Adidas Presses “Pause”

…on the collaboration with Balenciaga. Has recent controversial events pertaining to the latter led to this decision?

They have already cut ties with Kanye West. It took a while, but they did. Now, Adidas has apparently decided to “pause all product launches” with Balenciaga. Like Kim Kardashian, the maker of the Stan Smith has decided to “re-evaluate”their relationship with the creator of the Triple S. In a very recent report by Sneaker Freaker, customer service emails by Adidas were sent out last week in response to pre-orders of the US$800 ‘destroyed’—and, consequently, derided—Balenciaga X Adidas Stan Smith. Adidas wrote: “We have taken the time to re-evaluate our partnership with Balenciaga and we have decided to pause all product launches until further notice.” As such, they added, “we are unable to fulfill your pre-order of the Balenciaga/adidas Stan Smith.” They did not specify why there was a need for this re-evaluation. We have not been able to establish the veracity of the said email.

Could this, if true, be a preemptive move? Balenciaga was, as you remember, embroiled in a scandal involving the injudicious use of questionable objects in their advertising. It led to considerable online outcry, even compelling Ms Kardashian to make a statement—although somewhat vague—about her future commitments to Balenciaga. It didn’t help that Balenciaga wanted to sue the companies that oversaw the production of the ads, and then… withdrew. In the wake of the unceasing Kanye West social media rant that led to the demise of his collaborations with both Adidas and Balenciaga, could Adidas be doing the right thing before they are accused, again, for being slow to act in severing ties with those who are deemed offensive, even incendiary? Can they afford to wait until the situation at Balenciaga gets better or when people, if they do, forget?

The Balenciaga X Adidas collaboration is a full-line affair (including a water bottle!), and now out in Balenciaga stores. Contrary to a vogue.com report in May, it is not “already selling out”. Not even presently. We saw the collection in-store (admittedly not in its entirety) and we went away thinking we won’t suffer without a piece. It wasn’t that hard to come to that conclusion after seeing the advertising campaign, shot in an office. The bagginess for most of the pieces is not exactly the component of an extremely smart turnout. Nor, the embroidery of the Balenciaga logotype on some of the tops. The Stan Smith was not there, but the S$1,650 Triple S with the triple stripes was. We were told by a staffer that they “have not received the stock for the Stan Smith”. In fact, it is no longer listed on the Balenciaga website. That is, as it appears, just one item that Adidas is holding back from the collab. Or, are they saying that they are re-evaluating the two’s future partnership? Are they finally treading cautiously after losing a projected US$246 million by cancelling Yeezy, as they traverse a deeply complex world of fashion?

Illustration: Just So

Could Gucci Be Weeding The Garden?

It isn’t the end of winter in the northern hemisphere, yet Kering’s star brand is prepping for a new spring, according to emerging reports

Graffiti on the walls of a stairway at the Alessandro Michele-conceived Gucci Garden, part of Gucci Museo in the historic Palazzo della Mercanzia, Florence

Has Alessandro Michele gone from the brightest bloom to unwanted wild grass? A very recent WWD report, citing “well-placed sources”, claims that Alessandro Michele “is exiting the brand”. This news was not only shocking, it was sudden, and came rapidly after Raf Simons announced that he is closing the eponymous label he founded and built. It is not clear if Mr Michele was asked to leave. His departure, if true, could mean a major clean-up at Gucci as the long-haired, bearded designer is presently synonymous with the brand he has helmed for seven years, and has almost singularly made Gucci the molten-hot brand it has become, based on his druthers for bringing disparate elements drawn from the past, especially the ’70s. Mishaps as mashups. But are his hippies in overwrought style not becoming really jelak, the unctuousness of a supersized meal?

It could be that Kering is satiated. They had wanted Mr Michele “to initiate a strong design shift”, according to the WWD’s source. But he was not able appease his bosses. Reuters—also drawing from anonymous sources—informed “that there had been tensions between the designer and Kering’s top management”. Both Kering and Gucci have remained silent, as they adhere to the no-comment approach. The suddenness of this impending exit surprised customers too. One Gucci fan told us that “it shows such a lack of loyalty to Alessandro, who did so much for the brand. And it’s not as if they’re not selling.” But the sales is likely not matching the figure Kering is hoping to hit. Media reports are indicating that Gucci’s performance is not keeping abreast of their peers. Limp sales in China is cause for worry too. And it is inevitable that lacklustre results would be pinned on the products.

Alessandro Michele joined Gucci in 2002 upon the invitation of then designer Tom Ford to oversee the accessories division in Gucci’s London office. In 2011, he was appointed associate creative director to Frida Giannini when she succeeded Tom Ford. Ms Giannini was reportedly dismissed in 2015 in what was described as a “messy” reorg of Gucci. Mr Michele was asked to put together a men’s autumn/winter collection and he did it in less than one week. A day after that show, Gucci announced that he would be the brand’s new creative director. From them on, his rise was—a convenient word for now—unstoppable. He revived Gucci by replacing Mr Ford’s amped-up sexiness and Ms Giannini’s jet-set sleek with geekiness drenched in flamboyance. But the wacky, maximalist, anti-fit aesthetic did reach saturation point—thankfully for Gucci, later than sooner. To be sure, Mr Michele did, in recent years, move gingerly away from his early excesses and goofiness, but his steps, even with the recent twinning of offering, were inadequate for Gucci. The brand owners, it seems, want a palpable shift. The overgrown garden needs to be recovered.

Photo: AB Tan

******************

Update (24 November 2022, 08:10): No doubt now: Gucci has confirmed that Alessandro Michele “is stepping down”. In a statement sent to the media yesterday, parent company Kering said that Mr Michele “has played a fundamental part in making the brand what it is today.” It did not say why the Roman designer wishes to leave (or if he was asked to). The statement also included a paragraph quoting Mr Michele: “There are times when path parts ways because of the different perspectives each one of us may have. Today an extraordinary journey ends for me.” No replacement was announced.

