The Ikea Transformer

Who’d guess that a cushion can be turned into a garment?

By Mao Shan Wang

I know Ikea is not the same to everyone. Some people see it as a furniture store, many a place for Swedish meatballs and cheap coffee, even more to let their kids run wild, and a few the spot to nap in full public view. I, however, find Ikea to be quite a fashion store, even if you don’t immediately see it. Yep, they sell T-shirts—occasionally—and bags, not just those popular Frakta carriers that Balenciaga made even more famous. Ikea’s fashion cred is, in my eyes, raised considerably when I recently encountered this cushion named Lånespelare (I’ll be the first to admit I can’t pronounce that!). Much to my delight, this humble-looking cushion can be transformed into what Ikea calls the “onesie”. And, yes, that means you can wear it.

The cushion, at first look, is like any oblong ones in east-west orientation. The more imaginative among us may see it as a makura (the pillow) of an obi. In fact, if you squeeze it, you are not wrong; it does feel like the makura. The Lånespelare is not filled like a conventional cushion. Rather, the 100% cotton shell has a thin polyester layer inside, which makes it feel like Uniqlo’s ultra-light puffer vest. How does it get its cushion-y bulk? Under the hood, if you will, is the garment itself that when folded, gives it the body. When extricated from the simple form, you get a sleeved tunic with funnel neck!

Truth be told I was too shy to try it on. In any case, this is not something I need when the weather here will never call for its use. But, I figure this may really be handy if you are heading for, say, Japan. It’s a practical flight companion—perfect as a pillow (your own is better than what the airline hands out) for lumbar support and when it gets cold, it can be unfolded and used as a blanket. If all you need is a hand warmer, the cushion’s decorative top layer comes with pockets too. When you depart the airport of your destination (Tokyo?), you’ll also have an outer to keep you warm. You don’t need to carry a coat or dig into your luggage to unearth a sweater. Really neat. But I am not sure if it’s easy to fold the whole thing back to its nifty original shape. Maybe it’s best to keep it as a cushion. Afterall, I do like Bumblebee Transformer (in the animated series) as a Volkswagen Beetle.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

The Ikea Lånespelare, $49.90, is available at IKEA stores. Product photos: Ikea. Illustration: Just So

Two Of A Kind: Egg Noodle Knot

Bottega Veneta’s Knot Minaudiere truly looks like something you’d find in the kitchen cupboard

Whose mee looks better? Left, Bottega Veneta Knot Minaudiere. Photo: Bottega Veneta. And right, regular dried egg noodles. Photo: Gan Mi Ann

One hit is far from enough. Bottega Veneta has had incredible success with their Cassette shoulder bag, the one with an exterior featuring the house Intreccio weave, but blown up many, many times. The bag, of course, looks less like a cassette than an oblong ketupat (Malay dumpling). But not content with one triumph and the surface treatment that recalls Asian foods, they offer another, possibly with the hope that this would be a winner too This time, the also-rectangular bag appears to be inspired by another food item—an Asian pantry staple: dried egg noodles! Yes, those that you might use to make wan ton mee if you do not have the fresh jidanmian (鸡蛋面) on hand. Or, are we seeing what is not there? Hunger-pangs-induced hallucination?

The new BV model is dubbed the Knot Minaudiere (French for a petit decorative bag, mostly without strap or handle). On both the front and back are these little loops (‘crocheted’, according to the brand) that, in the very arrangement, truly look like the curly strands of egg noodles in dried form. The shape and the flatness are similar too. We have no idea what really lured Bottega Veneta to come up with a bag that appears to want to be cooked, except that perhaps they thought this would be charming to Asian consumers, the noodle lovers that we are. Both bag and mee are, interestingly, made of natural materials; one in lambskin and the other wheat floor and egg. Beehoon next on the luxury menu?

Bottega Veneta Knot Minaudiere, SGD6,400, is available at Bottega Veneta stores. Dried egg noodles, SGD1.50, are available at any supermarket

Two Of A Kind: Gloves With Pouches

If there are two-way bags, there are two-way gloves too. So who’s leading the way?

