A Break From Flowers

Sometimes, you really just want grasshoppers

They are known to be the most ancient of chewing herbivorous insects, which may explain the grasshopper’s particular appeal to Loewe. Ancient being the operative word. The Spanish house is, after all, known for their support of old-world crafts that are sometimes associated with agrarian life, but these pieces are nowhere near, for example, the Thai craft of making insects out of palm leaves. Loewe’s grasshoppers are fashioned with leather, a material very much part of the heritage of the house. What we find relatable is that the grasshopper—rather than, say, a cleg (horsefly)—is very much an insect we are familiar with, even if we do not see much of them in this urban sprawl we call home. In Thailand, they are not only seen, they are caught and eaten, deep fried!

At Loewe, the grasshopper appears on the front of a coin-cum-card holder, looking somewhat well-fed. And, as a pin charm with a 3-D grasshopper—possibly in the process of moulting—that bears some resemblance to insects made out of reeds or grasses. Both look more adorable than the serious pests that the insects can be (larger and when in swarms, they are the vermin known as locusts!). We are not sure who these small accessories will appeal to when flowers and kin are the preferred motif (even sculls). But Loewe looking across the food chain may be just the exercise to keep the excess of boring blooms in check!

Loewe Grasshopper coin/card holder, SGD690, and pin charm, SGD490, are available at Loewe. Product photos: Loewe

Poem Without Words

In a quiet presentation, Loewe holds one transfixed… and breathless

A large undecorated room. A perimeter of closely-seated guests. An opening in the floor in the centre of the fair-wood space. A gentle flow of spare, percussion-free music (While my Heart is still Beating, from the London-based Italian electronic act Not Waving and label mate Romance). Against this orchestral/electronic track—so stark, yet soaring in parts, it’s almost devotional—the models walk unhurriedly from the basement to to the open floor. Each measured step allows the clothes to be viewed in their structural or fluid brilliance. Nothing is as severe in simplicity as the music suggests. Each outfit evinces that there is a difference between dressing and wearing. Each, a study of balance, texture, and the unlikely. This could be Loewe’s strangest collection, and strongest yet. This is not an exploration of what having fun again would be like. This is fashion as if it never took a hiatus; expressive, as stylish life goes on. This is Jonathan Anderson reaching a climactic career apex.

The first dress immediately opens the eye. A sculptural beauty through the manipulation of form, less of fabric: a maxi-length tank dress, and it is from the back, until you are pulled in at the waist in front. There is a boxy protrusion, marsupial, with a flat top, like a shelf. Then another dress—this time the distention diagonal, across the torso. The next, the waist stretches outwards to the left, and ends with a point. The creation of bodily contours where none exist is, of course not new. We have seen them at Comme des Garçons, but these are not “bumps”. They are, rather, contortions inspired, as the show notes state, by the work of the 16th century Italian painter Jacopo Carucci, better known as Pontormo, who was known for his ‘mannerist’ style, a deliberate disassociation with the naturalism of High Renaissance art. Perhaps more obvious are the petal-shaped shoulder-covers (they’re not quite capes) and the drapes on dresses that seem like fabrics mimicking random brush strokes.

It’s all artistic, with an artful choice of the structural and the soft. Although one senses a clerical purity to the collection, the clothes aren’t so serious that they can’t delight in what may be considered aberrant, even slightly mad, or, as Loewe states, “completely hysterical”, which, amid the season’s sex-as-pandemic relief, is antithetical and a welcome break. So few collections of the season here in PFW or elsewhere, really, push the limit of compositional possibilities. Hard and soft, ruffled/ruched and flat plain, all not confined by either or; they just pair, like heady romances. Similarly, Mr Anderson is not restricted by how fabric and body must come together with a certain spatial expectation. Check the bubble varsity jacket! Close to the body or protrude, or balloon, they all seem natural. He is fearless too in the order of things. The back-to-front outers may look switched, but when worn, do not look out of whack. Even a detail as common as the vertical slit in the skirt: He shows that high they might be, but by framing them with a simple flounce, they need not be crude inverted Vs—arrows pointing unambiguously to the genitalia!

And the footwear! A surrealist wink-in-the-eye. Jonathan Anderson kicks up his heels—quite literally—to reveal that in the rear of two innocent front straps are heels with a base of egg shells… broken and the white and yolk spilled out! Or, the whole heel in the form of a bottle of nail polish—red, no less. Or, even a striped birthday candle, complete with the flower-shaped holder! Are these Japanese shokuhin sampuru (food models), elevated to luxury fashion footwear or are they something more subversive? For all the seriousness of the craft that Mr Anderson feel Loewe should perfect and promote, there seems to be a playful, cheeky underside too. Even the most ardent of inventiveness could gain from smile-inducing humour. If the music of Not Waving that soundtracked the show is analogue sounds in swirling arpeggios, then Loewe is floating on similarly high notes.

