The Silent One

Giorgio Armani’s IRL show is staged without music. Silence to stand in solidarity with Ukraine. Applause

So far, in Milan, no designer has taken a definitive stand on what is happening to the north-east of the fashion capital, some 2,203 kilometres away. The unfortunate, clear-as-velvet Russo-Ukrainian war struck on the second day of Milan Fashion Week, but it would take the vanguard of Italian fashion Giorgio Armani to express—even if it’s another two days later—what his fellow designers probably feel, but unwilling to say: show “respect” for the Ukrainians. This Mr Armani does by eliminating the soundtrack to his autumn/winter 2022 show. A quiet affair can be a much louder objection to the war than what some far more vocal opponents prefer: blaring condemnation. (While we are on the topic of taking a stand, we at SOTD would like to state categorically that we do not support unprovoked war against a sovereign country. Peace be with Ukraine soon.)

The show opens with a voice-over reading in the darkness, a message in English that Mr Armani had written: “My decision to not use any music in the show was made as a sign of respect towards the people involved in the unfolding tragedy in Ukraine.” The audience clapped approvingly. While reports emerged that, since last Thursday, there were people holding placards denouncing the war outside some show venues, none stated that designers took similarly disapproving stance. It is possible that many brands worry about their businesses in Russia (where, in Moscow, many Italian brands have flagship stores that appeal to the oligarchs and co) and, therefore, prefer to be quiet about their feelings and play down their reactions. Mr Armani’s music-free show may help break that booming silence.

No matter how much the present time has changed (or will change even more), Mr Armani’s designs have not. This is not necessarily disadvantageous. Perhaps of the uncertainty of the future, this familiarity is reassuring. The Armani silhouette, never extreme (no Yeti’s-fur-as-coat or leg-O-Franken-mutton sleeves, as seen in the Dolce & Gabbana blitzkrieg on the senses), adheres to a reliable and, if one tries, relatable elegance that may wane with the fashion crowd, but does not fade. His shoulders are often rounded and soft, but can be powerfully strong when the occasion calls for them, his necklines are usually quite high, but they may plunge when the trend expects it, and his hems are usually low, but they do rise when there is a need for them to. This, for many, is a ‘safe’ balancing act, but it is the embrace of such safety that many turn to when confronting the ugliness of an abhorrent, conflict-struck world.

Mr Armani, to be fair, attempts to create freshness in fabrics he uses: corded fretwork, graphic quilting and paneling, even faux fur—they have the exquisite quality (and technical finesse of application) that other houses declare to possess, but do not. And however he mixes them—the heavy with the light, the patterned with the plain, the effect is not excessive or disproportionate—he confidently repels the excesses these past two years wrought. While only the models’ footsteps and the swish of the body-skimming clothes could be heard, the overall quiet is peacefulness that stirs. With a war raging, the serenity is truly pleasing, audible, and harmonic.

Screen grab (top) and photos: Giorgio Armani

Let Leather Lead

Bottega Veneta’s new designer Matthieu Blazy allows the fabric used in the house’s signature Intrecciato weaving to pilot the brand he’s now in-charged forward

Leather really commands Matthieu Blazy’s debut for Bottega Veneta. Mr Blazy, who took over the creative reign after the sudden departure of his predecessor Daniel Lee last November, has allowed the supple cowhides to do much of the talking. Even the first two pairs of jeans he sends out, they are really made of leather, not cotton denim, but treated to look like those rather washed to death. And that singlet-looking white top, it is made of leather too. More followed: trench coats, car coats, suits, slacks, skirts (narrow and full), little black dresses—really rather a lot. When the clothes are not in leather, the leather accessories dominate the looks, sometimes in the form of bags as large as and in the shape of an ossuary. Or, in other cases, bedroom pillows. Even with the sheer, lacy looks, it is the thigh-high boots that draw the eye.

That leather should feature so prominently is perhaps unsurprising. Bottega Veneta found immediate fame in 1966 with their now-recognisable intrecciato, a leather weaving technique, used, at the start, on leather goods, mainly bags. Ready-to-wear did not appear until the late ’90s under the stewardship of the English designer Giles Deacon, but it was the German Tomas Maier’s first collection for the house in 2005 that the BV aesthetic of easy, logo-less, sophistication was established and became sought after. In some ways, Mr Blazy’s collection was reminiscent of the 2000s, especially the hunky coats and the re-glorification of the intrecciato, now used even on miniskirts.

