Spirited Loewe

The Spanish house’s second collab with Japan’s Studio Ghibli is another happy romance of craft and anime

Loewe’s bus-stop ad for the launch of their collab with Studio Ghibli

In Hayao Miyazaki’ 2001 animated feature, Spirited Away (千と千尋の神隠し), the spider-like spirit Kamaji (釜爺), also the boilerman at the ghostly bathhouse, answered the servant Lin (リン) when she wanted to know what was going on, “Something you wouldn’t recognize. It’s called love.“ Those who come face-to-face with Loewe’s latest collaborative merchandise would recognise the vivid illustrations on the clothes and accessories, and they would call it love, too. A collaboration that is born of “a mutual passion for craftsmanship”, according to Loewe, and is lovingly conceived and created. If Loewe’s first pairing with Studio Ghibli last year, featuring characters from My Neighbour Totoro, was “inspired“, their sophomore outing with possibly Japan’s most famous animation studio is total homage.

Spirited Away, as the title suggests is set in the world of spirits—many not particularly appealing, even if they aren’t really scary. Yet, Jonathan Anderson is able to find muses in the characters, such as the not-quite-likeable Yubaba (湯婆婆), proprietor of the strange Aburaya (油屋 or bathhouse) in which much of the action of the film is centred; Kaonashi (顔無し), the lonely spirit, also known as No-Face in the English version of the film; and, of course, the ten-year-old protagonist Ogino Chihiro (荻野 千尋). Images of these characters appear on garments, as well as accessories, trotting out Loewe’s particular skills in crafting cloth and leather. Likely to be the most popular would be the Susuwataris (すすワタリ) or soot spirits, also seen in My Neighbour Totoro and in that debut collaboration with the animation studio. Apart from the obvious appeal, Loewe also made them into little pouch bags, something celebrity mothers are likely to buy for their kids.

A window hinting at what lies beyond it

Some of our fave products from the Loewe X Spirited Away collab. Product photos: Loewe. Collage: Just So

Unlike in the home of Spirited Away the hotly-anticipated collab is not launched here in a purpose-designed pop-up that is imbued with the magical mood of the film. In Tokyo, it is staged (and we use the theatrical term deliberately) in “a traditional Japanese-style home” in Harajuku that sits on a back alley, just off the famed Takeshita Dori. The 10-day retail site truly allows one to be lost in the world of Spirited Away “from the minute you walk past the vermillion gate post”, our Tokyo source told us. These days, we call such experiences “immersive” and, at the Loewe pop-up, it was so to the point that visitors are offered a yokikana tea, co-created by Sanzaemon Kasuya (a 600-year-old manufacturer of koji, a type of mold used in food production) and the Daikanyama cafe PELLS. The cups come with sleeves featuring characters from the film. A free collectible!

Conversely, inside the flagship store at ION Orchard, Chinese New Year blossoms have been chosen in place of any tableau that might give fashionistas, who are also Spirited Away fans, a foretaste of Ghibli Park, scheduled to open in Nagakute City, near Nagoya, Japan later this year. Only a single window, with a red bridge to denote the one outside the bathhouse of the film, hints at the filmic reference of the merchandise on display. In fact, if you are able to just walk into the store (you need to book a time and even then, you’d have to join a queue outside the store), you would not be greeted by a semblance of the bathhouse that is core to the film, or any part of the alternate world that Chichoro stumbled into and tried hard to get out of. No, but a staff would direct you to those products you would have already decided to buy. Anything cute, as you read this, is likely sold out.

The two-decade-plus-old, hand-drawn Spirited Away is considered by most film critics to be the best animated film of all time. It won an Academy Award for Best Animated Feature in 2002. Most of us saw the version dubbed in English. The deftly-done translation did not in anyway Westernise the narrative for a non-Japanese audience. The Japanese-ness is not diminished, not even with the unspeaking No-Face. Nor, was there a weakening of the folklorish charisma. And that, to us, is the lure of the film. In that regard, Loewe, too, has not made the products on which the characters appear more—or even less—Spanish, or, worse, Disney-fied. The Puzzle bag with the Soot Spirits, for example, isn’t overrun by the puff-ball creatures—they are judiciously placed, retaining the house aesthetics, as well as a distinctly Japanese way with cuteness. Charmed.

Loewe X Spirited Away is available at Loewe, ION Orchard. Photos (except indicated): Zhao Xiangji

Postponed: Dior X Travis Scott

It is reported that the launch of the doomed collaboration would be deferred. Nope, not cancelled

That one of the most hyped collaborations has to come to this is not surprising. As announced on WWD, Dior’s collaboration with Travis Scott—dubbed Cactus Jack—is “postponed”, the news site emphasised, and “indefinitely”. As stated in the report, based on an “exclusive” statement that Dior availed to WWD: “out of respect for everyone affected by the tragic events at Astroworld, Dior has decided to postpone indefinitely the launch of products from the Cactus Jack collaboration originally intended to be included in its summer 2022 collection.” They were careful not to use the now-divisive and unpleasant word “cancelled”.

As we understand it, the men’s spring/summer collection is almost “entirely” conceived with Mr Scott. For many, it is inconceivable that a complete collection would not be available to purchase. WWD reported that Mr Scott’s team shared that the postponement was a mutual agreement. Dior did not say what merchandise plans would be in place for their spring/summer 2022 season. This is their first time pairing with a musician, and reports had predicted it to be “major”. Merchandisers we spoke to told us that at the time the Astroworld tragedy struck, it is likely that the clothes were already in production. And that is very possible since spring/summer drops can take place as early as this week, or next.

