Practically Nothing

If little is worn and clothes matter not, is there fashion? Or, will we have another word?

Julia Fox in Alexander Wang out grocery shopping. Photo: Rachpoot.com/Splashnews.com

We call ourselves a fashion blog. But more and more there is treasured little left to write. Fashion is reduced to a veritable nothing. Increasingly, there is more skin shown by wearers than cloth. Fabrics are inconveniences, hindrances, barriers, and, if their use necessary, too opaque. Little bits are a lot simpler. Pasties are easier to design and produce than brassieres! A narrow bandage has more potential than a full-form bandeau. Once-upon-a-time-private parts are no longer completely undisclosed. Free the nipple is very near reality. In fact, if what are worn by many well-followed stars are to be noted, clothing as we know it—with the fundamental purpose of covering (which is sounding oddly dated)—would no longer have a future, or, if we were to be more hopeful, a dim one.

A recent photo of Julia Fox—in head-to-toe Alexander Wang from his recent autumn/winter 2022 presentation—shared online truly made us realise that there is nothing we can say about her clothes: She was not wearing much; she was basically in underwear. Is this fashion? Or, has fashion come to this? Her fans would say she was not entirely nude (she has, of course, worn a lot less). There was the denim blazer, but was that even a jacket worth talking about? Or should we compliment how destructed and crappy it looked? Or that she was carrying a beautiful jurse (jeans-as-purse!)? Ms Fox has, of course, mostly dressed (admittedly, a poor choice of word) like that since she came to public attention for her brief, for-all-to-see affair with Kanye West. And that’s the daunting and unnerving prospect: the near-nudity is here to stay.

As one fashion designer told us when we showed him Ms Fox’s photo, “I am thinking, since so many pop and film stars are flashing themselves for the world, they have, naturally, created a new normal. The public, who looks up to them, will think, if their favorite stars can do it, so can they.” But the question is still unanswered: Is it fashion? The designer replied indignantly, “Of course not, not to me. It is purely styling; it is not Gaultier doing innerwear as outerwear!” A follower of SOTD, who formerly worked for a luxury brand, agreed. She said, “It’s just ludicrous and I think these women wear such rubbish on purpose to get attention. It’s really looney bins and not fashion at all—their own invention of fashion and the press lapped it up.”

“It is purely styling; it is not Gautier doing innerwear as outerwear!”

We have, indeed, been wondering, too: Has the media encouraged this stripping (not merely revealing)? For every star baring herself—from Doja Cat in gold pasties under mere chiffon at the Billboard Music Awards two days ago to Kim K in nude bra and panty for Sports Illustrated’s current swimsuit issue—the press gleefully say they “rock” or—our extreme peeve—“stun”. If readers needed to be told that a certain actress or singer in close to nothing astounds, they already know she is not predisposed to, without the without. She needs the costume of a stripper. In fact, when she “stuns”, there’s a good chance she is as bare-skinned or as bare-breasted as it is legally possible. And that she is satisfying her (insatiable?) hunger for attention than fashion.

The press not negating the lewdness once associated with strip clubs is operating within present-day necessity: The imperative embrace of inclusivity, now considered conducting oneself in a conscionable manner. Julia Fox in a narrow strip of fabric across her chest must be accorded equal opportunity to raves as Thilda Swinton in Haider Ackermann. Inclusivity is so compulsory in the business of fashion, as well as among adopters of fashion, that the unattired can be free of disapproval. Criticism is unacceptable because it would be shaming. We can’t say Ms Fox isn’t dressed for she can, as we are often reminded, wear whatever she wants, or omit. All women can, including the expectant. There is so little to say about what is worn these days since hardly any is; it’s no wonder more columns go to sneakers or meta-clothes.

To be certain, we are no prudes. Scanty dress as desirable dress is so omnipresent that anything that does not, in fact, amount to a dress is hardly terribleness of epic proportion. One fashion writer told us, “Nudity, in a post-OnlyFans world, is not sin, it’s just skin. Skimpy clothes is the future. Designers now need to go to school to learn how to make barely-clothes, but we may have soon another word for ‘fashion’. How about unfashion?” Come to think of it, un is a prefix of profound relevance. It’s skimpy too! Just two letters, yet with such descriptive power. So much of fashion today can be described with the simple un and so effectively: unattired, unclothed, undressed, unclad, uncover, unravel, untie, unline, unfuse unzip, unpick, unpin, untack, unsew, unseam, unseemly, unsuited, unfixed, unveiled, unfolded, unfurled, unrolled, untidy, and, of course, underwear and undies. Oh, for sure, unlovely and, definitely, underwhelming.

