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
Is Jeanette Aw not keen on what she sells?Are we allowed to ask without incurring some people’s wrath?
By Pearl Goh
Ads that pop up in my social media feeds are as welcoming as my mother in my bedroom. But advertisers need to invade our digital space, just as they once did during the time between us and our television. I was minding my own business one recent stormy morning, looking at the Instagram posts of one of my favourite Malaysian food bloggers, when the above ad by the celebrity-endorsed durian-seller Golden Moments (GM) appeared somewhat impertinently. GM has, of course, similarly interrupted me before on IG, but usually with unappealing and subfuscous pictures of crack-opened durians or richly dressed gateaux that never gave me reason to dwell on. This time, it was the face of Jeanette Aw (欧萱), former full-time Mediacorp artiste and the co-host of the new food show/competition on Channel 8, Crème De La Crème (糖朝冠冕). I am usually drawn to Ms Aw, one of the most attractive actresses in the Mediacorp stable, but this time, I wasn’t sure the picture of her was stop-me-while-I-browse alluring.
In the GM durian ad (top), as well as another, I soon saw, that hawked cakes (below), Ms Aw posed with her right arm folded across her stomach. The left was held up almost vertically, with the elbow hinged on the right wrist, and the forearm forming a V with her torso. Her double-bracelet-ed left wrist was bent at the point where it met the hand. The palm was open, as if holding an imaginary platter or tray, the way a waiter in a fancy restaurant might, even when serving a bottle of water. But it wasn’t just the pose, it was the visage too: not terribly inviting nor approachable, with the lips parted, but not quite amounting to a smile. There was something haughty about her expression, a coldness too—the better to counter the heatiness of the durian? She wore what appeared to be a shift dress, with a double neck-flounce, pulled down to bare her shoulders (the right in a near-shrug), in a colour often associated with mourning. Sorry, Ms Aw, in sum, the photo seemed to tell me, take it or leave it.
When I asked people knowledgeable of image creation and styling what they thought of this visual, no one wished to comment for fear of being hit back by Ms Aw’s watchful friends, in particular those who are in the business of offering her free personal services. Jeanette Aw does not seem to be the kind of TV star who exploits the perceived powers of those around her, but many of us cannot, of course, be sure of that. One media professional was only willing to say that the photo “is a poorly art-directed shot”, which was a little curious to me because it was reported in the news last April that the actress/film-maker was appointed Golden Moment’s “brand ambassador and creative director”. Does creative direction not supersede art direction? Or do brand owners, keen on working with stars they wouldn’t normally interface with, have the final, not necessarily informed, say?
In commenting on TV stars who are cocooned in the protective friendship of their vindictive chums, I, of course, risk being berated—that I do not know them, and, therefore, am in no position to comment, even if the TV stars put themselves out there for public consumption and for others to have an opinion about the personalities. Or, that I have no guts to say how I feel to their comely faces because only those who are spineless resort to social media platforms to express their views. The sad thing is that even people speaking in their professional capacity will be put down and shamed. Even when there is no slander, and even when it is not expressed in the same acrimony as that found in the Forum pages of Hardware Zone (I sometimes feel I need to learn another language to understand what is voiced here). Perhaps it’s okay for these keyboard warriors to upset and to provoke—without knowing the stars—if they are just any one of the Forum’s ribald denizens?
The TV stars of today are, like so many others, active on social media. Yet, there are those who hope that the rest of us, even with just-as-intense digital lives, best be cave-dwellers. Surrounded by their cronies and those who are mother hens, these celebrated artistes want visibility, but would not deal with the criticism (I am not referring to trolling) that comes with being so well placed and so unobstructed in many people’s view. You have to be on their side, always with a rah-rah attitude. They only have space in their rosy world for adoration. The captivating thing to me is how both unflattering comments on the stars and the attendant defence by their incensed defenders really suit our love for retaliation and the sensational. You may not understand the well-said by the well-qualified, but you know you can hit back as you always have, and there will always be those who’d cheer you on. It is of no significance if what is said about the stars is the prevalent, ground-level sentiment; it only matters that you don’t care.
Always amazing TV stars are no longer the faces of fashion, but food. Their awesomeness now selling anything from chee cheong fun to collagen soup, mookata to financiers. Ms Aw’s appeal to me is that she’s a fellow baker, but unlike her, I am not Le Cordon Bleu-trained and I don’t have the inclination to open a bakery. I appreciate from a distance. I do not interact with her online (or offline), even when I observe her (I resist using “follow” because that sounds too persistent, almost like stalking) through her presence online. Yes, I do not know her, as her protectors and minders will point out. I’ve never met her in my life; I never will. I only appreciate from a distance. In fact, I can’t say I am a devoted admirer, as ardent as those who start fan clubs to feel a sense of belonging. I wish her well and wish to see her do well. But I don’t dial down the urge to comment, even if they are not glowing comments. And I’m frequently writing—for release, for diversion, for fun; I’m just not writing for 8-Days.
COVID-19 continues to spread, but one “MBS woman” was determined to be a serial no-masker. Virulent viruses be damned
You can’t judge a person by the mall she is in. You’d think that someone who shops (or dines) in The Shoppes in Marina Bay Sands (MBS) is sophisticated. Or, knowing, right-minded, compliant, respectful, empathetic, or amicable. But there is also a strong chance that she is strikingly none of the above. One woman very recently showed that patronising the swanky outlets in MBS can go hand in hand with patronising the attentive staffers of the mall. In a 90-second video circulating wildly since four o’clock yesterday afternoon (watch it here, if you have not), she showed that she was exceptional and that no one could tell her to mask up, even if the wearing of one, as everyone well knows, is still mandatory. Despite an even more real and present danger posed by the relentless pace of COVID-19 infection now, she would not be coaxed into doing what, at that time and place, was the right and socially responsible thing to do.
The woman was in a line to get into Toast Box. When told nicely to put on a mask by a safe distancing ambassador (and, later, another) because she clearly had not, she demanded physical identification of the person performing her duty. “If you have no badge, why are you asking me to do something?” With an expression of pure disdain, she demanded to know under whose instructions the uniformed enforcer operated under. “Who are you representing?” When told that she represented MBS, the older woman hit back by impugning the younger. “That’s what you say. I can say that I’m the police.” She challenged the officer to apprehend her. “Are you arresting me?” And to blow things up. “Are you creating a scene?” She will only respond to persons who are authorised to be instructional. “If you want authority (?), then put on a badge.” She dismissed the persistent girl as one too subordinate to warrant her attention. “I don’t wish to speak to you.” Her face continued: You can’t compel compliance; you can’t order obedience. I know. Be gone.
It was not that she did not have a mask with her. She was seen carrying one—a blue surgical mask on her right hand, with one of the straps in the fingers of the left. At one point, she seemed to be twiddling with it. But she simply refused to be bring it to her face. Not for one second did she appear to be aware that other shoppers were with masks on and that she was clearly the one sticking disturbingly out. Or, care that others in the line and around her could be uncomfortable—even annoyed—with her objectionable refusal. In less than two hours after the video was shared online, photographs and two other videos of the said woman began appearing on social media, showing her also mask-less at other public places. She was similarly defiant: she was indifferent to those around her. She was recalcitrant.
