Two Of A Kind: Gloves With Pouches

If there are two-way bags, there are two-way gloves too. So who’s leading the way?

At the Fendi resort 2023 presentation in New York earlier this month, one model stole the show, even when a bag that Fendi launched 25 years ago—the Baguette—was meant to be the bigger star. The oblong bag with the recognisable flap (and the logo-ed buckle in the middle, near the bottom) was, to be certain, saluted, and in more than one interpretation. The Baguette, in fact, didn’t merely come in other variations, such as the waist bag, trinkets, and even hand warmers; it was sited on articles many would not consider traditional placement, and one of them was on gloves.

If we remember correctly, it was Prada that first fastened what they call a “pouch” on their gloves—on the dorsal side of the hand—for the autumn/winter 2021 season. These were in the shape of the brand’s inverted triangle logo and were, in fact, functional. A zip at the top secured it’s content. Given their size, they could hold coins. Each nifty pouch sported the enamel Prada logo, and the colour and fabric matched the S$1,770-per-pair gloves. At the time, these were considered by many to be “cute”. Now, Fendi has followed suit, placing their considerably shrunken and floppier Baguette on gloves. But rather than leather, their gloves are in knit and their pouches are in nylon, and in the shape of a rectangle that could fit credit cards.

That Fendi needed to create new product categories is understandable. These days, both of these Italian fashion powerhouses are veritable department stores, and they would require a wide assortment of merchandise to fill their massive spaces. And accessories sell, even better than garments. But in widening their offerings, could there be a sacrifice of originality? Could the ability to emulate mean the temptation to submit? Has our world really become one of mono-culture? Or, has the fashion industry become like the tech industry—an open-source community? Ponder over.

Photos: Fendi and Prada respectively

Two Of A Kind: Apparel Apparitions!

All roads lead to Balenciaga?

Yeezy Gap versus Nike Forward. Photos: respective brands

Both are ghostly, both are sinister. Whose is more ominous? Nike has shared the images for their latest apparel featuring the new Forward textile on their website and app. That faceless hoodie seen here (on the right) appears as if worn by Invisible Man, including uneven placement of the arms—the unseen wearer in motion. Could this be Nike flattering Yeezy Gap? When the brand led by Kanye West (soon no more) launched the first drop of Yeezy Gap Engineered by Balenciaga last February, the images shared were similarly spectral. And in the latest, they are less black, which is rather close to Nike’s with the sepia patina. Two of the world’s most visible brands using such illusory effects may mean that phantoms, rather than models, could take over fashion communication of the near future.

There is of course the possibility that brands these days rather let the garments do the talking than voluble celebrities. Clothes should stand out, not faces. Yeezy Gap’s images require no perceivable face (although a body filling up the clothes can be discerned) just as its retail spaces need no shelf, rack or hanger. Balenciaga had a hand in all this. It started most prominently on the red carpet, as seen in the face-concealing number that Kim Kardashian wore to the last Med Gala. Ms Kardashian was already a walking preview for Balenciaga months earlier. Later, her ex-husband, too, appeared just as obscured in his Donda listening/reveal mega events, whose creative director was Demna Gvasalia. Mr West attended his by-then pal’s debut haute couture showing in Paris like a Black male Pontianak. And after Yeezy Gap Engineered by Balenciaga was announced, the images that were circulating and shared showed, until now, the fashionable on the incorporeal. As the Police once sang, Spirits in the Material World.

Two Of A Kind: Bouquet Dresses

How many women love to be arranged in a bunch of flowers? Enough, probably, to prompt designers to turn dresses into vases

Nosegay or bouquet? (Left) Schiaparelli couture autumn/winter 2022 by Daniel Roseberry. Photo: Schiaparelli. And (right) Moschino prêt-à–porter spring/summer 2018 by Jeremy Scott. Photo: Indigital.tv

We know which among the above two came first, but perhaps that does not matter. Flowers have always bloomed in the creations of fashion designers at both the haute couture and prêt-à–porter. They go back even before the first couturier. And this attests to their versatility, even if their use risks being hackneyed, even tawdry. But fashion and flowers are soul mates; both are seasonal and both are about appearances—outwardly too. At the recent Schiaparelli couture presentation, the flowers with their stalks that worked their way from the velvet bust upwards, into an asymmetric spray that partly flanked the face (among other floristic pieces) was also more surface than substance. Daniel Roseberry was inspired by the images from Carolyne Roehm’ book A Passion for Flowers. He told WWD that he hope’d to evoke “creative innocence” with the floral arrangement. It is not immediately discernible.

