They Love It

The amazing sell-through of Mugler X H&M in less than a day meant only one thing: a success

A S$299 Mugler X H&M oversized, lapel-less wool blazer

We are not enamoured of Mugler X H&M, so we did not join the queue, which, according to social-media shares, was not that long. But we were curious about the collaboration, so we thought we’d take a quick peek. But when we arrived at the sole H&M store in Orchard at about four this afternoon, the space on the ground floor dedicated to the line was reduced to one wall (more like a pillar, in fact). When we looked carefully, the collection (of about 100 styles, including accessories, one staffer told us) was very close to sold out. Only about half a dozen pieces were left, hung messily, looking undesired. All the men’s pieces were nowhere to be spotted. A guy in a fitted shirt standing nearby had the occasion-specific, baby blue paper bag with the logos of the two brands on the front placed next to him on the floor. We asked him: You managed to scored something? He answered somewhat reluctantly. “Yah, was here this morning.” What did you buy? He turned to his friends and continued looking blankly inwards of the store.

What was interesting to us was not the well-hyped merchandise, which was not quite the Mugler that we remember. Rather, we were curious to know who the fans of the new Mugler, led by American designer Casey Cadwallader, were. There is no denying the clothes in the collaboration veered towards the sexually-charged or the visually aggressive. Although wearing revealing, body-conscious clothing is not quite something many on our island adopt for their daily get-up, there seemed to be fervid demand for the Mugler X H&M as seen in the first-to-sellout of the bodysuits and every piece with mesh panelling. We had thought that the second-skin pieces would appeal to clubbers or karaoke bar hostesses (clichéd as that may sound), but as it turned out, many of the shoppers were very young, and they came dressed without any ambiguity that seductive costume is very much their thing.

…as it turned out, many of the shoppers were very young, and they came dressed without any ambiguity that seductive costume is very much their thing

It is possible that due to the bigger sizes available for the fitted pieces (mostly in jersey), more women than we had imagined were considering (or had bought) them. At the store, there were many girls, including trans women (that they would find the collab irresistible is understandable), who were seemingly delighted that there were, at last, designer-linked fashion that could allow them to express their sensuality (and sexuality?) with confidence was finally available at an accessible price. But, the Mugler X H&M collection was not cheap. A pair of leggings with mesh panels was S$129, a mesh top dotted with rhinestones was S$159, a pair of jeans with ‘spiral’ panels was S$229, a ‘body chain’ (try wearing that on it own!) was S$259, a wool jacket with corset-style waist (apparently, the most targeted) was S$349. Outside the store, a full-figured girl was showing her friend her hefty haul, among them a corset top with mesh panels. When we asked her if she thought the clothes were expensive, she said, “You can’t find such sexy pieces at this price elsewhere.” Where would she be wearing that top to? “A date with my boyfriend, lah.”

As we did not get to see the collection at the time it was available this morning (purportedly at 8am), we were not sure if the entire collection was made available. Some of the styles, according to the H&M website, will be available later. The separates for men were completely sold out in the afternoon as not a single item could be seen. We overheard a petite chap say to his companion that the menswear “habis dulu (was the first to sell out)”. Most of the male shoppers (and there were many) were very young, too. Quite a few were seen in tank tops, with small crossbody bags strapped to their heaving chests. Others more delicately attired. One male shoppers, who looked like he just stepped out of an auditors’ convention, was looking for the jeans and when he was told they were all gone, let out an audible “shit”. On our way home, we scrolled through social media to see some of the shoppers wearing what they scored. An SOTD reader sent us a clip of a chap togged in the waisted denim trucker and the ‘spiral panel jeans’, complete with the scarf, (atrocious) belt, and ankle boots. The effect was hard to describe in positive terms. This was, regrettably, what Mugler X H&M did to both ordinary—and not-so-ordinary—folks.

They Will Be Sold

Adidas said they will sell the Yeezys they have in stock. But do sneakerheads really want the tainted shoes now?

