Close Look: Marni X Uniqlo

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Visited: Gucci X Adidas Pop-Up

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

By Lester Fang

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ready To Be Totally Covered?

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

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

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

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

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

Balenciaga Is Bullish

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

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

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

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

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

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

Nike’s Next

…designer collaboration will be with Jacquemus

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

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

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

Facing Fendace

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Embracing The Offbeat

Uniqlo takes a road less travelled with Marni

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

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

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

Banned (In Thailand): Lisa And Chivas

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

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

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

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

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

Photo: Chivas Regal

A Ban Won’t Shut Him Up

Kanye West’s use of Instagram was disallowed for 24 hours after he posted something racially insensitive. That, regretfully, won’t coax him into speaking with some vestige of grace

The Instagram ban of Kanye West for a mere full day, won’t cause the rapper to suffer much, if he suffered at all. That 24-hour ban is expired now. Mr West is probably planning his next textual attack, never mind that he was already told that what he posted about his estranged wife (they are not divorced yet!) was harassment and her boyfriend Pete Davidson, cyber bullying. And one of the persons who pointed those out, The Daily Show host Trevor Noah, was hit back with a racial slur, which prompted IG to put in place that brief, hardly-a-deterrent ban, even if that post was quickly deleted by the author. Why would a mere day’s suspension of his favourite social media be enough to encourage good online behaviour for a fellow who does not care about such things, in the least?

Online, as on the streets, some people are just more entitled than others. Celebrities, especially so, as they are often given no limit to bad behaviour, online or off. Kanye West can be nasty at the Grammy’s, but who remembers? If they do, they recall with fondness. Despite his repeated attacks on not just the two major targets of the present, many fans still consider him “great”. “Great for Gap”, went one fervid support. While it is true that the disapproval of Mr West’s abusiveness has been expressed on the Gap social media pages, there are also many—far more—who ask the clothier to continue to support him: “Don’t cancel Ye”, “da best thing that ever happened to yu (sic)”, “here for Ye”, “Ye is harmless man always like that when y’all will understand him?”, the simple “we love Kanye” and the adoring “Kanye is King”.

Or, could it be possible that, in Mr West’s case, badness is good for business?

Should Gap budge? They probably won’t. Ditto for Adidas and Balenciaga, whose Demna Gvasalia is so chummy with Mr West that it is unlikely the designer would call the rapper out for his deplorable ways, or stop dressing him. Any fashion label linked to Kanye West has only fared well despite past transgressions. Just because they didn’t involve his now-single wife (they are not divorced yet!) does not mean there was no harassment targeted at women. Or, could it be possible that, in Mr West’s case, badness is good for business? Because in that package of wrongs, is an amalgam of talents? As he once said (on Sway In The Morning Radio Show, 2013), “I am Warhol! I am the number one most impactful artist of our generation. I am Shakespeare in the flesh. Walt Disney, Nike, Google.”

Delusional, some may call that, but Mr West believes in his own greatness and strengths, and has displayed them in full public view, augmenting his self-importance. All that publicness can’t escape scrutiny and being talked about, whether audibly or not. A big part of his success is that he’s discussed, whether flatteringly or otherwise. The multi-channel/platform chatter in its unfiltered, antagonistic glory is, perhaps, what Gap wants, even craves. In as much as we are living in the grasp of what author/Harvard professor Shoshana Zuboff calls “surveillance capitalism”, we are also in the grip of scrutinised social existence. Kanye West may say as he pleases and get away with it, but Gap—and the rest—may not merely associate with who they please and not account for their deliberate action. Either way, we are watching. Fashion deserves better.

Update (21 March 2022, 9am): The Los Angeles Times reported that “Kanye West has been pulled off the performance lineup for the upcoming Grammy Awards due to his recent erratic online behavior”. Trevor Noah Twittered, “I said counsel Kanye not cancel Kanye.” Even the leader of his own Sunday Service needs counselling

Illustration: Just So

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