Ready to Forget the Baguette?

Here is the Croissant to take its place!

If you’re looking into the bread basket for the next bag to buy and are quite jelak of the Baguette, it’s really time to consider the Croissant, the nifty little cross-shoulder by Lemaire. Introduced last year, this made-in-Spain bag requires no explanation as to where it derives its name from. Rather similar to those kidney-shaped bags, this crescent delight is a sleek composition of top-stitched panels, assembled to mimic the famous French breakfast pastry. But unlike the croissant, this buttery, nappa-leather sac isn’t brittle and fat-rich, and won’t flake!

As with most Lemaire merchandise, there is a sense of craft in the way this bag is fashioned. At the two points where the handle meets the body, it is knotted on both sides, which lends the organic design a decidedly less formal and structured vibe. The bag is unisex, and fits nicely against the back or chest, regardless of the gender of the user. What we found extra appealing is how huggable the capacious Croissant is. For fans of Lemaire, there is the added appeal of its logo-less, monogram-free exterior. Just swell.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Lemaire (small) ‘Croissant’ bag, SGD1,650, is available at DSMS. Photo: Lemaire/DSMS

Fashion Week Or Commercial Break?

With the third digital fashion week since LFW last month, a trend is clear to see: there are no fashion shows, just an interruption in normal programming to broadcast advertisements


LV Men SS 2021LV men’s ‘show’. Screen grab: Louis Vuitton/YouTube

Fashion week. What fashion week? By now, it is clear: There are no fashion weeks. We’ve been duped. Following Paris Men’s Fashion Week that wrapped up moments ago, no deep analysis is required to see that there are not only no shows, there are no clothes. Okay, that’s admittedly an exaggeration, but brands in general seemed to be displacing an event that offers the possibility of discerning fashion trends with a digital hub for a massive branding exercise. After London Fashion Week and Haute Couture Fashion Week, and now Paris Men’s Fashion Week, it is obvious that the “front-row seat” we were promised was there for us to watch mostly inane advertisements, one after another. Its been, for us, three long commercial breaks and little else.

If not, what would one call Louis Vuitton’s screening, The Adventures of Zoooom with Friends? Oscar contender it may not be, but it’s a live action/animated short, conceived to wean the young on LV, an approach akin to McDonald’s marketing strategy. Virgil Abloh may not be a brilliant designer, but we’d still like to see what ho-hum collection he’ll put out, what “changes” he will still introduce to men’s wear. There was nothing. We sat through the three-and-half-minute video featuring two porters carrying a trunk (sounds familiar?), loading it onto an intermodal container and allowing motley animated characters that did not appear to have the EU’s Category C1 licence to take over the driving of the LGV. Other vehicles soon joined this one. They arrived at the Seine and the containers were loaded on a barge that subsequently sailed down the river (sounds familiar?), led by a tugboat. There was no destination and the rest of the video showed the animated animals doing their groovy thing—dance. And somewhere in there, champagne was smashed. Talk about product placement!

Dior SS2021Dior’s Portrait of an Artist. Screen grab: Dior/YouTube

If not advertisements, they are pseudo-docus, such as Dior’s. Mr Abloh’s colleague, Kim Jones, expressed his timely inclusiveness in the wake of BLM by collaborating with Amoako Boafo, the Vienna-based Ghanaian artist known for his exploration of blackness and identity in such works as the Black Diaspora portraits. The Dior video, Portrait of an Artist, opened with an intro of the painter and some his friends as models wearing the collection (the recent highly-hyped kicks were seen too). It was a 21st century newsreel shot with better cameras. There was the so-called fashion show segment at the end, but with the focus-and-then-out-of-focus treatment, the clothes worn by only black models barely registered, and, by the end of the 10-minute film, it was hard to remember what was seen. The Dior couture video was called out for its lack of diversity in the casting. The same could be said of Dior men’s.

