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
Up close with the curious collab: It is as terrifying as imagined, even when not much is available
Fendi and Versace equal Fendace, a name that rings of Pantpong of the past. We still do not know what to make of this collaboration (we were, in fact, reminded not to call this as such. It is a “swap”). Is it a joke that we do not understand and, therefore, can’t laugh along? To be sure, Fendace speaks to a very specific target: those who are nostalgic for Versace loudness pied-pipered by the house’s Medusa head, those who have never enjoyed the ostentation, and those who would wear anything that scream something. For those who have lived through the garish-florid excess of the ’90s (before the demise of Gianni Versace), this is very much a revisit. It certainly was for us.
We went to the Fendi store at Takashimaya Shopping Centre this afternoon to view the brand’s take on the Versace aesthetic (we skipped the Fendi looks at Versace as they are, to us, too Donatella Versace). Except for two mannequins flanking the entrance, there were no others in windows featuring the Fendace merchandise, nor any lightbox announcing its launch today. The two mannequins—female on one side and male on the other—were not togged to the nines, as we had expected, just simple pieces you’d have missed if you, walking pass, did not pay attention to the dummies’ attire. There were stanchions and rope outside, but a queue had not formed. We walked straight inside.
A beaming sales staff came to ask if we needed any assistance. The only Fendace merchandise we could identify were the bags, so we asked her if the full collection was in store. “Is there anything you want?” She sounded eager to help. Not specifically, we want to see the pieces first before we decide. “Actually,” she continued with a hint of regret, “most of the items are sold out.” We were taken aback. She then showed us a rack the width of a large armoire: Only three items were hung there. “Is there anything you want? Do you have a picture?” We were really surprised they were this low on the Fendace stocks, this soon. “We brought in very few pieces each—one or two.” Why is that so? Is it because our market is too small? “Yes,” she agreed with a smile. “We think the prints may not do so well here. Our buyers feel they will do better in China.”
Not long after the Fendace show in Milan last September, the hashtag #Fendace was followed by 80 million Chinese on Weibo, according to Chinese media reports. In a Jing Daily (精奢商业观察) editorial, it was noted that netizens were divided when it came to how appealing the high-high coupling was: “Some believed it was simply a marketing stunt and even found them “ugly,” yet others saw them as great value.” China is a huge market, even if there are more of those who find Fendace unattractive, those who think not would still be a larger number than any sum here. The sales staff added, as if sensing our skepticism, “it is also popular with the Chinese (residing) here.”
If the proclaimed sell-out is based on the “very few pieces” availed to the store, it would be an exaggeration to say that the collection was met with great success here. But with so little to see merely four hours after the store opened, it was perhaps good optics for Fendi and Versace. “Sold out” is the best marketing strategy and catch phrase. We were also told that there was a private session for VIP customers to pick their Fendace; we were, naturally, not privy to that. Without much on offer, the salesgirl tried to interest us in the few bags left on the shelf, including a SGD4,850 Baguette in the printed silk designed for the collection (and for the bag’s braided handle), although we were intrigued by the much smaller Mini Sunshine Shopper. When we did not seem keen in either, she told us there were some scrunchies we could look at. Presumably we appeared to have only SGD375 to spend.
Tried as we did, it was hard to distinguish between Fendi and Versace in the products. Perhaps, that’s the whole idea: to look indistinguishable. However new and fresh the pairing of luxury labels, the melding of two high-end brands has its precedence: the Chinese knock-off market. In the heydays of affordable bootlegs, to appear without outright copying, some producers of pirated goods bring together unlikely names and aesthetics to blur the lines, so to speak. Fendace, to us, had that spirit, but now the smudging of aesthetical borders is legit and blessed with the finesse of Italian craftsmanship. But does it make Fendace really covetable now matter how gaudy it looks? Or is Fendace really too hot to be anything but?
Fendace is launched today.Most items are sold out. Good luck.Photos: Chin Boh Kay. Illustrations: Just So
Kenzo has a new brand symbol, and it does not growl
Surprising it is not that Kenzo’s creative director Nigo would come up with a new logo of sort to mark the start of his reign at the LVMH-owned house. Mr Nigo (aka Tomoaki Nagao) is, after all, known for his cute graphics, as seen in A Bathing Ape (although the hirsute simian trade mark is not quite adorable) and Human Made. It is not known if the Kenzo tiger visage, first introduced by designers Humberto Leon and Carol Lim in 2011 after Kenzo Takada’s stepping-down, will be retired or take a back seat, but it is quite obvious that the freshly-launched flower, a poppy-hued bloom of the quince bush known in Japan as a boke (pronounced as bo-kay), will be given immense prominence.
Flowers are, of course, almost synonymous with Kenzo, but a single bloom has never been used atop the logotype (now modified, also by Mr Nigo), as applied on the clothes (shown below). In fact, the five-petal flower is so seemly to the joie de vivre of the brand that we see it taking over the tiger in popularity very soon (wait till the Year of the Tiger is over!). There is a charming sweetness and innocence about the drawing, as if the outlined flower was plucked from a children’s book. The wide-eyed simplicity commensurate to the not-quite-intense fierceness of Mr Nigo’s street style.
Although the boke was shown in Mr Nigo’s debut Kenzo collection for autumn/winter 2022, an 8-piece limited-edition drop for the upcoming spring season will be available in Japan and official online store for the rest of the world, comprising a coach jacket (which the designer wore to take the bow at the end of the runway show), a five-button cardi, a long-sleeved T-shirt, a hoodie (oversized, of course), a pair of belted cargo pants and a version in the form of a skirt (both in a Japanese cotton twill that reportedly was inspired by the uniforms of Gurkhas), and even a blanket. Prices start from ¥34,100 (about S$400).
And just as unsurprising is Kenzo’s foray into offerings for the Metaverse. The brand has also announced that it will debut a limited-edition collection of 100 NFTs to celebrate the launch of the Kenzo Boke Flower collection, which we presume to be digital clothing with the said blossom used conspicuously. Wearable for your wardrobe or collectibles for your avatars? Perhaps it is not at all a choice.
