Still Carrie Bradshaw

SJP narrates for Vogue

In season 4, episode 2 (also called ‘The Real Me’) of Sex and the City, Carrie Bradshaw said, “When I first moved to New York and I was totally broke, sometimes I would buy Vogue instead of dinner. I felt it fed me more.” Vogue was so much a part of Ms Bradshaw’s life that it had a cameo role in the six-season, 94-episode TV series; leading to an episode in season 4 called ‘A Vogue Idea’. It is unsurprising, therefore, that Carrie Bradshaw’s alter ego Sarah Jessica Parker was asked to narrate the e-series The History of Fashion in Vogue for the title’s online edition.

Vogue and Carrie Bradshaw were so intertwined that despite the shorts’ title credit that read “narrated by Sarah Jessica Parker”, the voice-over sure sounds like Ms Bradshaw. In the first of what Vogue calls “a series of ‘five points’ videos by decades”, SJP opened the peek into the late 1800s and the 1900s by saying “Start-up wasn’t part of the vocabulary of 1892, when Arthur Baldwin Turnure started a weekly journal of fashion and society called Vogue.” This could have been “Once upon a time, an English journalist came to New York…” of the debut of SATC, minus the close-up of the text appearing on the computer screen and the vibraphone tune of the main theme before that.

Sex and the City was very much a self-narrated account of Carrie Bradshaw’s New York life, which included three of her friends. The gossipy unfolding gave the series much of its authenticity and intimacy, and it made Carrie Bradshaw the protagonist so many rooted for, even when her neurosis and self-inflicted pain were sometimes too much to bear. That voice, that pitch, that urgency—all so identifiable as prelude to Sex and the City’s celebration of sex-as-you-wish liberty and blatant consumption that even on a program about the history of one of the world’s most recognisable publications you sense that maybe there’s going to be who slept with who after who bought what.

Thirty seconds into the first episode of Sarah Jessica Parker Narrates 1892-1900s in Vogue, SJP says that Vogue was a “journal of society, fashion, and the ceremonial side of life.” She may be referring to another era far removed from the one she’s in, but she could be describing the world of Carrie Bradshaw, minus the sexual escapades and tearful heartbreaks. When SJP revealed with such wonder that “crackerjack” Condé Nast purchased the publication in 1809, she could have been referring to Capote Duncan (the publishing executive who nearly bedded Charlotte York), or Mr Big.

These short videos were conceived to celebrate Vogue’s 125th year, but they’re not exactly a broad look at the past. In the face of debates over whether Vogue is relevant, they only serve to remind us that the magazine has come this far and will go further, much further.

Screen grab from

The Quiet Master

Film | In a new untitled documentary, the fashion insider’s designer Azzedine Alaïa is revealed, but only just

Azzedine AlaiaAzzedine Alaïa at his drafting table. Photo: Joe McKenna/Consulate Film

There are designers and there are designers, but none so unconcerned with the drama of the fashion world and its pursuit of excess as Azzedine Alaïa. His refusal to genuflect to the fashion system, whether in Paris or elsewhere, sticking to his own world in his atelier in the Marais, a historic part of the capital in the 4th and 5th arrondissement, makes him as much a mystery as a marvel.

In this new, 26-minute, black and white short made by the Scottish stylist Joe McKenna, considered one of the most respected in the business, who once published his own now-very-collectible and hard-to-find, two-issue (1992 and 1998) magazine called Joe’s, Mr Alaïa is put in the spotlight, but it is friends, models, journalists who are doing the shining. Filmed over a few years in the designer’s atelier during Mr McKenna’s free time, the film feels like an extended trailer than a major oeuvre, snap shot than biography.

Yet, it’s a pleasurable film, if only because there is no moving picture material out there on Mr Alaïa. Any reveal is better than none. Much has been said of the designer’s skill—how he drafts and cuts his own patterns, how, at one time, he even sewed the dresses himself—and why those who wear his designs become life-long fans, but very little is offered about the processes behind those undeniably beautiful clothes, or about the thinking of a quietly defiant man. In this respect, we still know very little of Mr Alaïa’s motivation and inspiration.

