Can the little red dot stand shoulder to shoulder with the little black dress? A native islander and friends look at fashion (and such) in Singapore, and, occasionally, among her neighbours, and a little further afield
Kanye West is partial to strange, bulky, indefinable shapes for his Yeezy line of footwear. To me, they often look like they are conceived to be worn by animals or, in the case of their weird Foam RNNR, some alien being. His latest, a pair of winter boots, is no exception. Padded, looking almost like a tree stump, with the stitches visible to create parallel curves, they appear to be more at home in elephantidae family than his group of ardent supporters, who considers Mr West a design god of sort. Called the YZY NSLTD BT (again, clearly a vowel-averse moniker. Yes, Yeezy Insulated Boot), it sports a mid-sole that looks like it was nicked from the Foam RNNR’s wavy, three-holes-to-the-side exo-skeleton support. Forgive the cliché: Kindred soles?
This BT is part of Yeezy Season 8, which was shown in Paris last March, if you still remember that. My memory is hazy, but I do recall now that the collection was not memorable. But, somehow, I am reminded of the perforamce of the designer’s daughter North West at the end of the show. Frankly, I don’t even know if Yeezy 8 was ever released (I checked with a New York contact, and he, too, has no idea). Still, here we are with a boot from that very season. The padded foot covering, likely in nylon, is itself not rewriting the aesthetic for those you pull on to trudge through snow. Margiela’s Puffer Snow Boots, for example, is Hulk-like, but is more discernible as footwear for human feet. But if Mr West’s current predilection for covering up and obscuring his body is any indication, he could also be keen on wearing boots that, from afar, might be mistaken for those of Yeti. Cool or crazy, I can’t say.
The YZY NSLTD BT “Khaki” is expected drop next month for USD250.Photo: Yeezy Mafia
Sean Wotherspoon is not the first to plonk a mini-bag on a pair of sneakers, and he won’t be the last
Sean Wotherspoon X Disney X adidas Originals Superturf Adventure SW
Who’d guess that sneakers will one day get their companion bags? Or, as sneakerhead-turn-retailer-turn-designer Sean Wotherspoon is wont to say, “No waaaay, duuude”. Our kicks these days must serve more than what they were originally designed for: sports. As fashion items, brands and collaborators need to do more to them. They can be accessorised! But, it is not good enough to hang useless danglies on them a la Off-White. There must be more that can be attached to a pair of sneakers, but not something pseudo-useful such as Mason Margiela’s iPhone holder strapped on to boots. Sean Wotherspoon, co-founder of Round Two, “the streetwear empire”, as Vice calls it, has hooked up with Disney and adidas Originals (collabs these days are a triumvirate) to conceive the Superturf Adventure, which as the name suggests is for multiple terrains. This is, according to social media blurbs, a sustainable shoes that is “vegan”. But perhaps what is most attention-seeking is the pouch that, like a kiltie, obscures the shoelace.
It is still hard to determine the usefulness of a little bag placed down there. What does one store inside that does not need to be within reach? Isn’t a similar pouch more practical if hung to a belt loop with, say, the aid of a carabiner? Bending down to one’s feet to tie undone shoelaces is an action that attracts no attention. But, reaching out southwards to retrieve something stored away in a pouch above the foot is not only odd, it’s a bodily move few would not call elegant. Assassins might conceal a dagger in the ankle of boots, but fashion types hardly have anything to put away so far down the leg—not even unattractive Trace Together tokens! SOTD contributor Shu Xie told us that the pouch is for keeping money on days when one does not wish to carry a wallet. Mothers often tell us not to carry our wallets conspicuously as doing so is tempting to would-be thieves. Perhaps to the three brands, money on feet—an area of the body usually considered unclean, and barely acceptable to the average nose—is less tantalising or rousing to the discriminating stealer?
Mr Wotherspoon could, in fact, be considered late to the bag-on-kicks club. In March, New Balance launched the ‘Utility’ version of the X-Racer, an already handsome shoe, now equipped with two flap-top stow-away pouches—in full-grain leather (including the upper)—on each side of each shoe, like a saddle, which means you would be walking about with a total of four pouches on your feet! The mini-bag is larger on the lateral side than on the medial side, which also comes with a zipper pocket on the upper. Plenty of storage, as it appeared, but, again, what can we real carry in them, all? The E-Race Utility came in three colourways, but the white is especially striking for the Hender Scheme-ish tan pouches and the similarly hued trail shoes-inspired outsole.
New Balance X-Racer Utility
Nike Jordan LS Slide
Prada Wheel Re-Nylon high-top
Perhaps it was Nike that foretold the future when, in May 2018, they released the Benassi JDI ‘Fanny Pack’, a slide, with an actual bum bag in place of the wide strap. Back then, we thought the fanny pack on bare feet to be an idea better on paper than on the metatarsus. After all, the waist bag was not going to include the foot bag as member of the family. Looks like we could be wrong now that fully-functional pouches are made specifically for footwear. Before the Superturf Adventure, there was Nike’s Jordan LS Slide. This too came with a removable pouch, or what the Swoosh distinguishes as a “stash pocket“ (that’s not the only detachable part. The slide can be given a heel strap so that it becomes a sandal!). Compared to Mr Wotherspoon’s fancier version (which includes elasticised slots and a ring) for Adidas, this pouch is rather basic, something national servicemen might recognise as a rifle magazine holder.
