Close Look: The Swift Return Of Ganryu

Or, more accurately, Fumito Ganryu—now a full-fledged, independent designer label


Fumito Ganryu.jpgFumito Ganryu (centre) engaged in a “conversation” at Surrender. Photo: Zhao Xiangji

By Ray Zhang

The fashion world is thankfully not without Fumito Ganryu. When the news broke in 2017 that Mr Ganryu has left the Comme des Garçons group where his eponymous label started, many fans thought they would no longer be able to spend on the brand that had cleverly brought together streetwear, athletic wear, and denim wear in rather unexpected and special ways. Ganryu was possibly caught between the way-out styles of Kei Ninomiya and the commercial accessibility of Junya Watanabe, but was never not interesting. Perhaps, as I speculate, it is this middle ground that sealed the fate of Ganryu at CDG.

For the launch of Fumito Ganryu’s debut collection at Surrender, the store invited Mr Ganryu for a “conversation”  but it was not to be with the invited guests. Still, the word going round was that Mr Ganryu “must not be asked about CDG” or why he left or if he left without the blessing of his former boss, unlike his ex-colleague Chitose Abe. “Do not mention R”, went the warning. I also overheard someone wearing a denim shirt from the last collection as a single-name brand being told not to stand too close to the designer because Mr Ganryu “does not want to to be reminded of his past.”

Fumito Ganryu did not appear concerned with what the guests wore, whether from his past or present collections. Seated on a high chair throughout the session, he barely looked at the audience, the top of his spectacles obscuring is eyes. He was happy to talk about designing, which surely would include his earlier work, but he made no mention of it except how fashion design came to draw his keen interest.

Fumito Ganryu @ SurrenderSpecial Fumito Ganryu corner at Surrender. Photo: Zhao Xiangji

“In my childhood,” he let on, “I love drawing, and then music, and then fashion. Between them, I chose fashion. I was also influenced by my brother, who was very fashionable. In my teens, I looked at how my brother dressed, and became more interested in fashion.” That sibling-roused interest led him, like many of his compatriots successful in fashion, to Bunka Fashion College in Tokyo. In 2004, four years after his graduation, he joined the Junya Watanabe studio as a pattern-maker.

His stint with Mr Watanabe must have been so notable to the most important person at CDG that in a brief three years, Mr Ganryu was given his namesake men’s wear label, which quickly gain a following, especially among those who thought that Junya Watanabe was getting, well, a little too predictable. Ganryu then was a delightful synthesis of nearly everything that did not fall into the category that we still call office wear, all with a vague, but discernible CDG imprint. However, Fumito Ganryu today is not specifically designed with just guys in mind. Mr Ganryu was eager to expound what he had previously told the media: his own concept of “non-sex”.

I don’t want gender to be attached to the clothing… Right now in society, there are no more boundaries between males and females


“I started selling women’s wear, then I became a patterner for women’s wear, and then a designer with a collection that was unisex and then for men, so I went through everything” he explained. “Because I have done everything, I thought I could come up with something I have not done yet: non-sex. I don’t want gender to be attached to the clothing. Right now in society, there are no more boundaries between males and females.”

Although he says his approach is post-unisex, it does coincide with the increasingly less-binary optics and buying of fashion. Gender may no longer be ascribed to his clothes, but the Fumito Ganryu collection still looks masculine, with separates that appear to be designed by a man for other like-minded men, underscored by what are clearly today’s male wardrobe staples. Without effort, it’s easy to guess there would be shirts, tees, hoodies, and blousons, and there are.

Fumito Ganryu SS 2019Select pieces from the Fumito Ganryu spring/summer 2019 collection. Product photos: Surrender

Despite the store’s relatively small buy, the debut collection is easy to understand. But, the fabric choices, including neoprene and blends with a significant percentage of spandex, are a little harder to appreciate considering how they do not really suit the weather here, which on this early evening was a Real Feel® of 38ºC. I like the treatments applied to the T-shirts, with zips that can be undone to configure the attendant flaps in a state of undone. Although most of the pieces are given shapes that can be considered conventional, within each I saw details that attest to Mr Ganryu’s flair for complex patterning and unexpected details.

Despite its streetwear vibe (which is more at odds with the rest of Surrender’s hard core merchandise than in chummy embrace), the designer negates such a label, preferring instead for the wearer to define what they feel and perceive. But if street wear these days is broadly seen as “fashionable casual clothing”, Fumitomo Ganryu clearly fits the bill. This first season, the “key word is water”, he told the unimpressed audience. “There are many ways to interact with water: you can play with it or you can avoid it,” he explained helpfully. The latter accounts for the presence of what can be considered rain wear, I assumed.

Cued by someone on the floor, the conversation came to an end 25 minutes later. So placid was the interview and questionable the translation that little was gleaned from this rare visit by a CDG alumnus. In the end, only the “non-sex” clothes tell his story, even if sexlessly, discreetly.

Fumito Ganryu is available at Surrender, 268 Orchard Road

Close Look: Virgil Abloh’s Debut LV Collection

At the Louis Vuitton Men’s pop-up store in Tokyo’s Harajuku, you get to look at Virgil Abloh’s work in a setting that is nothing like the retail store. And that could be the problem—you may not feel like spending


lv popup @ harajulu

You will see it, from the train too—if you’re on the Yamanote Line heading towards Harajuku. The Louis Vuitton pop-up, all glass and steel and familiarly patterned all over, sits in sharp contrast to the nondescript buildings around it and, in particular, the verdant grounds of Yoyogi Park, just across the road. The serenity of the 54-hectare park, former Olympic village of the 1964 summer games, is surprisingly duplicated within LV’s temp store, erected to showcase—literally—the debut pieces of the brand’s star designer Virgil Abloh, now raved by the media as a “taste-maker”.

