On Valentine’s Day, Go Luxury Shopping

This year, the women of the happy pairs celebrating love weren’t carrying a stalk of rose or a bouquet, they were holding paper bags, big and small, with luxury brand names stretched delightfully across them

By Pearl Goh

It’s was a day when one-metre distancing did not apply, masks were preferably optional, and special occasion dressing had no opportunity to meet this annual celebration. The curious and single I thought I would venture out to see what the more fortunate were doing on Valentine’s Day, still marked by the romance-spoiling pandemic. So I went out. Do courting couples still make an effort? Was romance in the air, like the coronavirus? Did couples perform the ART before they meet? Or together—the new romantic? It was a Monday and many, I assume, will be working. Surely, the amorous would have done what they needed to do to declare their love yesterday, or the day before? I was not expecting to see that many romantic pairs out, but I couldn’t be more mistaken. When love needs a declaration, it requires a public display.

The day to celebrate love this year was a day to go shopping together. The paired-ups were holding at least one branded shopping bag between them. I don’t remember this day to be of such conspicuous consumption other than the snapping up of flowers and chocolates. Sure, in the past, gifts were exchanged, but they were, as far as I was aware, purchased earlier. But from the minute I boarded the MRT train, I sensed the rituals were different. I quickly became aware that flowers this year were noticeably missing. Sure, some women were carrying bouquets (the trend, if I can call it that, this year were those in cardboard boxes—coffins to preempt their certain demise?!), but paper bags bearing large, recognisable, crowing logotypes were saying enthusiastically, “look at me”.

At City Hall interchange, in front of me was a guy in a white tee that read, “Without style, playing and winning are not enough”. He paired that masculine maxim with black shorts. On his feet were a pair of white Crocs slides without the Jibbitz charms. On his left hand, he was holding a paper bag in an identifiable burnt orange; its visible boxed content, I guessed, for the Paige Chua look-a-like, whose dainty left hand he held—to me—rather tightly. Love is expensive, celebrating Valentine’s Day no less. A box of Teuscher truffles this year is not quite cutting it, not at a time when a PCR test costs more. As one of my friends said to me earlier, “many can afford to buy chocolates for themselves. The boyfriend has to do better”. No wonder, as I saw, even Godiva was empty. “Better” seemed to mean something from within the hallowed walls of brands whose stores you can’t just walk in as you wish.

To be sure that these were not, in fact, gifts purchased earlier, I went to ION Orchard to have a look, to see shopping as it deliriously unfolded. Sure enough, there was a queue outside LV, and at Dior and Gucci, and—perhaps a little surprisingly—Cartier. And in the line were patient pairs, mostly hugging as they waited their turns to be allowed into the temples of thousands-of-dollars spending (at Prada, a petite girl took out a credit card from her BV Cassette wallet to pay for a white T-shirt embroidered with the Prada lettering, which I later spied to cost S$1,410!). What I noted, too, was that many of the couples were young: no more than 25 (the only celebrants?), the target age group of so many luxury brands whose entry-level goods are increasingly S$10 shy of four figures!

Outside Loewe, where the entrance was a welcome sight as no one was in line, a woman was walking away with a stuffed paper bag from the brand rather in a huff. Her boyfriend, with no purchase seen on him (yet), did not put on a happy face, as he tried catching up with her. Did he overspend, I wondered, or did she? And, if so, was that so bad? Then suddenly, she said, “Stop it. It’s just a bag”. Even on a day that celebrated love, profound passion differed and surfaced publicly. Many guys don’t quite understand love, or, to be more precise, the love of luxury handbags. And the difference between love and not could be like life and death, or Chanel and Louis Vuitton. Death of a relationship by “just a bag” or the wrong one. Or, as I was witnessing, the prelude.

Missing this year, too, were those individuals on pedestrian walkways, who must thrust a stalk of rose into your face and ask for $8 (prices, like everything else, have gone up this year. A list I caught sight of, next to a makeshift stall, announced that a stalk was S$10, three for S$50, six for S$75, and nine for S$100!). Orchard Road was without these sellers; at least I didn’t see them, which really said to me that women were no longer enchanted by the red flower—any flower. It is now a well-filled paper bag from the big brand they adore. Back on the MRT train, two women were talking loudly next two me (despite the sign in front of them that encourages passengers not to). One, in a white Essentials hoodie worn as a dress, said, “Aiya, forget it. Don’t depend on them. Guys won’t buy anything I like. I gave them up long ago.” And just like that, I was reminded of a line in Jane Austen’s Sense and Sensibility, “The more I know of the world, the more I am convinced that I shall never see a man whom I can really love. I require so much”. More.

