(2017) Winter Style 2: The Knit Outer


When picking out an outer for winter, we often think of a heavy coat. One of the most overlooked articles of clothing is the knit outer wear. And one of our favourites is this poncho-like ‘Spider’ cardigan by the Singapore-born label Cavalier.

We first spotted this last year at Kapok when they were a Cavalier stockist, and are surprised to see that it is still available online. Cavalier, now available worldwide from Australia to Russia, is marketed as a line of kids clothing, but they size up so that adults can wear some of their styles, which, surprised us by their playful, child-like shapes that are not the least kiddy. This cardigan, intriguingly called ‘Spider’, falls Jedi-like (how timely!) over the shoulders, which the brand describes as “urban nomadic drapery”.

Cavalier was launched by designer Angela Chong and her husband/business partner Perry Lam in 2014. Both were heavyweights in the advertising business, but had chosen to leave the industry to “design for a brave and brazen freedom of expression.” This means clothes, even—or especially—for children, that defy the convention that they have to be made with a specific set of rules.

Cavalier Macaw Flight Top

Ms Chong’s approach has hitherto mostly been about play: the slubby ‘Macaw’ flight top (above), for example, is a French terry pullover made good-humoured by ‘wings’ of multi-layered-and-coloured tulle. The almost-2-D graphic approach is reminiscent of a child’s colouring book. Similarly, another version with the more boyish name of Condor has the wings formed with scallop-edged panels of grey tones, arranged for an ombré effect.

As for the Spider cardigan, the roominess and the flattering drape are totally in keeping with the penchant for tented shapes and subtle Orientalism that really wouldn’t be out of place on the set of Dr Strange. The texture and the monochrome of the cotton/wool/acrylic knit, too, are in keeping with a certain grown-up aesthetic that wouldn’t deny the wearer audience with the Ancient One.

It is perhaps odd that while the pre-spring 2018 collections are dropping in stores around the city, we’re recommending something from last year. The thing about winter wear is that an overtly trendy garment may mean you would not return to it the next time weather for layering beckons.

Cavalier is available at Threadbare and Squirrel. The ‘Spider’ cardigan, now SGD73.88 (original price: SGD147.77) and the ‘Macaw’ and ‘Condor’ flight tops, both SGD116.30, are available at cavaliervault.com. Product photos: Cavalier. Collages: Just So

(2016) Winter Style 5: The Big Sweater


The sweater is often overlooked when packing for winter hols. Sure, women love their soft and snugly cashmere jumpers (often part of a twin set), but that’s too Charlotte York (Sex in the City, incidentally, ended in 2004—yes, 12 years ago!). What’s more current and less New England relic is the chunky, funnel-neck sweater. Better still if it’s oversized, such as this hunk by the London label Joseph.

Part of the critically-acclaimed autumn/winter “catwalk” collection (the sales staff will be eager to tell you) by designer Louise Trotter, this sweater is especially appealing because of its craft-like vibe. The uncut yarns, left dangling on the bodice like tassels, recall something rustic. A well-used quilted blanket perhaps? We’re also partial to the dropped, contrast sleeves, on which the right side comes with a cute appliqué of the freedom-eye—just below the elbow—and the off-beat front pattern that is based on fruits.

Joseph describes the sweater’s yarn type as “heritage yarn”. It’s wool for sure, but, based on the hand feel, we do not think it’s made of unscoured wool or wool that has not been washed (typical of, say, the Aran jumper) so that the fibre’s natural lanolin is retained to keep the garment water repellent. Still, this is a beautiful sweater, which, even without a coat, can be the star of the winter wardrobe.

Joseph lambswool handknit ‘Fruit’ sweater, SGD 1210, is available at Joseph, Capitol Piazza. Product photo: Joseph. Collage: Just So

(2016) Winter Style 4: The Blanket Wrap

uniqlo-2-way-stoleUniqlo’s handsome blanket stole. Product photo: Uniqlo. Collage: Just So

As the drapey silhouette is increasingly preferred over the structured, some of us are retiring tailored outerwear such as the Chesterfield coat until they are road-worthy again. One of the easiest ways two lend softness to the outline of any outer is to throw on a shawl. This season, the blanket wrap (also known as a stole) is making a splashy entrance like never before. Oddly, though, few retailers are offering them in addition to the standard scarves.

That’s why it is surprising to us that such a stylish piece could be found in the stores of mass retailer Uniqlo. Thanks to Japan’s biggest fast fashion brand, those bound for wintry lands are now owners of at least one down jacket, and, this season, perhaps also the blanket wrap. Uniqlo’s version, called the stole, is especially appealing because it can be worn on both sides, each a different colour or colour-block. To make this an even bigger draw, Uniqlo has called it a “2-way” and touted its versatility as a wrap and a scarf.

journal-standard-blanket-shawl-aw-2016Journal Standard blanket stole for men. Photo: Journal Standard/Baycrews

Scarves, as a practical accessory, are gender-neutral, yet, puzzling as it may be, the brand is peddling this blanket wrap only to women and has availed them only in the women’s department. Perhaps the problem lies in the name: men don’t wear stoles! The striking thing is, none of the pieces available are particularly feminine. And with a size that’s no different from an airline blanket’s, these are not exactly filmsy-bitsy pieces to be tucked away in a handbag until you need it when the MRT train is unusually cold.

