A Break From Flowers

Sometimes, you really just want grasshoppers

They are known to be the most ancient of chewing herbivorous insects, which may explain the grasshopper’s particular appeal to Loewe. Ancient being the operative word. The Spanish house is, after all, known for their support of old-world crafts that are sometimes associated with agrarian life, but these pieces are nowhere near, for example, the Thai craft of making insects out of palm leaves. Loewe’s grasshoppers are fashioned with leather, a material very much part of the heritage of the house. What we find relatable is that the grasshopper—rather than, say, a cleg (horsefly)—is very much an insect we are familiar with, even if we do not see much of them in this urban sprawl we call home. In Thailand, they are not only seen, they are caught and eaten, deep fried!

At Loewe, the grasshopper appears on the front of a coin-cum-card holder, looking somewhat well-fed. And, as a pin charm with a 3-D grasshopper—possibly in the process of moulting—that bears some resemblance to insects made out of reeds or grasses. Both look more adorable than the serious pests that the insects can be (larger and when in swarms, they are the vermin known as locusts!). We are not sure who these small accessories will appeal to when flowers and kin are the preferred motif (even sculls). But Loewe looking across the food chain may be just the exercise to keep the excess of boring blooms in check!

Loewe Grasshopper coin/card holder, SGD690, and pin charm, SGD490, are available at Loewe. Product photos: Loewe

Four Years Ahead

Comme des Garçons introduces the snake for its line of small leather goods, way earlier than other brands

The Year of the Ox has yet to arrive, but that has not stopped Comme des Garçons from looking ahead, and letting the snake come to the fore, slithering across and into its range of wallets. We know, of course, that the small leather goods of Comme des Garçons Wallets does not follow the typical aesthetic of wallet design, nor release date/selling season. They march to their very own taiko beat. Putting the enigmatic snake before the mighty ox is, therefore, both marketing smarts and design freshness.

While the printed curves on the exterior of the leather wallets are clearly serpentine, Comme des Garçons does not give these wallets a name that is evocative of it that tempted Eve. Rather, the capsule is called Ruby Eye (even if in some of them, a pair). But these gleaming red eyes are nowhere found on the exterior of the wallets. They are hidden (snakes are great at hiding) within the wallets, some inside the coin pouch. The bulbous eyes look a tad sinister, and with the forked tongue sticking out, as if sensing the presence of a prey.

If we look at the Chinese Zodiac, we are told that those born in the Year of the Snake are creative, sophisticated and eloquent. Sometimes, even trendy. They are also affluent and materialistic. The Ruby Eye, does seem to fit the description of the typical snake man or woman. It’s creatively delineated, with different colours to suggest the many facets of the complex snake. Although just a snake on each wallet, open one of them, it appears you’ve revealed a total den! If you are an ophidiophile, you might wish to collect all the four styles, and arrange them on your dresser to get a nest.

Ruby Eye seems to be a progression from the earlier Black Rainbow collection, with a surface treatment that seems to be psychedelic snake skin. This came after the spongy Fat Tortoise! It appears that Comme des Garçons Wallets is having a good run with picks from the reptilian kingdom, without actually having to use exotic skins. Swell.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Comme des Garçons ‘Ruby Eyes’ wallets are available at Dover Street Market Singapore. Product photos: Comme des Garçons. Collage: Just So

Staying With Small

Have handbags become empty vessels?


Saint Laurent Pyramid Box

By Mao Shan Wang

Looks like the micro bag trend isn’t coming to an end soon. I am not sure if that is swell. I suppose it’s good to know that there are some trends that last longer than the time you take to transfer the contents of your Boy Chanel (even the small) to the Jacquemus Le Petit Chiquito Mini, which, by all accounts, started the crazy for cute but useless tiny bags that would have been more functional as earrings.

The Jacquemus miniature, as you now are aware, is 5cm at its widest—that’s at least 2cm shorter than even a a stick of lip balm. Can you imagine, even the bag’s handles are smaller than the brand’s hoop earrings! When I first saw that minuscule polygon some months back, I thought, gosh, this would not even be big enough to be a xiangnang (香囊 or ancient Chinese potpourri sachet) that (Story of Yanxi Palace’s) Wei Yingluo could give to Fuca Rucheng.

