What Would Your Parents Say?

If putting one’s feet on a table during meal times is rude, is placing one’s shoes alongside food any better?

This image appeared on our Instagram page, and it shocked us. It really did. That it came from Club 21 was even more disturbing. We thought it shameful, so inconsistent with what many of us were brought up to believe is acceptable. The oldest multi-label store here left standing has, a few hours ago, shared this on their official IG account, not in some remote corner of the Internet. Originally posted by Two Men Bagel House last week, it shows unambiguously a pair of plated (!) Comme des Garçons X Converse sneakers, placed next to two bowls of barely finished dry prawn noodles (虾面). It is possible that the shoes are unworn (and presumably clean), but is it still perfectly alright for them to be on a table that has, by practice and custom, no place for footwear? This is likely photographed in a hawker centre (or foodcourt), but just because it’s not in a setting that equals that of a restaurant does not mean liberties can be taken without thinking. To make it worse, Club 21 wrote in the comment: “simply delicious”! Have we really become so culturally ignorant and insensitive?

Popular culture, TikTok buffoonery, and the general do-and-say-as-you-please that social media affords may allow marketers to imagine that they have the green light to ignore table manners, but that does not mean marketing with a nod to common etiquette is no longer important. Or, worth considering in the quest for eye-catching photos or, worse, talking points. We risk sounding prudish and custom-bound, but in a time when brands and politicians are knocking, for example, the traditional use of chopsticks, should there be more perplexing ignorance regarding table-top practices? It is easy to dismiss the Club 21 post as the work of benighted Millennials (or Gen-Zers?), but that does not allow the image to be more acceptable. We could not unsee what we saw. That this did not come from some ignorant Western brand makes Club 21’s faux pas (and that of the two men they sponsored) all the more difficult to understand and accept. We are unaware of anywhere in Asia where shoes of any sort on a table used for meals, whether in one’s home or not, is decent or tolerable. Half of smiley-hearts do not take away the fact that the very act is crude and—ask any parent—rude.

Screen grab: Club 21/Instagram

The Crazy 1s

Is 11.11 really the biggest sale of the year?

By Truss Tan

Who’d thought that innocuous quadruple one, split in the middle by a period, can be such a big deal, and date. Yes, the symmetrical numbers are appealing, lined up in a neat row, like rubber trees in a plantation. But people don’t know them as “ones”. These are not simply a repetition of the lowest cardinal number, deemed lucky in numerology. As K-actor Lee Min Ho (now with more than 20 million followers on Facebook and Instagram) said in the Lazada ad, “eleven eleven” (I did not, at first, understand what he uttered). Or as they say in China, “shuang shiyi (双十一, or double eleven)”, the massive, 24-hour retail event that is so huge, a tally room is set up to track the sales and the millions made, by the second!

Like so many shopping phenomena, these days, much of them are emerging from China. Originally known as Single’s Day (光棍节, guang gun jie), 11.11 has gone beyond the celebration of singlehood and not be ashamed of going without a romantic partner to become a gargantuan and unfettered consumerist indulgence—so massive in scale, it’s often acknowledged as the largest online and offline shopping festival in the world! And Americans thought Black Friday is huge. Last year, in China alone, they chalked up a record-breaking (again) USD38 billion in sales! If that is not staggering, I don’t know what is. As I write this, I have not been fed this year’s numbers, expected to break records again since spending is predicted to be high, considering people have accrued a lot from not travelling overseas.

Lee Min Ho for Lazada. Photo: Lazada

As the popular telling goes, in 1993, four unattached, unnamed dudes from Nanjing University (南京大学), probably bored to death, was wondering how to mitigate the “monotony” of not having a romantic mate. An idea came to these guang guns—“bare sticks”, the slang word Netizen used for single men. They thought it would be a good time to organise fun activities (nothing to do with shopping) to occupy similarly single campus mates, and they did, which apparently became popular among the co-ed population of the school. Phallic symbolism aside, 11.11 was also meant to be a stand to show that men do not need romance to validate their masculinity. It was, therefore, also known as “anti-Valentine’s Day”.

But no good idea can escape the grip of some greedy entrepreneurs, especially those in tech, sitting behind their laptops, watching the world, all agog for action. In 2009, Alibaba, through the manic site Taobao, create the 11.11 that we know today. Who cares about the singles now or the increasing number of them, left on the shelf, when you can, instead, see the item(s) you have been lusting after fly off the shelf. In fact, 11.11 is now a veritable cultural event, with celebrity attendance. In 2018, Mariah Carey kicked-started the festival with a performance backed by the Cirque de Soleil. Last year, Taylor Swift plugged the buying frenzy with a splashy performance. In the past years, we, too, have caught up. As Alibaba has a sizeable investment in Lazada, 11.11 has gripped the imagination and aroused the appetites of shoppers here.

Club 21 sleek landing page. Screen grab: sg.club21global.com

I am not easily afflicted by any shopping fever. In the past years, 11.11 came and went, and I have not been disadvantaged by it. But when Club 21, this year, persistently appear on my social media accounts with their beckoning, I was seduced into experiencing 11.11, at least once. Now, atas Club 21 was never known to play by the typical sale-schedule rule book. In the past, they would not even participate in the now significantly less great Great Singapore Sale (which was “forced” to go online due to the pandemic). Yet, here they were, notifying me on FB and IG incessantly that there were, at first, two more days to go before 11.11 (shown in bold, patterned type), and then, there was a day more. The urgency it created and the possibility that FOMO may strike finally aroused my curiosity about Eleven Eleven.

The Club 21 e-shop is still one of the most unfriendly to navigate despite a supposed remake last year. They are, to be sure, not Qoo10; they are a lot more classy, for a lack of a better expression. But they are not what you would call engaging (the buzz word in e-commerce these 11.11-aware days) or experiential. A journalist friend had texted me yesterday to ask if “get your favourite items for the price of one” (according to the Club 21 ads) meant “two items for 50%”. The answer is not immediately available on the Club 21 homepage (I assume I’d have to “see ‘promotions’ for T&C”, which, despite the pointer symbol appearing when I hover over the line, wasn’t clickable).

Anyway, I was not really here to spend (at least not at twenty past midnight); I wanted to see how our island’s premier multi-label store is adapting to 11.11, or adopting it. Regrettably, it was a totally anti-climatic session. Once you click on ‘shop now’ on the main page, it’ll bring you to the products page. No fanfare. A click on any item did not immediately bring me to the merchandise. It took an unusually lengthy 11.25 seconds. In fact, my entire 30-minute browsing was characterised by very annoying lag. And especially curious was items listed under the ‘Sale’ tab: they were not discounted! And when I clicked on the back arrow, the page hanged!

