They Stick Out, Don’t They?

More and more, heels now come as shelves

 

TheSoloistXConverse vs SacaiXNikeProduct shots: (left) Converse and (right) Nike

By Ray Zhang

Two sneakers are launched this week, and both share a common feature: the heel sticks out. Or, to be more precise, the upper half of the rear mid-sole protrudes. Like a shelf. Or, like the mountain ledge of Trolltunga in Norway. Okay, I’m off track. Running shoe lingo has it as “flared heels”. I don’t know about you, but when heels jut out like that, they don’t increase the shoe’s appeal. Yet, this seems to be the trend. Maybe it’s rather like jacket trends: shoulders stretch to there. Anyway, succumbing to my limited knowledge, I checked with my friends who run and an instructor at my gym, and they say these stick-out points may delight the fashionista, but they do nothing for the athlete. That’s what I thought.

The two kicks with similar heels are the Converse X TakahiromiyashitaTheSoloist All Star Disrupt CX (yes, a mouthful) and the highly anticipated Nike X Sacai LDV Waffle, which, you would have guessed, is sold out as soon as it’s launched, which is today (my fellow SOTD contributor Shu Xie tried scoring a pair for more than 2 hours since midnight, but came up nought). Other similarities, I should, perhaps, add: both are by Japanese brands collaborating with shoes from the same American company: Nike. Could that explain the similarities in heel detail?

20-03-11-15-40-40-263_decoLeft: Converse X TakahiromiyashitaTheSoloist All Star Disrupt CX. Right: Nike X Sacai LDV Waffle. Product photos: Converse and Nike respectively

Between the two, I choose the TakahiromiyashitaTheSoloist’s take on the Converse, if only because the said protrusion is shallower in depth. The Sacai remake of LDV Waffle scores less because it is basically a reissue of the “reconstruction”—hybrid, actually—of the Nike classics LDV and Waffle Racer, now with nylon uppers. Both the All Star Disrupt CX and the LDV waffle are, in terms of silhouette, fetching, but since the Sacai became the most hyped and desired and, as a consequence, the most jelak shoe of last year, another release doesn’t send my pulse racing. And not that back corridor. Despite its peplum rear, the All Star Disrupt CX looks sleek, with the clever declaration “I am the Soloist. Since 2010” on the lateral and “Hello! I am the Soloist. Since 2010” on the medial. Admittedly, I have a weakness for text.

The big-welcome-to-MRT-commuters-to-step-on-your-heel sneaker is, to be sure, not a new trend. If I remember correctly (nowadays, there are, of course, other more important things to remember, such as regularly wash your hands and do not touch any part of your face!), Rick Owens was the earliest to introduce them protrusions in his collaboration with Adidas. At first, it was the Runner, introduced way back in the spring of 2014. The shoe with the split mid-sole has a rear that looks like a pebble is affixed to trip the person who walks too closely to you. And then later that year, the Tech Runner, with a mid-sole that’s a catamaran. Was it not asking other shod feet to come onboard?

Adidas X Rick Owebs Tech Runner 2014Adidas X Rick Owens Tech Runner. Photo: Adidas

Truth be told, I have never tried any of the Adidas X Rick Owens Runners or the Nike X Sacai LDV Waffle. But I have worn kicks with kindred soles. Okay, not as prominent as those two out now. I once took the Nike React Infinity Run for a stroll in a mall, and even when the amble required no heel striking (unlike when you run), I could feel something back there. As I got off the MRT train on my way home, a corpulent woman stepped on the left heel and as I moved forward, the shoe came off. It all happened in a split second. When I turned back to look, another dozen passengers had stepped on that footless sneak, isolated on the station platform.

I thought my feet would be less of an obstacle if I wore the Nike Vapor Street Peg SP, with less of a flared heel (but flares, no less). Again, the rear attracted those who like to pull up to the bumper. Toe box on mid-sole: could that be some kind of Tinder pick up line? Fed up, I finally put the Nike X A Cold Wall Zoom Vomero 5 to the test. Now with this pair, it was not so much a protruding mid-sole that was the problem. What the shoe came with was an AirPod case for the heel counter! Walking down a staircase was hard because I kept scraping against what was the front side of the steps. When I made it to the concrete pavement, I felt a smack: someone had kicked my heaving heel!