Comme des Garçons shows a colourful collection for the modern nomad. Seriously
Is this Rei Kawakubo being cheeky? In the time of a pandemic and she creates a collection for Comme des Garçons Homme Plus called Nomad? Is it a good time to be itinerant? Or does Ms Kawakubo truly have a sense of humour, contrary to what we are led to believe? With borders shut to vaccine-rejecters, not many nations welcome those who want to come and go freely. Yet, Ms Kawaklubo wants to evoke the happy-go-lucky sartorial inclination of the wayfaring. To be sure, this is not gypsy-nomadic although the clothes has a smidgen of gypsy air about them. And joyfulness. Is Ms Kawakubo suggesting that while we may not be able to roam in the physical world, we can go awandering in our imagination, and certainly in the world wide web? Do we still remember that?
The show is held in Tokyo, in the CDG headquarters, known to be a serious office and studio space. It’s an early reveal, at least much earlier than it would be if CDG kept to the Paris calendar. The barely-discernible set of what looks like patchwork of recycled boards could have been borrowed from Dover Street Market. According to Japanese media, models walk in a dark space and halts under a single spotlight. To better offer no hint as to where the runway is sited? CDG is not a label that stages flashy shows. Even in Paris, their presentations are mostly modest affairs. Even now, it’s hard to tell that Ms Kawakubo and her team have stayed put in Tokyo.
This is a modest 32-look collection, built almost entirely on tailoring. Not bashful, however, are the suiting, a category that was expected to come back years ago, even before the arrival of COVID, and clearly not what men’s haute couture is keen to advance, with, hitherto, unclear take-up rate. Ms Kawakubo has a far less buttoned-up approach to tailoring although often times they look like pieces from long forgotten times. It’s the tactile quality, whether in the fabrics or the finishings, that attracts. And more of that can be seen again this season: coats of various lengths delightfully making layering an exercise in exploring textures.
We do wish that the models would remove their outers to show what is worn beneath. Are those really dresses (with cowlnecks, no less!)? Are those shirts or tunics? Or neither? Is the suit crumpled or is that the fabric? Although the collection is based on dark colours, many are delightfully paired with a shock of colour. Whatever her former proclamations about black and the obligations towards it, Ms Kawakubo is a cunning colourist too. Who’d guess that for autumn/winter, she’d even allow the colour-blocking of four contrasting brights in one garment! Are nomads usually this colour-loving or aware of colour relationships? Or, is Rei Kawakubo truly in a wandering mood, her mind not a permanent abode for even her favourite black?
It is reported that the launch of the doomed collaboration would be deferred. Nope, not cancelled
That one of the most hyped collaborations has to come to this is not surprising. As announced on WWD, Dior’s collaboration with Travis Scott—dubbed Cactus Jack—is “postponed”, the news site emphasised, and “indefinitely”. As stated in the report, based on an “exclusive” statement that Dior availed to WWD: “out of respect for everyone affected by the tragic events at Astroworld, Dior has decided to postpone indefinitely the launch of products from the Cactus Jack collaboration originally intended to be included in its summer 2022 collection.” They were careful not to use the now-divisive and unpleasant word “cancelled”.
As we understand it, the men’s spring/summer collection is almost “entirely” conceived with Mr Scott. For many, it is inconceivable that a complete collection would not be available to purchase. WWD reported that Mr Scott’s team shared that the postponement was a mutual agreement. Dior did not say what merchandise plans would be in place for their spring/summer 2022 season. This is their first time pairing with a musician, and reports had predicted it to be “major”. Merchandisers we spoke to told us that at the time the Astroworld tragedy struck, it is likely that the clothes were already in production. And that is very possible since spring/summer drops can take place as early as this week, or next.
Many of those who commented on the emerging reports of the postponed collection felt that Travis Scott is wrongly blamed for the Astroworld deaths and that the brands were too quick to disassociate themselves with him, once a star who could do no wrong. One commentator wrote in response to a Hypebeast post, “He isn’t responsible for the actions of thousands of fans, even if they can prove he incited raucous behavior.” Die-hard Travis Scott fans are also burning with curiousity: What would become of the already produced merchandise. Burn them? Or let them be available at a discount store?
Alesandro Michele brought the Gucci spring/summer 2022 collection to where it belongs: the world’s movie capital, right on Hollywood Boulevard itself
Gucci and Tinsletown are meant for each other. When Gucci arrived this particular night, it was a gilded key in the right key hole. That is why when Gucci sent their dressed-to-the-nines models down Hollywood Boulevard, the key turned and opened the door to a display so flashy that even the best Hollywood gala night could not rival. It was a trip not down memory lane, but a cruise to where it can call home; the motherland. After all, Gucci and movie makers and their stars have always had a chummy relationship. The impressive part was the action on the very street that many associate with Hollywood, the now-closed-to-Gucci Hollywood Boulevard—tourist attraction and home to some of the most famous theatres in the world, including the El Capitan, the Dolby (once the Kodak theatre, now aka the home of the Academy Awards), and the TCL Chinese Theatre, where the models emerged to begin their bored walk on the sidewalks. There is nothing laid-back or cool about this part of Los Angeles. It’s pure kitsch, often bordering on questionable taste, and Gucci, through their clothes reflected all that.
Alessandro Michele is a storyteller, a knowledgeable raconteur. The evening’s Hollywood street feature was homage to the entire cast that makes this town as it is: colourful, like the meretricous souvenirs sold that inevitably make their way into a tourist’s bag. Not the likes of Blanche Dubois or Holly Golightly for the high-minded. But every other character you can think of, every B-grade actress still unable to hit A; every starlet still aspiring; every former child star clutching to bits of their former glory, every off-duty waitress waiting to be discovered; every weirdo thinking they are part of this movie town; every flashy, cocky executive managing just as flashy and cocky stars; every cowboy hoping to be hired as a grip crew; every wide-eyed, here-to-soak-it-all-up visitor hoping to meet their idol; every member of the hidden mafia, possibly still ruling the town; right down to the hookers from South Los Angeles (if you thought we were imagining things, consider the sex toy accessories!), even their pimps—they were all there, out and about, with nowhere to go, but right there. Oh, yes, even she who was hoping to audition for Cleopatra!