Closed But Not Over

Raf Simons has announced the shuttering of his eponymous label, but his work is not going to disappear any time soon. He isn’t retiring. There is still his not-small part at Prada

Twenty seven is too young an age to die. But Raf Simons is seeing that the label that bears his name is killed in its 27th year. Better to depart youthful? Mr Simons has just announced that the beloved and influential brand he founded in 1995 showed its last collection—spring/summer 2023 last October in London—was his final. The fashion world is in shock. So many influential artists and artistes have passed on at that age, sufficient in numbers that there is a 27 Club—it came to existence after Kurt Cobain’s death in 1994. The Club is, of course, not a real one and not necessarily glorious either. Many in the hall of fame died from the excesses of just that—fame. But no one joins it since they would have been dead, but its notional existence shows that many noted creatives departed from this world at that age, leaving behind a veritable legacy. Most are musicians. Apart from Mr Cobain, there is Jim Morrison, Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin, and, closer to the present, Amy Winehouse. In art, there is Jean-Michel Basquiat, whose work is especially popular among clothing and footwear brands. But in luxury fashion, designers have longer lives. No one that we can remember died at 27, nor did their corresponding label (Jil Sander did [first] leave her brand in its 27th year, but it was not closed, and she did return to it in 2003, only to leave again a year later). Could Raf Simons the label be the first?

In Mr Simons’s announcement on Instagram, he offered no reason for the closure of his brand, which, as can be imagined, led to speculations. Was it the damned economy, with a recession looming? Was the label also the victim of the havoc COVID caused? We’ll add to those popular two. Was he missing an able sidekick after Pieter Mulier joined Alaia? Was he under too much stress to connect with the Metaverse—he hasn’t—to keep his brand relevant? Was Raf Simons too much of a cult label to enjoy the same success of, say, Ader Error? Or Ambush? It is hard to assert with certainty. Mr Simons does have a strong following, especially among those who have tracked his work from the start (including us!). But not going the logo-heavy route and keeping the cut and construction of his clothing generally simple may have not drawn new customers or win converts rooted in the excess of meretricious brands. The fashion marketplace has changed, and continues to, with staggering speed. Not wanting to stay put is not necessarily a bad thing. It certainly was not when he quit Dior and, later, Calvin Klein. But what about the collaborations, such as the still-desirable pairing with Fred Perry? That could remain to provide those who might be seized with nostalgia a chance to buy merchandise that would still have desirable links to the past.

And there is always Prada. After joining the Italian brand in 2020 to co-design the men’s and women’s collections with Miuccia Prada, Mr Simons seemed to have found his groove. He is poised to stay. The 109-year-old brand is enjoying renewed interest after a lull period. In the five years leading to 2018, the brand posted declining annual sales. Its performance was so dismal that rumours abound at that time that the company may be forced to sell to LVMH or Kering. But the tide turned, and The Washington Post wrote recently that the brand’s “creeping back into popular consciousness”. Part of it being noticed again is the current trend for things ’90s. Conversely, Raf Simons, also essentially a ’90s brand, chooses to bow out rather than take advantage of the zeitgeist. It is not clear what part in the rejuvenated Prada lies Mr Simons’s input, but each season since his first in September 2020, Prada has been steeped in ideas and innovation. Has Mr Simons proven his worth and is now a serious contender to succeed Ms Prada? Is this possibility so questionless that he is confident enough to wind up his own label? Mr Simons, it is reported, has an open-ended contract with Prada, just as Karl Lagerfeld had with Chanel. Miuccia Prada is 73 (he is 54); she could be pondering retirement. Hard to imagine someone else a worthier successor than Raf Simons.

Photo: Jim Sim

“Kicked Out”!

That was in the NBC News headline. Kanye West made an ”uninvited” visit to the Skechers HQ and was “escorted” out of the building. Is this a sign of out-of-control or desperation?

With Adidas out of the way, is Kanye West looking to co-brand his precious Yeezy again? Friends in the US (and a Malaysian reader too!) have been enthusiastically sending us reports all morning of Kanye West’s alleged trespass into the headquarters of the Southern Californian sneaker brand Skechers. The company later released a statement to say that the disgraced rapper “arrived unannounced and without invitation at one of Skechers’ corporate offices in Los Angeles”. According to CNBC News, Mr West was with other unidentified people. They were, according to Skechers, “engaged in unauthorized filming”. What they were filming is not known. “Two Skechers executives escorted him and his party from the building after a brief conversation”. There was no report of unfriendly exchange.

Skechers was also certain to say that it “is not considering and has no intention of working with West”. This is likely in anticipation of the speculation that Mr West is looking for a sneaker brand to replace Adidas. You know by now that he was dropped by the Three Stripes, after a considerable period of “review” (which turned many customers impatient, asking for a boycott of Adidas), for comments considered “anti-Semitic and hateful”. Skechers, too, showed that they are willing to censure what he has repeatedly said. “We condemn his recent divisive remarks and do not tolerate antisemitism or any other form of hate speech.” There clearly would not be Skechers Yeezy!

Mr West has already been called out and dropped by three fashion brands. There are not many corporations he could really turn to now, if they are not the likes of Parler. While his clothing line can possibly wait, his sneakers cannot. With Adidas, they have created what is considered one of the most successful shoe partnerships in modern footwear history, making him a billionaire—he no longer is, as Forbes was quick to declare after the Adidas split with him. It is unsurprising, therefore, that the rapper would need to find another company to continue the Yeezy drops. He has previously announced: “I need a shoe company like how Jaimie Salter bought Reebok. Or I’ll take over some shoe factories.” Was what happened at the Skechers compound an incursion?

Mr West being turned away by Skechers would augment the brand’s corporate standing and show that they are willing to do what’s right, and swiftly. One PR professional told us, “It is PR value that costs Skechers nothing.” The shoe label known for their memory foam technology currently has Korean actor Pak Seo Jun as their regional ambassador (for Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand, Vietnam, Hong Kong, and Macau). Cedrick Tan, Skechers SVP, told Marketing Interactive last year that “with the shorter and fragmented attention span of consumers today, it is important that a brand ambassador, besides having a positive, well-liked image, is a role model who is multi-dimensional, driven, and inspiring”. They would not find that person in Kanye West.

