CDG Does Mickey

Or, perhaps, the world’s most famous mouse can’t resist the charms of CDG?

As avant-garde as Comme des Garçons is, the brand is not opposed to collaborating with highly commercial names such as Disney. Their CDG sub-brand has just announced a pairing with Mickey Mouse for a capsule that is skate-inspired (read: loose silhouettes). This is not their first association with Disney, nor is this the first time they have teamed up with cartoons. Under the Japan-only Edited line, we remember, they have worked with Marvel Comics on T-shirts featuring the Silver Surfer (and possibly Spiderman) in late 2000. On the marketing communication front, there was the work of Katsuhiro Otomo (manga fans would know him to be behind Akira) in 2013. But tapping the world of comics—or manga—is very different from dalliances with Disney. One would entice hypebeasts, the other would not.

Still, the Disney association has not impacted Comme des Garçons’s generally left-field leaning, yet. If they have survived, gasp, Frozen (in 2014) via the popular Play, Mickey is not going to mar the image of the just-as-commercial CDG line. And even less so, now that Rei Kawakubo has introduced Mickey’s mate Mini for her tribute dress, created in honour of Alber Elbaz a few days ago. Never mind that for many fans, the joining of forces between a (still) largely indie brand with a global entertainment corporation is rather disappointing. Perhaps, some cartoons are best left to Uniqlo.

To dumbfound fans even further, the collection of white/grey/black pieces have none of the usual topsy-turvy mash-up when it comes to graphics. There is the deconstructed face of Mickey and the rotate-right placement, and (for the hoodie) a tight crop of Mickey’s foot on a skateboard, but are those enough to appease fans and followers who are exposed to more? To be certain, CDG is an entry-level line. It does not need to be too outré, as as long as the three-letter logotype is placed conspicuously somewhere on the garment (this time, in the rear), in it full-sized, bold-faced, look-here glory.

CDG X Mickey Mouse is available at DSMS. Photo: CDG/Disney

Rodent Stock

This Lunar New Year, brands are scampering to take your money for ratty fashion

 

ChinatownCNY 2020This year’s Eu Tong Sen-facing street decoration in Chinatown

By Mao Shan Wang

Rats! This year will soon arrive. I don’t know about you, but I am, in real life, not a fan of rats. Not one bit, these muroids, with their dirty-brown hair and pesky tails, and their love for gnawing and scavenging. I can deal with cockroaches, however many, but rats just sickens me, even just one. There, I’ve said it. I don’t deny that my distaste for them borders on disgust.

Despite their icky appearance, the Chinese zodiac has a special love for them, placing the rat ahead of the pack. The current CNY decoration in Chinatown best illustrates this. According to my mom, the rat is very smart, ingenious even, so much so that it’s able to outsmart and kick the cat out the race to be right ahead of the 12-animal conga line. That sounds pretty smart to me. But, according to Chinese Zodiac myth, the rat actually hitched a ride on the ox and jumped off the beast to propel him to the front! Talk about stepping stones!

Apart from the rat’s intelligence, the creature is, according to the ancients, also blessed with other anthropomorphic traits: charm(!), quick-wit, diligence, and practicality. I’m not sure what that would make (a good husband?), but I think that many would find such a character attractive, if not endearing. Which may explain why, in the cartoon world, so many lovable characters are based on rats.

Mickey X MangoMickey Mouse at Mango

The shu nian, like many years of the different animals before it, is opportunity for fashion brands to sell merchandise sporting the star creature. They could choose from so many of them, be they from books or screen animations, but they narrowed their choice to one—many chose predictable and bland Mickey Mouse, which, conversely, have been described as, among other qualities, handsome and heroic. I suppose abdominous Mickey is convenient and identifiable. Using him requires no starting from scratch. Why bother with a new delineation when Disney will readily licence a very white black mouse for any use, even for a largely Asian audience? And he’s available in so many forms—old and new.

