Practically Nothing

If little is worn and clothes matter not, is there fashion? Or, will we have another word?

Julia Fox in Alexander Wang out grocery shopping. Photo:

We call ourselves a fashion blog. But more and more there is treasured little left to write. Fashion is reduced to a veritable nothing. Increasingly, there is more skin shown by wearers than cloth. Fabrics are inconveniences, hindrances, barriers, and, if their use necessary, too opaque. Little bits are a lot simpler. Pasties are easier to design and produce than brassieres! A narrow bandage has more potential than a full-form bandeau. Once-upon-a-time-private parts are no longer completely undisclosed. Free the nipple is very near reality. In fact, if what are worn by many well-followed stars are to be noted, clothing as we know it—with the fundamental purpose of covering (which is sounding oddly dated)—would no longer have a future, or, if we were to be more hopeful, a dim one.

A recent photo of Julia Fox—in head-to-toe Alexander Wang from his recent autumn/winter 2022 presentation—shared online truly made us realise that there is nothing we can say about her clothes: She was not wearing much; she was basically in underwear. Is this fashion? Or, has fashion come to this? Her fans would say she was not entirely nude (she has, of course, worn a lot less). There was the denim blazer, but was that even a jacket worth talking about? Or should we compliment how destructed and crappy it looked? Or that she was carrying a beautiful jurse (jeans-as-purse!)? Ms Fox has, of course, mostly dressed (admittedly, a poor choice of word) like that since she came to public attention for her brief, for-all-to-see affair with Kanye West. And that’s the daunting and unnerving prospect: the near-nudity is here to stay.

As one fashion designer told us when we showed him Ms Fox’s photo, “I am thinking, since so many pop and film stars are flashing themselves for the world, they have, naturally, created a new normal. The public, who looks up to them, will think, if their favorite stars can do it, so can they.” But the question is still unanswered: Is it fashion? The designer replied indignantly, “Of course not, not to me. It is purely styling; it is not Gaultier doing innerwear as outerwear!” A follower of SOTD, who formerly worked for a luxury brand, agreed. She said, “It’s just ludicrous and I think these women wear such rubbish on purpose to get attention. It’s really looney bins and not fashion at all—their own invention of fashion and the press lapped it up.”

“It is purely styling; it is not Gautier doing innerwear as outerwear!”

We have, indeed, been wondering, too: Has the media encouraged this stripping (not merely revealing)? For every star baring herself—from Doja Cat in gold pasties under mere chiffon at the Billboard Music Awards two days ago to Kim K in nude bra and panty for Sports Illustrated’s current swimsuit issue—the press gleefully say they “rock” or—our extreme peeve—“stun”. If readers needed to be told that a certain actress or singer in close to nothing astounds, they already know she is not predisposed to, without the without. She needs the costume of a stripper. In fact, when she “stuns”, there’s a good chance she is as bare-skinned or as bare-breasted as it is legally possible. And that she is satisfying her (insatiable?) hunger for attention than fashion. Why would a lover of clothes not wear them?

The press not negating the lewdness once associated with strip clubs is operating within present-day necessity: The imperative embrace of inclusivity, now considered conducting oneself in a conscionable manner. Julia Fox in a narrow strip of fabric across her chest must be accorded equal opportunity to raves as Thilda Swinton in Haider Ackermann, if not more. Inclusivity is so compulsory in the business of fashion, as well as among adopters of fashion, that the unattired can be free of disapproval. Criticism is unacceptable because it would be shaming. We can’t say Ms Fox isn’t dressed for she can, as we are often reminded, wear whatever she wants, or omit. All women can, including the expectant. There is so little to say about what is worn these days since hardly any is; it’s no wonder more columns go to sneakers or meta-clothes.

To be certain, we are no prudes. Scanty dress as desirable dress is so omnipresent that anything that does not, in fact, amount to a dress is hardly terribleness of epic proportion. One fashion writer told us, “Nudity, in a post-OnlyFans world, is not sin, it’s just skin. Skimpy clothes is the future. Designers now need to go to school to learn how to make barely-clothes, but we may have soon another word for ‘fashion’. How about unfashion?” Come to think of it, un is a prefix of profound relevance. It’s skimpy too! Just two letters, yet with such descriptive power. So much of fashion today can be described with the simple un and so effectively: unattired, unclothed, undressed, unclad, uncover, unravel, untie, unline, unfuse unzip, unpick, unpin, untack, unsew, unseam, unseemly, unsuited, unfixed, unveiled, unfolded, unfurled, unrolled, untidy, and, of course, underwear and undies. Oh, for sure, unlovely and, definitely, underwhelming.

Two Of A Kind: Cheap Cheery Clones

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

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

By Pearl Goh

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

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

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

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

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

Zilingo In A Pickle?

The Temasek-backed start-up’s millennial CEO has been suspended, pending investigation into the company’s accounts

Ankiti Bose, the much-lauded Indian national who co-founded the fashion-tech start-up Zillingo, is “suspended” from her role as CEO, according to numerous media reports. As Bloomberg first shared two days ago, the move came after fundraising talks prompted questions regarding the company’s accounting norms. Zilingo was in discourse to “raise $150 million to $200 million… when investors began to question its finances as part of the due diligence process”, wrote the newswire. According to Reuters, “the board of Singapore-based fashion technology startup Zilingo said on Wednesday that its major investors had authorised the suspension of its chief executive and co-founder, pending an investigation by an independent firm they had hired.” Neither Ms Bose (or Zilingo or co-founder Dhruv Kapoor) spoke to the media. Her lawyer reportedly said that she declined to comment.

But the Bloomberg report and others around the region that quickly followed stated that Ms Bose disputes the assertions of wrongdoing. She believes that her suspension partly occurred after complaining about “harassment”. What nature or against who, it is not known. But Indian news outlets have quickly reported “sexual harassment against colleagues”. Anonymous sources, purported to be “within Zilingo”, revealed that the complains were levelled at “the senior team and management”. Reportedly, Ms Bose has described the investigation with Donald Trump’s favourite phrase, “witch hunt”.