Interestingly, the blanket wrap is also available in Muji and, similarly, is stocked in the woman’s department, possibly due to the how-to-wear hang-tag with a figure that’s clearly female. This seems to us at odds with what many retailers in Japan are doing. One of them is Journal Standard, and they’ve made their mono-tone versions (above) a must-have of the season to update the winter wardrobe of both men’s and women’s. If a friend is in Tokyo now, do ask a favour.

Uniqlo acrylic knit 2-way stole, SGD29.90, is available at Uniqlo stores


(2016) Winter Style 3: The Hybrid Jacket


Sometimes, for your winter holiday, you want neither a puffer jacket nor a tailored overcoat. Perhaps you want something that is as relaxed as a sweat top, but isn’t one (enough of those!). This is where this oversized jacket with military flourish by COS comes in.

We’re attracted to the tented shape: it’s cape-like, but not as fly-away as an actual cape. This outer comes with sleeves: not one pair but two. The top-layer sleeves are extended from the dropped shoulder (which makes the overall shape more relaxed) and reach just past the elbow, while the inner sleeves are slimmer and cover the wrist, which is what you want in the cold. We especially like the illusion it gives: there seems to be two article of clothing here when, in fact, there’s only one. That’s what fashion editors would call clever layering and what your suitcase will call, happily, one item less.

When worn, it has the fit of a parka, which means it is roomy enough for you to don a thick fisherman’s sweater under it, or even a bubble coat. The rear of the jacket is cut longer than the front, and is lightly elasticised to gently hug the hips—practical detail for windy conditions. Talking about wind, there are also those oversized pentagonal pockets, the perfect repository for a smartphone, a camera, and your freezing hands.

This jacket, which zips in the front like a blouson, is light too. Made of a spongy synthetic fabric that looks and feels like the love child of neoprene and French terry, it is an outer that won’t put undue pressure on the weight limit of your check-in luggage. This holiday season, we sure can live with that.

COS women’s oversized jacket with detachable hood, SGD275, is available at COS stores. Product photo: COS. Collage: Just So

Sacai: The Waves Get Bigger


Not many women designers from Japan get to take the world by storm. Rei Kawakubo did in the early ’80s after facing initial ridicule and derision. The setbacks, if it they can be so called, however, lead the way to the upcoming exhibition dedicated to her at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in May next year. Ms Kawakubo would be the only second living designer in the Costume Department’s history to be given the honour, after Yves Saint Laurent in 1983, following the debut of Comme des Garçons (CDG) in Paris two years earlier. Chisato Abe, the designer behind the label Sacai (actually her maiden name), did not have it quite as hard and daunting mainly because she came into her own in what may be considered the post-Japanese era.

Sacai is no CDG, but Chisato Abe is not an isolated designer working in an obscure corner of Tokyo, selling her wares in a small shop in the hipster neighbourhood of Kamimeguro. In fact, the Sacai flagship, opened in 2011, is in the swanky Minami-Aoyama district where edgier Japanese designers tend to concentrate. The red-bricked building, although situated in an area where Prada, Costume National, the Embassy of the Kingdom of Morocco, and the two-level shopping complex Glassarea are neighbours, looks like an unlikely spot to house Sacai’s eye-catching designs—you’d expect to find a convenience store here. But it is here, far from the maddening crowd that is the nearby Harajuku that fans get an appreciative peek into the world of Sacai.


Ms Abe cut her teeth at Comme des Garçons before assisting Junya Watanabe (also under the umbrella of CDG designers) for 8 years, both experiences the ideal springboard to her own line. Sacai was established in 1991, after the birth of her first child (interestingly, Ms Abe is married to another-Japanese-label-to-watch Kolor’s Junichi Abe). Despite her design pedigree (she’s also know to be a talented pattern cutter), she does not create what she described to the media as “typical Japanese design”. She said that what she does is “more international”.

And it is on the international stage that Sacai has won accolades and the loyalty of many a fashion editor. The label debuted in Paris Fashion Week in 2012 with the kind of response her former employer received only after the world realised they were witnessing history in the making. Ms Abe has said that she learnt well at CDG and that Ms Kawakubo herself has told her “to be your own designer and create what you want.” And she did just that, producing striking clothes that, unlike some of her fellow CDG alumni, do not even hint at a Rei Kawakubo hand guiding the designs.

chitose-abe-x-nikeChitose Abe with model in Nikelab X Sacai (2015), shot by Craig McDean. Photo: Nikelab

So confidently executed was her work, so sure her voice and so ardent her audience that in no time, she was collaborating with multi-billion-dollar brands, such as Nike last year, in her first sportswear collaboration. The Nikelab project showed that Ms Abe was ready to take on new challenges. Those pieces, based on classic Nike men’s track wear, turned performance-enhancing athletic apparel into visually stunning Sacai clothes that women were buying not for jogging in a city park (where you would need good-looking clothes rather than regular gym togs), but dancing at the chicest downtown clubs.