Illustration: Just So

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

She Won’t Be Guilted 👏🏼

Kanye West demands a public apology for Travis Scott from Billie Eilish. Who does Ye think he is?

By Lester Fang

Kanye West is truly admirable. I think so; I do. No role he has played is too much, too bold, too absurd. He has styled himself as the arbiter of taste and the barometer of the zeitgeist, on top of whatever else he does in music. Oh, that is the wannabe president of the United States as well. Now, he’s a demander of apologies too. Not for himself, as you might expect, but for his presumed pal Travis Scott, the fellow now laying low after the Astroworld Festival tragedy. If you have not availed yourself to the entertainment (and entertaining) news of the week, it goes like this.

Billie Eilish was singing during a concert in Atlanta when she spotted someone in the crowd struggling to breathe. She paused her performance, and drew the attention of the crew to assist the person. (Ms Eilish, it should be said, is known to stop mid-performance during her shows to check on fans seeming unwell.) In videos shared on social media, Ms Eilish was seen pointing to the crowd with a hand holding a bottle of water and heard saying, “Do you need an inhaler?” And she did not go right back to singing. Wearing a baggy T-shirt and cycle shorts, she told the audience, “Guys, give it some time. Don’t crowd. Relax, relax, it’s okay… We’re taking care of people. I wait for people to be okay before I keep going.”

It sounds to me that Ms Eilish was explaining to the excited many who have come to watch her perform what the hold up was about. But Mr West read that very differently. On social media, he wrote in full caps, sans punctuation, as if barking: “COME ON BILLIE WE LOVE YOU PLEASE APOLOGIZE TO TRAV AND TO THE FAMILIES OF THE PEOPLE WHO LOST THEIR LIVES NO ONE INTENDED THIS TO HAPPEN TRAV DIDN’T HAVE ANY IDEA OF WHAT WAS HAPPENING WHEN HE WAS ON STAGE AND WAS VERY HURT BY WHAT HAPPENED…”

So, what in Donda’s name was he thinking?

In response to Mr West’s post and demand, Ms Eilish wrote on IG somewhat conciliatorily, “Literally never said a thing about Travis. Was just helping a fan,” So, what in Donda‘s name was he thinking? According to some reports, Mr West was reacting to one RapseaTV news report that ran the headline “Billie Eilish dissed Travis Scott at her concert after she stopped the show to give her fan an inhaler!” on IG (the post is removed now). And he bought it? This is irony in its highest order when Mr West had attacked journalists, mid-concert, in a 2014 show in New Jersey. “Write that motherfxxxxxg headline when you try to make me look like a maniac or an animal,” he admonished. That was not the only time, of course. Some people suggested that his present fragile state is due to problems with his ex-wife. And Ms Eilish conveniently becomes another target of his easily-triggered acrimony, just as Taylor Swift was once before?

It is tempting to treat Mr West’s demand as facetious—just like his presidential bid—but he has threatened to pull out of the Coachella Music Festival. Should the organisers be intimidated? He and Ms Eilish are slated to be the festival’s headline acts. And Mr West did say on that IG post, “TRAV WILL BE WITH ME AT COACHELLA BUT NOW I NEED BILLIE TO APOLOGIZE BEFORE I PERFORM”. Did he, therefore, think that Ms Eilish had spoilt Travis Scott’s comeback bid while La Flame is still thick in lawsuits worth billions of dollars filed by the victims (and their families) of the Astroworld tragedy? Would Coachella really be worse off without eruptive Kanye West?

The estranged husband’s reaction is not surprising, even for someone whose ninth studio album is titled Jesus is King. Outbursts are almost synonymous with the star and designer. He rants as often and as passionately as he raps. But why, I wonder, is a 44-year-old censuring a woman of 20, doing nothing more than getting someone the help they need, not bullying? Or, are we to believe, like so many of his supporters do, including the many, many brands eagerly aligned with him, that the face stocking-wearing Sunday Service leader Kanye West can really do no wrong?