Singaporean actors Wang Weiliang (王伟良) and Gurmit Singh, peddle for Shopee

Might it be better at Lazada, heavily advertise on TV this past week, featuring the hard-to-comprehend Lee Min Ho? The sheer number of items offered by Lazada, on the homepage alone, often makes me nervous. Where do I begin? And there are those coupons preceding the listing of products. I saw an inordinate amounts of coffee machines, kitchen storage, and electric fans! I tried a search: fashion. The first item that appeared was a “2020 Autumn Clothing New Style Hong Kong Flavor Chic Versitile (sic) Fashion Vintage Hong Kong Flavor qian kai cha(?) Backless Strapped Dress Women Fashion”. Thankfully, there was the picture. But, was I in the market for clothes to wear to a nightclub when they are allowed to open? At $8.80 (not marked as an 11.11 sale item), it was cheaper than a McDonald’s Breakfast Deluxe Extra Value Meal.

While Lazada took the more stylish—no less popular—choice of Lee Min Ho, kitted in a pink suit, for their 11.11 communications, Shopee adopted a more grassroots approach, selecting Singaporean actors, Wang Weiliang (王伟良), as himself, and Gurmit Singh as Phua Chu Kang to helm the selling. I’ll keep my feelings about Mr Phua as a salesman to myself for now. Clearly, Shopee is geared for the mass market. And those who must buy at a discount or what is perceived to be cheap. The homepage, however south you scroll, was slapped with discount coupons after discounts coupons after discounts coupons. I finally saw ‘Key Highlights’ after what seemed like the time I would need to pee. Still, there were no product so irresistible I would go weak in the knees (or knuckles—I was scrolling with my fingers) for. By now, my eyes were so fatigued I mistook a Military “Lensatic” Compass for a compact! It was really time to go to bed. In the morning, I’ll try Tekka Online Market; I heard they were doing 11.11 too.

Illustration (top) by Just So

Some Stores Shall Stay Shut

Tomorrow may be break-free day for many people on our island as Phase 2 of the Circuit Breaker begins, but those planning to go shopping will find some stores still closed


Uniqlo annoucement

Many people, ready for tomorrow’s resumption of some semblance of social life, are surprised that Uniqlo announced around six this evening on their Instagram page, “We are not open yet.” It continued to say, “Uniqlo is not rushing to open on 19 June 2020, Friday.” No official word was released by the company at the time of this post. Majority of the comments appeared to approve or support Uniqlo’s decision, agreeing that there is no need to scramble to commence its offline business. The brand added, “We will announce our store opening dates in the upcoming few days through our social media channels, website and app.” Some fans, however, are disappointed that this confirmed Uniqlo would not launch their Airism face mask here, as it will in Japan nationwide tomorrow.

While Uniqlo resists opening their physical retail stores, compatriot brand Muji is laying the welcome mat, although one outlet will be shuttered permanently. The brand announced yesterday that they have closed down their Marina Square store. Through IG, it said, “We regret to inform that Muji Marina Square has ceased its operation.” Muji has not officially commented on the closure of the branch, but some observers feel that Marina Square is “not looking good” despite the last centre-wide refurbishment. Still, IG commentators were disappointed that the store is no more. One ‘amsingapore’ wrote, “That was a favorite branch for many of us. Muji shouldn’t have given up that location”.

Store closures were expected even before the easing of the Circuit Breaker measures. Back in April, Esprit announced permanently shutting all their retail operations here. Robinsons ended their presence in the west by choosing not to remain at Jem. But Muji closing down any store is unexpected as it is believed to be one of the most popular Japanese brands here. One representative director of the parent company in Japan told The Business Times last year that sales in Singapore have been rising steadily each year. He added, “We believe in the growth in the Singapore market.”

Muji announcement

Many stores have announced they’re opening tomorrow. Club 21, in the middle of an online end-of-season sale, will welcome shoppers on the first day of Phase 2, according to an IG Story statement. So is the related emporium Dover Street Market Singapore. Surrender, the streetwear headquarters to many, confirmed on IG that they will open tomorrow. Louis Vuitton announced rather discreetly that they, too, will open, but shoppers are told to “schedule an appointment”. It is not unreasonable to assume that if Louis Vuitton will be opening, other brands under LVMH will be too.

All malls, it appears, will resume full operations as well. Paragon made no mention on its website about what will happen tomorrow, but did say one can “Shop & Dine With A Peace of Mind”. ION Orchard announced, “We Are Ready To Welcome You Back”. So did Wisma Atria: “Welcoming You Back Safely”. Takashimaya Shopping Centre communicated no happy news on their website or Facebook page (its last post was on 6 April), but it will likely open since Louis Vuitton did not say that its Taka store won’t. Over at the Shoppes at Marina Bay Sands, “nearly 200 stores, including F&B tenanted outlets, will be re-opened at the start”. Mostly happy news, it would appear, for those who have been deprived of retail therapy for this long. It remains to be seen if the revenge spending that seized Shanghai and Seoul after those cities opened will play out here too.

Screen grabs: respective IG page

A Better Bazaar

In 2014, one of SOTD’s intrepid contributors made a virgin visit to the convention-sized Club 21 Bazaar. Five years later, he returned to find a clearance sale that is just as frenetic, but the shopping experience has switched to the side of enjoyable, even fun


Club 21 Bazaar Oct 2019 OP1

By Raiment Young

It is hard to believe that half a decade has past. Fashion consumption and taste in this time have changed so much, but has shopping habits—especially during a sale—become different as well? I remember, even now, what a start it was to visit the Club 21 Bazaar at the F1 Pit Building for the first time. I was, to put it mildly, overwhelmed. Have things improved, the editor (read: blogger-in-chief!) of SOTD posed to me one day. A good question, I thought, and one that, perhaps, deserves an answer, and an on-site peek-in—this year, at the Sands Expo and Convention Centre.

I was told that, like before, the first day of the Club 21 Bazaar is opened to “Family and Friends” only, and is a ticketed event. I don’t know anyone from Singapore’s largest fashion retailer that would count me as family nor friend (possibly foe, my pals told me), so I needed to contact my narrow circle of chums to see if there was anyone I could tag along with. Lest my curiosity scuppered before I can even think of what my sophomore experience might be like, I immediately took to WhatsApp. Through what Enid Blyton’s The Secret Seven would call a “ghost-to-ghost hook-up”, I managed to find a friend who happily took a shot of the said ticket and sent to me, adding that I could join him and two others (there’s a limit of four per ticket).

