It Has To Come To This

No one is surprised that Kanye West has announced he’ll terminate his partnership with The Gap

The unceasing outbursts must amount to something. For Kanye West, anger and frustrations do not just blow over. The Wall Street Journal just reported that Mr West, newly bearded and recently seen at Vogue World, has informed The Gap that he is ending their relationship, which had lately turn quite sour. His lawyer shared that a letter was sent to the retailer with the request to end the deal. And what seemed to be that correspondence was shared on Mr West’s Instagram page. “Gap left him no choice but to terminate their agreement,” the BBC quoted him saying in response to the American brand’s “substantial noncompliance”. Mr West will go on to open his own Yeezy stores. Gap’s obligations in their agreement reportedly include not only producing and distributing the co-branded products, but also the opening of free-standing YZY Gap stores.

Perhaps the once-raved-about partnership between the man and the brand was not destined to take off as previously imagined. This was to be a 10-year deal, which was thought to bolster The Gap’s sagging fortunes. Mr West has quite a history of dissatisfaction with many of his collaborators, including Nike. These past weeks, he has publicly made his objections and outrage with his collaborators known—they include Adidas. It is not clear why Mr West has been unable to solve his problems with these partners in the boardroom or why he preferred to blast those who have displeased him via social media, a practice that is corporate aberration. If grievances in his personal life can be broadcast to the world, those of his professional activities may not require different channels of blaring. Or, restraint.

Announced in June 2020, Yeezy Gap was met with highly encouraging reception. The first item—a puffer—that launched a year later was sold out in hours, after it was made available online. Last month, when a collection was finally available (rather than the single-style drops of the past) in actual Gap stores, shoppers were dismayed by how the high-priced products were sold: in what were described as ”bins”. Was this dumping of the merchandise, in fact, foreboding of what would be ahead for the collaboration? But, would The Gap easily let Mr West walk away? Or, would they be relieved to let him go, enough of his bratty tricks? Should Adidas be worried? Will, gasp, the world suffer?

Illustration: Just So

And There She Was

As anticipated, Linda Evangelista appeared on the Fendi runway. Was Marc Jacobs, Fendi’s latest collaborator, sidelined?

Was it supposed to be Marc Jacobs’s moment? Or did Linda Evangelista steal his thunder? The Fendi show—the resort 2023 collection that also hailed the Baguette’s 25th year—was lauded to be so “big” that New York ”hasn’t seen” such a presentation in years. But the loudest applause was showered on Ms Evangelista when she walked in—not “strut down the runway”, as some reports described—to join the designers basking in the enthusiastic response to their work done. She strolled in like a star, rather than a model, wrapped in a taffeta coat the colour of an unmistakable Tiffany blue. She smiled and recognised the applauding support of her reappearance on the catwalk. Towering above the rest standing beside her, she looked good, with her black hair pulled back to reveal the recognisable face, but her body was obscured by outerwear that the late Andre Leon Telly would be thrilled to put on. However, the press described it, Linda Evangelista appeared to just show her face.

To be sure, Marc Jacobs encouraged the attention on her, jumping excitedly and gesturing madly to the audience to inspire a standing ovation. Ms Evangelista’s appearance was expected since last July, when the news-that-amounted-to-an-announcement emerged along her appearance in the Fendi ad for the Baguette. Marc Jacobs’s participation in the current Fendi show was not regarded as that likely since it was only rumoured in June (even earlier than the return of Ms Evangelista) that a “Marjendi”, as WWD called it, could be in the works. Fendi’s Kim Jones had already made Fendace happen, why diminish that novelty, even if tacky, by doing another even if the collaborator is a different person/brand? And would he really want to work with a former colleague? Apparently so. But unlike Fendace, the latest guest-designer-interprete-Fendi exercise did not have its own runway show. And Kim Jones did not decode Marc Jacobs.

This time, the hacking involved more than one other brand. There is additionally the now-LVMH-owned Tiffany & Co, as well as the Japanese bag maker Porter. Tiffany lent its distinctive blue to the clothes and bags, as well as bling in the form of diamonds on the Baguette, as well as jewellery. As for Porter, it is likely “homage” to Fendi’s It bag from 1997 in the form of lightweight iterations (frankly, we can’t tell which ones). Of the 54 looks shown, ten were designed by Marc Jacobs. And it was not hard to guess which ten. As soon as the models with the massive woolly hats appeared (reportedly made from recycled fur), we knew we’re in familiar New York territory, even if it was not in the Park Avenue Armory, or, as of late, the New York Public Library (after the bribery scandal regarding the use of the former). According to Mr Jones, Marc Jacobs, who is a “hero of (his) from day one”, was asked to put together a collection inspired by the Baguette. The connection was not immediately discernible, but the silhouettes of the ten looks that came at the end of the show did point to those Mr Jacobs has preferred since his autumn/winter 2021: ungainly and weird.

How these un-Fendi pieces add to the celebratory mood of the show isn’t clear. Or, exult over the past success of a bag that had already won its place in fashion and pop culture. Mr Jones stated in the press release of the show: “It’s a celebration of a time, of the moment the Baguette became famous”. As the Baguette needed to take centrestage, they appeared not just as the item itself, but as Baguettes on Baguette—mini ones acting as pouch pockets on a large piece, and with a surfeit of the double-F logo/buckle. It was also remade in other forms that were not a handbag—a marsupium on totes, even anorak pockets that double as hand warmers. And, it appeared practically everywhere a bag—micro as they were—could be placed: on hats, on clothes, on gloves, on socks, on leg warmers. No part of the Baguette could not be repurposed: Even the bag flap had a new life as pocket flaps! Who’d guessed that Carrie Bradshaw’s favourite bag could reincarnate so splendiferously? Perhaps one super of supers could. And did.