Zilingo—a play on ‘zillion’ rather than anything on language and speech—has been repeatedly described by the media as “one of Singapore’s highest-profile startups”. In 2019, Bloomberg called Ankiti Bose, also the company’s media-ready spokesperson, “Southeast Asia’s tech sensation”. Glowing accolades such as “golden girl”, “symbol of SEA’s entrepreneurial potential” and “something of a legend” were frequently bandied about. Ms Bose started Zillingo when she was just 23 (for comparison, Elizabeth Holmes founded Theranos when she was 19). Originally from Mumbai and now a permanent resident of our city, she worked as an investment analyst, before establishing the company that initially aimed to give small fashion vendors without tech know-how a platform to sell.

The Zilingo pitch. Screen grab:

Zilingo, “powered” from Bengaluru (the capital of the Indian state of Karnataka, often dubbed the Silicon Valley of India), has now become very much a B2B platform (often reductively described as one that “supplies technology to apparel merchants and factories”). Simply put, if you are a fashion retailer, you could source your merchandise on Zilingo (they even offer low MOQ (minimum order quantity)—from 100 units per colour, or link you to the supplier that can). Likewise, if you are a brand owner and needs to augment your supply chain, you could use Zilingo too. At the Rise Conference 2019 in Hong Kong, Ms Bose told the audience that “what (they) do is provide end-to-end cloud platform, right from the yarn guy to the brand, cutting middlemen and providing data science, technology, and financial services across the supply chain to make them or to help them trade better with one another.”

As the popular story goes, Ms Bose went to Bangkok for a holiday in 2014 with some ex-colleagues/friends. Like most tourists, they made the famed 40-year-old retail theme park, Chatuchak Weekend Market, one of their must-see stops. And saw Ms Bose did. She was so impressed with the vast selection of things to buy that she identified a massive business opportunity to provide the small clothing stallholders a platform to sell more by connecting them to shoppers online. It is not known if Ms Bose spoke to those chaokongs, but she seemed certain that these small weekend business owners wanted to go big. Most clothiers in Chatuchak are small-time traders, selling on the weekends the market is in business. There are those who do wholesale, opening their stalls on Friday to aid that (some furniture and homeware sellers are even there daily). But on a whole, many may not require a regional platform as they are not big enough. Or, even needed to source from large factories in China or Vietnam when many clothing sellers go to Samut Prakan’s numerous small facilities for their inventory. Hitherto, it isn’t certain how many Chatuchak traders have embraced Zilingo. But with interest in Singapore and Indonesia other than Thailand, Zilingo grew, massively. Four years since its founding, the company was valued at US$970 million, deliciously close to unicorn status.

Ankiti Bose was born in Mumbai, although some reports claim Dehradun in the northern Indian state of Uttarakhand. She did go to school in the capital-city, graduating in economics and mathematics, in the 153-year-old, private Catholic university St Xavier’s College, where admission is reputed to be “tough”. By most accounts, the millennial excelled academically. But little is known of her youth. Or her love of fashion then. After she graduated, she joined the management consultant McKinsey & Company and, later, the venture capital firm Sequoia Capital, working in Bangalore. Ms Bose, who often appears in media photographs heavily made up and whose social media posts are part Bollywood star, part Mumbai influencer (augmenting what CNBC called her—“a fashion junkie”), speaks very much like consumers and business executives of her generation. “Everybody uses Instagram,” she said at the Rise Conference. “An average Instagram user spends 53 minutes on Instagram everyday. So, we are constantly triggered by what we see, what we see influencers doing.” Now, with Ms Bose in the news again, many are wondering what truly triggered her sudden suspension.

Illustration (top): Just So

Hungry For Luxury

Chanel has refused to sell to Russians overseas, who intend to use their merchandise back on home soil. Despite the ban, there are Russians who are determined to buy their fave bags, failing which, they take to social media to denounce the perceived Russophobia

Is it true that Chanel is presently Russophobic, as charged by some Russians online, after they failed to secure their desired items, even when abroad? According to media reports, Chanel stores across the world have stopped selling to Russians who reside in their native land (the French brand has, like their counterparts, stopped operating in cities such as Moscow). Chanel has stated that they are merely acting in accordance with EU sanctions that forbid the export of luxury goods to Russia costing more than €300 (or about S$445), as well as the sale of these goods to shoppers who intend to use them there. Bloomberg quoted a Chanel spokesperson: “We have rolled out a process to ask clients for whom we do not know the main residency to confirm that the items they are purchasing will not be used in Russia.”

Unhappiness over the drastic Chanel move was expressed swiftly on social media. Russian influencers were the first to condemn the purchase ban, as if it they were prohibited from buying sugar. One of them, Liza Litvin, who was shopping in Dubai, was quoted in many news reports to have posted, “I went to a Chanel boutique in the Mall of the Emirates. They didn’t sell me the bag because (attention!) I am from Russia!!!” The outrage was expressed by wealthy Russian fans of Chanel not only in words. Some went even further. Marina Ermoshkina, actress/TV presenter/influencer, was reported to have cut up her Chanels in disgust, and posted a video of the destruction, saying “If owning Chanel means selling my Motherland, then I don’t need Chanel.” It is not known if Chanel has calculated the cost of incurring the wrath of Russian influencers.

Customer browsing at the Chanel store in Takashimaya Shopping Centre

The Russians who were able to score Chanel merchandise were reportedly told to put their signature to an agreement that they will not use—or wear—their new purchases in Russia. Ms Litvin confirmed this by sharing on social media that Chanel “has a new order that they only sell after I sign a piece of paper saying that I won’t wear this bag in Russia.” The company has admitted to the press that “a process” is in place to ensure that what they sell do not cross into Russia. Many Russians call this need for signed assurance before a transaction can be completed “humiliating” and a slap to the staggering amounts they had been spending in Chanel stores.

It is remarkable that Chanel remains so desirable that some Russian women are willing to face painful loss of pride to buy something from the house. Despite repeated price increases globally in the past two years and, now, this ban, these Chanel measures have not put a damper on Russian enthusiasm for Chanel, or the die-die-must-have stance that many women here would relate to. This surprised many observers: “Chanel is not that exclusive to be this desirable”. Wherever you go, from neighborhood shopping centres to Orchard Road malls, you’d see someone carrying (rather than wearing) something with the familiar double Cs, they noted.

