Nike’s Next

…designer collaboration will be with Jacquemus

It really is not surprising that Simon Porte Jacquemus of his eponymous label would choose to collaborate with Nike, but it is rather unexpected that he has opted to present a woman’s-only line. Nike announced two days ago that the Nike x Jacquemus apparel and footwear (interestingly, available for guys too) will debut next month, on the 28th. The collaboration is aimed at what both brands call “integrated aesthetic”, not just between the two names, but also clothes and shoes worn on courts, track or field that are also suitable for those times that are off them. It does not sound too differently from what Nike has achieved with, say, Sacai.

According to a Nike media release, the collaboration “invites sport style into everyday life” too, something that the sportwear giant is already doing, regularly and with considerable success. How else can we describe their work with Comme des Garçons and Undercover (excluding the for-running Gyakusou line)? As the Swoosh further expounds, “Nike x Jacquemus follows a belief that sport isn’t simply about performance, it is also an expansion of style and self.” It is not yet clear what that would look like, but Jacquemus is very much a trending brand, so expect a craze to follow.

Nike X Jacquemus will be available on 28 June at select Nike stores and online. Watch this space for more details. Photos: Nike

Wear A Tee, Take A Stand

Japanese e-tailer Zozotown has offered a special-edition ‘No War’ T-shirt “to support those who have been deprived of their peaceful life in Ukraine¨. Why are there no similar initiatives among our fashion businesses?

“The peace that everyone naturally wants is now lost,” read the promotion copy for the Zozotown special-edition ‘No War’ T-shirts. “The ordinary everyday life of people who, like us, should have been able to spend time with family and friends with a smile suddenly disappears one day.” As “humanitarian aid to Ukraine”, proceeds of the sale of the T-shirt will go to ADRA (Adventist Development and Relief Agency) Japan. In an official statement, ADRA International “calls for peace for the people of Ukraine and mobilizes relief for millions of people impacted by the war.”

While not exactly a creation in the vein of Supreme tees, these simple, 100% cotton, crew-neck, white tops have already hit the number one spot on Zozotown’s merchandise ranking just a day after its launch on 1 March. Available in two unisex styles for young and old, they sport motifs in yellow and blue, the colours of the Ukrainian flag. For kids, a garland in the form of the peace symbol and, for the adults, two flowers on the left side of the chest, with a short text below that reads, “NO WAR IN UKRAINE”. The item is described as ‘Ukrainian Humanitarian Charity T-shirt’, and is available by pre-ordering only (unfortunately not outside Japan). In its promotional material for the T-shirts, four hashtags of #nowar appear in three other languages too: Japanese, Ukrainian, and Russian. Zozotown is clear of their intent: “to support those who have been deprived of their peaceful life in Ukraine”.

Zozotown is clear of their intent: “to support those who have been deprived of their peaceful life in Ukraine”

A quick survey of some of the most popular local e-shops reveal no such initiative. At The Editor’s Market, the homepage asks visitors to “explore” their “Forever Hits”, described as the brand’s “most wanted silhouettes back and in better shape than ever”. Love, Bonito’s homepage skips any message altogether, going straight to their merchandise under a banner ‘Women’. Fayth is promoting ‘Back to Work’, or “sophisticated looks for the office”. Weekend Sundries is still in a festive mood, showing off ‘A Feast of Colours’, featuring “new limited edition prints for good cheer this holiday season”. We were discouraged and did not go looking further. Nowhere on each of these sites mentioned the occurrence of war. Or, offered a denouncement.

A marketing head said to us that for most fashion retailers, “staying neutral is probably the best”. Moreover, it takes too much effort to create new merchandise that is already past each brand’s production schedule. He added, “As a society, we are rather indifferent to such thing—attacks not happening near us. Few people would have heard of Ukraine!” At a Uniqlo store early this afternoon, two young women were looking at T-shirts featuring recognisable characters from Studio Ghibli. We asked them, “what attracts you to these?” One of them replied shyly, “they are cute, lor.” We asked again, “Would you wear a T-shirt that says ‘No War’?” Their puzzlement is unmistakable: “What war?” Zozotown, Japan’s largest fashion e-commerce site, is straightforward when they said, “We oppose the war.” So do we.

