How Very Vanda-ful

Miss Universe Singapore’s “3-D printed national costume”—as some reports describe it—is a misnomer. But what fun is a national costume at the Miss Universe final if it’s not poorly named, controversial, and bordering on the absurd?

On stage in New Orleans, Miss Universe Singapore in national costume

We always remind ourselves that when it comes to the national costume segment of Miss Universe—and, frankly, the whole pageant—we have to think of entertainment, of amusement, of laughter. No one takes them costumes seriously, or as inspiration for a dress you might wish to wear for the next Christmas/party season. So when our current Miss Universe Singapore Carissa Yap strutted out—and she did—in what appeared to be a leotard, festooned with veiny petalous shapes, we were not surprised; we were entertained and we were amused, and we laughed. After 2021’s lacklustre, caped national costume, worn by Bernadette Belle Wu Ong (or Mr International Singapore Sean Nicholas Sutiono’s flag-as-cape), we were delighted to see our national flower Papilionanthe Miss Joaquim—a.k.a. Vanda Miss Joaquim—in use, again. Better bunga than, say, nasi lemak. We think the decorative is better than the edible when it comes to adorning a dress, even when there are designers who think it might be more effective to appeal to one’s appetite than aesthetic sense. And this year, it is hybrid orchid and national colour that take centrestage to generate fervid viewer reaction.

As with most of the national costumes that were shown in this 71st year of the pageant, held in New Orleans, Ms Yap’s outfit is hard to describe. It is, for sure, not a gown. The bifurcated, seeming one-piece is an audacious proposition for a beauty-contest stage, where looking glamorous is what every contestant hopes to achieve, and usually with an over-the-top dress. Some call this year’s SG national dress a jumpsuit. We are not sure. It could be a unitard of sort (something a trapeze artist might wear?), even a close-fitting two-piece, or samfu (it’s really hard to make out from the photos). The base garment is designed and made by our island’s couture darling Frederick Lee. Apparently, he even dreamed up the idea of the segments of the corolla of the orchid, conceived to expose the venation of the petals, like those of pressed leaves after they have spent considerable time weighted between the pages of a book. They are arranged in the shape of our island (more nationalistic fervour in the red and white!). Those petal parts are realised and 3-D-printed by Baëlf Design, the studio specialising in clothes not made of conventional cloth.

Publicity photo: Close up of the “lattice”

It is debatable if what was worn by Ms Yap, a National University of Singapore student, can be accurately described as a 3-D printed garment. According to the posts on Mr Lee’s and Miss Universe Singapore’s social media pages, the outfit is a result of “combining intricate craft, precise design computation and innovative use of 3D-printing technologies.” So, it is not entirely 3-D printed. The posts went on: “By using computation to grow organic, vein-like structures, these petals form a high-rise collar around the neck, as well as outstretched wings, enveloping the body in a lightweight, white-coloured 3D-printed lattice.” That, of course, makes the costume grander than it actually is. Perhaps, as long as it sounds good, it would look smashing. Growing a winged, biological form that is structural yet covers the body completely is, naturally, a feat. It does not matter that it is arguable that the irregular lines of the petals’ veins and the spaces between indeed make up latticework. The composition appeared, to us, an embellished, closing-fitting suit attached with extraneous decoration, but whether the petals—“200 individual pieces”—are stitched on or affixed with a glue gun, it is not known.

Three-dimensional printing is, of course, better poised to position our island as the hub of technological advancements than traditional dressmaking can. Although Frederick Lee has successfully marketed himself as a couturier, he does need to appear to be moving with the times, to stay relevant, and to be able to incorporate additive manufacturing to his work, rather than using a far more commonplace method, such as stitching cloth, alone. While the alate attachments (the illustration by Mr Lee shows them to be more wing-like or “outstretched”) may be enchanting, the idea of the orchid, for many of the pageant’s SG followers, is not quite. No, it isn’t because the sum effect is a tad too Iris van Herpen. When it comes to the costumes (or gag-garments?) of Miss Universe Singapore, we have a tendency to fall back on the good ’ol standby, the orchid, for inspiration. It is hard to say if this is really lack of imagination or simple laziness. Or, that our young nation is bereft of cultural motifs and material uniqueness for our costume designers to create awe-inspiring creative forms. Singapore is the only country in the world with a national flower that’s a hybrid bloom. Introducing Carissa Yap (and her costume), the co-host told the audience that “she would never settle for just one petal (there was not much more she could have settled for).” If only the commentator knew that the Vanda Miss Joaquim, when accurately depicted, has only two.

Erratum: A previous version of this post mis-stated that Bernadette Belle Wu Ong is Miss Universe Singapore in 2022; she, in fact, represented Singapore in 2021

Screen shot (top) and photo: missuniverse.sg/Instagram

Is It Still Cool To Wear Yeezys?

Following the end of the relationship between Adidas and Kanye West, reports have emerged of objectionable work environment in the Yeezy/Adidas office in California and elsewhere. Are Yeezys still the footwear to be seen in?

A young chap in Adidas Yeezy Slides

By Awang Sulung

Yeezy is over. At least from Adidas’s side of the story, the name is. There are reports that Adidas will release non-Yeezy Yeezys next year. I am not sure if Kanye West is able to continue using the Yeezy name, but I am certain that is the least of his problems. There is still YZY. And, possibly a YZY SZN 10. No Yeezy Days? How about Donda Days? There is Donda Sports, Mr West’s managing agency that represents athletes in branding deals (and they sell stuff, like a hoodie, a pair of shorts and socks, all marked on the website ‘sold out’!). And don’t forget Ye, a name waiting to be slapped on merchandise. If Adidas continues to sell the designs that came about under Yeezy, but without that tainted name, will they still hold any appeal? Is Yeezy the same if it is not Yeezy? I mean, do sneakerheads want them if they look like Yeezys but are just Adidas? Does Adidas Boost 350 V2 have the same ring, even if you know which Yeezy shoe it is? Yes, questions there are, but, frankly, no easy answers.