Just as with Daniel Lee’s debut, it is hard for us to say now if this collection will go anywhere. We doubt it’d break the Internet, even if social media adherents may enthusiastically embrace some of the more flashy pieces. While an acceptable first season, it isn’t one that effects the proverbial bang. It seems that this is Mr Blazy putting to good use his training and aesthetical absorption at Raf Simons and Céline under Phoebe Philo. A sleek confirmation of his ability to make beautiful coats with the proportion of the day? Or, could this, perhaps, be a foretaste of a bigger, more impactful onslaught later? But with Ms Philo’s forthcoming return, is this some kind of prelude for ‘Philophiles’? To be sure, there are some technical finesse on show—the elevated shoulder strap of the shift-dresses, for example. And appealing ideas—the asymmetric full skirts, under which a fringed sister swishes. But are they enough to bring about viewer exhilaration?

Missing is the ‘parakeet green’ that became an impressive sales enhancer for the brand during Mr Lee’s tenure. Sure there is one dress in a colour that is close enough, but the ombré effect minimises its chromatic impact. Matthieu Blazy uses other greens, but they are not as bright and noticeable from afar as the one named after a bird. It’s the accessories, rather than the cloths, that seem to be conceived to have maximum impact on the retail floor, and to draw attention to their wearers: open-weave clutches, double-ended intrecciato buckets, shoulder bag versions of the Pouch, cushion-like clutches, handbags with branch-like handles, above-knee boots, exotic-skin platform Mary Janes, intrecciato clompers, and impressively more. For some brands, leather goods are still the main driver of sales, so it is possible that the clothes of Bottega Veneta are, at least for now, to give context to the accessories. Like on any stage, all leads need striking costumes.

Screen grab (top): Bottega Veneta/YouTube. Photos: gorunway.com

Two Of A Kind: Space Suits

Why do some designers like taking the customary end-of-show bow dressed like they had just been to the moon?

Space walk: (left) John Galliano, photo: Alamy, and (right) Jeremy Scott, photo: Imaxtree

At the end of the Dior haute couture autumn/winter 2006 show, the designer at the that time, John Galliano, emerged in a space suit to bask in the adulation of the audience. What he wore could be those issued by NASA for the International Space Station although it was likely been made by the Dior atelier. Sixteen years later, Jeremy Scott too took to the Moschino autumn/winter 2022 runway days ago in a space suit that could have been a costume from Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyessy. Or a red version of one of those Tintin and gang wore in Destination Moon?

John Galliano has been called the “ultimate showman”, and his end-of-show appearances at both the Dior haute couture and prêtàporter were as dramatic as what his models wore. Apart from the space suit, he has adopted pirate gear, equestrian attire, the matador’s traje de luces, and more costumes than any seasoned actor at The Old Vic. Jeremy Scott is not, as far as we are aware, predisposed to put go whole-hog fancy dress for his runway moment. Although his work for Moshino has a theatrical bent, he has not been role-playing until now. Pandemic-related stress?

According to NASA, “a spacesuit is more than clothes astronauts wear in space. The suit is really a small spacecraft. It protects the astronaut from the dangers of being outside in space.” Sure, the space around us on planet earth—in particular, personal space—is not only diminished but a dangerous one. Personal protective equipment is adopted by even those outside the medical field. But what was Jeremy Scott really guarding himself against when he was not about to disembark from Elon Musk’s Starship onto unknown planetary terrain? In all likelihood, Instagram and TickTok know.

It’s Yeezy: Look Like Kanye

If you can’t afford the threads Kanye West wears to look ominously wrapped up, Yeezy Gap Engineered by Balenciaga has similar sinister options for you

Gap will, for the first time in their 53-year existence embrace the look of a dark lord—whether of the Sith or Mordor, or Hidden Hills, you choose. Their offshoot brand Yeezy Gap headed by the all-dominant Kanye West is now in a collaborative arrangement with Balenciaga, specifically the equally powerful Demna Gvasalia. The sub-brand of that sub-brand, Yeezy Gap Engineered by Balenciaga (another long name to add to the club of long names or text in a logo), has released images of the so-far 8-piece capsule that comprises way more that what Mr West has produced since his appointment in 2020, when he signed an unimaginable 10-year deal with The Gap Inc, reported to be “worth as much as $970 million”, according to estimates later provided by UBS.

This collection, compared to Yeezy (the fashion label), is another planet. We have to go back to the past since Mr West has only created two items—a puffer and a hoodie—for Yeezy Gap. While Yeezy (fate not yet known) was mostly sensuous and body-loving, the Yeezy Gap tie-up is moody, oversized stuff that members of the Abnegation (or, perhaps, off-duty folks of Dauntless) of Divergent Chicago would wear. But the pieces click with Mr West’s preference for basics that are sufficiently tweaked for the pieces to look outré, but not so much that the kids of Calabasas or the fans in not-yet-dystopian Chicago would find them hard to accept. This time, the merchandise—apparently ready to retail three months earlier than planned—is a grand selection of one hoodie, four tees (one long-sleeved, three with a blurred dove image on the back), a pair of track pants, one torn denim trucker and jeans to match.