Screen grabs (top): Loewe. Photos: gorunway.com

Two Of A Kind: Fred Vs Juergen

Who does it better?

Left: Fred with Tyres (1984) by Herb Ritts. Photo: Herb Ritts Foundation. Right: Juergen with Tyres (2021) by Juergen Teller for Loewe. Photo: Loewe

Juergen Teller is considered a fine-art photographer, in addition to the work he does for fashion, but sometimes one wonders if his output, often described as “unfiltered” and predates TikTok, is destined for that social media. In his latest shoot for Loewe’s spring/summer 2022 collection, Mr Teller places six shots of near-naked him—some in provocative poses—in the brand’s lookbook. One that stood out is he standing with legs shoulder-width apart, holding a tyre in each hand. So that you won’t mistake him for a desperate auto-mechanic, a camera is worn round his neck. He is bare-footed even when the seamless paper backdrop on which he stands has the marks of footwear trampling all of it. Not digitally making it pristine is possibly deliberate—perhaps to better project the blue-collar sex bomb that the subject thinks he is. Still, the studio set up is no match in tyre-yard tip that is seen in the Loewe photographs.

But what struck us immediately as familiar is the pose and the prop. Back in 1984, a photo of a muscular guy similarly holding tires (but with more clothes on) appeared in the Italian magazine Per Lui. It was shot by the American photographer Herb Ritts, and is often considered one of the great images of the 20th century that changed fashion photography forever. The monochromatic photo would come to be known as Fred with Tires. According to Mr Ritts, the commissioning editor Franca Sozzani (when she was with Lei and brother title Per Lui, before heading Vogue Italia) had sent some “hideous rain coats” for the shoot. He “hated” them. With the British stylist Michael Roberts (also photographer and illustrator), they picked jeans and overalls as replacement. The model who posed in full muscular glory was a UCLA undergrad, named Fred Harding. Not much is known about the guy or what happened to him after that.

Franca Sozzani reportedly did not like the photo, but ran it in the magazine anyway

The photo became a massive hit after appearing in the Per Lui spread, not inaccurately titled The Boys of The Body Shop. The compositional effect of that rule-breaking shot is a salute to ancient Greek sculptures and, at the same time, is evocative of the auto-garages and their macho mechanics of the US. The aesthetic is, therefore rather American too, one that is another planet from the glamour of the popular TV series of the time, Dynasty. Ms Sozzani reportedly did not like the photo, but ran it in the magazine anyway. And this was a year before the unprecedented 120-consecutive-page spread for the Per Lui issue called USA by Bruce Weber!

Mr Teller’s photo, in its tell-it-like-it-is naturalism, is the total contrast to Mr Ritts’s formal aestheticism and sexy athleticism. In the body-inclusive world that we presently live in, it is ill-advised to say that the self-shots of Mr Teller, spared grooming, do not appeal to one sense of beauty, which now must be all-encompassing, including the setting in which the subject places himself. In Fred with Tires, Herb Ritts was, by his own account, not availed the best conditions for the shoot, yet he was able to turn those circumstances that should not be so noteworthy into an image that is unforgettable. Rare, indeed, is the photographer who can, through a commercial shoot, immortalise he who was just a college kid, insouciantly coming in for a paid editorial.

Photo illustration: Just So

What’s Juergen Teller Doing In The JW Anderson Lookbook?

Oh, we are living in body-positive times. And there’s a place for middle-aged men in briefs among young girls

An almost-naked middle-aged man, posing with rubber tyres, however artistic we are led to believe, is still the almost-naked middle-aged man, posing with rubber tyres. That the photos were shuffled between those featuring young models, some scantily-clad, isn’t supposed to caused discomfort to the viewer. It is, after all a fashion shoot executed in inclusive times. The placement of said man is beyond problematic or controversial too because he is, in fact, the photographer who has appointed himself as the non-Adonis counterpoint to the nubile lasses. This is what it is this season at Loewe. The LVMH-owned Spanish brand has engaged the German photographer Juergen Teller to lens it, as it is, the brand’s spring/summer 2022 lookbook. Mr Teller gleefully places his self-portraits among the images of models he, too, shot for Loewe. Sure, he is no stranger to the inclusion of himself in commissioned work. In 2019, he shot and starred in the Asics collection designed by Kiko Kostadinov. He was not doing Eric Rutherford, for sure, yet those trashy images seemingly bothered no one. And here he is at it again, in Speedo-skimpy undies (or swimwear?), sometimes caught in the middle of a tyre—in one photo, his buttocks towards the viewer.

