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URBAN MICA (P) 191/11/2008

THE STRAITS TIMES FRIDAY OCTOBER 9 2009

YOUR

GUIDE

TO

LOOKING

GOOD

young restless The

and the

Fresh faces shake up Singapore’s fashion and retail scene

ROMANTIC BAUBLES AT SINGAPORE JEWELFEST

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YOUNG

BLOOD

Author:SUZANNE

Date:07/10/09

Time:19:25

IAMWHOIAM

Photographer: ASHLEIGH SIM; Stylist: JEROME AWASTHI; Make-up: BENO LIM, using M.A.C; Hair: ASH LOI, Estique Salon, using Schwarzkopf SEAH Hairspa; Models: SHEILA SIM, Carrie, & ADEMAR, Upfront

On him: Felt jacket, cotton shirt, woollen pants and tulle mesh scarf, prices on application, from Iamwhoiam, from Front Row On her: Woollen dress, knitted shoulder piece and striped cotton skirt, prices on application, from Iamwhoiam

Special thanks to Fusionopolis @ one-north for use of its Genexis Theatre and its foyer

Leave it to the young designers to inject much-needed excitement into the local fashion scene

F

or the average local fashionista who loves her uniform of casual tees and tanks, edgy garb may seem like an imprudent step into the sartorial abyss – something to be avoided at all costs. But young home-grown design talent is challenging the conventional wisdom that made-inSingapore style means safe. Gone are the days when dressing local simply meant the corporate chic of Celia Loe or classic couture cool of Thomas Wee, two veteran home-grown designers who made it big in the 1980s. This season, 25-year-old Chia Wei Choong of Antebellum, for example, has pieces inspired by what many would consider one of the least appealing of garments: the hospital gown. The aptly named team of Reckless Ericka – comprising Louis Koh, 26, Ruth Marbun, 23, Afton Chen and Diorelle Sy, both 22 – is also challenging convention. Offering a sneak preview of their upcoming spring/summer 2010 collection, the quirky quartet shocks with shapes and textures that are anything but blah. These young guns are drawing attention with their adventurous sensibilities. Stefan Siegel, co-founder of British online boutique and industry networking website Not Just A Label, known for its directory of international avant garde names including Reckless Ericka, says: “We were excited about having someone from a country we don’t really relate to fashion. “When we saw the first images from Reckless’ look book, we realised the designs were actually really, really good. They can compete with any graduate from Central Saint Martin’s or the Antwerp Royal Academy of Fine Arts.” It is not just international champions of the avant-garde that are supporting local labels either. Up-and-coming indie designers are also being given a leg up with fashion incubator programmes such as the one launched by Parco@Millenia and the Textile & Fashion Federation Singapore in August, which allows young start-ups to sell their creations at Parco@Millenia when it opens in Millenia Walk mall next year. Since 2007, Ann Kositchotitana, 33, owner of Ann Siang Road multi-label boutique Front Row, has also been stocking the collections of the +9 designers, a Singapore-based group of young talents (including Antebellum’s Chia) aged between 23 and 32, who are known for their offbeat styles that range from the asymmetrical to the androgynous. Kositchotitana believes the future is bright for the new blood in Singapore’s design scene. “They are full of ideals and adventurous. Many thus tend to be more experimental and less commercial with their styles,” she says. “I think this new breed of designers will be more readily accepted by international markets, especially now when there’s a focus on Asian designers. “Singapore has yet to be recognised for its fashion talents. Perhaps this generation will change that.”

On him: Shirt, $279, and pants, $249, from Reckless Ericka; shoes by Raf Simons for Dr Martens, $460, from Front Row On her: Dress, $219, and cardigan, $269, from Reckless Ericka; shoes, $179, from Guess by Marciano

RECKLESS ERICKA

Designers: (Clockwise from bottom left) Ruth Marbun, 23; Afton Chen, 22, Filipino Diorelle Sy, 22, and Louis Koh, 26

Chen, Sy and Marbun graduated in June last year from Raffles Design Institute (RDI) with bachelor of design degrees in fashion design. Koh graduated from RDI in June with a bachelor of design degree in fashion marketing. On the edge: “We don’t want to be pigeonholed. We are a young, experimental and avant-garde label and that’s how we would like others to view us. We want to spice up the scene here.”

It is about time the young ones had their day, say industry insiders. David Wang, 42, chairman of designers and retailers at the Textile and Fashion Federation of Singapore, which aims to promote and develop the local fashion and garment industry, says: “With the introduction of mass high-street labels, the market has become saturated, highly competitive and price-focused. “It’s thus natural for young designers to find a niche by offering things that are edgier and more experimental in order to offer customers a sense of exclusivity.” The designers themselves say their wearable-meetswild aesthetics are more a case of evolution than revolution. Says Chia: “Most of the designers from our generation are very much on the pulse of things, thanks to the wealth of information available to us through media such as the Internet. “That’s something the older generation of local designers didn’t have, but I still have a lot of respect for them because they opened the door for us.” Still, age is never quite just a number: These young

designers dare partly because that’s exactly what youths do. Home-grown, London-based designer Wu Peirong, 25, who has interned with influential Belgian designer Raf Simons and is pursuing her master’s degree in menswear fashion design at Central Saint Martins, says she and her counterparts must keep the hope alive. “The young have to recognise that they are the future of design and carry that energy into their works instead of trying to emulate the masters,” she says. “It’s important that they realise that youth is their greatest advantage.” In a fashion shoot set against the state-of-the-art backdrop of the Genexis Theatre and its foyer at local science and technology research complex Fusionopolis @ one-north, Urban showcases the newest collections of four of Singapore’s youngest and most fashionforward stars. They are Max Tan, who has his own eponymous label, Tan Qiuwen of Iamwhoiam, Chia of Antebellum and Reckless Ericka. Get ready Singapore: The future is here.

Additional reporting by Stephanie Gwee

IAMWHOIAM (above) Designer: Tan Qiu Wen, 24

Tan (left) broke into the scene in 2007 after graduating from Lasalle College of the Arts with a diploma in fashion design. Since then, Tan has been a quiet but formidable fashion force as part of the hip +9 collective of Singapore-based

young designers. Nominated for the prestigious Audi Young Designer Award at this year’s Singapore Fashion Festival, she is known for her constructed coats and quirky, heavily layered looks that she describes as containing “codes of haphazardness

and randomness”. We say this talent is no fashion accident. On the edge: “I don’t know if it’s a conscious effort (of young designers) to be more experimental. I would say we are a more fortunate bunch compared to the local designers of yesteryear. There is a lot more industry support now and that’s an important factor in nurturing creativity.” The look: Inspired by the attire of monks who seem to have reached a state of sartorial nirvana, the collection comes in a palette of white, grey and khaki, with highlights of shimmery pastels. The robe-like silhouettes are paired with intricately woven collar pieces and giant scarves. Available at: Front Row Price range: On application. The collection will available later this month.

This team of four is less than a year old but has already won an impressive number of plaudits. Reckless Ericka’s style of combining traditional tailoring with avant-garde, sometimes unisex silhouettes, has earned it mentions in publications ranging from The Business Times to Filipino lifestyle magazine Status. Its biggest claim to date: being picked up by cutting edge online British fashion directory and boutique Not Just A Label. Dutch supermodel and guest curator Lara Stone gave a cut-out singlet of theirs the thumbs-up.

The look: The team wants to keep details of its spring/ summer 2010 collection hush-hush for now, but based on Urban’s sneak peek, being kept under wraps is exactly what customers will be in for. Jersey and polyester knits are crushed, crimped and curved to form dresses, sweaters and jackets with a grunge-meetsglam appeal. The play with unconventional fabrics, such as gauze, also allows the human body to be seen in a new light, literally. Available at: Blackmarket, To the Nines, The Shop by Not Just A Label and Reckless Ericka’s Studio (call 9117-2829 for appointments) Price range: $69 for women’s leggings to $379 for men’s jacket. The fall/winter 2009 collection is currently in stores. The spring/summer 2010 collection will be available in late December.


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Author:SUZANNE

Date:07/10/09

Time:19:25

Fashion talents will have a space to sell their designs at Parco@Millenia next March. STEPHANIE GWEE reports

On him: Cape and pants, prices on application, from Max Tan, from Blackmarket; sandals by Dr Martens, $460, from Front Row On her: Blouse and skirt, prices on application, from Max Tan, from Blackmarket; boots by Dr Martens, $199 from Front Row

MAX TAN

Designer: Max Tan, 24

His name may not ring a bell – yet – but Max Tan’s clothes speak volumes. A sarong turns into a tulip skirt and a tube opening becomes a clown collar – all with a tug. The winner of the Best Graduate Collection award at Nanyang Academy of Fine Arts in 2006 has fans in Japan and Australia. He hopes to branch into the regional market next year. On the edge: “(My aesthetics) are not so much driven

by a conscious effort to be more daring but simply my own approach to design. I believe in working with extremely simple ideas and expanding upon them.” The look: Tan has taken the plainest of uniforms – a monk’s robes, a housewife’s sarong, a surgeon’s scrubs – and transformed them into slick coats, dresses and jumpsuits perfect for experimental dressing. Each piece can be manipulated to create a look that is entirely yours. Available at: Blackmarket, Egg3 Price range: From $169 for a blouse to $599 for a dress.

Shift dress, price on application, from Antebellum, from Front Row; gloves and stockings, from stylist

ANTEBELLUM

Designer: Chia Wei Choong, 25

This Project Superstar contestantturned-superstar designer has been shaking up the local fashion scene since sweeping top honours at the Singapore Young Fashion Designer’s Contest and Asia Young Fashion Designer’s Contest (AYFDC) in 2007. He is pursuing a bachelor’s degree in fashion design at Raffles Design Institute, part of his prize for winning the AYFDC. Prior to the win, he was a diploma student in Lasalle College of the Arts and, at the time of his win, in Nanyang Academy of Fine Arts. Known for his dramatic menswear that has included

shirts with Victorian-style sleeves and denim bloomers, he debuts his collection for women this season. On the edge: “When you’re young, you tend to be more daring, you dare to challenge and you dare to fight for change and that’s fantastic because with all this energy, you start seeing a wave of change happen.” The look: Call it hospital haute – Chia has taken inspiration from the institutional uniform to create a range of sophisticated, slim-fit dresses, tops and bottoms. Available at: Front Row Price range: On application. Available later this month.

PHOTOS: WU PEIRONG

DESIGNER TO WATCH Wu Peirong, 25

A fresh menswear fashion design graduate with first class honours from London’s esteemed Central Saint Martins (CSM), Wu already has an impressive

portfolio. In the past two years, she has interned with cutting edge European designers Raf Simons and Siv Stoldal. Last August, she made it to The Straits Times Life!’s list of 30 talents under the age of 30. Her fashion illustrations have also been published in the 2008 design book Digital Fashion Illustration and headhunter agency Indesign London’s 2009 Art School Report. Producing her first commercial collection would seem like the next step but she has instead decided to return to the classroom. Winning praise for her astute tailoring and outside-the-box aesthetics – she has a penchant for geometrical shapes – she started on a master’s degree programme at CSM, once more specialising in menswear fashion. Based in London since 2005, she tells Urban via e-mail: “I want to see where it takes me. “The final year (of my undergraduate studies) was an interesting experience: Sleepless nights, constant muttering to myself, anxiety-induced eye twitching, but I also got to work with some very talented people.” This young gun is raring to find her own distinct take on fashion. She recalls: “Louis Wilson, the head of the master’s programme at CSM, asked me who my favourite designers are and after I mentioned Raf Simons, Miuccia Prada and Riccardo Tisci, she sighed and said: ‘They’re good at what they do but they’re not young anymore. They’re not fresh and exciting’. “It made me realise we have to stop thinking about the fashion heyday. It’s two generations removed and we have to find our own ways of getting things done.” For enquiries, contact Wu at wuriep@gmail.com.

Edgy indie creations are no longer relegated to niche boutiques – come March next year, Millenia Walk mall will unveil a new space called Parco@Millenia, which will feature works from 23 new local designers. Said a spokesman for Parco@Millenia: “This project marks an exciting process to nurture our young design talents, who will enhance the vibrancy of our local fashion and retail industry.” The 23 designers were chosen based on the quality and freshness of their designs, the practicality of their business plans and their marketing strategies. The 23 designers in this programme will undergo an 18-month mentorship, including a study mission to Tokyo, where they get to attend a sharing session with renowned Japanese designer Limi Yamamoto. Urban spotlights three labels that are part of the project.

OWN MUSE A three-month-old label (main picture) that creates threads for modern urban women, Own Muse is the brainchild of designers Shu Juang (below, left) and Johanna Lau (below, right), both 21. They both graduated from Temasek Polytechnic with a diploma in apparel design and merchandising.

What is the brand about? The brand is a collaboration between two individuals with different styles – one bold and edgy, the other romantic and feminine. Our designs bring these two styles together. What is special about this brand? Expect uncommon mix of fabrics on each garment. Details such as ruching, pleating, beads, studs and other embellishments will be used to create subtle and unique designs. How do you plan to stay competitive? Each design will come in limited quantities.

KANWAL A womenswear brand by 37-year-old Singaporean Kanwal Jit Kaur (right), Kanwal boasts fluid materials and feminine tops and dresses. She has worked as a fashion designer for runway events for Topshop and Shu Uemura.

HATCHING NEW DESIGNERS

What is the brand about? My designs are inspired by nature and its vivid colours. My clothes are usually made from natural fabrics, such as cotton and silk, and they flaunt both fluidity and structure to accentuate the body curves. What is special about this brand? I create designs that are fashion statements. I create my own colours, gradients and shades by hand-dyeing and painting the fabric. My latest collection (below) is based on shades of blue. How do you plan to stay competitive? My brand’s main objective is to produce and design semi-couture garments which are not available in other stores in Singapore. The price point is also relatively low for these exclusive pieces – a dress costs about $600, which is lower than couture labels in the market right now.

PHOTOS: KANWAL, OWN MUSE, YUMUMU

YUMUMU (right)

A womenswear brand launched last year by Lu Yilin, 28 (left). She graduated with a degree in fine arts from the Slade School of Fine Art in London. What is the brand about? The brand is known for dresses with slim-cut tailoring and head-turning drapery. The price range is from $195 to $350. Its latest collection is sold at Antipodean (Holland Village) and Blackmarket in Singapore, as well as a concept store in Milan.

What is special about this brand? Our designs are inventive, wearable and cater to a wide range of women. The designs are produced in small quantities and individually crafted in Singapore. How do you plan to stay competitive? I want to create a label that is

not afraid to experiment with new ideas, materials and forms. I also place great emphasis on the cut and workmanship. I think in this age of mass production, people are beginning to be more appreciative of designs that champion originality and craftsmanship.


g a Gmaniaa

Fashion-mad pop star Lady Gaga wants these clothes and she wants them now

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THE STRAITS TIMES

URBAN

Y

ou know you are in for something big when the public relations person asks repeatedly: “Are you ready? Is everyone ready? She’s coming in any moment now” – the way one would when dealing with royalty. Within minutes, American pop princess Lady Gaga strides into the fourth-floor function room at the Mandarin Oriental hotel, which has been converted into a changing room for the day. The star swirls a mid-day glass of white wine as an entourage of six, made up of minders and local representatives from her record label Interscope/ Universal Music, trails behind her. Lady Gaga is famed for her daring, extreme dress sense and her outfit does not disappoint: oversized shades, a studded one-armed leather toga mini dress, a matching one-armed leather jacket and the iconic cage-like leather booties from Yves Saint Laurent’s spring/summer 2009 collection. In town two weeks ago to launch SingTel AMPed, a new music subscription service by the local telco, the 23-year-old singer met Urban for an exclusive fashion shoot in which she would style herself. She is quick to take things into her own hands. Yakking away on her mobile phone the way teenage girls do to their gal pals, she is oblivious to Lady Gaga everyone around her and zeroes in on a rack of clothes at the end of the room. Seconds later, she is off the line and says – to no one in particular – in her New York drawl: “I’m so excited about this shoot.” Like a child in a candy store, she begins pulling pieces off the rack – a YSL cocktail dress embellished with chains, a Fendi laser-cut lace skirt – while exclaiming, “I like this” or “I can really work this”. Her declarations of desire turn into pleas when she sees the accessories that include Prada and Gucci boots as well as costumes from the personal collection of Bobby Luo and Ritz Lim, the wacky owners of local nightspot Butter Factory, which Urban had borrowed for the shoot. “I want this,” she says repeatedly, even when told the items have to be returned, holding fast to the pair of lace collars that she wears on Urban’s cover. It all makes for bemused laughter – until she stares you straight in the eye and states firmly: “I’ll buy it. I don’t want to have anything here for free. “I want it. I need it.”

