Pastime Paradise

There is something in Italy that makes boys want to dress up and swagger and give the impression of a carefree life. Dolce and Gabbana showed how it’s done. Economic gloom and social discontent—they’re another country

 

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Domenico Dolce and Stefano Gabbana have never been shy of their love of the sun-soaked south of Italy, such as Mr Dolce’s birthplace Sicily. In the past ten years, Dolce and Gabbana’s style tended to embrace the heartiness and the gioia de vivere of the lower half of the boot-shaped country, where colours are more vivid and patterns more striking. Both men have taken the look to new heights by learning from the book of hyperbole. They have indeed expanded this into a lifestyle, too, as seen in their advertising campaigns and their window displays (long table filled with food!) Or, as one dictionary says of style, “a mode of living, as with respect to expense or display”

This ostentation is well and alive in the Dolce and Gabbana show for Milan Men’s Fashion Week. The second guests-in-attendance runway show of the city, it was staged at the Humanitas University (aka Hunimed), south of Milan. The choice of a medical school for a fashion show is rather odd, until we learned that the company has an ongoing CSR program with the institution and, this time, “every donation up to €1000 will be matched to support Scientific Research,” as the brand explained. That this is where serious, life-saving stuff is taught and studied amplified the frivolity of the presentation and the splashiness of the clothes, and, as a result, their garishness. Considering that both men started in the less exuberant house of Giorgio Correggiari, what Dolce and Gabbana were pursuing (and have been in at least the last ten years) is an aesthetical reversal.

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It is unthinkable that once (partially) freed from the restrictions as a result of pandemic containment affecting almost every country, men would want to jump into clothes that say, “I’m having so much fun”. The collection contain “elements inspired by the blues of the sea are combined with lightweight white fabrics. The looks pay homage to creativity, Italian design and the summery, unforgettable atmosphere of holidays in Sorrento (also in the south),” according to the show notes. There is that word again: “Holiday”. While domestic vacations might be possible (here, we can only do staycations!), global travels are still very much limited. But perhaps the idea is for people to dream and to yearn, and in so doing, wear Dolce & Gabbana.

For a collection presumably produced during lockdown (Italy has one of the severest in Europe), it is huge—a staggering 104 looks that took about 25 minutes to show. What was rather curious was the inclusion of denim styles not previously obvious of the brand. The patchworked jeans, especially, recalled the work of Junya Watanabe and those bloomer-like pants with contrast panels and straps, and boxy tops with more patchwork brought to mind the Japanese label Kapital, who are known for their denim couture, if there’s such a thing. The Southern Italian vibe was rather lost on us with those. Part of the predominantly blue collection then had less the whiff of the Gulf of Naples than the port town of Kojima.

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But what was striking of the collection were the profusion of prints. Dolce and Gabbana naturally love prints, the more the merrier, the more garish the gayer. They were in tops and bottoms—together, in three-piece ensembles, even in head wear. The prints came in geometrics, stripes, figures of myth, scenes of ancient cities, and sometimes a mix of either of them. Unrelenting was the onslaught, which felt more intense after a period of fashion detox. Dizzying were the pairings and the mixes, so much so that they could be as intrusive as blaring, discordant sounds. Indolence was the habit of slapping one of them prints on plackets, yokes, and cuffs and pass that off as design. You’d expect that at H&M, not D&G.

When we sat back to look at the massive collection in its entirety, one thing struck us. At the risk of social profiling (which is not the intention here), the clothes seems to target, at least in this part of the world, a unique tribe we identify as Bengs. And it would appear D&G caters to every type of Beng, from gay Bengs to gym Bengs to towkay Bengs! Consider this in a different light. Dolce and Gabbana, despite their cultural faux pas elsewhere, is inclusive. That can only be a good thing.

Screen grabs: Dolce and Gabbana/YouTube

This Is A Pair Of Sunglasses

For the creative type, it can be worn as a pendant

 

D&G shades fall 2019

We blame you not if you thought this is a monocle. Or, some other monocular optical instrument, perhaps from the 18th century. It could also be a folded pince-nez, if your imagination permits! This, however, has a more present-day appeal. It is, in fact, a pair of shades, and it comes from a label that had, in the past year, traipsed rather indelicately in the minefield of public opinion: Dolce & Gabbana.

The brand that Domenico Dolce and Stefano Gabbana built happily tells us that this foldable sunglasses “starred” in the men’s show for this season back in February—a presentation that was homage to an elegance that Humphrey Bogart would be at home with. Or, what D&G calls “the charming atmosphere of the Forties”. And indeed this pair of sunglasses is surprisingly different from the more outrageous—sometimes downright wacky—eyewear that D&G had shown (admittedly mostly for women). This is very much in keeping with an age of men mindful of spiffy details.

Dolce & Gabbana Man AW 2019

The main appeal of the glasses is how smartly it folds into a compact device. A hinge at the temple allows it to collapse, with lenses folded, one behind the other (and the arms neatly tucked within too), forming a nifty shape that, with a cord or chain strung through the inverted V of the hinge, can be worn as a pedant or (mock) monocle around the neck, the way Karl Marx was known to wear his. The two lenses are secured by acetate frames, around which a perimeter of thin, ridged metal, designed to give the texture of grosgrain ribbons, lends it the refinement that eyewear (the monocle, particular) was once accorded, and, thus, considered a status symbol.

Named Fatto A Mano (or handmade in Italian), this pair of shades is priced to match its evocative moniker—just S$104 less than the 5.8-inch iPhone 11 Pro! Chances are, for some fortunate, gadget-and-eyewear-loving few, it doesn’t have to be one or the other.

Dolce & Gabbana foldable Fatto A Mano sunglasses, SGD1,545, is available at Sunglass Hut. Photos: (top) Jim Sim, (runway) Dolce & Gabbana

Why Can’t Western Brands Get Asia Right?

Versace, Coach, Givenchy, and Swarovski recently had to apologise for their missteps in Asia, joining an already shamed Dolce & Gabbana in a growing list of brands with a deplorable sense of cultural—and geographical—awareness

 

Versace T-shirt 2019The Versace T-shirt that riled mainland Chinese Netizens. Photo: Weibo

By Raiment Young

Many years ago, at a media event that I attended in Monte Carlo, I came face to face with the now-out-of-favour, former Vogue editor-at-large, companion to Diana Vreeland in her final years, André Leon Talley. Mr Talley was not a caftan-wearing man at the time, as he became, up till the 2017 release of The World According to André. Still, he was imposing in a dark suit, speaking in that loud, clear, and urgent voice of his, sounding exactly the way he sounded, years later, while observing—and commenting on—the stars at the Academy Awards for a TV audience. When I came before him that night on my way to the patio of the palatial grounds on which the soiree took place to enjoy the cooler outdoors, he looked down at me, smiled, and gleefully offered, “konbanwa”. I returned the greeting by saying, “Good evening, Mr Talley”.