Azzedine Alaïa Couture 2011Two of the outfits from the couture 2011 show that appeared in the film. Photos: Azzedine Alaïa

Although the lens trails its subject, the camera does not capture Mr Alaïa saying anything to it. Instead, designer Nicholas Ghesquiere (the only male interviewee), stylist Carlyne Cerf de Dudzeele (who styled Anna Wintour’s first US Vogue cover in 1988 that saw a Christian Lacroix couture top paired with jeans), the ex-stylist, ex-fashion editor (British Tatler and Vogue), and now architect Sophie Hicks, still-practising stylists Grace Coddington and Katie Grand, journalists Cathy Horyn, Vanessa Friedman, and Suzy Menkes, and models Naomi Campbell (who calls Mr Alaïa “papa”) and Veronica Webb do the talking.

These are people who doubtlessly and ardently admire him and are intensely protective. Ms Campbell even revealed that Mr Alaïa took her in after she lost her possessions during a sojourn in Paris in 1989, and that he still avails a room in his residence to her. Although we’re told that Mr Alaïa “has a temper”, like many passionate artists, we’re not shown an instance other than his throwing a hanger at an assistant, when he lost composure to rage. Or, if fury or self-control has influenced his designs. Through these intimates, we are seduced into believing Mr Alaïa has no shortcoming.

This is a film strictly for followers of Mr Alaïa’s work—a celebration of the female form and an extolment of sexiness with none of the perverse expression seen in fashion today. It is also for fashion culture buffs who may be thrilled to see some rare footages of old Azzedine Alaïa shows (“another echelon” for Cathy Horyn)  in which supermodels of the ’90s gravitated (somewhere in there is also the now-reclusive Grace Jones). It sometimes feels like a knowing nod among friends for more friends rather than a vivid disclosure for the uninitiated, of the man and his creative output. And a substantiation of the already known fact that very much of Azzedine Alaïa’s designs start at the drafting table—a mark of a true couturier.

Four Words: Fashion’s New Fave


I am an immigrant.” As simple as that, repeated until the message (hopefully) drives home. Fashion, as we have seen, isn’t afraid to be political. And fashion folks are not afraid of facing up to a certain political climate. Defiance can have an attractive look.

Individuals from the fashion industry, “at the urging of W magazine”, was filmed between shows during the just-concluded New York Fashion Week to utter those four words. These include models such as Natasha Poly, Doutzen Kroes, Jordan Dunn, and Winnie Harlow (above); stylists Edward Enninful and Grace Coddington; photographers Craig McDean, Inez van Lamsweerde & Vinoodh Matadin and Mario Sorrenti; and designers Maxwell Osborne & Dao-Yi Chow, and Diane Von Furstenburg.

It is a very diverse cast of players, showing that xenophobia is not an immigrant. Bravo.

Photo: screen grab of I am an Immigrant video on YouTube

One Yellow That’s Ochre Of Fierceness

Beyonce in yellowScreen grab of Beyoncé from the trailer of HBO’s Lemonade

By Raiment Young

Over the weekend, when I learned that Beyoncé’s new “visual album” was going to be called Lemonade, I shuddered; I really did. I am not receptive to the painful cliché of what one can do with lemons if given those citrus fruits, and I feared that somehow Beyoncé was going to lead me down that path. And true enough, she did. Beyoncé’s sixth studio album is called Lemonade apparently because during a family get-together, seen in one of the videos, husband Jay Z’s 90-year-old grandmother was heard saying, “I was served lemons but I made lemonade.” The grand-daughter-in-law, inspired, was then going to show us how she makes America’s favourite summer drink.

I thought yellow was going to be pervasive, a chromatic motif that will be used to tell stories in the videos-as-narrative. One frock stood out, but it is not in the yellow of lemons. The dress, part of a wardrobe that prompted Glamour to say the costumes of the videos were “beyond fierce”, is of a yellow that seemed to have been mixed with dirt, an ochre. There is certainly no sunshine in it, although to be more positive, it is close to the yellow of Van Gough’s sunflowers.

I was definitely not thinking of ribbons, birds, submarines, or bikinis. What did come to my mind was the mustard-hued poultice that was once offered to me to calm the painful sting of a jellyfish. What I also saw were the monks’ robes during the ordination of a friend in a temple in Nakhon Sawan, Thailand. These robes were once only made of used or discarded cloth. They were boiled with vegetable matter such as bark, flowers and leaves before being stained with spices such as saffron. I wonder if Beyoncé would make nasi kuning if life handed her turmeric.

What’s with R&B stars and yellow anyway? Just last year, during the Med gala in May, Rihanna wore a monstrosity of a Guo Pei dress in the shade of omelettes. In another era, Whitney Houston, too, was never averse to eye-popping yellow: she wore that aureate figure-hugging Marc Bouwer dress for Whitney: The Concert for a New South Africa in 1994. Could there be a visual advantage in donning a colour that can represent the sun or warn of the presence of poison?

