Bag For Two

…and three. And other sartorial delinquents of Thom Browne

The autumn/winter 2022 show is for both people and bears—teddy bears. In the middle of the show venue, Thom Browne sat a classroom (or conference?) of hundreds of teddy bears, all togged in Thom Browne, naturally. Mr Browne has, of course, a thing for toy animals, and they are there, such as the dog-bag Hector—only this time, it comes with two handles meant for a pair! Toy, as metaphor, extended to his beloved New York, to which the show is also homage to, as well as its inhabitants. It isn’t a surprising expression of pride. Mr Browne has always found kinship through his work with those whose outward appearance we might call gila. He calls his home “an island of misfit toys”. And those outsider-oddballs are dressed accordingly, totting bags that are the plush-toy embodiments of pets, as well as those that are more vehicular. Quite a sidewalk of curiosities.

Mr Browne has largely pivoted his designs on the suit, which brandishes his flair for tailoring that is often described as “fastidious”. He is partial to shades of grey, and patterns and textures much tethered to menswear and is even more favourably inclined to include lots of sport coats, especially the uniquely British regatta blazer. But in his hands, they have less in common with those adopted for the sport of rowing than the blazing pieces worn by ringmasters of a cirque (this season, a madcap schoolmaster, perhaps?). Preppiness may also be the seeming effect, but subversiveness is clearly part of the equation, for the Thom Browne fan is no collegiate stiff.

The show could be considered a two-parter: the first, what would be ‘standard’ (not disparagingly) Thom Browne. The regatta blazer with a particularly constricted tailoring that is very much a part of the brand’s recognisability plays its versatile role. The pieces are designed to be gender-neutral—teamed with skirts, no-issue staples among the guys. Most are pleated, with inserts that could be club ties. Or, paneled with what could be fancy washing machine outlet hoses, in clashing fabrics. Some of the skirts are above the knee and worn over demure wide-cuffed culottes. On the whole, the outfits are enchanting, with a digestible schoolhouse prim that is possibly even more appealing, perhaps, in the US, where the wearing of school uniforms is not adopted.

But Mr Browne has to have fun too, and when he does, so do we. In the second part, the clothes take a fantastical spin, crossing too closely over to the absurd, tempered by their couture-ness. There is no denying the skill level required to make these outfits that defy the shape of the body: massive quilted coat with lobster pincer to glove the hands, giant golf ball-as-bodice for a sweater, bulbous protuberances on lean dresses, multiple sleeves on one-piece outers, a box shape of a toy soldier for a top, and the immense crinolines that even Scarlet O’Hara’s Mammy would find challenging to handle. Despite their wow-inducing effect, it does beg the question: would all these aesthetical aberrations be possible without the path layed out by stalwarts such as John Galliano and Rei Kawakubo of Conme des Garçons? Regardless, they are all in time for next week’s Gilded Glamour at the Met.

Screen grab (top): YouTube. Photos: Don Lecca/vogue.com

Easy To Slip On, And Go

Is the Nike Go FlyEase the new ‘lazy shoe’?

By Awang Sulung

When I first saw Nike’s newest kick, the Go FlyEase, I thought they were for bound feet. Seriously. Pick one in your usual Nike size, and the shoe will look decidedly shorter than the length of your feet. It does because, as you examine it closer, you will see that the shoe is bent downwards, somewhere in the middle, at almost 45 degrees. Initially, I toyed with the possibility that this could be Nike’s more hi-tech take on the Louis Vuitton Archlight. Then the shoe, in my hand, yielded to the squeeze lengthwise that I gave it. It is hinged and can be flattened!

As it turned out, the Go FlyEase is designed in this manner so that when placed on the floor, or wherever you usually situate your prized shoes, it allows you to just step into it and, when your heel kisses the ground, it immediately hugs your foot. No lacing up required and no shoe horn needed to ease your foot into the sneakers either. You don’t even need to arch forward! Quite an engineering marvel, as I saw it. The Go FlyEase is initially bent to allow effortless entry into its first half when you slip your toes inside. As you (must) bring your heel down, the shoe shapes up—or flattens—as, well, a ‘regular’ shoe.

Nike has been on the forefront of shoes that can be slipped on with practically no effort from the part of the wearer, such as 2019’s Bluetooth-connected, self-lacing Adapt (with its own app!). Frankly, as a sneaker lover (but not quite sneakerhead, I should say), I do not consider putting on a pair to be such an ordeal that the shoes have to be designed to be worn without involving hands. When I was in primary school, my mother would buy slip-on plimsolls for me, saying that it was easier for me as I, according to her, could not tie laces properly. She called those slip-ons, including others such as loafers, “lazy shoes”. It was not until secondary four, when I got to buy my own sneakers that I realised shoes are not lazy, people are.

