Monthly Archives: February 2010

Must-See Marsi

She signed her art with a simple two-syllable name: Marsi. To Italians, the name could bring to mind an ancient people of Germanic origin. To Thais, she’s a national treasure, both the person and her art. Although most of her works were painted in Europe, her legacy is very much embraced by Thailand as the country’s own, more so considering her royal lineage.

Princess Marsi Paribatra is the only child of HRH Prince and Princess Chumbhot of Nagor Svarga, who had built the Thai-style Suan Pakkad Palace on Sri Ayudhya Road. The Princess received her tertiary education in Switzerland, France, and Spain, and earned her Doctoral Degree in Art History from the University of Madrid, where she lectured thereafter, before teaching at Chula.

The Princess’s paintings have been likened to Dali. But that is only a convenient comparison. While surreal in style, her compositions are far much more complex, often involving characters so numerous, details so minute that they are almost biblical in scale. There is nothing desolate about her tableaux, nothing like Dali’s The Persistence of Memory, even when some of her pieces appear to be personifications of death. Rather, her scenes–almost dioramas–are evocative of those by Renaissance painters. The characters she painted, sometimes naked, sometimes part-animal, could have been a modern take on the 15th century’s depiction of saints.

The exhibition, set unsuitably in Siam Paragon (surely such fine works deserve a proper gallery rather than an open space of a shopping complex), comprises 35 paintings that can be delightful as well as disturbing. This is a rare chance to see Princess Marsi’s brilliant works. She does not paint any more, having gone into retirement because of a debilitating stroke. Her last exhibition in Thailand was 49 years ago.

Marsi is on at The Hall of Mirrors, not The Versailles, but Siam Paragon till 29 March.


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Is The Apple The New Smiley Heart?

The Beatles may have sung Strawberry Fields Forever, but it’s apples that designer Rei Kawakubo has chosen as icon for its new line Comme des Garcons The Beatles Collection, created in collaboration with Apple Corps, right-holders of the pop group’s legacy. What’s the apple got to do with The Beatles? Apple Records was founded in 1968 as part of the UK band’s Apple Corps project. The former served as a creative outlet for John Lennon & co, both as a group and as individual musicians.

When I first saw the The Beatles Collection T-shirt in Colette, Paris in December last year, I wondered if the apple will suffer the same fate as the smiley heart from the Play line (collaboration with New York graphic artist Filip Pagowski). Will it become another victim of a severe trickle-down effect, with its grave in Chatuchak market?

I hope not.

T-shirts from The Beatles Collection is now available at Club 21 for 4,590 baht a pop

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What Happened to Sweet Chris?

Those of you who have been led into believing that Chris Horwang is a cute and agreeable girl, courtesy of the movie Rot Fai Fah Maha Na Ter, will be disappointed with her ad campaign for Chaps‘s current jeans collection. No effort was spared to make Ms Horwang, also a ballet teacher, look like she is one of those models hired to pose at events such as Bangkok Motorcycle Festival. With opened jacket that reveals her bra, unzipped skirt showing more undergarment, and left hand positioned to look like she was in a state of self-gratification, Ms Horwang is a far cry from the goofy and bubbly Mei Li.

Talking about Bangkok Motorcycle Festival, what struck me most in the above photograph is the uncanny similarity to the sensational images (below) of Panward ‘Puey’ Hemmanee draped over a beast of a bike–the latter pictures made headline news and were Googled to death. When the publicity turned negative due to supposed over-reveal of Khun Puey’s crotch, she took the initiative to go to the press to plead her innocence.

The pictures are less interesting to me than her attempt to disprove wardrobe malfunction. According to Khun Puey, she had on more than a single bottom that day before straddling the bike. Bangkok Post Sunday quoted her saying, “Underneath, I wore three layers for protection–underwear, a pair of thick tights, and a bathing costume”. Those who have scrutinised the pictures were convinced the three-tier protection did not exist.

Perhaps taking her cue from Khun Puey, Ms Horwang, too, wore three pieces of bottoms on top of the other, but unlike the former, she had each of them for all to see. You can’t be too clear about such things.

