Torture To Go Through

Is it reasonable to spend an hour hitting keys on your smartphone repeatedly to score a pair of shoes and not be rewarded?

By Ray Zhang

“OOPS…” went the full-cap message. Is that the best Nike can do? I sat at my desk five minutes to ten, ready to hit my virtual keyboard on my smartphone so as to enter the necessary information to buy myself a pair of LDWaffle x Sacai x Fragment kicks, launched today on Nike’s SNKR site at 10am. At the precise moment, I selected my size, and hit “Add To Bag”. I was then linked to a page where all my purchase details were listed. I filled in my credit card info, and hit purchase. As if I was played by a ghost (which wouldn’t surprise me since this is the seventh lunar month!), I was brought back to the previous page. Not yet discouraged, I repeated this procedure another ten times at least, and finally I got to the page (above) that went “OOPS”! I would spend the next hour going between the page that asked for my shoe size and the one that expressed surprise at its own blunder. In the mean time, my fingers and my mind were begging for mercy. Despite the exercise I give my thumbs daily, this was still too much stress to expect of them.

Is it reasonable to ask anyone to spend an hour on the same page, doing the same thing, hitting the same keys, looking at the same numbers, reading the same “OOPS” message only to come up naught each time, and be filled with deep disappointment at how unpleasant the entire procedure was? When I checked the page at around 1pm, the shoes were “sold out”. It’s inconceivable to me that a company as massive and wealthy as Nike would put their customers through what I went through. And I was not the only one. Another 12 of my friends who tried came away empty-handed and frustrated—and cursing. One of them said to me, “It is wicked that the biggest brand in the world, with all the resources at hand, would do this to their customers.” If indeed one of the basic tenets of good service is never to let your customer wait (let’s not even talk about letting them down), why did Nike put so many of us through the torment? And if we’re more likely to remember a bad customer experience than good, why would Nike not make purchasing their shoes online even slightly more pleasant?

This is not my first time in such a maddening situation. For as long as I have been using the SNKR site to score a pair of shoes—okay, mostly the Nike X Sacai collabs—I would want to scream my lungs out. I knew my chances here would be as slim as the OG Waffle sole, so I entered the Club 21 raffle last week to, well, double my chance. But someone later told me I would also be wasting my time as Club 21 would likely avail whatever stocks they have to their top-spenders, and I am not one of them. Undeterred, I submitted my details for the raffle. Up till ten last night, I did not hear from them. No word this morning either, not a simple “thank you” for participating. However, on Instagram Stories earlier (close to midnight, I believe), they posted a photo of the shoes and the message, “All winners for the Nike X Sacai X Fragment raffle have been contacted via email. Congratulations to all and thank you everyone for joining.” Should I feel better?

Screen shot: nike.com

This Collab Now Involves Three

Why have two when you can add one more?

Is it possible that when there are more names to a collaboration, the end product would sell better? We might fear the too-many-cooks situation, but brands, especially those seriously trending, are not. In the case of Nike, Fragment Design, and Sacai, three in collaborative mode is the magic number. But how would the extra-name hype increase sales when these collaborative outputs would still be sold in ridiculously limited quantities and priced beyond the reach of the average sneaker lover? We don’t know. As sneaker collabs go, this two-easts-meet-one-west team-up is destined to make big what is already a major hit: the LDWaffle. This time, it is still unmistakably Sacai: double the Swoosh, heel counter, and tongue, and the more obvious the heel wedge, to better let fellow MRT commuters to step on it. But what makes this round of collaboration more desirable is the addition of the third name, spelled out noticeably on the heel wedge. After Fragment Designs, look out for Clot and Undercover, as we have been recently told, courtesy of Edison Chen’s teaser post on Instagram.

Sacai is, of course, the brand name on everyone’s lips these days. No sneaker designer Chitose Abe touches, it appears, does not turn to gold. At least with Nike, that has been the case, starting from the Nike Blazer Mid of 2019. Ms Abe’s former boss Junya Watanabe has, of course, been a long-time Nike collaborator, going back to his debut of the Nike Zoom Haven in 1999 (our favourite is the low-key Super Fly from 2001). At the launch of the Blazer Mid, not many sneakerheads thought Sacai could go as far as Junya Watanabe, but the former did. When the LDWaffle (hybrid of Waffle Daybreak and LDV) appeared in 2020, the sneaker space went berserk. About a year later, the staggering Vaporwaffle, with its gaping heel, sealed the deal and Sacai’s reputation as the collaborator that can produce extreme sneakers that sell was cemented.