The 30-minute-long show, featuring 115 looks, and soundtracked by the music of Björk (not, surprisingly, one of the 22,705 songs that mention Gucci, as highlighted in the brand’s 100th anniversary travelling show) was dubbed the Gucci Love Parade. But it was less a procession than a walk-past. Not a carnival either, but the clothes were right for carnaval. Each look was deliberately considered: from headwear to eyewear to footwear, every piece in its place to effect something not quite ruly. Sure, there were some gowns that were right for a tidy red carpet, but for many of the separates, the sum is Calabasas meets the costume department of Columbia Pictures, including the pasties some rapper must have recently discarded. It is heady stuff, no doubt. Beautiful chaos, fans would say, but is the disorder not rather repetitive? To be fair, the clothes increasingly resist the anti-fit of Mr Michele’s earlier years in Gucci. Yet, they all looked somewhat familiar, whether we were thinking of Aria or Guccifest, or much earlier. What goes around comes around?
Shortly after the Gucci livestream, social media commentators were agog with excitement. Some thought it the most entertaining runway presentation ever. Perhaps all the showiness is deliberate, never mind the parade seemed overwhelmed by the boulevard itself. Ridley Scott’s House of Gucci, starring Lady Gaga, will hit the big screen in two months’ time. The Gucci family has disapproved the film’s casting, describing the leads as “horrible” and “ugly” (no mention of the costume). This has aroused even more interest in the film. The latest trailer shown on YouTube has enjoyed 4.9 million views in five days. Gucci the brand has always been Gucci the movie-in-the-making. And Gucci parading on Hollywood Boulevard will, no doubt, benefit brand and movie, mutually.
Balenciaga’s IRL show is a red carpet event, complete with shouting paparazzi. Be ready to dress like stars next season. Or, one cartoon family
It’s the red carpet of the Met Gala, the Oscars, the Bafta, the Emmys, the Tonys, the Razzies, the Grammys, the BMAs, the VMAs, the BET, all rolled into one. Outside Le Théâtre du Châtelet in Paris, Balenciaga staged a fake red carpet arrival, strictly in Balenciaga, of course, and complete with hordes of gawkers and a throng of photographers, shouting for the attention of arriving ‘stars’. Is red carpet fashion a valid category? Apparently, at least to Balenciaga. Designer Demna Gvasalia was, in fact, recently at the Met Gala, making sure Kim Kardashian’s outfit looked right and was ready for the camera. Could the Met Gala experience have been the inspiration behind the presentation for spring/summer 2022? Fashion and celebrity as one, conclusively? This could, of course, be social commentary, but also a reflection of the state of fashion consumption? The red carpet is still the runway (and it is often set up as one) to look to. What goes on on a red carpet does not stay there. Eventually, it will be picked up for the streets and will boost the participating brands’ red carpet and—and not far off—street cred.
Models and celebrities (they’re models too!) arrive as if E! Entertainment is covering this live (which makes the vibe more Hollywood than Paris). A motley group that includes gender non-conformers, hip-hop moguls, screen and music stars, one rapper-couple, one everywhere-he-is photographer, one powerful (still?) editrix, and even a pregnant redhead (or should that be carrot?). They are definitely dressed to the nines, even in street style. They cover the gamut, from couture-worthy gowns to shopping/dating/loafing-ready jeans. What could be different from the average red carpet could be that the guests are carrying handbags. There are even shoulder bags. Who’d think any of them would need one at a gala? Meanwhile, inside the theatre, invited guests were watching the outside proceedings on the big screen, reportedly appreciating what is looking like a “joke”. When the red carpet walkers finally take their seats inside, the audience is treated to a show: The Simpsons! A special screening, as it appears, with Homer and company invited to Paris to walk the Balenciaga runway. Marge Simpson, high on Balenciaga, has never looked so good (not even in that pink Chanel suit), in a gold gown from the spring/summer 2020 collection, with a bow in the rear, the size of a giant Sagami kite!
Marge Simpson trying her first Balenciaga dress
Mrs Simpson on the runway
Demna Gvasalia tells the media that the whole exercise is about having “fun”, something so missing and missed in our COVID-stricken lives that fashion is now placing the seeking of entertainment and mirth as prime. And in Paris, the Simpsons certainly are enjoying themselves. And the whole of Springfield, even if they are fish out of water. Homer, the last fashionista, wears his red Balenciaga jacket like a postman his uniform. Thankfully, outside toon town, the style is more sleek, ever kooky, Balenciaga standard. The charm (and now star quality?) of the brand is its ability—irony still dripping?—to compact both red-carpet elegance and off-kilter street style into a single look with rigour and discipline. Sure, these aren’t dresses a Bond girl would wear on a date with Double-O-Seven (nor are they the stuff of his wardrobe for jet setting and licence to kill), but for those who need to be validated as perversely cool, and directly connected to Mr Gvasalia, such as he who conceives Donda. In Balenciaga, one is not under-dressed or over-dressed, just dressed, statement unequivocally made. How convenient for most fashion-craving rappers and their inner circles.
Now that the Balenciaga couture is shown, and the house’s know-how, although never in doubt, is updated and proven, there seems to be a general sense of heightened raffinement. The dresses are less thrift-store, more cocktails-after-a-fashion-show. The hoodies less sportif, but still hoodies. The suit jackets still hunched, and still too big for most body types. The denim jeans still overwashed, but more up-cycled. And, the Crocs less unusual (now), but much harder… clompers! They are all still composed to better position Balenciaga as the unwavering height of subversive-simultaneously-worn-out cool. The look, by now, is no longer outré, but still unconventional enough for covetous eyes. Just one thing: enough of Naomi Campbell. In whatever.