There was an unmistakable and conscious attempt to salute blackness. It was perhaps woke and necessary for the image of the brands, and understandably so, but it was fragmentary that the support of one should be at the exclusion of others. And was it just a reaction or a token? Thom Browne featured a solo black man, the American singer-songwriter Moses Sumney in nothing except a pair of white sequinned wrap-skirt, with a pair of black stripes placed diagonally across from waist to hem. Mr Sumney sang, so this could be destined for Vimeo or the Grammy. The hot Belgian brand Botter by the duo Lisi Herrebrugh & Rushemy Botter, showed, after a one-and-half-minute intro in which they admitted “to trying to express our humble yet positive vision towards the Black Lives Matter movement and other large issues we have been facing all together at once”, parts of their collection on two black models pretending to be models. To be sure, Botter has been a woke brand. The spring/summer 2018’s Fish or Fight collection was dedicated to Caribbean immigrants.

Lemaire SS 2021The usual effortless ease of Lemaire. Screen grab: Lemaire/YouTube

There were attempts at fashion shows. Despite the earlier lockdowns that resulted in the digital version of (many) things, some designers have been busy at work. And they have the output to show. Semblances of a runway presentation were, therefore, tried out. Christophe Lemaire’s was the most obvious. The models—quite many of them—walked across what appeared to be a disused portion of a warehouse. There was no accompanying message from the designer, or explanation of how he came to do what he did, just the clothes. At CMMN SWDN, the married Swedes, Emma Hedlund and Saif Bakir, presented a catwalk flanked, not by an audience, but troughs of dried wheat. With just three models, they were able to show 21 looks. Yohji Yamamoto, too, presented a fashion runway—possibly the world’t shortest. Yet, the dreary show of video footages and slides was nearly 15-minutes long; it did not engage for more than five minutes before boredom set in. It was the monotony of both the choreography and clothes.

If viewers were put to sleep by Mr Yamamoto’s runway, would a fashion follower, then, sit through the Dries Van Noten show where there was nothing to follow, except a model playing an imaginary drum in headache inducing lighting? Or be poised enough to ignore the social-distancing-be-damned vibe of the 10-year retrospective video of Pigalle Paris? Or have the patience to watch a video of what could be a deeply unhappy model (actually) followed by someone wearing a switched-on action cam, such as at Études? Or is this merely a reflection of life during a lockdown?

Berluti SS 2021At a Berluti fitting with Kris Van Ascche (rear). Screen grab: Berluti/Youtube

Berluti’s Kris Van Assche is the only designer who truly allowed us to go behind his inspiration that led to the collaboration with the ceramicist Brian Rochefort. A revealing and compelling documentary that showed a designer and sculptor at work, one doing a fitting, one bringing his art to life, told with clarity and through dialogue that was sincere. Amiri, too, showed designer Mike Amiri, at work, presumably in Los Angeles. The reveal was voiced by industry types, such as buyers from Bergdorf Goodman, Mr. Porter, and the Hong Kong multi-label store Joyce, as if to approve the American-Iranian’s work. Mr Amiri himself also joined the conversation, saying, “When I arrived (in Paris) just a few years ago, it would be easy to assume that a Los Angeles designer would be out of place within the conversation of global luxury.” He also added, as if to self-validate, “However, with each collection and every season, it seems that we are actually perfectly within our place.” Acceptance and inclusion continued to run through this fashion week.

Only one brand truly demonstrated, literally, how their clothes are to be worn. Y/Project’s Glenn Martens showed his Transformers fashion soundlessly, but engagingly. The screen was split into 3 panels. A model appeared on each panel in one look and, with the help of dressers, morphed into another, usually by unbuttoning and re-buttoning or untying and re-tying. It is compelling to watch how the looks/clothes are transfigured—not transmogrified—since on the runway we mostly see the end results. Or how silhouettes can change or details can be revealed when there were none at first. This may be helpful to those who have never been able to figure out how their two-as-one (sometimes three) garments should be worn and to yield what effect.

20-07-14-15-58-44-652_decoY/Project in full demo mode. Screen grab: Y/Project/YouTube

Few designers worked outside the range of excess cleverness or deeply dull. It may be immoderate to expect enlightening, even immersive, but for most brands, the experiences offered were, at best, superficial. The whole Paris Men’s Fashion Week felt like a fringe event, not the real deal. The addition of “exclusive” this and that—interviews mostly—added to its peripheral sub-current. The one advantage of watching an online presentation is the option of moving the forward button on the timeline slider bar. Oftentimes, 30 seconds into a video, it can be decided if we wanted to sit through it. Perhaps it’s too much to expect a designer, however good in story-telling, to also excel in content creation, since we wouldn’t expect a film director to be equally excellent in costume design.

