Staying With Small

Have handbags become empty vessels?

 

Saint Laurent Pyramid Box

By Mao Shan Wang

Looks like the micro bag trend isn’t coming to an end soon. I am not sure if that is swell. I suppose it’s good to know that there are some trends that last longer than the time you take to transfer the contents of your Boy Chanel (even the small) to the Jacquemus Le Petit Chiquito Mini, which, by all accounts, started the crazy for cute but useless tiny bags that would have been more functional as earrings.

The Jacquemus miniature, as you now are aware, is 5cm at its widest—that’s at least 2cm shorter than even a a stick of lip balm. Can you imagine, even the bag’s handles are smaller than the brand’s hoop earrings! When I first saw that minuscule polygon some months back, I thought, gosh, this would not even be big enough to be a xiangnang (香囊 or ancient Chinese potpourri sachet) that (Story of Yanxi Palace’s) Wei Yingluo could give to Fuca Rucheng.

For something as large as the ribbon on Hello Kitty’s head, you’d think that its popularity will soon fade since few women would have actual use for them. A friend of mine did buy one as she thought it would make “a perfect pill box”. And in case I was not convinced, she added, “just nice for two tablets of Panadol Extra”. Bag makers obviously took notice. From Hermès to Bape, brands are producing bags with diet issues for those who like them better as pendants.

Which brings me to this Saint Laurent ‘Pyramid Box’. To be certain, this bak chang-shaped bag isn’t that small, but its mass is in keeping with anything that not only is known as “petite”, but “mini” as well. I was, in fact, surprised by how capacious this sleek lambskin quadrilateral is. You probably could fit five Le Petit Chiquito Minis in it!

What might be appealing to those into the construction of bags, such as I, is the opening. The triangular front can be freed from its magnetic clasp and pulled down. Two more triangular pieces hold the sides of the flap opening so that it would not spill the bag’s content since two magnets holding a bag shut isn’t exactly the most secure. With a slender wristlet hand strap, this is the eye-catching reticule to sit above the hand (alongside a bracelet?) while you happily dance the night away; heels preferred.

Saint Laurent Pyramid Box, SGD2,070, is available in store and online. Photo: Saint Laurent

Through Thick Than Thin

Like most things in fashion, heels are not created equal, We are, of course, not just talking about height. Some heels are simply more desirable than others despite their falling popularity. And some are re-imagined to bring heels, well, to another level, forgive the cliché.

Jacquemus, in the brand’s usual cheeky fashion, are proposing that women wear the pumpkin of heels, not asparagus. And if the amplitude of girth isn’t enough, it has made both sides quite unalike. Mismatched shoes are nothing new, of course (for a long time, anti-establishment types have been known to buy two different shoes and swap sides to wear), but mismatched heels, they’re a recent fascination. And Jacquemus is a leading proponent, with Selena Gomez one of the earliest adopters.

These 13-cm (5-inches) heels are made of solid wood, and their massiveness disqualifies them from being vertiginous even when they are by no means stout. Body-positive heels! Like wedges, these heels give the impression of steadiness, defying gravity. And since they are weighted, unlikely to buckle. Practical considerations aside, are these as attractive as their anorexic cousins, the stiletto?

Well, it depends. For as long as the stiletto is an article of seduction (sometimes weapon for murder!) or the symbol of glamour and status (Manolos!), slender will triumph over stumpy, limp over butt, Louboutin over Fenty.

If heels are less about sexed-up aggression, they could be wedges of wit or height of humour. Indeed, these Jacquemus fraternal twins would be a delight to those who derive more pleasure when their heels are not one plus one. Rather, when they are ying and yang.

Jacquemus mismatched wood block heels, SGD760, are available at Dover Street Market Singapore. Photo: Jim Sim

The Welcome Light Of The Beach

As we watch closely who in Paris Men’s Fashion Week is cooler or edgier, have we forgotten that sometimes, clothes should just simply be articles of joy?

 

With all the attention this past week centred on big luxury houses and the design directors that steer them, men’s wear seems to be a divisive debate about where it’s really heading: onward march with street style or return to elegant tailoring. Between these opposites, Simon Porte Jacquemus launched his first men’s collection in the south of France, seemingly unconcerned with who’s traipsing on which path, back in the capital.

Presented on the beach of his boyhood home near Marseilles, Mr Jacquemus showed a collection so unconcerned with the directional dilemma of his competitors that this could easily be one of the most refreshing collections of the over-hyped season. These were happy clothes, worn by happy people, in a place radiating with happiness even if only because nature had blessed the show with inviting sea, sun, and sky.

For Jacquemus, happiness is a recurrent theme—the brand’s autumn/winter 2018 show was brimming with vibes that is best described as upbeat and uplifting. This positive charge was palpable in the newly conceived men’s line too. It’s in the cheerful colours, the uncomplicated prints, and the relaxed shapes. For this spring/summer season, the Jacquemus collection was, by far, the most sun-dappled.

Jacquemus SS 2019 G1

Jacquemus SS 2019 G2.jpg

While some may consider these clothes unchallenging, it should be noted that, contrary to what influencers would have us believe, the choices in fashion that many of us make usually have nothing to do with peacocking in a make-a-spectacle grounds of fashion week. Jacquemus has shown that stylish clothes can be those readily welcome in the clique that already exists in your wardrobe. These clothes look perfectly consistent with a season that usually means effortless ease. For those of us living in equatorial climes, the collection made a lot of sense.