Some four years ago, Jeremy Scott put together a bouquet of a dress for Moschino. Gigi Hadid wore the beribboned, wrapped-up stalks on the runway, with her head placed among colourful mixed blooms as if it flowered among the bunch. In sum, she looked very much like the tall, dramatic bouquets beauty entrepreneur Kim Lim would like to receive—any day. There is a sense of humour in Ms Hadid attired as a giant hand-held arrangement, even if it was the incongruity that arouse the amusement. And therein, we sense, lies the creative point: irreverence. Mr Roseberry had hoped to effect “innocence”, but his floral formation was not quite absent of guile; it was rather studied. The wholesome side of high fashion to counter the exposed breasts he showed earlier? Sure, his flowers were all coutured-up: hand-painted, 3-D tulips, made brilliant with rhinestone, but were they sumptuous, let alone Shocking!—the name of the new Schiaparelli exhibition to open in Paris?

It is interesting that the two men who have worked floral arrangement into their designs hail from America. It seems that this could be American designers-in-Europe’s belated expression of floristic exuberance. But blooms for the body is not terribly new. There was the Yves Saint Laurent’s couture flowered bikini-as-bridal-wear from 1999 or Alexander McQueen’s gown from 2007, festooned with real fleurs. Even the guys could not escape being adorned, or garlanded. In the spring 2020 season, Virgil Abloh placed one wreath as sort of abbreviated vest atop a T-shirt for one of his last showings for Louis Vuitton, clearly an ornamental touch, as much as one to soften the masculine nothingness of the look. But these were not quite enough, and some designers are now allowing the dress to be a receptacle in which flowers can sprout forth. The Chinese have a saying: 花无百日红 or no flower blooms for a hundred days—good times, as well as the florid, do not last long. Pessimistic? Ask some flowers.

Two Of Kind: Sculptural Shoulders

A dress shoulder protruding from the bodily shoulder has been a kind of signature of the Indian designer Gaurav Gupta… until now

GG vs CC: Which came first? (Left) Chrishell Stause in Gaurav Gupta. Photo: Chrishell Stause/Twitter. (Right) Model in a Carol Chen Couture dress. Photo: Chin Boh Kay for SOTD

During a recent broadcast of the season 5 reunion of the American reality TV series Selling Sunset, cast member and fashion queen of the show Chrishell Stause turned up for her chat with host Tan France in a stunner of a dress. The chilli-red, one-shoulder, one-slit, floor-length goddess silhouette in pleated organza has a distinctive shoulder. It does not sit on the top of the body, but protrudes to eye-level in an arc that looked like one side of a bow. The gown is by the Delhi-based Indian couturier and Central Saint Martin alum, Gaurav Gupta, known for his sumptuous lehengas (the full-length skirts that Indian women wear on formal and ceremonial occasions, as did Carrie Bradshaw), saris, and—just as exquisitely—gowns that are as popular among Indian women as those from abroad.

Two days ago, at the newly renovated Design Orchard, a long dress with a similar shoulder treatment was shown. But rather than a single alary projection, the number came with two. The fabric used was also pleated organza, but unlike Mr Gupta’s truly sculptural design, these extended shoulders were not build on a bodice. Rather, it was the bodice itself: two oblongs bunched at the shoulder where the protuberances opened like arched springs, and creating a matronly bustiness at the chest. The gown is by the Singapore-based American couturier, Fashion Institute of Design & Merchandising (San Francisco) alum and Singapore’s brightest design star Carol Chen, a recent practitioner of the craft of high fashion, whose confections are adored by her socialite friends.

