Can the little red dot stand shoulder to shoulder with the little black dress? A native islander and friends look at fashion (and such) in Singapore, and, occasionally, among her neighbours, and a little further afield
The shoes are back. And the rush for them ensued. Kanye West is laughing to the bank
Screen grabs of the Adidas Confirmed app on the morning of the re-release of Yeezy X Adidas
By Awang Sulung
They’re back! Yeezys, at first destined to die, has come back. But the person to stay alive with the last laugh has to be Kanye West. According to news reports, the man who created Yeezys supposedly made US$25 million (or about S$33.7 million) on the first day of the re-launch of Yeezy sneakers—those that Adidas were stuck with and unable to dump after they broke off their business deal with the rapper. And what a “great” day it was—for Mr West and Adidas, and even better for fans. You and I would think that after the long-drawn and very public fallout of Mr West’s deplorable behaviour, online and off, on social media and in private (but exposed), the craze for the shoes that he first launched with the German sports brand in 2013 (after failed talks with Nike, Mr West’s prior collaborator) would have waned, or cooled like a twenty-minute old goreng pisang.
But no, Yeezys are as hot as ever. I don’t own a single pair and have never tried to buy any, but out of curiosity, I decided to experience for my self what buying—or attempting to purchase—a pair of Yeezy, the very last ones, would be like. Sadly, I was not able to walk into any Adidas store to see, try, and buy. Instead, the sale of the Yeezys are only available online (from 1 June onwards), and not on the Adidas website, but via a dedicated app—Adidas Confirmed—that you have to download. That’s the only way even to just have a glimpse of the side-view images of those shoes. Adidas assumed you already know your Yeezys, so no 360° view of the sneakers or slides that you may like was available. Click on what you like before it’s to late. No time wasted on deliberating.
Screen shot of the page on the Adidas website that told visitors to download the ‘Confirm’ app to shop for Yeezys
Like shoppers in other parts of the world, Singaporeans approached the (re)release of Yeezys with new-broom enthusiasm. But ‘Confirmed’ does not mean you are assured a pair of the kicks. And there isn’t what Hossan Leong is prone to utter, “double confirm”. I have to say that I was not so determined that I hit the sale at the stroke of midnight. By the time, I downloaded the app, it was past noon. And by then, “Final Call” or “Sold Out” was indicated beneath many of the shoes available. There is no indication of how many styles were for grab at a time or if more will be put out. In fact, the shoes are not available for immediate sale. I had to click on “Enter Drop” when a shoe is marked “Drop Started”. That essentially meant I had the chance to “enter the queue”. But when the shoe is tagged “Final Call”, I had to “Enter Draw”. Frankly, it was all very confusing. And, pening (dizzying).
The prices are not low. The Boost 700 was going for S$410 and the Boost 350 V2 was asking for a far-from-humble S$380. For such pricing, it is strange that Adidas would not make the shopping experience pleasant and as straight-forward as possible. (And you could not buy without registering or surrendering all information about you.) Or was the draw, levelling the playing field for all fans (the mere curious lumped together)? What happened to first come, first serve? Or, is that just too old-fashioned, too easy? Adidas Confirm is a fairly easy to navigate app, full of ads to connect you to other of the brand’s desirable collabs, but when it came to the sale of the Yeezys, it was set up to lure the determined. I, alas, was not so serious or single-minded. The craze will past. No need to get all worked up.
Adidas said they will sell the Yeezys they have in stock. But do sneakerheads really want the tainted shoes now?
Stuck with a mountain of Yeezys, Adidas decides to retail them after all. The Financial Times reported that a portion of the proceeds (not its entirety) will be donated to still-to-be-named charities. According to earlier reports, Adidas is saddled with €1.2 billion (or about S$1.75 billion) worth of Yeezy shoes that brought down operating profits by €500 million. How many pairs that amounts to is not known. The Three Stripes did consider other options, including destroying the kicks, but did not find that to work to their advantage. Chief executive officer Björn Gulden was quoted telling investors at the brand’s annual meeting earlier today that “burning several million pairs does not make sense.” They decided to “try to sell parts of the product”. Did he mean that they won’t be selling the shoes intact?
It is not known if investors who are demanding that Adidas reveal the findings of the company’s investigations into Kanye West’s behavior are pleased with this decision. Last month, news emerged that investors took up a class action lawsuit against Adidas, asserting that the latter was aware of the risk that came with the collaboration even before Mr West’s string of anti-Semitic comments made through social media and press interviews in 2022. If Yeezys were to be sold whole, would there be a rush for them? A quick search for Yeezys at Stadium Goods showed a impressive 400 results, with prices that did not seem to have dipped. It is not clear if the sneakers—and slides—have been moving as quickly as before. With more kicks to be released by Adidas, would consumer interest be dramatically aroused? Or, has the recent Yeezy show—a cultish display of immense strangeness—put a damper on the ardour for the brand?
The exact release date of Yeezy X Adidas is unknown. Illustration: Just So
Despite numerous compelling collaborations this year, Adidas isn’t able to make up for the losses incurred with the discontinuation of Yeezy
It is hard to imagine that Adidas didn’t see this coming. The Three Stipes just shared their Q1 earnings result. Unsurprisingly, it isn’t rosy. According to Adidas’s chief executive officer Bjørn Gulden, who decamped Puma for Adidas early this year, the company suffered a loss of €400 million (or about S$594.6 million) year-on-year in the first three months of 2023. As reported by AP, Adidas admitted that the divorce between the brand and Kanye West is “hurting” them. Yet, things are not as bad as they seem due to “extraordinary demand” for the old-school kicks of Samba and Gazelle, both not easily found when you walk into Adidas stores here. These shoes are also known as ‘terrace’ style, first seen gaining traction in the ’80s among football fans on the bleachers. Adidas isn’t the only brand banking on this style. One of them that’s highly alluring is the New Balance URC30, recently reimagined by Junya Watanabe.
