THE TOO HOT TO HANDLE ISSUE
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Chinaâ€™s rap queen
vava speaks out about government censorship and the exponential rise of Chinese hip-hop
Contents May 2018 | Volume 8 | No. 67 | The Too Hot To Handle Issue
ON THE COVER VaVa Photography Ronald Leong
T H I S WAY I N STYLE
16. Neil Before God The examination of prostitution. 18. This Page is Lit I still don’t know if I can dance to save my life.
22. Essentials of style You know what they say about guys who wear baggy pants... 23. Essentials of style Tod’s surf shoes.
24. Essentials of style A Beatle’s daughter speaks. 26. Handbook LV pops. 28. Handbook Rise of the unisex. 30. Fashion spread Go big. 36. Fashion spread Supersize me. 46. Opinion The rainbow agenda. 48. Fashion spread Double vision. WAT C H E S
59 . Watch spread Hyped-up timepieces. 68. Gender neutral The in-betweens. 70. Sexy time Putting the tick in erotic.
Illustration by Rebecca Chew
Outfit Wool pullover and cotton shirt, both by Balenciaga
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Contents May 2018 | Volume 8 | No. 67 | The Too Hot To Handle Issue
ON THE SPINE Illustration Derek Desierto Combine issues No. 66 to No. 73 and be rewarded with the complete illustration.
76. Cover story MC VaVa—China’s rap queen. 88. Recognising human traficking The elements of abuse aren’t what you think they are.
97. Photo essay Men in tea dresses. 104. The people’s prince Meet Prince Manvendra Singh Gohil. 110. Opinion On censorship. 114. A woman we love Sukki Singapora. Once more. 122. A case for torture Can the deliberate hurt of another human be justifiable?
M A N AT H I S B E S T
128. What I’ve learned Tim de Cotta. 131. What it feels like… to be a male stripper.
140. Grooming Hermèssence. 143. Grooming Scents that give you wood. 144. Grooming Montblanc. 146. Grooming Pick your own.
148. Travel Club Med Bintan. 150. Travel Barber dossier: Fez. 152. Cars Just the business. 154. Fitness Wrist assessment. 155. Fitness One-two, punch. 156. Fitness Top of your game. 157. Fitness HOVR. 158. Drinks A glass of class. 159. Food HRVST. 160. Food Shanghai dumplings. 162. Culture Love of hounds. 164. Culture All in his stride. 165. Culture Hot cookbooks. 166. Culture Death sentences. 168. Design Poster power. 170. This way out ESQUIRESG.COM
Illustration by Rebecca Chew
132. The sadist’s revenge The pain of the Marquis de Sade. WISDOM
This way in
Editor-in-chief Norman Tan Features Editor Wayne Cheong Associate Fashion Editor Eugene Lim Senior Fashion Writer & Stylist Asri Jasman Writer Joy Ling Junior Writer Derrick Tan Chief Sub-Editor Jacqueline Danam Editor-at-Large (Watches & Jewellery) Celine Yap Group Digital Creative Producer Vanessa Caitlin Marketing & Content Strategist Crystal Lee
Group Creative Director IMV Shabir Mahmood Art Director Rebecca Chew Picture Editor Kenny Nguyen Designers Phuong Nguyen Trang Le
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Writers & Stylists Bijan Stephen, Catherine Hayward, Esse Sparks, Harry Jameson, Joel Warner, Josh Sims, Kirsten Han, Masha Mombelli, Neil Humphreys, Rachel Fellows, Rebecca Kanthor, Sha Shamsi, Stephanie Dogfoot, Tim Lewis
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Photographers & Illustrators Aiala Hernando, Aldo Fallai, Aly Mananquil, Ben Goldstein, Chanipol Kusolcharttum, Charles Guislain, Ching, David Burton, David Lineton, Derek Desierto, Helen Green, Jonathan Pryce, Lenne Chai, Morgan O’Donovan, Paynk, R Fresson, Ronald Leong, Roshan Menon, Studio Oooze, Thomas Cooksey, Tom White, Vanessa Caitlin, Yuma Yamashita
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This way in
it’s time to throw some punches N O R M A N TA N Editor-in-chief, Esquire Singapore
Would you rather be hot or cool? And I’m not referring to temperature. I’m talking aesthetics. Demeanour. Vibes. Would you rather be smoking hot or devastatingly cool? I mean, obviously, you want to be both (duh). But if you had to choose? Which one would you pick? On the one hand, who doesn’t want to be hot? Pietro Boselli and Emily Ratajkowski have launched careers by virtue of being born with great genes. They both look ridiculously good naked and incite a complicated concoction of envy, admiration and lust from both sexes alike. But the problem with ‘hot’ is that it’s temporary—how ‘hot’ can you be at 80? Which is why, I always choose ‘cool’. Just take a look at Iris Apfel. She’s not the most beautiful person on the planet, but armed with good taste, impeccable style, and acerbic wit to boot, she’s still killing it at 96. ‘Cool’ is an attitude, not just a physical attribute. ‘Cool’ is like a government bond that keeps paying dividends long after you’ve retired and seen two kids through university. ‘Hot’ is a tech stock that delivers sharp returns upon listing, but you have to cash out before the discovery of the next new invention, rendering your asset irrelevant—kind of like Megan Fox. Clearly, as you can tell, I’ve really thought about this. But let me throw a spanner in the works. What if there was a third option? What if you could be ‘too hot to handle’? Surely this is better than ‘hot’ or ‘cool’? You’re so freaking hot that you’re virtually supernova. In fact, you’re Natalia Vodianova— the Russian model who not only landed a seven-figure contract with Calvin Klein, but also landed Antoine Arnault, the chief executive of Berluti, chairman of Loro Piana and, as the son of Bernard Arnault (that’s right, French business magnate and chief executive of the LVMH Group), also an heir to the world’s largest fashion empire. That’s like buying a chunk of Apple stock from Steve Jobs back
in the 1980s for less than a dollar a share, and then selling it for a sizzling USD705 per share in 2012 before the company’s 7-for-1 split. You’re a freaking unicorn. This is what we’re unpacking in this issue of Esquire Singapore. What is ‘too hot to handle’ today? Who are the unicorns? Who is going, or about to go, supernova? Enter: Chinese rapper VaVa. Our cover star was propelled into the limelight by last year’s smash reality TV show, The Rap of China, and is not only easy on the eye, but comes pre-loaded with a no-guts-no-glory ‘tude; spitting sharp lyrics about her tough childhood. Naturally, she’s already huge on social media. (See our exclusive shoot with her on the streets of Shanghai, decked out in Balenciaga on page 76.) But ‘too hot to handle’ is also a consideration of what is taboo. And this being Singapore, well, let’s just say that it doesn’t take much to get people a little hot under the collar. We take a deeper look at human traficking in our city-state (it’s happening right under our noses—check out ‘Recognising Human Traficking’ on page 88); speak to Prince Mavendra Singh Gohil about being the first openly gay royal in India (read our exclusive interview ‘The People’s Prince’ on page 104); explore the merits of torture (yup, merits—see what we mean in ‘The Case for Torture’ on page 122); discuss the issue of freedom of speech in our country (page 110); and find out what it’s like to be a male stripper (a rather candid discourse in ‘What it feels like...’ on page 131). As mentioned in my first editor’s letter for Esquire Singapore last month, we’re all about telling thought-provoking stories to spark conversation. To get that grey matter kicking into gear. To challenge pre-conceived ideas and assumptions. Heck, we might even get your feathers a little rufled. But stop pufing up that chest as if you’re all that and a cube of cheese. Nobody ever made a diference by keeping their hands clean. Get in there and get dirty. It’s time to throw some punches—join the cultural mêlée.
Neil Before God Each issue, Esquire Singapore asks Neil Humphreys to focus on a diferent emotion. This time it’s disgust over Singapore’s sex trade.
You never forget the irst time you’re chased by a prostitute. It’s an unexpected milestone in one’s life. Naturally, my encounter took place in Singapore. In the UK, I was young, gangly and skint and not considered a prospective client for the vice industry. Besides, I grew up in a housing estate that once had the highest teenage pregnancy rate in London, a statistic that I proudly include in all job applications. We never had time for prostitutes. We were too busy having sex with strangers for free in the back of a Ford Cortina. The British weather was bitingly cold, money was tight and far too many car owners forgot to lock their doors. So I had to venture to the sunny island in the sea, our restrained sanctuary of staunch family values, to be harassed by a sex worker in a verminous back alley. It was late, a weeknight, too, so the crumbling, dimly lit Geylang street was illed with too many prostitutes and not enough punters. I was there to research one of my books—insert your joke here—and felt a tug at my arm. “Hi ham-some,” a sultry voice whispered. “You come with me, ang moh.” (In these surreal circumstances, I’m always struck by how quickly strangers use my skin colour as the suitable noun of choice. I’m sure no one ever says, “you come with me, black man” or “follow me, brownskinned sex addict”.) Nevertheless, being the mature and sophisticated 30-year-old scribe that I was at the time, I behaved appropriately. I shit myself.
D I S G U S T 16
And then I ran. I resisted the temptation to scream, but all decorum was lost when I clattered into bamboo poles illed with washing. My water bottle, notepad and pen scattered in every direction, disappearing into the darkness, along with my ego. The young woman pursued me through the dilapidated shophouses, still shouting, “ang moh, stop, come; ang moh, stop, come,” which is usually the order of business in Geylang. I escaped, but it wasn’t an isolated incident. There were other insalubrious encounters. About a year later, an older woman joined me at a bench, patted my knee and ofered her services. Beneath the faint glare of the streetlight, however, this woman bore a passing resemblance to my mother, a Freudian nightmare on Orchard Road. I left immediately. And I didn’t call my mother for a week either. Indeed, infrequent trips to Orchard Towers often triggered a Kakaesque metamorphosis. Pasty-faced Caucasian became Aluent Sex God. The skin colour was a calling card for sex workers. Being the only white, non-Singaporean in the group, I once experienced a Filipino woman bending over backwards, standing on her hands and feet with the grace of a nubile gymnast as she presented me with a red rose—via her teeth. I had to open my empty wallet to demonstrate that I was not the man she thought I was. Orchard Towers’ bars have always boasted terriic house bands. But telling folks that one frequented the
“Families share plates of prata in Jalan Besar while over-eager customers wait for hand-jobs in the massage parlours next door.” red-light district to admire a band’s rhythm section often sounded like the perverted uncle who insisted he only read Playboy for its prose. Still, the shiny city-state with the sordid underbelly continues to both intrigue and irritate for its distinct brand of bipolar morality. I’ve long struggled not only with the omnipresence of prostitutes here, but also the overwhelming indiference towards their treatment. The tiny island, so safe, so sanitised, also makes room for the sleazy, often in the same street. Singapore is a schizophrenic mishmash of virtues and vices, all clashing and conlicting in one hypocritical city. Families share plates of prata in Jalan Besar while over-eager customers wait for hand-jobs in the massage parlours next door. International Women’s Day allows prominent igures to salivate over Singapore’s wondrous deeds, while prostitutes can be found online, on the streets and on damp grass patches behind building sites, servicing construction workers through the night. The Women’s Charter, which is often trumpeted to demonstrate the country’s commitment to gender equality, prohibits pimping (someone “living in part on the prostitution of another person”), but there are designated red-light districts. Everyone knows where the brothels are. In Geylang, pimps are easier to ind than policemen. Such a Jekyll and Hyde approach towards a society’s integrity is confusing, rather like saying it’s illegal to proit from selling irearms while allowing designated shooting ranges where they could kill each other.
Unlicensed massage parlours are Singapore’s hydra heads. To pacify the masses, the authorities will raid a few every now and then, allowing the media to take those degrading photos of handcufed women, heads bowed, sitting on the edge of a bed ( just to ramp up the seediness for the Chinese evening papers). But new massage parlours soon pop up. ‘Sugar babies’, pimps and punters will always have a place in a patriarchal society struck down with the kind of myopia that comes from closing one eye for decades. Look, most of us enjoy sex. Many of us want sex as often as possible, if one’s age and personal circumstances allow. As a 43-year-old father, being naked on a sofa or being in front of Netlix on a sofa can be a close-run thing. Growing up on a London housing estate, everyone was having sex. We didn’t have Farm Heroes then. There was nothing else to do. But we had a choice. We knew what we doing. Actually, we had no idea what we were doing, hence the impressive teenage pregnancy statistics. But we did have a choice. We weren’t pressured or coerced for socio-economic or cultural reasons. If only every woman—and man—in Singapore could say the same. Sex should be a messy, sweaty, funny, consensual coming together of two equally aroused people, committed to the moment and each other. All things considered, I’d rather my sexual partner was thinking only of me, rather than my wallet. I have my principles. I don’t have sex very often, but I have my principles.
This page is lit
I still don’t know if I can dance to save my life She told me she couldn’t dance with me any more: she was embarrassed by how I moved, that I lacked a sense of rhythm, didn’t know what to do with my hands. She said “I need someone I can show of on this dance loor.” Tonight I step across a stage in the middle of a club, face thick with foundation, shiny powders, perspiration, make eyes at some half-drunk woman standing at the bar point, bite my index inger and spin around, think of how she said she couldn’t be seen with me, how I lacked the right kind of swagger, still not quite collar bone hair swing red bitten lip sashay enough, run a hand down my leg and smile a little wider. Wink another as I pull the zip on my dress down a little lower. Let the fabric fall into sea of acclamation and applause. This is not a makeover montage. This is the raised eyebrow that comes just before. Because I still don’t know what to do with my shoulders. Because it still feels more sinful to show my belly button than my nipples. Because I still don’t know why beats have to come in multiples of four. Who needs vengeance when you can throw your hands in the air, grind your hips as the bass rises up to swallow you, when you can roll one shoulder just slow enough to make strange men look up from their beers open-mouthed, slap your own skin hard enough you can almost hear time stop, hold the gaze of a tipsy stranger for so long you feel privy to their thoughts. Who needs that one person to like you when you can have a whole club at your beck and call. May my nearly-naked body be the one to make these strangers think, hey, maybe mine isn’t so bad after all.
This page is lit
To champion the art of storytelling Esquire Singapore invites a writer each month to pen an original work inspired by the the issue’s theme. This month, Stephanie Dogfoot explores love, lust and revenge on the dance loor.
May my of-beat shimmy be a chant: part prayer part battle cry for all of us of necks that still curl into themselves when even one person looks our way. We of little rhythm, we of stif shoulder, of mumble and tight hip, still fumbling through our bodies for the goddamn light switch, all feathers elbows knees. We of sucked-in stomach, of hardened upper back, muscle carapaces clenched from centuries of protecting our soft undersides, afraid relaxing will mean melting will mean nakedness will mean death. May we shake it like everyone’s watching and we’ve just discovered tequila shots again. May we dissolve into pounding bass till all that’s left is a middle inger to a throbbing, sweat-drenched ceiling. May we learn to be the least uncomfortable people in the room. Because in the last ten seconds of the song, after that a one-handed snap of elastic strap just before my bra falls to the loor, as the entire room explodes into a confetti of applause, her name becomes the ancient Greek term for some forgotten planet, her words the silent echo of a distant dying star. This is not a makeover montage. This is the wink that comes just after. Because screw revenge. May my body be forever a source of embarrassment to my exes. May my movements be a weapon, my hips thinly-veiled threats, the sweat dripping of of them a sacrament, my bare skin under strobe lights a beacon of hell yeah.
Photographs and styling by Studio Oooze
From left: Tree House scented candle, by Byredo; Baies scented candle, by Diptyque.
Is being diferent in the fashion world more than a marketing tool?
We give these larger-than-life jackets the treatment they deserve.
A quick look at the most desirable watches, before theyâ€™re all gone.
Essentials of style
Too big for you? The lowdown on taking on looser-fit trousers.
Clockwise from top: Lanvin; Ermenegildo Zegna; Gucci.
A general rule that Seah goes by is that loose-fitted trousers should be worn on the waist as “it gives more length to the legs”. But of course, if you need more help lengthening your torso, wearing it slightly above your natural waist helps. When in doubt, just make sure your legs look longer than your torso. On how to alter it right It’s always key to alter of-the-rack trousers in order to get the most out of them. Chances are, you won’t be able to achieve the clean and crisp lines that a made-tomeasure piece by KayJen Dylan is known for. But getting them altered—length, waist and slight fit adjustments— ensures that you’re tailoring them to best fit you. At the end of the day though, an of-the-rack design shouldn’t end up being dramatically diferent than how it was originally designed; you’re better of getting one tailored specifically for you.
On who can or cannot According to Seah, those on the shorter and bigger size spectrum should avoid them. But the gents at KayJen Dylan have a diferent take. Lai emphasises that loose-fit trousers can help to correct visual imbalances. “If you’re a slim guy, it adds visual volume so it doesn’t make your legs look skinny. For guys who work out and are top heavy, it balances the body frame.” Chong concurs and simply says: “I don’t think there’s any body type that’s not suitable for a fuller pair of trousers. But there are a lot of body types that are not suitable for a slimmer pair.” The truth hurts, folks.
On the waist There’s a consensus when it comes to whether a fitted top should balance a more relaxed bottom or if it’s fine to go looser on top too—it all depends. For Seah, he sees no harm in going either way because “it’s all a matter of style”. Chong, however, does caution against going for the extreme ends of both. We agree; it doesn’t hurt to see a semblance of a waist. After all, no one wants to look like a sack.
On proportion It’s always a case of finding that right torso-to-leg ratio.
Words by Asri Jasman.
It seems as though with Hedi Slimane out of the picture (well, at least until spring/summer 2019), fashion has started to be more forgiving. The skin-skimming fits are being replaced by the embrace of volume and more relaxed silhouettes. While fit-preference is subjective, there’s no denying the boon of having some extra room around your bottom half. To find out how best to tighten up your style with loose-fitted trousers, we spoke to three fit masters—Matthew Lai and Dylan Chong of KayJen Dylan, and Kevin Seah of Kevin Seah Bespoke— about getting roomy.
Essentials of style
The luxury of having fun
Words by Asri Jasman
Savour the beach life with Tod’s Surf collection.
Here’s the thing: the beach is definitely not the place for fussy footwear. But at the same time, wearing a pair of slippers is about as fun as getting cut by random rubbish hidden in the sand. With fashion nowadays having to be both functional and transitional, slippers definitely do not look great in anything immediately post-beach too. A seaside dinner after? Forget about it. This summer, Tod’s combines style and
ease to its collection of beach-appropriate footwear. Marked by the iconic Gommino silhouette as well as an espadrille-loafer hybrid, the Surf collection is what summer and life at the beach is all about—laidback, colourful and fun. The slip-on Gommino loafers come in two iterations. The first is a suede loafer, treated to mimic that washed-out efect of having things out in the sun for too long,
and then cheekily branded in a contrasting old-school nautical font. The second takes the shape of Tod’s driving shoe, but adapted to resemble a traditional boat shoe and crafted with a suede lower half. Or ease in to Tod’s new denim slip-ons that is finished with distressed edges and a handmade woven cord appliqued right above its rubber soles. Time to kick of those sad slippers and luxuriate.
Essentials of style
The maker of change Stella McCartney is showing the world that there’s no need to be cruel; just be kind.
After 17 years in the fashion industry, Stella McCartney seems to be entering a new phase. The brand recently ended its 50/50 partnership with luxury conglomerate Kering and is now a wholly private label owned by McCartney. And just last month, she opened a second standalone Stella McCartney store in Singapore as part of an ongoing retail expansion in Asia. McCartney has always been focused on ensuring that her business endeavours are executed with as little negative impact to the environment as possible. She runs an animalfree brand—for women, men and kids—that champions the conceptualisation and use of alternative materials in all aspects, from its products to its retail fronts. The new Paragon store, for example, has cabinets crafted out of reclaimed timber from a Chinese railway. If the brand’s success is any indication, there’s more that can be done by other luxury players in any fashion category. We delve a little deeper into the mind of the eco-conscious designer and find out how she’s pushing for change, one step at a time.
Essentials of style
You’re famously passionate about not using fur or leather in your creations. How conscious is the fashion community—both producers and consumers—about animal cruelty? S T E L L A M C C A R T N E Y : I think it all circles back to the consumer. I think people are becoming more aware in the way they consume, so why shouldn’t fashion be a part of that conversation? At the end of the day, the consumer is the one that will make fashion houses pay attention—look at how they’re manufacturing, look at how many animals they’re killing in the name of fashion. I’ve never worked with leather nor fur since day one because it has always been part of my principles and ethics. But now, because the consumer is inally more informed and understanding of the cruelty to animals and the damage to the environment, other designers are inally starting to follow. ESQ:
What considerations do you take into account when designing for men that you don’t for women? S T E L L A M C C A R T N E Y : Doing menswear puts me outside of my comfort zone, because I’ve been doing womenswear all my life. I guess with menswear, I ind it more limiting than the wardrobe I design for women. There’s an attention to detail in menswear that I ind extraordinary and a complexity in their wardrobe that I think goes unnoticed. There’s a safer approach to how they wear, but I think it’s also a very considered approach, which I respect very much.
