The Guy Who Gave You This Green

.…is leaving Bottega Veneta

The intrecciato weave in the Bottega Green. Photo: Bottega Veneta

We know that in fashion, it’s the coming and going that keeps the business in momentum. But when a designer, credited for reviving an unexciting house, leaves after just three years into his buzzy tenure, it’s hard to say if the leaving will do the the brand any good. Daniel Lee, as you have probably heard by now, is leaving Bottega Veneta. This comes just weeks after his show, Salon 3, staged in—of all places—Detroit. The loud collection was praised to the heavens by the media. It would seem Mr Lee, who posed shirtless on the cover of Cultured magazine for the fall 2020 issue that included the blurb “Prodigy”, could do no wrong. And then this surprising or, to better reflect the sentiment of the industry, shocking news. And just like that, he would be no more. Would the Cassette bag still be cool next month? And that gleefully bright Bottega Green? What happens to the stores given a new coat of paint?

It is not an easy green to wear, for sure. And it was not one to be the new black. Yet, some publications called it “colour of the year”. Fashionistas took to it like the proverbial moth to a flame. If there was one colour that dominated social media it was this green, so saturated that it could be considered too much. This is not Valentino red or Schiaparelli pink; this is green, with a particular brightness and intensity usually associated with goblins, the clothing of Leprechauns, and, of course, St Patrick’s day. No, not Starbucks, but—oh, yes—Grab! We tried to like it, but it was not speaking to us. Bottega Veneta’s spring/summer 2021 had so much of the green that it would make a convert of any green-averse, but we could only stand in a distance and observe, without, frankly, any envy.

The unmistakble and unmissable green that is the façade of the men’s store at MBS. File photo: SOTD

The truth is, we could not quite decide if we really liked the work of Daniel Lee, former ready-to-wear director at Celine, during Phoebe Filo’s stewardship. Not even after this many seasons at BV, not after he won four awards at the 2019 British Fashion Awards, not after the wild success of the crazy green. Mr Lee is no doubt technically skilled and chromatically gifted, but it is hard to describe one overaching aesthetic that could be ascribed to the brand. One tai-tai told us, “He started quite good at BV… but then he got weird. No one can wear his clothes.” We think there is sexy somewhere in his modern take of somewhat traditional shapes, but we can’t pin-point something so amazing that we’ll remember it even after Mr Lee’s Pouch bags and Wellies are long forgotten. Martin Margiela’s stint at Hermès was just three years longer than Mr Lee’s time at BV, but we do remember the house’s vareuse, that deep-V neckline that he had made quite his own, appearing on tunics, for example, worn over jumpers cinched at the waist with wide belts.

Many industry watchers thought Mr Lee’s resignation to be bad news for Kering, parent company of BV. No reason was given for their star British designer’s impending departure, or when his last day would be. Something did happen to precipitate the sudden exit, but we may never know. Although he told Cultured, “I’ve always been a people person and I like to be surrounded by world citizens from a richness of backgrounds”, WWD reported that he “clashed with several people within the company and was defined as ‘uncommunicative’.” In a statement issued to the media, Kering’s chief executive François-Henri Pinault thanked the designer for “the unique chapter” he brought to the house, which said the split is a “joint decision”. In January this year, BV removed all content on their social media accounts, purportedly to start on a clean slate. Could the end of Daniel Lee’s tenure allow Bottega Veneta to do the same with the design and the merchandise? Stay tuned.

After The Puddle

Bottega Veneta releases new Wellies, just in time for the rainy season

We don’t often see fashion folks in Wellingtons even when the weather is terribly wet, as it has been these past weeks. We have witnessed women rush to Cold Storage when it was pouring outside to ask for plastic bags to, well, bag their expensively-shod feet, but not those who chose weather-appropriate, water-repellent gumboots. The better option, really, is to slip into a pair of them Wellies. But many might consider such footwear for kindergarten children or the rubber tappers in Segamat. The good news is that, these days, they don’t look like footwear you’d purchase from retailers of garden supplies. We are referring to Bottega Veneta’s, a firm fave of the fashion set; the first being the Puddle Boot from last season.

This time, there is a new version, one each for men and women. For the fellows, there is the Stride, a mid-cut slip-on, rather than a boot, made from a single piece of rubber that could have come from Segamat! This is an easier to slip on, rather than a tall boot. It’s lined in cotton, which makes the the foot glide in easily. The women’s version, going by the name Shine, takes after Balenciaga’s Crocs: comes with heels—9cm (or 3.5″) to be exact. Although available in five gleaming colours for the men’s style and three for the women’s, including black and ‘sea salt’ (cream, really) for both, we think this blue-green called ‘blaster’ is really a blast!