Inside, it is unlike any shop you have ever been to. But first, you’d have to get in. It’s not as easy as just walking through the front door. LV shops have a habit of making you wait, whether there is a queue or not. Sentries are there to ensure you don’t merely breeze through. Some stores, apparently, have a by-appointment-only policy and you will be denied entry without prior arrangement. Here in Harajuku, the front part of the store, where the one entry point is positioned, is manned (on the day we visited) by four suited guards. We were very politely ushered to the right side of the entrance where we were told to wait in line. Two minutes to opening, there was not one yet.

According to earlier reports in the Japanese media, entry is permitted when shoppers turn up with a ticket. These were supposed to be issued at 8.30 in the morning every day. People were told to start queuing at 6am. It seems there were those who did brave the winter morning cold to secure a ticket to get in line. According to a WWD account, “about 1,000 people queued up in the Japanese capital to be among the first to buy”. A week after the store’s 10 January opening, no ticket/keepsake, it seemed, was required since none was given to us.

DSC_6791.JPGdsc_6774The split level icon of Virgil Abloh’s current inspiration, the model Omari Phipps

Once you’re allowed in, an attendant greets you and guides you through a fixed route so that you end up in the inner section, where rope and stanchion indicate that another queue is to be expected. Here, the first attendant hands you over to another staff member who emerges from a line-up of about twenty-odd nattily attired sales people. The second, all smiling and eager to please, shows you to the actual retail space. This person will follow you throughout your visit till you leave the store, with or without purchase in hand, which may be of little concern here since it is reported that this pop-up already rang up 30 percent more sales in the first 48 hours of its operation than any other LV launches, including the collaboration with Supreme.

This is amazing to us. The essentially concrete store (distinguished by iridescent stickers of LV logos pasted on pillars, walls, and floors) is so well presented as exhibition that it seems to encourage viewing than purchasing. To be sure, retail space is increasingly a ‘curated’ space, and many are art gallery-like. This LV pop-up is clearly no exception; it seems to mirror the Espace Louis Vuitton Tokyo, just down the street on Omotaesando. Frankly, it’s all a bit of a show-off.

Standing—to be more specific, half-kneeling—in the middle is a statue of LV model of the season, Omari Phipps, the English lad who opened the LV spring/summer 2019 show back in June last year. The space surrounding the guy’s lower half is dedicated to nothing much except to displaying Mr Abloh’s installation sense, an expensive exercise to boot. You know instantly that you had come in for the experience, if not the merchandise.

DSC_6780.JPGlv harajuku p5Virgil Abloh fans, affluent and not alike, will possibly go quite mad on the two of the selling floors

It is experiential, alright, so much so that the experience—allow us to repeat—overwhelms the urge to buy. This was compounded, during our time there, by the sales attendant who stayed closed and urged us to try something, anything. The eerily bare and neat fitting rooms, lined on one side of a concrete corridor that looked like it could be the set of a film about a spooky sanatorium, do not appear inviting enough for one to peel off winter layers to try, say, a T-shirt or the knit pullover (a hooded and monochromatic version of the one featuring Dorothy and co of Wizard of Oz, which we were told “is exclusive to Japan”) that the sales staff had urged us to slip into. Someone outside, on a JR train, might see us try clothes, LV notwithstanding!

Everything is displayed in such a manner that one wonders if touching is allowed. In fact, some props and merchandise are indistinguishable. Accessories, such as eyewear, bracelets, and key rings beckons from within glass cases, distancing themselves from shoppers’ desire even when they gleam invitingly. Others such as the semi-transparent, embossed PVC Keepall—“the most wanted”—are placed like precious sculptures, to be admired, not caressed. When we reached out to touch one (the blue, if it interests you), the person trailing us offered to bring one for our inspection. Such attentive service was so at odds with everything we are used to here that we didn’t feel it was natural even if it was strangely appealing. Or, was this just Japan?

lv harajuku p6The special and limited edition Wizard of Oz hoodie that is available exclusively at the pop-up

Up close, Mr Abloh’s Louis Vuitton has that hyped-to-death ‘elevation’ seen in his Off-White. Sure, the clothes and the bags and the accessories looked interesting from far, but when you consider them individually in your hands, the barely more-than-basics don’t break new ground in terms of construction or reveal a creative nous. They feel luxurious, for sure, but it isn’t certain they’d look luxurious when worn, especially on those that, had by then, started to populate the space (no more than 30 at one go, we were told), whose main aim, it appeared, was to dress like hip-hop stars. The spare, but artistically appointed setting certainly made the clothes look attractive, but once out if it, on a body not a mannequin, we can’t be sure.

Although our guide/sales staff was polite, friendly, and informative (it appeared that there was nothing about the merchandise he didn’t know), his constant presence left us no opportunity to even have thoughts to ourselves. Just as we wondered—silently—if there were any sneakers in this launch event, he pointed to a shelf with two chunky, hardware-heavy kicks and asked, undeterred, if we would like to try a pair. When we declined, he guided us to another part of the store, and introduced other items to us. When we finally decided to leave, some 15 minutes after entering, he accompanied us to the door, bowed, and said cheerily, “have a nice day”. To be sure, it was.

Louis Vuitton’s Harajuku pop-up store for the men’s spring/summer 2019 collection is open till 30 January. Photos: Jiro Shiratori

Breath Of Fresh (And Auspicious!) Spring Air

Who’d have guessed this is Levi’s?

levi's flannel shirt

By Ray Zhang

Levi’s may be many things to many people, but, to me, it’s foremost a denim jeans company , and a rather conservative one too. When this appeared in full view as I passed the Levi’s store at ION Orchard, I thought: this can’t be.

Levi’s is so connected to the denim, chambray, and broadcloth shirts, mostly in solid colours or, if the season demands it, checks that this is positively deviant. Sure, the bi-patterned shirt is nothing to shout about since so many men’s wear brands have succumbed to it, from Ralph Lauren to Raf Simons, but, for Levi’s to take this route, it’s like expecting them to make skorts!