Curious to know if the ban is extended to these parts (or SEA), we asked a member of the three-person staff manning the queue outside the newly refurbished Chanel store in Takashimaya Shopping Centre. She said she wasn’t aware and would have to ask her manager. Before she disappeared inside, we wanted to know as well if a Singaporean buying for another Singaporean residing in Russia is allowed. In less than a minute, she was back. Cheerily she said, “All are welcome.” We expressed surprise. And she repeated, “All are welcome. Everyone can buy.” Two women, who had just scanned the QR code on a tablet held by another staffer to receive a queue number, heard our query. One of them asked the other, “Got ban, meh?”

Illustrations: Just So

Was He Or Was He Not?

At the recent Grammy Awards, the late Virgil Abloh was described as a “Hip-Hop Fashion Designer”. Stop “downplaying his achievements”, many cried

Virgil Abloh had a long career in fashion—almost two decades. From the early days of Pyrex Vision to his final glory at Louis Vuitton, Mr Abloh, admittedly, more than dabbled in fashion. But was his accomplishments unfairly trimmed when the recent Grammy Awards show labeled him a “Hip-Hop Fashion Designer” during the In Memoriam segment of the presentation? Was ‘Fashion Designer’ not adequate? Mr Abloh still has a huge fan base, possibly larger than some of the night’s nominated artistes. That so many viewers and attendees would be riled up was to be expected when the description does not offer something that suggests Greatness, specifically Black Greatness. But was it, as many insisted, “racially-charged” Or, “disrespectful”? And what, by the way, is a “hip hop fashion designer”?

It didn’t help that the members of BTS wore Louis Vuitton, specifically from the late designer’s last collection for the house—fall 2022. Vogue called the suits that the septet wore “spiffy” although four of the double-breasted (out of the seven two-pieces) were dangerously close to dowdy (let’s risk the wrath of The Army!) if not for the youthfulness of the wearers. But looking at those suits lined up in a row, it is hard to pin “hip hop fashion” to the tailored ensembles, even if hip-hop stars have for quite a while adopted dapper suits for their performances and public appearances (even Rihanna wore his LV!). This was, to so many who watched the telecast, visually contradictory to the description that appeared below Mr Abloh’s name. This had to be the apex of fashion!

Mr Abloh, to many of his supporters, was much bigger than anything that came out of hip-hop: he headed a French house and even dabbled, even if only briefly, in the rather un-hip-hop of crafts—haute couture

There is no denying Virgil Abloh was a titan in the world of hip hop, not only for his association with Kanye West (who attended Mr Abloh’s debut LV show and hugged him at the end of it), but also the work he did for the rapper. Before he created clothes that many people wanted to buy, he was very much a part of that world, and still is. But Mr Abloh, to many of his supporters, was much bigger than anything that came out of hip-hop: he headed a French house and dabbled, even if only briefly, in the rather un-hip-hop of crafts—haute couture. In addition, Mr Abloh was a Grammy nominee. In 2011, he was selected for the cover design (done in partnership with Riccardo Tisci) of Jay-Z’s Watch the Throne (more hip-hop there). Would The Recording Academy not have served the viewers of their award presentation better if they acknowledged the Off-White founder with the prefix “Grammy-nominated” followed by his stature in art and fashion?

Despite the underwhelming description, it is not degrading to be considered a “hip-hop fashion designer” (assuming that’s a valid accolade) when so many Black creatives have effected distinctive and influential aesthetics rooted in their own culture, which includes hip-hop. Sure, Mr Abloh went further than most, but he did draw from the aesthetical legacy of his community and brought international attention to it. He, too, birthed the use of text—within inverted commas—to identify articles of clothing and accessories, and their parts, which is not unlike the words used in graffiti art—considered a part of the quartet most identified with hip-hop that includes emceeing (rapping), DJing (which the designer did), and B-boying (breakdancing). In hip-hop, many do see the positively indomitable spirit of Virgil Abloh.

Illustration: Just So

Thin Skin To Thick Skin

In a history-making Oscars night moment, Will Smith went from won’t take it to won’t budge

As it turned out, Will Smith was asked to leave the Academy Awards ceremony at the Dolby Theatre after slapping Chris Rock. But he was adamant about staying put. According to the latest statement from the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences that was reported by the press, “Mr Smith was asked to leave the ceremony and refused”. It is not certain if it was a request or a demand. Or why Mr Smith was allowed to deny either. The Academy added that they “could have handled the situation differently”. How so, they did not say. But they did concede that “Mr. Smith’s actions at the 94th Oscars were a deeply shocking, traumatic event to witness in-person and on television”. That it was unacceptable was not mentioned. But in a letter addressed to its members, as report by Variety, the Academy’s president and CEO, David Rubin and Dawn Hudson respectively, wrote, “To be clear, we condemn Mr. Smith’s actions that transpired Sunday night.”

Will Smith’s refusal to leave allowed him to bask in the standing ovation when he went to receive his Oscar for Best Actor in a Leading Role. In fact, he took to the stage twice. The first, prematurely, to strike Chris Rock. And the second, triumphantly, to be the fifth Black actor to win the award, for the first time. It is possible that Mr Smith declined to submit to the Academy’s toothless punitive action then because he was confident he would win. The 94th Academy Awards was the “most diverse” presentation, produced by an “all-Black” team (or “mostly black”, depending on which news service you subscribe to). They had to give it to him. Denzel Washington, the other Black nominee already won one Oscar. It was Will Smith’s turn—the actor was probably convinced. He was not ready for a win in absentia.

And his insistence paid off. What was truly amazing to us was that Mr Smith was first a thin-skinned husband when it came to an unfunny joke about his wife, but quickly became a thick-skinned star, certain that he would be bestowed Hollywood’s highest accolade, even when his presence was not desired in the theatre. The witnessed aggressor seemingly accorded impunity. Sure, the Academy later said they would investigate and Mr Smith has issued, via social media, an apology to Mr Rock (so did the Academy. Every presenter, without doubt, deserves a safe space on stage), but that Slap is unfortunately an affront to decency and humanity. And the world saw it. And the Internet has it secured deep in its bowels, waiting to cough it out by the stroke of a search entry. To forget it would be hard, very hard.