Shoelaces have been around for a very long time, some historians say since 3,500 BC. The laces, as an invention, however, was associated with one Englishman, Harvey Kennedy, who filed for a patent on them in 1790. Even back then, no one considered laces Mr Kennedy’s invention, but one thing truly was: the narrow plastic- or metal-wrapped sheath at the end known as the aglet. Despite that little convenience, making it easier to lace shoes, increasingly wearers are finding them too much a bother to deal with. Nike is, of course well aware of that. They first started exploring shoes without laces with the advent of the Flyknit upper, such as the Free Flynit of 2013, just a year after the appearance of the former. That Free was, however, essentially a sock atop a mid-sole. You’d still need to use your hands to put them on. But now with the Go FlyEase, totally “hands-free” is a reality. Indolence wins?

The FlyEase itself is not new, the Go iteration is. FlyEase debuted five years ago with the main objective of making the wearing of sneakers effortless. But it has never been this easy. With the Go hinged, they are in the “ready” mode. Step in, toes first, and then rest your entire foot on the one-piece footbed (the whole bending and flattening rather remind me of ‘fold’ smartphones), and you’re in the “set” position, ready to move. When removing the shoe, instead of stepping on the vertical rear of the heel, do so on the extended ledge with the other foot, and, presto, the shoe is hinged again, and the foot can slide out easily. Shoelaces, I fear, will face rapidly-approaching extinction.

Nike Go FlyEase, SGD215, is available at select Nike stores and online. Photos: Nike

This Sweatpants Had A Korean DJ “Kicked Off” A Flight

Even when no skin of her abdominal or limps were revealed. But the bottom she wore was considered by the airline to be “offensive”

Warning: This post contains image and words that some viewers may find offensive

South Korean disc jockey and music-maker Deejay Soda shared on Instagram, two days ago, with 4.3 million of her followers (in two separate posts) that she was booted out of a flight from New York to Los Angeles. She wrote—not quite effervescently—in English (as well as Korean) that American Airlines “kicked (her) off the flight and harassed (her) to take off (her) sponsored @RIPNDIP ‘F**K YOU’ sweatpants in front of people to board again.” The DJ, whose passport registered Hwang So-hee, is currently in the US on part of her coast-to-coast Starlight Tour. According to her, the airline staff told her that the free sweatpants she wore were “inappropriate“ and “offensive”. At some point, she stood “half-naked” in the presence of others.

As she said, the bottom in question was sponsored by Ripndip, an Orlando-born skate brand, available here at Well Bred. In black cotton, the S$125 sweatpants has a white, all-over print of basically two words: “fuck you” in full caps, with a foxy feline-looking creature peeking out of some of the ‘O’s. While the bottom was sponsored, it isn’t known if she was given that particular pair to wear or if she chose it. Nor do we know if she was required to wear it onboard as part of the deal or if it was entirely her choice. Ms Hwang was in fact rather covered up, sporting the brand’s black ‘Nebulan’ hooded coach jacket under a similarly coloured T-shirt. On her feet were black-and-white Nike Jordan 1 High. This look contrasted dramatically with Ms Hwang’s usual style, as seen on IG and her new music video Cold. Sexy is truly the best, even if inadequate, word to describe her style. Only Siew Pui Yi (aka Ms Puiyi) wears moderately less.

Korean disc jockey Deejay Soda. Photo: deejaysoda/Instagram

If what the the 36-year-old DJ claimed really happened, American Airlines has considerable explaining to do. Even if Ms Hwang’s choice of trousers is “offensive”, is making her “take off (her) pants in front of the whole crew and standing half-naked” while refusing to board her, if true, not “offensive” too (some of her supporters called it “abusive”)? It is, of course, odd that in the US, where free speech is so important and anyone can say anything, including the profanity-as-repeated-pattern on Ms Hwang’s pants, having them printed on one’s garment is more abhorrent than coming out of one’s mouth. Conversely, was the passenger, even with a business class seat that she was sure to note, not aware that what she wore could be objectionable? It was not just two words; they were repeated many times. Or, was she on the same page as Whoopi Goldberg, who wrote in her book Is It Just Me? Or Is It Nuts Out There?: “I would love to teach every kid to say ‘fuck’. That is a word that doesn’t have any effect. But ‘stupid’ and ‘dummy’?”

American Airline may disagree with her on that. According to their Condition of Carriage, the simple term of “bare feet or offensive clothing aren’t allowed” is stipulated. It does not, however, say what makes clothing offensive. But its staff, in making the DJ strip, spoke volumes. Would Ms Hwang’s usual boob-accentuating tops be considered incompatible with the American Airlines’ rules? We do not know. Nor, why Deejay Soda chose, assuming she did, that particular sweatpants. It might work in the dimness of her show venues, but in an airport and an aircraft, would it not draw unwarranted attention and annoy those for whom such blatant display of insouciant insolence is totally repugnant? One thing Whoopie Goldberg wrote is not wrong: It’s nuts out there.