Adidas also revealed that the performance in North America was particularly bad as the termination of Yeezy footwear has impacted the market there, with a dip of 20% in sales. It did not say how Yeezy-no-more was received in South-East Asia (in North Asia, specifically China, business was not encouraging due to the COVID lockdown across several Chinese cities). Or, if the market for Yeezy was particularly large in this part of the world. At the recent Sneaker Con SEA, although the most visible brand was Nike, some indie sellers managed to score Yeezys, such as the Slide—which they claimed to be legit—for sale. Apparently there is still demand for Yeezys here and across the region, as a group of young sellers told us. And now that Yeezys are no longer available through Adidas, the demand via resellers is “still there”, which seemed to contradict reports that prices and demand have generally dropped. Some fans can indeed separate footwear and the disgraced creator.
The Adidas and Kanye West partnership was called off somewhat belatedly last year after the rapper-turned-designer made anti-Semitic remarks publicly, repeatedly. Sales of the shoes were immediately halted. It was reported that Adidas would continue selling Yeezys without the Yeezy branding, but nothing came out of that. Adidas did not announce what they would do with the massive stock of Yeezys—said to be worth a staggering €1.2 billion—that they won’t/can’t(?) sell (or destroy, or donate), but they did warn that it would affect operating profits by a dip of €500m this year. Although Kanye West may have “rescued Adidas”, as The Guardian put it, it does show that relying on a volatile celebrity with no verbal filter as the key driver of profits may not be worth it in the longer run. Destroying the stocks that cannot be sold is not an option that the maker of the Stan Smith could consider without being called outas wasteful and detrimental to the environment. It’d be fascinating to see what Adidas can do to deal with those tainted sneakers and not turning down what Mr Gulden called “brand heat”.
New Balance hits another winning stride with its collaboration with Junya Watanabe
Adidas might be on a collab rush, now that they have axed their partnership with the beleaguered Yeezy (however, the Three Stripes is still laden with stocks), but it is New Balance that is, judiciously, teaming up with some of the most noteworthy/established/discreet names. Their latest is with Junya Watanabe, featuring NB’s not-bombastic URC30, also dubbed as the ‘Trackster’. Nothing dramatic or shape-shifting is done to the shoe, but Mr Watanabe did put together some striking colour combos, and still letting the the retro posturing shine through. The shoes were shown last June’s in the collab-centric spring/summer 2023 collection, which saw licensed images/graphics from artists fashion brands love to turn to, such as Andy Warhol, Jean Michel Basquiat, Keith Haring and Roy Lichtenstein.
Mr Watanabe is a fairly regular NB collaborator. His choice of the URC30 this season is a silhouette that’s a tad fancier than the 574 of the previous season although the vibrancy is still there. The URC 30 shoe is inspired by football kicks as seen in the quilted upper (leather, suede and overlays of synthetic material) and the jagged rubber outsole. The mid-sole—twin laters of white and blue—sits atop the outsole in the back half of the shoe and juts out in the rear, as many so-called cool kicks still do, but ever so slightly, which is a boon to those who wear their shoes in sizes larger than 10 and fear the heel steppers among MRT commuters in a crowded train are ever present. The URC 30 is, in fact, not bulky on the feet—a sleekness that’s always appreciated.
Junya Watanabe X New Balance URC 30, SGD440, is available at DSMS. Photo: New Balance
Sneaker Con SEA debuted on our island this past weekend. Exciting, experiential shopping was not the lure
By Shu Xie
They’re here. Finally, we get to see what many consider the OG sneaker fair is about. Sneaker Con is, as one attendee, who was there on both days, told me, “a sneakerhead’s wet dream”. And, as I learned, a messy one. It also drew those not necessarily that rabid about over-priced and over-hyped kicks, but willing to own a pair that would be the envy of the company they keep. This iteration of the acclaimed born-in-the-US event was marketed here as Sneaker Con SEA (SCSEA), and its access to the region was through its debut here on our island. This was a belated affair. It was announced back in 2020 that Sneaker Con was to launch their inaugural show here in June that year, but, due to you-know-what, had to be brought forward to last weekend. When I asked a very young chap wearing a grey Adidas Yeezy Boost 350 V2 if it was worth the wait, he said with smug satisfaction, “better late than never.”
SCSEA was held at Singapore Expo. I did not attend the preview event, nor did I show up on the opening day, or bought VIP tickets (that meant a dedicated “VIP Event Access Lane”). But, I was told later by more than one early visitor that the response was “very good”. I made my appearance rather late—on Sunday afternoon. The attendance was, by then, not as manic as I thought it would be. It was not cheap to visit SCSEA. I paid an incomprehensible S$42 for single-day entry (excluding chargeable fees that I now can’t remember added how much more to the total). If you had wanted to attend both days of the event (why that was necessary, I do not know), the entry price was $75. Tickets were not sold at the venue (that was a bummer). Attendees had to purchase theirs online. A standee with a massive QR code greeted visitors at the entrance should they need quick digital access to a ticket. Despite a steep asking price for the entry ticket, SCSEA did not welcome me like a premium event might have. To me, it was the venue. Singapore Expo is not exactly a posh pit of exhibition space. This had the same atmospheric charm as the once-popular Metro Sale, once also situated in this very hall, if I am not mistaken. And this is surprising when back in 2020, The Business Times reported that Sean Wotherspoon, celebrated as “one of the most famous sneakerheads on the planet”, was to design SCSEA.
