woman and it was possible that her appointment at Vogue had something to do with her looks. The magazine had a reputation of hiring mostly attractive lasses. But she must have had sartorial verve for her editors then to send her to watch women being photographed by—to name one—Robert Mapplethorpe. In fact, in one such session, an unidentified subject was so displeased with what she saw in the Polaroids that Ms Didion had to offer her what she had on. As she recalled for Esquire, “I lent the subject my own dress, and worked the rest of the sitting wrapped in my raincoat.” That had to be an agreeable outfit.

The dresses that she seemed to like were often long and loose. And sometimes, typical of the hippie era, floral-printed. She would wear them with flip flops, reflecting, perhaps, the Californian predilection for the unapologetically casual, as exemplified in the cover photo of her on Terry Newman’s 2017 book Legendary Authors and the Clothes they Wore. She had on a long-sleeved tee-dress; barely covering her thonged footwear. Her hair was slightly dishevelled; her left hand was holding what looked like a purse, and the forearm was folded across her waist; her right hand was on her left thigh, a cigarette barely noticeable between her thumb and index finger. These could possibly be one of the looks that inspired Phoebe Philo, who—during her time with Céline in 2015—had chosen Ms Didion, then 80, as the face of a Céline campaign. The New York Times would call the casting “prophetic”: Not long after, Saint Laurent, under Hedi Slimane’s watch, released their own ad with a geriatric beauty, the singer Joni Mitchell.

Joan Didion (right) with daughter Quintana Roo Dunne in a Gap ad from 1989. Photo: Gap

Céline’s image of Ms Didion was photographed by Juergen Teller. It showed her, from a somewhat top view, in a black dress that could have been from her own wardrobe. She wore a pair of oversized sunglasses that recalled what she used to wear in the ’60s/’70s and that obscured much of the top half of her face; the blackness of the shades contrasted with the paleness of her skin and underscored her thinning greyish hair. She also wore a necklace with an ember/copper-coloured pendant. Miss Didion told NYT that she “did not have any clue” to the chattering interests—online and off—with regards to her striking Céline appearance. Not everyone was that impressed. In her column ‘Ask Hadley’ for The Guardian, Hadley Freeman wrote, “It’s depressing to see your idol used to sell expensive clothes.” In fact, it is not known if Ms Didion herself wore expensive clothes, however iconic her looks were. Recently, The Cut opined, “Clearly, she had great taste and a point of view. But was it that special?”

In fact, the Céline modeling assignment was not Ms Didion’s first. Back in 1989, she was photographed by Annie Leibowitz for Gap’s ‘Individuals of Style’ campaign. She appeared with her daughter Quintana Roo Dunne (who died in 2005, just two months after her father John Gregory Dunne passed away). Both women were in USD19.50 black turtlenecks, with the mother sporting a barely visible chain. At the bottom of the image, the copy read: “Original. It’s how you twist the fundamental into something new.” That “Original” styling of Ms Didion would be reprised—not “twisted”—26 years later in the Céline ad. Many of her fans associate the writer with black turtleneck (or the mock sibling) tops, and she in them had transcended time. Even with grey hair, the look spoke of no zeitgeist. It was not that special.

“Style is character,” Joan Didion said in the1978 interview with The Paris Review. Although she was referring to writing, she could have been alluding to her own sartorial choices. Many women relate to Ms Didion’s famed itemised packing list, as described in The White Album. “This is a list which was taped inside my closet door in Hollywood during those years when I was reporting more or less steadily,” she wrote. “The list enabled me to pack, without thinking, for any piece I was likely to do. Notice the deliberate anonymity of costume: in a skirt, a leotard, and stockings, I could pass on either side of the culture.” Or, between Gap and Céline, either side of fashion.

Balenciaga’s New Kicks

…is a monster truck of a shoe. Let the ugliness go on

Balenciaga, it seems, is bent on sticking to ugly and freakish sneakers. Their soon-to-be-released style, known as the Defender, presumably tries to reprise the Triple-S and Track’s ridiculous massiveness and their busy overlays (also seen in the Tyrex), and, in doing so, also duplicate their just-as-large success. First seen during the brand’s red-carpet-as-runway spring/summer 2022 presentation in October, the Defender appears to be the hunkiest of Balenciaga’s footwear releases, in line with the still large silhouette of their apparel. There is no reversing the course for Balenciaga: the bigger the better. Only now for the new shoe, avuncular is cooler than dad-like.

