An Honest Cross Section

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Beloved biscuits brand, Julie’s, has spent the significant part of the first two quarters of 2014 inviting and asking people ‘Who is the Best of You?’ An abstract, open-ended question that sounds more like it belongs as a year-end Cambridge art topic for the Drawing & Painting segment, but nonetheless, they asked this question all the same.

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The question and resulting responses, collated from the likes of Kumar and Michelle Chong, an edible art installation by Janice Wong of 2am:dessertbar (who presents a very sweet-smelling, edible art installation), illustrator/embroiderer Teresa Lim and MINDS Lee Kong Chian Gardens School, amongst others, and are presented in an exhibition in the Marina Square atrium which runs till this Sunday, 26 October 2014.

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Walking around the exhibit space, if you aren’t paying close attention to the exhibits, the curation can quite easily be lost. Weaving through the temporary walls, slew of frames, posters and artwork write-ups, upon closer inspection, and if you stay ever so still, you’ll feel a distinct buzz in the space. An almost containable sort of energy that subtly creeps from the many corners and fills the exhibition venue.

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I believe the energy comes from the works on display. The far-reaching corners of Singapore from where these stories are plucked and put together that emotes. My closest reference to this is probably a National Day-themed exhibition, which tends to present Singapore in the simplified heuristics of Chinese, Malay, Indian & Other (or CMIO, as the abbreviation in referred to heavily, in certain circles). Just as ‘gender-neutral’ism is becoming a thing in Sweden, and we are struggling with gender stereotypes, still (there was some ridiculous attempt at a case for stereotypes in The Straits Times online forum). I feel that these simplified categorizations provide flawed presentations of each race.

Anyway, I digress.

How does this all relate back to the exhibition? Well, I feel that this showcase presents, possibly, the most honest cross-section of Singapore I’ve ever seen. High income, low income, heterosexual, LGBTQIA, artistic, scientific, able, handicapable, traditional and non-traditional family units, any the spectrums in between, I think I caught a glimpse of at least some, if not all, of these represented in the exhibition.

And I think it was nice, for a change, to have everyone acknowledged, even if its through a brand exhibition.

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If you can, I highly recommend spending about an hour and a half, at least to experience most of the exhibition. Particularly the videos by our very own film-making heavy-weights – Boo Junfeng, Liao Jie Kai, and Royston Tan.

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Boo Junfeng’s video (above)

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Liao Jie Kai’s video (above)

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Royston Tan’s video (above and below)

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I’m not typically a person who enjoys videos, but I was quite surprised to find that I really enjoyed Royston’s video.

In contrast with the bulk of exhibits, which took on a very positive spin to the theme. Talking about the person, activity, idea, place etc. which brings out the best in them, I felt that Royston’s video touched on a much darker topic of a failed relationship, and that being a defining moment. At least, that’s how I interpreted the video. And, I can relate.

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The Best of You exhibition

22 October to 26 October 2014

Marina Square, Central Atrium
6 Raffles Boulevard
Singapore 039594

Entry is free.

Lighting the way with hansel

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Longtime readers of Wottoncool should be no stranger to hansel.

We’ve, meaning Jo and I, have since 2008, written about the brand here, here, here, here, here and here, and that’s just the tip of the iceberg! I’ve even gone so far as to say that hansel should be considered an icon of Singapore, more so than the run of the mill ‘chicken rice’ and the likes.

(Is it a crime to fathom being over chicken rice?!)

At times, I think Singaporeans get stuck in our comforts. Movie-going, favourite haunts, usual foods… same ol’, same ol’. Classics, no doubt, but don’t win any awards for ground-breaking innovation.

But perhaps, my appetite for the new, novel and innovative rates higher than average.

It is always refreshing to see that designer and founder, Jo Soh, presents with hansel each season.  The latest season, which had its debut at Audi Fashion Festival 2014, is titled ‘Fairy Lights’.

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Inspired by the decorative and celebratory ornaments which, in my family’s case, are whipped out annually for Christmas, the ‘Fairy Lights’ collection feature three original prints. I’m equilaterally torn between which of the three is my absolute favourite and pockets permitting, would have stocked my wardrobe with at least one item of each print!