In fact, one of the earliest to incorporate little bags to their footwear is Prada. The “catwalk” Monolith mini bag lug dole combat boot, for example, is not only eye-catching, it certain draws your attention to the logo-ed oblong bag strapped to the side of the ankles. The idea seems to have come from the brand’s bags, such as the Re-Nylon shoulder bag, which comes with a similar pouch that can be attached to the shoulder strap. Their latest high-tops under the Re-Nylon series similarly spot the “mini bag”, which itself looks like something you can buy separately from their store’s accessory counter. The success of these unusually-placed pouches has even prompted Prada to include them on unlikely items such as gloves! Unsurprisingly, serial imitator Steve Madden has their version with the pouch-strapped Tanker-P boots too. Expect other brands to follow in no time.
Sean Wotherspoon X Disney X adidas Originals Superturf Adventure SW’s availability here is not known yet. Nike Jordan LS Slide, S$129, is available at nike.com. Prada Wheel Re-Nylon high-top sneakers, $1,980, is available at Prada stores. Product photos: respective brands
Hong Kong’s premium shoe emporium will close for good at the end of this month. But their parent store in Takashimaya Shopping Centre remains
The tell-tale signs on the front side of Scotts Square were there, way back when Hermès closed in 2019, followed by Delvaux, the Belgian bag’s flagship store and then Alexander McQueen’s—this year. The mall, one of the smallest in Orchard Road, seems to be shedding its high-end image. A former marketing staff with Wheelock Properties once told us that they would be filling their spaces “with exclusive luxury brands not found elsewhere”. The Business Times once described it as “home of luxury”. But with the debut of the LA eatery Eggslut next week (official opening on the 9th) in the corner where Hermès (and Mosscape Concept after that) vacated, are we looking at a less “exclusive” image? A long queue was seen this morning when they opened for “family and friends”. Long is expected when Eggslut finally opens to the egg-loving public. Is F&B the direction Scotts Square is going, especially with crowd-pulling names? Could this be the reason why Pedder on Scotts is closing—they no longer fit?
Pedder on Scotts’s “It’s hard to say goodbye” closing down sale (“up to 80% off”, but not everything is marked down to clear) started sharing on social media this week (the store’s website and Instagram pages are no more). We are not surprised by the closure announcement. Since the start of the pandemic, the store, occupying the whole floor of the three-storey mall, has been looking a tad less glorious than their former self. Some mall leasing managers we know were already speaking of a “massive space to be available in Scotts Square soon”. News of their closing travelled fast. Although it is stated on their communication material that opening hours are from “10am to 6pm daily”, the store welcome shoppers an hour later—“open eleven (sic)”, a staffer said brusquely when we asked her if they were closing down. By 10.30, people were milling in the corridor, with the crowd concentrated at Coffee Academics, the atas Hong Kong cafe situated in the Scotts Road-facing corner of the floor. When asked why the store would be closing, another staffer, a lot chirpier, told us it’s because of “landlord change”.
We’re not sure what to make of that surprising reveal. Scotts Square has been, for as long as we remember, a part of Wheelock Properties. A staffer in the mall told us that “the place is now under Wharf”, which is really Wharf Estates, a subsidiary of the esteemed, 135-year-old Hong Kong-based Wharf Real Estate Investment Company that is behind popular HK shopping destination such as Harbour City and Time Square. Known to the staff of the mall here as Wharf, the operator is, according to their website, “formerly known as Wheelock Properties (Singapore)”. Scotts Square and Wheelock Place are two of Wharf Estates’ commercial properties on our island. Is dropping the Wheelock name as owner of the mall reason to belief that there is a “landlord change”? Or is Wharf Estate truly rejigging their tenant mix so dramatically that staff of their lessees believe some major overhaul is afoot?
Pedder on Scotts opened in October 2015. The massiveness of the store—20,000 sqf—and the breadth of the merchandise were seen as a strong boost to luxury retail here. It was an emporium—specialty store, really—unlike any SG had seen, however large our consumption of luxury footwear. One fashion stylist at the store’s opening party, we vividly remember, called the product offering “orgiastic”. Shoe-lovers would not see that as exaggeration. Before the arrival of Pedder on Scotts, the largest standalone footwear haven was parent store On Pedder at Takashimaya Shopping Centre. We were told On Pedder would not close down. The women’s shoes in the Scotts store would move there, but the men’s and the sneakers would not. They will be “discontinued”. It is unclear what the fate of Canada Goose’s boutique in Pedder on Scotts is (Coffee Academics, it seems, will stay). Pedder Red (closed at Takashimaya Shopping Centre), the in-house, pocket-friendly diffusion line, will cease to exist too.
