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
Foam slides will remain insanely popular. This Nike version makes wearing them less a trip to the wet market
By Shu Xie
When I caught sight of this Nike Jordan Hex slides, I was reminded of a receptacle that sushi was served in. This was in one of those conveyor belt sushi bars, except that the sampans of sushi came floating down river. Sure, the food reference is not exactly appropriate for something that’s destined to meet feet, but that was truly what came to my mind. Anyway, the slide did attract my attention and I did, subsequently, try them on, and they are the most comfortable pair of slides I have ever slipped my feet into. I appreciate the surprisingly deep heel cup, which does help keep the rear of my feet better supported. No, Nike did not pay me to say this. These are truly like stepping on firm sponge.
The Jordan Hex, just by the look and feel of it, are clearly made of moulded foam, the material that every brand is using, including for sneakers. But unlike the many ‘organic’ shapes out there, not to mention some that are clearly alien in form, the Jordan Hex is more angular and simple, almost blockish, bracketed by the squared-off toe and heel. The shape is, to me, the main draw. As Nike says, not “your grandma’s slide”. With just one broad strap across, my feet did not feel constrained, which mean this is the ideal footwear for the punishing weather we have been experiencing. Yes, even better than clogs. While I usually restrict the wearing of slides to the neighbourhood mall, I am considering this—yes, definitely in that pale mint—for my next trip to some place fancier. Why not?
Nike Jordan Hex slides for women, SGD85, are available in Nike stores and online. Photo: Zhao Xiangji
Yeezy Gap versus Nike Forward. Photos: respective brands
Both are ghostly, both are sinister. Whose is more ominous? Nike has shared the images for their latest apparel featuring the new Forward textile on their website and app. That faceless hoodie seen here (on the right) appears as if worn by Invisible Man, including uneven placement of the arms—the unseen wearer in motion. Could this be Nike flattering Yeezy Gap? When the brand led by Kanye West (soon no more) launched the first drop of Yeezy Gap Engineered by Balenciaga last February, the images shared were similarly spectral. And in the latest, they are less black, which is rather close to Nike’s with the sepia patina. Two of the world’s most visible brands using such illusory effects may mean that phantoms, rather than models, could take over fashion communication of the near future.
There is of course the possibility that brands these days rather let the garments do the talking than voluble celebrities. Clothes should stand out, not faces. Yeezy Gap’s images require no perceivable face (although a body filling up the clothes can be discerned) just as its retail spaces need no shelf, rack or hanger. Balenciaga had a hand in all this. It started most prominently on the red carpet, as seen in the face-concealing number that Kim Kardashian wore to the last Med Gala. Ms Kardashian was already a walking preview for Balenciaga months earlier. Later, her ex-husband, too, appeared just as obscured in his Donda listening/reveal mega events, whose creative director was Demna Gvasalia. Mr West attended his by-then pal’s debut haute couture showing in Paris like a Black male Pontianak. And after Yeezy Gap Engineered by Balenciaga was announced, the images that were circulating and shared showed, until now, the fashionable on the incorporeal. As the Police once sang, Spirits in the Material World.
It really is not surprising that Simon Porte Jacquemus of his eponymous label would choose to collaborate with Nike, but it is rather unexpected that he has opted to present a woman’s-only line. Nike announced two days ago that the Nike x Jacquemus apparel and footwear (interestingly, available for guys too) will debut next month, on the 28th. The collaboration is aimed at what both brands call “integrated aesthetic”, not just between the two names, but also clothes and shoes worn on courts, track or field that are also suitable for those times that are off them. It does not sound too differently from what Nike has achieved with, say, Sacai.
According to a Nike media release, the collaboration “invites sport style into everyday life” too, something that the sportwear giant is already doing, regularly and with considerable success. How else can we describe their work with Comme des Garçons and Undercover (excluding the for-running Gyakusou line)? As the Swoosh further expounds, “Nike x Jacquemus follows a belief that sport isn’t simply about performance, it is also an expansion of style and self.” It is not yet clear what that would look like, but Jacquemus is very much a trending brand, so expect a craze to follow.
Nike X Jacquemus will be available on 28 June at select Nike stores and online. Watch this space for more details.Photos: Nike
When I first saw Nike’s newest kick, the Go FlyEase, I thought they were for bound feet. Seriously. Pick one in your usual Nike size, and the shoe will look decidedly shorter than the length of your feet. It does because, as you examine it closer, you will see that the shoe is bent downwards, somewhere in the middle, at almost 45 degrees. Initially, I toyed with the possibility that this could be Nike’s more hi-tech take on the Louis Vuitton Archlight. Then the shoe, in my hand, yielded to the squeeze lengthwise that I gave it. It is hinged and can be flattened!
