Two Of A Kind: Cotton Work Jacket

In the work wear category, which is better: Dior or Uniqlo?


Dior Vs UniqloTwo work-wear-style cotton jackets: Dior (left) for women and (right) Uniqlo X JW Anderson for men

When we saw this Dior jacket in the window of the brand’s Takashimaya Shopping Centre store, we did a double take. Had we not just seen a very similar piece at Uniqlo a short while ago?

It was a day after Uniqlo’s launch of its collaborative line with JW Anderson, the fifth season since its debut in 2017, now including a kid’s capsule for the first time. Described as “British country style”, the result is more Land Girls than To the Manor Born, South Downs than South Bank. Mr Anderson knows what he can do with a mass brand such as Uniqlo. While the Britishness is arguable in the hands of the Japanese, the clothes are an agreeable interpretation of idyllic-meets-high-street. With Uniqlo, Mr Anderson has consistently offered his version of British outerwear (winter coats have been especially appealing), and this men’s cotton work jacket is another to add to the pairing’s repertoire, and continues to expand on Uniqlo’s own contemporary-fit versions.

That Dior needs to produce a jacket of such proletarian provenance for its women’s wear is a little more than mind boggling. Or, that such an item need to be sold alongside the brand’s own signature Bar jacket, is indication that Dior, like many other luxury labels, is studying with palpable seriousness from the playbook of money-churning mass brands. The line between fashion and clothing is blurred to the point that you can’t see if there’s a demarcation in the first place, like the smudgy marks of past and present scribbles on a black board that never benefited from a thorough wipe down. It is apposite to say that Dior, more than ever, is traipsing into the territory that Uniqlo and the like hold court. In this court—of numbing mono-culture, why be different when you can be the same?

Photos: (left) Dior and (right) Uniqlo

Walking Out Of The Shadow Of Karl Lagerfeld

Is Silvia Venturini Fendi now tracking her own path? Or did she learn well from a former part-time employee?


Fendi AW 2020 P1

Fendi. The moment they tried moving the focus away from the founding business of fur (for obvious reasons), the Roman house has placed significant emphasis and resources on its ready-to-wear unit, which is today 43 years old. While the late Karl Lagerfeld has been credited with modernising Fendi’s fur designs, not many—even members of the press—seriously note (or remember) that it was Mr Lagerfeld who launched the furrier’s RTW in 1997. And steered its direction till his death last year. Fendi and Karl Lagerfeld were synonymous. Although Mr Lagerfeld did credit third-gen Fendi, Silvia Venturini (she of the Baguette bag fame), as co-creator of the RTW, the designs had been in the aesthetical signature and whim of the German designer.

It has been a year since Mr Lagerfeld passed on rather suddenly. There was no known succession plan at Fendi. His design partner at the house since the mid-’90s decided that she could go on. Alone. Ms Fendi largely kept to Mr Lagerfeld’s codes for the house in her first solo RTW outing last season. A theme (something “solar”, if we remember correctly) running through the collection, however, saw Ms Fendi dancing dangerously on the grounds of parody. In addition, it was too post-Lagerfeld, a wobbly stance between homage and breaking free, which led to some observers fearing that Fendi would be like Chanel: lost. Perhaps it was take-over jitters. However, Ms Fendi now seems to have found her footing. Or, able to express herself without the “captain”. And the collection she presents for next fall is surprising, and a joy to view.

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Ms Fendi has learnt well from her former collaborator: don’t let a good idea fade into the surfeit of the mediocre. This season, there are those statement sleeves, based on the idea of what could be a baguette shape (that bread again!), pulled down and away from the edge of the shoulder. Sticklers of conventionally-set sleeves may find Fendi’s elongated puffs ungainly, but we do consider them a welcome study of volume for a part of the body usually preferred when slender. What’s amazing is how, with manipulating the size and proportion, it is then applied on a wide variety of garments: coats, blazers, dresses, cardigans, blouses (sheer, as well), even rompers!

Ms Fendi’s known love of cinema is also captured, saluting how and what it was before in the movie world, on screen and off screen. That the clothes are imbued with bygone romance than cliched cinematic glamour make them more than facsimiles of period trends. A couple of beautiful dresses with seemingly thrown-on scarves (but are, in fact, part of the outfits), forming an X across the upper bodice fall in with the gracefulness and elegance of those designed by Hollywood costumer Adrian. Others could have been gleaned from Italian movies—vintage-y prints; contrast collars; slim, calf-length skirts—are in sync with the Italians’ love, this season, of lady-like dressed-up given just the right touch of the kooky. And la dolce Roma.

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There is some aesthetic/visual contradiction too. Ms Fendi showed double-breasted suit-jackets and their leather cousins with boning that suggests corsets. Nothing wrong in emphasizing the waist, until two plus-sized models later appeared, with one of them in the similar suggestion of a constricted middle. Not to make an issue of it, but the incongruity is noticeable, and the different effect of the horizontal boning on the skinny and not are just as evident. It is not clear what the intention is other than to join the increasingly audible chorus demanding inclusivity. Would Fendi welcome diverse body types beyond this season’s token two?

Splendid coats, striking dresses, sapid skirts, and between them elements that come together to spell stand out—Silvia Venturini Fendi is on to a good (re)start. And a re-positioning for the now LVMH-owned brand beyond furs and accessories. In addition to the legacy of Karl Lagerfeld, Ms Fendi, too, has the input of two British fashion forces, the stylist Charlotte Stockdale (also one-half of the label Chaos), as well as Mr Lagerfeld’s right-hand consultant at Chanel, Amanda Harlech. Could this be the new power trio to re-energise Milan Fashion Week? Let’s see.