But is the overall shape of the Defender really new? When we first saw the profile images of the shoe, we thought of MBT immediately! Yes, the Swiss(!) “physiological footwear” brand known for their chunky shoes and curved soles. According to the company’s sales literature, their shoes and the unique soles—such as those seen in the brand’s Kibo GTX—offer “your body benefits from (the) extensive MBT technology” which “ensures a complete rolling movement (that) improves your balance and posture.” Such curve-soled footwear are also popular known as “rocker bottom shoes”. It isn’t known if the Balenciaga Defender offers any physiological benefit, but they will likely provide psychological advantage to those for whom being ostentatiously shod is comfort to their very being.

Balenciaga Defender is expected to launch next year. Price TBC. Photo: Balenciaga

Collaboration To Close The Year?

Gucci and Adidas are reportedly up to something

With Christmas round the corner, you’d think that it be a quiet time for fashion. Not quite. Ringing louder than church bells is the news that Gucci is hitting the collab road with Adidas. According to the “first look” offered by Twitter account @hypeneverdies two days ago, there is now a double-G monogram, in which the Adidas trefoils share the space with the repeated twin 7th letter of the alphabet. The not-quite-sharp image posted has a patina of blue. Looking like a screen shot, it does not really tell us if its a product or, for all we know, an NFT! Anything is possible. If Gucci can “hack” Balenciaga, they can surely do the same to Adidas. We were thinking shoes, but that’d be too obvious. With their second The North Face collab just released, what in the sphere of outdoor/sportswear has Gucci not explored?

Of course, this brings to mind Adidas’s rather quiet pairing with another Italian brand: Prada. We were, admittedly, underwhelmed by that output. But both brands deemed the collab a success—enough to have a second (not quite memorable) attempt. Gucci, naturally, won’t go the discreet route (just as Lady Gaga won’t play it safe). We already had a taste of what it might be, if The North Face affair was any indication. Monogram-mad might actually be putting it mildly.

The above illustration is just that, not an official logo from the brand. Watch this space for confirmation of the collaboration. Illustration: Just So

Bag This Outer

Undercover pairing with Eastpak is not unusual. But the apparel they produced is

Eastpak has collaborated with designers on what they specialise in: bags. Names they have shared on the labelling of their wares include Raf Simons, Vivienne Westwood, and most recently, Margiela. But all these collabs yielded only bags. Until Undercover comes along. Shown during Undercover’s charming autumn/winter 2021 collection in January, the two brands offer not bags per se, but outerwear that constitutes some of the most fetching of the season. This is the first for Eastpak: clothing. And by the looks of it, this may not be the last.

Incorporating bags or fabric used in their manufacturer is a particular area of collaborative design that the Japanese do so well, as previously seen with The North Face and Junya Watanabe, as well as Nanamica for the The North Face Purple Label. In that respect, what Undercover has done with Eastpak is rather late in the game, But, as it is often said, better late than never. And it is hard to imagine the never after seeing these wearing garments with the quirky ‘bag’ details. Should they really be there? Can you store anything in them?

There are at least six styles in the capsule. From a bomber to a parka to a car coat, each comes with bag-pockets of varying sizes, as well as short handles—as seen on the top of backpacks—under the rear of the collar, above the yoke (one even emerges from there). The outers come in some strong colours too, such as the above Wellington yellow, as well as a bright red and a dark green. A real pity that we are not likely in need of one of them. Many of us are not travelling, only dreaming of it.

Undercover X Eastpak launches on Christmas Day at Undercover stores, Tokyo. Photo: Undercover

Up, Up, And Away

Chanel is increasing the prices of their handbags. Again. They know they can, and the very many who continue to buy are encouraging, rather than deterring the hike

For many women, the dearer Chanel bags are, the more desirable owning one is. It has to be, or it’s hard to explain the bags’ puzzlingly massive appeal. The price increases are not attributed to inflationary pressures, but are, according to a spokesperson, cited by Bloomberg recently, “in response to unspecified exchange-rate fluctuations, changes in production costs and to ensure its handbags cost roughly the same around the world”. This is not the first time, nor the second, in the past two years that Chanel has upped its prices for their bags. As stated in the Bloomberg piece, prices for the classic styles have been raised by “almost two-thirds since the end of 2019”. That, to us, is staggering. But our—and kindred folks’—reaction to the price hike matters not to Chanel who seems to only want to target those for whom prices matter not. Their latest price increase is a staggering fourth in these past two years. That averages a rise of twice a year.