Photos: (top) gorunway.com and Fendi

Trash Talk

It is not enough that Yeezy Gap sells their merchandise in bags thought to be bins. Kanye West added more to the heap when he said he was inspired by “the homeless”

Fashion has a thing for receptacles that typically house the discarded or the unwanted. Or, to be laundered. Kanye West proved the point when he had the Yeezy Gap merchandise—Engineered by Balenciaga—sold in bulk bags that for most shoppers appeared to be bins. Or, for the more forgiving ones, “Frakta bags” (not to be confused with Balenciaga’s fancy “trash bags”). After our visit to the pop-up in the Gap store in Times Square last month and the shock that gripped us when we saw the way the clothes were displayed and sold, Netizens, too, began expressing their horror at how the garments were peddled. It culminated in one Twitter dismay: “This is how they are selling Yeezy GAP. The sales associate said Ye got mad when he saw they had it on hangers and this is how he wanted it. They won’t help you find ur size too, you just have to just dig through everything.”

This comment did not take into consideration the dumpsters that were used in other sales venues. Three days after the New York launch, Yeezy Gap was available in Los Angeles, Chicago, and Miami. Outdoor sites were selected. A convoy of what looked like armoured vehicles worthy of Gotham City was seen approaching an unoccupied roof-top carpark. Moments later, a line of dumpsters took the centre of the space. In time, shoppers were seen dashing forward—but not dashingly, and some digging so deeply into the massive bins, they appeared to be plunging into them. There did not seem to be an advantage in selling clothes that way, nor—for the shopper—an experience that, while unforgettable, would be enjoyable. It seems rather ironic that, while the clothes have been described as “elevated basics”, there was nothing exceptionally lofty about the encounter with them in either bag or bin.

It seems rather ironic that, while the clothes have been described as “elevated basics”, there was nothing exceptionally lofty about the encounter with either bag or bin

Mr West attempted to explain his way of selling in a recent interview with Donald Trump’s once-loved television station Fox News. When Eric Shawn of the station posed to him, “you understand some people felt that putting clothes in bags is insensitive, perhaps, to homeless and other people”, he replied, “look man, I’m an innovator and I’m not about to sit up here and apologise about my ideas”. Apart from not apologising for anything, Mr West has a tendency to blame the media for how his creative outputs are perceived. He added, “That’s exactly what the media tries to do. Make us apologise for any idea that doesn’t fall under exactly the way they want us to think.” It is not known why Mr West thought that an apology was desired, rather than an explanation for a visual merchandising choice that is uncommon, if not unattractive. Or did he think that his now-deleted Instagram post with text-in-place-of-visual that read, “Look to the children/Look to the homeless as the biggest inspiration for all design”, is not provocative and deserving of an expression of regret or remorse?

Whatever storage/display units Mr West employed, it is likely that he cared about stories and was trying to tell one, even if the narrative has backfired. While there is some theatricality in his retail approach, the drama is not immediately discernible. Was this a visual thesis to refute the appeal or value of Marie Kondo neatness. Or an underscoring of the believe that messiness is conducive to creativity? Or, was this the deliberate opposite of the ‘beauty bias’? When inside the relatively dim space of the Time Square pop-up, we sensed that much consideration was given to coolness above all else. Even the shopper experience took a back seat. Let them do the work, let them dig, let them toil. Shoppers in action fits the tableau. Desperate, daunting, daft. Fashion has gone to the dumps. You can’t say that Kanye West the innovator did not think out the bag.

File photo: HL See for SOTD

Visited: Yeezy Gap

The Kanye West-steered sub-brand of the Gap has its own space in a Gap store at last. But there is no shelf, no table, no rack. Everything is placed in bulk bags. Like merchandise to be discarded, or incinerated

The Gap store in Times Square, New York

Kanye West is paving the way for the Gap, literally with bulk bags. At its inaugural IRL retail run, a “pop-up” inside the Gap in Times Square, the space dedicated to Mr West’s much-hyped partnership with America’s most recognisable mall brand is nothing like what you might expect. Outside, at the corner of Broadway and West 44th Street, the blue façade and its lighter blue box-logo are all unmistakably the Gap. On the roof, above the large three-letter name are two billboards—one of a dove in flight, the other, a still, dark spectre—that stand ominously. Inside, it is just as sinister: In a narrow space the width of a hospital corridor, it is all black and dimly lit (low-light ambience even Abercrombie and Fitch has abandoned), like an entryway to a secret lair. Only this is not an unremarkable passage. This is where the hottest and most anticipated collaboration is sold, shockingly in those typically one-ton (here, they seem more capacious) receptacle of polypropylene for packing and moving goods, all two dozens of them. This could be easily a receiving bay, if not a dump site.