As it turned out, the Go FlyEase is designed in this manner so that when placed on the floor, or wherever you usually situate your prized shoes, it allows you to just step into it and, when your heel kisses the ground, it immediately hugs your foot. No lacing up required and no shoe horn needed to ease your foot into the sneakers either. You don’t even need to arch forward! Quite an engineering marvel, as I saw it. The Go FlyEase is initially bent to allow effortless entry into its first half when you slip your toes inside. As you (must) bring your heel down, the shoe shapes up—or flattens—as, well, a ‘regular’ shoe.
Nike has been on the forefront of shoes that can be slipped on with practically no effort from the part of the wearer, such as 2019’s Bluetooth-connected, self-lacing Adapt (with its own app!). Frankly, as a sneaker lover (but not quite sneakerhead, I should say), I do not consider putting on a pair to be such an ordeal that the shoes have to be designed to be worn without involving hands. When I was in primary school, my mother would buy slip-on plimsolls for me, saying that it was easier for me as I, according to her, could not tie laces properly. She called those slip-ons, including others such as loafers, “lazy shoes”. It was not until secondary four, when I got to buy my own sneakers that I realised shoes are not lazy, people are.
Shoelaces have been around for a very long time, some historians say since 3,500 BC. The laces, as an invention, however, was associated with one Englishman, Harvey Kennedy, who filed for a patent on them in 1790. Even back then, no one considered laces Mr Kennedy’s invention, but one thing truly was: the narrow plastic- or metal-wrapped sheath at the end known as the aglet. Despite that little convenience, making it easier to lace shoes, increasingly wearers are finding them too much a bother to deal with. Nike is, of course well aware of that. They first started exploring shoes without laces with the advent of the Flyknit upper, such as the Free Flynit of 2013, just a year after the appearance of the former. That Free was, however, essentially a sock atop a mid-sole. You’d still need to use your hands to put them on. But now with the Go FlyEase, totally “hands-free” is a reality. Indolence wins?
The FlyEase itself is not new, the Go iteration is. FlyEase debuted five years ago with the main objective of making the wearing of sneakers effortless. But it has never been this easy. With the Go hinged, they are in the “ready” mode. Step in, toes first, and then rest your entire foot on the one-piece footbed (the whole bending and flattening rather remind me of ‘fold’ smartphones), and you’re in the “set” position, ready to move. When removing the shoe, instead of stepping on the vertical rear of the heel, do so on the extended ledge with the other foot, and, presto, the shoe is hinged again, and the foot can slide out easily. Shoelaces, I fear, will face rapidly-approaching extinction.
Nike Go FlyEase, SGD215, is available at select Nike stores and online. Photos: Nike
It is not good enough that the Nike Air Force 1 is the favourite of fashion folks and designers alike. It now has to appeal to those for whom a utilitarian touch in the end product is crucial. Although much has been done to the Swoosh (it morphed into a shark on the SB Dunk High Pro!), there has not been a functional add-on. Until now. The latest appears on the AF1 and is a Swoosh-shaped carabiner that seems to be inspired by the thunderbolt. It is fastened to outline the appliquéd version on the upper of the familiar shoe. You’d think this is an output or update from the Off-White studio, but it’s not. This is, as we understand it, a release under the main brand, as model ’07 PRM.
The carabiner would, no doubt, be the big draw here. It’s affixed to the lateral side of the shoe through four paracord loops stitched under the Swoosh. The carabiner is removable as the Swoosh-shaped ring comes with a spring catch. Many of the AF1 enthusiasts are excited about how the carabiner could hold, apart from keys (really?), charms and little soft toys, such as those now seen dangling from bags. Could this be levelling up the zip ties that Off-White made popular in their collabs with Nike? We are, however, more inclined to use the carabiner to fasten the shoes to, say our belt loops!
If, for some reason, you are not planning to use the fancy carabiners, you could stash them away in a secret zippered pouch under each tongue. Additional receptacle that is far more discreet—and less alluring to thieves—than those pouches that sit atop laces of some trending kicks. Handy storage has indeed come to sneakers.
Rating: 4 out of 5.