A bored boy taking a rest while his companions shopped
The utterly popular Trading Pit area of Sneaker Con
It is large enough a space, for sure, but this exhibition hall (and the others in this massive complex) is just a cavernous, pillar-less selling spot, in which SCSEA had basically plonked itself there. Except for some branding boards, it was essentially an open space for whatever needed to happen, to just happen. This was executed on the cheap. Some participants such as our nation’s pride SBTG had their own reasonably handsome set-up, but for most, it was just lelong wherever you were assigned a zone. Mind you, many of the kicks were not exactly bargains. I reminded myself that they were sneakers on sale, not bespoke leather shoes with lasting stacked heels. Yet, as widely reported, some kicks cost a scary five-figure sum. I couldn’t tell where those were, but I did see a few pairs totally encased and presumed that they were the prohibitively-priced ones. Those that I was willing to pay for (nothing that rare about them) were frustratingly not available in my size. Was I eyeing sneakers that were too common? The situation was more daunting when around me kids—many were really young, including some sellers at the Trading Pit—were shod in expensive collabs that were hard to score, even there at the event. What I was told not to miss was the customised Air Jordan 1 by Jeff Staple (he was there) and Mark Ong (aka Mr Sabotage, who was present too), but I have never loved them Air Jordans.
SCSEA was touted as “The Greatest Sneaker Show on Earth”. I didn’t get the feeling that it was that great. The immensity could be because it looked like the pinnacle of sneaker consumption, rather than mere retail. Sneaker Con, wherever they might be, is essentially a gathering of third-party retailers, indie-vendors, and serious collectors-turn-sellers, all within a setting that is not necessarily experiential retailing. The SEA imprint is similar, but with more of a pasar malam (night market) energy and optics to it. According to their publicity material, SCSEA brought together “150 traders and sneaker collectors from the world over” to this corner of our island. While there were single-brand stands, such as Puma and Crocs (yes, EVA foam footwear, and a non-athletic brand with their boutique-like space for their collab with the American label Salehe Bembury), or indie stockists such as Limited EDT and “Japan’s No. 1 marketplace for limited edition sneakers” SNKR DUNK (they also provided on-site authentication service near the Trading Pit), rather many of the vendors appeared to hawk sneakers part-time. I was drawn to two walls, one featuring Anrealage and the other Facetasm, both from Tokyo. As they flanked the SNKR DUNK booth, I suspected that the latter had brought them in, but with regrettably just T-shirts in limited styles, the offerings were not especially enticing.
One of the most in-demand offerings, the YZY Slide, restocked at Sneaker Con SEA
And, curiously, many non-sneaker brands were conspicuously situated. There was Carlsberg in a massive, eye-catching set-up and just as noticeable, the whiskey brand Monkey Shoulder, even when many attendees appeared to be below 18 years old. Perhaps that was why oat milk brand Oatbedient was there, and Fiji Water too, in case thirsty were those unable to guzzle a lager or a Scotch without staying out of the reach of the law. Early publicity for the event painted the event to be drenched with fun. Ticket seller Sistic described SCSEA as brimming with “hype activities”. I did not spend enough time there to be caught up with what action there was, hyped or not. Frankly, I did not want to stay. Nothing was a pull for me. And the market atmosphere and what seemed like repetitive merchandise, after a while, exhausted the initial interest I had in the event. I had expected more, but, perhaps I had been swayed by the local ‘cons’ here, mainly Street Superior and Culture Cartel—the latter’s last, a well-thought-out event at Scape last December was both a journey of discovery and an enjoyable acquaintance with the burgeoning streetwear community here.
Sneaker Con began life in 2009 in New York City under the stewardship of three sneakerheads Alan and Barris Vinogradov (they’re brothers), and Wu Yu Ming. It is still considered “the largest sneaker event in North America”. And often described as “a gathering of so-called ‘sneakerheads’ hoping to browse, buy and sell pairs of collector shoes”, as Newsweek put it. Alan Vinogradov told The Business Times in 2020 that “the sneaker craze is only just beginning.” Perhaps, for those below 15. I have been wearing sneakers for a good part of my adult life. While I have many—too many—pairs, I do not consider myself a sneakerhead, least of all one who collects or who only goes for the “grails”. As I looked around me in Hall 5 of the Singapore Expo, I noticed that most feet were shod in new shoes, expensive-looking ones, and many that were also sold on the pile-high tables of the Market Place, one of the several zones of Sneaker Con SEA. Nikes dominated, which had a homogenising effect on the event that, by the organiser’s own telling, had “more than 200 international and local renowned brands”. I did notice that Adidas Yeezys, now no longer produced but massively stocked in Adidas warehouses, were not much worn. One stall did have stocks of Yeezys. I asked a chap contemplating a pair if they were still popular. He said, “of course, because now even harder to find.” When I left, I spotted a trio with stacks of boxes of Yeezy Slides. Stupidly, I asked: “Are these legit?” One of them, with a look of disbelief, replied, “For sure. These were bought before the partnership ended.” When I walked away, a kid shyly asked me if they were selling those slides. I told him they were, and his eyes lit. “How much, ah?”
was ready to go to the Loewe store with a small watering can. Luckily, I did not. How foolish would that be? When I passed Casa Loewe yesterday and caught sight of the Grass Sneaker, I had to look at them. Could the rumput be kept alive? The shoes are made in Italy—they came from a distance. At close range, it was immediately clear that it was not a result of horticulture and there was no irrigation involved. It was all fake raffia—the grassy parts. I could not resist touching them. The lawn-like surface was rather rough, even with fibre that is polyester, rather than from the raffia palm. But it did look rather real, at least from outside the store. As no soil is involved in its composition, the shoe is rather light. The description on the website later told me that the upper is “hand embroidered”, which thus renders “a grass effect”. Some how that brings to mind “orange juice drink”.