We know what Mr Teller is saying as a photographer, but what is he communicating as a model? Is there a sexual message when he places his avuncular body through the centre bore of those tyres or through a stack of them? Or are they just innocent and playful poses? It has been suggested that he is satirising the annual calendar of Italian tyre maker Pirelli. Really? Or is his holding of a tyre in each hand a parody of Herb Ritts’s 1984 shot Fred with Tyres? Presumably he will be paid as a photographer, but does that mean he too will be compensated for being a model? Photographers, as far as we’re aware, do not place themselves in the pictures they shoot for clients. These photos of Mr Teller are too numerous to be considered a professional intro to the work the brand is presenting. Certainly no small photo byline or credit. Of the 26 photographs shared, six are of Mr Teller, which amounts to a not insignificant 23 percent. What value does his aberrant participation bring to the fashion of JW Anderson? Frankly we do not know. These are indeed difficult-to-understand times.

What about the clothes? That man isn’t wearing any! So we examined the models who are—some scantily clad, like much of this season, so far. As fabric is increasingly immaterial in fashion, it requires close scrutiny—not necessarily successful with these ‘action’ shots—before we could make out what the key message JW Anderson is trying to communicate for next spring, apart from being cheeky by planting Juergen Teller in the series of photographs set in a tyre yard, a site Richard Prince might like to go to for his Blasting Mats. Did the dirty-looking space, traditionally the domain of men (no?), enhance the choiceness of the clothes? Are they prettier when you can even discern the smell of rubber? Are they more delicate when juxtaposed with the heftiness of the tyres. An average car tyre will apparently last about 60,000 miles, according to the U.S. Tire Manufacturers Association (or 96,560 kilometres; about going from the far east of our island to the far west 1,931 times). Are these clothes as durable?

It appears that Mr Anderson is in a playful mood. The models are not in a can’t-be-bothered-to-do-anything pose. They seem to be discovering the enjoyment potential of a working-class surrounding normally not conducive to a fashion shoot. There is no clear theme in the designs, but they bear the JW Anderson hallmark for artsy details on clothes that look like the result of some advanced home-sewing class. There are short ultra-circular skirts, dresses with handkerchief points (one with an impossibly low back), and more slips for the cocktail hour than you’ll ever need. Accessories (still searching for a teeny bag?) seem to be as important as the clothes, and the footwear, in particular, will massively appeal, especially the heeled, thonged sandals. The collection points to the anticipated return of social fun, even if, for now, the models look like they were not posing for posting on Instagram. OnlyFans, perhaps?

Photos: JW Anderson

It’s A Menagerie!

With Louis Vuitton now joining the zoological race, ‘It bags in the shapes of animals seem to still hold petting appeal

Clockwise from top left: Nigo X Louis Vuitton Duck bag, Loewe Bunny bag, Loewe’s Mini Elephant Anagram bag, and Thom Browne’s Hector bag that started it all

Photographs of a new Louis Vuitton bag were supposedly ‘leaked’ a few days ago. They showed a new bag, purportedly conceived with one of Virgil Abloh’s favourite collaborators, Nigo—now ready to join Kenzo. The bag, made of the unmistakable brown LV monogram canvas, comes in the shape of a duck! Apparently an airplane bag is not enough, now they’ve moved from a hangar into the animal kingdom, specifically a pond. It is not clear why Nigo chose a member of the Anatidae that looks to us like a common mallard rather than, say, a swan. But what other animal comes to mind when we think of Louis Vuitton (at least Hermes can be linked to a horse)? Certainly not cousin of Donald? Perhaps for ease of design, the duck makes practical sense—the wings easily provide for two zippered side pockets (as shown in the photos). And the body capacious enough for present-day necessities. But is the duck cute? Or, sexy?

These are, of course, not insipid, flat bags in the silhouette of an animal (e.g. an owl. Or, Hello Kitty!), easily found anywhere, and online. We are not even referring to Loewe’s elephant-headed raffia basket bag, attractive as it is. We are pointing to those that are fully fleshed-out, in three-dimensional forms, such as those in Loewe’s very own increasingly large animal farm. These are mostly not predatory animals, and are designed to accompany the user like a pet. But the real advantage of these is that, unlike a companion animal, the LV duck and the Loewe rabbit can be carried anywhere, even on a plane (when the time comes). Or, to a restaurant, Michilen-starred or not. And you don’t even have to feed it, except with whatever you want it to stomach!

