Does This Look Current?

Marc Jacobs revives his ’90s, career-damaging ‘Grunge’ collection. Whatever for?


Mark Jacobs is not known to let the past remain in the past. So it’s no surprise that he is bringing the past back. To be specific 1992’s ‘Grunge’ collection that he did for Perry Ellis, and shown during the 1993 spring/summer season of New York Fashion Week. Saying the collection wasn’t well received is putting it mildly—even now, in a culture of trolls. Subsequently, Mr Jacobs, aged 29, was asked to leave his position as head of women’s wear at the then 14-year-old American label.

‘Grunge’ will be reissued in its entirety later this month. According to the brand, it’ll be Marc Jacobs cruise 2019—in the form of “Redux”, rather than an entirely new collection, as it would be if resuscitation wasn’t in the plan. For a less-known designer, would that be considered laziness? Permission, as reported, was granted by Perry Ellis International, the current brand owner. Comprising 26 looks, “Redux” will include clothing in their original fabrics and prints (also cartoons by Robert Crumb), as well as head wear, jewellery, accessories, and shoes (those Doc Martens boots!). A complete comeback. Marketing genius.

This return of what some consider Mr Jacobs’s breakthrough is clearly timed to appeal to those who had no chance to enjoy the introduction—either because they were not clued in then or were not born yet. It is also very likely to cash in on the tail end of the love of flowy, floral dresses worn to capture hipster cool rather than prairie charm, a look that can be traced to the early days of Vetements. And now adopted by even an unlikely brand: Uniqlo.

Marc Jacobs Cruise 2019 G1

Mr Jacobs’s collection circa 1992 was not the epitome of originality since, back then, it was a look already adopted by those who cared not a hoot about designers, and certainly not Perry Ellis designed by a relative unknown (it is doubtful the consumers of today know who Mr Ellis was). The too-relaxed clothes, in the heydays of Calvin Klein and Donna Karan, were decidedly downmarket looking. But despite the disapproval of designer fashion appearing so thrift store, what Mr Jacobs showed seized the attention of the mainstream already ready to adopt shabby dresses and granny sweaters the way girls these days make their own with denim cutoffs and hoodies.

Grunge was basically two things. Foremost, it was music—part punk rock, part heavy metal (the Seattle band Nirvana exemplified the sound). As a subculture emerged from the popularity of the music, it became the second thing—fashion. Women, as well as men (who wore sleeves of flannel shirts tied around the waist so that the garments fell like skirts), were influenced. One of the results of grunge fashion: women started to move away from high heels, since grunge devotees mainly wore boots (and, to some extent, sneakers). It prompted one noted Singaporean designer to say, “women no longer know how to walk. Grunge killed heels.” Marc Jacobs may not take credit for that, but he certainly was part of the rapid casualisation of fashion.

Grunge re-wrote the language of high-end style. Chic was redefined, so was elegance. Both in dress and gait. While grunge may match today’s preference for dressing down, Mr Jacob’s reissues do not exactly enliven the vapid state that fashion has found itself in. Dull is the only word for it. It does’t help that Gigi Hadid here, one of the girls headlining the campaign, appears bored, even disgruntled, and looks unimpressed. Her face is telling: That she in a lacklustre granny macrame sweater and dime-a-dozen-now floral slip dress, originally worn in 1992 by Cecilia Chancellor, still says one thing—while old is new again, it is ultimately not new.

Marc Jacobs “Redux” will be available online from 15 November. Photo: Juergen Teller/Marc Jacobs

Two Pairs Of Sisters: No Blood Ties But So Alike

Do the Hadid and Jenner sisters come from the same model-making womb?

The Hadid sistersThe Hadid sisters, Gigi and Bella, in Tommy Hilfiger and Alexander Wang respectively. Photos: vogue.comThe Jenner sistersThe Jenner sisters, Kylie and Kendall, in Versace and La Perla respectively. Photos:

There are sisters, and there are sisters. As we know, sisters are not created equal, but some sisters, linked by fame, reality TV families, and the very public lives they lead, rather than blood, can be quite equal. Fashion’s most visible model-sisters, the Hadids and the Jenners, share commonalities of behavior and style that are rather uncommon in the age of fierce individualism. As the Hokkiens would say, they seem to come from the same ang koo kueh mould.

