The Prada Singlet

And the asking price of S$1,480

“Pragmatic garments acquire new importance and value”, Prada says on its website in reference to their “typically masculine tank top”. That Prada would give seriousness and status to clothing this practical is understandable. But what about value? Are they referring to merit or material worth? First shown in the autumn/winter 2022 show in Milan back in February, the sleeveless top is now available in stores for the startling price of S$1,480. Under the same roof, a “wallet with shoulder strap” in the house’s recognisable Saffiano leather and with gold hardware is noticeably cheaper—S$1,070. And you thought the similar Marine Serre version (in organic cotton though), with her crescent moon logo in the middle, expensive at S$200 a pop. How does a mere singlet, as we tend to call such garment (Prada prefers the American phrase), that is essentially an undershirt become a four-figure item? Or is the price determined to deter wearers from letting it sit under? Surely it has to be seen?

To be sure, the Prada singlet has a nice hand feel. In baby-ribbed, cotton-knit jersey, it is soft and surprisingly rather thick and does not yield easily to enthusiastic stretching, possibly due to the heavier-gauge yarn used in the fabric, and that it is for the fall season. The neckline—described as “scooped” but is rather squarish—and the surprisingly wide armholes are piped (quite widely) in the same fabric as the body. Although of a “fitted silhouette”, as per Prada, the singlet sits rather loosely on an average-sized woman. In the middle, right below the neckline, a recognisable Prada inverted triangle in enamel catches attention, like a third eye—here, seeing from the cleavage. Without this, the singlet, even if it “embodies the luxury of simplicity”, would not have stood out from its less-worthy ilk, such as those by Hanes or the Japanese brand Gunze.

In the middle, right below the neckline, a recognisable Prada inverted triangle in enamel catches attention, like a third eye—here, seeing from the cleavage

This singlet, Prada tells us, is “is transformed” from a “typically masculine tank top… with the addition of feminine elements”. While the neckline and possibly the armholes are feminised, the garment is unable to divorce itself from the regular singlet once worn mainly by men. This top, when it emerges as outerwear in the mid-19th century has always been associated with the working class or, in Australia, where the name ‘singlet’ derives, shearers, miners, and farmers. It is a simple garment, made of durable, inexpensive rib cotton knit that is appreciated for its comfort and shape retention (the neck and the armholes are usually reinforced for added durability, as it is with the Prada). It is not associated with high-end fashion, but so are T-shirts. Nothing is too low-brow for luxury fashion, when brands desire to offer everything one may need to fill one’s wardrobe.

This is not Prada‘s first singlet, of course. One iteration in the past that we recall has far less discreet branding on the chest (emblazoned with logo and crest). We cannot remember how much that cost, but it is unlikely above S$1,000. A Calvin Klein tank top under its Calvin Klein Jeans imprint, averages S$79 a piece, and that is still premium pricing. One Hong Kong-based sourcing agent told us that such tank tops “typically cost US$1 to 2” to produce if Chinese cotton is not used (they are now cheaper as most international brands are avoiding them—“nobody wants China cotton now”). Fabrics make up the largest component of the cost of the garment, and the fibre of the fabric usually the largest of that cost. Cotton fibres outside China preferred these days come from Peru and Barbados, to name two places. We do not, of course, know where Prada’s cotton for their singlet comes from, but, in all likelihood, it’s not a fabric so astronomically priced that they could justify the four-figure price the brand is asking for.

Garment pricing is, of course, somewhat complex and include factors beyond manufacturing and the quantity produced. The one item on the singlet that is probably it’s selling point rather than the “pragmatic garment” itself—and a symbol of perceived value—is the triangular Prada plaque. As one marketing head told us, “the Prada brand value and their logos sit in the stratosphere. And they are worth more than the ribbed cotton singlet, which is just a vehicle to push the brand. You have to pay to wear that triangle, and not an insignificant amount. Somehow they have worked the ‘COE’ into the price of the garment.” The Prada triangle first mostly appeared on bags and accessories. It started to find its place on garments in a significant manner, sometimes just a mere triangle in fabric and sans text, after Raf Simons joined the company as co-designer in 2020. The plaque is appealing all over again, even on gloves.

But as with everything else in fashion, including ugliness, expensive is being redefined. That a singlet could cost this much is not due to the design and the sensuality that the brand has infused into its garments and one that has been described as cerebral, but a single hardware no taller than the length of an adult thumb. Prada is aware of the humble history of the singlet. That’s why they need to elevate it and team it with relatively fancy, not minimalist, skirts, as seen on the runway, the current lookbook, and store mannequins, not with just a pair of jeans—that would be too pedestrian. And to further augment its value, that small regular shape with three angles, a vestige of luxury that will cost the proverbial pretty penny. That way, you would single the singlet out.

Photos: Chin Boh Kay

This Is Dressed

…and well-dressed? Whatever Julia Fox wishes to sell, it’s hard to tell, but fashion—that could be stretching it

Julia Fox has more outfits for running errands around Los Angeles than film parts to boast. And is better known for her skimpy clothes than meaty roles. Latex is one of her fave fabrics for clothing. But, as with everything else in fashion, latex has not escaped the inflation that has hit us hard, and it’s getting so expensive that using a sheet big enough to make an actual outfit is untenable. So, she is content with scraps, assembled as a barely-there one-piece (even if it looks like two in the front). We do not know if she uses natural or synthetic rubber, but either way it must be dear enough for her to buy as little of it as possible to assemble the outfit. Ms Fox, a fashion designer apparently, is known for her “custom” clothes. This is likely another one of them, put together to delight social media and for its habitués to talk about.

Ms Fox has worn underwear as outerwear before—and the indescribables between—but they were not pieced precariously like it is in the latest latex composite. It is not easy to describe an outfit with no name, but credit must be given to the fragments that can be held together, with the help of two amoeba-shaped rings, to yield a wearable form that on the left side reveals an entire rump. In the rear, the upper parts are secured by strings, or laces. A ruched triangular piece from the waist down blocks the gluteal cleft, but not the thigh gap. Part of the right buttock is revealed too. A band at the bottom, not part of a skirt, hugs her thigh and, in the back underscores the left butt cheek. In sum, the outfit is a walking wardrobe malfunction waiting to strike.