Above and facing page: looks from Stella McCartney’s menswear collection for spring/summer 2018.
In your mind’s eye, do the Stella McCartney man and woman live together in the same home? Or are they completely diferent animals? S T E L L A M C C A R T N E Y : Absolutely. The Stella man inspires the Stella woman. He’s a complement to her and he has been standing by her side all along. It’s very important for me to show that relationship and have it grow. There’s deinitely a marriage between the two and we’re always inding new ways to express it.
E S Q : What do you struggle with most when designing pieces for men? S T E L L A M C C A R T N E Y : With men, there is more of a sense of uniform, and a level of allegiance in sticking to speciic pieces and a particular way of dressing. We all have our limitations—the box we have placed ourselves in or are comfortable wearing. I guess with menswear I ind it more limiting. It intrigues me to see how far they’re willing to go outside of their comfort zones; I’m drawn to the challenge. But it is also very exciting and it’s something I prepared for. I trained at Savile Row in men’s tailoring to learn the technical skills behind it and I ind it fascinating.
What does wearing a Stella McCartney menswear outit or item say to the world? What three phrases would you use to answer this question? S T E L L A M C C A R T N E Y : The Stella man takes a modern approach to menswear. He is efortless, cool and natural; an individual who stands for his principles.
Words by Asri Jasman
E S Q : Tell us about your new non-toxic glue-less trainer. Why was
that important for you to develop? S T E L L A M C C A R T N E Y : Here at Stella McCartney, we’re always looking for new ways to be conscious, mindful and modern, and material innovation is particularly important to us. We worked for two years on the glue-less sneaker. Glue is traditionally made out of horse hooves, pig hooves and all of the leftovers of animals, essentially. It’s just something that I have been looking at for many years, and to be able to create a shoe that is made without any glue at all… I think is the irst in the world. Working with new technologies and challenging the way the fashion industry is conducting itself right now drives me every day.
Besides wearing more colour, what would you like men to do more when it comes to fashion? S T E L L A M C C A R T N E Y : I think we all want a level of variety in our wardrobe. And with men, there is a sense of uniform. I want to test how far they’re willing to go outside of their comfort zones. I also think men play it a little safer than women, so I want to give them a tiny little expression within our collections so they feel that they’re saying something when wearing our clothes.
Essentials of style
Let’s play Kim Jones is clearly having fun reinterpreting the Louis Vuitton
It’s dificult to associate a luxury fashion house with fun. After all, the essence of luxury has more to do with sophistication and elegance than frivolities. Louis Vuitton however, is diferent. Look carefully at the house’s extensive roster of collections and you’ll notice that there has been a continued infusion of fun in various doses. Collaborations with artists and other fashion designers have birthed a myriad of playful iterations. Whether it’s reimagining the LV monogram as Takashi Murakami did or taking a stab at the most hyped about luxury fashion drop of all time, namely the Louis Vuitton x Supreme collection, Louis Vuitton has never taken itself too seriously. For his pre-autumn 2018 collection, men’s artistic director Kim Jones envisions a “truly global traveller”—one whose travels are not restricted to a city or rural landscape. And it’s all coupled with fun aplenty in all manner of knitwear and technical outerwear. The LV monogram is extensively used throughout the collection to varying degrees and treatments at Jones’s whim and fancy. The tattoo-like Monogram Ink appears on denim and is further punctuated with a new inverted insignia— the Louis Vuitton Upside-Down—in bold highlighter colours on accessories. The tonal Monogram Eclipse adds subtle depths to ready-to-wear, while the new Monogram Shadow, which features a tone-on-tone embossing technique on
leather, is the most discreet play on the monogram yet. The idea of gifting and games is central to Louis Vuitton and is apparent more than ever in pre-autumn 2018. Dice and playing card motifs are translated as prints and curious updates on accessories such as cuflinks and jewellery. But the most novel is the house’s culmination of playfulness and leather savoire faire: Vivienne. Poised to be a luxury collector’s item, Vivienne is a homage to the founder’s grandson, Gaston-Louis Vuitton’s love of collecting toys and unique objects. Vivienne is named after the cowhide leather, referenced as VVN, that Louis Vuitton uses on the handles, tabs and lining of its iconic trunks and bags. Just as VVN leather visually evolves and develops a patina over time, so will Vivienne continue to be reinterpreted for seasons to come. The pre-autumn 2018 collection marks the mascot’s first appearance on ready-to-wear and a complete range of accessories, since its introduction last October. Vivienne is distinctly noticeable by its LV monogram flower eye-patch and is the graphic element that ties the playful elements of the collection together. An exclusive capsule collection of Vivienne-themed ready-to-wear and accessories will be available at the Louis Vuitton Pop-Up launching 4 May 2018 at Ion Orchard.
Words by Asri Jasman
universe for pre-autumn 2018.
Assigning genders to inanimate objects is beginning to be felt as sexist and discriminatory. The almost archaic model of diferentiating what a person should be wearing based on a binary gender identity can seem problematic, especially at a time when we’re increasingly calling for gender equality. Why? Well, unfortunately, blame it on a patriarchal society. Women in pants and suits are often seen to be powerful and in-charge, while men in skirts or heels tend to draw negative stereotypes. And more often than not,
He, she, they The straight-laced gender binary deinition of clothes is getting reworked too.
they allude to the notion that women are inherently less than men. Shaf Amis’aabudin of local design trio Mash-Up, expresses a similar sentiment. “It’s that mentality of how if a man dresses like a woman, it’s a downgrade. But if a woman dresses like a man, she’s authoritative”. But the times, they are changing. We’re slowly realising that when it comes to clothes, they are just clothes. There are already players in the niche genderless segment—the most prominent being Canada-based label Rad
Words by Asri Jasman
Essentials of style
Essentials of style
Hourani—but streetwear has always been stylistically genderless. The oversized, unstructured silhouettes favoured by streetwear designers are akin to uniforms. They’re diicult to categorise by gender. There is no distinguishing a sweatshirt or a pair of dungarees made for men to one that’s made for women; they’re essentially the same. And when designed oversized, clothes don’t have to be tailored to it the body of any gender. Similarly, fashion designers known for an architectural slant tend to traipse the perceived line between genders. Brands like Céline, COS and Craig Green segment their clothes in categories, but the overall aesthetic has never been gender exclusive. There is no clear sense of femininity or masculinity in the clothes, so when worn by anyone, they make sartorial sense. We dare you to tell Kanye West and Pharrell Williams that they look ‘feminine’ in Céline. For the record, they don’t. When luxury fashion houses began combining their men’s and women’s collections into one show, it stirred the industry because it’s unprecedented. It’s also a small but signiicant step towards a genderless point of view to design. Consolidating and presenting collections as one entity means the overall vision of a brand is shared across both categories. For brands such as Gucci and Jil Sander, this further solidiies brand identity without any regard to gender. One can immediately connect the styling and look of an outit to the brand because of the singularity in vision. Furthermore, in most cases, the designs are repeated for both menswear and womenswear collections in the same season. It’s a subtle way for mainstream fashion brands to slowly push towards a genderless aesthetic without shoving it down the throats of consumers. Haider Ackermann took it a step further during his tenure at Berluti. The menswear-only fashion house was introduced to an inclusive persona for Ackermann’s irst collection as artistic director. Among the 37 menswear looks shown on the autumn/winter 2017 runway, some were worn by female models. In an interview with South China Morning Post, Ackermann said: “The collection belongs to everyone. I give an attitude but don’t want to dictate your clothes.” This attitude-above-gender approach
Above: Ludovic de Saint Sernin autumn/winter 2018 men’s presentation. Below: Thom Browne spring/summer 2018 menswear collection. Facing page: doublet spring/summer 2018 collection for men.
to design is shared by Mash-Up as well as Japanese streetwear label, doublet. According to Amis’aabudin and design partner Nathanael Ng: “We never want to label a garment as strictly for men or women. The way we approach MashUp is like how one would shop at thrift stores—if it its and latters you, that’s what matters most.” For Masayuki Ino of doublet, his creations are thought out of central ideas irst. “The aim was never to create genderless clothing. I always create clothes for everyone who loves these ‘ideas’ that I come up with; there’s no distinguishing between genders,” he explains. When doublet irst entered the scene, the clothes were exclusively shown on male models but it has since taken a more luid stance visually. This year, doublet, together with Parisian brand Ludovic de Saint Sernin and US-based Matthew Adams Dolan, are gunning for the LVMH Prize. The annual award, founded by luxury conglomerate LVMH, celebrates young fashion designers. And this time, the three aforementioned brands are tagged under ‘gender-neutral’. Although grouped in the same category, the styles and adaptations of genderneutrality for each brand are entirely diferent. Saint Sernin started of showing his sexually charged collections only on male models during the menswear slot in Paris, but has always stood irm on the concept that each look was designed for women as well. Adams Dolan’s focus is on the versatility of workwear, with a penchant for denim—probably the most gender-neutral material there is—and transforming the material to its whim and fancy. Clearly, there is no right way to approach genderless fashion; well actually, fashion. Whether it’s by democratising the female-normative skirt as Thom Browne did for spring/summer 2018, or disruptive silhouettes à la Céline, one thing’s for sure: genderless fashion is the future. In fact, it has been quite a slow evolution and not a revolution. And in some ways, it could even be regarded as a regression. After all, was it not King Louis XIV who popularised heeled shoes (and with tights too) back in the 1670s? We just need to open our minds a tad and the possibilities will be endless. And don’t we all love having options?
a jour Photographs and styling by Eugene Lim
to remember Saint Laurent goes structural with its latest line of accessories, with the Sac De Jour Souple range of bags and its Jump Sneaker.
A sleek alternative to the briefcase, this hold-all in supple calf leather keeps its shape well; whether you choose to pack it with your gym gear or trusty laptop. Sac De Jour Souple holdall in calf skin leather, SGD3,580, by Saint Laurent by Anthony Vaccarello. Velvet jacket and cotton T-shirt, both by Saint Laurent by Anthony Vaccarello.
For a more grown-up take on the backpack, consider Sac De Jour Souple. Made of supple calf skin leather with metal detailing, itâ€™s also the prefect size for carrying your daily essentials. Your back will thank you. Sac De Jour Souple leather backpack, SGD3,120, by Saint Laurent by Anthony Vaccarello. Satin jacket, cotton shirt and cotton denim jeans, all by Saint Laurent by Anthony Vaccarello.
The Sac De Jour Souple linen and canvas dufle bag is a sturdier take on the weekender, but donâ€™t let the streamlined shape fool you. Inspired by the construction of the accordion, the dufle expands, giving you the option of more room when you need it. Sac De Jour Souple linen and canvas dufle bag, SGD4,710 by Saint Laurent by Anthony Vaccarello. Satin jacket and cotton denim jeans, both by Saint Laurent by Anthony Vaccarello.
A monochromatic take on the dad sneaker trend, these chunky kicks will take you from the ofice straight into the weekend. Calf skin leather sneakers, SGD1,320, by Saint Laurent by Anthony Vaccarello. Velvet jacket and cotton denim jeans, both by Saint Laurent by Anthony Vaccarello.
Essentials of style
New face Burberryâ€™s heritage trench coats reimagined.
Essentials of style
Words by Joy Ling
The Chelsea long-fit in mid-grey. Facing page: the Westminster long-fit in honey and in dark military khaki.
A house classic synonymous with the British brand sees new life with an edit of three fits, two lengths and five colours. While you may think you are looking at a modern notion, the updated collection is actually inspired by the archive. Which only means you have fresh detailing with the good old weatherproof gabardine and vintage check lining. Here’s the breakdown: the Chelsea is slim-fit with a clean silhouette and rounded shoulders. If you’re layering, the classic-fit Kensington is perfect with its neat silhouette and squared shoulders. The Westminster is the flexible one of the mix, ofering a relaxed fit in tumbled fabric for a fluid silhouette, a first for the signature coat. All except the Westminster come in two lengths, available in classic honey and black, as well as dark military khaki and mid-grey. It’s great that the redesign is no major overhaul, but a sleek rejuvenation we could all use.
Styling by Eugene Lim
We pay tribute to our favourite meme girl of the moment, @itsmaysmemes, and supersize our favourite jackets of the season.
Photographs by Ronald Leong
This page: wool jacket by Chanel; cotton T-shirt by Louis Vuitton; cotton jeans by Saint Laurent by Anthony Vaccarello; metal sunglasses by Gentle Monster; boots, modelâ€™s own.
Opening page: nylon bomber jacket and cotton trousers, both by Gucci; silk organza coat by Fendi; Air Max 98 by Nike. Facing page: cotton and nylon coat by Prada; boots, modelâ€™s own.
This page: mohair jacket and mohair jacket, both by Louis Vuitton; wool and mohair coat, by Gucci; boots, modelâ€™s own. Facing page: nylon parka (worn inside out) by Gucci; cotton hoodie by Moncler; cotton skirt by Prada.
This page: cashmere and wool coat by Burberry; cotton hoodie by Gucci; cotton jeans by Saint Laurent by Anthony Vaccarello; boots, model’s own. Facing page: wool coat, wool trousers and wool scarf, all by Dior Homme; boots, model’s own.
This page: wool vest and wool trousers, both by Gucci; wool and cotton coat by Loewe; Air Max 98 by Nike. Facing page: polyester down jacket by Burberry; nylon down parka by Gucci; cotton jeans by Saint Laurent by Anthony Vaccarello; boots, modelâ€™s own.
Production by Alex T. Model: Zhao Hang/Longteng Models
Essentials of style
PANTONE P 36-3 C
PANTONE P 17-9 C
PANTONE P 45-9 C
PANTONE P 10-9 C
PANTONE P 47-9 C
PANTONE P 38-2 C
PANTONE P 20-1 C
PANTONE P 38-1 C
PANTONE P 14-10 C
Essentials of style
The rainbow agenda Has the call for more diverse representation turned into a mere marketing tool? Asri Jasman is cautiously optimistic.
The lack of representation of diferent cultures, ethnicities, religions and all other facets of humanity in fashion and advertising at large has never bothered me. It’s not because I was born into a life of racial privilege—I’m a Malay-Muslim minority living in a Chinese-majority country—but I have never thought or perceived visuals through a coloured lens. I guess, in today’s age, I’m not as woke as I should be. This has never stopped me from buying fashion. I have never caught myself thinking that an item wouldn’t look good on me because I’m not the “suggested” tall, skinny white male. I have, however, stopped myself from buying items that don’t look good against my skin tone or wouldn’t make sense proportionally. But it has never been because I couldn’t it into a certain ideal; sometimes, some things just don’t suit you and that’s totally ine. It wasn’t until the fanfare of Somali-American Halima Aden’s entry into the Miss Minnesota USA pageant that I noticed how representation matters. It might not have afected me personally, but the idea that someone’s presence has the power to inluence change for the better is inspiring. This is the core of what diversity representation is all about; to make the world as inclusive as it ought to be. Fashion brands have obviously noticed the shift. Online fashion media The Fashion Spot began charting diversity representation for women in 2014 and has since reported signiicant improvements on seasonal runways, advertising campaigns and magazine covers in general. But representation for representation’s sake is not entirely ideal too. There has to be a certain level of authenticity attached to it. It’s not enough to have a non-Caucasian personality featured on the cover of a magazine only when it’s felt to be timely. A Singaporean shouldn’t be on the cover just because it’s for the month of August and it’s the ‘Singaporean issue’, only to have the rest of the issues for the year fronted by racially ambiguous faces (read: Caucasian with Asian features). Don’t misunderstand me; there’s certainly nothing wrong with featuring models
of European descent because clearly the global population is made up of more than just one type. But highlighting minorities only when it’s convenient and makes marketing sense is sheer tokenism. If the decision to cast a model is based on ethnicity, sexual identity, size or any other opportunistic agenda of the moment, and not on skill and merit, that’s discriminatory. It’s the equivalent of telling someone that they’re hired because their looks are only suited for this particular job on this very particular day. But for anything else? Not so much. Hype is the key operative word in fashion these days. Hiring the irst <insert minority here> model creates that viral buzz that marketing executives live for and brands proit from. In turn, any self-respecting journalist would want to draw attention to it because their job is to have their ingers on the pulse of the industry. It’s what happens once the buzz dies down that matters most in this shift towards a more diverse representation. It shouldn’t be as leeting as a news piece. Fashion brands need to be consistent in representing minorities. Gucci’s fully non-white cast for its pre-autumn 2017 campaign was a irst for the Italian fashion house, but has been followed by a steadily diverse model casting for subsequent runway shows and campaigns. The same goes for Louis Vuitton, Bottega Veneta and Balenciaga, just to name a few. Is featuring a diverse cast of models now used as a marketing tool? Yes, evidently, it is. But it’s not entirely a bad thing. It’s a sign that fashion brands are listening and feeling the pressures of a more self-aware and tuned-in society. However, we need to be able to voice our displeasure when what’s being presented at face value doesn’t translate consistently to every facet of the brand. It shouldn’t be a case of false advertising. If a plus-sized model is featured in an advertising campaign, the size range of clothes in stores should at the very least be true to what is portrayed. If not, a tip to @diet_prada on Instagram should call quick attention to the trickery, as they have successfully proven to date. Stay woke, fam.
Photographs by Jesse Laitinen
Styling by Catherine Hayward
Eye-catching menâ€™s styles for summer.
BOSS Blue/grey leather coat, blue linen top, blueÂ cotton trousers, white canvas trainers. Blue gloss leather coat, blue/grey cotton suit jacket, white cotton vest, blue/grey cotton trousers, white leather shoes, all by Boss.
BURBERRY Multicoloured daisy print nylon anorak, multicoloured daisy print cotton trousers, both by Burberry. White leather trainers, by Churchâ€™s.
PRADA Light blue cottonpoplin jacket, black/yellow cartoon print cotton shirt, light blue poplin cotton trousers, black canvas high-top trainers. Light green cottonpoplin jacket, red cotton shirt, light green cotton-poplin trousers, black leather-nylonvelcro trainers, all by Prada.
HERMÈS Khaki cotton-linenserge suit, red crêpecotton funnel-neck top, brown leather sandals. Taupe cotton canvas suit, green crêpecotton funnel-neck top, brown leather sandals, all by Hermès.
DOLCE & GA B BA N A Black/white cotton bomber jacket, white cotton T-shirt. Black/white cotton shirt, black cotton trousers, all by Dolce & Gabbana.
S A LVAT O R E F E R R AGA M O White cotton ribbed jumper, khaki cottonvelvet corduroy shorts, of-white suede shoes. Khaki cotton-silkgaberdine blend jacket, blue/white striped cotton T-shirt, navy/red striped cotton shorts, tan suede shoes, allÂ by Salvatore Ferragamo.
TO D’S Brown suede jacket. Denim-blue leather shirt, both by Tod’s.
GIORGIO ARMANI Navy/white/red wool-viscose V-neck jacquard jumper, navy wool-seersucker trousers, both by Giorgio Armani. White leather trainers, by Grenson. Navy/white/red woolviscose jacquard jumper, navy woolseersucker drawstring trousers, both by Giorgio Armani. White leather trainers, by Churchâ€™s.
Photographer’s assistant: Bror Ivefeldt. Fashion assistant: Emie James-Crook. Hair/grooming: Ben Talbott @ The Wall Group using Ouai and Sisley. Set design: Alun Davies; Kaushal Odedra (assistant). Models: Nick Rupp @ Premier Model Management; Mikhail Shmatov @ Supa Model Management. Retouching: Artifices Paris. Shot at: Spring Studios, London NW5.
White/grey wool-cotton ‘workwear’ jacket, ivory/red technical fabric-washed satin jockey jacket, grey wool-cotton trousers, white canvas trainers.
Grey/cream checked wool jacket, mint green satin-technical fabric bomber jacket, white high-neck cotton T-shirt, grey/cream checked wool trousers, white canvas trainers, all by Lanvin.
Archlight sneakers, by Louis Vuitton.
hot today, It doesn’t take an expert to know that Rolex and Patek Philippe claim the lion’s share of the market. Blue-chip watches, like the Daytona and GMT-Master II, simply do not sit around in stores waiting to be picked up. Rolex is notoriously tight-fisted with these models, doling them out only to the best retailers who then place direct calls to their best clients. It is said that the wait for some models lasts years. Likewise, Patek Philippe’s sport models, like the Nautilus Ref 5711, its minute repeaters and grand complications, are watches that money alone cannot buy. These are known as application watches and they’re strictly reserved for Patek VIPs. Thankfully there is a world beyond Rolex and Patek Philippe. Going by the latest auction results—because auctions are the best barometers of true market demand— collectors are flocking to Tudor for its trendy Black Bay models, particularly the special editions made in collaboration with retailers such as Harrods and Bucherer. Need more proof of Tudor’s red-hot popularity? A unique piece made for the Only Watch auction in 2017 closed for a record-breaking SGD478,120, obliterating its high estimate of SGD7,513. Other hot favourites include the Blancpain Fifty Fathoms, which returned to the limelight after a successful run with the 2017 Fifty Fathoms MIL-SPEC. Hublot too is making waves with exciting collaborations and limited editions. Special editions done right almost always do well—remember the Omega Speedmaster Apollo 13 Silver Snoopy Award? It’s going for more than double its MSRP on the resale market now. Ofering a balance of good value proposition and exclusivity, these are the rising stars of haute horlogerie that are worth investing in right now.