The Strange Love For F-Words On Clothes

Is one particular profanity the new cute? Or, worse, today’s logomania?

Warning: This post contains language and illustrations some viewers might find offensive

By Ray Zhang

There are worse things to wear than ugly clothes; there are rude clothes. But what makes our clothes unmannerly? Or, in the case of the South Korean disc jockey Deejay Soda’s track pants, “offensive”, so much so that she was asked to leave a plane, and, allegedly, made to strip before others at the departure gate? Why would an inanimate article of clothing, secured to the wearer, cause transgressions, social or moral? Most of you would take the stand of the “silent majority”: We live in a conservative world. And there are always children around. But I don’t mean clothes that show more than half of the wearer’s private parts (in the case of Deejay Soda, she was completely and impenetrably covered); I mean those with words, in particular one deemed crude, uncivilised, hostile, gross, low, insulting, contemptible, vulgar, obscene, and good ’ol offensive. I mean, fuck. No offense intended: If I am going to write it, I might as well spell it.

I don’t know why, but, of late, I have been seeing people wearing this particular four-letter world, without asterisks—and the like—between the first and last letters, on the visible parts of their clothes (not just reading about them). The word fuck is not any more offensive than buttocks exposed below the frayed hem of crudely cut off shorts. Well, not. We can’t go to a woman and eff her off for shorts that are too short just as we can’t tell her her sweatpants are too offensive (unless you are a staff with United Airlines?), for as long as they are already dressed in that manner and as long as they are able to leave their home with no objection from family members, and are not arrested until the point we meet them, they are allowed to dress-speak as they like. To me, asking why there are those who like using ‘vulgar words’ or wearing them is like wanting to know why clothes are (now) so trashy. Or why some pregnant women like wearing next-to-nothing. The time has simply come.

Does it all semaphore something more pervasive? Frankly, I don’t know. I hope not. But if those shorts I mentioned were once derided for being indecent, but have survived and are now so much a part of our national dress; along with just-as-skimpy slippers, I expect fuck-in-place-of-Gucci as all-over print, in spite of the absurdity, would enjoy a higher adoption rate and get even more popular. But is the word only more appealing to those who choose to wear them because they are still, in many quarters and, no doubt, in our society, an expletive—one that has a repugnant ring, made more so when the utterer emphasises the F, as if it must only be said with a capital letter? Or, is wearing clothes with the F-word some defiance of youth or a badge of emancipation?

Some people tell me that “fuck you” is better than a slap, or The Slap. It does not cause physical pain, they insist. In fact, it can be uttered silently and the target of the profanity could still make out what is merely mouthed, no respiratory fluids involved. But these days, when the word appears with astounding regularity on social media, used by young and old, is it still really that detestable? If so, why has it then become such a choice word in speech and in text? If not, its visual presence can still cause enough offense to render a plane journey intolerable? I am not sure if it’s really the word or the world that riles people. After all, we do live in an angry world. In the case of Deejay Soda, the repeated pattern that comprises the F-Us, laid out diagonally, could be some rage against whatever or whoever was around her, contempt for everything that’s thought to be contemptible to her and deserving hostility, even when her strike-first was worn innocuously as trousers. If anyone can wear their anger on their sleeves, why not on trouser legs? I recall, after reading her posts, JD Salinger, who wrote in Catcher in the Rye, “I went down by a different staircase, and I saw another ‘Fuck You’ on the wall”: The key word, “another”.

English’s favourite bad word is not born recently. Thought to be of Germanic origin, its use in the English language, as I understand it, began around the 15th century, possibly earlier. Contrary to what supporters of its open, ardent use tell me, the word is not abbreviation of For Unlawful Carnal Knowledge, or similar, and always involving forbidden pleasures of the body. Wherever that came from, I have no idea, but acronyms were not popular before the 1930s, if used at all. Old England was not post-independence Singapore! Still, fuck survived—through war, economic hard times, changing word trends, and definitely pandemics. Its longevity also proves its versatility. From disgusting interjection, it has become useful verb and noun, with attendant adjectival and adverbial forms. Even punctuation! Its use here so publicly and, in particular, textually has a fairly recent history, as I see it. I was not aware of its expanded adoption until I read the blog posts of Xia Xue in the mid-2000 (or thereabouts) and then later on, the forums of Hardware Zone. I also remember a friend telling me that when he was in the army, and a sergeant barked “fuck you” in anger, he merely replied, “don’t make promises you can’t keep.”