In a first season with no bifurcated bottom for even the guys, Raf Simons shows that a collection can be almost genderless
The first thing that catches our attention are the shorts. Or what we think are shorts, but they turn out to be quite different: they are not divide into legs. So these are skirts? Of course, it is increasingly apparently that men are welcoming non-bifurcated bottom and the like into their wardrobes, and Raf Simons seem to be catering to these guys (and those gals for whom pants are as dispensable). In fact, there are no trousers in the co-ed collection (or maybe there is just one?). Both men and women are attired to show off legs—if not entire limbs, definitely calves. Mr Simons, we do not think, is trying to feminise his menswear offering. They still look masculine, even when many of the pieces are mostly associated with womenswear. Yet these are clearly conceived and sized for a masculine body, not necessarily brawn. In fact, is doubtful a muscular fellow would look good in these somewhat vertically-linear clothes.
The skirts, to be sure, are not ‘skorts’. They also not too skirt-like, nothing similar even to, say, a tennis skirt. We are initially stumped because the silhouette of the skirts that are worn, at least on the men, are very similar to walking shorts—nothing micro about them either. Nearly all of them end at the knee. So do the tunic-like one-pieces. Is it appropriate to call them dresses, even after so many celebrities (American mostly, from what we have seen, not counting Harry Styles or Troye Sivan), are wearing them with some regularity now? To be certain, many folks—even Raf Simons customers—would not consider them synonymous with a male wardrobe. The boat neck with cap-sleeves or another, similar, but with a gathered neckline—could these be as all right, if not trendy, as they are for women, on whom the fall of the dresses, whether tunic or trapezoid, are a study in sophisticated simplicity? Or are they now simply more sophisticated on men?
Even the shirts are not spared elongate-to-skirt-lengths. But what’s particularly interesting are those that could have been a business shirt in a former life. From Arrow to allure? But these are not your company accountant’s button-downs, nor even Gordon Gekko’s contrast-collared dress-stripes. They are, for one, definitely larger, as if cut by a patterner who is anti-fit, but unlike, say, the boyfriend shirt, or what Dakota Johnson wore in 2015’s Fifty Shades of Grey, these are not sized for someone else. The collar circumference is not too large and the shoulders do not drop too much, even when the sleeves are longer than the standard up-to-the-centre-back-of-your-hand, with the cuff unbuttoned. They are like hanfu sleeve length, and even come with comparable handfu cuffs: extra wide. Despite the shirts’ business vibe, they are styled to look more blouse/tunic/dress (take your pick), even under sweaters.
This spring/summer 2022 fashion week season sees the ushering in of The Swap, designers taking the place of their designing chum’s to interpret the other brand’s signature looks. Given that there is more than a mere whiff of Prada in the Raf Simons collection, is it possible that Miuccia Prada was given some dresses to design? Surreptitiously? The navy or black A-line one-pieces, with their definite shape, modest lengths, and school-uniform-proper, but not girly styling seem a direct leap out of Ms Prada’s distinctive playbook. That Mr Simons would be influenced by her inspiring co-designer at Prada is hardly surprising. But if there is one thing the world needs right now is less of the similar with the other.
It’s dubbed The Swap, but in a world with too many labels and too much clothes, are the Fendi and Versace I-do-you, you-do-me collections necessary? Are they at all nice?
It looks like Milan Fashion Week has its climax show to end the festivities. The “unexpected” Fendi and Versace or Fendace collaboration, or “hack”, to steal from present-day, pandemic-poised parlance, really took place after the initial rumour grew more heads than on Medusa’s. And rather than a reprisal of the Gucci/Balenciaga manoeuvre in April (or vice versa), Kim Jones (and design partner Silvia Venturini Fendi) traded places/brands with Donatella Versace to “interpret” the other house’s aesthetics and codes. The result is high on the marketing potential of the idea than the ideation itself, more brash than dash, more Versace than Fendi. It isn’t clear yet, which brand will stand to gain. Versace, fresh from a showing just three days earlier had already jog one’s memory about those ideas that make the house instantly recognisable, do they need another splashy retelling? Or, is this Fendi trying to go hipper, playing down Mr Jones’s banal muliebrity in his reimagination of the brand?
It is like his Shein moment, her Boohoo, all TikTok-ready, influencer-approved. Sure, we understand that we are living in such times, but must we see Fendi go from soignée a week earlier to meretricious now, Versace go from Versace to Versace Max? It is understandable that brands love mash-ups and, possibly, their customers too, but is it really time to blur aesthetic lines when no side gains? One SOTD reader was clearly dismayed when he texted us this morning about Versace’s interpretation of Fendi, “In the end, it just looked like two Versace shows; one better than the other! Apart from the monogram, there was sadly, no Fendi to speak of.” Make that three if you count the spring/summer 2022 show of the main line. “It’s the first in the history of fashion,” Ms Versace said through a media release. On both front, yes.
No one is mistaken that this is Sacai’s Chitose Abe doing Jean Paul Gaultier and certainly not, if a pop reference is preferred, Lady Gaga doing Cole Porter! It is all about the hype. Do we still remember that? Or has hype been so over-hyped that we are more immune to it than one relentless virus? Is hoopla so blah that we need to revive it. And throw in some old-time catwalk excesses (a revolving Medusa logo reveals the double F?) and other-era models to up the surprise factor (since there are none in the clothes)? Sure it is a delight to see Kristen McMenamy playing Donatella Versace, Mariacarla Boscono still looking good, and Kate Moss looking not, but when it comes to Naomi Campbell closing the show, it really is a bit jelak. Did she not just appear in the earlier Versace show, in the same swagger?