The creature that started it all is Hector, the canine-carrier Thom Browne first showed in his Autumn–Winter 2016 collection, based on his actual pet, a dachshund named, of course, Hector. The realistic-looking bag caught on so quickly that even grown women were smitten by it. Like most designers’ dogs, Hector has his own Instagram account and, as you can imagine, is extremely famous, but is outdone by a cat—the late Karl Legerfeld’s Choupette. Although Hector typically costs around USD4,000 to USD5,000, depending on its hide, one of its early forms—in crocodile—was asking for USD35,000! The price of LV’s duck is not yet known. But it’d be less dear, we suspect, and a one-time payment. No additional grooming costs and charges from visits to the vet. This is no quack!

Product photos: respective brands. Illustrations: Just So

Go With The Flow

Loewe’s decidedly vintage-y sneakers

It is refreshing to see a pair of luxury sneakers not tethered to the bombastic. Loewe’s latest is clearly an ode to the time when sneakers were not “grailed” kicks that sneakerheads furiously hunt down or those that have to be satanised with human blood to be cool and valuable. The newly launched Flow Runner shares the more low-key aesthetics and silhouettes of the athletic shoes of the ’70s, which, for many, was the “the pinnacle of sneaker design”. Those still unable to grasp the phenom known as social media might remember Nike’s Tailwind or New Balance’s 327 (currently quite the deserving rage). Of, if you are of less advanced years, Nike’s also still-issued Air Pegasus. After a few years of flashy and clunky sneakers, it is unsurprising that brands are issuing those that are, shall we say, more sampan than schooner.

What could be an update of the Ballet Runner, the Flow has a welcome elegance about it, and is sleek, unlike the alien-looking clumps, Yeezys. We like the close-to-the-feet fit, and the simple upper of nylon and suede upper in shades of khaki, with the cursive-L monogram positioned on the side of the shoe, as if its military braiding. The not-shy rubber “wave” outsole, probably the longest ever seen on a running shoe, stretches to the rear, up the heel counter and is tucked under the heel notch, while in the front, it covers, in a tapered manner, the toe tip. The back does resemble the New Balance’s 327; it’s a detail that lovers of car shoes might appreciate. But, on a running shoe, we aren’t sure if there is any real advantage. Fashion footwear does not need technical superiority; it just has to look good. The Flow Runner certainly does.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Loewe Flow Runner, SGD990, is available for men and women at Loewe stores. Photo: Chin Boh Kay

Keeping Loewe In Top Form

Loewe’s autumn/winter 2021 collection proves that Jonathan Anderson is one of the best designers of his generation

It has been one season’s high after another. Jonathan Anderson’s output at Loewe continuously grips us with “what will he think of next?” And thought he has. This season Loewe proudly declares—as a Daily Bugle-worthy headline—that their seasonal “show has been cancelled”, not of course, unceremoniously, but necessarily. Without the alternative of a video offering (or a phygital show), the Spanish brand puts out, instead, a series of photos, in the vein of a print editorial (but more like an advertorial), modelled entirely by Freja Beha. Are photographs less evocative than a catwalk show, even one without an audience? Not in the case of Loewe. No audience does not mean no reach. In case you do not follow them on social media, the collection is presented, “as a newspaper supplement distributed around the world (with broadsheets such as French dailies Le Monde, and Le Figaro and the American paper The New York Times) on the day the show was due to take place, accompanied by an exclusive preview of bestselling author Danielle Steel’s newest novel, The Affair,” according to the brand.

Yes, that’s the “uncritically acclaimed” American romance novelist whose many characters of wealth could be inspiration behind the styling of Ms Beha, photographed in the 1900 Parisian restaurant Le Train Bleu (The Blue Train, so named also because it’s located inside the train station Gare du Lyon), as well as Mr Anderson’s office, and an unknown members’ club on Champs-Élysées. Allusion to women of means and club privé access aside (or, “a legendary editor-in-chief at one of New York’s top fashion magazines” in The Affair?), the clothes do not share the literary styling of Ms Steel that critiques have generally and summarily called “fluff”. In fact, this could be Mr Anderson’s strongest collection yet, weighted in such exactitude of design and detail that some pieces seemed destined for private collections or museums’, to be kept for future display and admiration.