JUNE 26 2009

the United States alone. Her typical style includes less-thantypical plastic bustiers, latex lingerie and thigh-high boots. She has sparked a global trend of wearing oversized panties as hot pants – in Britain, sales of the granny-style undergarment have reportedly surged 25 per cent because of her. Still, nothing quite prepares one for the fashion obsession of Lady Gaga. “Fashion is my lifestyle,” she tells Urban in an interview before the photo shoot. “It is my everyday. It’s when I wake up, it’s when I go to sleep, it’s when I go to church or when I party. It’s not dress-up. It’s who I am.” She takes fashion so seriously that she put together her own creative production team, Haus Of Gaga, in 2006 so that she can stay true to her “aesthetics and philosophy about art, fashion and music”. The six-man team is in charge of creating outfits and hairstyles for her. “No matter how successful you get, it is important to remember why you’re doing what you’re doing and I want to be creative. “Why do I want to work with (stylists) who work with everybody else?” At the shoot, she resists wearing a gem-studded, armour-like shoulder piece because “Madonna’s worn something like it”. When she mistakenly hears that a pair of Louis Vuitton lace panties was from fall/winter 2008, she says in a sing-song voice: “I can’t wear that because it’s ooold”. (She later dons it and even asks to buy it when told it is actually from the current season.) The elder daughter of entrepreneur parents – she has a 17-year-old sister – is no drama diva, though. For all her brassiness, she is also polite and friendly. Reportedly dating a Los Angelesbased entrepreneur who goes by the name of Speedy, she has a tendency to shake your hand palm-side down as a thank you gesture and, when told the lace collars are hers for $600, shrieks: “I love you.” Most of all, she has a sense of humour about her over-the-top sartorial obsession, which serves to portray her as a bona fide fashion lover rather than a bratty style icon. She calls herself the “homeless Carrie Bradshaw of pop music” – a reference to the fashion-slave protagonist of hit American series Sex And The City – because all her earnings go into creating new outfits and props for her shows. During her attempt to secure the collars, she dangles the striped scarf she wears as a dress on this page and says: “If you let me buy them, I’ll let you photograph me in this.” She then adds with a cheeky grin: “It’s called fashion extortion.” Urban finds out just how far she will take her fashion fixation. Be warned, Gaga mania is infectious.

GOING GAGA Fashion is her life, says Lady Gaga, who insists on buying items from her fashion shoot with Urban

‘NO MATTER HOW SUCCESSFUL YOU GET, IT IS IMPORTANT TO REMEMBER WHY YOU’RE DOING WHAT YOU’RE DOING.’

FASHION OBSESSION Born Stefani Joanne Angelina Germanotta in New York, the singer is as known for her wardrobe as she is for her brand of 1970s-inspired dance-pop anthems – her 2008 debut album, The Fame, has sold one million copies in

noellel@sph.com.sg

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Victorian-inspired collar piece from Bobby Luo and Ritz Lim, knee-high leather boots from Gucci, jewel-embellished bangles and lace undies from Louis Vuitton; and metal bracelet from Burberry, all prices unavailable

HIGH MEETS LOW

Cotton scarf by Daniel Papillo, worn as a dress, $200, from www.nightvisiononline.com; rubber boots, $2,030, from Prada (call for inquiries); and tulle headpiece by Danson Chong (9138-8422)

Photographer: ASHLEIGH SIM; Fashion director: JEROME AWASTHI; Fashion assistant: JOSHUA SEOW; Make-up: BENO LIM, M.A.C Cosmetics; Hair: ISSAC NG, Toni & Guy; Location: Mandarin Oriental, Singapore Special thanks to Universal Music, Luke Elijah Lim for his styling assistance and Bobby Luo and Ritz Lim of Butter Factory for their costumes

What exactly is Gaga style? It’s visual, graphic and avant garde combined with a handmade, New York element. What I’ve got on now (on the cover) is a very good example of my aesthetics. I’ve got on very high-fashion (looking), haute couture-type collars paired with panties which some might consider distasteful but look closer and you will see they are from Louis Vuitton. I’ve got on (my own) control-top tights that are trashy and knee-high, stripper-style boots, except that they are from Gucci and amazing. The look is very high meets low, haute couture trash glamour. Your outfits are very revealing. How do you keep in shape? My shows are very rigorous so that helps me stay in shape. I’m also on a strict diet – for most of the time, I don’t eat bread at all, only vegetables and protein. Is it a conscious effort to always look like a sex symbol? I wouldn’t call myself anything. I have always been a very sexual woman even before I was in the public eye. It’s just who I am.

How do you feel being hailed as the next Madonna? I don’t think anyone can take over from Madonna. She is so successful because she has carved out her own space in the music and fashion industry. She’s always so unique so if anything, I admire that trait about her and hope to embody that. I’d like to maintain a certain irrelevance, to make sure there’s no one like me. What are three items in your wardrobe that you cannot live without? High heels and sunglasses which have been (part of my wardrobe) for a very long time. I’ve also been obsessed about wigs since I dyed my hair blonde two years ago. The minute I dyed my hair, my whole life changed. I don’t think it’s because I went (from brunette to) blonde – I had written Just Dance and my career took off. But being blonde represents leaving behind my life in New York – my friends, my family, my tiny apartment and $5 sequined bras – and moving on to bigger things.


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THE STRAITS TIMES

URBAN

JUNE 26 2009

GAGA MANIA Don’t get your knickers in a twist over Lady Gaga’s style. NOELLE LOH reports on the panties-loving fashion icon 1 HAIR BOW Since donning this oversized bow made of faux blonde hair in her Poker Face music video last year, dozens of style tutorials have popped up online and in magazines teaching fash fans how to DIY their own hair-raising do. Famous followers of this hair-raising accessory include American heiress Paris Hilton and rock wild child and style icon Kelly Osbourne. Says Lady Gaga of the phenomenon: “I think it’s the sincerest form of flattery.” 2 PANTIES AS PANTS This daring dance diva sure knows how to kick fashion butt – she has a penchant for exposing her own behind in catsuits and giant panties worn with little beneath, be it on stage or to dinner. She has even been stopped by the police in Chicago for this habit but far from being a fashion victim, she says: “I think (wearing) no pants is sexy. I love the naked human body.” Since then, copycats have included hip-hop princesses Ciara and Rihanna as well as fans. Last month, British tabloid The Mirror reported that sales of “big pants” – local slang for grandma-style panties – have jumped by 25 per cent in the past year. Apparently, young girls were buying them as hot pants to emulate the pop star’s style. 3 BIZARRE GLASSES This futuristic fashionista is all bug-eyed about statement-making shades. Her extensive collection includes tamer styles like 1950s-inspired wayfarers and giant goggle-style shades from brands like Versace and Prada. Kookier versions include ultra-round, Gandhi-style glasses, American designer Jeremy Scott’s whimsical Minnie Mouse-inspired goggles and an iconic pair of rectangular blinkers with video screens for frames. Talk about a bright future. 4 MAD HATS Hats off to Lady Gaga’s taste in weird and wacky headgear. Possibly inspired by her fashion icons such as the late hat-loving British eccentric Isabella Blow, the singer has balanced atop her head anything from pirate hats to giant saucers to what resembles a gold gyroscope by British milliner Nasir Mazhar. The last proved to be a, um, knockout indeed. Declaring it her “Gaga barrier” on Ellen Degeneres’ talk show, she almost knocked the good host over with it when the latter went in for an embrace.

PHOTOS: WWW.DAILYMAIL.CO.UK, WWW.DENIMOLOGY.CO.UK, WWW.DRFUNKENBERRY.COM, WWW.ENTERTAINMENT.UK.MSN.COM, WWW.IGOSSIP.COM, WWW.RECLUSE.ME, WWW.STAGE.MYLIFETIME.COM, WWW.WHYFAME.COM


MICA(P)191/11/2008

FRIDAY MAY 22 2009

YOUR GUIDE TO LOOKING GOOD

Behind the scenes at Germany’s Next Topmodel shoot in Singapore

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IZEST POSTURE VESTS WORTH $1,068 GUARDIAN HEALTH & BEAUTY HAMPERS WORTH $1,500


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THE STRAITS TIMES

URBAN

MAY 22 2009

REALITY BITES

NOELLE LOH

noellel@sph.com.sg

I will never forget my first encounter with the producers of Germany’s Next Topmodel, the hit reality programme about model wannabes based on the popular American series. The show had shot its three finalists in Singapore in March and Urban had been approached to interview them. “Perhaps you can ask the girls about their English skills. It could make for some pretty interesting answers onscreen,” said one of the producers with a wide grin. I left that meeting wondering if the guy was for real. Did he just ask me − a journalist, agent of truth − to be one of his actors? Needless to say, I was wary when I went for the interview. Reality programmes are just like any other TV shows, I

thought. Utter make-belief. So imagine my surprise when the three girls − Mandy Bork, 17, Sara Nuru, 19, and Marie Nasemann, 20 − practically ignored the rolling cameras. They chatted and laughed, pouted and fretted while at least three men recorded their every move and sound. They were not afraid to look silly − “I had never even heard of Singapore before coming here” − or sulky − Bork barely smiled. In short, the aspiring models were the real deal, a fact further proven by the diligent way they took instructions from the stylist at our cover shoot two days later. Perhaps these golden girls were the rare reality TV show contestants with genuine goals. Or perhaps I had been too harsh on this entertainment genre. Whatever it is, here’s one thing that I discovered: a new respect for people like Bork, Nuru and Nasemann, who go to great pains to pursue their dreams. Oh, and the girls’ English wasn’t too bad either.

Win!

Six iZest Posture Vests worth $178 each. Answer this question: Using iZest can restore the body to its correct posture, which may have deteriorated from long hours of sitting at the desk. True or false?

INDEX

E-mail your entries with your full name, NRIC, address and contact details to sturban@sph.com.sg. Indicate URBAN/IZEST in your subject header. Closing date for entries is noon on Monday, May 25.

BEAUTY BOX Keep fresh with seven handy spritzes

What sets Jimmy Choo apart from other luxe shoe labels

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FASH HAG Oh Mr C-lister, do behave

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XINYI SAYS Dresses fit for a Shakespearean do

Three Guardian hampers worth more than $500 each. Each hamper comprises of 33 Guardian Health & Beauty Award 2009 winners. Answer this question: Guardian is Singapore’s biggest health and beauty retailer with more than 120 stores islandwide. True or false?

FEATURES

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Winners will be notified shortly about their prizes.

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Singapore rising II: Local brands spread their wings

THE BAG PAGE Men’s Health finalist Donovan Lee was a fashion designer REGULARS Fash Flash Hey Good-looking

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SUPERVISING EDITOR Sumiko Tan EDITOR Tee Hun Ching ASSISTANT EDITOR Eve Yap COPY EDITOR Linda Collins PHOTOGRAPHERS Desmond Foo, Ashleigh Sim, Lau Fook Kong, Nuria Ling, Shahriya Yahaya, Chew Seng Kim, Joseph Nair For The Straits Times WRITERS Noelle Loh, Hong Xinyi, Karen Tee, Imran Jalal CONTRIBUTORS Tan Hsueh Yuen, Pradeep Paul DESIGNERS Lee Yee Hwa, Sally Lam, June Green, Suzanne Sng, Mak Mun San, Yu Sheng Sin, Tong Ming Chien, Julie Kee, Zulaiha Jumari

The winners of last week’s URBAN/ TROIKA contest are: 1. Tong Lye Neo 2. Wong Shi Ya 3. A Rajeswari Clari 4. Tan Fuan Cho 5. Ho Chaw Ming 6. Nornazihah Hamzah 7. Shirisha H Kundalkar 8. Sharon Ann Towle 9. Nora Aizudin 10. Leong Julie 11. Jiang Dishen 12. Citrayudha Komaladi 13. Rosmah Wagiman 14. Cheo Boon Ming 15. Kalthom Madina

Three readers sweat it out for Michelle O’s arms

Singapore rising I: Catwalk capital in the making?

7. Pamela Magdelene Devied 8. Lam Zhi Shiong 9. Leonard Hazra 10. Nassufi Azharin

Stockist list

POSH NOSH Tuck into vice and virtue at Tampopo Deli

The skinny on Germany’s Next Topmodel babes

The winners of last week’s URBAN/NIVEA contest are:

Dior’s new skincare range saves you time

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E-mail your entries with your full name, NRIC, address and contact details to sturban@sph.com.sg. Indicate URBAN/GUARDIAN in your subject header. Closing date for entries is noon on Monday, May 25.

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PERSONAL TRAINER Reshape that butt

URBAN MAN Three guys who went from fat to fab

Win!

1. Seet Bee Hua 2. Faridah Hassan 3. Sunila Benegal 4. Gigi Tan Guek Guek 5. Josphine B. Bacolor 6. Wong Mei Ping

4

Cover photographer RAYMOND LEE, Capsule Productions Stylist DANIEL BOEY Stylist assistants LOUIS KOH and BRYAN GAMBOA Hair RYAN YAP, Passion Hair Salon Make-up HUANG HUEI MEI, M.A.C Models MARIE NASEMANN, SARA NURU and MANDY BORK Outfit and accessories Alldressedup fall/winter 2009 (available next month) Location Float@Marina Bay

18 Singapore hit label Alldressedup is going places.

For editorial inquiries, please contact: Badariah Ghaffar 6319-2199 For advertisement inquiries, please contact: Timothy Lim 6319-1614 William Tan 6319-1628 Maureen Wee 6319-2046 Geoff Tan 6319-2112 Amy Ho 6319-6168 Tom Yuen 6319-1670 Augustine Chui 6319-2052 Jason Lee 6319-2005 Martin Boey 6319-1920


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THE STRAITS TIMES

URBAN

Go behind the scenes of hit reality series Germany’s Next Topmodel and you will find out that it is as real as it can get THE REEL You know that scene in any of the Next Top Model TV franchises, where the week’s bunch of hopefuls do a photo shoot where their talent, or lack of, is exposed? Well, that played out right on Singapore’s shores not too long ago. Three lissome German finalists pouted and posed in the Singapore Botanic Gardens as well as on the Float@Marina Bay in March. They were here to film the second last episode of Cycle 4 of Germany’s Next Topmodel (yes, that’s one word), the reality television series based on America’s Next Top Model. In the German spin-off, German supermodel Heidi Klum is the show’s host and head judge. The six-day gig here was inked after the Singapore Tourism Board’s (STB) Frankfurt office approached the show’s production company Tresor TV with the idea. STB also roped in home-grown label Alldressedup, which offered three slots in its fall/winter 2009 showcase for the finalists to show off their strut. Singapore is the second South-east Asian city to be featured on the programme, following Bangkok in Cycle 2. The reality show about runway hopefuls has become such a runaway hit in Germany that its viewership ratings have hit a whopping six million there. The filming here was shrouded in such secrecy that Urban was made to sign agreements swearing us to silence till the episode aired on Tuesday evening (Wednesday morning Singapore time). THE REAL Urban was the only local newspaper allowed behind the scenes for two days to get the skinny on the model wannabes. We first encountered the trio – students Mandy Bork, 17, and Sara Nuru, 19, and public relations assistant Marie Nasemann, 20 – on a hot, cloudless Saturday morning at the Botanic Gardens. With their casual get-up of tees, shorts and sundresses, and faces devoid of make-up, the three girls would have blended in with the tourists, were it not for a TV crew capturing their every move. There was a reason the three did not look like models – they had no idea they were there for a photo shoot and thought it was a sight-seeing jaunt. However, when asked to

pose for the camera among the flora, the super troupers launched effortlessly into model mode. They also did not know about Urban’s cover shoot that was to take place two days later or that they were part of the Alldressedup spring/summer 2009 presentation at Float@Marina Bay. Each time the news was broken, all three widened their eyes and gasped in surprise. And forget catwalk catfights. These were not Mean Girls but young schoolgirls on excursion. They chatted excitedly in German, their favourite topic being – what else – shopping. “Can we buy fake goods here?” Nasemann asked this writer shyly, while the crew set up for the next scene. During an interview segment that took place at a cafe in Kampong Glam after the Botanic Gardens shoot, they helped each other with their English and were generous with compliments about one another. When asked if they had mastered the catwalk, Nasemann replied: “You should ask Mandy. She is the catwalk queen.” Nuru nodded vigorously in agreement. The blonde Bork, the youngest and most reserved of the trio, has come to be known for her unique strut that earned her a place at the Miss Sixty fall/winter 2009 showcase in New York in February. It was during the rehearsal for the Alldressedup show – which featured 17 other professional models including Italy’s Next Top Model Cycle 2 winner Michela Maggioni – that the girls showed the strain. All three fretted about not being as tall or experienced as their catwalk counterparts. Still, they ended up befriending the other models and exchanging stories. By showtime, it was hard to tell the rookies from the pros until Nuru reminded Urban at the after-party: “We have to go back to rest and get ready for tomorrow. We don’t know what might be in store for us.” The last episode aired in Germany last night (this morning Singapore time). At press time, we still did not know who won the catwalk crown but, in our eyes, all three are winners for their model behaviour. To find out who won, go to topmodel.ProSieben.de. noellel@sph.com.sg

MAY 22 2009

GIRLS ON TOP

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Marie Nasemann, 20, public relations assistant Why did you join GNTM? I have been modelling for a while but thought I should push my career further. I have always loved fashion and its creative processes.

Despite not knowing that they were going to be part of a photo shoot at the Botanic Gardens, (from left) Nuru, Bork and Nasemann worked it before the cameras.

What is the most surprising thing that you’ve learnt about modelling? That being pretty is not enough. I used to do jobs where all I had to do was smile but, on the show, I’ve come to learn that we’re more like actors. How does it feel having your every move captured on camera? Initially, I thought I had to always be on my best behaviour and say the right thing all the time, but I’ve since learnt that the best way to get viewers to like you is by being real. I’ve actually come to be more open with my emotions. What has been the highlight of your GNTM life? Doing the underwater shoot off Catalina Island in California. The water was very cold and my photo wasn’t picked as the top picture but I had a lot of fun.