Words by Celine Yap
On the radar of collectors all over the world are these prized tickers. Come get them while they’re still hot.
Photography Mun Kong Styling Eugene Lim
H Moser & Cie Swiss Alp Watch in 18-carat white gold on black kudu leather strap; cotton hoodie, by Dime; mesh cap, by Palace. Facing page: Junghans Max Bill Edition 2017 in stainless steel on black leather strap; polyamide track jacket, by Gosha Rubchinskiy x Adidas available at Dover Street Market Singapore.
Hublot Big Bang Meca-10 in microblasted titanium on black rubber strap; PVC raincoat and cotton T-shirt, both by Vetements. Facing page: Nomos GlashĂźtte Metro Neomatik 39 Silvercut in stainless steel on black shell cordovan strap; polyamide trousers, by Craig Green; textile sneakers, by Nike.
MB&F Legacy Machine No. 1 in 18-carat white gold on black alligator leather strap; nylon down jacket, by Burberry; cotton T-shirt, by Vetements; nylon sling pouch, by Supreme. Facing page: Blancpain Fifty Fathoms Bathyscaphe in satin-brushed grey ceramic on blue canvas strap; cotton T-shirt, by Supreme X Comme des Garรงons Shirt; nylon and cotton fanny pack, by Supreme.
Photographer assisted by Chong Ng. Model: Lim Jun Jie/Now Model Agency.
A Lange & SĂśhne Richard Lange Pour le MĂŠrite in 18-carat white gold on black alligator leather strap; cotton hoodie, by Esquire; suede Yeezy Boost 750 sneakers, by Adidas. Facing page: Tudor Black Bay 41mm in stainless steel on black aged leather strap; nylon pufer jacket, by Burberry.
Twiggy poses with David Bowie in Paris for the cover of his Pin Ups album, 1973.
The case for gender-neutral watches Why let whatâ€™s in your pants decide whatâ€™s on your wrist?
Words by Celine Yap. Photograph from Getty.
Unless otherwise stated, haute horlogerie refers to luxury mechanical watches for men. That is not to say that they can only be worn by men, but there is little to no doubt for whom they have been crafted. Unfair, yes, though it’s not at all diicult to imagine why things have turned out this way. Constantly perpetuating values such as heritage, craftsmanship and patrimony, the luxury watch industry is nothing if not patriarchal. Let’s also not forget the fact that historically only men carried watches; women didn’t have access to them until much later. And it’s the same for everything else: education, employment, voting rights… So the prevalence of men’s watches today is merely one of the many vestiges of that deeply prejudiced past. When mechanical watches made their glorious comeback in the mid-1990s, the market was practically 100 per cent male-skewed. Apart from the occasional jewellery watch, there was hardly anything made for women that could be considered haute horlogerie. Over time, women began to appreciate luxury timepieces, but what was available to us between the early and mid-2000s were mostly simpliied versions of existing men’s pieces which patronised the consumer. Unsurprisingly, that found little success. There was basically just one formula: reduce the case size, add diamonds, put in a pink dial, pink straps and—drumroll— dumb it down with a quartz movement. Apparently, it was believed that women didn’t appreciate mechanical movements and couldn’t be arsed to iddle with the crown to wind the movement or adjust the time or date because that would damage their precious manicures. Sadly, this is not entirely untrue. So for a time, women’s watches all had that same vapid, saccharine look while
Omega Speedmaster 38mm Cappuccino.
men’s watches consistently grew more innovative and exciting. But the situation wasn’t all bad; there are a handful of very legitimate shewatches that ofer heritage, quality and a distinct identity. Breguet’s Queen of Naples comes to mind. Bulgari’s Tubogas and Serpenti as well are exceptionally esteemed women’s timepieces. Chopard’s Happy Sport, Chanel’s J12 and Patek Philippe’s Twenty-4 are all strong icons in their own right—and perennially popular among the ladies. Towards the end of the 2000s and into the early 2010s, having studied the market, brands realised that it was not enough to make women’s watches by dumbing down a men’s watch.
It was believed that women couldn’t be arsed to fiddle with the crown to wind the movement or adjust the time or date because that would damage their precious manicures.
Also at this point, timepieces dedicated solely to women began to increase in numbers. Jaeger-LeCoultre launched Rendez-Vous, Omega introduced Ladymatic, Montblanc created Boheme and Ulysse Nardin debuted Jade. All of these watches profer some measure of craftsmanship, technicality and femininity. Some managed to conquer the market, others are still trying. According to a source at JaegerLeCoultre, Rendez-Vous has consistently been the manufacture’s best performing collection among women. The reason cited was that customers have always wanted a Jaeger-LeCoultre timepiece that was feminine and round. The RendezVous illed that void perfectly. Due to a combination of diferent factors, however, Omega’s Ladymatic and Montblanc’s Boheme have yet to show such sterling results. The Ladymatic is a great watch by all accounts, but it was too much to process and even Nicole Kidman couldn’t turn it into a runaway success. On the other hand, the 2017 Speedmaster 38mm was an instant hit.
So it’s clear that simply launching a line dedicated to women isn’t the silver bullet that brand executives might have thought it was. Ulysse Nardin is a classic case study. As a highly technical manufacture with such awe-striking watches and inventions as Freak, Sonata, Moonstruck, Ulysse Anchor Tourbillon and so many more, how it managed to produce such a milquetoast as Jade is beyond comprehension. Perhaps it should take a leaf from the playbooks of brands such as IWC and Panerai, which have never been especially big on feminine timepieces but are seeing rapid success from this segment lately. IWC’s new Mid-Size models span the Pilot’s Watch, Da Vinci and Portoino lines—note how the brand cleverly avoids ixed gender norms. The Luminor Due in 38mm from Panerai comes with colourful interchangeable straps and a slimmer case proile that’s perfect for slender wrists. Again, the brand has not labelled it as a woman’s watch. In both cases, the underlying force majeure is how, rather than create something completely new and foreign, the brands have used their most hotly desired attributes as the building blocks of the collections. Both men and women are encouraged to navigate the brand universe through the same product families. These gender-neutral watches come naturally to their manufactures and, given how patriarchal the industry is, could be a viable direction for other brands looking to achieve the same results. It’s already happening in fashion, so why not watches? Gender-neutral timepieces could certainly co-exist with, rather than replace, the archetypal oversized men’s and dainty women’s watches. Is this going to be the future? We may not know, but it’s deinitely part of the present.
IWC Da Vinci Automatic Edition 150 Years.
Sexy time Putting the tick in erotic.
Words by Celine Yap. Illustrations by Rebecca Chew.
Why would sex have anything to do with watchmaking? It’s bizarre but true. And it’s not even a new idea. Watchmakers have, for centuries, made timepieces portraying couples (sometimes groups of people) engaged in coitus. They’re usually displayed on the caseback but occasionally you’ll ind them on the dial as well. This practice originated when miniature artisanal crafts became increasingly ubiquitous in haute horlogerie circles. It was in the 17th century. Customers were ofered the option of having a dial
or caseback customised with a painting or an engraving and they could literally commission anything they desired—or secretly desired. Portraiture was a popular style and it was common to request for a picture of a spouse (or lover) to be etched on the back of a pocket watch. From thereon, it only took the wolish mind of one bold and libidinous gentleman to spark a trend that ultimately became a tradition. In addition to paintings and engravings, watchmakers have also been known to produce erotic jaquemarts, which are a kind of miniature automata that animate a dial on demand. Given the profound lack of home entertainment in the 17th century, the appeal of such watches is not in the least surprising. These timepieces have also at some point or other been used as hook-up tools in high society. For instance, a man might slyly reveal his pocket watch with an immodest caseback engraving to a pretty lady he’s singled out as The One (for the night anyway) just to get her attention and signal his intentions. And you thought old people were conservative. Of course the church would never abide such lagrant licentiousness and soon enough the religious authorities all over the Swiss cantons of Geneva and Neuchatel formed an alliance to stamp out this afront to their moral beliefs. Erotic watches were to be outlawed, seized and destroyed. But passion inds a way. To subvert this new decree, watchmakers found a way to create a separate hinged caseback that conceals the ribaldry so that the watch appears no diferent from any ordinary, pure, God-loving timepiece. By then, however, erotic watches had become a social taboo and when timepieces transitioned from the pocket to the wrist in the early 20th century, this clandestine tradition was all but forgotten. Swiss watch company Blancpain brought erotic watches back into haute horlogerie in the modern era, that is to say the 1990s. At that point, people were just beginning to appreciate mechanical watches again, after three decades of inexpensive but disposable quartz technology. The Blancpain Villeret Répétition Minutes With Automata was a unique piece made in 1993 and the world’s irst minute repeater with automata. Pulling on the sliding lever winds up both the strike train as well as the automata, while
releasing it allows the time to be heard and the caseback to be animated by angels in their full naked glory. Only two or three Blancpain erotic watches are made each year and that’s because these are highly exclusive, bespoke timepieces. Often, a single watchmaker works on one watch from start to inish, unless the concept is so demanding that it requires additional pairs of hands. An erotic watch by Blancpain requires on average six months to complete, of which one full month goes to the crafting of the bedroom scene
Richard Mille RM 69 Tourbillon - Erotic.
Ulysse Nardin Classic Minute Repeater Voyeur.
alone. In a recent visit to the manufacture in Le Brassus, I lipped through its modern archives of erotic watches, which range from the steamy to the kinky—think Japanese manga robot girls. Manufactures such as Chopard and Audemars Piguet have also been known to very discreetly accept orders for erotic watches. Due to the sensitive nature of the timepieces, not many brands willingly share everything they’ve done. It is said, however, that Swiss actor Michel Simon, King Farouk of Egypt and Sir Elton John were fond of these watches. Ulysse Nardin, on the other hand, went with a diferent approach. Its erotic timepieces are not bespoken watches but rather made for any and all connoisseurs of this provocative branch of watchmaking. Crafted with traditional ine metiers d’arts, such as enamel painting or gold engraving, the watches are based on the Hourstriker movement which chimes the hours on demand. Like Blancpain, Ulysse Nardin is also skilled in the art of automata and its erotic watches are all animated by these miniature human igurines. With two couples in a bedroom scene but only one is aware of the other, the latest Classic Minute Repeater Voyeur may be Ulysse Nardin’s most salacious one yet. With a name like RM 69, you should be surprised only if this Richard Mille timepiece has nothing to do with sex. Ok a Richard Mille timepiece is a sexy-looking thing, but that’s a diferent story. The RM 69 Tourbillon - Erotic ofers a fresh new take on the erotic watch, provoking lust not with images but with words. “I lust to caress your body”, “I want to explore you tonight” and “I need to arouse your lips” are just some examples of what this watch is capable of saying. The sentences are formed when three titanium roller bars spin and then stop at random. Known as the oracle complication, it’s reminiscent of a Tibetan prayer wheel and is activated by the pusher at 10 o’clock. Of all the erotic watches ever made, this has to be the most irreverent one yet. Wear it to the club and who knows, you might get lucky. Oh and need we remind, this is deinitely NSFW.
Blancpain Carrousel Répétition Minutes.
A gathering of Singaporeans who have a head for success and a heart for community. From business leaders and policymakers peacocking in pinstripes, to consultants and creatives brainstorming in T-shirts, The Esky Club exists to challenge and break down mediocrity (and that carcinogenic notion of ‘good enough’) in order to stir up and instigate purpose-driven action on social issues—both at home and abroad. It’s iron sharpens iron kind of stuff. Sure, there might be cuts and bruises (to your ego), but they will be soothed with generous lashings of whisky, thought-provoking debates and soul-building conversation on matters that, well, matter.
Want to join? You need an invite. Best way to secure an invitation? You do you, and the rest will follow.
Chinaâ€™s rap queen
Recognising human traficking
The peopleâ€™s prince
VaVa speaks out on government censorship and the rise of Chinese hip-hop.
The signs of exploitation are not what we think they are.
How a royal scion of India became a symbol for all.
VaVa, one of China’s up-and-coming female rappers, found a national audience as a runner-up on China’s The Rap of China hip-hop competition. But she’s more than just a reality TV star. Her lyrics expose a diicult childhood and the struggles she’s gone through to make it to where she is today.
And she’s candid about the thin line Chinese rappers walk today as they try to create a unique brand of hip-hop in China while trying to avoid government censorship.
WORDS BY REBECCA KANTHOR PHOTOGRAPHS BY RONALD LEONG STYLING BY EUGENE LIM
Flannel shirt, cotton double shirt, wool trousers and calf skin boots, all by Balenciaga. Previous page: Wool pullover and cotton shirt, both by Balenciaga.
How did the name VaVa come about? When I was little, I was a bit chubby; I had a baby face (wá wa liăn). So, when I had to choose an English [rap] name, I thought I’d choose a name people would remember, and opted for one that sounds like ‘baby face’. There’s an article that said you formed a short-lived girl group after listening to SHE’s album, Girl’s Dorm. Have other performers influenced you musically? The singer who gave me the biggest inluence, that made me obsessive for this music, has to be Jay Chou. His song ‘Nunchucks’ was hot back when I was in primary school. That was the irst time I heard this rap-style of music. I thought it sounded really cool. Back then I already loved music and wanted to make my own, but I never imagined I’d be a musician one day. Other than Jay, I really like Rihanna. She’s got such a cool style. Oh, and I really like the British rapper Little Simz, who has a great low. Have you ever met Jay Chou? No, never. I’d like to though. To have the chance to tell him what an impact his music has had on me. I would love to remix his songs or collaborate with him. Why choose this style of music? Hip-hop feels very free to me. You can say what you like, it doesn’t have to be limited to love or relationships, like most pop songs are. There are other emotions to tap into, more directions you can take with your music.
t is an odd neighbourhood we’re in. ‘Odd’ as in diferent: the area is upscale, quiet; so far removed from the populous municipality that is Shanghai. And by that same token, this neighbourhood’s resident—whom we are picking up—isn’t cut from the same cloth as the rest of the inhabitants. For one, she’s dressed in a trench coat, skinny black jeans, red hoodie and silver boots (both Balenciaga) and topped with a red cap that’s lowered like she’s trying to shield her identity but through the extravagance of her attire. And two, she’s an up-andcoming rapper in a country that has thrown a book at the genre of music her and her peers are engaged in. Perhaps ‘up-and-coming’ isn’t an entirely accurate descript for MC VaVa (real name Mao Yanqi). Three years in the music scene and VaVa was the only female and one of the inal four contestants on the popular The Rap of China and released an album called 21 last year. Despite the Ministry of Culture’s crackdown on the supposed ills of rap culture, VaVa’s popularity hasn’t waned. In between the photo shoot, VaVa gamely poses for selies with fans. Her acclaim can only grow from here. She has what people refer to as tái fēng, stage presence. When the spotlight is on her, she puts on her game face as you can tell in this spread. Ofcamera, she’s like you and me, living out her hopes and fears; VaVa, who lives with a stray dog she adopted of the streets; VaVa, who worries about tsunamis while vacationing in Bali. This is VaVa. This is her rhyme and reason for what she does.
Like what you did with your song, ‘Life’s a Struggle’. It was emotional hearing it when you rapped about your mom. Yes, she taught me diferently from other parents. She was always more open-minded. I was a strong-willed child with a lot of opinions and she always supported me. I’ll give you an example: parents won’t let their kids do their own thing, but my mother gave me autonomy. When I was 16, I told my mom I didn’t want to go to school anymore and she didn’t force me to continue like other parents might. She just let me drop out of school to follow my own path. What does she think of your success? She completely doesn’t understand what I’m doing. She still likes the music from her youth. Every time I play a rap song for her, she tells me she doesn’t understand this. She’s supportive of me of course. She watches me perform, but afterwards she just says, ‘I’m old, I don’t understand you kids’. She’s only in her 40s so she’s not really old, but she just doesn’t like rap music. It’s probably a generational thing. I wrote ‘Life’s a Struggle’ based on my own experiences. She had a strong inluence on me and I wanted to write this emotion down as a tribute to her. Even though she never said so, I’m sure she was moved when she heard it. After dropping out of school, what did you do? I started singing in bars in Chengdu, where I’m from. I was still learning and didn’t know how to make this my profession, so I sang covers. If I sang my own songs, I would get in trouble because back then they didn’t allow hip-hop songs. When I was singing in the bar, I saw the others were just doing it as a job; they were just drinking and singing, they had no passion for it. But I was making my own music so I left Chengdu and travelled around China. In the end I chose to stay in Shanghai because it’s conducive for making music. Not like Beijing; it’s too noisy and I have a lot of friends there, who are always
Fleece jacket and georgette blouse, both by Balenciaga. Facing page: wool scarf and cotton shirt, both by Balenciaga.
calling me to hang out. I like to create in complete silence in my own room. I like to be in solitude, in a quiet environment to make music. Swimming is very helpful for me. Especially if I can’t ind inspiration or ideas, I go swimming and it helps. Let’s talk about your music… are social issues important to it? Every rapper’s style is diferent, some will write about social issues. It depends on your thoughts. I sometimes write about social issues. Some rappers are more critical [about things] and before that I had a more critical voice, but these days I feel that is shifting. I now want to write music that speaks to everyone. Now I’m more attentive to what I write. Are Chinese hip-hop and American hip-hop connected? Hip-hop comes from the US, and let’s be honest here, we’re really just copying their style, but, in a sense, we are connected. We’re still inding our way, still creating and inding our own Chinese style of hip-hop. We need to put more Chinese elements into our music. Already some rappers abroad are inserting Chinese elements into their music, like Migos with the inclusion of mahjong in ‘StirFry’. You spoke in another interview about how Chinese hip-hop is copying American black culture. How is copying a good thing? I mean [hip-hop] isn’t our thing, it’s someone else’s. [But] you’ll have to copy it irst to be able to create something original and make it your own. Just like an American might come to China and learn Peking Opera. American hip-hop has grown out of the African American struggle. So where does Chinese hip-hop come from? Chinese hip-hop comes from rebellion in young people’s lives. I realised all my rapper friends went through a period of insurgency and that’s when they started rapping. The generation before us were rockers, but today, we use rap to express ourselves. PG One, who came under fire from the government for lyrics glorifying drugs, sex and the pursuit of wealth, apologised for his music and said it was due to African American cultural influence. What do you make of that? That statement wasn’t very logical. I think [the] problems stem from his personal values and how the Chinese government perceives said values. Rap and hip-hop in China isn’t as free as before, and it’s gotten some negative flak from the government. Some musicians have changed their style or lyrics because of this to avoid the censors. Well, you know the old Chinese saying: wise men suit their actions to the times they are living in. To make rap and hip-hop [lourish] in China, we have to toe the Chinese party line. This is important because we’re living in a diferent environment here. Like when KFC irst opened in China, they localised and have special dishes, like their Peking Duck roll. The Chinese government has painted rap as all about glorifying drugs and money, bad things. Is that how you understand hip-hop? No, I think hip-hop helps us to express our innermost emotions and thoughts about how we understand the world we’re living in. Good and bad people are everywhere, but each person can choose how they express themselves and their values.
WE NEED TO PUT MORE CHINESE ELEMENTS INTO OUR MUSIC. ALREADY SO M E R A P P E RS A B ROA D A R E I N S E RT I N G C H I N E S E E L E M E N TS INTO THEIR MUSIC, LIKE MIGOS WITH THE INCLUSION OF MAHJONG IN ‘STIRFRY’.
Cotton shirt, wool trousers, wool scarf and calf skin boots, all by Balenciaga.
Silk dress, wool trousers, aluminium and bronze earring, and brass, copper and wood earring, all by Balenciaga.
Nylon and wool parka, cotton shirt, wool skirt, cotton tights and calf skin boots, aluminium and bronze earring, and brass, copper and wood earring, all by Balenciaga.
