1.7.14

Lovebirds during fashion week have been my addiction of late. Because, who can resist some good loving and good style?



There are two reasons we should envy models. One, they are good-looking. Two, they complement that beautiful imperfection of theirs (I vehemently believe that imperfection actually makes you even more attractive) when they consciously couple with another model. Jimmy Q—worry not if you are not familiar with the name—the model who is part of the tattoo troop is now happily holding hands (and kissing, and hugging, and doing all those things that make others envious) with Leia Contois, another model whose body is also beautifully emblazoned with ink.  


Looking at the two I cannot help but thinking about other fashion couples. They obviously dress well, but most importantly, they are aware of their cool factor and proudly show it. Jimmy Q and Leia Contois saunter the men’s fashion week in style-coordinated clothes and do not hesitate in posing for the street-style photographers. In another fashion week, there are Justin O’Shea and Veronika Heilbrunner bringing their couple’s style A-game to the street. I then wonder what the September hectic weeks will present us with. More fashion couples, anyone?  


P.S. the first post about fashion couple is here.

images: style.com, streetfsn.blogspot.com

2.6.14

ON RADAR | Made in Indonesia

A case of irony: Luxury fashion houses boast the exotic appeal of made-in-Indonesia products while the locals are on the hunt of the next (insert prominent designers' name here).




I procrastinate a lot. And I think my procrastination really mounts while writing delaying this post. Perhaps that is because my heart slightly sank every time I encounter really fresh, immaculately designed pieces that are crafted from Indonesian materials, but not produced by Indonesians. A French fashion brand Maiyet, as an example, commits to support Indonesian batik artisans and reworks the fabric into beautiful dresses for their spring 2013 collection. They employ sustainable systems, managing various sources of original craftsmen to produce batches of high quality materials without neglecting their quality of life. Such practice is definitely positive, and responded positively, too as justified by the pricey tag they put on the finished products. Analysing it further, however, the success of Maiyet in sourcing their material from (mostly) developing countries arises a question: Who really gets the benefit here?

Dries Van Noten applies batik for the spring/summer 2010 collection. John Hardy establishes a workshop in Bali and has its business soaring across the globe. Vianel releases a card case made of Indonesian ring lizard's skin. Shall Indonesians be proud or worried? With the cost of doing business and acquiring natural resources is relatively low here, I wonder how the supply chain of those fashion products goes. On one hand I am excited that several elements from my country are highly appreciated (thus the price), but on the other hand I still sense the deteriorating condition of people being in the ground zero (places where those companies source their materials). I am definitely in no place to judge since some of the aforementioned companies claim to have a sustainable operation in this country, but how far can one monetise what supposedly belongs to the nation?

Simultaneously, we have mushrooming growth of local fashion industry here; there is undoubtedly a growing number of local business pushing forward an empowerment of other local sources. But awareness of those products remain low. Instead, people try to find references to the "international" fashion. The media echoes brilliance of local designers with certain fashion powerhouses as benchmarks. Just like the analogy of chicken and egg, there are also numerous designs that recall to "high fashion" pieces. The adoption of aesthetics even goes as far as reworking the traditional clothes into series of hopeful "avant-garde" pieces. So which triggering which?

Those three paragraphs with three question marks by the end of them should really signal something to you. Because really, the whole "made-in-Indonesia" conundrum is not an easy one to solve. What we can perhaps do, as detached watchdogs or mere consumers, is knowing exactly where we spend our money on. Be it something locally produced or internationally branded, make sure you pick the right side.

Image is from Maiyet.

7.4.14

While internet offers uncountable options, fashion is experiencing a uniformity of taste.



Internet has liberated fashion in a way that fashion cannot even liberate itself. This very moment is the time when fashion bloggers are applauded for their style mastery, when #ootd (stands for outfit of the day) hashtag will guarantee more likes than book-related photos in Instagram and when fashion week has gradually lost its relevance. Take an example from how easy it is for people to tune in style.com and other websites to see the latest collection looks and even live-stream the runway shows.

If we are to list internet influences on liberating fashion, a logical path we are supposed to find is a more diverse fashion scene, where people get a platform to express their individualities and brands are able to engage the consumers personally. And at a glimpse, that is indeed what happens. Most notably marked with the birth of fashion bloggers and online shopping behavior, fashion appears to let go of its exclusivity factor and comes out as a royalty ready to mingle. (disclosure: as a matter of fact, as I’m writing this piece, I cannot keep my fingers from changing tabs to several blogs) Internet has become such a warmhearted playground for those whose wardrobe is too outrageous or those who want to channel their “creativity” outside the real life. The world wide web with its gargantuan space thus welcomes innumerable takes on fashion.