Close up of the sculptured shoulder of Gaurav Gupta. Photo: Gaurav Gupta

Mr Gupta sometimes calls his sculptural shapes “mathematical forms”. It is no exaggeration, even if the constructions are, as considerable calculations are required to effect such a precise extension that shifts the natural line of the shoulders so dramatically. His designs have been described by women as “romantic” although Mr Gupta has referred to them as “abstract”. His clothes are so breathtakingly suitable for red-carpet events that they have been worn by international celebrities such as Megan Thee Stallion at the Academy Awards this past March and, at the recent Cannes Film Festival, Indian actress Aishwarya Rai Bachchan, the Italian actress Catrinel Marlon, Indonesian actress Raline Shah, and the American actress Liza Koshy, not to mention Cardi B in the music video No Love.

Ms Chen has described her debut couture collection as “one of the most incredible experiences of my life“. Apart from her muse and her mentor, it is not known who has worn Carol Chen Couture. It is impossible to trace a direct line to the provenance of her ideas for her dresses or from which pool of inspiration she draws. The collection, of which two looks made the runway at Design Orchard, is called Florescence (the state of an object in bloom) and is supposed to be “inspired by Gardens by the Bay”. Yet, it is hard not to chart her aesthetical choices—the shoulders, especially—to India. Ms Chen, a former beauty queen, is no doubt partial to gowns. And it is understandable she would be entranced by the designs of an experienced couture master. In the end, CC or GG, we’re sure you can see the art from the not for yourself.

Two Of A Kind: Angel Wings

With Louis Vuitton following Victoria’s Secret’s footsteps, now the guys can have theirs too

Louis Vuitton Angel versus Victoria‘s Secret Angel. Photos: Louis Vuitton and Getty Images respectively

When Louis Vuitton’s multi-flap angel wings appeared on the runway back in January, we told ourselves that LV was joking, and happily forgot about them. And then there they were again, in the “spin-off” Bangkok show two days ago. The Thai audience were totally taken by them, recognising the wings’ immensely camp value when they saw it. Some applauded: The show was, after all, appropriately taking place in the City of Angels. There were three sets of the winged outfits. The models did not look happy in them, presumably because they knew they looked ridiculous. They walked as if the flapping appendages were not part of them, and the patterned pennons were simply ridiculous. Were they heavy, we wondered.

(Among the delighted audience, chatter had emerged, prior to the show, that there was “drama mak mak“ with the casting. Non-Thai models were engaged, including some from Singapore, but work permits for them were somehow “forgotten”. The casting team “scrambled”. They had to use inexperienced local models—some of the boys had never walked on a runway before, it was shared. One chap reportedly went for the casting seven times. To make matters worse, five of the models were said to have tested positive for COVID-19 on the day of the show!)

Victoria‘s Secret ditched their angel wings and Louis Vuitton picked them up

Who‘d thought modern menswear would come to this? Victoria‘s Secret ditched their angel wings and Louis Vuitton picked them up. The lightly fluttering rear flaps left the VS catwalk for good, only it seemed, to decamp for the LV runway. While they were no longer “culturally relevant”, as the brand said last year in response to the nixing of their famed Angels, the wings have become germane to fashion for guys now. Or, is menswear so open to the unconventional that it is receptive to what women have discarded and have considered them to be nothing but the constructs of heterosexual male fantasy?

This time in Bangkok, on the slow-moving models, we did have a closer look at the wings. They looked to us more like 京剧背旗 (jingju beiqi) or the rear flags of Beijing opera costumes. These 旗装 (qizhuang) or flag costumes are usually worn by actors playing the part of military generals. The flags are attached to an armour (or coat of plates) known as the 靠 (kao); they are also called 靠旗 (kaoqi) or armour flags. Seen this way, perhaps the late Virgil Abloh intended for the models to be flagged than winged. And what—indulge us—is more masculine than the striking figure of the 战神 (zhanshen), god of war, 赵子龙 (Zhao Zilong)? Never mind that the Louis Vuitton show was no Beijing opera.