To be fair, Levi’s does sometimes offer clothing that is less in tune with the denizens. Their Made and Crafted sub-brand, now unavailable here, sometimes trod the narrow line between craft and commerce. Those available in Japan, especially, delight the senses. Levi’s still offers production quality that recalls a time when clothing was a lot sturdier, to the extend that designers such as Junya Watanabe and Vetements’ Demna Gvasalia continue to collaborate with them.

This shirt—half tartan, half camo (dotted with a medallion print that includes the Chinese character 喜 [xi or happiness]), with a patina of red—is thankfully cut a little roomier than the usual Levi’s shirt, which, as you already know, is in keeping with the looser silhouette still preferred, although, for Levi’s—and I, belatedly. I only wish it was not made of flannel, a fabric that is so linked to cooler climes that come Chinese New Year, which the shirt is released for, the wearer would hope for a Year of the Arctic Pig. Never mind that there’s no such swine.

Levi’s CNY Camo Crimson shirt, SGD79.90, is available at all Levi’s stores. Photo: Levi’s

Out With The Old, In With The Old

Relieving Celine of its accent above the ‘e’ is minor change compared to dropping Yves from Yves Saint Laurent, and that perhaps was the point: Hedi Slimane was not planning to reinvent the sewing needle at Celine. Instead, he brought unfinished business at YSL along


Celine SS2019 P1

We guessed it, and yet we were still bothered, perplexed, annoyed. It’s like the end of a romance. You know it’ll soon be over and yet when he/she is gone, you feel the pain, or anger. Hedi Slimane was not expected to expand the look Phoebe Philo left at Céline (as spelled when she was there) the way his successor at Saint Laurent, Anthony Vaccarello, continued Mr Slimane’s rock-chick-waif-groupie look. Yet, we were still dismayed. Perhaps it was the late hour of the live stream (2.45 am!), but mostly it was the annoyance of having to view his last, by-then-repetitive Saint Laurent collection all over again.

We weren’t sure but was the collection about a true singular vision? Mr Slimane is no visionary and his Celine is regrettably short-sighted. Or, was he pleasing an already sizeable fan base of an increasingly commercial rather than innovative fashion business climate? Surely there are those who have remained with Saint Laurent and those who have moved on. Or is this output of a designer that hitherto is, for the most part, one-note? This seemed like indolence at design level: he could have simply bring along the paper patterns from his previous tenure. He was at Saint Laurent for a mere four years (2012 to 2016). Sure, he not only made a huge impact to the fortunes of the house, but also promulgated the idea that luxury fashion can look like fast fashion, which may mean he did not have enough time to really conquer and rule, although divide he arguably did.

Celine SS 2019 G1

Celine SS 2019 G2

The skinny jeans and pants that he popularised at Dior Homme still bolstering ascendancy over other silhouettes in both women’s and men’s wear (even their office clothes!) today is probably not enough. If he wants to leave a lasting legacy, there has to be a persistent aesthetic singularity to better overrun an over-shared world. When Mr Slimane took over Dior Homme in 2000, fashion editors spoke of how he “idolised” teen-ish, waifish rock musicians or such a look. Eighteen years later, at 50, his kind of idolisation could be construed as bordering on the paedophilic, yet it did not bother Mr Slimane or his supporters, including one Karl Lagerfeld, because fashion is, since the advent of pret-a-porter, about youth. He continued with Celine’s debut men’s wear the skinniness and gangliness that he first mooted 18 years ago, as if times have not changed, as if men’s taste have not altered. He even told the media that Celine men’s clothes are unisex, and women are free to buy, which harks back to the female interest in his Dior Homme. Interestingly, he didn’t say that the women’s clothes are unisex and available to men. Remember Phoebe Philo’s Celine appealed to guys, with Pharrell Williams her number one fan?

With a casting that would have the black community cry out tokenism, Mr Slimane again made sure that not only was the Caucasian face his ideal beauty, body diversity was not part of his universe. In fact, these clothes—their smallness, slimness, and shortness—were really for adolescent boys and girls: the boyishness and girlishness augmented by the skinny ties that men past a certain station in life stay clear of and the little dresses with a very fixed waist that women of a certain age normally avoid. Is Mr Slimane’s Celine the new Gap for the children of the wealthy whose numbers are rising all over the world—for certain in Asia? Or is this fashion’s own Peter Pan syndrome?

Celine SS 2019 G4

Some members of the press have taken to justifying Mr Slimane’s design direction than saying that it is lacking in, say, newness (a bad word in fashion these days), among other things. He has proven himself to be a commercially successful designer, they reasoned. Celine, as most people know, is part of LVMH, one of the most powerful luxury conglomerates in the world, if not the most powerful. So there is fear of commercial reprisal. Or, the denial of invitation to future shows. God forbid that a fashion editor should watch live streams like the rest of us! Mr Slimane was known to take umbrage at members of the media who did not share his view or who were not keen in what he did. The relationship between the press and luxury brands has always been a complicated one, and the love-hate relationship, for a lack of better description, is mostly concealed by love, no matter how dismal or disappointing the output of the brands. Love lost, as some journalists—including prominent ones—have learnt, is not nearly recoverable.

At the end of the Celine Hedi Slimane show, there were audible screams of approval. These can’t be construed as anything but love, which means we shall see more of what may be teetering close to ennui: little dresses—black aplenty—and those, equally compact versions, with flourishes such as flounces; boyfriend jackets that, when worn over said dresses, made the latter look even shorter; biker jackets for serious rock cred; and skinny suits that, any skinnier, would be compression wear. Mr Slimane is not the least vague about where he intends to take Celine under his charge. Just because you were given a name at birth and trained to be a lady does not mean that someone, further down the road, can’t lead you astray, and make you a tramp.

Photos: (top) screen shot/Celine live stream, (catwalk)

From Farm To Fashion

Loewe stays with British actor Josh O’Connor through spring/summer 2019. Is O’Connor to Loewe what Eddie Redmayne was to Prada?