Update (29 April 2022, 09:10): In a statement issued to the media, American Airlines wrote: “During the boarding process for American Airlines Flight 306 at John F. Kennedy International Airport, our team members informed Ms. So-hee of our policies and provided her the opportunity to change out of clothing displaying explicit language. The customer complied with requests and was allowed to continue travel, as planned, to Los Angeles International Airport”. They did not address Ms Hwang’s allegation of harassment

Product photo: Ripndip. Illustration: Just So

Coming: & Other Stories

So it’s true: COS’s sister brand will be here. At the store’s neighbouring unit in ION Orchard by the year’s end

Fans of labels under the H&M Group that is not, well, H&M, would be thrilled. The one with the longest name, & Other Stories—sister brand to COS, and the yet-to-be-here Monki and Weekday—will indeed open on our island. The first store will, in fact, be COS’s immediate neighbour on level three of ION Orchard. So the rumours circulating since January is true. Back then, no one was able to say for certain where the store would be situated. Hoarding at the unit clearly confirms its arrival, and at that very space. Curious about its opening, we went next door to ask when & Other Stories would welcome shoppers. The first person we met answered with a “what?”, suggesting to us she knew not of the new neighbour she will “soon”—as the notice next door informed us—have.

A more helpful reply came via a second, cheerier sales associate. She eagerly told us that & Other Stories will “open at the end of the year”. Really? “Yes,” she said with certainty, “some time in Q4, but I do not know exactly when.” Does the renovation and fit out take that long? She added, unexpectedly: “Actually, we will be closed too. We will also undergo a renovation. This whole store.” We were, in fact, not really surprised. COS, opened in 2013, will want to look as spanking as the newest retail entrant, more so when the latter is kin. But will the simulateous renovation of two retail units affect the opening of the other?

Launched in March 2013 in Europe, & Other Stories is thought to be aesthetically skewed to appeal to the “cool girl”. Or, we suppose, those self-proclaimed fashion junkies on TikTok. But more noted (and appealing?) is the brand’s price point: a comfortable, hence tempting, somewhere between H&M and COS. Our first visit to & Other Stories was in Paris, at the Rue St Honoré establishment, just across from the charming little French accessories store Goossen. Our first impression, we recall, was that it reminded us of the American chain Athropologie. Atmospherically, it was not as severe as COS and it was not as low-brow/low-cost as H&M. Merchandise-wise, we thought it was more fun than the two. Housed in a hippy-ish space with an inner courtyard of artfully neglected greenery, & Other Stories is the kind of store you will uncover “finds”. It is not known if our first store here would be similarly positioned. We will find out. In December. Probably.

Watch this space for more information on the opening of & Other Stories. Photo: Chin Boh Kay

Shirtless Under A Suit: The Timothée Chalamet Effect

Mediacorp stars know an imitable styling idea when they see one. Applause?

Just a suit: (from left) Jarrell Huang, Desmond Tan, and Chung Kun Wah. Photos: #红星大奖2022/Instagram

By Lester Fang

It is hard to be the first. I mean to be a trend-setter. On the red carpet. At the Stars Awards. Okay, I am not going to censure what they wore last Sunday, but it is hard not to notice (or turn a blind eye to?) the trends that the clueless hosts pointed out or the fans of Mediacorp stars said they could make out. Most obvious among the guys, if you did not already detect, was going shirtless under a suit. That was so distinctly Timothée Chalamet at the Oscars last month that my first reaction—and second and third—was, “oh, no!” Could this be the reason why the annual Star Awards takes place after the Academy Awards—so that Mediacorp’s big and not-so-big names could get some sartorial ideas for their red carpet?

Local stars looking at what their Hollywood counterparts wear on the red carpet are like regular folks looking to influencers on social media to conduct their otherwise mundane lives: It happens. I am not sure, to be honest, how fashion-aware our TV stars really are (how did Elvin Ng [黄俊雄] go from last year’s Alexander McQueen to this year’s Versace is really beyond me). Or, how much they admire the style of Hollywood superstars that they feel confident enough to emulate them. Variety Tweeted shortly after the Oscars presentation, “no shirt, no problem, if your are Timothée Chalamet”. We are all aware there is no equivalent in Medicorp. There should not even be.

However, there they were: Baring their chest as Mr Chalamet did, but, reversely, in white. So excited with the prospect of seeing the barely exposed torso of everyone’s favourite actor and Bioskin Most Charismatic Artist awardee Desmond Tan (陈泂江)—shirtless under the Alexander McQueen neo-redingote with zips in front and the rear, where darts would normally be—that the highly excitable, rapid-talking co-host Seow Sin Nee (萧歆霓) squealed in delight: “我觉得你最吸引的大概是你的腹肌… 我看到了 (I feel that your most attractive [part] is probably your abdominal muscles… I see it)!” Whatever she did see, she was so gleefully pleased, it was as if she won a lottery. Unlike Mr Chalamet, Mr Tan was strategically buttoned up!