I wanted to be sure this was not a dummy (while the real deal is stored somewhere in a green house, waiting to be collected and cared for); I asked a staffer if the pair was the shoes for sale. She was delighted to confirmed that what I saw was it—the “commercial release”, without genuine grass. To be honest, I was a little disappointed. Actual sheathing blades of leaves would be cool, not just nice. A living upper! I had even hoped that the shoe comes with a special bottle of fertiliser—just a spritz to keep the grass growing. I imagined how happy the shoes would be if they could enjoy a bit of rain. Alas, that was not to be.
If the grass is not real, then Loewe isn’t the first to create turfy footwear. Back in 2019, before we heard of lockdowns, there was the Air Max 1 G NRG, which now seems like the OG grass sneaker. Nike took things a tad too literally when they released the golf shoe for the links. The matted green did not look quite like the stuff on which you might tee off, but it did appear unusual (even the Swoosh was partly obscured) and might have served as a neat camouflage on a physical golfing green. Loewe’s Grass Sneaker, I think, has less a chance to blend in when most of our grasslands are manicured. Still, the shoe that seems to be built on Loewe’s Flow Runner, will still stand out (and that’s the purpose), especially on five-foot-way concrete.
Loewe Grass Sneaker in Canvas and Raffia, SGD2,650, is available at Loewe stores and online. Photo: Zhao Xiangji
Adidas appears to go big on foam. Their latest is quite a shoe to clomp in
It looks like a Lego shoe with the studs levelled and the sharp edges smoothed out. But Adidas’s latest is made of foam, not plastic; it’s, in fact, another adiFOM technological wonder. This time, the foam is not reimagined as the Adilette, but their all-season darling the Superstar. So the heel is encased. No clog here; a whole shoe. Nothing is hacked away. No perforation, or slots like the AdiFOM Q. This version of the Superstar mummifies the feet. The upper sits rather high up the tarsal, and the slip-on fits like a sock. On a hot day, you can imagine the heat that may be trapped in there.
Adidas clearly derives some excitement making footwear with a “one-piece body made of foam derived from sugarcane”. This material is also known by its trade name SweetFoam, which is, according to the brand, “the world’s first green EVA foam”. Foam for shoes does not easily lend itself to a slender silhouette. The AdiFOM Superstar is therefore quite the hulk it is. If you look at them from the top down, they could easily be a pair of palmate. Or, webbed feet! Even footwear is embracing inclusivity. How marvelous is that?
Rating: 2.5 out of 5.
Adidas AdiFOM Superstar, SGD109, is available at Leftfoot. Photo: Adidas
Following the end of the relationship between Adidas and Kanye West, reports have emerged of objectionable work environment in the Yeezy/Adidas office in California and elsewhere. Are Yeezys still the footwear to be seen in?
A young chap in Adidas Yeezy Slides
By Awang Sulung
Yeezy is over. At least from Adidas’s side of the story, the name is. There are reports that Adidas will release non-Yeezy Yeezys next year. I am not sure if Kanye West is able to continue using the Yeezy name, but I am certain that is the least of his problems. There is still YZY. And, possibly a YZY SZN 10. No Yeezy Days? How about Donda Days? There is Donda Sports, Mr West’s managing agency that represents athletes in branding deals (and they sell stuff, like a hoodie, a pair of shorts and socks, all marked on the website ‘sold out’!). And don’t forget Ye, a name waiting to be slapped on merchandise. If Adidas continues to sell the designs that came about under Yeezy, but without that tainted name, will they still hold any appeal? Is Yeezy the same if it is not Yeezy? I mean, do sneakerheads want them if they look like Yeezys but are just Adidas? Does Adidas Boost 350 V2 have the same ring, even if you know which Yeezy shoe it is? Yes, questions there are, but, frankly, no easy answers.
Two months have past after the news that Adidas potong-ed ties with Kanye West, and a tumultuous year is near the end. Oddly, in a single day, I saw two separate guys wearing Adidas Yeezy Slides—yes, the one Mr West accused the German sportswear giant of “copying”. And in the following week, I saw more. All of them walking with considerable swagger. I think the colour of those slides I saw is the one former Adidas Yeezy (or Mr West? Was he involved in colour-naming?) called “Pure”. Oddly, all of them in that pale shade. On those occasions, I was not sure if I saw anything that wholesome. If bigotry has a colour, might it be that? Those anti-Semitic rants are still kind of fresh (let’s not even talk about his interview with Alex Jones!). And Mr West (I’ll still refer to him as that since he has always been Kanye West, the rapper, to me) has not showed that he is regretful, let alone remorseful, even planning to run for president of the US, again, totally unconcerned that what he spewed before would haunt him on the campaign trail, possibly now not trodden by Yeezys.
Another fellow in the same slide
Warning: the following contains words and descriptions some readers may find offensive
Recap: But what is more disturbing is the news that emerged, revealing the kind of boss and creative head Mr West was while steering the design and production of Yeezys. According to a report by Rolling Stones (they spoke to former staffers who requested anonymity), the rapper-designer was in a constant state of flux, even “pure chaos”. One informer told the magazine: ““It was the most hectic and chaotic experience of my life [and] career.” But poor managerial and operational skills aside, Mr West is described as a belligerent boss, and one inclined to show his sexual side even at work. Another report, headlined Kanye West Used Porn, Bullying, ‘Mind Games’ to Control Staff alleged that in one design meeting, Mr West was displeased with the shoes shown to him. He approached a senior female staffer and said to her, “I want you to make me a shoe I can fuck.” At other meetings with executives, he apparently played porn, showed intimate images and explicit videos of ex-wife Kim Kardashian. Sometimes, he showed “his own sex tapes”. It was also revealed that an open later by the Yeezy team stated that senior Adidas execs knew of Mr West’s “problematic behavior” but “turned their moral compass off”.