Loewe SS Campaign 1

Inclusive has been a buzz word in fashion for quite a while, but it is men’s wear, more than women’s wear, that is likely to cast an unlikely face to front a brand. Loewe’s signing up of Josh O’Connor, again, for their spring/summer 2019 season (above) is a case in point. That designer Jonathan Anderson will pick a fellow Brit is unsurprising, but that a relatively unknown, un-megastar, and un-hunky individual is selected is fascinating.

Mr O’Connor is not what you would call handsome, not as you would Daniel Craig or Michael Fassbender or Henry Cavill (perhaps wrong choice, given the controversy now plaguing him). Among the younger actors, he’s not as swag as Freddie Stroma (Pitch Perfect) or Taron Egerton (Kingsman: The Secret Service). In fact, you would likely place Mr O’Connor in the class of recent leading men who do not negate their man-childness, and are not defined by their musculature, such as Timothée Chalamet of Call Me by Your Name fame or Ben Whishaw in the 2008 film version of Brideshead Revisited.

In fact, Josh O’Connor has something more: youthful courage and insouciance. Without, let us add, the intellectual inconveniences of Mr Chalamet’s Elio Perlman.

Loewe AW Campaign 1

Fashion folk started taking notice of him when he appeared in last year’s Francis Lee-written-and-directed indie charmer God’s Own Country, for which Mr O’Connor was awarded Best Actor at the British Independent Film Awards (BIFA). Screened last week at The Projector as part of Pink Screen (one of the many activities of Pink Fest that leads to Pink Dot this Saturday), God’s Own Country has been inaccurately described as the “new Brokeback Mountain”. It’s stretching it to connect the two: little similarities except that in both films, love was forged in remote parts of the world.

Mr O’Connor plays Johnny Saxby, a tortured soul caught in the humdrum of cattle and sheep husbandry, who falls in love with hired Romanian help Gheorghe Ionescu (Alec Secareanu). Johnny Saxby’s internal turmoil palpitates with anguish—life is hard and boring in the Yorkshire moors. As if toil and turd aren’t enough, his love, when he finds it, “wears forbidden colours,” as David Sylvian sang thirty-four years earlier. Mr O’Connor’s feel-for-him performance is compelling to watch: his troubles are those of a conflicted soul, and there is a realness to his performance that brings to the fore the tenderness and insecurities of men in love.

And somewhere in there, cup noodles have a cameo role and the seasoning packets not only add flavour to the instant meal, but also relish to the romantic tension of a love that, in the rough, wind-whipped countryside, dares not speak its name.

Loewe AW Campaign 2

Mr O’Connor’s appearance in the Loewe campaign for spring/summer 2018 seemed to continue with the compelling indifference he projected as Johnny Saxby. You wouldn’t guess if it’s not said that this is fashion communication. It was so under-styled it could have been a Gunze ad. In many ways, it recalls Eddie Redmayne’s (The Danish Girl) appearance for Prada in 2016: a film character in an advertising shot, only Mr Redmayne, also traditional-handsome-defying, was styled to look more like a fashion model. Loewe’s, lensed by Steven Meisel, showed a somewhat country lad unusually into books (and we thought people don’t read anymore). Mr O’Connor doesn’t just read any book; he’s perusing classics such as Gustave Flaubert’s tragic Madame Bovary and, perhaps, just as tragic, Bram Stoker’s Dracula.

If you look closely, these book covers are nothing you have seen in the stores. Not yet, anyway. According to media reports, these are old—read “archival”—fashion photographs of Mr Meisel, and reimagined by Loewe, now into book publishing, as cover jackets. Amber Valletta as Madam Bovary!

If classic literature can win new fans, maybe the genre needs a seemingly conflicted character selling its appeal through a luxury brand’s marcom, designed to look anything but high-brow. Jean Genet, we suspect, will approve.

Photos: Steven Meisel/Loewe

The Welcome Light Of The Beach

As we watch closely who in Paris Men’s Fashion Week is cooler or edgier, have we forgotten that sometimes, clothes should just simply be articles of joy?


With all the attention this past week centred on big luxury houses and the design directors that steer them, men’s wear seems to be a divisive debate about where it’s really heading: onward march with street style or return to elegant tailoring. Between these opposites, Simon Porte Jacquemus launched his first men’s collection in the south of France, seemingly unconcerned with who’s traipsing on which path, back in the capital.

Presented on the beach of his boyhood home near Marseilles, Mr Jacquemus showed a collection so unconcerned with the directional dilemma of his competitors that this could easily be one of the most refreshing collections of the over-hyped season. These were happy clothes, worn by happy people, in a place radiating with happiness even if only because nature had blessed the show with inviting sea, sun, and sky.

For Jacquemus, happiness is a recurrent theme—the brand’s autumn/winter 2018 show was brimming with vibes that is best described as upbeat and uplifting. This positive charge was palpable in the newly conceived men’s line too. It’s in the cheerful colours, the uncomplicated prints, and the relaxed shapes. For this spring/summer season, the Jacquemus collection was, by far, the most sun-dappled.

Jacquemus SS 2019 G1

Jacquemus SS 2019 G2.jpg

While some may consider these clothes unchallenging, it should be noted that, contrary to what influencers would have us believe, the choices in fashion that many of us make usually have nothing to do with peacocking in a make-a-spectacle grounds of fashion week. Jacquemus has shown that stylish clothes can be those readily welcome in the clique that already exists in your wardrobe. These clothes look perfectly consistent with a season that usually means effortless ease. For those of us living in equatorial climes, the collection made a lot of sense.

Those shorts (never too short), those shirts (never too tight), those pullover (never too heaving)—they spoke of smile-inducing wearability, yet they are not pedestrian to the point that you would consider waiting for Zara to release their version. That the collection also communicated a sense of holiday, of a time when the hours ticked slowly, of those moments you can curl up in a quite corner for a snooze, suggested that designer clothes can be about living comfortably and well in them, and not about striking a pose or training surrounding eyes on the wearer. This should have been what Tomas Maier’s collaboration with Uniqlo looked like, not the bland clobber still languishing in the store more than a month after it was launched.