Club 21 Bazaar Oct 2019 OP2The orderly queue to get into the Club 21 Bazaar had formed up before the opening hour of 11am

We had arranged to meet earlier for a cup of mid-morning caffeine fix, and the Toast Box in MBS was chosen as the meeting place. Seated beside us were four Malaysian guys of no more than 25, speaking audibly in heavily accented Mandarin. They were dressed to impress, just as one would when in a city one thought is more fashionable than from whence one came. All four were in over-large, logo-baring tops and skinny jeans so slim they couldn’t hold a candle to pencils. And, expectedly, shod in sneakers so massive they would be the cause of PMD accidents on pedestrian paths. From their conversation, I learned that they were heading for the same destination and their first port of call was to be “shoes and accessories”.

The Bazaar was held at Hall C on the first level of the convention centre. Since my last; now, so many years ago; it has been sited in different places: the once-unused space of the former Isetan at Wisma Orchard and even in the event hall of Takashimaya department store, where the Bazaar could not be so called for reasons landlord and lessee know better. When we arrived, a sizable queue had formed at the entrance framed by a flat arch that was emblazoned simply with Club 21, in a font I did recognise to be the brand’s. To my surprise, it took a whole, rewardingly-short six minutes to be admitted.

Club 21 Bazaar Oct 2019 OP3Rows of racks packed with clothes that, at some point, seemed to be overwhelmed by the crowd

Inside, the space was massive, but less linear than what it was at the F1 Pit Building. Analytical skills were barely required to conclude that an expanse such as this was needed because there were heaps of merchandise to dispose of. Unsurprisingly, it quickly filled up, like a candy jar left open to ants. Veteran Bazaar shoppers—my companions included—knew exactly where to head to. A strategy, I was later told, would be useful. But, as before, I was left to my own devices. It was still a little daunting to be among clothes that deserve better than a multi-purpose convention hall and shoppers who approach all of this with the care of a visit to the pasar malam, virtually non-existent the night market might be now.

Hall C was divided into two zones: on the left, mostly the clothes for “general consumption”, one woman explained to her possibly newbie friend and, on the right, Club 21 Women and Men and their attendant, covetable labels, such as Balenciaga and Dries van Noten. In this division, it was also apparent that the shoppers—family and friends of Club 21—could be cleaved into the informed and the ignorant, the progressive and the mere fashionable, the celebrities and the riff-raff, the cool and the plain odd, the locals and the foreigners, the wealthy and the not. They are, however, unified by the one thing that knows no status or gender: slash in prices.

Club 21 Bazaar Oct 2019 OP4No seating area was provided, so they sat wherever there is space. No fitting rooms were available, so they tried on the clothes wherever they could

I was here with a mission, but I, too, am a consumer, one with weaknesses. Reminding myself of the task at hand, I first took a stroll of the 4,170m² grounds to better familiarise myself with the layout and the offerings. I was surprised to find a huge shoe zone, by then packed with people. It was possibly the largest to date, which might explain the Malaysian boys’ choice of first stop. Sneakers, expectedly, were most in demand and, as one staffer latter told me, the highest sell-through. I spied the cute yellow boots with all-over puppy print from Balenciaga’s spring/summer 2018, which, sadly, garnered almost no interest. There were also merchandise from Kids 21 and home ware from their occasional home store.

Ten minutes into the sale, an announcement over the PA system was made by a pleasantly calm female voice: “Our merchandise is precious to us. If you do not want them, please leave them in the baskets along the alleyway”. I did not know we were in some back lane of Geylang. Still, I looked down the main passage that separated the hall into the two zones like a single-aisle plane, but I noticed not a basket. Later, when I moved towards the accessories and footwear zone, the said bins caught my eyes along a wall lined with bored husbands minding their kids and groups of teenage girls, with their selections spread on the floor, making the final pick of what they would buy. By then, the baskets were brimming like a void-deck rubbish bin.

Club 21 Bazaar Oct 2019 OP7Shoppers found their own spaces to rest and sort of the picks

While I was surprised that there was no major dumping on the concrete floor (as seen that year), I was still disappointed that the clothes were not treated with more care. While little found its way to the ground, many bits from some garments did: buttons, sequins, tassels, hang tags, and even care labels. It was also puzzling to see how shoppers were not able to return clothes to hangers the way they were found: jackets were just so horribly squashed onto hangers that more abuse meant the padding on shoulders would be severely damage (my heart ached for one Rick Owens coat) and knitted tops such as sweaters and cardigans were returned to hangers clearly made for pants, which resulted in possibly irreversible dents on shoulders. When it came to the merchandise in gondolas, the shoppers probably did not think the clothes deserve the same gentle treatment as cabbages in the bins at Fairprice.

Boggling to my mind was that many considered not what they didn’t desire might be something someone else would find admirable and covetable. Despite the best efforts by the staff to arrange and rearrange and rearrange the clothes, to make them look better grouped and more appealing despite being clearly away from the seductive swank of boutiques, the unceasing disrespect for clothes went unabated. But it was not just the physical mistreatment alone, many of the pieces, challenging to the average shopper, received verbal abuse too: “This one like haven’t finish sewing (sic)”, “my six-year-old can design better, hor”, and, unbelievably, “did you shit on it?”

Club 21 Bazaar Oct 2019 OP6Merchandise unwanted is, regrettably, still indiscriminately discarded

I tried dismissing all such talk as bad stand-up comedy, the inevitable soundtrack to such an event. With enough seen, I joined the frantic search that dominated the Club 21 multi-label and Dover Street Market Singapore sections. DSMS’s participation this year was not only unexpected, but, clearly for many, also a thrill. I was surprised and happy to see a Craig Green jacket (sadly it was too small for me), a handsome Casley Hayford scrubs-like top, a pair of Doublet two-shade/wash denim jeans, and an Undercover puffer that deserves to be included in any collector’s stash. A middle-aged man was excitedly showing his friends the Gosha Rubchinskiy sweatpants he found (no less than three pairs!). A teen with shaved streaks on his hairdo that appeared scratched out looked like he saw Demna Gvasalia in person when he came face to face with a Vetements polo-shirt-and-tee-as-one, bearing the DHL logo. And a woman so taken with a Noir Kei Ninomiya skirt of much and intriguing ruffles that she immediately took off, in front of me, her puffy skort, revealing skimpy black underpants, to try on the object of her desire.