There is the laughable name too. Sure, the project can be cheekily referred to as Fendace (the lazy conflation of Fendi and Versace), but when it is actually spelled out as a real brand, it sounds like something you would find in Mahboonkrong Centre in Bangkok, among the Armanee jeans, Frid Perry polos, Adibas kicks, and Relax watches. Clearly ‘Verdi’ is not allowable—a national icon deserves far greater respect. Perhaps this is a dig at the Chinese counterfeiters who can’t spell. Still, could they not think of something less Qipu Lu, Shanghai? We have no idea if this would appear as a label on the back of the clothes, but since Fendace is already there as a belt buckle and on the bags (including those Book wannabes), so expect nothing less. According to reports, the project was brewing since February although the news broke that it would be a sudden coming together of the brands only this week. Designers taking over as new creative directors of other brands have precocious less to work with. A waste of resources, just to feed the empty hype?
The show opens with Kim Jones and Silvia Venturini Fendi doing Versace. One senses this is really the job Mr Jones was after, rather than the Fendi appointment. Loud is waiting to jump out of him, and he creates the chance to allow it to radiate, but could he do loud better than Versace has been? It is not hard to see that Mr Jones is not particularly adept at handling or mixing prints. Or squeeze out more. The florid Versace silk dresses and separates look like they could come from a lame season of the now-defunct Versus. Donatella embracing Fendi, a house so unlike the one her brother founded, conversely, appeared the more triumphant among the trio, leaving every identifiable Versace hallmark where they can be left, like a canine marking her territory. Even the Fendi monogram is treated to Versace-esque colours. No garment is free of Medusa heads, animal prints, Oriental frets, Baroque swirls… whatever could be squeezed onto a silk screen. If not, there is always the chain mail.
Is it because the show took place on Versace’s turf? Would it be different if it is staged at Fendi’s headquarters? Will it be there next? Would there be a next? Where would the clothes and accessories be sold? Both lines at each other’s stores? Just as the show was live-streamed on both brands’ website, on visually similar pages? High-high pairings (in this case, one French-owned—LVMH and the other by American upstart Capri Holdings) may be trending now, but how Fendace will pan out is perhaps too early to tell. The idea may not have been explored before, but the execution is nowhere near radical. And, it is hard to see the sustainability (in every sense of the word) of The Swap. It is a showy novelty set up to wane.
These may not be names we get to see and buy here, but followthem we sure can
If the Japanese can organise the Tokyo Olympics in the middle of a raging pandemic, while the capital was (and still is) in a state of emergency, it would not be unreasonable to assume that they could put together a Tokyo Fashion Week (TFW). And they did. But the annual event no longer goes by that name. The old TFW had been struggling to stay on its feet, until Rakuten came along as official title sponsor in August 2019. The Japanese “e-commerce giant” Rakuten pulled out of Singapore in 2016, just after two years of operations here, and retrenching staff on the fifth day of the Lunar New Year—one ill-advised HR move that startled the industry. Known as “the Amazon of Japan”, it lost the accolade that year (website closures also included Indonesia and Malaysia, and in Europe) to, yes, Amazon. Rakuten Group’s business has become varied since, and now includes telecommunications. Still, its e-commerce connection is not severed, and, with the company’s motto “Shopping is Entertainment”, remains a huge part of Japan’s online shopping culture and hive.
To bring more heft to mere sponsorship, Rakuten also created the sibling “by R” project to “support the fashion shows” of Japanese designers (both new and established), “with the goal of broadening the horizons of talented young designers in Japan and showcasing the country’s designer fashion to the world”, according to a company statement. It does not say what the criteria of selection are. Only two are picked. Recipient of the support at the inaugural “by R” shows last year were Undercover and Beautiful People, both labels benefitted from “planning assistance and event management for the fashion shows”, as well as the “stream(ing) of videos of both shows on the Rakuten Fashion online fashion shopping website for free, with the goal of helping to further raise awareness of the brands”. This season, two awareness-not-quite-required names were selected for Rakuten to “power”: White Mountaineering and Kolor.
White Mountaineeringin a garden
Kolorin a subway train
Rakuten Fashion Week Tokyo this year, which began on 30 August and ended last Saturday, surprised many industry watchers as it did not take place in the more traditional month of October. The orgainisers moved it to be even ahead of New York Fashion Week, which begins tomorrow. Two weeks before the shows started, The Japan Times called the new dates the “shock of the month” and reported that media and buyers were “caught off guard”. Some observers thought that the new dates were to better accommodate those brands that offer menswear, usually shown earlier than women’s. It is, however, unclear how this will affect international buyers’ timetable (are they still travelling?), but with the sudden rescheduling, the Tokyo shows seem to target the domestic market, which has always been sizeable, and continues to be encouraging. According to a Reuters report, published on the first day of the shows, “Japan’s retail sales rose for a fifth straight month in July (a rise of 2.45% from the same month a year earlier), beating expectations”. That was clearly off to a good start.
Rakuten Fashion Week Tokyo’s 48 brands offer a varied mix of IRL shows (with or without audience) and video-films, some more compelling than others. For many designers, a physical presentation is still the more desirable option, even when not all could present to an audience. As Yosio Kubo said through a video presentation, “There was a tendency that digital announcements were enough due to the corona, but there are still many things that cannot be done. After all, I think that the physical fashion show will continue. You can see it from various angles and smell it. I feel it and realize the importance of the parts that cannot be covered digitally. That is why I think that the fashion show will not end even though it is an old system.” Digital-only fashion weeks may be seeing the last of their heydays.
All of the following brands featured are not, as far as we are aware, available here. We have been following them in our annual visit to Tokyo, which unfortunately had to come to a halt in 2020, but this does not mean that we cannot continue to enjoy their creative output. We hope you’d take pleasure in them too.