Stuck with a mountain of Yeezys, Adidas decides to retail them after all. The Financial Times reported that a portion of the proceeds (not its entirety) will be donated to still-to-be-named charities. According to earlier reports, Adidas is saddled with €1.2 billion (or about S$1.75 billion) worth of Yeezy shoes that brought down operating profits by €500 million. How many pairs that amounts to is not known. The Three Stripes did consider other options, including destroying the kicks, but did not find that to work to their advantage. Chief executive officer Björn Gulden was quoted telling investors at the brand’s annual meeting earlier today that “burning several million pairs does not make sense.” They decided to “try to sell parts of the product”. Did he mean that they won’t be selling the shoes intact?

It is not known if investors who are demanding that Adidas reveal the findings of the company’s investigations into Kanye West’s behavior are pleased with this decision. Last month, news emerged that investors took up a class action lawsuit against Adidas, asserting that the latter was aware of the risk that came with the collaboration even before Mr West’s string of anti-Semitic comments made through social media and press interviews in 2022. If Yeezys were to be sold whole, would there be a rush for them? A quick search for Yeezys at Stadium Goods showed a impressive 400 results, with prices that did not seem to have dipped. It is not clear if the sneakers—and slides—have been moving as quickly as before. With more kicks to be released by Adidas, would consumer interest be dramatically aroused? Or, has the recent Yeezy show—a cultish display of immense strangeness—put a damper on the ardour for the brand?

The exact release date of Yeezy X Adidas is unknown. Illustration: Just So

Bold Retro Vibes

New Balance hits another winning stride with its collaboration with Junya Watanabe

Adidas might be on a collab rush, now that they have axed their partnership with the beleaguered Yeezy (however, the Three Stripes is still laden with stocks), but it is New Balance that is, judiciously, teaming up with some of the most noteworthy/established/discreet names. Their latest is with Junya Watanabe, featuring NB’s not-bombastic URC30, also dubbed as the ‘Trackster’. Nothing dramatic or shape-shifting is done to the shoe, but Mr Watanabe did put together some striking colour combos, and still letting the the retro posturing shine through. The shoes were shown last June’s in the collab-centric spring/summer 2023 collection, which saw licensed images/graphics from artists fashion brands love to turn to, such as Andy Warhol, Jean Michel Basquiat, Keith Haring and Roy Lichtenstein.

Mr Watanabe is a fairly regular NB collaborator. His choice of the URC30 this season is a silhouette that’s a tad fancier than the 574 of the previous season although the vibrancy is still there. The URC 30 shoe is inspired by football kicks as seen in the quilted upper (leather, suede and overlays of synthetic material) and the jagged rubber outsole. The mid-sole—twin laters of white and blue—sits atop the outsole in the back half of the shoe and juts out in the rear, as many so-called cool kicks still do, but ever so slightly, which is a boon to those who wear their shoes in sizes larger than 10 and fear the heel steppers among MRT commuters in a crowded train are ever present. The URC 30 is, in fact, not bulky on the feet—a sleekness that’s always appreciated.

Junya Watanabe X New Balance URC 30, SGD440, is available at DSMS. Photo: New Balance

Two of A Kind: Nude Slashes

When actresses trust their designers—and stylists—too much

Elie Saab Vs Francis Cheong. Photos: Elie Saab and Mediacorp respectively

It happened again and, interestingly, with the same sought-after dressmaker. For the 2017 Star Awards (红星大奖), Pan Ling Ling (潘玲玲) wore a flounced gown by renowned designer Francis Cheong that looked like one by couturier Zuhair Murad. This year, best actress winner Huang Biren (黄碧仁) was also outfitted in a Francis Cheong dress. And on the red carpet outside MBS and on stage inside, the floor-length piece, too, looked rather familiar. It did not take us more than five minutes to recall that what Ms Huang wore last night bore an astonishing resemblance to a gown seen in the Elie Saab autumn/winter couture collection of 2021 called Buds of Hope. A quick check on FF Channel’s YouTube account (while the Star Awards was on our television) confirmed what we suspected. The dress seen on the broadcast of the nation’s sole TV acting awards did indeed look disconcertingly similar to what Mr Saab presented for a show that did not travel to Paris that year due to the pandemic. It was not the most spectacular outfit in that collection and we almost forgot about it, until yesterday evening.