Two Of A Kind: The Sheer Black Dress

If you are proud of your body, show it, even if under a dress

Sheer power: (Left) Rihanna in Dior at the Dior show. Photo Getty Images. (Right) One of the looks at the recent Gucci cruise 2023 show. Photo: Gucci

Now that Rihanna has given birth and the sartorial baton is passed to Adriana Lima (see her appearance at the Cannes Film Festival), stomach-on-full-display is on track to be the maternity look of the pandemic era. Rihanna’s “lingerie moments”, as we know by know, have been widely lauded as “stunning” and “redefining”. If Beyonce made the naked dress acceptable on the red carpet, Rihanna was certain to affirm the naked maternity frock’s commitment to a very public existence. No wonder Alessandro Michele was quick to offer one on Gucci’s latest runway that is rather similar to the Dior dress that the star wore in Paris, even if the Italian house’s version was designed first as a sheer dress (Rihanna reportedly had the Dior’s lining ripped off) worn on a braless (not-skinny) model rather than an expectant woman. Could Gucci be targeting expectant customers now that there is no doubt how nude some are willing to go?

These days, the encouragement is dress to ‘celebrate’ the body, not to hide it, pregnant or not, slim or otherwise. Conservative attitudes towards a woman’s bare baby bulge (or any bulge) has no place in today’s society, just as Harry Styles in a dress should not have to threaten anyone. Immodest, when it comes to dressing to go out, whether pregnant or not, is preferred because every body has to be exalted. In the ’60s, American civil-rights activists wore their “Sunday best” to show that dignity is not the reserve of the non-whites and they are not by default relegated to the lowest rung of the social order. Today, the “any-day least” allow wearers to demonstrate that the skimpiest clothes need not be just for the pool or beach, and less so for the confines of a bedroom. And baring is really not restricted to exotic dancers.

Conservative attitudes towards a woman’s bare baby bulge (or any bulge) has no place in today’s society, just as Harry Styles in a dress should not have to threaten anyone

Demi Moore on the cover of Vanity Fair in 1991, if you remember, stripped away all the pre-natal dress conservatism that the Victorians left behind since the 19th century. Sure, we had many women wear clothes that hinted at nudity since the Sixties, but those in diaphanous dresses that substantially show the body are mostly latter-day individuals with specific interest (obsession?). The easy shift to near nudity has been attributed to the need to show individuality, boost confidence, embrace empowerment, gain attention, express sexuality, and simply because they can. On our shores, the weather. Could it also be because it is still provocative, and provocation is fun—let you see, but not touch? Gucci’s sheer black number was simply answering to today’s needs.

In both cases, the naked dresses—an oxymoron if you think about it—have fabrics acting merely as a sort veil for the body. Like the silk screens Empress Cixi sat behind from, where she ruled in the 19th century, these dividers are not there to conceal the wearer or make them inscrutable (are women today as manipulative?). They are there for a peekaboo effect. Tease is very much a part of modern fashion’s commitment to overt shame-free self-expression. Even the retired Victoria’s Secret Angels were more modestly attired. Trenchant media support for Rihanna’s near-nude maternity style and Emily Ratajkowski’s unconcealing every-day wear would only boost Gucci’s desire to send other sheer black dresses down the runway. There would be more to come.

Two Of A Kind: Cheap Cheery Clones

And TikTok users are delighted to compare them side by side. Fashion has a new form of entertainment. Its future looks bleak

On TikTok, they love comparing their favourite brands. Left: Beatriz (Bstyle). Right: iam.awilda. Screen grabs from respective TikTokers

By Pearl Goh

Is it still flattery when a piece of clothing is a likeness of an unoriginal? Okay, we’re living in confusing times and fashion is totally stupefying. Who is able to tell brands apart these days when, for example, Gucci is hacking Balenciaga (and vice versa)? Or, Prada is looking like Adidas? But, however blurred the lines have become, surely there is no kick in buying a knock-off of a knock-off? Or has the consumption of fashion become this perverse? Something is going on that is baffling. TikTok has been sending me notifications of “versus” videos. These are of women wearing identical pieces from Zara and Shein. No, I have not been searching any of these brands and I am not on TikTok. Yet, strangely, I have been receiving notification of the existence of these lurid, goofy comparisons.