Bottega Veneta Stride boots, SGD950, and Shine, SGD1,160, are available in stores now. Product photos: Bottega Veneta. Photo illustration: Just So

Magazine Biz

The first issue of Bottega Veneta’s adoption of ‘traditional’ media

Social media, no; magazine yes. So that’s the stand at Bottega Veneta after quitting Instagram and the like in January. The digital magazine, Issued by Bottega, appears to be the work of creative director Daniel Lee. It is a lively mix of content, featuring artists from many disciplines, which could mean that the magazine provided Mr Lee the opportunity to work with those he admires, who are mostly not in the field of fashion. Increasingly, fashion designers are expressing themselves outside of clothing/accessory design, taking on roles that show how much an all-rounded creative they each are—from photography to art to interiors to furniture and, of course, to magazine editing. Interestingly, Kim Jones, too, has put together a magazine—his first—by guest-editing this month’s Vogue Italia. But it is probably Mr Lee who is having the best time editorially. Issued by Bottega 01 is not assembled for paid consumption; it is a marketing exercise with a sizeable budget that tells the brand’s own story or whatever from its point of view, rather than content to inform viewers of the world around them.

This is not a magazine to read, even when it is described by BV as medium that’s traditional. It is heavy with graphical and visual cleverness, and scant of text, witty or otherwise. Words are mostly spoken or sung. It’s presented in a portrait orientation, but is formatted to take on the size of the screen you choose to view (including the PC monitor). The pages, comprising both stills and videos, can be flipped like a conventional magazine (you can swipe left or right, and each time it comes with a highly digitised sound of a page turned). There’s an inverted equilateral triangle on the top left corner. Click on this and you’ll be shown the contents page, organised not by stories and corresponding page numbers, but the names of the contributors of this issue. They include the Polish designer Barbara Hulanicki, most known as the founder of the British store Biba (where a teenaged Anna Wintour once worked); the hip-hop artist always associated with Adidas, Missy Elliot; the Chinese industrial designer and Pratt Institute alum Yi Chengtao (易承桃), and even the unlikely Japanese balloon artist Masayoshi Matsumoto. This is what SPH’s The Life Magazine—published in 2014 and folded not long after—could never look like.

“Lose your head, not your mind,” the magazine says. And how do they make you do that? They don’t, really. It is just page after page of images after images after images. If the now-defunct Visionaire had a digital life, this might be it. But, none of BV’s images really makes you stop to think or marvel. There are videos of parkour in action, roller-skating a la Xanadu, balloon art demo, accessories niftily transformed from before to after shapes, wobbly jellies of boot and bags (our fave), close-up of cello and sax performance (with strategically place jewellery) and photographs of heeled slides made of food stuff (a shoe design competition “challenge”?), folded clothing framed like art, not spectacular fashion spreads (including one featuring art and dress), spoken and written interviews, and a performance (sort of) by Missy Elliot. And like all magazines, the obligatory ads, only these come from one brand. It is quick, in fact, to see that Issued by Bottega is, at the end of all the song and dance and wobble(!), a good, old-fashioned catalogue.

As the flipping is so easy (no licking of fingers necessary), you’d come to the end of the magazine in three-and-half minutes (well, we did). In parts, it has visual heft, but as we flipped, we kept thinking we were on TikTok! What’s the point, we had asked. There isn’t, probably. It all seems to share the content development finesse of the average KOL, only the pages were better shot and, in some, well art-directed. The reality is, many of us are no longer getting the satisfaction out of mags, September issue or not, the way we did. Magazines—or catalogues—have not been able to move to the digital realm with content, nor a pretty picture, that can capture both hearts and minds. With the first, mixed-bag issue, it isn’t clear how Bottega Veneta’s attempt at magazine making will pan out. But, in the mean time, there’s always Gwyneth Paltrow making a fool of herself on vogue.com.

Screen grabs: Bottega Veneta

Off The Radar

Bottega Veneta stays away from social media and the fashion world panics. Is this a publicity stunt?

Bottega Veneta’s Facebook page today. Screen grab: Facebook

On Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, Bottega Veneta is gone. The name is there on FB, but there is no content; no image, not even a logo. All three social-media sites were left with barely a trace of their existence. Sure, there are the fan pages and attendant hashtags, but they’re not the official accounts. It’s like the brand has given up on social media. And the world of fashion is panicking. WWD wondered, “Where has Bottega Veneta gone?” Vogue informs us that the brand “signs off from social media.” Hypebeast sounds less worried, stating that BV “has left” the three biggies of online social interaction. It’s a marvelous vanishing act.