Update (31 March 2022, 9.30pm): Who is right? According to TMZ, who spoke to “sources with direct knowledge who were present”, Will Smith was not asked to leave the scene of the Slap. Apparently, “Academy officials were backstage with Will’s reps and there were heated conversations about what had gone down.” No consensus was reached as those officials were split in what was the right thing to do. Oscars producer Will Packer apparently told Mr Smith that “he could stay”. And the actor did

Illustration: Just So

An Angry World

What do the Oscars 2022 show in LA and the launch of the Swatch X Omega Bioceramic MoonSwatch here have in common? Unbridled rage

By Shikong Wuzhu

People get mad easily these days. And in the past weekend, I saw two examples of this anger that was hard to process. One became an open-palm smack “heard around the world”; the other, a dare—to get the police to shoot in the middle of a riled up crowd. People do get angry, of course, but to the point of expressing that ire so harshly, and violently? Blame it on the pandemic (right?), as many do. People are just fed-up and at the slightest provocation, become a ticking bomb (admittedly, a bad rhetoric, considering who the angriest man is right now! That initiator of open conflict). From bilious online social discourse (Twitter is a difficult—even unbearable—place to be when controversies break out) to hawker-centre quarrels, even between old men. The display of rage won’t let up.

Will Smith, as you know by now, showed his temper at the 94th Academy Awards. At that moment on stage, watched by millions worldwide, he, too, billed Hollywood as the ’hood. Could this be the equivalent of a drive-by shooting, although not premeditated, and in a swankier setting? Black presence must be palpable in today’s American culture and on stage. Take-things-into-your-own-hand impulse too. At the Dolby Theatre on Sunday night (or Monday morning, our time), restraint did not accompany Mr Smith into the auditorium; recklessness, selfishness, aggressiveness—all of them did, and they were applauded. I still can’t make out what the takeaway was when a man received a standing ovation shortly after he clearly assaulted another.

The Slap. Photo: Reuters/The Washington Post

It was, and still is, hard for many people to call the violence just that. Many tried to come up with all sorts of excuse for him, including the good ’ol standby, impaired mental state. Or, the lame “he was beside himself”. No one would plainly say he blew up. It is hard to consider the Men in Black actor wrong because, as one editorial in The Guardian suggested, the “white outrage about Will Smith’s slap is rooted in anti-Blackness”. If condemning violence is “anti-Blackness”, is the believer of that equation admitting that violence is part of Blackness? I am not white. Does that make my disapproval of the Slap stinkingly “rooted in anti-Blackness” too, like those angmos’, except the ones who stood up to clap? I would have denounce the smack if it was given by one White guy to another. Would that make my Asian outrage rooted in anti-Whiteness? More so since they were once colonisers?

There was also the enthusiastic lauding of him protecting his wife Jada Pinkett-Smith. Sure, a husband does that, but it’s disturbing to think that it’s alright for him to hit a man to “defend her honour”, as supporters of the Smiths have said. Was this in America or Pakistan? “I wish I had a man protecting me like that,” said actress Tiffany Haddish to the media after the show. Also outside the Dolby Theatre, transgender star Michaela Jaé Rodriguez opined, “When you speak about somebody’s wife, you can’t really help that.” Unable to act differently then? Really? Or, has slapping these days become the cruel kindness to right wrongs, to express social justice, to protect loved ones?” Some Netizens wondered what Mr Smith was teaching kids with his school-yard action. Perhaps that was precisely what he wanted his own children to learn. As his son, fashion darling Jaden Smith, later wrote on Twitter, “And that’s how we do it”.

The Challenge: man, with mask down, dared the police to shoot him. Screen grab: TikTok

Anger percolated here too, just a day before the Will Smith rage. At the now-infamous launch of the Swatch X Omega Bioceramic MoonSwatch at ION Orchard (and just the same everywhere in the world), a man, so incensed by purportedly being separated from his friends when the police came to restore order in the increasingly overcrowded space, he dared the men in blue to shoot him. Like so many of you, I saw that TikTok video. The outburst was so outrageous that, after hearing of it, law and home affairs minister K Shanmugam posted on Facebook, “It’s not life and death.” Mr Shanmugam was not wrong, but there was no life or death in that episode, just a want. And what the guy wanted was an affordable watch that is modelled after one that is not. And he has to get it. The police be damned.

Some Netizens sympathised with the fellow as he was upset because he was kept apart from his chums. Or, as the man said, they were “cut out”. So if you and your pals were, for some reason (packed platform, for example?), separated by closing MRT train doors, do you kick the doors down? Or jump onto the track and challenge the driver (assuming, the trains were still manned) to run you over? Fashion has become so democratised and so sharply priced that everyone wants a piece of it, no matter what, no matter if tempers need to flare. I don’t know. Are we really so easily provoked these days? Have we become so emotionally fragile that we can just hit someone for offense taken and indignation felt? And fume at the police for doing their job? Is it only through anger that we can get even or what we desperately want? Anger begets anger, and the world will only get angrier.

Illustration: Just So

Oscars 2022: Many Forgettable Dresses, One Memorable Moment

Gowns failed to impress after Will Smith seemingly pulled off a slap-first version of Kanye West at the 2009 VMAs

Will Smith took to the stage to slap Chris Rock for joking about wife Jada Pinkett-Smith. Screen grab: YouTube

Warning: this post contains language that some readers may find objectionable

“Love will make you do crazy things,” said Will Smith in his acceptance speech for the Best Actor award. And crazy it was when the King Richard lead earlier slapped Chris Rock on stage after Jada Pickett-Smith was teased by the comedian. Mr Rock had jabbed at her by comparing her to G.I. Jane, the eponym in the 1997 Ridley Scott film in which Demi Moore plays the soldier-character with a shaved head. “Jada, I love ya. G.I. Jane 2, can’t wait to see it,” Mr Rock teased. Ms Pickett-Smith’s barely discernible hair is the result of alopecia, an autoimmune condition, where the body attacks the cells of hair follicles, causing hair loss. At first, Mr Smith seemed to be laughing, but then his wife, decked in a Glenn Martens for Jean Paul Gaultier Couture gown, showed she disapproved the joke by rolling her eyes. The camera returned to Mr Rock and the next thing we saw was the actor marching up the stage and quickly smacking the presenter. It did not look scripted. Immediately, social media went berserk! “What just happened?” became the question of the hour.

