Can the little red dot stand shoulder to shoulder with the little black dress? A native islander and friends look at fashion (and such) in Singapore, and, occasionally, among her neighbours, and a little further afield
Gucci is believed to be launching their second collaboration with Adidas. Do we really need it?
The first Gucci and Adidas collaboration launched at Design Orchard last June. File Photo: Zhao Xiangji for SOTD
It has been reported this week that Gucci will be releasing the second collaborative collection with Adidas. The Instagram post of sneaker discloser House of Leaks, revealing the supposed kicks of the Gucci X Adidas pairing, was reported by news sites, such as Highsnobiety and Yahoo News. There’s no word from the Italian or German brand yet, but their next joint output supposedly will comprise of only footwear, mainly the Gazelle and the ZX 8000. The shoes are expected to drop later this month. As seen in the leaked images, the kicks are mostly colourful and attention-grabbing, with no subtlety in the use of the Gucci monogram on the upper—nothing new there. This will no doubt delight those for whom branding-lite footwear holds virtually no appeal.
Last year’s debut Gucci X Adidas collab was, as we understand it, initiated by Alessandro Michelle. That Gucci will revive a collaboration conceived by the former creative director, who left suddenly and purportedly amid abrasive corporate dissent, is rather surprising. According to WWD, there were “strong disagreements over the future of the brand [that] caused a rift between Michele and president and chief executive officer Marco Bizzarri”. On top of that, Gucci’s management wanted what has been referred to as “reboot” of the brand. If so, why revive something that vividly recalls the person that has brought the brand immense fortune until it did not? Gucci will soon have a new creative head—Sabato De Sarno from Valentino. Might it make more sense to see what path forward Mr Se Sarno will take Gucci before inking on aesthetic-firming partnerships?
It is not clear what Gucci considers great for the interim. A puzzling autumn/winter 2023 collection that showed more skin than required for the season seemed like a poorly-considered filler. It is possible that fashion folks are waiting for the new Gucci to unveil itself before committing to purchases that would quickly become tired and passé. Perhaps Gucci thinks sneakers have staying power. But the new collaboration still bears the visual exuberance that Mr Michele had desired for the pairing. If there was the possibility that consumers were satiated with that overkill at the time of Mr Michele’s departure, is it not likely that they’re still jelak? Or, conversely, could it be Adidas that needs this pairing more? After killing Yeezy, Adidas projected a staggering operating loss of €700 million for 2023, which would be the brand’s first annual loss in 31 years, as reported. It would appear that Addidas needs to rev things up, even with a temporarily rudderless Gucci.
If there is any brand in need of evidence that a house cannot be without a creative director, they should look at Gucci. The autumn/winter 2023 collection, shown earlier, was put together by the members of the design studio. They took the customary bow at the end of the show. Did 21 of them—a motley bunch with different tastes—sense, as we did, that this was not the roaring applause that Gucci usually received? Thirty minutes after the livestream, we were still in a state of disbelief. To be certain that we were not over-reacting, we showed some screen shots to a Gucci fan. She didn’t conceal her shock: “Eeeee… where got Gucci like that, one?” We, too, wondered. We’ll be the first to admit that after Alessandro Michele’s first few season, after he became too sure of himself and too carried away with the collections, we lost any sense of joy in his collections, even when the rest of the world raved and raved, and raved. But, this was exceptionally… bad.
We know, of course, that Gucci will have a new CD on board. Nothing could be gleaned from the latest show that could inform us what Sabato De Sarno will bring to the house. Mr De Sarno, whose appointment was announced just a month ago, would not be presenting his debut collection until September, during the fall season. Or, as Kering said earlier, until he has “completed all his obligations”. Eager press reports already excitedly proclaimed that “a new era at Gucci has begun”. So what was it that we saw; what was that really about? Why did Gucci even bother with this show? Could they not have skipped a season? Take a clean break? Do these tawdry clothes deserve a runway or would they be better placed in a Sam Smith music video? Or was Gucci hoping that a bevy of influencers, placed in the middle of the show space in two circular pits, would give the clothes the approval/endorsement needed? The opening look—a tiny metallic-chain bra sporting the brand’s interlocking Gs, worn with a long, slim, black skirt, made less of a hobble with a gaping slit in the rear—immediately raised that question and others. But by the end of the show, there was no answer.
It is hard to imagine that this would be expected of Mr De Sarno, whose credentials include roles at Prada and current work at Valentino. We like to think that the startling level of tackiness is the result of the lack of leadership. That was why sleazy dresses in the vein of the naked dress presided. Or why a strapped bandeau had to show the wearer’s nipples. Or, why indeed there were so many sheer these and those. Try imagining Harry Styles in any of these dresses. And, appear on another cover of Vogue. To be sure, Alessandro Michele did not stay clear of the diaphanous, but it was not this crude. If the transitional team attempted something more conservative and tailored, the effect was a pathetic imitation of early Balenciaga under the then newly celebrated Demna Gvasalia. Or Louis Vuitton when an odd panier skirt curiosity appeared. Editing, always advantageous when design output is rojak, somehow stayed elsewhere.
It appeared that Gucci was keeping the spirit, if not legacy of Mr Michele alive, even if his departure was what they needed to reinvigorate the brand. No palate cleanser in the offering. Cheap-looking pervaded. With such a meretricious collection, it seriously boggled the mind how these clothes will sell out. Or in sufficient numbers to justify their existence. With these pieces, can they really drive the droves to the their stores, now increasingly missing the front-door queues? Perhaps Gucci was hoping that the accessories would be crowd-pullers, as they have been, and sell like the proverbial hot cakes. But what was exceptional? Or investment-worthy? The clutch with the oversized horse-bit strap? The massive and furry boots? The gloves that covered only the fingers? The earrings that were so long that they were knee-dusters? Perhaps even the hosiery? For now, we’ll just say pass.