Product photos: Zozotown. Typography: Zozotown. Collage: Just So

It’s Yeezy: Look Like Kanye

If you can’t afford the threads Kanye West wears to look ominously wrapped up, Yeezy Gap Engineered by Balenciaga has similar sinister options for you

Gap will, for the first time in their 53-year existence embrace the look of a dark lord—whether of the Sith or Mordor, or Hidden Hills, you choose. Their offshoot brand Yeezy Gap headed by the all-dominant Kanye West is now in a collaborative arrangement with Balenciaga, specifically the equally powerful Demna Gvasalia. The sub-brand of that sub-brand, Yeezy Gap Engineered by Balenciaga (another long name to add to the club of long names or text in a logo), has released images of the so-far 8-piece capsule that comprises way more that what Mr West has produced since his appointment in 2020, when he signed an unimaginable 10-year deal with The Gap Inc, reported to be “worth as much as $970 million”, according to estimates later provided by UBS.

This collection, compared to Yeezy (the fashion label), is another planet. We have to go back to the past since Mr West has only created two items—a puffer and a hoodie—for Yeezy Gap. While Yeezy (fate not yet known) was mostly sensuous and body-loving, the Yeezy Gap tie-up is moody, oversized stuff that members of the Abnegation (or, perhaps, off-duty folks of Dauntless) of Divergent Chicago would wear. But the pieces click with Mr West’s preference for basics that are sufficiently tweaked for the pieces to look outré, but not so much that the kids of Calabasas or the fans in not-yet-dystopian Chicago would find them hard to accept. This time, the merchandise—apparently ready to retail three months earlier than planned—is a grand selection of one hoodie, four tees (one long-sleeved, three with a blurred dove image on the back), a pair of track pants, one torn denim trucker and jeans to match.

While the clothes may not arouse zeal, the pricing would spark shock. The cheapest item, one of the four T-shirts, is S$180 a pop (S$210 if the logo on the chest is larger)! For Gap? Yeezy? That makes Comme des Garçons’s madly popular made-in-Japan Play tees, at S$100 a piece (or S$110 for the men’s sizes), alluringly cheap. Is Yeezy Gap Engineered by Balenciaga expensive because, other than the luxury-brand association, they are MAGA-proudly “made in the USA”? Or is this a Gap-backed Balenciaga diffusion line to infuse the fashion and pop world with baggy bombast? A venture to better propagate the increasingly bleak, individual-erasing aesthetic of the Ye-Demna pairing, already seen in so much visually associated with Mr West’s Donda album release, activities, and publicity?

Mr Gvasalia told Vogue, “This is a very different challenge. I’ve always appreciated the utilitarianism and the accessibility of Gap. This project allowed me to join forces (with Ye) to create utilitarian fashion for all.” Reaching out to this many is ambitious. The thought is pretty scary too, when you consider seeing before you, the hordes dressed as if to attend Kanye West’s Sunday Service, to worship at the alter presided by a polymath-proteus-egoist. Even if you stop outside the moving doors of this church/cult (which one it is, it’s hard to say), it does not mean you would not witness the many adopters for whom the two one-names behind Yeezy Gap’s latest offerings could do no wrong. Are there really that many wishing for this creepy uniformity?

Oh, do also note: on the Yeezy Gap website, there’s no button that says ‘add to cart’, but a brief line that urges you to ‘JOIN WAITLIST’. Yes, in all caps, just like Kanye West’s rant-Tweets.

Rating: 1.5 out of 5.

Yeezy Gap Engineered by Balenciaga is available online at Yeezy Gap and Farfetch. Photos: Yeezy Gap Engineered by Balenciaga

This Is A Bodysuit

You may not think you are wearing a piece of athletic garment

It is sometines easy to forget that Nike’s Jordan Brand is really tethered to basketball. Or that it bears the name of former athlete Michael Jordan of the Chicago Bulls. It began as a label dedicated to producing shoes the star player would put on to play and to compete, but somewhere along the brand’s 36-year history, “style clothing” for both men and women were introduced. Aesthetically, the products often do not quite leave the boundaries of basketball courts, although some of the shoes might appear to be better suited to fancier stomping grounds.Yet, occasionally, they will issue an item that would not stick out in a fashion-strong wardrobe, such as this colour-blocked bodysuit.