Reacting to the video, some people said they were surprised that someone who spoke well, and dressed “so smartly” (in leather shoes!) would be that disagreeable and difficult. As we have pointed out in SOTD, manner of dress and a person’s behaviour are unrelated—the smartness of one is no guarantee of the decency of the other. The MBS woman, as she was referred to until her name was broadcast on social media last night, would know something about a smart turn out. She was reportedly an ex-officer in the navy. What is it about former military officers who are predisposed to easily take umbrage?
She was attired in an androgenous, no-nonsense style typical of women of a certain age. Everyone with a social media account saw that she wore a plain, blue, long-sleeved shirt, folded at the cuff, and knee-length and sand-coloured shorts. She carried a red leather (could be PU) east-west tote on her left shoulder and had on scruffy light-brown loafers. On her left wrist was a rectangular dress watch with brown leather strap. In that hand, she held a set of smartphone and a pair of dark sunglasses. It is arguable if what she wore was contemporary, let alone stylish, but it was pulled-together. All of which substantiates the visible truth: just because you look smart doesn’t mean you are smart.
Update (18 May 2021, 8pm): According to Lianhe Wanbao, the said woman will claim trial to a different charge of breaching COVID-19 rules in a separate incident in Newton Hawker Centre last year
For a long time, the retailer Naiise was not fine and certainly not dandy. Now, they have reportedly defaulted on paying vendors—again, some up to ten grand. Citing woes as a result of the ongoing pandemic, its flagship in Jewel Changi ceases operation today. Is that just a neat way to bow out?
The two-storey behemoth,Naiise at Jewel, not long after it opened in May 2019. File photo: SOTD
Naiise today. Photo: Zhao Xiangji
It doesn’t pay to be Naiise. That might be a pun in poor taste, but for many vendors who did business with the former operator of Design Orchard, that couldn’t be further from the truth. Naiise has not enjoyed a sterling reputation as a retailer who paid their consignors on time and consistently enough. According to recent media reports, the company owed “hundreds of vendors” payment for sold merchandise, with some “up to S$10,000”. Things are dire enough for their last retail operation in Jewel Changi that its doors opened for the last time yesterday (the same fate befell on their Paya Lebar Quarter store last year). The Business Times attributed the closure to “ongoing struggle to pay its vendors”. But some, reacting to the statement, noted that “the struggle has been going on for years.” In one 2018 The New Paper report, Naiise has been “defaulting on payment since 2016”. In a Facebook post shortly after the TNP story, jewellery brand Tessellate Co asked, “Is it fair for Naiise to owe us nine months of sales payment since October 2017?” Many retailers are curious to know how Naiise have been able to “keep this up for so long” when finance professionals generally consider three months of no (or late) payment a default.
Observers had noted that the shuttering of the Naiise flagship store in Jewel, announced two days ago, “is a matter of time”. The chatter among them as early as January, when news again emerged in the media of was that Naiise’s physical store is not “sustainable”, given the extant of payment issues with their consignors that now go back to the time Naiise was operating Design Orchard until last August. A little earlier, in 2018, five years after Naiise was born, and the company’s problems came to light, main man Dennis Tay told the media that his business was transitioning from a start-up to a full-grown enterprise. Retail folks and brand owners are wondering: Naiise is eight years old, are they still in transition?
It goes without saying that brands, especially the small ones, need to be paid to continue to do what they do. One designer told SOTD, “many of us need fast cash to make ends meet.” The frustrations with tardy (or no) payment led to more than a hundred of those with settlement issues to participate in a Facebook page (private) Naiise Vendors so that their grievances could be heard. Some brand owners claimed that repeated calls and emails to the Naiise office went unanswered. Capital Gains Studio, a games publisher, for example, shared on Facebook that they are “owed money since 2018… and our monthly email chaser are (sic) generally ignored”. One brand owner (believed to be Bespoke Parfums Artisanaux, said to be owed the 10 grand) was so frustrated with the retailer that they sent debt collectors to get back what’s owed to them, with the proceedings recorded and posted on Facebook to gain public attention and corporate humiliation for Naiise.
Naiise Iconic back then, with merchandise from brands who believed in them. File photos: SOTD
Fashion was a large category at Naiise Iconic, but the merchandise moved slowly. File photo: SOTD
The debt recovery is—if we go by Singapore Debt Collection SDCS’s Facebook posts—a social and socially accessible exercise. Debt chasers dispatched to Naiise at Jewel videoed their hunt and posted it on FB two days ago. “Please stay tuned, like, and share,” they urged. The quartet of twentysomething guys (plus a videographer), whose demeanour seemed no different from those associated with loan sharks, and were styled in a manner that even Mediacorp’s costume unit can’t do better (fake LV mask improperly worn, gold jewellery and fancy watches, monogram messenger bag and Kenzo jogger of indeterminate provenance, and even a tall, sparse, rigid mohawk do!), had wanted to make their demands in the store, but was told to meet the debtor in the car park. The guys tracked their target while giving a running commentary in Singlish, Singdrin, and Hokkien. Those who represented Naiise appeared to be the boss Dennis Tay, as well as a “financial adviser”, and a woman, speculated to be Mr Tay’s wife, Amanda Eng, who, too, videoed the confrontation.
It is hilarious to see the two men who clearly look like senior members of the management of Naiise near-beseeching the youngsters to be sympathetic to the former’s predicament, even to the point of addressing the clearly younger sole inquirer 大哥 (dage or big brother). Mr Tay, in a cream-coloured Uniqlo U tee, said, “I had actually in the past few months; I have also been putting money back into the company, to help the company. But now I am also empty. I don’t have deep pocket (sic).” If not for the clothes and the underground carpark in which the scene unfolded, the samsengness (even when of the chief money collector assured his target, “We are not gangsters, ah”) of the proceedings could lead one to believe this was action straight out of a movie from the 1970s. Unscripted and unfiltered, it was better than any reality TV, past and present.
For tourists, Naiise Iconic was an interesting gift shop. File photo: SOTD
Purchases were made, but payment to vendors reportedly not. Photo: Zhao Xiangji
Dennis Tay, describing himself on LinkedIn as he who “founded Naiise and continue(s) to play a critical role in driving Naiise’s growth to become one of the region’s largest and fastest growing omni-channel marketplaces, generating SGD10mn annual revenue”, has previously said that the payment problems to consignors were due to “some gaps in the company and internal issues”. Now that the COVID-19 pandemic has taken its toll, his business, as he told Today, “never recovered”. But those who have been following Naiise’s rise from humble online business to multi-location pop-ups (their first, in 2014, was on the roof top of People’s Park Complex, as part of an “urban farm”) to permanent stores (including Design Orchard), were surprised that the company’s weak financial management could have gone uncorrected for this long. Or that there are brands, now also as affected by the pandemic, who knew not of Naiise’s tendency to issue late, very late, or no payments. It is an ironic turn of events, considering that Ms Eng told Yahoo News in 2019, “we realise that we are also responsible for our employees, our designers, our community.” Similarly, Mr Tay told Malaysian media a year earlier that “what we are doing is empowering creative entrepreneurs, enabling them to do what they love to do and making it sustainable…” Many of the affected brands now wonder, how can “it”—presumably their businesses—be sustained when they have received no payment due?