It’s a bit strange how the government seems to criticise hip-hop but then at the same time, it uses rap and hip-hop in its propaganda like what CD Rev has done with ‘This is China’. It does seem a little conflicting. To be honest, these days there are some rappers in China whose lyrics [could create] problems. Before rap wasn’t as popular as it is now, and not as many people were paying attention to us. But now there’s a lot of attention on rap, and we have a lot of young fans who idolise us and put us on a pedestal. Before I wasn’t restrained in my lyrics, but now I’m aware that I have young fans and I know they will be influenced by what I say, so I now think that changing my lyrics a bit is the responsible thing to do. Some rappers like Xie Di and others are a little over the top in their lyrics, like rapping about being against foreigners. Personally, I really like Xie Di’s music and how he expresses himself. I think he’s great. Are you worried about any impact of censorship on your music on the Internet? I’m not so worried because my lyrics don’t have so many swear words in them. My live shows are okay, just that some of my lyrics may have an issue with the censor, but not so much. What’s the real issue then? Maybe they’re making a new standard, it’s a way for them to fix what they see as a problem. And a time for people to correct themselves. How has this impacted you though? I’m not as busy as before but that’s okay, I’m doing what I need to do. I may not be going on TV as much as I was before when I was on The Rap of China, but now I’m focused on making music. I think this crackdown on rap is short-term because young people like rap. There’s really no way to control it now. Have you thought of changing up your style at all? No, I’m sticking to this. But I’m taking singing lessons now because just like other rappers, they also sing in their songs. There’s no conflict with rap. This year my goal is to win a Golden Melody Award, which is this huge music award in China.
Fleece jacket, georgette blouse and wool skirt, all by Balenciaga.
Do you want your music to go global? Actually, my music is already global. I just returned from a gig in Toronto, Canada. I didn’t realise it before but one day I went on YouTube and found that I had a lot of listeners from all over the world. Lots of people are talking about one of my songs that is popular in France. They don’t know the meaning of the lyrics, but they like the Chinese-style elements in the music. It’s like Chinese fans who like foreign music; we don’t understand the lyrics but we like the style. They think it sounds cool. My English is just so-so but I’m learning the language now because I want to do more shows abroad.
WIDESPREAD PUBLIC MISCONCEPTIONS OF TRAFFICKING
O B S C U R E S T H E R E A L I T Y O F D E C E P T I O N , C O E R C I O N A N D E X P LO I TAT I O N I N S I N GA P O R E — A N D H OW O F T E N T H E C O U N T RY’S LOW-WAG E M I G R A N T WO R K E R S EXPERIENCE ELEMENTS OF
WORDS BY KIRSTEN HAN PHOTOGRAPHS BY TOM WHITE
“IF I GO BACK,
M Y F A M I L Y D I E A L R E A D Y, I A L S O D I E A L R E A D Y.
HOW CAN I GO BACK?”
Rahman Safiar came to Singapore to work for a construction company in December 2017.
So says 36-year-old Rahman Saiar, who came to Singapore to work for a construction company in December last year. Like many other migrant workers, he’d left Bangladesh in the hopes of earning a steady income in a strong currency so as to better support dependents back home. Now, he’s stuck in the Southeast Asian city-state with no money and a pile of debt. Particular stereotypical images might spring to mind whenever the term ‘human traicking’ comes up: images of girls or young women, tearful and restrained, appealing for someone, anyone, to save them as they are sold into prostitution. People expect frightened individuals huddled in the back of suspicious-looking trucks, beaten or abused as they are ferried from one place to another to work as modern-day slaves. It’s what we think about when we hear the word ‘traicking’, but the reality is often very diferent. Survivors or victims of traicking don’t always look like skinny, wide-eyed girls kept in locked rooms. They
sometimes look like Saiar: young, able-bodied men, free from physical restraint. While still in Bangladesh, Saiar was told by a former colleague in Singapore that a job as a rigger signalman was available with a construction company. He then paid this colleague SGD5,000 to facilitate his recruitment, taking out a bank loan and leasing his family’s land to raise the amount. In return, he was promised a monthly salary of SGD1,600, as stated on an in-principle approval (IPA) that he was shown. Upon arrival in Singapore, Saiar found that the terms had changed. When he went to the Ministry of Manpower (MOM) to complete the paperwork for his work permit, he was handed a notiication stating that his employer had “informed MOM that your basic monthly salary has been reduced from SGD1,600 to SGD452.” The letter went on to say that the employer would have to get Saiar’s written consent to this change; if Saiar did not agree, then the original salary rate would stand. But Saiar says there were no renegotiations and that he never received a contract. When he started work, he was assigned to work in rebar, laying down the steel bars used to reinforce concrete in building work. It was a diferent role from that of a signalman, but having work was more important to Saiar, who still hoped to be paid the salary he’d been promised before coming to Singapore. But that, as it turned out, had also been too much to ask. For the seven days of work that he’d done in December 2017, he was paid SGD116—out of which his employer took SGD50 to reclaim the money he had loaned Saiar for the bus fare to and from work. In January, the employer told Saiar that he would be paid at the lower monthly salary rate of SGD452. When Saiar disagreed and asked to be paid the salary he’d been promised, he was told that he would be paid later. He received no salary in January or February, after which he lodged a complaint with MOM. Cases like Saiar’s aren’t the ones that would usually appear on anti-traicking billboards and posters, but highlight how common myths of traicking obscure the range of situations in which deception, exploitation and coercion occurs. Under the Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Traicking in Persons, Especially Women and Children, also known as the Palermo Protocol, traicking is deined as “the recruitment, transportation, transfer, harbouring or receipt of persons, by means of the threat or use of force or other forms of coercion, of abduction, of fraud, of deception, of the abuse of power or of a position of vulnerability or of the giving or receiving of payments or beneits to achieve the consent of a person having control over another person, for the purpose of exploitation.” While many picture traicking in terms of sex traicking, the reality is that labour traicking—where individuals are deceived into working under poor
Singapore’s construction industry will face a boom period over the next few years, according to the Building and Construction Authority.
MOM is launching a mandatory Settling-in Programme (SIP) for new work permit holders in the second half of this year. The oneday course, which will be conducted in the workers’ native languages, is designed to equip them with knowledge of their rights and responsibilities.
and exploitative conditions—tends to be far more common. According to the 2017 Traicking In Persons (TIP) Report by the United States State Department: “Some of the 1.4 million foreign workers that comprise approximately one-third of Singapore’s total labour force are vulnerable to traicking.” Another common myth is that physical restraint and force is required in human traicking. Such misconceptions can have a serious impact, leading to damaging assumptions where individuals perceived as having consented to the job and consequent conditions are seen as people who “should have known better”, and therefore blamed for their own predicament. There are ways to identify victims of traicking: the Delphi method introduced by the International Labour Oice and the European Commission provides sets of operational indicators intended to help with determining whether someone has been traicked or not. An individual who fulills the dimensions of deceptive recruitment, exploitation and coercion is deemed to have been traicked. Following this methodology, Saiar appears to it the bill: he’d been deceived about the nature of the job and deceived about his wages, which fulils the dimension of deceptive recruitment. The lack of a signed contract
and the failure to pay his salary meets the requirements for exploitation, while the dimension of coercion is fulilled by the fact that his employer had coniscated his passport and withheld his wages, while the money that he’d had to borrow to pay his recruitment fee kept him in debt bondage. His case worker at the Humanitarian Organisation for Migration Economics (HOME), a local migrant rights organisation, told Esquire Singapore that he was thinking of referring Saiar’s case to the Singapore Taskforce on Traicking in Persons, an inter-agency efort that involves not just MOM but also the police force, the immigration authority, the AttorneyGeneral’s Chambers and a number of other government ministries. In the meantime, Saiar has been granted permission by MOM to ind a new employer. It’s crucial that this job hunt goes well. “I cannot go back,” he says. “I owe so much money and I’ve leased my family’s land. If I go back, what will happen to my family and I?” But such a referral might not be successful. While non-government organisations might rely on indicators as laid out in the Delphi methodology, it’s not clear that the oicial task force uses the same standards. Cases that HOME has referred to the task force have sometimes been deemed by the authorities as failing
to it the criteria of human traicking. “Some of the problems [with trying to igure out if someone has been traicked] will be trying to igure out how the [task force] operationalises indicators in the Singapore context,” says Stephanie Chok, casework manager and head of research at HOME. “We don’t know what indicators they use or how they operationalise terms like ‘deception’ or ‘debt bondage’. Our sense is that they probably set the benchmarks quite narrowly.” Apart from the task force, which was set up in 2010, Singapore has taken other steps to deal with traicking. In 2015, the Prevention of Human Traicking Act was passed to grant enforcement powers to the authorities, provide harsh penalties for ofenders and lay out some protections for traicked persons. Under the Act, the punishment for a irst ofence of traicking in persons is a jail term of up to 10 years with up to six strokes of the cane, as well as a ine of up to SGD100,000. According to the US State Department’s TIP report, the Singapore government prosecuted eight suspects— three for sex traicking and ive for labour traicking— and convicted two for sex traicking. Esquire Singapore approached the task force for comment; they sent basic information on Singapore’s response to traicking along with links to information about the taskforce on the MOM website. They have yet to respond to speciic questions about the indicators used. Sometimes, possible victims of traicking choose not to be identiied as such. “We refer very few cases [to the task force] but that’s also because a lot of the migrant workers don’t want to be referred [to] as traicking victims,” says Chok. A reference to the task force could result in a lengthy investigation as the authorities probe their case. In the meantime, the individual is required to stay in the country. If they aren’t allowed or able to ind other work, that could mean a long period of unemployment, incurring expenses with no income to remit home. “If they have a salary claim, there may not be an advantage of being considered a traicking victim,” Chok explains. “If they want to go home as soon as possible, it might be better to ile a salary claim [with MOM] and then go home [sooner].” There are other considerations too, as highlighted by John Gee, former president of the migrant rights group Transient Workers Count Too (TWC2). As a panellist at the NUS Human Traicking Conference in 2014, he said: “The diiculty is this: to go back to those lists of traicking indicators, we ind that many apply to migrant workers in general, and the process of evaluation that their use prompts tends to conirm that there is a broad overlap between the conditions faced by traicked people and those experienced by low-paid migrant workers in general.” When issues such as coniscated passports, high agent fees or crowded living conditions are so common among migrant workers in Singapore, it might not really
Malo Sree Lalchan Chandra paid SGD7,600 to an unlicensed agent to come to Singapore.
be helpful to use the Delphi method as a checklist. In any case, Gee points out, one shouldn’t get overly hung up on whether someone has or hasn’t been traicked; the fact that a worker’s experience checks of even one of the indicators—be it “excessive working days or hours”, “deceived about conditions of work” or “withholding of wages”—is already a sign that something unacceptable has occurred. Take Malo Sree Lalchan Chandra, for example, who paid SGD7,600 to an unlicensed agent to come to Singapore. He’d been promised a job in aircon maintenance at a suburban mall, with a ixed monthly salary of SGD2,720—a kingly sum for a Bangladeshi worker on a work permit. Like Saiar, he didn’t get to see much of this promised salary; between the period of 29 December and 12 March, he only received a total of SGD814, of which SGD300 had technically been a loan. Following mediation with MOM, he settled for a payment of SGD5,500 from his employer. It was Chandra’s fourth time in Singapore; except for his irst trip, he’d lost money every time. One could argue that Chandra’s experience qualiies him to be classiied as a victim of traicking. Yet the contours of his case are familiar to caseworkers; many migrant workers who approach the non-government organisations for help have paid signiicant amounts of money to licensed or unlicensed agents, only to be paid less than they were promised—if at all. One doesn’t need to wait until these men are accepted as having been traicked to recognise that they have been subjected to unfair and exploitative treatment. “Given the big overlap in common migrant worker experiences and those of people traicked into labour exploitation, the job of identifying traicking cases and responding to them appropriately could be made simpler if a strategy of raising the status and extending the protection of migrant workers in general was followed,” Gee said at the 2014 conference. “This ought to leave labour traicking cases standing out more distinctly from other cases involving labour exploitation.” Chok also points to the systemic issues that need to be ixed, such as the way work permits are tied to speciic employers, giving bosses power and leverage over their workers. In such situations, workers who make complaints or argue with their employers for better treatment might simply ind themselves facing repatriation if their work permits are cancelled. Even workers who do manage to lodge a claim with the ministry might then ind themselves stuck in Singapore as investigations drag on. “When workers come forward to make a complaint and then they sufer for it, then more workers will remain in exploitative working conditions,” Chok says. The answer, then, is not simply about traicking and helping traicked victims, but about long-term, broadbased recognition of labour rights for Singapore’s large community of migrant workers.
Under the MOM’s construction sector quota, companies can employ seven work permit holders for every full-time local employee.
Maple wood printed skateboards, by Dior Homme.
All dressed up In some ways, the awakening to the â€˜otherâ€™ is not new for London, or many other large international cities that attract a diversity, which results in acceptance and a flourishing sub-culture. P H O T O G R A P H S B Y J O N AT H A N D A N I E L P R YC E / G A R C O N J O N .C O M S T Y L I N G B Y M A S H A M O M B E L L I AT S E V E N S I X
Jordan B, musician “I’m confident about being myself in London because the culture here is to accept anything and everything. I really don’t care about what others may think of me. I can only be myself so why would I try to be something else?” Dress, by Preen Line; jeans, by Levi’s Vintage Clothing; hat and jewellery, both model’s own; boots, by Redwing.
Jordon, creative at House of Hackney “I would say that my everyday sense of style is efeminate, and interestingly wearing a dress makes me feel more male than ever. By allowing my feminine side to come out, it meant I was able to find a sense of style and taste. It also helped me to be honest with my emotions and vulnerabilities. Masculinity and me broke up years ago.” Dress, by LOVERBOY; jewellery, model’s own.
A shift in public consciousness is underway in fashion, and the ideals of conformity have once again come into question on what is less strictly accepted as masculine, feminine and in-between. More and more, I see new editorial perspectives in mainstream media discussing the emerging attitudes in society—the topic of gender luidity is paramount. The mass pop-culture attention and current shifts in men’s fashion in the United Kingdom has now created a domino efect into the mainstream. The result is a climate where many men are questioning what it means to ‘be a man’ in contemporary culture. Curiously, this is coming on the heels of what I call the ‘beard renaissance’ of ive years ago, where a classic masculine style was also considered a symbol of liberation. Now, we’re seeing men from all walks of life breaking the restraints imposed by traditional rules—with real societal implications. One example is a mental health crisis. Men in the UK aged 20 to 49 are more likely to die from suicide than any other cause of death. A new atmosphere of open dialogue between men, once considered ‘un-manly’ and weak, is now allowing us to look at some very real issues. Men’s groups like Fathers for Justice have emerged to campaign for issues like suicide and equal parenting rights, and the visual image of what it means to be a strong male is being redeined. On the streets of London, I’ve noticed many men experimenting with their look, adding items usually reserved for women to their wardrobe—a softer approach with luidity and lair. Many of these men will likely identify as heterosexual with ‘normal’ jobs, but this really isn’t the focus. The trend is about self-expression, no matter your background. For this Esquire ‘Taboo’ special issue, I photographed British men wearing a mixture of traditionally men’s and women’s clothing that adds to their new and unique style. On a stereotypically rainy weekend in London, we captured their avant-garde looks and discussed self-image, the men they admire, and how they view masculinity today.
Tommy, yoga teacher “I’m comfortable expressing my own identity and I’ve learned that not everyone will accept it for what it is. Acceptance comes from within and there is nothing sexier than someone being unapologetically themselves. I’ve struggled to find this balance and I’m ready to continue allowing this to dominate my life, whether it be a bumpy journey or not.” Dress, by Filippa K; pearl necklace, by KTZ vintage; boots, by Dr Martens.
Marc, model at Crumb agency “I feel confident, liberated and very masculine in a dress. Wearing this particular dress is not about female impersonation or trying to be somebody else. I’d say it’s more about blurring set gender norms and amplifying my own masculinity through something we consider to be very feminine.” Shirt, by Balenciaga; dress, by Filippa K; jewellery, boots and socks, all model’s own.
Dominic, chef “Wearing a dress is invigorating. When I was growing up I was indoctrinated to feel like I shouldn't cry and shouldn't like pink. I was told to be tough. As time went by, my need to portray masculinity has become less important. I am perfectly comfortable not to be viewed as typically masculine.” Jumper, by Ralph Lauren; dress, by Vivienne Westwood; hat, model’s own; boots, by Dr Martens.
Oli, tailor “The diversity of culture in the city means people are accepting in London. I see a global trend of expressing individuality and that’s resulted in typical masculine ideals shifting. I consider my style to be conventionally masculine as I’m a traditionally trained tailor, but I find wearing a dress liberating.” Dress, by Olivier Theyskens for Theory; hat, by Christys’; jewellery, boots and socks, all model’s own.
Assistants: Elizabeth Bishop and Dana Chang
Kirk, founder and editor of Journal London “I’m an open-minded man. At home I have a book by Mick Rock, The Rise of David Bowie. In almost every page, David is wearing something that I wish I was cool enough to pull of, including some incredible dresses from the Hunky Dory era.” Vintage military trench coat; dress, by Preen Line; umbrella, by Undercover; boots, by Common Projects.
The peopleâ€™s prince How the ousting of a royal proved to be a calling for a far nobler ideal of fighting for LGBTQ equality in India.
WO R D S BY E S S E S PA R KS
C O M I N G O U T tends to be a tempestuous, life-changing experience for most members of the LGBTQ community. But for Gohil, it was a calamity of epic proportions. Soon after news of his homosexuality broke in the vernacular Indian newspaper Dainik Bhaskar in 2006, fundamentalists across the country burnt eigies of him and placed a bounty on his head. His family succumbed to the social pressures and eventually disowned him. “In royal families, there are no values,” Gohil adds. “You don’t have the kind of love and afection normal families have. They are supposed to produce children who are then taken care of by governesses. Communication is very formal. It was a boon to be born in a royal family because there was very little familial attachment.” At the same time, he wasn’t languishing like a high-and-mighty royal ighting for his rightful inheritance in acquiring all the palatial land. Before his big coming-out he had already been a massive HIV advocate, since 1995. “There were a lot of organisations working towards HIV awareness in Gujarat. It was known to the government and very few people.”
All photographs from Getty
Soon after news of his homosexuality broke in the vernacular Indian newspaper Dainik Bhaskar in 2006, fundamentalists across the country burnt efigies of him and placed a bounty on his head. His family succumbed to the social pressures and eventually disowned him. “In royal families, there are no values,” Gohil adds. “You don’t have the kind of love and afection normal families have. They are supposed to produce children who are then taken care of by governesses.”
W H E N O P R A H F I RST G OT I N TO U C H with Prince Manvendra Singh Gohil in 2007 to grace her couch, he dismissed her email, unsure of who she was. Who doesn’t know Oprah? Gohil admits he’s not much of a pop culture enthusiast and wasn’t technologically savvy back then. It was only upon receiving a call on his landline—from the woman the Internet hopes will be America’s next president—that he agreed to appear on her show; a groundbreaking moment and milestone for him, he confesses. Today, she’s a great connection to have. When we meet for this interview, I see Gohil stepping out of an Uber and into the Starbucks I’m waiting at in suburban Mumbai. He’s wearing an airy kurta and pyjama, collapsible Nike sneakers and a backpack slung across one shoulder. No big deal. It’s an especially muggy March afternoon and he could easily pass of as one of the many freelancers or regular folk populating the cofee shop. What stands out is the rich vermilion applied with perfect precision on his forehead and the eye-catching magenta topi akin to something Childish Gambino would don on stage. Unlike us commoners present here, Gohil is a prince from the Kingdom of Rajpipla in Gujarat, not far from where India’s current prime minister Narendra Modi was born. Gohil tells me that the vermilion mark—the tilak—is a tradition passed down from his ancestors who would sacriice an animal before the Hindu goddess Devi and apply its blood on their forehead as a symbol of good luck before going to war. Luckily, prior to the interview, no animals were harmed, but the tilak still embodies its original meaning—as a third eye—in a battle Gohil’s been ighting for the past 12 years: as India’s irst and only openly gay prince and poster man for LGBTQ rights in a country where homosexuality is illegal. Being a prince in modern-day India is a cool job title to have, but the value is often compromised in the public eye ever since in 1948 the law did away with monarchical rule in favour of democracy. That explains why Gohil can use public transport and nonchalantly wander into a crowded space without getting mobbed. “Now when you think of royalty, it’s nothing like the olden days. But even though we don’t have the privileges and titles, we still have ceremonial powers,” Gohil reminds me. That and they retained their enormous palace grounds worthy of a mention every time Buzzfeed does a listicle of places to visit before you die. “In our geographical areas, we still have to follow certain cultural traditions and religious rituals which can only be performed by the royal family. Even when the prime minister came and he wanted to visit a temple in Rajpipla, he had to take permission from us in order to enter it. It’s a tradition that’s been carried down for 600 years,” he says. “That’s what separates us from commoners.”