On Julia Fox, such clothes are no longer refreshing or provocative, not when these DIY-seeming bits have become her go-to clothes for anything between a visit to the supermarket and a stroll down a red carpet. These are not special-occasion get-ups; they are, to her, everyday wear. Ms Fox, who told Interview magazine that she’s “always been someone’s muse”, is so accustomed to the scantiness that they have defined her, to the point that anything she wears that requires more than a metre of cloth is downright weird and not quite normal, and not muse-like. She also suggested that her style changed drastically after her brief romance with Kanye West. But, her look is worse and more tragic than Kim Kardashian before she dated the guy. The real novelty now would be when she really puts on something that can be called a dress, in every sense of the word. That would be an eye-opener.

Photo: Getty Images

End Of The Run For Con-Couple

They did not go far enough to escape capture. In Johor Bahru yesterday, the fraudster duo was caught and brought back to our island. They are, as many are now saying, not really that smart after all

Pansuk and Pi in police custody. Collage: Just So

They were masked when they were escorted to waiting police cars, as seen in last night’s news broadcasts, but even with faces half-concealed, it was not hard to distinguish them. Siriwipa Pansuk (aka Ann) and her husband Pi Jiapeng (aka Kevin), on the run since 4 July when they fled our island, were arrested by Malaysian police at a hotel in Johor Bahru (JB), where they had chosen to tarry and, likely, blend in. According to images from CCTV footage published by the press and shared online, the couple did not resist arrest. They were, according to the hotel staff, calm. When they were caught, they were dressed simply, with none of them wearing a watch, luxury or not. There were no Dior bags that Ms Pansuk had favoured either.

Mr Pi had on a dark green, baggy T-shirt with “Paris Balenciaga” printed in white on the chest—an original would have set him back S$880, retail—and a pair of slim, black, knee-length shorts of unrecognised provenance. He was carrying a black backpack of an indeterminate make when he was at the hotel (it was later held by the police). If it were a Balenciaga too, it would have cost at least S$1,250. His wife, with hair tied into a small matronly chignon, was even more nondescript; she was togged in a crumpled, black V-neck dress that did not look especially luxurious. Both were shod in black slides. As Netizens have been saying since last night, they did not look like they had enriched themselves with ill-gotten S$32 million; they looked like petty thieves.

…they did not look like they had enriched themselves with ill-gotten S$32 million; they looked like petty thieves

According to the Singapore Police Force, the arrest was made possible with help from the Malaysian authorities, based on information from the Royal Thai Police that it was likely the husband and wife were staying in a hotel right across the Causeway. Shinmin Daily News (新明日报) reported that the couple had remained in JB throughout these past 37 days, staying in different hotels—all amazingly possible without identification papers—to avoid detection. When the cash they brought along with them ran low, they switched to budget hotels, and one that set the stage for their capture is, ironically, called Bookme—a fitting end to their swindling and runaway life. This hotel can be reserved for as low as S$25 a night on booking.com. It is situated in the suburb of Bukit Indah, a residential and commercial area that is popular with those working here on our island. Bookme Hotel (formerly known as Smor Hotel) is just 1.5 kilometres away from a stretch of the Malaysia-Singapore Second Link highway. When the wanted two appeared at the hotel at around 10am last night (presumably to check in—without, again, passports?), and was apprehended, a sign on the glass door read, “Full House”.

One Malaysian working here, with his own residence in JB, told us that the couple made a poor decision to stay in Bukit Indah (meaning beautiful hill in Malay). “There are so many Singaporeans in this area, especially in the weekends” he said. “They would definitely meet someone who’d recognise them. For sure, I would not choose this place.” Bookme Hotel is, in fact, in a stretch of three-storey shop houses on a treeless road in the pusat (bellybutton) of Bukit Indah, right behind TF Value-Mart (former Giant), and within walking distance to Singaporean faves Tesco and, a little further, AEON Mall. Is it possible that, as they were used to a life of immense comfort, they needed to be in an area dense with urban conveniences? He added, “I think they cannot handle an environment with facilities wanting; they require a place that breathes with life.” Besides, we figured, if the nearby malls could not serve their still-to-change needs, the Johor Premium Outlet is really not that far away.

Bookme Hotel in Bukit Indah, Johor Bahru. Photo: agaoda.com

While initial reactions to the unbelievable escape (Mr Pi called it “our mistake” in his first comment after the arrest) were met with surprise at their daring and smarts, many are now saying that perhaps the two are not as clever or strategic as they had appeared to be. It is not clear why both, unencumbered with luxury bags, did not go away from the city centre, even leave the state of Johor entirely. Was it possible that they did not know how wanted they were? Or that an Interpol warrant was issued against them, or that Malaysian (and Thai) authorities were willing to assist in the search for this pair of absconders? It is likely that Malaysia was totally alien to the two of them, and the fear of not making it in remote places (let alone the wilderness), where Malay may be the only spoken language, kept them in the relatively mundane and relatable area of Bukit Indah.

Their choice of the hideout and the proximity to Singapore are not the only puzzlers. Just as baffling is how the Thai authorities knew the Pis were in JB when the talk for close to a month was that they were already in Thailand, completed plastic surgery, and had blended with the crowd. Thai social media is presently seeing rapid sharing of the video report of the couple’s arrest (even in Chinese, with chiding directed at Ms Pansuk) and is rife with speculation that someone she knows snitched on her. It is highly possible that she would stay in touch with individuals in her home country, even if it is surprising that she had not laid low enough. It seems that, other than her family (mother and brother are supposedly in hiding), most people are deeply angry with her. Even purported friends of Ms Pansuk’s were saying on social media, with links to the news reports here: “วันนี้ที่รอคอย (wan nee ti rao koy)”—the day I’ve been waiting for.