Nike Air Force 1 Low ’01 PRM, SGD229, is available at the Foot Locker. Illustration: Just So
Charged with taking monetary perks to reserve limited-edition kicks for resellers, Muhammad Faiz Amy Jasman appeared before the judge in a pair of just-as-limited Nike X Off-White Rubber Dunk
He had his day in court, so did his sought-after shoes. Former sneaker sales assistant Muhammad Faiz Amy Jasman willingly accepted payment for reserving limited-edition kicks at the now-shuttered AW Lab for two resellers, who traded them for profits. That is, simply put, the taking of bribes. When he appeared in court yesterday to hear the sentencing after he pleaded guilty to one charge of corruption, he showed he knows his limited-edition sneakers, especially those from trending collaborations. A photo in Today offered a clear view of Mr Jasman arriving at the State Courts in a pair of Nike X Off-White Rubber Dunk, in “University Blue”, complete with the signature orange zip-tie left visibly intact.
The Nike X Off-White Rubber Dunk was launched in February 2020, but the colourway that Mr Jasman happily wore to his sentencing was dropped in October 2020 as an “Europe exclusive” (it was also available, according to Nike, in the Middle East and Africa). At that time, the regular retail price for the shoes was US$180 (or about S$245). The Rubber Dunk, a mashup of the Nike Pegasus line and the Nike Dunk, is now asking for more than S$600 among online resellers, with a Farfetch listing priced at S$1,631. It is not known if Mr Jasman acquired his pair from AW Lab, a store known to carry limited-edition sneakers in colourways that were released, as Nike describes, “with exclusive regional availability”—mainly Europe, where the Bata-owned retailer has about 200 stores. According to his lawyer, Mr Jasman wanted to make a quick buck in order to support his family; he does not, apparently, splurge on luxuries. Perhaps S$245 is nothing, compared to, say, S$3,100 for the Nike X Dior Air Jordan 1.
Muhammad Faiz Amy Jasman. Illustration: Just So
According to news reports, Mr Jasman received a total of S$5,295 in “reservation fees” from two individuals. In the year that the Nike X Off-White Rubber Dunk was made available globally, he was working at the Wisma Atria outlet of AW Lab in basement one. Initially, he listed a pair of unidentified sneakers on Carousell. A man named Brian Fong responded, and when he was told that Mr Jasman worked at AW Lab, asked if the latter could reserve sneakers on his behalf, with additional “fees” offered for each pair. An arrangement was made. Mr Fong would transfer the monies—cost of the shoes and the attendant “fees”—into the bank account of Mr Jasman’s wife, who would make the purchases at the Wisma Atria store. Mr Fong would later collect the sneakers from her. Mr Fong reportedly bought a total of 49 pairs through Mr Jasman in this manner. Another reseller who similarly secured shoes from the ex-AW Lab staffer was Meng Fanxuan. Mr Jasman was fined S$10,000 and was also made to pay a penalty tantamount to the bribes he took. Mr Meng was fined for his part in the scheme, but it is not known if Mr Fong has been charged.
At the time of its launch, the Nike X Off-White Rubber Dunk, discernible by its overlays and offsets, was described by the media as “a real winner”. Wearing a pair on the day of his court appearance, Muhammad Faiz Amy Jasman was perhaps saying he was a winner too: He did not have to do time.
In Moscow, a few Nike outlets remain open although the company said more than a week ago that they were halting their Russian business
With Western sanctions against Russia following Vladimir Putin’s attack of Ukraine, Nike was one of the earliest brands to announce the halting of business and operation in the country of the authoritarian-aggressor. On 3 March, the company said this would include the temporary shutting of Russian stores. Recent investigation conducted by Reuters, however, found that “some independent stores remain open”. Nike is believed to have about 100 stores throughout Russia and more than a dozen in Moscow. When Reuters checked six of them in the capital, they were opened, as of Friday. A call made by the news agency to one of the outlets was met with an employee saying, “We don’t have information yet, but I think the store will be open for at least, like, for a month.”
These opened outlets are believed to be “independent” operators, meaning they are not directly run by Nike. Such arrangements by brands with partner retailers in countries not their own are common. On our island, dedicated Nike stores are operated by SUTL Group’s Sports Retailing division. They run some half a dozen Nike freestanding stores in Singapore and nine in Malaysia (interestingly, Nike only operates their own ‘outlet’ stores here through Nike Global Trading, based out of the Netherlands). These retail shops are considered to be “independents”. It is not know if the arrangement allows them to continue their business in states where global sanctions are held against them or if their business decisions are independent of corporate Nike’s own. But as one retail manager told us, in times of war, “most brands would consider humanity before profits”.