As before, there were no fitting rooms, no mirrors, not even a strip of reflective surface, and shoppers resorted to all sorts of ways to ensure that what they liked fitted and looked right. The smartphone camera was the imaging device of choice since no shopper was without one. There was a woman who asked a staff to take a photo of her in a black pouf of a dress—all four sides. Another entrusted her iPhone to her pre-primary school daughter only to ask her child, upon seeing the playback, “why so blur?” There was a guy who suggested to his friend to used the latter’s smartphone to shoot him in all that he slipped on, and then asked for the photos to be WhatsApped to him so that he could send them to his girlfriend to see and, presumably, for approval. There were less digital ways too. A man in head-to-toe fashionable black yielded a measuring tape which he patiently used to determine the dimensions of the waist of pants and the girth of shirts!

Club 21 Bazaar Oct 2019 OP5In the background, the queue to pay

Admittedly, there was joy witnessing people getting what they hankered after, as much as there was pleasure in scoring what I was happy to find. A guy in a tank top and a pair of track pants, who looked like he spent an inordinate amount of time with barbells, took almost everything he picked and 30 minutes later reappeared before a table that was by then nearly depleted of merchandise. He laid everything on top and proceeded to try the garments, each (yes, every piece!) he had a male companion take a photo. At some point, he laid his smartphone on a stand and shot a video of himself in what appeared to be a live broadcast! Another guy, with wife in tow, put on a clearly too small CDG pea coat he fancied and walked about till he saw another outer. He removed what he had on, stuffed it into the provided plastic bag, and wore the new-found piece. This went on until the carrier was plumped and bursting. Another shopper had spotted him try a Sacai denim jacket and, as he told his pals, was hoping the man would not select it since the outer was clearly too large for him, but put aside the grabber did not.

I caught up with my friends and we joined the long line to the cashier. It would take us an hour and ten minutes to get to the end of the queue. Meanwhile, the gym bunny was spotted ahead of us; he was carrying the shopping bag containing just two items, which contrasted with those of almost everyone waiting to pay—all laden with what could be a year’s worth of shopping or, maybe, more. Not far from me, I could see Mr Try and Parade. His bag was empty. The guy who was waiting for him to toss out that one particular denim jacket could be seen scrambling to see if he could retrieve what the former now did not want. When I finally made it outside, I had to wait for the others I came with to finish their payment. The outerwear lover appeared with his frazzled wife, both of them empty-handed. I really wished the other guy good luck.

Photos: Zhao Xiangji

(2018) Winter Style 3: The Shearling Bag

Danse Lente Margot bag AW 2018

We wanted to reccomend a shearling coat, but we couldn’t find one. So, when we saw this compact Danse Lente tote, we thought, why not a shearling bag instead?!

It’s the colour, for sure. But the fluffiness of the shearling front means this bag, named Margot, is utterly huggable, and when there’s a need, convertible into a pillow.

This was our first encounter with a Danse Lente (slow dance in French) bag, now on the cusp of ‘It’ status. Based in Dalston, UK, this handbag brand is the brainchild of Korean-born Kim Young Won, London College of Fashion alum, who chose to design bags even when she graduated with MA in footwear design.

Danse Lente, if your fashion education is based on who you follow on IG, is, as expected, what the media calls “Insta-friendly”. This is clearly not Kate Spade. Danse Lente is artier and, if this is a plus, cheekier.

Take this bag: It’s structured form is based on those you’d call classic. Even the calf leather of the main body has the built you’d associate with brands such as Valextra. But the red shearling immediately plays down the potential seriousness. Plus, the built-in coin purse in the front. How practical and, dare we say, cute!

Danse Lente ‘Margot’ shearling tote bag, SGD690, is available at Club 21. Product photo: Danse Lente/Club 21. Montage: Just So

Sacai: The Waves Get Bigger


Not many women designers from Japan get to take the world by storm. Rei Kawakubo did in the early ’80s after facing initial ridicule and derision. The setbacks, if it they can be so called, however, lead the way to the upcoming exhibition dedicated to her at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in May next year. Ms Kawakubo would be the only second living designer in the Costume Department’s history to be given the honour, after Yves Saint Laurent in 1983, following the debut of Comme des Garçons (CDG) in Paris two years earlier. Chisato Abe, the designer behind the label Sacai (actually her maiden name), did not have it quite as hard and daunting mainly because she came into her own in what may be considered the post-Japanese era.

Sacai is no CDG, but Chisato Abe is not an isolated designer working in an obscure corner of Tokyo, selling her wares in a small shop in the hipster neighbourhood of Kamimeguro. In fact, the Sacai flagship, opened in 2011, is in the swanky Minami-Aoyama district where edgier Japanese designers tend to concentrate. The red-bricked building, although situated in an area where Prada, Costume National, the Embassy of the Kingdom of Morocco, and the two-level shopping complex Glassarea are neighbours, looks like an unlikely spot to house Sacai’s eye-catching designs—you’d expect to find a convenience store here. But it is here, far from the maddening crowd that is the nearby Harajuku that fans get an appreciative peek into the world of Sacai.


Ms Abe cut her teeth at Comme des Garçons before assisting Junya Watanabe (also under the umbrella of CDG designers) for 8 years, both experiences the ideal springboard to her own line. Sacai was established in 1991, after the birth of her first child (interestingly, Ms Abe is married to another-Japanese-label-to-watch Kolor’s Junichi Abe). Despite her design pedigree (she’s also know to be a talented pattern cutter), she does not create what she described to the media as “typical Japanese design”. She said that what she does is “more international”.

And it is on the international stage that Sacai has won accolades and the loyalty of many a fashion editor. The label debuted in Paris Fashion Week in 2012 with the kind of response her former employer received only after the world realised they were witnessing history in the making. Ms Abe has said that she learnt well at CDG and that Ms Kawakubo herself has told her “to be your own designer and create what you want.” And she did just that, producing striking clothes that, unlike some of her fellow CDG alumni, do not even hint at a Rei Kawakubo hand guiding the designs.

chitose-abe-x-nikeChitose Abe with model in Nikelab X Sacai (2015), shot by Craig McDean. Photo: Nikelab

So confidently executed was her work, so sure her voice and so ardent her audience that in no time, she was collaborating with multi-billion-dollar brands, such as Nike last year, in her first sportswear collaboration. The Nikelab project showed that Ms Abe was ready to take on new challenges. Those pieces, based on classic Nike men’s track wear, turned performance-enhancing athletic apparel into visually stunning Sacai clothes that women were buying not for jogging in a city park (where you would need good-looking clothes rather than regular gym togs), but dancing at the chicest downtown clubs.

That she would chose to pair with Nike was not surprising as her former boss, Junya Watanabe, is a Nike fan and serial collaborator, and his taste could have rubbed off (her husband’s Kolor, interestingly, paired with Nike’s greatest competitor Adidas!). What makes her take on Nike exceptional is her willingness to incorporate her sense of quirky femininity into sports clothes that, by definition and function, have to be frills-free. Yet her tops and jackets have pleated and swing backs that open up like a ballerina’s tutu when in sporting motion.


