Ikea Is Pro-Vinyl

The furniture retailer has announced that they will soon offer, gasp, a turntable

By Low Teck Mee

Is there anything for the home that Ikea will not offer? I have bought bookshelves, chairs, and kitchen ware from Ikea, but never electronic devices. And certainly nothing close to audio equipment, such as a turntable, although, to be sure, I was tempted by their speakers. The furniture giant announced a week ago that their first turntable will be available in fall this year. I am unable to confirm if it will be sold on our shores then. One of their speakers I did consider is the Symfonisk “picture frame with Wi-Fi speaker”, launched a year ago, but it was not released here until recently. I, therefore, fear that I won’t get to audition the turntable till next December.

The vinyl player is part of the new Obegränsad collection that includes a table (for “music production at home”, with stands that can accommodate speakers at ear level!) and a chair (that “represents the perfect balance of form and function”). Has Ikea come into some data that shows people spending more time at home listening to and recording music on, say Spotify and Soundtrap respectively? The turntable is, interestingly, co-designed with the electronic dance music biggie Swedish House Mafia, which is unlike the Symfonisk speaker series, conceived in collaboration with the American audio products manufacturer Sonos. I would have expected Ikea to produce their first turntable with, say, Audio-Technica (based on their affordable AT-LP60XBT-BK, perhaps?), but they went with musicians, not that that’s a bad thing. Just not sure how that would turn out, sound wise. Hopefully, rhythmic and expressive.

No specs have been released by Ikea with regards to the turntable, other than it “has a sleek, minimal style, and works with the ENEBY speaker (their earlier Bluetooth audio boxes that are recognisable by their squareness)”. I think one of the possible appeals of the Obegränsad turntable is the price; it is likely affordable. In terms of looks (as seen in the official photographs), I fear it might be a bit too chunky for my taste, after using my first and only turntable, the slender (and very capable) Planar 1 from the British maker Rega Research, for so many years. Perhaps, the Ikea model would look more fetching on their Kallax shelves? I am just guessing.

Watch this space for more information—and price—on the Obegränsad turntable. Product photo: Ikea

Couturier Possessed

A high-fashion designer claimed he was under demonic influence when he was unable to show up at an arranged meeting to execute a paid job, and then he disappeared, as the client chased him to have her money back

Scandal to start the year: a S$1,000 photo shoot that did not materialise, the victim who reached out to The Straits Times to expose the service provider—a self-proclaimed “couturier” who seemingly vanished. The tale is not the equivalent of The House of Gucci, but it is still a story with cinematic potential, one that might interest Mark Lee (although it is unlikely he would cast himself as the main man). According to the ST report, admin assistant Katrina Rawther approached the paper with her story/grievance in October last year, claiming that the Singaporean “couturier” Dicky Ishak had not honoured the thousand-dollar photo shoot they had agreed to do and for which she had paid in full in two payments. Ms Rawther had, apparently, not been able to reach him after November last year. It is unclear why the ST report appeared only yesterday.

Dicky Ishak, who calls himself “Mr Dicky” (even in Malay, he is referred to as “Encik Dicky”), is a “bespoke” high-fashion designer, known for gowns and special occasion wear, in particular, baju nikah (wedding dress). Reportedly a professional since 1990, he claimed to have “designed the wardrobes for the Miss Singapore World contestants (yes, in plural)”, as well as those of “international beauty pageants such as Mrs Global, Miss World and Mrs Asia Pacific” although ST stated that he only “once designed a dress for the Miss Universe Pageant”. That single dress, according to a 2020 Berita Harian report, was supposed to have been made for Miss Universe Singapore Bernadette Belle Wu Ong of that year for the National Costume segment at the delayed staging of the event last year due to the COVID-19 pandemic. But as we know now, Ms Ong wore a dress designed by Filipino Arwin Meriales, with a cape that had “Stop Asian Hate” written on it.