That Fragment Design is in the triumvirate is not surprising. Hiroshi Fujiwara’s work with Nike goes back even further: to 2002 when the other threesome—Mr Fujiwara, Tinker Hatfield and Mark Parker (both from Nike) formed HTM (from the initials of their first names) and, later, HTM2, the project that would, hitherto, produce grail-level sneakers. Sneakerheads never get enough of his output, including those under the Air Jordan imprint. Nike’s global director of influencer marketing and collaborations, Fraser Cooke, once said to the media that Mr Fujiwara “has remained relevant for so long because he has good taste and a very acute sense of timing—he’s good at partnering with the right people at the right time.” And that he is a prolific collaborator helps too. The founder of Fragment Design’s other presently-trending collaboration is with Travis Scott, also in partnership with Nike—Air Jordan 1.

For this iteration of the LDWaffle involving Fragment Design, Mr Fujiwara picked a navy, later named Blackened Blue, as the shade of the mesh and suede upper. There’s something almost old-school about the kicks in this colour, a chromatic hush that Nike called “understated”. The heel wedge in white, acting like an underscore, comes with the branding of all three, with Nike’s known simply as ”the classic” (the double Swooches enough to take the place of a single four-letter name?). On the second (bottom) layer of the two tongues, Fragment Design’s logo of the double thunder bolt within a circle is immediately discernible. To fans, this is possibly the most important inclusion above all else. Read, even now, sold out!

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.

LDWaffle x Sacai x Fragment Blackened Blue, SGD249, will be available on the Nike e-store on 24 August 2021, 10am. Product photos: Nike

The Sacai-ing Of The Swoosh

One of the most successful sportswear pairings returns, and now with clothing for men

Is Sacai the most popular Japanese label right now? And the most trending? From constantly being in the fashion news cycle, it’s already a resounding yes. But the label’s success is not only from the free publicity it gets. It’s also in the merchandise they can sell. And they sure can, especially with their collaborations. Just look at the last sellout: the once-old-school Nike sneaker, the Blazer Low, released on 10 June, and all snapped up within 30 minutes at Nike’s website. Or, the LDVaporWaffle, conceived for Jean Paul Gaultier, released just before the couture show last month—they’re similarly out of stock within minutes. The micro-site set up for the special commemorative merchandise is now marked by “sold out” throughout. In fact, Nike’s collaboration with Sacai generally enjoys close-to-100% sell-through and is considered as desirable as the sportswear giant’s with other Japanese brands such as Comme des Garçons, Junya Watanabe, and Undercover.

And now, Sacai is launching its largest capsule with Nike to date, including, for the first time, apparel specifically for men. Released in Japan and globally yesterday, the collection will be available here at DSMS from tomorrow. Expect a fiercely enthusiastic turnout even when many would not be there to witness Sacai expressing “the value of connecting everything in sports as imagination, potential, and vitality… a mixture of all the elements of sport, such as creativity and overflowing fun”, so stated in their media release. It is doubtful anyone would don a S$379 hoodie to Kallang Tennis Centre or True Fitness, but they might be enticed by seriously stylish clothing that they could wear when bringing a date to the cinema. The eye-popping Nike X Sacai LDV Waffle needs a companion top. As we have come to expect of Sacai, her wearable pieces of cropped tops, hoodies, jackets, skirts, pants, and leggings will bear the Japanese label’s love of unexpected details: inserts, uneven hems, paneling, and even the utility pocket (usually associated with a flight jacket) on the sleeve—Windrunner-meets-MA-1!

The latest Nike X Sacai Blazer Low: sold out

The American sports brand (now drawing attention at the Olympics, especially with their striking masks), under its Nikelab imprint, and the Japanese fashion burando came together back in 2015 when they released the surprisingly small, eight-piece womenswear capsule that truly surprised and delighted the fashion world in equal measure. This was a collaboration as much as it was a collision. Until then, it was rare to see athletic apparel for women that ultra-feminine. We are referring to the voluminous, flared silhouette, with unapologetically femme details, such as pleats (even plissé) and lace trims. Designer Chitose Abe referenced Nike’s past designs for running, tennis, even American football, but the result looked nothing like what Nike had until then produced. It was like a total remake of the Swoosh aesthetic. And it worked: the collection sold out.