Many of those who commented on the emerging reports of the postponed collection felt that Travis Scott is wrongly blamed for the Astroworld deaths and that the brands were too quick to disassociate themselves with him, once a star who could do no wrong. One commentator wrote in response to a Hypebeast post, “He isn’t responsible for the actions of thousands of fans, even if they can prove he incited raucous behavior.” Die-hard Travis Scott fans are also burning with curiousity: What would become of the already produced merchandise. Burn them? Or let them be available at a discount store?

Runway photo: Dior. Photo illustration: Just So

Collaboration To Close The Year?

Gucci and Adidas are reportedly up to something

With Christmas round the corner, you’d think that it be a quiet time for fashion. Not quite. Ringing louder than church bells is the news that Gucci is hitting the collab road with Adidas. According to the “first look” offered by Twitter account @hypeneverdies two days ago, there is now a double-G monogram, in which the Adidas trefoils share the space with the repeated twin 7th letter of the alphabet. The not-quite-sharp image posted has a patina of blue. Looking like a screen shot, it does not really tell us if its a product or, for all we know, an NFT! Anything is possible. If Gucci can “hack” Balenciaga, they can surely do the same to Adidas. We were thinking shoes, but that’d be too obvious. With their second The North Face collab just released, what in the sphere of outdoor/sportswear has Gucci not explored?

Of course, this brings to mind Adidas’s rather quiet pairing with another Italian brand: Prada. We were, admittedly, underwhelmed by that output. But both brands deemed the collab a success—enough to have a second (not quite memorable) attempt. Gucci, naturally, won’t go the discreet route (just as Lady Gaga won’t play it safe). We already had a taste of what it might be, if The North Face affair was any indication. Monogram-mad might actually be putting it mildly.

The above illustration is just that, not an official logo from the brand. Watch this space for confirmation of the collaboration. Illustration: Just So

Baste The Pork, Baste The Dress

Culinary refinement meets fashion fineness at what could be considered the first-ever gourmet and sartorial tribute to an ancient Chinese literary master

待他自熟莫催他,火候足时他自美*

《猪肉颂》苏轼

In the brief history of SOTD, this is a first: beginning a post with a Chinese verse. And not about some flowing robe, but about pork, specifically the best way to cook the humble meat!* Food of present times, like fashion, has been characterised by processes that are best described as fast. Speed may be of the essence, but slow is now trending. Accelerated is not elevated, swift is not swish. This thumbs-down of the quickly-made has brought two different artistic disciplines together, even if they are not directly connected. This week, Yan’s Dining Fine Shanghai Cuisine (嬿青私房菜) and veteran designer Thomas Wee (黄华) collaborate to spotlight the cultural legacy of Song dynasty poet Su Shi (苏轼), better known by his pen name Su Dongpo (苏东坡). Yes, the celebrated scholar who was credited for creating the classic dish of braised dongpo pork (东坡肉).

The meeting of cuisine associated with—and inspired by—Su Shi and fashion conceived by a designer known for his masterful riffs of traditional forms is the unusual highlight of this Dongpo Banquet (东坡宴), described as an opportunity to “partake in poetry and wine at the prime of our life (诗酒趁年华)”. It is, in fact, epicurean/literary appreciation that also includes the calligraphy of Grace Chen Liang (陈亮) and the Peranakan-style jewellery (the connection to Song literary high unclear) of Foundation Jewellers. The event was conceived by Chinese-media-veteran-turned-restaurateur Wang Yanqing (王嬿青) to mark the 920th anniversary of the passing of Su Shi (1036-1101), a giant among the literati of ancient China and a celebrated gastronome who was also a gifted cook. While it seems odd that fashion could be served alongside slow-cooked pork belly in the salute of a polymath not noted for sartorial flair, the pairing is surprisingly evocative and tantalising.

The star dish donpo rou (bottom left) in the presence of outfits by Thomas Wee

Not many of us here are that familiar with the poetry of Su Shi or the pork of Su Dongpo. Thomas Wee admitted that until his collaboration with Wang Yanqing, his knowledge of the Song multi-hyphenate was limited. “I know about Su Dongpo from Cantonese opera,” he revealed, “from the portrayal by Leung Sing Poh (梁醒波, a born-in-Singapore, Hong Kong actor popular in the ’60s/’70s). Whether the real person was fat or slim, I didn’t know”. Yet, he could not pass up the collaborative opportunity, especially to interpret Song aesthetic in a modish way. “Tang dynasty is, to me, the most beautiful period, but it’s overdone,” he said. “Song dynasty, I can explore.” He went through many visual materials until the art director of Muse (the official magazine of Dongpo Banquet) Chua Kwee Peng shared with him an image of indeterminate origin: a tea-stain-hued depiction of a boatman and a standing lass crossing a lake. It was an Eureka moment.

Song-era clothing, also referred to as hanfu (汉服), did not deviate dramatically from the prosperous Tang that preceded it. Mr Wee’s designs kept to the flowy lines of the period’s silhouettes, generally slim (瘦, shou), delicate (细, xi), and long (长, chang), and in the form of jackets (袄, ao) robes (袍, pao), skirts (裙, qun). There is a simplicity of shape that could be seen as contemporary, as well as the play with the oversized in some of the bat-wing tops (which could be mistaken as Qing!), each carefully avoiding over-ornamentation, yet their Chineseness unmistakable in the round collar (圆领, yuanling) and, in one gilet, the cross collar (交领, jiaoling). There are two sets of men’s styles too, with one loosely based on the lanshan (襴衫), a tunic-like outerwear that Su Dongpo would have worn, both as a scholar and a government official. Mr Wee’s take typifies his cross-dynasty styles that characterise his Chinois-accented menswear for the last decade or so.