But the on-stage slap was not enough. After swaggering back to his seat, Mr Smith shouted, “keep my wife’s name out of your fucking mouth!” Twice! (The telecast on channel 5 this morning was not censored.) The Academy Awards have its fair share of distasteful jokes, and nominated actors—and their companions—have always been free for all who host (should Jesse Plemmons have lunged at Amy Schumer for calling his wife Kirsten Dunst a “seat filler” and getting her to vacate her chair?). But is a bad gag good reason to attack the joker? At the risk of pointing to the unmentionable “angry Black man”, this was not the first time a Black ‘bro’ took to the stage to express deep unhappiness. Back in the 2009 MTV Video Music Awards (VMAs), Kanye West leapt on stage during Taylor Swift’s acceptance of the Best Female Video award and said, “Yo Taylor, I’m really happy for you, I’ma let you finish, but Beyoncé had one of the best videos of all time! One of the best videos of all time!” Notice the repeat. Only now, Mr Smith had not confronted a White woman or a White man. He laid his hand on a Black guy, which could be “settled”, just as P Diddy said, when he appeared after Mr Rock: “Will and Chris, we’re gonna solve that like family…” On their official Twitter account, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences posted: “The Academy does not condone violence of any form.” And quickly re-focused on the aim of the show: “Tonight we are delighted to celebrate our 94th Academy Awards winners, who deserve this moment of recognition from their peers and movie lovers around the world.”

Will Smith, in Dolce & Gabbana and wife Jada Pinkett-Smith in Glenn Martens for Jean Paul Gaultier Couture gown. Photo WireImage

After the manly outburst, the show moved into surreal territory. While a (mere) heckler would likely be shown the door, Will Smith was allowed to stay and watch the show, and laugh, and go back up the same stage to receive the award for Best Actor, his first. He was met with a standing ovation (Prada-clad Lupita Nyong’o, who sat behind him and was at first shocked by the latter’s open-hand action, stood up to applaud excitedly)! Tearing (or acting?), he said sorry to practically everyone except the guy he smacked. “I want to apologize to the Academy. I want to apologize to all my fellow nominees. This is a beautiful moment and I’m not crying for winning an award. It’s not about winning an award for me. It’s about being able to shine a light on all of the people… Art imitates life. I look like the crazy father…” While he was crying, social media was calling out the slap for a joke as reactive and excessive. And, what if he didn’t win?! This was, however, not the first time Chris Rock targeted Jada Pinkett-Smith. During the 2016 presentation, he joked about her boycotting the award show due to what she saw as lack of diversity. “Jada’s gonna boycott the Oscars?” he joked, “Jada boycotting the Oscars is like me boycotting Rihanna’s panties. I wasn’t invited!”. But the current “attack”, some also said, “was low”. Very quickly, #UgliestOscarsMoment_Ever was trending.

Earlier, on the red carpet, the media described the Smiths to have had “wow(ed) the red carpet”—he in a fussy black three-piece suit (and a tie!) by Dolce & Gabbana and she in a green Glenn Martens for Jean Paul Gaultier Couture gown with a ponderous-looking train. Their comeliness gave no clue that something a lot less attractive would take place soon. But, the red carpet this year did seem like a foretaste of the lacklustre proceedings of a tightly-edited show, up to the slap. The looks easily fell into twos: conservative or sexy, pink or green, easy or trying. Those who opted for a more ‘conventional’, symmetrical choice brought back chic based on a definition we thought was lost. Those who took their style cues from Saweetie looked as slutty. Chloe Bailey’s LVDF dress (by the LA-based Austrian designer Lukas van der Fecht), for example, had a slit up her left leg that went straight to below her breast!

The Better Dressed

Clockwise from top left: Zoe Kravitz in Saint Laurent, Uma Thurman in Bottega Veneta, Cynthia Erivo in Louis Vuitton, Zendaya in Valentino, Timothée Chalamet in Louis Vuitton, Kodi Smit-McPhee in Bottega Veneta. Photos: Getty Images

The Worst Dressed

Clockwise from top left: Megan Thee Stallion in Gaurav Gupta, Penélope Cruz in Chanel, H.E.R. in Carolina Herrera, Kristen Stewart in Chanel, Maggie Gyllenhaal in Schiaparelli, Halle Bailey in Roberto Cavalli. Photos: Getty Images

In the camp of the better-dressed, there was a nod to a specific past: the shirt and skirt ensemble not normally associated with the Oscars red carpet, except for Sharon Stone’s Gap and Vera Wang respectively in 1998. Uma Thurman wore a nicely loose white shirt with a barely flared black skirt, both by Bottega Veneta. The slickest look of the night seemingly channeled her 1994 Pulp Fiction character Mia Wallace. Zendaya, who has embraced this red carpet season in more avant-garde looks, such as those by Rick Owens and Loewe, has opted, just like Ms Thurman, for a shirt (and sparkly and impeccably fitted skirt with a train), only hers was cropped and came with curved shirttails. Such simplicity finally negates the outdated belief that princess dresses stand out more on the red carpet and augment the wearer’s femininity. But, perhaps more memorable would be Timothée Chalamet, who, quite the opposite, went shirtless under his Louis Vuitton cropped tuxedo jacket—not from anything by the late Virgil Abloh, but by Nicolas Ghesquière for the women’s collection!

Those who tried harder just appeared to have, perhaps as evidence that they did experience the Oscars ritual of getting dolled/tarted up. This was, after all, the first mask-free Oscars since the start of the pandemic. Megan Thee Stallion, rather new to the show, looked like she fell into a craft class teaching the making of fabric flowers. Penélope Cruz, no newbie, was dressed by Chanel to look like a woman who went back to high school to be a belated prom queen. Maggie Gyllenhaal, who normally looks pleasing if not smashing, appeared to have worn a chest of drawers, or were the drawer knobs on the Schiaparelli dress unnecessarily evocative of furniture? And then Kristen Stewart appeared in something that could have come from that chest: shorts! Lady Gaga, expected to turn up in a showstopper of a gown, did not walk on the red carpet at all. When she emerged on stage (with Lisa Minnelli in a wheelchair), she was not stealing any scene, at least not in a curiously dated look of a shinny tux by Ralph Lauren. Without a nomination, did the house of Gucci abandon her? Next year, we probably won’t remember her tuxedo, but we would recall those worn by the two guys’, who let this troubled world be distracted from war and pandemic with the Oscars’ first on-stage, man-to-man slap.