A True Pioneer

Obituary | There is no better way to describe Issey Miyake: He was, without doubt, ahead of his time

The world mourned an iconoclast of fashion design when it was reported yesterday in the Japanese press (and immediately picked up by the West) that Issey Miyake had died five days earlier. An official statement issued by the company he founded in 1970 Miyake Design Studio (MDS) stated that the designer “passed away on August 5th, 2022, at a hospital in Tokyo, surrounded by close friends and associates. The cause of death was hepatocellular carcinoma”, considered a common type of liver cancer (the same disease that took the life of another Japanese fashion designer of the era, Mitsuhiro Matsuda, in 2008). According to Nikkei Asia, “the funeral has already been held”. A company employee was quoted by The Japan Times to have indicated that there would not be a public ceremony, as the designer had requested. Mr Miyake was 84.

Born Miyake Kazumaru (the Japanese characters 一生 also read as Issey, which he adopted professionally) in 1938, in Hiroshima, the south of Japan’s largest island Honshu, he grew up in the higashi-ku (or east ward) of the city. At the time, Hiroshima was a military base, and considered a prominent one, where the residents, according to the city’s own literature, worked for the army or were from Korea and Taiwan, which were then Japanese colonies. Six years later, in 1945, an American B-29 bomber released the world’s first atomic bomb, code-named Little Boy, on Hiroshima. Mr Miyake was himself a little boy when the attack struck. His experience during the bombing, which obliterated his home city and resulted, at the end of that year, the death of between 90,000 to 166,000 city folks, most of whom were civilians, was never truly recounted. But in a now-famous and oft-quoted op-ed for The New York Times in 2009, he wrote: “When I close my eyes, I still see things no one should ever experience: a bright red light, the black cloud soon after, people running in every direction trying desperately to escape—I remember it all. Within three years, my mother died from radiation exposure.” He still did not talk about his younger days, least of all the precise details of living in the aftermath of the bombings, but that fateful day in 1945 did leave him with a pronounced limp.

Issey Miyake in 1970. Photo: Claude Charlie’s/Vogue

As an adult and through his professional life, he offered almost no glimpse of his formative years, fearing any recollection might label him, as he wrote, “the designer who survived the atomic bomb”. In fact, till his piece for NYT, not many knew of his war-time experience. “I have always avoided questions about Hiroshima. They made me uncomfortable.” To understand his discomfort, we may have to look at the experiences of others who survived the bombing. In one 2014 report in The Chugoku Shimbun, a former electrical technician Shinji Mikamo, by then 87, described how he lost his family and home to the American attack. The situation in Hiroshima was already tense at the time. “To create a fire lane in the event of an air raid,” the paper wrote, “he was helping to dismantle his house. He was on the roof, removing roof tiles to take them to the spot where the house would be rebuilt. Suddenly, a yellow ball of fire, three times as large as the sun, filled his vision. At the same instant, he felt a blast of intense heat, as if splashed with boiling water… his pants had caught fire and he suffered serious burns to his right thigh. He was also burned and wounded on his back, right arm, both hands, and face.”

We do not know much of Mr Miyake’s youth following the Hiroshima bombing, or his health, but a 2010 article in the British paper The Telegraph wrote that he was diagnosed with a bone-marrow disease when he was 10 years old. In 2015, he finally revealed more to the Japanese paper The Yomiuri Shimbun. He said, “I was a first-grade primary school student when the atomic bomb was dropped 70 years ago on Hiroshima on August 6. I heard the boom all of a sudden when I entered a classroom after a morning assembly. A broken piece of window glass got stuck into my head. I was frightened. I told the people at the home to which I had been evacuated, ‘I want to go home,’ and they gave me lots of hard, dry biscuits. I headed home alone to search for my mother. People were burned, lying on top of each other, and others gathered at a stream for water. I found my mother, who was burned over half her body, the following day. I developed periostitis (inflammation of the connective tissue that surrounds bone) due to radiation exposure when I was a fourth-grader at primary school. Some people died of this disease, but I was saved by penicillin. My mother nursed me while I was fighting the disease and died soon after my condition improved.”

The illustration of Issey Miyake’s 1969 collection Constructible Cloth. Photo: Miyake Design Studio

The execution. Photo: Kishin Shinoyama/Miyake Design Studio

Whether he remained in Hiroshima is not ascertained, nor when he moved to Tokyo. We do know that Mr Miyake was interested in dance, but did not pursue it. In 1962, he enrolled in the private institution Tama Art University in the mountain suburb of Tama, west of Tokyo. He chose graphic design, as the school did not offer a course in fashion (his contemporaries included the late Makoto Wada—famed illustrator, as well as film director [1988’s Kaitō Ruby]). But fashion had stirred a deep interest in him when he became an ardent reader of his sister’s fashion magazines—in Japan they were an invaluable source of information and inspiration. So passionate he was about fashion that in 1960, during the World Design Conference (that gathered Japanese designers, architects and industrial designers with their European and American counterparts to discuss ‘Total Image for the 20th Century’ that year), which Japan was hosting for the first time, Mr Miyake shot a letter to the secretariat and put to them why clothing design was not part of the program. It is not known if he was given an answer.

Yet, according to MDS, “his focus upon clothing as design rather than fashion attracted attention”. Whether this was campus-wide, city-wide, or nation-wide, it is not specified. Although graphic design was the subject on his books, it was fashion design that Mr Miyake held on tightly to (surprising, he did not choose to go to Bunka Fashion College, where many of the country’s elite designers went). Reportedly, he started designing clothing for himself. Then the art director Jo Murakoshi, founder of the Tokyo advertising firm Light Publicity, came acalling with the suggestion that Mr Miyake designed the clothes for the calendar that he was doing for the fabric manufacturer Toyo Rayon, now know worldwide as Toray Industries. After his graduation, he created his first collection called nuno to ishi no uta (布と石の詩 or Poem of Cloth and Stone); its art-school vibe unmistakable. The collection enjoyed a proper show, staged at the old Tokyo Chamber of Commerce and Industry building in Marunouchi, not far from the Tokyo Imperial Palace. It is not quite certain what happened after the show or if it made a mark in Tokyo.