Photos: Fendi

Rodent Stock

This Lunar New Year, brands are scampering to take your money for ratty fashion


ChinatownCNY 2020This year’s Eu Tong Sen-facing street decoration in Chinatown

By Mao Shan Wang

Rats! This year will soon arrive. I don’t know about you, but I am, in real life, not a fan of rats. Not one bit, these muroids, with their dirty-brown hair and pesky tails, and their love for gnawing and scavenging. I can deal with cockroaches, however many, but rats just sickens me, even just one. There, I’ve said it. I don’t deny that my distaste for them borders on disgust.

Despite their icky appearance, the Chinese zodiac has a special love for them, placing the rat ahead of the pack. The current CNY decoration in Chinatown best illustrates this. According to my mom, the rat is very smart, ingenious even, so much so that it’s able to outsmart and kick the cat out the race to be right ahead of the 12-animal conga line. That sounds pretty smart to me. But, according to Chinese Zodiac myth, the rat actually hitched a ride on the ox and jumped off the beast to propel him to the front! Talk about stepping stones!

Apart from the rat’s intelligence, the creature is, according to the ancients, also blessed with other anthropomorphic traits: charm(!), quick-wit, diligence, and practicality. I’m not sure what that would make (a good husband?), but I think that many would find such a character attractive, if not endearing. Which may explain why, in the cartoon world, so many lovable characters are based on rats.

Mickey X MangoMickey Mouse at Mango

The shu nian, like many years of the different animals before it, is opportunity for fashion brands to sell merchandise sporting the star creature. They could choose from so many of them, be they from books or screen animations, but they narrowed their choice to one—many chose predictable and bland Mickey Mouse, which, conversely, have been described as, among other qualities, handsome and heroic. I suppose abdominous Mickey is convenient and identifiable. Using him requires no starting from scratch. Why bother with a new delineation when Disney will readily licence a very white black mouse for any use, even for a largely Asian audience? And he’s available in so many forms—old and new.

If they really wanted handsome and heroic—appreciable modern rarities, there’s Remy from Ratatouille or Jerry of Tom & Jerry (to be sure, Etude House used them) or Minute of Courageous Cat and Minute Mouse (too old?). Or, if muscles are the prerogative, Mighty Mouse (the cartoon character, not Apple’s input device from 2005!). Or, if literary associations vital, Stuart Little. Or, if a female is preferred (in a post-Wonder Woman world, they are), Miss Bianca from The Rescuers. Or, if gender-fluidity is a must, Coney from the wildly popular Line characters. Or, if racial inclusiveness the most crucial, my all-time fave, Speedy Gonzales. No, they prefer same-old and sure-safe Mickey Mouse.

Gucci jeans & track top SS 2020Gucci track top and denim jeansDsneyDisney’s own Mickey Mouse merchandise with local expressionsH&M X Disney SS 2020H&M sweatshirt featuring a 3-D Mickey MouseDisney X Aldo sneakers SS 2020Disney X Aldo sneakers

Mickey appearing on Uniqlo or H&M tees is understandable—expected, even, but as a mascot for a luxury brand such as Gucci? To me, it’s jejune and unimaginative and too convenient. Mickey Mouse is there for the taking, so take it. That’s what it says to me. After all, the brand had already collaborated with Disney; they’ve produced a USD4,500(!), 3-D printed plastic handbag in the shape of Mickey’s head to mark the mouse’s 90th anniversary in 2018. No sweat if Disney’s beloved character is used. Again.

Some other brands do try, with varying degrees of success (authenticity? That’s another point). There’s a blotch of a rat at CK Calvin Klein, accompanied by a message: “TO SEE WHAT OTHERS DO NOT SEE THAT IS TRUE VISION”. Yes, in full caps and WhatsApp-worthy lack of punctuation. That’s probably paraphrasing Jonathan Swift—“Vision is the art of seeing what is invisible to others”, but what the saying has to do with rats is anyone’s guess. Perhaps cuteness alone isn’t quite enough; you have to appear smart (isn’t that already a rat trait?), better still, literary.

cK Calvin Klein shirt SS 2020CK Calvin Klein shirt with message and mouseNudie Jeans jacket S 2020Nudie Jeans Vinny Year of the Rat denim jacket at The Denim Store, 313@OrchardBrooks Brothers SS 2020Brooks Brothers sweater and a dressed grey mouse20-01-23-01-36-34-390_decoNikelab’s rat pack for DSM. Photo: DSM

Elsewhere, a pointy-nosed Japanese-esque mouse is seen on a Nudie Jeans trucker. The creature is described as a “metal rat”. They got that right. A small appreciable detail. If CK Calvin Klein’s rat is a literary one, then Brooks Brothers’ affable-looking rodent is probably its sporty compatriot. Given a baseball cap with a pair of unmistakable double Bs, the nameless creature could be Yankee’s (Everyone’s Hero) avatar. To appeal to those who are partial to cyberpunk aesthetics and who care not to be auspicious, the Earn Chen-led (he who founded Surrender and Ambush, and now the guy behind Potato Head Folk)  Singaporean label, The Salvages, offers—at DSMS—a robotic rat with a menacing scowl and red eye. Even Starbucks isn’t leaving themselves out of the rat race, selling a coffee mug in the shape of a rather corpulent Rattus. Not all brands use solo rats. Also at DSMS, Nike’s special capsule features one T-shirts with a quintet of basketball-playing rats of the ’hood. But perhaps most fascinating is one by Doublet: there’s an embroidery of a rat on the chest. If you look closely,  you’d see a loose thread. I was told that if you pull it, the stitches will unravel, revealing an ox—a tee for two consecutive years!

