The Bandung Suit: Here And There

Elvin Ng wore the ombre suit at the Star Awards, so did one Kori Rae at the recent Oscars. And others even earlier

The Alexander McQueen “bandung” suit on Elvin Ng (left) and Kori Rae (right). Photos: Mediacorp and Getty Images respectively

By Ray Zhang

Many people had a go at Elvin Ng (黄俊雄) after this year’s inert Star Awards. Or, to be more specific, they bashed his inoffensive Alexander McQueen suit. The jacket, in a gradation of pink at the top to bordeaux (as the brand calls it) at the bottom was compared by many viewers, even fans, to a glass of unstirred bandung—yep, that usually too-sweet coffee-stall drink made of rose syrup and evaporated milk. Online, there was even a photographic, side-by-side show-and-tell. And that was the kinder comparison. The more wicked commentators likened the blazer to a particular sanitary plug that some women use, which Mr Ng, rather forgivingly, considered “a bit offensive”. Only affable Fairprice, in a Facebook post, saw raspberry parfait in his red-carpet look.

I do not know if Mr Ng or his stylist Darryl Yeo or both of them picked the said garment, but, frankly, I didn’t see those humorous and nasty similitudes. Maybe it’s my imagination: it isn’t so vivid. To me, he was much better attired than, say, the now-disgraced Shane Pow, who, in ill-fitting Berluti two-piece, looked like he was costumed for a K-drama in which he appeared as a bratty, wealthy scion on his first day in his father’s boardroom. Whatever those many people did notice has brought much attention to not only the garment, but the brand name too. Alexander McQueen is no Alexander Wang here. So the publicity did give the former a rather big boost.

Colour gradation on Wang Yibo (left) and Kevin Hart (right). Photos: sina.cn and Aspictures/Chloe Le Drezen respectively

Mr Ng was, however, not the first or only person in the entertainment industry to wear the ombre (also described as “gradient-effect”) jacket, part of Alexander McQueen’s spring/summer 2021 collection. The tailored garment appears to be attracting a lot of admirers. A week after his TV appearance, another person wore the same outfit, 14,112km across two oceans. In Los Angeles, Pixar producer Kori Rae attended the Oscars in identical suit (not, interestingly, the version available for women). But she took it two steps further—she included a matching shirt and tie, in case the colour effect on the jacket alone was not enough for you to think bandung, or the other thing! I was surprised she didn’t colour her hair to match. Perhaps it was the setting Californian sun, but Ms Rae’s suit did look rather saturated. Forgive me, I am thinking of what Donald Trump, if he had watched, might say!

The ombre effect of the silk-wool jacket (priced at S$6,450) is, according to the brand, an “engineered dip-dyed print”, which means that the jacket or the fabric used was not actually partially submerged into a vat of dye (which may offer the assurance of no colour run). Some people think that the pink and the red do not make a good pairing; some also said the pink is too feminine for Mr Ng, who has never really concerned himself with fashion colours and details that are thought to be binary (look at the boat-neck Prada nylon top that he wore on the Channel 8 talk show The Inner Circle [神秘嘉宾]). Following the bandung alert, some Netizens pointed out that Chinese actor and former member of Korean boy band Uniq, Wang Yibo (王一博), too, wore a McQueen bomber jacket with identical chromatic print. No one questioned Mr Wang’s fashion choice. Nor, in fact, Kevin Hart’s. The comedian/actor also wore what Elvin Ng (and Kori Rae) did for a Fashion Bomb Daily fashion editorial, his masculinity clearly not threatened by sweet, unstirred-beverage colours.

Down By The Thames

…where it’s dank and dreary, Sarah Burton showed a collection for Alexander McQueen damp with the damper

So, the showing of spring/summer 2021 collections is still on-going. At this point, so close to what would be the first deliveries of the next season, it is unsurprising that many people can’t keep up. One product manager told us that he’s “so confused”. Alexander McQueen’s collection for next spring was just shown, and the brand is taking “pre-orders” on its website. Is that a new iteration of the now mostly forgotten see-now-buy-now model, once so fervently touted by the likes of Burberry and Tom Ford? Or, is this deliberately turning one’s nose up at conventional fashion-season schedules. Or, a brand “lead(ing) its own rhythm”, just as Saint Laurent has, when they announced on Instagram back in April?

Whatever the case, brands are finding ways to show to pique both customer and media-watcher interest. Alexander McQueen has eschewed the fashion show (even a reinterpreted one) for a fashion film by the English film-maker/commercial director Jonathan Glazer that shows both the women’s spring/summer 2021 collection and the men’s pre-fall 2021. Shot in a not-so-stunning part of the English river Thames, the film is what optimists might call “gritty”, compared to another on-location showing just days earlier: Saint Laurent’s stunning runway presentation in a North African desert. The Thames is not the Seine, and the film’s setting is perhaps a deliberate counterpoint to Sarah Burton’s underwhelming frocks. Those who love to uncover fashion film messages would consider this a worthy challenge, as they wonder what the two women opening the film were doing in the water, searching for a picnic their friends were already partaking (why could they have not walked on the river bank?). And why waste good tulle by making a model dressed in a froth create an angel shape in the mud?!

Perhaps mud and the muck are tropes for Sarah Burton being somewhat stuck in a sludge of sameness. In the early year since taking over Alexander McQueen after his death, Ms Burton has tried to put out some semblance of those complex and challenging cuts that the former was known for, with hints of consumable historicism. But in the ensuing years, it became one “love letter to women” after another. Ms Burton’s inability to push Alexander McQueen the brand further than just pretty clothes is one of the reasons why look-back Instagram accounts such as #mcqueen_vault is well and alive, and followed. There is no denying that Ms Burton is technically well-grounded, but that is not indication of the flair that made Mr McQueen the name once on everyone’s lips.