While the clothes may not arouse zeal, the pricing would spark shock. The cheapest item, one of the four T-shirts, is S$180 a pop (S$210 if the logo on the chest is larger)! For Gap? Yeezy? That makes Comme des Garçons’s madly popular made-in-Japan Play tees, at S$100 a piece (or S$110 for the men’s sizes), alluringly cheap. Is Yeezy Gap Engineered by Balenciaga expensive because, other than the luxury-brand association, they are MAGA-proudly “made in the USA”? Or is this a Gap-backed Balenciaga diffusion line to infuse the fashion and pop world with baggy bombast? A venture to better propagate the increasingly bleak, individual-erasing aesthetic of the Ye-Demna pairing, already seen in so much visually associated with Mr West’s Donda album release, activities, and publicity?

Mr Gvasalia told Vogue, “This is a very different challenge. I’ve always appreciated the utilitarianism and the accessibility of Gap. This project allowed me to join forces (with Ye) to create utilitarian fashion for all.” Reaching out to this many is ambitious. The thought is pretty scary too, when you consider seeing before you, the hordes dressed as if to attend Kanye West’s Sunday Service, to worship at the alter presided by a polymath-proteus-egoist. Even if you stop outside the moving doors of this church/cult (which one it is, it’s hard to say), it does not mean you would not witness the many adopters for whom the two one-names behind Yeezy Gap’s latest offerings could do no wrong. Are there really that many wishing for this creepy uniformity?

Oh, do also note: on the Yeezy Gap website, there’s no button that says ‘add to cart’, but a brief line that urges you to ‘JOIN WAITLIST’. Yes, in all caps, just like Kanye West’s rant-Tweets.

Rating: 1.5 out of 5.

Yeezy Gap Engineered by Balenciaga is available online at Yeezy Gap and Farfetch. Photos: Yeezy Gap Engineered by Balenciaga

Starting From A Singlet

Prada’s inner garment of what was once men’s undershirt is truly the freshest back-to-basics new beginning

Halfway through this season’s Prada show, Dave Gahan’s voice was heard singing “Let me see you stripped/Down to the bone” in the Martin Gore-penned Stripped (from Depeche Mode’s 1986 album Black Celebration). The song is one of four (the other three Leave in Silence, I feel You, and Behind the Wheel from other albums) that soundtracked the show, staged just hours after Russia aberrantly attacked Ukraine. It is doubtful that the war, predicted months earlier, influenced the Miuccia Prada and Raf Simons, but the aviator jackets and mannish coats that could be those worn over army uniforms had a premonitory feel about them. But it is the strip down to the decidedly mannish white singlet (‘vest’, in the UK)—traditionally worn as undershirt, and, yes, under military accoutrements too—that oddly underpins the magnificence and refinement of Prada’s autumn/winter 2022 season.

Who’d guess that Prada, still associated with the lady-like no matter how subversive they get, would not be using a camisole when an inner garment is required. A boyfriend’s top trending very soon? And, a re-acquainting with men’s underclothing brands such as Gunze and Schiesser? Prada has always leaned on the masculine (to the disapproval of tai-tais, who, as a stylist told us with a tinge of regret in his voice, “do not like Raf Simons”), but that inclination is always tempered with something feminine, as it is now. The ribbed singlet, while in some looks is worn singly, often goes under a sheer shift (sometimes underpants showing) or over a slim, horizontally paneled skirt. It is this visual dichotomy that Prada, to us, is often ahead of and leagues apart from others.

Increasingly, the partnership between Ms Prada and Mr Simons looks back at the brand’s ‘codes’ and bringing them back for re-imagining and re-enjoying. But they are not reprised wholesale, as Mr Simons says in a statement. “There are never direct recreations, but there is a reflection of something you know, a language of Prada.” Those notorious ‘ugly’ Prada prints of the ’90s, for example, in “puke” colours return in the form of knit sweaters, and paired with those narrow tri-paneled skirts. There is a veritable play of textures of fabrics, and density as well, which makes the compositions delightfully more complex than they really are. Or those full skirts, now even fuller, that Ms Prada herself is synonymous with. But the “language” that Mr Simons speaks of may not communicate to that many women here. The silhouettes, for many, is not feminine enough—the boxiness, the wide shoulders (even on the dresses), and the lack of the constricted embrace of curves! But if Kim Kardashian, attending the Prada show for the first time, can be seen in a baggy, leather, men’s boiler suit, why can’t more women here re-examine their supposed distaste for Prada?