Which brand will he go acalling next? LA Gear?

File photos: Chin Boh Kay for SOTD

The Prime Minister Wears Prada

The United Kingdom’s latest PM likes the same label as one particular Devil

Rishi Sunak. Photo:rishisunak.com

If The Devil Wears Prada, why not the prime minister? The United Kingdom’s latest PM, the fifth in six years, Rishi Sunak, is not only dominating the headlines for being the first person of colour to be appointed PM (he’s of Indian Punjabi descent); with a religion that’s not Christianity (Hinduism); at 42, the youngest PM to occupy 10 Downing Street or; according to Reuters, the wealthiest occupant, with the estimated net worth of £730 million (about S$1.18 billion), believed to be more that any British royal, even the late Queen; but also a rather stylish politician. His style is even more striking considering the mono-tone and rather frumpish choices of his predecessor Liz Truss, and the frankly shockingly messy turnout of her predecessor Boris Johnson.

Liz Truss, now famous for being the shortest-serving PM in the history of the UK, is, of course, no Theresa May, Britain’s second female PM (2016—2019). Ms Truss’s dress sense is electorate-correct: neither too bland nor too conspicuous, but her tailored single-coloured dresses and suits (her faves are from Karen Millen) could stand out in Instagram posts, even if they lack noticeable élan. Boris Johnson, he is quite another beast altogether. Throughout his shambolic tenure, we’ve never seen him looking neat. The messy clothes—shirts with collars that won’t behave and ill-fitted, crumpled suit—aside, there is that irritating mop of hair that looks like it has never met a comb in their life cycles, except, perhaps, the owner’s fingers. The total package is always unkempt, top to bottom. No one needs a prime minister who consciously preens, but neither one who comes off as frowsy.

Rishi Sunak and his wife Akshata Murthy. Photo: PA Wire

Mr Sunak, in contrast, cuts a sleek, dashing figure. But his critics seem to believe that a well-dressed political leader is out of touch with his voters. They drew attention, for example, to his £3,500 custom-made suit by Henry Herbert (an almost indie brand compared to those on Savile Row) and his £490 Prada shoes when he was Chancellor of the Exchequer (Minister of Finance to the rest of us non-Brit lay people), and equated that with a lifestyle no ordinary folk will appreciate. Or, is it just difficult for them to accept a dapper Asian politician? And, especially one who is well-educated and wealthy? It is not quite comprehensible that, with today’s access to well-made clothes—they don’t have to be expensive—and the importance of looking well-groomed in a professional capacity, we still prefer our politicians to look like they can barely afford to buy anything to wear, even at Uniqlo.

If it shouldn’t be said that Mr Sunak has innate style and the means to express it, is it acceptable to think that his wife Akshata Murthy has something to do with his welcome nattiness? A fashion designer (and a business woman and “software heiress”, whose father, N,R, Narayana Murthy, is the founder of Infosys), Ms Murthy started her own clothing business Akshata Designs in 2010. Vogue India described her designs as “more than just stylish; they’re also vehicles to discovering Indian culture”. It is not known if the line is still in production (the website does not appear to be functional: a click on ‘Collections’ revealed nothing). The pair is noted in British social circles as a stylish couple. No reason to believe that Mr Sunak needs to abandon smart elegance now that he will work and live in 10 Downing Street. Surely he does not need to follow his former boss Boris Johnson? Begrudge him not his style or his Pradas if he can restore order to what appears to us a rather disunited United Kingdom.

No Love Lost

Kanye West admits he ”hated” Virgil Abloh’s designs. Intense brotherly affection?

Kanye West (front) and Virgil Abloh (back) hugged and cried at the end of Mr Abloh’s first Louis Vuitton. Screen shot: travisscott/Instagram

In the latest Instagram posts, following his rambling interview with Tucker Carlson of Fox News, Kanye West hit back at Tremaine Emory (of Supreme and Denim Tears), saying that both of them had no love for the work of the late Virgil Abloh. “I hated Virgil’s designs and you do to [sic]”. It is not clear if Mr West was referring to Off-White or Louis Vuitton. Or, if he detested Mr Abloh’s designs because he didn’t think they were as good as the output of his current fave, Demna Gvasalia of Balenciaga (whom he called “THE MOST RELEVANT DESIGNER”) or Riccardo Tisci whose last Burberry show Mr West turned up to support. It is tempting to see his admission concur with the initial thoughts on Mr Abloh’s designs for Off-White (often referred to as an “elevated streetwear brand”, although they did eventually offer “couture”) and later LV. His debut at the French house was met with suspicion—hype aided him, not design. Even after establishing himself as a luxury fashion force to acknowledge, there was still cynicism towards him as an original. In 2020, Walter Van Beirendonck, reacting to designs for the contemporaneous LV show in Shanghai that bore striking similarity to what the Belgian designer put out in 2016, said to the media, “It’s very clear that Virgil Abloh is not a designer. He has no language of his own, no vision. He can’t create something of his own season after season and that is painful.”

Kanye West came to the defence of his friend. He wrote on Twitter, “Virgil can do whatever he wants”, adding “do you know how hard it’s been for us to be recognized?” A struggling or novice creative cannot crib the original work of others, but a recognised designer can, just like a pedestrian can’t ignore the red man at a traffic crossing, but a cyclist can? But now it seems that, while a successful Mr Abloh had the freedom to do as he pleased, what he did was hated. Was Mr West’s support that ardent to begin with? Following the shared-then-deleted flux of IG posts, which Tucker Carlson called “freeform social media posts”, Mr West put out eight screen shots that he referred to as “ABBREVIATED VERSION OF ME AND TREMAINES (sic) CONVERSATION”. Apart from admitting to his intense dislike for Mr Abloh’s designs, he claimed that Mr Emory shared the same sentiment. In previous posts, Mr West had claimed that he hired the latter “because LVMH took Virgil”. Was he saying that he was he left with no one else, but the second best? It is not hard to understand why his followers find his posts gripping stuff.