While it is true that fashion shows can’t return to pre-pandemic excesses (yet), we didn’t expect three fashion weeks in a row to be like this. Many seasoned journalists say “a computer screen can’t compare…” True, for the rest of us who have always been watching the shows live-streamed to our flat screens, those previous times were better than what’s currently available. Fashion shows, in the form before COVID-19, now seem poised for a necessary comeback. If that happens, not only would those behind the scenes of a runway presentation get back their jobs, trend-chasers too could reinstate themselves, as well as fashion critics (and, gasp, influencers). And fashion show reviews, too! In the Berluti video, Kris Van Assche said, “I really love fashion shows; I love the emotion. There is this one thing you can’t do in fashion shows which is put pause…” To that, we’ll add: Let them halt not.

Phoebe Philo Fans, Some Possible Alternatives

In one fell swoop, the new Celine was effectively telling former, less-attenuated fans and customers to eff off! But all is not lost. Until the return of Phoebe Philo (or not), some names to consider


Celine SS 2018 adSpring/summer 2018, Phoebe Philo’s last collection for Céline, shot by Juergen Teller. Photos: Céline

By Mao Shan Wang

Enough of harping on what Celine is today or, come January, when the new collection drops, what there is nothing to buy. Trends come and go, so do labels: Look at Lanvin. Besides, loyalty is not as valued as it was before. Only tech companies appreciate loyalty. Apple wouldn’t be where it is today if customers were fickle about why they like the brand. But if there’s something that can be gleaned from the world’s second largest smartphone maker (okay, third-largest since Huawei has overtaken them in August, according to media reports), consistent aesthetic identity is key. An iPhone will always look—and feel—like an iPhone.

Fashion is, of course, not the same as communication devices. It does not have to be user-friendly and it’s a lot more manic and far more mutable, having to update itself up to six times a year, and, now, with monthly drops. But, perhaps due to this need for constant renewal or, rather, refreshment in most cases, some kind of brand consistency is necessary. Unfortunately, for fashion—the luxury business, brand recognition alone is enough, not nearly substance and not nearly astonishment. And since egomaniacs are often installed as creators of the brand’s products, they would like to obliterate what came before. It’s a matter of how ruthless.

Sure, we’re all going to move on to something else. No one died a sartorial death after Michael Kors decamped Céline to continue his own label. I don’t remember anyone knowing at that time that they desired the unsexy but alluring shapes that Phoebe Philo introduced until she did. Fashion is variegated, and there will be others, while not entirely the same as the Céline that, as The Gentlewoman rightly noted, “cut through fashion’s tired fantasy… for sharp reality and hyper-luxurious clothes”, are surely just as genial, pleasing, and intelligent. These are my pick.

Dries Van Noten

Dries Van Noten SS 2019Photos:

I was resistant to adding Dries van Noten to this list, but in his spring/summer 2019 show, I saw quite a few pieces those willingly labelled Philophiles would find compatible with their wardrobe: the loose-hanging jackets, the easy-fit shirts, the modern-sporty outers. Mr Van Noten did not always design like this, but his designs have a certain romance that is increasingly missing in today’s clothes, and an artsiness similar in spirit to what Ms Philo introduced in her latter years at Céline, a welcome flourish at a time when minimalism was being redefined for the post-Helmut Lang era customer.

Haider Ackermann

Haider Ackermann SS 2019 G1Photos:

This may not seem like an obvious choice. The designs of Haider Ackermann is, however, on track to welcome former Céline fans. The non-body-defining shapes, a slouchiness that suggests I-don’t-care androgyny, and a palette that has more in common with the holy than holi are, to me, the sensibilities that Philo followers can relate to and would desire to buy. What I consider a plus, too, is that Mr Ackermann, who, in 2010 was tipped by Karl Lagerfeld as a possible Chanel designer should the latter bow out, constructs in such a way as to never let the clothes look too dressed-down.

Jil Sander

Jil Sander SS 2019 G1Photos:

It’s hard not to be lured by Luke and Lucie Meier’s clean lines for Jil Sander, arguably the Phoebe Philo of her time. Amid all the noise that fashion now rides on, the Meiers’ quiet tones and gentle shapes are as refreshing as a palate cleanser. Some people think their aesthetic is minimal to a point that it’s almost suited to conventual life. But it is precisely the serenity that the clothes—with quirky details such as extra-wide, inside-out seam allowance and ungainly cuffs for sleeves—project that the more and less restrained Philophiles will adore.