At the moment, there is only speculation as to why BV wants out of the social media circus. Apparently, the Italian company has remained mum in response to media queries. Designer Daniel Lee has been just as tight-lipped. Could this be permanent? BV has been operating rather mysteriously lately. The spring/summer 2021 collection, “Salon 01 London”, was shown in October last year to a very select and limited audience. And, by most accounts, was a rather private affair. The images of the show were released to the media only in December. And now, barely a month after that, another mystery. Perhaps BV thinks luxury brands can afford to be more in the dark (or atas), and less accessible? Or maybe, there’s a very simple reason for the shadow play and pulling out of social media: for good, old-fashioned publicity.

Update /6 Jan 2021, 18:30): It appears that Bottega Veneta is not entirely off social media. Their Chinese pages on Weibo and WeChat are still active. Looks like the important China market can’t be messed with.

Not Quite Near Delicious Perfection

Bottega Veneta is, as most media outlets have dutifully ensured, back in the news. Majorly. Both leather goods and the ready-to-wear are selling like hot cakes, but are they truly baked?

 

BV AW2020 P1

We have resisted writing about Bottega Veneta’s dramatic resurgence. British designer Daniel Lee is very much in the news, of course—the ‘It Boy’. But given the dubious history of the descriptor ‘It’, we did not want to rush into making a firm opinion of his walk with the brand. He’s now only into his third season, and already journalists are saying “he has the goods to back that up”. Has he? Rare is the designer who can grab headlines and hearts when newly installed at a house, but Mr Lee could, cleverly introducing a new bag silhouette as teaser and signature of what he hoped to forge for the house. For Bottega Veneta, the wait was over, sans protracted interim. The fashion world is constantly waiting for the next Boy Wonder—from Tom Ford to Simon Porte Jacquemus—and in Daniel Lee, he has arrived.

We sometimes wonder if we want the old Céline so badly and missed Phoebe Philo so desperately that we’d quickly open our arms to anything that hints at the French brand’s old DNA or anyone who had crossed paths with the once feted designer. Or, are we so eager for Bottega Veneta to return to its former glory that we are keenly willing to pat the shoulders of whoever comes along to revive it? And, as Mr Lee does, amassing fans—consuming and not alike—he has effectively presented himself to be a millennial designing for fellow Gen-Yers. As Female noted in a headline, echoing so many other mags, “Bottega Veneta’s Fall/Winter 2020 Collection Might Be Its Most Instagrammable Yet”.

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This is how fashion is now judged: not on design merit, not on extreme creativity, not, hack, on how good they would look on consumers, but how “Instagrammable”! These clothes would not be sold and worn, and worn by the enamoured; they have a date with IG and following that, a rotational life in Style Theory. As such, they need not bear the weight of designs that won’t be picked up by any one of the four lenses that now come with many smartphones, or be registered on their OLED screens, even if they’re 4K-ready. They need only to be photogenic, appear cool and, in the case of the new Bottega Veneta, seem subversive (a Vogue obsession). Everything else is relative and immaterial; everything else is besides the point.

These clothes may be Instagrammable, but they strain to stand out. You may look good (good is, sadly, good enough) in them, but they jostle with what other influencers, IG regulars, or the minions that make Fashion Week the veritable circus that it has notoriously become tend to wear for attention. Many pieces would not be out of place on an as-amped-up Michael Kors runway. Two sweater-knit shirts and layered fringed skirts certainly are evocative. Or, an open-work shirt with a tank-dress in the same fabric. They share a similar relaxed glamour, involving movable, shimmy parts, that Mr Kors has a weakness for, as well as the halterneck, and the oversized notch lapels commonly seen on fur and shearling coats. One shimmery, high-neck, long-sleeved gown in beige—we totally see Rene Russo falling for. And, yes, Rene Zellweger too.

BV AW2020 G3BV AW2020 G4

This season, one detail stuck out like ripped knees on pants: the deliberate placement of shirt collars over lapels of jackets. It appears a little too newscaster-proper to us—CNA would certainly relate to. The broadcaster might want to consider Kaia Gerber for the afternoon news, whose outfit is memorable only because the wearer looks like she’s strolling, on the first day to work, at a small law firm. Yet, Highsnobiety, was bowled over enough to imagine Ms Gerber a potential rock star: “Your pals have just started a new indie band and have somehow convinced Kaia Gerber to play the bass”. How that look can be evocative of “a lascivious dollop of rock and roll” may be beyond the ken of an average live stream viewer, with No Time To Die playing in the background.

