Take Away In YSL

Do you need to dabao in such a fancy box?

There are things we use in our daily lives that we do not give much thought to, but designers do. In the area of luxury bags, anything that can hold anything can be basis for a new bag. Balenciaga started the madness in 2017 when they made an all-leather version of the Ikea shopper Frakta, down to the same bright shade of blue. And then things turn downright absurd last year when Louis Vuitton released those tub-like bags in the likeness of paint cans. And, even more ridiculous, was the Lay’s-chip-bag-lookalike, again by Balenciaga. Now, Saint Laurent joins the who-can-pick-the-most-ordinary-of-things-and-make-a-bag-out-of-it mania; they created a take-away box in calfskin—printed with the maison’s Cassandre monogram) and affixed with a gold logo on the front—and slap a four-figure asking price on it.

Buying anything in a restaurant or food court to bring home won’t necessarily reward you with a box akin to this, not even in cardboard. Plastic is the operative word. A cake might be placed in a similar box for you to carry, but you’d probably have to spend a three-figure sum to get it. So, in the end, this fancy dabaohe (打包盒) might just be the bag to hold your humble lunch when you decide to take the food—chai png (菜饭), maybe?—away. We’re not sure if the suede lining would keep the meal warm, but we are quite certain you do not want the greasy base of the styrofoam box to mess up the beautiful interior, which comes with a small pocket that would be handy for the receipt that you might later wish to share online because the stall overcharged you for the fried fish. Interestingly, this box is marketed as a men’s bag. So, chances are, you’ll be be carrying your Nintendo Switch in it.

Saint Laurent Take-Away Box, SGD2,660, is available in Saint Laurent stores. Photo: Saint Laurent

This Taped Bag

It was not a customised gimmick for just one famous person after all

Remember this Balenciaga bag? Or the tape that goes around it? Well, back then, as the story went, the bag was part of a customised look that was conceived for Kim Kardashian when she attended the Balenciaga autumn/winter 2022 show in Paris earlier this year. Ms Kardashian was totally wrapped in the Balenciaga-branded “packing tape”, as it was later identified. Whether she needed something different to wear for the show and the house did not have fabric for her or if she liked to be bound like this is not quite clear, but the whole-body bandage was appealing enough that Lizzo duplicated it for the cover of last September’s US Elle. Initially, Balenciaga told the media that the tape would be available to purchase for anyone who wanted to follow the footsteps of the stars, but we have not seen them in the stores.

Now, for anyone enamoured with the taped look, but is not willing to undergo the mummification herself or without a petit main (a domestic helper is not sufficiently trained) to assist with the binding, there is that very bag Ms Kardashian carried. Limited pieces of the Balenciaga ’Hourglass’, with its distinctive curvilinear base, now comes similarly wrapped with the said yellow tape (even the detachable shoulder strap that goes with it is bound). Underneath is still a luxury calfskin bag, but it is not known in what colour. Would it be black, just like the SKIM bodysuit that Ms Kardashian wore under was? It’d be good to know because you might one day want to peel off the tape when you become jelak of it. But perhaps you won’t. According to Balenciaga, “due to the handmade process, all the pieces are unique”. Couture finish!

Balenciaga ‘Hourglass’ small handbag in box with tape in yellow, SGD4,100, is available at Balenciaga and online. Photo Balenciaga

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: Repeated Triangles

A three-sided figure—even right-side up—and repeated just recalls those of a very famous Italian brand

Uma Wang’s pantsuit vs Prada’s Symbole jacquard tote. Photos: Uma Wang and Prada respectively

Uma Wang (王汁) is a popular designer in China. And the Chinese are especially proud that she is one of the few among the dalu (大陆 or mainland) designers to show abroad with anomalous regularity. Recently, she shared images of the digital presentation of her spring/summer 2023 collection, A Gaze into the Wilderness, during Paris Fashion Week. Among the Central Saint Martin alum’s usual oversized, drape-y styles, two outfits stood out, but not for their exceptional designs. There is a coat and a pantsuit and both are in fabrics with a orderly repeated pattern that immediately brings to mind the jacquard used in Prada’s Symbole bags.