Designing friends or rivals? From left, Tremaine Emory, Virgil Abloh, Kanye West. Photo: Getty Images

In this fraught triumvirate, Tremaine Emory has worked with both men. He started at Marc Jacobs, where he remained for nine years before being lured by Mr West to serve as the rapper-designer’s creative consultant in 2016 (a position formerly filled by Virgil Abloh) and later became Yeezy’s brand director. He left Yeezy two years after and established his own label Denim Tears, following the formation of the multi-disciplinary creative collective No Vacancy Inn (their T-shirts retailed at Dover Street Market London). Mr Abloh and Mr Emory collaborated on a Levi’s capsule for Denim Tears in 2021. After the LV designer’s death in 2021, Mr Emory was rumoured to be one of those shortlisted to take over at LV (others included A-Cold-Wall*’s Samuel Ross and Pyer Moss’s Kerby Jean-Raymond). He joined Supreme in February this year, where he is the streetwear giant’s first official creative director.

This resume, for the most part, corresponds with what Mr West wrote to Mr Emory in one of the screen shots shared: “We all take jobs at white companies. And wether [sic] we like the fashion or not”, after saying “we as a people have lost the ability to farm ourselves”. Is he suggesting that Black people would not seek employment with the likes of Telfar Clemens? Or is working with White-owned companies, unappealing as it is to Mr West, a Black fate? His current belief is rather ironic, considering that his first fashion job of consequence (certainly for Virgil Abloh) and a choice of his, was that internship with Fendi in Rome. Did he not like the fashion there, even when he reportedly admired Karl Lagerfeld? In an interview with the New York radio station Hot 97 in 2018, Mr West said that it was monotonous: “every day, going to work, walking to work, getting cappuccinos.” Seemingly, there was no work involving design. As he recalled to radio host Charlamagne Tha God, “We couldn’t do anything. We were just happy to have a key card”. Both men were paid US$500 a month, each.

The IG conversations he had with Mr Emory, the designer of the ‘White Lives Matter’ T-shirt wrote: “I was jealous of Virgil.” For many it is hardly surprising that Mr West felt that way. He is the “Louis Vuitton don” and this is old-fashioned resentment against someone else enjoying more success than he. Until Mr Abloh’s death, both were friends for about 14 years. They met some time in the mid-2000s through Mr West’s then manager, the Chicago music bigwig John Monopoly. Mr Abloh was working in a print shop at the time and he could do graphic design, and was able to do it well, digitally too. He was introduced to Mr West, who asked him to collaborate almost immediately. As Mr Abloh told GQ in 2019, “more than any title, I was just his assistant creatively” or, in fancier term, “consigliere”, as the chief curator of the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago Michael Darling described his position. In 2009, the two men’s fashion adventure began when they managed to secure an internship with Fendi in Rome. In just four years after that, Mr Abloh launched Off-White and in another four, he joined Louis Vuitton. His trajectory would have impressed—or aroused jealousy—in the once-more-famous Mr West.

Happier times: Tremaine Emory and Kanye West in 2018. Photo: BFA

When the new LV designer emerged to take his bow at the end of his debut show for the house in Paris in 2018, Mr West stepped onto the runway, walked towards his friend, and both men hugged, and cried into each other’s shoulder. The rapper was clearly emotional. And possibly burning with jealousy? Once a mere “assistant” and then fellow intern, Virgil Abloh was now basking in the glare of the world’s media and the applause of those whose approval and respect he needed. He had quickly achieved more than what Mr West had desired to, even when both of their design beginnings were largely circumscribed by the ternion of T-shirt, hoodie, and sneakers. Although Yeezy shoes (with Adidas) and the clothing line were already launched in 2015 (and the footwear is hugely successful), Mr West was not quite the lauded designer that his friend with two fashion labels under his watch had managed to become. However hard he tried, fashion folks still did not (won’t) take Kanye West seriously. Unable to score a job with a luxury brand, he took another route—quite the opposite, in fact. In 2020, The Gap announced that they had inked a 10-year deal to create the Yeezy Gap line. Last month, Mr West called off the partnership.

Since then, there were also his troubles with Adidas, which promoted the German brand to “place the partnership under review”. Every Yeezy collaborator seemingly could not understand what their main man desired or what was brewing in his head. This contrasted with Mr Abloh, whose work with LV appeared to have had gone swimmingly well. Even after his death, LV staged repeated, lavish tribute shows. Adidas merely designated a Yeezy Day and apparently without Mr West’s approval, as the guy alleged this year (Yeezy Day has been around since 2019). It is not yet known why Mr West hated Mr Abloh’s designs or—according to Mr Emory—said “Virgil’s designs are a disgrace to the black community infont [sic] of all (his) employees at Yeezy”. Addressing Mr Emory, Mr West wondered why “you and Luka (Sabbat, a model/influencer who walked in Yeezy Season 1) not wearing it head to toe”, as if that is necessary to prove one adores another designer’s work. In a separate IG post, he wrote about Mr Emory, “I took you off the streets… only cause you was the struggle version of Virgil”. Even the folks at The Gap and Adidas knew better than to provoke the wrath of “you can’t manage me” Kanye West. But as he told Tucker Carlson, “If I raise my voice, if I express myself on Instagram, it’s a colonic.”

Update (10 Oct 2023, 13.10):

In his latest broadcast interview—with French media outlet Clique TV—Kanye West revealed that the Louis Vuitton Men’s artistic director position was first proposed to him before Virgil Abloh got the job. “No one knows I’d been offered the deal by Bernard Arnault,” he said. “But three months after that, they dropped the deal”, even after Mr Arnault’s son Alexandre had said that his dad “never goes back on his word”. Mr West also claimed that Mr Abloh only called him to share the good news “two minutes before it hit the Internet”. He reiterated that there was “a lot of pain and jealousy”. It is not known why he chose to reveal this only now. Or, if it’s the self-declared “creative genius”, the “unquestionably, undoubtedly, the greatest human artist of all time” in self-affirmation mode.