When we spoke to a society lady earlier today, she said that it may not be right to conclude, as many have, that Pedder on Scotts is closing because of discouraging sales as a result of the COVID pandemic. “U assume they weren’t doing well, but in reality they were,” she texted us. “Many (socialites) shop there. I have seen them. (They) don’t blink an eye at buying a few pairs at a go. Not unusual for them to spend 1k on a pair and they shop a lot. So on average 3k to 5k.” What did they buy, we wondered. “Dressy heels,” came the quick reply. It may surprise some that heels are selling when Crocs are increasingly popular, even among the fashion set. But, a former magazine editor told us, “Pedder on Scotts has their customers, but how many shiny, glittery heels do ladies need during this pandemic?” To him, price is the store’s undoing: “how to sustain if the selection is always pricey. Sneaker sales can only help so much. (They) need to have a nice (selection) of affordable practical styles as well, no?”
Affordability is increasingly not an issue in the marketing of luxury footwear. Otherwise, Louis Vuitton and the like would resist increasing their prices, repeatedly. What is appreciable of Pedder on Scotts is their attempt at going beyond just running a shoe store, and a static one. Sure, they have introduced us to otherwise alien-to-our-shore brands such as Malone Souliers, Rene Caovilla, Sophia Webster, and Tabitha Simmons, and, for men, Japanese advant-gardiste Yoshio Kubo, but they did broadened their offerings to include exquisite accessories, such as bags (Benedetta Bruzziches) and eyewear (Linda Farrow), and introduced items not-bound-for-feet products, such as the home ware of Fornasetti and the fragrances of Maison Francis Kurkdjian. They have supported local creatives too, staging the Onitsuka Tiger Stripes 50th Anniversary exhibition, featuring the collaborative works of our own designers and media professionals and, also in the same year, invited photographer Mark Law and fashion stylist Jeremy Tan to exhibit their work, as well as the entries of the finalists of Harper’s Bazaar’s NewGen design competition. At Pedder on Scotts, there was community outside the patronage of socialites. We shall miss all that.
Pedder on Scotts will be permanently closed on 26 September 2021. Photos: Chin Boh Kay
Is it reasonable to spend an hour hitting keys on your smartphone repeatedly to score a pair of shoes and not be rewarded?
By Ray Zhang
“OOPS…” went the full-cap message. Is that the best Nike can do? I sat at my desk five minutes to ten, ready to hit my virtual keyboard on my smartphone so as to enter the necessary information to buy myself a pair of LDWaffle x Sacai x Fragment kicks, launched today on Nike’s SNKR site at 10am. At the precise moment, I selected my size, and hit “Add To Bag”. I was then linked to a page where all my purchase details were listed. I filled in my credit card info, and hit purchase. As if I was played by a ghost (which wouldn’t surprise me since this is the seventh lunar month!), I was brought back to the previous page. Not yet discouraged, I repeated this procedure another ten times at least, and finally I got to the page (above) that went “OOPS”! I would spend the next hour going between the page that asked for my shoe size and the one that expressed surprise at its own blunder. In the mean time, my fingers and my mind were begging for mercy. Despite the exercise I give my thumbs daily, this was still too much stress to expect of them.
Is it reasonable to ask anyone to spend an hour on the same page, doing the same thing, hitting the same keys, looking at the same numbers, reading the same “OOPS” message only to come up naught each time, and be filled with deep disappointment at how unpleasant the entire procedure was? When I checked the page at around 1pm, the shoes were “sold out”. It’s inconceivable to me that a company as massive and wealthy as Nike would put their customers through what I went through. And I was not the only one. Another 12 of my friends who tried came away empty-handed and frustrated—and cursing. One of them said to me, “It is wicked that the biggest brand in the world, with all the resources at hand, would do this to their customers.” If indeed one of the basic tenets of good service is never to let your customer wait (let’s not even talk about letting them down), why did Nike put so many of us through the torment? And if we’re more likely to remember a bad customer experience than good, why would Nike not make purchasing their shoes online even slightly more pleasant?
This is not my first time in such a maddening situation. For as long as I have been using the SNKR site to score a pair of shoes—okay, mostly the Nike X Sacai collabs—I would want to scream my lungs out. I knew my chances here would be as slim as the OG Waffle sole, so I entered the Club 21 raffle last week to, well, double my chance. But someone later told me I would also be wasting my time as Club 21 would likely avail whatever stocks they have to their top-spenders, and I am not one of them. Undeterred, I submitted my details for the raffle. Up till ten last night, I did not hear from them. No word this morning either, not a simple “thank you” for participating. However, on Instagram Stories earlier (close to midnight, I believe), they posted a photo of the shoes and the message, “All winners for the Nike X Sacai X Fragment raffle have been contacted via email. Congratulations to all and thank you everyone for joining.” Should I feel better?
