Can the little red dot stand shoulder to shoulder with the little black dress? A native islander and friends look at fashion (and such) in Singapore, and, occasionally, among her neighbours, and a little further afield
Even with a new editor-in-chief, the ‘fashion bible’ continues its love affair with blue skinfortheircovers. Are they publishing in Pandora?
There is something about blue that editors-in-chief of Vogue SG love. And the ardour must be expressed on the top page of the magazine. For his debut issue, Desmond ‘Monkiepoo’ Lim, who shared the image on Instagram, put an alien on the cover. The humanoid being, named Faye, has not embraced earthly aesthetic conventions although she is ready to partake in one temporal joy: food. She has on make-up that Neytiri on the moon Pandora would call cultural appropriation. Jake Scully would be so peeved, he’d return to earth, thinking the Resources Development Administration was up to something here and that the Na’vi race—indigenous to Pandora—would, again, be under attack so that the RDA could subjugate the moon-dwellers. The blue face is somehow here on our island, at least one of them is. She is among us. And Vogue SG is happy to put her on their cover. The first creature from outer space to grace the magazine in its longer-than-a-century-old history—and among all 27 editions.
A fashion stylist asked us if this is STB’s doing, an early cover to promote next year’s Chingay parade. Why have we not thought of that? The main blurb reads “roots”. Could this be a look at a time when we were costumed. Or, is this tracing back to a genesis that we know not of? Were we a people dressed like the Sakaarans on the trash planet created by the un-aged Grandmaster? According to Marvel, Sakaar “is the collection point for all lost and unloved things”. Is Vogue SG positioning themselves as this assemblage spot? We looked at all the Asian Vogue covers this month—nine of them (we love Vogue Korea’s and Hong Kong’s). None had a model hued blue. We stand out! Are the other Asian EICs laughing at us? Or are they full of admiration, just as they might be with our city-state for being one of the richest countries in the world. This, however, isn’t the title’s first blue-skin cover. On the issue of last May/June, a woman with blue hands and nails partially covered her face. It looked like she was taking a break from working her hands in a vat of indigo dye all day. The fashion message missing then is still lost now.
Someone said to us that Vogue SG is reaching out to a new generation. And which might that be? Cerulean children? The latest cover does tell us that the issue is themed “fashion meets AI revolution”. The image is created by the intelligence that is artificial and cold. Vogue SG has been pro-technology and likes illustrating how digital means can be employed to manipulate the images it uses to communicate to the weary, the blasé, and the aloof, and to induce them to buy a copy of the magazine. In tandem with the rise of ChatGPT, the title and its EIC are, perhaps, showing the world that it is truly ahead of the digital curve. But, if there is one thing this cover proves, AI is yet to be better than human touch. Curiously, rather than make a boast of the talents we have here, Mr Lim chooses to work with a Mumbai-based AI artist. Perhaps this ties with his desire to “return to our ‘Roots’ and rediscover who we truly are as South East Asians” (India is not part of SEA), as he declared on IG. And discover we tried, but it has been futile. Besides, what are the chalk-green biscuits on the table? Are they part of our “roots”, too?
Yesterday afternoon, despite the heavy rain, we made a trip to Kinokuniya to get a copy of the magazine. We thought it deserved a quick perusal. Not a copy was seen on the rack. Instead, piles of the last issue, “Renewal”, were there, waiting to be removed and replaced. We returned to the bookstore again this afternoon, and once more, the cover of non-indigenous Faye’s blue visage couldn’t be seen (nor the other two that are part of a triumvirate of covers for this month). We asked a staff if the store was expecting a delivery. She told us she’d check. When she returned, she was extremely apologetic: “the only copy we have is this,” she pointed to the crumpled, stale issue. Do you know when the magazine will arrive? “Oh, I won’t know. We are not notified beforehand.” It is late for a March/April issue, isn’t it? “Yes, it is,” she replied sympathetically. “They are always like that.”