Mandy Bork, 17, high school student Why did you join GNTM? I’ve wanted to be a model since I was 12. I thought it would be an exciting job in which no two days are the same and I could experience that on the show. What is the most surprising thing that you’ve learnt about modelling? That we don’t just stand around and smile. When the show first started, I found all the posing and stunts that we had to do just crazy. I never expected it.

(From left) Nuru and Nasemann getting their hair done for the Alldressedup show; Nasemann (in red) taking her turn on the runway during the rehearsal. The model wannabes were filmed the entire time they were in Singapore.

How does it feel having your every move captured on camera? It was awful at first. The crew would film us doing everything, even simple things like putting on our make-up, and I found it very annoying. But we got used to it. When production stops, we might just find our lives missing something. What has been the highlight of your GNTM life? Walking the Miss Sixty show at New York Fashion Week. It was my first time walking in front of a live crowd and I was so nervous I couldn’t sleep the night before. Once I was on the runway, however, the fear just disappeared.

Sara Nuru, 19, high school student Why did you join GNTM? I had never thought of myself as pretty until I was 15, when a woman on the street asked if I was a model. I never had the courage to try it out but, thanks to my boyfriend who secretly took me to the show’s casting, here I am. (From left) Hanging out backstage; Nasemann (in red) and Bork practising their catwalk; Bork during the Alldressedup show.

PHOTOS: DESMOND FOO, ASHLEIGH SIM, ALLDRESSEDUP

Photographer: RAYMOND LEE, Capsule Productions; Stylist: DANIEL BOEY; Styling assistants: LOUIS KOH & BRYAN GAMBOA; Hair: RYAN YAP, Passion Hair Salon; Make-up: HUANG HUEI MEI, M.A.C; Outfits & accessories: Alldressedup fall/winter 2009 (to be launched next month); Location: Float@Marina Bay

What is the most surprising thing that you’ve learnt about modelling? The large number of models who go to a casting. Dozens of girls can turn up but, ultimately, only one person is booked. How does it feel having your every move captured on camera? It’s very strange. There have been so many occasions when we want to ask the cameramen to go away, especially when they are filming us crying. But it is what we signed up for, so we have to accept it. What has been the highlight of your GNTM life? The photo shoot where we did acrobatic stunts while suspended in mid-air from a hot air balloon. I learnt the importance of being able to show different expressions and am now better at it.


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MAY 22 2009

MAY 22 2009

MODEL MAKING

Hometown: Washington DC, United States Currently in: Washington on a break; headed for New York next for work Claim to fame: Being picked by famed American fashion photographer Steven Meisel to star in Prada’s fall/winter 2007 campaign Time here: February to April Representing agency: Mannequin

MICHELA MAGGIONI, 21 (left)

ST PHOTOS: DESMOND FOO

Rising stars Michela Maggioni (above) and Rory Greer (facing page), seen here behind the scenes at the shoot for local label Reckless Ericka’s lookbook, say their stint here was fruitful.

CATWALK CAPITAL Call Singapore a model city, as agencies here have groomed top names, says NOELLE LOH

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ne pouty Canadian catwalker is a favourite among some A-list fashion photographers. A French stunner went from finalist in the Elite Model Look competition to walk for big labels like Dior and Chanel. Then there is the Serbian hunk whose chiselled features have made him the poster boy for the likes of Dolce & Gabbana. Apart from their runway sucesses, what do Coco Rocha, Sigrid Agren and Andrija Bikic have in common? Answer: All three once called Singapore home. Along with at least seven other top names on the scene now, the trio used Singapore as one of their springboards to fame. Ravishing Rocha, currently placed

third on Models.com’s list of Top 50 female models, for example, came as a 15-year-old newbie in 2005 under the management of local agency Ave. Boy wonder Bikic, meanwhile, arrived with a head of curly hair and “a few tear sheets in his portfolio” in 2004 to be represented by Upfront, says its managing director Watson Tan. The agency suggested he cut and straighten his hair – which he agreed to – and he has since walked for luxury labels like Bottega Veneta and Giorgio Armani. It is not just their professional advice and tender loving care that have earned local agencies the title of model mother hen to catwalk chicks though. Singapore also has the reputation of being the best place in Asia to build an aspiring model’s portfolio of photos, otherwise known as “tear sheets” in industry speak. Says Ave’s spokesman: “Local photographers are not only skilled but also have the latest equipment. Style makers like Eddie Halim, Johnny Khoo and Brenda Tham are extremely sensitive to new ways of presenting trends. “The top fashion houses here have

also always been very supportive in lending us their designs for shoots. All these add up to photos that are not only up-to-date but also have an international feel.” It helps too that most of the leading fashion titles here are in English, making it easier for these foreign faces to make it through the international front door. Says American Prada campaign model Rory Greer, 23, whose two-month stint here with local agency Mannequin ended last month: “I had a lot of good editorial jobs in Japan but many European companies don’t accept them because they are in a language they can’t understand.” Thanks to these factors, the Garden City has nurtured many models looking to blossom. Upfront’s Tan says the number of such hopefuls approaching his agency has jumped by as much as 70 per cent over the past three years. The spokesman for Ave adds: “No matter how talented or stunning a model is, if she does not have a book, it would be difficult for people to see how versatile she is.” noellel@sph.com.sg

Why did you decide to work in Singapore? I had heard about how industry insiders here are creative, precise and methodical and thus very good with pictures. I knew about how (modelling) rates here are low, but I wanted to grow as a model and I thought this would be a good place to do so. What is the main difference between modelling here and elsewhere? People here work with great precision. Nothing ever goes wrong. Which was your most memorable job here and why? I loved shooting the campaign for a Singapore shoe brand in Bangkok. It involved a private jet and a limousine and everyone on the team was the best possible. What is one thing you’ve learnt from your stint here? To be more professional and really put my all into a job, to really feel and bring a picture to life. I also learnt the importance of adapting to changing environments. What is one thing that the local modelling industry can improve on? To be more experimental with concepts – something I’m sure can be done considering how good your photographers are.

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RORY GREER, 23 (left)

She won Cycle 2 of Italy’s Next Top Model last year. He is a Prada model hand-picked by top American photographer Steven Meisel. Yet Michela Maggioni and Rory Greer both made a pitstop here earlier this year to further their careers Hometown: Gorgonzola in Lombardy, northern Italy Currently in: Milan Claim to fame: Winning Cycle 2 of Italy’s Next Top Model last year, which included a 150,000 euro (S$298,000) contract to be the face of Max Factor’s Italian campaign Time here: March to April Representing agency: Mannequin

THE STRAITS TIMES

Why did you decide to work in Singapore? Singapore has a reputation for producing good editorial spreads and I needed to update my portfolio with new magazine “tears” from English publications. The ones I did in Japan, for example, were great but often not accepted because they were in Japanese. What is the main difference between modelling here and elsewhere? It is more difficult looking good at castings here because of the heat. On a more serious note, there are some amazing people in the industry. Which was your most memorable job here and why? I enjoyed doing the lookbook for local label Reckless Ericka. I like the intimacy of working with designers personally, especially when they are friendly, relaxed and know how to have fun. What is one thing you’ve learnt from your stint here? That perspiring a lot is good for the pores and actually can prevent breakouts. This has since given me a reason to work out. Seriously. What is one thing that the local modelling industry can improve on? To feed the models better. We technically do make good money but we often don’t see much of it after paying for our expenses. It doesn’t help that the currency here is lower in value compared to that in places like Europe and the United States.

Check out the top models who once made Singapore their base on the next page


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THE STRAITS TIMES

Monika Jagaciak, 15 The Polish model shot to fame with a Hermes campaign at 13. Represented here by Ave for two months in 2007, she became the toast of New York Fashion Week in February, for opening and closing for Calvin Klein.

URBAN

Coco Rocha, 20 The Canadian was under Ave’s care during her two months here in 2005. She opened and closed the Jean Paul Gaultier fall/winter 2007 show with an Irish dance, which American Vogue dubbed the Coco moment.

MAY 22 2009

Cosmin Petre, 23 The Romanian model was with Upfront for more than a month in 2006 when he clinched the Dolce & Gabbana fall/winter campaign for that year. He has since walked for the likes of Dsquared2.

Alice Burdeu, 21 The winner of Australia’s Next Top Model Cycle 3 in 2007 was here that year for two months under Mannequin. She became Dolce & Gabbana’s campaign girl last year and fronts Sonia Rykiel’s campaign this season.

Serafima Vakulenko, 21 The Russian was here for three months last year under Ave. She has since walked for Luella, John Galliano and Christian Lacroix, fronted BCBG Max Azria’s campaign and had a Marc Jacobs bag named after her.

10 OF THE BEST Here are 10 top models in the industry who once made Singapore their home. NOELLE LOH tracks them down

Andrija Bikic, 25 Represented here by Upfront from June to August in 2004, this Serbian hunk has come to be known as one of Tom Ford’s favourite models and also has a Dolce & Gabbana campaign under his belt.

Lisa Cant, 24 Dubbed The Bug for her large eyes and broad forehead, the Canadian was represented by Mannequin when she was here in 2003. In 2004, lensman Steven Meisel put her on two consecutive Vogue Italia covers.

Antony Cuelenaere, 23 The dark-haired Canadian was advised by Upfront, which managed him for two months in 2006, to go blond. He has since modelled for a Marc by Marc Jacobs lookbook and walked for Dsquared2 and Antonia Marras.

Sigrid Agren, 18 The model was represented by Ave during her three-month gig here in 2007. This French lass made her runway debut closing Prada’s resort 2009 show and is also featured in its spring/summer 2009 campaign.

Henzo Hulle, 19 An Upfront alumnus, this Brazilian dreamboat was here for a two-month stint in 2006. He has since been snapped by top fashion photographers such as Steven Klein and clinched the Paul Smith spring/ summer 2009 campaign.

PHOTOS: AFP, CHARLES NASEH, DAN & CORINA LECCA, REUTERS


MICA(P)191/11/2008

FRIDAY MAY 8 2009

PLAY PUNK

Toasting the bad boys of fashion

WIN! NIVEA

DEODORANT Q10 HAMPERS WORTH $1,000 & DOCKERS速 K-1 PANTS WORTH $1,000


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THE STRAITS TIMES

URBAN

MAY 8 2009

DRAMA PRINCE He has been called fashion’s latest bad boy but British designer Gareth Pugh says he’s just doing his own thing

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ritish fashion designer Gareth Pugh (inset) thinks Singapore’s ban on chewing gum is “a very good thing”. “It creates such an obedience on the street. Where I live (in London), it gets unsightly, so this environment can be nice,” he tells Urban at the brasserie of the St Regis Singapore hotel on Tuesday. They are words not quite expected of the Sunderlandborn wonderlad whose critically acclaimed, controversial designs include dresses made of leather ribbons, sleeves of perspex pyramids and headdresses of blown-up condoms. Alongside praise such as “his genius is undeniable” from British Vogue, the 27-year-old has been described as fashion’s latest “wild child,” “bad boy” and “enfant terrible” since his debut at London Fashion Week in 2006. In person, however, the ballet-trained second child of a policeman father and ex-call centre operator mother is amiable and mildmannered, even bordering on shy. In town to show his autumn/winter 2009 collection at the Audi Fashion Festival at Ngee Ann City’s Civic Plaza last night, he punctuates his sentences with a grin or a chuckle. With his floppy hair and kooky get-up of leather jacket, tee, loose cotton pants and flip flops, the skinny, pale-faced man exudes a certain boyish charm at the interview. “I don’t think being tagged a bad boy is a good thing,” he says earnestly. “Journalists (just) need to put a label on you so that their readers can understand where they are coming from.” For one, the Central Saint Martins graduate, whose earlier work was so outrageous it prompted Style.com’s Sarah Mower to ask, “Will there ever be clothes to wear here?”, insists he is a designer, not an artist. He calls seeing his pieces at the Superheroes: Fashion And Fantasy exhibition, which opened at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York last year, “weird”. “A lot of what I do is about movement and how it reacts to the body,” he says. “When you put (the clothes) on a mannequin, it just doesn’t seem to fit right.” Neither are his clothes clubbing gear, a common perception among the British press due to his club kid following and partying pals like British artist Matthew Stone and supermodel Agyness Deyn. Just after his show last night, Pugh and Stone played a deejay set to a crowd of young, screaming hipsters at local nightspot Velvet Underground on Jiak Kim Street. “My stuff is not referential to club culture,” he says. “It’s not for you to wear and roll around in on the nightclub floor.” But the party has only just begun for the industry’s newest It boy. Last year, he was awarded the prestigious Association

Nationale pour le Developpement des Arts de la Mode fellowship worth 150,000 euros (S$294,500), which includes showing in Paris. Days of living like a pauper – his early studio in London was said to be unheated – are “a looong time ago”, says the man, now Paris-based. Urban asks the young fashion star what exactly he is about. What message are you trying to convey with your designs? The premise of what I do is that I must make it interesting for me or I would not do it. I don’t really think about what reaction my clothes will get or what people expect of me. And I suppose I’m interested in pushing things a little bit. What interests you right now? My set designer has just embarked on a project to launch the first museum of British folklore. We have a long heritage, yet there’s no physical set-up to preserve and showcase it. It’s something that interests me because even though I’m British, I don’t know much about it. Who is one designer that you look up to and why? There isn’t exactly one designer I look up to. Knowing how difficult it is to succeed in this industry, I would say it’s anyone who can do what they do and turn it into a business yet still maintain a level of creativity and enjoy themselves.

THE HIT LIST 1 Mystery mask Trust the designer, who once declared that he put womenswear on male models because they are “just cheaper (to hire)”, to shroud their visages in their entirety. There was the all-black, condom headgear of autumn/winter 2006. The next season, he followed up with latex gimp masks. Then he opened his spring/summer show last year with a model whose head was encased in a giant, glittery black box (left). 2 Balloon burlesque Perhaps it was a sign that his career was about to take flight – a 24-year-old Pugh kicked off his debut runway show in London in February 2006 by sending giant balloons into the audience. What followed was a collection inspired by every child’s favourite helium treat, except that there was nothing childlike about the pieces. They included a bomber jacket so exaggerated it engulfed its wearer, vinyl bodysuits with over-the-top ruffles and one poodle-inspired headdress (right) said to be made of blown-up condoms. 3 Harlequin haute Wunderkind Pugh has always had a love affair with the harlequin, the comic character from classic Italian theatre. His version, however, has a lot more punch than it does slapstick Punch and Judy. Style.com’s Sarah Mower likened the models at his debut autumn/winter 2006 show to “perverse-looking harlequins”, their faces painted in clown make-up but wearing a stern sulk. His signature oversized ruffles and monochrome chessboard checks also pay tribute to the theatrical jester – from your worst nightmare, that is.

noellel@sph.com.sg

WILD ROMANTIC JOHN GALLIANO, 48

Has your work changed since you moved to Paris? To a certain extent, but I wouldn’t say it is specific to Paris. With every season you show, you grow and do things differently. There are also a lot more other things to consider. For example, I can do a show in London for the cost of the models in Paris. Moving to Paris is such a financial burden. Critics have said your designs are becoming more commercially viable with every collection. What is your response to this? When you first leave college, it’s very nice to be able to play around with things, but when you’re playing around in front of (American Vogue editor) Anna Wintour, (International Herald Tribune head fashion reporter) Suzy Menkes and Sarah Mower, there is a lot of pressure. I had to do a lot of growing up. I’m glad I did whatever I’ve done though because if not I probably wouldn’t be here talking to you.

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His slinky dresses and billowing ball gowns might be more classy than cutting edge but there is no denying that British-born Galliano is a bad boy. It’s not just his swashbuckler moustache, love for flamboyant outfits – he wore a pirate costume at his fall/winter 2009 show (right) – and catwalk swagger. In the 1990s, when slapdash grunge was in, the Central Saint Martins graduate championed the bias cut to create figure-hugging dresses. LVMH made him the first British head of French label Givenchy in 1995 and then Dior a year later.

Before Gareth Pugh, there were other bad boys. Here are three of the most notorious – John Galliano (this page), Alexander McQueen and Jean Paul Gaultier (following pages). PHOTOS: DESMOND WEE, AFP, WWW. STYLE.COM

THE HIT LIST 1 Period revival Galliano’s fascination with period dressing and detail dates back to his French Revolutionthemed 1984 graduation collection that was snapped up by London boutique Browns. He has since created Napolean-style jackets, waistcoats and corsets all updated with his trademark flamboyance.

2 Bias-cut chiffon dress Whether his inspiration is campy 1960s romance novel Valley Of The Dolls or Masai warrior women, he never fails to deliver the look that made him a star. His sexy, bias-cut numbers have since become a red carpet favourite, seen on the likes of Princess Diana, Charlize Theron and, in February, Gisele Bundchen as she walked down the aisle. “Hide that tummy, elongate that neck, shade the butt. I’m an accomplice to helping women get what they want,” he said. 3 Oversized headdress No Galliano show would be complete without the headdresses designed with British milliner Stephen Jones. There were the hobo haute hats crafted out of light bulbs, popsicle sticks and plastic combs from autumn/winter 1996. More recently, there were the oversized pirate hats, bonnets and wizardinspired headgear for spring/summer 2009.