It isn’t the end of winter in the northern hemisphere, yet Kering’s star brand is prepping for a new spring, according to emerging reports
Graffiti on the walls of a stairway at the Alessandro Michele-conceived Gucci Garden, part of Gucci Museo in the historic Palazzo della Mercanzia, Florence
Has Alessandro Michele gone from the brightest bloom to unwanted wild grass? A very recent WWD report, citing “well-placed sources”, claims that Alessandro Michele “is exiting the brand”. This news was not only shocking, it was sudden, and came rapidly after Raf Simons announced that he is closing the eponymous label he founded and built. It is not clear if Mr Michele was asked to leave. His departure, if true, could mean a major clean-up at Gucci as the long-haired, bearded designer is presently synonymous with the brand he has helmed for seven years, and has almost singularly made Gucci the molten-hot brand it has become, based on his druthers for bringing disparate elements drawn from the past, especially the ’70s. Mishaps as mashups. But are his hippies in overwrought style not becoming really jelak, the unctuousness of a supersized meal?
It could be that Kering is satiated. They had wanted Mr Michele “to initiate a strong design shift”, according to the WWD’s source. But he was not able appease his bosses. Reuters—also drawing from anonymous sources—informed “that there had been tensions between the designer and Kering’s top management”. Both Kering and Gucci have remained silent, as they adhere to the no-comment approach. The suddenness of this impending exit surprised customers too. One Gucci fan told us that “it shows such a lack of loyalty to Alessandro, who did so much for the brand. And it’s not as if they’re not selling.” But the sales is likely not matching the figure Kering is hoping to hit. Media reports are indicating that Gucci’s performance is not keeping abreast of their peers. Limp sales in China is cause for worry too. And it is inevitable that lacklustre results would be pinned on the products.
Alessandro Michele joined Gucci in 2002 upon the invitation of then designer Tom Ford to oversee the accessories division in Gucci’s London office. In 2011, he was appointed associate creative director to Frida Giannini when she succeeded Tom Ford. Ms Giannini was reportedly dismissed in 2015 in what was described as a “messy” reorg of Gucci. Mr Michele was asked to put together a men’s autumn/winter collection and he did it in less than one week. A day after that show, Gucci announced that he would be the brand’s new creative director. From them on, his rise was—a convenient word for now—unstoppable. He revived Gucci by replacing Mr Ford’s amped-up sexiness and Ms Giannini’s jet-set sleek with geekiness drenched in flamboyance. But the wacky, maximalist, anti-fit aesthetic did reach saturation point—thankfully for Gucci, later than sooner. To be sure, Mr Michele did, in recent years, move gingerly away from his early excesses and goofiness, but his steps, even with the recent twinning of offering, were inadequate for Gucci. The brand owners, it seems, want a palpable shift. The overgrown garden needs to be recovered.
Photo: AB Tan
Update(24 November 2022, 08:10): No doubt now: Gucci has confirmed that Alessandro Michele “is stepping down”. In a statement sent to the media yesterday, parent company Kering said that Mr Michele “has played a fundamental part in making the brand what it is today.” It did not say why the Roman designer wishes to leave (or if he was asked to). The statement also included a paragraph quoting Mr Michele: “There are times when path parts ways because of the different perspectives each one of us may have. Today an extraordinary journey ends for me.” No replacement was announced.
When an Italian luxury label meets an English streetwear brand, the result is not unexpected: a “hit”, which reads to me, crass commercialism. Not that that would be a problem with so many of these high-low collaborations. Nor, a turn-off to the still-many who are enchanted by such hype-over-substance pairings. But, as it appears to me, Palace Gucci is positively beng in their abstinence from subtlety. This is not Gucci’s first attempt at enticing sports brands to be part of their can’t-miss-it style. There was The North Face last December and, this year, Adidas. And it has been unequal in the aesthetic balance, with Gucci quite overwhelming the other—possibly in the pursuit of star billing. It isn’t clear why Palace needs Gucci; it isn’t to me. Even with considerable effort, I really can’t see the point when a visual high is not the result of two brands coming together.
I think it’s just me. I am seriously bored with these collaborations, just as I am with film stars/celebrities going into the beauty business. I have to keep reminding myself that such alliances are formed for brand recognition than design. This is the only way to explain the cheap-looking Gucci logo on the “track jacket” I’ve selected for the photo-illustration above. What struck me most is how similar it looks to the plethora of knock-offs you’d find in, say, Patpong. This night market and entertainment district in central Bangkok came to mind because it was here that I have encountered garment of such ilk. It was some time between 2016 and 2018. It was at the end of the year, I remember. A friend from Shanghai was visiting the Thai capital for the first time. And he wanted to acquaint himself with Patpong.
No more than ten minutes after we entered the street from the Silom Road side—with the four rows of vendors and a walkway between each of the two, forming narrow parallel passages—when someone, standing in front of a well-stacked store, pulled out a thick black sweatshirt and thrust it into my face. He said to me immediately, “cheap, special price”. It was definitely no less 32°C that night and I was sure I didn’t need what he was hawking. But what caught my eye was the text emblazoned across the chest of the garment: Burberry. It was three-dimensionally embroidered in different colours for each of the eight letters. It was a garment scarily garish, just as it clearly did not radiate authenticity from where it was peddled.