That she would chose to pair with Nike was not surprising as her former boss, Junya Watanabe, is a Nike fan and serial collaborator, and his taste could have rubbed off (her husband’s Kolor, interestingly, paired with Nike’s greatest competitor Adidas!). What makes her take on Nike exceptional is her willingness to incorporate her sense of quirky femininity into sports clothes that, by definition and function, have to be frills-free. Yet her tops and jackets have pleated and swing backs that open up like a ballerina’s tutu when in sporting motion.


Sacai’s appeal is, perhaps, best encapsulated in those unexpected backs. Her clothes, in fact, do not have fronts and backs that correspond to conventional fronts and backs. She designs by looking at every side of the garment, improving and surprising where you do not think improvement and surprise need exist. She likes bringing contrasting elements together and often pairs military and utilitarian details with totally feminine components such as floral silk chiffon fabrics, proving that masculine touches can enhance femininity, rather than overt, skin-baring sexiness. For all her avant-garde tendencies, Sacai looks decidedly approachable; the clothes do look like clothes, wearable to boot.

Ms Abe may claim that Sacai is not “typical Japanese design”, but the brand is Japanese at heart, and the creative output can only come out of Japan. After that first wave of Japanese designers in the early ’80s, many observers think subsequent Japanese designers are not capturing the world’s attention like they used to. Their distinctive aesthetic, after 35 years, is perhaps no longer as particular or idiosyncratic. It’s not even sub-cultural, now that it has crossed so many borders, and aped by so many designers of the West. In addition, neighbouring Korea is attracting awareness with their kooky streetwear. But Japan, ever the relentless re-inventor, is still quietly challenging the standard issue. Sacai is leading the pack, cut by cut, fold by fold.

Sacai’s Autumn/Winter 2016 collection (pictured) is available at Club 21 and Club 21 Men. Catwalk photos: Sacai

Off-White In Cement Grey


The hitherto quiet building 268 Orchard Road is slowly turning to be a centre for alt-brands. Now, the all-glass entrance is flanked by two stores featuring labels that visitors to its neighbours—Robinsons Department Store on its left and the soon-to-open Apple flagship on its right—are not likely to desire with relish or open wallets. Joining Christian Dada, which opened about five months ago, is the luxury street-wear brand Off-White.

Born in 2014, Off-White is considered an Italian label by place of birth—Milan—rather than by nationality of its founder/designer Virgil Abloh, who is American. In Europe, the Chicago native is credited for upping the game for street wear by introducing the “luxe” (or, as Vogue described it, “elevated”) version of a category that, until now, has largely been snubbed by the couture-guarding establishment. In his homeland, Mr Abloh is possibly recognised more as a DJ/art director than a fashion designer. His art direction for the 2012 Jay Z and Kanye West album Watch the Throne received a Grammy nomination for Best Recording Package. He’s also known to be part of Kanye West’s inner circle, as well as on his payroll as creative director, a position that no doubt, influences the outcome of his employer’s Yeezy line.


It is perhaps to be expected then that you might think that Off-White is a blood brother of Yeezy. Thankfully, despite a shared genesis that can be traced to hip-hop, there’s no discernible spill over of the Yeezy aesthetics. It is also different from Mr Abloh’s first fashion venture, the mostly-T-shirt Pyrex Vision. Still, the reliance on rapper-preferred staples such as hoodies, track pants, and army-surplus separates feeds the average shoppers’ understanding of what Drake and Rihanna and co like to wear, however narrow the comprehension might be. While there is, to the fashion design purists, no real ‘design’, Off-White does pay considerable effort to product development. The clothes enjoy post-production effects such as washes and artificial ageing—the distresses that, for so many, are where the appeal of athleisure can be found.

The thing is, Off-White’s main man has yet to show convincingly that those designers related to the hip-hop scene rather than fashion can produce consistently innovative designs. These days, ‘design’, of course, needs to be redefined. The fundamentals may have not changed much but the approach has. Fast fashion is part of the re-writing of the definition, and many young designers who consume the end products lap up design seen through fast-fashion lenses. Mr Aboh’s “elevated” designs share much of this dynamic. Being a DJ, he can’t disconnect remixing from designing. The allure of bringing together disparate elements is so strong even outside music that many in the hip-hop business go into fashion as a natural progression of their careers.


The Off-White store at 268 Orchard Road also goes by the barely detectable moniker Window. Whether this is a window into a world of anything depends on what you desire to see. If it’s incredible newness that you’re hoping to uncover, then perhaps this is the wrong window to open. If it’s to witness what more can be done to street-wear standards, then perhaps, there’s something here that will titillate your yet-to-be satiated desire. The store was surprisingly busy on the Wednesday that we visited, and those that came did not come for what could be worn to a boardroom meeting or a wedding. A guy trying on a loose T-shirt clearly has a collector’s loot of HBAs at home.