Update (5 March 2023): Vogue SG is still not available on the newsstands, five days after EIC Desmond Lim shared the photo of the cover on IG
Lovers of this seasonal buy must know that the advent calendar is no fukubukuro
It’s hard to comprehend the intense desire for advent calendars put out by luxury brands. They are expensive and offer little by way of real, full-size, tangible products, yet they seem to draw considerable desire until the acquirer discovers that what she has purchased holds very little that can be considered evident value. You’d think that after last year’s Chanel advent calendar controversy (stickers were offered!), consumers would make more circumspect choices when spending on seasonal items. Apparently not, as more are lured by the over-the-top packaging of these frankly useless barely-one-month calendars. And then to find out way before the last day that every item that helps countdown the days till the 24th are not as great as they were thought to be. Regret comes earlier than Christmas.
The latest brand to be called out for offering products that are disappointing is Dior. American TikToker Jackie Aina has been unboxing Dior’s USD3,500 La Collection Privée Trunk of Dreams calendar with “24 Dior surprises”. (The one in the above photo is a different advent calendar, available here for S$845). And the brand meant it, the surprising part. Ms Aina, even with enthusiasm intact, said, on the 12th day of opening the drawers of the calendar, “so far it is what is is” and “it ain’t that great”. On the 16th day (she opened more than one drawer each time), the soap she found was “very underwhelming” (earlier, there was even a coaster!). It didn’t seem that Ms Aina was enjoying the “marvelous, miniature universe”, that Dior calls the sum of items in the calendar. The reactions to Ms Aina’s post are, as imaginable, far from restrained.
Unless you are an influencer who received the advent calendars as a gift from the brand, there is the very real possibility that you would not feel you have got your money’s worth. Many Western consumers of these fancy but feeble boxes-as-calendars have probably not encountered the Japanese fukubukuro, a New Year tradition of grab bags filled with items that, in total, are usually higher in value than the whole package that is paid for. Like the advent calendar, buyers of the fukubukuro do not know what is inside. In China, these bags are known as fudai (福袋), and the practice is similar to that in Japan, with content mostly worth more than what is charged for the stuffed bag. But in the marketing stratagem of luxury brands, perceived—rather than substantive—value is good enough. The advent calendar is perhaps just a metaphor: Ha, we got you!
For the longest time, flagship stores of luxury brands have been veritable department stores. Just walk into any one of them and you’ll know what we mean. You won’t just find the usual clothes, bags, shoes, and accessories (all of them large enough categories on their own), but other merchandise not connect to what we employ to communicate a bodily fashion statement. There other stuff: cushions and blankets (even a ‘burger box’) at Louis Vuitton, vases and pitchers at Dior, plates and such at Hermes, camping ware at Prada. These brands set up pop stores too to show that homeware, especially during the holiday season, is as easy to sell as ready-to-wear. And now, two brands not usually associated with home interiors are offering, not cute little items such as a table figurine, but chairs and a bench!
Bottega Veneta is known for their artisanal ways with leather. If they were to put out chairs, you’d think they would be in some beautifully tanned hide. But their first chairs for sale are in mostly resin (the composition includes, interestingly, cotton and wood), and they look like coloured wax melted into each other and then hardened. These chairs were part of BV’s spring/summer 2023 show, those that the guests sat on (are some or all, therefore, used?). Named Come Stai? (Italian for “how are you?), they are designed by the Italian artist/architect Gaetano Pesce under the commission of Matthieu Blazy. The chairs are now available at the Bottega Veneta website, with an eye-watering starting price tag of S$9,900.
And then you have Balenciaga offering something to sit on too. Their chair is actually a bench. It is part of the brand‘s Art in Store output, made of deadstock fabrics (essentially remnants), Wood is used too, which likely makes the bench steadier. Up close, it is hard to see it as anything more than a pile of fabric, something a karung guni man with used clothes he can‘t sell might assemble in his free time to better organise his storage space. But this bench is the handiwork of the Dutch designer Tejo Remy, who is also an award-winning creative at Droog Design. The bench is available in three sizes, and different fabrics. The one pictured—‘Large Bench’— is priced at a staggering S$63,600. You can view it at the Paragon store.