As Mr Dicky told the Malay-language paper, national director of Miss Universe Singapore Valerie Lim had sent him a letter with the “opportunity to sponsor the national costume, evening gown and cocktail dress, accessories and shoes” that Ms Ong would don at the finals in Florida. He said that, in the midst of the pandemic, designing the Miss Universe costumes: “ia bak bulan jatuh ke riba (it’s like the moon has fallen on your lap)”, by which he meant something good unexpectedly happened to him. With Ms Ong’s red-and-white dress making the news globally, she revealed on Instagram that she “reach(ed) out” to Mr Meriales “to create a design of my own”, It is not known what happened to the gowns Dicky Ishak had agreed to design or if he completed them at all. But, according to Low Hwee Lee of Red Carpet Invite (a “models and talents agency”), who shared on FB, “Designer Dicky Ishak is the key sponsor for most of MUS gown (sic)”.

Designing the Miss Universe costumes: “it’s like the moon has fallen on your lap”

A month after the Miss Universe staging and telecast, Mr Dicky met his potential client, Katrina Rawther. According to ST, Ms Rawther had organised a photo shoot of herself in “traditional costume” with “a local bridal services company”. Mr Dicky was reportedly hired as a stylist for the session. It is not certain if they spoke in person, but he told Ms Rawther that he was a fashion designer, experienced in dressing contestants of pageants, and “suggested that she hire him in the future”, To bolster his creative credentials, he allegedly showed Ms Rawther media coverage of his work (presumably the Berita Harian story was shown, although Mr Dicky himself claimed on Facebook to have been “mentioned” in The New Paper and the now-defunct Lianhe Wanbao [联合晚报]) and identified the talk shows he was on (these were not named).

About a month after that (and the traditional costume shoot we assume to have taken place), Ms Rawther was contacted by the baju nikah designer with a seemingly attractive overture: for S$1,000, he would organise a shoot and “loan her three costumes he had designed for her to be photographed in”, according to ST. It is not understood why he had three dresses “designed for her” when she did not ask for them, but she seemed to be happy with the fee and agreed to the service offered. Apparently, she thought the makeover would be a lovely birthday present to herself. The photos were to be ready by her birthday—16 September. To initiate the agreed project, Ms Rawther revealed to ST that she transferred, via PayNow, S$300 to him as a deposit on 17 July, followed by the rest of the payment eight days later. They now agreed to a shoot scheduled for 6 September.

When that day arrived, Mr Dicky called to postpone the photographic session. He told Ms Rawther the “photographer had tested positive for COVID-19” (then, before the emergence of the Omicron variant). It is not known if the S$1,000 that was paid included the photographer’s fee or those doing the hair and makeup. Stylists that we have spoken to said that the quote Mr Dicky offered to his client was likely a “package price” and that it was “competitive” if “a top photographer is not used”. It is, therefore, unlikely that he considered backing out for under-quoting her. He told Ms Rawther that he would get back to her for a new date for the shoot by 16 September. He contacted her on her birthday.

Image from Dicky Ishak’s last FB post on 10 September 2020. Photo: Akram TheLove

This was when the story took a comedic turn. Not only did Mr Dicky fail to deliver the photographs by the anniversary of his client’s birth (as initially agreed), he called her again on that day, this time offering a bomo hokum: he was “possessed”! It is not stated what possessed him, but as he told Ms Rawther that he needed “spiritual healing”, it might be safe to assume that a supernatural power was involved. Aware that the excuse this time might sound utterly foolish, he provided her with “proof” of the control of his body by spirits (we do not know if they were malevolent): “pictures, videos and an audio file”, all purportedly ST was privy to. Once again, Ms Rawther agreed to a postponement. As fate would have it, she saw, on the same day of the possession reveal, activity on Mr Dicky’s IG page, and proceeded to text him on WhatsApp, but was ignored. Afraid of a bad outcome, she tried all social media options to reach him, but met a blank.

As many Singaporeans would, Ms Rawther filed a report with the Small Claims Tribunals, but was informed that there was no business license in Mr Dicky’s name, although BH did report of a “studio” in Prestige Centre@Bukit Batok Crescent that he was working out of last year. Clearly at the end of the road now, Ms Rawther went to the police, and then spoke to ST about her case in October last year. When the paper tried to contact Mr Dicky, he did not respond. On the same day, he reached out to Ms Rawther and offered to reschedule the shoot, again. But in November, he changed his mind and supposedly cancelled the entire project and offered to return the S$1,000 he received from her. That was the last she heard from him. When we called the one number linked to Dicky Ishak Couturier, we were met with totally no response, not even a ring tone—it appeared to be an unused number.