Sacai’s appeal is, perhaps, best encapsulated in those unexpected backs. Her clothes, in fact, do not have fronts and backs that correspond to conventional fronts and backs. She designs by looking at every side of the garment, improving and surprising where you do not think improvement and surprise need exist. She likes bringing contrasting elements together and often pairs military and utilitarian details with totally feminine components such as floral silk chiffon fabrics, proving that masculine touches can enhance femininity, rather than overt, skin-baring sexiness. For all her avant-garde tendencies, Sacai looks decidedly approachable; the clothes do look like clothes, wearable to boot.

Ms Abe may claim that Sacai is not “typical Japanese design”, but the brand is Japanese at heart, and the creative output can only come out of Japan. After that first wave of Japanese designers in the early ’80s, many observers think subsequent Japanese designers are not capturing the world’s attention like they used to. Their distinctive aesthetic, after 35 years, is perhaps no longer as particular or idiosyncratic. It’s not even sub-cultural, now that it has crossed so many borders, and aped by so many designers of the West. In addition, neighbouring Korea is attracting awareness with their kooky streetwear. But Japan, ever the relentless re-inventor, is still quietly challenging the standard issue. Sacai is leading the pack, cut by cut, fold by fold.

Sacai’s Autumn/Winter 2016 collection (pictured) is available at Club 21 and Club 21 Men. Catwalk photos: Sacai

Club 21 Shines Anew

Club 21 @ Siam Discovery

Singapore’s purveyor of fine fashion has opened a new store. It’s not somewhere on Orchard Road, as you might aspect; it is not even near there. In fact, it’s not at all on our island state. The new Club 21 is in Bangkok: a fashion god in the City of Angels.

This isn’t the Club 21 we know. This is big. Massive is no over statement. Housed in the newly refurbished Siam Discovery, two units away from Siam Paragon, diagonally across from Mahboonkrong Shopping Centre, the boutique-no-more Club 21 is so expansive you don’t know where it starts and where it ends. We’re not sure how big the space is, but it does appear to be at least twice the size of Club 21 men’s and the women’s store (at The Four Seasons hotel) combined. It’s discreet too—there is no marquee-style signage to tell you that you’ve walked into the Thai outpost of Singapore’s biggest upmarket multi-brand retailer.

Club 21 Women 1

And it’s somewhat confusing too. At first sight, you’d think that Siam Discovery, closed a year ago for the refurbishment, has turned the mall into a department store. And you won’t be wrong. As you enter from the Siam Center-facing access, the first thing that hits you is the duplex Issey Miyake store (here, it’s known by the somewhat grandiose “World of Issey Miyake”). Pass that and it gets a little disorientating, but that’s not a bad thing. There are only few shops—certainly not in the form of shop lots that made up the former Siam Discovery.

You will recognise the atrium as the old mall’s but that’s all you will make out. The space on the two sides of the first floor is now mostly opened up, un-demarcated by boundaries to contain brands. Yes, like a department store, but something tells you it is not quite. There are the labels: if you’re familiar with who carries what in Southeast Asia, you will immediately identify the curation (bad word choice, maybe, but fashion these days are picked and displayed with almost the same élan as the curatorial approach of an art gallery) as those typical of Club 21. The leaning to Japanese names—Sacai, Kolor, Y’s, Miharayasuhiro, etc—is clue enough.

Club 21 Women 2Club 21 Women 3

This, however familiar, is, at the same time, not entirely recognisable. This is too varied, and the variety is too interesting. When you move further inwards, it dawns on you that the scale and range may not be within the business plan of a foreign company known to be cautious in its expansion plans. If you look hard enough, you’ll see this it is not entirely Club 21. Price tags are a tell-tale sign—they use different ones. And some sections welcome the Club 21 loyalty card, some don’t. The guessing game becomes uninteresting as the merchandise seduces.

It is possible that the newness of the mall, so overwhelmingly fresh, overtakes one’s curiosity about proprietorship. Opened just last Saturday, the new Siam Discovery is the latest retail sensation that is transforming the area just beneath and around the Siam BTS station into a shopping hub Orchard Road should seriously study. When describing it as a sensation, we aren’t being glib. The mall is sensational and it arouses the senses. If shopping centres think taking on e-commerce is not possible, Siam Discovery is proof that reinventing the physical shopping experience is achievable. You start by providing stimuli from the environment.

Club 21 Women 4

Siam Piwat Co, owner and operator of the mall, calls the USD112-million born-again Siam Discovery the “biggest arena of lifestyle experiments”. Thai marketing lingo defies deciphering (and is often mostly grand-sounding), but, as pretentious as that is to the ear, this is quite a showground, and some of the brands in stock could be test merchandise. So many labels—more than 5,000 brands are said to be available—clearly fall under the radar that it is hard to see their overwhelming take-up rate.

Club 21’s stable of labels and some more dominate the first two floors. Until now a conservative retailer in terms of store planning, its gamble on Siam Discovery sees it in a space unlike any other, including its last swanky emporium, sited in a hard-to-locate corner of Kuala Lumpur’s Pavillion. Here, it’s rather like a grand magasin, but more in the vein of Lane Crawford than heritage stores such as Galeries Lafayette. The mix of brands and the juxtapositions in a playful setting are calculated to excite and, more importantly, surprise.

Club 21 Men 5Club 21 Men 4

Has Club 21 finally understood “experiential”, the much talked about requisite of social media-age brick-and-mortar retailing that’s rarely seen or felt on Orchard Road? Peddar on Scotts, opened in October last year, would be considered a pioneer in this area, but so far, none has taken their lead. Club 21 is on the right footing, but unfortunately, its well-shod feet are on another city’s welcome mat.

For too long, our favourite multi-label designer store has been languishing in its safe haven of quiet—far too quiet—elegance in the rear of Orchard Road. Despite talk that it is faring dismally and that young shoppers would not step into what they perceive as old and cold, they have persevered. Indeed, Club 21 has outlasted them all: Glamourette and Men and His Women, two of Singapore’s most distinguished but ultimately short-lived luxury retailers. In Bangkok, it has remained strong while even Hong Kong’s Club 21 equivalent, Joyce, had to make a hasty retreat in the wake of the Asian financial crisis of 1997, and, according, to reports, lost USD7 million as a result. But longevity sometimes encourages complacency and lack of innovation. Since its move into the Four Seasons Hotel in the mid-Nineties, Club 21 has looked mostly the same. Age, as many women know and will say, tends to make you look tired.