Two months have past after the news that Adidas potong-ed ties with Kanye West, and a tumultuous year is near the end. Oddly, in a single day, I saw two separate guys wearing Adidas Yeezy Slides—yes, the one Mr West accused the German sportswear giant of “copying”. And in the following week, I saw more. All of them walking with considerable swagger. I think the colour of those slides I saw is the one former Adidas Yeezy (or Mr West? Was he involved in colour-naming?) called “Pure”. Oddly, all of them in that pale shade. On those occasions, I was not sure if I saw anything that wholesome. If bigotry has a colour, might it be that? Those anti-Semitic rants are still kind of fresh (let’s not even talk about his interview with Alex Jones!). And Mr West (I’ll still refer to him as that since he has always been Kanye West, the rapper, to me) has not showed that he is regretful, let alone remorseful, even planning to run for president of the US, again, totally unconcerned that what he spewed before would haunt him on the campaign trail, possibly now not trodden by Yeezys.

Another fellow in the same slide

Warning: the following contains words and descriptions some readers may find offensive

Recap: But what is more disturbing is the news that emerged, revealing the kind of boss and creative head Mr West was while steering the design and production of Yeezys. According to a report by Rolling Stones (they spoke to former staffers who requested anonymity), the rapper-designer was in a constant state of flux, even “pure chaos”. One informer told the magazine: ““It was the most hectic and chaotic experience of my life [and] career.” But poor managerial and operational skills aside, Mr West is described as a belligerent boss, and one inclined to show his sexual side even at work. Another report, headlined Kanye West Used Porn, Bullying, ‘Mind Games’ to Control Staff alleged that in one design meeting, Mr West was displeased with the shoes shown to him. He approached a senior female staffer and said to her, “I want you to make me a shoe I can fuck.” At other meetings with executives, he apparently played porn, showed intimate images and explicit videos of ex-wife Kim Kardashian. Sometimes, he showed “his own sex tapes”. It was also revealed that an open later by the Yeezy team stated that senior Adidas execs knew of Mr West’s “problematic behavior” but “turned their moral compass off”.

According to The Wall Street Journal, the chief executive and his top guys pondered over the potential fallout from its collab with Kanye West four years ago. They knew it might come to this, but perhaps making money was more important? They latter announced that they would US$246 million in profits by taking Yeezy out of the Adidas line-up. What Mr West did with Yeezy that led Adidas to such profitability and then loss was often thought to be a “cultural sensation”, but now he is a cultural pariah, best ignored, even forgotten. I have never owned a single pair of Yeezy, so I can’t say what choosing not to wear them feels like, but one of my buddies did say to me that now when he takes stock of his numerous pairs, “they look like sampah”. This is probably not how others consider Yeezys that cost them not a small sum. You can still get Adidas Yeezys at SNKR Dunk, moral compass not in sight. But do you really want to?

Photo: Jim Sim

Barking Up The Wong Tree

Is Marc Jacobs doing Heaven any favour with his homage to Asia’s favourite auteur, Wong Kar Wai?

We can’t speak for you but, to us, the inspiring oeuvre of the giant of Hong Kong cinema Wong Kar Wai (王家卫) is best left untouched by the extravagance and capriciousness of fashion. Mr Wong’s filmic output is not Star Wars, destined for merchandising triumph. So when we learned that Marc Jacobs (or, perhaps, his design team) has picked Mr Wong’s works—symbols, sayings, and scenes—to be design elements in the latest collection of his sub-brand Heaven (in collaboration with the filmmaker), we were quite scandalised. It didn’t help that the images that accompanied the capsule were nowhere near the vicinity of Mr Wong’s idea of off-beat cool. To be sure, these clothes aren’t targeted at film snobs with a rabid passion for Asian cinema. Rather, they look straight in the eye of the all-prancing TikTok generation. It, therefore, begs the question; how many Gen-Zers know Wong Kar Wai? Or desire to?

Mr Wong’s films are known and appreciated for their non-linear, fragmented narratives. The graphics and text used in the Heaven collection, conversely, go from screen to garment in a single bound. They are devoid of what might be considered graphical wit. Sure, these are, as we have mentioned, for a very specific audience—the very young who, for some reason, are seduced by Y2K looks, but not necessarily their creative nuances. The clothes might have the glance-back-at-that-time vibe, but they do not say anything vividly about the films which purportedly provided the inspiration behind the collaboration. Mr Wong’s works that inspired the small collection are 1994’s Chungking Express (重庆森林), 1995’s Fallen Angels (堕落天使), and 1997’s Happy Together (春光乍洩). These are complex stories with complex characters—obsessions and fantasies too—but the Heaven adaptation is just slap the text/visual on and go. Mickey Mouse on Uniqlo UT tees have more creative heft.