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The first print (above) is titled ‘Fairy Lights’, like the collection. Bright, colourful, whimsical. I don’t know if it’s physically possible to be sad or upset in such a happy print and happy dress. This print also comes in a Navy/White colourway as well (bottom right).

Hansel Fairy Lights Dresses

The second print is linear, continuous squiggle of lights. Aptly called ‘String Lights’. Looking the print alone, and out of context, I wasn’t such a big fan to be honest. But after my internship with Jonathan Simkhai in New York, I have newfound respect for designers to look at a roll of fabric/patterned fabric laying flat on a table and visualize it coming to life in a skirt/dress/shirt/garment of their choice.

Apparel at hansel and diffusion line, hello hansel, which feature the ‘String Lights’ print in contrasting white and black came in several, very versatile variations – from a maxi dress, to sleeveless (very work-appropriate) dress and even to separates.

Hansel Fairy Lights String lights dress and playsuit

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A look around hansel’s Mandarin Gallery store, and one can quickly see that dresses feature very extensively throughout the collection. Understandably so. I can imagine a lot of frazzled shoppers falling in love with print separates and then running out of options of how they can pair/match their purchases, thus opt for dresses. Which eliminates the dilemma altogether.

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But for myself, my heart leapt (quietly) when I found/noticed the separates (below). (Yay for separates!!) I find a lot of joy in challenging myself to pair purchases in new, unsuspecting ways. Sometimes they work, other times, maybe not too well. In my own small way, I guess that’s how I feed my penchant for new and novel.

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And maybe that’s what Jo Soh had intended with this ‘Fairy Lights’ collection, for people to celebrate not just the collection, but for the clothes, in and of themselves, to bring about joy (be it in the dresses or separates), however one derives joy from beautiful design.

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And all this without breaking the bank (too much). The collection is priced between $99 and $419. And considering these are all unique prints, that you can’t find anywhere else in the world. I’d say it’s worth the investment.

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The final print is titled ‘Coiled Lights’, which is kind of a cheeky play on oversized polka dots or light bokehs, depending on how you look/squint at the print. The third and final print from the ‘Fairy Lights’ collection.

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For a glimpse into the process of pattern development, have a look at hansel’s blog, which chronicles three ‘Fairy Lights’ prints in greater, more intimate detail.

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And don’t forget to check out the hansel boutique located at Mandarin Gallery, 333A Orchard Road #02-14.

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Tribe Pop Culture

Mash-Up is a three-person design collective featuring Daniela Monasterios-Tan, Nathanael Ng and Shaf Amisáabudin. The three met in Lasalle College of the Arts and set up the brand in 2012. Self-described as an interpretation of the city they live in; the people of different cultures and sub-cultures; a rendition of the parties they attend, music and DJs they listen to; stories they read and hear as well as the places they’ve been.

Mash-Up is nothing short of Singapore’s most successful amalgamation of pop-culture and commercially viable (Singapore-based) fashion brand. (I’ll explain this second part, in a little bit)

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While almost every brand boasts to target the ‘modern, contemporary, always-on-the-go’ woman (or man). Which is perhaps a nicer, more expensive way of saying (just about) EVERYBODY, Mash-Up instead opted for a niche market for their vibe, one that is youthful, edgy and unapologetically bold.

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Mash-Up draws inspiration from club and street culture, examining current affairs and observing the going-ons in social media and the evolving global styles. Their latest collection, launched last Friday at Canvas Singapore (previously Home Club), was no exception to the norm.

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#MASHUPDIGITRIBE, as the collection is titled, was inspired by the glitch art movement and explored the deconstruction of reality with and through social media. Poignantly described as “on one hand, an avenues for sharing selfless and animal videos. On the other hand a channel used of weapons of political control and warfare as shown by Syria, Israel and Cuba.”

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With an inherent DIY spirit imbued in the brand, real-life ‘digital manipulations’ or ‘collages’ inspired the silhouettes for this collection. The set-up at Canvas Singapore was very elaborate, with two looping video walls. Watch the fashion films here and here. There was also a live social media feed wall with live updates from Instagram and Twitter.

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The show started late, due to the rain, but was an entertaining and very conceptual show. All the models are social media stars in their own rights, so the event space was packed with friends and fans of those who walked the show. Everyone was also glued to their mobile phones, the models I mean, which made concentrating on the clothes harder.