Roberto Cavalli AW 2016Roberto Cavalli’s dress as seen on the catwalk during the recent autumn/winter 2016/17 presentation in Milan. Photo: Roberto Cavalli

Lemonade is a “visual album” (Beyoncé’s second, in fact) and that means it’s accompanied by full-length videos—every track, here, 12 of them, gets its story told in moving pictures, all made seamless by the reading of the poetry of Somali-British poet Warsan Shire. Clearly, the visual album is conceived to appeal to a visual generation that prefers to see a song than hear it. For such an album to be even more engaging, Beyoncé has to play up the fashion aspect of the presentation. Fresh from launching her new fashion line, the athleisure-centric Ivy Park, with Topshop, Queen Bey has to prove her worthiness as fashion royalty, even when she’s holding sway in the court of celebrity style.

The dress that her fans have been raving about is a seven-tier, off-shoulder gown designed by the two-season-old Peter Dundas for Roberto Cavalli worn in the track Hold Up. This crush-pleated dress that swings with distracting shagginess as you walk is not easy to wear, and especially less so if you do not have the girth of a walking stick. Beyoncé is a voluptuous woman, a tad too curvy for an essentially linear dress held up by straps that are as fine as strings. What are those two misshapen globes squashed through the opening below the neckline? Mrs Knowles-Carter, I’m afraid, you look like you’ve squeezed into one leg of a lion dancer’s pants!

The Cavalli dress appears in the video of the reggae-tinged Hold Up in which Beyoncé emerges from a building that looks like our old City Hall, with water gushing behind her and wind blowing in front. Much of the rest of the film sees her prancing in a sound stage dressed as an urban neighbourhood. As she smiles-seethes-sings through the video, she strikes what catches her fancy with a baseball bat that identifies itself as “hot sauce”. There’s considerable destruction while sprightly explosions bloom behind her. No one around her is bothered by what appears to be escalating into a war zone. Here you have a swaggering gladiolus in full anti-social, crime-abetting behaviour, and what is it for? She suspects (“something don’t feel right”) a man she loves cheated on her. As a consequence, the woman can’t tell “what’s worse, lookin’ jealous or crazy”. The woman is livid.

If Lemonade is holding the glass up and speaking for women, is it also a collective reprimand disguised as a visually rich music video? And is Beyoncé dressed to reflect how women want to be clothed when they wish to make a point angrily? When cross, wear yards and yards of floating fabric? Still, I don’t get what she’s trying to say with that yellow. If the crazy popularity of Vetements’s DHL T-shirt is anything to go by, there’s no fighting this colour most of you call cheerful.

Work. Twerk. Jerk. How They Irk!

Rihana WorkScreen grab of Rihanna, beer in hand, dancing in her new music video for the single Work

Launched last month, the music video of Rihanna’s January-released single Work comes in two flavours: an “explicit” film of a sleazy, smoky, sepia-shaded club and a clean one staged in a small studio designed as a living room set and saturated with light so pink that it would not be out of place in a dream sequence of a Teochew opera. On music television channels of the West, you get both played back-to-back, which result in a two-in-one that lasts about seven-and-a-half minutes. MTV Asia has been broadcasting the safe and sanitised (by Rihanna’s standards, anyway) second version—no surprise there, and that was what we saw. However, a search on YouTube will quickly turn up the muck many would relegate to the heap of morally bankrupt.

Firstly, is Work even a song? The monotonous chorus with the repetition of “work” six times (followed by “dirt”, also half-a-dozen times) sounds like it’s destined to be a digital resident of a smartphone where it would forever be banished as a ringtone. Sure, one-syllable-word repeat is the preferred formula in hip-hop musical phrasing, but it’s odd that Rihanna would take this route when Taylor Swift was miles ahead with “Cause the player’s gonna play, play, play, play, play. And the hater’s gonna hate, hate, hate, hate, hate”. At least Ms Swift’s Shake it Off is catchy. Rihanna slur-sings in such a droning and unintelligible manner that a lyric search was necessary to determine that “der, der, der, der, der, der” is really “dirt, dirt, dirt, dirt, dirt, dirt”! (“Work, although sounded like “wer”, we could make out because of the title). Audibly clear it is that tunefulness is not a present-day requisite for successful song writing.