Prada is, in fact, rather late in the monogram-style pattern in place of all-over logos or logotype on clothing and accessories. Based on its familiar inverted triangle that frames its logo, the Symbole was introduced this summer, with a campaign in our part of the world that featured Korean stars Kim Min-ju, Bona, and others. Prada describes the pattern of the Symbole as “modernist”. And it is even minimalist, if seen with the more recent monograms, such as Burberry’s interlocking TB, introduced in 2018 (what would its fate be now, since its introducer Riccardo Tisci is no longer with the house isn’t clear) or Versace’s Le Greca, launched last year.

Modernist might also be how Ms Wang sees her rows and rows of triangles. If you look at the dominant black ones, they are isosceles, closed-plane polygons with sharp vertexes, just like Prada’s, but placed right-side up and are more condensed. The linear arrangement is similar to the Italian brand’s as well—the black alternating with the lighter-coloured, with a sum effect like the board used for the triangular chess (yes, there is such a game, invented in 1986 by American lawyer George R. Dekle Sr). In that scheme, even Ms Wang’s chromatic choice is similar to Prada’s: black and khaki. It is possible that she picked her fabric (known to be from Italy) before Prada launched the Symbole bags, but it is even likelier that the latter went into development much earlier. Since only too looks were created with the said fabric, would it have been better for Uma Wang to omit both so as to avoid being compared to Prada’s increasingly popular Symbole?

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

Freedom! ’22. She’s Back!

With Fendi’s latest ad, Lindia Evangelista might just be reviving her modelling career, as she wanted to

Linda Evangelista shared on Instagram just hours ago a new image of her, back as a model. So did Kim Jones and Fendi, and those who worked with her on the shoot. The photograph of her, looking recognisably her before the Coolsculpting (also known as cryolipolysis) scandal which allegedly “disfigured” her back in 2015 and 2016, was shot for Fendi to celebrate the 25th anniversary of the Baguette, the “iconic” handbag designed by Silvia Venturini Fendi in 1997, during Karl Lagerfeld’s tenure at the house. The Baguette is considered the one that started the ‘It’ bag craze, reportedly moving more than a million pieces in the first 20 years of its existence.

Shot by Steven Meisel, who has put Ms Evangelista before his lens countless times before, the photograph shows the come-back Canadian model looking as many remember her, even when there are three baseball caps atop her head, a pair of shades over her eyes, and two Baguettes (and what appears to be another two mini ones) obscuring her body. On her IG page, the photo received 28,000 likes in the first 13 hours since it appeared (updated). Ms Evangelista does not look in any way marred. This could have been her at the height of her carrier in the ’90s. It is hard to imagine that this is the model who told People in February that a “fat-freezing” procedure Coolsculpting that she accepted left her “permanently deformed”. On IG, she made no comments other than expressing her gratitude to the team behind the shoot.

Last year, Ms Evangelista sued Zeltiq Aesthetics, the company behind the Coolsculpting performed on her, for US$50million (or about S$69.9 million), alleging that what was done caused severe and permanent injuries and suffering to her, and that she was not able to work as model after that. We do not know what is the outcome of that suit or if any settlement is reached. “I loved being up on the catwalk. Now I dread running into someone I know,” she told People. Ms Evangelista’s come-back is in the hands of those she does know and have worked with before, including French stylist Carlyne Cerf de Dudzeele, American makeup artist Pat McGrath, and British hairstylist Palau Guido. According to online buzz, Ms Evagelista will be returning to the runway too—in September for Fendi, unsurprisingly. She did tell People that she’s done with hiding. It is going to be the most anticipated show of the season as Fendi plays its trump card.

Photo: Steven Meisel/Fendi

Ready to Forget the Baguette?

Here is the Croissant to take its place!

If you’re looking into the bread basket for the next bag to buy and are quite jelak of the Baguette, it’s really time to consider the Croissant, the nifty little cross-shoulder by Lemaire. Introduced last year, this made-in-Spain bag requires no explanation as to where it derives its name from. Rather similar to those kidney-shaped bags, this crescent delight is a sleek composition of top-stitched panels, assembled to mimic the famous French breakfast pastry. But unlike the croissant, this buttery, nappa-leather sac isn’t brittle and fat-rich, and won’t flake!