Note: Mediacorp censored the expletive in the repeat telecast of the show this evening

Update (28 March 2022, 11pm): The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences issued a statement: “The academy condemns the actions of Mr. Smith at last night’s show. We have officially started a formal review around the incident and will explore further action and consequences in accordance with our bylaws, standards of conduct and California law.” Earlier , it was reported that Chris Rock would not be filing charges

Update (29 March 2022, 9.30am): Twenty four hours after The Slap, Will Smith posted an apology on Instagram, saying, “I would like to publicly apologize to you, Chris. I was out of line and I was wrong. I am embarrassed and my actions were not indicative of the man I want to be”

“It’s Madness”: Swatch Hits The Jackpot

The response to the launch of the MoonSwatch is even better than McDonald’s Happy Meal giveaways. Reports emerged that it’s the same throughout much of Asia

Swatch at ION Orchard this morning. Photo: Singapore Atrium Sale

The crowd at the opening of Uniqlo in Ang Mo Kio yesterday was nothing, “insane” as it might have been. This morning, at The Shoppes at Marina Bay Sands and ION Orchard, you’d think that mask-off Tuesday had arrived, rather than the launch of a mere timepiece: the Swatch X Omega Speedmaster MoonSwatch. A friend of SOTD’s texted us at 9.30 this morning, saying: “It’s madness; it’s like they’re giving the watch for free. Don’t come.” He was at ION Orchard—“I know they say that with mask on, no social distancing is required, but jostling?” His frustration is understandable, just as the response to the launch of the MoonSwatch is expected. Yesterday, at the Swatch store in Orchard Central, we were advised by the friendly staff not to join the “crush”. One of them told us to “wait for the restock”. And why not? Swatch has never touted the MoonSwatch as a limited release.

The thing is, who’d believe this—an explodable throng outside Swatch? This was not the first drop of some Yeezy sneaks. It made the manic scramble last December outside the Foot Locker at Orchard Gateway look like nothing. At ION Orchard this morning, tempers flared quickly and things became so bad that the easily-angered even challenged security personnel to do the unthinkable. One video starting circulating online during lunch time. An antagonised fellow shouted at uniformed officers as if he was denied entry into his favourite KTV bar. With his face mask down to his lips, he challenged them in Mandarin: “你拿枪射击我啦 (Take your gun and shoot me, lah)”. Someone was heard responding: “This one three hundred dollar (sic) only, leh”. Many took to social media to lament how poorly Swatch ran the event, with scant crowd management procedures in sight.

In Shibuya, Tokyo. Photo: Tokyo Touch

In Taipei’s 101. Photo: Watchbus

Queuing in the rain in Causeway Bay, Hong Kong. Photo: Frankie Herrera

But it was not just on our island that the Swatch stores were ”overwhelmed”, as one marketing executive told us, pointing to how the staff at the stores could not manage the “determined” shoppers. Reports started to appear on social media after noon of the crowds that swarmed Swatch outlets in the capital cities around us. Our contact in Japan was the first to tell us that what he saw outside the Shibuya store was “discouraging”. In Bangkok, we were informed, Swatch “cancelled” the launch as the crowds at all three of their launch sites were “overcrowded” and “baa (crazy)”. A friend from Macau, who took time off from his job at the front desk of a hotel, too, reported that there was “no way” he could cop the watch. In neighbouring Hong Kong, our contributor saw queues snaked round blocks in Causeway Bay, with those in line waiting in the rain. The police eventually dispersed the crowd and Swatch Hong Kong announced that “the launch will be on hold until further notice“, prompting Netizen to call the event a “disaster”. More stories shared on social media also expressed dismay and shock at the hordes and the lack of order in Taipei and Kuala Lumpur. Swatch really scored big this time.

The mad dash outside CentralWorld, Bangkok. Screen grab: Payu Nerngchamnong

Last-minute signs posted on the Swatch store in CentralWorld, announcing its closure. Photo: ttoeytraveller

Outside Kuala Lumpur’s Pavilion Mall. Last night! Photo: Shopping Mall Malaysia

Many were unhappy that the situation had “turned messy”. Despite being told that the watches (11 colours) are sold out, scores chose to hang around outside the two Swatch stores here, which prompted the retailer to announce via Facebook around noon that the MoonSwatch “is not limited edition, and more opportunities to purchase will be available in the coming weeks”’ It also urged “customers without queue numbers (to) please kindly refrain from visiting the store as we are temporarily out of stock”. Netizens started sharing that the sale of the MoonSwatch is not limited in quantity and would be available again. But that has not stopped those lucky enough to buy one (the initial limit of two per customer was amended to a single piece) to resell it on Carousell for a staggering S$4,888, in one offer. That is madness too.

That the response to this collaboration between two watch brands could be this frenzied and staggering is perhaps to be expected. While the tie-up was teased on social media for a week (including full-page ads in The New York Times telling readers that “It’s time to change your Swatch,” or “It’s time to change your Omega”), many did not know what it’ll turn out to be. Global curiosity raged. When images of the MoonSwatch were released two days before launch, the news spread more rapidly than any spacecraft heading for the stars. Swatch and Omega have, with one timepiece, debunked the believe that people do not wear wristwatches anymore. The MoonSwatch is one landing no one imagined.

Update (26 March 2022, 6pm): According to local media, Swatch Japan has “cancelled the release” of the MoonSwatch due to “shoppers flooding” designated stores in Tokyo’s Shibuya and Harajuku districts. It is not clear when the release would be reinstated

War Of What They Wear

Two neighbours go to battle: Both men share the same Slavic first name (spelled differently), but not the same war-time garb. One shows he has more—a lot more—money than the other. Hence, more power?