But that sleek dress that Mr Saab put out two years ago did leave an impression because it was one of three aesthetically similar gowns that were unlike the rest of the 63 looks for that just-emerging-from-lockdown season, or what could be considered the Beirut-based house’s signature. Mr Saab incorporated rather extreme sexiness into the trio by way of wide slashes incorporated diagonally across the finely-contoured bodices and the trumpet skirts. As a result, it showed considerable skin. And the bands held strikingly and securely to the bodies, clinging to and covering where they needed to, even when the models strutted somewhat purposefully. The gown that resembled what Ms Huang had on could be described as a bandage dress of sort, but it did not constrict the body in any way. It was, admittedly, a show-stopper that could swish beautifully on a red carpet while maintain the wearer’s modesty, which is not, as we have seen, a requisite these days.

Huang Biren, admittedly, did not look bad in that dress; she probably was not aware that what she had on first appeared elsewhere. On Facebook, Francis Cheong, who now mainly resides in Johor Bahru, congratulated Ms Huang for winning (it was her fiftth best actress Star Award in her 35-year career), and “wearing my 2023 spring couture (sic)”. It is not known if Ms Huang picked Mr Cheong as the designer of her 晚礼服 (wanlifu or evening attire). It is possible that the partnership was facilitated by Annie Chua (蔡宜君), the “principal image stylist” at Mediacorp and the Star Awards’ key fashion figure, as the designer did thank Ms Chua for “the collaboration”. Nor, do we know who among the them picked the Elie Saab piece for inspiration. There’s no missing Mr Cheong’s cleverness this year. He created not a total facsimile; he changed the sole sleeve to the left and used skin-coloured fabrics—nothing nude—to create the slashes so that Ms Huang bared little. And there was not a trace of embellishment! Going to local dressmakers to tailor a cheaper version of couture gowns is not an unknown practice. Many attendees of gala events here love such costumiers. But unlike, say, the Icon Ball, which is primarily a closed-door affair, Star Awards is broadcast to the world through Mediacorp’s YouTube page. And some things do stand out. Lookalikes, especially.

Update (11 April 2023, 17:30): Two hours ago, Annie Chua shared on Instagram her support for Huang Biren with a set of seven photos and a comment: “Thank you for the 💯 trust ❣️You totally slayed it both on & off stage! ❣️”. Replying, Ms Huang wrote: “Thank you very much for helping! Two consecutive years by you and won! You are superb!❤️❤️❤️❤️❤️”. Two hours later, with another set of six images of different people, which included one that saw Ms Huang carrying her trophy, Ms Chua added, “Making 💚Memories 💚 & Be 💚The Best 💚Version of Yourself 💚”. Amazing

Update (11 April 2023, 23:00): Francis Cheong has removed the congratulatory message and the photograph of Huang Biren wearing his “spring 2023 couture” (dress) from his Facebook page

First Yeezy, Then Ivy Park

Adidas and Beyoncé are going to split

Adidas is parting ways with another Black American pop star. This time it’s the indomitable Beyoncé Knowles-Carter. According to The Hollywood Reporter, citing “a source close to the situation”, Adidas and Ivy Park “have mutually agreed to part ways”. At this time, who among the two initiated the separation is not known except that it’s mutual. In that THR report, put out hours ago, it is thought that “major creative differences” are the main reason for the 5-year-old collaboration to go no further. Reportedly, Beyoncé is “looking to reclaim her brand, chart her own path and maintain creative freedom.” It is hard to imagine that she was not able keep a grip over what she could do creatively. This would be the second time Mrs Carter is taking things back after her first partnership with Topshop in 2016 ended two years later. Both Adidas and Beyoncé (as well as her Parkwood Entertainment, the company that manages the Ivy Park brand) have yet to comment.