Mr Anderson appears to have moved aside from his love of craft, but not entirely. There are little touches here and there: presumably-made-by-hand tassels, larger than those on curtain tie-backs, fringe hems of jackets, skirts, and pants with a touch of whimsy that is missing in a season still ensnared in the practical and the mundane; diagonal squares of raffia-like fabric that forms a bib on dresses; and droll, oversized fabric ‘buckles’ (some embroidered) that work like brooches on draped bodices are some of the details that won’t disconnect Mr Anderson from the craft that he has introduced to Loewe. On a “walkthough” video, pointing out the finer points of the collection, he said that he and his team, “looked a lot at draping.” These were seen in the graceful but playful folds that fall across the body, held in place by the said buckles, and arranged graphically, as if they are Matisse squares and swirls. The same could be said of the appliqué stripes, running across the front and backs of coats, with an effect nearly akin to a kindergartener given free reign with a paint brush.

The coats are outstanding this season. We are entranced by one style that has colour-blocked sleeves and are shaped like water skins. These half-moons could have been bags! They contrast beautifully with the quilted body and handkerchief-point hems. It could be hackneyed to join the designs with couture shapes, but big and bold are the order of the day. These coats were photographed in Le Train Bleu, which seems to suggest that they are the statement outwear that women will be lured to when going out and a full-blown social calendar can resume. However, not every look in the collection is about wine and dine, fun and play. Those, whose life tends to be circumscribed by corporate walls, too, could have a piece of Loewe. The office-setting message can’t be clearer, and the sharp tailored pieces too. Whatever one’s social situation or how one’s near future will turn out, one can’t negate that Loewe has presented clothes to covet.

Photos: Loewe

Loewe Thy Neighbour

One is in Spain and the other in Japan, but that has not stopped them from being next-door chums

Japanese anime—and manga—are on a happy roll in fashionland. And Loewe is on top, collaborating with one of the most recognisable and cutest cartoon characters to emerge from Japan: Studio Ghibli’s Totoro, the egg-shaped mori no nushi (master of the forest) in the 1988 Hayao Miyazaki-directed film My Neighbour Totoro. That designer JW Anderson should be inspired by this animated character and the other adorable creatures in the film is not surprising. Mr Anderson said in a media release, “There is a natural longing for heartwarming feelings right now. When I think of a movie that affords me that kind of solace, speaking just as directly to a child as it does to an adult, that movie is My Neighbor Totoro.”

And he isn’t the only one thinking. So many shoppers have Totoro and company on their minds that well-aware Loewe had to conduct an online raffle for an opportunity to attend the pre-launch at Casa Loewe in ION Orchard yesterday in order to purchase the limited pieces available. This was announced on 27 December, last year, via Instagram: “Enter the draw for the chance to access the collection in store or on loewe.com 24h before the global launch on 8 January.” Or—the message was clear—there would be no “access”, just, perhaps, a peek from the store window.

One Studio Ghibli fan who spoke to SOTD said that he had to try twice before he succeeded in securing a place. An e-mail with the subject “Congratulations!” was sent to him at 1:04:19am (!) on the morning of the 6th, a day before the preview, to announce that he had “won a place on the guest list to attend the exclusive LOEWE x My Neighbor Totoro pre-launch, giving (him) first access to the collection.” The time allotted was 6.30pm. Entry could be gained with a provided QR code, and only a “plus one” was allowed. He was also told that all registrants, whether a winner or not, would be allowed to collect a single gift, companion excluded.

It is understandable why this particular luxury collaboration is appealing and so in demand. Anyone who’ve been to the Mamma Aiuto shop at the Ghibli Museum in Mitaka, in the west of Tokyo, or the Donguri Kyowakoku chain stores (exclusive Studio Ghibli merchandise retailer) throughout the city would have witness the horde inside, and they’re mostly foreigners. Among fashionistas, too, there are rabid fans. Loewe is in the know of this, but rather than pick any character from the Studio Ghibli films (surely not No-Face from Spirited Away!), Mr Anderson has chosen My Neighbor Totoro, and populated the clothes, bags, and accessories with not only Totoro itself, but other cute creatures such as Chu-Totoro, Chibi-Totoro and the clearly irresistible pom-pom-looking dust bunnies (or soot spirits) known as Makkuro-Kurosuke. It’s a quartet assembled to get fans with deep pockets to go quite wild.

Japanese cartoon characters have had a long and fruitful relationship with fashion. Think Hello Kitty. Even Balenciaga couldn’t resist (in 2019, there were also man-bags in the shape of HK’s head!). But characters from anime aligned with designer names are a fairly recent occurrence. One of the earliest to collaborate with an anime series that we can remember was Yohji Yamamoto’s streetwear imprint Ground Y’s pairing with Ghost in the Shell, in early 2018. So successful that was for the sub-label that there was a second collab a year later, followed by one with One Piece in August, 2019. The Ground Y collections were available only in Japan and enjoyed very limited world-wide exposure. Then came Longchamp X Pokémon last October and Coach X Michael B Jordan adapting Naruto for the American brand. Shortly after Loewe’s announcement of their teaming up with My Neighbour Totoro, Gucci disclosed that they would produced a capsule with Doraemon.