And the video: surely a club awash with alcohol (but oddly no bottle opener since a guy had to use his teeth!), with guests ready to roll a joint and gyrate to mimic frottage (or intercourse, you figure) —even one called, without charm, The Real Jerk—is no longer fascinating enough to serve as setting when much of what’s on Vevo these days are a lot more arousing. Okay, so few in music-video making aim for an Oscar for production design, but this MV needs, well, more than a little bit of work. Even the chemistry between Rihanna and guest rapper Drake—looking like, to paraphrase Iago in Othello, “prologue to the history of lust and foul thoughts”—can’t lift the lame choreography and weak twerking from encouraging a big loud yawn.

Rihanna and Drake and crewRihanna and Drake posing with MV director X (between them) posted on her Snapchat

So let’s look at the clothes, an area that, Rihanna fans would enthusiastically state, does not disappoint. She arrives in a car at The Real Jerk. She emerges from the black vehicle, wearing a fur hoodie that looks like a pink part two of the Guo Pei gown that she wore to the Met Gala last year. She moves mysteriously towards the club entrance, joining no queue to be admitted. It should be stated at this point that there’s really no narrative in the video, just a mise-en-scène, which, typically, is not defined.

Inside, the coat is shed, and the camera pans from her nearly-bare right foot up to her face. It does so with just the right speed for you to take in those manicured toes in the palest pink polish, made visible by a barely-there sandal held together with spaghetti straps that spiral up her lower limp to just behind the knee, from which you see other straps—more like garter and garter belt—worn not to hold up any stocking but for femoral adornment. The view of this leg, you’ll soon realise, is made possible by the single, hip-high slit of the dress she wears—a round-neck, ankle-length T-shirt in knitted mesh that, once the camera pulls back, reveals wide vertical stripes in the colours that recall some South American flags. Under that, a set of similarly-coloured bikini covers her (concealment optional) privates.

A Rihanna look is incomplete without accessories. Apart from the said sandal and garter and kindred belt, she wears an inordinate amount of rings, and some bracelets, as well as a three-band leather choker with a huge hoop in the centre that seems to echo Givenchy’s version for keys. The sum effect, to our untrained eyes, appears Rastafarian, an aesthetic not alien to the Barbadian singer, and possibly one she’s exceeding pleased with since, in the video, she seems to be enjoying dancing before a full-length mirror in full self-admiration. What would Rastas, who mostly “live a peaceful life, needing little material possessions” (according to, think of the Bitch (who) Better Have Money?

This Not-So-Blue Monday

The music of new order like you’ve never heard them before


Orkestra Obsolete

By Raiment Young

Thanks to BBC Arts, I was able to listen to a remake, not remix, of Blue Monday, the biggest UK 12” single of all time, and, playing for seven-and-half minutes, one of the longest. This new version by the little known and almost mysterious band Orkestra Obsolete is the stuff that makes my spine tingle. Possibly New Order’s best-known track, Blue Monday was an important part of my musical education in the early ’80s that had nothing to do with Michael Jackson. It was also the second part of my initiation into electronic music after Kraftwek, Yellow Magic Orchestra, and Depeche Mode.

And it’s been awhile since something so aurally captivating has filled by work space. Blue Monday and so many ’80s indie-dance-rock have been subjected to such frequent runs through software manipulation such as Digital DJ that, no matter how imaginative the remixer, much of the result sounds the same. Orkestra Obsolete, as its name suggests, brought a piece of modern music back to a time when software was not part of the line-up in a musician’s arsenal. The point in time is 1933, and the instruments used are those available that year.

Orkestra Obsolete 2

The result is music that has the lushness of yore, but a vibe of the present. Unfair a comparison it may be, but it does remind me of the 1997 ‘tribute’ album El Baile Alemán by Sēnor Cocunut, aka Uwe Schmidt (also Atom Heart), considered one of Germany’s leading composers of electronic music. While El Baile Aleman’s Latin-flavoured sound is poles apart from (and more ‘exotic’ than) Orkestra Obsolete’s experimental output, both share the same sense of analogue adventurism that is oddly compelling.

According to pop lore, Blue Monday was the result of the testing of a new drum machine—the Oberheim DMX. The band, however, claimed that the song was written as an encore track to be played at the end of concerts, during which fans had always left disappointed because New Order did not do encores. Lead singer Bernard Sumner once told the media, “I don’t really see it as a song. I see it as a machine to make people dance”, further corroborating the drum-machine test theory. Whatever may have been the case, Blue Monday went on to be a Brit pop/disco anthem identified with the ’80s, just as Soft Cell’s camp remake of Tainted Love was and still is.