Despite the debts, Naiise continued to expand locally and also, in 2017, into Kuala Lumpur, in the retro-trendy ‘village’ of Kampung Attap, west of the capital city. In the same year, they even opened a 1,000-sq ft pop-up in The Old Truman Brewery, located in the hipster area of Shoreditch, East London. You can understand why landlords, leasing managers, and government agencies were easily and readily impressed with them. On LinkedIn, Mr Tay stated that he was “awarded government contracts for Design Orchard and Naiise Iconic at Jewel”. If so, these have been two failed government-linked deals. We understand that Naiise Iconic was “supported by Enterprise Singapore”. It is surprising that the awardee was able to secure these projects with strong national branding despite the company’s unfavourable track record.
An ex-staffer shared on Reddit that the store “cannot hit the daily quota of sales.” Through Glassdoor, a former retail associate wrote that “sometimes it feels as though the entire company is run by a bunch of secondary school kids”. One source familiar with the Naiise merchandising team had said to SOTD that, for some, it was a “nightmare” working there, as the “missus interfered with the daily operations”. Mr Tay’s wife, Amanda Eng, stepped down as chief marketing and buying officer last May; she later joined Shopee as regional marketing lead. Ms Eng’s departure was presumed to be planned so as not to have her implicated in the company’s financial woes. And, as some have noted, “better to have one spouse with a salary”. When asked by the head debt collector, as seen in the Facebook post, if Naiise was doing a Robinsons, Mr Tay’s suit-wearing companion said, “It is exactly like Robinsons.”
Lights out on Naiise Iconic. Photo: Zhao Xiangji
Left for the liquidators? Photo: Zhao Xiangji
In 2016, way before their Robinsons strategy, Dennis Tay and Amanda Eng was placed 15th on ST’s Life Power List (that year, Nathan Hartono, fresh from Sing! China, scored 1st). By then, husband and wife had become media darlings, and appeared to enjoy the flowing publicity. Ms Eng was Mr Tay’s first employee two years earlier. The couple met in Anderson Junior College (now merged with Serangoon JC as Anderson Serangoon JC) when they were 17, dated on and off, and tied the knot in 2015 (their “$50K in total [excluding our honeymoon]” wedding was reported in Singapore Brides). Both were known to be very hands-on in the Naiise pop-ups. The two, who admitted to being not design savvy in the beginning, mostly—according to some of those who had supplied to them—“have an eye for the kitschy”. A few who had interfaced with Mr Tay thinks he’s “a Beng at heart”. Naiise took in anything any local brand or designer had to sell. The stores did not really have a distinct point of view nor did the couple have curatorial flair. Their biggest showcase—9,500 sq ft, spread over two floors—at Jewel went by the grandiose name Naiise Iconic Singapore. At launch, Naiise claimed that they were offering a “new retail concept”, but, as one buyer told SOTD, “just because they had never operated on this scale or attempted some semblance of merchandising before did not make anything in the Jewel outlet new.” When we first visited the store back in June 2019, we thought it was the Orchard Central pop-up, circa 2014, all over again, except in a swankier space, with an eye on tourists.
On Facebook, Naiise announced two days ago that there was a storewide 20% discount (and an additional 10% with purchase above S$150 in a single receipt). Their last post on Friday was a plug for modest fashion brand AJ Flora that was participating in a curiously scheduled, in-store event Pasar Iconic this weekend. Why hold it when they knew Saturday was their last day? AJ Flora’s proprietor Atiqah Jasman was caught off-guard, saying on Facebook that “due to some unforeseen circumstances /hiccups. The last day of operation of the booth will be today. We hope to clear at least 1/2 of our stocks there so do come down and support us! There will be no booth going on tomorrow at the outlet as it is closing down.” Naiise made no mention on Facebook of the 23-month-old Jewel store’s permanent closure. They are, as of today, no longer listed in Jewel’s directory. The airport mall told the media that “a tenant has been found to take over the space”. Surely not in the past three days?
According to news reports, Naiise will continue to operate their e-stores. A check on their website showed that business is as usual. Their UK website seems to be in service too. In KL, the store closed last September, after three years of operation. This morning, in busy Jewel, a sign on Naiise Iconic’s front door read, “SORRY WE ARE CLOSED. HAVE A NAIISE WEEK! :)”. Seated at neighbour Starbucks Reserve, we chatted with a fellow coffee drinker, who had quite a few shopping bags with her. Have you ever been to Naiise? We were gripped with curiosity. “Got lah, but nothing to buy,” she said. They have closed down. “Aiya, sooner or later,” sounding as if to say, “why are you surprised?” She added, “I don’t see people going inside, mah.” You don’t think they have nice things? “Okay, lah, but not very useful, leh.” Where do you go to when you wish to buy useful things? “Daiso, lor.”
Update (15 April 2021, 2pm): according to the latest media reports, Naiise will wind up all businesses. A liquidator has been appointed. Dennis Tay will also file for personal bankruptcy
Update (16 April 2021, 5pm): Naiise UK website now says “website under maintenance”. The Malaysian webpage, which still had a landing page until 11 April now announces “opening soon”. Ditto for the Singaporean site
It’s true, some magazine editors have to TikTok themselves to the top
By Raiment Young
It isn’t easy being a magazine editor. With print media on a veritable decline, the magazine editor, these days, has to try harder. Now that many also have to play an active role in the digital version of their respective titles, editors have to be masters of more than one medium. In the past, they needed only to be adept at putting together a print magazine—fill the pages with engaging stories and striking photographs. A flair with pagination and packaging (stories), I was told, is a plus. Then some editors adopted Instagram, and they gained visual competency in not only selling products, but themselves too. Personal branding, as with OOTD, became a thing. Once an editor needed only to be good with text, now they’ve gone from shooting photographic selfies to video selfies. The journalist, not to be outdone by influencers, happily and actively becomes one.
A magazine is no longer the sum of its editorial pages or parts, or running heads. The content is not any more merely the editor’s signature. With digital iterations of print and the necessary attendant social media pages intersecting, I see editors have to be able to generate lively content across platforms. And then some: They also need to create personal pages as extension of their paid work, to spin-off the otherwise one-dimensional print page into something that engages so that the editor is then able to personally find new audiences—those who don’t read but view— and, in return, monetise what he/she posts, brilliant or banal, seemly or trite. By extending themselves, editors are also extending the brand. Mastheads need a digital life too; they sent out tweets and social posts, and these do not necessarily promote the content of the original medium. They are not merely a title; they are brands, and, as such, they can be a magazine, as well as a social-media page, a blog, a Youtube channel, a shopping portal, the merchandise, or even an app.