Beyoncé is, of course, not a beacon of controversy like Kanye West is prone to be. Creative differences are not the same as ethical/moral differences. Either way, both are disparities that could potentially impact the kind of sales the two sides hope to achieve. It is not known how well the Ivy Park line was really doing. To us, it’s been a relatively quiet, makes-no-difference-to-the-world label. It caters primarily to die-hard Beyoncé fans who would snap up anything the star puts out. But, dizzyingly high album and concert ticket sales are no indication of the potential of a fashion brand based on celebrity adoration. According to a Wall Street Journal report last month, sales of Ivy Park merchandise “fell more than 50% last year” to about US$40 million (the projected figure was US$250 million). While that may still be a healthy figure, it pales to Yeezy’s reported US$1.8 billion—or 10% of total revenue—that the brand makes for Adidas.

But, dizzyingly high album and concert ticket sales are no indication of the potential of a fashion brand based on celebrity popularity

Oftentimes, Ivy Park looked more hype-driven than performance-centric even when the products are produced by Adidas. It is not certain to what extent Beyoncé personally adopted athleisure styles, but if she did, might Ivy Park be what she typically wore? Or are the pieces conceived for meretricious displays at the gym, assuming that is the intended destination. As Oprah Daily put it, Ivy Park “will have you channeling your inner Beyoncé”. Might the problem, if it can be so called, be exactly that? Is there a real, sustainable market of Beyoncé’s off-duty wear, even if they look that sexy? Is that the crux of the creative difference? The popularity of the star’s music does not amount to women wanting to look like her. If it does, Beyoncé’s House of Dereon—“when sidewalk meets catwalk”— wouldn’t have shuttered in 2012 after what was described as a “rocky” six-year run. Beyoncé has not had a enviable track record when it comes creating fashion labels. She is a performer first and designer many rungs down. If Victoria Beckham is still not taken seriously even when she is personally behind her label that now shows in Paris, could there be a chance that Ivy Park would be embraced as a bona fide fashion brand?

Beyoncé started Ivy Park in 2016 as a joint venture with the now-disgraced Phillip Green of Topshop, which reportedly owned exactly half of Ivy Park at the time. The partnership came apart in 2018, amid the reputational and legal woes of Topshop’s parent company Arcadia Group. Mr Green, its billionaire owner and chairman, was accused of “sexual misconduct, bullying, and racial harassment”, according to one 2018 Time report. Parkwood Entertainment subsequently acquired 100 percent of Ivy Park. The value of that transaction was not disclosed. A year later, Adidas X Ivy Park was announced. Terms of that were not made known. The split now came three weeks after Puma announced that they were rekindling their partnership with Rihanna. Ivy Park’s halt, even if temporary, is somewhat ironic given that brands are still banking on sexed-up casual clothing, as evidenced by the upcoming H&M and Mugler pairing. Queen Bey may reign the airwaves, but the rule does not cover the runway.

Illustration: Just So

Maximum Sex Appeal

H&M turns the heat up with their latest collaboration

Sex sells and H&M wants to peddle it too. High Street fashion has not showed this much skin since denim hot pants were slashed to mimic underpants, exposing pocket bags. H&M’s latest pairing with Mugler seems to be targeted at the next batch of attendees of the Grammy Awards and their followers. Expect enthusiastic editorial support to call it hip-hop-stars-approved. Or a collab Emily Ratajkowski will rush out to buy. And every member of the Kardashian family needing to be visible now that neither of them are apparently invited to the up-coming Met Gala. That H&M has chosen the less-is-more aesthetic of present-day Mugler is a reflection of fashion’s obsession with near-nudity, as seen at the recent Academy Awards (and the after-parties) and the quickly-gaining-traction no-bra trend (just look at TikTok). Need to bare, however, seems more like an American infatuation and movement. H&M X Mugler’s success, if so, may show how nude women really desire to be.

