Two Of A Kind: Beanies Of Labels Not

Two similarly-named, ‘label-less’ brands and their close-fitted knit caps

Kindred beanies: No Label (left) and No Labels (right). Photos: No Label and No Labels respectively

Near identical names; so, too, the look of the beanies. No Label from Netherlands began in 2013. No Labels from China was launched early this year. A plural noun differentiates the two, but is the extra ‘s’ in the moniker of the one conspicuous enough? Perhaps, the European version with a logotype in a sans-serif font contrasts with the Chinese competition’s script font sufficiently for one not to be mistaken for the other? Or, perhaps, the former’s fully-merchandised line is a clear differentiator from the latter’s one-product debut? As well as one being a men’s brand* while the other targets both sexes?

Yet, amazingly, the two brands offer a rather similar beanie. Apart from the black, both also offer yellow. One is simply ‘Yellow’, the other a brilliantly un-urban ‘Chicken Yellow’. One beanie is made of ‘wool and nylon’ yarn, the other, pure ‘polyester’. One’s ribbed knit is less bulky than the other. One is cheaper in price than the other: €15 (about S$23) and ¥128 (about S$27) respectively. One has no external branding on the product, the other has its name zealously embroidered across the front. Both are made in China. Both have a turn-back cuff, not a short bill. Both are without trims, and not joined at the top by a button, or a pompom. Both are as suitable for cold weather and as useful for flattening hair.

Beanie for him and for her: No Label (left) and No Labels (right). Photos: No Label and No Labels respectively

It is a puzzler why the founder of No Labels, Eleanor Lee, named her clothing brand without first determining if the two words she picked are already used elsewhere. Could it be because she operates out of China, where brand owners are less inclined to concern themselves with the process of naming and the very name itself? Netherland’s No Label is so registered because the company began largely as a manufacturer for private labels before establishing their own brand, offering what they call “basics” that are best identified by quality rather than name. The irony is that Ms Lee would have gone to a company such as No Label to produce her No Labels.

Ms Lee took the plural form because she dislikes being labelled. As she told 8 Days, “you know how in our industry, people always give you a label? Like, ‘Oh she’s a sweet and cute girl’… Yeah. I’ve always been against this and I want the things that I design to represent me. What represents me the most is that I hate labels so the reasoning behind the name No Labels was really quite simple.” And straightforward too, except that, on the other side of the world, there is another brand—established earlier—with a name that’s just as elementary. And, without doubt, alike.

*Interestingly, there is also an SG womenswear label called No Label by an individual—or organisation—called Nami that predominantly trades on Instagram. As far as we’re aware, there is no beanie in their offering, yet. In Malaysia, there is also a menswear brand called No Label Project, another IG-native set-up. Similarly, they offer no beanie, yet

Casio Rocks On

A new collaboration with Japan’s leading guitarist puts Casio in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame?

You have seen his electrifying performance at the opening ceremony of the Tokyo Paralympics last year. Hotei Tomayasu (布袋 寅泰 or Tomayasu Hotei in the West) is a rock guitarist, known not only for his rousing stage presence, but also his distinctive guitar—with the hand-drawn, grid-like white pattern on an ebony fretboard—which debuted in 1985. In his native country, a close-up of the guitar is enough for any Japanese to know who is playing it and what performance would follow. And now, that unmistakable irregular grid appears on the Casio GA-2100 watch, popularly known (and hashtagged) as “Casioak”.

Mr Hotei rose to fame in the ’80s as the lead guitarist of the rock band Boøwy (pronounced boh-ee). He went solo in 1988 after the break-up of the band he co-founded. That year, the group became the first male artists to score three number-one albums in a single year on Japan’s Oricon charts. As the story goes, Mr Hotei was expelled from school in his home city of Takasaki for retorting, when his teacher disapproved of his long hair, with “Jesus had long hair”! He went to Tokyo where he formed Boøwy with vocalist Kyosuke Himuro. Although they lasted only seven years, the band’s influence in Japan is considerable: in 2003 HMV Japan placed Boøwy on 22nd of “100 Most Important Japanese Pop Acts”.

Audiences outside Japan may recognise Mr Tohei’s instrumental track Battle without Honour or Humanity ((バトル・ウィズアウト・オナー・オア・ヒューマニティー) in Quentin Tarantino’s Kill Bill Vol. 1, which soundtracked the scene when O-Ren Ishii (Lucy Liew) and The Bride (Uma Thurman) were in the Tokyo live-music club The House of Blue Leaves (where the girl band’s played, shoe-less!), before their violent showdown outside. In fact, that song, with its recognisable riffs, first appeared in Sakamoto Junji’s 2000 film New Battle without Honour or Humanity, in which Mr Tohei wrote the soundtrack and played the role of Masatatsu Tochino, a nightclub owner who dislikes crime gangs, but is brought into direct battle with the yakuza.

The new Casio GA-2100HT-1A has less of a bad-ass attitude or the original guitar’s avant-garde leaning at the time it appeared. It is all in the surface treatment of the bezel and the strap, for the watch is really based on the popular GA-2100, launched in 2019, so there is no tech tweak or update. Casio describes the watch as “slim”, as compared to, say, a typical G-Shock timepiece. The pattern does distract from the watch’s characteristic octagonal face, but some may find it rather evocative of something Swatch would do.

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

Casio GA-2100HT-1A, SGD269, is available at Casio stores. Photos: (top left) Casio and (top right) Toshiba-EMI