Didn’t help that they blitzed through the event space. But the spot I chose to set up base camp wasn’t all that great, and I think it was a creative choice for the models to walk fast. I can imagine the brief: You know the speed at which what’s now trending on social media blitzes by, walk at that speed.

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The models also tweeted/instagrammed and insta-videoed LIVE while walking the runway. In addition to it being extremely in-sync with the collection’s theme, could also be a nod to Cara Delevingne’s backstage instagram antics – twerking, harlem-shakin’ and being her goofy self.

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There was also a flashback to a #bestselfieever moment as the show came to a close. And I thought this trio were really spot on with their collection, especially in terms of making the collection more than just clothes on a rack – but an idea, a lifestyle, a personality, a distinctive voice.

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Since their 2012 launch, I believe they’ve matured as a collective. I finally took the plunge and committed to two pieces from their previous collection, which you may have caught on my Instagram (@wearewottoncool).

Looking through the catalogue, there’s a successful executing of a conceptual idea – a denim jean manipulated and reworked into a top. And I would love to see them challenge themselves with a workwear capsule – A-line and pencil skirts, blouses, even oxford shirts, but all done in a distinctly Mash-Up way. I see the semblance of it already, in their catalogue, the pencil skirts especially. I would love to see more of such pieces, and I think there’s commercial gain from such an avenue. Think of all the funky, creative-types who need workwear that allow them to express their personality.

Perhaps as the brand matures more, and their demographic grows, we may see this evolution? Then again, maybe not!

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But maybe I think it’d fit because that middle ground is more my style as well?

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I think a top to toe Mash-Up get up is more street than I can carry off. At the launch, I chose to go with a much more muted (or at least as muted as a beaded, sequined sweater can be) outfit, pairing the sweater with an In Good Company skirt and BCBG chunky heels.

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This precious sweater is a delicate flower of a purchase. From what Shaf shared, it takes 6 hours of non-stop beading to complete. And I have to be very careful when handling it, if not, I’ll leave a trail of sequins everywhere I go!

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Mash-Up is stocked at Superspace, Orchard Gateway, #02-18 and available online at mashupcollective.com.

#MASHUPDIGITRIBE retails for between $79 for a T-shirt to $269 for their RTW jacket.

 

Mermaid Imaginations

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It’s no surprise that Linda Hao’s capsule collection ‘A Psychedelic Trip Under The Sea’, which launches on Yesah today, exudes as much spunk and character as the designer, DJ, entrepreneur, model (and superwoman!) does. Her Spring/Summer 2014 capsule collection narrates a whimsical tale of a mermaid lost in the open sea and her happy aquatic adventures as she traverses corals and underwater canyons, encountering sea creatures, crustaceans and, I imagine, the occasional anemone or two.

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Inspired by the tunes of Valley Vacation by Classixx, Shapeshifter by Elephant and Bjork, the collection also showcases a very successful collaborative effort between Linda and illustrator cum fashion textile designer, Teresa Lim aka TeeteeHeehee who adds a fitting whimsy to the collection’s campaign visuals. I especially love the custom prints for this collection, I believe before Princess Ariel has finished singing ‘Part Of Your World”, this precious capsule would have been snapped up!

Personal favourites include the tank dress (above), which looks like watercolours in cobalt, sky, aquamarine and peppermint went wild in a colour bleed party, the shell pocket tee (below) yay! to functioning pockets!

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And the scallop cropped tee (below), which I think may have a chance at sneaking into my work wardrobe as part of a high-waist skirt/pant combo.

YXT-CAMP-09 YXT-CAMP-03The collection is available from today, 27 January 2014, and is stocked at the following venues:

1. Temporium
72 – 74 Dunlop Street

2. W.E – Workshop Element
Westgate,3 Gateway Drive #01-34/35

3. www.yesah.net

#YESAHXTEETEEHEEHEE

 

Iconography SG

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Depending on who you speak to, Singapore turned 50 last year. If you check out the Singapore Biennale, Boo Jun Feng and Dr Lai Chee Kien’s works allude to this forgotten blimp in our history. But come 2015, Singapore’s official 50th birthday will swing round and what better way to celebrate the big FIVE-OH with 50 #iconsofsg.