Gucci has, of course, always been a gaudy grabfest of the retro—patently so. Even their collabs with sports brands (including the use of fabrics and patterns) point to times past, not present, most definitely not the future. And a brash and garang expression of self-confidence by way of their five-letter, serif logotype, which, together with their kitschy camp, make up what the die-hards like to call Gucciness. The masthead-sized brand name on the chest is clearly for them. On me, it’d look like I am trying too hard. The question is, how would I feel about myself with that embroidered and appliquéd name on me? A fake from Patpong! This collab, interestingly, is touted with the Palace brand that comes before Gucci, which describes it as “a Gucci collection designed by Palace Skateboards”. And, that one-way partnership to Gucci means “something miraculous truly happens”. I wish it was something beautiful instead.
Gucci X Palace is available at Gucci Vault. Photo: Gucci
Gucci’s show is a parade of its usual motley group in a single file, but then it becomes a final reveal of freakish twins
Do good things really come in pairs? Are twos indeed couple the fun? Or double the dread? The latest Gucci show starts with a typical motley of models in a spaced, single line. They walk in a fairly dim space. On the walls are black and white portraits (presumably of those populating the runway). Then at the end of the show, before the models file past one more time, the wall opposite the audience rises, revealing a parallel runway on the opposite side. It is amazing that, according to social media, the show-goers did not know that the event was, in fact, two-sided. And then the finale: models from each side emerges. They are twins—identical twins. Who would have thought, even if you knew that there would be a dramatic element? Welcome to Gucci Twinsburg, Milan, not Ohio, where the yearly festival Twins Day is held.
Why anyone would need a two-dose Gucci is not quite clear. But the twins walk hand-hand, wearing the same clothes, the same accessories, the same shoes. Is this twice the usual budget for a Gucci show? Reportedly, the twins were invited from all over the world to participate in this runway pairing. It is conceivable that there are not that many body-ideal, good-looking, catwalk-worthy twins in Italy. The idea of having the 68 pairs do the show is to reflect the parturition truth that Michele Alessandro Michele’s mother is one half of twin sisters. In the show notes, Mr Michele said “I am the son of two mothers. Two extraordinary women who made their twinship the ultimate seal of their existence. They lived in the same body. They dressed and combed their hair in the same way. They were magically mirrored. One multiplied the other. That was my world, perfectly double and doubled.”
Yet, the twinning at Gucci does not necessarily mean twofold excellence. Or, wondrousness. We are supposed to read into it that even with a mirror image, self-expression of the individual can take place. The twins do not need to look like each side of a pair of scissors, spectacles, or chopsticks. Do they not? Isn’t this collection again Gucci seeing itself in the mirror installed by Alessandro Michele in 2013, almost ten years ago? To be sure, he has moved away from the deep-seated tapping of ’70s kitsch. But the mishmash from the world’s thrift shops is very jelak. Is that why Gucci needs the gimmick of getting twins to strut the runway? Can the brand distance itself from stylistic tricks?
The clothes require almost no description. Gucci fans know what to expect, and expectations are often met. To note are some stereotyping involved: that twins dress alike. And Chinese girls wear samfoos and cheongsums, but white girls can wear happi coats. Far-out, costume-y, and campy accessories have always been part of the Gucci look, so this season Mr Michele offers glasses (including shades) with fringing, garters for men, Gremlins to hang on bags (or wherever), beaded scull caps, beaded beards, hairbands weighed down the sides of the face with strands of beads (the little spheres are big this season), and face jewellery (again) that are Deepavali door hangings that drape from ear to nose to ear. Every season at Gucci is a festive season. Celebrate.
The latest luxury brand and sportswear collab is strictly for die-hards
By Lester Fang
It’s groovy, but is it for me? Regardless, I wanted to see for myself what the Gucci X Adidas hype is about. There was a daunting queue when I arrived at Design Orchard, where the pop-up popped out in part of the complex’s top-storey incubator space that overlooks the rooftop park. Some 25 individuals were standing between a railing and the stanchions and ropes that were erected outside the recently renovated Design Orchard’s “retail showcase”, where pillars urge you to “Shop SG Brands”. In the 30 minutes that I had spent waiting, the few shoppers heading for Design Orchard wondered if they had to queue to get in, even when it was dead quiet inside. One Gucci X Adidas staffer of three in attendance had to direct them to “just enter”. One of them approached me and asked, “do you have a Gucci profile?” Do I need one to enter? “If you buy later, you can collect points,” she tried to convince me. It’s okay, I don’t need them.
A Filipino family of four was in front of me; the kids—two below-fives—were getting restless, monkeying from railing to rope. The parents were looking at the father’s phone to decide what they shall be buying. Behind me, a mainland Chinese teen seemed impatient. Suddenly he leapt over the rope and dashed to the counter that sat next to the staircase at the side of the building that would lead us shoppers upstairs. I could not hear what he said. He returned, and spoked to me directly. He told me in Mandarin that he had to rush off to a class, and wondered if I could buy something for him when I get to enter the shop. I was very surprised by his request and did not how to react. I asked him what he desired and he told me it was a pair of sneakers. He asked me to pay for it first, and he’ll transfer the money to me. Scam alert! Would he not want to try the kicks first? He said he already did, this morning! I told him I derive no pleasure in helping others, 助人不乐, (it’s the heat!). The guy ran away.