Thomas Wee eager to explore the Song dynasty

But, if the entire capsule of about 20-odd pieces (only four were displayed) looked somewhat familiar, it is because Mr Wee has been on this aesthetic track for some time now. His approach to Chinese style has always been in his loose cuts, and how he pivots away from the conventional—even traditional—to reflect his particular flair with the technical minutiae of dress-making. As Mr Wee has said before, his design process and pattern planning happen synchronously, and one is never independent of the other. No matter how innovative his technical draughts are, the end garments are always recognisable as clothing to be worn. With thoughtful details and twists that set them apart, yet within unambiguous femininity, many women find his clothes immediately appealing. Among one of the more distinctive pieces this time is an asymmetric one-shoulder top with a bias-cut flounce that underscores the diagonal neckline in the front and back. There is a notch at the top where the shoulder is. The panel could be let down at that end to allow the wider top to drape over the shoulder. Or, folded up to create a pointed, architectural sail above the shoulder to flank the face. As they would say in Japan, one top, two ways.

What, to us, did not work was the seemingly obligatory inclusion of Grace Chen’s calligraphy. The cursive writing appeared on two garments: on the skirt of a tunic and on one extra-long fluted sleeve. Ms Chen, the first to come onboard on this project, initially named ‘Po’ject 苏, is a masterful calligrapher of bold, assertive, and confident strokes that Wang Yanqing described as “masculine”. But it does not appear that her ink compositions were conceived to be applied within the very specific shapes of Mr Wee’s garments: she did not have fashion in mind. They looked to have decamped unceremoniously from paper to cloth, and unable to escape the kitsch that are easily found in any gift shop in the first-tier cities of China. But Mr Wee begged to differ, explaining that he had, in fact, picked the calligraphy himself, after asking Ms Chen to read what she had written to him and explain their meaning. It was at this point that the designer made known to us that he does not read or write Mandarin, although he speaks it proficiently. “I don’t read and write putonghua (普通话),” he said. “In a 10-word sentence, I can recognise only three”. Startled, we asked what second language he studied in school. “Malay” was his rapid reply.

Calligraphic text on sleeve

The souvenir store vibe was most pronounced in the communication material produced by the editorial team of Muse. While it is true that many creatives here, even in the Chinese media, are more expressive in the visual language of the West, it is dismal and discouraging to see interpretations of Chinese aesthetic in fashion styled so derivatively and obviously, in classic show-and-tell manner. Are the clothing designs so subtle that the models need to carry Chinese string instruments, the erhu (二胡) and the pipa (琵琶), to augment the clothes’ inspirational references? But this was homage to Su Shi, not Gao Ming (高明)—this was not a revival of the Tale of the Pipa (琵琶记)! Or, is this to reminisce about defunct Chinese emporiums? To exoticise the fashion in case we can’t discern the cultural heft? Or, for the image creators, to be culturally pious? These photos stood in sharp contrast to the food of the Dongpo Banquet, in the plating, as well as the paring of ingredients: low-key. Unexpected were the plump oysters in Shaoxing wine on thick slices of goose liver. All the food stood out on their own visually, sans superfluous, tacky props.

Su Shi, who Sotheby’s called “the Chinese Renaissance man”, probably never considered, even in his most inspired moment, that in the future, fashion would salute his influence on culinary traditions. His was a life spent to a large extent in exile—banished, rather than sentenced to death, for upsetting the ruling and political class, who accused him of treason against the emperor. Despite his early scholarly life and those spent in civil service, Mr Su did not enjoy the wealth or material comforts that others of his professional standing might have had. Luxury, in life and in clothing, escaped him, but poverty did not. Historians acknowledge that he didn’t lead a good life, but despite the hardship, he was a serious optimist, as reflected in his impressive body of written works, namely shi (诗) and ci (词) or lyric poems, many of which depicted his own vivid experiences of a simple life.

The small exhibit at Yan’s Dining Fine Shanghai Cuisine

Modest life choices characterised Su Shi’s times and travels. The famous dish (among 66 or so that is associated with him) that still bears his name is made of humble pork, a meat that in the Song dynasty, was not considered with much regard. As Wang Yanqing regaled, Mr Su learned to cook pork in Huizhou (惠州), Guangdong Province (广东省). At that time, the meat was cheap, so he could experiment with it till he made what he truly liked. The long-cooked pork that he was famous for was, according to lore, the result of oversight: he forgot what he was cooking as he was playing chess with a friend. Later in Hangzhou, after the completion of the Su Causeway (苏堤, sudi) that he oversaw, grateful town folks gave him pork in appreciation of his effort in the public work. He asked: “why do you gift me with pork?” It is not certain what answer he received from his supporters, but he decided to make his favourite braised pork to share with the people. Delighted with the dish, the satiated recipients decided to name it dongpo rou.

Using gastronomy to shine a light on the backstory of the old masters is the main aim of the fine-dining adventure of Wang Yanqing, also a passionate literary impresario. With a background in journalism (the former host of Channel 8’s Good Morning, Hello [早安你好] and Date with Yanqing [嬿青有约]), she is a compelling storyteller, who seems to relate to the travails of Su Shi and who deeply appreciates his poetic output, even correcting us when we said the number is 2,300. She was swift: more than 3,000 works have survived. Su Shi believed that, like the cooking of dongpo rou, haste is not the cook’s best friend. Patience is pivotal. The clothing design of Thomas Wee, produced in a small, home-based sampling facility, shares similar preference for the unhurried and attention to detail. If one pseudonym and delicacy can cross generations and near-millennia to inspire, perhaps our maestro of fashion could one day be just as influential too.