If this was the present, and it happened not to me, but someone else—say, a ‘woke’ person, now one to be, offence could have been immediately taken. A scolding might have ensued or an online rebuke quickly posted. But this was then. I was used to Caucasians mistaking me for every nationality or race in this part of the world except Laotian. Or, Dayak. The Japanese, powerful consumers like the Chinese are today, were frequently travelling to Europe. I understood that it was easy to mistake me for someone from, say, Tokyo or Toyota since it was likely that the Asians many Europeans and Americans encountered then were nihonjins, just as many today are zhongguoren.

In my early travels to the US, Americans would frequently ask, upon learning that I am from Singapore, “are you from China?” So often was this question posed that it soon dawned on me that this was going to be a tiring cliché for as long as I was in a place where not that many people owned a passport. It was said to me then that most Americans, whether in the heartlands or hub cities, consider Asia as one homogeneous place. How they came to that conclusion I had no clue. Few knew Samarkan from Samarinda. If they heard of Singapore, even if in their mind we weren’t a sovereign state, we were lucky.

There are Chinese in Singapore, which is not in China?

 

“There are Chinese in Singapore, which is not in China?” Sometimes, I became lazy and just said, smilingly, “Yes, I am from China, 你这个笨蛋 (you fool) or bodoh (stupid)”, depending on my mood. This was, of course, way before Donald Trump met Kim Jong Un here last year and, as a consequence, shone a brighter spotlight on our island. (Interestingly, even then, the US State Department was mistaken: they made Singapore part of Malaysia.) This was also way before people heard of such expressions as cultural racism or racial profiling. But I think, back then, we were a lot less sensitive to the cluelessness (carelessness?) of others and we did not, even after repeated encounters, take the insensitivity seriously or personally; we were not easily riled up; we were less emotionally fragile, and we were more forgiving. And we had better things to do, such as see the country that we had come to see.

You’d imagine things would have changed now that the Internet is connecting the world. And Google has answers, frequently than not. But, more than a decade after my encounter with Mr Talley under a midnight-blue sky in Monte Carlo, there are Westerners and, indeed, Western brands that still can’t get Asia right. They can’t see the vastness of the continent and, hence, its plurality. Now that even once-less-visited countries such as Vietnam is on the verge of over-tourism, it is surprising and, frankly annoying, that there are those Westerners who think Hong Kong is a country. Does the city’s contingent at the Olympic Games mislead those outside Asia to think that the SAR is a sovereign state not connected to the mainland?

The recent case of Versace and Coach producing similar T-shirts with near identical blunders bolster the believe that Western brands are still not looking at Asia closely and carefully enough. There are those who think that no matter what they produce, however tone deaf or fact blind, we Asians will snap them up as if they’re another cup of boba milk tea. But I do wonder: is it mere oversight to not know China’s hard-lined stance on its sovereignty and territorial rights? A provocation to garner maximum online reaction and, hence, to project newsy appeal? Or, is it sheer, inexcusable ignorance?

Coach tee 2019.jpgThe Coach T-shirt that, too, angered mainland Chinese Netizens. Photo: Weibo

I had thought that the Dolce & Gabbana faux pas less than a year ago was bad enough—so bad, in fact, that other brands would start to become mindful of what they will say, communicate, or project. But one brand’s mistake is not necessarily another’s learning curve or awakening. While many brand owners acknowledge that Asia is an important market, if not the most important (China alone accounts for a third of the world’s luxury sales), they would not tread cautiously. Or, preemptively. Popularity, as movie/pop stars could tell you, may inure you to apathy, but that’s never good enough a reason to believe you won’t traipse a cultural minefield.

It appears that just because a brand has found favour among a sizeable number of spending consumers in Asia, it can step away from cultural, territorial, or political sensitivity. It is ironic that while brands are hiring ‘diversity chiefs’ to make sure they don’t exclude the non-Caucasian in product development and communication, none thought to appoint someone with the knowledge or interest in knowing that, for example, Taiwan is not, and likely never will be, a country.

It has become more apparent to many that admirable creativity in the atelier does not necessarily commensurate with awareness in marketing. It is often said that brands should decentralise their marketing, but few do. Away from Asia, some of the brands have become  intellectually lazy and incurious. And willing to only state the obvious to underscore the brand’s global reach. In the case of the above T-shirts, I think it is superfluous to juxtapose—in the show-off list—the city in which the brand is available with the corresponding country to which the former belongs. It is strange that any marketeer would imagine that those who buy Versace or Coach need to be informed that Paris is in France. How many people would equate the City of Light with Lamar County, Texas?

Is D&G Now Too Toxic To Touch?

Even the “respected” fashion critic Suzy Menkes can’t escape the wrath of those who are bent on seeing the end of Dolce & Gabbana after she made clear where her “allegiance” lies

 

Suzy Menkes IG

The first thing we read on Instagram this morning was the above post. Suzy Menkes took us by surprise. Usually unapologetic in her stand (in 2007, she boldly declared that “Marc Jacobs disappoints with a freak show”), she issued an apology, presumably in response to the curious review of Dolce Gabbana’s Alta Moda/Sartoria, the private (but widely shared online) show for couture clients, held in Milan four days before. The black and white IG square looks like an obituary.

Are apologies the new ‘It’ act to follow discriminatory outbursts and indiscriminate commentaries? Like Dolce and Gabbana’s video apology after the storm they whipped, Ms Menkes’s textual version came days after her review blunder. That the online culture of say first, apologise later has influenced even a writer with over 50 years of experience, culminating at Condé Nast, where she is the “the independent eye of the international Vogues”, indicates perhaps that we are edging towards a new type of morality. It is hard, for now, to say what that might be.

For many people, Mr Gabbana’s outburst is for remembering, but for the culpable, it was rather the opposite. “China is yesterday,” he supposedly told Ms Menkes, “today is another day. It’s a new Rennaisance.” Ensconced in Milan, it’s easy for Mr Gabbana to forget about what happened in China. But many people want D&G reduced to dust. Then Suzy Menkes came cheerily along.