I was the only one to leave the line when it was my turn to ascend to heaven. The whole stairway there, where “the experience begins”, another staffer told me, was covered with the Gucci X Adidas logos; the walls too. As the rooftop garden came into view, it was clear why the brands-in-collaboration needed this place. The Gucci X Adidas pop-up store is not erected at either the atrium of ION Orchard, as was the 100th Anniversary capsule, nor the Paragon (Gucci has a store at both malls). Rather, it is sited at Design Orchard, about 1 kilometre away from their two-level flagship at Paragon. Up here, where you can see our beloved Orchard Road, Gucci has set up a veritable temple complex to their partnership with Adidas. There was a pavilion of sorts to my right, saturated with the two brands’ logos that were conflated for this exercise. On the terrace, where on a weekend night, courting couples come to moon-bathe, huge cushions were scattered around, as if in preparation of some mid-summer soiree.
To justify the dazzling dollars they’re charging you for the merchandise, there are, apart from the queue, the climb to the pop-up (work up an appetite?), the spacious store, and the attendant surroundings of retro excess, SAs to accompany you as you explore the well-appointed space. As it looked to me, no more than six shoppers were permitted inside, which was roughly the size of a HDB three-room flat. When I stepped in, it was, as expected, more Gucci than Adidas. But no one, I keep getting told, goes there to partake in the interior loveliness. They’re there for the clothes. But when I asked the SA assigned to me if there were sizes left, rather than enquiring which item I was interested in, she told me most were sold out. Earlier, in the line, I was already warned by the girl who wanted to know if I had a Gucci profile that “not many products would be replenished”.
I am not a star/celebrity/influencer, such as Yung Raja, who had first dib of the merchandise. I should be grateful for whatever crumbs I could find. This is the ultimate high-fashion-meets-streetwear collab, or so people have been trying to convince me, however ill-favored (flavoured?) the clothes appeared to me. After its debut at Milan Fashion Week not long ago, the capsule is so hyped that even the Yeezy Gap Engineered by Balenciaga release seemed lost in some shadow play of who among the Kering brands could put out a cooler collaboration. Perhaps I was coming in from the blistering heat, but what I saw was making me sweat. Everything I touched was oddly thick, and I am not referring to those oversized track tops. The helpful SA was trying to interest me in some of the items socially-distanced on the rack. She showed me a knit top (why was it so scratchy other than thick?) and then pointed to a short-sleeved button-down Oxford shirt (why was this a heat trap, too?). I did not want to deprive her of her sales commission, but there was nothing—zilch—I would like to buy. I told her that the Gucci X Adidas uniform she was wearing looked good. Would she get to keep it? “We don’t know yet”. Good luck.
Gucci X Adidas Pop-Up store is opened daily till 27 June at Design Orchard. Photo: Zhao Xiangji
Good news for this who love impractical things: Gucci’s umbrella won’t keep you dry
By Ray Zhang
If I go by the definition that I had learnt in school, the umbrella is a cover that is used to protect us from the rain. I have never really owned an umbrella until I started working, and bought one for myself. At that time, if my memory serves me well, I bought the foldable umbrella because it was raining. I never thought of an umbrella serving other function until my mother once asked me to buy one for her in Tokyo (where I was holidaying one Christmas season) because she wanted a “nice shade” to shield her from the sun. Which means, she reminded me, it must come with a UV layer or coating. But, for me, the umbrella is synonymous with the rain. I am, therefore, able to understand the thunderous outrage in China when Netizens found out that an umbrella, marketed under the much-hyped Gucci X Adidas collaboration, was described as “不防水” (bufangshui) or “not waterproof”.
Drenched with curiosity, I hit the SG Gucci website and was surprised that the said umbrella was not among the 147 items listed that would be on sale from the 7th of next month. A quick check at the American pages showed the brolly with the accompanying encouragement, “join the wait list for this item”. I did note that Gucci was careful to describe the product as a “sun umbrella”. Prior to the uproar in China, it is not clear if this phrase was used, but the Chinese equivalent 阳伞 (yangsan) was not seen. Instead, “雨伞 (yusan)” or “rain umbrella” appeared online. Is it a wonder that those interested (and those not) are angered and resentful that Gucci would charge 11,100 yuan (or approximately S$2,280) for the yusan and not make it waterproof? Gucci was quick to react to the derision: On their webpage, they changed the description by deleting the 雨 (yu), leaving the less specific 伞 (san).
Some members of the Western press chose the more suitable (17th century) ‘parasol’ to describe the Gucci X Adidas offering, presumably not to offend both brands. But in China, no euphemistic efforts were discerned. The hashtag #售价11100元联名款雨伞不防水# (the collaboration umbrella sold for 11,100 yuan is not waterproof) started trending and quickly attracted more than 140 million views on Weibo alone. When the local media picked up the controversy, a Gucci spokesperson was quoted saying that the umbrella (I’ll just stick to this unambiguous word) “适合人们日常搭配造型，但并不建议当做日常晴雨伞使用 (is suitable for everyday styling, but is not recommended for daily protection from rain)”.
Now that it is clear the umbrella from the Gucci X Adidas collab was not conceived with inclement wet weather in mind, I wonder if it is still enticing to those for whom high-low pairings are their obsessions and the yushan and the rain are a pair made in heaven. Why had Gucci not considered what the French called en-tout-cas (or “in any case”), combination of umbrella and parasol! Truth be told, I am not impressed with the collaboration that Gucci describes to compose of “silhouettes inspired by collegiate style unfold through a retro colour palette and reimagined sports clubs’ uniforms”. How an umbrella with limited function fits into Adidas in a revivalist mood, materialised through retro-bent Gucci is rather beyond me. When in bed, two can have fun without, you know, climax.