Is it possible that when there are more names to a collaboration, the end product would sell better? We might fear the too-many-cooks situation, but brands, especially those seriously trending, are not. In the case of Nike, Fragment Design, and Sacai, three in collaborative mode is the magic number. But how would the extra-name hype increase sales when these collaborative outputs would still be sold in ridiculously limited quantities and priced beyond the reach of the average sneaker lover? We don’t know. As sneaker collabs go, this two-easts-meet-one-west team-up is destined to make big what is already a major hit: the LDWaffle. This time, it is still unmistakably Sacai: double the Swoosh, heel counter, and tongue, and the more obvious the heel wedge, to better let fellow MRT commuters to step on it. But what makes this round of collaboration more desirable is the addition of the third name, spelled out noticeably on the heel wedge. After Fragment Designs, look out for Clot and Undercover, as we have been recently told, courtesy of Edison Chen’s teaser post on Instagram.
Sacai is, of course, the brand name on everyone’s lips these days. No sneaker designer Chitose Abe touches, it appears, does not turn to gold. At least with Nike, that has been the case, starting from the Nike Blazer Mid of 2019. Ms Abe’s former boss Junya Watanabe has, of course, been a long-time Nike collaborator, going back to his debut of the Nike Zoom Haven in 1999 (our favourite is the low-key Super Fly from 2001). At the launch of the Blazer Mid, not many sneakerheads thought Sacai could go as far as Junya Watanabe, but the former did. When the LDWaffle (hybrid of Waffle Daybreak and LDV) appeared in 2020, the sneaker space went berserk. About a year later, the staggering Vaporwaffle, with its gaping heel, sealed the deal and Sacai’s reputation as the collaborator that can produce extreme sneakers that sell was cemented.
That Fragment Design is in the triumvirate is not surprising. Hiroshi Fujiwara’s work with Nike goes back even further: to 2002 when the other threesome—Mr Fujiwara, Tinker Hatfield and Mark Parker (both from Nike) formed HTM (from the initials of their first names) and, later, HTM2, the project that would, hitherto, produce grail-level sneakers. Sneakerheads never get enough of his output, including those under the Air Jordan imprint. Nike’s global director of influencer marketing and collaborations, Fraser Cooke, once said to the media that Mr Fujiwara “has remained relevant for so long because he has good taste and a very acute sense of timing—he’s good at partnering with the right people at the right time.” And that he is a prolific collaborator helps too. The founder of Fragment Design’s other presently-trending collaboration is with Travis Scott, also in partnership with Nike—Air Jordan 1.
For this iteration of the LDWaffle involving Fragment Design, Mr Fujiwara picked a navy, later named Blackened Blue, as the shade of the mesh and suede upper. There’s something almost old-school about the kicks in this colour, a chromatic hush that Nike called “understated”. The heel wedge in white, acting like an underscore, comes with the branding of all three, with Nike’s known simply as ”the classic” (the double Swooches enough to take the place of a single four-letter name?). On the second (bottom) layer of the two tongues, Fragment Design’s logo of the double thunder bolt within a circle is immediately discernible. To fans, this is possibly the most important inclusion above all else. Read, even now, sold out!
Rating: 4.5 out of 5.
LDWaffle x Sacai x Fragment Blackened Blue, SGD249, will be available on the Nike e-store on 24 August 2021, 10am.Product photos: Nike
Looks like Havaianas is able to re-imagine the good ’ol slippers. But when they cost more than S$100, would you jump into a pair?
By Shu Xie
We are a country of lovers of flip-flops. Slippers, as we call them, are footwear of the nation. But would you love them that much if you have to part with close to S$200 for a pair? I would not. To me, there is no such thing as luxury rubber! Yet, Havaianas would have us believe that their new Tradi Zori—launched somewhat quietly here last July—that is mainly a piece of getah the length of your foot has to be copped for the bold, pocket-draining price of S$175. For that amount of money, I could get myself the delightfully clunky Nike Asuna slide (S$69) or the Canyon sandals (S$129). I am not comparing, of course, but if a comparison is to be made—and why not, let’s look within the brand. The regular Havaianas slippers start from S$25, which makes the Tradi Zori a staggering seven times costlier! Some of us do watch how we spend.
To be sure, the new Havaianas slippers are good-looking slippers—very. They are Havaiana’s first new silhouette since the birth of the brand with the unmistakable (and widely copied) Tradicional. As Havaianas fans know well, the brand started after a group of execs from Alpargatas, a 114-year-old Brazilian footwear manufacturer (also behind the fashion label Osklen), visited Japan in the early ’60s. In the Land of the Rising Sun, they encountered the zori, a flat-soled slipper mostly made of straw. So impressed they were with the simplicity of the footwear, and its durability that, on returning home, they went about to create what would be the world’s best-selling slipper (or ‘thong’ as the Australians call it). The first version was named Tradicional and is still in production today.
The Havaianas Tradicional was launched in 1962, and for the next 50-plus years, its shape remained largely unchanged. Until last year, when the Tradi Zori was launched as a collaborative output with high-end Japanese streetwear brand Mastermind (priced at the more tearful S$220). A month later, a series of colour-blocked pairs hit the Havaianas stores. As the name suggests, the new silhouette is based on the zori, but tweaked to reflect Havaianas’s flair with rubber and, with the monochrome styles, to cater to those who’d wear it in an urban setting, rather than, say, at the seaside, with Yohji Yamamoto hakamas, rather than Vilebrequin beach shorts.