Suzy Menkes @ D&G Alta Moda IG picSuzy Menkes, looking the part of the grande dame (of fashion criticism) that many consider her to be

We first read what Ms Menkes wrote on Vogue.com yesterday, and was amused by the position she took when the Dolce and Gabbana fiasco in China of three weeks ago has not really died down. She did not appear to concur with a large swath of the online fashion community that the two designers had screwed up, especially Stefano Gabbana, whose Instagram account she called “prolific”. We don’t know about you, Kim Kardashian, to us, is prolific, Stefano Gabbana borders on the profane. It astonished us that Ms Menkes would not even say that the man’s IG excesses were “controversial”, or “provocative” when, in fact, a nation was provoked.

One reader of SOTD told us that the online reaction to Ms Menkes’s review, as well as the surfeit of IG posts on D&G within a day—21 in all—was “Diet_Prada trying to kill her in their anti-DG obsession. They are very vindictive now.” By the time, we checked Diet_Prada’s IG posts/stories, the supposed attack was gone. Apparently, Diet_Panda had said that Ms Menkes is a journalist who isn’t doing her job. Did she not tread carefully, we wondered? “She did,” our follower said. “But obviously not enough for the Nazi-hunters Diet_Police!”

Entitled “A Day of Atonement” on vogue.co.uk and simply “Atonement” on her own suzymenkesvogue.com, the article stood out, in light of D&G’s troubles, for her rather unwavering support of the designers and apparent refusal to walk into the room of disdain. What had Dolce and Gabbana to atone for, she did not say. Calling the duo “chastened” twice, Ms Menkes was, as our commentator said, showing her “allegiance”—to two people she probably considers friends. Or, “family”, like “the alliance of moneyed people, many of whom enjoy the D&G events (as she did) because they become part of this family of the super-rich”, as she described the attendees.

Suzy Menkes @ D&GSuzy Menkes enjoying herself at Dolce & Gabbana Alta Moda in Milan

Nothing amiss there. Friends can still be friends even when their beliefs are not shared. But when she started to ask “what went wrong in China”, she, replying to her own question, said that she found it “hard to make any judgment about a show that never took place.” What went wrong in China led to the cancellation of the show. Even that she would not acknowledge, except to say, provocatively, that “the criticism over a marketing campaign… branded racist, where I would see it as insensitive and stupid.”

That remark, to many Netizens, was exemplar of insensitivity and stupidity. One commentator on her IG post even called her “a privileged white woman”. Ms Menkes seemed to have spurred that charge when, in the third paragraph of the review, she referred to China as “the Far East”, a popular blanket term during the 16th to 18th centuries that referred to lands beyond India. Perhaps we should be relieved that she did not call the world’s most populous country Cathay! As SOTD contributor Raiment Young said, “alongside ‘Editor, International Vogue’, maybe she should have added: Subject, British Empire”.

The apology Ms Menkes posted on IG was strangely rather similar to Dolce and Gabbana’s. Instead of apologising for the displeasure and unhappiness she has caused, even unthinkingly or unintentionally, she chose to say, “I am deeply sorry if words I have written have been interpreted…” White privilege? Do tell us.

Photos: suzymenkesvogue/Instagram

The Daring Duo And The Gaffes A People’s Republic Won’t Forgive

Hacked account or not, Domenico Dolce and Stefano Gabbana, in particular, have a history of hitting out with controversial words

 

D&G IG P1The first of two: apology by Dolce & Gabbana posted on Instagram

Note: this post contains what some readers may consider offensive language

It was supposed to be a spectacle, but it quickly descended into a debacle. Italian brand Dolce & Gabbana has cancelled a headlining, 500-look, one-hour-long fashion show in a 20,000 square meters space in the Shanghai Expo World Museum that was supposed to open at 9 o’clock this evening (forty-five minutes before the scheduled start, they posted what is presumably a backstage clip on their FB page). This came after the online circulation of screen shots of a shared IG post in which Stefano Gabbana, in a chat with one Michaela Phuong (reported to be a fashion business student), was widely considered to have insulted an entire nation when he allegedly wrote, “the country of 💩💩💩💩💩 is China” (recalling Donald Trump’s comment on African countries) and “China Ignorant Dirty Smelling Mafia”.

Known as 杜嘉班纳 (dujiabanna) in China, the brand had earlier already upset Netizens after three 40-sec promotional videos were posted on Weibo (they are still on Dolce & Gabbana’s IG and FB page at the time of this posting) that showed a Chinese model, dressed like a tuhao (土豪 or uncouth rich), using chopsticks to eat Italian food—pizza, pasta, and cannolo—with difficulty. This bad light was compounded by a male Chinese narrator pronouncing the names of the two designers as “Dols and Gaberner” and calling chopsticks 小棍子形状的餐具 (xiao gunzi xingzhuang de canju). Little, stick-shaped eating implements! Admittedly, there’s nothing funny or charming about the videos, ironically hashtagged #DGLovesChina. Whether timed to provoke or generate interest, this came not long before what was to be the brand’s The Great Show.

DG on IGDG on IG: screen grab of the first video of three that Dolce & Gabbana posted on their Instagram page

Dolce & Gabbana responded with an IG apology, considered by Weibo users to be insincere. Understandable since it sounded like it was written by a lawyer than someone banging on bigotry’s door. Why, we had thought, was there no in-person daoqian [apology] for something of this magnitude? Dolce & Gabbana explained that their IG account had been “hacked”. Convenient an excuse, no doubt. To be sure, the veracity of the alleged disparaging chat was not ascertained and Ms Phuong (if she exists) did not say if she knows the two Italian designers personally and explain why she was chatting with one of them that led to the offensive comments. If Dolce & Gabbana’s social media account was hacked so that the hacker could put the brand and its designers in bad light, does that mean that they have more haters than Dolce & Gabbana imagined?

Controversy involving words that should not have been said or sent is not new to Dolce & Gabbana. Increasingly, provocative proclamations put the brand and duo in the news rather than the flamboyant clothes. There was the 2015 spat with Elton John that resulted from the two calling IVF babies “synthetic”. And, in June, there was Mr Gabbana’s fan-enraging online remark about Selena Gomez: “she’s so ugly”. Last year, reacting to those who expressed their dismay at the two designers for enthusiastically willing to dress Melania Trump, the brand released, somewhat arrogantly we thought, a USD295 T-shirt emblazoned with #BOYCOTT DOLCE&GABBANA, which is still available in their online store.