Update (10 Oct 2023, 23:00):

Kanye West in a supposed meeting with Adidas execs. Screen shot: Kanye West/Facebook

Temporarily shut out of Instagram and Twitter, Kanye West has taken to Facebook to show a 30-minute docu-promo of sort titled Last Week. One of the clips included was a meeting with executives from Adidas that took place in a blank room. At the start of the clip, Mr West was showing one of the men on his smartphone something that caused the latter to ask, “is that a porn movie?” This meeting appeared to have taken place after his separation from Gap. In the conversation (subtitled!), Mr West made sure, again, that those listening knew exactly who he was: “I’m the king of culture… I have to step up as the king of culture (he called himself that at least four times). You’re face to face, eye to eye with the person who does songs with your father-in-law, with the person who discovered Virgil, with the person who discovered Demna, with the person that placed the creative director at SKIMS”. That’s clearly another predilection: taking credit for everything.

The Future Of The Yeezy And Adidas Pairing Is Indistinct

Adidas now ponders what it should do with the Kanye West brand that both have raised with admiral success. Is it time to let go?

That it should come to this really surprises no one. In a statement provided to the press, the Three Stripes said, “After repeated efforts to privately resolve the situation, we have taken the decision to place the partnership under review”. When Kanye West read what Adidas sent out that the media lapped up, he responded on Instagram with “FUUUUUUCK ADIDAS I AM ADIDAS ADIDAS RAPED AND STOLE MY DESIGNS” (the post has since been deleted), including a screen shot of a CNBC report of the Adidas’s reconsideration. He was his usual irascible self, just as he was when he reacted to the widespread disapproval of his “White Lives Matter” T-shirt with the post, “EVERYONE KNOWS THAT BLACK LIVES MATTER WAS A SCAM NOW IT’S OVER YOU’RE WELCOME”.

Mr West has, for as long as we can remember, been an angry man, but is much more so, which does not bode well for his business/brand partnerships. He has a tendency to bring his grouses, including those with the makers of his Yeezy sneakers, to the public sphere, with palpable heat. In contrast, Adidas went about resolving the issues with the rapper “privately”, as they said. Mr West prefers/needs the world to know he is unhappy with whoever he is unhappy with, past or present. In the last few months, he had been especially vocal, his denunciation on social media more bitter and vehement as he called out Adidas’s CEO Kasper Rorsted, even posting photos of the members of the board. Early last month, he shared a Photoshopped image of the front page of The New York Times, falsely announcing that Mr Rorsted had died. How his anger towards Adidas became this vengeful is not easily understood.

He has a tendency to bring his grouses to the public sphere. Conversely, Adidas went about resolving the issues with the rapper “privately”

But that was not the only death that he brought up with regards to CEOs. In an IG post published after his Yeezy Season 9 show in Paris early this week, he wrote that LVMH’s Bernard Arnaud “KILLED MY BEST FRIEND”, accompanied by a photo of the bust of Virgil, the ancient Roman poet regarded by his countrymen as their greatest, which was taken to refer to Virgil Abloh. Quick to respond was Tremaine Emory, the creative director of Supreme. He wrote on IG, sharing Mr West’s post, “I gotta draw the line at you using Virgil’s death in your ‘ye’ is the victim campaign in front of your sycophant peanut algorithm gallery.” We could sense applause. He went on, accusing Mr West of telling his Yeezy staff that “Virgil’s designs are a disgrace to the black community”. Would you say that of your “best friend”? “Ye tell the ppl why you didn’t get invited to Virgil’s actual funeral,” he continued, “keep Virgil name out your mouth…”.

(When staffers at Balenciaga, offered a heart shape in response to this post, Mr West responded with his own, accompanied by a list of the names and photos of the culpable [the post has been deleted]: ”These are the people at Balenciaga that hearted Tremaine’s post where he threatened me after all I’ve done for Balenciaga…”.)

Now, it is the people at Adidas who wish to keep Kanye West out of their mouths. There is so much vitriolic offensive that one can take. It is amazing that Mr West does not see that his outbursts and ugly public persona would likely hurt Yeezy than Adidas, a brand of 73 years, compared to the Adidas Yeezy partnership of seven. The Adidas and Yeezy divorce, if it comes to that, is going to be messy, like those of so many celebrity couples, in particular the many who led exceptionally public lives. In that statement shared to news media, Adidas also wrote that “successful partnerships are rooted in mutual respect and shared values”. Is that euphemistic talk for irreconcilable differences? According to estimates published by Forbes, Mr West’s deal with the German brand “is worth USD220 million annually and USD1.5 billion total”. Without Adidas, it is likely his net worth will dip below USD1 billion. Anger, Kanye West may not realise, is not bridge-building, nor profit-yielding.

Illustration: Just So

Anna’s Act

The next Met fashion exhibition has been themed. ‘Karl Lagerfeld: A Line of Beauty’ might just be Anna Wintour’s personal tribute to her “brilliant friend”

Chanel has been Anna Wintour’s go-to label for the Met Gala. From top left, in 2010, in 2017, in 2018, and in 2019. Photos: Getty Images

In the biography Karl Lagerfeld: A Life in Fashion, Anna Wintour stated that the ‘Kaiser’ “often said that when he died, he wanted to disappear”. She quickly added, “Well, that cannot happen”. With the next spring exhibition at the Anna Wintour Costume Center (AWCC, formerly the Costume Institute), the Vogue editor will keep to her word. Karl Lagerfeld: A Line of Beauty is the next theme of the Met’s annual show and opening-night fete. Although it sounds like the exhibition spin-off of the book, it would be, as it was in the past years, the work of Andrew Bolton, the head curator of the AWCC and its fashion exhibitions, and the life partner of the designer Thom Browne. Mr Bolton told the media at the press conference to announce next year’s theme, “I’m not sure Karl would approve of the exhibition”, echoing Ms Wintour’s own sentiment. In all likelihood, the monographic show was initiated pushed through by the woman whose name precedes the Costume Center.