The cruise show might be themed along the lines of the origins—or structure—of the universe, but that does not mean there is reference to an orderly, harmonious system. As usual, bright was the flashy chaos
The cruise collection is increasingly less about the clothes that one can pack for a holiday than what can be kept in a wardrobe for the day when a statement-making outfit is needed. Gucci’s latest offers scant semblance of what might be reserved for the Viking Orion or anything akin to a holiday in the sun (perhaps, some of the sheer pieces could be worn down at the beach?). But, based on its theme, Gucci Cosmogonie, could these clothes be offered to the suitcase destined for the SpaceX or even the International Space Station, if it could one day be a tourist hotspot? Frankly, it is hard to say. For all the cosmological references and whatever could be up there, the clothes look decidedly bound for some corners of our earth, where burlesque is the main business. Or, could the substantial near-nudity be at one with the universe?
Staged in Castel del Monte (Castle in the Mountain), Andria, southern Italy, the show— soundtracked by mixes of the recording of the first moon landing and Abel Korzeniowski’s Charms (from Madonna’s 2012 film WE)—is a moody celebration of meretricious Gucci, presented against projections of old constellation maps. The Castel was established in 1240 by the medieval emperor Frederick II, who reigned over a court of elites, from artists to astronomers. It is not really determined if this was a spot to observe and study celestial bodies, such as the Castillo in Chichén Itzá, Mexico was, but its very geometry (octagonal) and symmetry, with corresponding eight towers, even on a mount, seem to suggest something more secular. “Castel del Monte”, according to Gucci, “perfectly represents a crossroads of the different peoples, cultures, civilizations, and religions that have shaped the Mediterranean.”
The collection sure seemed to be for a melting pot of different people—or, to be more precise, characters. In his early years at Gucci, Alessandro Michele had proposed a sort of sexy-prim: the off-duty librarian look (some say secretary). Through the years, while he has given the impression that his mind is among books, his designs target less those with a penchant to visit a serious bibliotheca than someone else with a far more hedonistic or sensualistic pursuit on extra amusing and entertaining grounds. The librarians have become party girls, disco dollies, sexy starlets, exotic dancers, nocturnal adventurers, red carpet walkers, hookers, rapper-as-hookers, gleeful exhibitionists, and more. Therein lies the beauty of Gucci, if not in the design, definitely in the looks: eternally hedonistic. Now, hedonism is not necessarily a bad thing, especially if we go by the Greek definition—looking to get as much enjoyment out of life as possible.
It is, of course, preferable to dress as if an individual’s life is one of delight and pleasure than misery and depression. And Gucci offers clothes that project that plentifully. If Mr Michele has toned down the overt retro-ness of previous collections, he has also turned up the ostentation, augmented by faces underscored by ruffs, necks adorned with ropes of pearls, and faces marked by Indian naths (nose rings), except that the chains appear to be attached to the mouth. It is the flashy and the fleshy. One outfit, in particular, would delight Nicki Minaj and her rapper-sisters, even if somewhat belatedly: a one-sleeve top that covered half the upper body diagonally, leaving one nipple the protection of a pastie. In fact, much of the outfits ask for the dispensing of the bra.
Apart from the many sheers numbers (which, to be sure, have been there since Mr Michele’s first collection for Gucci in 2015), Mr Michele has offered, modestly, the opposite: construct of something measured but no less exquisite and polished. One ecclesiastical gown (worn with a choker made of strands of pearls and a necklace that could have come from some papal stash) would not alienate even Lily Tomlin. There’s a tailored, long-sleeved Op-Art dress (with ruffs for cuffs), the oblong, cinched-at-the-waist blouse (worn with a pleated skirt) and the ’40s-looking skirt suit (with the red shoulder piece) that an ex-wife might wear to court to (counter) sue her former husband. But, these are, as you would agree, few and, celestially far between.
Away from Changi Airport, is this year’s Star Awards a better, sleeker affair? Were we hoping for too much?
Ah jie Zoe Tay, in purple silk chiffon, floating down the Walk of Fame. Photo: The Celebrity Agency/Instagram
By Ray Zhang
The Star Awards 2022 is a very long show, if you take into consideration that ‘Backstage Live’ segment, screened three and half hours before the ceremony proper on MeWatch and YouTube. At more than seven hours duration in its entirety, it was long enough for me to be on a flight to Tokyo. Since last year, MediaCorp has decided that the annual show generates enough interest to warrant extra broadcast of not only the anywhere-is-a-red-carpet segment, Walk of Fame, but also a look at the stars getting ready, presumably from around or after noon. But while the award presentation, now back at the MediaCorp Theatre, veered dangerously towards dull, it was Backstage Live that was utterly unbearable to watch, even more so than last year’s. If any glamour was to be expected, as promised by Mediacorp, all was lost in the loud, grating, uninformative banter that dominated this painful prelude.
Juvenile and boisterous, in all its youth-grassroots glory, it was as if all the hosts—all six of them—cut their teeth at a qiyue getai (七月歌台 or the ‘song stage’ of the 7th lunar month, aka Hungry Ghost Festival). When asked by hosting partner Seow Sin Nee (萧歆霓) what he liked to watch at each Star Awards, apart from the main presentation, the 1.91-metre tall Herman Keh (郭坤耀) mentioned the “红地毯 (red carpet)” because of the stars’ attire, which he referred to as “制服 (zhifu or uniform)”! And he would go on to say that at least five times more, including referring to the Hugo Boss suit that he wore as zhifu, too. And, even when later, Priscelia Chan (曾诗梅) was curious about his word choice while being interviewed by the noisy duo, he did not appear to be aware of the embarrassing faux pas.