The composition of graphic shapes is fetching enough, so too the colour combination of dove grey, baby blue, and white, but it is the long sleeves—themselves rather unusual for the cousin of the leotard—that stand out and make this bodysuit a fashion contender. The bishop sleeve, to be more specific, is set raglan style on the shoulder and meets the neckline where the band collar sits. Its volume contrasts with the close fit of the body. We like the front opening with the zip that stretches to the belly button, allowing a larger opening that would make the wearing and removing of the garment easier and quicker.

Those concerned with the impact fashion has on the environment would be happy to know that the fabric used in this bodysuit “is made from at least 75% recycled polyester fibres”, according to Nike. Presumably the elastane added to the fabric composition to make it comfortably stretchy is not part of the percentage. In any case, the appealing design may reign supreme. It is not hard to see how well this one-piece would go with the recent Nike X Sacai pleated skirt—the one with the buttoned side-tape (like those on retro-style track pants), which can be unfastened to reveal shorts underneath. And, yes, in a matching grey too.

Jordan Cosy Girl bodysuit, SGD119, is available at select Nike stores. Photos: Nike

Compatriots Collaborate

Following their success with Nike, Sacai and Undercover remain in bed without the footwear giant

After the very recent launch of the Nike X Sacai X Undercover LDWaffle, which, as with others before the present release, is unattainable, the two Japanese brands reveal that they are collaborating on their own. Yes, without Nike. The two are on their own, in their very hometown. This time, they have come together to create a tiny capsule of clothing, specifically hoodie/track top and matching pants, very much a product category Nike covers, and, under the Nikelab sub-label, does so very well. It is not clear why Sacai and Undercover have chosen athletic wear to express their combined aesthetic sense. Undercover has an existing line with Nike since 2010, dedicated to running: Gyakusou. We can only guess that Sacai and Undercover are catering to demand for luxury sports fashion.

But what’s truly unusual is that the items—in one style for the top and jogger, and three colours for each set—are not only exclusive to Japan (available, in fact, to the rest of the world via Undercover’s web store.), but are available to order only. According to Japanese media, they are “made-to-order”, but not bespoke. It is likely that the clothes are made when they have received the order. Both brands consider this retail exercise as “limited sale”. This is unusual as sportswear rarely, if ever, is sold in such a way. Local reports also stated that, “sales will end as soon as the maximum number of reservations is reached”. Thankfully, no raffle!

This is not the first time the two Japanese brands have collaborated. More recently, both worked on a “two-phase” collab that saw both brands spice up the Sacai MA-1 bomber jacket and a leather rider’s jacket. Now, the tracksuits, inspired, according to the brands, by the LDWaffle that was released two days ago, is issued as the two-piece item (sold separately) by the brands. It also sports a new logo that features Underground designer Jun Takahashi’s love for retro space crafts, such as flying saucers. Colour-blocking and a touchy of cartoon-y whimsy are perhaps just the stuff to lure those who can’t get their hands on those shoes. However hard they tried.

Photos: Sacai X Undercover

One Bulky Boot

Is this for human feet or the elephant’s?

By Shu Xie

Kanye West is partial to strange, bulky, indefinable shapes for his Yeezy line of footwear. To me, they often look like they are conceived to be worn by animals or, in the case of their weird Foam RNNR, some alien being. His latest, a pair of winter boots, is no exception. Padded, looking almost like a tree stump, with the stitches visible to create parallel curves, they appear to be more at home in elephantidae family than his group of ardent supporters, who considers Mr West a design god of sort. Called the YZY NSLTD BT (again, clearly a vowel-averse moniker. Yes, Yeezy Insulated Boot), it sports a mid-sole that looks like it was nicked from the Foam RNNR’s wavy, three-holes-to-the-side exo-skeleton support. Forgive the cliché: Kindred soles?

This BT is part of Yeezy Season 8, which was shown in Paris last March, if you still remember that. My memory is hazy, but I do recall now that the collection was not memorable. But, somehow, I am reminded of the perforamce of the designer’s daughter North West at the end of the show. Frankly, I don’t even know if Yeezy 8 was ever released (I checked with a New York contact, and he, too, has no idea). Still, here we are with a boot from that very season. The padded foot covering, likely in nylon, is itself not rewriting the aesthetic for those you pull on to trudge through snow. Margiela’s Puffer Snow Boots, for example, is Hulk-like, but is more discernible as footwear for human feet. But if Mr West’s current predilection for covering up and obscuring his body is any indication, he could also be keen on wearing boots that, from afar, might be mistaken for those of Yeti. Cool or crazy, I can’t say.