But, really, is that what happens?

Yes, bloggers get the chance to show off their individual style, but are their styles any different? Counting how many similar products the bloggers have can tell you better. Yes, we all can upload our “outfit of the day,” but are our outfits strikingly different? Your Instagram filter can perhaps illustrate better. This so-called democracy of fashion, it turns out, brings an anonymity and uniformity of taste.

What I’d like to address with "boringness" in fashion and style accounts to our unhappiness to the innumerable choices. Or at least, that is what the internet entities think we feel. Thus every day we are offered chances to “curate” what we see through who we’re following on social media channels, which websites we are subscribed to, and even we can handpick whose feeds we will be presented with upon signing in to Facebook. With these whole additional and more diverse options, people start to filter and choose who they want to be exposed with. And by the end of the day, once you read or view the same thing on a regular basis, you become that thing.

After all, maybe uniformity in fashion isn’t entirely dangerous so the designers can predict better what each customer likes. And to us? More likes for our #ootd posts because we can easily predict what kind of photo the majority likes. Therefore I’d like to welcome you to the future of online fashion. The future that believes in “minimalism” and “nineties” as evident on the latest runway of a lot of major fashion houses, the future that encourages commercialism but forgets to celebrate diversity. The future that casts out your individual style statement. The future you may not belong to.

image is from tumblr

29.3.14

Forget work and start enjoying life.








I find myself longing for a light, airy, spacious home of my own. It will be the place where I am fully in my skin, comfortable and honest. And these imageries are part of that longing--an imagination now, a reality later. Until then, I am keeping my fingers crossed and at the same time, typing to earn that dream. Happy weekend, everyone!


18.3.14

Much hyped, little known. I attempt to uncover Japanese cult fashion brand, Undercover.

Undercover Spring 2004 sending twins down the runway

I initially fancied Jun Takahashi's work, the designer of Undercover, in the middle of a desperate spring/summer 2014 fashion week. Among most highly commercialised, little creativity-infused shows, there was a real gem showing with a bang. Back then I didn't realise that Takahashi is no dark horse in the business (he maybe was, but I was obviously wrong) since his collection appears really fresh, almost untouched by the commercial wisdom that has long disoriented fashion industry. His word play of GODS x DOGS, GUNS x SNUG and so on reflects much of the creativity and his rebellious side.

Fall 2005-2006

Undercover itself came into inception in 1993, but it is in 2002 that the label started showing in Paris. In 2011, Takahashi took a two-year absence after a tsunami and earthquake hit his homeland, Japan. Bringing his Japanese sensibilities on the brand, Takahashi bridges couture-like treatment on board with certain wit and eccentricity no other designer has. On one side his designs remind me of Margiela's and Westwood's but on the other side it feels like a whole different world altogether. "Punk" is how the designer describes the brand--and his personal style. Shredded, deconstructed, subversive pieces are his go-to designs, in a way challenging fashion industry's resonance of everything perfectly polished.


Inside Jun Takahashi's scrapbook (from A Magazine Curated By)

There are several, if not all, collections that have catapulted Undercover to stardom. Takahashi always tickles the senses of the viewers with tantalising fashion shows. They are fascinating and eerie at times, such as the time when the model's lineup consisted of identical twins wearing similar clothes (Spring 2004) or when all models strut the catwalk with masked face (Fall 2006). Takahashi, too, addresses global issues in his collection. Take a look at his Fall 2007 creations in which he adapted NASA technology for the clothes that will stand the harsh change of climate. Even Takahashi can turn American preppy look into certain subversion by covering the models' head with latex (Fall 2008).

Undercover Fall 2006

Undercover Fall 2007

Undercover Fall 2008

Takahashi is also a runner, which is perhaps why he taps into a collaboration with renowned sports brand Nike for several installments. With the name Undercover Gyakusou he works closely with Nike's Apparel Innovation Design Team to explore the latest technology in sportswear. The Japanese designer's collaborative effort also stretches to the world of publishing, in which he guest-edits an issue of A Magazine Curated By, an insider magazine that invites brilliant names in fashion designers to curate an issue. Maison Martin Margiela, Riccardo Tisci and Yohji Yamamoto are among its impressive guest editors.