For sure, there’s a palpable presence of Mr Simons’s distinct hand in the collection. He does look at womenswear quite differently, unlike, say, Kim Jones, for whom a more traditional approximation of feminine gravitas is what, to him, Fendi needs. The music of the Prada show again: they seem to be a selection that is more in keeping with Mr Simons’s own taste than what the house of Prada is usually known for. The harder, more industrial sound, more techno-retro, too, recalls the selections used in Mr Simons on shows. It does, however, cast Prada in a seductive past/present light, imbuing the clothes with a need-them-right-away nowness. As Mr Grahan sang in Dresses in Black (also from Black Celebration, but not used in the show), “As a picture of herself/She’s a picture of the world/A reflection of you, a reflection of me/And it’s all there to see if you only give in to the fire within.” That’s Prada, and we agree.

Screen grab (top) and photos: Prada

The Shein Top

…at the heart of the latest influencer controversy

By Pearl Goh

It is an itsy-bitsy top, but it has an oversized effect on social media. And the response to the proud wearer/influencer’s subsequent riposte was massive enough for her to enjoy a couple of long digital headlines. Making, I presume, the online retailer she touts very pleased. Chrysan Lee is a YouTuber, an Instagrammer, a TikToker, and an “actress” on the YouTube channel Wah!Banana. She appeared in this top by Shein on IG (sharing that what she wore was “top to toe outfit from SHEIN!” and offering a code which offers the user a “15% off! [yes, also with exclamation])” and TikTok and, as a (predictable) consequence, invited viewer comments, flattering and not. Unfortunately for her, few said anything about the garb itself, but how she looked in the skimpy top. Enraged by the many negative criticisms, she hit back by naming and shaming those who made harsh and uncomplimentary remarks about her appearance. And, as it usually is nowadays, effectively dividing the followers of her social media.

You’d think that the admittedly exiguous top, requiring fabric tantamount to how much it takes to make a bandana (or two handkerchiefs), would be a discreet entity, but on some bodies, it might cry, ‘look at—and comment about—me’. Ms Lee, to be sure, does not look dreadful or deserving of the sometimes hostile impulses that ensued. The piece, which seems to me to be designed to sufficiently cup ample boobs, has a rather one-dimensional effect on her. It looks flat, not what most of the viewers she attracts (102K on IG), guys especially, hope to see: cup(s) runneth over. On TikTok, she adjusted the top (I have no idea why) by pulling it upwards, and it slid smoothly without the tug that a more-endowed wearer would experience. As we know, it takes very little these days to induce the online community to disparage. Or, draw attention to comparatively restricted physical dimensions. Even girls-friendly websites, to my surprise, unambiguously point out her “small tatas”.

…she adjusted the top by pulling it upwards, and it slid smoothly without the tug that a more-endowed wearer would experience

This swimwear-like chest-wrap—S$11, on the Shein SG website—is described by the number one Chinese fast-fashion brand as a “halter neck ring chain rhinestone backless crop top (sic)”. A mouthful, no doubt, even if you could figure out the order. As much as I tried, I could not discern the halter part of what is essentially a bandeau (known in Chinese as a 抹胸上衣 moxiong shangyi or go-around-the-chest top. On the brand’s Taiwan site, a search yielded 3,254 items!), drawn together in the middle by way of a ring to create a circular key-hole right between the breasts. The halter effect is in the chain-and-rhinestone necklace that is looped through the front opening. When placed around the neck, I assume it helps hold up the top when worn on those for whom such additional securing is required. The necklace doubles as a decorative component too, and augmented by more of the same—with additional charms(!)—that hang from that middle ring to a tape-loop stitched to the centre-back of the straight rear (Shein describes the piece as “backless”, but it is not). If it recalls a belly-dancer’s costume, then I am not alone.

The sparkly, poly-metallic shangyi Ms Lee featured is one among more than 560—frankly I lost count!—variations of scantiness, categorised under “top/sleeveless/sexy/glamorous” in the Shein website, nearly all no more than S$20. Among these, more than a dozen—lost, again—sport the ring in the middle that affords a circular peek at the cleavage, as if creating a focal point. At the time of this posting, only sizes L and XL are left. I can’t be certain if its seeming popularity is the result of Ms Lee’s still and video posts, but the sell-out of popular sizes and the fact that Ms Lee singled this upper garment out to feature could attest to the acceptance and adoration of racy looks now pervading social media and the runway. Chrysan Lee herself is partial to swaddling her upper body in what would normally be considered the upper half a bikini set—very ready for online followers, even when she claims to not know where her sartorial inspo comes from. She said on one of her hitherto just five YouTube posts, Answering your Stupid Questions—Part 1, “I’ll be very happy to find clothes outside that fits me”. As with ‘to clothe’, ‘fit’ is being actively redefined for fashion of the pandemic era. Less, I suppose, is definitely more—whether on a voluptuous body or not.