Cut to 2019: Ms Abe took two distinctive Nike silhouettes, the LDV Waffle and the Daybreak, and somehow banged them together to form a new shoe. She did not merely change the fabric or colour of the upper, or add monogrammed panels to the sides; she deconstructed and hybridised. You didn’t think such a shoe could be made. As extreme as the resultant kicks looked then, they were acceptable—more importantly covetable. In that time, the LDV Waffle Daybreak was considered by both journalists and sneakerheads as sneaker of the year. Sacai suddenly became a brand with performance-wear cred—the one to watch. And now with a full clothing line, is an equivalent of Gyakusou in the pipeline for both brands? In Olympics parlance, since we’re just half-way through Tokyo 2020, you always go for gold.

The Sacai X Nike collection is available at Sacai Hilton and DSMS tomorrow. Photos: Sacai X Nike

When Fashion And Functionality Are Friends

Sacai sticks to what they do best

It is surprising that Sacai’s Chitose Abe didn’t stick around in Paris after presenting the Jean Paul Gaultier couture collection three weeks ago. You’d think that since she was already there, she’d show her menswear after that. After all, Sacai has been showing in Paris since 2011 (except during these pandemic times). Instead, she returned to Tokyo and issued a set of photographs for the brands men’s spring/summer 2022 collection (and the women’s resort) that was shot in Paris—possibly before she left—at the Odéon-Théâtre de l’Europe on the Left Bank and its surroundings. Odéon-Théâtre de l’Europe is one of the six national theatres of France, and the present building (1819) is the third iteration. The original building was inaugurated by none other than Marie Antoinette. It was here that Beaumarchais’s Le Mariage de Figaro debuted some two years later. Despite the building’s historicity, the photos projected an unmistakable street vibe. Ms Abe isn’t, perhaps, ready for an IRL show or maybe doing couture took its toll. Despite the heady schedule (there was also last month’s Dior men’s capsule designed in Tokyo and the KAWS collab, just to name two), she did produce the men’s collection, albeit showing it off-season, or, rather, not during PMFW. This has not reduced the impact that Sacai’s clothes tend to have, alongside her compatriot (and former colleague) Junya Watanabe, on the Paris menswear season.

Sacai has been consistent in that respect. And just as consistent is her weakness for collaborations. Just these past two months, she has paired with close to half-a-dozen names. So it’s no surprise that she is at it again, this time with ACRONYM, the German brand esteemed by streetwear die-hards. For Sacai, functionality isn’t permutations of the sweatpants (although there were those matched with chinos, we vaguely recall). For her, they would have to be existing clothes—or brands—already deeply performance-oriented. It is, therefore, understandable why she finds a connection with ACRONYM, the 27-year-old brand, whose co-founder Errolson Hugh was appointed as creative director of the resurrected Nikelab ACG in 2014 (he left in 2018). Rumours had in fact appeared online before the Sacai spring/summer 2022 reveal that a collab between the German and Japanese brands was in the works. And then there they are—the “cross-pollination”: striking water-repellent techwear for the urban-sphere, featuring utility pockets, bonded seams, and watertight zippers. Military details include one side of velcros (so that you can provide your own name tags?) and both brand’s predilection for unusually placed pockets—this season, slightly off-centre in the front, so that they won’t look too much like a built-in chest rig.

Ms Abe cannot, of course, do away with military looks—the MA jacket, for one (also an ACRONYM fave). The first look (are they still sequenced even with photographs?) is dominated by another version with fresh details: the front of the yoke (curved) brought lower, along which runs zippers (presumably to secure hidden pockets, the distinctive off-centre pouch pocket, as well as additional flaps and pockets and seams for the sleeve. For fans, which are purportedly growing by the legion, such is the thrill of a Sacai garment—there is much to see and appreciate in just one item, and that, in turn, is value for money. You get more parts than a regular MA jacket (or any other outerwear) and the bragging rights to show off a fetching sum that really is greater than its parts. And if those components are not enough, there is the bringing together of disparate garments that Sacai has built its name on, although, unusually, there are fewer of them this season, or, perhaps, just not immediately discernible.