The store, jointly designed by Mr Abloh and the New York architectural firm Family (that also, perhaps not coincidentally, designed Kanye West’s set of his 2013–14 Yeezus tour) and operated by D’League (the company behind the soon-to-be-revived Surrender),  is essentially a space barely seduced by paint brush. Exposed concrete all-over is, of course, not new, but here, you feel that the interior is inspired by the set of Saw. From the main entrance (at the atrium of the building rather than from the street), you walk into a shoe-box shape sectioned into what could be rooms in full, bare-concrete glory. If you do not look beyond your immediate space, you’d miss them. These out-of-sight recesses have the advantage of luring you into believing that there are hidden gems to be found.


Counterpoint to the warehouse-bareness and greyness is a stretch of greenery in the middle of the store, where bamboo has a starring role under a make-belief skylight. A central park, if you will; an oasis, a sign of life, even when it looks clearly placed than planted. The hotel ballroom approach to greening may appear artificial, but it gives the severe and rather symmetrical space a softness that perhaps the clothes alone cannot.

Could this dense foliage be metaphor for something more natural and calm? For sure, fashion, of late, has not been that way. But maybe we’re reading too much into it. Beyond the bamboo, there are really just clothes—elevated, maybe, but not way up anywhere.

Off-White is at 268 Orchard Road. Photos: Galerie Gombak

Ready-To-Wear Is Now Ready-To-Buy

Are you rushing out to shop?

gigi-x-tommy-hilfiger-windowGigi Hadid X Tommy Hilfiger video screen and window display at the Raffles City store

Like many of you, we saw the live stream of the Burberry show on its website yesterday. This time the staging was called The September Show rather than Spring/Summer 2017 as it would otherwise have been known, and it was a platform for both men’s and women’s wear, devised to encourage and meet the urge to spend. The video was 24.35-minutes long although the length of the actual catwalk presentation was 19 minutes. So fast moving was the video that it was hard to see every style in detail or remember what pieces beckoned. We remember that the first impression that struck us was that this could have been a Gucci show.

The clothes were, perhaps, more compelling now that it is possible to buy them after we saw them—a pro-consumer move that was proposed by Christopher Bailey (who relinquished his CEO position to concentrate on creative direction) in February this year. Despite the initial enthusiasm behind the idea, nobody could say for sure how this approach—so uncharacteristic of the catwalk-to-consumer path and time frame of the past—will work out for both retailers and shoppers.

For the purpose of experiencing what the brand thinks will be a thrill of getting something as soon as it appears on the runway, we identified a Burberry cavalry jacket as a potential buy and decided to see if it shall appear in the store soon after to seduce us into wielding a credit card.

burberry-sep-2016A rack of Burberry clothes from The September Show sat discreetly away from the main selling floor of the MBS store

First stop this afternoon was the Burberry store in Ion Orchard. When we walked in, there were surprisingly more customers than service staff. Despite the filled racks, we could not identify anything from The September Show. When a salesperson was available, we asked her about what we came to see and she was quick to say that the collection was already in the store, but the viewing is by appointment only. She offered to take our name to give us a time slot. We declined and she then said that we could come tomorrow to join a “special event” organized for Pin and Prestige readers. Or, “if there’s a style that you really want, we can help you order online.”

When even that failed to entice us, she patiently went on to say that the collection will then be moved to the Burberry store at The Shoppes at Marina Bay Sands (MBS), and make a final appearance back at Ion Orchard before it is dispatched, after 2 Oct, to neighbouring cities. This seems to be a trunk show, we thought. She added, “Singapore is very privileged to be the first country in Southeast Asia to see the collection.” According to her, the clothes will then be sent to Bangkok and Seoul. Is it a full collection? Will we see it again? To both questions, she wasn’t sure.

We tried our luck at MBS. The staff here was more sympathetic and happily showed us to a quiet recess of the store—a private lounge—where a low rack of clothes sat as if in a corner of a warehouse. We immediately identified a pink sweater, but the cavalry jacket we wanted wasn’t there; the cape-coat cousin was. Not willing to let down a pair of keen walk-ins, she suggested that we return on the 23rd for “a special event at the ice skating rink. There will be a screening of the show, and you can buy the clothes afterwards.”

tom-ford-at-mbsAt Tom Ford, one single rack, barely filled, of the collection shown at New York Fashion Week

Since we were in MBS, we decided to pop over to Tom Ford, who, too, is adopting the “see now, buy now” model. The staff here was utterly delighted that we had asked for the “New York Fashion Week collection” (we did not know what to call it). She showed us the rack at the rear of the store. There were exactly ten pieces of just five styles. Sensing our disappointment with the smallness of what was in stock, she said, “there will be more stuff coming in on the 30th, but I am not sure if they’re from the runway show.”

We asked if the men’s collection arrived too. She led us to the adjacent section and pointed to a velvet, mirco-dotted, two-button blazer worn on a mannequin. “For men, we only have this one.” It was a near whisper, with regret breathing clear. When did the clothes arrive? “The New York show was on the 8th,” she pointed out helpfully, “we put out the clothes on the 9th. Of course, the clothes arrived in Singapore before that, but Mr Tom Ford won’t allow us to display earlier.”