Nike x Undercover Gyakusou

The designer models his own collection in collaboration with Nike

more about Undercover: www.undercoverism.com

14.3.14

Let's assess the new normal in fashion.

If wearing black turtleneck and sweater is considered normcore, what about a Chanel sweater?

Comfortable is the new key word in fashion, signaled by one of Cathy Horyn's last piece in NYT titled "Slave No More" and the elaborate, viral piece regarding "normcore" penned by Fiona Duncan in The Cut. Then Buzzfeed jumps in the conversation with a new term for dressing in comfortable, loose pieces called "frumpterable". But vivid proofs are not lacking, either. Just take a walk online and you will most likely encounter street style photos of so-called fashionistas in flats and sneakers, ditching their painful heels for a slightly understated look. Or you can find a number of fashion shows, Chanel included, clashing sweatpants, oversized coats and sneakers (or sneakers hybrid like Raf Simons' latest invention in Dior) together.

So what's the deal with comfortable pieces? Aren't they supposed to be worn daily? Aren't all your clothes are comfortable? Otherwise, what is the point of wearing them?

"Normcore is a desire to be blank. Fundamentally, the way that we thought about it at K-HOLE is that people used to be born into communities and were, sort of, thrust into the world and had to find their own individuality. And I think today, people are born individuals and are trying to find their communities," explains the original "normcore" initiator, the New York-based trend forecasting group. By what it signifies, the understanding of normcore being the fashion that is bland and plain is not entirely correct. Suppose you want to enter a group full of trend-conscious people, and having the principle of normcore in your head, you wish to be able to fit it and thus start to adopting the trend. Nevertheless, the icons of normcore as "appointed" by K-HOLE themselves are Steve Jobs who consistently wears black turtleneck and jeans, Jerry Seinfeld with his far-from-notable outfits, and should I add, the Olsen twins--those who wear monochromatic outfits and look "just like anybody else".

The weakness in normcore, albeit it reflects how our society longs for a sense of belongingness (by being nothing, that is), is that diversity is minimized. But the truth is that, you cannot easily dismiss your difference just by dressing or acting like anyone else. What about ethnicity, skin color and even personality? Those are what we all acquire from gene and thus become inevitable differentiating factor. In other words, being blank is impossible, and pardon me, stupid. Because people are not supposed to be blank--they are here to encourage and value differences. It is when a social group is able to embrace different kinds of styles and personalities, it can be regarded as a successful group.

To delve further to the matter, there is frumpterable, a rising trend of wearing simple, basic, perhaps too loose pieces of clothing and not care about it. On one side I see it as personalized, individual take since what simple for one person is not simple for others, and it actually points out to a celebration of anti-everything-changes-every-six-months that releases us from doing unnecessary spending. On the other hand, it feels like a form of neglect--a neglect of good, presentable, flattering style. Although the street style photographs of fashionable packs during fashion week proves otherwise, I still think that this frumpterable thing is not for everybody, especially not if you wish to impress others the very first time they meet you.

Sensing how fashion starts to become comfortable, and tend to be lazy, is somewhat discouraging. I am not implying that we should opt for flashy items or adopt trend religiously, but rather to consider what works for us. The aim, by the end of the day, is to be able to curate a set of styles in which we can both feel comfortable and beautiful. I am not ready to forgo that beautiful part, and I hope you are not, too.

Photo is from style.com


10.3.14

Outspoken editor-in-chief is a rare breed these days.


The last time I clicked on "New Post", I was impulsive. It was late night and I was wondering why I cannot get over how bland the fashion week is. The only interesting bite is the street style capture, but it isn't that captivating either. Even after viewing Ghesquiere debut in Louis Vuitton, I still could not shake the feeling of blandness. But that, I suppose, would be another post. 

Lamenting over the death of fashion industry would be a long talk. 

A refreshing point of view I found came from the editor-in-chief of Vogue Italia, none other than the witty, clever, all-womanly Franca Sozzani, who does not only have an impeccable style and direction but also has an impeccable way of thinking. She runs a routine editor column in the magazine's website www.vogue.it and pens her thoughts every day. I mean, how many editors are doing what she is doing these days? On March 7, she posted this and I could not agree more. It is her post-fashion-week thought, how to digest every bits she has witnessed on the runway and what we are supposed to do with it.

"After over a month of runway shows, presentations, fashion events, within a primarily ‘fashionista’ world, the time has come to think about all we have seen, about the inputs we have received.