The YZY NSLTD BT “Khaki” is expected drop next month for USD250. Photo: Yeezy Mafia

Two Of A Kind: Vaccinated Too

Valentino hacked Cloney who had “cloned” Valentino. So who is Depression duplicating?

Valentino’s hoodie (left) and Depression’s T-shirt (right). Photos: Valentino and Depression/Instagram respectively

Yes, COVID-19 has made our world more confusing than it has ever been. In the fashion world, no one would be surprised if you see double: one design like another, or two names as one. Fendace! Designers are now hacking, cloning, and swapping. What is real, what is not? Who came first, who came after? To further boggle the mind, our very own Depression has joined the race to declare one’s vaccination status across a T-shirt, shortly after Valentino’s made theirs on a hoodie. Coincidence? Or is there something in the air, apart from virulent viruses, that makes people want to do the same things? Perhaps one of the side effects of vaccination is the afflicting of individuals to have the same idea, at the same time?

How about about identical fonts? Depression’s ‘VACCINATED’ shares an extremely similar type to Valentino’s, a serif style. Is the occurrence more than a case of mere chance? Sure, it is possible that the Depression designers, still depressed, was jelak of Helvetica and its ilk. Or, 腻烦 (ni fan—sick and tired of), to use a phrase that is more 武林大会 (wu lin da hui—general assembly of the martial arts world), as the Depression flagship considers itself to be. But the similarity does not end there. The word is spelled in full-caps too, and stretched from arm hole to arm hole as well. Okay, Depression fans would say that the T-shirt is slightly different since the 10-letter word is emblazoned in white and appears in the back. Yes, same difference or, as they say in Thailand, same same.

We truly live in a world when one person sells bubble tea, another has too; when one TV star hawks home-baked goods, another must too. As in much of the food world, which now dominates the (still) pandemic-stricken world, just because my ang ku kueh looks like yours does not mean I copied you!

Revolutionary!

The second item from the Gap YZY collection is launched. Excited about a hoodie?

By Lester Fang

Wow, Gap YZY has a second item to show! After what seems like an eternity! And after the collaborator Kanye West wore the first—a puffer jacket—to death! Okay, maybe just twice, but it was seen everywhere, so might as well have been really worn. I should add, in the middle of summer, which, in so many cities this year, was seeing record-breaking temperatures. Mr West must like his clothes to trap heat. Now, his follow-up to that puffer jacket is the less warm hoodie, but nonetheless warm (made of “beefy double-layer cotton”, according to GQ), although probably not warm enough for the approaching winter. How this product release schedule makes sense is beyond me. But, at least we get to see something. I was beginning to think the brand may be discontinued.

Why a hoodie, and a plain one? I have no idea. Just as I am clueless as to why a puffer jacket is required in forest fire season. By the front-side product shot, I can’t tell if it is better than those that the Gap is already selling. Its website does not allow me to go beyond the initial group photo of the top. A message tells me unapologetically that I “don’t have permission to access “http://www.gap.com/yeezy on this server”. I take that to mean that Gap has no desire to interest me in the line that they paid Mr West heavens-know-how-many-millions to design. I say that with some certainty because the same thing happened when I took interest in that first puffer jacket. Frankly, the hoodie is not my thing, but I was curious. And curiosity, as I found out, is not what Gap wants to reward.

Gap YZY was announced last June, and the first collection was supposed to drop in the “first half of 2021”, according to media reports. Surely someone at the Gap know we’re now approaching the last quarter of the year. The puffer jacket, aka the ‘RoundJacket’, in one colour (blue), was launched in June for a not-small amount of USD200. It reportedly was all gone in a few hours. Online shoppers were met with a “sold out” message, which, to me, is a lot better than “don’t have permission to access”. But according to Forbes, “the ’sold out’ message customers were seeing was a glitch due to high demand”. And now this hoodie, ‘The Perfect Hoodie’, which is cheaper, at USD90. But it is for pre-order in the US only, with the waiting time for delivery two months if one chooses the black. After a year, just two products? And one that you may not receive after buying until closer to Christmas?