D&G IG P2A little too late: Dolce & Gabbana reaching out via IG the second time in a couple of hours

Culturally insensitive social media images, too, seem to be their forte. The present videos came after last year’s spring/summer images tagged “DG loves China” that Chinese Netizens thought belittled their homeland with a “stereotypical” depiction of a place that fashion stars such as Sun Feifei and Liu Wen call home. In the ads, models in flashy clothes and ridiculous head and eye wear pose with locals that appeared to be less privileged and sophisticated, and in settings that suggested third-tier cities instead of those such as Shanghai or Beijing (ironically the city in which the ads were shot), where the inhabitants are more likely to be Dolce & Gabbana customers.

Anger with the latest videos is understandable too. Dolce & Gabbana had picked a gangly model who, for most Chinese, is not mei (pretty) enough to front a major campaign targeted at them. As one former marketing head who had worked in China told SOTD, “the Chinese view beauty very differently from the West. What is beautiful to D&G may not be so to the Chinese. For that matter, what is clever to the Italians may not be clever to the Chinese.” To make matters worse, the model was made to handle chopsticks in a manner that the Chinese from young would have been told is never acceptable. If that wasn’t enough, the narrator asked suggestively, when she tried eating the unusually large tubular canollo (a sweet Sicilian pastry), 对你们来说这是太大了吗?(dui nimen laishuo zheshi taida le ma). Is this, to you, too big?

Huang Xiaoming IGActor Huang Xiaoming was not ambiguous about where his loyalty lies. Photo: Huang Xiaoming/Instagram

The outrage came fast and furious. Dolce & Gabbana first reacted by removing the videos from Weibo. Then came those remarks. It was just too late to reverse course. Public outcry was so serious and palpable that The Great Show, said to be the largest in the brand’s 33-year existence, had to be called off. The cancellation (as first reported), then postponement (later corrected, but no one is certain which is correct since Dolce & Gabbana have not responded to media queries) came when celebrities due to attend and models due to participate had pulled out unequivocally. Models and actors alike took to social media to express their disapproval and dismay, with many expressing clear support for the 祖国 (zuguo or motherland). The China actor Huang Xiaoming, also Tissot ambassador and London, Paris, and Milan Fashion Weeks regular, posted succinctly on his official IG account, “祖国第一!毫无疑问 (zuguo diyi! haowu yiwen).” Motherland first, no doubt.

Were the Chinese over-reacting? Or, crucially, were Dolce & Gabbana over-reaching? Did the Italians think their brand of Eastern exotica and taste-dubious visual and video communication would charm the Chinese? Did they really consider themselves so culturally superior that they could teach the Chinese how to 起筷吃饭 (qikuai chifan)? That in the land of chopsticks, the people had to be schooled on how to “lift a pair of chopsticks to have a meal”? Or, is the fashion design community of Italy so tone-deaf that they ignore the attention they have drawn to the delivering of messages that ignore racial, cultural, and religious sensitivities, such as those by compatriot Gucci?

Dolce & Gabbana @ IONSilent night: not a soul on the women’s floor at Dolce & Gabbana, ION Orchard. Photo: Dawn Koh

Earlier this evening, we dropped by at Dolce & Gabbana, ION Orchard to see for ourselves if the China fiasco had any impact on the consumption here. It had been hours since the indignation on Weibo, and it is not immoderate to assume that people here, apathetic as they can be, had an inkling of what happened and may be disconcerted enough to avoid the store if they were not inclined to say something in disapproval. On level one, a few men—tourists we assume since they spoke in a different language—were browsing. Upstairs, where the women’s wear and accessories are offered, it was as silent as a churchyard at sundown.

It isn’t clear yet what brand damage this fallout will cost Dolce & Gabbana or what losses will be incurred in the cancellation of the show (the last dispatch on the show that we read before we hit the sack: it was “cancelled by the Cultural Affairs Bureau of Shanghai”). According to reported estimates, the brand, in 2016, enjoyed 30% of total sales in the Asia Pacific region—China alone has Dolce & Gabbana stores in 25 cities. Boycott is now the rallying cry in dealing with the foolish, unthinking duo. Or could a higher road be an option? As one SOTD follower commented, “Aiya, they’re just a couple of angmo bengs; they don’t know any better.”

Photos (except where stated): Dolce & Gabbana/Instagram

Golding Hits Gold

The first Asian leading man becomes the first Asian cover star. But is Henry Golding too white that GQ has to style him to look unmistakably Asian, a la P Ramlee?

 

HG GQ December 2018

By Mao Shan Wang

I saw it coming and it has arrived. Henry Golding, from the minute Crazy Rich Asian (CRA) hit the big screen, was destined to be big, if not in the coming years, at least this year. He hadn’t been an actor that long (a year?), or in the global public’s eye that frequently, yet he’s made an effortless leap onto the spotlighted pedestal as one of GQ’s Men (and Women, right?) of the Year (which include three other cover stars: Michael B Jordan, Jonah Hill, and Serena Williams). Contrary to the prediction of my colleague’s here at SOTD, I thought a cover, or two, would be inevitable. In an age of obligatory inclusivity, Henry Golding on the cover of a Western/American magazine was a matter of time, and timing.

Excuse me while I look at this cover closely for a moment.

I applaud this GQ cover, but I am not sure I like it. It’s not bad per se, but I am not attracted to it. To me, there’s no pull: you know, the winsomeness that made countless women fall for Nick Young, or the earnestness of expression that says Mr Golding’s possibly Asia’s biggest movie star. I have seen thirty-one-year-old in person, and he’s handsomer and—judge me not for seeing him for the colour of his skin—fairer. The CRA leading man in GQ is styled to look unmistakably Southeast Asian, not just Asian—more abang than oppa.

Malaysia’s New Straits Times, in a quick-response online post earlier today, described Mr Golding on the GQ cover as “dashing”. Aesthetically, it is a dashing that has in common with the dusky debonair that was P Ramlee, who, according to what Mr Golding told the Hollywood Reporter, has been a source of the latter’s inspirasi. Perhaps it’s the colours and the styling, which in sum also reminds me of the Thai spaghetti Western Tears of the Black Tiger. Or, to refer to something more recent, Indonesia’s Buffalo Boys. It’s also the  pomaded, jet-black hair, and the matinee-idol eyes, both evocative of the cinema of long ago, more Cathay-Keris than Warner Bros.

HG GQ December 2018 P2

Mr Golding’s enhanced Asian-ness is, to me, ironic since, as argued in his casting, it is his not totally Asian looks that got him the part, which means, as some say, the leading man is easier to market to American viewers. The magazine conceded that they chose Mr Golding also because “he’s handsome, he’s suave, and that accent. A nation swooned, and GQ did too.” Looks, naturally, came first, but they were sure to emphasise his accent too. You see, not sounding Asian is also a plus. Of course it helps that he’s handsome and suave, but his handsomeness and suaveness is, to be sure, based on Caucasian standards. And old-fashioned too, which means he’s no Ezra Miller.