Printed on clothes, the practice goes even further back. The first time I saw the word on a T-shirt, it was implied. This was in the mid-’90s and the faux-French British high-street brand, French Connection, was rebranded as FCUK (in 1991). When I saw the items sold here and guys (mainly) were buying and wearing brandish with the evocative acronym, with relish, I was impressed that the sale of said garments did not somehow contravene some law insulating people from public nuisance (it was not until 2014 that we had the Protection from Harassment Act [POHA]. Foul words, including fuck, when directed at any individual, I was told, “constitute abusive and insulting behaviour”). In the UK and the US, there were, initially, calls to boycott the brand, but few actually took heed. FCUK knew well what its targeted young audience wanted. A buddy of mine said then, “but it is not spelled out, what!” Trolls today would post, “we can overpower them with fashion”! Tempered and euphemistic representation continued with the fashion website Go Fug Yourself. Why? “Because Fugly is the New Pretty”! That moved on to a T-shirt from Vetements autumn/winter 2016, and the full-on “YOU FUCKIN’ ASSHOLE (yes, in full caps)”. Fuck won. But really? For me, that will be the day when Anna Wintour wears F-Us in place of pretty florals. Better still, at the Met Gala.

Illustrations: 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

On Valentine’s Day, Go Luxury Shopping

This year, the women of the happy pairs celebrating love weren’t carrying a stalk of rose or a bouquet, they were holding paper bags, big and small, with luxury brand names stretched delightfully across them

By Pearl Goh

It’s was a day when one-metre distancing did not apply, masks were preferably optional, and special occasion dressing had no opportunity to meet this annual celebration. The curious and single I thought I would venture out to see what the more fortunate were doing on Valentine’s Day, still marked by the romance-spoiling pandemic. So I went out. Do courting couples still make an effort? Was romance in the air, like the coronavirus? Did couples perform the ART before they meet? Or together—the new romantic? It was a Monday and many, I assume, will be working. Surely, the amorous would have done what they needed to do to declare their love yesterday, or the day before? I was not expecting to see that many romantic pairs out, but I couldn’t be more mistaken. When love needs a declaration, it requires a public display.

The day to celebrate love this year was a day to go shopping together. The paired-ups were holding at least one branded shopping bag between them. I don’t remember this day to be of such conspicuous consumption other than the snapping up of flowers and chocolates. Sure, in the past, gifts were exchanged, but they were, as far as I was aware, purchased earlier. But from the minute I boarded the MRT train, I sensed the rituals were different. I quickly became aware that flowers this year were noticeably missing. Sure, some women were carrying bouquets (the trend, if I can call it that, this year were those in cardboard boxes—coffins to preempt their certain demise?!), but paper bags bearing large, recognisable, crowing logotypes were saying enthusiastically, “look at me”.

At City Hall interchange, in front of me was a guy in a white tee that read, “Without style, playing and winning are not enough”. He paired that masculine maxim with black shorts. On his feet were a pair of white Crocs slides without the Jibbitz charms. On his left hand, he was holding a paper bag in an identifiable burnt orange; its visible boxed content, I guessed, for the Paige Chua look-a-like, whose dainty left hand he held—to me—rather tightly. Love is expensive, celebrating Valentine’s Day no less. A box of Teuscher truffles this year is not quite cutting it, not at a time when a PCR test costs more. As one of my friends said to me earlier, “many can afford to buy chocolates for themselves. The boyfriend has to do better”. No wonder, as I saw, even Godiva was empty. “Better” seemed to mean something from within the hallowed walls of brands whose stores you can’t just walk in as you wish.

To be sure that these were not, in fact, gifts purchased earlier, I went to ION Orchard to have a look, to see shopping as it deliriously unfolded. Sure enough, there was a queue outside LV, and at Dior and Gucci, and—perhaps a little surprisingly—Cartier. And in the line were patient pairs, mostly hugging as they waited their turns to be allowed into the temples of thousands-of-dollars spending (at Prada, a petite girl took out a credit card from her BV Cassette wallet to pay for a white T-shirt embroidered with the Prada lettering, which I later spied to cost S$1,410!). What I noted, too, was that many of the couples were young: no more than 25 (the only celebrants?), the target age group of so many luxury brands whose entry-level goods are increasingly S$10 shy of four figures!