Founder of the house Thierry Mugler died a year ago, but this is no homage to his aesthetical legacy. To be sure, Mr Mugler made sexy clothes—even his skirt suits were sexy—but they were never this ostensibly close to sleaze. As a designer told SOTD, “Mugler was never trashy, so I’m not sure how or why it looks like that now. So off-brand.” The Mugler of today is the imagination of American designer Casey Cadwallader (some French maisons, of late, prefer hiring from across the pond), who joined the brand in 2017. While H&M has said in a press release that the collaboration “encapsulates the very essence of Mugler”, it is the crux of what Mr Cadwallader does for the brand today. He has built much of his output around a bodysuit, but these are not those similar to Donna Karan’s in the ’80s. These love the body so much they cling to it or, thanks to sheer panels or daring cutouts, show it off. Certainly the stuff Cardi B and her rapping sisters adore.

For some reason, the harder we look, the more we saw Balmain, too. It could be the shoulders, the unforgiving silhouette, the constricted leanness. Or, perhaps, LaQuan Smith? It is admirable that H&M is able to produce such clothes at the level they do, given that these are not garments designed in the conventional way—they’re mostly almost like shape wear. How these pieces would appear as a collection on the rack is also not immediately imaginable. These days, clothes do not have to entice from a hanger. The shoppers already know how the desired pieces will fall on or, in this case, cleave to the body. And what is worn must not only crave media attention, they cry out for pedestrian attention too. But will the Swedish brand hit the big time with this collab before one quick-to-reponse Chinese brand, growing larger by the day, beat them to it? Let’s see.

H&M X Mugler will launch on 11 May. Photo: H&M

Possible Round Two

Gucci is believed to be launching their second collaboration with Adidas. Do we really need it?

The first Gucci and Adidas collaboration launched at Design Orchard last June. File Photo: Zhao Xiangji for SOTD

It has been reported this week that Gucci will be releasing the second collaborative collection with Adidas. The Instagram post of sneaker discloser House of Leaks, revealing the supposed kicks of the Gucci X Adidas pairing, was reported by news sites, such as Highsnobiety and Yahoo News. There’s no word from the Italian or German brand yet, but their next joint output supposedly will comprise of only footwear, mainly the Gazelle and the ZX 8000. The shoes are expected to drop later this month. As seen in the leaked images, the kicks are mostly colourful and attention-grabbing, with no subtlety in the use of the Gucci monogram on the upper—nothing new there. This will no doubt delight those for whom branding-lite footwear holds virtually no appeal.

Last year’s debut Gucci X Adidas collab was, as we understand it, initiated by Alessandro Michelle. That Gucci will revive a collaboration conceived by the former creative director, who left suddenly and purportedly amid abrasive corporate dissent, is rather surprising. According to WWD, there were “strong disagreements over the future of the brand [that] caused a rift between Michele and president and chief executive officer Marco Bizzarri”. On top of that, Gucci’s management wanted what has been referred to as “reboot” of the brand. If so, why revive something that vividly recalls the person that has brought the brand immense fortune until it did not? Gucci will soon have a new creative head—Sabato De Sarno from Valentino. Might it make more sense to see what path forward Mr Se Sarno will take Gucci before inking on aesthetic-firming partnerships?

It is not clear what Gucci considers great for the interim. A puzzling autumn/winter 2023 collection that showed more skin than required for the season seemed like a poorly-considered filler. It is possible that fashion folks are waiting for the new Gucci to unveil itself before committing to purchases that would quickly become tired and passé. Perhaps Gucci thinks sneakers have staying power. But the new collaboration still bears the visual exuberance that Mr Michele had desired for the pairing. If there was the possibility that consumers were satiated with that overkill at the time of Mr Michele’s departure, is it not likely that they’re still jelak? Or, conversely, could it be Adidas that needs this pairing more? After killing Yeezy, Adidas projected a staggering operating loss of €700 million for 2023, which would be the brand’s first annual loss in 31 years, as reported. It would appear that Addidas needs to rev things up, even with a temporarily rudderless Gucci.

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:

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 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 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