He took his cause further by launching the Lakshya Trust in 2000, to better the lives of sexual minorities from a social, physical, spiritual and cultural perspective—an initiative that he is still wholly involved in. “I was financially and socially independent. That’s what I still tell my friends they need to do if they’re looking to come out. I’d already started living on my own and was making money through agriculture.” Gohil reiterated the same story to Kris Jenner when he was invited to her home last year. When she asked what the biggest sacrifice was for Gohil in revealing his sexuality to the world, he said his life. “You can [always earn back your] money but you can’t get your life back. I could have been killed.” Even with the threat of death, an ever-present dark cloud that follows him, it was obvious that a genuine crusader is needed to combat an archaic prejudice. And equally apparent that the person who was most convinced of that opinion was Gohil himself. From the outset, he was not prepared to be underestimated or overlooked—ready “to tie the noose around my neck for the cause”, he says. “There have been so many cases in royal families where people are gay or a lesbian and it was only discussed within the family but never publicly. For any social change to happen, you need to be vocal, [to be] able to talk about the subject.”
C U R R E N T LY G O H I L’S behind setting up a game-changing LGBTQ centre, Hanumanteshwar Amar 1927, that’ll be open to everyone including allies. “Other centres are very exclusive; I believe in inclusion,” Gohil explains. “Allies helped mainstream our issues.” Located inside one of
Prince Manvendra Singh Gohil applying the tilak in preparation for AIDES Gala Dinner on 27 November 2010 in Paris, France.
Gohil (left) takes part in the parade event of the LA Pride Music Festival 2016 in West Hollywood, California.
Gohil’s palace grounds, which his great grandfather had established in 1920, the centre resides 15km from Rajpipla on the banks of the Narmada River, a retreat for foreign dignitaries who would come visit. Gohil regained access to his ancestral property after renowned lawyer and Indian member of parliament Meenakshi Lekhi came on national television to say that it’s illegal to disown a rightful heir due to his sexual preference. Consequently, Gohil’s father Maharana Shri Raghubir Singhji Rajendrasinghji Sahib gave an interview in the country’s most widely circulated newspaper, The Times of India, admitting that disowning Gohil came from public coercion and the maharana of Rajpipla regrets the decision.“My father is supportive of what I do but it’s still very formal,” Gohil says. “We don’t talk much with each other unless it has to do with the business.” As Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code that criminalises homosexuality sits with the Supreme Court for reconsideration this year after an unfavourable verdict in 2013, Gohil’s taking advantage of the Act of Privacy that was passed last year. Simply stated: the government can’t pry into your life behind closed doors. Hanumanteshwar Amar 1927 is set to become a holistic hub for the LGBTQ community. English and technology education will be a prime focus. There’ll be a state-of-the-art medical centre for sexual health complemented by spiritual healing in the form of music, meditation and yoga. It almost sounds like an attractive holiday destination. Gohil stresses that the key demographic are sexual minorities from small-town India. “I want to empower them and give them a platform. To stand on their own feet and earn their own living.” But it’s not only limited to the locals; the centre has already hosted international visitors in some of the planned 20 to 25 rooms
that are available for lodging. “[A] transgender woman of Indian origin from New Jersey approached me; she didn’t feel secure staying in the US because of the Trump government and had faced a lot of abuse. Her mother came with her but her father was against her sex reassignment surgery. When he also wanted to come to the centre, I said he was welcome but didn’t want any conlict, especially if he’s homophobic. Once he saw that she’s living with a prince in a royal establishment, he became more accepting of her. To enter a royal property is not permitted for commoners and here his daughter was living with us and enjoying the facilities.” Gohil reports that the father and daughter now share an amicable relationship. It’s one of the many instances where Gohil has dipped his ironclad toes in the international LGBTQ spectrum. On Justin Trudeau’s recent India visit, Gohil spoke to him about supporting the Indo-Canadian sexual minorities and the liberal prime minister instantly put him in touch with the necessary authorities. “I get a lot of crisis calls from across the globe where people have been subjected to blackmailing, abuse, marriage pressures and I do a lot of counselling. That takes up most of my time.” Whatever’s left is dedicated to his position as the Indian ambassador for the AIDS Healthcare Foundation—the world’s oldest and largest organisation for HIV testing and treatment. “I’m doing a lot of TED talks [and] the more I do them, the more I can help change [society’s mindset].” In addition to that, he does paid public appearances and all the proceeds go back in to developing the centre. He draws up an analogy to the freedom ighter Bhagat Singh, an Indian nationalist considered to be one of the most inluential revolutionaries of the independence movement. His method of working, according to Gohil, is akin to Mahatma Gandhi’s modus operandi, that is to use honesty, transparency and non-violence to gain freedom. Only in Gohil’s case, it’s freedom from hypocrisy.
I N D I A I S A M E LT I N G P OT of so many spectacular, ironic and bizarre bits. Kind of like oscillating from Wes Anderson’s colourful sense of disafected whimsy to a Christopher Nolan sci-i behemoth—both consumed with equal delight and curiosity by a diverse audience. On one hand there exists a laundry list of traditions and norms; on the other, a modern new age society bustling with a younger and open generation to whom the value system is antiquated and tired. We view and participate in dialogues of provocation and consume salacious narratives with glee; so long as it’s never coming out of your own backyard. Because, what will society think? “India invented the Kamasutra… so why do we still feel shy to talk about sex and sexuality? Our culture was traditionally very sexually open,” Gohil says with a hint of frustration in his voice. “More than that, India is a country where homosocial behaviour is in fact accepted. Two guys can easily rent a room in a basic hotel but two unmarried people from the opposite sex struggle to get one.” It still remains one of the many unanswered questions of the perplexing Indian value system. In the royal family, no one else has come out or spoken about sex so openly and it’s resulted in a lot of hatred and angst towards Gohil, especially from the conservative brain trust that makes up a large part of the country. He doesn’t seem to mind. He continues to play the double role of a royal and activist in the public sphere, leveraging his power as the descendant of a dynasty to inluence and ight for LGBTQ rights on a national and global platform. When you see someone from a royal family, you’re presented with an image of an outmoded idea. What Gohil represents is the real and modern representation of what it means to be a royal today—a sovereign of the marginalised, a man of the people. All hail the prince.
“[A] transgender woman of Indian origin from New Jersey approached me; she didn’t feel secure staying in the US because of the Trump government and had faced a lot of abuse. Her mother came with her but her father was against her sex reassignment surgery. When he also wanted to come to the centre, I said he was welcome but didn’t want any conflict, especially if he’s homophobic. Once he saw that she’s living with a prince in a royal establishment, he became more accepting of her.”
OP INI ONATED At Esquire Singapore, we are passionate about sharing diferent perspectives—and stirring up conversations— on topics that impact our city-state. This month, we tackle freedom of speech.
EVE RYONE H A S AN OPINION. Your mom probably has a thing to say about your hairstyle; the taxi uncle that ferried you to work this morning rants about government policies; a stranger has a personal story in relation to today’s current events. Even the man who says that he has no opinion to weigh in… that’s an opinion. We want to foster dialogue and hope that, while it may be diicult to hear a view that is contrary to your own, our sessions can inform and ultimately lead to a place of understanding. There are no winners or losers in a dialogue, only a joint process of making sense of one another. Here, we present three individuals and their opinions on censorship.
RISHI BUDHRANI Comedian and actor
just got of the phone with a client for a potential stand-up comedy segment at a youth convention. The brief was to address topics of race and religion in an open and provocative manner, as a trigger activity to allow some 150 youths to discuss. This is a very rare form of disruptive censorship where we take the exact opposite theory of censorship in order to have an open and candid discourse about sensitive issues. The censorship that usually occurs is to safeguard racial, religious or political sentiments, or inconveniences at some point, but is it necessary? There are certain areas where there is no question. For example, most would probably agree that you shouldn’t show hardcore pornography to a ive-year-old. The problem is when the deinition is unclear and the situation presented not quite black and white. Case in point—Ken Kwek’s Sex.Violence.FamilyValues. I never watched it precisely because of the ban, but I read that it supposedly portrays Indian people as drunken wife-beaters. To my understanding, it was initially cleared, but subsequently banned after receiving some complaints. The essential problem with censorship is that the responsibility to take ofence on behalf of an entire community or dictate what they should be able to consume, is put on a select few. Sometimes we don’t even get an opportunity to make up our own minds about it. In Singapore speciically, politics is a key consideration especially when it comes to ilm. Tan Pin Pin’s To Singapore, With Love didn’t get any kind of screening because IMDA deemed it unit for viewing, citing falsehoods and other claims. Say it were untrue statements. Isn’t the audience mature enough to discern? Obviously in the mind of the authorities, we are not. There is a sense of ‘watching this will undermine your view of the government, so you best not’. Sounds a little lopsided right? If you have trust in the government, lived in this country for over 20 years, a one-hour documentary on ex-political detainees shouldn’t even matter. It should be a chance to have a candid discussion, but instead it becomes a topic of contention. Coming from a communications background, and as a stand-up comedian, I might not be the full representative of the layman. Still, I highly doubt there are people who would completely reject watching an alternative viewpoint on history. Or perhaps there are. Censorship is necessary, but the process of setting guidelines could be more consultative and representative of what people on the ground want. It is diicult because not everyone shares the same views, but we’re an educated society that is capable of making mature decisions despite consuming alternate forms of information. Hopefully we can get there at some point, but right now I don’t think we’re very much there yet.
ALISA CHOPARD Corporate comms professional
ensorship is deined as “the suppression or prohibition of any parts of books, ilms, news, etc. that are considered obscene, politically unacceptable or a threat to security.” The question that is often asked is: is it acceptable to practice censorship? The answer to this question cannot be as straightforward as a ‘yes’ or ‘no’. Censorship must be seen on a spectrum. A balance must be struck between maintaining individual freedom, and at the same time, ensuring that there is peace and progress in the wider society. Swing too much in either direction and the result is an anarchical environment. Some argue that both those ideas should not be mutually exclusive. The reality, however, is this: we do not live in an ideal world. In an ideal world, we would be able to create and express, without our content being ofensive or taken ofence to. In an ideal world, mature discourse would follow said expression, instead of threats or violence. But as events around the world have shown, we are far from such an ideal state. In short, our individual freedom ends exactly at the point where someone else’s begins. And that ‘someone else’ may have a gun. In 2006, the satirical French magazine Charlie Hebdo reprinted cartoons of the Prophet Mohammed, which were controversial to many. In 2011, it published a caricature of Prophet Mohammed. This resulted in what many have touted to be the worst terrorist attacks in France in a generation. On January 2015, two gunmen stormed the Charlie Hebdo oices in Paris, claiming to be avenging the Prophet Mohammed. They went on to massacre 12 people: eight employees, a guest at the magazine, a maintenance worker and a police oicer. More fatalities followed in attempts to capture the suspects. Around the world, many pointed ingers at the perpetrators, calling their actions an “attack on free speech”, but few stopped to question whether, being aware of the racial, religious and social tensions that exist in Europe, the magazine did all it could not to provoke such senseless violence. On the other end of the spectrum is a country like China. In China, the authoritarian government has a tight handle on the press and often jails its own citizens for dissent. In 2013, Southern Weekly, an inluential and liberal newspaper, was forced to change an editorial calling for political reform into a piece praising the ruling Communist party. In a rare display of bravery, protestors, including scholars and students, gathered in front of the newspapers’ oices in Guangzhou, calling for freedom of speech, political reform and democracy. It is said that Tou Zhen, the chief provincial censor, was responsible for this. Southern Weekly continues to be subjected to tight censorship and its readership has sufered over the years. I dare say the price of censorship is even greater than a protest (and its potential fallout)—it results in an uneducated nation; one that has not developed or progressed through a free low of information and open discourse. Regardless of fallout—physical or otherwise—one must agree that neither extreme is beneicial for peace or progress. So, instead of asking if there should be censure or no, we should be asking: to what extent is censorship considered to be acceptable in society? Unfortunately, this is a question that I do not have an answer to. Similarly, no nation has found an answer either.
PRESCOTT GAYLORD Improviser
am an American comedian, improviser and host of comedy shows. I’ll admit that it is still a foreign feeling to me to have to check a box on a government review form indicating if my show will feature “non-mainstream lifestyles and behaviours including alternative sexualities” just in case someone plays a gay character in a scene. I’ll also admit that it still feels both invasive and hilarious when our answers are questioned: “in many of your videos, the content seem to revolve much around the theme of sex…” Yes. We are comedians, and adults. Some part of me was happy that someone was watching our videos, even if it was IMDA looking for ratings discrepancies. Audience is audience. In general, I don’t like to think about the government approval of my content. I just want to be funny and insightful from time to time and be responsible for my own work. I improvise, so I can’t edit work before an audience sees it. We are living in the moment which is what makes our shows work—spontaneity without selfcensorship. When I teach improv, I spend hours trying to get students out of their heads to be able to create authentic and spontaneous scenes. It is diicult to free students of self-censorship in an environment of actual censorship. And we do censor ourselves. One example: when we practised a musical-improvised song and broke into a chorus about a political igure’s beach house—a ictitious beach house that was sung about in a positive light—we instinctively deleted the video we made of the practice. Rather, the Singaporeans deleted the video instinctively—I had to have the rationale explained. We are afraid of saying some things that could land us in hot water with the government. I believe it makes us less funny and less insightful. The thing is—I secretly like some of the censorship in Singapore. I like the idea that it is impossible for me to turn on the radio to ind a hate-illed hour of antireligious or race-baiting rhetoric. Some parts of the talk radio dials in the US are illed with these shows. It is protected speech and it is ugly. Very ugly. I honestly am grateful that we don’t listen to that here, even if its absence is due to oversight. The other thing is—I not-so-secretly don’t like that I couldn’t go to Pink Dot to support my friends of “non-mainstream lifestyles and behaviours” because I am not Singaporean. I guess like many people (especially Americans) I want the boundaries of free speech and censorship to be on my own terms. It is entitled, but I think comes from a good place.
A Woman We Love
WORDS BY WAY N E C H E O N G
LENNE CHAI AT ADB AGENCY STYLING BY EUGENE LIM
A Woman We Love
FOR SINGAPORE’S OWN BURLESQUE PERFORMER, SUKKI SINGAPORA, IS SOMEWHAT M A L I G N E D. W H I L E HER JOB REQUIRES HER TO MAINTAIN APPEARANCES—BOTH ON AND OFF THE STAGE— THERE’S MORE TO HER BENEATH THE SURFACE.
Facing page: dress by Gucci.
he burlesque performer can sometimes fall into gross caricature—ample décolletage, callipygous, waist tinier than the circumference of her head. It’s an easy stereotype to whip out, a generous brushstroke across a canvas. But during cofee one morning, Sukki Singapora, 28, Singapore’s irst burlesque artist is far from the boilerplate. Now, she’s in motorcycle pants and a tracksuit; her eyes eclipsed behind sunglasses, her fruit punch hair stretched back into a messy bun; her glamour stripped from her. This isn’t the image that Singapora wants people to see. Usually. “When I started,” she says after sipping her cofee, “I didn’t want people to know how much of an emotional struggle I had in carving out my burlesque career.” To showcase this is to expose her Achilles heel; it leaves her vulnerable. But her opinion started to shift last year when she moved to LA to further her career. There, she discovered that she was a minnow among sharks in the entertainment industry. In Singapore, she gets stopped in the streets for a selie, but in LA, no one gave a toss. She had to begin from zero once more. This setback proved interesting. “When you say you’re from Singapore, that holds people’s attention in Hollywood because that’s a story they’ve never heard of before.” Can that be seen as fetishising though? Singapora thinks for a beat. “That’s always the case for Hollywood, especially when you’re an Asian woman. But I’m not the typical aesthetic of what an Asian or Singaporean woman should look like.” She highlights her racial ambiguity as an example—it helps, in terms of not pigeonholing her into a safe category, thus opening her to more opportunities, but it hinders as well, as she has to justify her race and nationality. “That’s always one of the irst few questions they ask me that usually detracts from my work,” she says, rolling her eyes. To be fair, it’s not just in America that she experience this; she gets the same treatment in Singapore but after a while, people come to terms with it. Singapora avers that it’s the appearance of the new wave of mixed-race
A Woman We Love
Singaporeans that helped. But this and other struggles are what Singapora wants to connect people to. “This time round, I just wanted to let [the public] know that success doesn’t happen overnight.” Luck might play a hand in it but for the most part, it’s about the sweat, blood and tears. And sometimes, the obstacles can come in the form of family.
ive years since she broke into the local conscience as Sukki Singapora, her extended family is still in the dark as to what she does. “I know, it sounds impossible but the only images they have of me are [the ones of me before I did burlesque],” Singapora explains. “The last time I visited them, I wore a headscarf so they don’t know what my hair colour is. They can’t reconcile the thought of me now and their memory of their dark-haired grandchild.” While her grand-relatives are oblivious to what she does, there was one person in the Menon clan that Singapora had to be careful with—her uncle. Speciically, her dad’s eldest brother, a retired colonel in the Singapore army. The man is principled; strict but fair. During her childhood, she remembers him as “jovial” but everyone had much respect for him. For someone who is headstrong and free-spirited, it seems odd for Singapora to be considerate of her uncle’s feelings. “Probably because it meant so much to my dad that I didn’t want to just bulldoze my relationship with my uncle.” Two years ago, around Christmas, her two uncles— including her militant uncle—lew to the UK to spend the holidays with them. The second uncle, the one Singapora’s father had revealed that she was a burlesque dancer, took to drink. With the screws on his inhibition loosened, he started joking to Singapora about when she was “going to give us a can-can?” Red-faced, she tried to obfuscate the babble, hoping her militant uncle, who was talking to her mother, wouldn’t overhear. After a while, the militant uncle excused himself to use the loo. Not wanting to have her coming-out come from her inebriated uncle’s loose lips, Singapora decided that tonight would to be the night to tell him. “The jokes that [my tipsy uncle] was making are not how I wanted burlesque to be painted as,” she explains. “I want burlesque to be presented in a really respectful manner.” So, she went upstairs and waited for him to exit the bathroom. The scant minutes he spent in there felt like the eternal ticks of forever. When he emerged to see his niece, sweat pinpricking her forehead and upper lip, she told him, mirthlessly, that she needed to talk to him. This set up a wall in him. He retaliated Top and dress, both by Prada; body suit, Singapora’s own.
A Woman We Love
A Woman We Love AS 1880’S GLOBAL AMBASSADOR, HER DUTIES INCLUDE PERFORMING AT THE
Bodysuit by Gucci.
CLUB AND PARTAKING IN THE VENUE’S SALONS THROUGHOUT THE YEAR. “RATHER THAN JUST ME BEING A PERFORMANCE A R T I S T, N O W I H AV E A PLATFORM TO SHARE M Y V I E W S O N T H I N G S .” IT’S REFRESHING FOR HER TO ALLOW PEOPLE A G L I M P S E I N T O H E R H E A D, TO SEE HOW HER MIND WORKS.
A Woman We Love
with questions. He was not making it easy for her. His countenance didn’t waver; his face was stony, like an indomitable clif. Singapora dragged him to his room and told him to sit on the bed. He insisted on standing. Even though he had retired from the army, there remained the soldier in his stance. Like he was primed for an attack. Singapora told him that she had quit the IT game. He considered this, then let out an “okay”. She continued, saying that she hadn’t worked in IT for two years. He remained stoic, worse, maybe even unimpressed. He replied with another perfunctory “okay”, a sign for a quiet anger set to a simmer. The deception of the whole situation worsened as she told him that she hadn’t told him sooner because she didn’t want him to think that she had failed. He didn’t respond so she pressed on, telling him that she was now in entertainment, that she danced professionally, that she travelled the world performing. He remained silent. Then, inally he said “okay” again, but this one was riddled with resignation. “You do what you want with your life,” he added, before leaving the room. The rock she had been carrying around had rolled away and in its place was a bare patch in the middle of a verdant ield. Singapora wondered if the cost of the truth was too much to pay for. The mood remained awkward for the rest of the holiday.
ventually, he warmed up to it. During the recent Woman of the Future Awards at Hilton Singapore, he turned up to witness Singapora present the Arts & Culture Award with Jimmy Choo. “It’s really emotional because not even my mom and dad supported me this much to even attend this awards show.” But on the evening itself, he called with an apology, citing that he didn’t realise that the occasion would be held this late and now he won’t be able to make it. He added that even though he wasn’t there he wanted her to know that he is with her all the way. That was enough. It was all she ever wanted him to say to her. To further thaw this hibernating relationship, she decided on a more physical approach, hugging her uncle whenever she can. He doesn’t really reciprocate but she thinks that he secretly he likes it. It’s a work in progress, she says with steel in her voice.
ingapora is the newly minted global ambassador for 1880, a private member’s club. The journey to that position began with her performance at the Formula 1 after-party. It was with Boudoir Noire and in this inaugural showing, Singapora was its guest star and among the audience was Marc Nicholson. After the show, he approached her and was efusive with his praise for her act. “He told me about this crazy idea of creating a creative venue in Singapore, which is a member’s club. Then, he said he knew that I should be the global ambassador of it.” That was two years ago. Now, as 1880’s global ambassador, her duties include performing at the club and partaking in the venue’s salons throughout the year. “Rather than just me being a performance artist, now I have a platform to share my views on things.” It’s refreshing for her to allow people a glimpse into her head, to see how her mind works. There are a couple of concepts that she’s working on. “Obviously the typical one is ‘how does it feel to be an artist in Singapore’ topic, ‘how do you inspire young girls’, and ‘is burlesque feminist or is it not?’ But it’s never been about burlesque; it has always been about how a woman can have autonomy in her life… that’s the message behind what I do.”