With his models at the end of his spring/summer 1988 collection. Photo: Getty Images

A year after he graduated in 1964, Mr Miyake decided to go to Paris, where just months earlier compatriot Kenzo Takada had arrived. There, he enrolled, as Mr Takada did too, at the prestigious L’École de la Chambre Syndicale de la Couture Parisienne (where the famed Bunka lecturer Chie Koike was educated and where a young Yves Saint Laurent was reportedly in her class) and stayed for a year. School was followed by work in surprisingly traditional couture houses: First, at Guy Laroche, and a year later, at Hubert de Givenchy. But Paris couture had insufficient pull and he moved to New York where he was assistant to Geoffrey Beene, who, in a 1999 interview for Veery Journal, curiously opined: “I admire Issey Miyake who worked for me at one time for his technique. I don’t think the clothes are modern but the technique is.” In New York, it was said that Mr Miyake took English classes at Columbia University, but it did not seem he intended to stay. In less than a year he was back in Tokyo.

In 1970, Miyake Design Studio was established upon the designer’s return. A year later, he was back in New York to stage his first overseas fashion show. The collection featured “body tights” in skin-coloured stretch fabrics on which images of Jimi Hendrix and Janis Joplin—following their tragic deaths—were employed just like Japanese tattoos, only more vivid and, as was the graphic style of the time, pop. In 1973, he showed his first collection at Paris Fashion Week, and since then, the brand has not departed the Paris calendar (2023 would be its 50th year showing in Paris). While Mr Miyake was often placed together with Rei Kawakubo of Comme des Garçons and Yohji Yamamoto as one of “The Big Three” to rock the French establishment in 1981 with their radical looks, which, ironically (even cruelly) was described as “Hiroshima chic”, among other names, he did debut earlier—eight years earlier, which made him the veritable veteran of the trio—and he did not show anything with holes. Ms Kawakubo’s and Mr Yamamoto’s overnight success probably bolstered Mr Miyake’s standing. Finally, the Japanese designers had arrived.

Poster for the Tokyo leg of the exhibition Issey Miyake Spectacle: Bodyworks. Photo: Miyake Design Studio

With The Plastic Body—his famous bustier made of fibreglass—at the Issey Miyake Spectacle: Bodyworks at the Laforet Museum Iikura, Tokyo in 1983. Photo: club21global.com

Three years after Mr Miyake’s Paris debut, in what can now be seen as a far-sighted idea, he staged an off-season show in Tokyo titled “Issey Miyake and Twelve Black Girls in Tokyo”, which trained the spotlight on Black models, including Grace Jones and Toukie Smith (sister of the designer Willi Smith of the ’80s label Williwear). It is tempting to say that the designer’s sojourn in New York in 1969 exposed him to the beauty and potential of Black models, just as American sportswear might have influenced him into wanting his clothes to be totally wearable and to reach many people, not just fashion folks. But while his designs were practical and practicable no matter how out-there they sometimes were, the clothes were not at all in the same league as Uniqlo’s Lifewear. Every design was a confluence of tradition and technology, with Mr Miyake equally interested in looms and software, in wefts and bytes. His famous Pleats Please line, born in 1993 that saw the garment (or object) pleated after they were cut and sewn, rather than before, as was the conventional practice (hence the patented “garment pleating”, a concept much copied), is testament to his willingness to see the tried-and-tested given a technological spin. Much of Mr Miyake’s pioneering and groundbreaking work will probably be covered by the press in the coming days.

Although he was unable to follow his love of dance professionally, Mr Miyake was able to support the art by designing costumes for ballets (and other dances), such as William Forsythe’s Frankfurt Ballet company in 1991. But the idea of fashion as performance-display-entertainment truly came in the form of the numerous exhibitions throughout the world that dramatically showcased his work. Bodyworks in 1983 is still considered the most unforgettable; it featured Mr Miyake’s most indentifiable construction The Plastic Body and the curvilineal armour made of bamboo, as an exploration of hard materials that could be made to be worn on a body, and in doing so, examine the space between the garment and the body. The result of the rattan bodice was so radical, but so beautiful in its form as well as its nod to traditional basketry that the magazine Artforum featured it on the cover of its February 1982 issue, making it the first-ever garment to appear. His reputation as an artist was slowly consolidated. But in 1994 and 1999, Mr Miyake relinquished the design of the men’s and women’s lines respectively to his assistant Naoki Takizawa (who in 2014 joined Uniqlo), in order to do research and explore new concepts—even at retail level—full-time.

With models for the Pleats Please launch show in Paris, 1993. Photo: AP

The designs of Issey Miyake were brought to our shores in the ’70s. Although the brand is presently linked to Club 21, with a freestanding boutique at The Shopping Gallery in the new Voco Orchard, it was the store of the ’80s and ’90s, Man and his Woman, that introduced it here. In the early ’70s proprietress and former journalist Judith Chung bought the line not long after Mr Miyake’s Paris debut for her first store at the now largely-forgotten Specialists’ Shopping Centre (where Orchard Gateway now stands). Ms Chung was an arden supporter of not just the trending European designers of the day, but also the those of the burgeoning Japanese avant-garde. She was no stranger to Japanese designers, having earlier stocked Kenzo Takada’s Jungle Jap. But in Issey Miyake, with whom she would form a firm friendship, she saw a talent that was special. And in time, not only did she carry the men’s (which was launched in 1978), she opened the brand’s stand-alone store in 1984—the first in Asia outside Japan—at The Promenade, where Man and his Woman moved to after Specialists’ Shopping Centre, in 1982. The Promenade was demolished in 2003 for the extension of the Paragon. In 1993, when Ms Chung closed Man and his Woman for good, the retail and distributorship of Issey Miyake went to Club 21.