Mr Wong’s films are known and appreciated for their non-linear, fragmented narratives. The graphics and text used in the Heaven separates, conversely, go from screen to garment in a single bound

The urban environment of a Wong Kar Wai film isn’t the glass-and-steel polish of Hong Kong’s Central. Rather they have the seductive mess of the parts of the city where you can find gambling dens next to shops selling congee. The visual strength of the films are in their grunginess as well as indie-ness. The costumes are often slightly off-the-tangent. For us, the definitive fashion heroine in these films is Chunking Express’s Faye (阿菲, played by Faye Wong [then known as Wang Jingwen or 王靖雯] in her first major role), a protagonist who works in a doner kebab store (it is not clear if she sells shawarma or gyros), and listens to the Mamas and Papas’ California Dreamin’. She sports a boyish, pixie crop and her wardrobe is dominated by slim-fit tees, loose shirts (floral), and calf-length skirts (there’s even an ombre one). The only bag she carries is a backpack. Her clothing choice throughout is simple but unconventionally paired, even when she is a volunteer domestic cleaner in the apartment of the policeman she finds herself attracted to (she stole the key to his flat to gain access). Faye as Faye is a jumble of nervous energy, but with seductive, capital-S style.

The clothes of the Heaven and Wong Kar Wai collaboration, pulled together, try to be commensurate with that, but they have less character than the pink rubber gloves that Faye uses to clean the flat that she happily intrudes regularly. On some tops, a quote from the film—“Love you for 10,000 years (爱你一万年 in the original Chinese, which sounds and reads better)”—is emblazoned across the bodice, as if they are cheap slogan tees. Do Heaven fans know what that means? Are they even nostalgic for Hong Kong cinema of the ’90s? Heaven is a reflection of today’s youth culture, but they borrowing from the themes of Hong Kong art films of the past. The result is aesthetically wonky; the cultural/cinematic reference disingenuous. Despite its somewhat esoteric inspiration, it can’t escape the Shein posturing, minus the low price. Admittedly, Heaven by Marc Jacobs is not Marc by Marc Jacobs (discontinued in 2015). It has to be better, a lot better.

Heaven X Wong Kar Wai collaboration, from SGD135 for a T-shirt, is available at marcjacobs.com. Photos: Heaven by Marc Jacobs. Collage: Just So

It’s Removed!

H&M withdraws their collaboration with Justin Bieber after the singer called the clothes “trash”

It is funny that Justin Bieber has called the output of his collaboration with H&M ”trash”. Even if he is considered by many, including his fans, as a style icon, it is not certain that he is, in fact, such an arbiter of style that even the powerful H&M has to bow down to him, withdrawing the collaboration as soon as the singer deemed them to be garbage. Sure, he has his own fashion line, Drew (and the collective Drew House), but it is hard to determine if he is a man of innate taste, just like Kanye West. Sure, like Mr West, he wore Balenciaga and modeled for the house, but we were not aware that he is this knowledgeable in what clothes deserves to be binned. Now we know. Just one word—“trash” (the full sentence: “the H&M merch they made of me is trash”, expressed through Instagram Story two days ago)—and the Swedish brand yanks all the related merchandise online and off. We see the power of celebrity in action, again.

Collaboration tight spots these days are of course very much par the course, especially those involving singers. Mr West famously accused The Gap of not producing exactly what he wanted and not pricing the merchandise as he thought reasonable. It is probable that Mr Bieber’s very public disapproval is a page off Mr West’s partnership play book. People don’t go to the top these day; they take to social media. Who bothers with one CEO when you can galvanise millions of your followers. And that was exactly what Mr Bieber did. He told his audience of 270 million directly: “I wouldn’t buy it if I were you.” And then he became instructional: “Don’t buy it.” H&M likely did not expect that recommendation. In a statement quoted by Rolling Stone, H&M explained that they withdrew the products “out of respect for the collaboration and Justin Bieber.” We don’t remember reading of such deference in relation to Mr West’s plight!

People don’t go to the top these day; they take to social media

Frankly, we weren’t aware of an H&M X Justin Bieber collaboration. We are, after all, no Beliebers. As we gathered, H&M launched the new collection of Bieber merchandise early this month. They have been sold for weeks now. Most of the pieces, like concert merchandise, sport teenaged faces of the singer. Oddly, H&M allegedly did not have Mr Bieber sign off on the collection before putting it out on the selling floor. The singer was adamant: “I didn’t approve it.” WWD quoted a statement they received from H&M: ”as with other licensed products and partnerships, H&M followed proper approval and procedures.” The company is a serial collaborator. It is unlikely that they did not have standard ways to get a collaborative collection out. At first, H&M said they would continue to sell the merchandise despite their collaborator’s stern disapproval. Just a day after, they changed their mind, and withdrew the whole collection.

The abrupt halt of the sale of products already on the selling floor is rather odd. This was not the first time that Justin Bieber worked with H&M. In 2017, they partnered to produce the merchandise for his Stadium Tour. That first time must have been successful for either side to desire to come together again. Clearly, he didn’t see any trash then. This time round, surely they knew what to expect from each other. The pieces from the latest collab is no different from the one earlier. You get the usual hoodies, T-shirt—now, in the length of a dress—and there is presently a tote bag. Not terribly complicated to the point that approval from the guy whose face is used on the products is somehow muddled in processes and procedures. Disruption may be a buzzword in fashion and business, but where it would lead these two strong brands to or who will emerge victorious is hard to say with certainty. You can’t untrash trash, can you?

Photo: H&M. Photo illustration: Just Soh

Adidas Presses “Pause”

…on the collaboration with Balenciaga. Has recent controversial events pertaining to the latter led to this decision?