But if Nike’s retail/distribution partners in Russia are local companies, it would not be surprising that the native decision makers would choose to keep their business open. Or, adopt a sneakers-are-essential stance. Reuters reported that “Nike said on March 3 that it would temporarily suspend operations at all its Nike-owned and -operated stores in Russia”. There was no mention of those managed independently. Days before the announcement, the Swoosh’s RU online platform has kept to the brands official decision: purchases are not available. Nor is the use of the Nike app. Nike also announced previously that the company would contribute USD1 million to the United Nations Children’s Fund and the International Rescue Committee to support the relief efforts in Ukraine.
The West’s cutting of commercial links with Russia began with financial and tech sanctions in the first week following the war, and has intensified to include those against the oligarchs deemed to be close to the Russian president, as well as the recent announcement by the EU about halting luxury exports to Russia. The measures will serve as “a blow to the Russian elite”, according to the European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen. “Those who sustain Putin’s war machine should no longer be able to enjoy their lavish lifestyle while bombs fall on innocent people in Ukraine,” she said. This move comes after leaders of the G7 nations agreed to refuse Russia the status of “most favoured nation” on key products. Many French luxury brands have announced the stopping of operations in Russia, so the latest sanction will placed obstacles to the export of high-end everything—from cognac to cars—to the country. But, with Russian troops closing in on the Ukrainian capital Kyiv, it is uncertain if this economic constriction now really matters.
The soccer pitch, that is! Trust Comme des Garcons to think of that
By Shu Xie
Just as you thought that heels are facing retirement, Comme des Garçons has collaborated with Nike to release a pair of football boots—of all shoes—with, yes, heels! Nope, these are nothing like Balenciaga’s spindly-heeled Crocs. Far from them. Based on a silhouette guys would be familiar with, the Nike Premier, these kicks now look like they have been taken out of a Victorian shoe cabinet for airing! No fellow today, I suspect, will tell you these are sexy (unless he is into cleat and heel!). Yet, there is something intriguingly appealing amount them that I can’t quite describe. The blockish heels won’t be the object of some people’s fetish or the instrument of crime, but they could help elevate a footballer to have a better on-field view!
Women have probably played football for as long as a ball can be kicked around. But as competitive sport for lasses, it took form only in the 18th century. These days, women’s football leagues and matches would be considered progress for the equity of sports and the popularity of the game attests to how far women have come with sporting pursuits. Would Comme des Garçons X Nike Premier, then, be considered having a go at this admirable progress? If anything, CDG’s Rei Kawakubo has, through her work, shown that women need not be hindered by conventions and traditions, with heels or not.
Launched in Dover Street Market London early this week, the shoes are mostly sold out, proving that women do not consider the heeled, all-leather Premier anything but desirable fashion footwear. What’s interesting—though not surprising—is that these Premiers are attracting the interest of guys. One of them, told us, that the largest size is too small. Another, for whom the heel is the immediate draw, said they are, “a bit too masculine”. It is rather surprising that CDG didn’t offer them as non-binary footwear, with larger sizes. Or is that Nike’s conservative decision?
According to DSM, the shoes came about “at the suggestion” of Ms Kawakubo. Nike, always the willing CDG partner, then “updated the classic Premier football boot to feature a built-in heel”. The Premier, launched in 2013, is itself an improved version of 1992’s Tiempo Premier, then already considered to look “timeless”. Now, even rather ungulated, the heeled version looks set to be grailed. It is not certain if Rei Kawakubo is a football fan, but I think, with her Premier she has scored a gold. Sure, no footballer will execute a scissor kick in these, but she could be watched and cheered on by those wearing them, on the bleachers.
Comme des Garçons x Nike Premier, SGD990, is available in limited quantities at DSMS and CDG. By the time you read this, they could be sold out. Product shots: CDG. Photo: CDGfan. Photo illustration: Just So
Au naturel. Left, Thomas Sabo. Right, Adidas. Photos: respective brands
We are starting to see quite a few ads that show women in their natural state. Sure, going unshaved up there as I-can-do-whatever-I-want expression of confidence has been noticed since 2019, when Nike, always more forward thinking than other brands, shared on Instagram a photo of a model in a bra top, with right arm lifted to frame her head so that her fingers could be hooked to the strap of the top on the other side. The pose would have been quite regular if not for what was viewable under her arm: not a hairless pit. It isn’t hard to imagine that the world of social media went wild. Yet, Netizens were not that divided over the hairy reveal, with most expressing disapproval of the look. Defenders of body positivity were not the least amused.