So why the hoodie? Who knows? The real question is, do you need Kanye West to come up with that?

Product photos: Gap. Illustration: Just So

Valentino Makes A Statement

And it will drive the anti-vaxxer nuts

Fashion do want to be counted when it comes to making a social/political stand. Valentino, for one, not only knows their position on the divisive issue of COVID-19 vaccination, they are willing to express it, and, concurrently do good. Taking advantage of the cool-after-summer season, they’ve released a black, made-in-Italy, cotton hoodie with the word “Vaccinated” stretched across the chess, above which the unmistakable V-logo is centred. There is nothing to the hoodie really, other than what it might literally say about the wearer. With the vaccinated more appreciated in social circles and welcomed in dine-in-allowed eateries, knowing that they have received the two doses of either the mRNA or viral vector vaccines without turning on their Trace Together app might be a boon to those who’d benefit from the knowledge or be able to complete a professional duty.

Launched on the Valentino website today, the hoodie is shown on the label’s creative director Pierpaolo Piccioli, who looks relaxed in a rattan chair, placed in a garden. According to Valentino’s corporate comms, the designer was “captivated” by an identical hoodie conceived by “the American pop culture sensation Cloney” (a multi-disciplinary collective based in LA, headed by one Duke Christian George III) that he ordered all that was available (five, it is said) and gave them to his friends, among them Lady Gaga, who dutifully wore the V-logoed version and posted a video on Instagram. Clearly Nicki Minaj of the “swollen balls anti-vaxx claim” wasn’t on the receiving end of this messaged top.

Valentino’s Pierpaolo Piccioli proudly promoting his vaccination status

But, apparently, Valentino only told part of the story. According to media reports, Cloney “cloned” Valentino in their hoodies by replacing the V in ‘Vaccinated’ with Valentino’s V and the rest of the letters in the brand’s serif font. Mr Piccioli spotted the item on IG and magnanimously bought them to gift his friends, seeing the potential good that could come out of this hoodie. So rather than sue Cloney, as big brands such as Adidas are wont and eager to, he chose to work with them, pairing the couture brand in his charge with another closer to street that stars such as Justin Beiber and wife Hailey already love so that both can benefit from the resultant social-media exposure and old media support.

Lest you think this is just a commercial, opportunistic exercise, the sale of the hoodie, in fact, benefits places where COVID-19 vaccines have yet made significant impact. “All net profits,” Valentino reveals, “will be donated to UNICEF in favor of the COVAX facility, which ensures equitable access to COVID-19 vaccines by supplying doses to countries in need.” Doing so is also “to highlight the values the Maison stands for”, we are also told. We are not sure how many pieces are allotted to our island, but as of now, they are still available. Those who are keen on a charitable purchase and be in the company of others who share Valentino’s mission, best be quick. They are sold out in Europe.

The Valentino ‘Vaccinated’ hoodie is available on the brand’s website for SGD 1,1901. Photos: Valentino

Tokyo Olympics: The Men Wore Skirts

At the Opening Ceremony, did the finest male athletes of the world show the rest of the blokes watching on TV or their smart devices that skirts do not choose the gender of the wearer?

Tonga’s flag bearers Malia Paseka and Pita Taufatofua in national costume, together with their skirted team mates. Photo: Getty Images

Tokyo 2020 in 2021 is strange enough; the Olympics opening ceremony unveiled in a quiet Tokyo Olympic Stadium without spectators (the few who there could not really be seen) is downright eerie. To make matters worse (is that an appropriate word?), the Parade of the Nations segment of an already watered-down Opening Ceremony—with its tradition-meets-contemporary, Harajuku-meets-Sensoji (understandably not-quite) mass display—was just that much yawn-inducing. And weird. Who were these participants waving to, many so enthusiastically? And what (or who) were they filming with their phones? Were they really that happy to walk (or dance) into the US$1.5 billion stadium (designed by Kengo Kuma, not Zaha Hadid, as originally planned) with unmistakably quiet, empty seats, some 68,000 of them? And why were some of the Parade of Nations participants allowed to go mask-less during what was feared to be a “super spreader event”? Were we too observant?