One afternoon, when I was looking at the pair produced in collaboration with A Bathing Ape (top) at their freestanding store in Ngee Ann City, a Puma-shod customer wondered aloud to his shopping companion: “How come square toe, huh?” That was a curious question when the Tradi Zori, in fact, has a squared heel. To me, it looks like a Tradicional laid atop a zori-derived, larger sole, complete with an obvious corridor round the edge, as if framing the former, making the slippers look larger than your feet, the way Birkenstocks do too. They are heavy, possibly because of their relative thickness (or perhaps I’m used to the weight of their regular slippers). In black and white for the two styles currently available (including the collab, which, surprisingly, isn’t dearer) and with soft PVC thongs, the Tradi Zori is truly handsome. Sadly, I can’t say the same about the price.
Havaianas Tradi Zori, SGD175, is available at Havaianas, Ngee Ann City. Photo: Zhao Xiangji
Update (14 August 2021, 13:00): Havaianas X A Bathing Ape Tradi Zoris are sold out in stores
Valentino’s beloved sneaker is back. With the help of Craig Green, it is looking its handsome best
Looks like it is through collaborations that you can create winning products. Valentino’s once-popular Rockstud range of shoes, bags, and accessories has had its halcyon days. In recent years, with the popularity of monograms, old and new, on almost anything, details such as studs have less drawing power. Valentino, aware that their cash cow Rockstud needs a makeover or “re-signification”, as the brand calls it, approached the star British men’s wear designer Craig Green to reimagine the sneaker version as footwear that would appeal to guys who are no longer drawn to a surfeit of fancy hardware on their kicks, such as Christian Louboutin’s once all-the-rage Spikes. Valentino calls this collaboration an era-appropriate “cultural exchange”.
Rockstud is almost a sub-brand in itself, much like Nike’s Jordan. Last year, Valentino celebrated its 10th anniversary with an announcement that they would open the Rockstud to chosen creatives to re-imagine the use of the house detail. Mr Green is the first to come onboard, as the “Rockstud X becomes a white canvas for new imaginary landscapes”, according to a press release at that time. Characterised by mainly metal pyramidal studs, Rockstud was an instant hit for Valentino. It’s introduction in 2010 in the form of heeled footwear was received enthusiastically. The almost punk studs contrasted effectively with Valentino’s usually ultra-feminine styles. And then came the Rockrunner, the kicks that would augment the growing obsession with luxury sneakers throughout the 2010s.
Mr Green has made the limited-edition Rockstud less a stud of a shoe. The upper is in surprisingly humble knit that looks rather perforated. With widely placed lacing, it sits on a rubber base that is almost entirely Rockstudded, except that Mr Green has removed any extraneous hardware and worked the studs (now oversized, and in rows and separated by what could be parentheses) as part of the entire sole, making the silhouette sturdy-looking and well grounded. This must the least flashy iteration of the Rockstud so far, yet it’s easily the Batmobile of shoes!
Valentino X Craig Green Rockstud, USD1,295.00. is available in four colours on valentino.com. Product photo: Valentino
Nike’s latest iteration of their classic Air Force 1 is inspired by its namesake goddess. And it is poised to take flight
Nike has released some unusual versions of their Air Force 1 kicks for women. They are usually in colours not typically found in the men’s or in offbeat colour blocking, and so appealing that guys are often disappointed that those for them are left out of the chromatic makeover. Now, it’ll soon be releasing the Air Force 1 in the non-colour of pristine white, plus a little unexpected detail: a slip of a wing on the tongue of the shoe, peeking from beneath the crisscrossed lace. Given the overall ruggedness of one of Nike’s most recognisable kicks, this is a rather delicate touch, like a butterfly beginning to emerge from a chrysalis.
But Nike’s newest kicks are not inspired by a winged insect, rather by a winged goddess, specifically its namesake Greek deity, also known as the (seemingly trending) Winged Victory of Samothrace. Nike calls this version of the AF1 Goddess of Victory, dropping the suggestion of flight appendages in the moniker. Yet this able goddess is known for its visible wings (at least seen in the Hellenistic sculpture that resides in the Louvre). So Nike couldn’t avoid the wings. The tip of one is affixed visibly on the part of the shoe that, ironically, could be hidden under the hems of pants.
This isn’t the first time Nike has dedicated the AF1 to the (Winged) Goddess of Victory. In March, they launched the first version that was unlike anything the brand has done before. The upper of the shoe was given an additional layer. A rather scrunched up, paper-like fabric was sort of ‘pasted’ on top. On it was a blue drawing of the statue as seen in the Louvre. Nike described this as work based on the “folk art of paper cutting”. In fact, we think this version is more unusual and more eye-catching. And it isn’t the first time that wings are attached to sneakers. Back in the 2010s, Jeremy Scott partnered with Adidas (they are reportedly pairing again) to release a basketball shoe known unambiguously as Wings—a cartoonish version attached to the eyelets of the shoe and secured with the laces.