According to The Wall Street Journal, the chief executive and his top guys pondered over the potential fallout from its collab with Kanye West four years ago. They knew it might come to this, but perhaps making money was more important? They latter announced that they would US$246 million in profits by taking Yeezy out of the Adidas line-up. What Mr West did with Yeezy that led Adidas to such profitability and then loss was often thought to be a “cultural sensation”, but now he is a cultural pariah, best ignored, even forgotten. I have never owned a single pair of Yeezy, so I can’t say what choosing not to wear them feels like, but one of my buddies did say to me that now when he takes stock of his numerous pairs, “they look like sampah”. This is probably not how others consider Yeezys that cost them not a small sum. You can still get Adidas Yeezys at SNKR Dunk, moral compass not in sight. But do you really want to?
This Margiela and Salomon collaboration is one strange and enticing hybrid
Sneakers, we know, are still conceived to elicit the reaction: “it’s ugly”. But ugly, as we have repeatedly noted, is being redefined, even now, as we write this. Ugly is no longer the ugly of your parents’ fashion-consuming years. Ugly can be a compliment, even admiration Apart from ugliness, sneakers are made bulky too, and often to let the feet look bagged. The MM6 Martin Margiela X Salomon Cross Low is one such sack of a shoe. Sure, there have been others, such as the Tom Sachs x NikeCraft Mars Yard Overshoe, but it is this Margiela X Salomon collaboration, in this colour combo that makes us think of a hybrid of gorpcore and dust bag (or laundry-bag). Shoes can, more and more, be pouches with soles.
Salomon has got themselves involved in rather fascinating fashion-forward collabs. Essentially an outdoor equipment maker, the born-in-Annecy, France label has been in partnership with one of the most cutting-edge brands, Comme des Garçons, with which they created a truly fetching pair of unisex Mary-Janes (unsurprisingly, these quickly sold out when launched last year), with trail-ready soles. Its partnership with the Margiela imprint MM6 is no less appetite-arousing. Although ostensibly a trail shoe, the Cross Low looks more like a high cut, with the added aesthetical heft of Margiela’s subversion bent. With the draw cords, you may gather the rip-stop upper-half into a small sack not unlike a gym bag, rendering it ready for inclement weather.
Underscoring the polyester bag-upper is a solid shoe with rubber soles, conceived for a rugged terrain. But in all likelihood, this Cross Low would be used on far much flatter, urban ground such as the city pavement. According to an MM6 statement, their “motivation was to create a shoe that could easily transition between cityscapes and the great outdoors — a single product that both maintained Salomon’s high-performance specifications and also resonated with MM6 Maison Margiela’s contemporary aesthetic”. As with the main line Maison Margiela’s pairing with Reebok—the Project 0 CL nylon tabi sneakers!—few will wear the Cross Low for sporting pursuits. There is too much fashion in it.
Rating: 4.5 out of 5.
MM6 Martin Margiela X Salomon Cross Low, SGD590, is available at Club 21. Photo Salomon
They could pass off as something made of bread dough. That’s what came to mind when we saw the Givenchy TK-360+ sneakers up close. A leavened lump. An irregular loaf. A curvilinear paste. With scored pattern on top, no less. They look comfortable, but we are not sure we’re comfortable with how they look. Ugly footwear is, for sure, still a thing. With new footwear technology and design approaches, ugliness can be enhanced, rather than diminished. Sure, luxury brands are re-defining sleek, but they are also (still) augmenting unseemliness, especially in the form of the clunky. And, far-out. Yet, these shoes do not necessarily invite replusion. Unlike It bags, It shoes have to be somewhat odious, at least at the first encounter. But warming up to them does not take time. Aesthetically, they need to be, for the present, staggeringly anti-trim. Sneakers unlike clothes, cannot be worn oversized, so designers exaggerate the form and disfigure the already clumpy soles to allow the kicks to appear to house distended feet. The TK-360+ is keeping with this new tradition.
Givenchy isn’t the first to offer blobs for feet. That honour could go to the doomed Adidas Yeezy collaboration. Kanye West’s ideas for sneakers never truly made the feet look especially sleek and aerodynamic. Sure, Yeezy 350, which were almost synonymous with the Yeezy footwear line, was not quite clunky, but the Yeezy 500 from 2018 was, so too the 570. Other new styles that came later got progressively bulkier: the 700 V1, V2, and V3, the 700 QNTM (even the “OG”), and without doubt, the post-350 of the 380, culminating in the outright alien Foam Runner. The TK-360+ in its first version (released in May, with a style number minus the +) did bring to mind Adidas Yeezy Knit Runner from September last year, way before things turned awry for the partnership. The Adidas Yeezy and the Givenchy are all-knit slip-ons, with details in the mid-sole: one with a horizontal slit, the other a vertical groove. The Knit Runner was considered Mr West’s most “avant-garde” silhouette. Givenchy’s Matthew M Williams described the TK-360+ as his “dream shoe”. But, for some of us, not quite sweet.
Rating: 2 out of 5.