While movie and pop stars and those living their lives publicly have already been seen sparing underarm hair scissors, tweezers and depilatory creams, models representing brands, especially clothing labels, have largely gone smooth before standing before the camera. Julia Roberts (remember that incident?) and her clean-ketiak sisters did not really initiate a social/style revolution. And we soon fussed not with the fuzz (even the striking Nike initiative) that for many women is totally natural and deserves to be kept, even long, where it belongs. Then, at this year’s Met Gala that had attendees salute American fashion, Madonna’s first-born Lourdes Leon posed before the cameras in glittery pink and unabashed tuft. Like mother (in 2014), like daughter. Under the watch of the world, armpit hair is back in the spotlight.
The Nike Instagram post from 2019 that possibly started it all. Photo: nikewoman/instagram
We did not really pay much attention to all the exposed armpits and their crinite glory. But this week, two ads appeared in our news feed and they had us wondering: Is it back? One was by Adidas, featuring a Stella McCartney support bra—the model posing with arms up like a victory hurray. The other (surprisingly) by the new jewellery brand Saboteur (by Thomas Sabo and his son Santiago), showing their model with her arm lifted as if readying herself for an inspection of her axilla. What was striking to us weren’t just the clear clumps, but the way they caught our attention. The fuzz did not peek from the crack where the arm meets the body, like some shy Baby’s Breadth. The models posed to bring their underarm(s) into full attention. In the case of the Saboteur photo, the necklace they were presumably promoting was secondary to the more eye-catching auxiliary hair. The mind boggles to think that, these days, when a brand casts models, the brief to the agency is, send only those not shaved/plucked/depilated.
Standards of beauty have, of course, changed. Dramatically. If nipples can be shown, what’s a little hair? But what’s also different in the case of underarm growth is that more guys are, conversely, removing hair there. A look at the Instagram pages of the many males who use them to share images of their shirtless selves, the majority, unlike, say, Japanese gymnasts, have quite bare armpits. Are what’s acceptable for men and for women reversed now? We shared the Adidas shot with a few women to have a sense of what the ladies may feel about the new, naturally-fringed area to show off. All of them are not comfortable with what they saw, “Is this the new beauty that we are not aware of?” “Don’t like; don’t understand.” “Sorry, I’m still old-fashioned.” “Don’t think will catch on with Asian women.” “How do I unsee this?” “😱” “My mother will force me to shave.” “I want to keep my husband!” “I never liked fatt choy, anyway.”
The Washington Post called him “the maestro directing the chaos”. After this year’s Astroworld mahem, Travis Scott will forever be linked to the death of some of his rabid fans. Who would remember his connection to the world of fashion? Do we want to?
Warning: this post contains language and descriptions some readers might find offensive
Nike has made the first move, but Dior has largely kept mum. In the wake of the Astroworld tragedy, it is doubtful that Travis Scott’s very name can still move merchandise, massively. But his fashion collaborators seem to prefer to wait and see. Nike held on for more than a week before announcing that their collaboration with Mr Scott’s Cactus Jack brand on the Air Max 1 will be postponed “out of respect for everyone impacted by the tragic events at the Astroworld Festival”, according to a corporate statement issued on its SKRS app a few days ago. Delaying the launch is not canning it. At the moment, it is known that Nike has some ten styles in the works with Mr Scott. That is a staggering amount to do with a single fellow, without counting those already released and sold out, a sell-through situation no brand can resist. How long more does the owner of Air Max intend to wait is not known.
Also in with Nike’s now-troubled partnership is Japan’s Fragment Design. As we have noted before, collaborations these days can consist of three brands (or more), not just two. To triple the allure of the initial pairing, Fragment Design joined Nike and Travis Scott three months ago to reimagine not only the Air Jordan 1, but also to put out a three-piece apparel collection (that was, as expected, sold out), which Nike described as one “that satisfies the ‘rule of three’”. Hiroshi Fujiwara of Fragment Design has not issued a statement with regards to his past pairing with Mr Scott or future partnerships. His association with the rapper now under investigation, it seems, would not be severely affected as Fragment Design is still associated with credible, fashion-forward brands such as Sacai.