Illustration by Just So

New York Fashion Week: Strip For Autumn/Winter

If some shows of the just-concluded New York Fashion Week is any real indication, it’d be an autumn/winter 2022 season of clothes that are really scraps of fabric on the body

Seasons change; so too fashion. But it’s increasingly hard to tell the seasons apart if we go by what is shown on the New York runways recently. Even the fashion: swimwear or dress? Or, bandages? This has been New York Fashion Week, not Los Angeles, not Miami. The average low of the Big Apple’s winter temperatures is minus-10 degrees Celsius. Yet, for autumn/winter 2022, a considerable number of American designers seemed to have Mogadeshu in mind, not Manhattan. There is no denying that fabric prices are rising (check: cotton, especially organic), so using considerably less might be a strategy to push cost (although not retail prices) down, but if fashion’s main premise is the use and manipulation of cloth to cover the body, does it make sense that less is positively more, unclothed is attractively dressed?

With the biggies, namely Tom Ford and Marc Jacobs, missing in action this time, we were encouraged to look at the runways of other names, not necessarily within our usual radar. And the newbies—“New York Fashion Week Is All About Emerging Talent”, went the rousing WWD headline. We were, however, putting them aside for the noise generated by those deemed New York’s loudest and brightest—the extraordinary individuals who could make noise out of nothing. While there is the subtext of fashion’s relationship with race (now Black designers and Black aesthetic are to be even more celebrated), there is also America’s increasing partiality for the madcap (imprudent?) pulling together of looks that weaken the boundaries of refinement and discernment. Sportswear meets worse-for-wear, pseudo-prissy pairs with tryingly pretty, and utilitarian clichés mate with hoary hussy hacks.

In fact, the vivid pronouncement of sex, or sexiness that must replace loungewear-as-all-wear of the past two years is the dominant theme of this season in New York, from the debut of Lisa Von Tang to the strengthening of Telfar Clements to the comeback of Shayne Oliver. Sure, this close-to-nakedness shouldn’t be surprising when many designers made the bra a major trend for spring/summer 2022, but is stripping down really the way forward even when bare is not normally preferred to battle brrr? Where do we go—or how little more—from here? Or, have fabrics become so expensive that it is really more viable for some brands to use as little of them as possible? Rather than textile cost that impacts wholesale markup, there is this persuasive believe that the market for such clothes is ripe. Pioneers such as Nicki Minaj has been testing the legal limits of the lack of dress since 2017, but at the time, the adoption was mainly among celebrities and stars. Now, we are to believe that women in general hanker after the utterly skimpy too.

…there is also America’s increasing partiality for the madcap (imprudent?) pulling together of looks that weaken the boundaries of refinement and discernment

Near-nudity is not, of course, radical, anymore. We have gotten used to it. Social media made sure of that, the red carpets of the Grammys and Met Gala made sure of that, and the lost of nuances that once constituted sexy made sure of that. Or is this bare-is-beautiful the epitome of modern ease? When we looked at an Eckhaus Latta column, with a plunging neckline (to the navel), ‘cold hips’, side slits, we can’t help but wonder where construction and flattering went. To be sure, there are techniques involved in the assembling of these crisscrossed strips or the hanging of fabrics from a narrow point on the shoulders to barely cover the rest of the body. Change has arrived at how clothes are held together too. Could taping now take the place of sewing?

Some people say that the sex in clothes is not there unless you were looking for it. These are articles of fashion, not dresses for any gaze, male or female. Women are now so comfortable with their bodies that they are expanding the definition of a sexualised body. Self-esteem is boosted by self-sexualising? It is a complex world, and fashion, with all its increasingly mixed messages, is just as much about un-fashion: Why have more clothes when you can do away with a whole chunk of them (even for winter months)? Clothing has a different function from what many of us remember. Unclothed says about fashion design what space does for graphic design: it is an element. Bare skin in a no body-shaming world is lovelier to look at than the stitched fabric that once concealed it. Tom Ford—who’d guess?—now looks positively modest.