Jacquemus SS 2019 G3

Mr Jacquemus attributed the look to the “Mediterranean boy” or le gadjo in local parlance, but from a visual standpoint, it was more men than boys—such as those seen in many a Parisian runway—even only in terms of musculature. Mediterranean may suggest Orlebar Brown, but Mr Jacquemus was clear that however beach-ready the clothes were, they were also ready for a stroll down the heart of any city without trying to out-street the zeitgeist. As the confident among us are wont to say, “You put these clothes on and forget about them.”

Them equals some very fine trousers (and shorts) with pouch pockets or pocket flaps, relaxed suits that would not look out of pace in a beach wedding, and polo shirts that would likely be seen in a cruise rather than on a court. One polo shirt was worn with a tie— evocative of what Bruce Weber might have shot for GQ in the early ’80s. In all, these could be the clothes the cast of Call Me By Your Name would have worn if the tale took place in France rather than Italy. And because it can be compared to rather than contrast with the everyday, Jacquemus for men may be off to a very fine start. This is not a collection that will stoke raves, but it will find its place in male fashion gratification.

Photos: (top) Studio Premices (others)

In The Crowd, It Stands Out

Kolor’s Juniche Abe takes the less-than-ordinary and makes them everyday. And vice-versa. The result are clothes that stay above the humdrum


Kolor SS 2019 P1

Shibuya, Tokyo. Any day.

If you have been to what is repeatedly dubbed as the second busiest mass rapid transit station in the world (after Shinjuku, about 4km away), you’d probably know that moving through the crowd leaves you no space to people watch. If you don’t notice the commuters, chances are, you won’t notice their clothes. This is the part of Tokyo that is a little vexing for fashion watchers. In the hustle and bustle, the moving mass is not quite a collision of individualists.

Yet it is in Shibuya that Juniche Abe chose to film his spring/summer collection. That he chose to present video clips rather than the traditional show that he has been staging in Paris for the past six years is perhaps indication that Mr Abe is making a statement about the street when such a point need not really be made in the present Men’s Fashion Week climate. With the stills evocative of Japanese street style, this could be a declaration that street wear in Tokyo is as valid as street wear in any part of America. For us, it’s better.

Kolor SS 2019 G1

Kolor has always been a label that rejects the tag classic, yet Mr Abe is an adherent of rather classic ways of clothes-making, especially with his fondness for technical outdoor wear. This is not quite the technical of White Mountaineering—fashion that can test the tough conditions of a climb, but Kolor does pull components of technical garments to work into those pieces culled from sportswear and even collegiate clothes (and the occasional preppy blazer). Hybrid would be a lazy description as Kolor is not about amalgamating but enhancing.

Take their outwear. A blouson always looks like a blouson but it’s what Mr Abe adds to or subtracts from it that makes you wonder what to call this garment. A lightweight Harrington jacket from the latest collection, for example, is given a ribboned bib-front and is worn tucked into the trousers like a shirt. So is this a shirt or a jacket? It is not really a hybrid either, is it? Whatever you might wish to call it, the shirt-slash-jacket is not without its charm. And that is why Kolor is always so intriguing.

Kolor SS 2019 G2Kolor SS 2019 G3

Furthermore, there is the colour. For a name that plays on colour (the K predates Kardashian’s vulgar fame), it would be strange that Mr Abe does not have a sharp chromatic sense. He does not use colours the way Raf Simons does, but Mr Abe has a rather keen sense of those that do not owe their brilliance to modern pigments. The hues he uses has almost a retro vibe: the burnt orange, hillbilly green, the rain-wear blue—these and their combinations border on the off-beat, something that will appeal to the fashion geek.

At times, it feels that what Kolor proposes is typical of Japanese labels also walking down this path, such as Sacai and Undercover. We can’t negate the fact that is Japanese aesthetics and motivation: never to quite leave a garment alone and unwilling to reject the desire to create the unexpected from standard forms. The most powerful street wear designer today Virgil Abloh owes much of Off-White’s DNA to the Japanese. Let’s see him deny that.


Mighty Fine

The women’s wear of Lanvin may be a series of missteps after Alber Elbaz departed, but for its men’s collection, still-going-strong Lucas Ossendrijver delivered one of his best seasons yet


Lanvin SS 2019 P1

Lanvin isn’t what it used to be. With the brand’s corporate troubles, it has not only lost its prestige, but also its standing in French fashion’s current pantheon of greats. Men in the know, however, consider this the distress of the women’s wear division, not the Lanvin they have been buying. And those particularly unswayed by the social-media savvy of trending star designers continue to support Lucas Ossendrijver’s vision of the unconventional yet solidly contemporary.

Mr Ossendrijver remains true to what he and Alber Elbaz co-created following the former’s appointment at the house in 2006: never too classic, nor too casual, just the right dash of the nonchalant. In fact, it can be said that Lanvin was one of the first brandsif not the firstto propose the boundary-blurring idea of teaming athletic wear with tailoring, way before sweatpants are so scarily common. The whole relaxed approach to men’s wear truly found its proponent in Lanvin, culminating in the hugely successful collaboration with H&M in 2011.

Lanvin SS 2019 G1

Lanvin SS 2019 G2

No matter how informal the styles he’s been showing, Mr Ossendrijver, who cut his teeth at Kenzo, then Kostas Murkudis, and then Hedi Slimane’s Dior Homme, has always made construction and proportion the crux of the Lanvin identity. His latest collection continued to underscore these crucial components while enhancing its visual complexity. The observant may think that much of these have in common with Japanese labels such as Undercover, but Mr Ossendrijver has definitely put his own stamp on them.