Two presidents: Volodymyr Zelensky (left) and Vladimir Putin (right). Photos: Reuters

Volodymyr versus Vladimir, less versus lux, pared versus plush. The contrast couldn’t be more obvious. During the present warring states in Eastern Europe, two presidents fight it out sartorially on television in vastly different garbs. Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky on one side, dressed to stand with his fellowmen in defending his country and Russian president Vladimir Putin togged to impress his citizens that he is the most powerful man in the land who is never wrong. Since the war, Mr Zelensky is often shown wearing a fitted T-shirt, even when appearing before world leaders (via video calls). Quite the opposite, Mr Putin has been seen in suit and tie, and in a recent appearance at Luzhniki Stadium in Moscow to garner support for his war against Ukraine, wore a US$14,000 (or about S$19,012) navy puffer that the Western press gleefully noted to be “25 times (or 31, depending on the state of the rouble) the nation’s average monthly wages”.

That Mr Putin would have expensive taste in clothes is not surprising. He has the means and the oligarchs amassed during is very long rule to support his clothing choice. Yet, the five-figure hooded outer he wore on stage does not look like some statement coat; it could have been picked from any homegrown store in Moscow, rather than from Loro Piana, the Italian textile manufacturer and clothier, originally from the northern Italian commune of Trivero (also the provenance of Ermenegildo Zegna). Loro Piano is known for their expensive cashmere and wool products. It is part of the LVMH empire (the company owns 80% of the brand). They have a few stores in Moscow, but as with all LVMH-owned businesses, are now closed (they are two stores on our island).

At Loro Piana, an unassuming wool coat would not sell for less than US$3,000. A puffer similar to Mr Putin’s listed on the brand’s American website for US$11,000, the Clement Bomber, is made of ‘The Gift of Kings’ wool, touted to be of fibres that are 12 microns in diameter (the common Merino wool is between 18 to 24 microns, cashmere between 14 to 17). A luxury outer has to sit atop a just-as-splendid sweater. Mr Putin paired his Loro Piano with a cashmere turtleneck from Kiton, also Italian, that is believed to cost US$3,000 (or about S$4,073). In pictures, he appeared to be wearing leather shoes. These could have been from his favourite English bootmaker John Lobb. If the Russian president wore a suit, as he has been for his TV appearances, he would have likely chosen the Italian label Brioni. And if we could see what was on his wrists, there is the possibility that he had on either the US$$60,000 Patek Philippe’s Perpetual Calendar or the $500,000 A. Lange & Sohne Toubograph, both identified by Fortune to be among his stash of luxury watches he possesses.

Vladimir Putin in the Loro Piana puffer and Kiton sweater at a rally in Moscow on 18 March 2022. Photo: Getty Images

What Mr Putin wears is now of international interest not because of how good—or bad—he looks, but how not right. Russian observers are shocked with their leader’s blatant display of wealth. In times of austerity (not forgetting sanctions), heads of states tend not to boast sartorially, but Mr Putin, with billions in personal wealth, according to some reports (one estimate says US$200 billion!), isn’t one affected by the harsh economic realities affecting so many outside the Kremlin. The patriot does not have to make patriotic fashion choices.

Of that horizontally-quilted coat, the deputy chairman of Loro Piana, Pier Luigi told Italian newspaper la Repubblica that Putin’s choice of outerwear that day “creates some embarrassment from a human point of view”, in the wake of a petition asking the Italian house to denounce their famous war-bent customer. Karine Orlova, correspondent for Echo of Moscow radio, Tweeted: “Anyone who likes anything Western is a national traitor, declared Putin and two days later appeared dressed in a $10K Loro Piana coat at a rally in Moscow promoting war in Ukraine. Putin has long been a fan of the brand—time to end this. Please, sign”.

Shortly after the start of the war a month ago, Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky adopted a more battle-prepared attire—with clothes that appeared to be issued by the quartermaster of the Ukrainian army than his favourite tailor. Prior to that, Mr Zelensky wore suits (usually dark coloured), white shirt with semi-spread collars, and a solid-coloured tie that tended to match his suits: Very much in the classic, politically-smart style of Emmanuel Macron and Justin Trudeau. But then he retired that wardrobe. His favourite top is now a simple, brand-unknown T-shirt, usually in shades between military green and camo brown. However, befitting of a commander-in-chief, his smartly fitted tees—with their refined skinny crew neck and seemingly mercerised fabric (in some instances, and brushed or bio-finished in others)—do not resemble those issued to the private personnel of the army.

Volodymyr Zelensky in his signature T-shirt of unknown make. Photo: AP

Many observers point to Mr Zelensky’s former profession for his present choice of clothes. The president was an actor before, a comedian too; he is aware, it has been suggested, of how to work the costume to his advantage, to augment the believability of his character. He, therefore, knows how to use the T-shirt, as Marlo Brando and James Dean did, to play the everyman who connects with everyday Ukranians, just as our Lee Hsien Loong’s predilection for pink shirts have impressed the electorate. Mr Velensky’s T-shirts also allowed him to gird himself for the difficult role ahead, one that shows he’s battle-ready, not battle-weary. “Civilians and soldiers are dying in Ukraine, the president would not want to be seen to have spent time preening,” one image consultant told us.

But not everyone approves of Mr Zelensky’s casual attire. Following his video address to the US Congress a week ago, Republican financier, chief economist at Euro Pacific Capital, and radio personality Peter Schiff, Tweeted: “I understand times are hard, but doesn’t the President of the #Ukraine own a suit?” Was the sensibilities of Mr Schiff, the Wall Street stiff, insulted? It clearly was: A day ago, he doubled down, by commenting on his podcast The Peter Schiff Show, “Yes, it’s a war. Times are tough. But I didn’t think it was such a dire life or death situation… that he couldn’t have worn something nicer than a T-shirt.” Vladimir Putin, a nicer dresser (certainly more so than his pal Donald Trump), would surely have appeared spiffier. Who was Mr Schiff really expecting?.

When Mr Zelensky addressed the European Parliament two weeks prior to his video appearance in front of the US audience, he wore a T-shirt similar to the one he had on when speaking to the Americans. However, no European lawmaker on the legislative branch felt umbrage at the non-existent snub. Would Peter Schiff be less outraged if Mr Zelensky wore, over the offensive T-shirt, an additional top, such as the blouson that he is, just as often, seen in? Since the Russian invasion, Volodymyr Zelensky has mostly appeared in the same military-style outfit, whether he is speaking to his audience indoor or outdoor. This consistency prompted many media outlets to suppose that the president was directing the defence operation and encouraging international response on little sleep. With constant, audible artillery attacks, do we really expect the leader of the Ukrainians to pause and consider which suit to wear so that the members of the American Congress would not be “disrespected”, while many Ukrainians die in the line of Russian fire? Leave the suit wearing to Vladimir Putin as he marches onward to meet his inexorably tragic fate.