There are pieces that are closer to the sportif, and outers that wouldn’t be out of place at a higher altitude, among rocks and trees. But most of the pieces would really do well within urban environs, such as the 6th arrondissement of the Odéon-Théâtre de l’Europe. In addition, buffalo checks and paisley bandana prints (pattern on pattern, print on print) would appeal to those for whom even the modest motifs are necessary to make an online impression, as do stronger colours, such as wellies-yellow, vivid turquoise, and a pink so unmissable it can only be called hot. Ms Abe may be partial to these not-typically-masculine colours, but, contrary to what was evident in Paris weeks earlier, she did not show anything that bear a semblance to skirts. Is it possible that, despite pronounced aesthetical shifts, Chitose Abe still prefers her menswear to be unmistakably so?

Photos: Sacai

’Ow Do You Hybridise That?

Chitose Abe’s take on Jean Paul Gaultier couture for autumn/winter 2021 is all singing and dancing Sacai

It’s certainly a masterclass on “’ow to do dat in a new way”, as Jean Paul Gaultier rapped in the soundtrack of his Michel Gaubert-remixed 1989 “house couture” single, How to do That. In the original track, Mr Gaultier spoke-sang through the song and answered his own question: “Bring some technic… idea…” (which spun into another song Technic Idea, with the catchy refrain “How to do that”!). And techniques and ideas were certainly what Sacai’s Chisato Abe brought to JPG in her debut collection for the French house—indeed, her first attempt at haute couture. Fans of JPG were thrilled that the brand could be fashioned in such and haute and outre manner. All JPG’s favorite visual themes (or ‘codes’) were there, but turned upside down, inside out. This is the Frankenstein love child of Sacai and Jean Paul Gaultier that you could adore—born immaculately— since this is not Sacai X JPG (or vice versa). This is JPG by Sacai. And what jumped out at us are Sacai hacking JPG; this is less homage than let’s put Sacai on the JPG stage.

To be sure, it is a momentous take on JPG by Chisato Abe, and a testament to her astounding technical ability to bring together different parts, indeed different garments, together by stitching that could possibly be beyond even JPG’s most advanced metier (how do you join so many shoulders-looking parts to a waist to form a skirt?). But Ms Abe cannot divorce herself from her RTW roots. While Sacai seems to be paring down the splicing and the conjoining (as seen in the spring/summer 2021 and the recent autumn/winter collections), she is amping up the melding (not necessarily unifying) at JPG, as if to show off what she can do. Must every look be an obvious draughting challenge or a technical marvel? It was also sometimes difficult to see the difference between this couture and her own pret-a-porter. Or, whether the clothes were assembled in Paris or Tokyo (for it to qualify as haute couture, they have to be made in Paris, although “guests designers” can work outside the city. But you get our point). The beauty of having carte blanche to do as one pleases!

Chisato Abe told WWD Japan: “I loved his collections since I was in my twenties, and what I was conscious of was the feeling of happiness and the freedom of breaking preconceived ideas. However, it is not the same as the old Gaultier. I wanted to make clothes that are just like Sacai.” And that she did. Ms Abe is a maximalist designer, but not in the Dolce & Gabbana school, or, closer home, Guo Pei. Encrusting and bejeweling is not her vernacular—not in a major way (when she did decorate—metallic embroidery, no less, she obscured them with profusion of tulle!), yet she could astonishingly create a sum so much more than its unlikely parts or extrusions. We think even Mr Gaultier himself has never assembled this many components in a single garment (excluding embellishments).

She interlaced and intertwined, wed and weaved recognisable JPG codes until they were not quite. An outfit might look like an identifiable bustier corset (less pointy than those Madonna wore, more Cardin than Gaultier) on the top, but if you allowed your eyes to marvel further down, it looked like a trench coat mis-worn. What you see in front is not what you’Il get in the back: a denim trucker-and-skirt-onesie is, in the rear, a jacket and bustle-skirt. No part of a garment cannot be undone and decamped for somewhere else. The shoulder of a military jacket can be repositioned so that there would be a one-sided pannier to the right hip. She used denim jeans (Levi’s upcycled, unlike Balenciaga’s custom-woven in Japan using vintage American looms, more like Maison Margiela’s “found pieces”? Or Junya Watanabe?) not as pants; she joined multiple pairs at the waist so they formed cartridge-pleated skirts. Nothing was what they seemed, even the prosaic could have the guise of historical homage.