Givenchy TK360+ sneakers, SGD1,450, are available in stores. Photo: Jim Sim
Sneakers that come in shades of food are not unusual, but those in one of our fave beverages, the teh tarik, are rather
By Awang Sulung
Malaysia and our little island share many things in common, food wise. But I am not wadding into the nasi lemak debate. Jangan! Never! Rather, let’s dip into our shared love of milk tea, especially teh tarik (or pulled tea in Malay, even if it’s essentially a mamak brew) And, across the Causeway, they seem far more willing to pair their love of this beverage with their love of sneakers than we do, so much so that they managed to convince Asics to colour of one the Japanese brand’s most popular sneaks—the Gel-Lyte III—in the particular orange-y tint of the teh Malaysians love to drink with roti canai. I don’t think Asics has any pair that sports the green of matcha, but in Malaysia, they have theirs that could have really been dipped in milk tea.
And I must say they appear fetching, if not sedap. And, for sure, they look cukup lemak, with the suede-like upper really imparting the full-cream milkiness of the teh. There is, for contrast, even the Asics Tiger Stripes in a fuzzy fabric, which could be the characteristic foam of the beverage. The latest colour story of the Gel-Lyte III is really the quenching of the creative thirst of one of Malaysia’s leading streetwear retailers Hundred%. This is, in fact, a follow-up to 2019’s GEL-Kayano 5 OG that came in the shades of nasi lemak! A work of not just Hundred%, but also the Malaysian sneaker con and store, SneakerLAH. Frankly, that skim warna did not work for me, as I consider it a tad gawdy. But this time, the monochromatic choice of teh tarik is, I find, more appealing .
I’ve always been a fan of the Gel-Lyte III, with its distinctive forked-tongue, but not like those of reptiles. And this teh tarik version has added grassroots/kedai kopi pull for me. Unfortunately, it is only available in Kuala Lumpur, and in one physical location. If you have a friend in the capital to do you a favour, your problem could be solved, but I fear that by the time you read this post, this pair of Asics, launched tomorrow, would be sold out, which would really leave some of us quite haus.
Rating: 4 out of 5.
Asics Gel-Lyte III ‘Teh Tarik’, RM699, is only available at Home Store, Jalan Pudu, Kuala Lumpur. Photo: Asics
Our island’s annual street-style, multi-activity fair Culture Cartel is back with their fourth edition. This time, in Orchard Road. Could this be the best retail event of the year?
The main concourse of Culture Cartel in Scape
In an op-ed last Monday for The Straits Times, ‘How to make Orchard Road great again for shoppers’, the former writer of the paper’s now-defunct Urban Karen Tee opined that “the shopping experience [on said street] does not always live up to expectations”. She isn’t wrong. The first reason Ms Tee cited is that “popular sizes and product models are often sold out”. Most retailers will say that it is nearly impossible to stock all the sizes and styles at once so that they are available to all customers whenever they walk into a store. Had it been just bad luck for the shopper? Additionally, Ms Tee is of the belief that brands are resistant to bringing in “too many statement pieces”. She did not explain why that many are needed if they are indeed those items that make a statement. A former buyer at Comme des Garçons once told us that “statement pieces are very expensive and it is not easy to sell them. Often, we have to mark down.”
What was interestingly missing in Ms Tee’s observation of shopping in Orchard Road was the no-mention of fashion—and culture—that correlates with youths, surely an important and influential market segment, and one that leads in terms of the experiential. She did write of the need to make shopping fun, and described the recently-concluded Boutique Fairs as “a nice break from the usual Orchard Road shopping experience”. What was fun or out of the ordinary to her at the Fairs? Apparently the chance “to meet designers in person and learn about their creative process (we, too, were there, but no designer spoke to us about that), making shopping a lived experience rather than just a mere transaction”. She then mentioned Tokyo’s Shimokitazawa neighbourhood and Seoul’s Hongdae, and how much she “enjoyed” both. Ms Tee did not indicate that Shimokitazawa and Hongdae, which is close to Hongik University, are essentially enclaves of a generally youthful consumer population. Retailers in these places do cater to the young; their businesses and the lively mix of tenants impart a distinct vibe to the place, as well as dynamism. Perhaps, more importantly, it’s easy to describe them as cool. In the end, we are curious to know if Ms Tee ever “met any designer in person” in those places. And, at the Boutique Fairs, were “popular sizes and product models” always in stock? And did she find her elusive statement pieces?
When we mentioned this ST story to a PR consultant, she was quick to say: “no fresh perspectives”. And we agree. Were these not the same gripes we have been hearing for the last 20 or so years? Orchard Road can never be Tokyo’s Omotesando—another street Ms Tee mentioned, nor should it try to be. In fact, “A Great Street”, as Orchard Road Business Association (ORBA) likes to call it, cannot come close to any of the main shopping areas in the Japanese capital. Omotesando is unlike any other major shopping belt in the world, not even Rue du Faubourg Saint-Honoré in Paris, or New Bond Street in London, is comparable. What makes Omotesando exceptional is that it is flanked and well served by the arterial streets of Ura-Harajuku and Aoyama/Jingumae on each side of the thoroughfare. And in these parts, you do find stores and brands that are not part of the usual European luxury conglomerates. Therein lies the opportunity for discovery, and gratification, and entertainment. Orchard Road is just one mall-lined street. Ms Tee mentioned the need to make shopping fun without saying what indeed makes for fun. Perhaps she might find it if she pops into Culture Cartel this weekend.