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MAY 8 2009

ANARCHIC DRAMATIST ALEXANDER MCQUEEN, 40 A 24-year-old McQueen was immediately dubbed “enfant terrible” (French for terrible child) when he burst onto the scene in 1994. British-born and Central Saint Martins-trained, he presented a Jack the Ripper-inspired graduation collection which was famously snapped up by the late eccentric and stylist Isabella Blow, who became his mentor. His ascent to stardom – he has won British Designer of the Year four times and was made a Commander of the British Empire in 2003 – has been defined by an imaginative descent into all things dark and dangerous. His infamous 1995 Highland Rape show featured bum-bearing trousers and tampon strings hanging from skirts. Explaining that he no longer needed to hide “behind theatrics” in a 2005 Guardian interview, the master tailor continues to shock and disturb nonetheless.

PHOTOS: AFP, AP, FILE, REUTERS

GENDER BENDER JEAN PAUL GAULTIER, 57 Even at his age, Gaultier – otherwise known as JPG – still gets tagged French fashion’s ultimate bad boy. Without any formal training as a designer, the ex-assistant to Pierre Cardin pushed buttons in the 1980s by putting men in skirts and often getting kitted out in kilts himself. “A man doesn’t wear his masculinity on his clothes, his virility in his head,” he has been quoted as saying. Known for his high street-inspired brand of high fashion – think cut-out jumpsuits and leather bike pants – he has also shocked with his choice of models that has included the old and the obese.

But Gaultier is no shock jock. He is known to be a master tailor particularly versed with coats, suits and tricky fabrics like lace and leather, best seen in his couture collections that started in 1997. One of the most shocking points in his career was when he was appointed classic French luxury label Hermes’ creative director in 2003. THE HIT LIST 1 Conical bra It would be safe to say that Madonna probably would not be the Queen of Pop if not for Gaultier. He was responsible for the iconic conical corsets that the singer wore on her 1990 Blonde Ambition Tour, giving her bad girl image a further, er, lift. 2 Kilt Prada’s dress-like polo tee shocked the fashion world this season, so imagine the response when Gaultier sent male models out in transparent lace skirts in the 1980s. Considered one of the pioneers of gender bender dressing, the visionary told The New York Times: “It was not to provoke and shock the people. It was only because I thought that people were changing... so that it was no longer a shame to express femininity.” 3 Classique & Le Male fragrances Gaultier’s first men’s and women’s fragrances, launched in the 1990s, have come to be as iconic as the man himself. Like his clothes, their bodalicious packaging set tongues wagging. Both continue to enjoy brisk sales today with Le Male said to be the numero uno man’s scent in Europe.

International Herald Tribune’s Suzy Menkes said of his autumn/winter 2009 collection: “(It) was as if all McQueen’s fantastical visions from his 15 years in fashion were on the runway, enlarged by a computer click.” His shows also continue to push the boundaries of performance art. Past antics have included robots that blitzed a twirling Shalom Harlow’s dress in spray paint and sending a double amputee model out on carved wooden limbs.

MAY 8 2009

THE STRAITS TIMES

THE HIT LIST 1 Taxidermist From encasing a model’s head in a ball of butterflies to having stuffed birds displayed as if tugging at a model’s locks, McQueen obviously has a thing for taxidermy. “I have always loved the mechanics of nature,” he said at his spring/summer 2009 show that had stuffed animals ranging from a tiger to a polar bear as the backdrop. He took his perverse fascination to a new realm with his autumn/winter 2008 collection. French model Sigrid Agren hobbled onto the catwalk in an all-white, fully feathered long dress and giant headpiece that bounded her arms (far left). The designer’s fowl take on the infamous swan dress Icelandic singer Bjork – a McQueen fan – wore to the 2001 Oscars, perhaps? 2 Kate Moss holograph Not exactly a look but certainly something fashionistas and artists alike will be looking back at for a long time. As his autumn/winter 2006 show came to a close, white smoke rose in the middle of the catwalk and, moments after, spun to reveal a floating Kate Moss dressed in a billowy white gown. If the supermodel resembled an apparition, it

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was because the audience was only enjoying an image of her projected through an optical device. Wrote Style.com’s Sarah Mower: “Only Alexander McQueen could provide the astonishing feat of techno-magic.” 3 Bumster trousers McQueen grew cheeky, literally, in 1995 when he sent models out in trousers slung so low that they exposed the buttocks, reportedly a response to the low-rise jeans trend of the time (right). The daring design prompted jokes about visible panty lines but it was the designer who had the last laugh. He was awarded his first British Designer of the Year award a year later.


MICA(P)191/11/2008

FRIDAY APRIL 10 2009

Sports Illustrated Swimsuit model Bar Refaeli on her curves, career and boyfriend Leonardo DiCaprio

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NIVEA FOR MEN HAMPERS WORTH MORE THAN $1,000


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THE STRAITS TIMES

URBAN

Curvy Fox campaign girl and Sports Illustrated Swimsuit model Bar Refaeli is glad she does not have to starve herself to make it big

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o some, she is Leonardo DiCaprio’s girlfriend. To others, she is Sports Illustrated’s Swimsuit covergirl. To Urban, however, Bar Refaeli is the model who made a cover snap a snip – the pictures of the glowing Israeli model that you see here and on the cover were nailed in under 15 minutes. The 23-year-old blonde bombshell showed her professionalism by turning it on for the camera despite hitches along the way. The face of Israeli casualwear label Fox, she was in town last Friday for the brand’s fifth anniversary celebration and the unveiling of its sleek new logo. She had arrived on the red-eye flight from New York just hours before the interview and photo shoot at the Ritz-Carlton, Millenia Singapore, but was unaware of the photo call due to some miscommunication. She grew slightly flustered when she found out about the photo shoot and was seen consulting her mother Tzipi, who is also her manager. Once in front of the lens, however, she was a natural, suggesting camera angles and ending with a wide grin and a bright “thank you”. It is a business that the second of four siblings – she has three brothers aged 33, 22 and 12 – practically grew up in. Her mother took her to commercial castings as a baby and she clinched her first job at just eight months old. Her portfolio today easily puts her in the super league: Victoria’s Secret catalogue girl, Marks & Spencer campaign girl, as well as covers for top glossies such as Elle, GQ Italy and Maxim, just to name a few. Yet, the 1.75m-tall beauty with piercing blue eyes politely corrected Urban when we called her a top model. “I wouldn’t call myself a top model, just a good model who gets jobs,” she said. Her bubbly, relaxed manner added to her charm. Despite the jet lag, she would smile or nod at whoever she passed. She disarmingly admitted to having no beauty regimen and shared that, because of her jetsetting lifestyle, she usually suffers from breakouts for half a week. “I simply make sure I clean my face every night and don’t wear make-up when I don’t have to.” Which probably explains why she asked for “very light” make-up at the shoot, even turning down some lip colour. Then there is that body that landed her on the highly coveted cover of Sports Illustrated magazine’s Swimsuit edition in January. This annual special edition of the popular American sports magazine is a money-spinner for the publication. Its past cover girls, who include Elle Macpherson and Christie Brinkley, are known to gain instant babe status and a fast track to fame (see Page 14). Refaeli herself has seen her post-coverage career soar, literally: Her bikini-clad image was plastered across one of Southwest Airline’s Boeing 737 planes in February. She reportedly boasts a D-cup bosom and online resource Wikipedia has her vital statistics as a shapely 35-24-35. She said of her curvy figure: “I’m proud that I’m able to eat and still be considered a good model who gets jobs. “It’s very important today when girls are turning anorexic for the sake of beauty. It’s a dangerous

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problem and I’m glad to be able to show another side (of beauty).” As for the future, she wants to “try everything” from designing clothes and jewellery to film production work. “I have lots of ideas and am very creative,” she said firmly. On what it is like to date 34-year-old DiCaprio, one of Tinseltown’s most eligible bachelors whom she reportedly met at a Las Vegas party in 2005, she replied with a grin: “Try it. Only I know (what it’s like) and I’m not going to talk about it.” With such charm, who cares about Leo? Urban chatted with this Foxy lady about life as a bombshell and beyond. You have modelled for the likes of Fox and American surfwear brand Hurley. Do you feel typecast as a commercial, mass-label model? I’m not very skinny or extremely tall and I have boobs. It’s hard to do high fashion when you are not a toothpick but I prefer to do this than starve myself just to model. The nature of commercial shoots is also more me – I like to smile, jump around and be lively. You have been the Fox campaign girl for the past year. How do you identify with the brand? There is a natural connection. I feel most comfortable and sexy in jeans and a tee, so what the brand sells is what I would wear normally. I also love the burst of colour in the designs.

FOXY LADY

What has been your best experience modelling for Fox? Apart from shooting in locations like Miami, I’ve also enjoyed working with (male campaign model) Noam (Toor). I usually work alone on shoots but with him around, things get a lot more lively and dynamic. We’ve grown to become good friends. He should have won Survivor Israel (see facing page).

Cotton tee, $29, and striped cotton pullover, $39, both from Fox

What are three essential items in your wardrobe? A men’s button-down shirt which looks great thrown over jeans or leggings and is comfortable for flights. I don’t usually like wearing clothes that are too figure-hugging. I’ll also go for a leather jacket, which is classic yet has a rock ’n’ roll vibe, and jeans because they are what I’m most comfortable in and they go with everything.

GENTLE GIANT

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You asked for very light make-up for the photo shoot whereas most celebrities would ask to have it piled on. Why so? When it is a shoot that is supposed to show the real me, I prefer less make-up and for it to be more natural-looking because I’m comfortable in my own skin. I have nothing to hide so I don’t see the need to cover anything. What are your three beauty must-haves? An eyelash curler, which I find an ingenious contraption. When I go out at night, all I use is an eyelash curler and put on some mascara and blush. I don’t like wearing eyeliner or even lipstick. I also need my facial wash which I get from Shiseido and moisturiser, which I usually get from Lancome or Dior – products necessary for keeping my skin clean. What has your bombshell image done for your career? It has done only good. It’s no secret that getting onto the cover of Sports Illustrated Swimsuit gives a big lift to your career – everyone recognises you. I’ve actually dreamt about it since I was 15. When you say bombshell, it also refers to a more voluptuous girl and I’m proud that I can show girls that you can eat and still become a good model. Who is your role model? I don’t exactly aspire to be like anyone else. I much prefer to lead my own path. I do admire models like Heidi Klum and Cindy Crawford, though. They are huge names who took time out to have a family, which I think is very important, yet continue to have successful careers. noellel@sph.com.sg

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Cotton blouse, $49, multi-coloured striped bikini top (worn inside), $36, and checked drawstring shorts, $39, all from Fox Photographer: ASHLEIGH SIM; Contributing creative director: DANIEL BOEY; Make-up: BENO LIM, M.A.C; Hair: EVANDE LOH, Shunji Matsuo, using L'Oreal Paris; Location: Poolside, Ritz-Carlton, Millenia Singapore

elebrity model Noam Toor seems like a fish out of water, and it’s not just because he is a hulking 1.85m tall. When Urban arrived for the shoot at the poolside of the Ritz-Carlton, Millenia Singapore, last Friday, he was standing at the far side of the pool, clothes and curly hair drenched from a shoot he had done with another magazine. He strolled about as if the wet-look was second skin, his twinkly eyes and warm smile suggesting he was in high spirits. When we met, he recounted how he had tried fish therapy the previous day where his toes were tickled by nibbling fish. “It felt like my legs were numb and was a really cool experience,” the 26-year-old recalled with a goofy grin. His voice was soft, sometimes even inaudible but his smile stayed put throughout the 15-minute interview. Becoming the campaign model for casualwear label Fox was something he had never thought of, much less dreamt about, he said. The son of beekeepers in the Israeli town of Hofit, the bachelor got his big break last year on the first season of Hisardut, the Israeli version of Survivor in which he was among the top three. A former medic in the army for four years, he joined the show after a year of travelling when he decided to give television a shot. Since Survivor, he has been voted

The World’s Sexiest Man by readers of Israeli online newspaper Ynet. “I never expected all the media attention,” he said. “Which is why I like travelling to places such as Singapore. The pressure here is far less.” His Survivor gig also caught the eyes of Fox executives who signed him up as brand ambassador for three years. He said: “I used to wear Fox even before becoming its spokesmodel. “I’m a T-shirt and jeans kind of guy and the clothes fit me well. When I’m in the store, I want to buy everything.” He counts travelling the world for shoots and meeting co-model Bar Refaeli as perks of the job – the latter’s super starlet status does not intimidate him one bit. “I’m confident about myself and have never once felt overshadowed by her,” he said, smiling. But his grin was widest when he talked about the water – he lives just 50m from the sea back home and counts surfing, sailing and diving as his favourite pastimes. It sure explained how he had no qualms about approaching the waterfall feature for our shoot, even though he had already changed out of his wet clothes by then. Describing himself as “a lover of life”, his next goal is to travel the world on a yacht within the next two years. “It’s something I’ve always wanted to do. The only thing I’ve not decided is whether to do it alone or with some company.”


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WINTER SPARKLE Designers did not let the wintry weather or economic crisis rain on their fashion parade, as Urban found out at Paris Fashion Week

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NOELLE LOH in Paris

Lush fabrics in the signature Dior grey Sari-like dresses in jewel tones such as cornflower blue, also from Dior Local label alldressedup’s origami-like fold details and nature-inspired shades Woollen knits with a net effect from Loewe Glossy leather trench coat shows off Loewe’s mastery of leather Yves Saint Laurent’s zippered swimsuit with a dominatrix vibe PHOTOS: AP, AFP, ALLDRESSEDUP, REUTERS, NOELLE LOH

ight after the Christian Dior show last Friday, Sidney Toledano told Urban with a smile: “The sun is shining.” The 58-year-old president of the French fashion house was reflecting on its luxe fall/winter 2009 collection that defied these belt-tightening

times. The same could be said of Paris Fashion Week, which ended yesterday and has proven to be a bright spark amid the gloomy economy. New York, the first major stop of the fall/winter 2009 fashion shows, saw major names pulling out from its main Bryant Park tent venue. In Milan, the second last leg of the industry event, the shows were described as “lacklustre” by the media. The City of Lights, however, was determined to shine with a sumptuous show. As David Graham, fashion editor of Canadian daily The Toronto Star, reported: “While the designers in other fashion capitals take into consideration (the) realities, in Paris they refuse to bow.” There were up to 12 official shows a day at landmark venues such as the Lourve and the Jardin des Tuileries garden. The giant paparazzi and fashion blogger crowd outside is a tell-tale sign that you have arrived. We managed to get within inches of A-list stars such as American rapper Kanye West and South African actress Charlize Theron at the Yves Saint Laurent and Dior shows respectively. However, getting there does not necessarily mean getting in, as we found out the hard way. Without a ticket to the Comme des Garcons show last Saturday, we tried to gatecrash only to be told sternly by the bouncer: “You can stand here (outside) all night.” Here are some shows that we caught and loved.

Dior In its white tent at the Jardin des Tuileries park, the French luxury house of Dior made it clear that the Dior woman is not one to be crippled in an enfeebled economy. Designer John Galliano sent out 1920s-inspired coats made from lush fabrics such as cashmere and astrakhan fur in crimson, indigo and the signature Dior grey (see photo 1). More sumptuous than over-the-top, the jackets bore hints of the Orient with rich brocade and pared down kimono-style sleeves – the first hints of winds from the exotic East that were to come. There were also billowy silk harem pants, fur vests and floaty, sari-like dresses in jewel tones such as cornflower blue (see photo 2) and golden yellow. Save for the models’ helmet-like bobs – held in place by bobby pins – it was a classic (read: safe) collection made aspirational by Galliano’s light yet luxe touch, just right for the times.

alldressedup Home-grown label alldressedup, which had a showroom presentation at the posh Hotel Bel Ami in the trendy Saint Germain area, explored an exotica closer to home. This was the brand’s fourth appearance at Paris Fashion Week. Said Tina Tan-Leo, president of The Link Group which owns alldressedup: “The buyers and press feedback here so far has been that we have captured the market sentiment and become a new alternative to international brands.” For fall/winter, designer Sven Tan drew inspiration from the Peranakan kebaya top to come up with sheer silk blouses with scallop trims and, for a modern touch, balloon sleeves. The brand’s signature slouchy silhouettes made a comeback in jumpsuits, jodphurs and tees, updated with origami-like fold details and in nature-inspired shades such as brown (see photo 3) and orange. Loewe The devil was in the details. The Spanish luxury label held its show – the first since designer Stuart Vevers joined in 2008 – in a hall at the Paris Descartes University, also in the St Germain area. Elegantly cut, the coats, suits and cocktail dresses could be studied up close in the intimate hall set up to resemble a chic Parisian cafe. Vevers fused ribbons, sequins and beads with leather and broke apart woollen knits for a net effect on a top (see photo 4). There were times when he seemed to have tried too hard – the perforated logo on the otherwise beautiful shirt-waist leather dresses was plain tacky. It was hard, however, to fault the glossy leather trench coats, pencil skirts and pants that the show opened with, proving that Vevers should have stuck with what he knows best: quietly luxurious leather goods (see photo 5). Yves Saint Laurent YSL designer Stefano Pilati also went for understated chic at his show at the Palais de Tokyo art museum. His signature softened, masculine silhouettes were updated with statement-making details such as a giant bow on a classic white shirt and triangular shoulders on a jacket. There were also slick, wet-look leather jackets, skirts and even a zippered swimsuit (see photo 6) with a dominatrix vibe, the sexual tension accentuated by the models’ crimson lips – the only colour evident in a collection of monochrome and grey. Bold, chic and sexy, the collection was the stuff a woman today should be made of. noellel@sph.com.sg

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BEYOND THE CATWALK NOELLE LOH scours front row to backstage for stars

Australian model Tallulah Morton taking a breather during a make-up call at the Dior show.