These clothes could be one of reasons why not that many people take New York Fashion Week seriously, especially when the output is increasingly looking like the getups at that event on the first Monday of May. American fashion has gone from user-friendly practicality to celebrity-targeted hotness, from Donna Karan’s Five Easy Pieces to just plain easy—free from the constraints of coverings. It is tempting to cast this as a new gen of designers having fun, communicating an inside joke, but the swaddles are serious stuff. The name to watch out for this season was Shayne Oliver, whose former label Hood by Air came to a halt in 2017. Mr Oliver returned with a fashion mishap called Headless, sending out a hotchpotch that set forth his embrace of the display of skin. So, there was that Viktor & Rolf-like shoulder, and a horizontally protracted version, as well as those odd shapes here and there that made every falling piece in Tetris look positively regular, but for the most part—those deconstructed bra tops!—are composites that considered not the sheathing of the body. Supporters eagerly tagged Mr Oliver’s scant semblance of clothes as “American avant garde”. Oh, sure, just like the rest of the bare brigade.

Runway photos: source. Collage: Just So

Sock ’Em In The Eye?

Do women really want to look this battered?

Photos: (left) Chanel and (right) Shutterstock

By Mao Shan Wang

Beautiful eyes. Who doesn’t want them, especially those of us not especially blessed, and need some tools of colour for enhancement? But I really can’t make out the make-up du jour. From Chanel’s single blacken eye to Julia Fox’s total black out, what is really going on? Why, at a time when we really want to look healthy and unscarred by a unrelenting virus, does any woman desire to give the impression that she was abused? Willingly! Or, is this some self-pummeling as a beauty expression I—and, presumably, you—know not of? If I were to leave my home looking like that, people I know (and do not) would be very worried. Either my eye make-up skill has gone to the dogs, or domestic violence—no laughing matter—has roosted in my home.

The Chanel models I can understand. They did not have a choice in the colour of their eye makeup, nor the intensity of the make-believe bruise. But for Julia Fox, a woman then dating the most powerful man in music and fashion, the indefatigable Kanye West (they reportedly broke up in the middle of this month), and attending the Kenzo and Schiaparelli shows with her beau, the black eyes offered not quite positive optics for the actress and the man next two her, known to be somewhat misogynistic (how do you call his attack of Taylor Swift and Billie Eilish?). Could this be Mr West’s doing—a compulsory makeover of the women he dates? Or was Ms Fox trying to look as sexy as Diggs of Cats and Dogs?

I am tempted to see this trend as makeup brands attempting to sell more eye colour. Chanel’s runway looks certainly impacted their makeup division bigly before—remember the nail colour Vamp? Or was 1994 too long ago? Dark nail polish (and it would get darker), while totally new then, was not suggestive of violence (Vamp would go on to be so successful that it was ranked fifth all-time best-selling nail colour of the previous century) willfully inflicted on women. But a black eye socket? So that fashionable women could appear as though there were physically assaulted? Or, in the case of Chanel, like they fell off a horse? I give up.

When Fashion Stops Living

At the recent New York Fashion Week, Lisa Von Tang Dares to Die. Bravo?

Showing in the just-concluded New York Fashion Week, Lisa Von Tang (LVT) serves up her floozy looks at the right time. In the era of the pandemic, women, we have been told, are embracing sexy clothing as an “empowered choice”. This has nothing to do with effecting a sexual response in—well, to be woke—any sex. Women just want to look that way. And Ms Von Tang (aka Lisa Crosswhite, also Lisa Rosentreter, who formerly designed under Chi Chi Von Tang), is willing to wager that her body-hugging, cleavage-baring, navel-showing, rump-exposing, serpent-snaking fashion would find immense favour, especially in the Big Apple, where she is in the good company of like-minded designers Eckhaus Latta, LaQuan Smith, and Bronx and Banco. But, unlike the Americans, she is flashing skin under the gammy guise of Orientalism and, in doing so, ‘Dare(s) to Die’, as the 39-look collection is ominously called.

Whether that is defiance or a taunt, Ms Von Tang is clearly in a death-embracing mood. Hers is an admirable tenacity to milk Chinese motifs for all they’re worth, even when what she ends up with is mostly cheese. She has done it before (all the way back to her first store, now closed, in Scotts Square) and she’s still doing it. She is no Vivienne Tam, who has a pop sensibility, wrapped with cheeky irreverence, in the motifs chinois she employs. Ms Von Tang, who is half Chinese, has a more linear approach, sometimes mistakenly described by the media and her supporters as “authentic”. A dazzling snake has to slither down the body; its forked tongue flicked out. It can’t be placed in a more surprising manner. (We won’t attempt to understand that vulva-centred flame on a crotch! Or, is that empowered?) A slit is evocative of the qipao’s, but works like a rip. It rebuffs the Chinese belief that showing the whole knee is less alluring than a hint of the thigh. Pankou (盘扣) or frog fasteners are less decorative elements than to yield bondage effects; applied to the side of the bodice, they curiously make an outfit look constricted. “For soft, pure, spirits,” as she says on the LVT website, “who have had to deal with the brutality of the world”?