Cleverly, Mr Lee does not crib from his previous tenure. It would be impetuous to say he tried to, but it really does not appear that he did. After all, Céline was not Maison Martin Margiela. It’s been only three seasons, we hear those who differ say. To that, we agree. Let’s not gush yet; let’s wait to see real subversion.

Photos: Alessandro Lucioni/gorunway.com

 

Is The Square Toe The New Standard?

The sharp angles may be at odds with the organic forms of your toes, but it seems many women have no reservations with that

 

By Shu Xie

It’s hip to be square? Since last spring/summer season, apparently. A week ago, just after the New Year, I was at the Bottega Veneta store to see what more new square toes they could come up with when I overheard a shopper telling her rapt companion, who was holding the left side of a flat Lido sandals in Zerox-paper white, that “they are pure ladder”! “Pure what?” was the rejoinder. “Pure ladder” came the high-tone reply. That, I suppose, is what could be called impairing eagerness?

Bottega Veneta has scored big with their square-toed Lido heels. According to Lyst, it was the most searched shoe last Q3, when more than 27,000 online users searched for it each month. How many of these thousands actually bought the shoe, or are sufficiently seduced by it to want an alternative (likely cheaper) is not known. But it appears that this particular toe shape—specifically for the sole of the sandal—is fetching enough that, as we start seeing drops for spring (including leftovers from autumn), it is dominating store windows and shelves.

_20200108_164928.JPGBottega Veneta split-upper slide simply called Sandal

Square is not an easy shape to hold or frame, or underscore the toes that lay above it. If you look at a foot, both ends aren’t squared off. The square toe of a sandal often doesn’t remain hidden under the foot, which most traditionally shaped soles tend to be and stay as much as possible out of clear view. But as exposed bra straps are no longer considered inappropriate or glaring, the brightly hued sole aren’t either or a lapse in what might be considered refinement. They now have the same appeal as good china for fancy finger biscuits.

But the square-toed sole’s problem, for a lack of a better word, isn’t necessarily the sole itself. I have seen women shod in those sandals with straps that don’t snugly hold the toes together, which means the digits at the end of the foot splay across the square front of the sandal, looking like pencils strewn on the edge of drawing paper. The Lido sandal, as I have observed, does not have such a misfortune. The puffed up and exaggerated intrecciato strap is the bulkiest I have ever seen on a sandal, but it’s positioned forward enough to keep the partially-roofed toes comfortably close.

20-01-08-22-32-04-039_deco.jpgSquare-toed soles of heels by Australian label By Far

The square-toed sole, I suppose, is the complete opposite of the pointy-toed cousin, often considered the epitome of femininity and daintiness. But delicately pretty, these days, doesn’t quite cut it. The Lido’s hump of a strap across the dorsum is considered by many as elegant, but, to me, it barely cuts a profile that can be considered trim (the Lido has now a spin-off, the Chanel-ish Padded). Apart from marabou bedroom slippers, outdoor sandals are infrequently this bulky in the upper and front-protruding in the sole.

Entirely new, however, the square-toed sole is not. Historically, it isn’t even associated with royal courts, where fashion was adopted and followed, or the gentry who understood consumption and status, but with the poor. Believed to have existed since the medieval age, the square toe was considered frightfully uncomfortable shoes since they were quite literally wooden blocks strap to feet, not unlike the Japanese geta (下駄), only cruder. Don’t ask me why, but for a moment, I was thinking of what it would like to have iPhones (out of commission, of course)) for soles!

20-01-08-22-33-02-512_deco.jpgSquare-toed ballet pumps by Pedder Red

It is to be expected that the square toe wouldn’t remain as mere sole of sandals but would form the shape of the front of the upper of shoes, from mules to pumps. Shoe brands have not hesitated to jump on Bottega Veneta’s lead. Many may not remember, but Prada had a good run with those blunt-toe fronts in the ’90s, way before chuncky sneakers ruled. While Prada has occasionally brought them back in the past two decades, they did not quite catch on. This season, their platform Square Toe Pumps may give those who prefer their feet covered reason to shop. Talking about pumps, ballet pumps, traditionally blunt at the toe if you consider those really used for dance, is, too, having an OG moment, as seen in Pedder Red’s perfect-for-travel pair.

The men, I quickly saw and with delight, isn’t left out. Bottega Veneta has one quilted Derby that is heart-tuggingly hunky. Sure, the toe box isn’t quite squarish, but the sole sure is. And with a generous corridor that emphasises its blockishness, there is no ambiguity to where the inspiration came from. I think guys would really appreciate the girth that the Derby affords for the front of the foot. But given how so many men wearing leather shoes still prefer pointy toes, perhaps it isn’t so gauche to be square after all.