Those shorts (never too short), those shirts (never too tight), those pullover (never too heaving)—they spoke of smile-inducing wearability, yet they are not pedestrian to the point that you would consider waiting for Zara to release their version. That the collection also communicated a sense of holiday, of a time when the hours ticked slowly, of those moments you can curl up in a quite corner for a snooze, suggested that designer clothes can be about living comfortably and well in them, and not about striking a pose or training surrounding eyes on the wearer. This should have been what Tomas Maier’s collaboration with Uniqlo looked like, not the bland clobber still languishing in the store more than a month after it was launched.

Jacquemus SS 2019 G3

Mr Jacquemus attributed the look to the “Mediterranean boy” or le gadjo in local parlance, but from a visual standpoint, it was more men than boys—such as those seen in many a Parisian runway—even only in terms of musculature. Mediterranean may suggest Orlebar Brown, but Mr Jacquemus was clear that however beach-ready the clothes were, they were also ready for a stroll down the heart of any city without trying to out-street the zeitgeist. As the confident among us are wont to say, “You put these clothes on and forget about them.”

Them equals some very fine trousers (and shorts) with pouch pockets or pocket flaps, relaxed suits that would not look out of pace in a beach wedding, and polo shirts that would likely be seen in a cruise rather than on a court. One polo shirt was worn with a tie— evocative of what Bruce Weber might have shot for GQ in the early ’80s. In all, these could be the clothes the cast of Call Me By Your Name would have worn if the tale took place in France rather than Italy. And because it can be compared to rather than contrast with the everyday, Jacquemus for men may be off to a very fine start. This is not a collection that will stoke raves, but it will find its place in male fashion gratification.

Photos: (top) Studio Premices (others) indigital.tv

The (Possible) Comeback Of Chic

Jacquemus AW 2018 P1

The joy of Jacquemus: This is easily one of our favourite collections of the Paris season, if only for the ease of the clothes—unaffected, consumable ease. Jacquemus has not really been known for such straightforward styles. Sure, they had been largely wearable, and designer Simon Porte had steadily remained au courant, dabbling with concepts more judiciously than those disposed to sprinkling sequins. This time, there’s perceptibly more: no fuss, no excess, no ambiguity. The young label delivers an immensely likeable collection that will be welcomed in many wardrobes.

This season, Mr Porte’s Jacquemus, a moniker that is derived from his mother’s maiden name, took a trip to Marrakesh and soaked up the souks. Back in Paris, whatever Mr Porte had gleaned was given a left-bank spin. This isn’t to say that Jacquemus is handing us Yves Saint Laurent, who, enamoured with Marrakesh, had made this part of North Africa his second home. In fact, it was, to us, exhilarating that almost nothing pointed to YSL, the label or the man. Sure, there was a hint of the Seventies—those shirt-dresses!—but the allusion is hardly the neo-beatnik influence that weighed rather heavily on Mr Saint Laurent’s output in his heydays.

Jacquemus AW 2018 G1

Instead, Mr Porte seemed to build his collection on the definitive Northern African garb: the caftan. But he did not create any self-limitations by restricting himself to one garment. The show opened with a caftan-as-shirt-dress, and, while versions of that did appear later, it did not set the tone for the collection, nor characterise it. Instead, Mr Porte explored the idea of a relaxed silhouette with pieces—dresses, shirts, even coats—that, while roomy, still skim the body in an alluring manner, much like lounge wear, but smarter and deserving a place outside the home.

There’s a refreshing slinkiness to many of the styles, a seductive hang, but nothing too clingy, and certainly not adhering to overly laid-back languor. The generally long lengths are proportionately matched to comfortably fitted bodices and adequately capacious sleeves. No subversive twists! These are clothes that you slip into, forget about them, and go about your day, and you do so without a care about whether you’re going to look too dressed up, or, worse, too foolish. Fashion needs such built-in confidence and locked-in flair so that a woman knows the minute she’s dressed that she is ready to face the world beautifully.

Jacquemus AW 2018 G2

Jacquemus AW 2018 G3

We are partial to the drop-waist shifts; the dramatic cowl-front shirts; asymmetric tops that refocus the otherwise centric openings of the garments; hybrid jackets that seem to be wedded to a cape on one side; knit skirts with fold-down waists that look like skewed corsets; the quirky, floating lantern hemlines of skirts, and so much more that it is hard to say there is anything we do not like. And those shirt-dresses: they would put Diane Von Furstenberg in a re-think mood! The colours, too, captivate. They’re not the spice colours of the souk, as you might expect, but dusty, aged shades of brown, green, beige, and sand that you might find in an old Maghreb book of illustrations.

How well a collection works can sometimes be discerned on the models. The Jacquemus girls emerged genuinely pleased to don the clothes, and there was a palpable sense of pleasure, to the extent that when the girls stepped out in the finale smiling, with a spring in their steps, you, too, wanted to stand up and join them in their sprightly strut. Jacquemus proves that wearable ease is not a bad idea in fashion. And carrying a nifty handbag makes more sense than a severed head. These are, happily, the stuff of sartorial joy. And, perhaps, the making of the comeback of chic. Fingers crossed.

Photos: Jacquemus