Mr Tom Ford’s grip was clearly felt this far. He told Derek Blasberg in CNN Style early this month that he would be doing “something new: you will be able to buy the clothes as they come down the runway.” That’s, of course, not the case for us here since there is a 24-hour time difference between Madison Avenue and MBS, but next-day availability is probably speedy enough for those who buy into Mr Ford’s “grown up” elegance dripping with ’70s glamour. Interestingly, Thom Browne also referenced the ’70s, but that’s like a different planet.

tom-ford-mens-jacketFor men, the Tom Ford store at MBS had only one jacket

Still on planet MBS, by then heady with the smell of over-consumption, we decided to traipse over to Ralph Lauren. Mr Lauren had announced during his show, via a note left on the invitees’ seats, that he was “offering every look, every accessory, every handmade detail immediately in my flagship stores around the world and online.” The Singapore flagship’s window on B1 was homage to the quiet colour beige. Inside, it was as hushed: not a word was heard, not a sound. We approached two sales staff and asked, as we did at Tom Ford, for the “New York Fashion Week collection”. Both women looked at us quizzically. The collection that was shown last week outside the RL Madison Avenue store? One of them said, unsmiling, that “there won’t be any new collection as our store will be closing.”

We had not expected our on-the-ground research to be met with such dismal news. Business must have been so bleak that even Ralph Lauren could not wait for their own potentially game-changing and profit-turning “see now, buy now” approach test-run in its own store. Has simultaneous showing and selling met a premature death in Singapore before the idea can be conclusively said to be a success or letdown?

The purpose of “show now, buy now” is to tap the excitement from seeing a presentation, whether on site or online. Sell while it’s trending could be today’s version of the now infrequently used strike while the iron is hot. Fashion and trends are no longer embargoed till clothes reach stores or circumscribed by the catwalk on which they appear, once to a small coterie of people who care about such things. Let loose from the moment the first model appears on the runway, fashion now is a multi-channel, multi-platform, multi-celeb phenomenon that seems to arouse desires than dampen wants.

gigi-x-tommy-hilfiger-displayGigi Hadid X Tommy Hilfiger store display at Raffles City

The “everywhereness”—to borrow from author Laurence Scott’s description of the digital world—of fashion prior to retail has not enrich sellers and shoppers. A rethink of the flow from concept to consumer is, for many brand owners and their CFOs, as vital as cost control. As Tom Ford put it to CNN, “When you can buy something online and have it delivered the same day to your house in lots of key cities like you can now, it seems odd that you would look at clothes online and they would be everywhere, but you can’t have them for five months.”

Wait was definitely not something fans and followers of the model Gigi Hadid had to do.  Her collaboration with Tommy Hilfiger was available during the New York Fashion Week presentation via touch screens set up on site, a one-time fun fair at Manhattan’s South Street Seaport. On our island, the clothes were available the day after the show. We wanted to see for ourselves how talented Ms Hadid is, so we went to the Tommy Hilfiger store in Raffles City (the collection is also available at Ion Orchard and Vivo City—an impressive three points of sale).

“See now, buy now” was a serious and highly visible proposition here. The store was fronted by an island display full of the results of the collaboration (more than anything we saw at the other brands), the window was dressed with two cardboard cut-outs of the model fully garbed in the nautical-themed clothes bearing her name, and, on their left, a video screen was alive with flashing stills of Ms Hadid in poses that won’t give K-pop princesses a run for their money.

A sales staff did not hesitate to point out to us that two items were already sold out: a cap and a thigh-length, double-breasted, wool-blend cape-coat. “What does the coat look like,” we asked, and she whipped out an iPad to show us a product photo. “How many pieces were sold,” we ventured further, genuinely curious. With delight and will to convince, she said, “One.”

Photos: Zhao Xiangji

Close Look: Vetements

Vetements @ Club 21

By Raiment Young

The only way to see if the unceasing rave for Vetements makes any sense is to have an actual look at the clothes. Last week, as part of Club 21’s introduction to the store’s autumn/winter 2016 collections, a little sake bash was held at its Four Seasons location. Two tweeny models were doing their rounds, wrapped in Craig Green, but the guests were not seduced. Instead, quite a few were entranced by a section at the women’s wear side of the 2-wing store, now dedicated to Vetements.

Coming from the Hilton Shopping Gallery side, I, too, was intrigued the moment I passed the right end of the store. It did not look like its usual set-up; it was not soinee enough. It won’t take more than a second to register the street vibes of the clothes. You would have thought it was Stussy gone bezerk until the eyes spotted some pieces that were without doubt from Vetements’s fall collection. My excitement was, however, mixed with dread—the dread of being let down by designs that won’t live up to the outburst of hype.

Inside, the potential visual effects of these clothes for both sexes made me think of my own insecurity towards anything extreme and illogical. Could these garments, huge and, at first sight, size-indeterminate, underscore aging rather than defy it? Nary a wisp that suggested the body-flattering tailoring that can be deemed sharp and elegant, these duds looked like they could only titivate the very young. Let it be known, I am no kid, and I have no desire to look like one. Also, I am not a hip-hop artiste. Nor a fashionista drunk on streetwear.