Editors need to be as multi-faceted, switching from the pages of a magazine to the pages of a website, or the tiles of Instagram. They have to show their audience what extracurricular talents they have, too. This is where TikTok comes in, with tremendous might. While fashion’s one-time favourite platform Instagram allows perfectly composed photos, they do not necessarily reflect the subject’s special/natural ability or aptitude. Sure, we can usually see an attractive face, but we can’t hear her voice (and even less in text form of, say, the editor’s page or letter or whatever they like to call it these days) or see his limp wrist limping. Who knows they can cavort so zestfully?! With TikTok videos—even just 15 seconds long—we can have a deeper impression, all the while enjoying, or not, the lowbrow or the high jinks (or high camp). The magazine editor comes alive.
Some editors reveal themselves as natural comedians and lip-sync talents, all packaged with intense fashion—sometimes, thanks to editing apps such as InShot, with multiple OOTD changes, accompanied by It bags, just by snapping fingers or jumping. They have the time! It isn’t clear to me if this is a case of old-fashioned showing-off or more-in-fashion-than-ever funded partnerships with brands. Either way, it’s an I-can-wear-this-many-trendy-and-expensive-clothes-and-you-can’t video brag. Some editors do this so well, I’d never guess they’re not entertainers or jokers by profession. Once virtually unknown, they are now the song-and-dance editors among the other singing and dancing zombies that populate TikTok, but they do it with better clothes or with more pronounced proclamation of their love for a brand. Nothing, as Oscar Wilde said, succeeds like excess.
Editors I spoke to admit that there’s no more downtime to their work, such as the period—even if short—after they put an issue “to bed”. One editor told me how, during her supposed own free time, she has to monitor social media content and create her own posts for her personal accounts that bear her own name. WFH makes it worse. So shackled to the demands of the digital life, professionally and personally, that her husband was convinced she is married to two: he and an indestructible entity that is pulling her further and further away from him. “Social media can really consume you,” she told me. “And we allow it.” It is not surprising then that there are many more addicted to TikTok than those to porn.
The suffix porn, as in food porn (or choose your favourite. Mine, word porn!), is very much a digital-era preoccupation/description (although food porn is said to date back to the late ’70s). Porn, from the Greek porne (which means “whore”), and now quite stripped (pardon the pun) of the intense and pervasive sex that it used to evoke, is an intensifier of the noun that precedes it. Food porn, the most used, and probably the most relatable, usually describes those photos that are exaggerated in their appetite-arousing appeal, with a fidelity that amplifies their sometimes unreal perfection, which, ironically, is un-erotic. Tiktok porn is alike and is not racy, but is more addictive. As reported by App Annie’s State of Mobile 2020, Android users clocked up 68 billion-plus hours using TikTok in 2019. That’s pornographic enough. And one magazine editor I chanced upon, who offered seven outfit changes in one 15-second video post, is without doubt a porn talent, even if he’s no stud, unveiling his cloth-based assets as the pornest of fashion porn.
On Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, Bottega Veneta is gone. The name is there on FB, but there is no content; no image, not even a logo. All three social-media sites were left with barely a trace of their existence. Sure, there are the fan pages and attendant hashtags, but they’re not the official accounts. It’s like the brand has given up on social media. And the world of fashion is panicking. WWD wondered, “Where has Bottega Veneta gone?” Vogue informs us that the brand “signs off from social media.” Hypebeast sounds less worried, stating that BV “has left” the three biggies of online social interaction. It’s a marvelous vanishing act.
At the moment, there is only speculation as to why BV wants out of the social media circus. Apparently, the Italian company has remained mum in response to media queries. Designer Daniel Lee has been just as tight-lipped. Could this be permanent? BV has been operating rather mysteriously lately. The spring/summer 2021 collection, “Salon 01 London”, was shown in October last year to a very select and limited audience. And, by most accounts, was a rather private affair. The images of the show were released to the media only in December. And now, barely a month after that, another mystery. Perhaps BV thinks luxury brands can afford to be more in the dark (or atas), and less accessible? Or maybe, there’s a very simple reason for the shadow play and pulling out of social media: for good, old-fashioned publicity.
Update /6 Jan 2021, 18:30): It appears that Bottega Veneta is not entirely off social media. Their Chinese pages on Weibo and WeChat are still active. Looks like the important China market can’t be messed with.
Better late than never. And only for iPhone users: a new set of emojis and a particular one that will delight the frightfully rabid zhenzhu naicha (珍珠奶茶) fans—the bubble tea emoji. It is not clear why it has taken Apple this long to make this available, considering its smartphones are hot commodities in Asia, where, as we all well know, the bubble tea (or boba tea, if you hail from outside of this continent) was born, but its awakening to our communicative needs and beverage obsessions is very much appreciated.
For the release of iOS 14.2, Apple has made available 117 new emojis, which should really be a great source of happiness for those who text—if that’s the right word—mostly pictorial symbols. These include some rather progressive characters such as two tuxedoed andro-types, one male-looking person in a wedding dress, and one very costumed fella: a ninja. For the non-living things, there is a slipper to delight many Singaporeans, and, if you are inclined to telling people of the hard work you have been doing in the wash room to clear a particularly nasty clogging, you’ll be very happy with the toilet plunger.
For fashion folks, there is still limited representation of fashion items. The dress emoji, for example, is unchanged—too Disney princess for anyone above six to take seriously. And who’d use the blouse except maybe your grandmother?! Sure, there is a pair of jeans, which for those not texting from the front row of (whichever) fashion week, is as exciting as a pair of sweatpants. Some fashionistas are hopeful, though. So we’ll be too: we’re looking forward to the Apple iOS with an emoji for skort!
The comeback publication has been sharing what its upcoming launch issue might look like. Too soon to make something of them?
A divisive image of one of the models that appeared on Vogue SG’s video posts. Screen grab: Vogue Singapore/Facebook
Couple of months before the launch of Vogue Singapore on the 23rd of this month, images of what the magazine’s visual aesthetic might be like has been shared by the born-again title on social media. Observers and the deeply curious are puzzled by what they have seen. So far, few comments have accompanied these editorially-produced images, but away from social media, the chatter borders on dismay and incredulity. To be sure, beauty and artistic taste are subjective, and are being redefined as we write this. But, it is not surprising that there are those who hold Vogue, regardless of where it is published, to a loftier standard.
The images in question are those featuring the Hong Kong-born, London-based Tibetan model/electronic music artiste Tsunaina (not to be confused with Tsunade of the Naruto manga and anime series). Reportedly discovered by the British makeup maestro Pat McGrath, Tsunaina Limbu (she goes by her first name) has made strides in the modelling world since last year. Those in the position to influence Ms Limbu’s career consider her beauty “unconventional”. In Asia, that term is mostly used euphemistically, as her stand-out features are not usually considered “model-standard”: her nose bridge too wide and high; her lips too thick and pouty. It doesn’t help that, as it is often said, she looks like she’s from the movie Avatar’s Na’vi tribe.