Converse x TAKAHIROMIYASHITATheSoloist All Star Disrupt CX, SGD200, is available from 12 March at Club 21 and DSMS. Nike X Sacai LDV Waffle, SGD239, was available at DSMS, and sold out

High Are His Heels

It’s ironic that men are wearing towering heels when more and more women are abandoning them. Marc Jacobs seems to be leading the way. These may not be ruby red slippers, but they’re not far off

 

Marc Jacobs standing tall(er). Photo: themarcjacobs/instagram

By Carl Chan

It’s been increasingly difficult to make sense of fashion. Actually, I find it harder and harder to find the true meaning in clothes worn today. Or their implications. Or their significance, their value. Fashion has gone beyond fashion and mere self-expression. Fashion can also mean I don’t care about what I wear. Which is in itself fashion.

Ugliness is fashion. Normal is fashion. Barely-clothed is fashion. Modesty is fashion. Tight is fashion. Over-sized is fashion. Anti-fit is fashion. Anything is fashion. Everything is fashion. Mass is fashion. Custom is fashion. High is fashion. Low is fashion. Black is fashion. White is fashion. And every shade between is fashion. Expensive is fashion. Expansive is fashion. Affordable is fashion. Unaffordable is fashion. Exclusive is fashion. Inclusive is fashion. And, increasingly, as well as crucially, no-reference-to-sex is fashion.

When gender is now a non-issue and both sexes are free to express their feminine or masculine sides, or both, in dress (as noun to mean ‘clothing’, not a one-piece that women traditionally wear and now some men find a joy to don), lines are blurred or erased, and I am none the wiser. Sometimes, when one gender veers less towards an article of clothing, an accessory, the other adopts it; them.

Take footwear. Sneakers of every stripe—and swipe—have been the collective disruptor of the industry and consumption choice. Women who once frown on sneakers (especially when the kicks were considered too low until platform running shoes—of course not for running—came along) are now wearing them to the office, even before casual Friday comes acalling. I sit in the MRT train and look at the shod feet of the row of women seated before me, and more often then not, they are in sneakers, or flats or slippers—anything sans heels .

19-12-22-12-13-06-090_deco.jpgMarc Jacob’s best side and shoe. Photo: themarcjacobs/instagram

I sensed the clear-as-Cinderella’s-glass-slippers irony when I recently saw Marc Jacob’s IG post showing him posing in heels. Or, maybe not since Mr Jacobs is a known heel lover and wearer (you could be one and not the other), among other accouterments once mostly associated with women. But the boots he wears of late—Rick Owens, no less—have heels that are high, even by Rupaul’s Drag Race standards. That he could go “hiking” in them is a marvel of nimble footwork, if not supreme self-confidence. Yet this seems to go against what The Wall Street Journal reported a year ago: that “…smart, chic women are abandoning high heels (forever)”.

Of course, they said nothing about the men. To be sure, men wearing heels go back as far as the 15th century, when in Persia, soldiers wore boot-like shoes with elevated heels to help them have a better ‘grip’ on the stirrups. The Greeks may dispute that since their ancients were known to wear kothornis, platforms that could go up to four inches high in stage plays (apparently, the higher the heel, the more important the role). Reportedly, the heel-wearing Persian horsemen brought their footwear with them to Europe, where vain aristocratic males thought that such shoes would make them appear not only taller, but powerful; even formidable. That heels were later very much a part of French fashion in the court of Louis XIV was only outmatched by the luxury fashion consumed then and the constant renewal of the nobility’s wardrobes, creating a culture of couture and consumption that would eventually establish France as a fashion force, outdoing the scene in the sartorially notable Spain, where the style was beginning to look a little sad, strict, and severe.

Fast forward to more relatable times and the first image that comes to the mind (er, my mind) is that of David Bowie. I was not old enough to remember or even have seen the outrageous footwear he had a weakness for, but I do remember that in 1996, Mr Bowie, months to go before he turned 50, wore a pair of black shoes with noticeably high acrylic heels to perform at the Brit Awards of that year. He looked positively elegant and, dare I say, free of the androgyny that had characterised his career in the ’70s. If Mr Bowie could wear heels so not outrageously, and nicely fashionable, surely more men could adopt similarly high footwear?