She didn’t only pick the JPG pieces Madonna wore to reimagine, but also what Bjork modelled, in particular the jerkin coat with the massive JPG logo for the autumn/winter 1994 Le Grand Voyage collection, one inspired by Tibetan sherpa’s garb that surprisingly has not been tagged cultural appropriation (not in 1994, but presently?). Mr Gaultier famously put men in skirts. Ms Abe put them in dresses. Wasn’t this a first, too, for her? By now, of course, there is nothing subversive about men in non-bifurcated garb, as it was in the mid-’80s. Nor, respectable Breton stripes made of layered, ripped fabric strips, nor sneakers (extending Sacai’s collaboration with Nike) in couture. While there was indeed a lot to take in, we really wanted something more agitational, something that would blow us away. That truly didn’t appear.

Screen grab (top): Jean Paul Gaultier by Sacai. Photos: Gorunway

West Meets East: Dior X Sacai

Kim Jones shows how much he admires Chitose Abe as Sacai becomes his latest Stussy

Dior is on a collaboration roll. Sacai is on a collaboration roll. It’s really a matter of time when the two brands will find each other. We’re surprised it was not sooner. Dior’s Kim Jones wrote on Instagram that Sacai’s Chitose Abe “has been a friend for about 15 years”. It’s amazing that in this time, Mr Jones has not thought of pairing with Ms Abe. Until the pandemic strikes and he misses “friends and travel”; until he could no longer visit Japan, where he and his team “visited a lot”. “We started a conversation about working together,” he wrote, “and did this collection over a period of lockdown, sending samples and sketches back and forth.” Collaboration has, for a long time, the sense of cooperating in close proximity. Now, that may only be feasible by connecting remotely and digitally. It does make us wonder if the partnership would have yielded a stronger result if they had, in fact, been able to be in each other’s company and allowed the proverbial ideas to bounce off each other.

The images that Dior made available to the media do not really reveal a lot. Sacai’s clothes are always more complex than they appear, but how much of that complexity is absorbed into the Dior aesthetic isn’t immediately discernible. Mr Jones isn’t the kind of designer that Ms Abe is—a brilliant and tenacious technician. He tends to play it straight. Hybridisation is not his forte. Nor, are unusual cuts (Ms Abe was a pattern-maker at Comme des Garçons before starting her own label). Compare Mr Jones’s ‘remake’ of Nike’s Air Jordan 1 for Dior (which is still asking five-figures sums!) to Ms Abe’s Nike Blazer for Sacai (we’ll just stick to basketball shoes). And the difference is clear. One is happy to go with the as-is, while the other is eager to see what are other possibilities, such as ripping apart and redoing. Or, perhaps, the mere pairing of Dior and Sacai is hybridising itself?

With a touch of Sacai, Dior is looking better than ever. The 57-piece capsule still bears the touches of Kim Jones, for sure. The clothes definitely is still amped-up to hit luxury’s high notes—for example, the fabrics are still heavy—but they look less couture-fied, as if Ms Abe had, at her end in Tokyo, relaxed this and that. There is the clearly casual ‘shacket’ (shirt-jacket that is more a Japanese obsession than French), with zipped pockets that might have been plucked from an MA-1 bomber jacket, which Ms Abe often reinterprets or adapts from. In fact, no Sacai anything is complete without it and the MA-1 makes it Dior appearance, slightly longer and with a two-zip fastening. Another Sacai detail is the draw-cord hem on shirts—Dior didn’t omit that. Nor, the Sacai two-layer shirttails that contrast the woven with the knit. Re-looking at the images, what struck us as possibly clever is that Dior fans will see Dior and Sacai followers will be able to suss out Sacai.