After two years of considerable hype, inconsistent drops, and online-only availability, the Yeezy Gap, presently “Engineered by Balenciaga”, retail space opened last Thursday to long queues. To avoid the possible crush, we visited the store on a Monday afternoon. It was not busy. But it was not the lack of a crowd that hit us immediately, like a slap (such as this one); it was the strange grimness. This is the highlight of summer shopping? This is the Gap? There is more cheer in a Yohji Yamamoto store. We knew there would be a predominance of black, but this drabness and gloominess? And what’s worse, those waist-high, black sacks on the floor! Walk into the store and they are on the right, placed in two rows, like oil drums, in the middle of the passage. It’s like visiting a wholesale market for secondhand clothes. You walk around the bags and look inside them to find what you want. And you have to rummage to find your size. This is worse than excavating a sales wagon at the OG Orchard closing down clearance.

Two rows of bulk bags in which you are encouraged to dig into

We were not the only ones shocked by the refuse point. One Black guy was heard saying to his buddy, who looked like he stepped out of the rooftop billboard: “Are they kidding? Trash bags?” Our photographer, who visited the store earlier said, “it was very unnerving for me to see the black bags in the black surroundings. Can you imagine what it would be like for the tourists?” The containers already looked a mess when we approached, even when there were six staffers folding the clothes and arranging, and returning them to the rightful vessel, tagged with images of the garment that reside in it and the price, after customers have finished with one and moved to the next. There was an unmistakable lack of allure, but since we were there, we thought we should just join the unconventional way of shopping for clothes and just dig, like everyone else. But, we kept thinking of meigancai (梅干菜, dried pickled Chinese mustard) in Albert Centre Wholesale Market. There is something menial about going through the clothes in this manner, too. No pleasure.

We looked at a mock turtleneck T-shirt with a surprisingly tiny white Gap logotype right in the centre, about 5 cm below the neckline. For some reason, the tees are made of very thick cotton jersey (and it was 28°C outside). A pile of, say, five of them is heavy to lift. A woman, frustrated by the hard work she had to do, muttered, “why is everything so fucking heavy?”. To see what what we were digging, we had to bend over the bags’ massive opening. After three minutes, it was too much. One of us decided to try a T-shirt, for the heck of it. At US$140 a piece (or more for other styles), they were rather hard to swallow. We picked the simplest: the mock turtleneck. The fabric was disturbingly thick. No one around us, we noticed, wore anything that heavy, except the staff. When we pulled the top down over our head, it was stuck; when we yanked harder, we thought we popped the stitching on the neckline! Why was it this tight?

Each bag is tagged with illustrations of the style of the garment as well as a number—the price

When we managed to remove the T-shirt, we noted that the neck was ribbed, but why was there the poor “stretch and recovery”, to borrow from production speak? The problem, it appeared to us, was technical: Somehow, Mr West and his team decided on this heavy fabric, and the rib on the neck had no Spandex in it. With possibly mis-calibrated knitting tension, the rib is limp and won’t stretch sufficiently. When we brought this up with a former Gap merchandiser, he was surprised that that could happen. “Is this the Gap we’re talking about here? They do the neck stretch test there (they invented it!), even for children’s clothes!” As for the heavy jersey, one designer told us that this has been the fabric choice—the dry-touch compact jersey that is rather ’70s—for many brands wanting to appear “luxe”, but “luxe,” he added, “does not need to be heavy.”

We did not want to look into the other bags—they were all equally uninviting. There is so much you’d wish to do if the Gap made you feel like you’re at a quartermaster’s retrieving uniforms. It is possible that Mr West wanted to create uniforms for his tribe of eager followers and, in due course, improve the sagging fortunes of the Gap. But these clothes are not the one-time uniforms of teens craving the Gap’s ubiquitous jeans and graphic tees. A far cry from what the Times Square website describes on it pages: “clean, classic and comfortable clothing”. When we first saw the pieces on the Yeezy Gap website, it is clear the line is aesthetically apart from the 52-year-old American brand to which it owes half its name. The Gap has lost its mojo for so long that even fans do not remember when they last brought anything from them (all Gap stores here closed in 2018). The brand needed a life buoy and it was tossed one. Kanye West could, apparently, be to the Gap what Alessandro Michele is to Gucci. So he got the job.

Quite a sea of clothes dumped in those bulk bags

But in the first 18 months of the collab, just two products—one puffer and one hoodie—were made available and only online. Compounding that, the e-retail model was troubled by missed datelines, low stocks, and late deliveries. Mr West seemed to need a life buoy too. So pal Demna Gvasalia came to the rescue and became co-conspirator, an unsurprising turn as the two desire to dominate the fashion world with their oversized, body/face-obscuring clothes. Additionally, Mr West announced on social media not too long ago that he had already spent US$4 million at Balenciaga so far this year (how much more before this is unknown. The former wife’s and daughter’s bill were not tallied either). Why not allow Balenciaga to make more by getting them to “engineer” Yeezy Gap? Speaking to The New York Times recently, Mr Gvasalia revealed that he wanted “to create a solid foundation for Ye’s aesthetic on which they can now build”. The paper also reported that Mr Gvasalia was “engineering the prototypes in the Balenciaga studios in Paris and Zurich”. Most of us already knew the clothes were based on Balenciaga blocks.