On the surface many pieces may look like hybrid garments, but it is essentially the styling that gives the impression of hybridisation. Outdoor wear, often worn askew (also seen last season), was teamed with conventional shirting, for example, but brought together in such a way as not to give the impression of composites of disparates. These are no doubt the work of a sophisticated mind and discerning hands. It is true when Mr Ossendrijver told the media that guys are attracted to Lanvin because of its “elaborate workmanship”.

Lanvin SS 2019 G3

Lanvin SS 2019 G4

They, too, would be attracted to an abbreviated polo-shirt-as-cape worn like a gilet or the cropped cousin slipped atop shirt sleeves, or boxy jumpers pulled over T-shirts the way much of the young do these days. Although there was much more layering than what is typical of the spring/summer season, Mr Ossendrijver was careful to keep the silhouette fairly lean, not ultra-skinny, adequately roomy, not unusually voluminous. In this regard, he did not appear to deliberately stay clear of extremes—the either-or approach of many showing in Paris.

At times, there seemed to be the sensibility of football blokes in the way the pieces were pulled together, as if in haste, or missing a mirror. These were all the more charming considering how the most popular shows of the season were careful compositions of precise tailoring and totally low-key—as counterpoint—in controlled harmony. You see, for some of us, the truly wicked is in the devil-may-care.


Destination Uncertain

At his first men’s wear show for Dior, Kim Jones did not appear to be taking the brand anywhere


Dior Homme SS 2019 P1

Two anticlimactic debuts in a row! Is this turning out to be the dullest men’s wear season of recent years despite the big-name hype? Expectations were high for Kim Jones’s remake of Dior (Homme now removed)much higher than there was for Virgil Abloh at Louis Vuitton. The letdown, however, was more pronounced because for some of us, seating patiently for the live stream, the Kaws-conceived staging, including their famous BFF character, so colossal that even the Oscar at his tallest wasn’t so imposing, was sadly not prelude to something equally striking.

Regular show goers always say that you’d know if you want to go on watching a presentation by how the first five outfits wowed you. The men’s Dior spring/summer 2019’s didn’t: its initial quintet was remarkable for being unremarkable. The very first jacket immediately had us in a oh-no mood: the contrast sleeve and paneling so typical of what fashion students will turn out when they have to present something ‘designed’. Or, when Savile Row wants to do something young and against what the masters taught, much like tailors elsewhere, in fact,

If you decided to stay with the show, as we did, you’d have also seen baseball-style jackets and other kindred blousons that on a body not less young—a lot less—will look decidedly uncle, not, as current fashion adores, dad. And here is our problem with the designs of Kim Jones. It is something that has bugged us for a while. Back when he was directing LV’s men’s wear, the clothes may look interesting from afar, but were far from interesting when seen up-close. On the catwalk, they had the advantage of the wearer’s youthful swagger and imperturbable indifference, but in the stores, unstyled, they look ready for the wardrobes of unimaginably wealthy Indonesian bapaks. Or land-owing Chinese tuhaos. Mr Jones appears not to have completely pulled away from what he had made a habit of when he was designing for Dunhill from 2008 to 2011.

It can be argued that the Dior customer is young, cultivated since Hedi Slimane’s tenure, so it does not matter that the clothes appear suited to a particular demographic. When you look adolescent, you can get away with clothes that don’t. But shouldn’t clothes stand on their own merit, untethered to the age of the wearer? Perhaps Mr Jones is re-calibrating the clothes-to-wearer’s-age relation and now prefers to target the post-post-teen set since, as he indicated to the media, he is no longer pursuing the craze for street style.

Dior hOMME SS 2019 G1

Dior hOMME SS 2019 G2

Some people suggested that this is the next wave of men’s wear—a return to more tailored silhouettes or, at least, one that is diametrically different to street fashion. According to what was reported by WWD, Mr Jones “has mined the Dior archives for inspiration related to the women’s couture heritage of the house”. There’s something to note there because over at Maison Margiela’s first ‘artisanal’ collection for men shown days earlier, John Galliano seemed to be working on the same premise. Mr Galliano has even introduced the bias cut that he excels in for men, perhaps as a deliberate rebuff of Off-White and co’s—generally fashion’s—street leanings.

All the display of refined tailoring still needed to be tempered by elements that reflect on-the-ground reality. You can’t really turn your back on the street when all around you, guys seem rooted to the style roadway over-trodden by sneakers and all the clothes that stand opposite to the craft associated with shirts and suits. Mr Jones engaged the assistance of Yoon Ahn of the street wear label Ambush, originally a fine jewellery brand, to design the accessories. What should have been left to Virgil Abloh to use with abandon was instead adopted by Mr Jones: those chunky, loved-by-hip-hop-stars chain-necklaces, now with a new CD clasp, which at a quick glance nearly passed off as Ferragamo’s logo buckle!

Dior hOMME SS 2019 G3

On closer look, the CDs, designed by fellow Brit Matthew Williams (of the hotly trending label Alyx Studio), were chunkier and had industrial (aeronautical perhaps?) written all over it. They remind us that, while Mr Jones may try to steer his Dior towards a look more akin to couture, logo mania is not dead. In fact, just like many kiasu kids of today, some of the models sported not one but two sets of the logo—one centred on the forehead, the other, directly below, on the waist. Could this be really the way forward for fashion or was this duplication of a visual identity that has brought tremendous success for LV? Balance sheets, as we are well aware, do inform design choices.

The Dior logotype too appeared: in the form of the recognisable repeated type, as seen on the undershirts. These were hardly subtle, but that’s the point. Just as there was nothing discreet about lining that looked like shorts under what presumably were linen pants. Nor the Saddle handbag (Dior’s most successful style under John Galliano’s watch), now re-imagined as bumbag and such for blokes. And just in case the relaxed suits (even the one-button asymmetric style) were still a tad stuffy, there were the singlets. We were instantly reminded that Kim Jones had once collaborated with Umbro. He may have set a “new course” for Dior, as the media proclaimed after the show, but you can’t be certain of the landing for there is still the lad in the couture-delving designer. However promising the present, you never know what lads will end up doing. Or dreaming.