Are these pieces of furniture that covetable or are buyers hoping to acquire them as investment pieces since they come in extremely limited pieces (there are reportedly 400 pieces of the BV chairs, which is still a small number). Is there hope that one day these chairs will be as rare and expensive as the almost-mythical Comme des Garçons furniture? Rei Kawakubo designed some chairs too—for her stores in Tokyo and Paris in 1983. They were used as props and were not made to be practicable. Yet, there was sufficient interest in them and limited-edition production ensued. In fact, a furniture store opened in the late ’80s in Place du Marché Saint-Honoré, Paris. It isn’t known how well the pieces faired, but the store eventually closed to make way for the brand’s perfume shop. Some of us do remember the CDG furniture. And that is clearly enough for them to qualify as grail.
Or, when the contents of the Vogue Closet fell onto a street in New York
Serena Williams opening Vogue World with an uninspired stroll
On the Vogue website, there was a black-and-white digital clock that had been ticking for days, counting down to an event that the brand/magazine did not describe in detail, possibly so that curiousity about it could be kept burning. Even Anna Wintour was mum about Vogue World: New York, as it is called, only hinting in the recently shared video 73 More Questions with Anna Wintour that it would involve lots of clothes, so much, in fact, that it required the “Vogue army” to organised them. Not even the venue was disclosed (was it even an IRL event?). It did eventually happen last night (New York time) on a street in Manhattan’s Meatpacking District, a now-“glamourous” hipster neighbourhood (its name gives you an idea of what it was before) that is sandwiched between Chelsea to its north and the West Village in the south. Much of the streets here are paved with cobblestones made of Belgian blocks. That Vogue would stage an event down here on streets that could be high heels’ enemy, rather than at some place glitzier and carpeted is perhaps indication that the magazine is making itself—and the brand—a lot more accessible.
It described Vogue World as a “first-of-a-kind event” and a “global” one. Although staged in New York, it was live-streamed to the rest of us nowhere near that part of the city. The show was also a celebration of the magazine’s 130th year. On account of that, it had to be big and boisterous. (And no one more so than Kanye West, who arrivedlate enough that, while walking to his seat, he was mistaken as a model.) The show was prefaced—somewhat inexplicably—by a group of runners exercising their legs in the dim light, some with what appeared to be flags flapping behind them, like capes. Then it opened with Vogue’s September-issue cover girl Serena Williams in Balenciaga cape and dress, who looked like she was not quite thrilled to be on the runway, sauntering while a voiceover of her saying how she wants to be remembered could be heard over the apt soundtrack of Arthur Russell’s This is How We Walk on the Moon.
‘Sports couture’ at Vogue World
Brooklyn Beckham and his wife Nicola Peltz enjoying themselves on the runway
Although Vogue World took place during New York Fashion Week, it was not quite a fashion show like the rest that were staged in the city at this time. This was a Chingay approach to fashion presentations. The carnival mood was unmistakable, with street-style performances between each fashion segment to pump up the revelry (the cultural part was there, too, when a trio of sari-clad girls came out to do their Bollywood number). The clothes, purported to show the trends of autumn/winter 2022, were not based on collections. They were single looks from many designers (name them and they were there), but you might not know or remember the styles unless you have an encyclopedic memory of what were mostly shown back in February and March. Who wore what was not identified for the benefit of viewers. Although Vogue had sussed out the supposed trends (there were five main ones, as vogue.com reported later), you can‘t help but feel that they were rather forced (gowns and boots!). And somewhat haphazardly grouped, rather luan (乱 or messy). Perhaps Lil Nas X’s performance (that began with the singer seated next to Ms Wintour) to wrap up the runway extravaganza was designed to play down that shortcoming.