The women in these videos seem to get some kick out of juxtaposing the identical clothes, and posing as if they have found the greatest joy of life. Did they actually buy two identical garments to make these enlightening TikTok videos? I do not know. But I was burning with curiosity. Are there that many Zara lookalike clothes by Shein? When I Googled ‘Zara versus Shein’ one afternoon, the first result read: “Discover zara vs shein ’s (sic) popular videos | TikTok”. Splendid SEO at work! There was a list of ten TikTokers’ posts to look at that has already attracted a whopping “25.9B” views! I was clearly late for the show. These women know what they’re doing. Instagram has caught up too, with one Dupes Nation offering a predominance of Zara-versus-Shein photos-only posts.

Are they creating content that is deliberately not like the “haul” videos of other TikTokers?

It is hard to make out why these girls are doing this, or what they’re hoping to achieve. Are they creating content that is deliberately not like the “haul” videos of other TikTokers? Are they doing their followers a favour by showing the latter the cheaper option to buy (prices are often put up)? Are they exposing something that could be detrimental to one brand? I can’t tell. I wonder if this comparison is a real exposé when we already know that Shein has been accused of plagiarism (the TikTok hashtag #sheinstolemydesign has received 6.4M views!) and the Chinese brand has been facing copyright disputes with Dr Martens and Levi’s, according to news reports. Even smaller, indie brands are not let off the hook. Dead-ringers of Marine Serre and Cult Gaia were also shared online.

While it’s rife among some fast (and ultra-fast) fashion brands to be ‘inspired’ by others, the problem at Shein, as widely reported, is particularly more acute. Never mind that these are litigious times. The brand’s big-data approach to design means they need to also consider what sells well for others, or what styles are trending on social media. This is no longer some high-low, looking-at-the-stars product development to better position a brand—that’s so yesteryear; this is looking at one’s peers to exceed. And better still, with a lower price for the end product. These days, as fans of Shein and company will say, there is no shame in buying cheap and dressing cheap. Not at all.

Two Of A Kind: Caution Tapes

Kim Kardashian was all wrapped up, in Balenciaga tape no less

Which is a crime scene? Left: Kim Kardashian. Photo: Backgrid, Right: tree. Photo: Getty Images

Why would anyone want to look like a walking crime scene or a strutting barricaded site? Sure, we are seeing less of these yellow and black strips now, especially those used as barrier tapes, since massing and mingling are allowed and, if you are masked, social distancing is not required(!). Could this be why desperate-to-be-single-again Kim Kardashian wished to make a fashion statement—no matter how uncomfortable the binding would be—since the polyethylene tape is now not often used in public? Or did she, being pandemic smart, want to catch the attention of onlookers so that her outfit could be impediment to anyone going near her, and, therefore, had the added effect of enhancing the general safety of the front row?

She may have smiled, but the body covering looks to us uncomfortable, like a kind of modern mummification. Except that this mummified being kept her face and hair—and hands—unwrapped. And from the waist down, the wrapping was thoughtfully bifurcated! Even her shoes and handbag were mummified (is that the right word to use when the process is applied to things you can’t call dead, or alive?). According to eager media reports, it was not tear-proof plastic tape (believed to be Balenciaga packing tape) on bare skin. Ms Kardashian wore something underneath that Vogue described as “an athletic top and leggings”, not underwear. We assume they were Skims. It reportedly took thirty minutes to get Ms Kardashian bandaged—all by hand, according to Balenciaga. Would that actually be faster than sewing a bodysuit and letting her wear it herself?

All photographs of her in the shiny, stuck-on, second-skin getup showed no opening on the chest or the crotch, in the rear, or on the sides. How does she relieve herself when answering nature’s inevitable call? NYT’s Vanessa Freedman helpfully informed us on Twitter that a squeaky—or “sticky tape-y”—sound was heard when she walked. Where was Kanye West? She was also heard saying, “I’m scared it’s going to rip when I sit down. Should I just let it rip?” And this is emancipation, with International Women’s Day round the corner?