So were the other two shirtless ones: singer/songwriter Jarrell Huang (黄俊融) in a Q Menswear double-breasted, completed buttoned, and Yes 933 DJ Kenneth Chung (钟坤华) in one unnecessarily belted. They were not only covered, they were securely covered. They were in white too, as if the “colour of purity” could temper any suggestion of unwanted sexual inducement. This was, after all, family entertainment! And all of them had something in common too. Or, in common with Mr Chalamet: jewellery for the neck and sternum. Yes, if you follow suit (oops!), do so right down to the accessories. In the past, wearing a T-shirt under a blazer, as Xu Bin (徐彬) and Brandon Wong (黄炯耀) did, was considered too casual, even disrespectful. But last Sunday, just that simple extra layer was, for some, way too much.

Two Dollars No More

At Daiso, there will no longer be one flat price, come May. Oh, GST not included, too

In Japan presently, Daiso is celebrating its 50th anniversary. We are not aware of any major observance (read: sale) over there, but they do have some anniversary-specific “limited” releases—largely products for the home—that are mostly priced at 100 yen (or about S$1.08, before the Japanese sales tax). Here, news have emerged that Daiso will very soon no longer offer their products at a single fixed price of S$2. Or absorb GST. On Instagram two days ago, the Japanese retailer announced that “with effect 1 May 2022, there will be a price change”. In the second of the two-image post, a colourful list of the new 15-tier (!) pricing was shared. The cheapest item (plus GST) will be $2.14 and the dearest, a staggering $25.47, much to the dismay—even shock—of fans and long-time customers. No one we spoke to about the impending price hike has paid more than double digits for a single item at Daiso, whether here or in Japan.

Some observers think that the announcement of the new pricing is too sudden, and just a week before the new prices will be tagged in the 27 Daiso stores across our island, gives consumers insufficient time to digest the sizable increase. Some retail managers we spoke to said that it is not possible for Daiso to continue to sell at that low price after 18 years here, in the wake of increases in business and material costs. About ten days ago, after news emerged that Daiso would be charging GST from 1 May and with reports showing images on notices of that announcement on Daiso stores, we were looking out for those notices, but did not find any. Now we know why: they took them down as it was not going to be a price hike due to the charging of GST alone. In the same IG post, Daiso wrote: “We thank you for your understanding and continued support”. The latter has not panned out yet, but understanding might be easier if Daiso had explained the reason behind the coming price hike, but they did not. We could only guess: on-going pandemic, long-drawn war, logistic woes, forex fluctuation, and, that dreaded phenomenon, historic inflation.

…understanding might be easier if Daiso had explained the reason behind the coming price hike, but they did not

According to a “Message” on a Japanese microsite created to mark Daiso’s momentous anniversary, the “One Price” is key to Daiso’s branding and merchandising. “The One Price makes it possible to buy more. The One Price allows you to give it a try. The One Price encourages casual purchases that lead to changes in everyday life. The One Price has infinite power to enrich our lives. For these 50 years, our thoughts have never changed.” Until now, it would seem. One price will soon be a distant memory, even when, in Japan, they have pledged that “Daiso will bring out a more exciting shopping experience, life, and society with the power of the One Price.”

Although Daiso in its homeland is proud to be 50 years old, it was not founded exactly five decades ago. In 1972, Hirotake Yano opened Yano Shoten, described as a “street vending shop dealing with 100 yen products”, according to their corporate literature. It was five years later that Daiso-sangyo (or the Daiso we recognise today) was born. According to Mr Yano, “Since our founding as the pioneer of 100 yen shops, we have continued to evolve and take on new challenges. One of those challenges was to abandon our original business model of ‘everything for 100 yen,’ and start developing and selling products for 200 yen, 1,000 yen, and so on.” That abandoning—in 2004—seems to contradict their confident anniversary message. A check with our friends in Japan confirmed that some products now cost more than ¥100. It would really be a matter of time before the business here follow suit. It is also possible that Daiso’s new tiered pricing here will bring it in line with their Threepy stores, and the soon-to-open Standard Products. To better reflect a changed business model? Bargain hunters, take note.

Photo: Chin Boh Kay

Moonswatch Madness

…unabated. A month after the launch of the most desirable timepiece of the year, the showcase is still empty. Shoppers are told by Swatch: “visit us regularly”

At the ION Orchard Swatch store, scene of the confrontation between security personnel at the launch of the over-hyped and over-loved Moonswatch exactly a month ago, an organically-shaped, pentagon showcase fronting the smallish space was left surprising empty. Not a single piece of merchandise was seen beneath the glass top, not even a prop. The base of the display unit is plastered with a depiction of a group of planets and emblazoned with “Bioceramic Moonswatch Collection” above. It left one in no doubt as to what it was supposed to house. But empty it clearly was. It could have been the aftermath of a heist!

By now, our interest in the Omega X Swatch collaboration has, admittedly, waned. Not because of the difficulty in scoring something not of limited issue, but because of the very public fallout from the hype. There are people who are still angry! In any case, we were still curious about the timepiece and wanted to have a close look at it, even if we wouldn’t be allowed to touch it. We were told it appears plastic, and we wanted to see for ourself how much so. But as soon as we neared the Swatch store, we knew it was not meant to be.