And there are the accessories. The Diorness is unmistakable, as in their structured forms. And, of course, the Saddle Bag, but now, not offered in its original (reintroduced) shape. A Prada-ish tote, for example, comes with the signature leather flap of the Saddle. A D-ring attached to one end of the handle allows a water bottle and its nylon/leather sleeve to be attached. The side of the bag also sports lacing that is reminiscent of backpacks that have similarly fastened cords to hold skateboards. These function-first details, often seen in Sacai designs, is very much a Japanese design vernacular and is often seen in the work of Sacai’s compatriot label Kolor (Ms Abe is married to its founder/designer Junichi Abe). But perhaps the most coveted will be anything with the new logo: the Dior text with Sacai stretched out on the ‘i’. And if one, emblazoned across the back of a top, is any indication, Dior is going to have another Stussy in its hands.

Photos: Brett Lloyd/Dior

All Ruffled Up

Two of the prettiest bags from what’s been called a “cult” collaboration—Sacai X Tomo Koizumi. And they’re unisex

Even if the It bag is not quite back, statement bags are, well, making quite a statement. The collaboration between Sacai and compatriot Tomo Koizumi is now one of the buzziest partnerships Chitose Abe has taken on (other than her approaching debut under Jean Paul Gaultier Couture). Both Japanese designers have transformed a simple ovaloid shape into a fluffed-up ruff in gradated colours that could be mistaken for oversized haute shower puffs. Amazingly, despite its delicate form, the bags are marketed to guys as well. Aptly 2021? In in one of the promotional images—released by Sacai—that featured ten ‘regular’ folks as models, exactly half are men, and each is carrying one of these tutus-disguised-as-bags, masculinity intact.

Tomo Koizumi is quite the star of the current group of rising Japanese designers. As the popular telling goes, Mr Koizumi was “discovered” by British stylist and Love mag’s EIC Katie Grand through fellow countryman Giles Deacon. He was tagged “breakout star” when he debuted his autumn/winter 2019 collection in New York, in the Marc Jacobs Madison Avenue store. Through Ms Grand, the who’s who of New York fashion supported and attended the event. International acclaim followed. He would go on to be the co-winner of the 2020 LVMH Prize (the €300,000 award was split equally among the eight finalists). In Asia, Mr Koizumi’s work gained tremendous traction from the time Hong Kong songbird Miriam Yeung (杨千嬅) commissioned the designer to create her 2019 world tour and Thai editor and socialite Nichapat Suphap wore a custom Koizumi dress to the Met Gala of the same year, themed Camp.

Initially launched in China last year, as part of the Hello Sacai pop-up’s special merchandise, the bags, available in three colours, have finally reached our shore. The crunchy ruffles are made of Japanese polyester organza and holds their fluffiness well, even after hugging them or leaning on them, like one would against a cushion. The tote bag (that’s what it’s called) comes with cowhide handles that sit comfortably in the crook of your arm, but aren’t long enough to go on the shoulder. It does, however, come with a slim, adjustable strap—also in cowhide—that can be attached to the tote for crossbody use.

By contrast, the more compact bum bag has more of Sacai’s sense of hybridisation. It sports details that reflect Ms Abe’s love of military wear. Here, the organza ombré gathers are paired with a nylon belt (on which kindred straps and hardware are afixed) that looks like shoulder straps dismembered from a backpack issued as part of the SBO during National Service! Strapped across the chest, it has a frou-frou front, but on the back, a totally tough-looking harness. Totally captivating.

Sacai X Tomo Koizumi tote, SGD1, 930, and belted pouch, SGD820, are available at Sacai, Hilton Shopping Gallery. Beware: many are sold out. Photos: Sacai

Sacai Does Soignée

Is Chisote Abe in a couture state of mind?

It’s five months after the last autumn/winter presentations during menswear fashion week in Paris, and we’re still seeing the season’s collections being shown. It is clearer than ever that fashion weeks as we know (knew?) them don’t matter much anymore. Nor if showing in Paris, traditionally the most important city in which to unveil a collection, really matters, even when the city, as a fashion capital, is still important. In stores, such as our Club 21, pre-sale of the spring/summer collections have already begun. It is, therefore, hard to place Sacai’s latest show, unmistakably broadcast from Tokyo, in the scheme of things and the selling season. Surely, the clothes were available to buyers much earlier? Or is Sacai pursuing some form of see-now-buy-now model?