They have already cut ties with Kanye West. It took a while, but they did. Now, Adidas has apparently decided to “pause all product launches” with Balenciaga. Like Kim Kardashian, the maker of the Stan Smith has decided to “re-evaluate”their relationship with the creator of the Triple S. In a very recent report by Sneaker Freaker, customer service emails by Adidas were sent out last week in response to pre-orders of the US$800 ‘destroyed’—and, consequently, derided—Balenciaga X Adidas Stan Smith. Adidas wrote: “We have taken the time to re-evaluate our partnership with Balenciaga and we have decided to pause all product launches until further notice.” As such, they added, “we are unable to fulfill your pre-order of the Balenciaga/adidas Stan Smith.” They did not specify why there was a need for this re-evaluation. We have not been able to establish the veracity of the said email.

Could this, if true, be a preemptive move? Balenciaga was, as you remember, embroiled in a scandal involving the injudicious use of questionable objects in their advertising. It led to considerable online outcry, even compelling Ms Kardashian to make a statement—although somewhat vague—about her future commitments to Balenciaga. It didn’t help that Balenciaga wanted to sue the companies that oversaw the production of the ads, and then… withdrew. In the wake of the unceasing Kanye West social media rant that led to the demise of his collaborations with both Adidas and Balenciaga, could Adidas be doing the right thing before they are accused, again, for being slow to act in severing ties with those who are deemed offensive, even incendiary? Can they afford to wait until the situation at Balenciaga gets better or when people, if they do, forget?

The Balenciaga X Adidas collaboration is a full-line affair (including a water bottle!), and now out in Balenciaga stores. Contrary to a vogue.com report in May, it is not “already selling out”. Not even presently. We saw the collection in-store (admittedly not in its entirety) and we went away thinking we won’t suffer without a piece. It wasn’t that hard to come to that conclusion after seeing the advertising campaign, shot in an office. The bagginess for most of the pieces is not exactly the component of an extremely smart turnout. Nor, the embroidery of the Balenciaga logotype on some of the tops. The Stan Smith was not there, but the S$1,650 Triple S with the triple stripes was. We were told by a staffer that they “have not received the stock for the Stan Smith”. In fact, it is no longer listed on the Balenciaga website. That is, as it appears, just one item that Adidas is holding back from the collab. Or, are they saying that they are re-evaluating the two’s future partnership? Are they finally treading cautiously after losing a projected US$246 million by cancelling Yeezy, as they traverse a deeply complex world of fashion?

Illustration: Just So

Illumination Goes Luxe

Increasingly, high-end brands are sponsoring Christmas light-ups inside and outside of malls and, in cities such as Tokyo, shopping districts too

An LV Christmas glass installation in Marunouchi, Tokyo

You have seen the Dior star-tree in the open space in front of ION Orchard. Scores have taken photos there, with the massive festive set-up behind them. It is not clear if the lavishly-lit, multi-story, outdoor Dior-branded structure pulls shoppers into the mall, specifically to the (new) Dior store inside, but that installation, with two massive Dior logotypes, is a reminder of the brand’s marketing might. It does not matter that more that 95 percent of those who desire to be photographed with the Dior fake tree would, in fact, not be seduced by it to want to go further than take selfies, but Dior is probably pleased that the tree is attracting massive attention, not just with locals, but tourists too. It is good enough that it’s a Dior Yuletide moment. And Orchard Road has not looked this festively cheery since the COVID pandemic struck. Dior is also making record sales globally to be able to stage such an unmissable pile of the brand’s mighty standing, augmenting the same unabashed commercialism of this very season.

Further north of our island, fellow LVMH brand Louis Vuitton took the massive on-the-mall-premises marketing exercise further—in, unsurprisingly, Tokyo. The business district and shopping area of Marunouchi, in front of the unmistakable Tokyo Station, is where they have set up not just the usual 3-D Christmas-themed structures (such as the window piece above) to attract amateur shutterbugs, but also something far much more interactive: an oblong skating rink to lure the winter skaters. Situated on Gyoko-dori, the wide pedestrian walkway (in front of the central entry/exit of Tokyo Station) that leads to the gardens and grounds of the Imperial Palace, the rink is without doubt, the main attraction of the area. Dubbed Marunouchi Street Rink, it is the first ever set up here, but the 9 metres long and 26 metres wide facility does not come with an iced surface. In the name of eco-friendliness, the rink has a resin skating area. When selfies are done and skating is completed, one can quench one’s thirst at the Fish Café. The kiosk, in the shape of a fish, is known as a Fish Car, and it serves winter-appropriate beverages, such as hot cranberry ginger tea. Every single one of the three stops here is designed in collaboration with Yayoi Kusama.

An LV ice skating ‘ring’, also in Marunouchi, Tokyo

That LV partnered with Japanese artist Yayoi Kusama is also an affirmation of their commitment to Japan. While the installations are, admittedly, a publicity effort for the collaborative collection with Ms Kusama, expected to launch on New Year’s day, they do not have the commercial blandness that such exercises typically project. They have the playfulness, even cuteness, that is inherently Japanese, when it comes to engaging the city folk in public art. And they are massive in scale, which allow them to be sculptures on their own (or installation art), which keeps with the creative standing of Tokyo. The Marunouchi installations are not the only ones LV has set up. Also Yayoi Kusama-themed are the 3-D video art in front of JR Shinjuku Station’s east exit, more video ads framing Shibuya Scramble Crossing, a giant “floating pumpkin” in Ms Kusama’s distinctive dots hovering above some rooftops, just next to Tokyo Tower, and the pathway in front of the Zojoji temple, dotted with the artist’s signature pattern.