The wings of the AF1 Goddess of Victory is a sheer, exoskeleton appendage that veils the mesh padding of the tongue and extends beyond the tip (the Nike label on the tongue is still there). When worn, we suspect it could be mistaken for the lace trims of some fancy socks! The shoe’s upper comes in Epi leather and has been described as “premium”. It is not yet known if this is natural or synthetic. But if there’s anything a goddess deserves, it’s the real deal.
No release date is currently available. Check nike.com for details. Photos: Nike
Loud, waiting-to-be-stepped-on sneakers may still be selling, but some of us are suffering from fancy footwear fatigue
No matter how we look at the X-Pander, Balenciaga’s new sneakers, they appear to us like kicks trapped in some contraption. Regardless of the angle too. Could this be a shoe ensnared in a rodent trap? Or one stuck in a Brannock device, the instrument used to measure a person’s shoe size? Is the rear elevation a high heel? Or a visible heel lift? Can you walk, let alone run in them? Balenciaga, of course, has been churning sneakers that defy conventional silhouettes, but it has not quite needed superfluous engineering. What’s really with the Track-looking shoe on a hydraulic lift? Or a car jack? Is this hi-tech gone mad? Or as the Chinese would say, zuo huo ru muo (走火入魔, to go overboard)?
With a shoe looking like that, questions naturally plaque the X-Pander. The crucial part: what is the “suspended heel” for? We have not seen the actual shoe, so we can only go by enthusiastic media reports. Apparently when worn, the heel of the X-Pander—mounted on a spring—extends, but take a step and rest your heel, it compresses, and your heel is back to the ground. Up, down, up, down, it goes. What all that mechanical action does for your walk (or run, if you’re so inclined) isn’t really clear. Some reports say that the rear set-up is to “ensure optimal comfort and cushioning”. How true that is can’t be determined by just looking at the pictures.
Already, the fashion press is calling the X-Pander “the next street-style blockbuster”. We’re expecting it to be frighteningly popular, of course, but would it influence the future design of sneaker heels not already changed by Nike X Sacai’s split/gaping version for the Vaporwaffle? When the Balenciaga Triple S was launched in 2017, many thought it was outrageously clunky, but it made other sneaker brands take notice. Dad shoes, as they became known, soon ruled, and more abominable kicks emerged. Every brand with a worthy sneaker had their own take on the Triple S. Huge and bombastic shoes blasted their way into popular taste. After four long years, satiated we really have become. And jelak too.
Balenciaga X-Pander, SGD$1,790, is available at Balenciaga, Paragon.Product photo: Balenciaga. Photo illustration: Just So
“Shorts and slippers aren’t sloppy,” says self-professed “slipper-wearing environmentalist” Ho Xiang Tian.Is that a hurray?
By Raiment Young
Yesterday, in a long-form commentary for CNA, the 25-year-old environmentalist Ho Xiang Tian (何翔天) wrote, “most people complain about Singapore’s erratic weather—it’s hot and humid, or storming (sic) and wet—but no one ever seems to complain about the dress code that amplifies discomfort in Singapore’s weather.” How fascinating it is that an environmental advocate would “talk about how we dress in sunny Singapore”. Mr Ho is the co-founder of LepakInSG, a three-person initiative that offers “a one-stop calendar listing environmental events and activities in Singapore”, as stated in its blog page. By his own admission in the CNA piece, he’s a “slipper-wearing environmentalist”, just as, I suppose, Gandhi was a dhoti-wearing anti-colonial nationalist. Mr Ho’s slippers are, presumably, the mark of identification with the problems of our impoverished Earth, just as the Mahatma’s loincloth was worn to identify with the poor. At rallies, Mr Ho introduces himself—with considerable delight—as “the person who wears slippers and shorts everywhere I go”.
In placing slippers first in that order, it seems to me that Mr Ho is aligning himself with the chin chai (casual, not fastidious, or as one pleases) attitude that is associated with the open footwear. On his Instagram, which he says he doesn’t use, the intro reads, “I wear slippers everywhere”. In doing so, it is possible that he, who only uses Telegram, is giving his LepakInSG movement concordant grassroots leaning. Lepak, as many of us know, is basically loafing around in Malay, and mostly associated with youths. But a more acceptable definition would be to ‘hang out’ or even ‘chill out’, but clearly not doing anything. Singlish.net considers it “a form of enjoyment that is carefree and stress-free”. Foreigners who think we are overworked and mentally pressured might be surprised that, as Mr Ho and his friends posit, we do lepak in SG. The word appears in the Oxford English Dictionary too, where it also means “loiter aimlessly or idly; relax”. LepakInSG, therefore, projects an easy and informal image of the causes it champions. You can do something for the environment by being and looking laid-back.