Photo: Chin Boy Kay

Playful Pyramidal Package

Bottega Veneta of late has been the go-to brand for soft, big bags, but amid all the potential pillows lie a Christmas ornament wanna-be. Or maybe an aroma diffuser?

 

Bottega Veneta Pyramid.jpg

It’s homage to the ancient Egyptian tombs of the pharaohs, an immediate conversation starter, a centrepiece for dinner tables when there isn’t one, a reflective surface for accurate makeup application-on-the-go (or whatever grooming needs), a “who’s the fairest of them all” teller of truths, a defensive tool against unwanted male advances, a dashboard gadget when the rear view is required, a mobile device when the hind sight is needed to warn of errant PMD riders on a pedestrian walkway, and, oh, it’s a handbag.

We are still unsure if what Bottega Veneta’s Daniel Lee is doing for the house, two seasons after his appointment, is persuasively good, but we do think the accessories deserve their continual trending status. The Pouch bag is, of course, the must-carry-or-you’ll-definitely-miss-out holder of everything dear, with the Shoulder Pouch destined for similar success. But tucked among these huggable clutches is a not-quite-discreet little thing—a mirror-surfaced Pyramid bag.

This is clearly a more striking version than the leather ones, and not at all suitable for squashing close to the bosom. But it is almost like an oversized jewel, which might ensnare those for whom a handbag can double as a light-reflecting precious collectible. It is interesting how the bag opens up on all three sides (the top triangle acts as a clasp) to reveal its white, nappa-lined gut, which, frankly won’t hold even a foldable LCD smart phone, unless it’s the upcoming Motorola Razr.

To be sure, the pyramid-shaped ‘micro’ bag is not completely new. Last year, Chanel’s Egyptian-themed Métiers d’Art collection featured one that looked like the house re-purposed the mask of Tutankhamun. There’s also the logo-large Saint Laurent Minaudière, which guys have been spotted using. Regardless, Bottega Veneta’s version will only make bags that hold little stand as the most desirable.

Bottega Veneta Pyramid Bag in Mirror, SGD7,100, is available for pre-order at Bottega Veneta stores. Photo: Bottega Veneta

The Intrecciato Goes Floreale

bottega-veneta-aw-2016-tippi-pumps

In view of how women these days like clothes that are “edgy” or, in favour of Instagram, over-the-top, pretty is as appealing as granny underpants. In fact, pretty has less a place in fashion now that ephemeral is arguably lost in a sea of sporty get-ups that no longer only dominate in the domain of the athlete. This month’s “Pretty Chic” Vogue may asks to differ, but, on the ground, it really is quite different.

The floral print on Bottega Veneta’s signature intrecciato finish of the above shoe, the ‘Trippie’ pump, is, therefore, refreshing because it appears as you thought pretty has gone back to the prairie. Dainty floral print is, however, having a moment, thanks to Vetements, but this is prettiness that can be connected to the kooky stance of Courtney Love rather than the haughty bearing of, say, Elizabeth Bennet.

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There’s something extra appealing about Bottega Veneta’s child-like flowers—they appear on the unique intrecciato weave which is usually in plain, solid colours, as seen in their ubiquitous bags. In fact, woven leather and florals usually associated with folk art are a pairing that is consistent with the trend towards craft, or craft-like finish.

However, what may not widen the Trippie pump’s appeal is its utterly vanilla shape that the brand describes as “classic”, but women may find a little too yesteryear. The patent calfskin shoes with modest 8-cm (3.1”) heels, for some, may recall those worn by their grandmothers to tea dances of the ’50s. However, a throwback in our present time of looks indeterminate may not be such a bad thing.

Bottega Veneta ‘Trippie’ pumps, SGD1,010, are available at Bottega Veneta stores at ION Orchard and The Shoppes at Marina Bay Sands. Photos: Bottega Veneta

The Slip-On Sneaker Slips Into The Big League

Slip-onsThe comfortable ease that the slip-on sneaker projects. Shoes: Flesh Imp. Photo: Jim Sim

By Shu Xie

The first cotton-canvas slip-ons bought for me was in my first year of primary school. The giver, my mother, called them “lazy shoes”. When I was curious enough to know why, she told me that only people who are too lazy to tie shoe laces wear them. Whether that was directed at me, I wasn’t sure. Certain, too, I wasn’t if that made sense, but it was lazy shoes for me outside school throughout much of my pre-pubescent years. When I was old enough to think that perhaps what my mother said was baloney, I was informed by a magazine article that, in fact, any footwear that allows one to only slide the feet into them is considered “lazy”. Somehow, I was still not convinced. Why humiliate the shoe when it is the wearer who is lazy?