But perhaps the label that has to really deal with the increasing ignominy of the rapper is Dior. Hitherto, the LVMH super brand has not uttered a word about what has happened, nor the pal of Mr Scott, Kim Jones. It is known that Mr Jones had conceived the spring/summer 2021 collection almost entirely to benefit from Travis Scotts’s fame, more as a consumer rather than designer of fashion. In fact, the collab was dubbed Cactus Jack Dior, after the rapper’s own Cactus Jack Foundation. The first drop will likely appear next month, but would it have any pull? There is no doubt that, there would be those shoppers who will still bite not matter how contentious the sale of such a collaboration would be. The question is, how would Dior play down the fact they paired with a performer whose concert reportedly resulted in the death of nine people and who apparently went on singing even when attendees were screaming for the show to be stopped? Or is it too late in the progression of the production of the line to stop now? According to a WWD report two days ago, Dior is merely “evaluating the situation”.
Dior’s predicament, if it sees itself in one, does open the postern into the persistent creative pair-ups between luxury brands and mega-successful stars that frequently ditch true design for brazen hype. It is often said that Travis Scott’s style “is as popular as his music”, admired globally, but no one can say with certainty that his talent in design is tantamount to that of his music. Or, that he understands what it takes to put a piece of clothing—any—together. The ability to dress himself in some semblance of what is deemed fashion overrides practical ability or manual dexterity. Popularity alone is often enough for brands to want to be associated him, from Bape to Saint Laurent. The merchandise, one Gen-Z fan described on Quora, “goes higher and higher in value just like brands like Supreme. Our generation loves that. We love status symbols.” That Travis Scott is a “status symbol by which the social standing of the possessor of his goods could be derived/assessed is not unusual—even if staggering—when consumers are eager to surrender to the power and prevarication of social media influence.
Mr Scott’s status in fashion is so lofty that collaborator Nike would even allow him to tamper with the Swoosh, a trademark so entrenched in popular consciousness that it would normally be considered sacrilegious to meddle with. In the Air Jordan 1 and the Air Max 1, to name just two, the Swoosh is placed as a mirror image on the sides of the shoes—the longer, narrower end does not emerge from the heel notch, close to the collar. While no Tinker Hatfield, he was able to have leeway to do as he pleases. It did not occur to Nike that it could perhaps be more convincing if he were to create a totally new silhouette, like mentor Kanye West has with the Yeezys. Could that be indication that Travis Scott has scant design flair?
Most alluring for both fans and some members of the media is his personal style. Last year, Esquire called him “a tastemaker par excellence second to none”. The taste, CR Fashion Book wrote, “typically features vintage t-shirts, denim, baseball cap, relaxed joggers, oversized jackets with bold brands like the Louis Vuitton LV logo or bright colors like pink and Nike sneakers”. Esquire also stated that Mr Scott “tends to stick to a few variations on the same theme when it comes to getting dressed, at least casually”. How all that is sufficient to allow him to be a trendsetter or dip his hands in the process of design is not clear. As the Rolling Stones correctly noted, “for close to a decade, Travis Scott has carefully positioned himself squarely at the center of hype”. He barely traipses into the unconventional, let alone groundbreaking. For sure, no dresses/skirts of A$AP Rocky or Andre 3000 for him. At the 2019 “Camp” Met Gala, he skipped the theme entirely, appearing in a brown Dior top and pants, with what appeared to be military webbing. Camp? Perhaps to those going from Ah Boys to Men.
From left to right: Cactus Jack Dior spring/summer 2022, Nike X Travis Scott X Fragment T-shirt, and Nike X Travis Scott Air Max 270 ‘Cactus Trails’. Photos: Respective brands
Although Mr Scott is known to encourage reckless behaviours during his performances and has, in fact, faced two charges before the Dior show in June for “disorderly conduct”, the French house did not see that their star collaborator’s brush with the law would be problematic or a blemish to their impeccable couture suits. In 2015, Mr Scott had allegedly urged his unthinking fans to climb over barricades at the Lollapalooza music festival in Chicago, leading the repetitive shout, “we want rage”. According to media reports, the scene was so tumultuous that the police had to detain the rapper after just five minutes into his performance, but he fled. He eventually pleaded guilty to the charges. In 2017, during a concert in Arkansas, he again encouraged “rage”—so rapidly it escalated that the police accused him of “inciting a riot”. Just weeks after that, one of his concerts in Manhattan was said to be so riotous that a fan fell off a balcony and was left paralyzed after suffering a fractured vertebrae. Mr Scott was often quoted saying in past performances, “it’s not a show until someone passes out”. Does that apply to the fashion he peddles? Is raging and the resultant injuries, if not death, compatible with the culture of clothes?