*Be patient; rush it not. With adequate fire and time, beautiful it shall be—Ode to Pork, Su Shi

Dongpo Banquet is at Yan’s Dining Fine Shanghai Cuisine, from 2 to 5 December 2021. Photos: Chin Boh Kay. Illustrations: Just So

The Hack’s In The House

Balenciaga defaced by Gucci. Welcome to the new wonderful

On both corners of the Orchard Road-facing side of Paragon, Kering brands occupy the spaces: Balenciaga and Gucci. Although both are in mutually hacking mode, it is Balenciaga, replacing Gucci as the most searched brand on Lyst, that is drawing attention. On its second-level glass façade, Gucci is scribbled in what looks like spray paint across the width of the window. As nothing blocks this side of the shopping centre, it is hard to miss the defacement art (‘graffiti’ would be too low for Balenciaga), especially when you are walking on the opposite side of the road, right in front of Ngee Ann City. It does look like the work of a vandal, determined to let Gucci overwhelm Balenciaga, even when the name of the latter, appearing twice on the front of the store, is in the recognisable full caps.

Inside the mall, as we stood at the entrance, blocked by a pair of stanchions with a black tape stretched between, waiting to catch the attention of the staff to let us in, a guy, dressed totally in black, who sat at the entrance earlier to ensure that visitors were scanned in, approached. Without going beyond the barrier, he waved at a male staff inside, who was similarly dressed, but had his shirt untucked. The first fellow lifted his smartphone and showed the other something on it. “Is it supposed to be like that?” The reply was swift. “Ah, yes. It’s like that. We’re doing an event here.” And to be sure he was not really the kaypoh one, the inquirer added, “Oh, customers were asking if something was wrong.” Unsmiling, the Balenciaga staff informed him, “It’s a collaboration with Gucci“.

The wait for us was at least 10 minutes long. There was no one else in the line. Paying attention to the Gucci monogram with the double B plastered on the windows flanking the entrance was a way to pass the time. Inside, there were three customers, none in any obvious transaction. Finally a guy let us in. He apologised for keeping us waiting. We were tempted to say that he didn’t have to make us stand there and not tell us how long more before we would be let into an empty store. But, we did not. A tote with the scribble, “This is not a Gucci bag”, caught our attention, but it was not speaking to us. There was really nothing to it.

The Hacker Project, as this “collaboration“ is dubbed, was presented hushly. Before us, the breadth of the merchandise available was not quite on the same scale as the desecration somewhere up there above us. We looked around for clear signs, but they were mostly hidden in drawers: SLGs and socks. Is this all there is to The Hacker Project? The same guy who showed us in was now showing us out. “Some item (sic), we keep,“ he said. Why is that so? “We don’t display everything. Is there anything you want?“ He was beginning to sound impatient. “If you want, I can take it out to show you”. He was now sounding irritable. “The launch already four days.” Should we apologise for not being enough of a fan to rush here on the first day? “We sold out many things.” Was he trying to convince us or tell us not to bother looking? And how much was sold? “About 60/70 percent sold out,” he intoned conclusively. He was not planning to bring out what was kept. We weren’t hoping.

Photos: Chin Boh Kay

Sicko Mode: The Destructive Force Of Travis Scott

The Washington Post called him “the maestro directing the chaos”. After this year’s Astroworld mahem, Travis Scott will forever be linked to the death of some of his rabid fans. Who would remember his connection to the world of fashion? Do we want to?

Warning: this post contains language and descriptions some readers might find offensive

Nike has made the first move, but Dior has largely kept mum. In the wake of the Astroworld tragedy, it is doubtful that Travis Scott’s very name can still move merchandise, massively. But his fashion collaborators seem to prefer to wait and see. Nike held on for more than a week before announcing that their collaboration with Mr Scott’s Cactus Jack brand on the Air Max 1 will be postponed “out of respect for everyone impacted by the tragic events at the Astroworld Festival”, according to a corporate statement issued on its SKRS app a few days ago. Delaying the launch is not canning it. At the moment, it is known that Nike has some ten styles in the works with Mr Scott. That is a staggering amount to do with a single fellow, without counting those already released and sold out, a sell-through situation no brand can resist. How long more does the owner of Air Max intend to wait is not known.

Also in with Nike’s now-troubled partnership is Japan’s Fragment Design. As we have noted before, collaborations these days can consist of three brands (or more), not just two. To triple the allure of the initial pairing, Fragment Design joined Nike and Travis Scott three months ago to reimagine not only the Air Jordan 1, but also to put out a three-piece apparel collection (that was, as expected, sold out), which Nike described as one “that satisfies the ‘rule of three’”. Hiroshi Fujiwara of Fragment Design has not issued a statement with regards to his past pairing with Mr Scott or future partnerships. His association with the rapper now under investigation, it seems, would not be severely affected as Fragment Design is still associated with credible, fashion-forward brands such as Sacai.

But perhaps the label that has to really deal with the increasing ignominy of the rapper is Dior. Hitherto, the LVMH super brand has not uttered a word about what has happened, nor the pal of Mr Scott, Kim Jones. It is known that Mr Jones had conceived the spring/summer 2021 collection almost entirely to benefit from Travis Scotts’s fame, more as a consumer rather than designer of fashion. In fact, the collab was dubbed Cactus Jack Dior, after the rapper’s own Cactus Jack Foundation. The first drop will likely appear next month, but would it have any pull? There is no doubt that, there would be those shoppers who will still bite not matter how contentious the sale of such a collaboration would be. The question is, how would Dior play down the fact they paired with a performer whose concert reportedly resulted in the death of nine people and who apparently went on singing even when attendees were screaming for the show to be stopped? Or is it too late in the progression of the production of the line to stop now? According to a WWD report two days ago, Dior is merely “evaluating the situation”.