Vogue World was not just a show. As it turned out, what the models and stars wore could be purchased, reviving the old see-now-buy-now model that brands introduced with enthusiasm some years back, but is now largely forgotten. You could go to the Vogue website and find the links to the items that caught your attention and shop away. If you need to try before buying, an AR element, conceived by Snapchat, allows you to virtually put on the clothes no matter where you are. Like its print form, this is to push purchases for their advertisers. Is vogue.com then also sort of an e-store, and did we see additional revenue streams for the multi-platform title? Is the site now into live-stream selling, minus an ebullient host? According to Vogue’s creative editorial director Mark Guiducci, the show is a reflection of “all the ways in which fashion is changing. It comes at a moment when designers have become multi-disciplinary creators, innovating how we engage with fashion—even virtually.”
Shalom Harlow, one of the many ‘supers’ in the final segment of the show
Lil Nas X starting his performance while seated next to a delighted Anna Wintour
Vogue World could be seen as a big-budget, celebrity-endorsed, brand-building exercise. It reminded us of the eponymous Fashion’s Night Out (also launched in New York), the just-as-flashy, get-people-shopping-again initiative that was launched on 10 September 2009, twelve months after the doomed Lehman Brothers filed for bankruptcy. The year 2009 also saw Barrack Obama sworn in as the United State’s first Black president and the perpetuation of the financial crisis and recession that hit two years earlier, in late 2007. Fashion’s Night Out was Vogue’s contribution to improving the grim retail climate then. It eventually spun off into international editions in different hub cities. Could Vogue World—presently linked to New York—too have other editions in cities where Vogue operates. There was, for example, a Fashion’s Night Out in Tokyo in 2008. In 2013, Fashion’s Night out in New York ended it’s increasingly disfavoured run. But in Tokyo, the event continued until 2020, but, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, took place as Fashion’s Night In—an online affair.
It is hard to say how Vogue World will pan out. The show might be enjoyable to those who were there to see it, but to some (perhaps more?) of us watching on our devices, it teetered discomfortingly close to blah. This was Vogue at its inclusive best. The community-arousing performance, with its strong street culture, would have won the approval of the late Virgil Abloh. But what else could we glean from it? Former British Vogue’s fashion director Lucinda Chambers, after she was “fired” by the then in-coming editorial head Edward Enninful in 2017, now considered the most powerful Condé Nast editor after Anna Wintour, told Vestoj in a revealing interview that “we don’t need any more bags, shirts or shoes. So we cajole, bully or encourage people into continue buying. I know glossy magazines are meant to be aspirational, but why not be both useful and aspirational?” And why not magazines’ promotional events too? This may be a Vogue World, but is it a new, better world?
Does a Louis Vuitton mahjong tile make a more resounding pong?
Increasingly, luxury brands are offering products that are outside the category of fashion. Home ware comes to mind, such as those at Gucci. But, these days, stuff for leisure or recreational pursuits are covered too. Louis Vuitton is well aware that one of their tai-tai customers’ favourites games as a pastime is mahjong. To these women and their friends a good mahjong set is crucial to the enjoyment of the game. And an expensive one is even better, in comes LV’s mahjong set housed in a monogrammed trunk. Not since the 1950s did the house sell a mahjong set. But unlike the first issue, which was a humble and slim “travel-size” case that held the tiles and such, the latest, some 70 years later, is the epitome of luxury. Everything you need to set up a game is contained in a ‘vanity’ unit, except the table.
Those who own the Hermès mahjong set and table (sold separately!) may not require any intro, but those looking to buy their first luxury majiang taozhuang or wanting to have a different one for rotation, as you would with your sneakers, might wish to know that the Louis Vuitton is housed in a handsome leather-trimmed trunk that can be checked in as luggage, for those times you need to travel with your tiles. Inside, there are six green (a shade reminiscent of the felt top of mahjong tables) compartments (drawers, really) for you to store everything you need. The tiles are made of walnut wood and stone. All these come at a mind-blowing S$89,500. How many rounds of mahjong do you need to win to make that back?
Louis Vuitton ‘Vanity Mahjong’ set is available at selected Louis Vuitton store. Product photo: Louis Vuitton
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
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)”.
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.
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 busanapengantin (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 Twitter. 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, overwhelmed 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.
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?
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?