Lemaire SS 2019 G1Photos: Lemaire

Christophe Lemaire and designing partner/wife Sarah-Linh Tran have a chemistry between them that fans and the media alike call poetry. Together, they have created a Lemaire that has more oomph than when Mr Lemaire soldiered on alone under his earlier eponymous label while simultaneously designing for Lacoste. Comparing the duo’s work with Ms Philo’s is probably not fair since Lemaire offers more intriguing details, such as odd pocket placements and alternatives to traditional fastening positions, which, in marketing speak, could be considered value-added. And what value!


Loewe SS 2019 G1Photos: Loewe

While Cathy Horyn thought that Loewe “might be getting too relaxed”, I thought that Jonathon Anderson did it, if true, for the right reasons. As counter stroke to the onward march of street fashion, other designers are pushing for tailoring, sometimes extreme tailoring that encases the body too closely and with shoulders that look ready for war. Mr Anderson, on the other hand, has guided Loewe on a different path. There is dressiness and crafting to the clothes, but with ease in mind. I don’t mean “relaxed” though, I mean freedom from constriction, from efflorescence, even the zeitgeist. Individualism doesn’t mean one has to forgo discernment.

Funnel For A Rucksack


Despite the tote’s increasing popularity, the backpack has always been the go-to bag. Understandable since it allows the palms to be free for modern necessities such as smartphone or old-fashioned habits such as shaking a hand. Despite its popularity, the backpack has rarely enjoyed a rethink in terms of design. That’s why this Lemaire backpack is immediately alluring.

There’s the shape: a truncated NS men’s Alibaba bag, but from the front view shares the organic form of a gourd, such as the one carried by one of the eight immortals (八仙) Li Tieguai (李鐵拐) or Iron Crutch Li. How auspicious since the gourd symbolises longevity, and to some, the ability to ward off evil!

But what are especially appealing to us are the clothes-making touches it sports. Instead of a top flap for closure, the bag has a wide draw-string top—just like gym pants—that can be pulled or released to adjust the opening. Buttoned tabs on both sides suggest epaulettes, adding to its overall military styling. An exterior pocket with concealed zips expands its capacity, while a single strap just below the scrunch top allows the bag to be carried in the hand.

Inside the full-cotton backpack (lined in the same fabric), is a single-compartment capaciousness that can easily accommodate everything—and some more—an urbanite would require for his or her daily commute. Perhaps, more significantly, with a style that can be called distinctive.

Lemaire soft backpack, SGD465, is available at Manifesto, Capitol Piazza. Photo: Jim Sim

Reason To Shop: Uniqlo X Lemaire, Season Two

Uniqlo X Lemaire 2016 Pic 1

One of our favourite collaborations at Uniqlo will be no more after its launch tomorrow. Lemaire has teamed up with the Jap label for one final time. This, we say with considerable regret. Fashion collaborations are plenty these days, but good ones are not as abundant. Those that truly induce a desire to buy, not because they’re helmed by a hot name, but because they’re a pleasure to hold and behold, are few and far between. Uniqlo’s pairing with Lemaire, though only two-season long, will be remembered as one of the chicest high-low collaborations of all time. Occasionally, a short marriage does leave a legacy.

As with the previous season, sophisticated simplicity characterise the collection. Consistent with Uniqlo’s own Lifewear branding, these are clothes that both supplement and enhance a wardrobe. You buy them because you know you’ll wear them. Each piece will not confound you. They won’t challenge you either, but that does not mean they are devoid of the details that will complete a look, your look. These clothes play cameos that lead.

Uniqlo X Lemaire 2016 Pic 2
There’s something so sensationally unspectacular about all the pieces that you know they’ll stand out in the surfeit of the loud and flashy. Some fashion folks think they are as extreme in their rigorous simplicity as Versace is in their overt sexiness. The monk and the hooker scenario. Yes, both are on the opposite poles of planet fashion and both are equally relevant in a world that consumes pluralistically, enthusiastically.