Not because of the difficulty in scoring something not of limited issue, but because of the very public fallout from the hype

We asked a sales guy if there would be stock coming in. Helpfully, he said, “Don’t know when the next stock will arrive. We have not been told.” Was there ever stock replenishment after the raucous launch? “Yes,” he offered as-a-matter-of-factly. “Once.” And when was that? “About two weeks ago.” We turned to browse at whatever they had. Three groups of people within a minute approached the same fellow to ask him about the Moonswatch. And to each, he had the same answer: everything in the negative. The inquirers did not appear to be disappointed; they happily accepted the bad news.

A notice, protected by acrylic, addressed to the “Moonswatch fan” (Swatch was not aware that there were seriously many?) read: “We are overwhelmed by your fantastic support and by your extraordinary enthusiasm for the Bioceramic Moonswatch Collection. We do our best to fulfil demand and we hope that anyone who is moonstruck… will soon be able to lay their hands on one of these watches (they were in the mood to pun!).” It wrapped up with, “Visit us regularly, as the store will be supplied as production permits.” How regularly are those interested expected to come back? Daily? Weekly? Fortnightly?

Passing the guy on our way out, we remarked, “Wow, there are still many people interested”. The rejoinder was swift: “We get 200 calls and walk-in inquiries a day.” Two hundred, did you say? One thousand four hundred a week? “Yes. Two. Hundred.” Do you take reservations? “No reservation allowed. To be fair to everybody.” And how often do we have to come and check for availability? The guy was probably bored by our questions by now. But he did have a workable suggestion. “You should wait until the interest is not so high,” he said earnestly. “Or when everyone has bought their watch.” Thank you, kind sir.

Photo: Zhao Xiangji

Come Right Up, Walk Right Through

There is no more Trace Together entry scans. Go in and out of malls as you please. One big leap towards ‘freedom’?

Doors at malls are all open. There is no more one entry point and one exit. From today, shopping malls do not require visitors to scan in, or scan out. No one will stop you to make sure you do. TraceTogether is over! Life may not have entirely returned to pre-pandemic days, but this is, where going shopping is concerned, as close as it gets. We are not sure if the footfall at malls has increased (possibly too soon to tell), but when we visited the few always with a long line of visitors getting in, we noticed that there were more people than we expected, even for a Tuesday morning. Will the riddance of entry “hassles” of the past two years prompt the return of more shoppers?

Around noon, at the ION Orchard Basement 2 entrance that faces the exit of the MRT station (now back to a two-way flow), the traffic did not look more daunting than usual, as most visitors were able to hurry right into the vast entryway. Not a hint of what crowd-control measures were in place before: The temper-provoking retractable metal barriers that forced visitors to go through an up/down, up/down course before hitting the “checkpoint” were nowhere to be seen. Now, in that considerable expanse, under which a massive video screen of fake foliage and sky projected a cheery day, one felt free, if not freedom. When we asked an MRT staff, what exit that was—so that we could tell the people we were meeting where to wait, she said, “Tell them to stand outside Channel (sic), lah!”

Similarly, at the opposite side, going into Wisma Atria was a breeze. This entrance is not only a way into the mall, it’s also, for many, a conduit to adjoining Takashimaya Shopping Centre—and further. Without restrictions now, the freer access seemed to make the number of entrants look small. Was the entrance this wide? No physical evidence was left here that would remind us of the queues we encountered each time we had to go in. But a small notice on a signage stand, easily missable, was erected next to the busy-looking store Skechers. The text above an illustration of a masked man read, “PLEASE WEAR A FACE MASK AT ALL TIMES WHEN INDOORS”. TraceTogether-free, a lithe little lass in a whisper of a dress floated in, barely masked up. No one was there to ensure she did, properly.

The conspicuous absence of the TraceTogether QR codes and oblong devices on which to tap electronic tokens was met with delight. “At last,” squealed a uniform-clad student when she saw that the coast in front of her at Wisma Atria was clear, and the token in her hand redundant. TraceTogether was not a popular token or app, nor a tracking tool. Many people we spoke to couldn’t wait to be rid of it. Some likened carrying the token to be being strapped with an ankle monitor. Even when it existed as an unobtrusive but battery-zapping app, it found very few fans, except, possibly, the developers at GovTech. TraceTogether may not be required for now, but we are—no matter how easy it is now to enter a mall—living in a surveillance society and engaging in a surveillance economy. Peace.

Illustrations: Just So

Star Awards (2022): Still Not Shining

Away from Changi Airport, is this year’s Star Awards a better, sleeker affair? Were we hoping for too much?