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No Fire-Breathing Dragons

From the moment China opened up to the rest of the world and capitalism started to bloom as readily and easily as chrysanthemums, Chinese kitsch in the form of wound-up clocks, tin toys, and Mao busts took hold of the imagination of collectors who fear that modernisation may terminate the life of these less-sophisticated Sino aesthetic expressions. While much of these items found their way into homes to sit amid more modern collectibles, hardly anything ended up in our wardrobe.  This was to change when Fei Yue shoes from Shanghai was taken up by a French distributor who turned the brand global in 2006. Suddenly canvas sneakers that remind you of those worn to countryside primary schools became the rage.

Fei Yue’s success (better marked by its current collaboration with Unholy Matrimony by Bret Westfall, who had worked on projects with CDG), prompted other heritage Chinese shoe brands to offer canvas sneakers that are clearly from a China of a very different era. The latest to win the hearts of old-school sneaker fans is Shu Long, or ‘Comfortable Dragon’ in Mandarin.

Shu Long canvas shoes, in terms of design, are not so different from Fei Yue. Both have cotton canvas uppers with rubber soles. The former, however, have a cleaner upper, sporting only the Chinese characters of the brand, positioned discreetly on the back-side corner of the shoe (Fei Yue’s bear the brand’s name and double less-than or greater-than symbols.). The soles in contrasting bubblegum colours make Shu Long sneakers a lot more fun to wear.

Fei Yue first appeared in Bangkok some time in the second half of last year at the premium jeans store Pronto. Few Thais took a shine to them, thinking they look like they belong to Chatuchak. So it was surprising to see Shu Long introduced at The Adjective a week ago. But seeing that The Adjective has dedicated fairly large selling space to the sneakers, with stocks that come in a wide selection of sole colours, the later entry may be the winner.

Shu Long ShuStreet Low canvas sneakers (pictured) retail for 1,690 baht.

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With These Rings I Thee Fret

With no Valentine on this day of love, I thought I’d buy myself a ring. It’s one of those things one does without reason, and definitely without rhyme. It’s easy, I was told, to find nice jewellery in Bangkok. True enough, there’s no lack of jewellers in the city (and I mean jewellers, not goldsmiths!), but to find one that’s not catering to the next hi-so suspect is as tough as finding ham-and-egg breakfast outside hotel coffee houses.

Not until I came across these.

I have always had a weakness for signet rings, so these by Jil Sander, by their looks, would be a perfect fit. The ‘Soul Collection’, as the range is called, has the bare minimum of design that’s typical of the brand, as well as the surprising touch of rather vivid colours. The organically-shaped silver rings hold enamel oblongs of black, blue, orange, pink and yellow, all saturated enough to give a discreet shot of colour to your still-dark suits and dresses. And, as some of you may agree, a little soul on a finger is better than a wedding band!

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Soe Good

Japanese designers have always done men’s shirts a little differently. The ‘Shirt’ line by Jap label Soe is a case (of many cases) in point. Designed by Soichiro Ito, the shirts are exactly the kind for you and I who do not work in an environment that requires something that hints at Saville Row. They follow the footsteps of CDG Shirt, but have a distinct look of their own: less patchwork and pajama stripes, and more quiet details and a fondness for typography. If Tokyo is too far to go for them, consider nearby Singapore, where they are stocked in the cooler-than-most-in-Bangkok department store Tangs.

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Asia Majors

Thanks to a friend in Hong Kong, the February copy of Vogue China I wanted arrived in the mail this morning. The cover immediately begs some questions.

Why can’t Thai magazines feature Thai girls in this manner? Why must the pooying in the pages of Image, Volume, Lips, et al look like drugged-out mannequins who’ve fallen into a laundry basket of rejected clothes and make-up? Why are they nothing like their fellow professionals from China, Korea, and Japan?

No one in Bangkok is able to satisfactorily answer these questions. I asked some photographers, and they suggested I speak to the stylists.

To understand what I mean, you need to look at the Vogue China I have in my hands. The cover alone is a foretaste of what lies inside. Shot by Patrick Demarchelier, it features Shue Pei and Mirte Maas in white, possibly marking a clean-white start to the lunar new year.

Inside, a spread shot by Max Vadukul, featuring Asia’s top models such as Japan’s Tao Okamoto and China’s Du Juan illustrates that non-Caucasian girls need not look like a stylist’s wayward experiment before they can look fashionably good. Thai editors take note.

Clockwise from top left: Liu Wen, Du Juan, Tao Okamoto, Danni Li, Liu Wen, Kiki Kang, Cheung Ping Hue

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