This is the best time because I still haven’t decided what to do for the magazine, how to outline the next issue, and like the French say, I have time to 'prendre du recul', to get a 'global' but more ‘complete’ perspective, with some more detachment.


You also realize that things you had instinctively liked very much, with a little more aloofness now seem a little ‘overdone’ and less original. You feel as if you were re-assembling a jigsaw and now each piece in in the right place.


This is the moment you realize that you don’t care what people think and what you read in the press, but with a clearer mind you shape your own opinion on the collections showcased.


My idea is that people do not care for a too-studied fashion, that is flawless from a shared aesthetic point of view, and maybe flawed from another, less trendy, perspective."

A little overdone and less original, true that those collections somehow fall into the trap of mediocrity. But Sozzani really put it eloquently: that this is the moment we would not care what people think and what we read in the press.

Read the full post of her thought here. Photo is from here.

2.3.14

I have seemed to lost the thrills and excitement right when fashion week reaches its height.

Beautiful girl, bored expression always sells

To keep this really straightforward, here are some reasons why I find fashion less interesting these days:

1. The repetitive looks highly inspired by Balenciaga during Ghesquière period and Céline during Philo period for the upcoming fall/winter. There are too many of them--in all New York, London, Milan and Paris it seems that distinguished aesthetics are now gone and replaced by the needs to sell clothes. Or is it because the designers are basically exposed to similar things thanks to popular websites and social media channels?
*inserting the correct French name takes some effort, you know.

2. The stagnancy of fashion blogs. When those popular girls (and boys) depart from their chic environment to the "high fashion" territory, they somehow start to produce similar content in their blogs. Not to mention their similar styles and similar activities during fashion week. Plus the inability of the bloggers to produce high quality review, the whole blogging content is really inundated with various phrases that all mean the same: We love it because we are invited.
*There are still few distinctive bloggers who stand out with their wit and smart take on the collection, but the rest of the pack is really frustrating.

3. Monotonous captures of the "street style personalities" in the so-called leading street style websites. Other than the polished looks on the runway crafted by expert stylists, I pretty much would love to see the pieces on real person. This where the street style photographers are supposed to feed their readers with. But instead of photographing great style regardless of how famous the person is, they consistently take photos of renowned fashion industry insiders. Thus the website appears no different than those of celebrity websites.
*Again, there are several exclusions to this, but I really cannot help but including this disappointing tendency of the street style trend here.

4. Local designers putting unbelievably high price tag on their clothes. Personally, I would love to buy local designers' clothes because that way, I feel like I have partaken in supporting the local talents. But once they start going gaga on pricing, that would be hard for a lot of people to access their clothes. I am not saying that it should be cheap, but there are times when I find crappy cutting, messy lining or mediocre fabric being priced unfairly high. The local brands serving middle class, in particular, are now labelling themselves as "exclusive" thus creating gap for the people to access them. Regular bazaars bringing a number of local brands together are becoming hit and miss, somehow classifying themselves in the category of "cool" and the rests are simply "not cool."

5. Snob fashion insiders. This is a long overdue issue, but the stamp given on the people working in the fashion industry is: They are mean. A more important thing to consider is actually: Is it because of the movie "Devil Wears Prada" or because the fashion workers regard brands and positions more than they regard style and aesthetic?
*Exclusion, exclusion, exclusion to several warmhearted fashion people out there.

I haven't rested my case. But this should be enough for now. I am still waiting for Ghesquière upcoming Louis Vuitton collection, which is supposed to be fantastic. The beautiful photo is from here, used for illustrative purpose only.

19.2.14

It's the crazy season that is fashion week but all we have to do is to learn some lessons. Lesson number one: layering.

Prabal Gurung

Let's put aside the debate whether bloggers are worthy of front-row seats, or the discussion whether Ghesquière is preserving Marc Jacobs' legacy in Louis Vuitton. They are too complicated. Or not, because these layering lessons I get from the fall/winter shows articulate certain dimension to dressing for the cold. I am thoroughly aware of the resistance to layer for some people, mainly because bulky clothing never looks good on anyone. Not to mention that it takes some skills to layer clothes. In other words, layers can make people uncomfortable.

In Prabal Gurung, the only show from NYFW I am blown away by (I am pretty sure that this is a new grammatical structure I have so, pardon), the layer is the high note. Thanks to the cold hands of both the designer and the stylist, dresses with origami-like ends are winter-ready when paired with thick knits. The Nepal-inspired collection also introduces us to a new way of wearing knitted shawl: by knotting it (see the pun?).