Photos: Dior

It Pays To Belong

Louis Vuitton’s spring/summer 2019 was a triumph for Virgil Abloh. Would it the same for the future of men’s wear? Or were we witnessing one big brand trying to fit in?



The emotional hug between Virgil Abloh and Kanye West at the end of the former’s debut for Louis Vuitton was rather telling. Both men, it was reported, were crying. Tears of joy, no doubt, and also of pride, and, veritably, achievement. This was a moment of brotherhood for Mr Abloh and Mr West and the rest of their gang. This was a moment of acclaim for hip-hop. This was a moment of visibility for Black America. This was a moment of victorious Barrack Obama, all over again.

That the show opened with a parade of Wakanda-worthy black men (at least 16 of them passed by before a non-black emerged) is perhaps indication that Mr Abloh has pledged blackness as mainstream—the rainbow runway a sidebar to the story of diversity. This isn’t playing the race card as much as verifying that black culture is here to stay. This is the year of Kendrick Lamar, and Wendy Williams singing his praises with gusto. This is not even Off-White’s glory; this is Virgil Abloh’s, and his alone. And no one now can steer the course with purpose and buzz than Mr Abloh, not even his pal, the Yeezy himself.


Louis Vuitton’s positioning as a popular global brand means it no longer needs to celebrate its French-ness, or fashion the way the French had for decades, selling haute couture and, later, pret-a-porter to the world. Given how homogeneous clothing designs have become, it now needs to pitch itself in a market place that is awash with a sameness that Marc Almond laments in Monoculture, singing “why don’t I just give up/And submit to the great God of Bland?”

The thing is, fashion houses need no design directors to churn out what store buyers call “better basics”. Mr Abloh told the Financial Times that he wants to make “the most beautiful normcore clothes, but as luxurious as possible.” Anyone can do that, and many have—think the Olsen twins for the flavour-lite The Row. Furthermore, such clothing are already being produced through collaborations. It is, therefore, understandable when one observer commented to SOTD early this morning in total dismay, “This is what Adidas would do if Adidas did RTW.” Such as the immensely stylish, now-defunct SLVR line, once designed by Dirk Schoenberger?



Is this even about the clothes? Not really. Presently, no one can provide better optics than a member of American hip-hop royalty heading a French house. Such an appointment was Kanye West’s dream, but that did not come true for him. Still, he is able to now live vicariously through Mr Abloh, his long-time collaborator. The front-row display of emotion was, thus, to be expected: This was as much Mr West’s victory, more so when the hip-hop community’s foray into fashion design was very much shunned in the beginning. Mr West himself was snubbed, in Paris no less, where he showed two disastrous collections in 2011 and 2012. Could this be pay back time?

That was then, this is now. If you ever doubted hip-hop’s cultural impact on the fashion of our time, this collection may sent disbelief to some dark corner of your armoire. It is not certain if this is how Jaden Smith and his inner-city peers would like to dress, but it does evoke what’s pervading today: the grown-up styles of black youths who have graduated from fashion that glorifies the thrift-store. This is not about old Adidas football jerseys teamed with D&G when it existed. Nor, off-duty NBA stars. This is black culture celebrating one of their own. This is papa hoodie in procreation mode. This is post-post-Sean Jean; this is post-Hood By Air; this is when the ’hood is gentrified.



What does the urban black man of means, such as Virgil Abloh and his cohorts and those who look to hip-hop stars for fashion inspiration and guidance, like to wear? If LV is an indication, perhaps sheer, oversized T-shirts? Or, printed/coloured, baggy trousers? Or, shorts that look like bloomers? Or, holsters as one-sided vests? Or, sweaters featuring gay icons Dorothy and friends down the yellow brick road?

Ultimately is this still about street style? It’s hard to say. Fashion is long gone about design. It is about looks pulled together from various articles of clothing not necessarily connected to one another. Street style is, of course, such an amalgamation. But Mr Abloh isn’t delivering street the way OAMC’s Luke Meier (one-time co-designer at Supreme) does. He is, instead, offering what McDonald’s calls “upsized”: you get more meat, but at the core, it’s still the same flavourless mince.

If fashion is about a designer’s voice, what was Mr ABloh saying that wasn’t already said at Off-White? That should be the question. In a couple of the appliquéd badges that appeared on the clothes, a message was delivered: “Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain”. Was Virgil Abloh referring to himself? If he was, it was a genius pitch because you most certainly will, rather than not.

Photos: (first) Getty Images, (second) Louis Vuitton live stream, (others)

Ganryu Fumito Strides Back


He returned just as quietly as he departed. Ganryu Fumito’s come-back to the men’s fashion week season is bereft of bang, but the discreet debut under his full name at the Pitti Immagine Uomo a few days back was anything but muted. The inspiration for his show, as reported, was water, and while this collection may not make waves, it certainly would send ripples down the right direction. First-hand reports so far barely contained the excited reactions.

The welcome return is understandable. Mr Fumito is considered a rare breed among those designers who are adept at melting the finest of sportswear, streetwear, and work wear, a Haroumi Hosono of fashion, if you will. His departure from his previous employer Comme des Garçons last year was not officially announced until a Canadian e-tailer broke the news online. The reveal was met with disappointment by fans, including many of us at SOTD, who had not expected such a pull-out, considering how respected Mr Fumito is. His back-to-the-fold of immensely captivating men’s wear labels is particularly significant in view of the many new appointees at major brands that will debut this month.