It is often said that Travis Scott’s style “is as popular as his music”, admired globally, but no one can say with certainty that his talent in design is tantamount to that of his music

Dior’s predicament, if it sees itself in one, does open the postern into the persistent creative pair-ups between luxury brands and mega-successful stars that frequently ditch true design for brazen hype. It is often said that Travis Scott’s style “is as popular as his music”, admired globally, but no one can say with certainty that his talent in design is tantamount to that of his music. Or, that he understands what it takes to put a piece of clothing—any—together. The ability to dress himself in some semblance of what is deemed fashion overrides practical ability or manual dexterity. Popularity alone is often enough for brands to want to be associated him, from Bape to Saint Laurent. The merchandise, one Gen-Z fan described on Quora, “goes higher and higher in value just like brands like Supreme. Our generation loves that. We love status symbols.” That Travis Scott is a “status symbol by which the social standing of the possessor of his goods could be derived/assessed is not unusual—even if staggering—when consumers are eager to surrender to the power and prevarication of social media influence.

Mr Scott’s status in fashion is so lofty that collaborator Nike would even allow him to tamper with the Swoosh, a trademark so entrenched in popular consciousness that it would normally be considered sacrilegious to meddle with. In the Air Jordan 1 and the Air Max 1, to name just two, the Swoosh is placed as a mirror image on the sides of the shoes—the longer, narrower end does not emerge from the heel notch, close to the collar. While no Tinker Hatfield, he was able to have leeway to do as he pleases. It did not occur to Nike that it could perhaps be more convincing if he were to create a totally new silhouette, like mentor Kanye West has with the Yeezys. Could that be indication that Travis Scott has scant design flair?

Most alluring for both fans and some members of the media is his personal style. Last year, Esquire called him “a tastemaker par excellence second to none”. The taste, CR Fashion Book wrote, “typically features vintage t-shirts, denim, baseball cap, relaxed joggers, oversized jackets with bold brands like the Louis Vuitton LV logo or bright colors like pink and Nike sneakers”. Esquire also stated that Mr Scott “tends to stick to a few variations on the same theme when it comes to getting dressed, at least casually”. How all that is sufficient to allow him to be a trendsetter or dip his hands in the process of design is not clear. As the Rolling Stones correctly noted, “for close to a decade, Travis Scott has carefully positioned himself squarely at the center of hype”. He barely traipses into the unconventional, let alone groundbreaking. For sure, no dresses/skirts of A$AP Rocky or Andre 3000 for him. At the 2019 “Camp” Met Gala, he skipped the theme entirely, appearing in a brown Dior top and pants, with what appeared to be military webbing. Camp? Perhaps to those going from Ah Boys to Men.

From left to right: Cactus Jack Dior spring/summer 2022, Nike X Travis Scott X Fragment T-shirt, and Nike X Travis Scott Air Max 270 ‘Cactus Trails’. Photos: Respective brands

Although Mr Scott is known to encourage reckless behaviours during his performances and has, in fact, faced two charges before the Dior show in June for “disorderly conduct”, the French house did not see that their star collaborator’s brush with the law would be problematic or a blemish to their impeccable couture suits. In 2015, Mr Scott had allegedly urged his unthinking fans to climb over barricades at the Lollapalooza music festival in Chicago, leading the repetitive shout, “we want rage”. According to media reports, the scene was so tumultuous that the police had to detain the rapper after just five minutes into his performance, but he fled. He eventually pleaded guilty to the charges. In 2017, during a concert in Arkansas, he again encouraged “rage”—so rapidly it escalated that the police accused him of “inciting a riot”. Just weeks after that, one of his concerts in Manhattan was said to be so riotous that a fan fell off a balcony and was left paralyzed after suffering a fractured vertebrae. Mr Scott was often quoted saying in past performances, “it’s not a show until someone passes out”. Does that apply to the fashion he peddles? Is raging and the resultant injuries, if not death, compatible with the culture of clothes?

Despite his disturbing track record, no one anticipated the tragedy of Astroworld. Earlier that fateful day, before the 500,000 concert goers stormed the NRG Park, Mr Scott released a single ironically called Escape Plan in which he rapped, “but wait, it opened gates and this shit just start paradin’, olé (Let’s go)”. While we are not certain what “it” refers to, the rest of the sentence seems to preempt the disaster that struck Astroworld. As much as this is considered a hackneyed view, rap music does seem to laud destructive behaviour. Mr Scott’s own lyrics don’t negate violence and such. In the 2018 release Sicko Mode, Drake used the expression to introduce his friend in the song: “Young La Flame, he in sicko mode”. The phrase, it is believed, refers to the rager mentality that Mr Scott encourages (his fans are known as “sickos”), with clear consequence now. But more than that, death was suggested too: “And they chokin’, man, know the crackers wish it was a noose”.

Born Jacques Bermon Webster II, Travis (also TRavi$) Scott and his rap contemporaries make and break in equal measure. However, some, such as Mr Scott, just more destructively than others. Stars are cancelled for saying and doing stupid things, but he, for whom inciting his fans to “free the rage” characterise him as a performer, is often lauded. In fact, after the Arkansas drama in 2017, he dropped a T-shirt on his website with those three words printed on the back. Unsurprisingly, they sold out. Now ensconced in his Houston “retreat”, Mr Scott seems to be waiting for the rage of the community to abate. How did he, a college dropout, become this powerful? Not that much, in fact, is known about him other than the rebelliousness with a rock-star stance that seems to have served him in good stead. Uncontrollable is a credo, a virtue, a merit. But, if social media is to be believed, many are now ready to denounce the unstoppable rager-rapper. Is Dior, then, brave enough to douse La Flame? And rip out Cactus Jack?