19-12-22-13-27-07-340_decoYanis Marshall ‘werking’ it in killer heels. Photo: yanismarshall/instagram

In the 2010s, it would take the prominence of queer style (not—to be clear—drag costume) to put the spotlight on high heels for men. I’m not sure exactly when heels became pervasive enough to constitute a trend. Gay men are known to express the extremes in style, from articles of the female wardrobe to garbs that exaggerate already defined musculature. But through creative pursuits such as dance, they have used performance footwear not associated with their sex to elevate their craft, never mind if hairy legs and stilettos may be a tad disconcerting, even if we take in evolving aesthetics. Add another irony to all this: some men actually walk, if not dance, better in them heels than women!

I don’t know when Mr Jacobs took to wearing heels in daily life or a mere walk in the park, but I am aware that, professionally, one Frenchman Yanis Marshall has been wearing heels in his dance performance since, probably, as long as he has been dancing. In fact, heel-wearing among men seems to be restricted to the profession of dance (in particular heel or stiletto dance) until Mr Jacobs took it out to the streets. I am sure there are others too, but the former Louis Vuitton designer has been especially public about his heel habit.

Perhaps Mr Jacobs feels that no one gender actually owns high heels. Maybe he merely wants to accord his favourite shoes a unisex, non-binary status, and live by the increasingly common motto, you can wear whatever you want, just as you can do whatever you want. Surely this is not as simple as underscoring a gay identity? Or, perhaps, very simply, the 1.75m designer just wants to be a little bit taller and, like the noble men of the 18th century, formidable.

(2017) Winter Style 1: Couture Shape For The Cold

The brrrr-weather travel season is upon us. Here, our annual pick of what we truly like…

 

Rick Owens coat

The puffer jacket is such a popular item these days—thanks to brands from each end of the price scale, Vetements and Uniqlo, and all those between—that the first thing many women pack into their suitcase is an insulated jacket  from the likes of The North Face. But a padded outer need not look like one destined for Mount Everest or the farthest reaches of Greenland. It can look like a stylish coat ready for an après-ski party or a night at the theatre.

This thigh-length coat by Rick Owens is one of those rare pieces that easily encourages love at first sight. The major pull here, for us, is how un-sportif it looks. There’s a clear nod to the ’60s—the round collar and the rounded shoulders, but there’s also an embrace of Orientalism: the wide cuffs of the sleeves that are reminiscent of those of the hanfu, and the origami folds that make the lower-half of the bracelet sleeves look like panniers for wrists!

What makes this coat even more interesting and decidedly modern is the use of the two fabrics. There’s the matte of the wool-blend gabardine of the upper body and the semi-shine of the nylon shell of the lower half. Together, they’re finishes that could mimic dusk and night, giving this coat a dressy edge, all the more welcome in the present era of perpetual casual dress. To be sure, this is part of Rick Owen’s pre-fall 2017 collection, which means it isn’t that new. But for winter, we tend to buy investment pieces, and this is one coat that is ready for the cold, for many winters to come.

Rick Owens wool-blend gabardine and nylon coat, SGD2,760, is available at Club 21. Photo: Farfetch. Collage: Just So

Two Of A Kind: Not-Private Parts

Rick Owens vs Raf SImons

Left: Rick Owens, autumn/winter 2015/16. Right: Raf Simons spring/summer 2017

Are they the same thing: showing your family jewels in the flesh and via a photographic image? Are they in the same way pornographic, equally shameless, just as obscene? Or are they, as one media outlet suggests, the “art of pride”?

No, we’re not talking cock. At the just-concluded Pitti Uomo Show in Florence, guest designer—there were four this year—Raf Simons showed, among many black and white images, close-ups of the male genitalia, affixed to various parts of his clothes. Although these were mostly worn under outerwear (except one jacket, now making the rounds on the Web), the photographs were unmistakable: you couldn’t see anything else other than sexual organs.

The photographs are the works of American photographer Robert Mapplethorpe. Although not described as such by Mr Simons, many consider this as homage to the late artist who was known for his nudes of men and women as much as his still life of flowers. According to the designer, he was approached by Robert Mapplethorpe Foundation to explore the possibility of using the photographs in Mr Simons’s designs.

Since we are not permanent residents of Disneyland, we didn’t think that by saying yes, Mr Simons was simply going to do a couple of pretty photo-prints on T-shirts. Ever the provocateur, he wasn’t going to settle for a few merely “artistic” images either. Watching the presentation on YouTube, we were wondering when a penis will pop out, and it sure did.