In his CNA commentary that reads as charmingly as a secondary school composition, Mr Ho positions himself as an outsider. He looks at the office worker from where he can observe inclement weather: outdoor. He observes that “long-sleeved shirts, pants, shoes, suits and heels are mainstays in the CBD, fitting the narrative of Singapore as a serious and slick financial centre of the world.” (LepakInSg, therefore, the antithesis of that?) Office wear—even a fading category of clothing—to him is serious and associated with the business of making and managing money. He continues quite grimly, “this fragile narrative, however, is challenged when a roaring thunderstorm or an unbearable heat wave happens, revealing disgruntled office workers who have gotten soaked in a sudden downpour during their lunch break. Or soaked from sweat just heading to and from a meeting.” I was lost in the comic absurdity and tragedy of that observation. It was even more amusing to think that Mr Ho might have imagined that the staff of the many banks in Raffles Place go to work in shorts and slippers.
Ho Xiang Tian refers to how professionals and office workers in the CBD like to conform to a “dress code” (he repeated it six times!). That they are attired to a set of rules ascribed to circumstances, occasions, and purpose is rather risible when so many travellers to our island (in the halcyon days of travel) note that we often look “super casual” or, as first-time Chinese visitors would say, “超休闲” (chaoxiuxian). This dress code is so unsuited to the vagaries of our equatorial weather that Mr Ho is unable to develop a social, sartorial, and sympathetic relationship with it. “I can’t relate,” he continues to convince readers, “as I go about almost everywhere in slippers and shorts. My renown for that is second only to my reputation as an environmental advocate.” Some of you may chuckle, but Mr Ho clearly takes his image seriously, and is exacting about his skin-baring footwear and bottoms. Casual, as it appears, is crucial.
But Mr Ho does not distinguish between anyhow casual and smart casual. Shorts and slippers aren’t sloppy, indeed. The garment and the footwear themselves are not sloppy; often, the wearers are. Casual is so much the opposite of dressed-up that clothes can be spared from ironing, just as slippers can be freed from cleaning. Nor does he point out the difference between the shorts and slippers for a trip to the neighbourhood bubble tea stall, for an afternoon at the Rail Corridor, or for taking a date to “a great street” Orchard Road. But he isn’t alone. Many, like him, do not acknowledge that shorts and slippers can be neatly unstudied and personably unpretentious, just as they can be comfortable, easy-to-wear, and not draw attention to themselves.
Mr Ho’s attitude towards dress seems to me a reflection of the attitude of a sizeable group of his generation, including many undergrads who consider shorts and slippers truly the best options for campus life. In a 2017 ST article on the extremely casual attire that students adopt in universities, the consensus was that clothes and footwear were picked for practical reasons—“convenience and comfort”. One student from NUS was quoted saying, “our climate is very hot, and sometimes classrooms can be very far apart, so students dress in more comfortable attire such as shorts and slippers.” Mr Ho’s description of what “disgruntled office workers” go through—seemingly on a regular basis—echoes this thought. Many, he is telling us, are a hot mess in our equatorial heat. All the growing technologies that yield moisture-wicking fabrics (Uniqlo’s Airism, for example, among many) and those that are anti-bacterial and odour-free, quick-dry and wrinkle-resistant; the myriad ways of cutting clothes to maximise air flow; as well as ventilation-possible details such as meshed insets and strategically-placed eyelets have somehow escaped the shorts-and-slippers brigade.
I have no objection to slippers, if they are neat and clean, on which feet that are also neat and clean sit. But the reality is that slippers are given the treatment that commensurate with their lowest ranking among footwear. As they tend to be relatively inexpensive, few treat them as they would Yeezys—or the expensively similar. Ardent adopters tend to have somewhat disconnected relationships with their slippers, which are often seen kept apart from their feet. Just observe in any MRT car. And when wearers are seated in a café too; they have the habit of completely distancing the feet from slippers by bringing the legs up close to the waist, or, in some cases, the knees to the chest. People have the tendency to drag their feet in slippers, making the choice of footwear audible to others. The habit possibly explains why the Chinese call slippers tuoxie (拖鞋) or ‘dragging shoes’. Taking the cue from the Chinese, the Peranakans use the identical phrase kasut seret (rather than the Malay kasut capal, the traditional thonged slippers thought to have originated in India [modern versions are known by the English loanword selipar]). Kasut seret originally refers to the Nonya’s beaded kasut manek, but also points to slippers in the post-colonial years.
The need to drag one’s feet when shod in the kasut manek is understandable. These mule-like slip-ons offered no grip to the feet of the wearer. In addition, women wore their kasut manek with long and narrow sarongs, which made steady strides tricky. But today’s young who are outfitted in shorts and slippers—usually thonged, such as the Havaianas—have significantly less restrictions. Yet, it seems that no matter how light or unrestrictive the wearers’ slippers are, many still drag their feet or shuffle. In this instance, the article worn and action taken are, more often than not, sloppy. Mr Ho asks, “What’s wrong with dressing down when no disrespect is meant?” The optics may not appear disrespectful (even that is uncertain since he admits he receives “several emails from event organisers explicitly stating their dress code, to prevent me from sticking out like a sore thumb”), but we can’t be sure that the sound isn’t. It is possible that Mr Ho, who is also a volunteer guide for the Naked Hermit Crabs (a nature-loving group that offers free guided walks along our threatened shores), simply does not see sloppiness. Or, hear it.