Just look at them at the Met Gala. They’re not your usual sisterhood, characterised by something mutual; this is kinship, characterised by sameness. Not only do they look alike, they dress alike. Swop one sister from one twosome for the other, can you tell them apart?

They sure have the same taste; one pair a mirror image of the other. Is Gigi the Kylie of the Jenner duo and vice versa, or Kendall the Bella, vice versa? Surely this is calculated when one pair of sisters is in the same colour coupling as the other? Even the silhouettes seem deliberate: Gigi and Kylie in sheer, flowy skirts; Bella and Kendal, both in lingerie fabrics that were so see-through and back/posterior-baring that you wonder why they even bothered with clothes.

Are they the present-day equivalent of the Bennet sisters, only just more lian? They like to attend galas (in the 19th century, they were balls, with the Netherfield ball being especially irresistible) and they like to dress up to attract the attention of camera lenses (in the 1800s, it was notice and interest of a potential husband). We do not know for certain if the Hadids and the Jenners like to dance (we can only assume they do—“every savage can dance”, noted by Mr Darcy), but unlike the era of the Bennets, we think the model-sisters totally dispense with propriety. Near-nakedness to express twentysomething muliebrity is the Hadid/Jenner lure.

Kendall Jenner IG PostGoing low: Instagram post of the BFFs in derriere-accentuating pose during the Met Gala. Screen grab: Kendall Jenner/Instagram

The deliberate display so thrilled the media that the Daily Mail ran in their headline, “fashion’s new darlings: Gigi and Bella and Kendall and Kylie were fawned over at Vogue‘s Met Ball” (now, who’s really fawning?). They may be fashion’s current favourite, but are they really anyone’s “darlings”? Sure, the number of IG followers of just one of them easily exceeds the population of our nation—with Kylie Jenner’s at a staggering 93 million (as of today)—but “fawn over”? The Queen of England has about 65.14 millions subjects in the UK (significantly less than the online adorers of Kylie Jenner), but are there people who actually “fawn over” her?

It seems that it is not enough to gauge young women’s success—professionally or socially—from her social-media following, you have to take note of those inclined to secure the former’s notice by servile behavior or by cringe-worthy flattery. The Jenners and Hadids may reign for now, but why do we have to fawn over them? Isn’t their individual omnipresence enough, the collective overbearing? Or do we need the excess, ostentation, dizziness, self-importance, self-promotion, tawdriness, predictability, visual disturbance… times four? And marvel at how not stiff, how not self-conscious, and how not sanctimonious they are as they stare back at you from your smartphone?

And who are these millions who supposedly derive pleasure from looking at them? It beggars belief that there are this many followers so utterly inadequate in their own being and their own style that they should follow every move, every dress (or no dress), every vapid utterance of this quartet to support the certainty that there are those who need to behave like a pet to enjoy dubious fashion taste. It does not require mature perspective to see that photos of youthful prettiness in glamourous settings offer, by way of returns, very little long-term satisfaction for the amount of time spent tracking and looking at them.

It’s probably tiring to read our having a go at these young women’s empty showiness. For many IG junkies, our criticism is almost certainly socially naff and not original. This is not hater’s rant, just something to get off our chest, while Kendall, Kylie, Gigi, and Bella walked down some pavement in Los Angeles, four-abreast, encouraging tabloid-press and social-media delight.

Able Models: They Shoot Too

If you don’t need to be able to sing and dance to star in a musical, and win an Oscar for the role, you don’t need to be a photographer to shoot an ad campaign

Versus SS 2017 ad

Fashion has always been about chums. The more sociable you are, the more likely you’ll get into everyone’s good books. You are not only a friend to designers, their friends, stylists, make-up artists, hairdressers, fellow models, and just about anyone who matters in the industry; you’re also a friend to the world. Social media makes sure of that.

Social media is also where you launch your career. Gigi Hadid and pal Kendall Jenner have exploited social media well. They have not only used it to kick-start, but advanced their profession. Now, Gigi Hadid has taken it one step further. Her Instagram posts have become the basis for an ad campaign. Or, if online Harper’s Bazaar is to be believed, “The model stepped behind the camera to shoot the Spring 2017 Versus Versace campaign.”