It isn’t yet clear if the pick up rate for these ratty fashion will spike during the CNY shopping season. Frankly, I don’t really know the purpose of luxury brands getting into Chinese New Year symbolism other than to cash in. In fact, I don’t recall the wearing of clothes that feature the animal of the corresponding zodiac year to be common. It’s definitely not traditional! Come to think of it, I remember Marc Jacobs’s men’s wear used to have a mascot/logo featuring a rodent named Stinky Rat. Mr Jacobs had never deliberately released clothing bearing the creature during CNY. Does wearing one’s zodiac animal (or spirit animal?) make things a little more season-appropriate, a little more festive, a little more auspicious?

Ill will unintended, I don’t give a rat’s ass.

Editorial note: for convenience, I use ‘rat’ and ‘mouse’ interchangeably, probably to the annoyance of mammalogists, biologists, zoologists, and the like. Photos (unless indicated): Chin Boh Kay. 

Two Of A Kind: Body Armour

One of these is 37 years late!

Tom Ford vs issey Miyake

(Left) Tom Ford’s breastplate. Photo: Alessandro Lucioni/ (Right) Issey Miyake’s fibreglass bustier. Photo: National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne, Australia

We know which came first. But now, for most present-day fashion consumers, original ideas are so oft-repeated by others that the memory of those that came before the latter becomes hazy. The cover of the latest issue of Harper’s Bazaar features a square-jawed Gwyneth Paltrow in a Tom Ford top that the magazine described as “anatomical breastplate”. Which, we suppose, is the antithesis of what the Scorpion King wears—not body-regardful; no breast, no plate!

What’s interesting to us—actually, annoying—is that Miss Goop, who sells candles called This Smells Like My Vagina (seriously!), appears in Mr Ford’s hard top as if she is some high priestess of style, ahead of everyone else in adopting a cropped cuirass with asymmetric hemline as #OOTD, when she is not, and is really posing as Pepper Potts in an incomplete Iron Man Armor MK 1616 (later known as Rescue). Ms Paltrow may be a red carpet fave when it comes to award-night dressing, but she’s hardly a fashion leader in the same league as, say, actor-added-to-her-resume Lady Gaga.

768February issue of Harper’s Bazaar. Photo: Harper’s Bazaar

The remembrance certainty of our digital life perhaps does not go far back enough. In the subsequent media reports of Ms Paltrow’s “cyborg style”, nary a mention of one Japanese designer, who, back in 1980/81, created a bustier that at that time was inconceivable: it was made of fibreglass. Now a collectible and a museum exhibit, appearing at the Metropolitan Museum of Art (Masterworks: Unpacking Fashion; 2016/27), the Museum at FIT (Love and War: The Weaponized Woman; 2006), , and an unlikely National Gallery of Australia (museum collection), among others, as well as the 1983—1985 Issey Miyake travelling exhibition Bodyworks, in which it was a star attraction, together with another vest made of rattan by the Hayaman bamboo artist Kosuge Shochikudo..

Sure, breastplates were worn by men since Greco-Roman times, but for women that has this particular aesthetic and sheen, we credit only Issey Miyake. It is not clear if Mr Ford’s version is homage to one of the pioneer Japanese designers who showed in Paris in the ’70s/’80s or his very own idea (yes, hard to imagine), but it is rather puzzling that no one saw the similarly. If Ms Paltrow couldn’t see it, well, could we really blame her? She was eight when Mr Miyake thought of making a bustier with a peplum out of a synthetic polymer; she wouldn’t know what that is, or that clothes, like people, could be just as plastic.

LV’s Trip Fantastic

Nicolas Ghesquière makes Louis Vuitton a worthy closing journey for Paris Fashion Week


LV SS 2020 P1

Since the time he was spotlighted at Balenciaga, Nicolas Ghesquière’s designs have the pleasing ability to make us wonder. How does he do it? Why does he do it? How does he come to such an idea? What’s behind his thinking? At Louis Vuitton, he conceives such compelling collections that those questions continue to happily enter our minds. A welcome occupation, musings that won’t come to those queuing to get into an LV store. And that’s okay.

As the media reported it, the inspiration this season is La Belle Époque (beautiful age, a time in Paris when the arts flourished). But it is one that gleefully clashes with the ’70s—no Sarah Bernhardt, no Lina Cavalieri, no La Belle Otero, perhaps Cléo de Mérode reincarnated as Catherine Deneuve, or, more likely, Anita Pallenberg (her “evil glamour” a deal maker!). Even his take on the Gibson Girl is more Katniss Everdeen than Dolly Gallagher Levi. The thing is Mr Ghesquière is not inclined to be so era-specific. He is especially deft at referring without actually pointing to references. Sure, there’s often the nod to the ’70s, as with this season, but it tends not to hum the same tune as others obsessed with that time do, such as Tom Ford or Marc Jacobs.

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If associations with La Belle Époque are obvious, it is mostly in the prints, which seems like Jacques Gruber meets Kasia Charko (the illustrator of Biba’s ads and poster), handled with the delicacy of Antonio Daum’s crystal work and then put through the filters of MeituPic, and, occasionally, camo-fied. In fact, we can’t seem to get enough of the prints, intrigued by their composition, amused by how, in sum, they are less Art Nouveau than Flower Power. When they take the shape of clothes, there is a judicious balance of graphic interest and enhancement of the structure of the garments, which, regrettably, has been missing in brands that market prints as crux to their design.

Many commentators regard Mr Ghesquière as a futurist, but to us, he is more a fantasist with a flair for costuming a fashionable pantomime. The styling, for example, counters the general practice of what is considered tasteful. Wearing the collar outside the neckline of a sweater always felt to us too geekish, or, outside a blazer, like a pimp. Yet, collars, conspicuous and boldly shaped, are placed out of the neckline of the outers. How Mr Ghesquière also plays with curves within certain parameters: the pronounced but arched shoulders and the circular collar and rounded lapels can come together like an interplay of petals, is fascinating and a study of how a tad more is not necessarily superfluous.