If they really wanted handsome and heroic—appreciable modern rarities, there’s Remy from Ratatouille or Jerry of Tom & Jerry (to be sure, Etude House used them) or Minute of Courageous Cat and Minute Mouse (too old?). Or, if muscles are the prerogative, Mighty Mouse (the cartoon character, not Apple’s input device from 2005!). Or, if literary associations vital, Stuart Little. Or, if a female is preferred (in a post-Wonder Woman world, they are), Miss Bianca from The Rescuers. Or, if gender-fluidity is a must, Coney from the wildly popular Line characters. Or, if racial inclusiveness the most crucial, my all-time fave, Speedy Gonzales. No, they prefer same-old and sure-safe Mickey Mouse.

Gucci jeans & track top SS 2020Gucci track top and denim jeansDsneyDisney’s own Mickey Mouse merchandise with local expressionsH&M X Disney SS 2020H&M sweatshirt featuring a 3-D Mickey MouseDisney X Aldo sneakers SS 2020Disney X Aldo sneakers

Mickey appearing on Uniqlo or H&M tees is understandable—expected, even, but as a mascot for a luxury brand such as Gucci? To me, it’s jejune and unimaginative and too convenient. Mickey Mouse is there for the taking, so take it. That’s what it says to me. After all, the brand had already collaborated with Disney; they’ve produced a USD4,500(!), 3-D printed plastic handbag in the shape of Mickey’s head to mark the mouse’s 90th anniversary in 2018. No sweat if Disney’s beloved character is used. Again.

Some other brands do try, with varying degrees of success (authenticity? That’s another point). There’s a blotch of a rat at CK Calvin Klein, accompanied by a message: “TO SEE WHAT OTHERS DO NOT SEE THAT IS TRUE VISION”. Yes, in full caps and WhatsApp-worthy lack of punctuation. That’s probably paraphrasing Jonathan Swift—“Vision is the art of seeing what is invisible to others”, but what the saying has to do with rats is anyone’s guess. Perhaps cuteness alone isn’t quite enough; you have to appear smart (isn’t that already a rat trait?), better still, literary.

cK Calvin Klein shirt SS 2020CK Calvin Klein shirt with message and mouseNudie Jeans jacket S 2020Nudie Jeans Vinny Year of the Rat denim jacket at The Denim Store, 313@OrchardBrooks Brothers SS 2020Brooks Brothers sweater and a dressed grey mouse20-01-23-01-36-34-390_decoNikelab’s rat pack for DSM. Photo: DSM

Elsewhere, a pointy-nosed Japanese-esque mouse is seen on a Nudie Jeans trucker. The creature is described as a “metal rat”. They got that right. A small appreciable detail. If CK Calvin Klein’s rat is a literary one, then Brooks Brothers’ affable-looking rodent is probably its sporty compatriot. Given a baseball cap with a pair of unmistakable double Bs, the nameless creature could be Yankee’s (Everyone’s Hero) avatar. To appeal to those who are partial to cyberpunk aesthetics and who care not to be auspicious, the Earn Chen-led (he who founded Surrender and Ambush, and now the guy behind Potato Head Folk)  Singaporean label, The Salvages, offers—at DSMS—a robotic rat with a menacing scowl and red eye. Even Starbucks isn’t leaving themselves out of the rat race, selling a coffee mug in the shape of a rather corpulent Rattus. Not all brands use solo rats. Also at DSMS, Nike’s special capsule features one T-shirts with a quintet of basketball-playing rats of the ’hood. But perhaps most fascinating is one by Doublet: there’s an embroidery of a rat on the chest. If you look closely,  you’d see a loose thread. I was told that if you pull it, the stitches will unravel, revealing an ox—a tee for two consecutive years!