Celebrity fashion blogger Scott Schuman, better known as The Sartorialist.

Pictured here with his girlfriend, American model Amber Rose, American rapper Kanye West cuts a fine figure in his all-black suit at the Yves Saint Laurent show on Monday.

American deejay and model Leigh Lezark (right) poses with a friend outside the Dior show in – what else – Dior.

South African actress Charlize Theron is accosted by the press as she leaves the Dior show.

British model Lily Donaldson sashays backstage at the Dior show, which she closed.

STYLE FIENDS SPOTTED AT PARIS FASHION WEEK Anne Marie O’Connor (right), 35, a freelance fashion writer and stylist, wears a stole from London-based vintage store Wow Retro, jacket and top from Zara, leggings from Topshop, heels from Sam Edelmann and bag from Vivienne Westwood. She cannot remember where she got her sunglasses from.

Nicholas Aburn (right), 20, a fashion student from Washington DC, wears a Ralph Lauren blazer and Prada silk pants with vintage shoes.

Xiang Sun (right), 27, a model-turnedcorrespondent with the Chinese edition of fashion magazine Madame Figaro, wears Zara pants, K by Karl Lagerfeld jacket, shoes by Karl Lagerfeld and vintage sunglasses.

Ghazaleh Khalifeh (left), 22, a fashion design student from San Francisco, wears a vintage Mandarin jacket from a market in San Francisco, skirt from H&M, bag from American bag brand Hobo, shoes from the Seychelles and bandana from the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York. PHOTOS: NOELLE LOH


MARCH 20 2009

THE STRAITS TIMES

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FASHION FUNHOUSE NOELLE LOH in Paris

Paris Fashion Week, which ended last Thursday, proved fashion can be fun even during hard times. Here are three of Urban’s favourite trends for a rolling good time

CHILDHOOD INSPIRATIONS The labels: Jeremy Scott, Jean-Charles de Castelbajac and Alexander McQueen Take a leaf from the children’s classic Alice In Wonderland and enter a world of whimsy. For American designer Jeremy Scott and Moroccan designer Jean-Charles de Castelbajac, the world is as weird as it is wonderful. The always outrageous Scott drew inspiration from Minnie Mouse and created red swing coats and body-con dresses with cut-outs to resemble her signature polka dots. Castelbajac, meanwhile, paid tribute to the Muppets and printed Kermit the Frog and pals on knit tops, satin skirts and gloves. Redefining the concept of faux animal fur, he created a coat out of Kermit plush toys (inset, top). At British enfant terrible Alexander McQueen’s show, things took a darker turn as models trotted out with their faces painted white and lips enlarged to resemble clowns from every child’s worst nightmare (inset, bottom). The clothes, too, had a perverse streak. There were tweed suits, nipped-in jackets and full skirts, all signatures of brands like Chanel and Dior but given McQueen’s touch of mayhem. The exaggerated or rainbow-speckled houndstooth prints and oversized coiled collars were more parody than mimicry.

FRILLS AND FURS The labels: Valentino, Miu Miu, Dior, Christian Lacroix and Chanel

American designer Jeremy Scott draws inspiration from Minnie Mouse’s signature polka dots. PHOTOS: AFP, REUTERS AND AP

EIGHTIES REDUX The labels: Louis Vuitton, Balmain and Jean Paul Gaultier What better time than now to return to the 1980s – best known for its fun and frivolous fashion – for some much-needed industry cheer? Louis Vuitton’s creative director Marc Jacobs led the retro revival at his show last Thursday with his leather and lace Material Girl-inspired collection (right). Hot pink bras peeked through sheer beige knits. Dress silhouettes echoed the style of 1980s prom dresses in the form of cute satin numbers with mini bubble skirts. Elaborate, couture-style ruffles, ruching and sequined detailing made a potentially tacky collection tasteful. Then, of course, there were the shoulders – big, bold and square. The exaggerated shoulders look

were also reprised by Jean Paul Gaultier and Balmain. Gaultier put the block shape on body-con dresses and handsome suits (above, left). Balmain’s collection, meanwhile, had a disco diva groove with its heavily sequined sheath dresses with ruffled collars and hems (above, right).

Animal activists would have bayed for blood looking at the luxe coats on the Paris catwalks, such as Valentino’s fox fur-trimmed hemlines and turquoise feathered coat (right). At Dior, the fur of choice – astrakhan, the fleece of prized Karukal sheep – went on hats and hems (top). The trend-setting Miuccia Prada even put fur on heels and scarf edges at Miu Miu (right). However, there were more animal-friendly frills found elsewhere – chiffon camellias and French maid ruffles at Chanel (right), faux floral stoles at Lacroix and bunny ear-like headbands at Louis Vuitton.


MICA(P)191/11/2008

FRIDAY MARCH 6 2009

YOUR GUIDE TO LOOKING GOOD

URBAN SHOE SPECIAL

The hot kicks this season are anything but boring

WIN!

IZEST POSTURE VESTS WORTH MORE THAN $1,000


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THE STRAITS TIMES

Alesandra wears a shirt dress, $539, from Karen Millen, 02-16 Wisma Atria, and acrylic bangles, $33 each, from River Island, 01-41 VivoCity; Sebastian wears a cotton shirt, vest and bow tie, all from stylist; metallic patent leather heel by Marciano, $185, from Guess Footwear, 01-11 Raffles City

URBAN

MARCH 6 2009

WELL HEELED From ankle straps to outrageous heels, this season’s shoes are all about the extra details

ANKLE EXPRESS Off with the schoolgirlish Mary Janes and warriorwoman gladiator sandals. The ankle strap has fastened onto a more grown-up look for spring/summer. Lanvin went for pretty, satin ribbons tied in a bow, while Gucci updated last season’s fierce shoes with three thick straps for a “don’t mess with me” appeal. Whether dainty or dangerous, here’s how to look the bees-knees in the new ankle straps. Tall order: This best suits those with long legs, as ankle straps can make short limbs look stumpy. Those who are short should opt for super high heels with thinner straps. Show some leg: The idea is to show off the ankle strap, making this season’s cropped pants a perfect pairing. Wear skirts that end at or above the knee or you will look a frumpy secretary. Watch the details: Saggy straps look sloppy but those which are too tight will look like they are strangling your ankles.

1 Leather stiletto by Alexander McQueen, $1,320, from On Pedder, 02-12P Takashimaya Shopping Centre; 2 Leather sandal, $1,760, from Gucci, 01-40 Paragon; 3 Sandal, $79.90, from Levi’s, 01-32 Raffles City; 4 Snake skin heel by Steve Madden, $300, from STGE, 01-25 Raffles City; 5 Patent leather heel, $93, from Pedro, B1-29 CityLink Mall; 6 Satin T-bar strap sandal, $39, from Charles & Keith, B1-18 Wisma Atria; 7 Ruched satin heel, $66, from Pazzion, 02-09 Bugis Junction; 8 Faux snake skin heel, $135, from Aldo, 01-07 Raffles City; 9 T-bar sandal, $59.90, from PrettyFit, B1-28 Wisma Atria


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POWER PLATFORMS While previous seasons saw designers give women a leg up in the heel department, now there is a boost to the sole too. Industry trade journal Women’s Wear Daily calls them platforms with “geisha flair”. Instead of bulky Spice Girl versions, the updated design tapers slightly at the bottom, creating a sleeker silhouette that makes its wearer appear to be floating. Jil Sander designer Raf Simons even made them in the same colour as the shoe upper for a clever, hidden effect. Britain-based Brooke & Basso went with pop colours and floral prints to match its electro Japanese-inspired clothes. Subtle or super, spring’s platforms, which are shoes with raised soles, make tottering around in them a class, not clown, act. Sleek is chic: Pairing platforms with flared trousers may have been groovy in the 1970s but not now. Take your cue from the runways of Gucci, Prada and Jil Sander and don slim-fit garb that matches the platform’s new sleekness. Where to wear: While they are sleeker now, platforms are still considered casual shoes. For a more formal look, make sure the platform area is the same colour as the shoe upper. Practice makes perfect: Platforms are tricky shoes to manage – supermodel Naomi Campbell famously took a catwalk tumble in a Vivienne Westwood pair in the 1990s.

Alesandra wears a cotton jumpsuit, $233, from Warehouse, 02-25 Wisma Atria; Sebastian wears a cotton shirt, vest and bow tie, all from stylist; Suede platform bootie, $216, from Topshop, 01-72 VivoCity

1 Leather pump, $1,560, from Christian Louboutin, 02-12C Takashimaya Shopping Centre; 2 Suede and patent leather stiletto, $217, from River Island, 01-41 VivoCity; 3 Patent leather wedge, $1,050, from Fendi, 01-31 Takashimaya Shopping Centre; 4 Leather wedge, $2,200, from Bottega Veneta, 01-43 Paragon; 5 Leather platform by Ash, $390, from Pedder Red, 03-16 Takashimaya Shopping Centre; 6 Plastic platform wedge, $76, from Pedro, B1-29 CityLink Mall; 7 Patent leather wedge, $165, from Nine West, 01-33 Raffles City; 8 Satin platform, $66, from Pazzion, 02-08 Bugis Junction; 9 Patent and canvas wedge, $46.90, from Charles & Keith, B1-18 Wisma Atria


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EXOTIC EMBELLISHMENTS The tribe has spoken. The shoe design tribe, that is. From last year’s cowboy chic, this spring designers have boot-scooted to the Wild West and beyond for some ethnic inspiration. Think Native American culture (Marios Schwab’s leather flap of an ankle strap). Or ancient Egyptian tombs (Anna Sui’s eagle-motif sandal). And, of course, traditional African tribes (Louis Vuitton’s clunky, feathered stilettoes). Escape into exotica – in shoes made not just for walking, but also for flights of fancy. Match, not mix: This is one of the least versatile trends, so be careful what you match the shoes with. Keep it simple: For a fail-proof look, keep your outfit plain or make sure it shares the same shades found on your shoes. Cheat tip: All those ethnic-inspired details such as feathers and beads can look a little too Pochahontas. For a safer, more classic look, try espadrilles, wooden heels or Aztec prints and cut-outs, which are also big this season.

Sebastian wears a cotton shirt, vest, blazer and bow tie, all from stylist; leather galdiator-style boot, $520, from Pedder Red, 03-16 Takashimaya Shopping Centre

1 Patent leather sandal, $165, from Nine West, 01-33 Raffles City; 2 Suede stiletto, price unavailable, from Louis Vuitton, 01-20 Takashimaya Shopping Centre; 3 Gladiator sandal, $135, from Aldo, 01-07 Raffles City; 4 Leather sandal, price unavailable, from Giuseppe Zanotti, 01-09 Palais Renaissance; 5 Leather stiletto by Marciano, $389, from Guess Footwear, 01-11 Raffles City; 6 Patent leather flat, $66, from Pazzion, 02-09 Bugis Junction; 7 Snake skin sandal by Renee Caovilla, $1,590, from On Pedder, 02-12P Takashimaya Shopping Centre; 8 Satin sandal by Marciano, $449, from Guess Footwear; 9 Metallic sandal, $59.90, from PrettyFit, B1-28 Wisma Atria


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REPTILE RAVING For a look that creeps up on you this season, think crocodiles. And snakes. Any reptile, really. Yes, reptile skin on shoes is back. This spring, however, lizard leathers come not just in natural colours, but in out-of-this-world shades too. British fashion designer Matthew Williamson, for example, sent models slithering down the runway in fuchsia snake skin stilettoes. Over at Miu Miu, designer Miuccia Prada painted croc skins a bright yellow and wrapped them round her heels. Then there are those who prefer the natural look – think Bottega Veneta’s croc skin wedges in tan and Carolina Herrera’s basic black snake skin pumps. Good times or bad, you’ve got to admit that croc rocks. Handle with care: Snake and croc skins are thin and fragile. Rub them gently with leather conditioning cream to keep their suppleness. Also, keep them away from heat as high temperatures will dry out the leather and cause it to tear easily. Fake it: You do not need to splurge on the real deal. Look for coloured faux leather or snake skin prints that create the same effect for less. Subtle touch: The texture of reptile skin is an easy and classy way to add special interest to an outfit.

Alesandra wears a tube dress, $176, from Warehouse, 02-25 Raffles City, and plastic jewelled cuff, $43, from Topshop, 01-72 VivoCity; Sebastian wears a cotton shirt, vest and bow tie, all from stylist; Snake skin round-toe pump, $1,650, from Christian Louboutin, 02-12 Takashimaya Shopping Centre

1 Ballet flat by Martina Pink, $89, from Level 2 Tangs Orchard; 2 Faux snake skin pump, $159, from Topshop, 01-72 VivoCity; 3 Ballet pump, $89, from River Island, 01-41 VivoCity; 4 Platform pump, $1,150, from Stuart Weitzman, 02-12E Takashimaya Shopping Centre; 5 Ballet flat, $59, from Pazzion, 02-09 Bugis Junction; 6 Platform stiletto, price unavailable, from Prada, 01-45 Paragon; 7 Croc skin sandal, price unavailable, from Christian Dior, 01-07 Takashimaya Shopping Centre; 8 Stiletto by Marciano, $389, from Guess Footwear, 01-11 Raffles City; 9 T-bar heel, $34.90, from Charles & Keith, B1-18 Wisma Atria


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SUPER HEELS From the whimsical to the weird, statement heels have been a hit with designers since 2007. This season though, they teeter into the realm of art – outrageous designs that occasionally defy the concept of balance. (Well, they certainly gave models on the spring/summer 2009 runways the wobbles.) British bad boy Alexander McQueen even crafted a metallic heel into a wavy curve, while French label Celine’s futuristic cut-out platform led Style.com’s Nicole Phelps to call it a “misstep”. We say she’s missing the point. During dreary times like these, they are something fantastic to fall head over heels in love with. Keep your balance: Fashion-wise, that is. Cut back on the prints and accessories when wearing such bold statement heels. Flaunt them: Show off such daring designs with a mini skirt or ankle-grazing, skinny trousers. Any longer and you will conceal the shoe’s artistry. Foot the bill: Just as with artwork, designer statement heels are worth the splurge because of the unique design.

Alesandra wears a shirt dress, $539, from Karen Millen, 02-16 Wisma Atria; Sebastian wears a cotton shirt, vest and bow tie, all from stylist; Suede heel with coiled rope metal heel, price unavailable, from Loewe, 01-09 Takashimaya Shopping Centre

Photographer: ASHLEIGH SIM; Contributing creative director: DANIEL BOEY; Stylist: JEROME AWASTHI; Hair: ASH LOI, Estique Salon using Schwarzkopf Professional; Make-up: BENO LIM, using M.A.C Hello Kitty Collection; Models: ALESANDRA T. and SEBASTIAN, Upfront Models; Location: Majestic Bar, 41 Bukit Pasoh Road; Special thanks to Robinsons Lifestyle Department (Level 5 The Centrepoint) for all tableware

1 Leather platform heel, price unavailable, from Celine, 01-30 Takshimaya Shopping Centre; 2 Velvet wedge, $39.90, from Mimosa, 03-53 Far East Plaza; 3 Plastic gated boot, price unavailable, from Yves Saint Laurent, 01-47 Paragon; 4 Patent sandal by Anne Klein, $250, from Nine West, 01-33 Raffles City; 5 Patent leather pump by Irregular Choice, $202, from nicholas, 02-323 Marina Square; 6 Satin sandal, $89, from Pedro, B1-29 CityLink Mall; 7 Leather wedge, $79.90, from Gripz, 03-366 Marina Square; 8 Leather stiletto, $289, from Bebe, 02-28 Wisma Atria; 9 Suede and leather pump by Irregular Choice, $252, from nicholas


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OCTOBER 31 2008

OCTOBER 31 2008

THE STRAITS TIMES

URBAN

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GOING FOR GOLD

DIAMONDS ARE FOREVER

Even gold is not immune to the financial meltdown, but compared to stocks and bonds, it still holds much lustre. Its prices have fallen by about 25 per cent from US$1,002.95 (S$1,510) per troy ounce in March – the highest so far this year – to US$750.33 per troy ounce as of Wednesday morning. It still holds “timeless” appeal though, says Chng Hwee Siang, director of local jewellery house Poh Heng Jewellery, the market leader in yellow gold designs here. She says: “Gold does not rust, tarnish or corrode and can last forever. As a rare metal, it is difficult and expensive to mine and retains its value well.”

During these hard times, diamonds could well be anyone’s best friend. Stephen Choong, executive director of Malaysian jewellery house DeGem, says the price of large diamonds, particularly bigger 10-carat diamonds, has “gone up easily by two to three times”. CUT Cut is not the gem’s overall shape, but the number of facets it has, and the most important factor. With more facets, more light can be reflected off the rock and improve its brilliance. Round, brilliant-cut diamonds generally have 57 or 58 facets. CARAT Unlike gold, carat refers to the weight of the diamond. As with gold, the more the carat, the higher the stone’s value. Top quality rocks of 10 carats and above are extremely hard to find and will appreciate over time, say Choong and Jean Nasr, Mouawad’s Asia-Pacific vice-president. Gary Joseph, general manager of Malaysian jeweller Habib, has this tip: Opt for “nearly there” sizes such as a 0.9 carat instead of 1 carat. It’s likely to pass off as the latter to the naked eye but costs less.