Model-turns-photographer: how refreshing! Ms Hadid is, of course, not the first Instagirl to lens fashion shoots. Her BFF Ms Jenner has already shot an editorial (including the cover) for Love magazine. The jury’s out on whether that’s any good, but one thing is clear: the pictures do not look any different from entries in the shooter’s IG page. And that, too, can be said of the Ms Hadid’s photos for Versus, which features boyfriend Zayn Malik (a Versace collaborator) and Adwoa Aboah. Like everything else you see on IG, they will be forgotten tomorrow.

You will forget because these are photos you’ve seen before: a couple of beautiful people bored out of their wits in a not particularly attractive room (here, celebrity-magnet Chateau Marmont). These are individuals behaving naturally in their natural habitat, but no, these do not Juergen Teller make.

Why does Versace need advertising that looks like Ms Hadid’s IG posts? Why can’t they just pay her to upload selfies of her and her gang in Versace in both their accounts? Is the iPhone camera to be blamed? Is traditional studio photography dead? Has Mario Testino become too expensive, or too overused? Is there a shortage of professional photographers?

And you thought immigrants are out to steal your job!

Photo: instagram/gigihadid

Ready-To-Wear Is Now Ready-To-Buy

Are you rushing out to shop?

gigi-x-tommy-hilfiger-windowGigi Hadid X Tommy Hilfiger video screen and window display at the Raffles City store

Like many of you, we saw the live stream of the Burberry show on its website yesterday. This time the staging was called The September Show rather than Spring/Summer 2017 as it would otherwise have been known, and it was a platform for both men’s and women’s wear, devised to encourage and meet the urge to spend. The video was 24.35-minutes long although the length of the actual catwalk presentation was 19 minutes. So fast moving was the video that it was hard to see every style in detail or remember what pieces beckoned. We remember that the first impression that struck us was that this could have been a Gucci show.

The clothes were, perhaps, more compelling now that it is possible to buy them after we saw them—a pro-consumer move that was proposed by Christopher Bailey (who relinquished his CEO position to concentrate on creative direction) in February this year. Despite the initial enthusiasm behind the idea, nobody could say for sure how this approach—so uncharacteristic of the catwalk-to-consumer path and time frame of the past—will work out for both retailers and shoppers.

For the purpose of experiencing what the brand thinks will be a thrill of getting something as soon as it appears on the runway, we identified a Burberry cavalry jacket as a potential buy and decided to see if it shall appear in the store soon after to seduce us into wielding a credit card.

burberry-sep-2016A rack of Burberry clothes from The September Show sat discreetly away from the main selling floor of the MBS store

First stop this afternoon was the Burberry store in Ion Orchard. When we walked in, there were surprisingly more customers than service staff. Despite the filled racks, we could not identify anything from The September Show. When a salesperson was available, we asked her about what we came to see and she was quick to say that the collection was already in the store, but the viewing is by appointment only. She offered to take our name to give us a time slot. We declined and she then said that we could come tomorrow to join a “special event” organized for Pin and Prestige readers. Or, “if there’s a style that you really want, we can help you order online.”

When even that failed to entice us, she patiently went on to say that the collection will then be moved to the Burberry store at The Shoppes at Marina Bay Sands (MBS), and make a final appearance back at Ion Orchard before it is dispatched, after 2 Oct, to neighbouring cities. This seems to be a trunk show, we thought. She added, “Singapore is very privileged to be the first country in Southeast Asia to see the collection.” According to her, the clothes will then be sent to Bangkok and Seoul. Is it a full collection? Will we see it again? To both questions, she wasn’t sure.

We tried our luck at MBS. The staff here was more sympathetic and happily showed us to a quiet recess of the store—a private lounge—where a low rack of clothes sat as if in a corner of a warehouse. We immediately identified a pink sweater, but the cavalry jacket we wanted wasn’t there; the cape-coat cousin was. Not willing to let down a pair of keen walk-ins, she suggested that we return on the 23rd for “a special event at the ice skating rink. There will be a screening of the show, and you can buy the clothes afterwards.”

tom-ford-at-mbsAt Tom Ford, one single rack, barely filled, of the collection shown at New York Fashion Week

Since we were in MBS, we decided to pop over to Tom Ford, who, too, is adopting the “see now, buy now” model. The staff here was utterly delighted that we had asked for the “New York Fashion Week collection” (we did not know what to call it). She showed us the rack at the rear of the store. There were exactly ten pieces of just five styles. Sensing our disappointment with the smallness of what was in stock, she said, “there will be more stuff coming in on the 30th, but I am not sure if they’re from the runway show.”