Orkestra Obsolete 3

Despite its success in the UK and, later, in the US, Blue Monday did not really catch on in Singapore until Zouk’s Mambo Night, hosted by DJ Adam Low. When I first heard it during those retro-themed sessions, I was dismayed that it was considered a retro track, yet thrilled that I was able to dance to it under the immersive sound system that was part of Zouk’s heady appeal. To most Zouk-goers, Blue Monday was too indie and off-key sounding to be mainstream-danceable. I wonder what they’d think of Orkestra Obsolete’s take today.

Another aspect of the band’s appeal is the music video released by the BBC. This noir-ish recording has the mood and the seduction of a fashion film, possibly one by Prada (and Wes Anderson?). The band members in suit and bow tie, too, look like they’re part of Prada’s world, with eye masks that would win the approval of Green Hornet fans. Orkestra Obsolete has possibly created the soundtrack to Muccia’s next show. As it’s sung in the song, “now I stand here waiting”.

Photos: source

Hello, Thank You, Adele

Adele Hello

Screen grab of Adele’s new music video for Hello

By Luo Zhao Mo

After a three-year hiatus, Adele is back.

This is what the Crossover Project should have bankrolled, but never did. Too busy with their financial shenanigans, the backers couldn’t tell a good voice from a feeble one. Scantiness versus substance: there was never a choice. They had just one woman bent on going to California. That was the only crossover they’ve ever got. And, yes, a Singaporean Chinese woman assuming the role of a geisha, that too.

Adele’s new single Hello is a reminder that in singing, you really start with the voice. And a star sings alone, not as a chorus part. And it is the singing, rather than skin, that shows flair and capacity. Adele is, of course, nowhere near Ms Crossover Project. She sings big, unhindered by the coverings—or lack of them—beneath her neck. Her voice commands and she does not pull back from its dominance. You hear her loud, and you hear her clearly, the musical accompaniment the rolling hills, above which the firmament of voice soars.

Truth be told, I have never really paid much attention to Adele until Karl Lagerfeld, in 2012, said she “is a little too fat”. Then I saw her performing Rolling in the Deep at the Grammy’s and winning 6 awards that night. And I told myself that she’s not more heavy-set than some American singers (Rebel Wilson, I’m thinking of you). Then came Skyfall, and the body is really secondary to the voice.

It has to be said that despite the body-shaming she has received, Adele has mostly dressed appropriately to her size. In the Hello video, she took a risk in donning a shaggy coat, but it’s one Carine Roitfeld would have approved, and it contrasted nicely with the printed scarf, worn without any fuss around her neck. There’s nothing edgy about them, just like the flip phone she used. The combo is a nice change from her usual all-back outfits and affirms that unstructured elegance and great voice can be a perfect pair.

Adele’s much-awaited new album 25 will be released globally on 20 November

Cause A Ruckus: The Fashion Of An Evangelist

Sun Ho in China Wine

Screen grab of Sun Ho’s 2007 music video China Wine

Accompanying her husband to court this morning, Ho Yeow Sun, aka Sun Ho, aka Geisha, was dressed in a grey, tweedy pantsuit. She tried to avoid the glare of camera lenses; her face half-covered by hair that was streaked gold, but not quite blond. Holding the hand of spouse Kong Hee—charged with criminal breach of trust and falsification of accounts, and found guilty—Ms Ho looked more like an off-duty, fashionably attired secretary than a pastor and co-founder of a mega-church, let alone a pop evangelist.

But evangelise with pop music she did, a move her church, City Harvest, felt was effective in reaching out to the “unchurched”. City Harvest services are known for their pop-concert vim and visual, and an enthusiastic and responsive audience. It is not unreasonable to assume that Ms Ho has a part in devising the musical approach and direction of the church’s ministry. She was, after all, head of the church’s “Creative Department” (from 1992 to 2001), and she herself and Kong Hee (who plays the guitar) had led many of the rousing, rather than rocking, services that brought members of the audience to a euphoric high.

Sun Ho in China Wine 2Sun Ho’s navel-baring outfit in the 2007 music video China Wine

The mega-production of song and dance of City Harvest’s “prosperity gospel”, as it is known, is feasible because of the religious organisation’s wealth. In a Reuters report in March last year, City Harvest, founded by Kong Hee and Ms Ho in 1989, was branded as “one of Asia’s most profitable churches”. How does (or should) a place of worship become profitable, it’s hard to say, but the financial pile may, perhaps, explain why the charge against Kong Hee and church officials involved S$50 million of church fund, most of the sum likely from tithes, a monetary obligation offered by members in support of their church. On City Harvest Chruch’s website, you will find the declaration, “We believe our giving is a form of worship.”