A Ban Won’t Shut Him Up

Kanye West’s use of Instagram was disallowed for 24 hours after he posted something racially insensitive. That, regretfully, won’t coax him into speaking with some vestige of grace

The Instagram ban of Kanye West for a mere full day, won’t cause the rapper to suffer much, if he suffered at all. That 24-hour ban is expired now. Mr West is probably planning his next textual attack, never mind that he was already told that what he posted about his estranged wife (they are not divorced yet!) was harassment and her boyfriend Pete Davidson, cyber bullying. And one of the persons who pointed those out, The Daily Show host Trevor Noah, was hit back with a racial slur, which prompted IG to put in place that brief, hardly-a-deterrent ban, even if that post was quickly deleted by the author. Why would a mere day’s suspension of his favourite social media be enough to encourage good online behaviour for a fellow who does not care about such things, in the least?

Online, as on the streets, some people are just more entitled than others. Celebrities, especially so, as they are often given no limit to bad behaviour, online or off. Kanye West can be nasty at the Grammy’s, but who remembers? If they do, they recall with fondness. Despite his repeated attacks on not just the two major targets of the present, many fans still consider him “great”. “Great for Gap”, went one fervid support. While it is true that the disapproval of Mr West’s abusiveness has been expressed on the Gap social media pages, there are also many—far more—who ask the clothier to continue to support him: “Don’t cancel Ye”, “da best thing that ever happened to yu (sic)”, “here for Ye”, “Ye is harmless man always like that when y’all will understand him?”, the simple “we love Kanye” and the adoring “Kanye is King”.

Or, could it be possible that, in Mr West’s case, badness is good for business?

Should Gap budge? They probably won’t. Ditto for Adidas and Balenciaga, whose Demna Gvasalia is so chummy with Mr West that it is unlikely the designer would call the rapper out for his deplorable ways, or stop dressing him. Any fashion label linked to Kanye West has only fared well despite past transgressions. Just because they didn’t involve his now-single wife (they are not divorced yet!) does not mean there was no harassment targeted at women. Or, could it be possible that, in Mr West’s case, badness is good for business? Because in that package of wrongs, is an amalgam of talents? As he once said (on Sway In The Morning Radio Show, 2013), “I am Warhol! I am the number one most impactful artist of our generation. I am Shakespeare in the flesh. Walt Disney, Nike, Google.”

Delusional, some may call that, but Mr West believes in his own greatness and strengths, and has displayed them in full public view, augmenting his self-importance. All that publicness can’t escape scrutiny and being talked about, whether audibly or not. A big part of his success is that he’s discussed, whether flatteringly or otherwise. The multi-channel/platform chatter in its unfiltered, antagonistic glory is, perhaps, what Gap wants, even craves. In as much as we are living in the grasp of what author/Harvard professor Shoshana Zuboff calls “surveillance capitalism”, we are also in the grip of scrutinised social existence. Kanye West may say as he pleases and get away with it, but Gap—and the rest—may not merely associate with who they please and not account for their deliberate action. Either way, we are watching. Fashion deserves better.

Update (21 March 2022, 9am): The Los Angeles Times reported that “Kanye West has been pulled off the performance lineup for the upcoming Grammy Awards due to his recent erratic online behavior”. Trevor Noah Twittered, “I said counsel Kanye not cancel Kanye.” Even the leader of his own Sunday Service needs counselling

Illustration: Just So

Saluting Showy Excess

The next Met Gala would be in May, presumably. No one can say if the conflict in Ukraine will end by then. So it is unsurprising that many are appalled by this year’s theme: Gilded Glamour

Would any guest be choosing Schiaparelli’s on-theme spring/summer 2022 couture coat?

Vanessa Friedman of The New York Times excitedly shared on Twitter, two hours ago, a “scoop: and the next Met Gala celeb co-chairs are… Regina King, Blake Lively, Ryan Reynolds, and Lin-Manuel Miranda. Honorary chairs Tom Ford, Instagram’s Adam Moressi (sic) and Anna Wintour. Theme is ‘Gilded Glamour.’ Point is: this one is going to be very dressed-up indeed.” About the same time, CNN online filed a ‘Live Update’ that said “recent drone incidents has (sic) amplified concerns Russia’s war in Ukraine could spill over into NATO countries”. Not long before that, we learned of the artillery attack on the Mariupol theater, where hundreds of city folks hid as the Russian military laid siege to the city. But, the show that is the Met Gala must go on. War is still on our minds, but some people will be thinking of getting “very dressed-up”? Are we wrong to believe that the upcoming Met Gala’s theme borders on the insensitive?

It is possible that Anna Wintour is unable to forget those who did not bother with last year’s theme. Did she not forgive Kim Kardashian for appearing in that black thing, head totally encased? Or, Troye Sivan in a low-cut tank-dress that could have been picked up at Forever 21 as he made his way to the museum. Or, A$AP Rocky swathed in someone’s grandma’s beloved craft project? And to prevent a shameful recurrence, she ordained that glitzy shall dominate the whatever-colour carpet! But we are not out of a pervasive pandemic. And there’s that niggling conflict in Ukraine that President Joe Biden has called “aggression (that) cannot go unanswered”. Yet, the Met Gala prefers to tune all that out. Gilded Glamour clearly has a better ring than Wartime Austerity.

This year’s theme is really a continuation of last year’s—the first of a two-parter that saluted the good ’ol US of A, In America: A Lexicon of Fashion. Gilded Glamour is homage to The Gilded Age, an era of unprecedented economic growth in the US, between 1870 and 1900. It was Mark Twain who coined the phrase “The Gilded Age” in his 1873 novel of the same name (co-written with Charles Dudley Warner). While prosperity pervaded America in those years, it was greed that guided (and gilded!) the politicians, the bankers, and the industrialists into a life of still-talked-about excess and opulence, all at the expense of the working class. Poverty and inequality were, unsurprisingly, widespread. As Mark Twain suggested: Gilded is only a patina; it is not gold. How the Met Gala exemplifies that.

Photo: Schiaparelli