Hidden Tiger and Crouching Tiger— the highest-grossing foreign-language (possibly Chinese) film produced outside the US in American history—star Chow Yun Fatt is, to many Asian fans, handsome and suave, including his younger co-star Chang Chen, but the editors of GQ will never see them as cover material. Newer, more exposed, more experienced Asian actors, such as main-lander Li Gengxin (Great Wall and Detective Dee: Rise of the Sea Dragon), can be handsome and suave too, but they simply do not look angmo pai enough.

To me, Mr Golding’s CRA co-star, the Taiwanese-Australian Chris Pang is just as handsome and suave, if not more, but, in the end, the two men’s fate, I believe, is also in the Asian-ness of their family names. Golding is clearly a lot less so and more marketable than Pang. Although Pang, (which has an English meaning: sharp, sudden pain or sensation), is more pronounceable than, say, Ng, it is the two-syllable Golding that has more of a ring to it. Interestingly, Chris Pang’s Chinese surname is Wu (吴 and he is named育刚 or Yugang). I have not been able to uncover this discrepancy in the family name: how Wu became Pang. Still, neither shares the high tone of Golding. Also the surname of the author of Lord of the Flies, William, Golding has Anglo-Saxon roots and is thought to mean friend (or son) of gold, the colour of Oscar.

Fashion wise, GQ styled Mr Golding with one goal: so that you can call him suave. Tom Ford, his earliest sponsor, had already aimed for that. The thing is Asian men are rarely described as suave. To play down any perceived lack of suaveness, I suspect GQ deliberately played up the retro-sophistication in those jackets that, to me, recall P Ramlee-as-Sazali’s tuxedo in the 1956 film Anak Ku Sazali. For the cover, Mr Golding is in a maroon Dior and in one of the photos within the pages, a bright blue tux-jacket by Dolce & Gabbana. Few men wear such colours, unless they’re a dandy, which is also a rarer, even non-existent, breed among Asian men. This is keeping him in movie-star mode. I think good fortune is smiling on Henry Golding. There are forces determined to ensure that he remains front-row, red-carpet, and magazine-cover worthy.

Photos: GQ

A Lull There Was

Positively a lull. Has ready-to-wear taken the excitement and excess away from haute couture?

 

Chanel couture AW 2018 pic 1Screen grab of Chanel haute couture autumn/winter 2018

All the talk (bluster?) about streetwear pervading ready-to-wear and impinging on popular imagination seems to be taking its toll on high fashion. The recent couture season that ended a few days ago was perhaps one of the dullest in recent memory, as if designers were taking a defeatist stand against what are unavoidable aesthetical changes sweeping through luxury brands. The usually rousing presentations of Chanel, for example, gave way to an uninspiring, drab-as-pavement-stone show, set on a recreated promenade with the bustle of a cemetery.

For most part of fashion today, marketing and the resultant hype have taken over design. Haute couture, once distant from the brouhaha that characterises ready-to-wear, is now 4G, but on which frequency does it connect, it isn’t clear. Nor is it evident that it’s as connected as other product categories brands are now expected to percolate. It appears to be in re-evaluation mode, with designers going back to what their respective houses are known for, not trying to narrow down to what is modern. It is in the past, when it was an exquisite time for couture, that createurs of the present can find something glorious to bring back or to reminisce or to parody.

Despite Valentino Garavani’s tearful reaction to Pierpaolo Piccioli’s superb collection for the house that the former founded, this couture season had not been one that was particularly moving. Presentation-wise, pret-a-porter has already stolen the show for years; it has taken the leadership role (does haute couture still sell perfume?), with cruise as its commercial director. In terms of design, commercial consideration is a prime concern, so is millennial appeal. Even the young not financially endowed enough to buy need to be adequately thrilled so that their wealthy contemporaries would bite.

Yet, haute couture has lost its ability to stir us deeply, a kindling not palpable since the heydays of the art in the ’40s and ’50s, and, maybe, Yves Saint Laurent—a collection or two—in the ’70s or Christian Lacroix in the ’80s or John Galliano’s Dior in the ’90s. In fact, not until Raf Simons’s debut at Dior in the fall of 2012 did we hold our breath when the clothes came out, model by model, look by look, airy sumptuousness by airy sumptuousness. And we have not since. Gone are the times when “clothes were devastating. One fainted. One simply blew up and died,” as Diana Vreeland said of Balenciaga.

Don’t get us wrong. Haute couture isn’t down-graded in any way, craft-wise. The clothes are still the epitome of the best in handwork and hand-guided dressmaking. But is it in high fashion’s favour that only upon close examination do we get to see its magic? Has it become a mere crucible in which the metiers can be put on their mettle? Or has designers become tired (or old) battling the reality of casual dress everywhere in the world to want couture to be more about dreams? Unremarkable—no matter the fabric, the beading, the embroidery—will just be conspicuously ordinary.

Chanel

Chanel couture AW 2018Photos: Chanel

The house decided to set the show on one of the most recognisable boulevards in Paris, not as a nod to streetwear, but as proscenium to a collection that would otherwise lack both context and vitality. Karl Lagerfeld has so successfully lend commercial clout to Chanel couture that it is increasingly harder to tell it apart from the ready-to-wear or even the cruise if you don’t, for instance, unzip the slit on the sleeve—a recurrent idea this season—up to the elbow to see how exquisite the inside is.

While Mr Largerfeld is wont to repeat an idea that he likes, the zipped sleeves appeared so frequently that what was unexpected quickly became tedious. Perhaps such a detail is necessary for otherwise quite a few outfits would be rather standard Chanel skirt suits of characteristic tweed. And there were so many of them suits, in the not-so-arresting colour of concrete. When dresses did appear, they looked like they belonged to a doll’s wardrobe, until Ant Man came along with his blue Pym Discs.

Dior

Dior couture AW 2018Photos: Dior

Dior’s pale hues and kindred nudes have been said to give the collection a “sombre vibe”. It’s surprising no one said that the colours threaded on the edge of dull. Or, on the conventional silhouettes that Maria Grazia Chiuri had preferred, as cheerful as sampling room toile. These colours may have been alright if the designs on which they were tethered to weren’t so impassive, so unimaginative, so ordinary. The nearly one-silhouette collection is generous to the many customers for whom embroidered silk tulle nipped-in at the natural waist is the epitome of moneyed femininity.