To propel Ho Yeow Sun into the international pop market, City Harvest established the Crossover Project in 2005. According to the court, S$24 million of church money was used to support the Crossover Project. It was a platform on which Ms Ho would morph into a pop star. Through her radio-friendly music, the church was to broaden the reach of their interpretation of the Scriptures to the secular world. Whether their mission was accomplished, perhaps only the church knows. But when you preface a song (Mr Bill) with 这狐狸精是谁 (Who is this bitch?) and wonders if you should “kill Bill” and “send him to the cemetery rock”, it’s hard to imagine anyone wanting you to spread any Holy word.

The transformation was rather rapid. Before her English-language releases, Ms Ho moved to Taiwan, and recorded mostly in Mandarin. In early tracks, she sang like an older songstress trying to sound young. And she dressed, at least in her music video, like the genteel, fashion-unaware, flower of the schoolyard every Poly grad would love to date. In the music video of her earliest hit, 2003’s Lonely Travel ( 孤单旅行), a song that vaguely recalls Rene Liu’s Later (后来), she was styled to look like a kindergarten school teacher, pining for a lost love.

Sun Ho makeupThe heavy, tacky makeup Sun Ho wore in the Mr Bill music video

Fast forward to the 2007’s China Wine, a song sung mostly by rapper and Fugees co-founder Wyclef Jean, while Sun Ho was more chorus girl lost in a sea of black voices. She, too, was classic hua ping—decorative vase to Mr Jean’s booming machismo—in Oriental styles that catered to Western men’s take on Eastern exotica. Two years later, when the album Cause a Ruckus was released, Ms Ho “woke up feeling like a millionaire”, as sung in Fancy Free. That’s not really hard if you were living in a Hollywood Hills house, and not an exaggeration when your new “international” album was executive-produced by Wyclef Jean.

Although the China Wine video peaked at number 30 in YouTube’s list of Top Faves (Entertainment) in August 2007, it would never achieve the nearly 2.5 billion views of another Asian singer: Psy, who hit YouTube jackpot with the wildly catchy Gangnam Style. However, China Wine did gained traction in social media. Ms Ho’s costumes were looked at in disbelief: do pastors wear almost no clothes? Can City Harvest Church-goers still sing hymns with gusto while thinking of Ms Ho’s avatar rocking in panties? What, indeed, was she evangelising or was she just gyrating for the Almighty?

It is not known who designed her costumes when she started recording in Los Angeles, but it is possible she was packaged by her music company. Tarted up as a geisha reflected typical American ignorance towards Asian identities, but clad in clothes that looked like Ong Shanmugam’s rejected by Nikki Minaj showed that few costumers consider the ‘hip’ in hip-hop.

Denim Shirts: All Over Again

Rihana in denim shirtScreen grab of Rihanna in the video FourFiveSeconds

We’ve been noticing, especially these past two years, a resurgence of oversized denim shirts—including their chambray cousins—worn as if they’re the newest things in chemise design. The trend has been enthusiastically adopted by Rihanna, who paired hers with denim jeans and skirts. It’s now even more pronounced, with Riri wearing a belted oversized denim shirt in her latest music video, FourFiveSeconds, in which she shares screen space with Paul McCartney and Kanye West. Directed by fashion photography darlings, the Dutch duo Inez and Vinoodh, the video brings to our mind Janet Jackson’s 1990 single, Love Will Never Do (Without You), directed by Herb Ritts.

(Mr Ritts seriously got into directing music videos because of Madonna. He had shot the cover of her True Blue album in 1986, and was later asked to direct the video for Cherish. Mr Ritts apparently said to the Queen of Pop, “But I’m a still photographer”, to which she replied, “Well, you have a few weeks to learn”.)

Since we’re in recall mode, let’s stay for awhile. Rihanna apparently wore an old Sean Jean (picked from Mr West’s wardrobe) in FourFiveSeconds. She may have made the denim shirt—vintage too—a part of her mostly trashy style, but back in the early 80s, it was Sade who wore denim shirts without looking like she was trying too hard to impress (or, in current parlance, score likes). Sade had something that was innate: she wore body-con dresses without a self-conscious need to seduce; she mostly wore one accessory—hoop earrings—to forge a signature look, and she wore bolero tops even before Madonna’s current obsession with them. The Nigerian-British singer truly had that elusive ease of style, one that played well to her laid-back sensuality.