At the Fendi resort 2023 presentation in New York earlier this month, one model stole the show, even when a bag that Fendi launched 25 years ago—the Baguette—was meant to be the bigger star. The oblong bag with the recognisable flap (and the logo-ed buckle in the middle, near the bottom) was, to be certain, saluted, and in more than one interpretation. The Baguette, in fact, didn’t merely come in other variations, such as the waist bag, trinkets, and even hand warmers; it was sited on articles many would not consider traditional placement, and one of them was on gloves.

If we remember correctly, it was Prada that first fastened what they call a “pouch” on their gloves—on the dorsal side of the hand—for the autumn/winter 2021 season. These were in the shape of the brand’s inverted triangle logo and were, in fact, functional. A zip at the top secured it’s content. Given their size, they could hold coins. Each nifty pouch sported the enamel Prada logo, and the colour and fabric matched the S$1,770-per-pair gloves. At the time, these were considered by many to be “cute”. Now, Fendi has followed suit, placing their considerably shrunken and floppier Baguette on gloves. But rather than leather, their gloves are in knit and their pouches are in nylon, and in the shape of a rectangle that could fit credit cards.

That Fendi needed to create new product categories is understandable. These days, both of these Italian fashion powerhouses are veritable department stores, and they would require a wide assortment of merchandise to fill their massive spaces. And accessories sell, even better than garments. But in widening their offerings, could there be a sacrifice of originality? Could the ability to emulate mean the temptation to submit? Has our world really become one of mono-culture? Or, has the fashion industry become like the tech industry—an open-source community? Ponder over.

Photos: Fendi and Prada respectively

Bubble Tea: Wear It!

Don’t just drink it. Your favourite beverage is now jewellery

Bubble tea is, of course, not just a potable liquid. It is not even tea as many—the British and our teh-C drinkers—know it. It is a beverage turned symbol of pride of the food culture of our nation; a part of who we are, even when bubble tea originates from Taiwan. So vital it is to the quenching of our collective thirst/crave that we can’t bear not to drink it briefly when stalls selling bubble tea were ordered to close during the height of the pandemic—we queued past closing hours to get a cup. It would take a serious viral infection sweeping the island to show our deep and demented devotion to bubble tea. So a part of our lives the drink with the ‘pearls’—or boba— has become, especially our communication, that soon even a bubble tea emoji was necessary. There is no escaping the recognisable plastic cup with the light brown liquid and the dark brown dots.

Now, not only can you drink your favourite zhenzhu naicha (珍珠奶茶), you can wear it. The Copenhagen-based Pandora has released a little charm in the likeness of a cup of bubble milk tea, complete with over-flowing foam and a fat straw (unfortunately, this is what most of us need to imbibe the beverage). But rather than a flimsy plastic beaker, the cup part of the Pandora charm is made of Murano glass and secured by a sterling silver frame. Amazingly, the content of the cup is conceived to look rather like the real stuff: tea that isn’t well-shaken, showing streaks of milk. If only the pearls weren’t so evenly spaced and painted on. Still, this is clearly another to add to the burgeoning selection of bubble tea trinkets and danglies, even Jibbitz.

Pandora is relatively late to the game of putting out bubble tea accessories. For a while now, earrings in that familiar shape are available on e-sites such as Shopee. Some of them are scarily gaudy, but their very presence is indication of the place the drink in the sealed plastic cup has in our culture, especially popular culture. You know how popular it is when bubble tea is widely sung about. According to lyrics.com, there are, to date, 363 lyrics, 100 artists, featuring 50 albums that has ‘bubble tea’ mentioned in songs. We are drinking, emoji-ing, singing, and, now, most definitely wearing bubble tea. Charmed?