We asked if the men’s collection arrived too. She led us to the adjacent section and pointed to a velvet, mirco-dotted, two-button blazer worn on a mannequin. “For men, we only have this one.” It was a near whisper, with regret breathing clear. When did the clothes arrive? “The New York show was on the 8th,” she pointed out helpfully, “we put out the clothes on the 9th. Of course, the clothes arrived in Singapore before that, but Mr Tom Ford won’t allow us to display earlier.”

Mr Tom Ford’s grip was clearly felt this far. He told Derek Blasberg in CNN Style early this month that he would be doing “something new: you will be able to buy the clothes as they come down the runway.” That’s, of course, not the case for us here since there is a 24-hour time difference between Madison Avenue and MBS, but next-day availability is probably speedy enough for those who buy into Mr Ford’s “grown up” elegance dripping with ’70s glamour. Interestingly, Thom Browne also referenced the ’70s, but that’s like a different planet.

tom-ford-mens-jacketFor men, the Tom Ford store at MBS had only one jacket

Still on planet MBS, by then heady with the smell of over-consumption, we decided to traipse over to Ralph Lauren. Mr Lauren had announced during his show, via a note left on the invitees’ seats, that he was “offering every look, every accessory, every handmade detail immediately in my flagship stores around the world and online.” The Singapore flagship’s window on B1 was homage to the quiet colour beige. Inside, it was as hushed: not a word was heard, not a sound. We approached two sales staff and asked, as we did at Tom Ford, for the “New York Fashion Week collection”. Both women looked at us quizzically. The collection that was shown last week outside the RL Madison Avenue store? One of them said, unsmiling, that “there won’t be any new collection as our store will be closing.”

We had not expected our on-the-ground research to be met with such dismal news. Business must have been so bleak that even Ralph Lauren could not wait for their own potentially game-changing and profit-turning “see now, buy now” approach test-run in its own store. Has simultaneous showing and selling met a premature death in Singapore before the idea can be conclusively said to be a success or letdown?

The purpose of “show now, buy now” is to tap the excitement from seeing a presentation, whether on site or online. Sell while it’s trending could be today’s version of the now infrequently used strike while the iron is hot. Fashion and trends are no longer embargoed till clothes reach stores or circumscribed by the catwalk on which they appear, once to a small coterie of people who care about such things. Let loose from the moment the first model appears on the runway, fashion now is a multi-channel, multi-platform, multi-celeb phenomenon that seems to arouse desires than dampen wants.

gigi-x-tommy-hilfiger-displayGigi Hadid X Tommy Hilfiger store display at Raffles City

The “everywhereness”—to borrow from author Laurence Scott’s description of the digital world—of fashion prior to retail has not enrich sellers and shoppers. A rethink of the flow from concept to consumer is, for many brand owners and their CFOs, as vital as cost control. As Tom Ford put it to CNN, “When you can buy something online and have it delivered the same day to your house in lots of key cities like you can now, it seems odd that you would look at clothes online and they would be everywhere, but you can’t have them for five months.”

Wait was definitely not something fans and followers of the model Gigi Hadid had to do.  Her collaboration with Tommy Hilfiger was available during the New York Fashion Week presentation via touch screens set up on site, a one-time fun fair at Manhattan’s South Street Seaport. On our island, the clothes were available the day after the show. We wanted to see for ourselves how talented Ms Hadid is, so we went to the Tommy Hilfiger store in Raffles City (the collection is also available at Ion Orchard and Vivo City—an impressive three points of sale).

“See now, buy now” was a serious and highly visible proposition here. The store was fronted by an island display full of the results of the collaboration (more than anything we saw at the other brands), the window was dressed with two cardboard cut-outs of the model fully garbed in the nautical-themed clothes bearing her name, and, on their left, a video screen was alive with flashing stills of Ms Hadid in poses that won’t give K-pop princesses a run for their money.

A sales staff did not hesitate to point out to us that two items were already sold out: a cap and a thigh-length, double-breasted, wool-blend cape-coat. “What does the coat look like,” we asked, and she whipped out an iPad to show us a product photo. “How many pieces were sold,” we ventured further, genuinely curious. With delight and will to convince, she said, “One.”

Photos: Zhao Xiangji