For an Olympics Opening Ceremony this low-key, attention naturally turned to the participants/athletes, or what they wore as part of their national costumes, or, for many, uniforms during the Parade. Sure, this is no Miss Universe pageant (although the Cook Islands did put their female flag bearer, the swimmer Kirsten Andrea Fisher-Marsters (in a floor-sweeping, fish-tailed gown that, according to local media, was valued at NZD1,500 or SGD1,422), but there were countries that still aimed to impress. But many of them probably knew this was not going to be a ramped-up Rio 2016, given the situation, and, up till four days before the grand event would open, the Tokyo organising committee’s chief Toshiro Muto announcement that the city did not rule out even an 11th-hour cancellation of the global sporting showpiece if more athletes tested positive for the virus. Could this be why many nations were not dress to impress? Even the delegates of China, outfitted by a team from the Beijing Institute of Fashion Technology, looked astonishingly bland, especially when their own sports megabrand Li-Ning is making waves in the fashion-sphere.

Vanuatu’s flag bearer Rillio Rii in coloured grass skirt. Screen grab: Mediacorp

Reportedly, thirteen countries sent only two athletes to the Games. The smallness of those contingent meant we did not register and remember what they wore, but for many other nations, their athletes came dressed with layered festive cheer. It is amazing that Tokyo’s summer heat did not seem to bother them. They didn’t look bothered to us. That evening, our Google Assistant told us that it was 27 degrees Celsius in Tokyo, but, we guessed that it probably felt like 30℃ and above. The Japanese capital is known for its unbearable summer temperatures and humidity (yes, worse than our July/August highs). Many journalists, too, had earlier wondered how the athletes would deal with the punishing heat. Yet, some participants, such as those from Puerto Rico wore three-piece suits! In fact, the blazer—now appropriately referred to as the ‘sport coat’—was an extremely popular garment, never mind the setting: a stadium. Two nations did stand out for their distinctly different outers: Costa Rica chose the safari jacket, interestingly in navy and belted too, designed by compatriot menswear tailor Fabrizzio Berrocal, while Columbia picked the very Japanese yukata, with prints of “national flora”, produced by the 34-year-old local bag and accessories brand Totto.

Some nations were just a lot more practical than others, attested by the omnipresence of shorts, especially bermudas, which where worn by the small contingent from, where else, Bermuda. In pink, no less. The Australians were in shorts too, so were the Austrians, and at least another two dozen countries. Our own team SG did not turn up in the national dress of T-shirts, shorts, and slippers. Predictably, they wore blazers in hongbao-worthy red and what appeared to be chinos of khaki from the darkest end of that colour family (described more appetisingly by our media as “latte”), designed by uniform maker Esther Tay. Doing away with the full National Day look was, perhaps, deliberate, as the Singapore National Olympic Council probably didn’t what the team to appear similarly dressed as those from other contingents, such as China or Monaco. Did our athletes look good? Did they stand out? Were they in any best-dressed list? Best left unanswered.

Flag bearers of Tuvalu, Karalo Hepoiteloto Maibuca and Matie Stanley in grass skirts. Photo: Getty Images

Although the turn-out for the Parade of the Nations of the Opening Ceremony was a mixed bag—some dressed as athletes, others as flight attendants, bank clerks, nurses, even like our Safe Distancing Ambassadors!—memorable were the many men who appeared in non-bifurcated bottoms. In fact, what was spectacular were the skirts sported on the male athletes and officials, worn unselfconsciously. Most outstanding was Tongan star Pita Faufatofua’s (taekwando/rowing) traditional Tongan dress of a tupenu (a kin of what we recognise as the sarong) and taʻovala (a mat made of plant fibre that is typically wrapped around the waist)—a combo worn on formal and semi-formal occasions. On his upper body, he wore only body oil (coconut, we were told). Not to be outdone were his team mates, dressed in skirt-like tupenus of dark grey and topped by shorter, fringe-, zig-zag- and scallop-hemmed taʻovalas in the colour of straw. Although the Tongans were a small team, they made a striking sight.