Outside Loewe, where the entrance was a welcome sight as no one was in line, a woman was walking away with a stuffed paper bag from the brand rather in a huff. Her boyfriend, with no purchase seen on him (yet), did not put on a happy face, as he tried catching up with her. Did he overspend, I wondered, or did she? And, if so, was that so bad? Then suddenly, she said, “Stop it. It’s just a bag”. Even on a day that celebrated love, profound passion differed and surfaced publicly. Many guys don’t quite understand love, or, to be more precise, the love of luxury handbags. And the difference between love and not could be like life and death, or Chanel and Louis Vuitton. Death of a relationship by “just a bag” or the wrong one. Or, as I was witnessing, the prelude.

Missing this year, too, were those individuals on pedestrian walkways, who must thrust a stalk of rose into your face and ask for $8 (prices, like everything else, have gone up this year. A list I caught sight of, next to a makeshift stall, announced that a stalk was S$10, three for S$50, six for S$75, and nine for S$100!). Orchard Road was without these sellers; at least I didn’t see them, which really said to me that women were no longer enchanted by the red flower—any flower. It is now a well-filled paper bag from the big brand they adore. Back on the MRT train, two women were talking loudly next two me (despite the sign in front of them that encourages passengers not to). One, in a white Essentials hoodie worn as a dress, said, “Aiya, forget it. Don’t depend on them. Guys won’t buy anything I like. I gave them up long ago.” And just like that, I was reminded of a line in Jane Austen’s Sense and Sensibility, “The more I know of the world, the more I am convinced that I shall never see a man whom I can really love. I require so much”. More.

Illustration: Just So

Growl: The Tiger Cometh

Japan’s Onitsuka Tiger can’t wait for the Lunar New Year to arrive

You would expect that, with 2022 being the Year of the Tiger (from 1 February, of course), many brands will be releasing tiger-themed products. And you’d expect rightly. One of the earliest to announce their adoption of the tiger for a capsule collection is Japan’s Onitsuka Tiger. But that is not surprising. In five days’ time, it’d be what the brand calls the “Year of the Onistsuka Tiger”. As it coincides with the Chinese zodiac tiger, this occasion comes only once every 12 years. A symbol of the brand, the tiger—confident, brave, and thrill-seeking—would be seen not only on shoes, but in a limited range of fashion items for those born in the year of the tiger or those who consider the panthera tigris its spirit animal. These include tees and hoodies, socks, and bags.

But the most eye-catching and desirable would likely be the Serrano sneaker with the tiger-stripe upper. At first glance, the interpretation looks a tad too literal to us, even for Chinese New Year! But we are not, admittedly, big fans of animal prints. However they are used, they frequently would result in a form that borders on the camp. And to us, the Serrano of the Year of the Onitsuka Tiger is no exception. In fact, the more we look at it, the more it reminded us of another shoe: the yellow and black Mexico 66. Yes, the pair worn by Uma Thurman in Kill Bill, a movie with such deliciously intense artifice that even the gory revenge and growling violence cannot dial the camp down.

It is not yet known when the Year of the Onitsuka Tiger capsule would be launched. Watch this space for updates. Product photo: Onitsuka Tiger. Photo Illustration: Just So

Bag This Outer

Undercover pairing with Eastpak is not unusual. But the apparel they produced is

Eastpak has collaborated with designers on what they specialise in: bags. Names they have shared on the labelling of their wares include Raf Simons, Vivienne Westwood, and most recently, Margiela. But all these collabs yielded only bags. Until Undercover comes along. Shown during Undercover’s charming autumn/winter 2021 collection in January, the two brands offer not bags per se, but outerwear that constitutes some of the most fetching of the season. This is the first for Eastpak: clothing. And by the looks of it, this may not be the last.

Incorporating bags or fabric used in their manufacturer is a particular area of collaborative design that the Japanese do so well, as previously seen with The North Face and Junya Watanabe, as well as Nanamica for the The North Face Purple Label. In that respect, what Undercover has done with Eastpak is rather late in the game, But, as it is often said, better late than never. And it is hard to imagine the never after seeing these wearing garments with the quirky ‘bag’ details. Should they really be there? Can you store anything in them?

There are at least six styles in the capsule. From a bomber to a parka to a car coat, each comes with bag-pockets of varying sizes, as well as short handles—as seen on the top of backpacks—under the rear of the collar, above the yoke (one even emerges from there). The outers come in some strong colours too, such as the above Wellington yellow, as well as a bright red and a dark green. A real pity that we are not likely in need of one of them. Many of us are not travelling, only dreaming of it.