LV SS 2020 G3.jpg

And the colours! They are not quite a riot—somewhat muted, in fact, but they are rich, negating the believe that only black is chic. In fact, black is not central to the collection, no one colour is. Against a video projection of blue sky and the transgender singer Sophie singing (and emoting), the palette projects a happy—slightly off-beat, if you consider the pronounced red and shape of the models’ lips—vibe that is not inconsistent with what the flower generation tried to nurture and communicate through their choice of ethnic-leaning clothes. Sure, LV is not quite that trippy, but in spirit, it’s as anti-conformist and anti-repressive, and beams with embraceable energy.

It is heartening to see that, while Louis Vuitton’s men’s wear is taking a trajectory of no aesthetic certainty, its women’s RTW is marching on extremely nicely under Nicolas Ghesquière. And as other brands under the LVMH umbrella continue with predictable hum (not, to us, buzz) and the usual codes, LV reverberates with much more directional and off-centre aplomb that continues to make the ride jaunty. Mr Ghesquière may need to look back to lurch forward, but some of us are eager to go along. As Joni Mitchell sang in 1970’s The Circle Game, “We can’t return we can only look/Behind from where we came/And go round and round and round/In the circle game”.

Photos: Lucioni/

What Happened To Chanel?

The Karl Lagerfeld era is clearly and indisputably over 


Frankly, we are very surprised—horribly so isn’t stretching it. This photo of Gigi Hadid isn’t real, we tell ourselves. That is possible. This can’t be a Chanel show, that’s possible too. Not with her looking like she might benefit from a serum from the company’s Sublimage line, not with her in a top that looks like the countless auntie blouses that OG continues to sell with considerable delight and regularity and the shocking shorts that could have come from some school girl’s indifferent PT kit, and not with the chain belt that, sadly, looks like an afterthought just as she was about to go out onto the the runway. Why does Ms Hadid not communicate an image consistent with what, up till now, is luxury fashion? An SOTD reader quipped, “it’s a bad-face day”.

Chanel; this is Chanel, we remind ourselves. As much as fashion is about change, we can’t say for certain that all change merit blandishments. In the current climate of inclusive fashion, this could be charged as “shaming”—bland platitude as this may be. We are no longer allowed to say that a collection is unattractive—even ‘ugly’ is not what it used to mean. Yet, the Chanel of today is, to us, not a beacon of the greatness it had been under the stewardship of two influential taste-makers. If Gigi Hadid can’t save an outfit, even from a house known to have kick started the modernisation of women’s fashion in the 20th century, what hope is there for the rest of us, especially we who want nothing to do with carrying a torch for carrying a torch’s sake?

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With her first RTW outing, there is, of course, nothing inherently wrong with what Ms Viard has done. She’s merely playing the same tune, without the musicality of her predecessor, without his interpretive flair and I-don’t-care cheekiness. As Chanel is Chanel, a commercial line not obliged to sync with the rest of the trend-generating business of fashion, Ms Viard can continue to churn out unremarkable clothes without the brand suffering any aesthetical deficit. Obsequious designs may sell, but can a less forceful creative head push Chanel further ahead without suffering the fate that befell other houses that had lost their visionary designers?

To be sure, the house still has its fabrics: the tweeds that it is known for is characteristically gorgeous (its chromatic variations quite endless), but it is what Ms Viard does with them that leaves little to be desired. The thing is, without the tweeds, these garments are nothing special. Nothing. Broadening the lapels and lowering the cleavage of the classic suit, which are now mostly build around the abbreviated one-piece, do not enhance the wardrobe already packed with countless variations. As stated in the press release, Ms Viard’s approach is juvenescent (“A youthful breeze of liberty blows….”), we don’t consider adding shorter hemlines—in the form of blogshop fave, the romper—caters to the youth the way Coco Chanel did after World War I, with a silhouette that suggested ease, the unencumbered and the sportif.

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There is a sense that Ms Viard urgently needed to, like some women who take over the creative director role from men at other houses, feminise the overall Chanel ideal although, ironically, the brand was known for its simple little black dress that, when once featured in Vogue in 1926, was captioned “garçonne” (little boy). In fact, Coco Chanel herself was known to style herself in a tomboyish, pants-wearing manner, drawing inspiration from sailors and fishermen. Conversely and, perhaps, deliberately, Ms Viard amplifies the feminine flourishes: the Pierrot collar, its Peter Pan cousin, petite bows, the tiered skirt, more ruffles that you’d ever need, the puffed sleeve, the pouf skirt (that even Kaia Gerber looks foolish in). In the mix, even the odd granny sweater!

It is possible that Ms Viard has to design pieces to cater to women of a certain age whose taste if described as fine would be excess. They have the financial means to buy and their money has made Chanel one of the most profitable, privately-owned, fashion businesses in the world. All understood, but must these separates appear on the catwalk? Could they not be discreetly introduced in the store? Perhaps even more curious: why do some of the evening and cocktail dresses share similar silhouettes with Maria Grazia Chiuri’s Dior? Is this indication that the aesthetics of women’s wear are heading in a direction that is escaping us? It seems that Ms Viard is happy to not have to better what her predecessor did. For as long as she won’t rock La Pausa (the ship once docked in the Grand Palais, not Coco’s villa on the French Riviera! By the way, we should add that, this season, the roof top is no pedestal!) and is able to make Chanel recognisable, with all the codes in tact and the wearability untouched, the brand would be able to live on and on. And on.

Photos: Lucioni/

Balenciaga For After Brexit?