Massive installations dot Culture Cartel. Here, Singaporean toy and art studio Mighty Jazz’s CHXMP fronting Culture Cartel
Cuteness is often part of street culture. At Culture Cartel, a “Petting Zoo”
This year’s Culture Cartel is held at the (now significantly disused) *Scape. It is the fair’s first appearance in Orchard Road, and a rousing return to a physical space after 2020’s digital version and last year’s understandable hiatus. Culture Cartel is described as “the best and the only street culture event in Asia”, which may have been the selling point that snagged the Singapore Tourism Board as a firm supporter, hoping to “position Singapore as a street culture hub”. In his opening speech during the media preview this morning, convention director Jeremy Tan of Axis Group Asia revealed that the confirmation of the use of *Scape came only in July this year, which effectively gave him and his partners four months to prepare. Despite the short lead time, things came neatly to place because of the “creative passion, the bonds, and community spirit”. Culture Cartel is different from other street style-style-driven events in that it is a collective expression of what the culture is about: an amalgamation of obsessions, not just sneakers or T-shirts, but also figurines and toys, customised-ornamenting of motorcycles, even garments, and, for the first time, NFTs, and the very real art of tattooing. In fact, there are “six pillars” in all.
The event occupies the first three levels of *Scape, covering an area of 63,420 sq ft (or about 5,892 sqm), which is smaller than the F1 Pit Building, location of the first and second Culture Cartel. Housing the event here (possibly the last on such a scale as the 15-year-old building will, according to The Straits Times, “undergo a revamp” and reopen in 2024) is a boon to those participants who like proper, demarcated spaces, within which to tell their brand stories, and to do so with visual flair. Going from one brand space to another here is also a more agreeable experience. At the F1 Pit Building in the past, it took considerable time to go from one end to the other of the length of each floor. Conversely, *Scape, a building that’s triangular in shape, is a lot more compact. Mr Tan exclaimed to a member of the press: “It’s like a shopping mall experience.” Culture Cartel is not the first such event to be held here. In 2019, before the COVID 19 pandemic, the now-single-day-event-at-Drip-last-month Sole Superior (that once also went by the moniker Street Superior) staged their ‘con’ here, but with considerably less orderliness and, for some, pull.
One of the most popular areas of the event is the Archive Room, with Mark Ong’s SBTG on the left
One of the best local newcomers is the menswear brand N3AVIGATE
Regular attendees to Culture Cartel will be able to spot the regular exhibitors and the obligatory shops of the sponsors. The event is not discernibly zoned, except for the areas shared by tattoo artists. The most appealing set-up is by Pharaoh’s Horses, a Singaporean tattoo-parlour-cum-clothier, who offers fashion inspired by tattoo art. Many visitors appear to head straight for level three (the main atrium is on level two, and what appears to be the basement is, in fact, level 1). And the space that seems to draw them in is the Archive Room, curated by Chooee Hwang of the street-culture-centric media company Streething, with input from possibly the most beloved OG of the scene Mark Ong of SBTG. Mr Ong has his own space (thronged by fans) that offers, among the usual T-shirts and such, “neo-vintage” sneaks—new shoes made to look old. Mr Hwang explained that the idea of the Archive Room is to offer something that counters e-commerce platforms. “Everything is online, but I want a physical room, I want to create an on-site experience by putting out what I have, or sort of archive.”
One of the joys of an event such as Culture Cartel is to discover labels unheard of before (or unfamiliar), not necessarily just to meet the designers. One of the brands we were delighted to encounter in the Archive Room is the four-year-old N3avigate. As the numeral in the name suggests, there is a trio behind the brand—Aaron Yip, Alvin Tan, and Justin Low. N3avigate, founded in 2019, is a menswear label with a military/work wear aesthetic, reminiscent of WTAPS, and GR-Uniforma. Mr Tan says the clothes are “designed at home” since they do not operate out of a studio, as the guys have their “day jobs”. He happily reveals that he is working for Casio and has, in fact, “just finished setting up before coming over”. The clothes are produced in three countries: China, Vietnam, and Indonesia. We like the visual merchandising of the line, as well as the design consistency and the hand feel of the products, although the production would benefit from technical expertise. When we asked Mr Tan if he was invited by Mark Ong to participate in Culture Cartel, he replied, “Oh, we are friends!”
The unsurprising queue outside the Limited Edt unit, dubbed the Ice Cream Parlour
One of the few sneaker resellers, RAuthentic X District_Co, with their piled-up merchandise
Some names are the mainstays of Culture Cartel. Limited Edt certainly is, as the proprietor Mandeep Chopra is on the four-man organising team that includes Jeremy Tan, and Douglas Khee and Dave Chiam, co-founders of the event management outfit Division Communications. The almost twenty-year-old Limited Edt, with a gelato-coloured store front, sits in one corner of the third floor, next to an entryway, and it soon becomes clear why that is a vantage site. As soon as the event opened to the public, the first spot to draw a visibly long queue is Limited Edt (the line stretches past the glass sliding door of the building and into the corridor outside). Reportedly, there are “hourly drops” of limited-edition kicks for grabs. One teenaged guy in the line told us, with confident smugness, when we asked him what he was queuing for, “anything Limited Edt offers” and then qualified, ”they have the good stuff.” Apart from the sneakers, this time displayed in refrigerator units (likely not turned on) to mimic an ice cream parlour (the Limited EDT space is, ironically, the warmest on this floor), there is also a small collection from Patta, the much-watched streetwear-store-turned-brand from Amsterdam.
Sneakers are, surprisingly, not the biggest draw at Culture Cartel. Sure, there is that line at Limited Edt, but not quite elsewhere. With less than ten sneaker exhibitors, the offerings may not be the catch that such ‘cons’ are usually associated with. Mr Tan explains that as the venue was confirmed relatively late, many brands and retailers have already committed their budgets to other activities, but he did say that by representation, only Vans is not a participant this year. For those who like ‘con’-style kicks-stops, there is a lively corner jointly operated by Ruben Chan of RAuthentic and Edgar Goh of District_Co. Mr Chan, who primarily sells “sneaker accessories” such as crease guards (placed in the shoe to protect the toe box from furrowing), shoe trees, sneaker pills (deodorants), told us that he is “the top seller of (such) accessories on Shopee”. When we spotted several pairs of Yeezy in the tempting (but size-limited) pile of collectibles and wondered if there is still a demand for them, he said, “yes, there is, especially now that the partnership is over.” Has the price increased? “Not much, by the 10 to 20”, he replied while busy serving customers. Percent, we assume.