An ex-staffer at the Issey Miyake store in The Promenade, who was later also a fashion stylist, shared on Instagram (we quote verbatim), “It was such a great learning experience to see , touch n sell all those collections . And Thanks to Judith I had the experienced to do buying , visited his Studios n meeting Mr Miyake himself in Tokyo. I learned so much !” One former designer told us that the Issey Miyake fibreglass bustier, The Plastic Body, was unforgettable: “First saw it in a magazine and was always sketching it in my text book while in class! When I finally saw it at Man and his Woman, I almost cried. It taught me that fashion could be art.” Another designer, now based in New York, said, “When Man and his Woman had a store in Specialists’ Shopping Center, a friend and I used to go there and try all the clothes! Back then, it was outré… but now…? That’s why he was so ahead of his time.” A former editor, who said that the designs made him rethink “how clothes could flow around the body”, told us, “people these days often talk about ‘newness’, a requisite that is stress to designers and retailers. Back then, Issey Miyake was newness, totally. And every season too.”

Illustration (top): Just So

No In Kedah

A woman who attended Kedah Fashion Week riled up much of Malaysia when she did not cover up—adequately

Even a blazer was not enough—not when you wear it on its own. At the recent Kedah Fashion Week (KFW), held in the capital Alor Setar (between 2003 and 2009, it was Alor Star), an attendee was seen and photographed in an ill-fitting suit, with a blazer that was half Bottega-green and half gingham check of black and white. That would usually not have anyone’s knickers in a knot, except that the person wore only her own skin and some strands of beads under what looks like a double-breasted jacket. Unsurprisingly, photographs of her ended up on social media and went angrily viral within hours. Her sartorial choice was apparently so outrageous—even during a fashion week—and offensive that Malaysian daily The New Straits Times posted on Twitter, following the online uproar, that “stern action will be taken against the organisers”—not, curiously, the supposed miscreant.

Kedah Fashion Week is reported to be put together by and staged at Aman Central, a six-year-old, six-storey shopping centre in the city that is the largest in this state, northwest of Malaysia. We have never heard of KFW and had asked our Malaysian contributors and friends about the now-trending event, but all of them were, as one said, ”just as clueless”. Aman Central mall is developed by Malaysia’s Belleview group, also the company behind the popular residential/commercial project, All Seasons Place, across the South Channel of the Straits of Malacca, in Penang. The organiser said that it has staged this fashion week since 2016 to allow “tenants to showcase their latest collection”, but why one is necessary here for the whole of Kedah when the mall’s most recognisable clothing labels are not Malaysian or fashion-centric—Giordano, Guess, H&M. Levi’s, and Uniqlo, is a puzzler.

According to the event invite shared online, KFW had a dress code: “STYLO”, which some invitees could have taken to mean to berpakaian mencolok mata (or dress eye-catchingly). The woman might have merely showed up as stated. First identified as a “model” and then a poser, and finally clarified by the press to be a mak nyah (transgender woman), she has, up to now, remained silent on her choice of attire. Aman Central posted a statement on Instagram to quell the growing speculations. It wrote that “the viral photo of (the) guest… dressed inappropriately… did not reflect the image we’re seeking to promote. We wish to clarify that management did advise all guests to wear properly (sic), however the challenges were unsurmountable (sic).” Forcing attendees to a fashion show to wear undergarments could indeed be an insurmountable task, even obstacle. But, as some would say, releklah, fesyen aja—relax, it’s only fashion.

Photo: Instagram

Issey Miyake Passes

The Japanese designer died last Friday in Tokyo, leaving behind a company that is still churning out some of the most intriguing designs in modern fashion

The Japanese press announced moments ago that Issey Miyake has died from cancer, aged 84. No further details are available. The Hiroshima-born designer was one of the earliest Japanese to make a name for himself in the French fashion system and quickly won international accolades for his bold and wearable clothes, with lines more akin to traditional Japanese silhouettes than those of Parisian couture. Although he had stopped designing the main collection that bears his name, Mr Miyake was still actively involved in projects that pushed the boundaries of fashion. Watch this space for our tribute to a name that is synonymous with 20th century Japanese style.

Photo: Pinterest

Dior, Not Again

Chinese Netizens think Dior is guilty of cultural appropriation once more

Painterly parallel: (left) print on a Dior dress and (right) a Chinese painting by Lu Ji. Photos: Dior and collection.sina.cn respectively

Before the first accusation has died down, before an official statement is released in response to the denunciation, out comes another. Dior is not well placed in China this summer. It could be 流年不利 (liunian buli) or that the year has been inauspicious for Dior. Or, it could be that Chinese consumers have been paying the brand with 眼不转睛 (yanbu zhuanjing) or strict attention. After the controversy of the horse-face skirt, the maison is again criticised by Chinese Netizens for cultural and artistic appropriation. As with the previous drama, which saw Chinese students protest in front of the Dior store in Paris, the brand has not responded. They could be hoping that the furore would eventually die down.

Last week, the first complaint emerged on Weibo, when one Netizen sharing a side-by-side photo of a Dior varsity jacket and a traditional Chinese 花鸟画 (huaniaohua) or flower-and-bird painting, with the garment sporting similar blooms and winged vertebrates, even colours. Others started posting photos of a dress and a trench coat with prints that owe their similarity to Chinese paintings that are evocative of those of 10th century (or later) China. It doesn’t help that the choice of the “beige” fabrics is not dissimilar to (now-aged) Chinese paper or silk on which those paintings were executed.

Full view of the Dior shirt-dress with the Jardin d’Hiver motif. Photo: Dior

The Weibo users who disapprove the Dior motif possibly took offence at the brand describing the “Dior Jardin d’Hiver (winter garden)” as its “signature motif”. On the website, Dior states that the print is “a poetic and exotic representation of Mr Dior’s wall tapestries”. We do not know what the founder of the maison exactly had on his wall, or whether the provenance is Chinese. It is possible that what Mr Dior owned was a work in the style of Chinoiserie (also referred in Chinese as 中国风 [zhongguofeng]), a French word that refers to European interpretation—and also imitation—of Chinese (or Oriental) art, especially decorative art. Of course, something that was installed in a residence does not necessarily become a “signature motif” and with its similarity to Chinese artistic tradition, is not hard to understand that it might be thought of as a “copy”. Similarly, Dior considering its horse-face skirt lookalike a “hallmark silhouette” is provocative when, to the Chinese, it cannot be.