Kanye West might have been too busy to see Yeezy Gap through. After the partnership was announced, he ran for the US presidency, saved his marriage (tried to), insulted his ex’s boyfriend, and put out the album Donda, whose overall visual was co-conceived with Demna Gvasalia. Was he too busy to handle Yeezy Gap on his own unaided? Or was he, as the rumours flew, really unschooled in fashion design for a mass brand? According to the photographer Nick Knight, who also spoke to NYT, “if he wants to spend a year looking into the colour blue, we’ll spend a year looking into the colour blue, which is extremely inspiring when so often schedules take priority over creativity. He doesn’t see himself in any way constrained by deadlines or seasons. I don’t think he would even use the word ‘collection’ for what he is doing.” Mr West, in other words, marches to his very own Roland drum beat.

Digital screens to welcome you: The Yeezy Gap metaverse that apparently is taken from a related computer game

Moving to the back of the dedicated space for Yeezy Gap Engineered by Balenciaga, we saw that provision was made for the line that was expected to form at the cashier’s counter, which was just as black as the rest of the store. The rear wall, where a video screen was installed, was dark this afternoon (another two screens to the left of the entrance were aglow with some sky-like background, in front of which two avatars were dancing/spinning in mid-air). We stood comfortably in the quieter rear and sized up the near-monochromatic tableau before us. The shoppers were mostly male, dressed unmistakably in what Mr West desires them to: oversized tops and bottoms. Many gravitated to the T-shirts, with which they could probably at last enter the expensive world of Balenciaga, whose very temple of cool is about 1.5 kilometres away on Madison Avenue. This was far more accessible, and the clothes could be binned when desire, for some reason, was not aroused.

As we were leaving the store, more people dashed in excitedly, like they were approaching some concert merchandise. Would they leave as disappointed as we did? Stepping out into the afternoon warmth, we thought of that thick jersey T-shirt again. For the higher-than-the-Gap prices that Yeezy Gap charges, what incredible experience did the store offer or was it just the letdown that was indelible? It was hard to imagine that this would be how the Gap intends to move forward or ensnare the unconverted. One Singaporean working in New York later told us that he was “completely turned off by the experience” and that he could see a “stark disconnect with mainstream Gap”. When we asked him if it could be just some high concept that escaped him, he replied, with palpable disdain, “high concept, my pantat!”

Yeezy Gap is at the Gap, 1514 Broadway, New York City. Photos: HL See for SOTD

Close Look: Marni X Uniqlo

A collaboration of colours and prints that Uniqlo would not normally put out on their own

It is possibly Uniqlo’s most anticipated collab since the return of +J two years ago. Marni—known for their charmingly naïve prints, off-beat colours, and the unexpected pairing of either of the two—had applied their sense of the peculiar and the playful to Uniqlo’s staples, such as their packable parkas, utility jackets, and open-collar shirts. The result is a happy hippie-fication with 21st-century hands that few other fast fashion labels, if any, would produce, and with such commendable quality. While +J was minimalism that was almost severe (not at all a negative), Marni X Uniqlo is quite the opposite: they are a mirthful mash-up of the spontaneous, sportif, and spirited.

We had expected the turn out at today’s launch of the collab to be big, but when we arrived slightly past noon at the Orchard Central flagship, there was no line to be seen or empty spaces between stanchions and ropes (these, too, were missing). We could go in as we pleased. Some pieces for both men and women were displayed at the entrance. Those familiar with the launches of Uniqlo’s special partnerships, walked straight to level two, where at the space next to the escalator landing on the right, the output of hyped pairings is usually sited. A young couple was drawn to the T-shirts placed on the circular display unit at the entrance. The guy picked up a red/white striped T-shirt with bolder contrasting red/khaki lines at the back. His female companion slapped it back to the pile, telling the puzzled fellow, “it’s too gay.”

At the dedicated space upstairs, the crowd made comfortable shopping a tad difficult. The enthusiasm was palpable as shoppers picked the items by the basketful or discarded the unwanted anywhere the clothes can be stuffed or dumped (and you thought Marni appreciators are better shoppers). Some items were sold out, we were told: the floral wide-fit pants visibly so (in both colours, and online too). Popular sizes of items such as the shorts were also gone. Uniqlo has, this time, made some of the pieces of the collab available in outlets other than the big stores (where the full collection is sold). It’s possible that what was no more at Orchard Central could be in abundance elsewhere (such as 51@AMK?). Unsurprisingly, the least popular item, we gathered, was the oversized ‘half coat’. Other than being a Blocktech item (read: heat trap), it was oddly available as a woman’s item, when it could easily be unisex, as the shirts and tees were.

While the collection was, at first glance, agreeable, closer inspection revealed some technical choices that Marni made that, to us, were not what might be considered commensurable to popular taste. The T-shirts came with oddly wide crew necks (and a little too skinny) that, when exposed to the tumble drying of the washing machine, may widen further. Shorts, although elasticised (and came with draw cords) at the waist had no belt loops (but the longs got them). The women’s open-collar and long-sleeved shirts came in a rather heavy 100% polyester while the men’s are in 100% cotton (which are, of course, available to women too, in sizes up to XS).

However, what to us were less-than-ideal choices may not be so for other shoppers. The opposite is true too: We thought the flattering balloon-shaped skirt with its clever patterning to keep the volume was really swell, but many women we saw who picked it up would return them to the rack just as quickly. One of them told her companion, “too heavy” and the other added, “too dressy.” Not far, a mother, accompanied by her teenaged daughter, picked up an oversized shirt with all-over flowers. “Cantik (beautiful)?” The older woman was seeking approval. “Too big, mom. You can hide two chickens in it.”