Pandora Bubble Tea Dangle Charm, SGD99, is available at Pandora stores and online (but it is currently out of stock at their e-store). Photo: Pandora

Come Shine, Not Rain

Good news for this who love impractical things: Gucci’s umbrella won’t keep you dry

By Ray Zhang

If I go by the definition that I had learnt in school, the umbrella is a cover that is used to protect us from the rain. I have never really owned an umbrella until I started working, and bought one for myself. At that time, if my memory serves me well, I bought the foldable umbrella because it was raining. I never thought of an umbrella serving other function until my mother once asked me to buy one for her in Tokyo (where I was holidaying one Christmas season) because she wanted a “nice shade” to shield her from the sun. Which means, she reminded me, it must come with a UV layer or coating. But, for me, the umbrella is synonymous with the rain. I am, therefore, able to understand the thunderous outrage in China when Netizens found out that an umbrella, marketed under the much-hyped Gucci X Adidas collaboration, was described as “不防水” (bufangshui) or “not waterproof”.

Drenched with curiosity, I hit the SG Gucci website and was surprised that the said umbrella was not among the 147 items listed that would be on sale from the 7th of next month. A quick check at the American pages showed the brolly with the accompanying encouragement, “join the wait list for this item”. I did note that Gucci was careful to describe the product as a “sun umbrella”. Prior to the uproar in China, it is not clear if this phrase was used, but the Chinese equivalent 阳伞 (yangsan) was not seen. Instead, “雨伞 (yusan)” or “rain umbrella” appeared online. Is it a wonder that those interested (and those not) are angered and resentful that Gucci would charge 11,100 yuan (or approximately S$2,280) for the yusan and not make it waterproof? Gucci was quick to react to the derision: On their webpage, they changed the description by deleting the 雨 (yu), leaving the less specific 伞 (san).

Is it a wonder that those interested (and those not) are angered and resentful that Gucci would charge 11,100 yuan (or approximately S$2,280) for the yusan and not make it waterproof?

Some members of the Western press chose the more suitable (17th century) ‘parasol’ to describe the Gucci X Adidas offering, presumably not to offend both brands. But in China, no euphemistic efforts were discerned. The hashtag #售价11100元联名款雨伞不防水# (the collaboration umbrella sold for 11,100 yuan is not waterproof) started trending and quickly attracted more than 140 million views on Weibo alone. When the local media picked up the controversy, a Gucci spokesperson was quoted saying that the umbrella (I’ll just stick to this unambiguous word) “适合人们日常搭配造型,但并不建议当做日常晴雨伞使用 (is suitable for everyday styling, but is not recommended for daily protection from rain)”.

Now that it is clear the umbrella from the Gucci X Adidas collab was not conceived with inclement wet weather in mind, I wonder if it is still enticing to those for whom high-low pairings are their obsessions and the yushan and the rain are a pair made in heaven. Why had Gucci not considered what the French called en-tout-cas (or “in any case”), combination of umbrella and parasol! Truth be told, I am not impressed with the collaboration that Gucci describes to compose of “silhouettes inspired by collegiate style unfold through a retro colour palette and reimagined sports clubs’ uniforms”. How an umbrella with limited function fits into Adidas in a revivalist mood, materialised through retro-bent Gucci is rather beyond me. When in bed, two can have fun without, you know, climax.

Illustration: Just So

Coronavirus Infection Likened To The Wearing Of Earrings

An amusing analogy from a minister

We do not know enough about viruses. The same can be said of the coronavirus, such as COVID-19 and its variants. We will be the first to admit we are no expert in virology. What we know, we learned from media coverage of the pandemic, such as one report in The Straits Times yesterday. Covering health minister Ong Ye Kung’s visit to a farmers’ market in Woodlands, the editorial quoted Mr Ong commenting on existing hybrid mutants: “There are plenty of variants, but many of them are like us humans. Today you wear this earring, tomorrow you change your earring. That’s all it is. You’re still the same person”. It would never occur to us to liken coronavirus infection to the wearing of accessories, but there it was in the third paragraph of the ST story. We can’t say we were not impressed by the originality.