In fact, designer Chisote Abe’s Parisian haute couture debut is near. In July, she will be showing her debut collection for Jean Paul Gaultier as the latter’s first guest designer to interprete Mr Gaultier couture. This was supposed to take place last year, but as with so many partnerships and events in fashion due to the pandemic, it didn’t happen. But no designer is turning back on their pairing, and Ms Abe will show in Paris in the month after next. It is a much anticipated couture collection, just as Balenciaga’s return to couture under Demna Gvasalia is (also for July). Which makes us wonder if the Sacai autumn/winter season is a foretaste of what Ms Abe might produce for JPG? It is, after all, remarkably elegant, almost to the point of special-occasion dressing.

That the outdoor show suggested nightfall (in Tokyo) rather than the time-non-specific of a staging in a neutral interior space seemed to say that the clothes are indeed for when dressing up under dim lights or atmosphere that suggests glamour is possible again. And that the models emerged from a Sacai private helicopter heightened the specialness of the occasion. These outfits are not just for a date at the deli; these would not be out of place at the opera. In fact, some could easily fit and stand out on a red carpet. Ms Abe has always been in touch with the part in her that loves a pretty and dazzling and enchanting dress, but she had always tempered those ultra-femme styles with elements that were off-kilter and definitely military. Her approach is known as ‘hybridising’, or bringing different—often opposing—ideas together, not just seen in those two-in-ones, but also the many-in-ones. She has made this so much her aesthetical signature that in recent years, she seemed to be coasting. Even ardent fans are saying she has become somewhat predictable.

The latest looks, while identifiably Sacai, have a certain beguiling glamour about them, and seemed conceived for women than girls, for keeping than trending. The military-inspired outwear is not surprising, but what is delightful are those dresses with their strength in the way they flow and flatter (the body), not how strangely they distend or tent out. It is the overall sleekness that makes every ensemble eye-catching. Pity the models did not remove the coats to reveal the dresses underneath. Just as it was regrettable that the show was filmed on a set that mimicked Tokyo’s famed Shibuya Crossing, rather than the pedestrian intersection itself. But perhaps this is indication that Sacai is now able to play alongside the big league. The last time a fashion label was able to have their own-branded aircraft, it was Chanel.

Photos: Sacai

DSM Gives Back

A fashion retailer that cares is a fashion retailer that wins

 

DSM IG announcement Jul 2020

Dover Street Market has announced an initiative that applies to the country/city where it has a physical store. Buy a T-shirt from the “Fearless” collection, and “100% of its proceeds go to charities supporting healthcare workers in each of the six DSM regions”. Here, what you pay for will instead go to Beyond Social Services, described on their website as “a charity dedicated to helping children and youths from less privileged backgrounds break away from the poverty cycle”. Enjoying fashion and serving a good cause feel right (and good?) now.

Fearless involves some of the biggest names in luxury fashion, as well as streetwear, twenty eight of them that DSM considers as “friends”. And the store is well-supported. To look out for are Raf Simons, Sacai, Undercover, and Valentino, and, for streetwear junkies, Awake NY, Bianca Chandon, Clot, just to name three. The objective is as simple as it is charitable: “…to create a simple collection of T-shirts that help to spread positive energy through the wider DSM global community and out into the world,” according to DSM.

DSM tees Jul 2020

Fearless comes hot on the heels of the Social Justice Charity Capsule, conceived by the sub-brand CDG to support the Black Lives Matter movement. What were first designed as uniforms for staff to wear to welcome shoppers back to the store after lockdown have become available for sale, presumably due to the intense interest from customers. The positive messages on the garments along the lines of “Believe in a better tomorrow” sync with the present global sentiment that calls for massive social change.

Prices of the T-shirts are not yet available as we hit the publish button. It is hard to make a guess as DSM does carry tees of a rather wide price range. We suspect they will retail for SGD100 upwards. This may not be considered outrageous since many are from trending brands. We are certain Doublet’s design of a heart shape, composed of Post-It notes with handwritten messages on them will be first to be snapped up. The Fearless Initiative launches tomorrow at DSMS, as well as online. Shop and do some good.