Marni X Uniqlo is now available at Uniqlo stores and online. There is a limit on purchases. According to Uniqlo, only “1 quantity per item per person” is allowed. Photos: Chin Boh Kay

Visited: Gucci X Adidas Pop-Up

The latest luxury brand and sportswear collab is strictly for die-hards

By Lester Fang

It’s groovy, but is it for me? Regardless, I wanted to see for myself what the Gucci X Adidas hype is about. There was a daunting queue when I arrived at Design Orchard, where the pop-up popped out in part of the complex’s top-storey incubator space that overlooks the rooftop park. Some 25 individuals were standing between a railing and the stanchions and ropes that were erected outside the recently renovated Design Orchard’s “retail showcase”, where pillars urge you to “Shop SG Brands”. In the 30 minutes that I had spent waiting, the few shoppers heading for Design Orchard wondered if they had to queue to get in, even when it was dead quiet inside. One Gucci X Adidas staffer of three in attendance had to direct them to “just enter”. One of them approached me and asked, “do you have a Gucci profile?” Do I need one to enter? “If you buy later, you can collect points,” she tried to convince me. It’s okay, I don’t need them.

A Filipino family of four was in front of me; the kids—two below-fives—were getting restless, monkeying from railing to rope. The parents were looking at the father’s phone to decide what they shall be buying. Behind me, a mainland Chinese teen seemed impatient. Suddenly he leapt over the rope and dashed to the counter that sat next to the staircase at the side of the building that would lead us shoppers upstairs. I could not hear what he said. He returned, and spoked to me directly. He told me in Mandarin that he had to rush off to a class, and wondered if I could buy something for him when I get to enter the shop. I was very surprised by his request and did not how to react. I asked him what he desired and he told me it was a pair of sneakers. He asked me to pay for it first, and he’ll transfer the money to me. Scam alert! Would he not want to try the kicks first? He said he already did, this morning! I told him I derive no pleasure in helping others, 助人不乐, (it’s the heat!). The guy ran away.

I was the only one to leave the line when it was my turn to ascend to heaven. The whole stairway there, where “the experience begins”, another staffer told me, was covered with the Gucci X Adidas logos; the walls too. As the rooftop garden came into view, it was clear why the brands-in-collaboration needed this place. The Gucci X Adidas pop-up store is not erected at either the atrium of ION Orchard, as was the 100th Anniversary capsule, nor the Paragon (Gucci has a store at both malls). Rather, it is sited at Design Orchard, about 1 kilometre away from their two-level flagship at Paragon. Up here, where you can see our beloved Orchard Road, Gucci has set up a veritable temple complex to their partnership with Adidas. There was a pavilion of sorts to my right, saturated with the two brands’ logos that were conflated for this exercise. On the terrace, where on a weekend night, courting couples come to moon-bathe, huge cushions were scattered around, as if in preparation of some mid-summer soiree.

To justify the dazzling dollars they’re charging you for the merchandise, there are, apart from the queue, the climb to the pop-up (work up an appetite?), the spacious store, and the attendant surroundings of retro excess, SAs to accompany you as you explore the well-appointed space. As it looked to me, no more than six shoppers were permitted inside, which was roughly the size of a HDB three-room flat. When I stepped in, it was, as expected, more Gucci than Adidas. But no one, I keep getting told, goes there to partake in the interior loveliness. They’re there for the clothes. But when I asked the SA assigned to me if there were sizes left, rather than enquiring which item I was interested in, she told me most were sold out. Earlier, in the line, I was already warned by the girl who wanted to know if I had a Gucci profile that “not many products would be replenished”.

I am not a star/celebrity/influencer, such as Yung Raja, who had first dib of the merchandise. I should be grateful for whatever crumbs I could find. This is the ultimate high-fashion-meets-streetwear collab, or so people have been trying to convince me, however ill-favored (flavoured?) the clothes appeared to me. After its debut at Milan Fashion Week not long ago, the capsule is so hyped that even the Yeezy Gap Engineered by Balenciaga release seemed lost in some shadow play of who among the Kering brands could put out a cooler collaboration. Perhaps I was coming in from the blistering heat, but what I saw was making me sweat. Everything I touched was oddly thick, and I am not referring to those oversized track tops. The helpful SA was trying to interest me in some of the items socially-distanced on the rack. She showed me a knit top (why was it so scratchy other than thick?) and then pointed to a short-sleeved button-down Oxford shirt (why was this a heat trap, too?). I did not want to deprive her of her sales commission, but there was nothing—zilch—I would like to buy. I told her that the Gucci X Adidas uniform she was wearing looked good. Would she get to keep it? “We don’t know yet”. Good luck.

Gucci X Adidas Pop-Up store is opened daily till 27 June at Design Orchard. Photo: Zhao Xiangji

Ready To Be Totally Covered?

Yeezy Gap is putting out versions of the Balenciaga cover-alls, affordably. Fans can rejoice!