Ah jie Zoe Tay, in purple silk chiffon, floating down the Walk of Fame. Photo: The Celebrity Agency/Instagram

By Ray Zhang

The Star Awards 2022 is a very long show, if you take into consideration that ‘Backstage Live’ segment, screened three and half hours before the ceremony proper on MeWatch and YouTube. At more than seven hours duration in its entirety, it was long enough for me to be on a flight to Tokyo. Since last year, MediaCorp has decided that the annual show generates enough interest to warrant extra broadcast of not only the anywhere-is-a-red-carpet segment, Walk of Fame, but also a look at the stars getting ready, presumably from around or after noon. But while the award presentation, now back at the MediaCorp Theatre, veered dangerously towards dull, it was Backstage Live that was utterly unbearable to watch, even more so than last year’s. If any glamour was to be expected, as promised by Mediacorp, all was lost in the loud, grating, uninformative banter that dominated this painful prelude.

Juvenile and boisterous, in all its youth-grassroots glory, it was as if all the hosts—all six of them—cut their teeth at a qiyue getai (七月歌台 or the ‘song stage’ of the 7th lunar month, aka Hungry Ghost Festival). When asked by hosting partner Seow Sin Nee (萧歆霓) what he liked to watch at each Star Awards, apart from the main presentation, the 1.91-metre tall Herman Keh (郭坤耀) mentioned the “红地毯 (red carpet)” because of the stars’ attire, which he referred to as “制服 (zhifu or uniform)”! And he would go on to say that at least five times more, including referring to the Hugo Boss suit that he wore as zhifu, too. And, even when later, Priscelia Chan (曾诗梅) was curious about his word choice while being interviewed by the noisy duo, he did not appear to be aware of the embarrassing faux pas.

The new-gen Channel 8 hosts: (left) “uniform”-clad Herman Keh and (right) Seow Sin Nee with resident stylist Annie Chua (middle). Screen grab: Mediacorp/YouTube

I know not if Mr Keh was on script, but bumbling and blundering his way through his set was only part of the pain in watching this segment of MediaCorp’s biggest night. When the same pair presented one of the six debut My Pick awards (for Favourite Male Show Stealer, which Xu Bin won), Ms Seow was asked “哪一个是你的pick (who is your pick)?”. She replied, “it’s all my picks”! The appalling command of both Mandarin and English on a broadcast believed to be one of the most popular for Channel 8 (the main event of last year’s show at Changi Airport shockingly won the award for Best Entertainment Special!) is embarrassing, to say the least. Later, when Mr Keh won the Most Attention-Seeking New-Gen Host, he said, “感谢我爸爸妈妈把我养成这么高 (grateful to my parents for raising me until I am so tall)“. There is a difference between “古灵精怪 (weird or bizarre, as Mr Keh described himself)” and trite. Throw in their mission to find the “female star with the highest heel” and the “guy with the tallest hair”, I knew nothing begged further viewing.

The Walk of Fame at five o’clock brought me back to the show. After last year, the struts and poses this time returned to a real but somewhat short red carpet, although it was obvious that all the stars waited behind a backdrop to emerge. No one was seen coming out of a luxury car (sponsorship was hard to score this year?). As with her appearance on the Changi Airport Terminal Four driveway of the entrance to the departure hall in 2021, Zoe Tay had to walk alone. Wearing a silk chiffon dress by Gucci with a cape that floated behind her like a parachute (I’m not sure about the curiously chunky black platforms), she commanded the red carpet like a seasoned pro, lifting nary a pinch of her floor-length skirt to navigate the Walk of Fame, while other younger actresses lifted their distended skirts as if they were avoiding dog excrement. I had to remind myself that for most of the actresses, this was probably the only chance in the entire year when they could wear an evening gown, and possibly towering heels. And since they had to return the the borrowed dresses in saleable condition, they had to content with lifting while parading to avoid an embarrassing frock-ripping, if not nasty fall.

Best actress and actor favourites Chantalle Ng and Xu Bin. Photo: The Celebrity Agency/Instagram

On the red carpet, the most anticipated, I suppose, were the My Star Bride leads Chantalle Ng (黄暄婷) and Xu Bin (徐彬). Ms Ng is the daughter of old-timer Lin Meijiao (林梅娇, winner of the evening’s Best-Supporting Actress). She wore a red, sequinned Bottega Veneta gown, which appeared a tad too large for her and clearly too long. Frequently, she had to hold one side (or both) of the dress to help her walk less uncomfortably or so that her platform compers won’t cause her to trip. Contrasting her, colour-wise (or to express some National Day fervour?), was Mr Xu in an off-white Dolce & Gabbana suit that was tackily tacked with what could be earrings, bearing the letters ‘D’ and ‘G’, all over—yes, on the pants too, without which he would be too close to an albino peacock? Mr Xu had earlier, in the Backstage Live segment, said that when he saw the suit, he knew immediately that it was the one he wanted and had instructed his stylist to get it for him. I wish someone had told him he could pass of as a window display at Chomel.