In a hilarious “Details about Dicky” entry in FB, he stated that (and we quote verbatim) “Mr Dicky is one of the designer in Singapore today. Since 1990, it has developed a unique style of its own, reflecting the Fusion craftsmanship in a contemporary vocabulary. Mr Dicky understanding individual designs and the innovative use of modern crafts has created a new classicism. Today his name is renowned for its distinctive use of colors, quality of fabrics, intricate embroideries and a gloriously rich Wedding wear.” It was perhaps this fame that landed him, alongside eight others, in the semi-finals of last year’s Singapore Stories design competition, organised by TaFF (Textile and Fashion Federation), also the operator of Design Orchard. He did not advance to the final.

It is not stated what possessed him, but as he told Ms Rawther that he needed “spiritual healing”, it might be safe to assume that a supernatural power was involved

Not much is known about Mr Dicky’s training in fashion. According to some media reports, he “was born into a family of dressmakers”. He told BH that his mother was in the busana pengantin (bridal wear) business and that he helped her from an early age, allowing “bidang fesyen mendarah daging dalam dirinya sejak kecil (fashion to be ingrained in him since young)”. He revealed almost nothing about his formal education. According to him, he began his vocational training in hairdressing at Toni & Guy before taking up a makeup course at Cosmoprof as “he believe it takes a package to make all happen to make them look good, From head to toe (sic)“. Somehow fashion design came into the picture, and he “started full blast into Fashion World once the time strikes right for him to express his goal”. Wedding dresses in both Western and Malay styles seem to be his forte. By most online responses, his output was much appreciated.

An earlier BH story from 2018, reported that Mr Dicky expanded his fashion business into Malaysia a year before. Butterworth native, “Mrs Most Elegance Malaysia Global United 2017” Sally Ong, shared a photo on FB of her wearing a Dicky Ishak dress at the Dolby Theatre in LA, “walking on the Oscars red carpet”, she wrote, in July! He was soon dressing celebrities there, according to BH. They included actress Rita Rudaini and singers Aiman ​​Tino and Ziana Zain. Malaysia had been especially appreciative of his designs. In 2015, prior to his supposed venture into the peninsular to our north, Mr Dicky was the winner of the MEFA Malaysia (a “wedding festival“) Best Designer Award. This was followed by other accolades, mainly targeted at a Malay audience. In 2016, Mr Dicky participated in the Johor Fashion Week, held at the Persada Johor International Convention Centre. A year later, he started an eponymous online store on Carousell that sold, other than baju nikahs, used furniture and furnishings too.

Although Mr Dicky generally receives positive responses online, he and his brand have minimal digital presence now, possibly a reaction to the ST report. On FB, which he joined in 2014, only one post from 10 September 2020 was left. There is nothing on IG or Tweeter. His TikTok account is set to private. Quite a few of his fans are unhappy with the ST report, commenting on the daily paper’s FB page that this is a “private matter” and that, based on a “single accusation”, the paper’s coverage is excessive. Moreover, he is, as one commentator, gripped by irrationality, pointed out, not “a serial cheat”. Sure, he is no Elizabeth Holmes, or Anna Sorokin, but now that the police are apparently involved, let them decide who is or not on the right side of the law. Perhaps, to quote BH, there is in this “pelangi selepas hujan”—rainbow after the rain.

Illustration by Just So

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?

Chanel: Calendar And Couture

Their marketing drive via an advent calendar is drumming up even more news, for the wrong reason. Sadly, the their latest métiers d’art collection won’t take the heat off quickly enough

Who would have guessed that a seasonal calendar could create so much noise. Chanel’s certainly did. A week ago, not too long after the release of the brand’s highly commercial and expensive—and sold out(!)—advent calendar (above), also labelled on the front as Le Calendrier, social media was abuzz with chatter that the said object, in the shape of a Chanel No. 5 bottle, is not worth the asking price. It was really a ringing complain, and it started with one beauty influencer Elise Harmon in the US, who TikToked her disappointment with the item, for which she paid an eye-watering USD825 (approximately SGD1,110). Her post was not a single entry, but at least half a dozen of them! Although she did not really slam Chanel, it was clear she did not find her purchase a best buy. “When you try to get festive by buying a (sic) advent calendar but are left with shattered hopes and dreams,” went one post, showing her clutching her pillow-sized calendar in bed, crestfallen.