Collage: Just So

A Vacuous Debut

Talk show host Quan Yifeng’s daughter Eleanor Lee launched her No Labels fashion brand last month with just one inessential product

The beanies of No Labels modelled by Dasmond Koh’s protégé-actor Zong Zijie (宗子杰, right). Photo: No Labels/Taobao

Quan Yifeng has an outstanding, 优秀 daughter that she is really proud of: Eleanor Lee Kaixin (李凯馨; born 俞凯馨, Yu Kaixin), who is an actress, a singer, one of the ‘100 Most Beautiful Asia Faces of 2020’*, Star Awards ‘Top Ten Female Artistes’ nominee, “全能女神 (quanneng nushen or all-round goddess)” in China, goddaughter of hairdresser-turned-livestreaming-star Addy Lee (she took his surname when she turned fourteen), “and so on”. In addition, regular viewers of Star Awards would know that Ms Lee is the designer of the outfits that her mother wore on the red carpet in 2014 and 2015, when she was 15 and 16 respectively, while still in school. With that juvenile experience under her belt, she is now, seven years later, ready to launch a fashion label. Not here, but in China, where Ms Lee calls Beijing home and base for her acting pursuits.

The brands goes by the unimaginative, faintly anti-establishment, potentially pretentious name No Labels (yes, plural), although it is labelled, and is represented by the moniker in script font. 8 Days—typically the ardent promoter of Mediacorp stars’ non-acting/hosting careers—described No Labels by the convenient tag “streetwear”, a fashion category The New York Times, in an article yesterday, declared “is dead”. It was not, however, launched with a line, as there isn’t one. No Labels (the name reflects Ms Lee’s desire not to be labelled even when she has no problem with being known as a goddess) debuted last month with just one product: a beanie, available in four colours. How Yeezy Gap is that? Ms Lee curiously admitted to 8 Days, “who’s going to be wearing beanies once summer comes around?” On starting with millinery, she said, “I kind of want to test the water with it. I really wanted to put out something so I decided to start with something small like a hat. It’s winter over here so I decided on a beanie!”

Eleanor Lee. wearing her No Labels beanie, in China. Screen grab: eleanorleex/Instagram

For her customers, likely fans, it is this still-green, still-schoolgirlish, still-a-mother’s-girl (“the beanies are only allowed in the basement [of her four-storey house where she stores them] because my mum would scold me if they’re anywhere else”) persona that might direct them to the fledgling designer and her label. It is not known if Eleanor Lee has ever received education in fashion design (here, she studied in Tao Nan School and Nexus International School in Aljunied, and left for Beijing when she was 17). Some stylists we spoke to who are familiar with outfitting actresses for the Star Awards red carpet do not think Ms Lee designed her mother’s dresses the way Tom Ford does for Hollywood stars attending the Oscars. Ms Lee dabbles in art (she collaborated with Chinese artist Wu Qiong [吴琼] in a 2020 exhibition here), so it’s possible she can draw. But drawing a dress is not necessarily designing a dress.

It is not clear either if Ms Lee designed the No Labels knit beanie although she announced on Weibo: “The hat I designed is now available! ! ! 🖤💚💛💜✌🏻”. Yet, she told 8 Days that she is “more concerned about negotiating materials, sizes and designs with the factories”. Negotiating designs? Could that mean she went to a manufacturer, picked an existing style, chose the colours and determined the placement of the logotype? She said nothing about yarn choice, lab dip development, flat or circular knitting. With many of her generation weaned on blog-shop fashion, what she described could be ‘design’ to her. No Labels is currently available only on Taobao China, and Ms Lee has no intention yet to avail her stock—a modest 200 pieces per colour—to the rest of the world. She did not reveal how many beanies she has sold. Based on a single, unremarkable item, which in retail terms, is tantamount to naught, No Labels may just be a nonentity celebrity brand that would be a no go.