As with Chanel, the visual divide between Dior couture and its pret-a-porter is seam-narrow. Ms Chiuri has steered Dior in the direction of consumption and political reality, and what she, as a woman, thinks the majority of womankind wants to wear. Hence, there won’t be the second coming of the New Look. The selling point would be its familiarity, not only of the Dior of yore, but also of the present. Vive le classique?

Dolce & Gabbana

Dolce & Gabbana alta moda AW 2018Photos: indigital.tv

Although not on the Paris calendar, Dolce & Gabbana’s flashy Lake Como presentation—part of the Italian couture offering, Alta Moda—was very much tribute to the haute of dressmaking. Or, was it to show that they could surpass Gucci? If not in goofiness, at least in over-the-top camp? In case we do not already know that Domenico Dolce and Stefano Gabbana could out-shine, out-bead, out-glitter, out-embroider, out-lace, out-appliqué everyone, the duo piled everything into their couture, minus the kitchen sink.

To some (or many, considering there are loads of their supporters), only such visually thrusting fashion is fashion. If fashion is of the moment, these clothes are the now that seizes you. Who needs mileage? Not today’s see-now-buy-now customers. Seeing now and buying now could also mean forgetting by tomorrow. Which, perhaps, explains why Dolce & Gabbana’s clothes don’t differ that much between collections, couture or not. More is more. No one needs to remember the seasons past when there will always be more more. Rather, it’s about the ostentation that can delight at that very moment. For that you don’t really need a description.

Givenchy

Givenchy couture AW 2018Photos: Givenchy

Claire Waight-Keller is on a high as people have not forgotten her design for the Duchess of Sussex’s wedding. She has not only done English monarchy proud, she has done all of England proud, and, in doing so, shone the light on the couture might of a house once associated with royalty, both of the ones based on thrones and those based in Hollywood.

These are clothes, one assumes, that duchesses and their ilk would wear. And between them some gowns actresses, inspired by duchesses, would pick for a red-carpet night. On that note, Ms Waight-Keller knows who she’s targeting. She has looked hard at the Givenchy archives, just as Maria Grazia Chiuri had at Dior, and hoped that among her audience and customers there may be an IG-gen Audrey Hepburn, never mind the latter’s kind of elegance on a inimitable gamine frame does not exist anymore. These were precisely-cut, moderate clothes for an imprecise and immoderate world.

Guo Pei

Guo Pei couture AW 2018Photos: indigital.tv

Even after setting up an atelier in Paris, Guo Pei has always seen fashion through her own Chinese, post-Mao, pre-market economy lens, offering couture that has, up till now, been a Beijing fantasist’s idea of what Western dress is about. Surprisingly, her latest collection was less fairy tale than usual, and, in fact, showed a maturity and—dare we say—sophistication that we never thought possible from her studio, named Rose.

This time, Ms Guo’s collection projected the “beauty of strength” of architecture by way of Gothic churches. It appeared, perhaps, a month and a half too late for the Med Gala. Still, the working of architectural forms and details into her designs was far more controlled than anything she had done before. If the reading was too literal—cupola equaled skirt, for example, this is because she has yet aligned herself with the difficult art of subtlety. The clothes, although still stiff and probably not too comfortable to wear, were at least not inverted hulls of ships.

Jean Paul Gaultier

JPG Couture AW 2018Photos: Jean Paul Gaultier

Freed from the need to do two pret-a-porter collections a year, Jean Paul Gaultier would, one might guess, have quite a lot of time in his hands to dream up a stupendous couture collection. He did not. Some said this was classic Gaultier: reworking traditional tallieur—this time, the le smoking—and not, as usual, discounting the camp. The thing is, 28 years after the advent of the conical bra that Madonna adopted faster than she did the children of Melawi, is Jean Paul Gaultier still the enfant terrible of French fashion?

To be sure, Mr Gaultier appeared to be still having fun. These clothes would probably appeal to those nostalgic for the days when he was not following the beat of other houses, when he wanted to “modernise” haute couture, when his clothes cheekily challenged gender conventions. However, are there still any rules in the book to break? Now, when nothing in fashion shocks anymore and there are those such as Nicki Minaj who dispenses with the brassiere altogether, Jean Paul Gaultier’s glammed-up camp looked somewhat unrelated to the present. In fact, Mr Gaultier no longer needs to show us his jabbing at conventional tack and taste, or How to do That, to steal the title of the dance single (“house couture”, featuring a young Naomi Campbell and a pair of pirouetting scissors!) that he released in 1988. We’re not suggesting he pares down, but he could do with some reining in. The time is right.

Maison Margiela

Maison Margiela Artisanal AW 2018Photos: Maison Margiela

John Galliano’s Artisanal collection for Maison Margiela forced the eyes to look—front and back, top and bottom. The eyes has to travel! From Martin Margiela to Mr Galliano now, Artisanal—launched in 2006 and blessed by the Chambre Syndicale de la haute Couture—has remained a challenge to the visual understanding of what is wearable on a body, or attachable (iPhones clamped to wrists and ankles?). And that makes it compelling. Mr Galliano’s vision this season perhaps owed more to Comme des Garçons—the bonding, the missing/hidden armholes, the body-misshaping wraps—than the maison’s predecessor/founder, but it continued to test perceptions in haute couture of what can be constructed, by hand no less.

“At least there was effort,” said a follower of SOTD in response to a “quiet” couture season. That is without doubt. Yet, sometimes one wonders if there was too much effort, to the point that this collection was almost a parody of Mr Galliano’s uncommon creativity, bordering on the absurd or the alien (Na’vi people, perhaps?). These were complex creations and there was much to unpack. No vanilla shifts for Mr Galliano, nothing so undeviating. While other designers sought to project outward from the body, he opted for ligature: he Christo-ed the body. The tulle binding was, in fact, previewed at Mr Galliano’s first men’s Artisanal collection a month earlier, but it was more constricted in the women’s version, as if restriction is a new covetable aesthetic, the way the wasp waist—shown in the men’s Artisanal—once was. Trust John Galliano.

Valentino

Valentino Couture AW 2018Photos: Valentino

Pierpaolo Piccioli’s Valentino couture begged to be seen again. And you did because, frankly, it was too sumptuous to take it all in in one WiFi-dependent viewing. Mr Piccioli explored the myriad possibilities couture offers as if he had stumbled into an atelier for the first time. He is, of course, not new to the support of the skilled hands and he has charmed before, but the exuberance of the collection felt like this was a maiden effort, a prodigious showing, a tour de force. For a moment, you thought haute couture has always been this wonderful.