Photos: (main and products) DSM. Collage: Just So

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

Dress Watch: A Sweater Top

The Sacai X John Smedley collaboration ticks all the right boxes for easy-to-wear

Sacai X John Smedley sweater

Fine and delicate is this sweater, not the rugged, almost fishermen-styles of those aligned with the trending homespun, craft-centric looks favoured by some designers. Sacai’s take on a classic turtleneck sweater, conceived in partnership with the revered knitwear firm of John Smedley is a study in modesty that’s tilted towards the Gibson Girl than Audrey Hepburn: it can’t get more feminine than this.

And perhaps that is key. Also known as the polo neck (as polo players wear them almost like uniforms), this sweater risks being just a garment Steve Jobs (and his female followers) used to wear (as uniform!) if not for the sheer panel on the bodice and the equally filmy sleeves. Sure, it’s a little restrained for a Sacai garment considering how designer Chitose Abe loves all manner of insets and add-ons afixed to what would otherwise have been fairly basic garments. Case in point: her latest collab with Nike, featuring separates that look like amalgamations of more than two items.

That the sweater is produced by John Smedley may add to its appeal. There is, after all, a predilection for brands to work with heritage knitwear manufacturers. Touted as the “oldest knitwear factory in the world” (into its 235th year!), John Smedley is one of those British labels with a deep sense of the past that especially appeals to hip brands—even those not aesthetically heritage-leaning, such as Ms Abe’s former employer Comme des Garçons and colleague Junya Watanabe. Typical of how Japanese designers approach classic designs, Chitose Abe has allowed the turtleneck sweater’s silhouette to be recognisable, but within that, tweaks that allow for distinction that may stand the test of time. It was once called mileage. Sacai shows us we could use some of that.

Sacai X John Smedley sweater, SGD900, is available at DSMS. Photo: DSM/Sacai

The Double Swoosh

Sacai makes you see double

 

Sacai X Nike Blazer Mid SS 2019

By Shu Xie

Good things come in pairs, they say. Swooshes, too, it seems. Sacai’s partnership with Nike has yielded some fine kicks—this season is no exception. Or, perhaps, more exceptional for the extra Swoosh that the Japanese brand has given the side of this Blazer Mid, a shoe Nike calls “heritage” and was first released in 1972. But the twice-the-number treatment did not stop at Nike’s trademark logo. It’s two of what can be doubled on a pair of sneakers: laces, tongues, and even the mid-soles. I’m just surprised they didn’t double the pair—buy one, get two!

Frankly, I am not sure if the sum is really double the fun, but it does render the Blazer Mid a certain interest I usually associate with Vans going atas when they, too, go into designer collabs. I know this season, most sneakerheads are talking about the other Sacai X Nike sneaker, the LDV Waffle, a shoe so anticipated, so colour-saturated, so visually appealling, it could be this year’s Undercover X Nike React Element 87, but I feel Sacai’s remake of the Blazer Mid is less trying (actually, I am, foremost, mad about Undercover X Nike’s upcoming Daybreak running shoe).

Sacai x Nike Blazer Mid Black Blue.jpgSacai x Nike Blazer Mid Black Blue

The Blazer Mid is essentially a skateboarding shoe. Or, at least that’s what it started out as. Sacai’s, when shown during the spring/summer 2019 presentation last year, pushed aside anything skater-like for a styling that’s more stoked than any sneaker Supreme has outputed with Nike. The way you, too, could do it is, of course, wear the Blazer Mid unlaced, as on the runway. How that would not look contrived, I can’t say for sure.

A friend of mine told me recently that fashionistas/influencers formerly not into sneakers (for whatever sartorial reason) are now rapidly into track and court shoes “because Comme and Sacai are doing Nike.” More than that. These brands are adding and, in some cases, leading the race in kicks that are weird and wonderful. Fashion folk don’t do re-issues that come in a new colour: see how quickly the Stan Smith faded. They prefer a fasntastic construct, better still, de-construct. Clothes isn’t getting madder, but sneakers just got started.

Sacai X Nike Blazer Mid is available at DSMS today, but by the time you read this, the raffle for the shoe has ended, and you’ll probably be left with hope for a re-release. Alternatively, try DistriSneaks online. Photos: Sacai and Nike