Marunouchi (specifically Marunouchi Street Park or MSP, held this time of the year since 2019), even without the latest illuminated participation of big brands, is one of the most “classily lit” parts of Tokyo, as the locals would say. The main light-up is usually on Marunouchi Naka-Dori Avenue, one of our favourite shopping streets in Tokyo, about 1.2 kilometres long. Running for 21 years, the illumination here is, at its humblest, 1.2 million LED lights in champagne gold stretched over 340 trees. This year, much of the action is on MSP Twinkle Street, which this year tumbles down in front of Marunouchi Building. There is a merry-go-round and more Yuletide-themed spots to sit and sip hot beverages and non-alcoholic cocktails that can be bought in kiosks dotted around. The mood is decidedly festive, almost carnivalesque. Even the crowd does not spoil the fun. It helps that Tokyo this year is enjoying a comparatively cold December, averaging 6 degrees Celsius in the evenings these past weeks. There is something bracing about the cold air, a boon to the enjoyment of outdoor festivities.

The Tiffany’s globe also part of the Maruouchi’s annual street light-up

Another LVMH brand, Tiffany, too made their presence felt. Not to be outdone, the American luxury jewelers created the Tiffany Holiday Street in the vicinity of the Marunouchi Park Building, diagonally from the Kitte Shopping Mall (which has its own stunning festive decoration in the main atrium; this year, Winter Forest Christmas). Tiffany’s installations—more traditional—are no slouch: there is a Christmas tree, underscored with boxes in Tiffany blue, and a huge stained-glass bauble. These on-the-street pieces commemorate the 50th anniversary of the Tiffany store in Japan, which opened in Mitsukoshi Department Store in 1972. Although Japan is Tiffany’s largest market in the world outside the US, the company did not open a freestanding store in any Japanese city until 1996—in Tokyo, on the shopping belt Ginza, with a massive 7,700 sq ft flagship. The Tiffany Holiday Street designs are derived from the brand’s holiday greeting cards from the ’50s and ’60s, which were designed for the New York 5th Avenue store by the late pop-artist Andy Warhol.

The Marunouchi illumination is possibly more stylish than those in other parts of the Japanese capital (even trendy Omotesando) because the main street Marunouchi Naka-Dori Avenue is not only home to major fashion brands (including avant-garde mainstay of Japanese fashion Comme des Garçons), it is also where some of the city’s best public artworks are displayed—nineteen pieces in all, including the sculptures by Renate Hoffleitm, Emilio Greco, and Kohei Nawa. But these are not some random pieces placed in the front of buildings by their wealthy owners. They are, in fact, operated and curated, since 1972, by Chokoku-no-Mori Art and Culture Foundation, which operates the famed Open-Air Museum in the onsen town of Hakone. The alluring Marunouchi lights are more than prettifying one of the nicest and least manic parts of shoppable Tokyo. There is a spillover effect on the neighbouring districts of Yaesu and Yurakucho, too. In Japan, Christmas is not a public holiday. It is less about religion, and more about the festive vibe, augmented by the holiday illuminations.

The Dior star-tree outside ION Orchard. Photo: Chin Boh Kay

Back home, our main light-up is on Orchard Road, a roughly 3-kilometre stretch, taking into account Tanglin Road. That makes it twice the length of the Marunouchi illumination (and, at 38 years, almost twice as old), but not, unfortunately, double the stylishness or sophistication. Unlike the light-up in Marunouchi, Orchard Road’s goes through thematic and chromatic changes each year, and not always with convincing creative flair. Certainly not 2018’s Disney Magical Moments. Mickey Mouse and company (Elsa and Anna was somewhere too) pleased not the National Council of Churches (NCCS), to the extent that they wrote to the Singapore Tourism Board to express their displeasure that the light-up was more Disney than Christmas. Even Dick Lee, four-time Orchard Road light-up designer, joined the chorus of criticism, echoing to The Straits Times exactly what the NCCS felt: “there is too much emphasis on Disney, and too little on Christmas.” Mass appeal does not always sway. And Disney does not always win.

It is admittedly hard to evoke the Christmas vibe on our sunny island, chief among the disadvantages, our weather. Even in this rainy season, the temperature is around 28 degrees Celsius, way warmer than hot spots in Tokyo, even down in the belly of the Toei subway system. No one sings Baby, it’s Cold Outside. Which means when a Christmas ad calls out to you to “soak in the festive spirit”, it inevitably means you’d be soaked. The heat, coupled with the humidity, usually means T-shirt, shorts, and slippers are preferred for viewing the festive lights. This typical Orchard Road turnout contrasts dramatically with that in Marunouchi, where going to view the seasonal illumination is an affair that encourages better dress than required for a visit to the konbini. Here, inside is better than outside. At the central atrium in Takashimaya Shopping Centre recently, shoppers were thronged into the space now mostly occupied by a nearly three-storey Christmas tree surrounded by bears with the body of models and dressed in Ralph Lauren. Many visitors seemed to have escaped the scene out on the Ngee Ann City Civic Plaza, mere steps away. There is a Christmas market—the Great Christmas Village, it calls itself—in operation. The crowded open space is flanked by food trucks and crammed with fairground rides and a messy central zone of tables, littered with leftover makan and used disposable plates. “Great” is really stretching it.