Mr Ong has never spoken about fashion, as far as we are aware. He is not Sim Ann or the occasional shoe designer Indranee Rajah. Yet, it was the choice of ear ornaments that illustrated the existence of variants still infecting many people. He did not even pick clothing, which we assume would come more naturally. The non-essential is perhaps easier to cite than the essential? The shape of the coronavirus possibly evocative of an earring? Rather than have us guessing, the writer of the article could have provided an explanation: What did Mr Ong really mean? Was he saying that the many variants of the coronavirus are like the plurality of humans? That they pick and change their victims in the same manner as people selecting and replacing their earrings? A harmless act? And in the end, they are the same pathogen? That’s all it is?

Earrings, unlike the human coronavirus, have a much longer history. Jewellery attached to the ear, from the helix to the lobe, is considered to be one of the oldest forms of body modifications. There are, however, no written records about the use of earrings in early times. In the Exodus story, Moses’s elder brother Aaron (and later, the first high priest of the Israelites) commanded his people: “Take off the gold earrings that your wives, sons and daughters are wearing, and bring them to me.” He then turned all that gold into a calf. Closer home, gold earrings were found in India’s Lothal, an ancient site of the Indus Valley Civilisation that dates back to 2200BCE. Comparatively, the human coronavirus was first identified rather recently—in 1965, the year of this nation’s independence. Coming from the Minister of Health, there must be a serious connection between the coronavirus and earrings. We, on the other hand, could have been flippant if we had compared COVID to Cartier.

Illustration: Just So

Three To Dangle

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

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

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

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

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

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

Clawed!

Raf Simon’s skeletal-wrist bracelet doubles as arm clasp. They are eerily beautiful

By Mao Shan Wang

Halloween is over. But a skeletal wrist is still making the news, delighting many who desire the grip of its spindly fingers. I don’t know about you, but this is one grab of the arm I do not the least mind, even in a crowded train! And for those of you celebrating Thanksgiving, that quieter transition to the madness that is Christmas, possibly just the accessory to have on your bicep to either delight relatives or annoy them. Bad fengshui? It sure would be a conversation starter. Studded with Swarovski crystals, this ‘Skeleton’ bracelet by Raf Simons looks to me to be the bling to have this festive season.

Frankly, I have had quite enough of the skeletal wrist’s other related bodily part: the skull. In fact, I don’t own anything bearing the bony framework of the head, even when they are similarly blinked out. Not for me the skull’s supposed status as the symbol of sub-cultures, desirable or not; even the outsider status the wearing of it supposedly bestows. By now the skull has lost all that. The skull is, to me, more Phillip Plein than Alexander McQueen, more Chomel than Chrome Hearts. And when it starts to appear in Ang Mo Kio market, I really wish some pirate would take it all back, whether underscored with crossbones or not.

But the skeletal wrist, that is newer. Raf Simons debuts this piece of accessory this season. And the beauty of it, apart from the glitteringly obvious, is that it can be worn on a wrist of flesh and skin, as well as on the arm as the above photo shows, like a sleeve garter, but you won’t look like a like a ragtime pianist! Yet, the Skeleton bracelet can be similarly worn to adjust the length of Mr Simons’s increasingly long sleeve lengths. The bracelet comes in two sizes, so that the guys can have one—or a pair—for themselves too (I’m not sure they would fit the developed arms of gym bunnies).

Wearing it on the wrist is somewhat predictable. Grab my arm, I’d say, even when it is bare. Given how dismal things still are in yet another (!) pandemic year, perhaps it is the shot in the arm that we really need?