It isn’t yet clear if the pick up rate for these ratty fashion will spike during the CNY shopping season. Frankly, I don’t really know the purpose of luxury brands getting into Chinese New Year symbolism other than to cash in. In fact, I don’t recall the wearing of clothes that feature the animal of the corresponding zodiac year to be common. It’s definitely not traditional! Come to think of it, I remember Marc Jacobs’s men’s wear used to have a mascot/logo featuring a rodent named Stinky Rat. Mr Jacobs had never deliberately released clothing bearing the creature during CNY. Does wearing one’s zodiac animal (or spirit animal?) make things a little more season-appropriate, a little more festive, a little more auspicious?

Ill will unintended, I don’t give a rat’s ass.

Editorial note: for convenience, I use ‘rat’ and ‘mouse’ interchangeably, probably to the annoyance of mammalogists, biologists, zoologists, and the like. Photos (unless indicated): Chin Boh Kay. 

More Pigs: Gucci’s Company Of Three

Like so many other brands, Gucci is taking their pick in the pen. So which 🐖 does Alessandro Michele use to help the Chinese welcome the Year of the Pig?

 

gucci x three little pigsDisney’s Three Little Pigs prances in front of Gucci’s three stripes. Photo Gucci

Actually, there is more than one. A trio, to be exact. Why, indeed, settle for a single swine when you can have three? And which of them is more famous than the three little ones?

Problem is, odd numbers are not usually preferred during CNY. But the Italians may not know that. Then again, times have changed. Even Mediacorp’s not delightful and dreadfully named zhu baobao (猪饱饱, and a pun too awful to deserve translation) comes in threes.

Gucci chose to work with Disney (who isn’t these days? ORBA, for sure!) and to tap one of their oldest animated characters, the Three Little Pigs, never mind that the trio is not one of Disney’s best or most loved, or cutest. Or, that they were created in the 1930s, hence sans the cuteness of rival Warner Brothers’ rather dapper Porky Pig whose bow tie easily beats two of the Three Little Pig’s pussy bows in the style stakes. But there is perhaps some similarity between the hogs: with the exception of the one who built his house with brings, the other siblings, like Porky, go about with bare bottoms!

19-01-12-16-27-45-321_decoThe pigs is placed in the centre of bags, such as this knapsack. Photo: Chin Boh Kay

The retro pigs, of course, suit Gucci’s current aesthetic preoccupation. While this is not the first time, Gucci is using Disney characters, the choice of the monochrome version of the cartoon pig-brothers is. In an embroidered cut out of the triumphant three (possibly after defeating the ill-fated wolf) and appliqued on various items in the 19-piece collection—which includes shoes and bags and small leather goods, this could be Gucci’s high-end take on what has been all too common at Uniqlo.

Perhaps the use of Disney characters is a lot more convenient than creating your own mascot. The Three Little Pigs have been around since the first printed version of the fable, believed to date back to the 1840s. The moral of the story—that hard work and fortitude is rewarding—may be alien to those who have bypassed traditional routes to success by using digital means or talent shows, but Gucci’s adoption of the trio not destined for the abattoir may be indication that there could be a comeback of old-fashioned values, just as there have been a return to retro styles.

Alessandro Michele is, of course, the mastermind of all this. But if the success of Gucci is any indication, who’s afraid of the big bad wolf? 

Gucci Chinese New Year collection is in stores

Oh Mickey!

Mickey Mouse visits us on our 53rd birthday in 2018, and we put a hand towel on his head!

 

Mickey Go Local 1

By Mao Shan Wang

A friend of mine texted me yesterday to ask me to drop by Raffles City to look at “what they have done to Mickey”. “You have to see it,” he added for good measure. Since he put it that way, missing it might mean missing out! In case you don’t already know: like you, I suffer from a critical case of FOMO. So this afternoon, during my otherwise bo liao lunch break, I paid mi laoshu a visit.

What could you do to Mickey that Mini has not? It did not take long for me to see what my friend meant. There were many Mickey figurines, ninety to be exact, all painted/dressed/adorned differently. However, this is not quite like the painting of elephants (in 2011, our version of the Cow Parade) or other creatures that had previously gripped our nation and the celebrities who think they are artistic. This is desecration of a Disney icon. Unless you have a very wonky need to see the mouse Walt Disney drew become a Chingay charmer.