Illustration and collage: Just So

Travis Scott: Before This Shoe Drops

La Flame’s latest collaboration with Nike is overshadowed by the shocking deaths at his concert in Texas. But it won’t be doused

Three days ago, reports appeared that this Nike X Travis Scott Air Max 1 will launch in the middle of next month. The autumnal colours are expected to be a hit for this iteration of the Nike classic, as sneakerheads are also drawn to the impertinent mirror image of the Swoosh on the side of the shoe. Before Nike could even list the sneaks on their SNKR site, a tragedy related to Mr Scott unfolded in Houston, Texas earlier today (evening, US time). At the music event Astroworld Festival, the headlining show of Mr Scott, also the event organizer, saw an attendance of 50,000 people swarm the sold out mega-show, according to CNN. Tragedy struck past 9pm when ardent concert-goers who thronged the stage, surged forward, crushing people in the front. At least eight have been reported dead, with scores of people injured, including a child believed to be aged 10.

Initial reports stated that even before the deadly crush, attendees “were rushing through a VIP entrance, knocking metal detectors and sometimes other people” earlier, as CNN described. Videos shared online showed near-stampede: people dashed forward impetuously, with the same determination to get ahead as those waiting behind doors of stores on the eve of Thanksgiving to be the first to take advantage of the Black Friday sales. There were already reports of injury (even fights) during this early part of the annual music Festival. It is not certain what the rush was for or if the concert had already started and these people were late.

Travis Scott stopping his performance. Screen grab: CNN

According to the BBC, Mr Scott had “stopped multiple times during his 75-minute performance” when he saw the potentially devastating crush. He had also asked the security to help. But, things escalated too quickly and the emergency resources were, according to local police, “overwhelmed”. Netizens, however, thought that the rapper did not do enough. Many believed that he should have halted his performance altogether after seeing even the slightest problem. Why did he allow the show to go on for that long (this excludes the “30-minute countdown” before the appeared on stage during which the pushing already intensified)”? Videos started appearing on social media showing the audience chanting “stop the show”(one even revealed a young woman climbing up to a platform on which a crew or cameraman was standing and saying the same thing), but the consumate performer continued to sing and urged his audience to make the “earth shake”, as reported by Reuters. Others blamed the ongoing pandemic: “people were desperate to live again”, one commentator wrote on Facebook.

As more of what happened came to light, attention, too, was drawn to Mr Scott’s own record of ensuring safety when it comes to the unruly audience in his concerts. Back in 2015, the rapper was arrested and charged with “disorderly conduct” after he encouraged attendees of Lollapalooza (another music fest) to “climb over security barricades and storm the stage”, according to Rolling Stone. The father of Kylie Jenner’s daughter Stormi further incited the crowd with chants of “we want rage”. He was again arrested after a 2017 Arkansas concert when that “rage” was also vehemently encouraged. In his 2018 song Stargazing, which referenced Astroworld, he even rapped, “it ain’t a mosh pit if it aint’t injuries”(his mosh pit, according to Forbes, is “a febrile atmosphere Scott stoked from the stage”), adding, “I got ’em stage divin’ out the nosebleeds”. In rap speak, the highest seats in a stadium are referred to as the nose bleed sections. His fans—he calls them “ragers”—would jump from these elevations and literally suffer from nose bleeds. It is also possible that he was referencing a New York City show when a fan was pushed off a three-story balcony—he was paralysed.

Kim Jones and Travis Scott in a publicity photo shared by Mr Jones after the Dior menswear spring/summer 2022 show in June. Photo: mrkimjones/Instagram

It is hard to say how this latest “mass casualty incident”, as authorities have called it, will impact the many fashion-related products with Travis Scott’s name stamped on them that will be up for grabs. As of now, the Air Jordan 1 Low that came from the Nike X Travis Scott X Fragment trinity in August—“the collaboration to end all collaborations, according to Highsnobiety—is asking for more than USD2,000 in the resale market, a staggering 100 times more than the original retail price of USD150. Hip-hop stars have become far too powerful, not just through the music they make, but also the wide range of ridiculously hyped products linked to them, never mind the controversy they have stirred. We are not referring only to concert merchandise. Apart from the ongoing collaboration with Nike, Mr Scott has also paired with Dior, an upgrade and a highlight of his fashion career. He gratefully referred to Mr Jones on Instagram as “my bro 5 (sic) life”.

In fact, his tie-ups with popular brands go back to 2016 when his name appeared atop A Bathing Ape in the limited-edition pieces of Baby Milo tees. In fact, they span the high- and low-brow—last year’s with McDonald’s being the more accessible. While fashion folks are divided over whether there is truly a wow factor to his personal style, or whether he’s a taste-maker or a hype-maker, Travis Scott—“one of rap’s most ambitious figures”, as The New York Times described him—is doing everything to put himself up there, god-like, so that devotees, unable to be satiated by sneakers and such, can bask in his mighty presence—only this time, deadly. Are fans no longer able to tell the difference between scoring kicks and getting kicked? Or, must the show, amid people dying, really go on?

Updated: 7 November 2021, 8am

Product photo: Nike. Photo illustration: Just So

Compatriots Collaborate

Following their success with Nike, Sacai and Undercover remain in bed without the footwear giant

After the very recent launch of the Nike X Sacai X Undercover LDWaffle, which, as with others before the present release, is unattainable, the two Japanese brands reveal that they are collaborating on their own. Yes, without Nike. The two are on their own, in their very hometown. This time, they have come together to create a tiny capsule of clothing, specifically hoodie/track top and matching pants, very much a product category Nike covers, and, under the Nikelab sub-label, does so very well. It is not clear why Sacai and Undercover have chosen athletic wear to express their combined aesthetic sense. Undercover has an existing line with Nike since 2010, dedicated to running: Gyakusou. We can only guess that Sacai and Undercover are catering to demand for luxury sports fashion.