Despite his disturbing track record, no one anticipated the tragedy of Astroworld. Earlier that fateful day, before the 500,000 concert goers stormed the NRG Park, Mr Scott released a single ironically called Escape Plan in which he rapped, “but wait, it opened gates and this shit just start paradin’, olé (Let’s go)”. While we are not certain what “it” refers to, the rest of the sentence seems to preempt the disaster that struck Astroworld. As much as this is considered a hackneyed view, rap music does seem to laud destructive behaviour. Mr Scott’s own lyrics don’t negate violence and such. In the 2018 release Sicko Mode, Drake used the expression to introduce his friend in the song: “Young La Flame, he in sicko mode”. The phrase, it is believed, refers to the rager mentality that Mr Scott encourages (his fans are known as “sickos”), with clear consequence now. But more than that, death was suggested too: “And they chokin’, man, know the crackers wish it was a noose”.
Born Jacques Bermon Webster II, Travis (also TRavi$) Scott and his rap contemporaries make and break in equal measure. However, some, such as Mr Scott, just more destructively than others. Stars are cancelled for saying and doing stupid things, but he, for whom inciting his fans to “free the rage” characterise him as a performer, is often lauded. In fact, after the Arkansas drama in 2017, he dropped a T-shirt on his website with those three words printed on the back. Unsurprisingly, they sold out. Now ensconced in his Houston “retreat”, Mr Scott seems to be waiting for the rage of the community to abate. How did he, a college dropout, become this powerful? Not that much, in fact, is known about him other than the rebelliousness with a rock-star stance that seems to have served him in good stead. Uncontrollable is a credo, a virtue, a merit. But, if social media is to be believed, many are now ready to denounce the unstoppable rager-rapper. Is Dior, then, brave enough to douse La Flame? And rip out Cactus Jack?
Nike’s latest collaboration with crystal maker Swarovski is an Air Force 1 with strange surface protrusions
By Shu Xie
Among Nike’s many reimagined sneakers, the Air Force 1 seems, to me, to be receiving the most collaborative makeovers. And here is another AF1 iteration: with the Austrian producer of crystal glass Swarovski. This collab, the third (if I remember correctly) between the two brands, is not quite what I would expect from a purveyor of bling. Unlike the Dunk from last year, which was completely covered with crystals, or the Air Max 97 from this past March, which was not entirely smothered (and this time with crystals so tiny, they could have been dust), sneak-peeks of the AFI show that it comes with something entirely different. As I see it, the shoes have a second skin. And it is an outer that really obscures the recognisable silhouette of the Nike classic. Looking like something that could have been 3-D printed, this membrane immediately makes me forget that the AF1 is the first among Nike’s sneakers from the ’80s to incorporate the brand’s Air cushioning technology.
But that is not really what I find most intriguing. It is what’s on the overlay. The amoeba-shaped piece with fancy cut-outs is dotted with silver ball-studs that look pressed into tiny bulbs on the surface of this second skin. These are not Valentino’s Rockstuds or those spikes on Christian Louboutin kicks. Frankly, they look like pimples to me. Like blackheads! Still there is something oddly appealing about this AF1. I think I am drawn to the fact that the extra layer can be taken apart. Yes, by removing the screws on the mid-sole that hold the additional skin down. They are flat-top screws and each pair of the sneakers come with a screwdriver, should you need to do some handyman’s work. These days, the Nike basketball shoes for women do not only come with trinkets to feminise the kicks (the Blazer Mid LX, for example), they are now dressed with a flashy, removable cloak. Shoelaces, even fancy ones, are really not enough.
Update (20 November 2021, 18:00): The Nike X Swarovski Air Force 1 will be available on Nike.com on 2 December, from 10am
No official release date of this collab is announced. Watch this space for more information. Product photo: Nike. Photo illustration: Just So
La Flame’s latest collaboration with Nike is overshadowed by the shocking deaths at his concert in Texas. But it won’t be doused
Three days ago, reports appeared that this Nike X Travis Scott Air Max 1 will launch in the middle of next month. The autumnal colours are expected to be a hit for this iteration of the Nike classic, as sneakerheads are also drawn to the impertinent mirror image of the Swoosh on the side of the shoe. Before Nike could even list the sneaks on their SNKR site, a tragedy related to Mr Scott unfolded in Houston, Texas earlier today (evening, US time). At the music event Astroworld Festival, the headlining show of Mr Scott, also the event organizer, saw an attendance of 50,000 people swarm the sold out mega-show, according to CNN. Tragedy struck past 9pm when ardent concert-goers who thronged the stage, surged forward, crushing people in the front. At least eight have been reported dead, with scores of people injured, including a child believed to be aged 10.