Photos (unless stated): Jiro Shiratori

Dust Bag Meets Sneaker

This Margiela and Salomon collaboration is one strange and enticing hybrid

Sneakers, we know, are still conceived to elicit the reaction: “it’s ugly”. But ugly, as we have repeatedly noted, is being redefined, even now, as we write this. Ugly is no longer the ugly of your parents’ fashion-consuming years. Ugly can be a compliment, even admiration Apart from ugliness, sneakers are made bulky too, and often to let the feet look bagged. The MM6 Martin Margiela X Salomon Cross Low is one such sack of a shoe. Sure, there have been others, such as the Tom Sachs x NikeCraft Mars Yard Overshoe, but it is this Margiela X Salomon collaboration, in this colour combo that makes us think of a hybrid of gorpcore and dust bag (or laundry-bag). Shoes can, more and more, be pouches with soles.

Salomon has got themselves involved in rather fascinating fashion-forward collabs. Essentially an outdoor equipment maker, the born-in-Annecy, France label has been in partnership with one of the most cutting-edge brands, Comme des Garçons, with which they created a truly fetching pair of unisex Mary-Janes (unsurprisingly, these quickly sold out when launched last year), with trail-ready soles. Its partnership with the Margiela imprint MM6 is no less appetite-arousing. Although ostensibly a trail shoe, the Cross Low looks more like a high cut, with the added aesthetical heft of Margiela’s subversion bent. With the draw cords, you may gather the rip-stop upper-half into a small sack not unlike a gym bag, rendering it ready for inclement weather.

Underscoring the polyester bag-upper is a solid shoe with rubber soles, conceived for a rugged terrain. But in all likelihood, this Cross Low would be used on far much flatter, urban ground such as the city pavement. According to an MM6 statement, their “motivation was to create a shoe that could easily transition between cityscapes and the great outdoors — a single product that both maintained Salomon’s high-performance specifications and also resonated with MM6 Maison Margiela’s contemporary aesthetic”. As with the main line Maison Margiela’s pairing with Reebok—the Project 0 CL nylon tabi sneakers!—few will wear the Cross Low for sporting pursuits. There is too much fashion in it.

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.

MM6 Martin Margiela X Salomon Cross Low, SGD590, is available at Club 21. Photo Salomon

Balenciaga And Adidas

…kill the office wear that we are familiar with

Track wear is now suitable for the office. Or so Balenciaga and Adidas would have us believe. There is no longer any boundary between the running track and the boardroom. Sure, we have shifted away from office dress codes for quite a while now. But this is truly bringing tracksuits into a space that once expects its occupants to look spiffy. The images for the latest Balenciaga X Adidas collaboration is shot in the confines of an unmistakable office, one that looks like the headquarters of, say, JP Morgan Chase than the design studio of gaming giant Electronic Arts. Yet, the pretend office users are all outfitted in track wear with the distinctly oversized silhouette of Balenciaga and the conspicuous three stripes of the German sports brand.

Even when office wear is now redefined, very few people can get away with wearing tracksuits to their work place, let alone those that are this baggy. Fewer still will be able to afford these priced at a staggering S$3000, up. But with Kim Kardashian, Madonna, and others adopting them for nearly every occasion, it is possible that the ultra-relaxed look may win hearts among average office workers. They only need to buy the cheaper Adidas version, or pick one suit from a thrift store (where for, some reason, they tend to end up to die, or reborn). In today’s office, where hot-desking is increasingly preferred, Balenciaga’s and Adidas’s proposal may not look out of place in a workspace system conceived to encourage interactivity, community, and creativity. Casualness rather than formality is preferred, which may see four-figure tracksuits find their places between the open workstation and the equally open water cooler.

To be sure, Bella Hadid in the ads (top right) does not look as scary as the face-concealed models who wore similar outfits during the brand’s cruise reveal at the New York Stock Exchange in May. She tried to appear soignée, but there is something quite incongruous about her, the outfit, and the surroundings. It isn’t clear if women who work in offices would find tracksuits agreeable to wear. They are, in fact, not the epitome of comfort. The Balenciaga X Adidas tracksuit comes in “techno poplin” (a blended fabric of cotton and polyamide), cotton terry jersey, or polyester nylon, all of which, in the collaborative version, are rather thick. Given the oversized silhouette of both track jacket and pants, the weight of both is not exactly light. Can they be truly comfortable in the office? Or are we being captious? If Balenciaga can get you to buy Crocs with heels, distressed-to-death sneakers, and leather clutches that mimic the packaging of Lay’s potato chips, they can, we suppose, quite easily entice you to wear tracksuits to the office.

Photos: Joshua Bright/Balenciaga X Adidas

“Kicked Out”!

That was in the NBC News headline. Kanye West made an ”uninvited” visit to the Skechers HQ and was “escorted” out of the building. Is this a sign of out-of-control or desperation?

With Adidas out of the way, is Kanye West looking to co-brand his precious Yeezy again? Friends in the US (and a Malaysian reader too!) have been enthusiastically sending us reports all morning of Kanye West’s alleged trespass into the headquarters of the Southern Californian sneaker brand Skechers. The company later released a statement to say that the disgraced rapper “arrived unannounced and without invitation at one of Skechers’ corporate offices in Los Angeles”. According to CNBC News, Mr West was with other unidentified people. They were, according to Skechers, “engaged in unauthorized filming”. What they were filming is not known. “Two Skechers executives escorted him and his party from the building after a brief conversation”. There was no report of unfriendly exchange.

Skechers was also certain to say that it “is not considering and has no intention of working with West”. This is likely in anticipation of the speculation that Mr West is looking for a sneaker brand to replace Adidas. You know by now that he was dropped by the Three Stripes, after a considerable period of “review” (which turned many customers impatient, asking for a boycott of Adidas), for comments considered “anti-Semitic and hateful”. Skechers, too, showed that they are willing to censure what he has repeatedly said. “We condemn his recent divisive remarks and do not tolerate antisemitism or any other form of hate speech.” There clearly would not be Skechers Yeezy!