But Jardin d’Hiver as motif and inspiration go as far back as the Marc Bohan years. And the print looks quite different on the Book tote and silk scarves. When we studied the version that appeared on the SGD5,200, beige, cotton gabardine shirt-dress, it was, to us, evocative of paintings by the Ming dynasty painter Lu Ji (呂紀), such as the striking piece titled 秋鷺芙蓉 (qiulu furong or autumn heron and hibiscus). It is probable that Dior will remain mum on this new controversy too since it is, as some observers noted, unlikely that the brand will be affected by a few (and possibly not Dior costumers) who seem determined to “find fault”. But this could be seen as the result of consumers being culturally self-aware, and Dior might serve its image better if it can say that it did not just plonk a motif on a dress to lift it from being a nothing-to-look-at without considering how one of the largest markets for luxury goods would react.

Not A Man In A Skirt

You know times have changed when new dad A$AP Rocky goes out wearing something that isn’t a pair of pants

Three days ago, A$AP Rocky took a break from fatherhood duties and stepped out in New York in an A-line, knee-grazing, leather Givenchy skirt. American Vogue said that he “went full cybergoth”. Its British counterpart was certain that he “sets the bar for modern menswear”. W magazine thought he “looked effortlessly cool”. GQ’s approving headline read, “Only for A$AP Rocky Is August Leather Kilt Season”, carefully avoiding the S-word. It was, overall, a strong show of support, if you ignore one unkind headline that went, “Shocker: A$AP Rocky Spotted Out… Wearing Rihanna’s Leather Skirt”.

He is, of course, not a “man in a skirt”; he is A$AP Rocky in a skirt. Just like it was Brad Pitt in a skirt days earlier (linen, by Haans Nicholas Mott) and Kanye West in a skirt even way before (2011, during a concert, when he was costumed by Givenchy, then designed by Riccardo Tisci). More mortal males would not be able to rock a similar skirt, even if it is based on a simple shape, so uncomplicated that they’re often the basic skirt taught in pattern-making and sewing classes. Guys without the same standing, social and fashion-wise, as the rapper, would not be blessed with such encouraging headlines. That A$AP Rocky chose a more ‘solid’ silhouette in a hulky fabric such as leather is to leave the viewer in no doubt of his cis gender and his procreative heterosexuality.

This was not A$AP Rocky’s first time wearing a skirt, but it was the first time he wore one as a father. Before his very public romance with Rihanna, he was seen in Rick Owens and Vivienne Westwood “kilts”—entry level skirts that could help the wearer graduate to more serious stuff. That he and his fellow artistes in skirts no longer receive derogatory comments could be due to the garment’s popularity among, in particular, Black rappers, such as P Diddy, Omar Epps, R Kelly, Snoop Dog, Coolio, just to name a few. Still, only a very small group of them gets accolades for wearing skirts. To quote, Quentin Tarantino, who said of Brad Pitt in this month’s issue of GQ, “It’s just a different breed of man”.

Photo: Backgrid

A Different Wang

Another streetwear brand banking on a family name. This is, however, not by that Wang

Team Wang Pop-Up store at The Shopping Gallery, Voco

It is probably the buzziest store opening since the start of the pandemic. Team Wang Design, a rising star in the firmament of “luxury street wear” opened yesterday evening to intensely enthusiastic response. If you are unfamiliar with the newish label, it is understandable that you’d think that Team Wang is linked to the designer Alexander Wang. But it is not. The label is, in fact, the brainchild of popstar Jackson Wang (王嘉尔). He has, as fans are well aware, added fashion designer to his resume. But if Team Wang sounds familiar, it is because Alexander Wang (王大仁) had used it too, and the phrase was employed for his collaboration with H&M in 2014. But Alexander Wang’s “team” of musicians, muses, and models who were associated with him were often referred to by the press as his “squad”. Team Wang is thus dissimilar as it is not about a clique (or, worse, hangers-on). Rather, it was initially set up to manage Mr Wang’s growing commitments in China and then to include a record label and now fashion design too. And Mr Wang seems to acknowledge that the brand’s creative output is a collective one.

And the clothes have found their way here through the auspices of Club 21 who has set up the eponymous pop-up—dubbed Mudance—not only on our shores, but in Chengdu and Bangkok, concurrently. As early or late (it really depends) as eleven yesterday morning, The Shopping Gallery at the former Hilton Hotel, now Voco Orchard, was busy, not with shoppers, but with construction crew setting up the opening of Team Wang Design (the shop was still merchandise-free) and, unsurprisingly, numerous female fans reserving a spot to catch their idol (this was an invitation-only event). Two hours before the party was due to start, there was a dispiriting crowd, restrained by mills barriers just to the left of the main door to the lobby of the hotel. The side entrance to The Shopping Gallery was shut too. The girls were visibly excited, presumably expecting the star they had been waiting for to arrive by car and alight at that very spot. This was happening as it rained. If the reception the fans gave Mr Wang at Changi airport yesterday was any indication, this really was not surprising.

Outside Voco Hotel, fervid fans waiting patiently despite the rain

But unexpected was the wait that invited guests had to endure. The invitation to the event stated 6.30pm—presumably the time it would the start. Jackson Wang had arrived some fifteen minutes earlier to a screaming welcome. He was escorted to a room in the hotel, where he went to “freshen up”, as the chatter at the lobby of the hotel went. Guests were held around the escalator to the second floor, where the proceedings would unfold. An hour had past, but most of the attendees were still waiting in the increasingly unbearable heat. Nathan Hartono in a salmon-coloured, sweat-soaked tee, would later share on Instagram a snap of him and Mr Wang, with the comment, “…I am clearly sTrUgGliN 🥵🥵🥵”. But still-waiting Fiona Xie, togged in Team Wang Design, appeared to be getting impatient. Jean Yip, the beauty mogul, and her family were seen heading for the exit, telling someone, “we’re leaving. Bye.” Those with more clout could make a phone call while aggressively pushing their way through the crowd and be ushered up the escalator, immediately. Word started to go around to explain the delay: Mr Wang had accepted a media interview. Ms Universe 2016 Cheryl Chou, chatting with someone, was cheerily indifferent to the crowd’s waning patience.