As with most Lemaire merchandise, there is a sense of craft in the way this bag is fashioned. At the two points where the handle meets the body, it is knotted on both sides, which lends the organic design a decidedly less formal and structured vibe. The bag is unisex, and fits nicely against the back or chest, regardless of the gender of the user. What we found extra appealing is how huggable the capacious Croissant is. For fans of Lemaire, there is the added appeal of its logo-less, monogram-free exterior. Just swell.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Lemaire (small) ‘Croissant’ bag, SGD1,650, is available at DSMS. Photo: Lemaire/DSMS

Good Value: +J Tote

Once going for S$249, this bag is now available for S$49

Bags were not a main category of the now-concluded Uniqlo and Jil Sander collaboration, +J. So when this strikingly simple tote (one of two bag styles) dropped for the partnership’s final collection last November, we were rather attracted to it. Everything about the bag was really appealing, except the price. We thought that S$249 was a tad high since a wool coat could be had for less. But now with a dramatic price drop, the bag is appealing again—even more so. It is now on sale for S$49, which is after a whopping 80% discount, one of the highest markdowns that you could find in a Uniqlo store.

This black tote would be described by most as ‘smart’, as opposed to the canvas shopping bags that are very much carried these days. With the return to the office, this is the ideal replacement for a cross-body, if you are seeking not to crease the front of your shirt or blouse. In the north-south orientation, the tote’s pull is the unusual pointed vertical three edges and one that is curved. Those edges—basically where the ends of the leather panels meet at ninety degrees—are painted in navy. It may be an extremely subtle detail, but it is a detail nonetheless, and one that is appealingly only-the-user-knows discreet.

The body of the tote is coated with acrylic resin to yield a sheen that Uniqlo describes as “a glass finish”, although it does not shine as conspicuously as patented leather. Inside (lined in cotton), the tote is capacious enough for whatever you need to lug with you in the course of the day, including a small notebook. It should, however, be taken into consideration that it is rather heavy even before any content is introduced to it. Uniqlo classifies this as a bag for women, but it is really blockish and rugged enough for guys. Don’t let gender tags be your guide; let the price be.

Uniqlo +J leather tote, now SGD49, is available at select Uniqlo stores and online. Photo: Uniqlo

Grocery Bag With A Harness

One shopping bag comes with an accessory that can allow it to be carried as a shoulder bag

By Ray Zhang

The shopping bag has been in fashion for a while now, thanks largely to Balenciaga. But it has not really caught on here. I have not seen that many people carry it, compared to, say, in Japan. In our city, the shopping bag is still associated with supermarkets or going to one. Once, I carried a Porter ‘shopper’ to meet a friend for lunch at 313@Orchard. As I left the train station, I bumped into an acquaintance who asked me, “Going Fairprice, ah?” In less then ten minutes, a neighbour I was not expecting to see, greeted me with “刚买完菜啊 (just finished grocery shopping)?” Fifteen kilometres from my flat? Since then, I have stopped using that bag.

But now I am considering this from the Japanese label John Lawrence Sullivan by the menswear designer Arashi Yanagawa. While the label, once available at a formerly fashionable Tangs, is named after the late American boxer (aka Boston Strong Boy), the clothes are less for the boxing ring than the more fashionable part of any downtown. And this shopping bag too. While you could use it as grocery bag for fresh vegetables and such, it really would not be out of place—once you slip it into the harness that comes with it—if you carry it and catch up with your mates at the now-open night spots for a lager. Or to meet a date for a night out.

At the core is the shopping bag in the identifiable shape of a grocery bag. Use it as it is and be prepared (at least here) to mistaken to have just been to the grocer’s. But, if you take the harness, made of leather and is held together by a metal ring and studs, and slip the shopper into its frame, you get almost an entirely different carrier, one that appears to have the toughness that might be synonymous with Boston Strong Boy. That it has a fetishist vibe about it is rather appealing!