This, for some of you, may be déjà vu since last year in January, Rick Owens showed men with exposed crotch under tunics, cut to barely cover that daylight-shy area. Social media went wild and, unsurprisingly, birthed the hashtag #dickowens. Yesterday’s peepshow is today’s full boner, but if a fully aroused schlong is only a mouse/screen click away, is wearing an erection on one’s shirt tale even shocking at all?

If only fifteenth century men could teleport themselves to the present, they would be able to see how redundant the codpiece could have been! Didn’t Robert Mapplethorpe himself say, “Beauty and the devil are the same thing”?

A Store That Isn’t Afraid To Stay In The Shadows

image

The Raffles Hotel Shopping Arcade is the last place you’d find a store selling fashion with a certain edge. Sure, there’s Surrender, but that’s where you’d discover rather conventional (but still cool) clothes. And there was Front Row, but that, as you have noted, was. Yet, it is in the retail wing of this grand dame of a hotel that you’ll locate a shrine dedicated to gloomy, goth-centric clothes. L’armoire, officially opened last Friday by Shanghainese husband-and-wife retail newcomers Rocco Wu and Celyn Pan, is, to be more accurate, an armoury for those who need to be shielded in a cloak of mystery or a patina of the deathly.

One name that lords over the 20 odd labels here is Rick Owens. Considered the godfather of gothic resplendence, Mr Owen offers clothes that are not immediately comprehensible, yet are the centre of an alternate universe, where, it seems, the sun don’t shine, and is still populated by a rapidly growing number of fans that completely live and breathe his monochromatic and monastic aesthetic. No figures have been released by the privately owned label, but one projection for the company reported in Complex cited USD120 million (possibly more) of sales for 2014 alone. Small cult following, as it is frequently described?

imageRick Owen’s Seoul store in Shinsa-dong, Gangnam welcomes shoppers with a towering, Madame Tussauds-worthy statue of the designer

The Rick Owen image, while one that marches to its own indefinable beat, is a product of its time. Yet, it is not visually circumscribed by present-day conventions. It is part Judean robes of the 1st Century, part Sith Order coats of an imprecise past (“A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away…”) and part Acolytes motorcycle gear of the “not-too-distant future”. Despite its high-fashion cred, the clothes can look menacing, ironic given the generally languid looks. Mr Owen’s T-shirts, if you can really call them that, are typically so long that the uninitiated are likely going to consider them dresses. These predate anything Givenchy or HBA has done to popularise the elongated men’s wear staple. Together with equally long pullovers and shirts, they influence even the most influential, such as Jay Z and Lenny Kravitz. So well regarded is the Rick Owens tribe that there’s even a Tumblr page called People Wearing Rick Owens.

Adding to the burgeoning figure is the consumption of the brand in the city of Seoul, where Asia’s first Rick Owen store opened in 2011 in a quiet corner of Shinsa-dong, just by Dosan Park, and opposite the Assouline book shop cum café. Bigger than even the Paris flagship at the Palais Royal, the Seoul outpost attests to the stealthy growth of this not-quite-underground renegade label. Even in staid Singapore, guys who appreciate G-Dragon more for the singer’s sartorial sense than vocal might, are adopting Mr Owen’s leaner, longer, looser silhouette. These are more than clothes that bridge the the gender divide.

L'armoireL’armoire’s unassuming store front belies the wealth of alternative fashions to be found inside

To supplement the Rick Owens aesthetics, and in doing so, define L’armoire’s own brand image, other equally dark and dystopian-looking brands hang alongside the former. From Tatsuro Horikawa’s Julius to Munich-born, Barcelona-based Boris Bidjan Saberi to Chinese designer Uma Wang, these names offer all the cowl necks, asymmetric tunics, and distressed leathers you could ever want for your wardrobe. However, despite their hewn edges and crushed surface treatments, these clothes have a certain polish about them that does not negate their luxury status.

Apart from clothes, L’armoire—meaning ‘cabinet’ in French—offers an appealing selection of footwear that, just like the store’s garments, veers towards the off-kilter. Of note is KKtP, a Shanghai-based shoe label conceived by designer Kim Kiroic who produces kicks very much in the vein of Mr Owen’s clomp of footwear. In other words, these are shoes that are perched relatively high on the mid-sole and slapped in the middle, lengthwise, with a monstrous tongue. They boot in the heel what, to many, is considered well-shod. Still, we applaud L’armoire for bringing this alternative world of fashion to Singapore. We sure need it.

L’armoire is at 02-25, Raffles Hotel Shopping Arcade. Photo: Jim Sim