Sixty five minutes later, the escalator was ready to transport the guests one floor up. Wrist bands issued earlier had to be shown for entry. At the top of the escalator, a large crowd had already formed. A fellow escalator rider was heard wondering angrily: “We were waiting for so long, but actually so many people already here?!” Inside, the pop-up, Mediacorp stars and influencers had first dib of the offerings, including the man of the hour himself. Dressed simply in a black T-shirt (with sleeves folded up) and black pants (not jeans), he was obliging everyone who approached him with selfies and polite chatter, but remained inscrutable behind vaguely cat-eyed shades, which he kept on all night. When he left the store to address the crowd outside, grown women near the door were hyperventilating: “Oh my god! Oh my god! Oh my god!” The people who should be there—the screaming fans—were not. They continued to wait in collective high for their idol to exit the hotel. Somewhere above them, he was dancing enjoyably, fenced by more-delighted, also-bopping lasses.

Jackson Wang addressing the crowd outside the Team Wang Designpop-up at Voco

Jackson Wang was born in Hong Kong before he moved to Seoul to be part of the group Got7, a name that would work very well on our island. As fans know by now, Mr Wang was spotted while playing basketball in school by JYP Entertainment (Stray Kids!) agents who managed to persuade the school goer to join an audition for the company’s global search for talents. Among 2,000 participants, he came up top. Although around this time he was offered a Standford University scholarship for fencing (he was very much a sportsman, following the footsteps of his fencer father and gymnast mother), he turned it down. Instead he answered the calling to do music. He accepted the JYPE offer and moved to Seoul in 2011. Ater two years of notoriously tough K-pop training, including a made-for-television competition which pitched trainees of JYPE against YG Entertainment (Blackpink!), Mr Wang was made member of Got7, debuting with the single Girls Girls Girls in 2014. The rest is, as is often the case with K-popstars, has been the unstoppable rise of Jackson Wang.

Last year, it was widely reported that Got7, JYP Entertainment’s “most successful boy group”, has “terminated” their contract with the company. This came amid fan dismay that JYPE had allegedly not done enough for their boy groups, with Got7 singled out (their career had curiously been dominated by EPs rather than full-length albums, for example), leading to the thread on Reddit, ”JYP STOP SABOTAGING GOT7”. Fans were distraught that their fave septet would be no more. But, The Korea Times clarified in an editorial just three months ago that without JYPE, “this was not the end of GOT7―instead, it was a new beginning”; the group released a self-tiled EP. Even when recording new material with his band mates, Jackson Wang was forging ahead with his own carrier, concentrating on his homeland market, China. He founded Team Wang in 2017 as, first, a record label. The 28-year-old is considered to be quadrilingual—“fluent”, many say, in English, Cantonese, Mandarin, and Korean, so the plan was to establish him as an international star. His first single under Team Wang was 2019’s all-English Papillon. A year later, he released a duet with soon-to-begin-his-world-tour JJ Lin (林俊杰), the R&B-ish Should’ve Let Go.

The one print of the collection—tiger tails hidden in the profusion of peonies—that seems to draw shoppers

Team Wang Design was birthed in pandemic-high 2020, reportedly after three years of gestation. HBX, the e-store of the streetwear news site Hypebeast, describes the label, which it carries: “Wang’s vision is to align his brand with his wardrobe”. But the rapper-turned-designer is known to be partial to Fendi (although he has been associated with Armani and Adidas). He is, according to Vogue, “a Fendi muse”, and so enamoured he is with the Roman label that he even rapped about it in the track Fendiman from 2018, and urged his listeners with the plea, “call me Fendiman“. That possibly lead him to sign, a year later, with the brand as their China ambassador. Although his own label was not released until two years, he did rap in the same song, “Team Wang, label what I made”, preempting that the clothes would be on par with Fendi’s. The first collection and the core line that reflects the brand’s DNA, Cookies—The Original, comprises what are almost synonymous with streetwear: T-shirts, hoodies, blousons, trackpants, and hoodies, and all in black. The images for the launch are admittedly arresting, and are evocative of brands with European roots.

Team Wang Design, in many ways, treads the path already paved and trodden by HK-star-conceived brands such as Edison Chen’s Clot or Shawn Yu’s Madness. Celebrity multi-hyphenates are really crowding the pop/design sphere, and it would take more than references to Chinese culture, motifs and whatnot (a direction also adopted by Clot), to stand apart from the rest, or the West. The latest collection of Team Wang Design is part of another line called Sparkles. Like Cookies, the pieces would be considered staples that Mr Wang’s fans would not find challenging to accept. The brand says on their website that “pastel pink, flowers, and this season’s iconic floral design” are for “creating the perfect midsummer party”. Mudance, a play on the name of the Chinese flower mudan (牡丹花) or peony, is about enjoying oneself; is about play. Mr Wang told Vogue Thailand last month, when he was in Bangkok to shore up support for the Bangkok leg of the pop-up, “It’s summertime and summer is fun, and it’s crazy. Everybody jump (sic), and everybody needs to dance. So that’s why this collection we call it Mudance.” If the word would not excite lexicographers, the print may move graphic designers. He explained further: “It is a mixture of, of course, the mudan flower and the year of the tiger.”