The new-gen Channel 8 hosts: (left) “uniform”-clad Herman Keh and (right) Seow Sin Nee with resident stylist Annie Chua (middle). Screen grab: Mediacorp/YouTube
I know not if Mr Keh was on script, but bumbling and blundering his way through his set was only part of the pain in watching this segment of MediaCorp’s biggest night. When the same pair presented one of the six debut My Pick awards (for Favourite Male Show Stealer, which Xu Bin won), Ms Seow was asked “哪一个是你的pick (who is your pick)?”. She replied, “it’s all my picks”! The appalling command of both Mandarin and English on a broadcast believed to be one of the most popular for Channel 8 (the main event of last year’s show at Changi Airport shockingly won the award for Best Entertainment Special!) is embarrassing, to say the least. Later, when Mr Keh won the Most Attention-Seeking New-Gen Host, he said, “感谢我爸爸妈妈把我养成这么高 (grateful to my parents for raising me until I am so tall)“. There is a difference between “古灵精怪 (weird or bizarre, as Mr Keh described himself)” and trite. Throw in their mission to find the “female star with the highest heel” and the “guy with the tallest hair”, I knew nothing begged further viewing.
The Walk of Fame at five o’clock brought me back to the show. After last year, the struts and poses this time returned to a real but somewhat short red carpet, although it was obvious that all the stars waited behind a backdrop to emerge. No one was seen coming out of a luxury car (sponsorship was hard to score this year?). As with her appearance on the Changi Airport Terminal Four driveway of the entrance to the departure hall in 2021, Zoe Tay had to walk alone. Wearing a silk chiffon dress by Gucci with a cape that floated behind her like a parachute (I’m not sure about the curiously chunky black platforms), she commanded the red carpet like a seasoned pro, lifting nary a pinch of her floor-length skirt to navigate the Walk of Fame, while other younger actresses lifted their distended skirts as if they were avoiding dog excrement. I had to remind myself that for most of the actresses, this was probably the only chance in the entire year when they could wear an evening gown, and possibly towering heels. And since they had to return the the borrowed dresses in saleable condition, they had to content with lifting while parading to avoid an embarrassing frock-ripping, if not nasty fall.
Best actress and actor favourites Chantalle Ng and Xu Bin. Photo: The Celebrity Agency/Instagram
On the red carpet, the most anticipated, I suppose, were the My Star Bride leads Chantalle Ng (黄暄婷) and Xu Bin (徐彬). Ms Ng is the daughter of old-timer Lin Meijiao (林梅娇, winner of the evening’s Best-Supporting Actress). She wore a red, sequinned Bottega Veneta gown, which appeared a tad too large for her and clearly too long. Frequently, she had to hold one side (or both) of the dress to help her walk less uncomfortably or so that her platform compers won’t cause her to trip. Contrasting her, colour-wise (or to express some National Day fervour?), was Mr Xu in an off-white Dolce & Gabbana suit that was tackily tacked with what could be earrings, bearing the letters ‘D’ and ‘G’, all over—yes, on the pants too, without which he would be too close to an albino peacock? Mr Xu had earlier, in the Backstage Live segment, said that when he saw the suit, he knew immediately that it was the one he wanted and had instructed his stylist to get it for him. I wish someone had told him he could pass of as a window display at Chomel.
In fact, the guys seemed to have tried harder this year. Many came in suits—some of a better fit than others, many curiously semi-casual, and few down-right not dressy. Elvin Ng (黄俊雄), in a Versace suit, was the first joke of the day: he went from kedai-kopibandung to Fanta orange. Or, was it F&N? To be sure, I don’t know if Mediacorp ever stipulated a dress code or whether it was merely a given that attendees would don evening wear, but it was unlikely that black tie, as many had thought, was expected. Still, odd choices abound: Desmond Tan (陈泂江) in a cream, zips-for-darts Alexander McQueen coat, which he wore sans shirts a la Timothée Chalamet at the Oscars (I do not know why there persists this love of substituting outerwear for a blazer at an awards night), only that the American actor did not go shirtless under a coat; Dennis Chew (周崇庆) in a cartoonish white suit, with hand-drawn tracing of the perimeter of the outfit, designed by, gasp, Chen Hanwei (陈汉玮) and made by Q Menswear; or Nick Teo’s shaggy, kungfu-master, Yohji Yamamoto layers. And those in non-solids: Romeo Tan’s Etro suit with geometric patterns gleaned from carpets, Bryan Wong’s also-Etro blazer with Savannah print (feline included), and worse, Pierre Png’s too-small, too-day-yet- too-prom-night gingham jacket.
Formalwear interpreted: (from let) James Seah, Desmond Tan, and Teo Ze Tong. Photo: The Celebrity Agency/Instagram
There were other trends among the men—possibly what Herman Keh obliviously, gleefully, and toothily called zhifu—if you consider, like I did, their omnipresence. Most discernible were the dinner jackets with peaked lapels in black (sometimes part of it) to stand out from the main fabric. At least half a dozen of them embraced this small chromatic contrast. Even Desmond Tan could not resist the pull, when he changed into a different suit for the award presentation (he was a best actor nominee). Was it to show that the stars paid attention to details? Also, the persistence of sneakers peeking out from the hem of tailored trousers (many annoyingly not altered to the wearer’s height). Is this really considered cool, even on tuxedo-clad sexagenarian Zhu Houren (朱厚任)?