Mr West has already been called out and dropped by three fashion brands. There are not many corporations he could really turn to now, if they are not the likes of Parler. While his clothing line can possibly wait, his sneakers cannot. With Adidas, they have created what is considered one of the most successful shoe partnerships in modern footwear history, making him a billionaire—he no longer is, as Forbes was quick to declare after the Adidas split with him. It is unsurprising, therefore, that the rapper would need to find another company to continue the Yeezy drops. He has previously announced: “I need a shoe company like how Jaimie Salter bought Reebok. Or I’ll take over some shoe factories.” Was what happened at the Skechers compound an incursion?

Mr West being turned away by Skechers would augment the brand’s corporate standing and show that they are willing to do what’s right, and swiftly. One PR professional told us, “It is PR value that costs Skechers nothing.” The shoe label known for their memory foam technology currently has Korean actor Pak Seo Jun as their regional ambassador (for Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand, Vietnam, Hong Kong, and Macau). Cedrick Tan, Skechers SVP, told Marketing Interactive last year that “with the shorter and fragmented attention span of consumers today, it is important that a brand ambassador, besides having a positive, well-liked image, is a role model who is multi-dimensional, driven, and inspiring”. They would not find that person in Kanye West.

Which brand will he go acalling next? LA Gear?

File photos: Chin Boh Kay for SOTD

It’s All Gone

The Yeezy Gap website is taken down, along with all the merchandise

The final new item from the Yeezy Gap line that was touted online

By Lester Fang

The last mail that I received from Yeezy Gap was last Saturday. In it, they tried to seduce my consumer self (but, unfortunately for them, not a Yeezy-fan self) with a “long round jacket”, an around-the-knee length take of the first item “you-can’t-manage-me” Kanye West released under that collaboration. Nothing in the minimalist, copy-lite mail said anything about Engineered by Balenciaga as this outer was not. I subscribed to their e-mail notification not because I have anything to buy there, but because, as a contributor to SOTD, I wanted to keep abreast with what’s happening in the Yeezy cult. By now you would have read of all the pull-outs by the brands that Mr West had aligned himself with. In fact, The Gap was the first to want to disassociate themselves with the man who, I am sure, was not worth all the trouble and online rants. There is so much even a resilient company such as The Gap can take.

I revisited that mail this morning. When I clicked on the link to yeezygap.com, I landed at Gap’s own chirpy website. There was no yeezygap.com, not even a landing page that says something like “this site can’t be reached”. At gap.com, there were links at the top to other Gap brands: Old Navy, Banana Republic, and Athleta, but there was nothing that said Yeezy Gap, not anywhere on the page. Everything vanished. Yeezy Gap has been obliterated, just like Pharaoh Akhenaten was. As I understand it from my friends in San Francisco, the clothes and accessories were not available in the stores too. No more of those ridiculous bulk bags. I would think that The Gap has a lot of merchandise to clear. Yeezy Gap did not enjoy typical Gap price points. Five days ago, they were discounting the Yeezy Gap hoodies. But now they are taking everything off the market. It is not clear if there is anything else in production, but clearly no more “cheap Balenciaga” tops to be had.

The Gap announcement on Instagram not long ago, Screen shot: yeezyxgap/Instagram

The Gap’s action is rather swift. It came as soon as Adidas announced that they would end their partnership with Mr West. On Instagram, three days after they shared that “YEEZYGAP AVAILABLE IN📍ATLANTA MORE GAP STORES CONTINUE TO GET YEEZYGAP ITEMS” (yes, in full caps, sans punctuation, just like how Mr West would text), it posted a “Statement On Yeezy Partnership”. The two paragraph notice stated that they “are taking immediate steps to remove Yeezy Gap product (sic) from our stores and we have shut down YeezyGap.com” after explaining that their “former partner’s recent remarks and behaviour further underscore why” the partnership had to come to an end. It added, “Antisemitism, racism and hate in any form are inexcusable and not tolerated in accordance to our values. On behalf of our customers, employees and shareholders, we are partnering with organizations that combat hate and discrimination.” But unlike Adidas, it did not say how much of a loss it would incur by this action.

To me, Yeezy Gap will not be missed. Nor Adidas Yeezy. While I think there was an aesthetical point in what Kanye West did, it was not for me. I have never found anything associated with Yeezy to be attractive. Or the people who wore Yeezy going about as if they were the epitome of cool. When I tried the US$220 Yeezy Boost 350 V2 ‘Zebra’ for the first time back in 2017 (I did not buy it. Someone I know had a pair; he later sold it for double the retail price. The shoe was tried on, but not worn), I thought to myself what an ugly piece of crap. It looked like something died on my feet. (Apparently, Adidas intents to continue selling Yeezy designs with the second name.) When it came to the Yeezy Gap, I was of two minds. While I did like the boxy silhouettes of the T-shirts, Engineered by Balenciaga, I was not too enamoured with the price: from US$140 a piece. And that they were very thick was a deal breaker for me too. But, more than anything, the fact that they were linked to Yeezy and the man behind it, just turned me away. I never saw him as a designer, never did, never will. Rapper—yes, social agitator—yes, anti-Semite—yes; designer, definitely no.