*According to TCCAsia, whose parent company TC Candler has rated “the world’s top male and female lookers since 1990, as reported by The Straits Times

Updated:12 February 2022, 9am

“No Big Deal”

A positive test for COVID, to many people, is a trifling matter, especially among the young. After all, it is CNY. Having fun takes precedence. And, it’s fashionable to play it cool

By Ray Zhang

Someone I know shared via a Line post that he tested positive for COVID. By now, as it is often said, we would know someone who has contracted the virus, if not us ourself. The guy did not seem unsettled when asked if he was okay. It was as if he knew this day would come. One comment to his Timeline, to me, spoke for many people not bothered by the rising number of the infected. It read: “No big deal”. Unimportant? Of no or little consequence? Or, worse, no problem? But there were. The COVID-stricken chap did feel unwell although he said that the “symptoms are mild”—the standard description to an infection still known to kill. And he would not describe further. I am not sure what that Line commentator/friend meant by his 没什么大不了 (mei shen me da bu liao—well, no big deal!) reaction to the announcement. Was it to console the sick fellow? Or to bring cheer? Or was it an attitude sprung from ignorance? It was, to me, flippant.

Prior to this post, the guy shared on other social media, photos of a home dinner party that he attended three days before the test cartridge for his ART revealed the dreaded two red lines. And there was a video too. It showed a group of six guys attired in the SG uniform of T-shirt and shorts (now considered festive), getting ready to lohei (捞起). And then someone counted down, and all of them tossed with considerable gusto, as if to release pent-up energy (or frustration?). Hunched and huddled over the auspiciously-dressed yusheng (鱼生), they hollered “huat ah (发啊)!” into the space above the fancy salad, circular-framed by the delighted faces of the diners. None wore a mask. As they shouted, louder and louder, it was not hard to imagine, even if just one of them was positive and asymptomatic, the quantity of virus sent out into the air, but also onto the food. The plate of yusheng a petri dish. The ill fellow said later that he thinks it is possible that he “got it” from someone at that party who tested positive the day after the lively dinner.

And then someone counted down, and all of them tossed with considerable gusto, as if to release pent-up energy (or frustration?). Hunched and huddled over the dressed yusheng, they hollered “huat ah!” into the space above the fancy salad, circular-framed by the delighted faces of the diners. As they shouted, louder and louder, it was not hard to imagine, even if just one of them was positive and asymptomatic, the quantity of virus sent out into the air, but also onto the food

It is hard to say to a COVID-positive person that he could have remained negative if he had been less eager to party with people from at least five different households. Or, that they should have not engaged in risky behaviours such as being so close to one another and practically shouting into each other‘s face. Even if yusheng is conceived to be enjoyed by a group, rowdily! Were they too deep into the enjoyment to be aware of the consequence of their carelessness? Are there ever occasions during a still-raging pandemic that could allow us to disregard the protocols in place to minimise the spread of a virulent virus? I was also surprised that in viewing the video prior to posting it, the chap did not see, even in hindsight, those questionable actions when he and his pals enthusiastically and vigorously made a mess of the plastic platter of yusheng. Showing themselves having immense fun is necessary to give the eff-off to a pandemic that has spoilt the social lives of so many. Never mind if group gathering over grub has repeatedly shown in research and data to be the antecedent event to COVID infection, and spread. We don’t think about clusters anymore, do we?

For many people, from those on basketball courts to those lohei-ing away at home, health is no longer a priority, having fun is. After all, we are constantly reminded that nowadays “the symptoms are mild” and “sooner or later, you’re going to get it”. So why not meet the virus head on? Immunity to the virus is not the same for everyone, even when vaccinated. Yet we readily welcome it? I don’t even want to get the flu! Every single time I am out, usually alone, to do what I have to do, I see countless individuals unmasked, half-masked, not staying a metre apart from others, totally disregarding the social requirements and obligations to keep the COVID infection number low. There is an overall tidak-apa attitude disguised as “COVID fatigue”. Hold a cup of bubble milk tea—even if it’s empty—and it is a valid reason for you to be maskless, from MRT station to home more than two kilometers away. When it comes to your turn to order food at a hawker stall, don’t bother that the person in front of you has not received his and moved away—since you are hungry, inch closer. Never mind that the coronavirus loves you more when you care not about the measures that could keep Omicron and kin at bay. To hell with the reminder that it is for ourselves that we should strive to be better informed. Yusheng brought one group together, and as they eagerly lohei-ed, they ardently tossed among themselves an infectious agent. While they wished for 年年有余, abundance year after year, were they thinking of their two-year-old foe, COVID?