While I visually examined every piece of the Club 21’s small buy of one of Paris’s biggest new brands, I touched only one item: an oversized T-shirt with shoulders that would not be out of place in an American football match. What surprised me were the shoulder pads. Loosely affixed under the shoulder, they looked like those detachable ones from the polyester crepe auntie blouses of the ’80s. On the hanger, it would not sit without flopping forward. As I looked closer, I saw that the tee’s exaggerated shape is made pronounced by iron-on interfacing applied to the underside of the yoke. Clearly, to heave, no stiffening of the shoulders is required.

As I left, I kept thinking of Claude Montana. Those old enough would know what I mean. But my thoughts were then interrupted by a magazine editor I know. “What have you seen,” she asked, as chirpy as a merbok. Vetements, I said, but, as you may have guessed, not vehemently.

Photo: Galerie Gombak

A Fornasetti Moment

Dior AW 2016 windowDior’s autumn/winter 2016 window at ION Orchard. Photo: Galerie Gombak

Lips are in. Rows and columns of them. Redden, scarlet with a hint of sensuality, non-speaking, they’re here. Luscious or not quite full, parted or sealed, they are the symbol of the season (and the next). Lips may suggest sex, but those in the limelight now have little in common with a Monroe pout. They’re Fornasetti’s vermillion zone—emphatic but not quite seductive.

Dior’s current window displays are backed by such lips set against black and white discs, as in Fornasetti’s plates—the roundness accentuating the crimson curves. This repetition of lips, lenticular too, may not arouse carnal thoughts, but there is an erogenous vibe that would never have surfaced if Raf Simons were still the helmsman of the house. What does it mean? A break from the romantic, not sexual, leaning of his past tenure?

CDG Homme Plus spring summer 2017CDG Homme Plus spring summer 2017 Pic 2Comme des Garçons Homme Plus spring/summer 2017 featuring Fornasetti prints. Photos: Indigital

A window display once taken down may be forgotten. But the Dior window is a foretaste of things to come. Just last month, in the spring/summer 2017 presentation of Comme des Garçons Homme Plus, Fornasetti prints—those distinctive red lips set within a circle—appeared conspicuously as repeated patterns. This is Rei Kawakubo reprising dots, the shape she loves as much as squares, usually arranged as checkerboard.

Like Yayoi Kusama’s dots, there’s almost no sensuality in the all-over Fornasetti lips, even less on rather unsexy men’s wear. Repetition, it would seem, diminishes the lip’s sensual appeal. Even if the lips are not encircled, such as those on Prada’s pleated skirts from spring/summer 2000, they offer no seductive allure. The skirts are pretty, for sure, but they’re hardly sexy. Prada, of course, does not do sexy and obvious symbols of sexiness are just too banal for the label. Obvious ugliness is often desired, obvious sexiness, no.

Prada lip skirt close upPrada’s lip print from spring/summer 2000. Photo: Prada

Gucci heelsGucci pumps: irreverent or sexy? Photo: Gucci

However, lips with another brand could be of different service. At Gucci, those on the Mouth Embroidered Leather Pumps pucker for a different reason. The open-toe, T-strap heels, on which an embroidered pair of pink lips outlined in black is placed inches above the toe cleavage, are a calculated composition of elements designed to amplify sexiness. If the wearer has seduction in mind, these Gucci shoes—sexy by virtue of brand history and branding and, therefore, by default—will have something to say. Lifting a foot coddled in this shoe could be an invitation to a kiss!

The use of lips in fashion, whether as detail or pattern, did not usually encourage such raciness. One of the earliest adopters of the lip as a motif on dress was Elsa Schiaparelli. A jacket from the mid-1930s was given lips to frame the opening of the besom pockets. For Schiaparelli, a friend of Salvador Dali, however suggestive a pair of mouth on the waist may be, it really was more an expression of surrealism than sex.

Fornasetti scarf and trayFornasetti’s Occhi scarf and Bocca tray. Photos: Fornasetti (left) and Polyvore (right)

Similarly, while Piero Fornasetti’s famous lips were based on an actual woman’s, they were not drawn as reflection of lustful desire, even if their repeated use bordered on the obsessive. He never even met his subject. Born in 1913, Fornasetti grew up in Milan, but had gone into exile in Switzerland at the start of World War II. It was here that Fornasetti saw the face of Lina Cavalieri—the beautiful Italian soprano who had sung with Enrico Caruso—in a 19th-century French magazine (by then Cavalieri was well into her sixties). It was the visage that launched a thousand plates. When Fornasetti died in 1988, he left behind over 350 iterations of Cavalieri’s by now recognisable face on dinnerware, glasses, paperweights, cushions, chairs, and side tables.

Like Mona Lisa’s beguiling smile, Fornasetti’s drawings of Cavalieri’s lips (not always painted red) do not seem to say anything—they’re not even particularly emotive. Present-day viewers unaware of who the lips belong to may not even tell that from between them, a voice once entranced audiences at the Metropolitan Opera. Whether on a dinner plate or on a Comme des Garçon jacket, they seem to state what The Go-Go’s have said (or sung) in 1981, “Our lips are sealed.” And, unlike Jon Pasche’s logo for the Rolling Stones, no tongues, please!