Sade in denim shirtSade doing denim on denim back in 1980. Photo: David Montgomery/Getty Images

Sade, who turned 56 last month, was no stranger to fashion, being an alumnus of London’s Central Saint Martins College of Art & Design. Before embarking on her singing career, she was trying to be a menswear designer, which, perhaps, explains her sometimes androgynous getup. Fashion, always looking back, hasn’t forgotten her. In Jean Paul Gaultier’s spring/summer 2013 homage to 1980s pop stars, Sade was not absent (Joan Smalls, in a fitted black lace dress, played her). In the same season, Balmain’s Olivier Rousteing declared that Sade and her penchant for men’s blazer were clear influences. Similarly, our admiration is No Ordinary Love.

To Rihanna, we say, good try.

Not The Dark Side Of The Moon

Lyle & Scott X Jonathan Saunders FW 2014 T-ShirtT-shirt with the playful clash of patterns designer Jonathan Saunders is partial to

Just last week, the Scots said “yes” to staying with the rest of the United Kingdom, and the attention generated could elevate Scottish brands to a new level not seen before. One of Scotland’s favourite fashion sons Jonathan Saunders is creating a bit of a buzz with the country’s premier heritage label Lyle & Scott. In his collaboration with the 140 year-old knitwear label, it’s aye to colour all the way. Yes, bright colours for guys who aren’t afraid of them, and patterns too. For some reason, we’re seeing a transgressive Happy Days directed by John Waters!

Print and colour from Mr Saunders are to be expected. And Lyle & Scott—sometimes considered the UK’s Lacoste—is also not a brand to shy from a vivid palette. The pairing seems to be made in colour wheel heaven. What’s a joy to see is Mr Saunders’s unabashed clashing of prints in some of the styles, which rides on Lyle & Scott’s 1960s golfing heritage. It is also, according to the Glaswegian designer, inspired by “Peter Saville’s artworks and traditional iconography that was translated in a sort of op-art way” (as revealed in an interview with The Independent last month). The result is sports-geek-friendly, yet won’t be out of place in a discotheque.

Lyle & Scott X Jonathan Saunders videoScreen grab of the promotional video of the capsule collection

The psychedelic vibe is further boosted by a video released to commemorate this collaboration, possibly to keep pace with so many posh brands augmenting their artistic standing by releasing fashion films of art-house aspiration. Lyle & Scott’s short is, however, a frenetic Vimeo-worthy film that captures Mr Saunders’s bold aesthetics unapologetically, with loads of graphic interplay to enhance the clothes’ colour-infused patterns. This should lift the standing of Lyle & Scott above golf-playing men of a certain age, without having to drastically redraw or wreck the label’s blueprint.

Mr Saunders, who presently celebrates his 10th year as a designer, has been winning accolades since graduating with an MA from London’s Central Saint Martins College of Art and Design in 2002. In fact, it was reported that two days after his graduation show, Mr Saunders was commissioned by Alexander McQueen, whose label was then freshly acquired by the Gucci Group, to design prints for his spring/summer 2003 collection. The result was a burst of colour that came together to form what would be known as the bird of paradise dresses. His prints continue to win him fans and commissions, especially by fashion’s big boys such as Chloé (under Phoebe Philo) as well as Pucci (under Christian Lacroix). In 2008, the Italian label Pollini (the shoes, designed by Nicholas Kirkwood, are stocked at Robinsons The Hereen) appointed Mr Saunders as creative director, a position vacated by Rifat Ozbek, the Turkish-born designer who was quite a sensation in London in the late Eighties and early Nineties.

Lyle & Scott X Jonathan Saunders FW 2014 ShirtCotton colour-block shirt cut slim for a modern fit

Lyle & Scotts’s pairing with Mr Saunders isn’t the label’s first outing with a non-mainstream designer. Back in 2012, they collaborated with Junya Watanabe (under the “Eye” line) for a capsule collection of polo shirts that had the usual unexpected details Mr Watanabe is known for. Lyle & Scott sits alongside other heritage brands to have their polo shirts re-imagined such as Lacoste and Fred Perry. Whether with the eagle, the alligator, or the laurel wreath (or other creatures or fauna), we say, keep the creative coupling coming.