This was affirmation of the mysterious enchantment a designer is able to offer when he stokes his imagination with the skills available to him, and magnify the sum of the parts. And such high degree of pleasure: Those ruffles! Those flounces! Those bows! Those tiers! Those shapes! Those poufs! Those prints! Those patterns! Those colours! Those embroideries! Those feathers! How they held you spellbound! In a reality/data-driven world, it was nice to see dreams come vividly alive.

Viktor & Rolf

Viktor & Rolf Couture AW 2018Photos: Viktor & Rolf

Viktor Horsting and Rolf Snoeren celebrated their 25th year with a collection that revisited what they have done before—the complex, the astounding, and the beautiful. This time, they seemed to say that they can do them even more complex, more astounding, and more beautiful. White was the predominant colour, a clean palette with which to better imprint their boundless imagination and make a pitch for couture’s special place in the fashion universe. And Mr Horsting and Mr Snoeren did not hold back. By this, we do not mean an injudicious use of the crafting arsenal available to them. Rather, both brought to the fore a very persuasive, not manic, display of wearable art—a theme that they explored in the autumn/winter 2015 season, tempered by a unique, high-brow, alluring elegance.

In that year, Viktor and Rolf, like Jean Paul Gaultier ten months earlier, ceased the operation of their pret-a-porter. Their dedication to haute couture is clear to see in the collections they produce: always above the ordinary, with ornamentation that reflect deft hands and keen eyes. Both Mr Horsting and Snoeren are not shy, for example, of ruffles and bows: they applied them with a fervour not even Marie Antoinette’s dressmakers can match. Few designers of today handle these flourishes as nimbly and imaginatively as these two. With them, the craft of couture is celebrated. No applause would be too loud.

Dress Watch: This One Shape

Fashion search Jul 2018

By Mao Shan Wang

For a lack of something better to do, I Googled ‘fashion’ on my idle Samsung Note 8. Since I am still on 3G, the result came back at the speed of what the wired schoolgirl seated next to me would call “snail”. Still, Google responded, not with the result I was expecting, but a banner ad, first. This appeared under the Google search bar—after the tabs—and comprised a row of tile ads discreetly labelled “sponsored” in the right corner. Static banner ads appear so regularly in all manner of searches that I don’t really pay attention to them. But this time, I did because this one stood out, if only for the uniformity and banality of the product offering.

The header “Shop for fashion” did not exactly correspond to my search. The offering, too, did not match anything that I had searched previously: not specific article of clothing. To be sure, I looked at my search history: I have never searched for dresses. Google’s data is perhaps not quite reliable. To understand how this came about (although I could have guessed), I clicked on the light gray circle in which a small ‘i’ was centred, and was rewarded with a pop-up that asked “why these ads?” I clicked on the text and a small drop-down window appeared. A list of the websites that featured in the banner ad was provided. I clicked on the first and was immediately told that “This ad is based on: Your current search term; Your visits to other websites”.

So, fashion equals dresses? And I have visited other websites that would place me as the right customer for frocks of the same ilk?

Wanting to see where this would take me, I clicked on the first tile. The page that appeared is part of the mobile site of Light In the Box, which touts itself as a “a global online retail company”. I came face-to-face with the featured dress, not the homepage. No time to lose when you shop online, I suppose. The green floral dress on a cheery-looking lass was described as “Women’s Going out Plus Size Casual Swing Dress” (initial caps as captioned), which seems to me one-word redundant: we have as yet reached an era of men’s dress! In addition, the model was far from plus-sized. I am, as my friends would say, under-sized.

Unimpressed, I hit the back button and tried the second tile. This time, I was hyperlinked (a word unimpressive now, but was once, to me, the digital version of teleported) to the page of the said dress in My Theresa, “THE FINEST EDIT IN LUXURY FASHION” (all caps as headlined), now owned by the Neiman Marcus Group. The Dolce & Gabbana “cotton-blend lace dress” that greeted me was sans a model. It looked like an entity was wearing it, but nothing was there.

Two dresses

Are these what women are buying? I have not heard of Light in the Box, yet I was shown a link to their site; I have never looked at Dolce & Gabbana online and here I was offered one of the brand’s dresses to buy. What is it about my browsing habit that allowed Google to suppose I share the same taste in dresses as other web users? I am assuming that other online viewers are attracted to these dresses because appearing in the ad side-by-side were a quartet of dresses of very similar silhouette—the first two almost identical, except for the USD2,488.40 difference in price.

I know dresses sell. I have been told by so many buyers I know working for department stores and private labels that the one-piece is never hard to move off the racks. While I suspect a certain style—round neck, body-skimming bodice, natural waist, and a flowy skirt—is popular, I did not expect it to be this popular: showing up in an ad four-in-a-row (and more!). Is this what makes a trend? Is this how women know what is trendy? Is this how women are guided to make wardrobe choices?

If this is any indication, women are buying the same things. Perhaps, the question to ask then is, why are women dressed alike?

It would appear that e-commerce have more influence on consumer fashion choices than catwalk slideshows or fashion editors’ picks or the best street styles from fashion weeks. To see what other styles Dolce & Gabbana offered in My Theresa, I continued my search by narrowing it to just one brand, and there they were: more dresses in the one silhouette that refuses to go away. For actual merchandise, it would seem that brands do not vary their offerings very much. This is a dress shape that sells, why try another? And when women are familiar and comfortable with such a dress, why would they want to experiment with something different?

Wondering what would show up if I had searched ‘dresses’, I gave it a go. My trusty Note 8 was as unresponsive as my wardrobe when it showed me the result. Again, the “Shop for fashion” banner surfaced. Of the four dresses showed at the top of my screen, one did not look like the others. It was a USD195.60 one-shoulder, slit-high-on-the-left-leg gown called the “Disco Drape Dress” from the multi-label e-shop Revolve. The other three were similar to the ones that coughed out from the search ‘fashion’. This time, the priciest was a printed Gucci linen dress tagged USD4,870. Frocks, as Google search proved, don’t discriminate: they align themselves to every price point. Rich or poor, women can look the same. And they do.

