Another Star Wore Burmese Gems

Oscar Nominee Michele Yeoh was adorned with rubies and sapphires from Burma at the BAFTAs

Michele Yeoh appeared at the BAFTAs a day ago, part of her whirlwind tour of the award season leading up to the Oscars. As with the Academy which nominated her for the Best Lead Actress award, the BAFTAs chose her for the same category for her role in the strangely well-loved Everything Everywhere All At Once (the award went to Cate Blanchett in Tár). Appearing at the Royal Festival Hall in London on Sunday night, Ms Yeoh wore a dusty pink Dior couture suit. She was adorned with considerable jewellery, mostly by the London-based Moussaieff. She was seen in a pair of shoulder dusters, a ring, and a bulky bracelet, the latter two worn on her right hand and arm (all seen above) respectively. The media quoted the Ipoh native saying that she was “delighted to wear Moussaieff jewellery” (she, too, wore the brand at the 2023 Golden Globes and the 2019 BAFTAs). She said: “I fell in love with the brand and am always impressed by how beautiful and intricate the pieces of jewellery are.”

According to Moussaieff (and we quote verbatim), Ms Yeoh “wore a very rare natural colour Burma pink sapphire ring accompanied by Burma ruby and diamond earrings and a pink sapphire and diamond bangle”. Although the choice of gems were reported by the press, none has yet to question—like they did with Rihanna’s ruby ring worn at the recent Super Bowl Halftime performance—if the Malaysian actress wore what Global Watch considered “conflict rubies” and other equally problematic stones. Like Bayco, the company behind Rihanna’s controversial ring, Moussaieff too saw it necessary to trace the provenance of the ruby (and the sapphire) to Burma, present-day Myanmar, without stating clearly that they are ethically sourced. Reacting to Rihanna’s ring, the activist group Justice for Myanmar Twittered, “Myanmar gems fund junta atrocities. Ban the trade.” The group has not yet posted about Ms Yeoh’s gemstone choices. Did she make better ones than RiRi did?

That Rihanna’s ring drew considerable reaction may suggest that she is a bigger star than Michelle Yeoh. But, the now-Oscar-nominated actress needed to be even more aware of the source of the gems she wore and approved if they were indeed Burmese in origin, especially after playing Aung San Suu Kyi in the 2011 Luc Besson film The Lady. The 77-year-old Nobel laureate, despite having somewhat fallen from grace in the international community, is still considered a democracy proponent and defender, even when she is no more a democratically-elected leader in a nation that has reverted to military control. The ruling junta has sentenced Ms Suu Kyi to a total of 33 years for charges that amounted to 19 (she denied them all), including breaching COVID restrictions and “importing” two-way radio transceivers such as walkie-talkies. She is believed to be in detention under house arrest. Amnesty International, in 2012, said that “the harsh sentences handed down to Aung San Suu Kyi on these bogus charges are the latest example of the military’s determination to eliminate all opposition and suffocate freedoms in Myanmar.” Surely Michelle Yeoh would not just play a role and forget or ignore the rest.

Photo: Moussaieff

Jonathon Anderson Looked Back At JW Anderson

Was this a greatest hits collection?

These days, there is a TV programming trend here: the various cast of old television dramas get together to 话旧 (hua jiu) or reminiscence about the good ’old days. On Channel 5, there is On the Red Dot: Reunions and, on Channel 8, The Reunion (小团剧 or xiaotuanju). Each program banks on the viewers’ love of nostalgia and looks back at old TV series through the eyes of the cast. This reliving of the past are mostly dull, augmenting not the viewer experience. In some ways, the JW Anderson autumn/winter 2023 show is in the same vein, but they engaged the mind far much more, and tugged at the heart strings immensely too. Mr Anderson was looking at Scottish dancer/choreographer Michael Clark’s vast body of work. Both men have never collaborated before (Mr Clark did pair up with the ’80s British label Bodymap. The brand’s designers Stevie Stewart and David Holah had conceived costumes for the dancer’s performances and, in 1986, Mr Clark choreographed a Bodymap show), so this was hardly a reunion. But, it was an exercise at revisiting both their work, concurrently. As Mr Anderson explained in the show notes, “As I looked back through my own archive for this show, resurrecting elements from each collection of the last fifteen years, Michael let me rifle through his. It helped me pinpoint my own obsessions.”

Mr Clark was often described as the choreographer-provocateur who “brought punk to ballet”. He was also a fashion circuit regular: Hussein Chalayan designed his 1988 piece current/SEE, and he choreographed Alexander McQueen’s 2003 Spring/Summer presentation Irere. Mr Clark’s own dance performances in his early years were known for their “circus-like quality”. While Mr Anderson did not quite create a circus for his show, there was a hint of the entertainment in the form of a rink as runway (at the Roundhouse in Camden), and in which three, box-like installations were placed, adjacent to each other. On one, was a Warholian illustration of the male genitalia (in place of Mr Clark’s famed prosthetic dildos!). Another, a photo image of two fingers held up to denote the peace symbol. The third a rift on Coca Cola, but with the text, “Enjoy God’s Disco” instead, followed by the rhetorical “Is there nightlife after death?”. In sum, they seemed to offer a more controlled, even neater version of Mr Clark’s madcap, sexually-charged dance world. JW Anderson fitted this nonconformity (some might consider it deviancy) rather nicely, without quite shaking the conventions associated with current fashion the way Mr Clark did with the orthodoxies of dance.

If you were expecting cut-outs in the rear of pants, exposing bare bums, you’d be disappointment. JW Anderson is beyond what Mr Clark considered of the infamous (and impertinent at that time) buttocks-exposed costumes, design by the late London nightlife impresario Leigh Bowery: “I thought they were a lovely fashion detail”, he told the Barbican Centre in an interview to coincide with the 2020 exhibition Cosmic Dancer. There were, of course, details in the JW collection, but they were in technical finesse, rather than titillating minute parts: wrecked sweater ends (and still decorated with glittery bits), seemingly hand-torn hems of trousers, peplums that moved to the bodice, overalls with zouave-like bottoms (the inverted smiley face a clear reference to Mr Clark), or the triangular legs of the jodhpur-like pants. For those who hoped to own key pieces of JW Anderson’s past, there were smart (but never overly) gray pant suits and checked coats, or those with massive triangular—almost habit-like—collars, or sweater-knit pullovers with tubular necklines. We are partial to those shell tops with a sort-of-half-shawl wrapped asymmetrically to the left, a deconstructed trench coat truncated into a complex top-cape, and those mini-skirts that could have been an obi deliberately worn on the hip, askew.

In paralleling his past output with Michael Clark’s, Mr Anderson strangely made his eponymous work less subversive. There was, of course, the underground vibe of that dress that appeared to be made of Tesco (not the more posh Waitrose) plastic bags, but on the whole the collection was not a rigorous attempt to challenge anything, least of all his own 15-year output. This was, to us a casual look-back, a pleasing replay, a reiteration that was not offensive, penile glory on the chest of a top notwithstanding. In 2016, Michael Clark told the press, “I never really had a plan, except to express myself as purely as possible.” Mr Anderson has had a plan since the quiet birth of JW Anderson in 2008, and he has expressed himself, if not purely, at least unapologetically, and for that, we will look back with him, but we prefer casting our sight forward. Something greater awaits, we’re sure.

Screen shot (top): JW Anderson. Photos: