Sunday, 9 August 2015

When you put fashion and culture together.

When Vogue revealed the Met Ball's theme this year as "China: Through the Looking Glass", I was skeptical. I imagined the red carpet filled with a westerner's stereotypical features of the cheongsam/qipao present on ballgowns or mandarin collars popping everywhere on tailored suits. It's the same agitating feeling I tried to ignore when I was younger and witnessed girls on the streets of Brunei combining pure kebaya tops with jeans. I guess deep down, I cringe at certain thoughts or ideas of putting together culture and fashion. 

Fashion can go far into the end of a spectrum for abstractness. I've always depicted fashion as a source of escapism and not necessarily from anything bleak, it's just that fashion editorials in magazines and haute couture do have a level of fantasy associated. No matter what fashion aesthetic the designer used to approach, be it an anti-fashion dress made of deconstruction or thought provoking wear that convey literal messages - at the end of the day, it's not a revolution and they didn't cure cancer. It's still a little fantasy turned into tangible fashion. 

On the other hand, the turn out of the Met Ball proved me wrong in different directions. There may have been a vast improvement in representing asian cultural fashion stereotypes but the ball didn't do enough justice in getting Chinese designers more fame time. In fact, in some cases - they were ridiculed and turned into the next biggest internet meme (I guess Rihanna will not be a returning client to Guo Pei any time soon or looking at eggs the same way). However, it is no doubt that certain expressive asian designers look deep into their roots and culture as a source of inspiration and influence. In the case that an asian designer does so is the only time the merge of fashion and culture appeals to me. Nobody does asian fashion better than asians. Okay, I may have enjoyed Chanel's 2016 cruise collection in Seoul but Lagerfeld is a different fangirl story and I just wanted to prove a point.

So yesterday, Singapore turned 50 years old and Harpers Bazaar Singapore celebrated by posting a throwback series on instagram from 2008. This showcased an iconic editorial based on a backdrop of local areas. I really enjoyed it and felt a relatable level with the ideas involved in the editorial. It's an exaggerated view that parallels with Singapore realness and the fashion culture. The lack of symmetry was interesting but thankfully, not too serious. One image displays two girls at Kopitiam drenched in Bottega Veneta and drinking teh peng and ice barley. Another were the girls in Burberry Prorsum casually chilling in an mrt. I like that they kept them layered as if the temperature had immensely dropped in Singapore, so this made it fit my take on the editorial at an obvious level. Have you ever layered yourself with a blazer or jacket just to make a fashion statement despite the hella hot climate in South East Asia? Yeah, well I'm guilty. 

All photos were taken from Harpers Bazaar Singapore.

Friday, 19 June 2015

Deutschland & Österreich Harper's Bazaar

Vienna's S/S 2015 fashion week had only taken place somewhere in the early Spring, so when I visited recently this month, clothing racks were still abundant with crisp and hot off the press pieces. I know this from popping in and out of local clothing boutiques in Vienna, spending an entire day exploring from Karlsplatz to Zieglergasse. As a result of all that touring, I've derived three conclusive facts about fashion in Vienna accompanied by some highlights of Harper's Bazaar DE, June/July 2015 issue.

1) Viennese people take fashion very seriously.

I recall one boutique where I was trying on a mint tweed moto only half an inch bigger than my standard fit. Now in my defence, it was on a 70% sale and down to 39 euros, I think I know a steal when I wear one. The boutique owner warned me not to purchase the oversized jacket, pointing out the slightly off shoulders. At that time I thought I could pull it off with some tapered pants, oversized clothing is always workable if you're a regular thrifter. However, the expression that laid on her face was as if I've committed a shameful sin if I were ever to be seen walking around in public in an "ill-fitted" jacket ....of her own design? I realised the oversized, improper fit was not for the Viennese fashion crowd. Perfectly tailored and on-point needle worked garments dominated here, people take fashion very seriously.


2) As serious as they get, they still dress with a level of comfort.

I'm a person of heels, only because where I come from, choosing to walk miles on a road as a genuine mode of transportation is a humorous joke. Vienna is a walking city and if you wear high heels on the steps of Stephansplatz - you will stick out like a sour thumb. Condé Nast Traveller released an article last summer entitled "How Not To Look Like a Tourist in Berlin". It sternly demonstrated how practicality and not beauty drove their fashion sense in Berlin, now this is obviously not Germany but the same relaxed culture flows in their fashion roots. They've established a fine and balanced line between being stylish as well as comfortable in their street styles. Flinging designer logos in public were also not of the norm but that didn't mean people weren't draped in designer goods.


3) Trust me, they know their stuff.
I wanted a tangible view of the fashion culture and so I did what I usually do, I set off to buy local fashion magazines. I've always seen them as the greatest souvenir one can collect, you get an idea of the luxury culture and it records the date within the souvenir itself. The Viennese Girl can only show me so much. I arrived at Thalia one afternoon and in the midst of my search at the fashion section- I was so taken back by the volume of available fashion publications. How would I ever be able to differentiate which of these fashion magazines were local, national or just plain German? Spun with confusion, I approached a woman who appeared to look like she was in her mid-30's, sunglasses perched upon her nicely tucked hair behind her ears. And so, I initiated the conversation:

"Excuse me, i'm looking for a local fashion magazine, do you know what would be a good read?"
There was a brief pause, a positive one because what was to come next was an influx of 101 well executed fashion knowledge.

She swayed from one section to another, knit-picking magazines and telling me what to avoid and what not to. I realised, I had hit the jackpot. "German fashion can also be Austrian fashion but Viennese fashion cannot be German fashion but sometimes it can also be German fashion, oh and Flair is good." By the end of her parade, I was hugging a mountain of fashion magazines. I thanked her as we exchanged our farewells and I filtered through the pile she had composed. Being short on cash, I had to put down Flair. I rushed home that day to my elder sister who I had left waiting for 30 minutes outside the hotel suite, I told her I had found my goods- she was apparently not amused by my tardiness. I was beaming too much at this rate because I got my fashion magazines. They did not disappoint! She did not disappoint. She knew her stuff and she was Viennese. So Viennese know their stuff. Or I was just lucky but whatever, this story had to be told.

Whether you're travelling across central/western Europe or just mildly interested in dressing like a fashionable Austrian, I sincerely hope these photos I took of the magazine can serve you well.

Sunday, 3 May 2015

Why do you?

Three months ago, Harper's Bazaar Singapore released an article called "Why don't you?" by Diane Von Fustenberg. The irony (obviously done on purpose, i'm not that daft okay.) in this is that Diane, who wrote this as an up-to-date spoof to Diana Vreeland's former magazine role - almost shares the same name as Diana. Just a vowel away, when you think about it. Compliments to Harper's Bazaar Sg, that was a very bold move.

I'd like to believe that Vreeland wrote the Harper's Bazaar column for 25 years not just to give eccentric suggestions, but also to question and mostly, ridicule the morals and culture of the typical modern American woman at that time. However, DVF's version wasn't enough for me to represent a modern twist. I think the article was light and playful, which isn't a bad thing but I do feel that there is more to say. More to show, more to highlight and most of all...more to question.

In my response, I've come up with my own, exaggerated version of the iconic column with sarcastic answers. This time addressing a younger generation, under the superficial idea that we are constantly fed by social media as a peer steered society. If Vreeland showcased a fashion decade of materialistic ideals, I want to awaken the opposite. It only makes sense to question "Why do you?" instead because we've grown far from the Vreeland years into a more rebellious, curious generation with the capacity to always have an opinion towards everything Vreeland would've questioned. I'll be throwing in photos from vintage magazines just to fill up this dramatic post visually. The following answers are not direct quotations, so here is an insincere apology in advance if you feel addressed because you weren't, so get over it.

W h y   d o   y o u  . . . 

This is the way boys see you what you do solely because your gender role prompts you to? 

Of course I shouldn't cry, it's an unspoken rule that men don't cry in public. 

Be a Weed

...think conforming to having no fashion sense makes you a unique individual when really that in itself is a fashion statement that doesn't make you any different? 

My 6 year old jeans and Tshirt is all the effort I can muster up every morning.

Twiggy 1

..feel the need to identify with a certain beauty figure to represent your own beauty? 

 What if #strongbrows are the new thigh gaps?

Vanity Fair

...humblebrag on social media as if trying to maintain a modest personality? 

Why do people tell me that I sound like a native English speaker for an Asian, i'm confused!

Prized possession

...depend on your smartphone so much? 
I don't know what my phone number is or anyones' really. Who does anyway?!

 more for cats than a starving nation? Miao!
Pink dress and turquoise shoes

Bonnie Doon
...have more pretty shoes than good memories that don't involve being in bed and binge watching on Netflix
I have F.R.I.E.N.D.S. and a great shoe rack.
ShadesMystrece so many books but still can't see things in a broader light? 

Only on vogue.