These icons have been making appearances across the island. Have you spotted any? I know I saw a couple in a TODAY newspaper, and the #IconsOfSG website, obviously. I’ve picked out four of my favourites – the kopi bag, five stones, bird singing corners and Mustafa Centre (where I get a lot of my makeup, much to the distrustful and judging looks of my mom, sister and friends).

Icons of SG

As much as I love these icons, I do hope that future icons will stray further from the path to comprise more far-flung options, albeit less classic and stereotypical choices but altogether equally accurate reflections of the sheer diversity of this little red dot here on planet earth. And from that thread, here are Wottoncool’s suggestions for icons to consider.

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Dawn Ng – I believe that if there’s any person who can bottle the current Singaporean state of mind, Dawn Ng is the lady to speak to. Her latest work Windowshop is a curious collection of objections and artifacts that tells an unwritten but culturally charged history. Who can forget Boomz or feng he ri li?

Dawn Ng - Feng He Ri Li

Source: HerWorldPLUS

Hansel – Designer Jo Soh has kept busy and grown from strength to strength since the days of ‘Mr and Mrs Tan’, ‘Me and My Camel’, ‘Criss Cross Boy Meets Plain Jane’, ‘Candy Girl’, ‘Fantastic Jurassic’ and ‘Abracadabra’. I’d be crazy to ignore Hansel, seeing that her latest collection features HDB blocks, which also made the #IconsOfSG list. Hansel also has some Chinese New Year promos at the Mandarin Gallery store, so head on over there to stock up on new clothes!

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Personal favourites include the Blk 10 Knit Dress in Mustard (above) and Strappy Tube Dress in Black both $199 each. And receive a $8 voucher with these purchases!

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The Damn Good Shop – Singaporean humour with an unapologetic flicker of brutal honesty. Everything at The Damn Good Shop is bloody genius.

Ong Kim Seng – It is my dream to own a Singapore landscape watercolor by Ong Kim Seng. Not that his works are very expensive, as I learnt at Affordable Art Fair. But I believe maintaining a watercolor in our humidity is a bit more than I can handle at this point. I believe his works are quintessential Singapore.

Sam Lo – I think “The Grandfather (road)” saga caused an awakening towards Singapore’s street art, censorship and a deeper soul searching for an identity that we could and wanted to relate to. I think Sam’s body of work also embodies at unifying humour that, regardless of race & religion, resonates.

Vice & Vanity deserves special mention for their ability to maintain such consistency in their concept and energy (I don’t really know how else to describe it…) There aren’t many other Singapore brands that you can look at and just know that it’s a piece by XXX designer or brand. Vice & Vanity is a very special exception to this Singapore norm. I LOVE their Facebook page and NEED a pair of Simona Vanth x Vice & Vanity collaboration shoes!

These are my #iconsofsg nominations. 

Depressing Youth

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Upward. That’s the word which comes to mind whenever if you look at an overview of the strategy and direction most Singapore-based fashion brands steer. Upward rubs shoulders with other adjectives in the same bubble, like unique, niche, luxury, cutting-edge, ‘for the stylish woman on the go’-sort sometime overused descriptions. It boils down to economics, price elasticity to be precise. Sell to masses at lower prices and make up for the lower profit margins with the movement of a larger volume or sell to the upper crusts of the elite, high net-worth and the gullible (I think I fall into this category, sadly) and compensate with the smaller column by taking higher margins for your wares.
16That being said, Singapore-based DEPRESSION boldly heads in the down a path far less trodden by Singapore’s contingent of designers. They’ve just announced a youthful diffusion line – ANTIDEPRESSANT, which still retains DEPRESSION’s monochromatic goth/grunge street DNA and a price range of $19 – $99. ANTIDEPRESSANT promises a mix of wardrobe staples and graphic tees, and if their Spike Chain Mace tee is anything to go by, I predict a monster (sales) killing!

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Looking pass the mesh-everything, which is much too much for my liking, I eye some pieces that fit into my bursting wardrobe quite seamlessly. (READ: Closet purging coming soon!)
11Looking forward to what the DEPRESSION, and now ANTIDEPRESSANT, duo Kenny Lim and Andrew Low will present next.

Congrats guys!