But what’s truly unusual is that the items—in one style for the top and jogger, and three colours for each set—are not only exclusive to Japan (available, in fact, to the rest of the world via Undercover’s web store.), but are available to order only. According to Japanese media, they are “made-to-order”, but not bespoke. It is likely that the clothes are made when they have received the order. Both brands consider this retail exercise as “limited sale”. This is unusual as sportswear rarely, if ever, is sold in such a way. Local reports also stated that, “sales will end as soon as the maximum number of reservations is reached”. Thankfully, no raffle!

This is not the first time the two Japanese brands have collaborated. More recently, both worked on a “two-phase” collab that saw both brands spice up the Sacai MA-1 bomber jacket and a leather rider’s jacket. Now, the tracksuits, inspired, according to the brands, by the LDWaffle that was released two days ago, is issued as the two-piece item (sold separately) by the brands. It also sports a new logo that features Underground designer Jun Takahashi’s love for retro space crafts, such as flying saucers. Colour-blocking and a touchy of cartoon-y whimsy are perhaps just the stuff to lure those who can’t get their hands on those shoes. However hard they tried.

Photos: Sacai X Undercover

Close Look: Uniqlo X White Mountaineering

Can an outer-only capsule arouse shoppers’ appetite, especially when many are not likely to be travelling?

Under normal circumstances and weather, many of us do not buy outerwear. Sure, hoodies or windbreaker for the cinema and lecture theatres are still flying off the shelves, but a padded coat is unlikely to arouse our urge to aquire protection against the cold for our bodies. Layering to keep warm is unlikely on anyone’s mind right now, not when even night-time temperatures these days are around 30 degrees celsius. So when we checked out Uniqlo’s latest tie-up with compatriot brand White Mountaineering, we were disappointed that there was nothing we could justifiably buy (who is spending indescrimately these days?). Sure, we already knew it would be for-winter collection, but we couldn’t help being let down.

The ten-piece capsule for men, women, and kids comprises mostly of outers, designed clearly for weather conditions nowhere near ours. Even the pullovers are in fleece, which for a freezing movie hall is still too warm. At the launch of the collection last Thursday, it was not as busy as it was for other such debuts. We saw a few self-declared White Mountaineering fans (we asked!), but many walked away without buying. One young fellow told us, disappointment thick in his voice, “Although the prices are not really high, it still doesn’t make sense for me to buy something I won’t be wearing any time soon”.

Uniqlo, we suspect, hopes that some of us in this part of the world would buy the pieces to keep. But winter wear takes up space and another coat to be stored is additional capacity, assuming we have, used up. Still, if you need to pick one standout buy, we’d say go for the WPJ Fleece Oversized Jacket. Unfortunately, this is for guys only. At a quick look, it could pass off as a varsity jacket. But look closely, the combination of fleece body and a poly-sherpa (fleece) panel on the bodice, with two rows of piping that are parallel to the zipper closure and frames the neckline, creates a fetching twofer effect.

What could against WM’s favour is the availability of other lines within the Uniqlo store, namely the Christophe Lemaire-led U sub-brand and the return of +J (possibly the last collection), both with more fetching coats and such, but more importantly, with items that can be worn here, such as shirts and blouses. And those ubiquitous U oversized tees. That is not even counting the women’s lines with Theory and Ines de la Fressange. If you really want something truly wearable and, perhaps more importantly, with unabashed WM branding, just hop next door and consider their second collaboration with Fila.

What is also puzzling, in terms of timing, perhaps, is that the White Mountaineering pairing with Uniqlo appears at the same time as Fast Retailing’s other brand GU’s more compelling romance—with the hot label Undercover. This tie-up’s first offerings were launched in March for the spring/summer season and were quickly sold out wherever there is a GU store. Perhaps, here, the consolation is that GU is not available. That is clearly one competitor less.

White Mountaineering X Uniqlo is available in Uniqlo Global Flagship Store, Orchard Central. Photos: Zhao Xiangji

This Is How It Looks

The latest iteration of the Comme des Garçons X Gucci bag is uncharacteristically simple

The bag’s released was teased on Gucci’s Instagram page and on the brand’s new e-store Vault. On the webpage, the illustration of the latest iteration of the Comme des Garçons X Gucci tote, simply called the Shopper, sported flashing stripes in yellow, red, green and purple as mock-up of the print/pattern to come. We had expected something very much in the vein of what Gucci has been doing: flowery. But, as it turns out, it is something far more in common with Balenciaga’s Paper Bag tote. It is in plain black and could look somewhat sinister. The recognisable red-and-green Gucci Web stripe runs vertically down the middle of the bag, obscuring the centre portion of the Comme des Garçons logotype, printed in white. It is a smart-looking bag that bears more of the CDG aesthetic than Gucci. But, according to CDG’s own description, “the limited-edition tote represents the perfect embodiment of two mutually distinctive aesthetics driven by the desire to explore innovative visions”.

To us, the placement of the striped strap requires no nerve-wrecking exercise in design. The CDG bag itself is one from the special edition that was created for the 2017 Tokyo pop-up event called Black Market. The retail event, which was later brought to London, featured products and collaborations (no, Gucci is not in the picture for this one) that are only available at the Black Market. One of them is this black shopper, itself an update of the original that was first introduced a few years back, in the exact light brown typical of shopping bag, but totally encased in PVC. It was rather typical of CDG to use materials so associated low-cost merchandise and elevate them to something altogether more deluxe. The style was so popular that it was later also extended to the Comme des Garçons SHIRT line, this time as a north-south tote.