Kim Kardashian is no longer required to serve as walking preview of Balenciaga (and has stayed away from looking all wrapped up), now that she has discovered the Jean-Louis dress that Marilyn Monroe wore. Or, re-loved the Dolce & Gabanna sexed-up, body-con one-pieces that she donned to her sister Khourtney’s flashy wedding to Travis Barker. She has moved away, but that does not mean that the strange path she has paved would not be trodden. Probably certain that Ms Kardashian is a trend setter (even if one held by the hand), Yeezy Gap—conceived by her former husband Kanye West, and now “engineered” by Balenciaga (namely Demna Gvasalia)—has put, in the second release of the limited-edition capsule, two items that could have been part of the line sheet of the recent Balenciaga cruise collection.

The full facemask and the bodysuit that covers hands and feet would encourage copywriters to call them “Kim Kardashian-approved”. The three-name brand does not say what fabrics are used for the two items, but it is safe to assume that a synthetic stretch textile, such as spandex, is employed. Like what was seen at the Balenciaga show last week, the facemask is designed to obscure the whole head (including the neck), except, unsurprisingly, the eyes. At less than SGD100 a piece, it could be a good Balenciaga substitute should you wish to look like Spiderman Noir (or Spider-Girl). The bodysuit—for women only—comes with attached socks and gloves for neck-to-toe obscuring, but, this version, not entirely. At the back is a large circular opening that seems larger than that at the neck. Could this be for getting into the garment since there is no fastening detected on any other part of the one-piece?

Kanye West and Demna Gvasalia appear determined to conquer the world with their bleak aesthetic. And Yeezy Gap has been selling well (or sold out, as we understand it) since the debut of the first piece, the ‘Round Jacket’. Mr West told Vogue early this year that it was a “a vision come true to work for Gap and Demna… to make incredible products available to everyone at all times.” While it is understandable why both men wish to cover both ends of the fashion market, it is not so clear why anyone would desire the two above pieces “at all times”. But it is hard to say. We live in a present that is at its most diametrical: dress nearly nakedly or totally covered. Forget the in-between.

Yeezy Gap Engineered by Balenciaga facemask, SGD60, and bodysuit, SGD450, are available online at Yeezy Gap. Product photos: Yeezy Gap. Photo illustration: Just So

Balenciaga Is Bullish

Demna Gvasalia showed his Balenciaga cruise show at the New York Stock Exchange to the suggestion that the brand’s strength is still on the rise. More face/body obscuring looks, anyone?

On Friday, the day before the New York Stock Exchange closed for the weekend, during which Balenciaga could prep for their show on Sunday morning (New York time), Wall Street teetered disconcertingly to the rim of a bear market. The S&P 500 and the Nasdaq both showed figures that were their seventh straight week of losses—their most protracted defeating streak since the end of the dotcom bubble in 2001. But inside the NYSE two days later, the mood was rather different, bullish even. The Balenciaga cruise show was staged here, on the trading floor, with their attendant screens ominously flashing what appeared to be trading numbers, as if hackers had struck. Some screens showed the logos of enterprises as diverse as The Disney Company and Pfizer. Whether this was a commentary on wealth or greed, it is hard to say. Or a vote of confidence in the US market? The music pulsing through the space was not the usual clatter of a trading day. Rather, it was urgent techno thrust (there was the opening bell, of course) sandwiched between what sounded like Carey Mulligan’s rendition of New York New York on the 2012 film Shame.

But it was not guilt or humiliation that emanated from the models’ totally obscured faces, via full-cover masks or bodysuits. It was a show of terror. Or, as Demna Gvasalia said to the media, “We live in a terrifying world, and I think fashion is a reflection of that.” On a regular trading day, we doubt anyone so extremely covered would be allowed into the NYSE building, let alone the trading floor. But there they were, in full-face/head masks, not mere balaclavas, strutting to the pulsating beat, like a bunch of rookie robbers filing into a bank to execute a heist. Or, walking mannequins. Has fashion become so visibly accessible and democratic that we must now obscure the wearer’s very being in order to stand out, and be apart from every pretty face on social media? Or do we now have to look macabre and menacing (even pussy bows could not soften the looks) to forge an elegance that’s so terrifying that fashion can be really reckoned?

By now, what Mr Gvasalia proposes for Balenciaga is, of course, not frightening. Or even threatening. His severe aesthetics have, after all, survived the red carpet. At the Met Gala last year, Kim Kardashian, you’ll remember, “rewrote the red carpet’s rules” (were there any?), according to Vogue, when she appeared in a Balenciaga-conceived, (literally) head-to-toe outfit that covered every centimetre of her unmistakable body. Three days earlier, she, too, was just-as-encased in a leather bodysuit with attached face/head cover under a matching trench coat. If Ms Kardiashian, who has no qualms about baring her body publicly, would be willing to be so tightly sheathed, it is possible that many women would just as gladly be so utterly covered. So Balenciaga, anticipating its influence, put out similarly wrapped looks for its latest collection. The clothes really require no description or introduction. All the Balenciaga tropes that Mr Gvasalia have introduced, from shoulders to shoes, that you are familiar with are there. They continue with the designer’s conviction to anti-fashion, ant-fit, anti-genteel, anti-subtle, anti-girly, anti-sexy.