These days, while shoes such as the loafer can be classified as lazy, they’re known by their better-regarded names even when, in the case of the loafer, one would usually think of an idler. In fact, the moniker has very much lost its ring in an age of even lazier footwear such as Crocs. These days, the cotton slip-ons that so many of us have worn when we were young are elevated to “sneaker” status. If you know your kicks, and I believe you do, cotton-canvas slip-ons—almost synonymous with summers of the West—have been upgraded to “premium” versions. Online and among knowing consumers, they’re “slip-on sneakers”.

However highly perched they may seem, these easy-to-wear shoes have, in the past two years, become increasingly ubiquitous, even when the tennis shoe—defined by Adidas’s Stan Smith—seems more visible than any other casual footwear. If the tennis shoe is the ultimate plain sneaker, than the slip-on—best represented by the skate wear brand Vans—is the country cousin, untethered to urban fabulousness, bare to the point of boring. That, however, wasn’t how things played out.

Dienme slip-onsSlip-on sneakers don’t only come in plain cotton canvas; they’re now attractively patterned too. Shoe: Diemme; jeans: Uniqlo. Photo: Jim Sim

Two years ago, when I revisited the slip-on sneaker and bought a pair of Diemme ‘Garda’ in woven leather (tight ketupat style), I realised that the “lazy shoe” was no longer indolent on the design front. By then, brands such as Kenzo were putting on retail shelves their versions in eye-popping prints. Increasingly, more shoe makers climbed aboard the bandwagon, from Christian Louboutin with full-on studs to Saint Laurent with gaudy leopard spots, illustrating, once again, the bubble-up effect that has washed over luxury fashion.

The slip-on sneaker’s resurgence can be attributed to the persistent presence of Vans’s classic slip-on. And the design has not changed much. Comprising a vamp and tongue as one piece (and usually piped with the same or contrasting fabric near the ankle) and a quarter that goes under, the slip-on sneaker is best characterised by the side elastic inserts slot between the two. These allow the foot to be slipped in easily and also to help secure the shoe. Other details include a usually padded ankle collar, heel counter (or a heel tab, but never two together), and a foxing stripe (a mark of vulcanisation when heat and pressure is applied to bond the upper to the sole). The sole is usually made of rubber and is about 3-cm thick (women’s version can come in platform height). What amazes me is the slip-on sneakers’ ability to escape massive technological advances that have affected almost every athletic shoe. It has not even embraced air soles.

Slip-on sneaks in the MRTSeen in the MRT train: if even a pair of slip-on sneakers with a strong graphic upper is still too plain, bejewelled turn-up cuffs will do the trick. Photo: Jim Sim

If looks can be deceiving, then the slip-on sneaker is. It may appear comfy on the outside, but when worn, the internals can be annoyingly abrasive. It does not matter if under the vamp, it is lined or not. The main problem, in my experience tracking down the best pair, is in the way the elastic insert is attached to the vamp and quarter. When it is sandwiched between the upper and the lining, you won’t feel anything scratchy (and that still depends on the stitching). If it is stitched directly to the underside of the vamp and is exposed to the skin of the foot, there’s no guarantee you won’t feel anything. This is a problem not exclusive to cheaper shoes. A pair of MSGM slip-ons that I love was hate at first wear; its bite worse than an annoyed, temperamental terrier. While the hitch can be solved by a pair of low socks, or what Muji calls “foot cover”, finding a pair that doesn’t slide underfoot is another charmless challenge.

The Vans Classic Slip-On (or style #48, as it’s known to retailers) has a rather brief history. It was introduced in 1977 although the company was started in 1966. In less than 5 years, a revolutionary checkerboard pattern was introduced and it soon became “iconic”. But it was the 1982 film Fast Time at Ridgemont High that set the shoe on its upward trajectory. In the movie’s trailer, the character Jeff Spicoli, played by Sean Penn, memorably hit himself in the head with a pair of Vans, the checkerboard version, no less, and with the shoe box prominently placed on his lap, allowing the brand message “Off the Wall” to talk to the audience directly. I didn’t know then as I know now: that could be an early form of product place.

The slip-on sneaker has since refused to go into obscurity, lasting till now, even when they may pale next to a pair of Ultra Boost. Their popularity is enhanced when so many other brands are willing to work with Vans to release collaborations. In the end, it requires no styling skills to challenge Rachel Zoe to make a pair work with jeans, chinos, shorts, skirts, dresses, or just swimwear. The SOTD editor and I went shopping recently, and these caught our eyes:

Flesh Imp Laird Black

Flesh Imp Laird Black ShoeFlesh Imp, one of Singapore’s better known and oldest streetwear labels, has taken the classic slip-on a notch up by introducing a mock-croc version with a finish that belies, to my surprise, its pocket-friendly price. Unfortunately, the sizes do run a little small.