Anime, as with cartoons in general, don’t age. Even if they have faded in popularity, they will find new legions of fans. My Neighbour Totoro is 33 years old, yet there is life in its characters for a fashion iteration. In a 2019 annual report by The Associations of Japanese Animations, the global market size for anime and attendant merchandise was estimated to “exceeded 2 trillion yen (or S$25.5 billion)”. Anime’s extraordinary lure is attributed to the films’ ability to evoke emotions with their well-crafted storylines, provide shared experiences, and bring about a sense of nostalgia among mature fans. Mr Anderson not only picked one of the most beloved anime films of all time, his application of the characters and scenes both tug at heartstrings and appeal to those with a deep sense of what is artistic application.

The design team at Loewe did not plonk the titular Totoro on the front of T-shirts. Rather, there was considerable thought on the placement of the drawings and scenes so that the tees, for example, look elevated. Much appreciated are the subtle details, such as embroidery on the green patch on top of Totoro’s head, a flat pom-pom of the soot spirit in place of the ‘O’, and the characters appearing on the leather goods using the house marquetry technique intarsia. We were especially drawn to one oversized unisex mohair and wool sweater that sports a tree design in the front. There’s a three-dimensionality to the knit work of tactile jacquard in contrasting yarns that brought the enchanted forest to anime liveliness, and all the while keeping to Loewe’s predilection for craft, as steered by Mr Anderson.

The Studio Ghibli fan who spoke to us appeared in front of Casa Loewe at 6.25 yesterday evening. At that time, there was a queue of six people (equal number of men and women). Two directly in front of him did not have a QR code to show, and was told that, while they could browse, they were unable to purchase the Loewe X My Neighbour Totoro pieces specifically. When it was time for our Studio Ghibli fan to enter the store, he was assigned a sales staff to accompany him. There was by then very few merchandise from the capsule, placed in the front portion of the Casa, to view. In fact, the first thing that struck him was how little there was to choose from. When asked about the low quantity, the crew explained that when the first batch of preview attendees came at about 5pm, most of the merchandise were snapped up. When interest was shown for a mini ‘Heel’ pouch (S$690), with one dust bunny on the flap cover, he was told that was the last one, so where the five or so T-shirts, S$550 a piece, the second cheapest item in the 58-piece, largely unisex collection.

It was hard for our Studio Ghibli fan to accept that there were so few items to see and to choose from. He was convinced that Loewe did not avail the entire collection here, to which the staff politely denied. When the staff was asked if at least 80 percent of the products were snapped up, she said yes. The impressive sell-through, even before the actual launch date, was not only due to compelling designs and the likely over-enthusiastic response of the VVIP customers (who probably enjoyed a preview before the preview), but also to one of the biggest marketing effort we’ve seen in a collaboration. Over at Wisma Atria, next door, an ad was flashing on the Orchard Road-facing video screen all of yesterday (and probably earlier) and on the extended lightbox that runs alongside the underground conduit between ION Orchard and the Wisma Atria side of the Orchard MRT station, Gary Sorrenti-lensed photos were drawing the attention of commuters and pedestrians. And there were the free sticker set—four pieces held in a neat little holder distributed to the raffle winners.

Concurrently, at Gucci, some 30 steps away from Casa Loewe, the buzz in the line at the entrance was the collaboration with Doraemon. Gucci, under Alessandro Michele, love things Japanese, so much so that its ‘Grip’ watch, released in that country last June, came with the brand’s name written on the face in big, bold katakana characters. Doraemon was really an unsurprising choice. This evening, the “already launched”—as one staffer said—Doraemon collab was only “taking orders with a deposit”. Were there pieces that could be seen? “No, we don’t have stocks,” she continued, whipping out a smartphone to show shoppers the range on the screen. “Once you pay the deposit, we will notify you when your order arrives and we’ll send to you (sic). Before Chinese New Year.” How much deposit was required per order? “Full payment.” That’s not a deposit; that’s a purchase! “Yes,” she smiled, satisfactorily.