The film let on very little. So we viewed the lookbook, usually not the ideal medium to capture the mood of the season. It appears that statement sleeves are Ms Burton’s thing for next spring. As dramatic as they are and as alluring as they would be to the selfie-obsessed fashionistas, we feel we have seen it at Viktor and Rolf before. In view of the current social situation, these could well be (timely?) social-distancing sleeves. What is really ho-hum is the corseted bodice (extraordinary?) of fit-and-flare dresses with swirly symmetry of the skirt. These are low-barrier-to-entry designs, and they, like many other pieces, look tired even when it’s visible that, with some of the pieces, considerable work is invested in them. But, given the ease of dressing that women now prefer, must it be so obvious that she had tried this hard?

Photos: Alexander McQueen

The Runner You Won’t Run In

More dad shoes. Are these adequately papa-like?

 

Alexander McQueen Runner

When Alexander McQueen collaborated with Puma in 2005 and released their first kicks a year later, no one thought of describing the odd sneakers with less than sleek looks “dad shoes”. More than ten years after the pairing, dad is no dud.

To be sure, the early Alexander McQueen X Puma sneakers—inspired by what was described as “Anatomical Veins”—were more sci-fi-looking than papa-off-beat, but the latter designs of the diffusion line McQ with Puma were, to us, rather prescient. We are referring to the Tech Runner, all chunky mid-sole and complex piecing of the upper. The Balenciaga Triple S, dare we say, arrived somewhat belatedly.

Alexander McQueen, without its founder—himself a known sneakerhead, reportedly with over 500 pairs to his collection—continues with the silhouette first seen in 2014, the year Ricardo Tisci re-imagined Nike’s Air Force 1, an exercise that comes years after Mr McQueen brought luxury fashion to sneakers by teaming up with Puma.

The latest, called the Patchwork Runner, has kept to the spirit of what was introduced four years ago. Even with “Tech” struck off its name, this Runner has not lost its technical vibe. Like much of the dad’s shoes now, there is a thick mid-sole—this slightly elevated at the rear. The mid-sole is white, today’s preferred colour, and is base to a mixed-fabric upper that is reminiscent of the older brother of 2014.

Overall, the Made-in-Italy shoe has the heft of what fashion-oriented sneaker fans love. This come from the generous padding, which envelopes the foot comfortably, Since this, is after all, expensive footwear of fashion, it is unlikely anyone—us included—will take it for a run. Those who cop a pair may not be certain of how it performs, but they could be clear that, while the Runner may not go on track, they are on trend.

Alexander McQueen ‘Patchwork Runner’, SGD1,195, is available at Alexander McQueen, Scotts Square. Photo: Jim Sim 

 

Clutch This!

McQueen silk clutch

The clutch has become the bag of choice these days as more women give their large hold-alls a rest. While many clutches are a flat rectangle bag not unlike an envelope, Alexander McQueen’s origami-like version is more substantial and nicely 3-D. Due to its rather wide base (interestingly arched), this clutch is roomy enough to hold life’s inseparable gadgets. Known as Da Manta, it is so named because of the manta ray-like shape. But from afar, especially in the pictured floral silk, the bag looks like a Chinese (or Japanese) fan minus the sticks. The Oriental influence is undeniable, which tempts us to look ahead. While admittedly too early to suggest, this Da Manta will enjoy a joyous welcome during Chinese New Year!

Alexander McQueen Da Manta silk clutch is available at On Peddar, Takashimaya SC, for SGD690

Who’s Bugging You?

Season of Bugs

From left: Kenzo’s current campaign image, Alexander McQueen + Damien Hirst scarf, Lanvin silk top

Welcome to a season of bugs. Have designers abandoned their horticulturist for their favourite entomologist, given the swarm of insect-inspired clothing and communication designs? It’s not an unreasonable assumption when pest is preferred to petal.

Fashion’s appropriation of insects is not necessarily a reflection of consumers’ changing attitudes towards creepy-crawlies. For the longest time, flowers, rather than bugs, were used for print on fabrics or appliqué on garment. In fact, bugs have traditionally appeared as jewellery rather than as clothing. From ancient Egyptian scarab rings to 18th Century Swiss beetle timepieces to present-time Cartier bee pendants and Gucci ladybug purses, insects have been used as accent pieces rather than motifs to flock the body. Considered irksome in nature, but admired in fashion, especially when rendered in precious metals and stones, even unsightly bugs such as the cockroach and the wasp have found favour among those who like their accessories off-beat. However popular they may become, it is doubtful that women will embrace beetle-covered skirts with the same zeal as those festooned with flowers.

The beetle print of a Lanvin silk blouse

Unlike floral print, bug motifs do not convey a sense of economic supremacy even when both blooms and vermin are products of nature. A woman emblazoned with roses, for example, may suggest wealth or person in possession of private grounds in which rose bushes thrive or the possibility of adventure in exotic (and expensive) locales, usually of cooler clime where the flora can flourish. Insects, on the other hand, point to places of questionable hygiene—usually dark and dank—or, like in Harry Porter, a predilection for the dark arts. Flowers are associated with aromatherapy, while insects with potions and spells!

Insectival styles are here to stay for a while. Squeamish or not, let not some trends be the season’s bugbear.