Lyle & Scott X Jonathan Saunders tees, SGD139, and shirts, SGD299, are available at Tangs Orchard

Tacky! And Her Big Back Too

Tacky Weird Al

“Weird Al” Yankovic may be considered strange, but sometimes, he’s spot-on too. The pop parodist clowns with hit tunes, transforming inane songs into observations of urban life, irreverent as they may be. He lampoons trends, and, in the case of his latest single Tacky, regrettable trends. Reworded from Pharrell Wlliams’s retro-soul jaunt Happy (OST of Despicable Me 2’s most recognisable track), Tacky is a self-deprecating shtick that takes a shot at Insta-gen’s predilection for the crass. The song’s music video, conceived with fashion-depraved luridness to amplify what the title denotes, gives it the visual weight it needs, as is the case with most of his songs.

“Weird Al” Yankovic made a career out of the novelty of rewording hits first made popular by other vocalists. He puts comedy in those singled-out tracks the way a baker fills cream puffs: with ease, but he’s no Allan Sherman. In 1984, he turned Michael Jackson’s Beat It to Eat It (a Grammy-winning hit), and continues to point at the banal, right up to Tacky, the 11th track on his new album Mandatory Fun, which earned him his first No.1 album on the Billboard 200 charts in July. While Eat It is rather mindless and silly, Tacky is quite incisive and unapologetic. It is confessional, too, considering how partial the singer is to the garish.

Parody in pop is no longer novel. Psy’s Gangnam Style—tacky too—has spawned on YouTube a slew of DIY musical mockery, but Tacky is timely. “Weird Al” Yankovic critiques the fashion choices of today (“glitter Uggs” and “sequinned Crocs”!) as well as bad pairings (“stripes with plaids” and “belt with suspenders”!) with the same scorn he has for modern practices (such as “Instagram every meal”) that has become so common, they’re no longer damnable.

But this isn’t the first time he has something to say about the clothes people wear. In 2011’s Perform This Way, sung to the tune of Lady Gaga’s Born This Way, he hilariously defended the dress choices of Mother Monster (and, inadvertently, the dubious achievements of the Haus of Gaga), and featured some pieces of her “pop monstrosity” in the accompanying music video. Perform This Way isn’t a thesis on fashion (since what he chose to highlight can’t be considered wearable as they are made of, among other things, Swiss cheese, bees, and, of course, meat), but it is a view that attention-grabbing performance wear is necessary for, well, performing, and the pursuit of fame. Given the sentiments in Tacky, surely that’s tacky too.

Tacky, then, could be a follow-up to Perform This Way, allowing Weird Al Yankovic to express what he didn’t want to say previously. Now, however, it is censure rather than support, knocking the current leaning toward outrageous clothes and contemptible behaviour. If tacky means not tasteful and, increasingly, cheaply vulgar, then it can be aptly used to describe Nicki Minaj’s music video for her new single Anaconda.

Nicki Anaconda

To state that Ms Minaj’s performance is “tacky” is, in fact, a little weak—it’s like calling a show, any show, “interesting”. Her act is so laden with licentious moves, with her butt taking up so much screen space and time that the entire video veritably verges on the vulgar. Make no mistake: this is Nicki Minaj, so we’re not expecting Taylor Swift, who interprets “shake” in Shake It Off as gyrating in a tutu. But Ms Minaj’s skin-baring twerking, while a male voice raps, “My anaconda don’t…”, is a naked affront to decency and is manifestly tacky. Posterior, massive or not—like breasts—should be covered. Just because they’re not punctuated by teats does not make them less a lewd ostentation.

It was suggested that she is merely trying to outdo Rihanna in the music video Pour It Up, or be ahead of Jennifer Lopez’s upcoming Booty, but surely there are other ways to upstage her competitors than seeing who shakes more bare buttocks, even when her butt is bigger than her face.  There is a difference between sexy and sex-driven. You can radiate sexuality without mimicking copulation to facilitate male onanistic indulgence (or is this counterpoint to hip-hop’s overt masculine dominance?). You can simply sing. And you sing with your mouth, which is on your face, not on your butt.

There’s no denying that this is the age of celebrity consumerism, so Ms Minaj knows exactly what she’s doing performing in what she wears or does not wear. In fact, so little is put on for most part of Anaconda that fashion ceases to be the point, yet the more she continues in this vein, the more she’s considered an influencer, gluteal excess et al. It’s more than a little disconcerting that pop stars with dubious taste wield so much influence in fashion these days. It boggles the mind to read headlines such as “Gaga, Pharell turn up heat at fashion week”. If a fashion week needs pop stars to turn the heat up, then maybe it is really cold to begin with.