Initial reports stated that even before the deadly crush, attendees “were rushing through a VIP entrance, knocking metal detectors and sometimes other people” earlier, as CNN described. Videos shared online showed near-stampede: people dashed forward impetuously, with the same determination to get ahead as those waiting behind doors of stores on the eve of Thanksgiving to be the first to take advantage of the Black Friday sales. There were already reports of injury (even fights) during this early part of the annual music Festival. It is not certain what the rush was for or if the concert had already started and these people were late.
Travis Scott stopping his performance. Screen grab: CNN
According to the BBC, Mr Scott had “stopped multiple times during his 75-minute performance” when he saw the potentially devastating crush. He had also asked the security to help. But, things escalated too quickly and the emergency resources were, according to local police, “overwhelmed”. Netizens, however, thought that the rapper did not do enough. Many believed that he should have halted his performance altogether after seeing even the slightest problem. Why did he allow the show to go on for that long (this excludes the “30-minute countdown” before the appeared on stage during which the pushing already intensified)”? Videos started appearing on social media showing the audience chanting “stop the show”(one even revealed a young woman climbing up to a platform on which a crew or cameraman was standing and saying the same thing), but the consumate performer continued to sing and urged his audience to make the “earth shake”, as reported by Reuters. Others blamed the ongoing pandemic: “people were desperate to live again”, one commentator wrote on Facebook.
As more of what happened came to light, attention, too, was drawn to Mr Scott’s own record of ensuring safety when it comes to the unruly audience in his concerts. Back in 2015, the rapper was arrested and charged with “disorderly conduct” after he encouraged attendees of Lollapalooza (another music fest) to “climb over security barricades and storm the stage”, according to Rolling Stone. The father of Kylie Jenner’s daughter Stormi further incited the crowd with chants of “we want rage”. He was again arrested after a 2017 Arkansas concert when that “rage” was also vehemently encouraged. In his 2018 song Stargazing, which referenced Astroworld, he even rapped, “it ain’t a mosh pit if it aint’t injuries”(his mosh pit, according to Forbes, is “a febrile atmosphere Scott stoked from the stage”), adding, “I got ’em stage divin’ out the nosebleeds”. In rap speak, the highest seats in a stadium are referred to as the nose bleed sections. His fans—he calls them “ragers”—would jump from these elevations and literally suffer from nose bleeds. It is also possible that he was referencing a New York City show when a fan was pushed off a three-story balcony—he was paralysed.
Kim Jones and Travis Scott in a publicity photo shared by Mr Jones after the Dior menswear spring/summer 2022 show in June. Photo: mrkimjones/Instagram
It is hard to say how this latest “mass casualty incident”, as authorities have called it, will impact the many fashion-related products with Travis Scott’s name stamped on them that will be up for grabs. As of now, the Air Jordan 1 Low that came from the Nike X Travis Scott X Fragment trinity in August—“the collaboration to end all collaborations, according to Highsnobiety—is asking for more than USD2,000 in the resale market, a staggering 100 times more than the original retail price of USD150. Hip-hop stars have become far too powerful, not just through the music they make, but also the wide range of ridiculously hyped products linked to them, never mind the controversy they have stirred. We are not referring only to concert merchandise. Apart from the ongoing collaboration with Nike, Mr Scott has also paired with Dior, an upgrade and a highlight of his fashion career. He gratefully referred to Mr Jones on Instagram as “my bro 5 (sic) life”.
In fact, his tie-ups with popular brands go back to 2016 when his name appeared atop A Bathing Ape in the limited-edition pieces of Baby Milo tees. In fact, they span the high- and low-brow—last year’s with McDonald’s being the more accessible. While fashion folks are divided over whether there is truly a wow factor to his personal style, or whether he’s a taste-maker or a hype-maker, Travis Scott—“one of rap’s most ambitious figures”, as The New York Times described him—is doing everything to put himself up there, god-like, so that devotees, unable to be satiated by sneakers and such, can bask in his mighty presence—only this time, deadly. Are fans no longer able to tell the difference between scoring kicks and getting kicked? Or, must the show, amid people dying, really go on?