PURE GOODNESS Pure gold is very soft and is usually mixed with other metals like copper, zinc and silver to strengthen it. The value of gold jewellery depends mainly on the percentage or karatage of pure gold, with 24 karat (K) gold – of 99.9 per cent pure gold content – the highest and most valuable. Jewellery of 18K (75 per cent pure gold content) is popular because its hardness allows for interesting designs to be shaped, but it usually has low resale value because of the lower gold content. For investment, go for 22K (91.6 per cent pure gold content) gold jewellery. It has a high gold content and versatility for designs that softer 24K gold lacks.

Malaysian jewellery house Elegance Club’s one-of-a-kind Fleur-de-lis tiara, $367,000, has 44.84 carat worth of diamonds.

CLARITY Buy a rock that is as flaw-free as possible. The Gemological Institute of America (GIA), the world’s largest non-profit institute in gem research, grades a diamond’s clarity by an 11-point scale – from I3 (inclusion 3) to VS (very slight inclusions) to F (flawless). Buy VS or better.

German celebrity jeweller Hellmuth has interpreted crocodile skin using gold accentuated with diamonds and precious stones to create the Croco Collection necklace, US$21,718 (S$32,400).

GO FOR DETAILS If an 18K gold piece is the only karatage within your budget, Kean Ng, assistant business director of Lee Hwa Jewellery who is also chairman of this year’s SJF, suggests going for highly intricate designs. He explains: “Special machines and techniques are often incorporated into crafting the gold masterpiece. This could result in a design that is more expensive than a solid, plain gold design of a higher karatage.” TRADITIONAL OR NEW AGE? You can’t go wrong with yellow gold since coloured gold, which gets its fashionable hues from the mixing of two or more metals, tends to be more brittle. According to Chng, coloured gold also usually contains a lower amount of pure gold and so has “little or no” resale value. This the case even for the ever popular white gold. Even though made up of a combination of pure gold and rarer, more expensive metals like rhodium and palladium, the alloy mix would increase the melting temperature of the white gold and make it harder to refine into pure gold, she says.

Angela (left) wears a beige bandage dress by Herve Leger, $2,460, from Pois, 02-47 Paragon; Lilac Lush purple, rose and white gold necklace, $102,328, and matching earrings, $7,648, from Lee Hwa Jewellery. Kristin wears a grey bandage dress by Herve Leger, $2,781, from Pois; Coure Farfalla 18K blue gold with sapphires and diamonds, price unavailable, from Staurino; Roberge Andromede RS white and rose gold and diamond watch, $40,550, from Mouawad

Kristin (left) wears a dress by Talbot Runhof, $3,102, from Pois; Flamenco diamond and white gold necklace, price unavailable, from Hearts On Fire; Rosa Noir white gold and black diamond necklace-brooch (worn as headpiece), $520,278, from Brilliant Rose; Natura white gold and diamond bangle, $11,782, from D’Meyson. Angela wears a Nicole Miller tank, $534, from Pois, 02-47 Paragon; Reptilian Royalty diamond and opal necklace and matching ring, prices unavailable, from Cupid Jewels; Adoration white gold and diamond ring, $7,676, from D’Meyson.

SCHOOL OF ROCK Buying luxury bling for investment makes dollars and sense during these tough economic times

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o the economic downturn is putting many between a rock and a hard place. Here’s a thought: opt for the rock. The rock, that is, in terms of diamonds and gems, that, unlike shares, doesn’t become worthless overnight and makes you look more beautiful too. Splashing out on a superb sparkler could prove one smart move, say jewellers at this year’s Singapore JewelFest (SJF).

The annual luxury jewellery showcase, now into its sixth year, is on at the Jewel Pavilion at Ngee Ann City’s Civic Plaza until Sunday. Whether consumers will take a shine to the jewellers’ nuggets of advice remains to be seen. Organisers are aiming for a 10 per cent increase in total sales on the $12 million chalked up at last year’s event but sales figures as of Wednesday, the event’s sixth day, were unavailable at press time.

However, as Jean Nasr, Asia-Pacific vice-president of Swiss-based jeweller and JewelFest participant Mouawad, notes, gems are not called precious for nothing. He says: “People who have invested in stocks, bonds and blue chips are crying now. Yet anyone who has bought a top quality diamond 11/2 years ago has probably made a 20 to 30 per cent profit today because of the rarity of good quality stones.”

Another who thinks gems have rock-solid appeal is Vinod More, director of local jewellery house and festival participant, The Jewel Box. While the appreciation value of a piece of jewellery depends on demand and supply, the original value of the item never wanes, he says. “It’s a huge hold of wealth. In war-torn countries, people put money into gold because you can’t run with your houses but you can run with your suitcases of gold.”

Solid gold and dazzling diamonds are the highlights of the JewelFest’s autumn/winter showcase, a special feature of the festival which started on Wednesday. On display are designs representing the spirit of these cool seasons. Urban gets JewelFest participants to give tips on what to look for when investing precious bucks on bling. noellel@sph.com.sg

COLOUR Plain-coloured diamonds are graded by a scale that begins with D and ends with Z, depending on the degree of yellowish tint. The most valuable: D, E and F. Coloured diamonds are valued based on their rarity and intensity. Green and red diamonds are the most prized as they are extremely rare. SHAPE Round diamonds, termed round brilliant cut, are the most expensive because of their versatility. Also, when cut well they are deemed to deliver the best brilliance. Other than a round shape, the marquis – an elongated oval form with pointed tips – and pear are also coveted. GET CERTIFIED Ask for an international certificate authenticating a gem’s quality. One by a reputable, independent gemological organisation like the GIA and Belgium’s Hoge Raad voor Diamant ensures your diamond is rock solid and adds value. In Singapore, organisations like the Nan Yang Gemological Institution (04-32 Shaw Centre, tel: 6333-6238) and the Far East Gemological Institute (03-10 Orchard Towers, tel: 6735-8569) can do the job. Nan Yang charges $70 per carat while Far East, $150 and upwards per carat.


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PEARLS OF WISDOM Where once pearls were harvested by divers venturing deep into the sea, these days they are cultured or farmed. Doris Baer, director of Hong Kong-based jewellery company baerjewels – which specialises in designs using small Keshi pearls – points out the appeal of natural pearls: They are valuable because each is a “one-off product of nature”. Given how pollution today has affected the survival rate of oysters, she adds that “you don’t know how long it will take to produce one pearl”. “Since I started using Keshi pearls 15 years ago, I’ve seen their prices go up by as much as three times.” DOSE OF CULTURE According to Baer and Vanessa Zhou, director of local jewellery house and pearl specialist Sunida, almost all pearls used by jewellers today are cultured. Cultured pearls come in five varieties: freshwater, South Sea, Tahitian, Keshi and Akoya. Freshwater pearls, the least valuable of the lot, are cultivated in ponds, rivers and lakes and tend to be small. A width of 10mm is considered large, Zhou says. South Sea pearls average 12 to 13mm in width. Their size, and the fact that they are hard to cultivate, make them the most valuable. Consider buying Tahitian and Keshi pearls too, Baer says. The former can be as dark as black in colour and are considered to be rarer than all but the South Sea variant.

The Mid Autumn Night ring, $2,900, with a large pearl in the centre, is from Malaysian jeweller Madame Butterfly and shows a jade butterfly flying to the moon.

ROUND AND RARE In general, the rounder the pearl, the rarer and the higher its value. Some come in what is called a baroque shape, which occurs most often in Keshi pearls. They are prized because each has a unique shape ideal for designer pieces.

Angela wears a panel dress by Herve Leroux, price unavailable, from Pois, 02-47 Paragon; golden South Sea pearls with pink tourmaline and diamond earrings in 18K gold, $12,900, from Sunida; Baroque South Sea pearls with pink sapphire necklace, $60,000, from DeGem; white South Sea pearl with pink sapphire and amethyst ring, $20,000, from Hodel presented by DeGem

BLACK AND WHITE Pearls come in shades ranging from gold to grey but if you want real bang for your buck, go for traditional pure white that comes with a glint of silver, Zhou says. If not, go for black which can be found in Tahitian pearls. Baer warns of pearls that have been dyed or stained to obtain these desirable colours. You can tell if they have been dyed because there will be a drill mark and a different colour inside. SHINY AND SMOOTH The perfect pearl should have good lustre and its surface should have as few blemishes as possible.


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RETURN OF THE JADEITE Grandma sure knew a thing or two, as jade now makes a good investment. Fiona Aw, manager of local jade jewellery specialist Bedazzled With Tesoro, says the current demand for good quality jade exceeds supply, driving up prices. For example, the Mdivani Jadeite Necklace, considered one of the largest jade necklaces in the world, was valued at US$50,000 in 1931 and sold for US$2.2 million by Christie’s in 1988. “It was featured again in a 1992 Christie’s auction and went for US$4.2 million. The price of good quality jade just keeps getting steeper.” Like pearls, jade is also prized because no two pieces are alike.

Singaporean jeweller Bedazzled With Tesoro created Black Beauty, $8,000, a black jade bangle set in 18k white gold and embellished with diamonds and three different types of jadeite.

ONE NAME, TWO STONES Jade actually refers to two different stones, nephrite and jadeite. Jadeite comes mainly from Myanmar and is ideal for engravings. Available in a wide variety of colours ranging from the traditional green to purple and red, it is rarer than nephrite and thus more valuable. Nephrite, which is found in places like China and Canada, is more resistant to breaking. It mostly comes in shades of green, although it can also be yellow, brown, black or white. Jade should be as smooth, blemish-free and translucent as possible. CHEMICAL-FREE Jade is graded A, B and C according to what artifical enhancements it has undergone to fix its flaws. A natural piece that has not undergone any treatment is A grade and has the highest value. B-grade jade has been chemically bleached and injected with polymer resin to improve its colour and transparency. The process makes the jade more brittle but Aw suggests it is a good option for fashionistas who do not want to pay a premium price. C-grade jade has been dyed, usually at the expense of translucence, while B+C jade has been bleached, injected with polymer resin and dyed – a no-go for serious buyers, says Aw.

Kristin wears a stretch taffeta mini dress by Talbot Runhof, $3,209, from Pois, 02-47 Paragon; Ethereal Dream icy and green jade and diamond earrings, price unavailable, from Bedazzled With Tesoro; Orient Bliss diamond necklace, $197,808, by Ted Wu for Goldheart

GREEN WITH ENVY Jadeite is most prized in traditional emerald green, and is often referred to as imperial jade as it was the colour most favoured by Chinese royalty. Also prized is jade that is red, as well as multi-coloured pieces. Generally, the more intense the colour, the higher the value.


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MY PRECIOUS Diamonds may be the queen of gems, but rubies, sapphires and emeralds are proving right royal investments too. Top-class stones are rare and desired because of their vivid hues, allowing them to command top dollar, say jewellery experts. Jean Nasr, the Asia-Pacific vicepresident of jewellery house Mouawad: “A top quality 10-carat ruby could fetch more than a top quality 10-carat diamond simply because it’s so hard to find.” Like diamonds, rubies, emeralds and sapphires are judged on the four Cs – cut, colour, carat and clarity – but in their case, the emphasis is on colour, colour, colour. While experts say prices of coloured gems depend mostly on what is in vogue, generally the more intense the colour, the more valuable the stone. EMERALDS A top-quality emerald should ideally be of a green that is rich and bright, not light or dark, and have minimal tinges that the blue and yellow emeralds typically come with, says Vinod More, director of local jeweller The Jewel Box. Oiling emeralds with cedar oil to reduce the appearance of blemishes is an industry practice and does not affect their value. However, any other sort of oiling treatments, such as with the use of synthetic oils, can decrease the value of an emerald by as much as half. SAPPHIRES Sapphires come in yellow or green, depending on trace elements in the stone. However, blue is the most prized, with intense cornflower blue considered the ultimate blueblood. Malaysian jeweller Habib’s general manager Gary Joseph says the ever-popular oval cut is generally thought to give a sapphire the ultimate brilliance. RUBIES Their rosy hues range from pink to blood red. The finest are “pigeon blood” rubies from Myanmar, which are said to be the colour of a freshly killed pigeon’s blood and appear red with a slightly bluish hue. Nasr points out that almost all rubies are heat-treated in some form to improve their colour, texture or translucence, making an all natural one all the more prized. Always ask for a certificate from a reputable gemological institute to have proof of what treatment your stone underwent. You don’t want one that is overtreated. For example, be wary of rubies that have lead glass filling, a process done to improve the transparency of rubies.

Angela wears a toga dress by No Dress Code, $1,497, from Pois, 02-47 Paragon; Vinea Columbian emerald and diamond necklace, price unavailable, from The Jewel Box


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OTHER TREASURES Often considered semi-precious because they lack the lustre of the more expensive gems like diamonds and sapphires, stones like topaz, rubelite, tourmaline and onyx now have their turn in the spotlight as both jewellers and consumers go crazy for colour. Their rising prices say it all. Says Vinod More, director of local jeweller The Jewel Box: “The price of tourmaline, for example, has gone up by as much as threefold in the past five years. It’s all about demand and supply, with people growing more adventurous and wanting variety that only coloured gems can offer.” However, precious stones – diamonds, sapphires, emeralds and rubies – still make better investment value. Gary Joseph, manager of Malaysian jewellery house Habib, recommends that you go for designs that combine semi-precious and precious stones for better value. THE BRIGHT STUFF The colour of the stone should be as vivid as possible. Topaz, for example, should come in a deep blue while onyx, a type of quartz, should be solid black or white. Julia Tan, general manager of marketing at local jeweller Voi Jewellery, which created the design featured here, suggests looking at the stones in natural daylight for the most accurate assessment. LESS IS MORE Like precious gems, the value of a semi-precious stone is affected by the amount of inclusions or blemishes on it. SMOOTH AS SILK All coloured gems should ideally have a smooth polish with as few nicks or bumps as possible.

Kristin wears a taffeta empire waist dress by Elie Saab, price unavailable, from Pois, 02-47 Paragon; Cielo Mare diamond-encrusted white gold and topaz choker, $22,639, from Voi Jewellery; Blue enamel dial watch with diamonds, $28,000, from Faberge

Photos: RAYMOND LEE@Capsule, and Singapore JewelFest; Art director: DANIEL BOEY; Stylist: JEROME AWASTHI; Styling assistant: CAI YUN JING; Hair: IVAN LOW, Action Hair Salon, official hair sponsor for SJF; Make-up: LARRY YEO, Shu Uemura, official make-up sponsor for SJF; Outfits: Pois, official sponsor of SJF gala shows; Jewellery and watches: SJF; Models: ANGELA, Mannequin, and KRISTIN, Upfront; Location: Majestic Bar, with special thanks to Loh Lik Peng, owner of New Majestic Hotel and Majestic Bar


FRIDAY AUGUST 15 2008

MICA(P)115/12/2007

THE STRAITS TIMES

YOUR

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GET THIS TOO OUR FIRST DUAL COVER ISSUE

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Who says Singaporeans are poor dressers? We bring you 15 fashion heroes spotted on the streets


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Enough with the bashing already. There are good dressers in Singapore. Urban hits the street to bring you 15 men and women with style

AUGUST 15 2008

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STYLE SEARCH

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orget the jibes that Singaporeans are a bunch of yokels when it comes to style. Not everyone does the slipper shuffle. There are some natural-born thrillers out there. Urban is talking about everyday fashion heroes who save Singapore from being condemned as a tee-and-flip-flops nation. The two models who grace Urban’s first dual cover issue are shining examples of Style Singapore that can be found in the streets on any day of the week. Cover girl Elyna Vijay, 19, and cover boy Kenji Fitzgerald, 21, are definitely the sorts anyone would say “Hey, good-looking” to. While they are successful models now, they were snazzy stunners way before the spotlight found them. Vijay burst on the beauty scene four years ago when she was named first runner-up in The New Paper’s New Face contest. She was promptly signed up by local modelling agency Upfront. The Singapore Management University business undergraduate of Chinese-Indian parentage has also fronted ads for brands like SingTel and L’Oreal. Australian-born Fitzgerald, meanwhile, is one accidental style star. He first caught the attention of Urban at a Cortina watch party in 2006 with his slick shirt, blazer and jeans get-up and became the Hey Good-Looking male pin-up for the week. The actor-in-training was here looking for work. That same year, he was spotted by Upfront’s director Watson Tan and has since done campaigns for the likes of Nivea and Sony. “I laughed and unglamorously snorted Diet Coke up my nose but I guess Watson forgave that,” he says of the life-changing incident. It sounds like a fashion fairy tale but for most of Singapore’s runway-worthy goodlookers who are quietly – and beautifully – going about their business, they don’t need any sprinkling of stardust. Fashion blogs like The Sartorialist by New Yorker Scott Schuman (see Page 16) and the local-based Streetsnaps (community. livejournal.com/streetsnaps/) show that it is simply about personal style. Fashion producer Daniel Boey, 42, points out, however, that these natural style stars are “few and far between” here. Still, even this harsh fashion critic says it’s something everyone can achieve. “All it takes is a little effort, some attitude and knowing what to wear for the right place and occasion. It all boils down to taking pride in the way you look,” he says. Sounds easy, but you either got it, baby, or you don’t. After pounding the streets for four days in the past week, Urban brings you 15 guys and girls who top the style chart – with not a sloppy flip-flop in sight. noellel@sph.com.sg

Lee Yuan Zheng, 23, design management student, spotted in Club Street What are you wearing? My cap is from Dsquared2 and my scarf is from Acne. I got my tee at Forever 21 and my vest is from Penguin. My bermudas are from Habitual, while my bag and suede loafers are from Yves Saint Laurent. My watch is from Fossil. Describe your sense of style It’s tailored without being bodyconscious. I also dress for the occasion. Gotta have a cardigan or a jacket Fave shops I don’t shop there but I love the Prada store in New York. It’s very beautiful and I go there just to soak in the ambience. PHOTOS: A. B. RICHARD & LIM CHIN PING FOR THE STRAITS TIMES

Angeline Chen, 18, fashion design student, spotted in Club Street What are you wearing? I got my cherry earrings in Guangzhou. My bag’s from Shanghai and was designed by a local design student. My dress is from Black Clover at Far East Plaza and my shoes are from Tiong Bahru Market. Describe your sense of style It’s eclectic. Gotta have lip balm. Fave shops I shop everywhere, from the local markets to Club 21 stores.