One of the best-looking set-ups at Culture Cartel is by the Hong Kong label Subcrew
Malaysian brand Nerdunit has the best sales drive in the whole event
From Culture Cartel’s overseas guest-exhibitors, two brands standout: Hong Kong’s Subcrew (appearing with Plants of Gods) and Malaysia’s Nerdunit. Subcrew—also known as 潜队 back in the Fragrant Harbour—is one of the smallest exhibitors, but they have created one of the simplest and sleekest space in the whole event, featuring ceramic incense burners in the shape of squat succulents by Plants of Gods (POG), an online plant store that “aims to promote a gardening culture”, as well as T-shirts with creepy-cute characters of plants, personified. Co-owner of POG Benny Fung informed us that presently Subcrew has a pop-up in Hong Kong’s Mongkok Sneaker Street (or 布鞋街). When we asked what the situation in Mongkok—and indeed Hong Kong—is like, he said, “everything is back to normal.” Subcrew is considered to be the SAR’s OG streetwear brand. POG’s collaboration with Subcrew is a tale of intertwining within the burgeoning street culture of the city. One name keeps popping up: Prodip Leung (梁伟庭), a bassist with Hong Kong’s influential hip-hop group LMF (Lazy Mutha Fucka). Mr Leung is also an artist and his work, such as the alien-looking POG Fever, appears on on ofthe T-shirts (limited quantities are available at Culture Cartel). When asked how he came to collaborate with members of Subcrew, Mr Fung said, “Oh, we used to skateboard together!”
Just as fascinating is Malaysia’s Nerdunit. And how they sell: Shoppers pay only S$120 and would be passed a small plastic basket, with which to stuff as many pieces of the mostly T-shirts as possible in 120 seconds. The stack must not go above the rim of the basket. Fun is indeed part of the experience here (was this what Karen Tee meant by fun?). Nerdunit takes up a considerable space in one of the units on level three, with a giant inflatable ‘sunflower’ sporting a smiley face welcoming shoppers. Founded and designed by Malaysian Ronald Chew in 2013, Nerdunit has a sub-brand Water the Plants (in collaboration with UK brand Smiley), also available at Culture Cartel, so is the label’s paring with Japanese imprint FR2 (or Fxxking Rabbits, the provocative other line by Ryo Ishikawa of Vanquish). The clothing of Nerdunit, designed out of a studio in Kuala Lumpur, has been retailing in Japan for four years and is available at Tokyo’s Laforet in Harajuku. General manager Raja Iskandar Shah gleefully tells us that they’re “on the first floor”, and is even more delighted when we noted that Undercover’s pop-up Madstore was on the same level too.
“Photo wall” inside the Mighty Jaxx space
The small but well-curated offering of Luca & Vic
Increasingly, toys are very much a part of the street culture, with many creatives/brand owners who are artists themselves, such as Plants of Gods’s Prodip Leung. Toys/figurines/art collectibles are reportedly a sizeable business on our island. One of the most noted names is Mighty Jaxx, the design studio that produces some of the most fetching little creatures you’ll ever dream of owning. Appearing at Culture Cartel is CHXMP, the company’s “first employee” in the Metaverse (smaller physical versions are on sale). While Mighty Jaxx is moving further into the digital world, their physical store is no less engaging. There is even a set-up where visitors can take selfies in possibly an office of the future. Small players are not left out. Luca And Vic, founded in 2019, is the brain child of Calvin Chua, who named his business and store after his two children. Mr Chua considers himself a toy collector first, then seller. In his motley stash is Lao Wang, the asymmetrical-eyes-above-mouth character, designed by Shanghai-based Malaysian artist Ken Wong. Also known by the Chinese moniker huabi laowang (花臂老王), the charming figures come in various guises, including one as Bruce Lee and another as Santa Wang! We wonder if Mr Chua’s buying is based on his own taste or what the market thirsts for. “I’m still learning,” he says. “There are major players here, and there’s the community.”
That keeps coming back throughout our exploration of Culture Cartel: the social heart of those who embrace the culture. Jeremy Tan is heard telling a journalist “that is why we as curators are apt for the job. We have earned the trust of the community.” Culture Cartel can indeed be the gravitational centre of a group/tribe that is no longer catered for in tangible ways. Physical spaces in the past include The Heeren and Far East Plaza, but they are no longer even a shadow of their former selves. Cathay Cineleisure, *Scape’s immediate neighbour, was headed in that direction, but lost its way; it’s now a ghost town. A four-day event, however, is not quite sufficient for sustained visibility of the community and the individuals who believe in it. Although the entry charge into Culture Cartel is somewhat steep, it opens one to this admirable group of individuals who are deeply knowledgeable of and passionate in what they do. And the camaraderie is infectious, which is rather absent in the larger fashion world. We left Culture Cartel shortly after 1pm. At the traffic junction of Grange and Somerset Roads, Mark Ong was waiting to cross the former to head for 313@Somerset. A trio of possibly fans spoke to him. He said cheerily, “I’m meeting Chooee for lunch. Some friends brought nasi lemak from JB for me. Want to share with the Japanese (exhibitors).” Community in action.
Culture Cartel 2022 opens today at *Scape and will run until 4 December 2022. Entry passes can be purchase on site: SGD30 for a single day or SGD69 for all four days. Photos: Chin Boh Kay