For something as large as the ribbon on Hello Kitty’s head, you’d think that its popularity will soon fade since few women would have actual use for them. A friend of mine did buy one as she thought it would make “a perfect pill box”. And in case I was not convinced, she added, “just nice for two tablets of Panadol Extra”. Bag makers obviously took notice. From Hermès to Bape, brands are producing bags with diet issues for those who like them better as pendants.

Which brings me to this Saint Laurent ‘Pyramid Box’. To be certain, this bak chang-shaped bag isn’t that small, but its mass is in keeping with anything that not only is known as “petite”, but “mini” as well. I was, in fact, surprised by how capacious this sleek lambskin quadrilateral is. You probably could fit five Le Petit Chiquito Minis in it!

What might be appealing to those into the construction of bags, such as I, is the opening. The triangular front can be freed from its magnetic clasp and pulled down. Two more triangular pieces hold the sides of the flap opening so that it would not spill the bag’s content since two magnets holding a bag shut isn’t exactly the most secure. With a slender wristlet hand strap, this is the eye-catching reticule to sit above the hand (alongside a bracelet?) while you happily dance the night away; heels preferred.

Saint Laurent Pyramid Box, SGD2,070, is available in store and online. Photo: Saint Laurent

Here Comes The Pig

LV Pig Key Ring.jpg

Chinese New Year is a period in the Chinese lunar calendar that is so connected to spending that many Western fashion brands find it more and more necessary to reach those of us who need to buy to make CNY complete. From Nike to New Look, small on-season collection, featuring Oriental motifs and lucky colours, abound. The key players are no longer just Metro and OG.

No less connected is Louis Vuitton. The world’s most recognisable fashion brand is, of course, often in tune with what is happening in this part of the world. This CNY, they too have released a small collection of festive, pig-themed products—namely accessories and such—for the festive season to look even more so.

Among the small leather goods and things you don’t really need (for CNY or other occasions), this key holder stood out for us, not because of its moderate cuteness, but its unexpected lavishness. The brand known for its signature Monogram canvas has assembled quite a posh melange of materials in an item that’s really quite small.

Stand out is the mink. Yes, mink, genuine mink, or what LV calls “natural” But perhaps the puffball is not of an amount large enough to mobilise PETA. The front or face is in calf leather, rather than pigskin, which, one would have thought, would be more appropriate, but for those who are sold on the cuteness, may be a bit much. The V, in “gold-colour finish”, is oddly missing the L, which is rather like the D without the C. Or, Rolf minus Viktor.

As biometrics, cards and apps now help us open doors and almost anything that comes with a door lock, LV is aware that shoppers might not be in the market for a key ring. They have thus also marketed this as a “bag charm”. Hence describing it to have “dual function”. We suppose that’s, therefore, more bang for your buck.

Louis Vuitton Chinese New Year collection and this key holder, SGD1,110, is in store. Photo: Louis Vuitton

Badge Of Honour?

You’d think they won’t go further than smartphone covers. But with Prada’s ID case in stores, there’s nothing that you use in your life that luxury brands wont try to cover


Prada ID case AW 2018

In the past, carrying a designer key ring was a big deal. It said something about one’s economic status or love of things designer. Now that we are in the age of the key card and biometric authentication, key rings are not only less seen, they are reduced business  and licensing opportunities for luxury brands.

The product development divisions of fashion houses, however, don’t quite give up. From trinkets for bags to protective covers for smartphones, the product category keeps expanding, outpacing even those of department stores. Joining the ranks of non-fashion items given a luxury riff this season is the humble ID case; only in the case of Prada, not so humble.

These first appeared in the Prada autumn/winter 2018 show in February. It is not unreasonable if you had thought there were used as props. But Prada rarely shows things they do not intend to sell in their stores. We took a close look at the ID case recently and found it to be more decorative than practical.

The clip-on version comes with two slots, but neither are large enough for an EZ-Link card. The windowed slot on the right can be used to frame a passport photo, not an actual security ID you are likely to use to gain entry into your secured work space. Who, we wonder, would like to wear their selfie on their body like a badge? KOLs, don’t you think?