A lot of this final lot will be enticing. We love the collarless shirt dresses, with their moderate volume and modest length, discreetly belted. We’re drawn to the palazzo pants, with generous side pleats in the front. We love the knitwear, loosely-weaved, sportif yet feminine. For the men, we are sold on the utility blouson, with deep pockets placed quirkily low on the chest. We won’t hesitate to pick the chambray blazer, kitted with functional pockets inside. And we’ll just as quickly take the carrot-shaped pants with the double pleats in font. What’s also note-worthy is that, for the first time in a Uniqlo collab, there is footwear: a pair of cotton canvas slip-ons for both men and women.

Uniqlo X Lemaire 6 Must-HavesFrom left: cotton twill shirt, S$49.90; chambray shirt-blouson, S$129; cotton twill elasticated pants, S$59.90; belted striped dress, S$79.90; cotton mesh polo, S$49.90; and Oxford gaucho pants, S$59.90

The Day I Shopped Uniqlo X Lemaire And Was Over The Moon

By Raiment Young

I didn’t think the turnout would be great. I mean, I had expected it to be good, but not great. Or, I was hoping it would not be greatly attended. There’s a selfish gene in me, and it wanted all the good stuff before anyone else got to them. But things don’t always turn out the way it wants.

It was 2 October last year, the first day of the launch of Uniqlo X Lemaire and it was unseasonably, unbearably warm. By the time I arrived at the Ion Orchard store, after a meeting that stretch longer than spandex tights, a crowd had formed in the corner allotted to the collection. From afar, I could tell that most of the stuff was gone. And this was barely an hour after the store opened. The mind boggled since I had thought that most people were saving their time and money for the upcoming launch of H&M X Balmain.  Clearly, I was mistaken.

True to my fear, I managed to only pick a shirt, and this one was tossed aside by someone who, after a long deliberation, decided to forego it. I was told that more would be released later than evening, at seven. I would have to come back. And I did.

This time, I was an hour earlier. A crowd had formed. Security men did their work like hawks. No one seemed to notice that we were all watched like illegal immigrants. The clothes finally came out… slowly, really slowly. And they were gone in a moment, like scraps during feeding time in a zoo.

Despite the frenzy and the unappreciated sight of people happy to use the aisle as fitting room, I ended the evening with more than I should acquire. These were buys I conducted with complete confidence since I knew they won’t be pieces languishing in the darker recess of my cupboard. I was terribly pleased. I have been wearing every item regularly, and I know I will continue to wear them, even when I am thinking of those I will be buying tomorrow.

Uniqlo X Lemaire 2016 Pic 3

Due to last season’s success, Uniqlo will, this time, launch the collaboration at four outlets. The anticipated overwhelming response is not unreasonable. Unlike the previous collection (autumn/winter), the current comprises many pieces that we can wear in our unforgiving weather. Even the blazers are in fabrics of a weight completely doable (and bearable) over a shirt. Fabrics are key: those supple cotton twill, the caressable extra-fine cottons, and the fine-gauge Oxfords. Perhaps, more importantly for some of us, this is the last chance to grab clothes so beautifully designed and made and sharply priced that once missed, we’re going to hate ourselves for missing out.

Uniqlo X Lemaire will be launched on 4 March at Uniqlo Bugis+, Ion Orchard, Jem, and Suntec City Mall. Photos: Uniqlo

Update (4 Mar, 11am): It was drawn to our attention by the sales staff at Suntec City Mall outlet that the full collection is only available at Ion Orchard

Shine Silently

Uniqlo X LemaireThe July media launch of Uniqlo X Lemaire in Paris. Photo: Piczo/Uniqlo

If social media is a barometer of the changing winds of fashion, we can see then that subtlety is not on trend. Yet, the quiet can be discerned in the chaos, and the most persistent hush comes from the discreet styles that continue to characterise the collaborations between Uniqlo and its chosen partner-designers—none more so than the latest with the new French label Lemaire.

It may seem odd to describe Lemaire as new. Designer Christophe Lemaire has been creating under his eponymous label since 1992, following internships with high-profile names such Yves Saint Laurent, Christian Lacroix and Thierry Mugler. But he truly blipped into the radar when he was appointed the artistic director of Lacoste in 2001—a position he held for 10 years before joining Hermès in 2010 after Jean Paul Gaultier left. He stepped down as artistic director last year. The label Lemaire, conceived with his girlfriend Sarah-Linh Tran around the same time he joined Hermès, is, therefore, a baby of a venture.