Illustration: Just So

Flower, Not Tiger

Kenzo has a new brand symbol, and it does not growl

Surprising it is not that Kenzo’s creative director Nigo would come up with a new logo of sort to mark the start of his reign at the LVMH-owned house. Mr Nigo (aka Tomoaki Nagao) is, after all, known for his cute graphics, as seen in A Bathing Ape (although the hirsute simian trade mark is not quite adorable) and Human Made. It is not known if the Kenzo tiger visage, first introduced by designers Humberto Leon and Carol Lim in 2011 after Kenzo Takada’s stepping-down, will be retired or take a back seat, but it is quite obvious that the freshly-launched flower, a poppy-hued bloom of the quince bush known in Japan as a boke (pronounced as bo-kay), will be given immense prominence.

Flowers are, of course, almost synonymous with Kenzo, but a single bloom has never been used atop the logotype (now modified, also by Mr Nigo), as applied on the clothes (shown below). In fact, the five-petal flower is so seemly to the joie de vivre of the brand that we see it taking over the tiger in popularity very soon (wait till the Year of the Tiger is over!). There is a charming sweetness and innocence about the drawing, as if the outlined flower was plucked from a children’s book. The wide-eyed simplicity commensurate to the not-quite-intense fierceness of Mr Nigo’s street style.

Although the boke was shown in Mr Nigo’s debut Kenzo collection for autumn/winter 2022, an 8-piece limited-edition drop for the upcoming spring season will be available in Japan and official online store for the rest of the world, comprising a coach jacket (which the designer wore to take the bow at the end of the runway show), a five-button cardi, a long-sleeved T-shirt, a hoodie (oversized, of course), a pair of belted cargo pants and a version in the form of a skirt (both in a Japanese cotton twill that reportedly was inspired by the uniforms of Gurkhas), and even a blanket. Prices start from ¥34,100 (about S$400).

And just as unsurprising is Kenzo’s foray into offerings for the Metaverse. The brand has also announced that it will debut a limited-edition collection of 100 NFTs to celebrate the launch of the Kenzo Boke Flower collection, which we presume to be digital clothing with the said blossom used conspicuously. Wearable for your wardrobe or collectibles for your avatars? Perhaps it is not at all a choice.

Photos: Kenzo

Deftly Kolor-ed

With his masterful deconstruction, Junichi Abe propels Kolor from strength to strength

Kolor’s Junichi Abe has a way with deconstruction that is beguiling. It isn’t the same as what we have come to know as Japanese deconstructionism—at Comme des Garçons, for example, which can be rather confusing—but something quite different. The parts on the garments he makes are re-arranged, but they are recognisable: a collar, a sleeve, a placate. But the pieces do not appear as they should. More often than not, they seem constituents dismembered from other garments (even old clothes?) and then reassembled, as Victor Frankenstein might a sapient life form, to create necklines (especially), bodices, sleeves that are fetching, not freaky, amalgams of similar garments, rather that the hybridised forms that his wife Chitose Abe prefers for her label Sacai. The Kolor aesthetic is not so much a chromatic blend as a mash-up of parts, and therein lies the label’s irresistible pull.

Mr Abe did not always present Kolor in this manner, but in recent years, he has become more adept at this mixing of parts (not necessarily matching), and it reached quite a high in the spring/summer 2022 collection. He can, for example, fuse polo collars with the V necks of sweaters, and ribbed round-necks can be linked to other ribbed round-necks, all the while providing a comfortable opening for the neck. Graphic designers might recognise the work as cut and paste. But, now matter how many bits are assembled, there is always a balance in the form and silhouette of the garments. No one is going to mistake a sweater for a jogger, a blouson for a skirt, even if they look disjointed at times. In fact, it is the recognisability and wearability of the clothes that fans continue to visit Kolor for their beyond-basics.