Club 21 Men 3

To be sure, it tried to do something different with the offspring Club 21B, started in 2011 as a remake of Blackjack, a store conceived in 1996 that targeted the young with a mix of street styles and edgy looks. However like its parent, Club21B’s store planning stands on conservative ground even when the merchandising does not. For some, its position at the back row of Forum The Shopping Mall, near the toilets, makes it a tad downbeat.

While Singapore has to contend with the Club 21 that we’ve always known, Bangkok has been seeing new stores and concept zones popping up. Its numerous corners and islands on the first floor of Paragon Department Store started three years ago were a foretaste of its stunning entrance in Siam Discovery today. Perhaps we can then be hopeful that the Club 21 that Bangkokians now find sanook, we, too, will be enjoying in the coming future.

Club 21 is at Siam Discovery, 989 Rama  I Road. Additional reporting: Tae Dee. Photos: Jagkrit Suwanmethanon

This Market: The Mess And The Mass

Club 21 Bazaar

By Raiment Young

Waiting to cross the traffic lights from Millennia Walk on Temasek Avenue, I could see, right ahead, the queue stretching across the entire length of the second floor of the Pit Building. Normally, as the name suggest, this would be the nerve centre of the world’s most famous Grand Prix, but on this day and for the next four days, it would serve as the disposal point from which one of Singapore’s largest fashion retailers will clear old stocks. A woman with a trolley bag too big to be allowed into any aircraft cabin was impatient for the light to turn green. She asked her companion in Chinese, “What if everything is gone by the time we get there?” The prospect of losing out is a damper more disheartening than queuing in the stifling afternoon heat for a length of time, quite unnatural for the purchase a few discounted frocks.

I was attending with friends the annual Club 21 Bazaar, a sale of such massive popularity that it now attracts shoppers from the region. It was mid-week, and the first day of the event, which, I was told, was designated “family and friends” (tickets were required for entry). The doors were supposed to open at 3pm (in previous years, the sale commenced at 5), but by 2 in the afternoon (the time we had just arrived), the line was easily more than two hundred strong. I did not realise Club 21 has so many supporters that could be considered kin and chum. A sale such as this, as it turned out, made everyone related to the discount provider, advertised to be offering up to 90% markdown. As we were crossing the car park in front of the Pit Building, it was clear the sale had long begun. Shoppers had already completed their mission, laden with shopping bags—in one case, enough to fill the entire boot of a taxi, plus the back seat!

Club 21 Bazaar Pic 1

We joined the queue, which had snaked onto the first floor, meandering into the car park. There was something festive about the atmosphere, as jolly as the queue outside Lim Chee Guan during the week leading up to Chinese New Year. The people that had formed this length of fashion-hungry humanity wasn’t just the eager and voluble youngsters that would typically line up outside H&M during the launch of a designer collab or Nubox and Epicentre stores to welcome the release of new iPhones. There were others: older individuals in practical dress who looked like they were there to receive an MP during a ministerial walkabout, and, of course, the non-natives.

The queue moved along and in twenty minutes, my companions and I arrived on the second floor of the Pit Building. No sooner had we turn to catch sight of the traffic jam ahead of us, a skinny, sleekly dressed teen, no older than 20 years, appeared from nowhere and slipped into the narrow space in front of us. It was an appearing act that had the hallmarks of Houdini. While I was sure he had jumped queue, one of my friends suggested that perhaps he had come to join the people in front. The sneaky guy immediately messaged someone, and in less than 3 minutes, two others—similarly attired and mysterious—joined him. It was clear by now what has happened. Annoyed by this blatant disregard for courteous conduct, I inched forward and rebuked, “Excuse me. Please join the queue from the back!” Without looking at me, he said, “Oh” and hurried his friends away. One of them looked at me quizzically and exclaimed, “I didn’t know.” Ignorance isn’t an entry ticket, and, we were determined, won’t have its fashion moment.

Once inside the three-hall sale space that was the Bazaar, you’re really on your own. You’ll come as a group, as I did, but you’ll gravitate towards what appeals to you, completely oblivious to what caught your companions’ eye. The crowd was overwhelming, and there was no one on hand to orientate the newbie shopper. I knew what I wanted or what will appeal to me, and headed straight for that area. The clothes were organised by brand, but by then, the racks were a jumble, and the most determined shoppers—they were all determined—would be sweeping garment after garment aside, as they inspect each with the single-mindedness of retail buyers at a wholesale mart. Before I could pull one out to see if I may like it, the piece will be brushed out-of-the-way by the persons doing the frantic selecting on both sides of me. I did not exist.

Club 21 Bazaar Pic 2

Who were these people? They were not your regular bargain hunters during GSS. These were upgraders going from ‘masstige’ brands to those with unpronounceable names. These were seekers of anything with prices drastically reduced, more concerned with low cost than high design. These were the style-challenged hunting down a statement piece to wear to 1 Altitude. Truth be told, I was intimidated by them. These were not Club 21 habitués, yet they knew what to nail. Choices were made based on brand names. If unfamiliar, there was always a friend who could enlighten. They picked everything the way a locust devours. It was select first, decide later. The clear plastic bags handed out at the entrance had to be filled (“Why is your bag so empty?” was frequently heard). The grab-fest had the buzz of refugees attacking UN trucks bearing humanitarian aid. I was in an unfamiliar territory.

The Club 21 Bazaar wasn’t always like this. My memory isn’t what it used to be, but I do recall rather vividly the early days of the Bazaar. It was not such a massive affair, nor as frenetic. The first one I attended was when it was held at the now-defunct Concorde Hotel on Outram Road. Spread out in the Concorde Ballroom that ran a part of the perimeter of the tubular building, the space was curved, not the linear expanse that is the Pit Building. Clothes were laid on tables as well as hung on racks. Sale staff from the Club 21 group of stores was in attendance, and will assist familiar faces in picking the best buys. It was busy, as typical of sales, but it was not crowded and manic. The customers weren’t desperate or anxious, and they were certainly better-dressed; they were fashion, not fishing folk. Picking up bargains naturally arouses adrenaline rush, but no matter how heady things may get then, there was always a moment among the whirl. You had the chance to admire the clothes and make informed purchase decisions. You didn’t sense the pressure to accumulate your finds in a battered plastic bag, lest someone else beat you to them. With the purchases made, my friends and I would go down to the coffee house, Melting Pot Café, where we could have a meal while pouring over what we had bought.