SGD65, available at Flesh Imp, Orchard Cineleisure

Sperry Top-Sider Striper Chambray Slip-On Navy Palm

Sperry Top-SiderThis is not exactly new since it was launched last season, but since palm prints are so on-trend, this pair by boat shoe maker Sperry Top-Sider has to be included. What’s also interesting is the cotton chambray upper, so perfect with a shirt (or dress) of similar fabric, minus the print, of course.

SGD89, available at Tangs at Tang Plaza

Supra Cuba Navy Stripe-White

Supra Cuba Navy White Stripes

I am not sure if this cotton slip-on by skateboard shoe label Supra is meant to look nautical, but I am attracted to the brushed-on stripes. More appealing, in fact, is the two-in-one. At first look, you see a pair of lace-ups, but then you notice a small discreet loop at the side—above the elastic insert—that allows the laces to be removed so that you’ll get a pair of classic canvas slip-on.

SGD109, available at Bratpack, Mandarin Gallery

Patrick Muret.M

Patric MuretIn 1990, French shoe label Patrick started a made-in-Japan production line and this pair, the Muret.M, is one of the recent outputs. On the white canvas are quirky drawings of people at leisure that capture a certain joie de vivre. This shoe is, unfortunately, sized for women only.

SGD199, available at Star 360, Wheelock Place

Closed Cotton Slip-On Allover Print

Closed slip-onThey’re known more for their jeans than their footwear, yet this season’s small drop of slip-ons, to me, just cuts it. Closed, the Italian label now owned by Germans, has incorporated Japanese wave graphics onto this canvas shoe without heady Oriental overtones.

SGD239, available at Robinsons at the Hereen

Spingle Move SPM 179

Spingle MoveHiroshima-based Jap brand Spingle Move is known for incredibly comfortable shoes that only came about after the maker “studied the foot type of the Japanese”. It’s quite safe, then, to say that the shoes will suit generally broader Asian feet. While they make familiar-looking slip-ons, this is the one that caught my fancy. I guess I am attracted to the unusual vulcanised rubber outsole: they say Zaha Hadid to me.

SGD239, available at Star 360, Wheelock Place

Converse Deck Star ’67 Woven Suede

Converse Deck StarConverse is so associated with the cotton-canvas Chuck Taylor All-Stars that I find it strange holding a pair of rather premium looking woven suede slip-on from the brand in my hand. But shoes don’t perch on palms, so I slip them on. The moulded sock liner does its job beautifully: they’re supremely comfortable.

SGD279, available at Star 360, Wheelock Place

Disney X Master of Arts Mickey Portrait MD 07

Master of Arts X DisneyAlthough this is part of the fall 2015 collection, it is still a warm-weather shoe, made more adorable with Mickey’s countenance blown up large over both sides of the leather upper. This Florentine brand is known for their extreme patterns and vivid colour palette, but it’s with Disney’s most loved mouse that they have brought their leather slip-ons down closer to earth.

SGD259, available at Robinsons at the Hereen

Y-3 Laver

Y3 slip-onYohji Yamamoto’s partnership with Adidas is never about the straightforward. Even with a shoe as basic as the slip-on sneaker, Y-3 offers one of the rare few that looks technically advanced. The mesh accent is a nice contrast if the neon, computer-generated graphic is not enough. The perforation on the rear of the outsole reminds me of another architect: Tadao Ando.

SGD469, available at Y-3, Mandarin Gallery

Bottega Veneta Blue Cotton Denim

Bottega Veneta slip-onWhile Bottega Veneta’s slip-on may look the plainest among those featured here, they are appealing because they’re made of a cotton that will never lose its appeal: denim. Here, the denim is rather raw, cut as a one-piece upper, and luxuriously finished on the top edges with leather piping. Those who must have Bottega Veneta’s signature intrecciato woven leather will be glad to know that it appears as an inset within a four-leaf clover shape, located at the centre of the heel counter.

SGD800, available at Bottega Veneta boutiques

Gucci Tian Slip-On Sneaker

Gucci sneakersJust as you thought the double-G logo-ed Gucci canvas is a distant memory, Alessandro Michele has revived it. The recognisable fabric is, however, not plain as the unadorned original. Here, used on its ‘Tian’ slip-on, the canvas is painted with Oriental fowl, flora and fauna. I find the designs alluring and imagine Zhang Yimou’s costumer to use them if the director would film the lives of the rich, Chinese bourgeoisie rather than the fashion-deprived proletariat.