This season, Kolor’s show is a digital presentation shared during Paris Fashion Week (whether there would be an IRL reprise in Tokyo later—as in last year—is not known yet). The runway is within a lab-like space with glass walls and ceiling that reflect the models’ images and what they wear, as in a house of mirrors. At some point, the viewer is given a glimpse of the outside of the rectangular tunnel, and it looks like rush hour in a Japanese underground train station, with uniformed men and women rushing to somewhere. And then it’s a return to the calm on the runway (although the soundtrack by Sakanaction offers no clue of this orderliness). Perhaps Mr Abe is saying that no matter how incoherent (rambling?) the externals of his clothing might be, there is an orderliness within, and a structure that is assuring and confidence-boosting?

Many of the pieces could be described as work clothes. But what fantastic work wear they are and how not belonging to any work site! Jackets have a mysterious collar unfurled onto the lapel—on one side; blazers appear to have the tail of an inner garment slipped through a vent, necklines of sweaters look like scarves crisscrossed on the collarbone; sleeves of outers are puffed on one side, as if the sewer did not get that side of the cut pattern; coats reveal portions that are inside-turned-out, and we could go on. There is a lot to see. And unpack, which may not be necessary at all. It is too easy to be pulled into the off-beat world of Kolor and remain within. There is no denying that Junichi Abe is an innovative designer, but perhaps even more appealing, he is one pushing boundary-within-boundary too.

Screen grab (top) and photos: Kolor

Oh, BBC. Grrr…

Is it that hard for Western media to get Asia right?

By Zhao Guozhu

We have moved ahead, BBC. Into another year. Nope, we are not stuck in the year of other zodiacal beasts. We are firmly in 虎年, the Year of the Tiger. 🐯 But the news and graphics editors at the BBC are not entirely aware. Or, perhaps, as some people say, they were sleeping. Eagle-eyed Netizens spotted the above faux pas on chuyi (初一, the first day of the Lunar New Year) and social media went bonkers with the indeterminate creature (above) that is clearly not the 百兽之王, King of Beasts. In a statement to Marketing Interactive, a BBC spokesperson said, “We inadvertently used last year’s bug on the channel, but will immediately remove it. We apologise for the oversight and thank our viewers for spotting it.”

Chinese New Year (CNY) has about 3,500 years of history. It is generally thought to date back to the Shang Dynasty (1600–1046 BC). CNY is, therefore, not a festive celebration of modern times. Yet, some international news outlet can’t seem to get details pertaining to the most important date of the lunar calendar (农历) right. In the BBC title page, it looks to me like someone Google-searched a CNY image without entering the year and this came up, and they employed it. But, the news media said they used “last year’s bug” (roughly: label), but why does the animal look more like a rat than an ox? Could this then be from two years ago? Or were the BBC editors so charmed by the bug’s exotic potential—perhaps, all jianzi (剪纸, paper-cut) animals, in their eyes, look alike?—that it didn’t occur to them that the lunar year corresponds to a specific animal to form the 十二生肖, 12 signs of the Chinese Zodiac?

It is disconcerting that the nearly a-century-old BBC, which I have regarded and read with respect, would be this slack in visual accuracy. That it has happened before, as recently as two weeks ago, making it the second error in less than a month, 重蹈覆辙, is not entirely digestible. 好事成双吗? Do good things really come in pairs?

Screen grab: BBC Lifestyle

Clearly Casual For CNY

Increasingly, many celebrants of Chinese New Year are not in their best dress when visiting family and friends. Festive finery is no longer part of the hongbao season

By Lester Fang

I am not aware that I have been overdressed these past two days of Chinese New Year. Until this afternoon. I just got off the bus at Toa Payoh Lorong 1, on my way to my uncle’s. In front of me at the bus stop is a family of five. Each of them—the parents and their three teenaged kids—are dressed indentically. Yes, exactly the same: a red T-shirt and a pair of plain black shorts. They could be off to the NDP if not for the very obvious seasonal red paper bag each of the adult is carrying in which to bring along pairs of mandarin oranges. The citrus duos are certainly more attired! Below those mini carriers, the whole family wears slippers; yes, every member. I suddenly became self-conscious of my very covered legs and feet. I feel the fabric on my limbs and it seems more than a tad excessive. Divan cover when the bedsheet would have sufficed?