But what really caught my attention were their faces, which I usually do not scrutinise (nothing surgical intervention won’t hide). I should be more specific—this year, the eyebrows or the many stars who had theirs darken or drawn to augment the density. The unnaturalness really jumped at me. Those of Jeremy Chan (田铭耀, among those who wore a tuxedo jacket with contrast-black lapels), for one, were especially intense and oddly linear and light brown, as if they were shaded with a template; they were even thicker and denser than wife Jessica Liu’s (刘子绚), as if he was trying to impress her as Zayn Malik!
The long and lean: (left and right) Cynthia Koh, and Rebecca Lim. Photos:The Celebrity Agency/Instagram. And (centre)) Joanne Peh. Screengrab: Mediacorp/YouTube
The women, in contrast, seemed more measured in their attempts to make a massive impact. I consider this year a lull year. According to Mediacorp’s principal image stylist & costume designer Annie Chua, what she prepared for 23 of the stars revolved around “old Hollywood glamour” or, if you missed it the first time, “very glamorous old Hollywood glamour”. I wonder if the emphasis was on “old”. Quan Yifeng (权怡凤) wore a front-heavy, fussy, old-looking, black (and some white) strapless number: Ms Chua may not have realised that someone’s Hari Raya valances were missing. The opposite to that dated fussiness was Sheryl Ang’s (洪丽婷) yellow Sportmax crush of fabric. Was there not a single iron in the dressing rooms of Mediacorp? And what were the opera gloves about?
In the end, it was clean lines, as well as neatness that attracted me. Although many viewers consider the actresses who could stop traffic in their manner of dress of the past to be “boring” this year, I do think that they stood out for their unfussy turn out: Cynthia Koh (许美珍) in Moshino, Joanne Peh (白薇秀) in Ralph Lauren, and, most striking, Rebecca Lim (林慧玲) in Louis Vuitton. Sure, what they wore could be the epitome of modest fashion (at least from the front), but the dresses (including special guest, Taiwanese Pets Tseng’s [曾沛慈] red Rebecca Vallance dress, I should add) communicated a certain elan and class, both of which the Star Awards still lack, in spades.
The lanterns for this year’s Chinese New Year light-up in Chinatown is about the alpha male and his family. Endearing, even when it reminds us of some scary beasts in a ’70s theme park along Pasir Panjang Road
When the Chinese-style lanterns in the shape of tigers (虎) were lit this evening, a throng had gathered outside Chinatown Point to take photographs of them. In real life, tigers are the largest living cat species known. On the road divider between Eu Tong Sen Street and New Bridge Road, the tigers appeared to be live-sized. They struck an imposing figure. Most of the spectators across the intersection were pointing the camera on their smartphone at the subject; some were more seriously equipped—with DSLRs and tripods. The silent tigers were a clear draw, like those in a zoo. However, a woman, not snapping, was heard saying, “一点都不可爱 (yi dian dou bu ke ai, not cute at all).”
Unlike in Japan, we have never placed a premium on cuteness. We do not have or enjoy a culture of kawaii—where in the land of Pokémon, is itself a pop culture phenomenon. Through the years, the light-ups in Chinatown have banked mostly on a conventional Chinese aesthetic that borders on the run-of-the-mill. It has not been an interpretive depiction that conveys a sense of the adorable. Better be zhun (准, accurate) than cute. In their seriousness to be culturally on-the-dot (although not specifically appealing to any elite currency), the organisers of the Chinatown light-ups have frequently drawn criticism for their aesthetic faux pas, such as the manly and pregnant moon goddesses during the Mid-Autumn Festivals.
Before the LED lights did their controlled magic, the tigers looked— from a distance—grey, stony, and somewhat menacing, even when the adult beasts were standing on clouds and the brood frolicking with a gold coin and an ingot. In the light of an overcast day, the trigonal set-up was rather evocative of those hellish dioramas in Haw Par Villa (虎豹別墅, aka Tiger Balm Gardens) of the ’70s, then a major local attraction (without the influence of a pandemic) and now considered a cultural heritage. As dusk approached, the shadowy creatures looked the antithesis of an approaching festive season.
There are five tigers in the main display. We wondered if the quintet is to show the size of a family that is now encouraged in view of our shrinking population. Or, to match the number of people allowed in social interactions or to dine out. Could it also be to denote the five elements in Chinese philosophy: wood, fire, earth, metal, and water. Come 1 February, we will be welcoming the year of the water tiger (and so that you are not mistaken, blue ripples underscore the scenes of posing and prancing tigers along Eu Tong Sen Street and New Bridge Road). As soft as that sounds, the tiger of the Chinese Zodiac is a symbol of strength and confidence. The water tiger is not a tamed beast; it is believed to possess a self-esteem that is considered strong. Perhaps, that is why the organisers of the Chinatown light-up have avoided cute?
But soft is the pull elsewhere in Chinatown. Away from the light-up, inside the shopping streets, large quantities of bulaohu (布老虎 or stuffed cloth tiger) are available in many gift shops and those offering CNY decorations in staggering bulk. These made-in-China toys bear a cute countenance, compared to those now populating the main street outside People’s Park Complex. The bulaohu is a traditional folk handicraft that has been made and used in China since ancient times. Aesthetically, these seen in Chinatown may look different from those of the past, but its feline form is unmistakable, and is deliberately simplified to trot out its facial adorableness, and that grin!