Admittedly, Ho Xiang Tian is no fashion commentator. He makes some rather strange (heat-induced?) observations: “we must be the only tropical country where people wear cardigans all day.” Are cardigans the new national obsession the way slippers are? He also notes that “working from home has also made athleisure the mainstay of Big Tech staff around the world, mainstream office wear”. Athleisure may have made office wear even more casual in certain fields, but it hasn’t mainstreamed what many of us don to work. According to a recent report in Sourcing Journal, denim jeans are expected to make a “strong return” as “consumers re-enter the work world and resume their school and social lives, they’ll undoubtedly be looking for something new that’s still comfortable yet gives them the confidence to greet their colleagues, classmates and friends again.” Rather than attribute our consistent poor turn out to lack of interest or flair, fecklessness, or peer pressure, many people blame it on the weather. As they always do.
It is refreshing to see a pair of luxury sneakers not tethered to the bombastic. Loewe’s latest is clearly an ode to the time when sneakers were not “grailed” kicks that sneakerheads furiously hunt down or those that have to be satanised with human blood to be cool and valuable. The newly launched Flow Runner shares the more low-key aesthetics and silhouettes of the athletic shoes of the ’70s, which, for many, was the “the pinnacle of sneaker design”. Those still unable to grasp the phenom known as social media might remember Nike’s Tailwind or New Balance’s 327 (currently quite the deserving rage). Of, if you are of less advanced years, Nike’s also still-issued Air Pegasus. After a few years of flashy and clunky sneakers, it is unsurprising that brands are issuing those that are, shall we say, more sampan than schooner.
What could be an update of the Ballet Runner, the Flow has a welcome elegance about it, and is sleek, unlike the alien-looking clumps, Yeezys. We like the close-to-the-feet fit, and the simple upper of nylon and suede upper in shades of khaki, with the cursive-L monogram positioned on the side of the shoe, as if its military braiding. The not-shy rubber “wave” outsole, probably the longest ever seen on a running shoe, stretches to the rear, up the heel counter and is tucked under the heel notch, while in the front, it covers, in a tapered manner, the toe tip. The back does resemble the New Balance’s 327; it’s a detail that lovers of car shoes might appreciate. But, on a running shoe, we aren’t sure if there is any real advantage. Fashion footwear does not need technical superiority; it just has to look good. The Flow Runner certainly does.
Rating: 4 out of 5.
Loewe Flow Runner, SGD990, is available for men and women at Loewe stores. Photo: Chin Boh Kay
Comme des Garçons sub-brand Play has released a new series of their popular Converse collaboration. It’s destined to sell out
Has Comme des Garçons Play co-created another winner? The CDG sub-brand—with that unmistakable heart logo, distinguished by a blunt chin—has been a hit since its inception in 2002. Their new kicks with Converse (a partnership that has spanned more than a decade) is likely going to be another sell-out at launch—this morning. For the latest, Play has worked its cheery logo into the side of the Jack Purcell, as if a pair of Hello Kitty-like mouthlessness is peeping from behind a wall. There is that bold line on the mid-sole that seems to underscore its sneaky appearance. The current iteration seems to us, the most fun since the born-in-Poland logo debuted on the 86-year-old Jack Purcell in 2011. Yep, a neat ten years ago.
CDG die-hard fans have generally ignored the “entry-level” Play, which to some is disagreeably commercial (there are even clothes for kids!), and usually not adopted by those who could pull CDG off with panache. The Play line has not changed much within its various product categories, T-shirts being perennial best-sellers. But the Converse kicks have the rare quality of being both cute and cool at the same time. In 2019, Sneaker Freaker magazine calls the Chuck Taylor version “the decade’s most influential sneaker”. Despite its obvious charm, the sneakers, also seen in the Chuck 70, have been resisted by some sneaker fans, such as SOTD contributor Shu Xie, who told us that she has not bought a pair for herself because the plain canvas sneakers “are reminiscent of school.” In addition, “most versions are in white (or off-white), which say to me, ‘nurse’!”
That would not be the reaction with the current release. The base colour of the still-cotton canvas kicks is now grey, a perfect tone and density for those find white too ‘nurse-y’ and black too harsh. The logos—three altogether (two on each side and one, dissected, on the back)—are big and bold, and available in black or the OG red. In addition, the silhouette of the Jack Purcell is closer to smart than anything by Vans, and far more flattering for feet than anything by Yeezy. To quote a particular cyborg, resistance, this time, is possibly futile.
Rating: 4 out of 5.
Comme des Garçons Play X Converse Jack Purcell sneakers, SGD220, are available from today at Comme des Garçons and DSMS. Product photos: Comme des Garçons Play. Collage: Just So