In fact, the guys seemed to have tried harder this year. Many came in suits—some of a better fit than others, many curiously semi-casual, and few down-right not dressy. Elvin Ng (黄俊雄), in a Versace suit, was the first joke of the day: he went from kedai-kopi bandung to Fanta orange. Or, was it F&N? To be sure, I don’t know if Mediacorp ever stipulated a dress code or whether it was merely a given that attendees would don evening wear, but it was unlikely that black tie, as many had thought, was expected. Still, odd choices abound: Desmond Tan (陈泂江) in a cream, zips-for-darts Alexander McQueen coat, which he wore sans shirts a la Timothée Chalamet at the Oscars (I do not know why there persists this love of substituting outerwear for a blazer at an awards night), only that the American actor did not go shirtless under a coat; Dennis Chew (周崇庆) in a cartoonish white suit, with hand-drawn tracing of the perimeter of the outfit, designed by, gasp, Chen Hanwei (陈汉玮) and made by Q Menswear; or Nick Teo’s shaggy, kungfu-master, Yohji Yamamoto layers. And those in non-solids: Romeo Tan’s Etro suit with geometric patterns gleaned from carpets, Bryan Wong’s also-Etro blazer with Savannah print (feline included), and worse, Pierre Png’s too-small, too-day-yet- too-prom-night gingham jacket.

Formalwear interpreted: (from let) James Seah, Desmond Tan, and Teo Ze Tong. Photo: The Celebrity Agency/Instagram

There were other trends among the men—possibly what Herman Keh obliviously, gleefully, and toothily called zhifu—if you consider, like I did, their omnipresence. Most discernible were the dinner jackets with peaked lapels in black (sometimes part of it) to stand out from the main fabric. At least half a dozen of them embraced this small chromatic contrast. Even Desmond Tan could not resist the pull, when he changed into a different suit for the award presentation (he was a best actor nominee). Was it to show that the stars paid attention to details? Also, the persistence of sneakers peeking out from the hem of tailored trousers (many annoyingly not altered to the wearer’s height). Is this really considered cool, even on tuxedo-clad sexagenarian Zhu Houren (朱厚任)?

But what really caught my attention were their faces, which I usually do not scrutinise (nothing surgical intervention won’t hide). I should be more specific—this year, the eyebrows or the many stars who had theirs darken or drawn to augment the density. The unnaturalness really jumped at me. Those of Jeremy Chan (田铭耀, among those who wore a tuxedo jacket with contrast-black lapels), for one, were especially intense and oddly linear and light brown, as if they were shaded with a template; they were even thicker and denser than wife Jessica Liu’s (刘子绚), as if he was trying to impress her as Zayn Malik!

The long and lean: (left and right) Cynthia Koh, and Rebecca Lim. Photos: The Celebrity Agency/Instagram. And (centre)) Joanne Peh. Screengrab: Mediacorp/YouTube

The women, in contrast, seemed more measured in their attempts to make a massive impact. I consider this year a lull year. According to Mediacorp’s principal image stylist & costume designer Annie Chua, what she prepared for 23 of the stars revolved around “old Hollywood glamour” or, if you missed it the first time, “very glamorous old Hollywood glamour”. I wonder if the emphasis was on “old”. Quan Yifeng (权怡凤) wore a front-heavy, fussy, old-looking, black (and some white) strapless number: Ms Chua may not have realised that someone’s Hari Raya valances were missing. The opposite to that dated fussiness was Sheryl Ang’s (洪丽婷) yellow Sportmax crush of fabric. Was there not a single iron in the dressing rooms of Mediacorp? And what were the opera gloves about?

In the end, it was clean lines, as well as neatness that attracted me. Although many viewers consider the actresses who could stop traffic in their manner of dress of the past to be “boring” this year, I do think that they stood out for their unfussy turn out: Cynthia Koh (许美珍) in Moshino, Joanne Peh (白薇秀) in Ralph Lauren, and, most striking, Rebecca Lim (林慧玲) in Louis Vuitton. Sure, what they wore could be the epitome of modest fashion (at least from the front), but the dresses (including special guest, Taiwanese Pets Tseng’s [曾沛慈] red Rebecca Vallance dress, I should add) communicated a certain elan and class, both of which the Star Awards still lack, in spades.

Embracing The Offbeat

Uniqlo takes a road less travelled with Marni

Uniqlo announced on Instagram a short while ago that the brand they’ll be collaborating with next is Marni. That came as quite a bit of a surprise. The Italian label is not exactly considered conventional, and does not communicate in the vernacular of minimalism, such as Jil Sander (brand and designer) does—with the +J line, the German is Uniqlo’s longest collaborator. It appears to us that Uniqlo’s pairing with Marni could be minor shifts in their merchandising direction: go beyond the basics, while retaining the basic shapes that the Japanese brand is known for. The Marni X Uniqlo—reported to be “unisex”—could be a fashion-bent level-up of the multi-season, somewhat repetitive Marimekko collab that has appealed tremendously to both young and old.