Ms Von Tang, to be sure, is proud of being half Chinese, and, according to her corporate profile, also with “Burmese, Thai and Indonesian blood in her ancient bloodline.” She, thus, wears Asia on her sleeve (LVT is an SG brand! And Ms Von Tang is a SG PR), but she tends to design from a Western standpoint, picking, as a Westerner would, those motifs considered “exotic”, forming a clichéd counterpoint to urban uniforms—such as a blouson—that she, at one time, made popular, one really modelled after the Japanese souvenir jacket. Whatever contemporary “twists” she attempts, they are tagged to the side of the hackneyed. It is, thus, tempting to compare the Mandarin-collared mini-dresses of the present collection to the archetypal Chinese restaurants’ waitress uniforms, but the effect rests somewhere between cringey costume and hooker chic that Saweetie would love.

Chineseness, it seems, is her calling card. She told the American media, “I want to do it in a way that doesn’t feel like Chinese New Year—a little more contemporary and modern”. She may have narrowly avoided CNY, but somehow the clothes have the vibe of Chinatown, not the one between South Bridge Road and New Bridge Road, but those theme-park manifestations in the hub cities of the West. “A little more contemporary and modern” is, therefore, not quite enough, even if they are tethered to the punkish, clubby, and ‘fierce’. Bodysuits unattached at the crotch (there’s also a super-abbreviated one!), OG (the store!)-worthy glittery leggings, skinny satin pants with criss-cross chains(?) across the stomach, bags-as-harnesses (part 1017 ALYX 9SM, part Virgil Abloh for Louis Vuitton?), and cheap-looking crystal danglies for straps and such have the whiff of the death of design savvy. It really might be a tad better if Lisa Von Tang dares to live.

Photos: Lisa Von Tang

OTT Guo Da Li

One betrothal ceremony that is big, bold, and boastful

What does Kim Lim (林慧俐) have that many of us do not, apart from beauty and money? This question was recently posed to us by a friend who admits to an irrational fascination with her social media appeal (on Instagram, she has 324K followers, among them Paris-based Singaporean designer Andrew Gn) and immense popularity among journalists. The answer was not obvious to us until now: she gets to enjoy a wildly lavish guodali (过大礼) betrothal ceremony! Ms Lim and her (still) unnamed fiancé (he’s only known by the handle ‘waleoweh’) are not quite married yet, but the soon-to-be groom did not hold back on the gifts—and their symbolisms—that he presented to her and family yesterday, according to a report on the digital edition of Icon. It was a boon to luxury brands (Rolex and Hermes!) and traders of shanzhen haiwei (山珍海味) luxury foodstuff. Her family needed to know she would be well dressed and fed, and he showed it! The expensive everything, reportedly to the tune of S$2 million, formed a sea of red against an acrylic floral wall, and the couple were happy to pose in the centre of the imposing and orderly array, underscored by more than a dozen boxes of chunky gold jewellery—way more than the sidianjin 四点金, four touches of gold (excluding the reported “15 gold bars”), that are customarily offered to the bride-to-be.

As invitee Xiaxue enthusiastically described the ceremony on IG Stories, “It’s the most bamz (something that’s very good) guo da li I’ve ever seen”. The groom arrived (at presumably the Lim family residence) in one black Rolls Royce, followed by another. He was decked in what Icon described as 上海滩唐装 (shang hai tan tang zhuang or Shanghainese Tang suit), in the colour of the fissures on the pale and expensive huagu (花菇 or flower mushroom) seen in the posted photos. Big-headed dolls and lion dancers came out to greet him, indicating an affair to follow that’s so massive, it would get social media immediately texting and sharing. The many images that appeared showed the impressive tiered set-up that could pass off as a brimming nianhuo (年货 or new year goods) stall on Waterloo Street during CNY. Or even an auspiciously-merchandised kiosk at a bridal show. This, according to Icon, was conceived and put together by The Wedding Atelier, the Singapore-born “luxury wedding planner”, with also an office in Hong Kong, and a client list few can proudly say they belong to.