Loewe X My Neighbour Totoro is available at Casa Loewe, ION Orchard. Good luck! Photos: Zhao Xiangji

Art Bag

Loewe’s collaboration with the artist Kenneth Price yields some rather drool-worthy unisex satchels

Loewe, under the watch of Jonathan Anderson, has been the champion of craft and craft-like work to rather alluring results. The latest is Mr Anderson’s interpretation of the cheerful work of American sculptor and painter Kenneth Price (1935—2012). The (above) illustration first appeared in a specially commissioned work for the Newport Beach (California) restaurant La Palme in the ’80s. Mr Price created vivid and optimistic landscapes on glazed plates and bowls, and these images are now reimagined as leather marquetry (so fine, it’s veritable art in itself) on the flap of this crossbody bag.

We like the simplicity of the bag and how the flap is made special by such simple but striking illustrative form. The positive vibe is so right for such dismal times. Mr Price, who, aside from art, studied the trumpet with Chet Baker, was known for the optimism he projected through his work, including often bulbous sculptures, and, in particular, Happy’s Curios (some of the works also appear in the Loewe collection), a six-year project, inspired by New Mexico, that was dedicated to his wife Happy Ward.

This crossbody is not a big bag. It reminds us of an oversized coin purse (and opens like one!). But, with a wider bottom, it is capacious enough for bag essentials such as portable phone charger, a wallet, as well as EarPods and their attendant case. Most people would say this a woman’s shoulder bag, and women will surely find it attractive (if money is no objection, also go for the totally loveable Easter Island bucket bag with bamboo handle). But as men are using smaller bags these days, they should not shut themselves out of this particular one. In fact, it was heartening to see this appearing in the Loewe store window, hung around the neck of a shirt, clearly pitched at guys. Man bags really do not need to be man-sized.

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Loewe X Ken Price La Palme Heel bag, SGD 1,900, is available at Loewe stores. Photo: Zhao Xiangji

Raiding Mama’s Closet

At Loewe, boys play grown up by trying their mother’s clothes

 

Loewe AW 2020 P1

You’d think that Jonathan Anderson may not have any more of the delightfully off-beat under his sleeves after last A/W’s whimsical and resistance-is-futile collection, in particular the William De Morgan capsule and the magical knits. But no, he’s gone on to tackle an even harder subject (and a conundrum that won’t go away): guys who have their eyes on dresses. In particular, iridescent ones, better still if they’re of high fashion stock. Swiftly, Mr Anderson has moved from craft to couture.

From the first look, you know this is going to shake your sense of what constitutes modern masculinity in an already a-lot-less binary world: men in a dress. But Mr Anderson isn’t inclined to offer something so obvious. It’s only a suggestion of a man in a dress (there are, in fact, three of them): the models don’t actually wear one. From the front and in a flash, it sure looks like a dress—chintzy and gaudy, something you’d likely see at a hostess club or a prom—but they are each worn, with straps at the neck and waist, as an apron! It sure is a gotcha moment. Empowering, too? Or just an illusion?

Loewe AW 2020 G1Loewe AW 2020 G2

But that isn’t the end of it. These aren’t frocks worn for effect. A theme can soon be discerned. By the forth look—a Prada-worthy sweater with marabou collar and clam-diggers with marabou cuff—you know something is afoot. Then comes the tunics (that are actually worn like dresses), swing coats, and one with oversized shawl lapel, a couple with capes, pullovers with bejewelled shoulders and cuffs, blousy shirts, and more outerwear you’d see at a country club or what Bunny MacDougal might wear. It’s as if Mr Anderson has handed the entire pattern-making to the women’s wear team. We have not seen the clothes up-close, so we can’t say if the handling is like women’s wear too.

Sure, men in dresses are as new as them in skirts. And a dress held-up as a dress, and not actually worn is not novel either. Still, to see Mr Anderson send them down the runway for a house not his own—and once considered traditional—is a perhaps a little outré, although gender bending of even more extreme measure has happened elsewhere. A second viewing of the collection suggest to us that this isn’t merely allowing men to ape what women wear. These are not boys wanting to look like their sisters; they seem more enamoured with their mother’s wardrobe. Women’s old is men’s new.

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The clothing of women of a certain age and taste are tapped, not those who are enamoured with, say, Chanel or Jil Sander or, on the other end of the aesthetic spectrum, Comme des Garçons. That the frumpy femininity and potential bad drag need to be played down by putting the guys in boots (nary a pair of sneakers!) and belts of chunky chains (Louis Vuitton Men!) or fringing made with them suggests, perhaps, that for men to adopt female garb without appearing to really cross gender lines, some form of counterpoint is crucial, some cancelling out of camp cliches compulsory. Au courant is when you dress like a woman, but not as one.