A Woman We Love
hen the dam that was sexual improprieties in Hollywood broke, Singapora left America to return here. She wasn’t harassed, she wasn’t taken advantage of, in fact, she left with fond memories of her time spent in LA. “The women who came before me experienced a very diferent entry to that industry than I did,” she says. “Of course, there’s always sexism in every industry, and of course, there’s always gender politics within any entertainment industry, but I’ve never felt like it’s worse with the circles I move with in LA than it was anywhere else.” When allegations about Harvey Weinstein’s sexual misconduct started to mount, she thought the charges would blow over. “In terms of women ighting against the behaviours of men in Hollywood, I admit I thought it’s gonna be a thing where we make a big stir about it and then nothing changes.” But with the accusations came the coverage, then the outrage and suddenly the karmic wheel started to turn. There was a sea change and everybody in Hollywood could sense it. The perpetrator’s tool—fear—had turned on its wielder. The hunter was now the hunted. While this irony is delicious, Singapora hasn’t stopped at just deserts; predatory behaviour still exists in other areas, like the oice. “When you’re a woman and you wanna get promoted, do you feel like you have to dress a certain way? Do you have to wear a trouser suit? Why is thinking about what to wear crucial to getting ahead, d’ya know what I mean? I feel like the problem is still prevalent but less so. I think, in Asia, we have the most [number of ] female CEOs in the world, which is phenomenal but that behaviour is still around. It’s going to take time. It’s a process.”
Days after the interview, Singapora rose at the crack of dawn, game and ready for her photo shoot. The location is at Punggol beach, where boulders dot the shore and the tide laps against the smooth sand. The photos look great. Near the end of the shoot, Lenne Chai the photographer espies a long-legged wading bird perched on some rocks. Let’s shoot there, came the ofer. Singapora carefully makes her way out among the rocks. Chai ires away. Then, Singapora moves her leg, weight is redistributed, traction diminishes over the smooth surface of a stepping stone, and Singapora falls prey to harsh gravity. After the ambulance ferried her to the hospital, the doctors told her that the scratches on the side of her thigh would leave noticeable scars due to her pigmentation. The impact upon jagged rock removed bits of skin from her feet and right palm. If the injuries weren’t painful enough, perhaps her ego was slighted, embarrassed that this occured. Two days later, Singapora will put on a show that was planned in advance. She will grin and bare it, shooting pains in her feet trapped in high heels, her cut leg limiting her motion. When asked why she would continue with this, even with her injuries, she says simply that the show must go on. She might have to scale down her work due to the laceration, she might have to seek cosmetic advice for her legs. No one will know the extent of the injury or how she has to limp when she walks; her Instagram will showcase the glamour. This life, this show of hers, will continue.
A Woman We Love “IN TERMS OF WOMEN FIGHTING AGAINST THE B E H AV I O U R S O F M E N I N H O L LY W O O D, I A D M I T I
Bralette by Versace; bodysuit by Burberry.
THOUGHT IT’S GONNA BE A THING WHERE WE MAKE A BIG STIR ABOUT IT AND THEN NOTHING C H A N G E S .” B U T W I T H THE ACCUSATIONS CAME THE COVERAGE, THEN THE OUTRAGE AND S U D D E N LY T H E K A R M I C WHEEL STARTED
Hair and make-up Andrea Claire / Judy Inc using Dr TWL Dermaceuticals, Becca Cosmetics, Charlotte Tilbury, Keune and Dyson.
T O T U R N.
TORTURE VIOLENCE IS VIOLENCE, REGARDLESS OF WHETHER THE ACT I S D O N E BY L AW E N F O R C E M E N T O F F I C E R S O R B Y M E M B E R S O F A T E R R O R I S T G R O U P.
Illustrations by Rebecca Chew
words by josh sims
“DON’T TELL ME IT DOESN’T WORK. TORTURE WORKS. OK FOLKS? BELIEVE M E I T W O R K S —Y E S , A B S O L U T E L Y . ” President Trump’s open support of the use of torture reignited a debate that has been glowing ever since the outbreak of the ‘war on terror’. “You have to ight ire with ire,” as Trump added—if terrorists play nasty, so will the United States. But, of course, the debate long pre-dates 9/11, and it’s global. Torture is reputed to be rife under the increasingly authoritarian regime of Recep Erdogan in Turkey. It’s a routine part of police procedure in India and in Mexico. China, Egypt and North Korea are believed to be the worst ofenders. Israel has openly used ‘moderate physical pressure’ as a ‘last resort’, and this despite its own Supreme Court ruling that torture is never justiied. Just this past March the European Court of Human Rights rejected a request to ind that men detained by British authorities during the internment of Northern Ireland in 1971 had sufered what was described as ‘torture’; these men said they had been forced to listen to constant loud static noise; they were deprived of sleep, food and water; they were forced to stand in a stress position; they were beaten; most dramatically, they were hooded and thrown to the ground from helicopters—although near ground level, they’d been led to believe that they were hundreds of feet up. It’s grim, disturbing stuf. “And that’s why there’s a universal legal norm prohibiting torture and that relects an understanding that systematic, intentional, de-humanising, brutal treatment [of an individual] is degrading to our humanity and corrosive to society,” as Larry Siems, human rights activist, chief of staf of the Knight First Amendment Institute and author of The Torture Report: What the Documents Say About America’s Post-
9/11 Torture Program, puts it. “That the prohibition is universal is a relection of the fact that human societies are always going to feel some existential threat. It’s the one-on-one experiential horror of torture that the prohibition is rooted in.” And yet Donald Trump is not alone. There are those willing to defend torture—that is, defend what many say is indefensible, defend the likes of what The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy wincingly describes variously as being “practices [such as] as searing with hot irons, electric shock treatment to the genitals, inserting a needle under the ingernails, drilling through an unanestheticised tooth...” The celebrated lawyer Alan Dershowitz, for example, has made a case for state institutions to be able to issue torture warrants, much as they might a warrant for surveillance or to search a home; while Professor Fritz Allhof of Western Michigan University, author of Terrorism, Ticking Time-Bombs and Torture, has made a strong case for torture’s limited use. And—given that even discussing the possibility of practising torture has become taboo—that is not, he says, an easy position to take. “It’s a risky subject and one reason why my work has got attention is that people see it as being the best version of the wrong argument,” says Allhof. “Let’s just say that [defending torture] is not great for career opportunities.” In part, a readiness to defend what many would call torture lies in a rebuttal of the use of the word to describe the treatment meted out. While the European Court of Human Rights agreed that those detained men in Northern Ireland had sufered “inhuman and degrading treatment”, they had, it stated, not been tortured. That’s a matter of degree, of interpretation of the measure of severity—whether or not it results in “serious physical injury, organ failure or death”, as the Pentagon’s notorious ‘torture memos’ of 2002 sought to limit deinitions. Indeed, the UN Convention Against Torture may rule torture illegal, framing it as the only crime other than genocide that every state must punish, no matter who commits it or where—but it also makes a distinction between torture and what it calls (and also opposes) “other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment”. Water boarding, the practice carried out by the CIA in the interrogation of suspected terrorists in its Abu Ghraib facility, for example, may be a terrible experience, but—legally—it remains open to debate as to whether it, and similar acts, are torture. Then there are arguments made that, since terrorists are not a state party to the Geneva Conventions, they aren’t covered by their prohibitions anyway. Since 9/11 it’s all become a very grey area—unconvincing to many—for a very dark subject. But Allhof’s question is more precise: despite the repulsion that the idea of torture no doubt inspires; despite the claims that it corrupts the soul—not just of the person tortured, but of the torturer, even of the state and of society; despite claims that it’s a slippery slope—that one instance of torture is the beginning of the road to it becoming a state sanctioned tool; despite broader claims, by the likes of Rebecca Evans, associate professor of politics at Ursinus University, Philadelphia, that it damages the reputation of the state, complicates relations with its allies and suggests a hypocrisy that makes the recognition of human rights by other nations harder to insist on; despite—false—claims to its inefectiveness in an interrogation situation—that the tortured don’t provide reliable information (that the very act of inlicting pain is said to negatively afect the centres of the brain required to be able to give truthful information)... After all this, can torture ever be justiied? And he says yes. “Some people admit that in principle, in rare cases, there could be some conceptual, abstract acceptance of torture. They’re comfortable with that because they’re not taking the idea on in the real world,” says Allhof, “But others say that in principle torture is never OK, which is just implausible. Critics say that it’s better to have an absolute bar [on torture] because it’s too hard to nuance. But I think you can have semi-efective torture in limited cases without torture becoming institutionalised. The idea of a torture warrant doesn’t work—that amounts to a blank cheque. But if torture is the right thing to do—if intelligence indicates no other options in tackling a substantial and imminent threat— then do it.” The argument—which does not support the use of torture for, for example, the beneit of sadists, for revenge, or as a means of states terrorising their own populations—is couched
It’s a simple sum: one person sufers with the intention that many will not. Given that the one person in question is, in this scenario, known to be guilty, it’s a very human intuition to ind the sum easier still.
around what in philosophical circles is called the ticking time-bomb scenario: a terrorist has planted, say, a nuclear device in a city centre; bomb disposal experts have failed to disarm the bomb; it can’t be moved; it’s too late to evacuate the city; thousands will die unless the terrorist provides the code to switch the bomb of. It’s typically assumed in this thought experiment that it’s established that the terrorist is the man with knowledge of the bomb, that no alternative intelligence sources are available and that his information is quickly veriiable. Is it right to torture the terrorist in order to get the information that will save countless lives? For utilitarians—the school of philosophy that favours those outcomes that bring maximum pleasure to the maximum number of people (or, alternatively, the minimum pain to the minimum number of people)—it’s a simple sum: one person sufers with the intention that many will not. Given that the one person in question is, in this scenario, known to be guilty, it’s a very human intuition to ind the sum easier still. Public feelings about torture naturally relect events—a BBC survey of 27,000 people across 25 countries, conducted ive years after 9/11, found that more than one out of three people in nine of those countries considered a degree of torture acceptable if it saved lives. They also relect often skewed perceptions. “Hollywood doesn’t help,” says Allhof. “If you watch the likes of 24 in about every episode the hero defeats an imminent threat through torture—often using implausible methods not grounded in science, such that the military even wrote to the producers asking them to please stop showing torture that way because it radically miscalibrated the public’s expectations. Movies are not the best way for us to think critically about the subject.” But is this arguably cliché thought experiment the best way either? “It’s a thought experiment that’s useful to show the way in which our intuitions lie, but you have to be careful,” concedes Allhof. “It’s the cleanest way to look at the issues, and you can then start to pull the levers on the experiment to see how it might work in the real world. What if there was only a ive percent chance of saving the people, for example? Intuitions get weakened as you change the parameters, and that’s as it should be.” Yet not as weakened as one might expect. Alhof’s research, a series of thought experiments conducted with a panel of 833 students, appears to mitigate worries about the idealisations posed by the ticking time-bomb scenario. It revealed that it matters whether the subject of the torture is a guilty terrorist or, say, his innocent daughter, but that concerns with the certainty of the situation are far less pronounced than might be imagined. A situation of uncertainty was put to students: whether a suspect should be tortured if there was a mere one percent chance of saving lives. But there was no statistically signiicant diference in responses regardless of whether the outcomes were certain or even this uncertain. Idealisations, in other words, don’t mess up our intuitions. But the ticking time-bomb scenario has certainly divided opinion; the liberal US senator Charles Schumer has publicly stated that most US senators would support torture in its circumstances. “There are likely some very few extreme situations in which torture of culpable persons might be morally justiied in order to save innocent lives. [And] it is a legitimate thought experiment enabling distinctions to be drawn and possible courses of actions to be explored,” argues Seumas Miller, professor of philosophy at Charles Stuart University, Australia, who stresses that, either way, torture should never be legalised and a torturer always punished if found guilty, albeit leniently given the moral justiication of his actions. “However, thought experiments are frequently unrealistic and, therefore, from the fact that a conclusion might be rationally inferred from a thought experiment, nothing necessarily follows about what should be done in the real world and, especially what policies should be pursued or laws introduced,” he adds. “One-of unrealistic scenarios in thought experiments do not translate well into acceptable real world practice.” “To torture is very human—a product of fear, panic, power, a sense of vengeance. I understand that. But where we fail is in not having an accounting for it. It’s a measure of human decency to make it right and until then justiications [like the ticking time-bomb scenario] are a red herring,” adds Siems. “That’s the only ethical example put for torture and that’s a philosophical hypothetical. Nobody has yet put forward a real world case.” Only, they have. The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy cites one: in New South Wales,
Australia, in the height of summer, a woman inadvertently left the keys in her car ignition while she paid for petrol, giving the opportunity for a thief to steal it. Unfortunately, her baby was still in the car. The police advised the woman the thief would soon abandon the car, which he did. He was quickly arrested—but he refused to say where he left the car. Forty minutes in the heat would leave the baby brain damaged, possibly dead. Appeals to decency, reason and self-interest all failed. So the police beat the thief up. Realising the beating would go on until he told them where the car was, he did so—and the baby was saved, just. In another instance, in Florida, one half of a kidnapping duo was caught. He refused to reveal the whereabouts of his partner-in-crime. Fearing that the victim would be killed, the police choked their suspect until he told them what they needed. The tortured criminal was later taken downtown and made a confession—one he later, at trial, sought to have suppressed. The state appeal court ruled against this request, but went further, stating that the torture was “understandably motivated by the immediate necessity to ind the victim and save his life”. A further appeal to a federal court was met with the same decision. Neither instance amounts to the thousands threatened by, say, a biological weapon, but most people’s moral intuition favours the police’s actions all the same. The ‘enhanced interrogation’ of known Al-Qaeda or ISIS terrorists whose fellow terrorists are planning further attacks brings us closer to real-life examples of the ticking time-bomb scenario than many are ready to admit. Indeed, perhaps it is because our moral intuitions are just that—gut feelings rather than cold rationality—that that our responses to torture often vacillate between the pro and the con. The neuroscientist and public thinker Sam Harris has also put forward a case against an absolute prohibition on torture—“in the aftermath of Abu Ghraib, not a comfortable position to have publicly adopted,” he has noted. “[But] while many people have objected, on emotional grounds, to my defence of torture, no one has pointed out a law in my argument. [And] I would be sincerely grateful to have my mind changed on this subject.” Harris argues that the position against the use of torture in rare circumstances is at odds with our willingness to wage modern war in the irst place: if we are willing to accept the ‘collateral damage’ that comes with dropping bombs—a method of warfare more or less guaranteed to inlict misery or death on a considerable number of innocents, often knowingly so in advance—why should torture of a terrorist “provoke convulsions of conscience”? “What,” he asks, “is the diference between pursuing a course of action where we run the risk of inadvertently subjecting some innocent men to torture, and pursuing one in which we will inadvertently kill far greater numbers of innocent men women and children? It seems obvious that the misapplication of torture should be far less troubling to us than collateral damage. There seems no question that accidentally torturing an innocent man is better than accidentally blowing him and his children to bits.” Revulsion felt towards torture because it’s up close and personal is a failure of imagination in considering what it must be like to be bombed. Harris even proposes his own thought experiment. If some kind of ‘torture pill’ might be devised—one that produced paralysis and a brief, intense spell of the kind of misery that nobody would wish to sufer twice, but which, after what appeared to be a short nap, led to the person who took it waking to give up all he knew—wouldn’t we be inclined to call this pharmaceutical intervention a ‘truth pill’? “Realism,” Harris has added, “is not the point of these thought experiments. The point is that unless your argument rules out torture in idealised cases, you don’t have a categorical argument against torture.” It’s not an easy thing to hear. We all like to conceive of ourselves as civilised, as keeping back the barbarians, not stooping to their methods. But it would seem that, in exceptional instances, opting for torture would be the right thing to do—morally, practically, albeit reluctantly—in defense of legitimate self-preservation. That may not be intellectually satisfactory, suggesting only how moral issues rarely have neat endings. All the same, it’s probably not a conversation to have next time you’re enjoying a dinner party with friends either.
“There seems no question that accidentally torturing an innocent man is better than accidentally blowing him and his children to bits.”
What I’ve learned...
Tim De Cotta
I T ’S V E RY E A SY to get drowned in your own persona when you put out work that you’re very proud of. A lot of musicians think that you have to go from zero to 100 exponentially, expecting worldwide fame the next day. But there’s a side of music where you can be somewhat known, support yourself through the years and live a normal life. I release my album today, but tomorrow the world goes on.
working on and I’d ind the song from there. It’s a lot more fun because you come to the gig very fresh. There are also times the gig starts and it doesn’t work. That’s when, after panicking, you realise you just have to rely on your instincts.
T H E S O L O A L B U M is a very honest ego checker. It’s about that whole image of self; how I see myself and how the world sees me is always very diferent. It becomes really apparent when you’re putting out your own music. You think this is how you want to portray yourself or how you should sound, but when it comes out on the track, you get surprised. It’s a lot of self-realisation of good or bad habits that I’ve never seen before.
W E R E C O R D E D the piano by mistake for the new single, Dreams. Adam Shah messed around with the piano during the break between takes. The drum mics were on and the room gave a nice distant but full sound, so we rushed to make up a line as if we could play the piano, and recorded it. It made the inal cut, and the whole song was completed in three and a half hours.
T H E G O O D T H I N G about not being stuck in your own act is that you get a lot of perspective. When I play with all my other bands, I have to cater to a diferent beat. Although I’m playing bass, my role or sound is slightly diferent in each band. When I have too much of writing or recording, preparing for another gig that isn’t mine helps me kick myself out of that selish situation.
I W A S V E R Y A D A M A N T about how society is disconnected and how the ways people express themselves to each other are not the same anymore. I never thought about the other side of things until my friends made me realise genuine heartfelt conversations are still happening, just on diferent mediums that I know nothing about. Couldn’t sleep that whole night realising I was discounting a whole generation!
I T S E E M S like I pull money out of thin air, but that’s basically what I have to do. On the surface, people think I get approached for gigs. Most of the time, I’ve emailed them about myself beforehand. I’ve to make deals. I’ve to be my own agent. I’ve to go to the studio, book time, ind funding and plan the year. It’s not easier than any other work. In fact, it’s even harder at certain points because you don’t have the legitimacy.
W E A R E very far behind in terms of how we listen to music and decide what we like. We’ve come a long way the last ive years, but audience support and sophistication are still lacking. In Singapore, the mentality is to like a song because everyone else does or it’s a familiar tune on the radio. That’s why the cover scene in Singapore is thriving. It’s not that we are closed to exploration, just that we need to be spoon-fed.
T H E R E ’ S B E E N S O M A N Y T I M E S where people come up to me with fake accents, thinking I’m not Singaporean. “Who’s this ang moh guy?” “Who’s this Arab guy?” “Who’s this Italian fella trying to champion the local scene?” I’m Eurasian, one of the “others”. When I was young, my mom always told me to cancel that out on forms and put “Eurasian”. I’ve always been proud of who I am, but I’m Singaporean irst. I T ’S A L L F E E L I N G S W H E N I C R E AT E M Y M U S I C . I’ve never had oicial training. Along the way people would tell me, “You’re actually playing a minor 7 sharp” or something. A good friend of mine, who has a small studio where I go to record, calls all the nice chords mahal, which means expensive in Tagalog.
W E ’ R E S O C I A L B E I N G S , it’s in our nature. We’ve always lived in a community since we were monkeys. Well, we’re still monkeys, just advanced monkeys with technology. Monkeys that post things on weird constructs. And monkeys that make music.
S O M E T I M E S there will be no rehearsal when we show up to the gig. I tell the band that it will come from whatever they’ve been
Interview by Joy Ling. Photography by Ronald Leong.
What Iâ€™ve learned...
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China’s rap queen
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vava speaks out about government censorship and the exponential rise of Chinese hip-hop
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What it feels like...
When you’re a male stripper By Joker, 20s, co-founder of Queen of Hearts
Illustration by Paynk
(Identifying features and name have been change for this article.)