Undercover X Eastpak launches on Christmas Day at Undercover stores, Tokyo. Photo: Undercover

Two Of A Kind: Beekeeping Looks

Louis Vuitton’s pre-fall 2022 offers headwear that we have seen at Kenzo’s spring/summer 2021

Left: Louis Vuitton. Photo: Louis Vuitton. Right: Kenzo. Photo: gorunway.com

We really do not wish to talk about the dead in not-so-glorious terms. But some things are just hard to ignore. Louis Vuitton has just released images of their men’s pre-fall 2022 (that’s another confusing season/category), reported to be designed by the late Virgil Abloh, and was finished and photographed before his shocking demise. Among his usual take on workwear-meets-streetwear-meets-sportswear mix-ups, one single item stood out, not because it is incoherent with the looks of the collection, but because it is very similar to those already shown very recently: the beekeeper’s hat and veil. Now, we resist the C-word here, but being inspired by someone else’s idea from not too long ago: we really do not know what else to call that.

In fact, from just last year, when Felipe Oliveira Baptista showed very similar head wear for Kenzo spring/summer 2021, which also included those for men (see photo, top right). Mr Baptista’s version were offered in assorted hat shapes and veils of different volumes and, fabulously, lengths. Some are packable too. They came at the height of the pandemic, when face shields were among the options for protective gear not amounting to the PPE. It is not clear what the adoption rate of these beekeeping wear was, but they made for one rather unforgettable collection of that season.

Now, we have Louis Vuitton also doing these hat-and-face-coverings. Mr Abloh had, in fact, in the past year or so, been rather into obscuring the face, just like pal Kanye West (now rumoured to be succeeding his friend!). This veiling comes after he did a Richard Quinn! Is this beekeeper’s shield also homage to something done by someone else Mr Abloh admired? Or, in the age of the hack, just a simple trick to share output of what is already part of the luxury group (Kenzo belongs to LVMH)? Even if they come in LV’s monogram and the graffiti prints of the Milan-based artist/tattooist Ghusto Leon, are they less first-seen-somewhere-else (some of Kenzo’s veils were printed too)? Or, as we have lamented before, is the world really so confusing to make out?

Visited: Goodluck Bunch

Although they have been around for five years, they have remained relatively low-key. Is the Goodluck Bunch the best streetwear store on our island?

On Bali Lane, the shop houses are not as spruced up as those on both sides of Haji Lane, just one street away, towards the Sultan Mosque. Built in the mid-19th century, the Bali Lane shophouses, numbering around 30, have rather simple façades, described as belonging to the Early Shophouse Style (1840-1900), distinguished by their lack of ornamentation. They are part of the area known by the road that links Victoria Street to Beach Road: Arab Street. Bali Lane is only one of two named after Indonesian islands (the other is Java Road), rather than a place in the Middle East, such as Bussorah Street and Muscat Street. It is a rather short lane. At about 100 metres, it less than half the length of Haji Lane. Most of the businesses here are of F&B persuasion. Between a halal restaurant that serves Japanese grilled meat Waku Waku Yakiniku and an empty shop lot is the only one of its kind on this motley makan row: a clothing store.

Without a striking shop front, it is easy to miss Goodluck Bunch (GLB). But the visual restraint is also its allure, the relative plainness and lack of sheen often make up secret addresses among those in the know. Devoid of obvious swank, it has an absence of pretentiousness to match. Stand on the five-foot way and peek inside the heritage shophouse, and the space, bathed in incandescent glow, beckons like a treasure trove, within what is often considered the exemplar of indie cool: white walls and concrete floor. But there is something more welcoming in GLB’s not quite calculated relaxedness, with merchandise displayed in a free-hand manner that will doubtlessly encourage browsing and touching. It is the market vibe too, which we refer to, in the best possible way. After all, one of our island’s best multi-label stores is self-touted as a market too.

Goodluck Bunch looks to us like something out of the arterial streets of Tokyo’s Daikanyama; a cross between the area’s long-serving Hollywood Ranch Market (that word again!) and the rock of an outdoor store High! Standard, with a touch of Nanamica and the posturing of Kikunobu. GLB has been described as a streetwear clothier, but the merchandise includes a spirited mix of Normcore and Gorpcore labels thrown in for good measure. The selection of clothes is augmented with practical accessories to allow shoppers to purchase a complete look, including less common items such as shoulder bags for water tumblers or the odd bottle of Ayataka green tea. And just as you thought everything stocked is for those with an inherently casual wardrobe, immaculate business/dress shoes from the Thai label London Brown incongruently greet visitors near the entrance.