Club 21 Bazaar MRT station ad

There was something elitist about the early Club 21 Bazaar. Not everyone knew about it as they know now. It was a treat to be able to go. You felt privileged. I certainly did. Fashion—designer fashion—was consumed by those who knew about it and were genuinely interested in it. It was a world peopled by those in the industry, as well as those in the arts and in the media, many making that first step on the ladder of upward mobility (do we call it that now?!). Even at a sale, they bought with care, and with admiration of what were to be purchased. The Club 21 Bazaar was a relatively insider event. I do not remember the ads they have now, or the free-of-charge bus such as the one provided to ferry shoppers from The Adelphi to Pit Building. It was pre-smartphone, when human interaction wasn’t circumscribed by text message interface, and they certainly did not Tweet about the event as they now do, with shoppers showing off their buys at once, amid the frenzy.

With the introduction of convention centres such as Singapore Expo in the late 90s, fashion sales became very big events. The John Little and Metro “Expo sales”, just like the IT shows (the precursor, though these are not sales per se), were crowd pullers. You’d go to them as an outing, with loved ones. As the Singapore Expo usually stages concurrent events—travel fair in this hall, electronic in the other (10 halls in all), you could really make it an all-day jaunt, just as you would when you go to Orchard Road. The mega-sale became a part of our social life, and Club 21 would soon join the fray.

Club 21 had turned into one of Singapore’s largest fashion retailers, not the one-store multi-label boutique it once was. In the early days, their sales—even clearance sales—were conducted in-store, as were those of many of the other Singapore-born boutiques of its ilk, such as the now-gone Man and his Woman, Glamourette, and the more recent casualty, The Link. By the mid-Nineties, the fashion crowd had consecrated Club 21, while the rest were slowing fizzling out of the luxury retail landscape. With size comes huge inventory, and this inventory does not necessarily have a healthy sell-through. In later years, even inventory from its Hong Kong stores were shipped back here for disposal. Club 21 would need a much bigger space than a modest hotel ballroom to purge its warehouses of dead stocks.

Club 21 Bazaar Pic 3

At the Pit Building, in front of the racks of Comme des Garçons, I was suddenly surrounded by a group of guys—like characters from the Taiwanese film Monga, more hooligans than hipsters—determined to spare the clothes a boxed-up journey back to storage. They were grabbing every shirt that they could lay their hands on, and dumping into their plastic bags, by now so scratched they were no longer clear. As they rummaged, they would edify each other with what the clothes really meant in the scheme of things or in the thick of their social lives: “This one you can wear to Robert (sic) wedding.” One of them lifted a shirt with chess-board patchwork front, and another said, “No”, adding “this one looks like you can buy from Far East Plaza”. With a fling, the shirt landed on the floor.

It was heartbreaking for me to see what could be considered classic CDG treated this way. This wasn’t merely a rejection of what wasn’t desired, this was denunciation of design. If clothes are not respected, surely the designs are immaterial. What, then, were the people buying into if not mere brand names and slashed prices? In fact, so many of the shoppers showed scant regard for the clothes that it was worse than fruiterers throwing away spoilt produce. I saw striking Marni and Balenciaga coats tossed like soiled blankets in the wash. No one folded away what they did not want, most dumped. The recalcitrant ones would litter the entire length of area with piles of clothes. Was this Club 21 Bazaar or Thieves’ Market? By a gondola filled with Lanvin merchandise, a woman, hair streaked blond, picks and flings, and, at some point, a blouse slammed into me. Looking at her in disbelief, she returned with a “what?” and walked away. I really didn’t expect “family and friends” of Club 21 to treat the store’s clothes this way.

Club 21 Bazaar Pic 4

The venue offered no fitting room—not even one curtained corner—for the shoppers to try the garments. Trying was, in fact, not allowed. There was also not even a shard of mirror for anyone to look at. There are mirrored pillars throughout the halls, but all were plastered with paper to block its reflective surface. However, there was one thing they could not obstruct: smartphones. The less demanding were happy to just look at the reflection on their black smartphone screen, but most were selfie-ready, trying one outfit after another before their phone’s front camera. Technology has come out handy in a fashion sale. But technology cannot rid those with a predilection to—borrowing from army-speak—pasar malam their intended buys. A woman, seated on the floor with legs split opened like Kim Kardashian’s neckline, had spilled the contents of her plastic bag between her thighs to make the final select. As she was blocking the way of an increasingly long line to the cashiers, she was asked to move away by security staff—a shift she made with visible disdain.

Unable to find my friends, I decided to leave. I had been inside this overcrowded place for nearly an hour. Out of the three halls filled with stuff, only the first I had some interest in. The heat during the 50-minute queue to get in was affecting me the way a bad smell could be disorienting. The sea of clothes, mostly an indiscriminate black or dark-ish hue, was beginning to overwhelm. Only the music—a mix tape of British New Wave of the ’80s—coming out of the PA system was an amusing distraction. Outside, I could smell the salt of the sea. It was oddly comforting. Five hours later, happily lolling on my sofa at home, I received a WhatsApp message from my friends: they were still at the Bazaar, stuck for four hours in a slow-moving queue to pay. I was only able to wish them good luck.

Hare Cuts

Thom Browne vs Thom BrowneDo you want to look like a rabbit or is a bunny-print shirt good enough? Left: Rabbit head gear at Thom Browne’s A/W 2014 show. Right: Thom Browne cotton poplin button-down shirt

The headwear that Thom Browne showed during his Autumn/Winter presentation in January could be considered cute, teamed with those sombre grey suits. Designed by Stephen Jones, the masks and hats—fashioned out of suiting fabrics into animal heads—may not have been Looney Tunes-adorable, but they were sure able to put a smile on your face the way Porky and co could. In fact, you could almost hear Mr Jones mouthing Bugs Bunny: “Eeeeeeh, watch me paste that pathetic palooka with a powerful, pachydermous, percussion pitch!” While cuteness derived from a cartoonish representation of known creatures may have a place in women’s wear, they have a less sound position in a man’s wardrobe (and we’re not talking about those of guys who have just RODed from NS and weaned on UTs). This is why when the cute appears on shirts, it may not necessarily win hearts.

Just as we were wondering how Mr Browne will sell his take on the world of Simba and friends, out comes this button-down shirt with repeated patterns of rabbits aleaping. Everything about this shirt speaks of the tailoring one associates with business shirts, but it is hard to imagine a CFO wanting to wear this to witness the signing of an acquisition. Yet, the shirt is not without its charm: the bunnies centrally placed within a grid have the orderliness of pattern as in a classic plaid, but with just a tad more fun. Why keep leporid lovability only to your socks?

Thom Browne’s designs are not always easy to understand. On the racks, his clothes look simple enough to wear (even when his signature shirts are usually in heat-unfriendly heavy Oxfords), but on the catwalk, they’re more suited for showroom dummies than walking mannequins. Yet, Mr Browne continues to win all-round plaudits of the critics. Let him do the weird stuff on stage, just send the good stuff to the store.