Uniqlo X Lemaire Women 1Despite the relative newness of the label, and a lack of marquee-name recognition, Uniqlo was keen to initiate the collaboration with Lemaire. The brand’s appeal to Japan’s biggest fast fashion label is understandable: Uniqlo is a master of practical clothes with modern sensibility, Lemaire is a proponent of pared-down elegance. Both are clearly from the same planet. Most shoppers call what Uniqlo offers basics, but the brand prefers to market its clothing as Lifewear—to be worn, and with regularity. This is very much in line with Lemaire’s own “attentive details designed for everyday life”. As Mr Lemaire told Vogue UK, “Our philosophy is close to Uniqlo’s. Uniqlo designs quality garments for everyday life. It’s is not trend-driven.”

The result, launched today across the globe, is nothing short of splendid. In many ways, it recalls Uniqlo’s partnership with Jil Sander in 2009. If the clothes are ironed and taken out of Uniqlo’s utilitarian setting and placed on racks more suited for quality merchandise, they could have been a Lemaire diffusion line deserving of its own free-standing boutique. That, for many observers, is the true strength of Uniqlo—the ability, despite its mass-market standing, to produce superior clothes that belie their humbler production origins. These are no doubt simple garments, but the simplicity attests to Uniqlo’s strength in generating affordable and consumable sophistication that has selling power. As designers with purity of aesthetics are wont to say, it’s a lot harder to do simple than to embellish.

Uniqlo X Lemaire Men 1

Uniqlo X Lemaire’s output is, however, not uncomplicated clothes stripped down to the point where they become devoid of character. The capsule of 30 pieces for women and 25 for men is clearly conceived with control: in the proportions, in the volumes, and in the details. Nothing is exaggerated, yet there’s much in the shapes (looser) and lengths (longer) to entice. Mr Lemaire’s sense of chic is reminiscent of Helmut Lang’s, circa 1986, but it’s a lot more relaxed, as in a tunic. You sense that if the late Yves Saint Laurent had the inclination to design a minimalist collection with a nod to British classics in his holiday home of Marrakesh, this would be how it might turn out. And the unexpected touches, such as the distinctive, lower-than-usual pocket placement, are rather a joy to behold. For those who know their own style (and size) well, these are clothes that allow you to skip the fitting room; you just know they look good.

After the one-hour press preview at Uniqlo’s Ion Orchard store this morning, expectant fans descended on the collection with a fervour palpable at a book launch. The atmosphere was not manic, as it typically is at the debut of other fast fashion collaborations. The shoppers picked quickly—the selected pieces stuffed into baskets, while those unable to find the right size looked with dismay. By noon, all the wearable stuff—mostly blouses and shirts suited to equatorial climate—were snapped up. It was revealed by the staff that some of the items will be re-stocked at 7pm. Fifteen minutes before that, a motley crowd had gathered. Those saleable items could not be replenished quickly enough. Many, clearly with a mission, stood around like scavenging animals, waiting to target the pieces the minute they make their appearance. It’s shopping with a mission that’s not impossible.

Uniqlo X Lemaire Men & WomenThese are clothes, too, that are likely to survive any wardrobe’s annual edit. In fact, it is hard to imagine discarding buys from Uniqlo’s tasteful collaborations, past and present. From the European minimalism of Jil Sander (whose career comeback was made possible by Uniqlo) to the urban-military hybrid of Kiminori Morishita (of 08Sircus fame) to the happily-tweaked classics of Jun Takahashi’s Undercover, the standout is our ability to wear these clothes from then till now and, very likely, longer after. Despite the glaring shift to bombastic fashion among consumers, Uniqlo has stuck to its better-basics approach to merchandising.

While many are waiting eagerly for the season’s most touted collaboration, H&M X Balmain, and will no doubt queue overnight to get into the store on the morning of the launch, here at Uniqlo, the low-velocity scramble imparts some dignity to the experience that’s very much in keeping with the muted appeal of Uniqlo X Lemaire. Quiet may not be the new loud, but it certainly speaks volumes.

Uniqlo X Lemaire is available at Uniqlo, Ion Orchard. Photos: Uniqlo