Two Of A Kind: Asymmetric Pleated Skirts

Is Dior flattering Sacai?

Battle of the skirts: (left) Dior autumn/winter 2022; photo: Dior and (right) Sacai Resort 2021; photo: Sacai

Women do admire each other when it comes to creativity. In fashion, that admiration could be in the form of adopting a sartorial version associated with someone else. To the one emulated, such a move might be considered blandishment that validates a certain style. Or simple approval. But what if it happens in design? Dior and Sacai are not only brands from opposite sides of the globe, they do not have a shared history, are not of the same age, or under the same holding conglomerate. Respectively, Maria Grazia Chiuri and Chitose Abe are vastly different designers. Their outputs and aesthetics are rather poles apart, yet there seems to be, at least in one Dior skirt style of the next season, a striking similarity to Sacai’s. Coincidence? Homage? Adulation? Or were we imagining the resemblance?

Dior showed a dozen or so asymmetric, pleated skirts for autumn/winter 2022. Sacai has for almost their entire existence, so much so that whichever side the pleated part appears on the skirt, the sum is now considered a ‘signature’. And so identifiable, and associable to the Japanese label that when it pairs with Nike, a pleated fraction of fabric is used in the skirts (and tops) in the different collabs. This uneven balance has so taken the world that the influence has reached even brands with a considerably lower price point. But there is rarely a doubt as to where the pleated detail might come from.

It must say something when we immediately thought of Sacai upon sighting the first Dior skirt (look 15). And then more emerged, in varying lengths; some in print, some not. Another striking detail: the longer, pleated side appears on the left of the skirt, in versions above and below the knee. Why did this placement stick out or say a very specific name to us? For as long as we can remember and have admired, Sacai’s pleating of one part (or added section) of the skirt has mostly swung on the same side as the hand that secures the wedding ring. Dior’s skirts were more than a tad uncanny. But were they really flattering? Or, as they were to us, disconcerting?

Two Of A Kind: Space Suits

Why do some designers like taking the customary end-of-show bow dressed like they had just been to the moon?

Space walk: (left) John Galliano, photo: Alamy, and (right) Jeremy Scott, photo: Imaxtree

At the end of the Dior haute couture autumn/winter 2006 show, the designer at the that time, John Galliano, emerged in a space suit to bask in the adulation of the audience. What he wore could be those issued by NASA for the International Space Station although it was likely been made by the Dior atelier. Sixteen years later, Jeremy Scott too took to the Moschino autumn/winter 2022 runway days ago in a space suit that could have been a costume from Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyessy. Or a red version of one of those Tintin and gang wore in Destination Moon?

John Galliano has been called the “ultimate showman”, and his end-of-show appearances at both the Dior haute couture and prêtàporter were as dramatic as what his models wore. Apart from the space suit, he has adopted pirate gear, equestrian attire, the matador’s traje de luces, and more costumes than any seasoned actor at The Old Vic. Jeremy Scott is not, as far as we are aware, predisposed to put go whole-hog fancy dress for his runway moment. Although his work for Moshino has a theatrical bent, he has not been role-playing until now. Pandemic-related stress?

According to NASA, “a spacesuit is more than clothes astronauts wear in space. The suit is really a small spacecraft. It protects the astronaut from the dangers of being outside in space.” Sure, the space around us on planet earth—in particular, personal space—is not only diminished but a dangerous one. Personal protective equipment is adopted by even those outside the medical field. But what was Jeremy Scott really guarding himself against when he was not about to disembark from Elon Musk’s Starship onto unknown planetary terrain? In all likelihood, Instagram and TickTok know.