The Bunka Fashion College-educated, Seoul-based designer Avizmo Jo is a proponent of “New Normcore”, based on the big-in-Japan fashion movement Neo-Dadism—essentially the meeting of what is considered art and the minutiae of everyday life. The designer’s post-graduation label De_Caffeine Homme, conceived in 2018, offers “trendy style(s) that you can enjoy freely in your life, like decaffeinated coffee”, according to their communication material. It is not entirely certain if Avizmo Jo is a real name since it does not sound Korean (some members of the Japanese media refer to the moniker as a brand, even framing it with inverted commas), but his designs marry the realness of what men increasingly want—nothing too formal or business-y—with details that are often surprising, such as this season’s multiple collars/collarless treatment on a single shirt. Almost-traditional tailoring is strong with masculine silhouettes that are relaxed by not exaggerated.
Hare is part of the Tokyo-based fashion retail company Adastria’s stable of more than 25 mid-priced-to-affordable brands, such as Rage Blue, Lowrys Farm (that exited Singapore in 2015 just after three years here), and Niko and… (currently wildly popular). Regular visitors to Tokyo would be familiar with Adastria brands although they may not know which company is behind them. Hare is one such label, often seen in teen hotspots such as Lumine Est in Shinjuku. Established in 2003, the label, categorised as a “mode brand” in Japan, is put together by a team of in-house designers who translates the key trends of the season into looks that straddle fashion-school-graduation excesses and high-street salability. This season, oversized shapes dominate, with a welcome dose of technical fabrics and rich prints. The layering suggests a far more sophisticated leaning than what the brand is noted for in stores.
Hyke was launched during the 2013 autumn/winter season, but designers Hideaki Yoshihara and Yukiko Ode—married to each other—have worked together since 1998. Their eight-year-old label is very much followed in their homeland, where could be consider the Luke and Lucie Meier of Japan. Winners of the 35th Mainichi Fashion Grand Prix in 2017, the designing duo is known for their strong tailoring with feminine touches. For spring/summer 2022, their strength in pattern making and modern fabrication are again evident. Menswear styles are tempered with puff-sleeved dresses, sometimes paired with unlikely accessories such as a helmet bag. Just as striking are the strong but simple tops, teamed with waist-gathered skirts that are cut from shinny, technical fabrics. A collection that truly stands out for its grown-up, intelligent attitude.
Although the brand has a clothing line, F/CE is popularly known for their bags, including serious camping backpacks that could rival The North Face. And, their cool retail space in Shibuya called Root General Store. Founded in 2010 by Satoshi Yamane (with Asami Yamane designing the womenswear), F/CE is a go-to RTW label among those in the know. Mr Yamane has quite an impressive CV: a former designer at Men’s Bigi and, later, sales and marketing manager for Crocs Japan before moving up to become the shoe brand’s chief designer. Like quite a few of his fellow Tokyo creatives, Mr Satoshi is also a musician, playing the bass guitar with his post-rock band, cheekily named Toe (there are three studio albums to boot). Perhaps, it is this background in commercial footwear and indie, guitar-based music that Mr Yamane is able to lace F/CE with a considerable dose of edgy cool: utilitarian styles paired with outdoor wear and holiday garb, and the brand’s wearable and desirable bags.
Yohji Yamamoto alums Yu Kobayashi and Yuji Abe used to be the revered 77-year-old designer’s pattern maker and product development specialist respectively. Launched during the autumn/winter 2020 season, Irenisa is a menswear label that does not quite look back at the co-founders’ fashion pedigree. Instead, both men have forged forward with an aesthetic that they called “chic with sarcasm”. It is not certain that the sarcasm is immediately discernible, but Irenisa do not shy away from the elegant, and the the seemingly basic. Upon closer examination, one sees the three-dimensionality of the cuts and how they allow the comfortably-fitted separates to envelope the body without excess and without confining it. A jacket looks like a jacket, a shirt looks like a shirt—no needless deviation.
In Tokyo, Rainmaker is unusual in that it is based in Kyoto, the cultural and historical heart of Japan. Although one does not associate the city with fashion, it is considered a textile hub, especially for kimono silks (the best are still hand-woven and hand-dyed). It is in this artisanal environment that Rainmaker was conceived in 2013 by Kohichi Watanabe and Ryutaro Kishi. The duo’s aesthetic for both the men’s and women’s lines have always been heavy on crafting that tends to characterise those brands not operating out of Tokyo. From traditional fabrics to dyeing techniques to the relaxed silhouettes, there is something refreshingly retro-urban about Rainmaker’s looks. This season, blue in all its glorious subtle shadings—indigo naturally not to be omitted—determines the collection’s Japanese-ness, if it can be so described. Set apart, the clothes will not stump the adventurous pattern maker, but when worn, these pieces feel like the best pieces of a mature wardrobe.
One of the newest labels of the season, Sartograph was launched only last year, yet designer Shinsuke Nakano’s collection is so confidently put together that the clothes feel like the work of much more seasoned hands. A Central Saint Martins graduate, who benefited from winning Alexander McQueen’s Sarabande Scholarship, Mr Nakano completed his PhD at CSM. Sartograph, although only into its second season, offers no lack of technical finesse. Mr Nakano has been described as a minimalist designer, but it isn’t the minimalism of say, the ’90s. Within the discipline of the traditional tailoring, utilitarian workwear details—sometimes in the form of wearable accessories—are incorporated, almost like graphic design. The result is unmistakably contemporary, without traipsing into the much trampled grounds of streetwear.
Seishin Matsui’s Sise is a Tokyo Fashion Week regular. Conceived in 2010, Sise came into prominence after securing a place as a finalist at the 2015 Woolmark Prize. The line is often described by Japanese media as “minimalistic”, but, increasingly, Mr Matsui explores more complex cuts and styling that are reminiscent of the ’90s Japanese avant-garde, seen, perhaps, through European lenses. Colours are mostly kept muted to better reveal the subtlest of details and silhouettes—still body-respecting that they avoid leaning on exaggeration. Although Sise offers menswear, it is the women’s collection that is presented at Rakuten Fashion Week Tokyo, and like the other stronger looks shown this season, Sise’s sits comfortably on the side of androgyny without jumbling too much the male/female sartorial divide.