It is no secret that Anna Wintour is Karl Lagerfeld’s ardent supporter in not only what the designer did for brands such as Chanel and Fendi, but also in her continual wearing to the Met Gala the Chanel haute couture gowns that Mr Lagerfeld designed, sometimes just for her. Both of them were thought to be close. In a tribute, titled ‘My Brilliant Friend’, published in Vogue in 2019, after Mr Lagerfeld’s death, Ms Wintour wrote: “We were often in touch” and “the hours I spent with him at the (dinner) table make me feel luckier than any stroke of fortune I’ve had at my editing desk”. Both did not see each other frequently, but they had “a standing dinner date in Paris on the first Sunday of every Fashion Week”. Despite the suggestion of deep friendship, Ms Wintour did not reveal why “it’s doubly painful to have lost him”, as she wrote, except that “he never fell out of love with his work or with the world, and his death marks the end of the era of craftspeople who could do it all”. What did their relationship really mean to her?

“the hours I spent with him at the (dinner) table make me feel luckier than any stroke of fortune I’ve had at my editing desk”

Anna Wintour

It is hard to know if she was that close to Mr Lagerfeld. In a sort of postscript to his book Karl: No Regrets, the author/artist Patrick Hourcade, who knew the designer well since 1976, drew up a list titled ‘Fellow Travelers’. Anna Wintour is not under the subhead ‘The Closest’ (another Anna is—Piaggi); her name does not appear beneath ‘In the Realm of Fashion’ (a familiar one, Ines de la Fressange, does). She is there in the final lineup ‘A Few Journalists’; her famous moniker at the end of the page, after Andre Leon Talley. It is not clear how Ms Wintour met the Chanel designer. Mr Talley, who knew Mr Lagerfeld and had met him much earlier than the Vogue supremo, in 1975, suggested that it was he who facilitated the acquaintanceship between the designer and the editor, even claiming in his second autobiography The Chiffon Trenches that his “role at Vogue was no doubt secured by my relationship with Karl Lagerfeld.” He was emphatic about their bond: “His importance in my life and career is without parallel.” Ms Wintour was never that forthcoming or sentimental.

Mr Talley even revealed that the Chanel dresses that she wore for her wedding to Dr David Shaffer—a psychiatrist—in 1984 were not acquired through her special friendship with Mr Lagerfeld then or connections with the couture house, but “through Joan Juliet Buck (the former editor of Vogue Paris, as it was known then) to gain access to the dresses”. Anna Wintour has loved Chanel from her early years in journalism, especially when she finally joined Condé Nast. Mr Talley shared that “she purchased her Chanel at Bergdorf Goodman”. But she would soon have an arrangement with Chanel when she became chummier with Mr Lagerfeld. In the 2005 biography of the EIC, Front Row, author Jerry Openheimer wrote that Ms Wintour was (likely between the mid to late ’80s) “wearing nothing but elegant, very discreet Chanel as her Condé Nast work uniform.”

He then went on to describe what was dubbed ‘The Chanel Affair’ (also the title of the chapter), quoting Cristina Zilkha, the wife of Michael Zilkha, a business partner in the New York music company ZE Records that represented US New Wave groups such as Kid Creole & the Coconuts. Mrs Zilkha, who did not think Ms Wintour liked her, recounted: “Michael said to me, ‘You know, you’ve never had a Chanel suit, so I told Anna that when she sees Lagerfeld to get you something… because she gets fifty percent off.” When the parcel arrived, “it was half a suit of a really nasty pale yellow with a puce undertone—a Mr-Livingston-I-presume double-breasted safari jacket with thick, huge gold metal buttons, each of which had a huge CC. It was vulgarity one couldn’t believe and something Anna would not have been caught dead in”.

Anna Wintour and Karl Lagerfeld. Photo: Glamour

For herself, Ms Wintour was always immaculately fitted in the brand with the double Cs. At the Met Gala opening parties, Ms Wintour has almost always been in Chanel. There were, of course, regular attendees who wore the French brand, but none so routinely as Ms Wintour. In her Vogue tribute to Karl Lagerfeld, she readily admitted that his designs “expressed who I was and what I hoped to be”. Yet, in the recent video editorial Vogue’s 73 Questions, she commented that her style is “safe, verging on extremely boring”. Did she mean now, as opposed to then? How amaranthine the Chanel style is is reflected in her choosing of the brand. According to Amy Odell in Anna: The Biography, the editor “often wore Chanel couture” and when she attended the shows, it “was always opportunity for her to shop”. Ms Wintour admits to the frequency in which she picks Chanel : “I’ve worn Karl’s beautiful clothes during the most important, emotional moments of my life: at my wedding, at my children’s weddings, when I received a damehood from the queen, at Franca Sozzani’s memorial service”.

Karl Lagerfeld appeared to appreciate the friendship and was very generous to her (as he was to others he held in considerable esteem, until no more). Glamour reported that in 2015 after the British Fashion Award, when Ms Wintour presented Karl Lagerfeld the trophy for Outstanding Achievement, the honoree gave the presenter a gift—a tennis court built on his Biarritz compound, described as a “ploy to get her over as a houseguest”. A thrilled Miss Wintour said, “Karl was trying to give me somewhere I could feel at home, where I could be myself. This was the first and surely the last time anyone has constructed sporting turf in my honor.” The next fashion exhibition at the Met would be her opportunity to construct something in his honour, even when Andrew Bolton had asserted, “Karl never tired of telling me that fashion did not belong in a museum.” But the exhibition would not be devoted to just his work for Chanel since, in 2005, the Costume Institute had staged a Chanel exhibition that went by the brand’s mononym and featured Mr Lagerfeld’s work. It almost did not open, as he had initially withdrawn support for it.