So basically, we are an online company that provides male entertainers. We were inspired by Magic Mike. To join us there are criteria you need to fulfill. Firstly, you have to look decent. Secondly, you need to have a good physique. And thirdly, you gotta know how to dance, to move. So, you might be a bodybuilder who looks good physically but if you’re stif, you’ll look weird dancing. I have friends who want to do what I do but it’s not as simple as they think. If you don’t know how to dance, take a class. If you don’t have the body, go to the gym and train. I used to work out every day when I was younger but these days, I’d go four to five times a week, each time about an hour to three hours. I’m less into bodybuilding and more into acrobatics.
I have a dance background so that helps too. But ultimately, it all boils down to confidence. Many clients would want more interaction than just dancing. You need to exude confidence and engage the client. On the night of the performance, we prepare by asking the client to have some alcohol [to relax them]. There needs to be a chair for the client to sit on and a banana, which is part of the act. I’d shave my privates and wear a cup hidden in the underwear to have a bigger package. My act is more choreographed. Like a dance but with an element of striptease to it. Usually we’ll strip to our briefs as Singapore clients won’t opt for full nudity because it’s more expensive and they’re pretty conservative.
The sadist’s revenge During the last days of the ancien régime, imprisoned in a fetid cell atop the Bastille, a depraved aristocrat composed the most blasphemous novel ever written. But in death, the Marquis de Sade has gone from enemy of the French state to national treasure— a transformation capped in 2014, when the scroll bearing his 120 Days of Sodom sold for SGD13 million. Now that manuscript is at the centre of France’s biggest fraud case. W O R D S B Y J O E L WA R N E R
The original manuscript of The 120 Days of Sodom. Joining pages end to end, the Marquis de Sade wrote 157,000 words in three weeks and hid the scroll in the wall of his cell in the Bastille. He died believing it had been destroyed in the prison siege that ignited the French Revolution.
E M E RG I N G F RO M T H E M O R N I N G FO G shrouding the art So Sade began The 120 Days of Sodom on 22 October 22 1785, galleries and boutiques of Paris’s 7th Arrondissement, the police while imprisoned in the Liberty Tower of the Bastille. Scattered arrived at the Hôtel de La Salle at 9am on 18 November 2014. Once around him were assorted personal efects, a privilege aforded home to the author of France’s code of civil law and, after that, to inmates of his stature: stacks of books on everything from the sundry dukes and duchesses, the 17th-century mansion was now existence of God to the history of vampires, packages of Palaisthe headquarters of Aristophil, an upstart investment company Royal biscuits, bottles of lavender cologne, and one wooden dildo founded by Gérard Lhéritier, the son and grandson of a plumber. crafted, for personal use, to the Marquis’s precise speciications. In just over two decades, the then-66-year-old Lhéritier—the Born to a noble family in 1740, Sade had spent his life mired “king of manuscripts”, as he’d been dubbed by the local media— in scandal—he narrowly dodged a bullet ired by the father of had amassed the country’s largest private collection of historical one of his servants, slashed a beggar and poured hot wax into her letters and manuscripts, efectively cornering the market. Among wounds, and ofered to pay a prostitute to defecate on a cruciix, his 130,000-odd holdings were André Breton’s original Surrealist to give a small but representative sample. In 1777, Sade’s powerful Manifesto, love notes from Napoleon to Josephine, Louis XVI’s mother-in-law, Madame de Montreuil, understandably sick of his last testament and fragments of the Dead Sea scrolls. antics, secured an arrest warrant for the Marquis signed by her The bulk was housed in Aristophil’s Museum of Letters and friend Louis XVI. Sade was locked away on no charges. By the Manuscripts, around the corner on Boulevard St Germain. But time he began The 120 Days of Sodom, he had been jailed for eight Lhéritier’s star asset rested inside a custom-made glass display on years. Working by candlelight in the Bastille had rendered him the mansion’s ground loor: a yellowed, fraying parchment, 11.43cm nearly blind. Nonetheless, he wrote: “It is impossible for me to wide and nearly 12m long, densely covered on both sides with turn my back on my muse; it sweeps me along, forces me to write 157,000 ornately handwritten words so minute they are virtually despite myself and, no matter what people may do to try to stop illegible without a magnifying glass. Composed in a prison cell by me, there is no way they will ever succeed.” Donatien-Alphonse-François, better known The 120 Days of Sodom tells the story of as the Marquis de Sade, The 120 Days of Sodom four aristocrats who abduct 16 boys and girls has been variously described as “one of the between the ages of 12 and 15 and subject them The 120 Days of Sodom most important novels ever written” and “the to four months of what would later be called, has been variously gospel of evil”. after the author, sadistic rape and torture. The described as “one of the Lost for more than a century and smuggled novel begins with pedophiliac priests and most important novels across Europe, it became one of the world’s golden showers, and things only degenerate ever written” and most valuable manuscripts when Lhéritier from there—to incest, bestiality, coprophilia, purchased it for SGD13 million in March necrophilia, starvation, disembowelment, “the gospel of evil”. 2014—a year that happened to mark the amputation, castration, cannibalism and bicentennial of Sade’s death and the inal stage infanticide. By day 120, the château is awash of his two-century-long re-evaluation. An exhibition in Aristophil’s in bodily luids and strewn with corpses. Sade wrote every evening oices was timed to coincide with a nationwide series of events for 37 days, joining pages end to end to form a single scroll, and hid that would culminate in December. the obscene and blasphemous manuscript in the wall of his cell. Lhéritier, a somewhat stout and diminutive man with thinning On 3 July 1789, Sade was forcibly transferred to a mental grey hair in a well-tailored suit and tie, was with a few employees asylum outside Paris after using the funnel from his pissing tube discussing a recent reception he had attended at the residence of as a megaphone to denounce his captors. Eleven days later, an then president François Hollande when his assistant rushed in insurgent mob stormed the Bastille; the French Revolution had to inform him that the police were downstairs. At the same time, begun. Sade was released a year later, amid the upheaval. dozens of other agents swooped in on Aristophil’s museum, the Calling himself Citoyen Louis Sade, he dabbled in politics oices of several Aristophil associates and Lhéritier’s villa in Nice. before being arrested again in 1801 at the age of 61. Sade spent While the oicers seized company documents, inancial records his inal years back in the asylum. He went to his grave believing and computer hard drives as potential evidence, the French courts The 120 Days of Sodom had been destroyed in the sacking of the froze his business and personal bank accounts. Bastille. “Every day,” he wrote of the missing work, “I shed tears Lhéritier stood accused of duping nearly 18,000 clients out of of blood.” SGD1.3 billion. The claim, if true, would make him the architect of the largest Ponzi scheme in French history. T WO Y E A RS B E FO R E L H É R I T I E R’S I N D I CT M E N T, as a troop of Napoleonic guards played an imperial march and women The extensive wars that Louis XIV had to wage throughout the made up to look like 18th-century courtesans sipped champagne course of his reign, while exhausting the state’s inances and the with government ministers, Aristophil’s founder stood behind a people’s resources, nevertheless uncovered the secret to enriching podium at the Hôtel de La Salle and welcomed his guests to the an enormous number of those leeches always lying in wait. . . It was brand-new “pantheon of letters and manuscripts”. toward the end of this reign . . . that four among them conceived the Recent reports that the outit was in trouble were nothing unique feat of debauchery we are about to describe. . . The time has but unfounded “attacks”, Lhéritier said. “A successful company come, friendly reader, for you to prepare your heart and mind for the provokes jealousies, desires, questions and creates opponents. . . most impure tale ever written since the world began. . . It is a permanent struggle.”
Lhéritier had laboured for years to reach such heights. As people who rarely saw their acquisitions or ran their ingertips a working-class boy from Meuse, in northeastern France, he across the paper. They had become investment vehicles like any dreamed of living by the sea in Nice. After an unexceptional other and the old guard was up in arms. military career, he settled into a modest family life and a job at From his stylishly appointed shop a few blocks from Aristophil’s an insurance company in Strasbourg. He launched a company on headquarters, Frédéric Castaing watched Lhéritier’s rise with the side, investing in diamonds, but it went bankrupt in 1984. He disgust. The grandson of a celebrated antique dealer and the son married and had two children, then divorced in 1987. of the proprietor of Maison Charavay, the oldest and perhaps most On a trip to Paris, Lhéritier visited a stamp shop in hopes respected manuscript shop in the world, Castaing was the biggest of inding a gift for his son. Inside, he spotted a small envelope name in the letters market. Until Lhéritier came along. bearing the words “Par ballon monté” that, he learned, had been “Their sales arrangements were an absolute vulgarity,” sealed during the 1870 Prussian siege of Paris and lown over Castaing, his hair swept up in a striking pompadour, said of the invading armies via balloon—one of the irst letters ever sent Aristophil when I visited his shop in November 2016. “Baudelaire by air. It cost 150 francs (less than USD20). He felt like a “gold plus 12 percent, Victor Hugo plus 12 percent.” He had a special digger who discovers a vein”, Lhéritier later wrote. He started hatred for Jean-Claude Vrain, a book dealer whom Lhéritier had Valeur Philatéliques, trading in rare Monegasque stamps. French tapped to help price his oferings. Some say the discord began with authorities charged Lhéritier with fraud for allegedly inlating a dispute over politics. Others say Vrain’s lamboyant ways simply their value; in March 1996, he spent two weeks in prison, though represented everything Castaing despised. In 2005, before ever he was later acquitted. According to Intimate Corruption, the meeting Lhéritier, Castaing published a crime novel, Rouge Cendres 2006 book Lhéritier wrote about “the Monaco stamp afair”, he (Red Ashes), about a shady attempt to corner the Parisian letters was the victim of a government conspiracy. market, with one of the main villains, Augustin, modelled on Vrain. Lhéritier was already on to his next “In the [auctions], he never sat down like venture. In 1990, he founded a third you and me, in a silence of good taste,” he company called Aristophil, fusing the words wrote of Augustin. “No, he’d stay on his feet Perhaps, Lhéritier muses, for art, history and philology. The operation at the back of the room, he’d speak harshly remained relatively small until 2002, when at everyone and he’d bid like one orders a the scroll really is cursed: he acquired a series of letters written by café crème.” “Maybe if I hadn’t Albert Einstein discussing the theory of Castaing, who frequently spoke out touched the manuscript, relativity. Lhéritier paid the auction house against Lhéritier, was hired to handle a major Aristophil would Christie’s USD560,000 for the lot, a fraction sale by the esteemed Hôtel Drouot in 2012. still be here.” of what he igured a serious collector would The auction was an abject failure. Fortybe willing to spend. But inding such a buyer nine of the 65 lots went unsold. Lhéritier, it would take time. turned out, had told his associates not to bid. Instead, Lhéritier devised an alternative business model. Castaing later found copies of the auction catalogue on his shop’s He divided the ownership of the letters into shares—a common doorstep every morning for a week—the belles lettres equivalent of practice in real estate but largely unknown in the rareied a horse’s head in his sheets. world of antiquarian books and manuscripts. That once out-ofThe year before, the French government had declared that a reach market would now be open to schoolteachers, clergymen, series of letters written by former president Charles de Gaulle shopkeepers and anyone else who wanted to make a tax-exempt that had been purchased by Aristophil and divvied up among investment in the country’s literary heritage. For as little as a few investors in fact belonged to the state. When staf under Aurélie hundred dollars, they could become part owners of this historyFilippetti, the newly appointed minister of culture, reviewed the changing correspondence—or if they preferred, letters by Cocteau letters turned over by Aristophil, they discovered that Lhéritier or Matisse. The shareholders would have the option to sell had given them photocopies. Once confronted, he relinquished their stake back to the company after ive years. In the interim, the originals, but Filippetti would not forget the afront. Aristophil would insure and safeguard the letters while promoting Around the same time, Belgian authorities launched a them through exhibitions in its newly opened Museum of Letters fraud and money-laundering investigation into Aristophil in and Manuscripts, thus boosting their value. Independent brokers Brussels, where the company had opened a second Museum of promised returns of 40 percent. Soon the mere involvement of Letters and Manuscripts. And in December 2012, the Autorité Aristophil at an auction would send bids skyward. It was the start des Marchés Financiers, France’s SEC, issued a warning about of a bull market in letters, drawing out manuscripts that had been investing in unregulated markets like letters and manuscripts. mouldering in château libraries for generations. A year later, reports emerged that for the irst time, Aristophil France’s antiquarian book and manuscript shops are declined to buy back some of its investors’ manuscripts at the concentrated in the Paris neighbourhood of St-Germain-desexpected rate of return. (Lhéritier’s lawyer says there was never a Prés. Down cobblestone alleyways, behind doors marked Livres guarantee to repurchase.) Anciens and Autographes, historical letters and signed irst Yet if Lhéritier was worried, he didn’t show it. The opening gala editions were long bought and sold by those who shared a love of at his new headquarters was like a thumb in the eye of his enemies. the written word, and deals were sealed with a handshake. Now He had won USD210 million in Europe’s EuroMillions lottery the these treasured works were being packaged and traded, owned by previous November—the biggest jackpot in the country’s history—
and invested some USD40 million of his winnings in Aristophil. And he was preparing to make his most audacious acquisition yet.
up for sale. Sensing an opportunity, Bruno Racine, the director of the National Library of France, with the backing of France’s Commission of National Treasures, lined up roughly USD5 million in private donations to buy the historic scroll in 2013. The sellers agreed to share the proceeds with Perrone and his family. Two days before the deal was to be inalised, the Nordmanns backed out. Maybe, as Perrone would later tell the French press, the courtroom battles were still too fresh for the family to make a deal involving the manuscript’s former owners. Or maybe the Nordmanns had an inkling they could hold out for a better ofer. Not quite a year later, in March 2014, Lhéritier announced that he’d purchased The 120 Days of Sodom for SGD13 million. The bulk of the proceeds went to the Nordmanns and to Perrone and his family. The rest covered taxes, fees and, presumably, a hefty commission for Vrain, the mastermind behind the deal. Lhéritier, accompanied by a television news crew, chartered a private jet to claim his prize. He ofered to donate the manuscript to the National Library after exhibiting it for ive to seven years, in exchange for a signiicant reduction in his company’s tax obligation. The National Library was on board with the agreement, but Filippetti’s Ministry of Culture, still smarting from the de Gaulle episode, declined. “Suspicion against the sustainability and integrity of Aristophil led the state not to proceed with this proposal,” Racine, whose term as National Library director ended in 2016, told me in an email. The Musée d’Orsay asked to borrow the scroll for its blockbuster exhibition Sade. Attacking the Sun, opening that October. Lhéritier refused, believing that if he lent the manuscript to the museum, which operated under the authority of the minister of culture, he might never get it back, thereby losing it to the French government without the beneits of his original ofer. Instead, a month before the museum’s show, he mounted his own exhibition. Perrone did not attend. “My relationship with Lhéritier was not that friendly,” he says. Two months later, the police showed up at Lhéritier’s door.
SA D E WAS W RO N G : The 120 Days of Sodom wasn’t lost in the siege of the Bastille. It was discovered by a young man named Arnoux de Saint-Maximin, who spirited the rolled-up parchment out of the crumbling prison and sold it to the Marquis de VilleneuveTrans. Villeneuve-Trans’s descendants hid the manuscript in their Provençal estate for more than a century, ultimately selling it to a German collector in 1900. In 1904, the Berlin sexologist Iwan Bloch published a few hundred copies of Sade’s previously unknown novel, ostensibly for scientiic purposes. The scroll returned to France in 1929, when it was purchased by Charles and Marie-Laure de Noailles, patrons of the European avant-garde movement who traced their ancestry to Sade. The Noailles allowed a Sade authority to borrow the manuscript and produce a more accurate version of the text, which he published via limited subscription to avoid censorship. The family then kept the scroll in a library cabinet, breaking it out for readings when entertaining luminaries like Luis Buñuel and Salvador Dalí. “I remember when intellectuals would come to visit, it was always a special moment to show them the manuscript,” says Carlo Perrone, the Noailles’ grandson. “We would take it out of the box three or four times a year. It was not something we showed everybody.” In 1982, Perrone, then in his 20s, received a panicked call from his mother: The manuscript was gone. She’d lent it to a close friend, the publisher Jean Grouet, who’d smuggled it into Switzerland and sold it for roughly USD60,000. The buyer was a department-store magnate, Gérard Nordmann, owner of one of the largest private collections of erotica in the world. Perrone travelled to Switzerland to retrieve the manuscript, ofering to buy it back. But Nordmann refused, telling Perrone: “I will keep it for the rest of my life.” After a lengthy legal battle, France’s highest tribunal ruled that the manuscript had been stolen and ordered that it be returned to the Noailles. But Switzerland, which hadn’t yet ratiied the UNESCO convention requiring the repatriation of stolen cultural goods, disagreed. In 1998, the Swiss federal court ruled that Nordmann had purchased it in good faith. The manuscript’s author, meanwhile, was enjoying a cultural resurgence. By the time the French ban on his books was lifted in the 1970s, Sade was seen in some circles as a man ahead of his time: muse of the surrealists, forerunner of Freud, even prophesier of the Holocaust. With his works now published by the distinguished Bibliothèque de la Pléiade and Penguin Classics, the Divine Marquis had entered France’s literary pantheon. For generations, the Sade family refused the title Marquis because of its notorious associations. Today, Hugues de Sade, a direct descendant, sells wine, spirits and beer under the brand Maison de Sade. “He must be looking up right now from his grave, smiling,” Hugues told me, sitting in his lat on the outskirts of Paris, where a bronze of his famous ancestor’s skull enjoys pride of place on his cofee table. He is holding out hope for a Sadethemed line of Victoria’s Secret lingerie. Nordmann remained true to his word. He kept The 120 Days of Sodom for the rest of his life. After his death in 1992 and his widow’s in 2010, Nordmann’s heirs put his collection of erotica
“F I L I P P E T T I A N D S O M E M A L I C I O US P ROS EC U TO RS
thought that the manuscript would be submitted free of charge after Aristophil’s destruction,” Lhéritier told me through a translator. “They placed a bomb in the heart of Aristophil and its museums, and it exploded.” Lhéritier is sitting at his dining table in his fortress-like stone villa in the hills above Nice, wearing a cobalt-blue suit with a plaid open-collared shirt and matching pocket square. In the bright white light coming of the Mediterranean on this warm December 2016 day, he looks older, more tired than he appears in even relatively recent photos. This is the irst time Lhéritier has spoken at length publicly about the rise and fall of Aristophil since he’s come to be regarded as France’s Bernie Madof. Agents in the country’s consumer-afairs and fraud-prevention division, leery of Aristophil’s unusual business model, spent years investigating the company. Interviewing Castaing and other sources in the manuscript market, they concluded that Lhéritier built Aristophil as an elaborate shell game. According to lawyers representing the company’s former clients, Lhéritier and his colleagues considerably overvalued Aristophil’s holdings while using new investments to pay of
old ones and make new purchases so that the operation would appear sound. Financial investigators referred the case to the French public prosecutor’s oice, which ordered the raids in November 2014. Four months later, an investigating judge indicted Lhéritier, according to multiple news accounts, on charges of fraud, money laundering, deceptive marketing practices and breach of trust. (Lhéritier’s lawyer would not comment on the speciic charges.) He now faces up to 10 years in prison. Authorities also reportedly indicted three Aristophil associates: Vrain, an accountant and one of the company’s directors. (Vrain would not comment on any charges.) Employees continued to operate the museum and The 120 Days of Sodom exhibit for several months without pay, even though the collections were under government seal. The courts tied up Lhéritier’s lottery winnings, his properties (although he’s still allowed to live in his USD5 million villa), his three racehorses and his two hot-air balloons. The only reason Lhéritier has any money at all is thanks to his son, Fabrice, to whom he’d bestowed a portion of his EuroMillions windfall. Out on a SGD3.4 million bail, Lhéritier now spends his days preparing for his criminal trial, a date for which has not yet been set. In his timber-ceilinged villa, which features indoor and outdoor pools and a dramatic view of the sea, the divorcé shows me photos of his children and grandchildren among the elegant antiques and paintings in gilded frames. In the bathroom, an electronic toilet boasts a heated seat and a self-opening lid—the ultimate throne for the son and grandson of a plumber. It’s a charmed existence, but a far cry from the bustle of Aristophil headquarters and the buzz of Paris auction houses. “The guy’s objective goal in life is not money; it is respectability,” says his lawyer, Francis Triboulet. “But now everyone has abandoned him.” Yet Lhéritier remains conident. “It might take two or three years, but they aren’t going to get me,” he says. When I ask how many years in prison he thinks he’ll receive, he makes a circle with his ingers: zero. According to Triboulet, Lhéritier cannot be convicted of fraud because Aristophil never guaranteed it would buy back investors’ manuscript shares. Its contracts simply stated that investors could ofer to sell back their shares to the company after ive years. As for the 40 percent returns shareholders expected from their investments? The overzealous promises of independent brokers, not company policy. Anne Lamort, the former president of France’s booksellers syndicate, has long suspected Lhéritier was up to something, but concedes that the government’s case against him isn’t particularly strong. “I think it is very diicult to prove fraud or the exaggerated manuscript estimates,” she says. “There is no objective measure and no witnesses.” If Aristophil was a hoax, Triboulet says, why would Lhéritier have invested millions of his lottery winnings into the company? “It’s the irst time in my life that the main victim of a system which is alleged to be a fraud is considered the main fraudster of the business.” But rumours swirl about that lottery jackpot. Some believe Lhéritier bought the winning ticket from somebody else to legitimise his spending—an old Whitey Bulger trick. (Lhéritier vehemently denies that there was anything improper about his lottery win.)