The encounter with the family in shorts makes me become aware of other families in shorts. In fact, everyone doing their rounds of bainian (拜年) showing more leg, if not whole legs. And very quickly, I see that, this year, if a CNY dress trend is to be discerned, it is the ferocious presence of shorts, a ubiquity that would no doubt greatly please fans of abbreviated trousers, such as environmentalist Ho Xiang Tian. There is apparently no transgression of CNY visiting norms, not when, in the lift after leaving my uncle’s flat, a grandmother happily adopts the unclothed space between ankle and crotch for herself. All manner of shorts are out this chuer (初二) and, presumably, on the first day, including Daisy Dukes, high risers, boxers, and those usually worn to sleep in, and they all share a common attribute: they are far from dressy. Only pineapple tarts look fancier.

The omnipresence of shorts on two days of the year when looking dressed up should be preferred is an unavoidable sign of a cultural shift, a pandemic-era combination of can’t-be-bothered and the demise of sense of occasion. No garment is inappropriate for any time, any setting, any festival. There is no more distinction between what is worn to 7-Eleven to buy beer for an uncle expecting more than Yeo’s chrysanthemum tea for the fat hongbao he has given and the garb chosen to visit other relatives for more of the enveloped bounty. Many dress as if in the presence of a TikTok recording, and no one considers if what they have on would be deemed disrespectful to the people they are visiting. Is that even a consideration any more? That’s why, for the same reasons, colours do not matter either: funereal is as good as festive. As-I-please is paramount. Casual is king.

I am in Bugis Junction for a late lunch. The body-to-body crush is more intense than I expect. People are out in groups, sometimes larger than the five that we are supposed to keep to. As with what is worn on CNY, who cares? This place in most days is a shorts-and-slippers magnet. Every other person that passes me is dressed to suggest that the mall is an extension of their living room. The trendiest—and showiest—I see is a trio of girls contrasting shorts (so short the pocket bags are brought to light) with sleek handbags from Celine, Saint Laurent, and, Dior. Yet, they do not differentiate themselves from their peers who are disinclined to show less leg. I think that there is a general believe that going to a relative’s or a friend’s home during CNY is not the same as going to a wedding at Capella. As many CNY visits bring one (or five) to a flat not necessarily air-conditioned to mimic springtime temperatures, there is a compelling reason to be more casual. Comfort, as the AccuWeather notice (today, 32°C; Real Feel: 33) would remind us, ranks above everything else.

I walk into Cold Storage. Between cheeses and Chardonnays, a woman suddenly appears before me, taking money out of a large hongbao (less hong [red], more jin [gold]), and counting, presumably to see if she has enough to pay for the bottle of wine she is holding in her hand. But it’s not the quick relieving of the red packet of its content in full public view that amuses me. She is wearing a cropped, pastel, tie-dyed top with a pair of studded-at-the-hem denim shorts so torn, the integrity of the fabric is questionable. The jersey micro-whatever is equal in length to her cut-offs. And, black rubber slippers. In the left front pocket of her shorts, a long, bulky wallet peeks. She’s probably in a festive mood: torso and thighs, too, fiercely greeting the Year of the Tiger, unhindered. As she walks away, two women, both also in short shorts, look at her admiringly, the scantiness likely tacks memory to it.

For two years in a row, we have to celebrate CNY with social restrictions. Not that I mind. It does help slow the flow of visitors to my flat, and limit the numbers, to the point, in fact, that many of my relatives, unable to come as a mighty village, decide to opt out of the ponkan (椪柑) and bainian ritual. Those who have not, come acalling with the enthusiasm of children tasked to do spring cleaning. I sense that for this reason, no one is motivated to dress nicely or in styles that, in past CNYs, would be considered festive necessity—and respect. Curious, I asked one of my Toa Payoh uncle’s kids, who was leaving for an appointment in a slip-top and a sliver of shorts, why skimpy is CNY-worthy. “I don’t know.” Who are you visiting, I pursued. “My boyfriend’s family,” she offered reluctantly. Should you not respect the old folks there?“Respect works both ways. They have to respect how I want to dress.” She stopped by a side table at the entranceway, scooped up a stack of hongbaos she had collect up till then, stuffed them into her Baguette, and left. Money during this season, conversely, has on more—even fetching—clothes: scarlet, embossed, and hot-stamped.

Illustrations: Just So