It’s Paint!

Dior Homme hand-painted jeans aw 2017Skinny jeans have been enjoying a good, extended run: for more than a decade. Its popularity simply won’t fade. But these days, skinny isn’t quite enough; they’d have to be snug as leggings. Spend an afternoon anywhere along Orchard Road, and you’ll see guys (and girls) in jeans so limb-clinging, they could have been shrink-wrapped on the legs. Indeed, so tight are the fit of them jeans that they are sometimes called “paint on”. What if that’s applied literally?

At Dior Homme, someone is really doing the painting, by hand no less. But we do not think it’s Kris Van Assche getting his hands dirty. His latest jeans for Dior Homme, in very limited quantities, the staff at the store will remind you, looks like a pair left behind by an especially industrious house painter who has only one pair of work pants. The more imaginative among you may think it’s made from a sheet of overused work-site tarpaulin!

These are standard Dior Homme slim-fit, five-pocket jeans on which a surface treatment is applied. As a product of the house of Dior, there is art to the painterly finish. Firstly, it is monochromatic (with shades of grey between black and white), rather like grisaille. Secondly, the informal brush strokes on the cotton twill are applied to form a check effect. Thirdly, the paint has a tactile quality about it—roughness like those of oils or acrylics after they’ve dried naturally.

Dior Homme jeans AW 2016 look 36The hand-painted jeans first seen on the Dior Homme catwalk in January 2016

It’s not clear what paints are used. We can assume it’s not gouache or Dulux water-based. And it doesn’t look varnished. The salesperson wasn’t able to enlighten either, which points to only one way to care for them: do not wash. Never subjecting them to a spin cycle is probably the sensible way to treat this pair of four-figure pants that, on the surface at least, is art.

Caress this frameless, wearable painting and the hand senses the hardness of the top coat. Lifting the jeans up, the uncommon heft is immediately discernible. You are tempted to try them on and you do. These are very stiff jeans, and they’re not easy to put on, especially when they’re skinny too. Once, they’re on, you realise that you may not easily move in them. Climbing up a flight of stairs, you immediately feel, will be tricky. Squatting, you can’t imagine!

This pair of jeans clearly needs time for the wearer to break into, but the process maybe long-drawn since you are not likely going to wear it often or wash it regularly. Still, for the fashionista, it is likely the ultimate pair of jeans, possibly more desirable than Maison Martin Margiela’s low-top sneakers with Jackson Pollock-ish paint splatter.

“Monsieur Dior gone skater boy” was how Mr Van Assche described the mood of the collection to the media back in January after the autumn/winter show. While that is hard to imagine (Monsieur Dior was, after all, rather rotund, and communicated a sartorial sense that can be described as proper), it is not difficult to see that the future in surface treatments of jeans could be thick brush strokes rather than random tears and shreds.

Dior Homme hand-painted cotton twill jeans, SGD2,600, out now at Dior Homme, Ion Orchard. Photos: (top) Jim Sim, (bottom) Dior Homme

It’s About U

Uniqlo UUniqlo loves letters of the alphabet for its branding. The letter U is especially appealing to them, not just because, we suspect, it stands for the brand, but also because it sounds like and is often used in place of ‘you’. Its latest sub-brand Uniqlo U follows the tradition first seen in the T-shirt line UT and later, the 2012 collaboration with Undercover, UU. True to its Lifewear approach to design and merchandising, the latest collection is positioned to appeal to many of you.

What is, perhaps, even more appealing is that Uniqlo U will be headed by Christophe Lemaire, who just two seasons ago began a collaborative line with the Japanese retail giant. To be sure, this is not another ad-hoc pairing. Mr Lemaire is permanently installed as overseer of the newly-created label (he still gets to design is own name-sake brand, which is done jointly with his life partner Sarah-Linh Tran). According to the media release issued by Uniqlo, this is an “appointment of Christophe Lemaire as Artistic Director of the newly established UNIQLO Paris R&D Center and the new Uniqlo U line.”

Campaign Visual - UNIQLO Paris RnD TeamChristophe Lemaire, centre, with his Paris-based design team

For fashion folk quite enamoured with both brands’ “elevated basics”, Mr Lemaire and Uniqlo are a natural fit. His two-season collection for the Japanese fast fashion brand was considered the most desirable after Jil Sander’s four-season venture (also marketed under a one-letter brand, +J). Mr Lemaire is, of course, no stranger to mass market labels, having served as CD at Lacoste for ten years. His previous position at Hermès, before resuscitating his eponymous label, meant that he is a designer that is comfortable with handling both ends of the market. This appointment may be rather unusual among fast fashion labels but not at Uniqlo, where the current design director Naoki Takizawa formerly helmed Issey Miyake.

Uniqlo’s headquartering of the newly formed R&D centre in Paris is also an interesting move. We are tempted to speculate that, in its quest to be the world’s biggest fashion brand by 2020 with a target of US$50 billion a year, it needs an Euro-centric aesthetic. If Paris is still where brands believe fashion truly bubbles, a base in the city is well placed and Mr Lemaire well appointed. It’s also note-worthy that in Mr Lemaire’s design team of 14 for Uniqlo U, seven are Asians. And they’re all there alongside the artistic director in the publicity photo distributed to the media. Perhaps this is the spirit of U. No one man takes all the credit.