Yoshio Kubo showed his modestly-staged IRL collection in his office/atelier in Nakameguro, Tokyo’s hotbed of edgy labels, marking a welcome return to the Tokyo calendar after showing in Milan and Paris for the past five years. Among the names in this list here, Yoshio Kubo is possibly the most internationally-recognised. In Asia, the line was sold in Bangkok and Hong Kong, and here at Club 21. Although Nr Kubo’s clothes are not considered so subtle as to escape the curious mind, he does hope to encourage consumers to “think about the design and details of clothes again”, presumably as opposed to the thoughtless consumption of fast fashion. A graduate of Philadelphia University’s school of Textile & Science and a former assistant with American couture designer Robert Dane of The Danes for four years, Mr Kubo’s work is not separated from impeccable refinement, even when the final looks—as in this season’s curved lines within relaxed tailoring—tend to place him among the leading Japanese avant-gardists.
Photos and screen grabs: Rakuten Fashion Week Tokyo/respective designers. Collage: Just So
It is surprising that Sacai’s Chitose Abe didn’t stick around in Paris after presenting the Jean Paul Gaultier couture collection three weeks ago. You’d think that since she was already there, she’d show her menswear after that. After all, Sacai has been showing in Paris since 2011 (except during these pandemic times). Instead, she returned to Tokyo and issued a set of photographs for the brands men’s spring/summer 2022 collection (and the women’s resort) that was shot in Paris—possibly before she left—at the Odéon-Théâtre de l’Europe on the Left Bank and its surroundings. Odéon-Théâtre de l’Europe is one of the six national theatres of France, and the present building (1819) is the third iteration. The original building was inaugurated by none other than Marie Antoinette. It was here that Beaumarchais’s Le Mariage de Figaro debuted some two years later. Despite the building’s historicity, the photos projected an unmistakable street vibe. Ms Abe isn’t, perhaps, ready for an IRL show or maybe doing couture took its toll. Despite the heady schedule (there was also last month’s Dior men’s capsule designed in Tokyo and the KAWS collab, just to name two), she did produce the men’s collection, albeit showing it off-season, or, rather, not during PMFW. This has not reduced the impact that Sacai’s clothes tend to have, alongside her compatriot (and former colleague) Junya Watanabe, on the Paris menswear season.
Sacai has been consistent in that respect. And just as consistent is her weakness for collaborations. Just these past two months, she has paired with close to half-a-dozen names. So it’s no surprise that she is at it again, this time with ACRONYM, the German brand esteemed by streetwear die-hards. For Sacai, functionality isn’t permutations of the sweatpants (although there were those matched with chinos, we vaguely recall). For her, they would have to be existing clothes—or brands—already deeply performance-oriented. It is, therefore, understandable why she finds a connection with ACRONYM, the 27-year-old brand, whose co-founder Errolson Hugh was appointed as creative director of the resurrected Nikelab ACG in 2014 (he left in 2018). Rumours had in fact appeared online before the Sacai spring/summer 2022 reveal that a collab between the German and Japanese brands was in the works. And then there they are—the “cross-pollination”: striking water-repellent techwear for the urban-sphere, featuring utility pockets, bonded seams, and watertight zippers. Military details include one side of velcros (so that you can provide your own name tags?) and both brand’s predilection for unusually placed pockets—this season, slightly off-centre in the front, so that they won’t look too much like a built-in chest rig.
Ms Abe cannot, of course, do away with military looks—the MA jacket, for one (also an ACRONYM fave). The first look (are they still sequenced even with photographs?) is dominated by another version with fresh details: the front of the yoke (curved) brought lower, along which runs zippers (presumably to secure hidden pockets, the distinctive off-centre pouch pocket, as well as additional flaps and pockets and seams for the sleeve. For fans, which are purportedly growing by the legion, such is the thrill of a Sacai garment—there is much to see and appreciate in just one item, and that, in turn, is value for money. You get more parts than a regular MA jacket (or any other outerwear) and the bragging rights to show off a fetching sum that really is greater than its parts. And if those components are not enough, there is the bringing together of disparate garments that Sacai has built its name on, although, unusually, there are fewer of them this season, or, perhaps, just not immediately discernible.
There are pieces that are closer to the sportif, and outers that wouldn’t be out of place at a higher altitude, among rocks and trees. But most of the pieces would really do well within urban environs, such as the 6th arrondissement of the Odéon-Théâtre de l’Europe. In addition, buffalo checks and paisley bandana prints (pattern on pattern, print on print) would appeal to those for whom even the modest motifs are necessary to make an online impression, as do stronger colours, such as wellies-yellow, vivid turquoise, and a pink so unmissable it can only be called hot. Ms Abe may be partial to these not-typically-masculine colours, but, contrary to what was evident in Paris weeks earlier, she did not show anything that bear a semblance to skirts. Is it possible that, despite pronounced aesthetical shifts, Chitose Abe still prefers her menswear to be unmistakably so?
Inspired by the works of British fashion photographer Jamie Hawkesworth, Junya Watanabe’s spring/summer 2022 collection is peppered with alluring neo-ethnic touchesthat are ready for some unknown quest
Enticingly wearable and irresistibly fab have always been how fans of Junya Watanabe view his effortless melding of work wear and the artistic, incorporating into the line collabs with heritage brands across the globe. In many ways, Mr Watanabe is a fashion vagabond. There is no fixed point on which to stay put. This season, he looks at the travel photography of Jamie Hawkesworth (specifically the Bhutan photos, such as those published in Holiday), admired by fellow Brit J W Anderson, who paired with the former for both Loewe and his collaboration with Uniqlo. In the accompanying collection notes, Mr Watanabe quoted the photographer saying, “It’s such an incredible feeling turning up to a place with no ideas or expectations, and just walking and exploring and taking photographs—it’s incredible what you find.” The same feeling can perhaps also describe encountering Mr Watanabe’s designs: you do not know what to expect, but you won’t be disappointed. For those familiar his work, Junya Watanabe may be destination familiar, but there would always be unexplored territory and untasted fare.