I really like that the harness provides the practical option of carrying the bag over your shoulder, like you might with a tote. It is truly rather amazing that a simple idea of the harness totally transforms the shopping bag. The Japanese have offered other ideas to make the grocery carrier “two-way”, such as the inclusion of single straps looped around the two handles, but it‘s John Lawrence Sullivan’s idea I find most appealing, and desirable.

John Lawrence Sullivan shopping bag, ¥52,800 (approximately SGD570), is unfortunately available only in Japan. Get a friend to cop it at the brand’s Nakameguro store. Photos: John Lawrence Sullivan

Hungry For Luxury

Chanel has refused to sell to Russians overseas, who intend to use their merchandise back on home soil. Despite the ban, there are Russians who are determined to buy their fave bags, failing which, they take to social media to denounce the perceived Russophobia

Is it true that Chanel is presently Russophobic, as charged by some Russians online, after they failed to secure their desired items, even when abroad? According to media reports, Chanel stores across the world have stopped selling to Russians who reside in their native land (the French brand has, like their counterparts, stopped operating in cities such as Moscow). Chanel has stated that they are merely acting in accordance with EU sanctions that forbid the export of luxury goods to Russia costing more than €300 (or about S$445), as well as the sale of these goods to shoppers who intend to use them there. Bloomberg quoted a Chanel spokesperson: “We have rolled out a process to ask clients for whom we do not know the main residency to confirm that the items they are purchasing will not be used in Russia.”

Unhappiness over the drastic Chanel move was expressed swiftly on social media. Russian influencers were the first to condemn the purchase ban, as if it they were prohibited from buying sugar. One of them, Liza Litvin, who was shopping in Dubai, was quoted in many news reports to have posted, “I went to a Chanel boutique in the Mall of the Emirates. They didn’t sell me the bag because (attention!) I am from Russia!!!” The outrage was expressed by wealthy Russian fans of Chanel not only in words. Some went even further. Marina Ermoshkina, actress/TV presenter/influencer, was reported to have cut up her Chanels in disgust, and posted a video of the destruction, saying “If owning Chanel means selling my Motherland, then I don’t need Chanel.” It is not known if Chanel has calculated the cost of incurring the wrath of Russian influencers.

Customer browsing at the Chanel store in Takashimaya Shopping Centre

The Russians who were able to score Chanel merchandise were reportedly told to put their signature to an agreement that they will not use—or wear—their new purchases in Russia. Ms Litvin confirmed this by sharing on social media that Chanel “has a new order that they only sell after I sign a piece of paper saying that I won’t wear this bag in Russia.” The company has admitted to the press that “a process” is in place to ensure that what they sell do not cross into Russia. Many Russians call this need for signed assurance before a transaction can be completed “humiliating” and a slap to the staggering amounts they had been spending in Chanel stores.

It is remarkable that Chanel remains so desirable that some Russian women are willing to face painful loss of pride to buy something from the house. Despite repeated price increases globally in the past two years and, now, this ban, these Chanel measures have not put a damper on Russian enthusiasm for Chanel, or the die-die-must-have stance that many women here would relate to. This surprised many observers: “Chanel is not that exclusive to be this desirable”. Wherever you go, from neighborhood shopping centres to Orchard Road malls, you’d see someone carrying (rather than wearing) something with the familiar double Cs, they noted.

Curious to know if the ban is extended to these parts (or SEA), we asked a member of the three-person staff manning the queue outside the newly refurbished Chanel store in Takashimaya Shopping Centre. She said she wasn’t aware and would have to ask her manager. Before she disappeared inside, we wanted to know as well if a Singaporean buying for another Singaporean residing in Russia is allowed. In less than a minute, she was back. Cheerily she said, “All are welcome.” We expressed surprise. And she repeated, “All are welcome. Everyone can buy.” Two women, who had just scanned the QR code on a tablet held by another staffer to receive a queue number, heard our query. One of them asked the other, “Got ban, meh?”