Burberry Prorsum - Paul Smith

A lesson in layering presented by Burberry Prorsum and Paul Smith is lectured in different classroom, though. This is one of my toughest subjects, since mixing pattern apparently requires a Mathematics-equivalent skills. While Burberry still includes ladylike dress in its equation, Paul Smith rules it out completely. Picking a neutral--black in case of Burberry and grey in case of Paul Smith--seems like a salient answer to the game of pattern and colour mixing.


Opening Ceremony - Topshop Unique

The last lesson in layering I've got from fashion week so far includes quirky girls in boots, but we obviously digress because the layered sweatshirt is the one that is supposed to steal the limelight. However it is worth to discuss the fact that asymmetric layering in Opening Ceremony seems like a toughened look of Prabal Gurung's and the dress in Topshop Unique appears vaguely similar with Burberry. So what can we infer from this lesson in layering? 


images are all from style.com

10.2.14

And the internet is just one of the factors.


Maybe from the first glance at this post you would assume that I am about to spill derogatory arguments about how printed magazines should die, how they have lost their power and all, but that is not it. As a matter of fact I am an avid magazine reader--since the adolescent days my mom put me in several teenage magazine subscriber list in no time because she concerned about my ability to grow properly as a female adult--and to be honest with you, I still am an avid magazine reader AND writer. But women magazines are no longer in my purchase list these days--the franchised ones to be exact. Instead, titles like Smith Journal, Delayed Gratification and some random independent magazines are what caught my eyes and brain and heart, despite of their relatively high price. They deliver fresh reporting, oftentimes experimental writing, or in another words: something I cannot obtain from reading big titles like Vogue, Elle or Glamour. This wave of independent publishing might have been seen with one eye by more established publishers, but in fact, their streams of content are to be considered serious counter act in responding to the deteriorating publishing industry these days. But that would be another story.

The first and foremost reason as to why I stay away from women magazines is actually personal. I do not feel that my voice as a grown woman is well represented by those magazines. The pages are filled with the newest trends and items that are repetitive and correlated with the imagery of lean women, most of the time are the Caucasian ones. Maybe that will not be the case for magazines printed in the US or Europe, but isn't it an irony for local magazine to feature ridiculously massive pages of Caucasian models when their readers are NOT Caucasian? Proceeding further to the other content, I think that the promotion of monotonous lifestyle--working from Monday to Friday, hanging out on weekends, chasing after hot guys, visiting beauty salons, travelling once in a while--has come to the down side of the curve. And to assume that all women are supposed to go through that particular lifestyle is somewhat shallow. That alone is an irony when the magazine itself aims to empower women and celebrate femininity. But who are the women we are talking about here?

Without a second doubt, internet has also come into mind when proposing argument against purchasing women magazines. Brilliant websites and blogs like Man Repeller and The Cut suffice the criteria as mandatory reading for modern women. Feeds from inspirational public figures and even friends can enrich modern women as much as magazines do. Not to mention the fast pace of reporting culture the internet has brought. Trends change faster, news are available as soon as the event happens and (online) discussions are prompted at no time. This, I think, has caused almost all magazines to feature the similar thing, bring similar discussion to the table and lay out singular point of view when it comes about trends. All trends, anything. Whether it is about fashion, health, finance or work, the voice printed on the paper sounds pretty much the same. I can imagine the editorial meeting starts with something like: "So, what is new this season?" And everybody starts googling, in which they will come up with uniform results. Therefore, presenting something "new" and nothing else should be rethink by the editors, because such way of work brings no additional value to the readers. And when it comes to advertisers, who are we kidding here, the women magazines, or should I say the "highly commercialised" magazine as a whole, have turned into some kind of catalogue. They display whatever the advertisers wish to.

To close this rather lengthy piece I just want to remind myself. Not all women magazines gradually transform themselves into rubbish. They are, after all, what keep part of the economy going. But to think about how influential media really is, don't we wish for a better quality of magazine to influence women in a more positive way? And until that dawn of women magazine revival comes, I would be happy with my current reading list. What about you?

image is from here


P.S: A new magazine has just been released by Net-A-Porter group, titled Porter. From this article it sounds promising and all, but I am not ready to spend that much amount of money for a women magazine that comes from a luxury retailer. It claims to adopt "global approach" as part of the editorial voice, quite literally, because the first day it is sold in the US, I visited my local bookstore and found the very same issue.


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