Next year’s Karl Lagerfeld: A Line of Beauty would not be the first exhibition at the Met dedicated to a single designer. In 1983, the year Mr Lagerfeld joined Chanel, the Costume Institute opened the Yves Saint Laurent exhibition, organised by the late Diana Vreeland. It was touted as “the first retrospective of a living couturier’s work”. Before her loyalty to Chanel, Ms Wintour wore a lot of YSLs. In Front Row, a friend recalled her cupboard in the Upper East Side apartment where she was staying: “I opened her closet and it was extraordinary—there was one Saint Laurent suit from ready-to-wear after another that she’d bought from Paris, all perfectly hung with the shoes above them.” No one needs to open Anna Wintour’s closet today to be able to visualise the row of Chanel clothes in there. What would, perhaps, be more fascinating is to know how many of them would be on load or donated to the Costume Institute to make the Karl Lagerfeld exhibition her line of beauty, too.

Two Of A Kind: Mud Landing

In two cities, it’s fashionable to frolic in the muck

Mud in Paris versus mud in Singapore. Photos (left): Balenciaga and (right): TikTok

Whose mud is better; whose is muddier? And whose can really muck up? Balenciaga has shown at the recent Paris Fashion Week that, when it comes to fashion show grounds, bog is better than pile. For their spring/summer 2013 presentation, held at the Parc des Expositions, the French couture house created a runway that was not carpeted, but muddied. Yes, earth of the very wet kind. We, too, had our own runway last weekend, during the comeback F1 Night Race, at the parc de City Hall, aka the Padang. It was near-identical, the mud, but we did not have to create the guck. It was there all along, compacted soil waiting for a downpour and excited F1 attendees to whip it up into a deliciously sticky and slimy mess.

According to The New York Times, 275 cubic metres of mud was dumped onto the Balenciaga show venue. But this was no ordinary mud; this was black dirt “harvested from a French peat bog”. Definitely more atas than the common earth on our historic Padang, all 43,000 sqm of it. And Balenciaga had the Spanish artist Santiago Sierra dump and “arrange” the guck there. The only artist we had was good ’ol Mother Nature and her showers. And to make sure their sodden runway smelled right, Balenciaga had a scent specially concocted—dubbed by NYT as “eau de peat”. It was sprayed into the air of the site. Seriously. A perfume to intensify the fragrance of wet soil. Very high-end, indeed. All we had was Mother N’s own bau—geosmin and, consequently, petrichor—and they didn’t have to be spritzed to odorise the Padang.

Balenciaga is known to show their collections outside Paris, even in unlikely places such as the New York Stock Exchange. They are, therefore, not opposed to decamping to foreign soil. If they had asked, we’re sure the Singapore Tourism Board would be happy to arrange for them to have a field day at the Padang, and allow their expensive sneakers and silk gowns trudge through our free and foul mud. According to the show notes, the Balenciaga Paris set was a “metaphor for digging for truth and being down to earth”. We do not for certain if they can do that here, but we are quite sure that the Lion City is as good a venue as the City of Lights to muddy a fashion show.

Cross-Border Dilemma

Adidas’s design for Algeria is intensely disliked in Morocco

The Moroccans have filed a complain against Adidas for cultural appropriation. According to Morocco World News, the Kingdom’s Ministry of Youth, Culture and Communication has asked the president of the Morocco Lawyers’ Club to raise the issue with the German brand. What’s the score? Algeria’s football team’s new jerseys designed by Adidas have posed a problem. Seen on social media, the tops sport a colour-saturated pattern that, to the Moroccans, are similar to their zellige, geometric tilework of hand-cut mosaic pieces that are made from a clay found in Morocco. Adidas said that the pattern they picked is, in fact, inspired by those seen in the El Mechouar Palace in the heart of the city of Tlemcen, Algeria.

Moroccan Netizens were quick to couner that the El Mechouar Palace was renovated in 2010, “employing Moroccan calligraphy, plaster art, mosaic, and art,” Morocco World News reported. Arousing further disapproval was a video that went viral, purported to show a director who supervised the renovation of the Palace acknowledging the help of the Moroccans, even using materials from their land. The Algerians have not yet commented on the controversy.

According to the BBC, the letter sent to Adidas’s chief executive Kasper Rorsted stated that there was, in the new design for Algeria, “an attempt to steal a form of Moroccan cultural heritage and use it outside its context”. Additionally, Algeria’s 2022-2023 season kit for the footballers “contributes to the loss and distortion of the identity and history of these (zellige) cultural elements”. Zellige (also spelled zellij) tiles in Morocco is very much a part of its ancient architecture, as well as the modern. In fact, these tiles are used in Algeria too, although their tilework and patterns might defer. Such disapproval and disputes are not uncommon in regions with shared history. It sure brings to mind one nasi-lemak squabble of fairly recent time.

Photo: adidas MENA/Instagram

The Rumours Are True

Daniel Lee will go to Burberry

Just two days after Riccardo Tisci presented his solemn Burberry show, the British brand announced that Daniel Lee would be joining the 166-year-old company. This rapidly confirms the rumours circulating then that it would be Mr Tisci’s last show. Daniel Lee’s name was repeatedly mentioned as the likely replacer. Such gossip rarely is mere chatter, not when journalists were sharing the speculation via Twitter and newspapers were reporting on the possibility of new employ with such fervour. Burberry had earlier refused to comment on what they consider to be speculative talk. Mr Lee now takes over as the brand’s chief creative officer, a position Mr Tisci held close to five years.

According to eager media reports, the new guy will take his post on 3 Oct (next Monday), which means his predecessor will have to clear out of his office this week. The appointment must have been confirmed at least a month ago, or around the time WWD broke the news of the possible new hire, quoting “industry sources”. Burberry CEO Jonathan Akeroyd who picked Mr Lee, said via a statement, “Daniel is an exceptional talent with a unique understanding of today’s luxury consumer and a strong record of commercial success, and his appointment reinforces the ambitions we have for Burberry.” That sounds similar to what the former CEO Marco Gobbetti, who hired Mr Tisci, said of the latter in 2018: “He is one of the most talented designers of our time. His designs have an elegance that is contemporary and his skill in blending streetwear with high fashion is highly relevant to today’s luxury consumer. Riccardo’s creative vision will reinforce the ambitions we have for Burberry.”