A commentary on Britain and Europe or just alluding to political theatre, Demna Gvasalia’s Balenciaga is probably winning at the polls as he disports with bold shapes and runs with it


Balenciaga SS 2020 P!

Whether fashion should have a blatant political voice is debatable, and whether Demna Gvasalia’s “Balenciaga parliament or assembly,” is shrewd or spoofy needs further examination. Yet, with so many components to both clothes and show that hint at politics and personalities, it is possible that Mr Gvasalia has affairs of state(s) in mind. We’re told he is exploring “power dressing and fashion uniforms”, both not necessarily related, but can pair up, which may explain those models kitted out as delegates of forgotten EU states. But, at first look, they appear to us parliamentary ushers, security personnel, Mdm Goh from accounts, the janitor on the way to work, even the Grab Food delivery person!

Mr Gvasalia, of course, has been partial to archetype, one rooted in the mundane and even nothingness. Under the guise of what the rest of us wear and consume, he modifies and refines familiar wardrobe pieces and gives them his spin on what Balenciaga means and constructs them in shapes not necessarily Balenciaga-eque, but shapes nonetheless. That they can be independent of the lines and curves of the body, with shoulders extending to there, add to their appeal. (Those old enough may recall a certain French designer called Claude Montana.) That, mostly, a small number of women consider these clothes attractive or enhancer of their femininity make them even more desirable.

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As usual, there is a lot to unpack, and what you get may not be immediately understood. By now, we know Mr Gvasalia does not make things easy for us (that could be his gift as a designer). Apart from the said archetypal styles, he seems enamoured with the clearly less haute, bent on re-expressing what should have been the ordinary. The puffer jacket (its current popularity in winter months can be attributed to the first he introduced for Balenciaga back in the long ago of 2016), for example, appears again. That it is for spring, no one really wonders why. That it looks like something a Shenyang road sweeper might wear to mimic the condition similar to Quasimodo’s, no eyebrows are raised, when they should be.

Irony is still the hallmark of Mr Gvasalia’s work and he does not hold back. While there are none similar to the DHL T-shirts he sent out for Vetements as its former designer, there are those that allow the wearer to declare that they’re “X-Rated”, “18+”, or a “Top Model”. Taking after familiar commercial logos, he fashions a new Balenciaga framed by two circles similar to Mastercard, which appears on clothes as well as credit-card-like earrings. An assurance that even after no longer designing Vetements, which he co-founded with his brother, Mr Gvasalia can still infuse Balenciaga with quirky banality.

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However, does parodying logos that identify products and such also include fabric treatments we have come to associate with a particular brand? There are those Issey Miyake/Pleats Please/Homme Plisse-looking dusters and blazers and shirts, slipped on as if the wearer has just picked one of them up from a suitcase of equally unpressed clothes (and ironing is not today’s habit!), that we aren’t sure are trenchancy or homage. More certain to us are the fluid dresses (by now a staple) of not-quite-simple prints: they have the potential of becoming the house signature the way the blazers (and the puffers) are so aligned with Mr Gvasalia’s vision for Balenciaga, nostalgic romaticism included.

For many influencer-attendees of the show, the last five dresses “stun”. These are ballgowns, quite literally, or almost half-balls, crinoline-supported skirts, moving with the rigidity of umbrellas designed to withstand the typhoon. In solid colours and devoid of decorations, they are nothing like their Victorian versions, which this quintet is possibly modelled after. The modernity is clear, even men can wear them, which would probably delight Billy Porter to no end. Somehow, the final three remind us of Grace Jones’s gown in the Jean-Paul Goude-directed music video for Slave to the Rhythm. Ms Jones emerged from the top of a black rotunda of a skirt with large coloured dots that seem to take after those on rainbow globe lights. Then and now share one common feature: simple, long-sleeved, upper halves. Could this be Demna Gvasalia returning to classics?

Photos: Fior/

Marvelous At Margiela

At Maison Margiela, John Galliano illustrates what in fine form means


MM SS 2020 P1

You know John Galliano is on a high when he is able to work and deliver on a theme seemingly unconnected with fashion, but reflects the side of humanity that we should’t be proud of. Back in January of 2000, Mr Galliano imagined a Dior couture collection inspired by the homeless of Paris (including outers that looked like newspapers vagrants cover themselves with for warmth) that resulted in controversy so massive that the widespread disapproval of the provocative optics threatened to block out the genius of the designs—extravagant dishevelment included, so much so that the initially-defiant designer eventually had to say that he “never want to make a spectacle of misery”.

We knew not if he actually meant it, but Mr Galliano continues to aim for visual impact gleaned from the most unlikely places. This season, it’s the uniformed personnel who punctuate war-torn destruction. Conflicts are never easy to interpret, even in art, and Mr Galliano risks further disapproval if the idea means his approval of war. Yet, this is not to romanticise armed confrontation. Mr Galliano calls it a theme of “hope”, with nods to the figures of hope such as American soldier of WWII KT Robbins (whose heartfelt romance with Frenchwoman Jeannine Ganaye spans 75 years and across two continents) and British nurse Edith Louisa Cavell (from WWI, known to aid the allied and all alike, and was later executed by German firing squad), possibly this season’s Marchesa Luisa Casati. This is the closest to his weakness for historicism since joining Maison Margiela, and one of his most inspiring collections for the house yet.

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While war themes may mean military uniforms or destruction of life and the attendant gore, Mr Galliano has, instead, chosen a particular glamour associated with those war years of the first and second and between, possibly cinematic glamour, but no where near the too-literal soldierly styles of the Andrew Sisters. He seems to draw from the infirmary than the trenches, from nurses than troops. While the re-imagining of British military coats yield some delectable deconstructed outer wear, it is his focus on what the nursing corp wore that we found especially appealing. Mr Galliano gleans from a time before strict policies about nursing uniform we know today were implemented. To be sure, this is no cosplay. In his redux and remix, he dreamed up nursing wear that may only be seen in luxury rehab centres such as The Kusnacht Practice in Switzerland, rather than one adopted by Florence Nightingale, even off-duty, and certainly no where close to those preferred by the Missionaries of Charity, Mother Theresa’s order.