And then there was the more real and less intimidating Balenciaga X Adidas. It is not known what deal Adidas has struck with Kering, but this would be the second of the conglomerate’s brands to collaborate with the sports name, after Gucci. While Mr Gvasalia remained true to his preference for the oversized and the baggy, and the less retro, the pieces do share something common with Gucci: the look-at-me sportiness, now considered the true achievement of performance wear. Even sports clothes need to be elevated. And just in case interests in these wane too quickly (and they just might), some 34 pieces from the collaboration are available for pre-order, from now to 29 May, with the lowest asking price of SGD275 for a pair of socks (the cheapest T-shirt, you may wish to know, is USD995). These days the ‘entry-level’ is shown alongside the main. Marketing cleverness has a legitimate space next to design excess. That is seriously bullish. In a money pit, no less.

Screen shot (top): Balenciaga/YouTube and photos: Balenciaga

Nike’s Next

…designer collaboration will be with Jacquemus

It really is not surprising that Simon Porte Jacquemus of his eponymous label would choose to collaborate with Nike, but it is rather unexpected that he has opted to present a woman’s-only line. Nike announced two days ago that the Nike x Jacquemus apparel and footwear (interestingly, available for guys too) will debut next month, on the 28th. The collaboration is aimed at what both brands call “integrated aesthetic”, not just between the two names, but also clothes and shoes worn on courts, track or field that are also suitable for those times that are off them. It does not sound too differently from what Nike has achieved with, say, Sacai.

According to a Nike media release, the collaboration “invites sport style into everyday life” too, something that the sportwear giant is already doing, regularly and with considerable success. How else can we describe their work with Comme des Garçons and Undercover (excluding the for-running Gyakusou line)? As the Swoosh further expounds, “Nike x Jacquemus follows a belief that sport isn’t simply about performance, it is also an expansion of style and self.” It is not yet clear what that would look like, but Jacquemus is very much a trending brand, so expect a craze to follow.

Nike X Jacquemus will be available on 28 June at select Nike stores and online. Watch this space for more details. Photos: Nike

Facing Fendace

Up close with the curious collab: It is as terrifying as imagined, even when not much is available

Fendi and Versace equal Fendace, a name that rings of Pantpong of the past. We still do not know what to make of this collaboration (we were, in fact, reminded not to call this as such. It is a “swap”). Is it a joke that we do not understand and, therefore, can’t laugh along? To be sure, Fendace speaks to a very specific target: those who are nostalgic for Versace loudness pied-pipered by the house’s Medusa head, those who have never enjoyed the ostentation, and those who would wear anything that scream something. For those who have lived through the garish-florid excess of the ’90s (before the demise of Gianni Versace), this is very much a revisit. It certainly was for us.

We went to the Fendi store at Takashimaya Shopping Centre this afternoon to view the brand’s take on the Versace aesthetic (we skipped the Fendi looks at Versace as they are, to us, too Donatella Versace). Except for two mannequins flanking the entrance, there were no others in windows featuring the Fendace merchandise, nor any lightbox announcing its launch today. The two mannequins—female on one side and male on the other—were not togged to the nines, as we had expected, just simple pieces you’d have missed if you, walking pass, did not pay attention to the dummies’ attire. There were stanchions and rope outside, but a queue had not formed. We walked straight inside.

A beaming sales staff came to ask if we needed any assistance. The only Fendace merchandise we could identify were the bags, so we asked her if the full collection was in store. “Is there anything you want?” She sounded eager to help. Not specifically, we want to see the pieces first before we decide. “Actually,” she continued with a hint of regret, “most of the items are sold out.” We were taken aback. She then showed us a rack the width of a large armoire: Only three items were hung there. “Is there anything you want? Do you have a picture?” We were really surprised they were this low on the Fendace stocks, this soon. “We brought in very few pieces each—one or two.” Why is that so? Is it because our market is too small? “Yes,” she agreed with a smile. “We think the prints may not do so well here. Our buyers feel they will do better in China.”

Not long after the Fendace show in Milan last September, the hashtag #Fendace was followed by 80 million Chinese on Weibo, according to Chinese media reports. In a Jing Daily (精奢商业观察) editorial, it was noted that netizens were divided when it came to how appealing the high-high coupling was: “Some believed it was simply a marketing stunt and even found them “ugly,” yet others saw them as great value.” China is a huge market, even if there are more of those who find Fendace unattractive, those who think not would still be a larger number than any sum here. The sales staff added, as if sensing our skepticism, “it is also popular with the Chinese (residing) here.”

If the proclaimed sell-out is based on the “very few pieces” availed to the store, it would be an exaggeration to say that the collection was met with great success here. But with so little to see merely four hours after the store opened, it was perhaps good optics for Fendi and Versace. “Sold out” is the best marketing strategy and catch phrase. We were also told that there was a private session for VIP customers to pick their Fendace; we were, naturally, not privy to that. Without much on offer, the salesgirl tried to interest us in the few bags left on the shelf, including a SGD4,850 Baguette in the printed silk designed for the collection (and for the bag’s braided handle), although we were intrigued by the much smaller Mini Sunshine Shopper. When we did not seem keen in either, she told us there were some scrunchies we could look at. Presumably we appeared to have only SGD375 to spend.

Tried as we did, it was hard to distinguish between Fendi and Versace in the products. Perhaps, that’s the whole idea: to look indistinguishable. However new and fresh the pairing of luxury labels, the melding of two high-end brands has its precedence: the Chinese knock-off market. In the heydays of affordable bootlegs, to appear without outright copying, some producers of pirated goods bring together unlikely names and aesthetics to blur the lines, so to speak. Fendace, to us, had that spirit, but now the smudging of aesthetical borders is legit and blessed with the finesse of Italian craftsmanship. But does it make Fendace really covetable now matter how gaudy it looks? Or is Fendace really too hot to be anything but?