Dominic Cho, 26, marketing executive, spotted at Parco Bugis Junction What are you wearing? My shirt is from Zara and my pants are from G2000. My belt is from Giordano and my shoes are from Aldo. Describe your sense of style Practical. I dress for the occasion. Gotta have my watch. Fave shops Zara, Aldo and Pedro.

Cedric Ng, 39, creative consultant, spotted in Ann Siang Road What are you wearing? My shirt and jeans are from G-Star while my loafers are from Shubar. My watch is a Philippe Starck. Describe your sense of style I try to dress up whenever there’s an opportunity to. Comfort and being able to carry off a look are important. Gotta have my contact lenses. Fave shops G-Star, ck Calvin Klein and Gucci.

Alina Uchida, 33, herbalist, spotted at Capital Tower What are you wearing? My tank top is from Naf Naf and my skirt is from a boutique in the Katong area. My necklace and slippers were both gifts. My bag is from Tangs. Describe your sense of style I don’t follow trends. Gotta have Molecule 01, a body fragrance from Apothecary+Co. Fave shops I like independent boutiques at Raffles City and in Orchard Road.

Muhammad Hamdan, 20, soon-to-be national serviceman, spotted in Haji Lane What are you wearing? My fedora is from a shop in Peninsula Plaza. My shirt is from British label PPQ while the vest is from Zara. My belt is from Ben Sherman and my skinnies are from a shop in Far East Plaza. My wallaby boots are from Clarks. Describe your sense of style Individualistic. Gotta have my hat. Fave shops I shop a lot on eBay.

Harshan Halim, 17, student, spotted in Haji Lane What are you wearing? My hat is from Collage and my shirt is from Topman. My skinnies are from Queen’s Couture and my sneakers are from Leftfoot. I got my pullover on a trip to Indonesia. My glasses are from Queensway Shopping Centre. Describe your sense of style It’s a mash-up of various styles ranging from grunge to street. Gotta have a hat. Fave shops I shop mostly in Orchard Road.


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Sara Cheong, 22, design student, spotted outside Liat Towers What are you wearing? My shirt is from H&M. My jumper and shoes are from a shop in Germany. My tote bag is from last year’s Singapore Design Festival and my accessories are from Bits & Pieces. Describe your sense of style Trashy and bohemian. Gotta have my necklace. I wear only one and it must be in silver. Fave shops I love going to Bugis Village.

Jayantilal C., 81, retiree, spotted at his fabric shop, Anil Brothers, in Haji Lane What are you wearing? My custom-made suit is from the defunct Taai Hing Tailor which used to be in North Bridge Road. My shoes are from a store in Parkway Parade. Describe your sense of style Smart. To me, this is a casual outfit. Gotta have my suits. Fave shops Parkway Parade since it’s close to my home.

Michael Loh, 31, designer, spotted at Old School What are you wearing? My top is from Belgian designer Raf Simons and my pants are from Comme des Garcons. My shades are from Helmut Lang and my sneakers are by Japanese designer Mihara Yasuhiro. Describe your sense of style It depends on my mood and also on whether I have enough time to put something together. Gotta have a comfortable T-shirt. Fave shops Any second-hand thrift store.

Sharin Lei, 21, sales retailer, spotted outside Tangs Orchard What are you wearing? My scarf is from a kiosk at The Centrepoint and my dress and belt are from Far East Plaza. My heels are from Charles & Keith and my bag is from Gucci. Describe your sense of style Flirty and a bit girly. Gotta have blusher. Fave shops None in particular. If something catches my eye, I’ll go for it.

Koh Qianwei, 18, fashion design student, spotted in Ann Siang Road What are you wearing? My top is from Black Clover and my ring is from Addict. Both shops are in Far East Plaza. My shoes are from there too, but I can’t remember the shop’s name. I got my skirt from a makeshift store in school while the bag is by Indonesianbased label Nikicio. I got my watch from a shop in Burlington Square. Describe your sense of style Eccentric and psychedelic. I love colour and I’m dressed like this only because I was in school before this. Gotta have concealer. Fave shops They’re mostly in Far East Plaza.

Carolyn Tan, 38, equity sales director, spotted at Capital Tower What are you wearing? My dress is from Missoni while my shoes are from Sergio Rossi. My necklace and bag are from Chanel. My watch is a Franck Muller. Describe your sense of style Sexy yet elegant. Gotta have SK-II’s facial treatment essence. Fave shops Diane von Furstenberg, Missoni, Chloe, Alberta Ferretti. I also shop at The Link a lot.

Charmaine Seah, 25, producer, spotted at Old School What are you wearing? My blouse is from Chloe and my shorts are from Cotton On. My necklace is from Marni and my shoes are from Topshop. Describe your sense of style Anything goes. I love matching cheap clothes with expensive ones. Gotta have my rings. Fave shops The shops in Far East Plaza and the second-hand store in my church, Church of Our Lady of Perpetual Succour, in Siglap.

Muhamed Fariz, 17, student, spotted at Burger King in Liat Towers What are you wearing? My T-shirt is from Bangkok and my skinnies are from River Island. My shoes are from Diesel and my bag is from Nike. The chain is from Agnes b. while the wristband is from Fila. My shades are from Cotton On. Describe your sense of style Simple with a twist. Gotta have my Nike bag. I carry almost everything in it. Fave shops I’m not into brands. As long as it looks good on me, I’m happy.


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The Sartorialist Scott Schuman shot his favourite subjects (right) for an ad for Swedish label Gant, showcasing their personal style in the brand’s clothes. PHOTOS: GETTY IMAGES, GANT

SARTORIALLY SPEAKING

Blogger Scott Schuman, better known as The Sartorialist, tells NOELLE LOH that style doesn’t have to be perfect

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ure, our cover story shows there are plenty of snazzy dressers on the streets. But if you are style-challenged rather than stylish, take heart: The ordinary can be extraordinary in their own way, says one of the world’s most influential fashion bloggers. He’s New Yorker Scott Schuman, better known as The Sartorialist, which is the name of his blog. In a phone interview last Friday, Schuman, 40, stressed that style doesn’t have to be perfect. “It’s more about seeing something on someone that inspires,” he said. Indeed, the affable, dashing blond is the opposite of Miranda Priestly, the ultimate fashion snob from the novel and movie, The Devil Wears Prada: He sees elegance in an old Italian woman, face full of wrinkles, dressed in traditional village garb. In his blog, he turns the man in the street into a fashion hero whose picture can appear right above that of French Vogue’s editor-in-chief, Carine Roitfeld. His project was named by Time Magazine as one of the Top 100 Design Influencers in the world last year and sees close to 60,000 visitors daily. The former director of men’s fashion at upscale American department store Bergdorf Goodman started the website in 2005 while he was a stay-at-home dad – he has two daughters, now aged nine and six, with his design-director wife, Christa. “I just wanted to share photographs of people I had taken on the streets who I thought looked cool and it didn’t cost a lot of money or involved a lot of work,” he said.

He spoke to Urban ahead of the launch of Gant’s autumn/winter 2008 campaign, which he helmed. The Swedish clothing label had hired him to direct and shoot the ad blitz, which rolls out next Wednesday. Said a brand representative: “We thought it’d be interesting to see how he, with his great sense of style and eye for details and exciting colour combinations, would interpret our brand.” In March, Schuman got 10 of his favourite subjects into Gant’s New York showroom. They were asked to pick anything from the new collection, incorporate their own style and were then shot Sartorialist-style. The “guerilla” campaign, said Gant’s spokesman, is “narrow, edgy and cost-efficient”. What is style to you? It is people figuring out how to wear clothes that express a little bit about the unique person they are and, at the same time, help them be who they are. You could be a doctor who wears scrubs but you could still wear them in a way that makes it you. What do you look for most in a subject? Anything to do with fashion. It could be silhouettes, colour, an interesting pattern mix or even posture. I put up a photo of a girl taken from the back recently. There was this gracefulness about the way she walked. Are there really so many style fiends out there? When I take a picture of someone, I’m not saying that person is stylish. These are people I don’t know and perhaps I’ve caught them on the most stylish day of their lives. There’s something they’re wearing that inspires and makes me think. Singaporeans often dress in plain tees, shorts and flip-flops because of the humid weather. Any advice on how to look hot while staying cool? You can still wear those items but you’ll have to take the next step and be very particular about details. For

example, if a dress comes in a basic silhouette, make sure it has some sort of design detail, accessorise or put more focus on your hair. I don’t like feeling hot myself so I make sure I look fit in the summer because I wear less clothes. Weather is no excuse for not dressing nicely. Which celebrity to you has sartorial style? Stars are not that important to me. I get a lot of inspiration from guys I don’t even know much about. There are some Italian guys who hardly speak any English and I don’t know their last names but when I go to Italy, I’ll look them up to take their picture. What message are you trying to send out? It’s my way of showing real people in real clothes that hopefully inspires one to think. When something is perfect, it tends to mean less to me because it’s hard to imagine that outfit on anyone else and to relate to it. I don’t like it when people start grading a person I’ve featured. They would have totally missed the point. How do you feel about your blog becoming such a phenomenon? I could tell early on based on readers’ feedback that it could be something very good, even though I didn’t quite expect it to become so big this quickly. I’ll be proud if I can do this for the next 40 years. Hopefully, people will be looking at the pictures 100 years from now and still get inspired. What do you say to critics who call fashion blogging frivolous? I don’t know about other blogs but I do know mine is making some cultural impact in the sense that there’s no other magazine out there that celebrates fashion across different price points, races and ages. It’s not frivolous. What I’m trying to do is capture a moment in history. noellel@sph.com.sg


JULY 31 2008

THE STRAITS TIMES

URBAN

3

YES, I DO... DIFFERENTLY A conventional wedding, anyone? Not for some folks. Couples are taking to themed weddings of rock bands, bungee jumps and even a science lab

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rriving on top of an elephant. Dressing as punk rockers. Spinning on the Singapore Flyer. Plunging in a bungee jump. You name it, Singapore couples are doing it, when they say “I do”. Wacky, weird and wonderful weddings are becoming a serious business. From choosing zany venues such as the zoo, to brides ditching white to get hitched, to opting for jewellery that’s more goth than glitzy, the wedding bells these days are ringing in the changes. Ten wedding planners and six bridal boutiques told Urban that up to 50 per cent of their customers come to them with unconventional requests for their big day. Leading the trend are mixed race couples in their early 20s to 30s, they say. Knots are being tied in all kinds of ways, from hip happy couples enjoying nightclub nuptials to brides going up the bridle path at the Turf Club. Actress-turned-wedding planner Vernetta Lopez’s company Eternally Yours is organising one wedding in December that’s bound to go with a (head)bang: a punk-rock themed wedding. Guests will munch on a picnic dinner and dance to a rock band. In true punk spirit, there’s even an area where the more sloshed will enjoy a mosh. Last month, Anna Lim, founder of wedding consultancy firm Spellbound Wedding, found herself sourcing the likes of lab coats, beakers and pipettes as decor. Turns out that the smitten couple worked in the bio-medical field – and wanted a fitting way to celebrate their chemical romance. As well as wedding planning companies, bridal boutiques are seeing a change in fashion tastes away from the good ol’ white gown, as themed weddings gain popularity. Local couturier Frederick Lee says his most outrageous design to date is a gown inspired by the Victorian musical My Fair Lady that came with a “huge, huge hat”. Grooms, too, are starting to give the traditional penguin suit its marching orders. Ivan Yong, chief designer at bridal boutique Thomson, recalls one groom who wore his shirt and blazer with bermudas and sneakers.

PHOTO: 9FRAMES PHOTOGRAPHY; DESIGN: PRINTPALETTE

TEST-TUBE COUPLE It was lab coats, beakers and pipettes as decor for this couple who worked in the bio-medical field, says Anna Lim, founder of wedding consultancy firm Spellbound Wedding. They even had a movie poster (above) made specially for the occasion and hung at the entrance of the banquet hall.

‘THE WORDS UNIQUE AND DIFFERENT ARE ALWAYS PART OF THEIR VOCABULARY. EVERYBODY WANTS HIS OR HER WEDDING TO BE SPECIAL.’ Actress-turned-wedding planner Vernetta Lopez, on the requests of her clients

Lim of Spellbound even worked with one guy who had a royal wedding theme and dressed in a prince costume. The new idea of a dream wedding emerged about four years ago when outdoor weddings first became popular, says Hannah Chong, executive planner at bridal consultancy firm Heaven’s Gift. “Couples today travel extensively and have become more exposed to how weddings are done overseas,” she says. Many are walking down the aisle to a different tune precisely because it’s such a big day for them. Lopez says of her clients: “The words unique and different are always part of their vocabulary. “Everybody wants his or her wedding to be special.” The months leading to year’s end look set to be a period when many local lovebirds do just that – except of course in the month ahead. The seventh lunar, or Hungry Ghost, month begins tomorrow and is often considered an inauspicious time to wed. Couples steer clear of the taboo timing to please their more traditional parents. “They might want their wedding to be different but they stop short of holding it in the seventh month out of filial piety,” says Jonathan Goh, creative director of wedding consultancy firm Wedding Acts. The 20 wedding consultants and hotels Urban spoke to said business can drop by as much as 90 per cent during this time. For those who dare though, a seventh month wedding could mean a good deal. So that banquet halls won’t look like ghost towns, the likes of Singapore Marriott Hotel, Rendezvous Hotel Singapore and Hilton Singapore are offering special packages and the waiver of corkage fees. Rasa Sentosa Resort and Rendezvous Hotel add that they’re more flexible with requests. Goh of Wedding Acts notes that the number of weddings in Singapore tends to peak between the months of September and December. The hottest date so far, according to all hotels and wedding specialists Urban spoke to: Sept 14, the day of the Chinese Mid-Autumn Festival, which is often associated with abundance and togetherness. Altogether now...ahhh. noellel@sph.com.sg Additional reporting by Nadia Shah


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THE STRAITS TIMES

URBAN

JULY 31 2008

JULY 31 2008

THE STRAITS TIMES

DREAM MAKERS

A PASSION FOR IT ALL

Fantasy weddings without stress – NOELLE LOH checks out the planners who make them possible

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hey are, if you will, the folks who make your dreams come true. You can have, say, your fantasy wedding a la Lord Of The Rings, complete with velvet ceremonial robes and an ancient-looking gazebo set up in the banquet hall. Or a Parisian art gallery wedding to remind you of the time he proposed at the Arc de Triomphe. A quick check with the Yellow Pages online yielded 47 wedding planning services but those we spoke to say there are only five to 10 active ones that specialise in wedding planning. The others might be events companies, are freelance consultants or focus on various aspects of a wedding such as catering. In any case, being the unseen right-hand man who walks you down the aisle is no skip in the park. Wedding consultants do anything from perfecting the designs of table place cards to running the whole show.

URBAN

SPELLBOUND WEDDING Call 9658-0816 for enquiries

Their earnings vary, depending on the scale and number of weddings they do each month. Caroline Yakop-Lim, 31, co-founder of The Wedding Entourage, estimates the figure to be at least $4,000 a month. Hers is the bridal arm of events company The Flying Dutchman by local deejay Mark Van Cuylenburg and charges $5,000 for a full-service package by a planner and $8,000 for one by the director. The impact on the big day, however, is priceless. Says Hannah Chong, 35, founder of wedding consultancy firm Heaven’s Gift: “We’re like magicians. We wave the wand and make your dream come true. All you have to do is show up and enjoy your wedding.” Meet Heaven’s Gift, Spellbound Wedding, Sedan Of Love, The Wedding Entourage and Wedding Concierge – five wedding planning firms that have gone the extra mile to make some weddings once-in-a-lifetime experiences.

Owner Anna Lim (left), who is in her late 30s, has gamely taken on jobs such as arranging for fireworks to shoot out from Fort Gate at Fort Canning Park for a fairy tale-themed wedding. Another one in November will be done Vegas-style, complete with a fake casino and chocolates for poker chips. It’s the best job in the world, says the singleton who started the company in 2003. “I truly love weddings and the more challenging the idea, the better.” Her own dream wedding will be a simple one, though, involving 30 guests partying on an island over a weekend. “It’s such a big thing, yet weddings usually last for only a day. This way, everyone can really enjoy the occasion.” Speciality: Floral arrangement,

catering and event planning Hit rate: Two to four a month, depending on the scale of each wedding Price: From $4,500 Wackiest job: A bio-medical themed wedding for a couple working in the industry. The wedding entourage wore lab coats and I had to source for measuring equipment like beakers and petri dishes from friends and online to decorate the reception table. I think I learnt more about science assisting this couple than in school. Best experience: Simply when the wedding runs smoothly and you can see the joy and love at the event. Worst experience: One couple had an unrealistic budget – they wanted the sky but wanted to pay only for the grass. They kept changing their minds and, worse, they didn’t communicate with each other. Philosophy: Love what you do and it’ll show in your work.