Guodali (or gor dai lai in Cantonese) this huge and this elaborate is rarely seen these days, although in the distant past, the betrothal ceremony could be immense, lasting a few days and, for those with wealth, just as opulent, and an opportunity to show to those, who consider being informed of such matters essential, the families of the betrotheds’ riches or worth. The Hokkiens and the Peranakans know this as lapchai (纳财 or bringing in wealth), and theirs, especially for the latter, even came with a noisy procession of gift bearers, a band playing traditional instruments, and relatives deemed lucky enough to witness the ceremony. At its most basic, the guodali is a formal meeting between two families to exchange gifts that represent prosperity and—to ensure progeny—fertility too. But, as seen in what Kim Lim and her friends shared on IG, hers was far from basic. It was lavish, adorned, and splashy. Every single item—even the many cans of abalone—was affixed with the shuangxi (双喜) double-happiness character, and, if possible, encased or sheathed in red. For once and a change, the fiancée was upstaged.

One elderly lady brought to our attention that the guodali is normally dispensed with if it’s the second marriage for the woman. Ms Lim had tied the knot before. According to Icon, whose editor Sylvester Ng gets first dibs when it comes to stories of the fushang qianjin 富商千金 (daughter of a wealthy businessman), she registered her marriage in 2016 to Kho Bin Kai, a little-known fellow to the public she had met in Thailand, but the wedding banquet was held in March 2018 (no guodali was mentioned, although it is likely it took place, possibly more modestly), after the couple’s son was born. A year later, man and wife separated, and in 2020, both chose divorce. Soon—last September—she announced on IG that she was engaged. And now this OTT guodali, born of prodigal resources. It was a staggering display of immense attention to detail, rich with symbolism rarely appreciated today, presented by a guy not leaving the minutiae of ritual to his fiancée. It is no wonder that Kim Lim posted on IG when he proposed last year, “YES TO YOU A THOUSAND TIMES OVER AND OVER AGAIN!” We wish her (and fiancé) as much happiness as there were shuangxi cut-outs on every gift presented so dramatically to her, ahead of what is likely to be an even more staggering and extravagant wedding.

Photos: (top) thefloralatelier.co/Instagram and (bottom) kimlimhl/Instagram

Louis Vuitton’s Labour Load

Reports have emerged that LV’s workers are unhappy. Further price hikes to meet the employees’ demands?

Although it’s been described as an “LVMH’s Sales Boom” this past year, the luxury conglomerate has reportedly not been able to meet their staff’s pay expectations. According to French daily Le Monde, employees were encouraged by unions to mount a walk-out at five LV-owned factories last Thursday in what has been called a “rare event” within possibly the world’s most famous fashion group. And “hundreds” apparently did. This action was urged as Louis Vuitton management deliberated “a new agreement on working time in order to reduce overtime”, the paper stated. Apart from the schedule change, the workers also walked out due to “low wages”.

In addition, BOF shared that “the unions had been working with the LVMH-owned company since the fall, and are now threatening to strike in the coming week if the company does not meet their demands”. The French conglomerate responded by saying that they offer “an attractive remuneration policy,” according to Fashion Network, and that they support “work-life balance”. The conflict is believed to be resolved.

Some Louis Vuitton fans we know are surprised that their favourite brand would be caught in such a dramatic labour dispute when the maker of the Speedy and the Twist has been doing well (queues outside their stores on Valentine’s Day!) and had raised the prices—LV called the exercise an “adjustment”—of some of their products. PR professionals we spoke to do not believe this will impact the brand’s still-strong appeal, although younger customers that LV has been targeting might find it tough to open their wallets easily, and regularly.

Photo: Zhao Xiangji

Three To Dangle

Sacai offers what you would likely find in stores such as Outdoor Life. A trio tethered to a paracord

What won’t brands offer these days that are not related to garments? If Prada now also caters to camping pursuits and puts out mess tins, other labels might be tempted to follow. We are not referring to the odd bottle carrier that is creeping into the must-have bag category (which still employs a fabric, even when non-woven); we are speaking of products that use other materials such as aluminum or rubber that fashion companies generally don’t buy or stock in bulk. One of them brands is Sacai. Now considered a major, haute couture-worthy player, the fast-rising Japanese star burando is offering accessories for your daily commute or weekend adventure.

You know what is crucial nowadays when you are gallivanting outside the confines of your home. Hand sanitiser, AirPods, H2O—choose your own order. So Sacai is right by your side. This trio comprises an aluminum sanitiser spray bottle, a case for Airpods Pro, and a silicone ring with which to hold a bottle of Ice Mountain at its neck (see top image, clockwise from top). All three are strung through a paracord with a metal spring-load toggle attached. You can wear it round your neck as if its a necklace with oversized charms. And the conspicuous Sacai branding on two of the items will ensure that you are on the right side of the trek, urban or uphill.

Sacai ‘Accesories Strap’, SGD370, is available at Sacai and DSMS. Product photo: Sacai. Illustration: Just So