Video still of Tsunainain Robert Wun, styled by Xander Ang, and directed by Ryan Chappell and Marc Pritchard. Screen grab: Vogue Singapore/Facebook
Regardless, her looks have earned her a place in many beauty ratings, such as Elle’s “New Wave Beauty” from last year. Ms Limbu is not alien to international titles, having appeared in W magazine, Vogue Germany, and on the cover of Harper’s Bazaar Kazakhstan. Fashion stylists and makeup artists we spoke to did not consider her features unattractive, but did say she won’t be easy to style or shoot, and that she needs to work with those who “can bring out the best of her”, as one stylist said. But with this particular pictorial (and video) post, social media followers seem to think that Vogue SG has not quite done a Vogue—“see the bad makeup and bad lighting”. Or, style her to assimilate into the magazine’s more sophisticated positioning. We just hope this would not turn out to be a Vogue SG’s Mulan moment.
It may be too soon to consider this as what Vogue SG is forging for the Singaporean edition of the fashion bible. Some observers wonder if a Singaporean girl would be featured on the cover of the debut issue. Or, if Singaporean-ness would be a mere token expression. In July, a leaked video showed some Singaporean models (and those considered “former”) strutting at a photo shoot, attributed to the magazine. One of the women is Celia Teh, a Vogue SG cover girl back in the November 1994 issue, and who is married to the fashion photographer Mark Law. Her inclusion for nostalgic reason? The video was probably shot by an attendee or member of the crew, using a smartphone; it showed the women walking and posing against a white, unadorned studio space.
Fahimah Thalib, reportedly the first Muslim model to be asked to appear on Vogue SG. Screen grab: Vogue Singapore/ Facebook
On Facebook, Vogue SG stated that “a core pillar of Vogue Singapore is to shine a spotlight on Asian talents, and to provide them with a platform to showcase their creativity.” This is possibly a reminder that the talent pool in our city is small, with few swimming in it. The magazine has, therefore, decided to cast the net wider so that the world’s largest continent can be a deep resource, never mind that, including the soon-to-be launched SG edition, there would be eight Vogues. And none has trained “a spotlight on Asian talents”, leaving a gap for dot-sized Singapore to fill?
It is possible that Vogue SG, in scouring the plural societies of Asia for talents, is trying to strike an inclusive tone, the way the British edition has, so vividly. In one of the videos Vogue SG shared on Facebook (shot in Gardens by the Bay—was One Orchard Store inspired by this footage?), the hijab-wearing Singaporean model Fahimah Thalib is featured in full, modesty-fashion splendour. Ms Thalib told Berita Harian that she was initially worried about what the magazine might want her to show, but was pleased that the end result “menjaga imej kesopanan wanita Muslimah (cared about the image of politeness of Muslim women).” Vogue SG has offered us a foretaste of their editorial wokefulness.
Man in bloom: Vogue SG’s editor-in-chief illustrating his love for orchids. Screen grab: musingmutley/Instagram
But it has not been all cultural cognisance. On both Instagram and Facebook, Vogue SG offers an unstimulating mix of inane fashion commentary, artists’ contributions to the “Vogue in Bloom” theme, birthday wishes to celebrities, and designer quotations to encourage (a pandemic is still raging) whoever needs encouragement, and staying with the perfunctory declaration that Vogue SG will keep “you updated with the biggest movements in fashion, beauty and wellness, celebrity, culture, art and more.”
Additionally, in tandem with the fun and irreverence that now often pervade both fashion’s and fashion magazines’ digital representations, Vogue SG has also delivered TikTok-ready content on its IG account. One of them is an interactive component—a 3-D filter that allows users to place metallic-looking, indistinct orchids, dubbed the Vanda Vogue (better as Vanda Vague?), anywhere on the face. One of the earliest to test this out was Vogue SG’s editor-in-chief Norman Tan, who gleefully hammed it up for an IG Stories post (above) on his Musingmutley account, telling viewers that he was “serving some serious face.” From this, it’s hard to tell if, as the title’s editorial head, Mr Tan would be able to augment the fashion standing and authority of the magazine. As one fashion editor said to us, “I think Anna would sit this one out.”
Luxury brands have berthed at the port of the social media phenomenon with mostly just goofy content
TikTok is banned in India. It could suffer the same fate in the US soon. (Indonesia temporarily banned it in 2018 for “inappropriate content”.) Yet, luxury brands are eagerly adopting TikTok as if their survival depends on it. Among the latest to join the video-centric site are Louis Vuitton, Dior, Gucci (above), and Fendi. Fashion’s top labels, it appears, are under considerable marketing pressure to be on a platform that is not immediately easy to fathom.
The content on TikTok is unlike anything seen on (old) social media. Created in 2016, it has taken the world by typhoon-strength storm. In a nutshell, TikTok is Instagram for videos. But these aren’t videos seen on YouTube (at 15, a much senior media); these are short takes of virtually anything inane and incomprehensibly foolish, yet the app has been described as a “a refreshing outlier in the social media universe”. So much that are posted are repetitive, it’s hard, even after a mere few days, to consider anything viewed to be “refreshing”. While Instagram is to tell you everyone is having a fabulous life, TikTok is to show you everyone is having incredible fun.
And having fun is mostly rubbing babies’ faces to create cute expressions, playing stupid and staged pranks, and creating more noisy fart jokes than you care to watch (or hear). People, both young (and now old), post unbelievably trite content: from an egg being boiled to clothes being soiled, from unremarkable yawns to unfunny jokes, from ludicrous nothing to loony dancing. What’s irascible, after even just five minutes, are the inevitable canned laughter and cheesy electronic soundtrack (even Shopee TV ads look and sound like TikTok posts!). Amid all these, fashion brands are carving out their own space alongside those users pushing for incredible foolishness.
TikTok fans, similarly, call all of it fun. Gucci’s videos, with suitably attired characters, play to this worldwide search for amusement and absurdity. Or, as one Quora user called the posts, “dumb shit”—the sillier the video, the more likely it’ll go viral. How does fashion fit in this swill? Frankly, we don’t know. So much on TikTok appear slapdash and low-brow. As content quality go, it’s cheaper to create a TikTok video than a fashion film. And scripts are optional.
We keep being told that TikTok allows us a peek into ordinary teenagers’ lives. So Gucci and co are now marketing to adolescents? The brand’s own madcap style may fit TikTok’s ting-tong-ness, but flatulence-loving kids are not likely a good target for S$600+ T-shirts or S$1,000+ sneakers. Marketers observed that TikTok is a break from the increasingly commercial space of Facebook and Instagram. However, when you start to sell on TikTok, you are making the site another digital marketplace. Let’s see Chanel peddle its wares by putting a teen in a bouclé jacket and do a happy dance.