Uniqlo U will be launched in the autumn/winter 2016/17 season. Watch this space for actual dates. Photos: Uniqlo

One Yellow That’s Ochre Of Fierceness

Beyonce in yellowScreen grab of Beyoncé from the trailer of HBO’s Lemonade

By Raiment Young

Over the weekend, when I learned that Beyoncé’s new “visual album” was going to be called Lemonade, I shuddered; I really did. I am not receptive to the painful cliché of what one can do with lemons if given those citrus fruits, and I feared that somehow Beyoncé was going to lead me down that path. And true enough, she did. Beyoncé’s sixth studio album is called Lemonade apparently because during a family get-together, seen in one of the videos, husband Jay Z’s 90-year-old grandmother was heard saying, “I was served lemons but I made lemonade.” The grand-daughter-in-law, inspired, was then going to show us how she makes America’s favourite summer drink.

I thought yellow was going to be pervasive, a chromatic motif that will be used to tell stories in the videos-as-narrative. One frock stood out, but it is not in the yellow of lemons. The dress, part of a wardrobe that prompted Glamour to say the costumes of the videos were “beyond fierce”, is of a yellow that seemed to have been mixed with dirt, an ochre. There is certainly no sunshine in it, although to be more positive, it is close to the yellow of Van Gough’s sunflowers.

I was definitely not thinking of ribbons, birds, submarines, or bikinis. What did come to my mind was the mustard-hued poultice that was once offered to me to calm the painful sting of a jellyfish. What I also saw were the monks’ robes during the ordination of a friend in a temple in Nakhon Sawan, Thailand. These robes were once only made of used or discarded cloth. They were boiled with vegetable matter such as bark, flowers and leaves before being stained with spices such as saffron. I wonder if Beyoncé would make nasi kuning if life handed her turmeric.

What’s with R&B stars and yellow anyway? Just last year, during the Med gala in May, Rihanna wore a monstrosity of a Guo Pei dress in the shade of omelettes. In another era, Whitney Houston, too, was never averse to eye-popping yellow: she wore that aureate figure-hugging Marc Bouwer dress for Whitney: The Concert for a New South Africa in 1994. Could there be a visual advantage in donning a colour that can represent the sun or warn of the presence of poison?

Roberto Cavalli AW 2016Roberto Cavalli’s dress as seen on the catwalk during the recent autumn/winter 2016/17 presentation in Milan. Photo: Roberto Cavalli

Lemonade is a “visual album” (Beyoncé’s second, in fact) and that means it’s accompanied by full-length videos—every track, here, 12 of them, gets its story told in moving pictures, all made seamless by the reading of the poetry of Somali-British poet Warsan Shire. Clearly, the visual album is conceived to appeal to a visual generation that prefers to see a song than hear it. For such an album to be even more engaging, Beyoncé has to play up the fashion aspect of the presentation. Fresh from launching her new fashion line, the athleisure-centric Ivy Park, with Topshop, Queen Bey has to prove her worthiness as fashion royalty, even when she’s holding sway in the court of celebrity style.

The dress that her fans have been raving about is a seven-tier, off-shoulder gown designed by the two-season-old Peter Dundas for Roberto Cavalli worn in the track Hold Up. This crush-pleated dress that swings with distracting shagginess as you walk is not easy to wear, and especially less so if you do not have the girth of a walking stick. Beyoncé is a voluptuous woman, a tad too curvy for an essentially linear dress held up by straps that are as fine as strings. What are those two misshapen globes squashed through the opening below the neckline? Mrs Knowles-Carter, I’m afraid, you look like you’ve squeezed into one leg of a lion dancer’s pants!

The Cavalli dress appears in the video of the reggae-tinged Hold Up in which Beyoncé emerges from a building that looks like our old City Hall, with water gushing behind her and wind blowing in front. Much of the rest of the film sees her prancing in a sound stage dressed as an urban neighbourhood. As she smiles-seethes-sings through the video, she strikes what catches her fancy with a baseball bat that identifies itself as “hot sauce”. There’s considerable destruction while sprightly explosions bloom behind her. No one around her is bothered by what appears to be escalating into a war zone. Here you have a swaggering gladiolus in full anti-social, crime-abetting behaviour, and what is it for? She suspects (“something don’t feel right”) a man she loves cheated on her. As a consequence, the woman can’t tell “what’s worse, lookin’ jealous or crazy”. The woman is livid.

If Lemonade is holding the glass up and speaking for women, is it also a collective reprimand disguised as a visually rich music video? And is Beyoncé dressed to reflect how women want to be clothed when they wish to make a point angrily? When cross, wear yards and yards of floating fabric? Still, I don’t get what she’s trying to say with that yellow. If the crazy popularity of Vetements’s DHL T-shirt is anything to go by, there’s no fighting this colour most of you call cheerful.