We are also taken by what may have been worn by patrons of private medical institutions, such as the olive, tulip-shaped top fastened at the collar with a purple ribbon (perhaps to suggest the Purple Heart Medal?) that evokes a more couture sensibility in terms of form and detail (those haphazard stitches on the collar that look like tagging by hand) than what RTW normally allows. Or those cape-like add-ons with puffed-up backs, outshone only by a bumblebee’s abdomen. Just as agreeable are the off-beat layering: shirt under a preppy wool vest and over those a strapless dress that looks like the back side of a skirt!

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Not only is Mr Galliano’s narrative compelling, his blending of fabrics, too, is beckoning. A master of mixed media, and in recent years those suggestive of a digital realm, he is able to combine the seemingly disconnected and contrasting textures in one sumptuous whole. Perforated sheers suggesting bullet holes but look more like polka dots go with men’s shirting and suiting fabrics, satins clash with knits but is rounded off with gossamer metallics, and the frail muslin-looking with sturdy woolens, which, together with a quilted coat that seems to mimic the upholstery of the Chesterfield, rather door-stopped the collection from looking obviously spring-like.

Seasons, just as gender, do not, obviously, limit Mr Galliano’s vivid, story-rich imagination. There’s something transformative about the designs of Mr Galliano. He does not only bring us into his reveries, he shows us how wonderful those worlds are too, and how much beautiful possibilities could exist in them, whether we can imagine them or not, all through dressmaking that defies tradition and what is possible with mere cloth. John Galliano may not be a film-maker, but he sure imagines—and regales—like one.

Photos: Fior/


Denizen Dior

Maria Grazia Chiuri, no doubt, has a common touch. Her Dior reaches out to any and every woman, a strategy that keeps the house profitable and her in LVMH’s good books. But is Dior a house of mere clothes?


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Maria Gauria Chiuri’s work at Dior reflects a strengthening trend that is especially prevalent in fashion: the desire among women creatives to help other women express themselves better through what they wear. We’ve seen that as personal and brand mission with Mercury’s Tjin Lee and the duo behind Love, Bonito Rachel Lim and Viola Tan. Nothing wrong with that, of course, and is an admirable trait among women-led businesses, but sometimes the good intention/social conscience/corporate communication speaks louder than the core business: fashion (or, for some brands, clothing)—the good causes eclipsing the lacklustre offering, be they design or kindred enterprises such as show production. Could this be a distraction strategy, one that diverts our attention from what is not exceptional creativity?

That, and giving voice to the women now considered great, but not celebrated in their time. For this season, Ms Chiuri chose Christian Dior’s relatively unknown, decorated sister Catherine, whose bravery in the face of arrest and, subsequently, torture (she was a member of the Polish intelligence unit) by German forces during World War II in 1944 was not (and still isn’t) talked about, even by her own brother. Ms Dior died not too long ago, in 2008, but only now is a book being written—by soon-to-exit Harper’s Bazaar UK editor-in-chief—about her. In chosing to spotlight her, Ms Chiuri is not only helping to give the book pre-release publicity, but also to underscore the feminist causes that she believes in.

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So where does fashion come in? Part of Ms Dior rehabilitation after the war took place in Grasse, a town in the French Riviera, not far from Cannes. His brother had re-acquainted her with the South of France and its much-admired flowering fields, possibly to heal her of the memory of the cruelties she experienced during capture. Ms Dior settled here and grew plants. It is this woman’s work with flora and fauna, apart from her wartime story, that “inspired” Ms Chiuri. This requires no further direction to the end point. It also needs no guide to how the garden and its content are interpreted. Throughout her tenure, Ms Chiuri is not subtle in her references (sloganeers rarely are) and does not frame her ideas in ways that beguile. She picks flowers and flowers you get, cut and pressed too.

These are clothes that beget the reaction, “so beautiful”, and you might concur if you’re easily stirred by representations of nature’s offerings in ways already previously explored in dress design. Ms Chiuri offers a picture of pretty for a new generation of Dior wearers for whom prettiness is the princess they were told they were when young, and the thought had since been a part of their visual preference and reference, never mind if Christian Dior himself had once said that “women are most fascinating between the ages of 35 and 40 after they have won a few races and know how to pace themselves”. Extreme prettiness too—augmented by embroidery and applique on fishnet! Season after season, for Ms Chiuri, it’s minor variation after minor variation of this every-girl-hopes-to-look-dainty-and-bewitching-for-the-royal-balls-of-Genovia shtick. While “women” may love Dior, according to the “numbers”, Ms Chiuri appears to cater to the schoolgirl if, for instance, this season’s limped Pipi Longstocking plaits (not to mention sleeveless dresses worn as pinafores—yes, just like uniforms of convent girls’ school) are any indication.

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With 89 looks, compared to Raf Simons’s 50 of his swansong for Dior, there is a lot to offer. Ms Chiuri is not (yet) known to be a prolific designer, as Karl Lagerfeld was (no one can as yet match his output). As such, the large number of looks compelled the need for “fillers”—those ensembles put in the show to make the numbers, not to express design flair or to lead with it, the way Dior had in the ’40s. Which really puts the name in an odd place in terms of brand positioning: does Dior care about the design legacy of previous designers such as John Galliano and Raf Simons, not just its founder alone, or is it happy to let Ms Chiuri turn it into an upmarket Mango? To which a reader of our site recently commented, “yes, Mango is just about right for her”.