Thom Browne bunny-print shirt, SGD1060, is available at Club 21, Four Seasons Hotel

A Blooming Clutch

Christopher Kane tulip clutch

Christopher Kane, being Christopher Kane, does not make his leather goods the way, say, Tory Burch does. Conventional is not part of the process. There’s always a touch of tech even when motifs are traditionally romantic, such as this eye-catching leather clutch. Using lenticular printing, which deploys special lenses to create images that beguile you with depth, or, in the case of this bag, intrigue you with what’s also known as “flicker pictures”, Mr Kane is able to make the flower change and move when viewed from different angles. The tulip on this bag (above) grows as you move it, going from early bud to full bloom.

Mr Kane is partial to optical effects, and more so in the current collection, as seen in his 3D-printing on vinyl cut-outs which are applied on viscose crepe skirts—just one example. He admits to “liking some sort of embellishment that can transform a garment instantly” and would look to science for ideas such as last year’s that were inspired by the MRI scan of a brain. We love this clutch, not only because of its photo-print that can transform, but also because we truly enjoy things that are not static.

Christopher Kane leather clutch with lenticular print, SGD850, is available at Club 21, Four Seasons Hotel

A Moment With Yasuhiro Mihara

Miharayasuhiro @ Club 21 Pop Up StoreMiharayasuhiro at Club 21 Pop-Up Store

Contrary to some instigation, good riddance has not come to Japanese fashion. The combination of Tokyo Fashion Week shrinking, K-pop style tide not ebbing, and China’s design stars rising may spell doom for Japanese labels, but the truth is—at least for those unable to tear away from the pull of Tokyo-centric fashion—the distinctive Nihon no sutairu is still very much alive.

While no one can say with certainty that there’s a next wave of Japanese designers after the first ground-breaking group that showed in Paris in the early ’80s, it is undeniable that there are creators today who have not ceased to keep Japanese fashion visible and out of the ordinary. One of the labels that continues to enthrall is Miharayasuhiro. Its designer Yasuhiro Mihara was in Singapore recently to intro his newest collection, currently given the spotlight in Club 21’s latest multi-label mini-emporium, simply named the Pop-Up Store (it temporarily takes over the previous unit in Forum The Shopping Mall that was vacated by Emporio Armani).

Yasuhiro MasakiMr Mihara (left), by accounts of a couple of seasoned Club 21 buyers of Jap labels, is an open and affable man, who, despite his limited spoken English, is eager to communicate with his customers, and he did. He was quick to thank attendees of the quiet launch party last Friday evening for their presence (in some cases, for wearing Miharayasuhiro), and was happy to engage in small talk. An excited PR professional was quick to point out to Mr Mihara a discontinued design of an old hand-carry bag that he loves and wishes to see come back. As soon as the designer was aware what the object of the guy’s desire was, he said apologetically, “Sorry, not that. We can’t do that anymore. Hermès is very big,” referring to the controversial bag that he had designed back in 2011, which was dubbed the “grunge Birkin”, and presumably intolerable to the French brand when so many fans had called it a “statement piece”. Interestingly, shoes can be inspired by the Birkin (yes, Buscemi! And we still have no idea why sneakers would need lock and key), but not bags.

While there was a collective lamentation that the clever and cheeky interpretation should be so quickly halted, the 42-year-old Fukuoka native revealed no regret that he is no longer able to produce the bag in question, pointing out to a new tote (also with the brand’s distinctive raw-edge leather flap) that his audience could consider instead. Good designers, it was seen, do not harp on ideas that can no longer be developed; they simply go on to others. Many Japanese designs, despite their seemingly incomprehensible avant garde output, are really about ideas, particularly how an idea (or ideas) could be used to re-imagine classic designs. Miharayasuhiro is, in fact, a label noted for applying ideas, gleaned from so many sources, onto clothes that are mostly reworkings of well-worn traditional garments.

Miharayasuhiro G1The Miharayasuhiro autumn/winter looks as seen on the brand’s website

His men’s autumn/winter 2014 collection, for instance, is almost based on everyday wear, even when it is inspired by “Tokyo mods” (whether they’re an off-shoot of the London mods, or an urban tribe of their own, we can’t say), but on top of the collection’s recognisable garments (sweatshirts, rider’s jackets, duffel and trench coats—the outerwear has always been especially strong) are details that can be traced to some kind of Japanese artisan’s workshop (the prints, however, appear to be from some poet-as-painter’s studio). The result is a passive-aggressive continuum that has all the cool a Tokyo urbanite who centres his stylish live between Aoyama and Daikanyama could want. And there are many of them.

What’s also characteristic of Miharayasuhiro is the label’s predilection for the twofer, such as this season’s blouson-and-car-coat outer. These two-in-one clothes also reflect the duality of Mr Mihara’s distinctive two-as-one footwear or the half/half shoes. In fact, for so many, Miharayasuhiro is associated with unusual sneakers conceived with Puma, such as the MY-70 series (the front half looks like it is dipped in paint). Despite the successful partnership, which is into its 14th year, few know that Mr Yasuhiro started as a footwear designer. Entirely self-taught, he conceived a shoe line in 1997, even before graduating from Tokyo’s Tama Art Universtity (whose alumni include Issey Miyake and the industrial designer Naoto Fukasawa), where he graduated in textiles. His footwear designs were hybridized versions of classic and athletic forms, and they challenged what was considered urban elegance. This vision caught the attention of Puma, and the rest is cult-status history.

Club 21 Pop Up StoreThe Club 21 Pop-Up Store at Forum The Shopping Mall where the Miharayasuhiro collections for men and women are currently available

The Miharayasuhiro menswear was not launched till 2004, which makes Mr Mihara a relatively late comer in RTW (the women’s line did not materialise till 2010). Belated entry aside, he has consistently been called one of the “most original” designers of his generation. Although each season a thematic approach leads the collection (in fact, usually sallying between rockabilly and punk), the one constant is what the brand calls “collapsing of stereotype”. This is not about dismantling the salaryman wardrobe, but adding value to familiar articles of clothing, no matter where they originate—work wear, street wear, club wear, and bringing them together in unexpected ways that could fit the plurality of urban life.

As the cocktail party with generous serving of Japanese finger foods wound down to an end, Mr Mihara moved not to the back of the store, but to the few remaining guests engaged in fashion talk over a tabletop of merchandise, chatting with them courteously, quietly, attentively—unwavering in wanting to know what his customers like. Endearing is the designer who listens.

The Club 21 Pop-Up Store is on L1 and B2, Forum The Shopping Mall