Fendace is launched today. Most items are sold out. Good luck. Photos: Chin Boh Kay. Illustrations: Just So

Embracing The Offbeat

Uniqlo takes a road less travelled with Marni

Uniqlo announced on Instagram a short while ago that the brand they’ll be collaborating with next is Marni. That came as quite a bit of a surprise. The Italian label is not exactly considered conventional, and does not communicate in the vernacular of minimalism, such as Jil Sander (brand and designer) does—with the +J line, the German is Uniqlo’s longest collaborator. It appears to us that Uniqlo’s pairing with Marni could be minor shifts in their merchandising direction: go beyond the basics, while retaining the basic shapes that the Japanese brand is known for. The Marni X Uniqlo—reported to be “unisex”—could be a fashion-bent level-up of the multi-season, somewhat repetitive Marimekko collab that has appealed tremendously to both young and old.

Marni is known for their prints (sometimes Prada-like in terms of ‘ugliness’) and how they are not always used singly. Uniqlo is tapping into this. One fashion stylist told us that “it takes a special type to pull off these looks”. And he may not be wrong, as it would require those with appreciation of the off-beat to be able to wear pattern-mixing well. Although after Consuelo Castiglioni left the 28-year-old label she founded in 2016, the Marni kookiness is less intense, less immediate, present designer Francesco Risso has not toned down the brand’s art-school vibe and the home-spun charm. Sure, these days, Marni is geared towards the social media habitue and streatwear afficionado too, but it has not parted with fun or the odball. Perhaps this is why Uniqlo came a-calling.

Marni X Uniqlo will first launch in the US on 26 May 2022. Watch this space for release dates here. Product photos: Uniqlo. Illustration: Just So

Banned (In Thailand): Lisa And Chivas

A bottle of whiskey in hand may be sexy to many, but Blackpink’s holding of a Chivas Regal is not welcome in the home of tomyam goong

This image of Lisa with a bottle in her hand (as well as others) is not welcome in Thailand. The Blackpink member in her latest advertising coup with the Scotch whiskey Chivas Regal is disallowed in the country of her birth, to the extent that circulating the said photographs on social media by fans is an offence too. Alcohol advertising is banned in Thailand, across all media, despite the country’s very own successful alcohol industry. Local news reports have been reminding would-be violators that the penalty is a fine of up to 500,000 baht (approximately S$20,260) or a year in jail, or both. Critics of the hefty punishment imposed pointed out that traffic offenders are fined no more than 1,000 baht (or about S$40). Perhaps this explains why the Chivas Regal images do not appear on Lisa’s Instagram page.

According to a Bangkok Post headline from last week, the Thai “govt warns against sharing Lisa Blackpink’s whiskey ads” (the photo used for the story was picked from the singer’s Facebook account). In addition, “the Office of the Alcohol Control Committee is considering action against people who post and share images of Blackpink superstar Lisa Manoban promoting a brand of whiskey”. They did not identify the brand. The director of this committee was assigned by the Department of Disease Control—under the Ministry of Public Health—to “investigate anyone who propagates the forbidden images on social media”. The rapper is expected back in Thailand this week, after being away for close to three years, to visit her family and to spend her birthday (she turns 25) at home. Is the authorities’ warning a reaction to her homecoming and the possible frenzy that would result? K-pop stars endorsing alcohol is not new. In fact, fellow Blackpink singer Jennie is promoting the Korean brand Chum-Churum. There is no warning by the Office of the Alcohol Control Committee of the punishment that would be meted out to Thais sharing images of Jennie holding a (much smaller) bottle of soju.

Lisa (aka Lalisa Manoban [officially spelled Manobal]) is Thai. She was born in the province of Buriram, some 300 kilometres northeast of Bangkok, that was once part of the Khmer empire. Some observers feel that she was singled out as she still holds the That passport. Local media often call her a “homegrown superstar” although she was trained in South Korea under YG Entertainment since the age of 13 and is now based in Seoul as she pursued her unstoppable entertainment career. When she was accepted at the label, she was their first non-ethnically Korean trainee. Blackpink debuted in 2016, and the band’s rise was nothing short of meteoric. She is now a solo act too, with a single Lalisa (her Thai name) launched last September, garnering more than 450 million views on YouTube to date, even when the critics’ reviews were, at best, mixed.

The Chivas Regal pair-up made Ms Manobal the whiskey brand’s “first female ambassador in Asia”. It is not known why she accepted the ambassadorship or if she was, at that time, aware of the implication that would bear out in her home country. She claims to like whiskey (calling herself a “whiskey fan” in relation to her Chivas Regal work), but she has not mention before a fondness for Thai ‘whiskey’ such as SangSom, which is popular in Buriram. While this may be her first alcohol endorsement, Ms Manobal isn’t unknown for her paid association with fashion brands. In 2020, she was singled out by the house of Celine, where she was purported to be Hedi Slimane’s muse. She soon became their “global ambassador”, and was recently photographed by Mr Slimane for the spring/summer (March 2022) issue of Pop magazine, sans lao wiski. Adoring Thai fans have that to share freely, and legally. โชคดีค่ะ

Photo: Chivas Regal