As it turned out, it was quite the competition of the shirtless and the skirted. This was Mr Faufatofua’s third scene-stealing appearance at the Olympics. But, this year, he was not without serious sartorial match. Vanuatu’s Rillio Rii (rowing) was just as shirtless and just as gleamingly oiled. He wore a traditional, multi-coloured, striped, ankle-length grass-skirt (rather than the famous namba or penis sheath of the tribes people of the island), and he looked a lot more dashing than some of his trouser-wearing fellow athletes. Another grass-skirt wearer (but not entirely topless) was Tuvalu’s Karalo Hepoiteloto Maibuca (athletics), who wore a titi (skirt) on top of which the more decorative, paneled te titi tao was laid upon. His fellow flag bearer Matie Stanley (athletics) wore a similar titi, showing the world that skirts really recognise no gender. Surprisingly, there were few sarongs worn. The team from American Samoa, therefore, set themselves apart with black, knee-length versions paired with what were the handsomest holiday shirts of the night. And those, for whom the sarong is acceptable attire, chose something far more skirt-like. Team Malaysia’s traditional kain samping (a short sarong) in untraditional graphic print, conceived by the Design and Art Faculty of Universiti Teknologi Malaysia, was worn (or looked) very much like a cheer leader’s skirt although the National Sports Council of Malaysia insisted that it is kain samping.

Fiji’s flag bearers Taichi Vakasama and Rusila Nagasau in long dresses. Screen grab: Mediacorp

Team Burundi’s Belly-Cresus Ganira in traditional gown-like garb. Photo: Getty Images

Apart from the thwabs of the Middle Easterners or the boubous (long tunics) of the Africans (including Liberia’s Telfar Clements-designed, calf-length-and-below sports jerseys), there were those men’s styles that were rather dress-like. Fijian flag bearer Taichi Vakasama (swimming) wore a traditional column dress with fringing, all made from a local reed called kuta. From Burundi, Belly-Cresus Ganira (swimming) and his fellow male athletes wore a decidedly modern-looking, chocolate-brown-with-white-polka-dot, floor-length pagne, a wraparound garment (or, possibly, the more formal imgega), topped with a short cape, placed fetchingly askew. We thought Mr Ganira looked rather dapper in his traditional dress. These athletes stood out not only because of the perceived feminine style of dress they adopted or that they were willing to go against global athletic wear conventions (not regional or local), but because of the surprising freedom with their choice of clothes in the traditional power structure of the athletic world, as well as its attendant institutional and cultural bias. This is no less pronounced even if, among this Olympics’ three core concepts, there is the yet-to-date call of “accepting one another”.

And these men’s choice of clothes also showed that there was no need for a famous designer to design garments that would capture the imagination of the world watching from digital devices across the globe. Team USA was outfitted by Ralph Lauren (since 2008!) and the contingent, bursting with spurious preppiness (striped T-shirt, navy blazer, denim jeans) showed why American fashion is in unceasing decline. These clothes were communicating New England summer, circa 1985! But perhaps, more annoying was the oversized, kiasu Polo logo on the left pocket of the blazer—brand recognition or a reminder that Polo the sport is largely played and enjoyed by wealthy white individuals? Or, that the game was not included in the Olympics since 1936? If some Olympians could adopt fashion in non-gender-binary terms, perhaps many more could also not seek security behind the sport coat, especially those marked by a white man riding a horse, holding up a mallet—all in total white. Could this also be what author David Goldblatt—quoting the “godfather” of the modern Olympics, Baron Pierre de Coubertin—referred to as the “display of manly virtue”?

These Stripes Won’t Do

Adidas is at it again. This time, they’re suing Thom Browne

They are four rows instead of three (at least seen in the above photo), yet Adidas thinks Thom Browne’s parallel lines are exactly like the former’s. The German brand is suing Thom Browne for “selling athletic-style apparel (also seen above) and footwear featuring two, three, or four parallel stripes in a manner that is confusingly similar to Adidas’s three-stripe mark,” according to the trademark infringement claim filed in New York and reported in the media. It is understandable that three lines, even of different widths, could be “confusingly similar”, but two or four of them will cause confusion, even when everyone not living under a rock knows Adidas never use less than three? That’s confusing! Or is this because lawyers under Adidas’s payroll need to justify their existence? Don’t you dare!