Accessories, therefore, come to play: elephantine ones. The bags, quite literally! The proboscidea-shaped carry-alls (the elephant is already a ‘traditional’ animal shape at Loewe) are likely going to be a major hit (on IG, for sure), with iridescent/studded ones worthy of a maharajah’s wardrobe. Not since Thom Browne’s simple-by-comparison dog-bag—inspired by his dachshund Hector and still in production—has there been a bag shaped after mammals that is so unlike those kitty kits that tend to make it to handbag shelves, making it both conversation-starter and potential social-media star. What to make of all this? Are guys really going to wear dresses, and carry elephant bags henceforth? We really don’t know.

Photos: Loewe

Walk Like A Skeleton

To be transparent, wear your X-Ray results

 

Skeletal AW 2010

By Ray Zhang

Halloween is over, but that does not mean we can’t wear a stark reminder of our mortality as if it’s a Rick Owens leather jacket. I know I can. But would I? The thing is, I have an irrational fear of the macabre and I am not sure wearing an outfit that reveals my skeletal whole is particularly appealing when I am already known among my friends as a broomstick. As they say, state not the obvious. Or, embrace not bad fengshui.

Yet, despite its place in Halloween celebrations and in the proverbial closet, skeletons are a bit of a fashion fave right now. First, it was Nike that dropped an Air Force 1 sporting the side view of a skeletal foot complete with tarsals, metatarsals, and phalanges that will make sense to (or even delight) an orthopedist, not the many of us. But unless its worn in a dark space illuminated by UV lights, the fright that it might inspire would be a mere boo from behind Teddy, Mr Bean’s BFF-bear.

Not to be outdone, Loewe, too, has up their sleeves, rather than one body part, a full skeleton, split into a sweater and a pair of shorts. It is as if designer Jonathan Anderson knew there would be Nike kicks to match. But as the house explains it, this is homage to the British tile designer (also potter and novelist) William de Morgan, whose works, including stained glass and furniture, featured fantastical birds—among them the Dodo, and were sold through Morris and Co, the design firm of his friend, the textile designer (and similar multi-hyphenate), William Morris, leader of the British arts and crafts movement of the Victorian era, who was just as known for his poetry and novels.

Mr Anderson is similarly into arts and crafts, especially for the house of his Spanish employers. The skeleton, while an unusual subject for needlework and much that is made by hand, is given an unmistakable craft twist—yarn emerging randomly throughout the sweater that Loewe calls “loose fringes”. The skeleton is interestingly anatomically correct in the front and back. Only thing missing is a skull. Loewe would need a balaclava for that.

The skull was once a hot motif, but that’s now so last decade. Or Meghan McCain (she told The New York Times in 2011, “I have 10 of them”. And why have just the head when you can have the rest of the body? Regardless of what I said earlier, I know I like the look of Shaggy Rogers electrified! If the late Alexander McQueen is thought to be the trend-setter when it comes to the skull (even as far back as his 1992 graduate collection), perhaps Jonathon Anderson could be the leader of the skeletal pack.

Loewe Skeleton sweater and shorts are not in store yet. Call for release date and price. Nike Air Force 1 Skeleton Black, SGD209, is available at select Nike stores or online. Product photos: respective brands. Collage: Just So

Dress Watch: Colour Blocking Afresh

Loewe shirt AW 2019
Colour-blocking had its day, so did mixed fabrics. The Japanese were (and still are) masters of the pairing of coloured shapes like they are Lego bricks. But in the past years, colour-blocking seemed to have waned in popularity. Until now. Jonathan Anderson has, to us, picked up where the Japanese tailed off.

In fact, when we saw this Loewe shirt, we felt rather nostalgic. We thought of some of those by Comme des Garçons and the T-shirts by the Tokyo-based brand Aloye. But there was something about the construction that has less to do with deconstruction than reconstruction that we found refreshing.

Sure, there is the asymmetry: we like the wing tips, but they’re not meant to shelter a bow tie; we like the bib-front, but they fly in the face of the dress shirt; and we like the extra long shirt tails of the uneven front and back that has more in common with the djellaba. But, there is also the the compositional strictness that respects classic shirt-making: it does not pretend to be something else, not even a blouse.

This is also not a shirt with an androgynous bent. It is clearly part of a woman’s wear collection, made more appealing by the almost sweet colour pairing of the cotton poplin sleeves, back and bib, and the use of folksy cotton broderie anglais for the front. Simple and practical fabrics employed in such an arresting way deserves both purchase and applause.

Loewe Long Asym Shirt Broderie Blue/Pink, SGD1,700, is available at Loewe stores. Photo: Loewe