And Adidas Makes Three

After more than two weeks of reviewing, Adidas has finally decided to drop its partnership with Yeezy, joining The Gap and Balenciaga to turn their backs on one rapping almighty

Yeah! Or is that immoderate a reaction? Adidas has finally decided to follow the footsteps of The Gap and Balenciaga (even Vogue, if that is considered a fashion name) and disassociate themselves with Kanye West. The German brand has just announced that they would drop their Yeezy partnership with “immediate effect”. This is what so many people have been waiting for, as calls grew exponentially this month to “boycott Adidas”. The brand with trefoil had remained largely silent throughout the many times Mr West upchucked his anti-Semitic views online and to whoever was willing to hear, or cheer.

In a statement released to the media moments ago, the producer of Yeezy 350 (considered the collaboration’s best-selling shoe) said that “after a thorough review, the company has taken the decision to the partnership with Ye immediately, end production of Yeezy branded products and stop payment to Ye and his companies. Adidas will stop the Adidas Yeezy business with immediate effect.” As we post this, Kanye West has not responded to Adidas’s action although he did say, prior to Adidas’s announcement, “the thing about me and Adidas is like (notice how he placed himself first?), I could literally say anti-Semitic shit, and they can’t drop me.”

Well, obviously Adidas can. In the opening paragraph of the announcement, the Three Stripes said, “Adidas does not tolerate antisemitism and any other sort of hate speech. Ye’s recent comments and actions have been unacceptable, hateful and dangerous, and they violate the company’s values of diversity and inclusion, mutual respect and fairness.” Which does beg one question: Did Adidas not share with Mr West their “company’s values” prior to working with the guy in 2013? Or is Mr West’s controversial rhetorics and conspiracy theories part of his appeal and a major pull for everything Yeezy? Adidas may be the last fashion brand to say no to the rapper, but it did also make clear that they are the “sole owner of all design rights to existing products as well as previous and new colorways under the partnership”. Does that mean Yeezy 350 and its siblings will make a comeback in the future, even without the name associated with one anti-Semite?

Illustration: Just So

Is Adidas Dragging Their Yeezy-Shod Feet?

There could be too much at stake to drop the partnership with Kanye West. And the rapper knows it, and brags

It has been more than two weeks since Adidas announced that they “have taken the decision to place the partnership under review”. But nothing seems to have come out of that. Not the decisiveness that Adidas fans were expecting, definitely not the resolve of Balenciaga—last week, the Kering-owned brand released a statement to the media, saying that “Balenciaga has no longer any relationship nor any plans for future projects related to this artist”. There is nothing ambiguous about that statement. And they did not have to explain why. By now, it is very clear why it’s to any brand’s interest to distance themselves from collaborators who make controversial statements, especially anti-Semitic ones, and simultaneously insisting that they are right.

In new video clips from the pulled-out Drinks Champs podcast now shared on social media, Kanye West said—with startling confidence: “The thing about me and Adidas is like, I could literally say anti-Semitic shit, and they can’t drop me.” And he repeated himself with glee, “I can say anti-Semitic things and Adidas can’t drop me. Now what?” Yes, now what, Adidas? Or is Mr West implying that he can’t be cancelled by the brand that has made his Yeezy sneakers one of the best-selling in the world? The Washington Post reported that “Yeezy generates an estimated US$2 billion a year, close to 10 percent of the company’s annual revenue”. Adidas themselves declared that “the Adidas Yeezy partnership is one of the most successful collaborations in our industry’s history.” Is Yeezy too hot to touch?

“The thing about me and Adidas is like, I could literally say anti-Semitic shit, and they can’t drop me.”

Kanye West

It is likely that despite the objectionable words that repeatedly and stridently come out of Mr West’s mouth across all media, he is too important a name to pull away from for some consumer brands that need his fame to reach out to his ever-willing-to-spend fans. While JP Morgan and the booking agency Creative Arts Agency have also announced the disassociation with Mr West, Adidas, has made a meek comment about merely “reviewing” their professional arrangement with him, even when he had derided the company’s CEO. Mr West appears impervious to cancel culture, and Adidas’s slow reaction to his anti-Semitic arrogance corroborates with the increasing belief that we tolerate bad behaviour by popular public figures, and their outbursts, no matter how extreme, will quickly not be. For every person who disapproves the hurtful words of Mr West, there are just as many who support him.

Just look at the latest video shared on YouTube by The Hollywood Fix. When asked what he thought of Balenciaga dropping him, Mr West said, “I ain’t lose no money. They never paid me nothing… The day when I was taken off the Balenciaga site, that was one of the most freeing days.” And then he was asked if he thinks Adidas is next. ”We’re going through legal right now, so anything can happen,” he replied. But it was not what he said that is disturbing. It’s the reaction of the crowd surrounding him. Many were supportive. You can hear them saying “we are behind you”, “they can’t cancel you”, “god is on your side, man”, “he is the master controller”, “you are going to be the catalyst that brings us forward”, “can we get some Yeezys?”, “Kanye, will you sign my shirt for me here?”, “have a good one, Kanye”.

On Twitter, someone reacting to the welcomed news that Mr West was ”DROPPED by his longtime talent agency”, wrote, ”I don’t understand the obsession with getting someone cancelled. Some of you treat it like it’s a job.” Not everyone is ready for a punitive response, however vile Mr West’s utterances are. Or, willing to see a brand for the company it keeps. Adidas could be watching and convincing themselves to ”let’s wait and see”.

Update (25 October 2022, 17:00): According to a Bloomberg report, Adidas “plans to end its partnership with Kanye West following a rash of offensive behavior from the rapper and designer that turned a once-thriving shoe brand into a lightning rod for criticism”. The Adidas announcement will be made soon. Stay tuned.

Illustration: Just So