To be sure, there is, of course, a place in this inclusive world for such clothes, but whether they can carry the torch for a storied house of 72 years, or push the the city’s leadership status in fashion is another question altogether. LVMH, the multi-billion-Euro-earning parent company, probably feels no such pressure or obligation. Additionally, there is, of course, a general emphasis for saleability and clothes that are easier to produce to improve the bottom line, and for looks to trump design. Many women, too, want brands there are not only ready to wear, but easy—easier—to wear, and they’re happy to take bland as well. But, ultimately, Dior must do better, a lot better.

Photos: Dior

Taking A Break From Retro Kookiness

It is not yet clear if this is a new Gucci or just a lull season


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Barely a day after Gucci’s new season, the collection is already controversial. The show opened not with its usual explosion of colour and visual mayhem, but a prelude that was, after the presentation, upstaged by a model who thought the segment she was in not acceptable. In a set of clothes that look like they could have been toiles, Alessandro Michele sends out what appears to be straitjackets, alluding to those worn in certain medical institutions. The model, Ayesha Tan Jones, scribbled on her hands, “Mental Health Is Not Fashion”, and held them up for all to see. Gucci later claimed this was not part of their show.

Mr Michele’s Gucci is, of course, not a newcomer to controversy. For the autumn/winter 2018 show, he set the runway in a space with an uncanny resemblance to an operating theatre and paraded models holding severed heads or wearing assorted head wear, including Sikh turbans. Then there was the Dapper Dan issue (which was later resolved by a collaboration) and the “blackface sweater” of early this year, eventually removed from the selling floor. Talking of runways, the travolator as catwalk is not the first in a fashion week since Kim Jones had presented his Dior last season on a similar moving pavement.

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The controversy, and the high-concept inspiration—grandiose reference to the French philosopher/social theorist Michel Foucault—threatened to down play what could be an important (or, again, controversial) development for Gucci: change. While still recognisably Gucci in its jumble of hints of the past, the effect is less pronounced that what we have been used to and certainly, for some, too diluted. From the two camps we spoke to, fans declared that the collection has “none of the zany-ness” they like, while non-fans have insisted that “he (Mr Michele) is essentially doing the same thing. Again”.

Between that, sex. BOF’s Tim Blanks reported that Mr Michele said, “The way Tom Ford looked at sex was ambiguous… It was more like something pagan, and I was drawn to that perversity.” Pagan perversity! What would Mr Ford have said about that; he who projected, during his tenure at Gucci, an image of raw, highly-charged sexual energy? Or his partner-in-crime, Carine Roitfeld? The sex talk with Mr Blanks is at odds with the show notes, which, as reported by, state that the clothes “allow people to walk through fields of possibilities, cultivate beauty, make diversity sacrosanct, and celebrate the self in expression and identity,” which, frankly, does not sound particularly sexy.

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So, what is sexy to Mr Michele? We’re not sure. Sexed-up has never been really his Gucci. In fact, it is hard to see the sex in this collection, even if there are bare breasts behind a diaphanous top of what appears to be a union suit, exposed panty and pantyhose under more sheerness, and a leg or two stuck out of slits in skirts (which would be appreciated on LA red carpets), or, in one look, negligee as cocktail wear. As usual, a cast of characters, blank-faced (or po-faced?), but still characters, populate the (movable) runway, but, these humourless-looking beings do not appear, even sans macabre props such as severed heads, particularly sexual. They look more like sophomore undergrads gone bonkers from too much study. Or, perhaps, as with much of today’s Gucci, we should not be taking the talk of sex so literally and seriously.

As expected, Alessandro Michele, being Alessandro Michele, is not able to stay away from styling that leans on the OTT, but this season the clothes are simple (and not print-heavy) enough for them to be better examined. Sure, the usual gender-bender looks are here—such as the men’s frock coat in a pink that would have Schiaparelli beaming with delight—but it should also be said that noticeable in the collection are a better fit (not the too-big dresses of the past) and suits that sing with the allure of Italian tailoring. The details, too: pleated gussets that swing from the side of a sleeveless, A-line dress; one coat similarly has pleats radiating from below the bust. Not major, for sure, but appealing to those of us who seek these little, design-in-mind touches. Logos alone, or galore, do not fashion make.

Photos: Gucci

Versace As JLo As Ever

As calculated moves go, Jennifer Lopez taking to the Versace runway could be one of the most unforgettable sashays in catwalk history. Can the brand Gianni left behind only make news by pulling such stunts?


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By now you would have seen Jennifer Lopez in that dress, based on the one she wore in 2000 for the Grammy Awards. Such a closing high it was for the Versace spring/summer 2020 presentation that every news report on that show began with how “stunning” Ms Lopez looks (with some dedicating the full report on the single gown). If you thought that the original “jungle dress”, as it became known or as Donatella herself calls it, was a daring piece of dress-making, then the latest would confirm that anything is possible with pieces of fabrics for as long as you have Hollywood Fashion Tape.

In a video interview with later, Ms Lopez admitted that back in 2000, “it was all taped down”. Twenty years after, the new take on that dress appears to require even more securing by clear, double-sided adhesive. The first may have been, as the singer said, “cut up to here and cut down to there”, it did, as we look back, appear somewhat modest, especially if the wearer was not taking huge strides, and wind, natural or machine-generated, was not an issue. The dress had sleeves (long!), and even when the back was partially exposed, showed skin to the extend that, by then or six years after Janet Jackson’s infamous “wardrobe malfunction”, was not shockingly daring. Understandable, therefore, why Ms Lopez does not think, as she stated in the interview, that the dress “was all that risqué”.