Dee Kosh, the YouTuber-turned-radio-DJ, is now battling some very serious allegations. The “fried chicken connoisseur”, who switches between wearing a dress and hoodie with incredible ease, “stand(s) before you” to refute accusations of inappropriate chats with and proposals to boys deemed too young to engage in social media filth
Dee Kosh’s alter ego, the headscarf-wearing Ria Warna. Screen grab: SIAxRIA show/YouTube
This evening, he posted a seven-page explanation/defence on Instagram (24 paragraphs on Facebook) that was accompanied by a short comment: “I’m sorry.” As it turned out, Dee Kosh, 32, was sorry for being outed for “sexually harassing” under-aged boys. The allegations, made via social media, as most tend to be these days, have now budged the arms of the law. According to Today, the police are investigating after “several reports (four, as of now) alleging sexual harassment of teenage boys were filed against him.” All the victims are apparently under 18 years of age.
Dee Kosh’s ostensible apology came after initially denying any wrongdoing. Two days ago, one kiddie-looking Instagrammer, who goes by the handle _epaul, posted a since-deleted exposé, claiming that the YouTube star had made indecent propositions to him, even “kept asking for sexual favours”. Despite being flatly rejected, the proponent would not give up, even resorting to “an alternate Instagram account” to convince the teenager to give in. A day after the incriminating post, _epaul was sent a cease and desist letter by the law firm of DC Law LLC, purportedly acting on behalf of Dee Kosh. That letter was shared on _epaul’s IG account and, hitherto, remains there although reports have emerged that the lawyer has “withdrawn” from representing Dee Kosh.
That single post opened the proverbial can of worms, and more allegations with details followed. Shortly, Dee Kosh posted on IG Stories an announcement: “Im (sic) aware of the allegations against me(.) Will be taking the necessary steps to clear this all up. I’m denying all allegations made by the people who have said what they’ve said(.)” Denial, as is often the case in resent charges of inappropriate, sexually-loaded behaviours (such as those alleged against Harvey Weinstein and Kevin Spacey), is the first step to a dramatic downfall. Swiftly, the radio station that hired the controversial YouTuber released a statement today: “POWER 98 does not tolerate any form of harassment. Dee Kosh is currently on leave.”
Sans costume, Dee Kosh, the unlikely YouTube star. Photo: deekosh/Instagram
Although known as Dee Kosh, his name on his I/C is Darryl Ian Koshy, He was born in the Philippines (thought to be in Cebu City) to an Indian father and a Chinese mother (both their nationalities then are unknown). Despite his “Chindian” ethnicity, Mr Koshy (as he shall be known from this part of the post on) stated on Facebook that he’s “Malay by (sic) heart”. He certainly looks like he’s from the peninsular to our north, allowing him to gleefully refer to his “Malay roots”, cleverly blurring any clarity of his racial mix, and allowing him to freely create racial stereotypes and to take pot shots at those he deems worthy. That he speaks Tagalog, although the provenance of his family name can be traced to Kerela, enhanced his “regional” appeal.
Also a “content creator”, “CEO bitch” of his own persona, friend of Xia Xue, and, as claimed on Twitter, to be “in a loving long term (sic) relationship with Fried Chicken (proper noun? Could this be a person?)”, Mr Koshy found fame and following as a YouTuber (where he began posting in 2011) and is followed for his brashness, no-filter talk, senseless humour, kurang ajar antics, sexual references, and a propensity to laugh out loud, including at his own perceived cleverness. He is part of a “top” YouTube clique that includes Tan Jianhao and the “content hub” Night Owl Cinematics. His fame climbed when his negative comments on the K-pop boy band BTS generated furious fan-backlash. There was even a petition on change.org to “restrict Dee Kosh and his associations from being allowed to engage with BTS in Singapore”. Mr Koshy eventually called the fiasco a “social experiment”. Netizens are now wondering if his interfacing with minors are, similarly, for experimental purposes.
As an entertainment package, Mr Koshy’s get-up and facial gymnastics bring to mind the just-as-loud celebrity-makeup-artist-turned-private-dining-cook Tinoq Russell Goh (aka Pasir Panjang Boy, who has moved to Hong Kong last month to “open a restaurant”), and his humour and loquaciousness a pinch of Jojo Joget (aka Suhaimi Yusof, The Noose alum), all with the decibels cranked up. Of late, he is known for his reactions to TikTok videos that are considered “cringe-y”, which encouraged him to be as inane, slapstick, strident, and unfunny as the targets of his judgment. As one social media observer said, “It really takes a cringe-inducing to appreciate the cringe-notable.” Truth is, Mr Koshy was already TikTok-worthy before there was TikTok.
Dee Kosh’s PR shots for his podcast tea with Dee. Photo: Marc Lim/Tea with Dee/Instagram
A social media success trait is brashness, enhanced by garish and flashy clothes—crass over class. As part of his loudness (a fact even his mother won’t negate, as seen in the first YouTube video featuring her), Mr Koshy creates online characters that borders on camp, but without the clever artifice (or kitsch) that comes with effective campiness. His is all unthinking, prattling pondan power, with no consideration for entries into the ledger of grace (that his Ria Warna hasn’t yet upset Malay women is surprising), only the tacky clothes (prints and patterns are major) and the eye makeup, here and there, that one fan called “flawless”. Now, it is more than bedak, it involves budak-budak.
Those who follow the increasing uproar over social-media misbehaviours, point out that what Mr Koshy is alleged to have committed is an ironic turn of events. In January 2018, Mr Koshy released a damning 20-plus-minute video post, “Eden Ang Whats (sic) Up?!”, that revealed scandalous details—which he repeatedly and emphatically called “facts”—regarding the fellow, highly popular YouTuber, who was accused of sexually harassing an 18-year-old employee, to which he denied, as Mr Koshy did to his own charges of wrongdoing. The radio DJ professed to “know how it feels to feel powerless in a situation”. He even dramatically added—as if holding back tears, “When I was young, I was abused, and I know what it feels to be taken advantage of.”
Despite this knowledge, Mr Koshy did not hesitate to say what he said to those boys. On Eden Ang’s alleged victim, Mr Koshy said, “She is an impressionable 18-year-old girl, especially when it comes to famous people. You guys look up to these people. When you meet them, you’re enamoured by their fame.” Was he not in the same situation when he, a famous person, meets the “enamoured”, in his case, minors? The thing about allegations of sexually inappropriate behaviours in the age of social media is that when one surfaces, more would emerge. It is not easy to follow Mr Koshy’s claim that he is innocent or that the allegations are “baseless and untrue”, even when he concedes that “some screenshots circulating of me texting with a 15-year-old I now accept is problematic.” Never mind if it all seemed sleazy. His denial of misdeeds becomes less convincing when one views the trailer posted on Facebook on 14th May for his podcast Tea with Dee. It ended with Darryl Ian Koshy saying—diabolical glint in his eye unmistakable—“Gather round, children, we’re about to begin.”
Broadcast at the odd hour of nine this evening, CDG’s first IG Live here was hosted by former radio DJ Rosalyn “Rozz” Lee, who chirpily promised “a great 30 minutes”. Was it?