Time After Time, Hush Is Hammered

Jil Sander vs Dolce & GabbanaLeft: Jil Sander, right: Dolce & Gabbana

By Mao Shan Wang

I admit defeat; I’m not putting up a fight. I’ll be drown out by the din; my quiet no match for the scream. I have been told that fashion is not for those who are scared of being thought as weird. But not desiring Gucci (world’s second most popular brand, according to the 1997 Lyst Index) is making me sense that people think I’m totally strange, out of whack. It was explained to me that fashion is shrill in its tone because people need to express themselves and to stand out. It’s the “cultural Zeitgeist”, they say. But I am expressing myself even when I choose noiseless white cotton tops and opaque pants. Ironically, and to my dismay, I am the one now as conspicuous as the proverbial sore thumb. You bet I’m sore!

Ignore at my own peril? I’ll take the risk. Truth is, I understand the brashness of brands such as Gucci, Versace, and Dolce & Gabbana, but I don’t really care about their ploughing through common aesthetic decency. I know it is not about making a fine-looking dress or about something exceedingly well-made. It’s about designs—actually looks—that reflect the times. As a dear friend of mine said to me recently, “I never care about quality. Even if it was roughly made or badly sewn, I’d still wear it if it spoke to me about how the designer felt about fashion or the world today.”

Understandable. The thing about the Zeitgeist is that it is fleeting. You catch it now, or you won’t. And that is the point, and the thrill, and the reason to consume. Some people don’t want to miss the boat. You’re either sailing or you’re sinking; there’s no treading water. And you either recognise it, or you don’t; there’s no maybe. Some people don’t want to be thought ignorant. Or, slow or, worse, obtuse.

What they say about time and tide—it’s true of the Zeitgeist. Together with much of fashion, the Zeitgeist waits for no one. It does not have the patience of a saint. It is also increasingly confrontational. It does not manifest slowly; it appears with a bang, like a bird on a windscreen. If you don’t accept it, that’s too bad. It goes to someone else who is willing to embrace it with wide open arms. The Zeitgeist does not care about you.

I am not knocking showiness per se. This is the way people communicate now, the way they brand themselves, or how they see the world. It’s just that most ostentation is devoid of pith and idea. I look at Versace’s SS 2018 homage collection and I see a meretricious display—little else, even when it is supposed to be a salute to “powerful women”, the very same women Gianni Versace himself was thought to have supported, even if they were really models. I look at Dolce and Gabbana’s family-friendly, grand-enough-for-the-whole-village gaudiness, and I think of retreating to a cave. Okay, maybe up a remote mountain.

Fashion—what it has become—has turned many consumers into magpies although some would readily admit that they’re magpies to begin with. There is such an increasing dread and distaste for the quiet that if you should adopt simplicity for dress, people think you have not tried hard enough. As a friend I have known since school is wont to point out to me, “Why do you bother to wear designer clothes when nobody can tell that you are?” Does that then mean that designers such as Luke and Lucie Meier of Jil Sander isn’t talking, or saying something about how they felt about the world, or that hush is analogous to humility?

I say turn up the quiet, quietly.

Photos: Indigital.tv

Dots: How Big Will They Get?

SS 2015 Dots G1Spring/Summer 2015 dots. From left: Kenzo Men, Marc by Mark Jacobs, Junya Watanabe, and Dolce & Gabbana

Not since George Clooney’s appearance on the cover of W in December 2013 as Polka Dot Man (well, not quite DC Comic’s supervillian) has polka dots been headline fashion news. How did things get so dotty is a little beyond our comprehension, but we think it has a lot to do with today’s weak preference for plain fabrics in solid colours. Of late, the fashion-consuming public seems to be enamoured of patterns, from floral to abstract shapes. We’re tempted to blame Givenchy’s Ricardo Tisci for it: thanks to him, stars (especially those that encircle the neckline) have led the way, peppering garments with repeated geometric shapes in the same vehemence once reserved for vintage illustrations.

The current fate of polka dots is sealed when Pharrell Williams introduced them to the Stan Smith, which, sadly, has lost much of its humbler looks since the pop singer re-styled the classic tennis shoe into sneakers that seem destined for the streets of Legoland. This is, to us, ironic as the Stan Smith’s appeal is in its inherent plain simplicity. Hipsters took to them as a stand against the over-designed excesses of designer kicks. Mr Williams’s initial dalliance with the Stan Smith saw him working bright colors into the shoe. Then he had them covered with micro-dots before spotting the current ones with those the size of doll-house saucers.

SS 2015 Dots G2Clockwise from top left: Kenzo Nylon backpack, Pharrell Williams X adidas Originals Stan Smith, Hellolulu Ottilie backpack, Fred Perry Mini Classic Bag, Nike Roshe Run NM “City Pack” QS “NYC” and Comme des Garçons leather zip-top case

To us, polka dots are evocative of Mini Mouse’s dress and, inevitably, the oversized bow on her hair: clearly a cartoon celebrity in need of Smurfette’s stylist! They, too, remind us of Comme des Garçons, a label that has made repeated dots attractively modern. In all sizes (big, apparently, is better),  they have been very much a part of the CDG graphic arsenal, and they appear in almost everything, such as those Croc-like slip-ons in collaboration with Native Shoes back in 2013 as well as those season-less Play cardigans worn by stars such as Justin Timberlake. That’s why, to us, Pharrel William’s new iteration for adidas Original’s Stan Smith (above, top right) is nothing new (the dots are embroidered on the leather upper, an idea first seen in Dior Homme shoes last season). It is really not beyond the ken of the average fashion follower that he took a page from the CDG playbook (perhaps to score extra points so that those shoes can be carried in Dover Street Market) rather than dream the pattern up.

IT Beijing MarketPolka dots are to CDG what rectangles are to Mondrian. In fact, CDG loves them so much that black-filled circles, sometimes way larger than dinner plates, are used in their visual merchandising or as decorative motif for shop fronts or building facades. In 2010, when I.T Beijing Market (left), an offshoot of the brand’s retail business Dover Street Market, opened in Sanlitun of the Chinese capital, the blockish building’s façade was half-covered with oversized dots. In a neighborhood of ultra-sleek luxury brands such as the Euro-chic Miu Miu next door, I.T Beijing Market stood like a defiant upstart, striking as it is cheeky—a Damien Hirst in a sea of unadorned glass and severe concrete.

The thing about polka dots these days is that they have become rather gender-neutral. When once mostly women embrace them (the odd bow tie favoured by a few fellows did not mean they were popular with guys), today they are not conspicuously absent from men’s wear. Even blokes’ label Fred Perry has embraced them, introducing polka dots—noticeably large—with such regularity that they have become as recognisable as the brand’s laurel wreath (interestingly nearly as circular as a dot). Has the repeated dot then clearly become a sign of change for men’s attitude towards patterns? We’re not sure it’s clear enough.