This is Chanel’s first advent calendar (usually issued by brands at this time of the year to amp up their standard offering of festive beauty coffret), which was created to coincide with the 100th anniversary of Chanel No. 5 this year. It is not clear why Chanel, always touted as a premium luxury brand, would want to partake in such a mass marketing exercise, but it could have been a good opportunity to boost the grand standing of the French house. Rather, many of the products found in those 26 individually-boxed items, marked 5 to 31, inside the calendar are not quite the stuff as desirable as Chanel camelias. To be sure, we’ve only seen them online—the non-standard Chanel items looked like they were sourced from Taobao. As Ms Harmon said, when she found some stickers in one of the boxes, “this is a joke”. Or, the all-plastic snow globe: “this mess (sic) me up because it looks like it came out of a gumball machine”. Or, the temp tattoos: “I’m done”.

Miss Harmon is not the only shopper to be disappointed with the festive purchase. In China, Netizens have been complaining about the Chanel advent calendar since last month when, on 2 November, one Weibo user, @淦诗岐 (Gan Shiqi) shared a 开箱视频 (kaixiang shipin, unboxing video) and said that some of the item were “ridiculous (太扯了吧!)”. A voiceover even countered, utterly deadpan, “14 无价之宝 (wujia zhibao, priceless treasures)”. But Ms Gan was rather jovial about her bad luck. Over in Hong Kong, just five days ago, a TikToker with the handle @ideservecouture, went all ballistic and WTF-cursed (and in Cantonese expletives too) her way through the video post when she found those things that she, like so many others, did not consider worthy of occupying a Chanel advent calendar (known in China as a 盲盒 (manghe or blind box). With Ms Harmon’s videos going viral and global, Chanel offered a media statement, saying that they are “sorry that this calendar may have disappointed some people” (clearly not those who received them from Chanel as a gift). They described what’s inside as “original content” and the calendar “a true collector’s item whose value cannot be summed up by the products it contains alone”. Is Chanel really listening to the very vocal disapproval?

But Chanel was not only dismaying followers with the debut advent calendar. The statement came just a day before their Métiers D’art collection in Paris. The show left some observers wondering what was happening with the metiers, now housed in their own headquarters, Le19M, a purpose-built, seven-story complex in the 19th arrondissement, where the craftspeople would be less fournisseurs (suppliers) and more the employees of a formidable employer. Conceived to “celebrate craftsmanship”, as it’s oft-repeated, Métiers D’art straddles the gap between Chanel’s pret-a-porter and haute couture. But the latest, staged at Le19M, seemed veered towards the former. Designer Virginie Viard has ditched the (sometimes kitschy) thematic approach of the past, telling the New York Times that working with the mains in Le19M, “there are no rules.”

And indeed there were not. Anything goes seemed to be the guiding ethos. A sum that Chanel calls “a metropolitan attitude”. Striving to modernise the work of these craftspeople (which probably went beyond the French official 35-hour work week), Ms Viard chose what seniors in the creative field often associate with modernity—and youth: sweatshirts and graffiti! Yes, a tweed bomber now featured “sweatshirt pockets with graffiti-embroidered sequins” (really sequinned graffiti) that form the name Chanel! But one proper noun is not enough. Logos, still de rigueur, must appear too, so she really got the embroiderers working by making them sew sequinned double-Cs on cardigans! Perhaps even such overkill could be overlooked. At odds with the believe that exquisite clothes by the métiers should be elegance sans vulgarity are the over-washed denim pants with, gasp, elasticised waists! Ang Mo Kio Central hack?

Sure, Chanel is repositioning itself for a new era. Even Métiers D’art—in its 20th year—has to be reimagined and reset to distance itself from the explicit refinement of the Karl Lagerfeld years. Perhaps the street invasion at other luxury houses legitimises Chanel’s willingness to go with petrifying “graffiti-embroidered sequins” and the like. And an advent calendar that contained what could be a fridge magnet. One editor told us that in the past Chanel was very strict about what extraneous items were bundled with their famous products. “They would never pass of flimsy Christmas tree hangings as exclusive.” The inevitable: even Chanel has to squeeze within the confinement of modern apparel conception and the conundrum of monoculture. If fake news is very real, is mock modernisation just as existent?

Screen grab and photos: Chanel