Trademarks, of course, need to be protected, but is it possible that Adidas does not seem confident of their unmistakable, although unremarkable, graphical branding even as they say, “for over half a century, [they] extensively and continuously [have] used and promoted the three-stripe mark in connection with apparel and footwear”? Despite holding fast to the three stripes, Adidas does not consider it adequate or long enough since “confusing” is apparently the result when similar marks appear. And the only way to make things less “confusing” is to take a litigious approach. According to a 2017 Bloomberg report, Adidas had, by then, filed nearly 50 lawsuits to secure its trademarked stripes.

The suit also stated that, previously, there was mediation between Adidas and Thom Browne, beginning in November 2020. Nothing was resolved, it seems. But in a statement responding to Adidas’s charges—quoted by WWD—a spokesperson claimed that they did their part and “acted honorably for all this time”. He added that “Adidas consented for 12 years and now they’re changing their mind. The court won’t allow that. And consumers won’t as well. It’s an attempt to use the law illegally.”

We do not know that the illegal use of the law exists. But as consumers, we are definitely not confused by Thom Browne’s use of the stripes, which, graphic designers will agree, are themselves generic lines and are “devoid of any distinctive character”, as the EU Intellectual Property Office, which had rejected Adidas’s trademark application, said in 2016 (a ruling upheld by an EU court in 2019). Many of us do no think that the Adidas stripes look anything like Thom Browne’s. But never mind what the rest of us actually think. It only matters what Adidas think we may think, stupid us! Will Adidas sue Kit Kat next?

File photo: Zhao Xiangji/SOTD

Marimekko For Athletic Pursuits

The Finnish brand, beloved by women of a certain age, is going sporty, with Adidas joining the game

At each launch of the Marimekko X Uniqlo collaboration, now into their fifth season since 2018, women who have reached a particular station in life and age group make sure they are the first few to cop the cheerful tops and dresses. The collab’s success with this sizeable company of women allow it to be an ongoing project that suits the Japanese brand’s LifeWear positioning or what is described as “practical sense of beauty”. As Uniqlo is well embraced by all women, regardless of age and size, it is unsurprising that Marimekko’s tented shapes, in particular, are adopted and have quickly become the go-to silhouette for those seeking clothes that are forgiving. As one fashion stylist told us recently, “the Marimekko woman is not the Ines des la Fressange woman.”

Marimekko is probably well aware that it needs to break away from the sticky cliché that its designs appeal mostly to those who want loose, bright, graphic-strong clothes that detract attention from the body—unchallenging garments that make the wearer look youthful, too. Sportswear is an inevitable category to go into, even if Marimekko has never traipsed into the path of performance wear (not counting T-shirts) before this. Into the field came serial brand collaborator Adidas. And it’s timely too, considering that track tops and bottoms are presently the fashion choices of many women IRL. That Adidas has had success with pop-centric collabs—such as Beyoncé and Niki Minaj—likely prompted Marimekko to adopt the sports brand’s tried and tested formula.

The Finnish label, which turns 70 this year, calls the collaboration “the art of print and performance”. Indeed, print is synonymous with Marimekko—they can easily draw from an archive of reportedly more than 3,500 graphic motifs. But rather than employ those that have made their collaboration with Uniqlo so rewarding, such as their famous poppy flower (known by the Finnish name Unniko) or the jumble of blooms Siirtolapuutarha, they have opted far more graphic patterns, such as the repeated dots of Räsymatto and the vintage waves of Laine. Perhaps flowers do not hint at performance. The clothes are clearly pitched at the athleisure customer than an actual track-and-fielder. There’s a hip-hop, Missy Elliott-worthy vibe, too. In fact, it could even entice the gorpcore enthusiast if we go by the location of the shoot for the advertising: a hillside or a hiking trail.

The campaign images could also be one of the most inclusive among the collaborations of Adidas. The photographs all feature models of colour—there is not a single Caucasian (is that still inclusive?). The clothes seemed to be for women only, but in their publicity images made available to the media, there is one male model in a cycling top. These days, it is, of course, hard to tell who a brand’s intended audience really is. The clothes could be unisex or that the women’s items could also be pitched or “recommended” to guys. If so, Marimekko X Adidas is really a collaboration alert to the requirements that make today’s fashion brands really tuned in.

Marimekko X Adidas is available online in mid-June at adidas.com.sg. Photos: Marimekko/Adidas