There seems to be a subtle Asian slant to the merchandising approach, with Japan being an obvious source. While there are brands from the US (we’re talking about streetwear after all), it is the Japanese offshoot of American labels Ben Davis, Chums, and Gramicci, and born-in-Japan Mont Bell that shoppers seem to enthusiastically target, as well as the now-sold-out tote bags featuring the simple and striking drawings of Tokyo-based illustrator Noritake. Given the Japaneseness of the store, the Nippon connection makes sense. But rather than evoke Harujuku, the heart of the not-readily-definable Tokyo street scene, GLB takes on the indie spirit of Japanese retail that is found in other neighbourhoods, such as aforementioned Daikanyama, and situates itself on a street here that has virtually no shopping. The dissimilarity to its neighbours probably stood it in good stead.

The two founders of Goodluck Bunch are not newcomers to clothing retail. Quek Swee Ying (known on social media as Swee) and her husband Lee Hong Ping started GLB in 2016 on the weath of experience Ms Quek had gained from her typical blogshop-made-good label Runway Bandits. First hosted on LiveJournal in 2008, two years after Love, Bonito began as BonitoChico on the same platform, Runway Bandits, “catered towards students with limited budget”, as Ms Quek told the press. These school-goers were spending, and two years later, business was so encouraging that a bona fide e-commerce site for the label was created. When Plaza Singapura remade its basement 1 into a haven featuring “leading local fashion blogshops” in 2018, not-marauding Runway Bandits was there with their first physical store, diagonally across from rising star Fayth. Ms Quek told us then that it was “a pop up as trial”. On what made her brand stood out, she said that it was the “soft and neutral palette” and that they “engaged customers by allowing them to vote for their favourite colours”.

Of the half-a-dozen or so stores that opened on-theme at Plaza Singapura that COVID-19-free year, only three have survived, and that include Runway Bandits. In June this year, the brand was renamed From There On, catching fans quite by surprise. Where “there” might be, it does not say. Why the change of moniker, it is not yet known. One retail consultant told us that “‘bandit’ does not have a positive connotation”. Even after more than 10 years of use? Outlaws aside, the word, informally, also refers to individuals who take unfair advantage of others. Neither runway or bandit, the brand was a misnomer. The new name, a clear departure from the old, however, is no indication of a fresh aesthetical direction. From There On sits comfortably on the same-old plot of unconstricted shapes, immediate everyday-ness, and sassy girlishness of Runway Bandits. A clear lineage. One chirpy shopper at the store recently, who said she was “doing a course at SOTA”, told us that she was a regular because she liked the “better basics” there.

For many, the two-storey, 1,300 sq. ft Goodluck Bunch is also likely the place to score better basics. To be sure, despite their veritable street cred, GLB is not quite the same as, say, Undercover’s Madstore. Yet, there is no denying the clearness of their merchandising direction. With about 30 brands in-store, what you’d get is a happy wearable jumble that includes Danton (the French label that’s so Normcore-cool that even DSMS—yes, that market!—and Hong Kong’s i.t are stockists), Gorpcore heavyweights Kavu and Patagonia, the fun-centric Chinatown Market, hip-hop’s fave hat brand Kangol, Singaporeans’-must-buy-when-in-Japan Champion, and Jil Sander’s latest collaborator Arc’teryx. The mix is varied and a joy to uncover. The staff told us of their other boss Lee Hong Ping: “he treats this as his playground”. A clothier who has fun with the stocking of his store often allows that pleasure to shine through in the merchandise. This is totally palpable at GLB.

Going through the stuff after you enter will take you some time. And then you remember that there’s upstairs. (The staff will happily remind you too.) So up you go. As the view of the second floor unfolds, the Japanese vibe again hits you. Up here, there is a faux tree in the middle of the space, a shade provider that seems to bring the disparate brands together, like a group of well-togged friends convening at their favourite spot. On the weekday afternoon we were there, we heard giggling behind a curtain. As it turned out, some girls were trying on the Ben Davis. Although GLB stocks mostly menswear, it also attracts women with a weakness for jendaresu-kei (genderless style) or too-big T-shirts, sometimes inexplicably massive. In fact, most of their social media posts are photos of girls dressed in tees and bifurcated bottoms. One of them in the fitting room emerged to have a better look at the mirror. She could have just leapt out of Goodluck Bunch’s Instagram grid.

Goodluck Bunch is at 26 Bali Lane. Photos: Zhao Xiangji

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!

Kenzo Tribute Tees

Some wearable mementoes to remember him by before he is completely forgotten

Do people even remember that Kenzo Takada was a real person? Many Gen-Z consumers that we have spoken to recently did not realise that Balenciaga is the moniker of an actual human being (there were those who struggled to recall the first name)! Ditto for Saint Laurent—few remember Yves, let alone how to pronounce it. None could describe how either designer looked like. When we asked who among designers no longer around that they might recognised, all said Karl Lagerfeld. Not surprising: up till now, two and half years after his death, brand Karl has not stopped producing images and dolls, such as the K/Ikonic collectible, in the likeness of the man. Even without these playthings, who’d forget the Kaiser when his silhouette is part of his logo?