In a nutshell, Mickey is made to ‘Go Local’, very much like how it is for the APEC leaders’ Family Photo—as hackneyed but cheesier. This is a Disney and Raffles City partnership in conjunction with the shopping centre’s Art in the City program, which, this year, coincides with our nation’s 53rd birthday and Mickey’s 90th anniversary (on 18 Nov). Put art aside. Mickey is accorded the hospitality we’re known for: plunge the non-native in a vat of rojak.

DSC_01363.jpg

When we go local, we seem to think of cultural jumble or of the past. Nostalgia is big. It is as if most of the participants—Mediacorp stars, media types, and leaders of industry—had gone to the Naiise School of Art and Design and were taught by sentimentalist Jack Neo, aka Liang Ximei. We’re in our 53rd year of nationhood, yet we still see ourselves as emerging from the end of the Japanese Occupation. If it isn’t so, I don’t know why we desire to dress Mickey Mouse as a satay seller hawking on the street. And what’s with the obsession for the Good Morning towel?

I am unclear why Mickey Mouse is such a strong trigger for nostalgia. Could it be because he’s a cartoon character from another era, way before 4K televisions and digital transmission? A smart nation is what we’re aiming to be, yet Mickey going local in most of the 90 iterations appear to reflect a Singapore when the international airport was still in Paya Lebar and self-check-in was as fathomable as selfies. Interestingly and disappointingly, only one Mickey is depicted as a creature of a modern city: he is tattooed in digital motifs.

Talking about numbers, repeated ideas do say something about our national interests (or should that be obsessions?) and pride. We’re clearly a nation that loves to eat (food theme: 13); we’re delighted with our Garden City reputation (floral/orchid/garden theme: 10); we don’t like plush, fluffy French terry—we prefer Good Morning towels (it appears 7 times); we’re enamoured with Malay culture (batik/ikat motifs: 6); we love our HDB heartland (public housing/playground theme: 5); and we’re eager to salute NSmen (camo/national service theme: 5). Who’s surprised?

Mickey Go Local 3

Unexpectedly, love for Peranakan culture and cuisine is barely palpable (3), same for the Merlion (1), the night races of the F1 Grand Prix (1), and, gasp, 4D/gambling (1). Halfway through, I was expecting Singapore Girl representation, but I guess that’s a tough one. It’s a lot easier to do Phua Chu Kang—he’s all of us: more for most, less for the rest. Dick Lee is missing too, although above me, they were playing Home.

And like the majority of us, fashion is not Mickey’s strong suit, and we know it. So we are not careful with the aesthetic abuse. If we don’t make him look kopi tiam-ready, we make him bloom like he’s dressed by Far East Flora. When the preferred garment by most of us is the T-shirt, only two Mickeys have one on. And when sneakers are the footwear of choice, only four of them are given some semblance of trainers. Intriguingly, a kind soul has given him a square of a tuala for his head because “with such hot weather in Singapore, he would need… a cute little towelette mimicking the Samsui women whose hard work helped shaped Singapore…” If there’s any imitating to do, I’d pick a certain Balmain-designed kebaya, but, as I remind myself, this is a family exhibition.

I am not sure how we’re going to impress visitors already not impressed by our fashion sense. Or convince them we have fashion on our mind. Maybe it’s just easy to localise Mickey. He has been wearing what seems to be only red shorts for almost all his life that no matter what you pile on him, it’s better than those trunks. I am not suggesting we send Mickey to Ho Ching’s samfu maker, but there must be an approach to dressing an overseas guest that does not involve the preference synonymous with Miss Singapore dressmakers: chap chai campur that’s tenaciously Singapura.

Mickey ‘Go local’ is on at Raffles City, level 1 from today till 29 Aug. Photos: Zhao Xiangji