ST PHOTO: ALAN LIM

LOOKING AFTER DETAILS

IN THE NAME OF FUN

YOU’VE GOT A FRIEND

BEAUTY AND ELEGANCE

WEDDING CONCIERGE Call 9873-6942 for enquiries

SEDAN OF LOVE Call 9230-0071 for enquiries

THE WEDDING ENTOURAGE 57B Temple Street, tel: 6337-0868

HEAVEN’S GIFT 12B Jalan Klapa, tel: 6220-0378

Founder Kim Tay (right), 30, makes sure your big day is all about you. Instead of hiring professionals to entertain at the banquet, she prefers the wedding couple and their friends to be the stars of the day and get them on stage. “That’s what makes a wedding memorable,” she says. She says she pays close attention to the tiniest details and can even get your dinner table place cards calligraphed. At her own wedding to her engineer husband in 2004, however, simplicity was the key. The venue for the solemnisation ceremony was Tanjong Beach on Sentosa with “a few close friends and family”. “I wanted a more casual feel,” says the mother of a 15-month-old girl. Speciality: Overall styling of the wedding Hit rate: Two a month Price: From $3,000 Wackiest job: The most memorable one so far was a Hollywood-themed wedding. The couple edited scenes from different romance films and screened them

You can count on founder Joelle Ung (extreme right), 30, for some fun ideas. For an arts-loving couple whose groom proposed in Paris, she is transforming an art gallery at Old School on Mount Sophia into a French-themed banquet hall. Ung, a bridal consultant certified by the Association Of Certified Professional Wedding Consultation in the United States, says the ideas are mostly her own. “I make it a point to know the couple very well so that the wedding will suit them and their guests will have fun too.” Currently single, she says she hopes to wed at the Four Seasons Hotel in Budapest, Hungary, which boasts an art nouveau-inspired lobby. “I love galleries and 20th-century artists such as Gustav Klimt, so I’ll have such designs featured on everything at my wedding. Now, where’s my man?” Speciality: Quirky as well as heritage-themed weddings Hit rate: No more than eight a year Price: From $2,500

Talk about mission impossible. Co-founder Caroline Yakop-Lim (extreme right), 31, once had a couple asking to be flown to their hotel in a helicopter and have the whole event fed live on video to the banquet hall – five days before the wedding. She was unable to help due to the short deadline but she has pulled off other jobs, including a fantasy wedding a la Lord Of The Rings. Among her VIP clientele are the offspring of local ministers and business tycoons. “It is the wedding couple’s fantasy so we try to accommodate however we can according to their budget.” Married to an events planner since 2003, she says she’s “the worst bride I’ve ever known”. “I had with me my walkie-talkie and was giving instructions the whole time until I had to enter the room. “I guess you can’t help but be a control freak working in this industry.” Speciality: High-end themed weddings with full security for VIPs

Founder Hannah Chong (right), 35, says all the weddings she designs must ooze old-world elegance but her ideas are anything but old-fashioned. For an Under The Sea theme, she put live fish in the floral arrangements. For another cabaret-style wedding, she decked out gazebos in tall white ostrich feathers while cabaret dancers kicked off the show. It’s all about realising someone’s vision, says the former fashion merchandiser who started Heaven’s Gift in 2004. “I don’t want to be a logistics wedding planner. I want to be an artist,” says the bachelorette. She says she has never thought about how her own wedding would be like. “To find that person whom you can stay with for life is a dream come true on its own.” Speciality: Elegant yet creative venue settings Hit rate: Two to three weddings a month Price: From $6,500 Wackiest job: The wedding themes

ST PHOTO: ALBERT SIM

before entering the hall. For their second entrance, they came in Bollywood-style with full costumes and songs. Best experience: When you see the delighted faces of the couple, their families and their guests. It’s always fulfilling to have people come up to tell you the event was wonderful. Worst experience: I dislike it when couples plan their weddings at the very last minute. I once had to stay up with the groom’s family till 4am on the day of the wedding to plan the guest list. It was very stressful. Philosophy: We hope to leave every couple with wonderful memories of their wedding.

PHOTO: SEDAN OF LOVE

Wackiest job: One couple who got married in a beach resort in Bintan last year rode up to the altar on an elephant. Best experience: A friend’s Vietnamese-Western wedding in Montreal. Everyone danced till 3am. We even had guests from other banquets taking place in the hotel joining in. Worst experience: My father suffered a heart attack the day before one of the weddings in April this year. There was a high chance I couldn’t make it to the wedding but I didn’t want to tell the couple and stress them out. Fortunately, my dad got better in time. Philosophy: The couple are top priority.

PHOTO: THE WEDDING ENTOURAGE

Hit rate: Between two and five a month Price: From $5,000 Wackiest job: One bride wore a black tuxedo instead of a wedding dress. There was also a wedding where the groom, a Star Wars fan, was surprised with an entourage of Stormtroopers during the second march-in. Best experience: I can’t really pinpoint one experience but my favourite moment is when I’m dressing the bride on the big day. The look in her eyes is just heartwarming. Worst experience: Thankfully, none so far Philosophy: We wear many hats but the most important role we play is that of a friend.

PHOTO: HEAVEN’S GIFT

I’ve worked on are more unconventional than wacky. For one modelled after the concept of an enchanted garden, we created a 3-D painting of cherry blossom trees for the stage backdrop. After the wedding, guests were queuing up to take pictures in front of it. Best experience: Seeing the wedding couple smile when they enter the room, knowing that you’ve turned their fantasy into reality. Worst experience: When our clients don’t trust us and question every detail. The time I spend on perfecting everything is far more than one can imagine, so trust me. Philosophy: Weddings are weddings. However unconventional the concept, they should look beautiful.

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TRAVEL COPENHAGEN CAPERS

ARTS FESTIVAL

SINGFEST'S HIGH NOTE

The city has more than the Little Mermaid

Kransky Sisters mock spinsters

Alicia Keys to headline August music festival

pages4&5

page7

page10

TUESDAY, JUNE 3 2008

Former model Hanis Hussey, who got her big break from Yves Saint Laurent, speaks to NOELLE LOH about the French fashion icon who died on Sunday. French designer Yves Saint Laurent holds hands with French model Laetitia Casta (left) and French actress Catherine Deneuve at his last haute couture show in Paris.

Pages 2&3 Design: LEE CHEE CHEW

Photos: AFP and FRANKIE CHEE


Life!

The Straits Times Tuesday, June 3, 2008

2

Obituary

REMEMBERING YSL ‘It was just like a father giving away his daughter on her wedding day

Former Singapore model Hanis Hussey attributes her success to the French designer whom she says was a soft-spoken and humble man

Former model Hanis Hussey (left) on French designer Yves Saint Laurent (main picture) walking her to the catwalk as she was about to close his show in 1983

Noelle Loh FASHION REPORTER

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HE year was 1983 in Paris and a then 18-year-old Hanis Hussey was set to take that once-in-a-lifetime walk down the aisle. The top Singaporean model of the time had been chosen to close the Yves Saint Laurent (YSL) fall-winter show dressed in one of the French fashion designer’s famous wedding gowns. Moments before she sashayed down the runway, the designer famous for his reserve grabbed her hand, walked with her for a while and said to her with a big smile: “You are beautiful.” “It was just like a father giving away his daughter on her wedding day,” Hussey, 43, recalled to Life! over the phone yesterday. Saint Laurent, recognised as one of the greatest fashion designers of the 20th century, died at his home in Paris at the age of 71 on Sunday after a long illness. Reports said he suffered from brain tumour. He had retired from the business in 2002, leaving the fashion world with the words: “I’ve always served women and I did it without compromise until the end, with respect and love”. Hussey said she will always remember his kindness and humility. She was young, inexperienced and spoke no French when she became one of eight exclusive house models for YSL in the early 1980s. In everyday speak, a house model is part muse, part glorified mannequin. It is not uncommon for a model to stand for hours while the designer crafts the clothes on her. Saint Laurent was kind to her and she never once saw him throw a tantrum. He was meticulous in his work and he had such a good eye that he could come up with a sketch just by looking at a person. “He was a very soft-spoken, down-to-earth man who always had a smile on his face.” Hussey went to Paris in 1982 as part of her prize for winning the Catwalk Model Of The Year Singapore contest that year. She had clinched the two-year YSL contract in her very first casting there. She went on to model for other fashion luminaries such as the house of Givenchy and was the first Singaporean model to appear on the cover of Time Magazine Asia in 1997. She attributes her success to her stint at YSL: “Once you’ve modelled for someone like Yves Saint Laurent, you know you have made it.” Another Singaporean who has met Saint Laurent is make-up artist Marjorie Teo, who is in her 40s. She had won a regional make-up competition organised by the fashion house in 1997 and was rewarded with a chance to work backstage at one of his couture shows that year. She too remembers the designer as a gentleman who had “absolutely no airs” about him despite his iconic status. “He is not like other designers and would gladly talk to anybody regardless of who you are,” she says. She remembers approaching him at a cafe after a show and to her surprise, he did not display any airs and chatted with her. His death was a surprise to her. Despite reports of his ailing health, she remembers him as looking healthy on her

‘He was a very soft-spoken, down-to-earth man who always had a smile on his face’ Hanis on Saint Laurent

visit to Paris. “I was shocked when told of the news. To die at 71 is very young.” But Hussey remembers a different Saint Laurent. She says that he had struck her as looking slightly pale and sickly. She learnt of his death when a friend sent her an SMS early yesterday morning. The first thing she did when she woke up, she says, was to search for photographs she had taken with the man. “I just wanted to look at them again and think about him. He was a creator who made it his responsibility to make women look good. It is such a shame that we have lost him.” ❯

noellel@sph.com.sg

‘He is not like other designers and would gladly talk to anybody regardless of who you are’ Make-up artist Marjorie Teo (above), who worked with Saint Laurent in 1997

PHOTOS: REUTERS, ST FILE

Designer had been seriously ill ‘for a year’ LOS ANGELES – Yves Saint Laurent, the French fashion designer who created a bold new dress code for women during the feminist revolution of the 1970s and helped launch the era of the celebrity designer with his jet-set lifestyle, died on Sunday at 71. His long-time friend and business partner Pierre Berge told RTL radio he had been diagnosed with a brain tumour last year and had died on Sunday in Paris. He had suffered poor mental and physical health for much of his life and had been seriously ill “for a year”, Berge added. The funeral is on Friday in Paris. From the start of his career at 21, Saint Laurent crafted a modern look for women that set a new standard and influenced what women wear to work and play. He was the first to make pants and pantsuits (right) the basic pieces of a woman’s wardrobe, doing it in a way that conveyed femininity, self-confidence and style. In contrast, for evening, he styled sheer blouses, flounced skirts and a slinky tuxedo worn over bare flesh that he famously named “le smoking”. His gift for redefining French couture was apparent in his “trapeze” dress in 1958. With its narrow shoulders and wide, swinging skirt, it was a hit and a breath of fresh air after years of construct-

ed clothing, tight waists and girdles. For the first decade of his career, he continued to startle audiences with innovations such as a Navy pea coat, a “beatnik” motorcycle jacket and a dress that looked like a Piet Mondrian painting. “He was someone who was very shy and introverted, who had very few friends and hid himself from the world,” Berge told France Info radio. “(Gabrielle) Chanel gave women freedom. Yves Saint Laurent gave them power.” French President Nicolas Sarkozy praised Saint Laurent as a creative genius. “He was convinced that beauty was a luxury that every man and woman needed,” he said in a statement. However, the designer was described as a tormented man who struggled with clinical depression, alcoholism and drug addiction. Shy and exceedingly thin, he was born to a lawyer and insurance broker father and a mother who has great personal style. He won a design competition with a sketch of a cocktail dress

and was hired in 1955 by Christian Dior, who called him “my dauphin”. In olden days, the eldest son of the French king was called the dauphin. After Dior died of a heart attack in 1957, the House of Dior named him its head designer. The 1958 showing of his first Dior collection – based on the widely copied “trapeze” look – generated passionate enthusiasm that spilled into the streets. As admiring crowds looked up, Saint Laurent, then 21, stood on the balcony of his fashion house, blowing kisses. But in 1960, he was dismissed. House executives said he was unfit for the pressures of the job. He had been drafted into the French army that year and was hospitalised after a nerv-

ous breakdown during basic training. Talk was that it was not so much his fragility as his fashion designs, many of them too radical a departure from the Dior image, that led to his dismissal. In 1961, he sued for breach of contract and was awarded more than US$100,000 in a legal separation from Dior. That year, he opened his own haute couture house with Berge, who was then his lover (they split up in the early 1980s). It was the beginning of a success story that led eventually to a ready-to-wear line sold in the designer’s own Rive Gauche boutiques; to hundreds of licences for scarves, jewellery, furs, shoes, men’s wear, cosmetics and perfumes; to a public listing, the first by a fashion house, and to a host of awards, including the French Legion of Honor in 1985. But, as he rose to prominence, his personal problems threatened to topple his career. In 1976, he suffered a major emotional breakdown and was hospitalised. Rumours were that he was taking tranquillisers with quarts of alcohol. He also created controversy with his fragrances. In 1971, he appeared nude in an advertisement for his men’s cologne YSL. In 1977, he named one of his women’s perfumes Opium, which led to charges Continued on facing page PHOTO: AFP


Life!

The Straits Times Tuesday, June 3, 2008

3

YSL’s life in pictures Here’s a look at the French designer’s career

1997 (above): Supermodel Claudia Schiffer is one of the models for Saint Laurent’s spring/summer haute couture collection.

1954 (above): Saint Laurent is seen here with a drawing of his cocktail dress design that won him first prize in a fashion drawing competition a year earlier. The win led to his job with Christian Dior.

1977 (above): Saint Laurent names one of his women’s perfumes Opium and is accused of glamorising drug use and trivialising the 19th-century Opium Wars in China. It still became a bestseller.

1958 (right): Saint Laurent, with the help of his assistant Marguerite Carre, tests a hat on model Svetlana, who is wearing his famous trapeze dress.

2002 (right): The

1969 (above): Saint Laurent is flanked by Betty Catroux (left) and Loulou de la Falaise (right) outside his first London chain of Rive Gauche ready-to-wear boutique in Bond Street. The women are wearing his new safari-style designs made of khaki cotton.

Mondrian dresses, made in 1965, were inspired by painter Piet Mondrian. The designs are again presented at Saint Laurent’s last haute couture show at the Pompidou Centre later.

2002 (above): Saint Laurent is applauded by models at the end of his last haute couture fashion show in Paris. PHOTOS: REUTERS, AP, AFP, ST

Singapore reaction VETERAN fashion designer Thomas Wee, 59: “Yves Saint Laurent’s works in the 1960s and 1970s inspired everyone from young designers to wannabes... I was most inspired by his French colour sense, the sumptuous opulence in his textile treatments and the mesmerising, dramatic themes of his collection each season. It was he who inspired me to pursue my passion for fashion.” Local fashion show choreographer Daniel Boey, 42: “He belonged to an era where fashion was an art unlike today where fashion is all about commercialism. With his death, the whole allure and beauty of fashion die too and that’s sad.” Yang Derong, creative director of Island Shop International, who worked for French fashion designer Jean-Charles de Castelbajac in the 1980s: “A sad loss of a great 20th-century French cultural and fashion icon who defined the modern woman’s wardrobe with confidence and authority.” Tina Tan-Leo, CEO of The Link boutique, who met Saint Laurent in the 1980s at the YSL store opening in Paris: “He made the tuxedo a fashion statement for women in the 1970s. There’s only a handful of designers who can lay claim to have dominated, revolutionised and maintained appeal in the fashion world since the 1960s, and I have the utmost respect for him.”

Sobering up From previous page

that he was glamorising drug use and trivialising the 19th-century Opium Wars in China. Its slogan was: “Opium, for those who are addicted to Yves Saint Laurent.” It went on to become a bestseller. In 1992, his plans to call another perfume Champagne prompted a lawsuit by French wine-makers (the Saint Laurent company lost). But he won a suit in 1994 against Ralph Lauren, whom he accused of copying the design for his tuxedo dress. In 2000, Gucci bought the readyto-wear and fragrance divisions of the House of Saint Laurent, while he and Berge kept the haute couture business until his retirement in 2002 when the couture house was closed. By then, Saint Laurent reportedly had overcome his addictions and seemed to be in good health. He had lived elegantly. His homes – including famous ones in Deauville, France and Marrakech, Morocco – which he shared with a succession of French bulldogs, always named Moujik, were lavishly decorated and filled with antiques and artwork by his favourite artists, who included Picasso and Christian Berard. “Every man needs aesthetic phantoms in order to exist,” he said at the announcement of his retirement. “I have known fear and the terrors of solitude. I have known those fair-weather friends we call tranquillisers and drugs. I have known the prison of depression and the confinement of hospital. But one day, I was able to come through all of that, dazzled yet sober.” He is survived by his mother and two younger sisters. LAT-WP, NYT, Reuters


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