Eleven months after Kenzo Takada passed away due to complications from COVID-19 and just a week after the announcement that Nigo will take the helm as artistic director of Kenzo, the Paris-based house has announced that a capsule Kenzo Takada Tribute Collection will be launched this week in Japan via the e-commerce platform Zozovilla (part of Zozotown) that is dedicated to luxury brands. This release could be an attempt to enshrine the legacy of Kenzo Takada by personifying, even just graphically, the man himself on something as mundane as a T-shirt, a sweatshirt, and a hoodie. In death, Kenzo Takada becomes a streetwear icon?

This trio of tops (in different colours), reportedly part of the autumn/winter 2021 collection—a reinterpretation of archival pieces, put together by an in-house team—sport a lined silhouette of the designer with his longish hair and what appears to be spectacles, taking up sizeable real estate on the chest. His recognisable signature is placed under the left jawline. The sum is part kawaii, part hippie. According to Japanese media, the T-shirt will be sold for ¥22,000 (approximately S$269), the sweatshirt for ¥39,600 (S$485), and the hoodie for ¥53,900 (S$660). Not too wallet-straining if remembering someone you admire by wearing his likeness close to your heart truly matters.

The Kenzo Takada Tribute Collection launches in Japan on 25 September. It is not yet known if it will be available in the Kenzo stores here.

Update (13 October 2021, 3pm): the collection is now available at Kenzo stores. Photos: Kenzo

Another Surprising Pick

Nigo has been appointed the new designer for Kenzo. Really!

It was announced a short while ago that Japanese multi-hyphenate Nigo will join the LVMH-owned Kenzo as the brand’s new artistic director. This appointment is surprising as few had thought that the creative helm of Kenzo would be returned to the Japanese. Born Tomoaki Nagao, the founder of A Bathing Ape (the brand pulled out of our island in May this year) is often described as “the OG designer stalwart” of Japanese streetwear and the street culture that followed. The 50-year-old is no longer associated with the simian brand he created, but his links to streetwear is undiminished, not just in his homeland, but throughout much of the world, cemented by his friendship with Pharrell Williams and the like, even helping the Happy singer launch The Billionaire Boys Club and Ice Cream. The news of Mr Nagao’s appointment, released on Kenzo’s official Twitter account, was met with tremendous enthusiasm online. Twitter user and streetwear retailer @ChaseNCashe posted, “Sign me all the way up for the Nigo Kenzo wave”.

LVMH’s pick for Kenzo leaves no doubt as to which direction the luxury conglomerate wishes to point Kenzo to. The world’s largest luxury group has installed a streetwear designer to oversee the artistic direction of one of their brands before—most notably Virgil Abloh, a Nigo admirer, for Louis Vuitton’s menswear. Kenzo itself, in fact, went through the oscillation of aesthetic change when Carol Lim and Humberto Leo of Opening Ceremony joined the company in 2012 as co-creative directors. The brand took a decidedly street-bent turn and was, by many accounts, successful because of that. It found new, younger customers, but such a following came at the expense of design quality. With gaudy graphics and loud logos to keep the brand buoyant and customers spending, Ms Lim and Mr Leo turned out to be two of Kenzo’s longest-serving CDs—seven years in total—after Antonio Marras (also seven).

When the Opening Ceremony duo departed Kenzo in 2019, LVMH picked Lacoste’s designer, the Portuguese, Felipe Oliveira Baptista as their replacement. Kenzo Takada died a year later from complications due to COVID-19. We are fans of Mr Baptista’s output for Kenzo. He kept to the original spirit of the brand without traipsing too aggressively into the territory of streetwear, yet, at the same time, he was able to give the brand a renewed vigour that was decidedly modern. But, like his predecessors after Kenzo Takada’s withdrawal from the brand he built, such as Gilles Rosier and Mr Marras, both passionately retaining the “romance” of the label’s DNA, Mr Baptista was not able to make Kenzo the cash cow that other brands of the LVMH stable are.