One marcom executive told us, “This is so ridiculous. Pricing a Chanel bag closer to an Hermès does not make it an Hermès!” But for many women, especially the young, a Chanel bag is the most covetable, and, as a gift, is considered a measurement of the depth of the love shown by the romantic partner. One twentysomething we know, reacting to the news of Chanel jacking up the prices of their bags, said to us, “It’ll not change anything for me. I will still buy. And I want no other bag. And I don’t expect my boyfriend to buy anything but Chanel for me.” Conversely, a “former lover” texted us to say, “25 years or so ago, a Classic (one standard size) with lambskin and lined in burgundy leather sold for S$3,500. That was princely. But now!!!🙀” Many observers consider Chanel’s pricing move a way to keep their bags exclusive. Even after so many are appearing in the secondhand, not to mention bootleg, market? Or, has price, more than the bag itself, become the real confidence booster?

Chanel does not make better leather bags than, say, Delvaux, the world’s oldest luxury leather goods maker. But somehow the very mention of Chanel sends eyes quite lit up. To us, Chanel bags can look frumpy, but even women dressed in Balenciaga-ish oversized togs would carry the recognisable bag, not because they are especially on-trend, but because the double-C lock (never seen in the original that Coco Chanel designed) is the ultimate status symbol. You almost never witness a woman carry her Chanel 2.55 or whatever Flap Bag there are (let’s not get into the taxonomy) with the outside facing inward, against her body—the logo totally blocked. That Chanel did not start (or have a long history) in leather goods, as Hermès primarily did, is no disincentive to the women (and men) so desirous of a Chanel bag. Coco Chanel created her first bag for practical need, rather than materialistic demand: so that, with the shoulder strap, women can keep their hands free while carrying one. These days, women want more than their hands free. And they don’t mind paying for whatever else is associated with carrying a Chanel bag. And the bag maker knows. Only too well.

Photo: Zhao Xiangji

Watched: And Just Like That

The much awaited return of the renamed Sex and the City is, in a word, sad

Warning: this post contains language and description that some readers may find offensive. It also reveals some plots points of the show

Sex and the City (SATC) was a made-for-television product of the late Nineties by HBO. The series premiered in 1998, more than two decades ago. Its unnecessary reboot, the 10-episode, now-45-minute-long And Just Like That (AJLT) desperately wants you to believe that the main characters have veritably left that era. But have they? The same blouse unbuttoned does not make the wearer sexier. AJLT is a desperate attempt to bring the women into a post-pandemic world, to show that these Manhattan women in their 50s can be relevant or speak the language of the present age, but not quite the metaverse, yet. The idea is appealing, but the execution forgets that it still needs to charm. AJLT is merely in legacy-protection mode.

When the camera framed the (remaining) three protagonists together in the first three minutes of episode one, we felt like we were seeing scenes and people frozen in time, unruffled by the cyclones of change. They appeared older, no doubt (Charlotte’s and Miranda Hobbes’s kids are teenagers!), but they also looked like they never went further than 2004, when SATC ended. We were still looking at the over-dressing, the It bags (Carrie now carries two at a time!!!) and, gosh, high heels—more! And the action still took place in some hipster eatery. The women still talked about sex—not their own fancy encounters, but Miranda’s, with her son’s spent condom!

The love columnist, now also an unimpressive podcaster, is her usual a-million-things-on-one-body fashionista. In her first appearance, it was busy from the knee up (we had to belief it was still pandemic season?). Her wavy, multi-tone, breast-length hair cascaded from a close-fit cap unto a floral Dries van Noten jacket, cut diagonally by the straps of not one, but two shoulder bags(!): one in black and the other a gold chain. The one with the black—a green bag that was deliberately hung lower—laid on the thigh of her vintage Claude Montana jumpsuit with flowy side panels. We know Carrie is no minimalist. Her tastes border on fashion victimhood. But, was she telling us she could not wait to be all togged up again, now possibly shopping at vintage stores such as Procell? Or, that her obsessions came along with her, right into a new era? Au courant and current must be there!