SGD800, available for men and women at Gucci, Paragon and The Shoppes at Marina Bay Sands

Prada Ben-Day Dot-Print

Prada slip-onFrom the side profile, Prada’s slip-on has the elegance of a loafer, making it moderately dressier than the casual others. Befitting the brand’s kooky graphics is the print on the calf-leather upper: arrows and bunnies, delineated from Ben-day dots. It smacks of art, rather than street cred, and it’ll be especially meaningful for those who appreciate the legacy of Benjamin Henry Day, Jr, I reckon.

SGD1,070, available at Prada boutiques

Dior ‘Happy’

Dior slip-onsThis comes hot on the heels of last year’s crystal-encrusted “Dior Fusion” (shoe that a 21st century empress dowager, I imagine, would certainly wear!) With a name that suggests high spirits, this season’s slip-on sneaker is truly a joyful shoe to behold. The back half of nappa seems to embrace the front half of dark denim, on which crystals flowers are stitched as if strewn.

SGD1,250 (women’s only), available at Dior boutiques

Christian Louboutin Roller-Boat Flat Toile

Christian Louboutin Roller-BoatIf someone took a bunch of iced gems—those biscuits topped with sugar swirls that we ate when we were kids—and threw them over a pair of Louboutin slip-ons, this is what you’ll get! Instead of the usual silver, gold or black studs that has made Louboutin footwear so incomprehensibly desirable, coloured points in Crayola colours are now enticing those who can’t get enough of all-over micro-hardware on their shoes. And over on-trend Hawaiian print to boot!

SGD1,700, available at Christian Louboutin, Takashimaya S.C.

All product photos of shoes courtesy of the respective brands

Woven? It’s Just An Illusion

Bottega Veneta nylon messanger bag.gif

Bottega Veneta’s intrecciato leather is so able to distinguish the brand’s leather goods that it is hard to imagine anyone not wanting it when making his first Bottega purchase. Although in Italian, “intrecciato” means braided or woven, Bottega’s intrecciato is not always the woven finish as the name suggest. There are leathers that are embossed, as well as those that sport a print of the house’s distinctive design such as this bag.

Named the “Gardena Bag”, it comes in nylon on which is printed with what Bottega calls “Intrecciolusion”. It’s all very technical looking, of course, and pairs well with the monochrome digital gadgets we’re inclined to carry about in our daily life. What attracted us to this bag is its lightness, which contrasts palpably to a classic intrecciato version of the same size. There’s something sportif yet office-appropriate about this roomy messenger. And the fact that it is built with smartphone sleeves, on top of multiple pockets, adds to the bag’s attractiveness. Practical always has its appeal.

Bottega Veneta intrecciato-print messenger bag, SGD2,800, is available at Bottega Veneta, The Shoppes@Marina Bay Sands

Dress Watch: The Raw Edge

Bottega Blouse

I was enthralled by what I saw in the window, but, next to me, my companion deadpanned, “It won’t sell.” I looked at her, and she looked back, still insisting, “Unfinished edges won’t sell.” I did not go further. You don’t argue with a merchandise director.

The window that beckoned was at Bottega Veneta. The object in question was a marigold blouse in double-faced silk duchesse satin. The sleeveless top was asymmetric in the composition of its front bodice, some parts with unfinished hems. What was intriguing about this blouse was the skillful joining of the panels—their placements created sort of cascading blade foliage, a confirmation of mastery in draping. The many seams—all unexpectedly placed—within the blouse were held together with what seemed to be the mimicking of hand-tacking.

Despite the absorbing design (and the Thirties glamour it exuded), the element that bothered my companion was the unfinished edges. Raw hems may suggest crudeness in less deft hands, but here, designer Thomas Maier created something that was, to me, refined precisely because of this deliberate ignoring of the hems, resulting in a soft abbreviated fringing that went well with the unconcealed tacking. When I pointed to the thoughtful details, she simply said, “But the unfinished edges make it look cheap.”

It is intriguing that exposed overlock stitches are acceptable these days but not unfinished hems, which came into prominence during the rise of Japanese labels such as Comme des Garçons in the early Eighties, and later adopted by Maison Martin Margiela, and more recently by Alber Albaz for Lanvin.

To me, an unfinished hem can look far superior to a poorly stitched one.

This Bottega Veneta silk blouse is available at the boutique in Ion Orchard for SGD3,010. Photo: style.com