Kenzo store at MBS

A corporate statement was posted on LVMH’s website. It quoted Mr Nagao saying, “I am proud to have been appointed Artistic Director of Kenzo. I was born in the year that Takada Kenzo san opened his first store in Paris. We both graduated from the same fashion school in Tokyo. In 1993, the year that Kenzo joined the LVMH Group, I started my career in Fashion. Kenzo san’s approach to creating originality was through his understanding of many different cultures. It is also the essence of my own philosophy of creativity. Inheriting the spirit of Kenzo san’s craftsmanship to create a new Kenzo is the greatest challenge of my 30-year career, which I intend to achieve together with the team.” Yes, we noted the capital F for fashion too.

When we mentioned Mr Nagao’s appointment to an SG designer who formerly worked in Tokyo, he merely said, “Aiyo”. It is debatable if A Bathing Ape is still what it was. No one could say for certain why the brand was sold to Hong Kong’s I.T Group in 2011. Mr Nagao left the brand two years later. He joined Uniqlo in 2014 as the creative director of the retailer’s sub-brand UT (a T-shirt line), after creating Human Made four years earlier. Despite his seemingly prolific output and unceasing global projects and collaborations, it is hard to determined if his brands are that successful or if he, as a designer, is that creative. To some, Mr Nagao is just a T-shirt designer. One successful item associated with Nigo is A Bathing Ape’s first footwear, the Bapesta sneaker, which, popularity aside (BBC’s Jonathan Ross describes it as the “epitome of collectable footwear”), is really based on another sneaker, Nike’s Air Force 1.

Tokyo is not only the capital of Japanese fashion, it is also the heart of Japanese streetwear. It is curious that in this throbbing hub, only Nigo stood out for LVMH. When we discussed this with a marketing consultant who keenly observes the Japanese fashion design scene, he said, “I can understand Kenzo preferring a Japanese designer, but if they need a streetwear fellow, why not Undercover’s Jun Takahashi, a contemporary of Nigo’s. Undercover is unjustly described by the Western press as a ‘streetwear brand’. While I can see the appeal to streetwear consumers, Jun Takahashi in my mind is a better, technically superior designer, who’s also good in womenswear. Kenzo needs someone with a more sophisticated sense of how to bridge the past and the present.”

Updated: 16 September 2021, 15:30

Illustration: Just So

A Stronger Ape?

Just a week after our only A Bathing Ape store announced its impending closure, the news now is that they’re embarking on an expansion drive. But not here

The closure of A Bathing Ape (Bape) at The Mandarin Gallery on 18 June 2021 would not be a sign that the brand is approaching any semblance of doomsday. There is, it seems, a long life ahead for the Ape. According to recent media editorials, private equity firm CVC Capital Partners—“co-investor” in Bape—has “successfully completed an investment” in the streetwear brand. The value of that investment is not announced. Bape’s Japanese company Nowhere Co was acquired by the I.T Group (the company behind the also-now-closed i.t multi-label store) in 2011 for what has been described as a bargain: US$2.8 million, which, according to the The Wall Street Journal, amounted to a 90% stake. Founder Tomoaki Nagao (aka Nigo) stayed on for the following two years to help with the transition. It is not known who ran the design studio thereafter or if a creative director was ever installed.

Last December, it was announced that I.T Group founder and chairman Sham Kar Wai has enlisted CVC to take Bape private. CVC’s fashion portfolio includes Breitling and Spain’s Tandem (manufacturer and retailer of the brand Springfield, once available in Isetan here). At around that time, Yahoo News informed that I.T was “delisted from Hong Kong Stock Exchange for US$168 million as it struggled with getting its online operations up to speed”. Despite its shoppable e-commerce platform, I.T curiously does not deliver outside of Hong Kong and China. According to the South China Morning Post, the retailer “reported a net loss of HK$337 million for the six months ended August 2020, a 373 per cent jump from HK$71.2 million a year ago”. It is not unreasonable to assume that A Bathing Ape was part of those losses.

Although it is widely said that Bape has lost much of its appeal and is no longer as cool as it once was, when it became inspiration behind other streetwear labels such as Pharrell Williams’s Billionaire Boys Club and Ice Cream, both aided by Mr Nagao in their conception, Mr Sham and CVC seem to believe that there is still potential in the 28-year-old A Bathing Ape. In a press statement, Mr Sham said, “I take great pride in the success of the brand to date, which has been thanks to the commitment of our leadership and staff. CVC is the right partner to support the transformation of BAPE as we focus on our long-term growth.” Further reports indicated that “CVC will support the expansion of the business, both online and geographically”. Markets cited include China, the United States, and Europe. There is no mention of the continued presence of A Bathing Ape here or or anywhere in Southeast Asia. It is possible that the Ape, in a bath or not, would’nt be returning.

Photo: Chin Boh Kay