Prada Saffiano leather clip-on ID case, SGD290, is available at Prada stores. Photo: Zhao Xiangji

RIP, Kate Spade

We’ll always remember Kate Spade as former MP Tin Pei Ling’s favourite handbag designer


Kate SpadeKate Spade in her New York Studio in Photo: George Chinsee/Penske Media/Rex

By Mao Shan Wang

When the news broke that Kate Spade died, I was in bed. At that moment, slightly after midnight, the information was sketchy: I read that there was the suspicion of suicide, and a note, apparently for her daughter. Subsequent news feeds pointed to the urgent tributes from celebrities, fellow designers, and fans. At times like these, an angel, it seemed, had ascended to heaven. I am not doubting Ms Spade’s goodness or negating her legacy, but there, under my crumpled comforter, all I could think of was Tin Pei Ling.

I think you know what I mean. Or, I would be alone. Sometimes, people leave such an unexpected and lasting impression with what they covet that you remember them for their indulgences more than what they stood up to do or represented. One material item is enough to undo the investment spent on keeping a humble front. Or, stunt a promising trajectory.

Before the GE of 2011, no one had heard of Tin Pei Leng, but the MP-to-be had her Joanna Dong moment. She, however, presented herself to the public and aroused the masses, not with a song, but with the oversized box that housed, presumably, the bag of her dreams. Rather than encourage her constituents or public at large to see her as one of them, with a desire for luxury handbag, she had inadvertently prodded the trolls to lash out: “Too young”, “Acting Cute”, “Showing off”, “No substance” (all gleaned from The New Paper headline).

Tin Pei LingThe picture that defined an election. Photo: Tin Pei Ling/Facebook

Ms Tin was not in an enviable position. On one hand, she irritated the common man and woman with her conspicuous display: pretty possessions have no part in politics (Indranee Raja an exception since she designs shoes with what The Straits Times called “Singaporean kick”). On the other hand, Ms Tin gained no support from snobby fashionistas who pooh-poohed her bag choice as not fashion enough, Kate Spade being a no-no ‘masstige’ brand. If only someone had advised Ms Tin that some thingsboxes that house them includedare best left for private enjoyment, unless it was a Birkin, but then look where that landed Rosmah Mansor!

Her haters overlooked one thing: Ms Tin really did not know; she was too busy seeking political office to be aware of the questionable taste of posing with a box that was not shy of its brand’s fame, and so large it obscured the body, but was no firewall against would-be criticism. Facebook beckoned, and it should be understandable that she succumbed to the seduction of show and tell, smile and pose. This was a digital “keepsake”, as she told Yahoo News. Look at all the keepsakes influencers have left to our increasing indifference even before 2011. What’s another?

Kate Spade is an easy-to-like brand for every woman, especially those with an active FB account, or those with political dreams. After her death, many called it “touching people’s hearts”. The thing is, in the projection of humbleness and meekness, the Kate Spade brand of cheerfulness is perhaps a tad too obvious, too ready to drive a ribboned stake into what is considered sellable grassroots humdrum, even when their bags can be middle-of-the-road. Tin Pei Ling did not anticipate the slap-slap reaction from the sharing of her ignorance, and we remember. I know I do.

Ahhh, But Does It Bite?

CDG Teeh and Tongue wallet P1

We know Comme des Garçons has a unique take when it comes to their wallets. But a sense of the cheeky? That’s not quite expected, but there it was—the Teeth and Tongue staring back at us, like ready-to-devour jaws, minus the cavities.

It is double thumbs up to the design team of the CDG small leather goods unit to visually pun on the ‘teeth’ of the zipper—a fastening very much associated with their wallets. As you’ll agree, we sure need more imagination in fashion. Hitherto, CDG has mainly toyed with the surface of their wallets, not quite the insides, which have remained mainly plain, even unlined. Now, there is an orifice to not only peer into, but also to guzzle your money with, assuming a wallet is something you still use in the creeping popularity of Apple Pay.

CDG Teeh and Tongue wallet P2The double-teeth wallet comes in two styles (one of them in two sizes). They’re made of cowhide, and lined with cowhide. The surface is in black, with the inside in red, pink, and white. Uncommon is the contrast zipper—red with gold teeth, a colour finish that could possibly be a nod to a certain hip-hop tribe. Pry open this set of gold teeth, and you’ll see another row: perfect pearly whites baring at you. Interestingly, the tongue does not stick out (is it even there?), but the tonsil does look like it’ll warble!