The queue outside the Team Wang Design pop-up this morning

This morning, along the sidewalk between Voco Hotel and Wheelock Place, many youngsters were carrying the familiar Club 21 paper bag. Emerging from the side entrance of the renamed hotel, two teenaged girls in oversized tees and invisible shorts were each with the same carrier. We asked them if they had just visited the Team Wang Design pop-up. They froze with shyness. We told them we just wanted to know if it was any good. “Yes,” they chorused and giggled. “We came last night, but they won’t let us in. No invitation. So we try again today, lah.” Was it packed? “There is a queue,” they replied in unison, again. “The store opens at 10.30, but we were here at nine.” Your bags are full. Did you buy a lot? “Yah,” and they moved off with a gurgle of giggles

The pop-up is in an actual shop lot. Outside, two gold, metal trees (palms?) rose out of an irregular sand pit, set on a plywood floor in the colour of, well, peony. (The sand suggested the seaside and, therefore, beach wear. According to Mr Wang, it “is something I’ve always wanted to do; I’ve always wanted to do a beach pants [sic] for guys and then, a bikini for girls”.) Inside, the massive space, with just two racks of clothes, looked like it was half-dipped in pink cream. The light emerging from it cast a pale patina the shade of strawberry milkshake over the beach set-up. A queue that continued to lengthen had formed on the perimeter of the sand pit. There were mainly girls in the line. One of them was heard exclaiming, “I love this pink”, concurring with Jackson Wang, who said in the Vogue Thailand interview, “I chose pink because—honestly, personally—I’m a big fan of pink… And I just wanted to do it… I’ve always had a feeling for pink.”

Team Wang Design pop-up store is at Voco Orchard until 31 August 2022. Photos: Chin Boh Kay

Two Of A Kind: Get A Grip

They are different product categories, but both are caught in claws

Alabaster Industry’s ‘Web’ watch and the the Adidas Yeezy 45 in slate. Photos: respective brands

From wristwatches to sneakers, things are getting clawed. American cult watch brand Alabaster Industries is known for releasing timepieces that sellout in minutes. Their watches were first available here at Dover Street Market SG last April. DSMS has announced that Alabaster Industries will be back in the store this Saturday. One of the most distinctive (hence, sought after) feature of the watch is the stainless steel case cage, shaped like some claw, catching the face in its menacing grip. Even the lug (which holds the matching band) are talons. It is not quite traditional, for sure. They do appear rather sinister, even when the face of the watch is violet, but collectors love the ungual bezel precisely because they do not look like anyone would mess with them.

No less ominous-looking is the Adidas Yeezy 450, first seen online last February. Even in the butter yellow that the brand calls “sulfur”, there is no escaping those bestial appendages—only Kanye West (or his design team) has made them more alien-looking. In fact, they have been called “futuristic”. The shoe is essentially a Primeknit upper caught in the claws, made of the now-trendy material, EVA (ethylene-vinyl acetate) foam. The entire base has been described as a “dynamic-shaped” sole. Seen from the top, if the sneaker does not hold a foot or is propped by a shoe tree, it looks like flaccid fabric framed by limp dough. However strange it looks, the Yeezy 450 remains wildly popular, and difficult to score.

Looking at animal extremities for ideas is not that strange a practice. We remember Alexander McQueen’s “armadillo” shoes. That the fascination with hoofs is now extended to claws is really, especially in the case of Alabaster Industries, rather a matter of time. Even Raf Simons’s skeleton bracelet-cum-arm-band is in similar territory, never mind that the reference is decidedly human. Fashion is clearly in the grip of the strange and the claw-like. When will chicken feet be next?

Alabaster Industries watches will launch at DSMS on 6 August 2022. Adidas Yeezy 450 is available at adidas.com

Luxury Mahjong Set

Does a Louis Vuitton mahjong tile make a more resounding pong?

Increasingly, luxury brands are offering products that are outside the category of fashion. Home ware comes to mind, such as those at Gucci. But, these days, stuff for leisure or recreational pursuits are covered too. Louis Vuitton is well aware that one of their tai-tai customers’ favourites games as a pastime is mahjong. To these women and their friends a good mahjong set is crucial to the enjoyment of the game. And an expensive one is even better, in comes LV’s mahjong set housed in a monogrammed trunk. Not since the 1950s did the house sell a mahjong set. But unlike the first issue, which was a humble and slim “travel-size” case that held the tiles and such, the latest, some 70 years later, is the epitome of luxury. Everything you need to set up a game is contained in a ‘vanity’ unit, except the table.

Those who own the Hermès mahjong set and table (sold separately!) may not require any intro, but those looking to buy their first luxury majiang taozhuang or wanting to have a different one for rotation, as you would with your sneakers, might wish to know that the Louis Vuitton is housed in a handsome leather-trimmed trunk that can be checked in as luggage, for those times you need to travel with your tiles. Inside, there are six green (a shade reminiscent of the felt top of mahjong tables) compartments (drawers, really) for you to store everything you need. The tiles are made of walnut wood and stone. All these come at a mind-blowing S$89,500. How many rounds of mahjong do you need to win to make that back?

Louis Vuitton ‘Vanity Mahjong’ set is available at selected Louis Vuitton store. Product photo: Louis Vuitton

Re-Play A Classic

Longchamp’s popular Le Pliage bags get a colourful modern update

The popularity of Longchamp’s Le Pliage nylon tote bags, with the recognisable leather flap (punctuated by a single snap button) and a pair of colour-matched handles, cannot be underestimated. In one 2017 Business of Fashion report, it was said that the bags were sold at a staggering 11 pieces per minute! Other accounts before the start of the COVID-19 pandemic claimed more than 30 million were bought since its inception in the 1993. Through the years, there had been versions that sported prints, rather than the solid colours that the bag is known for, as well as those designer collaborations, featuring more prints (Mary Katrantzou’s in 2012, for example), even illustrations, that made the Le Pliage highly collectible. Regardless of the many verions and collabs, the bag has remained largely in its recognisable east-west orientation. Until now.

The latest Le Pliage—which means “folding” in French (it can be folded into a compact trapezoidal shape, purportedly inspired by origami)—is dubbed “Re-Play”, and comes as a reiteration of the original, but in a portrait (or north-south) orientation that some tote users prefer. Standing tall in this manner, the Re-Play is a handsome version of its original self. But what makes the current version possibly even more appealing is that it is made of “100% recycled material” that are assembled from “end-of-the-roll” fabrics. There is this an upcycle component to the manufacture. Just as appealing is that the totes come colour-blocked (six colour variations), giving them a playful spin that would appeal to those who already own a few Le Pliages.

Longchamp Le Pliage Re-Play tote, SGD155, is available to order at Longchamp online. Product photo: Longchamp