The tiger, placed third in the Chinese Zodiac, was both worshipped and feared in ancient China. Known as bai shou zhi wang (百兽之王, king of beasts), it was also considered to be efficient in warding off the three domestic disasters of more rural times: fire, burglars, and evil spirits. But in the pandemic era of an urban world, the fierceness and courageousness of the tiger are somewhat played down. From tiger buns at Ikea to T-shirts emblazoned with “Gucci Tiger”, the king of beasts is not quite kingly, and is taking on a decidedly less ferocious role. Do they even roar anymore?
With Christmas round the corner, you’d think that it be a quiet time for fashion. Not quite. Ringing louder than church bells is the news that Gucci is hitting the collab road with Adidas. According to the “first look” offered by Twitter account @hypeneverdies two days ago, there is now a double-G monogram, in which the Adidas trefoils share the space with the repeated twin 7th letter of the alphabet. The not-quite-sharp image posted has a patina of blue. Looking like a screen shot, it does not really tell us if its a product or, for all we know, an NFT! Anything is possible. If Gucci can “hack” Balenciaga, they can surely do the same to Adidas. We were thinking shoes, but that’d be too obvious. With their second The North Face collab just released, what in the sphere of outdoor/sportswear has Gucci not explored?
Of course, this brings to mind Adidas’s rather quiet pairing with another Italian brand: Prada. We were, admittedly, underwhelmed by that output. But both brands deemed the collab a success—enough to have a second (not quite memorable) attempt. Gucci, naturally, won’t go the discreet route (just as Lady Gaga won’t play it safe). We already had a taste of what it might be, if The North Face affair was any indication. Monogram-mad might actually be putting it mildly.
The above illustration is just that, not an official logo from the brand. Watch this space for confirmation of the collaboration. Illustration: Just So
Alesandro Michele brought the Gucci spring/summer 2022 collection to where it belongs: the world’s movie capital, right on Hollywood Boulevard itself
Gucci and Tinsletown are meant for each other. When Gucci arrived this particular night, it was a gilded key in the right key hole. That is why when Gucci sent their dressed-to-the-nines models down Hollywood Boulevard, the key turned and opened the door to a display so flashy that even the best Hollywood gala night could not rival. It was a trip not down memory lane, but a cruise to where it can call home; the motherland. After all, Gucci and movie makers and their stars have always had a chummy relationship. The impressive part was the action on the very street that many associate with Hollywood, the now-closed-to-Gucci Hollywood Boulevard—tourist attraction and home to some of the most famous theatres in the world, including the El Capitan, the Dolby (once the Kodak theatre, now aka the home of the Academy Awards), and the TCL Chinese Theatre, where the models emerged to begin their bored walk on the sidewalks. There is nothing laid-back or cool about this part of Los Angeles. It’s pure kitsch, often bordering on questionable taste, and Gucci, through their clothes reflected all that.
Alessandro Michele is a storyteller, a knowledgeable raconteur. The evening’s Hollywood street feature was homage to the entire cast that makes this town as it is: colourful, like the meretricous souvenirs sold that inevitably make their way into a tourist’s bag. Not the likes of Blanche Dubois or Holly Golightly for the high-minded. But every other character you can think of, every B-grade actress still unable to hit A; every starlet still aspiring; every former child star clutching to bits of their former glory, every off-duty waitress waiting to be discovered; every weirdo thinking they are part of this movie town; every flashy, cocky executive managing just as flashy and cocky stars; every cowboy hoping to be hired as a grip crew; every wide-eyed, here-to-soak-it-all-up visitor hoping to meet their idol; every member of the hidden mafia, possibly still ruling the town; right down to the hookers from South Los Angeles (if you thought we were imagining things, consider the sex toy accessories!), even their pimps—they were all there, out and about, with nowhere to go, but right there. Oh, yes, even she who was hoping to audition for Cleopatra!
The 30-minute-long show, featuring 115 looks, and soundtracked by the music of Björk (not, surprisingly, one of the 22,705 songs that mention Gucci, as highlighted in the brand’s 100th anniversary travelling show) was dubbed the Gucci Love Parade. But it was less a procession than a walk-past. Not a carnival either, but the clothes were right for carnaval. Each look was deliberately considered: from headwear to eyewear to footwear, every piece in its place to effect something not quite ruly. Sure, there were some gowns that were right for a tidy red carpet, but for many of the separates, the sum is Calabasas meets the costume department of Columbia Pictures, including the pasties some rapper must have recently discarded. It is heady stuff, no doubt. Beautiful chaos, fans would say, but is the disorder not rather repetitive? To be fair, the clothes increasingly resist the anti-fit of Mr Michele’s earlier years in Gucci. Yet, they all looked somewhat familiar, whether we were thinking of Aria or Guccifest, or much earlier. What goes around comes around?
Shortly after the Gucci livestream, social media commentators were agog with excitement. Some thought it the most entertaining runway presentation ever. Perhaps all the showiness is deliberate, never mind the parade seemed overwhelmed by the boulevard itself. Ridley Scott’s House of Gucci, starring Lady Gaga, will hit the big screen in two months’ time. The Gucci family has disapproved the film’s casting, describing the leads as “horrible” and “ugly” (no mention of the costume). This has aroused even more interest in the film. The latest trailer shown on YouTube has enjoyed 4.9 million views in five days. Gucci the brand has always been Gucci the movie-in-the-making. And Gucci parading on Hollywood Boulevard will, no doubt, benefit brand and movie, mutually.