Mr Watanabe’s work this season riffs on Asian motifs, prints, and details, which he has intermittently done in the past. More pronounced now are his use of visuals by Asian illustrators: Chinese illustrator/artist, Shenzhen-based Rlon Wang; Japan’s pop art fave Keiichi Tanaami, Nepalese artist/Californian resident Ang Tsherin Sherpa, Thailand’s fashion darling Phannapast Taychamaythakool, and Vietnamese children’s book illustrators Phung Nguyen Quang and Huynh Kim Lien. But rather than just use them as patterns on fabrics, he has employed them as he would with parts of his favourite garments. The prints are used on yokes—like bibs, some are in grid form, some as repeated patterns, some as a single delineation of, say, a head. There are prints used as linings of jackets too. A surprising large number of T-shirts with those artists’ illustrations are shown. In fact, this seems to be the summeriest collection of the menswear season, even when there considerable outers too.
Presented against what looks like a makeshift art gallery, randomly placed with Mr Hawkesworth’s photographs, and accompanied by a soundtrack featuring Ryuichi Sakamoto’s Ma Mere L’Oie (from 1984’s Ongaku Zukan) and Thousand Knives (from 1978’s same-name album), the collection seems to be focused on—as Mr Sakamoto also sang in Ongaku Zukan—Steppin’ into Asia. The original opening track features a chorus of children singing, which sounds suitably Bhutanese, although in the album, references were made to Tibet and Paradise Lost. While Mr Watanabe is not susceptible to the obvious, the Asian-ness is seen in the fabrics, some evocative of Bhutanese textiles made into the national costumes of gho and kira for men and women respectively, as well cropped and draped trousers with shapes that recall the Thai sarouel (fishermen’s pants). In fact, the whole collection comprises separates that are truly approachable and commensurate with the present desire for clothes that are relaxed (we resist using the word ‘lounge’!). The silhouettes suggest something more for the outdoors than a corporate meeting room, but Junya Watanabe has never been a business wear label, and those who succumb to it’s charms tend to be individuals in the creative business, and the many unshakable diehards.
As usual, there are collaborations galore, including his on-going work with The North Face, Levi’s, and New Balance. Others include Ark Air (blousons!) Dickies (work pants), Brooks Brothers (shirts and blazers), and also the Harajuku vintage outlet BerBerJin, which Time Out calls a “classy vintage store”, from which select pieces are printed with Mr Watanabe’s choice images from those illustrators mentioned above (not sure how those can be produced in large quantities). There is clearly a sense of sartorial adventurism here. Regional prints meet the Tokyo-urban, folk costumes convene with work wear, hipster sandals stride alongside hypebeast sneakers, all in an unmistakably happy convergence. We call it ‘exploracore’.
Undercover has not gone Madstore bonkers. Their latest offerings are not as street-bent as the brand is known for. Are these clothes for some secret commune?
In troubled times, do people dream of a monastic life? Or something close to that? Undercover’s first set of photos from their pictures-only presentation of their spring/summer 2022 collection suggests a retreat to some place less manic, more bucolic. This is not the setting we imagine Jun Takahashi, stalwart of the Harajuku street scene of the early ’90s, would place his designs in. But there they are, shot against lush hillside greenery, with a foreground of wooden decking that looks like a verandah of someone’s country home. Or, some monastic hideaway. Perhaps it is the hat that each of the first ten models has on—something akin to what a Taoist priest might wear?
The collection is called Once a Lifetime. It is not immediately clear what Mr Takahashi is alluding to. Could it be the pandemic? The WFH? The difficulties in putting a collection together during such a time? Or that maybe, for once in a lifetime, we need clothes that are a reflection of assuring and positive realness? Like the output of so many of the Japanese menswear designers this season, there’s an outdoorsy vibe to the clothes (outside is safer than inside?). But these are not really trekking togs although they wouldn’t be out of place anywhere on a trail (you’d need the right shoes, though). What’s appealing is that they look ready for any rough-and-tumble, for any weather condition, for serious use, not just for leisure pursuits. They are are not challenging clothes, but they have a lure that says, with their addition, you don’t need to revamp your wardrobe.
“No more street style,” Mr Takahashi told Highsnobiety in 2019. He has largely kept to his word. Since his spring/summer 2020 show, Undercover has put out pieces that can add variety to one’s closet, to go beyond what many guys consider comfort clothes. For close to 30 years, Mr Takahashi’s streetwear (not entirely an accurate description since he has offered more than that), with its own conceptual heft and visual flair, was what many aspiring designers look to for some old-fashion inspiration. Mr Takahashi has an uncommon eye for graphic uniqueness that so impressed Valentino’s Pierpaolo Piccioli that the latter initiated a collab with Undercover for spring/summer 2020, featuring Mr Takahashi’s somewhat otherworldly visuals (flying saucers!), placed in not-the-usual spots on the clothes (this collab, to us is the “pinnacle”, not the one with Off-White in 2019!). While there is now a moving away from those elements that make Undercover the brand among those who truly know and are cool at the same time: the beloved graphics remain: T-shirts, roomier than ever, come with colourful shapes that wouldn’t be out of place in a Alexander Calder mobile.
As usual, the outers are alluring. Japanese designers simply have a way with them, and even the unassuming windbreakers show the Undercover predilection for the progressive, and in a sheer nylon the colour of amber. The blazers are beautifully relaxed in silhouette, quite the antithesis of the couture versions shown in Paris that men are now thought to lust after. There is also the hoodie/cargo jogger sets with bag label Eastpak to make the regular customers happy. But this post can’t be complete without mentioning those comforter-like robe-coats—two appearing at the start of the photo set. How these will find their place in a guy’s regular wardrobe is not immediately clear. There is something utterly relaxed about them, and protective. They defy the need to be paired with anything that says ‘fashion’, holding up on their own with positive elan. Perhaps this is the continual appeal of Undercover—they just make handsome, desirable clothes.