It is hard to imagine Comme des Garçcons taking to Instagram Live, just as it is impossible to frame Rei Kawakubo within a TicTok screen. Yet, CDG did go onto the social media video platform via Club 21’s IG page. The Japanese brand, despite finally joining IG (in September 2015), avoids using branded hashtags or posting IG Stories. So, it aroused our curiosity when it was announced only two days ago via Club 21, that CDG would be conducting an “IG Live preview” of the their new collection, and that viewers get to win a pair of Comme des Garçcons X Vans Graffiti sneakers. The giveaways (including another ten pair of socks) were a surprise to us since we do not associate the brand with D&D-style lucky draws.
It was then revealed that the host of Weird Food Diaries, Rosalind “Rozz” Lee, would be presenting the event. That, to us, is an odd choice. Ms Lee is known for her high spirits and exuberance, and opinions that can be best described as strong. CDG is a lot more austere and serious, and admittedly, just as unwavering. But Ms Lee’s personal style tends to veer towards the conventional, tethered to a tad of sexiness. The red and black dress that was picked for her, which she said she “really, really love” (and, in the end, enthused, “99% I am going to buy”), looked frumpy on her. Perhaps we’re used to seeing Ms Lee in something sleeker and definitely body-skimming.
Despite the potential pull of the live stream, which was Club 21’s very first, the simple and straightforward presentation drew a high of 349 views at its peak, and slipped to 266 when it was about to end. This was surprising to us as Club 21 has 53.8K followers and Ms Lee (#heyrozz) 109K. It is not clear what the target was, but the presenter did say that the show would begin when they hit 200. This might be considered an encouraging figure when most Club 21 posts garner 2-digit likes.
The show, filmed at the CDG Hilton Shopping Gallery store, was spared of conceptual strength. Sure, it looked spontaneous and user-generated—typically IG, but Ms Lee might have gained from a script or a rehearsal. At times, she did not appear to know her way around in what is a very small store. She kept relying on her smartphone to prompt her with what to say next. As she guided the viewer into the corner that houses CDG Girl, she called the space an “enclave”. Throughout her intro of the clothes, her description was that of a neophyte—light on fashion-speak, and peppered with “pretty dope” for almost every garment she showed.
Additionally, we did not quite understand why Ms Lee was told to announce the price of what the models—a male and a female—wore. And this covered every piece of the look on show. As one CDG regular told us, “customers who spend above S$1,000, would already know roughly how much those garments would cost.” We are aware that this was a selling exercise, but the inclusion of prices at the end of each intro of the pieces sadly gave what are designer clothes a pasar malam vibe.
Comme des Garçons usually launch their seasonal collections in the store with an intimate party, mostly attended by the more hardcore of fans. Given that social distancing is still strictly in place, it is understandable that an in-store event was not possible. With IG Live, CDG was pointing to the adoptable direction for other Club 21 brands, but, we were not sure who the target audience of this show really were. There was nothing in the presentation that might interest the die-hards, who were already invited to the store for the reveal tomorrow. For the newbies, Ms Lee who, like a keen-to-belong mom, happily described a shirt as “super street”, might just be the right host. And an eager shopper.
Are these related family names the most formidable in the industry? Bear witness to the influence of the two Ks
Kanye West has caused the stocks of Gap Inc to slide. Improbable, but it has happened. And he has not even officially joined the company. We assume that to be so since Mr West has threatened to take off from the deal. Trying to proof that he can be a president at a campaign rally in Charleston, South Carolina, he said, “risk or no risk of losing whatever deal possible, I am not on the board at Adidas. I am not on the board at Gap. And that has to change today or I walk away,” Can he do that? Still, that was deemed such a serious threat that Gap’s stocks fell, according to Forbes, by 6% on Monday.
This news is a little familiar to us. Back in February, 2018, Mr West’s sister-in-law, the former billionaire Kylie Jenner similarly caused another company’s shares to drop. In a Twitter post that responded to Snapchat’s update, Ms Jenner wrote, “sooo does anyone else not open Snapchat anymore? Or is it just me… ugh this is so sad.” It didn’t take long for the social media company’s stock to tumble. As Reuters reported, Snapchat’s suffered a US$1.5 billion loss in market value. Things apparently did not improve for Snapchat a year later. According to Markets Insider, “shares have never really recovered.”
When it was revealed that Kanye West will collaborate with Gap to create a sub-brand called Yeezy Gap, Gap Inc’s stocks soared by as much as 42%! The surge is understandable since Mr West’s Yeezy brand is valued at US$1.3 billion, according to Forbes. Gap must have thought that the rapper is a walking money-printing machine. Then came the no-longer-a-shocker: Mr West will run for his nation’s top job. And people began wondering if Gap was embroiled in a bad 10-year deal. Would Kanye West have time to design clothing? And, as we wondered, what kind of designing president would he make?
That Mr West’s words and possible moves are so influential boggles the mind. When it was announced that Raf Simons will join Prada, there was no news about a shock-spike in Prada’s stock. And Mr Simons is a lauded designer with haute couture credentials. How did we get to this point in the evolution of fashion, when celebrities with debatable talents could send the stocks of established companies (in the case of Gap, they are eight years older than Mr West) tumbling? Or, has fan adulation inadvertently handed over the reigns of power to celebrities who sit on the throne called social media?
For a rather long while, editors of fashion magazines are not expected to toil silently, unseen behind the scenes. They are now mostly adopting the modus operandi of influencers, and, for some, acquiring the following that befits opinion leaders who are considered key
Musingmutley’s last post, dated 30 March, showing Norman Tan in sea-side holiday splendour. Photo: musingmutley/Instagram
The recent controversial posts of Vogue Singapore’s editor-in-chief Norman Tan has trained the spotlight on high-profile editors and their glamourous digital presence. Mr Tan, who also identifies as Musingmutley, assembles a carefully curated Insta-self-promotion as a peek into his enchanting material life and world travels rather than enervating editorial work that others might consider hard. His braggy photographs show a world that many people might find aspirational: in the latest fashion, keenly styled, in locations that, minus the subject, could be sold as postcards at hotel lobby gift shops. In that respect, Mr Tan has perched himself alongside the countless influencers followed by those with a predilection for composed and enhanced fabulousness.
Three of those four photos, featuring him and his staff, of which two showed off their recent booty of Apple gifts on IG Stories, were talking points among members of the press corp last week, leading to a report in The New Paper today. Despite the unfavourable optics, some thought the posts—already deleted—were a shrewd move as it concurrently raised the visibility of the yet-to-publish Vogue SG. However, it isn’t certain if Mr Tan could capitalise on his 14,900 followers to draw readers to Vogue SG (or had, before this, to Esquire SG), but he has used social media well to augment his style cred and to appeal to those who reads by looking at tiles of people and their adventures. An ardent Instagrammer since December 2011 (his first post was a photo of lavender fields), with 2,211 posts to date, he has been able to highlight his editorial hand as well as his love for djellabas and hats, many hats—trilbies, fedoras, Pananamas, and boaters.