Marni is known for their prints (sometimes Prada-like in terms of ‘ugliness’) and how they are not always used singly. Uniqlo is tapping into this. One fashion stylist told us that “it takes a special type to pull off these looks”. And he may not be wrong, as it would require those with appreciation of the off-beat to be able to wear pattern-mixing well. Although after Consuelo Castiglioni left the 28-year-old label she founded in 2016, the Marni kookiness is less intense, less immediate, present designer Francesco Risso has not toned down the brand’s art-school vibe and the home-spun charm. Sure, these days, Marni is geared towards the social media habitue and streatwear afficionado too, but it has not parted with fun or the odball. Perhaps this is why Uniqlo came a-calling.

Marni X Uniqlo will first launch in the US on 26 May 2022. Watch this space for release dates here. Product photos: Uniqlo. Illustration: Just So

Closed For Good?

Vogue Russia is no longer suspended; it’s shut

January 2022 issue of Vogue Russia. Photo: Vogue Russia. Illustration: Just So

Two weeks after Russia attacked Ukraine, Vogue Russia announced on Instagram, as well as on their webpage, that the title “will be suspending broadcasts on our platforms until further notice”. The latest, as reported in the media, is that the magazine will no longer be published in the land of Vladimir Putin. Publish Condé Nast had e-mailed a memo to its staff, stating that “the escalation in the severity of the censorship laws, which have significantly curtailed free speech and punished reporters simply for doing their jobs, has made our work in Russia untenable”. It is speculated that the Russian edition of other sibling titles under Condé Nast, such as Glamour and GQ, will also be closed.

In addition to Russia’s oppressive censoring of the media, it is possible that the luxury retail climate in the country has hastened the publisher’s decided to close Vogue. All European brands, across all price points, have suspended their businesses in Moscow and all other Russian cities. As one magazine sales executive said to us, “I doubt they will be able to get ads if they continue to publish”. Moreover, sanctions against Russia is not likely to be lifted soon. Vogue, so tethered to Western fashion brands, would be at odds with the current business sentiment pertaining to the Russo-Ukrainian war.

Vogue Russia was launched in 1998, during the Russian financial crisis that arose from the double-dread actions of the Russian government and its central bank: devaluing the rouble and defaulting on its debt. But Vogue Russia remained strong as a flagship of the Condé Nast stable. According to the publisher’s website, the magazine has over 800,000 readers. It was thought to be the most-flipped-through premium fashion title in the country. In that public announcement posted in March, the magazine wrote: “We hope that this is not a farewell letter but rather just a pause and soon we will be able to reunite with you”. It appears that that is an unlikely fate.

Battle Of The Bulge

Who showed off their pregnant body better? And is Alexander Wang cornering the market for sexed-up maternity wear?

Adriana Lima (left) on the recent Alexander Wang runway and Rihanna (right) in Alexander Wang on a night out in Santa Monica, in March. Photos: Alexander Wang and Backgrid respectively

The message these (still) pandemic days is clear: Show your face and, if you are pregnant, bare your belly. As the world witnesses, Rihanna is leading the way. Since announcing her pregnancy on social media in January, the Fenty mogul has been ramping it up on the fashion front, each outfit she shares online, more revealing—her baby bump more prominent—than the last. Now it seems that the ex-Victoria’s Secret Angel Adriana Lima, too, is following in the singer’s footsteps. At the Alexander Wang autumn/winter 2022 show, the five-month pregnant Ms Lima was outfitted in a dress with a large circular cutout, deliberately positioned to frame the stomach, as if to place the belly in an inset.

This is, of course, not the first time that Mr Wang has created skimpy maternity wear. Last month, the much-followed Rihanna appeared in a bespoke look that was attributed to the designer. It comprised of a sparkly, barely-there brassiere worn under an oversized leather jacket that was paired with a matching, very abbreviated skirt. The outfit, naturally, divided the world, whether among those fashion-bent or not. Highsnobiety weighed in with the headline: “I love Rihanna, but not her Alexander Wang maternity outfit”. It should be noted that the writer behind the the opinion piece did not dislike the outfit as much as the name that custom-made it for the star. Mr Wang had then still yet to entirely shake-off the scandal that beset him almost three years ago. Rihanna’s choice, therefore, held “complicated implications”.

The fashion press has called RiRi’s very public display of her stomach a “master class” in alternative maternity wear. And now that Mr Wang has sent out on his recent runway, a similar look to his choice for the Barbadian mother-to-be, is it indication that he will be the go-to designer for outfits that show off a pregnant bulge that some women now prefer to flaunt, uncovered? The two outfits we have seen so far are less (literally, too) maternity clothes than near-negligees that are worn to accommodate a pregnant woman’s changing body. Amid the boob-baring that other American labels are into, perhaps Mr Wang has found a new category of maternity wear, one that, similarly, uses less fabric than more. Would this, aided by his exhibitionistic expecting supporters, be what he needs to help his career recover—bare-skinned baby bump?