Comme des Garçons wallets—one among the staggering 17 lines of the company—was reportedly formed in 1980, the year before the brand debuted in Paris. Considered CDG’s best “starter points”, the wallet line comprises six basic styles, with what is commonly known as “half-zip” (the zip goes only two sides of the oblong-shaped wallet) considered the most popular among both men and women. While the CDG wallets do look quite different from the offerings of mainstream purveyors of leather goods, the Teeth and Tongue also illustrates that beneath the severe, inscrutable surface of the brand lies a softer heart—not quite Anya Hindmarch, but just as fun.

Comme des Garçons ‘Teeth and Tongue’ wallets, from SGD320, are available at Dover Street Market, Dempsey Road. Photos: Dover Street Market

Clutch A Circle

Loewe round pouch

It is not quite certain if an envelope of a bag in the shape and size of a dessert plate such as Loewe’s ‘Saturn’ can be called a clutch, but we shall stick to a description we know. This saucer-like bag is, according to a Loewe sales staff, considered a pouch, which sounds a lot more capacious than it really is. Regardless, we are rather drawn to this clutch that Jane Jetson would probably love.

What’s fascinating is the reference to the Land of the Rising Sun by a brand that originated in Spain. We’re not only referring to the 19-cm in diameter red dot, but also the manga-style illustration of a space ship that seems to be drawn in Sixties Tokyo. It’s cute but possibly a little too Harajuku-kawaii for use in a meeting with the chief financial officer.

Loewe ‘Saturn’ round pouch, SGD800, is available at Loewe, Paragon. Photo: Loewe

A Hunk Of A Coin Purse


Loewe elephants

If you don’t think coin purses can come in the shape of a very three-dimensional elephant with nicely sized proboscis and pillar-like legs, you do have to look at Loewe’s very adorable version. True, this may be a little too kawaii for the serious handbag in the most exotic of skins, but sometimes—during the holiday season especially, a cute mammal may just be the thing to lift the spirit strained by year-end gift-shopping stress. Gift ideas are not what we’re inclined to offer here, but it’s a week before Christmas. No other reason why we have picked the red and the green.

In fact, these calf leather coin purses are available in a range of colours. Apart from the appealing chromatic offering, these are rather roomy receptacles. In place of a bejewelled howdah, the carriage seen on the backs of elephants of the Maharajah’s entourage, a zip is stitched to it (detail: puller of the zip forms the tail!). Opened, the elephant reveals its capacious inside. The (only) problem with the roominess? Deep in the belly of the beast, you really can’t tell the difference between a fifty and a twenty cent coin!

Loewe Elephant Purse, SGD450, is available at Loewe, Takashimaya Shopping Centre. Photos: Loewe

A Blooming Clutch

Christopher Kane tulip clutch

Christopher Kane, being Christopher Kane, does not make his leather goods the way, say, Tory Burch does. Conventional is not part of the process. There’s always a touch of tech even when motifs are traditionally romantic, such as this eye-catching leather clutch. Using lenticular printing, which deploys special lenses to create images that beguile you with depth, or, in the case of this bag, intrigue you with what’s also known as “flicker pictures”, Mr Kane is able to make the flower change and move when viewed from different angles. The tulip on this bag (above) grows as you move it, going from early bud to full bloom.

Mr Kane is partial to optical effects, and more so in the current collection, as seen in his 3D-printing on vinyl cut-outs which are applied on viscose crepe skirts—just one example. He admits to “liking some sort of embellishment that can transform a garment instantly” and would look to science for ideas such as last year’s that were inspired by the MRI scan of a brain. We love this clutch, not only because of its photo-print that can transform, but also because we truly enjoy things that are not static.

Christopher Kane leather clutch with lenticular print, SGD850, is available at Club 21, Four Seasons Hotel

All Patched Up

CDG patchwork walletComme des Garcons’s line of small leather goods have done exceedingly well for the brand since its introduction more than 10 years ago. Discreet, practical, and elegant, these are not wallets and cases for those who need them in some kind of house leather and hardware. In fact, these logo-less holders for anything you need to stash are alluring because they are not terribly identifiable. Through the years, the shapes and the range have not changed either. Instead, CDG introduces different leathers in different finishes each season to entice fans to buy more.

The Patchwork Metal series is the latest and is, by far, the most elaborate of their seasonal offerings. Pieced together with different shapes in tinsel colours, they come close to what can be considered a signature CDG look: surely a patchwork that will please their customers who tend to pass up on the plain black wallet. It is, after all, a season for something festive.

The CDG Patchwork Metal series is available at Comme des Garcons Pocket, Como House