Left to right: the three versions of the same tote, 2018, 2019, and 2021

The first Comme des Garçons X Gucci shopper appeared in 2018, as part of the year-end Friends and Comme des Garçons holiday collection. The tote took quite a few by surprise since it was not thought at the time that the two brands were a natural fit. But it was soon sold out. A year later, the collaboration was reprised. The form of the second bag remained the same, but this time the brown paper inner, behind the clear PVC shell, was printed in rows of floral motif that looked like pencil drawing. It is also rather evocative of vintage wallpaper. Now, the bag looked like it did finally bagged half of some semblance of Gucci-ness.

According to the communication material of the collab, the latest black tote “closes the circle of this experimental process”. Does it mean that this is the last of the pairing? If you’ve missed the earlier two, do you need to rush off somewhere to get one? When we saw the new version previewed, so to speak, on Vault, we thought this would not be available to those who are not living in one of the 25 countries that Vault ships to. But it is available here at the CDG store, as well as DSMS. Question is, at S$820 a pop, would it be too much to pay? When the first CDG solo-branded plastic-wrapped shopper was introduced half a decade ago, it could be had for S$200+. Even last year’s version, a collab with Futura, went for S$580. Have prices all round really shot up? Or are we just being budget conscious in times of a still-ranging pandemic?

Comme des Garcons X Gucci shopper, SGD820, is now available at Comme des Garcons and DSMS. Photos: Comme des Garcons

They’re Pairing Again

Gucci and Comme des Garçons are teaming up once more. Who’s thrilled?

They are back in the act. The on/off union was just teased on Gucci’s Instagram Stories, with the announcement that the Kering super brand is pairing with indie Comme des Garçons on a tote bag. This will be available exclusively on Gucci’s dedicated online store, Vault, where its merchandise is presently not available to the shoppers in a massive part of Asia, except—unsurprisingly—Japan. A collaboration with a Japanese brand, therefore, makes sense. In fact, Gucci has engaged Japanese customers rather actively even when the country was under a state of emergency due to COVID-19 . In August, they opened a pop-up in Kyoto, sited in a historical house. Then, there was the final Asian stop of the exhibition Gucci Garden Archetypes (after Hong Kong and Shanghai) in Tokyo. And later this month, the capital’s first Gucci restaurant Gucci Osteria da Massimo Bottura Tokyo is slated to open on the 28th. The makers of the Marmont has been busy in the Land of the Rising Sun.

And now the tote. This is not the first time that CDG is collaborating with Gucci on what’s essentially a shopping bag. Back in 2018, as part of the year-end Friends and Comme des Garçons holiday collection, the two brands released an east-west tote based on the CDG plastic-encased paper bag that had enthralled fans of the brand, and was soon very much copied (even compatriot Beams later did a version with Disney!). Gucci’s part of the coupling is the house’s red and green stripes, applied vertical in the middle of the bag, which quickly sold out. Unsurprising then that there is a repeat, this time available through Gucci’s own (online) retail outlet. It is not not known yet what graphic the bag would sport this time, other that the stripes (the flashing illustration on IG, we believe, is just a mock-up). This collaboration has, in fact, been rather baffling to us. What is the likelihood that a serious/enthusiastic CDG follower would at the same time be just as mad about Gucci to want something—anything—with the name or logo of the two together in one item? Or, are we living in truly not-quite-discerning times?

Gucci X Comme des Garçons bag will be available at The Vault from 15 Oct 2021. Screen grab: Gucci/Instagram

CDG Does Mickey

Or, perhaps, the world’s most famous mouse can’t resist the charms of CDG?

As avant-garde as Comme des Garçons is, the brand is not opposed to collaborating with highly commercial names such as Disney. Their CDG sub-brand has just announced a pairing with Mickey Mouse for a capsule that is skate-inspired (read: loose silhouettes). This is not their first association with Disney, nor is this the first time they have teamed up with cartoons. Under the Japan-only Edited line, we remember, they have worked with Marvel Comics on T-shirts featuring the Silver Surfer (and possibly Spiderman) in late 2000. On the marketing communication front, there was the work of Katsuhiro Otomo (manga fans would know him to be behind Akira) in 2013. But tapping the world of comics—or manga—is very different from dalliances with Disney. One would entice hypebeasts, the other would not.

Still, the Disney association has not impacted Comme des Garçons’s generally left-field leaning, yet. If they have survived, gasp, Frozen (in 2014) via the popular Play, Mickey is not going to mar the image of the just-as-commercial CDG line. And even less so, now that Rei Kawakubo has introduced Mickey’s mate Mini for her tribute dress, created in honour of Alber Elbaz a few days ago. Never mind that for many fans, the joining of forces between a (still) largely indie brand with a global entertainment corporation is rather disappointing. Perhaps, some cartoons are best left to Uniqlo.

To dumbfound fans even further, the collection of white/grey/black pieces have none of the usual topsy-turvy mash-up when it comes to graphics. There is the deconstructed face of Mickey and the rotate-right placement, and (for the hoodie) a tight crop of Mickey’s foot on a skateboard, but are those enough to appease fans and followers who are exposed to more? To be certain, CDG is an entry-level line. It does not need to be too outré, as as long as the three-letter logotype is placed conspicuously somewhere on the garment (this time, in the rear), in it full-sized, bold-faced, look-here glory.

CDG X Mickey Mouse is available at DSMS. Photo: CDG/Disney