Illustrations: Just So

Up, Up, And Away

Chanel is increasing the prices of their handbags. Again. They know they can, and the very many who continue to buy are encouraging, rather than deterring the hike

For many women, the dearer Chanel bags are, the more desirable owning one is. It has to be, or it’s hard to explain the bags’ puzzlingly massive appeal. The price increases are not attributed to inflationary pressures, but are, according to a spokesperson, cited by Bloomberg recently, “in response to unspecified exchange-rate fluctuations, changes in production costs and to ensure its handbags cost roughly the same around the world”. This is not the first time, nor the second, in the past two years that Chanel has upped its prices for their bags. As stated in the Bloomberg piece, prices for the classic styles have been raised by “almost two-thirds since the end of 2019”. That, to us, is staggering. But our—and kindred folks’—reaction to the price hike matters not to Chanel who seems to only want to target those for whom prices matter not. Their latest price increase is a staggering fourth in these past two years. That averages a rise of twice a year.

One marcom executive told us, “This is so ridiculous. Pricing a Chanel bag closer to an Hermès does not make it an Hermès!” But for many women, especially the young, a Chanel bag is the most covetable, and, as a gift, is considered a measurement of the depth of the love shown by the romantic partner. One twentysomething we know, reacting to the news of Chanel jacking up the prices of their bags, said to us, “It’ll not change anything for me. I will still buy. And I want no other bag. And I don’t expect my boyfriend to buy anything but Chanel for me.” Conversely, a “former lover” texted us to say, “25 years or so ago, a Classic (one standard size) with lambskin and lined in burgundy leather sold for S$3,500. That was princely. But now!!!🙀” Many observers consider Chanel’s pricing move a way to keep their bags exclusive. Even after so many are appearing in the secondhand, not to mention bootleg, market? Or, has price, more than the bag itself, become the real confidence booster?

Chanel does not make better leather bags than, say, Delvaux, the world’s oldest luxury leather goods maker. But somehow the very mention of Chanel sends eyes quite lit up. To us, Chanel bags can look frumpy, but even women dressed in Balenciaga-ish oversized togs would carry the recognisable bag, not because they are especially on-trend, but because the double-C lock (never seen in the original that Coco Chanel designed) is the ultimate status symbol. You almost never witness a woman carry her Chanel 2.55 or whatever Flap Bag there are (let’s not get into the taxonomy) with the outside facing inward, against her body—the logo totally blocked. That Chanel did not start (or have a long history) in leather goods, as Hermès primarily did, is no disincentive to the women (and men) so desirous of a Chanel bag. Coco Chanel created her first bag for practical need, rather than materialistic demand: so that, with the shoulder strap, women can keep their hands free while carrying one. These days, women want more than their hands free. And they don’t mind paying for whatever else is associated with carrying a Chanel bag. And the bag maker knows. Only too well.

Photo: Zhao Xiangji

Two Of A Kind: The Cassette

Did Philipp Plein think that without Daniel Lee at Bottega Veneta, we would forget?

Philipp Plein has released images of his pre-fall 2022 womenswear collection. No news there if it isn’t for this bag that is eye-catching—not for its exceptional beauty, but its similarity to one that many, many women (and men) have come to love: the Cassette. Bottega Veneta’s intreccio weave, even oversized (and especially so) is the object of intense desire and is a design very much associated with former creative director Daniel Lee. The German label’s version is not only imitative; it is a cheap-looking, floppy version of the original. What is especially shocking is the similarity of the colour too—not the Bottega Green, but this pale teal. Plonking the hideous logo right in the centre-bottom of the flap does not indicate that this bag is a work of total newness.

Now, Philipp Plein is not exactly the embodiment of rigorous originality or good taste, but you’d think Mr Plein would at least wait till the shock of Daniel Lee’s departure from Bottega Veneta has died down before attempting such an indiscreet stunt. Did he think that by next year, BV would phase out the Cassette so that his bag would be a timely stand-in? (Someone pointed out that his, pictured above, comes with a gold-chained shoulder strap. BV’s padded Cassette is available in gold-chained versions too!) Or did he believe that amid the collection’s garish, tacky, vulgar clothes that vogue.com’s Luke Leitch called “arresting (he used the word twice in a para!)”—think sequinned tracksuits or animal-print anything—women are not going to notice? Then, Philipp Plein is operating in the absence of shame.

Photos: (left) Philipp Plein and (right) Bottega Veneta