Two Of A Kind: Beanies Of Labels Not

Two similarly-named, ‘label-less’ brands and their close-fitted knit caps

Kindred beanies: No Label (left) and No Labels (right). Photos: No Label and No Labels respectively

Near identical names; so, too, the look of the beanies. No Label from Netherlands began in 2013. No Labels from China was launched early this year. A plural noun differentiates the two, but is the extra ‘s’ in the moniker of the one conspicuous enough? Perhaps, the European version with a logotype in a sans-serif font contrasts with the Chinese competition’s script font sufficiently for one not to be mistaken for the other? Or, perhaps, the former’s fully-merchandised line is a clear differentiator from the latter’s one-product debut? As well as one being a men’s brand* while the other targets both sexes?

Yet, amazingly, the two brands offer a rather similar beanie. Apart from the black, both also offer yellow. One is simply ‘Yellow’, the other a brilliantly un-urban ‘Chicken Yellow’. One beanie is made of ‘wool and nylon’ yarn, the other, pure ‘polyester’. One’s ribbed knit is less bulky than the other. One is cheaper in price than the other: €15 (about S$23) and ¥128 (about S$27) respectively. One has no external branding on the product, the other has its name zealously embroidered across the front. Both are made in China. Both have a turn-back cuff, not a short bill. Both are without trims, and not joined at the top by a button, or a pompom. Both are as suitable for cold weather and as useful for flattening hair.

Beanie for him and for her: No Label (left) and No Labels (right). Photos: No Label and No Labels respectively

It is a puzzler why the founder of No Labels, Eleanor Lee, named her clothing brand without first determining if the two words she picked are already used elsewhere. Could it be because she operates out of China, where brand owners are less inclined to concern themselves with the process of naming and the very name itself? Netherland’s No Label is so registered because the company began largely as a manufacturer for private labels before establishing their own brand, offering what they call “basics” that are best identified by quality rather than name. The irony is that Ms Lee would have gone to a company such as No Label to produce her No Labels.

Ms Lee took the plural form because she dislikes being labelled. As she told 8 Days, “you know how in our industry, people always give you a label? Like, ‘Oh she’s a sweet and cute girl’… Yeah. I’ve always been against this and I want the things that I design to represent me. What represents me the most is that I hate labels so the reasoning behind the name No Labels was really quite simple.” And straightforward too, except that, on the other side of the world, there is another brand—established earlier—with a name that’s just as elementary. And, without doubt, alike.

*Interestingly, there is also an SG womenswear label called No Label by an individual—or organisation—called Nami that predominantly trades on Instagram. As far as we’re aware, there is no beanie in their offering, yet. In Malaysia, there is also a menswear brand called No Label Project, another IG-native set-up. Similarly, they offer no beanie, yet

Two Of A Kind: The Cassette

Did Philipp Plein think that without Daniel Lee at Bottega Veneta, we would forget?

Philipp Plein has released images of his pre-fall 2022 womenswear collection. No news there if it isn’t for this bag that is eye-catching—not for its exceptional beauty, but its similarity to one that many, many women (and men) have come to love: the Cassette. Bottega Veneta’s intreccio weave, even oversized (and especially so) is the object of intense desire and is a design very much associated with former creative director Daniel Lee. The German label’s version is not only imitative; it is a cheap-looking, floppy version of the original. What is especially shocking is the similarity of the colour too—not the Bottega Green, but this pale teal. Plonking the hideous logo right in the centre-bottom of the flap does not indicate that this bag is a work of total newness.

Now, Philipp Plein is not exactly the embodiment of rigorous originality or good taste, but you’d think Mr Plein would at least wait till the shock of Daniel Lee’s departure from Bottega Veneta has died down before attempting such an indiscreet stunt. Did he think that by next year, BV would phase out the Cassette so that his bag would be a timely stand-in? (Someone pointed out that his, pictured above, comes with a gold-chained shoulder strap. BV’s padded Cassette is available in gold-chained versions too!) Or did he believe that amid the collection’s garish, tacky, vulgar clothes that vogue.com’s Luke Leitch called “arresting (he used the word twice in a para!)”—think sequinned tracksuits or animal-print anything—women are not going to notice? Then, Philipp Plein is operating in the absence of shame.

Photos: (left) Philipp Plein and (right) Bottega Veneta