Like many influencers, Mr Tan is not opposed to posting videos of himself shirtless. One recently circulating—captioned “What did you learn? Tropical sun is no joke”—showed him, bare-chested, in what could be a shower room, saying to viewers, “Guys, look at how burnt I am. I went for a run during lunch, and now I am a freakin’ lobster.” Those who know him say that he is proud of his toned body, enough, in fact, to write a fitness article for sibling publication Buro, titled “How to look good naked and other fitness goals”, and set himself up as model for the photo-illustration. This is admirable multi-hyphenate flair that many influencer adore, but few are blessed with. Yet, some do wonder: among the 27 Vogue EICs throughout the world, including Anna Wintour, how many would go topless before a smartphone camera?
Kennieboy’s last travel photo, dated 30 March, showing Kenneth Goh in sea-side holiday splendour. Photo: kennieboy/Instagram
Norman Tan is considered one of Singapore’s most social-media active magazine editors with compelling content on IG. The other is Kenneth Goh (aka Kennieboy), EIC of Harper’s Bazaar SG. Like his counterpart at Vogue SG, Mr Goh is known for what he has on his head. In his case, a mop of hair that is frequently styled like an inverted bowl. In one video that was posted last January, shortly before Chinese New Year, Mr Goh took his mother to Goh Lai Chan’s boutique in Paragon Shopping Centre to shop. Mother and son have uncannily identical hairstyles. It is not unreasonable to assume that Mr Goh puts tremendous effort into how he looks in the 1,848 posts he has put out so far; his extraordinary fashion matched only by his intense chumminess.
He has taken to IG Live and video posts like the proverbial fish to water. In almost all his interviews (including and especially those on his Bazaar TV show Café a la Mode), he approaches his subjects, from Asia’s Next Top Model judge/photographer Yu Tsai (who is, technically, Mr Goh’s colleague since both were on ANTM) to Nga Nguyen (one of the first two Vietnamese socialite-sisters to have contracted COVID-19 from Europe and brought it back home), with palpable pleasure, so heightened the I’m-so-happy-to-see-yous, and so energetic the exchanges that transpired, the high degree of enjoyment might just seep through your Samsung Galaxy screen.
Unlike Norman Tan, Kenneth Goh does not seem partial to posting Edwin Hung-style topless photos of himself. But both do have a weakness for travel shots, with many depicting impossibly beautiful backdrops. Mr Goh even has a hashtag #kennieboytravels to enchant his 33,700 followers. What stands out is their compositional similarity. In front of a body of water with an infinity edge, for example. If the subjects are swopped, we’d be none the wiser as to who was where, when. In fact, if we transpose their bodies with any other KOL pix, the photos would be a droplet in the azure sea of influencer brilliance.
Her World’s Ng Yi Lian (left) and Female’s Noelle Loh (right). Photos: Yilianng/Instagram and Noelle.loh/Instagram respectively
In contrast, women EICs’ social-media entries tend to be less about self, even when they do not use handles other than their actual names. The Instagram pages of the EICs of Singapore’ top two women’s magazine Her World and Female, Ng Yi Lian and Noelle Loh respectively, tend to mostly tout the content of the publications they edit. There are, of course, photos of them out and about, but these infrequently punctuate (certainly the case with Ms Loh) the plethora of work-related travels, poses with designers, fashion shoots, their magazine covers and pages, and the odd stand on social activism. No mother of either is featured. Ms Ng, who’s also behind Yi Lian Ng Floral Atelier, appears to be the least of a clotheshorse among those reviewed for this post, perhaps reflecting Her World’s style-for-working women stance and selling point. Ms Loh, even with a spunky style that’s photogenic, infrequently relies on her clothes to make her IG pages quiver with modishness, yet, standing next to Kim Jones in river sandals in one photo, one senses that she transmits more fashion vibe than her IG tiles let on.
Among the most followable of the female EICs is Pin (品) magazine’s Grace Lee. Served a stay home notice in early March after returning from Milan and Paris fashion weeks, she spent part of her days in quarantine by blogging about it with considerable wit and humour, as well as posting photos of herself adopting fashion that was sometimes xiao-yuan (校园 or school yard) prim, sometimes housewife proud. Ms Lee appears rather frequently (at least for a Singaporean editor) on street style blogs since her previous tenure—also as EIC—at Nuyou (女友). Her IG posts comprise obligatory work- and fashion-related photos, as well as those of herself unbashfully goofing around or seriously checking proofs in the office, but they belie, according to friends, her not much known discomfort with the need to be so social-media-active.
EIC of Pin Grace Lee working from home. Photo: jiajinggrace/Instagram
It isn’t certain if these days an EIC’s personal social media account is part of the requirements related to their appointment and frequent updates showing a splendid life part of the job scope. If not, is an EIC obligated to maintain an active social media account? Is there pressure to post? Although there could be potential for conflict of interest, it seems many publishers now consider social-media savvy as skill that can go hand-in-hand with editorial finesse, both in glorious balance. If magazine readerships are less able to attract readers, as we’re repeatedly told, are editors now required to engage readers through their social media posts? According to a 2019 report by American creative agency We Are Social (with offices worldwide, including Singapore), “45% of the world’s population are now social media users: a whopping 3.5 billion people”. It also found that “86% of Singaporeans (are) now online, 76% active on social media and mobile subscriptions – amongst the world’s highest”. It is understandable why editors need to use their social media pages, in influencer fashion, to reach other social media users.
But how influential are our EICs? What they put on their magazine pages may be read as fact (admittedly increasingly redefined), but what they have on social media are not necessarily a reflection of reality. Are their posts then merely feeding social media users’ voyeuristic bent? Virtual images and real-world selves are, of course, not one and the same, and oftentimes, there is a lag between them. It isn’t known how many of the EICs’ followers prefer magazine content or social media posts. Norman Tan and Kenneth Goh have reached “micro influencer” status (thought to be between 10,000 and 200, 000 followers, which pales to the 179 million of billionaire-no-more Kylie Jenner’s IG page). With 33,700 followers, Mr Goh is currently at the top. The three women fall outside this marketable circle. Among the women, Ng Yi Lian has the highest number, with 9,783 followers, followed by Grace Lee with 2,085, and Noelle Loh with 1,975. But perhaps, as Mr Tan has shown, following is only one part of reach. Individually or collectively, do they have sufficient pull? Are hashtags more alluring than headlines?
Looking at that post again, an irony begins to appear. Back in 2016, four Vogue editors—Sally Singer, Sarah Mower, Nicole Phelps, and Alessandra Codinha—wrote a not-well received criticism of fashion bloggers, then beginning to appear in visible numbers at fashion shows and events, so much so that some members of the press consider them “irritating”. In their censure, the women did not mince words: “Note to bloggers who change head-to-toe, paid-to-wear outfits every hour: Please stop. Find another business. You are heralding the death of style.” Four years later, it’s difficult to tell the difference between editors and bloggers/influencers. That death hasn’t struck.
Note: all IG numbers quoted reflect what are indicated on 8 June 2020, 08:30