Raf Simons skeleton bracelet, €940, is available online at historyofmyworld.com. Photo: Raf Simons

A Break From Flowers

Sometimes, you really just want grasshoppers

They are known to be the most ancient of chewing herbivorous insects, which may explain the grasshopper’s particular appeal to Loewe. Ancient being the operative word. The Spanish house is, after all, known for their support of old-world crafts that are sometimes associated with agrarian life, but these pieces are nowhere near, for example, the Thai craft of making insects out of palm leaves. Loewe’s grasshoppers are fashioned with leather, a material very much part of the heritage of the house. What we find relatable is that the grasshopper—rather than, say, a cleg (horsefly)—is very much an insect we are familiar with, even if we do not see much of them in this urban sprawl we call home. In Thailand, they are not only seen, they are caught and eaten, deep fried!

At Loewe, the grasshopper appears on the front of a coin-cum-card holder, looking somewhat well-fed. And, as a pin charm with a 3-D grasshopper—possibly in the process of moulting—that bears some resemblance to insects made out of reeds or grasses. Both look more adorable than the serious pests that the insects can be (larger and when in swarms, they are the vermin known as locusts!). We are not sure who these small accessories will appeal to when flowers and kin are the preferred motif (even sculls). But Loewe looking across the food chain may be just the exercise to keep the excess of boring blooms in check!

Loewe Grasshopper coin/card holder, SGD690, and pin charm, SGD490, are available at Loewe. Product photos: Loewe

Tokyo Olympics: That Mask

Nike’s version for Team USA is clearly a winner

The American Olympics team did not make quite the mark at the Opening Ceremony, fashion-wise, so much so that there were calls in their home country for long-time Olympics fashion provider Ralph Lauren to be replaced by a fresher name/brand. But the mask the athletes wore when the Games proceeded definitely did. Created by Nike (it’s become unimaginable for Team USA to wear any other sports brand), the mask—called Venturer—is eye-catching, whether the wearer is on the sporting grounds or on the podium receiving their awards. That’s the most noticeable part of their all-white get-up, more than the sneakers they wear or, in the case of the winners, more than their medals! Even without the Swoosh. Facewear trumps footwear.

The white mask is certainly a form of wear these days. And Nike, aware that American athletes at the winners’ podium will get their well-deserved close-ups, fitted them with a mask that is a statement piece, distinguished by the unusually pleated front that could have come from the Miyake Design Studio. Comparison has been made to the mask Batman’s nemesis Bane wears, with one Netizen actually saying “TeamUSA face masks are creeping me out”, but they do not look to us as sinister as the super-villian’s. According to Nike, the geometric ridges are supposed to “evoke the folds of Japanese origami”. But they resemble more closely to hand-folded fabric pleats of takumi artisans, such as those by Kyoto-ite Yuko Shimizu of YS Planning Co, part of the famed pleating machine manufacturer Sankyo. Perhaps Americans are less aware of pleating as an art form?

Swimming star Caeleb Dressel wears the Nike Venturer. Photo: Getty Images

Through a media release, Nike states that the “pleated design allows for optimal air flow and air volume within the lightweight, mesh mask”. Nothing about safety or its ability to block out pathogens is mentioned. Nike did say that the Venturer is “not medical-grade”, like most cloth masks. That means it should not be treated like an N95. Because of its comfort and breathability, the mask is designed for sporting activities or working out. The mask is suitable for prolonged wear and activities that might be described as “intense”. It comes with a chin rest and a nose cushion (apart from the surface relief, the reason why the mask juts out, but, thankfully, not beak-like?), and adjustable straps for a better fit. The mask is reportedly washable, hence reusable. In sum, Nike has certainly considered the Venturer’s aesthetic value and pull.

Unsurprisingly, the mask is available to buy at Nike’s online store, but for a tear-inducing US$60 each. That will give you the mask itself (available in sizes XS to XL and only in black, it seems) and a carry case. Despite its creepiness to some, the Venturer is, at present, out of stock. Are people snapping them up as an Olympics memento? At the Nike website (including the Japanese), the page on which the mask is supposed to be available simply reads, sans photos: “the product you are looking for is no longer available”. Read: sold out.

The Nike Venturer mask is not available on the nike.com.sg site. Product photo: Nike