It is not known either if Mr Tisci chose not to renew his contract, which expires next year, or if he decided to leave now, rather than finish what could be his final season

There is no mention of why Riccardo Tisci decided to leave (no euphemistic reasons such as pursuing other interests). Was he asked to? It is not known either if Mr Tisci chose not to renew his contract, which expires next year, or if he decided to leave now, rather than finish what could be his final season. Mr Gobbetti and Mr Tisci are both Italians. They were colleagues at Givenchy, where the former was its chief executive. The designer—then relatively unknown—was hired in 2005 to join the French house. It is possible that the new CEO at Burberry wishes to work with someone of his own choosing, rather than inherit a name much associated with the previous top guy. The international press is also of the view that Mr Tisci’s hyper-modern, street-savvy, definitely sexy style, while appealing to younger customers (really? What about middle-aged politicians?), kept their long-time fans, particular those deemed unadventurous, away. Or, was it because Mr Tisci’s unduly expressive designs were just not luring shoppers into Burberry stores?

Looking at what he had achieved, Daniel Lee had a more measured approach at Bottega Veneta that balanced appreciable shapes with sensuality. However, his tenure—just three years—did not provide enough of the salient for us to make out a definitive, bankable style, although, to be certain, his bags, including standouts the Pouch and the Cassette, were refreshingly huggable in the wake of more structured luxury ones that followed the ‘It’-bag years. But, was influencer excitement around the brand sufficient? Mr Lee was born in Bradford, a wealthy city in West Yorkshire, England, where, interestingly, Burberry trenchcoats are manufactured. Before his breakout appointment at BV, he was a “protégé” at Céline, with a résumé that included stints at Balenciaga, Maison Margiela, and Donna Karan. It is often said that he “revived” BV, as if he had plucked it from the clutches of doom. Now, back on home turf, is he expected to bring about another such restoration to Burberry’s lost cool and pull? Let’s see. It’d be fascinating.

Photo: Instagram

Changing The Pilot

Is Burberry pondering if Riccardo Tisci is still the right fit to take the brand soaring?

Riccardo Tisci with pal Kanye West after the Burberry spring/summer 2023 show in London. Screen shot: No Content/YouTube

Since the beginning of the month, there was chatter that the 166-year-old Burberry was looking to replace Riccardo Tisci, the Italian designer at the helm of the house since 2018. When August came to an end, Women’s Wear Daily reported that “Burberry is evaluating its options, and looking for a potential successor to (its) chief creative officer”. Mr Tisci’s contract expires early next year, so it is not premature for Burberry to go ahunting. But why was there not an excited announcement that Mr Tisci would be asked to stay on? Or was it he who did not wish to extend his contract? Despite the WWD story that quoted “industry sources” aware of the label’s executive search, Burberry said it would not respond to speculations.

When Riccardo Tisci was installed at Burberry in 2018, while the UK was messily moving towards Brexit, many observers and commentators were surprised by the appointment. Mr Tisci is not British; he is Italian. It was a time when national pride was palpable and placing a foreigner (one from an EU member state!) at a quintessentially British brand was not particularly ideal, especially after predecessor, the proud local lad Christopher Bailey, had reigned at the house (even serving as CEO) for 17 years (for Mr Tisci, it would be five when his contract ends next year). The Guardian described Mr Bailey as “the most successful British designer of his generation“. And now an Italian, formerly from a French house was taking over? But there was a non-Brit designer at Burberry earlier—an American-born Italian, Roberto Menichetti, from 1998 to 2001. There was never eye brows raised when Brits designed European brands, from John Galliano at Dior and now Margiela to Phoebe Philo at (old) Céline to JW Anderson at Loewe. They brought the brands they worked for critical and massive success.

Riccardo Tisci’s first Burberry show. Screen shot: Burberry/YouTube

Riccardo Tisci was thought to be able to bring a certain romance tempered by a punk sensibility (would the Rottweiler T-shirt for Givenchy influence his new work?) and his Catholic upbringing to Burberry. His first task was to introduce the freshly-minted TB logo (based on the initials of founder Thomas Burberry, and designed by Peter Saville), the brand’s first new symbol in 20 years. That was followed by the TB monogram (also designed by Mr Saville). Mr Tisci’s first collection for spring/summer 2019 was a staggering 134 looks on the runway. Why that many? Mr Tisci was quoted saying after the show that he was designing for “the mother and the daughter, the father and the son”. The plethora gave weak aesthetical clues as to where the designer was taking TB. Evening wear, not really associated with the brand, became a category to promote. By his second spring/summer collection (2020), the looks were modestly trimmed to 101, yet the collection could not scale the height of focus—still conceived to offer something for everyone. But were enough people blown over?

In the last two seasons or so, Riccardo Tisci has recalibrated his approach to interpreting Britishness by adding, rather than subtracting, and by going more outré. But somehow he was not able to effect the cool—London or elsewhere—that Christopher Bailey had so charming conveyed with ease. Now, the talk is that the person to undo Mr Tisci’s over-design or predilection for putting out too-large collections is the Brit-gone-overseas (to Bottega Veneta until he left last November) Daniel Lee. Apparently, Burberry was recently “talking” to Mr Lee, who, was, according to some accounts, asked to leave BV (but Kering, the brand’s owner, said it was a joint decision). Mr Lee’s departure came in the wake of complains by staff members of unreasonable and disturbing behaviour. How this will affect the outcome of the talks is not clear. Perhaps working with his countrymen is a different condition altogether.

Update (28 September 2022, 15:25): It’s confirmed. Riccardo Tisci is out. Daniel Lee goes to Burberry.

Screen shot: No Content/YouTube