That the collection premiered at the Pitti Immagine Uomo is significant. The Florentine fair is known to launch the careers of designers who take a different, more audacious sartorial path, such as Thom Browne and Kolor’s Junichi Abe. Mr Fumito’s collection is bound to capture the attention of the world’s stockists and media. And it should. Not short of his usual inventiveness, the clothes are, however, relieved of any CDG imprint—none of the patchwork, none of the patterns, none of the surface extras associated with CDG made their appearance. Instead, Mr Fumito turned to what could be religious garb to show that he’s starting from a conscientiously clean sheet. The first look, a hooded robe, in all its monastic starkness, led us to think of Benedictine monks. But the robe, in neoprene, had a more sportif quality that was more post-game than ecclesiastical, more Gary Numan (Berserker?) than Gregorian chant.

This is not to say Mr Fumito has turned to the strictly pared-down or even rejected the secular. In fact, it appeared that he has not turned his gaze away from the street—not Paris, more Tokyo, not Gosha Rubchinskiy’s Muscovite skate headiness, more Y3’s soft, alt-sport kei. Evidently, he is not too high-minded to allow basic T-shirts to take to the catwalk—not those with crazy appendages. If you look closely, you’d spot familiar articles of clothing too, those pieces that are the staples of streetwear and those outers (yes, hoodies for the ’hood) that accompany you to the cinema. An elevation of a certain Life Wear? These are clothes not necessarily for the conventional office, but certainly for those who share start-up spaces or those who occupy professional environments not dictated by the shirt and smart trousers.


There’s no denying that the presentation relied heavily on styling tricks: extra clothing strapped on the body as one would with a backpack or messenger bag, layering that seemed unrelated to weather conditions, and outdoorsy mixes that were evocative of perhaps a decidedly urban The North Face (a domain of Nanamica’s Eiichiro Homma). And therein lies the charm and the assurance that Mr Fumito, like his one-time design head Junya Watanabe, does not have to rely on the far-out to make a strong statement. Indeed, take the ensembles apart and you have those clothes that won’t be step siblings in your wardrobe.

Mr Fumito also proved that street style can have a voice that need not be traced to a particular store on New York’s Lafayette Street or the din that is blaring from America’s hip-hop community whose fashion stars are enjoying worldwide attention, or lured to popular Parisian houses. Street style, in fact, need not be the souped-up treatment of what has been considered street since the ’80s, since Fame. It need not have to have a US worldview; it could be better, infinitely better.

Photo: (top) Pitti Immagine Uomo, (others)

Midnight Cowboys

Saint Laurent’s men’s wear under Anthony Vaccarello was presented in New York. Is this another of the brand’s attempt at Americanisation?


Saint Laurent P1

When bands in the European continent want to make it big, they record or launch albums in the good ’ol US of A. The Brits, in particular, consider North America the platform for global domination. From the Beatles to Depeche Mode to One Direction, bands see Uncle Sam as the father of immense riches or the repository of accessible pop. In the Trumpian world, could this be America, “the piggy bank that everybody is robbing”?

Fashion designers, like band members, see the allure of the United States too. Anthony Vaccarello is one of them. His spring/summer 2019 men’s wear collection for the house was shown, not in Paris but in the Big Apple, a city that provided, as he told the media, “the idea of New York, the idea of the icons of New York in the ’70s”. If that immediately sounds like a cliché, it is. The Americans have been robbing the accesses of the disco era for a very long time, so much so that many of them can’t forgo the lurid glam headquartered in the nightclub Studio 54. But the French, such as Yves Saint Laurent himself, want to show the Americans how to do it better. Hedi Slimane, Mr Vaccarello’s predecessor, was also seduced by the US. He even showed in—of all places—LA! Even in the West Coast, you can’t say “icons of New York in the ’70s” wasn’t on his mind.

Saint Laurent G1

Since Mr Slimane’s remake of Saint Laurent for men, the clothes have been part lost hippy, part rock star, part flashy pimp. Mr Vaccarello has not dramatically change the aesthetic, but has added to the equation part urban cowboy. At the New York show, he styled a sort of downtown dandy, a nocturnal peacock (in a beaded paisley blazer!) that occupies his time mostly hanging out with band mates (still the Pete Doherty vibe?), in the most underground of clubs, under the cover of darkness or the hypnosis of the strobe. It was not easy to see how the clothes would fit any activity of daylight hours, unless your line of work involves, say, entertainment. The outfits were mostly dark in shade, glittery in effects, and slim in silhouette.

In fact, the silhouette has not changed much. Since Mr Slimane exported hipster lean to Saint Laurent from Dior Homme, his successor has not deviated from the look. In fact, skinniness has remained central—a skinniness that has, by now, made oversized and baggy positively more interesting. There isn’t anything inherently wrong with slim-fit, but for those who have moved on to something less of a cling wrap, what Mr Vaccarello is proposing seems a little, well, narrow, or restrictive. The body of today deserves a variety of proportions.

Saint Laurent G2Saint Laurent G3

Within the overall slimness of the silhouette, he added Western touches that few men of horse and lasso would consider authentic. Then there were those unbuttoned-halfway shirts underneath leather jackets, punctuated by a neckerchief—throwback to the ’70s that appeared lame against the signature excesses at Gucci. In addition, those sheer sequinned shirts and sleeveless tops that would have more in common with men of a certain age unable to pull away from the past than the young living in the present. Noteworthy too were the surprisingly large number of jeans, more permutations than even Diesel would churn out per season. And what was the body glitter of the finale about? A nod to the month of Pride?

Look closely and the collection persuaded one to think that it is isn’t terribly inventive by design. Similar to Mr Slimane’s initially divisive approach, Mr Vaccarello had created looks using rather basic clothes in nightclub-worthy fabrics to effect his vision of what he thinks the Americans would like: styles of the ’70s, considered the breakout decade for American designers. The thing is, this may be the most exciting men’s wear season in a long while. Eyes and social media accounts will be trained on the debuts of Virgil Abloh at Louis Vuitton, Kim Jones at Dior Homme, Hedi Slimane at Celine’s very first season for men, Jacquemus’s own, and Riccardo Tisci at Burberry. By the looks of it, Anthony Vaccarello probably did not aim to be the first among peers.

Photos: Saint Laurent