Monthly Archives: October 2010

EFW 10: The Nagara Circus

The ringmaster known by the single name Nagara has always staged spectacles rather than mere fashion shows. His clothes, especially the menswear, usually consist pieces acrobats would adore. The flowing shirts that he is partial to, teamed with vests or bibs over tights are the kind of costumes that trapeze artists often adopt to fly through the air dramatically. So, it was not surprising that Mr Sambandaraksa sent out juveniles in jumping stilts in the middle of his presentation, encouraging the audience to express their delight.

The Nagara aesthetic has so much in common with what circus folks wear to perform that even without this distraction the creative value of the clothes would not diminish. Nagara standards of tunics, square-cut tops, column dresses, floaty coats, all subjected to his usual fabric treatment, were aplenty. Perhaps Mr Sambandaraksa realised that when there’s no newness in the design, novelty had to be introduced during the show. What else would the audience go home with?

Surely not the tie-dye twisted tops, nor the sheer hooded duster coats, nor the sequined A-line dresses, and definitely not the shocker of the finale dress that still-a-model Lookate had to wear (right). Appearing like a 1300BC Egyptian concubine (or show girl, you choose!), she strode down the catwalk in a long, spaghetti-strapped dress that opened at the bust line like a parted curtain to reveal a sheer column that hid very little of the wearer’s southern regions.

Of course, there was entertainment value in all this. So enthralled by Lookate’s queenly appearance that some members in the audience leaped up to cheer.  And when those boys in jumping stilts re-emerged somersaulting, the show finally reached its climax. The Cirque should have been there.


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EFW 10: Senada Shooting For The Stars

This evening, Senada’s show backdrop was a depiction of the galaxy, and when the presentation started, the house lights dimmed to reveal a blinking rear wall, suggesting a firmament of distant stars. This is all rather beguiling until you realise that at last year’s Elle Fashion Week, Disaya had shown a collection known as ‘Celestial Warriors’ that featured fabrics with prints of the constellation. Did Senada designer Chanita Preechawitayakul continue from where Disaya left off?

Yes and no. Yes, because a fabric used bore some similarity to the Disaya’s described above. No, because Ms Preechawitayakul is not a conceptual designer, and the clothes had little connection to the setting she created. There was nothing otherworldly about them, certainly nothing inter-galactic.

True to form, she churned out the ultra-feminine clothes she was expected to produce, this time, with a strong dose of the cute. It was the kind adorable that will appeal to a younger customer, one that likes a composite of circular shapes (a recurrent motif) to form patterns or fashion the sleeves. This lent some of the clothes a vaguely craft-like sensibility–you would not be wrong to think of the coloured papers you used to cut in kindergarten. Your reminiscence were, however, quickly interrupted as the cut-out shapes were accompanied by what looked like bondage straps, criss-crossing the body as if to temper the overall sweetness.

As usual, she kept the silhouettes too varied to define. Nothing too slender, nothing tented. She did not succumb to volume, preferring to stick to the short: skirts, for example, were abbreviated, held up at the natural waist (fit and flare!). It was clear she likes things to swell out and swirl. Her sleeves were billowy, her dresses floaty. (And then there was the very odd dress with a profusion of bows on the bodice.) Interestingly, there were more pants than usual, all cut, unsurprisingly, slim. This could debunk the myth that Senada customers only buy dresses.

When the show came to a somewhat sudden end, the models walked out in a single row as they always do, and from afar, you could see that all the froth do not a confection make.

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Disco Wawa

Marc Jacobs should have been born Calvin Klein’s contemporary. Although the former has been criss-crossing decades as if they were time zones, it’s the Seventies that he seems glad to reside and plunder. Just a few weeks back, in New York, Mr Jacob’s own line appeared to be targeted at Studio 54’s now-faded habitués: Bianca Jagger, Margaux Hemmingway, Janice Dickson. In Paris yesterday, his time-travelling habit was not curtailed. And it was disco dolly as China doll that became, I dare say, the face of Louis Vuitton.

The opening sequence quickly set the tone. Caucasians, enamoured with rising China, now wants to move the partying (or Studio 54!) to, maybe, the Bund in Shanghai. But first, they would have to embrace Eastern exotica just as Carrie Bradshaw had taken on what she thought was French chic when visiting Paris for the first time: sailor top and beret!

Mr Jacobs did not hide his enthusiasm for Chinese costume details. The Mandarin collar, the contrast piping and frogging, the no-longer-thigh-high-but-navel-high slit (!), the gaudy satin, all so heady even Suzie Wong would find them too much; all applied on supposedly modern shapes, but with the same appeal as Luise Rainer playing the suffering farmer’s servant in the movie adaption of Pearl S Buck’s The Good Earth. They’re simply not convincing.

It’s been suggested that Mr Jacobs made a smart move as he was addressing a wildly burgeoning luxury market in China. If so, can he really be serious? Isn’t offering variations on the qipao akin to selling new-recipe noodles to the Chinese? (The French spearheaded the Chinoiserie movement in the 17th Century, but did the Chinese buy into it?) Which modern woman, whether they’re trying to make their mark in Beijing or Shanghai, wants to appear like a Westerner’s caricature of a post-Qing libertine? Or worse, look like they have been buying from a gift shop in Beijing’s gu gong? Yes, pandas are cute, but even when sequinned (or especially when sequinned!), they cannot escape the clutches of kitsch (a treatment Vivienne Tam has long ago employed). To me, the monochrome bear belongs to a zoo, bamboo forest or T-shirts that specifically seduce tourists.

When not in an Oriental mood, Mr Jacobs put the jazz age in the disco era. There were fringing galore (and glitter knits), all in colours that would delight dancers at a Tiffany show. Sheer lace, in line with Paris’s predilection for transparency this season, were applied to reveal skin–top, bottom, front, and back. There were even some dropped-waist tops worn with long bottoms that had more than a whiff of Poiret’s hobble skirts.

The disco stamp was applied so fiercely that I wonder what the clothes would look like when not worn under strobe lights. Iridescent square-cut, T-shaped tops looked freshly taken out of a Chinatown emporium. Zebra print dresses had the same pedigree as Roberto Cavalli’s cabana tunics. And a couple of pant suits seemed like an ode to Giorgio Armani’s take on Chinois-chic.

I have nothing against Orientalism. I just don’t dig the Madame Butterfly school of fashion design.

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