And her fervid fixations did not stop at clothes and bags, and oversized fabric flowers. As we know, Carrie Bradshaw has a thing for shoes. In one scene, we were reminded of how much she would not let go when she walked into a walk-in wardrobe and came face to face with a cabinet of high heels, and gleefully said, “hello, lovers”. As quickly as our eyes could see, there were no flats, not even a pair of sneakers. In the end, the “iconic” blue Manolo Blahnik ‘Hangisi’ stiletto pumps with the crystal buckle made their obligatory appearance. A throw-back to the scene of the final season of SATC when the wardrobe was empty? Or, the wedding in the film version of the TV series? How much more do we need to be reminded that Carrie is practically wedded to Manolo heels?

To be sure, we watched only the first half of the first episode. So unendurable it was that we did not care to finish, forget moving to the next. In fact, when it was announced right at the beginning, less than a minute into the show, that Samantha Jones had moved to London, after a bad joke about her possibly dead (Charlotte said “she’s no longer with us”), we did not want to go on watching a show we know will still be based on the whiny Carrie Bradshaw (new characters were introduced—expectedly, women of colour, and more decked-up than SATC’s one major black character Louise from St. Louis, played by Jennifer Hudson). Without the PR maverick, there was no one to temper Carrie’s unreasonableness, ultra-sensitivity and pseudo-prudishness. Broaching the subject of sex is not the same without Sam J. In fact, what more about sex have the women not covered that in the first episode of AJLT, they had to bring it up, humourlessly? Oh, Carrie Bradshaw had never seen a man masturbate. So she made Mr Big do it so that she could watch. And we too. No, thank you.

One of our readers in Bangkok wrote to us to ask if we have watched the show. She, an ex-SATC fan, who does not identify with any of the protagonists, said, “I forget how irritating Carrie is. I became depressed after that. And began to question myself if I, too, am guilty of not acting my age 😂. It took me three days to finish an episode.” For us, we did not even bother reaching to the end of the first. With expressions, such as “sexy sirens in their sixties” and “step up my pussy”, and scenes showing the women, still material, consciously coming into the world of no hand shakes and all manner of wokeness, it felt like the writers and producers tried too hard. Even Mr Big tried too hard (or should that be tried to get hard?)! What is truly regrettable is that And Just Like That is not funny. The jokes felt scripted, not the rapid repartees that so characterised the old show. The women’s lives were more mundane too; they attended a school piano recital! How Lion Moms! As we logged off, something came to our mind: Malboros and Metropolitans did not join the materialism and mania.

Screen grabs: HBO Max

Two Of A Kind: The Cassette

Did Philipp Plein think that without Daniel Lee at Bottega Veneta, we would forget?

Philipp Plein has released images of his pre-fall 2022 womenswear collection. No news there if it isn’t for this bag that is eye-catching—not for its exceptional beauty, but its similarity to one that many, many women (and men) have come to love: the Cassette. Bottega Veneta’s intreccio weave, even oversized (and especially so) is the object of intense desire and is a design very much associated with former creative director Daniel Lee. The German label’s version is not only imitative; it is a cheap-looking, floppy version of the original. What is especially shocking is the similarity of the colour too—not the Bottega Green, but this pale teal. Plonking the hideous logo right in the centre-bottom of the flap does not indicate that this bag is a work of total newness.

Now, Philipp Plein is not exactly the embodiment of rigorous originality or good taste, but you’d think Mr Plein would at least wait till the shock of Daniel Lee’s departure from Bottega Veneta has died down before attempting such an indiscreet stunt. Did he think that by next year, BV would phase out the Cassette so that his bag would be a timely stand-in? (Someone pointed out that his, pictured above, comes with a gold-chained shoulder strap. BV’s padded Cassette is available in gold-chained versions too!) Or did he believe that amid the collection’s garish, tacky, vulgar clothes that vogue.com’s Luke Leitch called “arresting (he used the word twice in a para!)”—think sequinned tracksuits or animal-print anything—women are not going to notice? Then, Philipp Plein is operating in the absence of shame.

Photos: (left) Philipp Plein and (right) Bottega Veneta