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Just as JLo has a thing for green dresses that leave little to the imagination (remember the Oct 2018 InStyle spread which showed that nothing comes between her and the Valentino one-side-unseamed column?), Donatella Versace has a weakness for the finale surprise. She pulled one off during the spring/summer 2018 show, when five of “Gianni’s Girls”, aka supermodels of 1990s, appeared, also together with the designer herself, to take the end-of-show bow. Ms Versace is possibly one of the most connected fashion designers of her generation and she knows how to use her powerful/influential/attractive friends to full marketing advantage. Appearing side by side with JLo, the optics is one of a girl-club, girl-strong moment. Or, as both women said in unison to the camera for all visitors to to hear and approve, and applaud, “women’s power”.

To us, the publicity coup is overpowering as it overshadows what is a strong Versace collection, even the strongest to date under Donatella Versace’s watch. Apart from her usual amped-up sexiness, the collection shows what a Versace customer might wear when not on the red carpet: power suits and power dresses (some recalling her attempt at reviving the Versus line), compelling shirt-under-bustier-dress combos, outers with not-quite-Donatella leg-o-mutton sleeves (there’s even a khaki trench!), and sleeveless tops with padded shoulders that won’t be lost on those with a taste for Balmain minus the fierce Glamazon posturing.

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Ms Versace, like her brother, has always been unafraid of colour—the collection is not short of bright shots, such as chartreuse, orange, and pink; their intensity only tempered by a generous serving of black. Apart from the solids, the forest/garden-verdant print that made the last dress, appeared in other forms too, affirming that it could be the pattern (“prints charming”?) of next spring. We saw similar at Christopher Kane (LFW), and, at the time of this writing, witness more at Dolce & Gabbana. But it would be Versace’s foliage-dense that the world will remember. If not, there’s always Google Image, its creation in 2000 attributed to the “original jungle dress”, searched too often.

Interestingly, Amber Valletta, who first modelled that dress to close the Versace spring/summer 2000 show, is back on the brand’s runway, but this time, in a black, bust-cupped gown that is reminiscent of Elizabeth Hurley’s safety pin dress, minus, thankfully, the safety pins. Just as noteworthy is that Donatella Versace appeared with Jennifer Lopez in a LBD that brings to mind the dress worn by another woman associated with Gianni: the late Princess Diana, who wore a similar cocktail dress to the premiere of the Ron Howard film Apollo 13 in London in 1995. As it’s often said, and true of fashion and, perhaps, more so, Versace, it always comes back.

Photos: Versace

The Primness Of Prada

Is this the elegance the world is waiting for?


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Miuccia Prada, the mother of modest dressing, has returned to the proper and the tailored, not that she has ever left them. But this season, there is more than sufficient pieces in the collection of refined, suited, almost other-era elegance to considered them core. But this isn’t the lady-like, Park Avenue-princess tastefulness that she was once famous for and had built the brand’s RTW on; this is far more calibrated for the post-#metoo era, as exemplified by Freja Beha, who opened the show, wearing a conservative pairing of long-sleeved polo shirt and a narrow skirt, with almost no makeup, looking positively the Queen of Cool herself.

Ms Beha was not the only model who wore makeup that looks un-made up. The rest too, and with hair—in a bob—looking so unstyled (side-parted and tucked behind the ears) that the do could have been fashioned after, not Anna Wintour, but mainland Chinese schoolgirls of the turbulent 1930s Shanghai, such as Rene Liu Ruoying (刘若英) as Ying’Er (英儿) in the 2000 film Fleeing by Night (夜奔, ye ben), willful, defiant of bourgeoisie beauty, and with pre-revolutionary zeal. Could this reflect Ms Prada as a political science student and a once-proclaimed communist?

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It is, in fact, this properness that appeals to us, if only because it is so rarely seen these days. Or, unappreciated. Miuccia Prada, who is not known to succumb to normative ideas of what’s fashionable, appealing, or sexy, not only revives the smart, almost geeky look that set Prada apart during the early years of its women’s wear line, but does so without nodding at the prissy. The clothes look grown up, which is refreshing in a market that seems keener and keener to cater to mostly the young or not old enough to be issued a credit card.

The silhouette is generally lean, body-skimming, and calculated to stay clear of exaggeration. Take the skirts. They sit relatively high at the waist, but not that high; they are longish, but not that long; they are slim, but do not imitate a pencil. When decorative detail is required, the appliques of fern placed on each side of the front, for example, has the effect of graphic boldness, without looking excessive; their megaphylls offering the curvy grace of paisleys. When jackets are required, Prada has them with expressive, notched lapels in the width of shoulders that Annie Hall would possibly appreciate.

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Unfortunately, Prada, the fashion label, isn’t what it used to be. With an unimpressive stock performance and a generally downbeat retail climate, plus store closures, even in a vibrant city such as Hong Kong (the brand will, next year, exit Russell Street, that, according to the South China Morning Post, is “the most expensive shopping address on the planet”; granted, the on-going protests that started in June has affected luxury businesses across the board), Prada seems unable to attract regular shoppers who can make the brand ring with the same resonance as that generated by those who embrace the undying dad-shoe craze.

What works against Prada is a dearth of new customers, those willing to give dressed-up sans T-shirt and jeans a chance. Looking around us, it’s hard to find women who turn out this way, or in a chic that suggests the opposite of street. Even further afield, not Kim K, and certainly not off-duty Gigi and Bella. Even those who want not the unsolicited attention of the opposite sex do not wish such sexy-lite style on themselves. Prada’s beautiful clothes, not just on the catwalk, but withal as they appear in-store, are perhaps too composed, too ideal, and, ultimately, too distant from the lives of those who want slouchy/oversized causal or off-beat retro-cool, or hip-hop-star-provocative, and a generous dose of trash.

Photos: Prada