“I brought to the general public, to the working class and others, all of the artists of the School of Paris and the great celebrities of the humanities,” he says. Powerful interests in the Ministries of Culture, Finance and Justice were out to destroy him, he claims, because he threatened the cultural status quo and dared to launt his success. “In order to live happily in France, you have to live hidden,” he says. For his part, Hugues de Sade largely agrees. “He is someone who was able to ind his niche and exploit it in a very intelligent way,” Hugues says of Lhéritier. “But in France, we always criticise people who succeed. We like to gain money, but we don’t like to talk about it.” There’s something appealing about Lhéritier’s tale, the way this outsider upended the exclusive world of letters through pluck, innovation and good fortune. But then I remember all the people who believed in this man. With interest, Aristophil owes approximately SGD2 billion to its nearly 18,000 investors. That includes Geofroy de La Taille, an actor and father of ive who along with his wife invested USD230,000 in the company, iguring the earnings would help his family through the lean times between roles. And Robert Cipollina, a motorcycle racer turned small-business owner in Avignon who planned to use the returns on his USD45,000 investment to buy a new car. He changed his mind in 2014, deciding the proits would go to his children as he lay dying from leukaemia. “I would prefer to have my dad back, but I also don’t want them to have his money,” Aude Nehring, Cipollina’s daughter, told me angrily when I visited her and her family in Germany. “What is going on here? Do we have a chance to get the money back?” Selling of Lhéritier’s assets wouldn’t come close to making his investors whole. Seeking alternatives, some of the alleged victims have formed associations and iled lawsuits against ancillary businesses linked to Aristophil, like its banks and notary. For now, they have little to show for their investment save for a contract produced by a company that no longer exists. Lhéritier doesn’t spend much time pondering Aristophil’s investors. While he expresses sympathy for their troubles, he maintains that he is not to blame. “I would tell the clients to address themselves to the authors of this destruction, not to me,” he says. “There is only one thing to say to the clients and I have said this since the beginning: they have to be patient and conident. Their collections still exist. They haven’t lost anything.” A F T E R B E I N G H I D D E N AWAY for almost three years, The 120 Days of Sodom emerged from its vault late last year. In a second-loor gallery in the modernist Parisian citadel that houses the Drouot auction house, the scroll was rolled up and placed on a pedestal, surrounded by other treasures coniscated from Aristophil. Aguttes, the Parisian auction company that won the contract to store and sell the company’s holdings, announced last November that the liquidation of the collection would start on 20 December with a blockbuster sale. Then, on 18 December, the French government declared The 120 Days of Sodom a national treasure. When the auction begins on a cold and dreary afternoon two days later in one of Drouot’s largest halls, the auctioneer steps up to the podium and explains to the packed crowd that the designation means the manuscript
The novelist Gonzague Saint Bris (third from left) hosts the Marquis’s descendants Elzéar (with a bronze of Sade’s skull), Hugues and Thibault de Sade for the bicentennial of the Marquis’s death in 2014.
will be removed from view while the state works to negotiate a fair-market price. Minus its star attraction, the auction proceeds desultorily. Onlookers spill out into the hallway; video screens display ofers in dollars, pounds, yuan and other currencies; news cameras zoom in on bidders whispering, mouths covered, into their mobile phones, gesturing subtly to the auctioneer when the price is right. But there is little drama. Even Vrain, conspicuous as ever in a wide-brimmed hat, remains seated for most of the sale, avoiding the sort of ostentatious displays that so incensed Castaing. (The latter isn’t in attendance, preferring the intimacy of one-on-one sales and refusing to take inancial advantage of the debacle.) Vrain, who hasn’t spoken to Lhéritier since the raids, dismisses criticisms he’s faced because of his connection to Aristophil. “I have run my business the way I have wanted to,” he told me when I visited his bookshop the year before. “Some people like me; some people don’t. I don’t give a shit.” The few times Vrain does bid, he walks away with several of the biggest sales of the auction: an original Balzac manuscript for SGD2 million, a calligraphic edition of an Alexandre Dumas drama for SGD134,000. But many of the lots don’t meet even the low end of the valuations the auction company had assigned, let alone the inlated prices Aristophil’s clients paid for them. Nearly a third go unsold. As the auction wraps up, several longtime Parisian book and art dealers gather downstairs at L’Adjuge, the auction house’s café, to relect on what just transpired. “It was a black sale!” declares Serge Plantureux, who specialises in photographs. “The atmosphere was like a funeral.” Anne Lamort agrees that the sale didn’t go well as she sips her cofee. And this was only the irst and most notable of the Aristophil auctions; Aguttes has promised roughly three hundred more over at least the next six years to
liquidate all 130,000 items Aristophil had amassed. “There will be a paralysis efect for the next 10 years,” Lamort predicts. Everything—Lhéritier’s claims that his empire was built on real value, the investments of his clients, the stability of the shaken manuscript market—hinges on these auctions. Judging from the irst sale, everyone involved has reason to worry. But the one-time king of manuscripts continues to deny any responsibility. “I am furious after this auction,” he wrote in an email. “The choice of Aguttes as auction manager is a humbug.” He believes the auctioneer wasn’t experienced enough in manuscripts, and that it was foolhardy to mount such a highproile sale less than a week before Christmas. “My old customers will lose a lot of money.” Lhéritier insists that his letters are worth the prices he promised because the age of handwritten documents is coming to an end. “People have boxes and boxes of letters” in their basements, he says. “These are completely hidden treasures.” One treasure that probably won’t ever reach Lhéritier’s predicted value is The 120 Days of Sodom. While it now seems likely to end up in the National Library, without a public auction or bidding war, it’s doubtful the manuscript will fetch the SGD13 million Lhéritier paid in 2014, much less the USD15 million for which he sold it to 420 Aristophil investors. In the end, The 120 Days of Sodom may belong to all of France— and to no one. Perhaps, Lhéritier muses, the scroll really is cursed. “Maybe if I hadn’t touched the manuscript, Aristophil would still be here.” He says this with a laugh as he sits in the rooftop restaurant of a posh Nice hotel, drinking an espresso in the brilliant sunshine and looking out over the sea. He admits that he’s never thought too hard about the deeper signiicance of Sade’s scandalous opus, never intensely contemplated the dark, insidious corruption it describes. He never inished reading it.
From left: Oud Satin Mood, by Maison Francis Kurkdjian; Obsessed for Men, by Calvin Klein; Bottega Veneta Pour Homme Parfum, by Bottega Veneta.
Man at His Best
Bringing in the sheaves
What Christine Nagel wrought.
Thereâ€™s no need to pull your punches with this workout.
This vowel-less vegan restaurant will fill you up.
Words by Derrick Tan
Sensorial scents These new Hermèssence fragrances will draw out pertinent memories from your past.
Take a whif of a scent and you’ll naturally link the top notes to its corresponding ingredient. But can you associate moments in life with it too? Hermès’s in-house perfumer Christine Nagel tells Esquire how Hermèssence is more than just a concentrated concoction of aromatic compounds. What memories or experiences did you reference to create the five new Hermèssence scents? When I started reflecting on the character of this collection, I wondered which materials I should work with. It was clear to me that I wanted to return to the origin of the history of perfume; to its source. Therefore, it was the idea of origin countries and materials that inspired me. The desert—an untouched, primaeval place—served as a backdrop to this Hermèssence launch. How great is the role played by serendipity in the creation of scents in general and to the Hermèssence collection in particular? My whole life is made up of happy accidents. From my daily life to inspiration and creation, I have analysed creation to be an enlightened combination of work—artistic expression, boldness and serendipity. These happy accidents are part of my life; I love the unexpected and the irrational. I listen to my intuition too. The creation of Cardamusc is interesting in this respect. It began with an English blogger who spoke to me in an uncommon way about spices, especially cardamom, that I almost started to compose the fragrance while listening. At that moment, I was inventing these Hermèssences in my mind; they were self-evident. You’ve mentioned in previous interviews that you see scents in
What do you visualise when you smell the following five scents?
Myrrhe Eglantine “Peach, tea rose”
Agar Ébène “Plum”
Cédre Sambac “Trench coat beige”
Cardamusc “An iridescent, powdery tone”
Musc Pallida “A sillage of spice colours”
texture and colour. Tell us more about that. There is consistency between the creations and the colours chosen for the cases and the glass itself. I am lucky to be involved in the entire decisionmaking process. I am a ‘nose’ and not an ‘eye’, but my opinion is sought at every stage—from the visual choices of the bottle, colour, case, and beyond that, the name and advertising. Things that catch my eye and my point of view matter. So yes, I do see these creations in colour. What combination of scents from the Hermèssence range would you recommend for our Esquire reader, given that Esquire Singapore caters to the intelligent man who has a head for success, a heart for community and doesn’t take himself too seriously? I don’t like giving recommendations as it confines and limits potential experiences and emotions. But the description of the handsome Esquire stranger makes me smile. I imagine a combination of Cardamusc and Myrrhe Eglantine. It’s an unlikely association, but extremely bold and unexpected, like the described Esquire reader. Do our fragrance preferences reveal something about our inner selves? Of course. Men and women who apply fragrances often choose them for personal reasons. If we took the time and trouble to smell the people around us, we could learn a lot about them and their personalities. But scents shouldn’t be used to understand others. Some people wear fragrances to protect themselves, to hide, to disguise who they are. Alternatively, others do it to accent their personality and character. So yes, fragrance speaks volumes.
Stories. A space to dream. To spark conversation.
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Scents that give you wood
Words by Derrick Tan. Photograph from Getty.
Hugo Boss Urban Journey In this modern concrete jungle, we could all use a reminder on the importance of trees. Fluid sandalwood and smoky guaiac wood are difused by undertones of oak moss at the base, giving this fragrance a woody edge in contrast to the urban environment.
Tom Ford Oud Wood Intense Ford is known for not resting on his laurels. Turning up the dial on his signature Oud Wood scent, this update introduces a spicy tonality of nutmeg and ginger along with oud wood, angelica roots and fresh cypress. Its heart tones complement the woody nature with davana juniper and sage.
Get jacked to these lumbers with just a snif.
Do you get a sudden kick from a stray pine tree-laced scent? That’s a discerning nose you’ve got there. The wood accord, along with floral and spices, is an ideal base for a fragrance. Not cloyingly aromatic, many from the timber family can often be found as an ingredient on countless scents in the perfume aisle. Agarwood, sandalwood, cypress and cedar are popular picks due to their versatility in blending with various notes in a fragrance. Never burnt or plywood though, those are just cray.
Above: Kirk Douglas is said to have worn Eau de Cologne du Coq, a legendary creation from perfumer Jacques Guerlain, which uses sandalwood as a base note.
Gucci Guilty Absolute Upping the ante with an absolute resolve, Gucci injects another keynote ingredient to the Guilty fragrance series: Goldenwood. This multi-dimensional natural extract of the Nootka cypress combines the warmth of a traditional wood with rich amber accents.
Paco Rabanne Invictus Aqua How does wood smell when it’s submerged in water? Colossal and fresh, it seems. Don’t hold your breath if you want to feel an iodised wave crash into you with this fragrance’s top notes and a surge of vibrant amber wood after the tide subsides.
Ernest Hemingway, a legend in his own right and frequent contributor to Esquire, was an avid user of Montblanc pens.
Photograph from Getty
Legend has it Do you believe in the hero of myth?
To become a legend, one has to acquire the designated qualities and leave an inspiring impact on others. Cue celebrated writer, Ernest Hemingway. Known for his ‘masculine’ prose, Hemingway has the ability to tell a story without much ambiguity. German manufacturer Montblanc shares a similar trait by representing its lineage of fine craftsmanship through aromatic fables. With Legend, Montblanc creates a hero comparable to Hemingway’s posthumous novel Islands in the Stream, which explores the life of the main character, Thomas Hudson, in diferent stages. If writing signifies the visible expression of the soul, a fragrance is surely its unspoken, subliminal language.
The Legend Begins The first and longest episode of the Islands in the Stream trilogy, Bimini, recounts the dynamic character development of Hudson—notably the bromance with his best friend, Roger, and the reason for Hudson’s stoic nature. The novel’s structural framework corresponds with Montblanc’s premier Legend fragrance. The distinctive notes of lavender, bergamot and jasmine signify a blend of sensuality and harmony. Combined with a touch of white sandalwood, the final impression is an irresistible yet personal adventure for the individual. Without saying a word, we can sense the man’s purpose, commitment and his taste for authenticity. Someone who creates their own legend.
Words by Derrick Tan
The Spirit Of Legend Continues And that’s just the beginning of the Legend chronicle. The sophomore chapter, Legend Spirit, conjures a more casual and unguarded aspect of its predecessor. The same man is multifaceted and extends an alluring sincerity on top of his current virtues. Likewise, the second time frame introduces an older Hudson with characteristics that weren’t present previously. The evolution of the protagonist was necessary to showcase the complexities of life. Legend Spirit retains the virility of both events, exemplified by the sparkling top notes of pink peppercorn, bitter grapefruit and transparent zesty bergamot. The presence of white woods—sandalwood, cedar and cashmere—blends flawlessly with oak moss and adds another dimension to its ascendant.
Legend In The Twilight As the night unfolds, the same man unwinds into a more intimate setting at his favourite watering hole with his friends. He stands out from the pack with minimalist elegance and his magnetic presence speaks for itself. His words matter, his eyes fascinate. This tinge of exhilaration spills over to final act of the novel, but with a diferent mood. Facing a roller coaster of emotions, Hudson also gathers his mates, but instead, leads them on a perilous quest with pure conviction and responsibility. Both settings capture the natural radiance of the man’s aura, which reflects Legend Night’s refreshing attributes—a blend of cedar and lavender, making it kin to the Legend’s former releases. The physical contrasts are evident, but the Montblanc Legend clan shares the same DNA—virile, modern, but classic. As with Hudson, the core qualities imbued since the first chapter remains.
Pick your own Fresh, lively citrus-based fragrances are the perfect spring awakening. POMELO Pomélo Paradis SGD166*/100ML by Atelier Cologne
ORANGE Orange & Bergamot SGD83*/50ML by Molton Brown
GRAPEFRUIT Zeste Mandarine Pamplemousse SGD249*/75ML by Creed
Photograph by Baker and Evans
B E RGA M OT Tempo SGD212*/75ML by Diptyque
MANDARIN L’Homme L’Eau SGD157*/150ML by Prada
PETITGRAIN Artisan Pure SGD138*/125ML by John Varvatos
* Denotes translated price.
LEMON Sole di Positano SGD424*/100ML by Tom Ford
Paradise island cult
Words by Joy Ling
Club Med Bintan: where the mantra is rest hard, play hard.
We don’t recommend Club Med if you seek an average getaway. Go only if you’re prepared for a full-fledged cultural experience. On arrival at the vacation village, we were received like celebrities with hot towels and a hearty bunch of cheering Gracious Organisers, or GOs. The term sounds like a foreign concept at first, but we come to learn that it simply refers to the retreat’s multi-disciplined, multilingual staf, who seem more like devotees sourced from around the world to induct guests to the ways of Club Med. We got to know them by name and they became our best friends during our stay. Zandile from South Africa taught us the basics of golf within an hour, Alex from Russia helped us fly across the trapeze and many others politely requested to join us for the various meals at the dining hall. By the second day, we relinquished the belief that ‘resort’ only refers to a relaxed stay at the beach. The sand is still the finest to lie on to achieve the perfect tan, but above that, we love the opportunity to stretch our lazy muscles and embark on heart-pumping thrills. As we went about trying the many facilities and sports available, we were also able to appreciate the existence of Mini Club Med. Once again handled by the amazing GOs, the little spawns of young guests were well-
catered to and cared for, much to the benefit of the adult guests. It was both an adorable sight as well as a relief to see groups of kids enjoying planned activities in the company of each other rather than running amok. That doesn’t mean nothing wild happens. Every night, the GOs put up a highly entertaining performance that instantly reminds us of Cirque du Soleil. Silver tights, neon lights and advanced acrobatic stunts abound. It continues into a crazy, festive after-party at the outdoor bar with the hosting GOs being the epitome of hype men standing on tables and getting us to dance. We don’t know what it is they celebrate every evening, but the entertainment continues well past midnight. Along with the impressive GOs, the unlimited supply of sumptuous food and alcohol that Club Med covers under an all-inclusive charge efectively made converts out of us (and our diets obsolete). This unique initiation to become a GM, or Gracious Member, occurs only an hour away on Bintan Island. On the last day, we were not obliged to stay, but it was hard to leave.
You can book your stay online or call 1800 CLUBMED (258 2633).
Fez You’re thinking Tommy Cooper’s red hat. We’re saying Morocco’s must-see city boasting ageless panoramas, world-heritage sites and a
Marrakech may have snafled headlines and tourist dollars for the last decade or so, but with new direct flights from London (departing at a civilised hour) it’s Fez that should be discerning Esquire readers’ go-to Moroccan city break. And what a city. The former capital has existed for over 1,000 years and is home to the world’s oldest extant library and university, as well as a car-free 860-acre medina (old town) that pretty much transports you to the medieval era. Into this time warp town has dropped a crop of new riads and restaurants enabling visitors to enjoy an alluring blend of contemporary cool and timelessness. In short: it’s one of the world’s great urban experiences.
D R I N K / PA RT Y
Riad Fès is tucked away down a tiny alleyway deep in the medina, but a veritable Tardis lies behind its heavy wooden door. It has 26 rooms and suites, a lap pool fed by a fountain and a stylish roof terrace with views over the medina and out to the Atlas Mountains beyond. riadfes.com
Fez is a religious city so drinking haunts are few. The best late-night snifter is at The Rooftop bar in new boutique Hotel Sahrai, with night-time views of the medina, great cocktails, comfy sofas and a live DJ. Mb Restaurant Lounge in the French colonial-era Ville Nouvelle is likely the slickest restaurant in town. People watch with a mighty fine margarita from up in its Lounge Bar sited on the mezzanine floor overlooking the dining room. hotelsahrai.com, mbrestaurantlounge.com
LUNCH Robert Johnstone, once of London’s Ivy and Wolseley, has created the perfect oasis/lunch spot at his Ruined Garden restaurant. Eat under the citrus trees and jasmine as tortoises potter by. No booze is served but it’s still a top spot for a long, lazy lunch. ruinedgarden.com
DINE Nur restaurant, run by top chef Najat Kaanache, wins awards and raves for its 10-course dégustation menu, a modern take on traditional Moroccan food: eg, a deconstructed tagine is served on a meringue slice. The presentation and stylish setting also make it a dining winner. nur.ma
SHOP Wander into the El Achabine quarter and ask for directions to El Merktane second-hand clothing souq where you’ll find all manner of Moroccan ‘antiques’ and items including, of course, rugs. Haggle hard and take your time. Above: The Menara Gardens at the gates of the Atlas mountains, west of Marrakech. They were established in the 12th century by the Almohad ruler Abd al-Mu’min.
Words by Tom Barber. Photograph by Getty.
happening modern food scene.
Traditional wares and household pottery on sale in a souk. Ceramic is deftly moulded by the agile hands of potters into souvenirs that double up as practical pieces you can use at home.
Staying at Riad Fès in the medina ofers a luxury spa, gourmet delicacies and central city convenience. Two minutes away is The Ruined Garden restaurant, set in a former merchant’s house.
AV O I D
Moroccan dish tagine. Sorry, but it’s wrong on a lot of levels (mainly for including apricots with meat) and because its sheer ubiquity eclipses several other Moroccan dishes that are actually decent. Fez is the place to try maakouda (fried potato cakes with cumin, garlic and hot sauce) and briwat (sweet or savoury spring rolls). Be brave and buy street eats.
Visit the tanneries for a photo opp, looking down over huge colourful liquid-filled pots where leather is dyed as it has been for centuries. Beware, the stench will knock you out—even with a judiciously ofered sprig of mint leaf to snif on.
WHY NOW? The Fes Festival of World Sacred Music 2018 (from 22 to 30 June) is a great incentive to explore the city at the same time as enjoying concerts, a number of them free, in ethnic and spiritual folk music styles from across the world including bagpipe bands, Chinese opera, and artists from the Middle East, Africa, Europe, Bali, India and more. fesfestival.com/2018
Photographs by Iris Piers, Hearst Studios
Get lost in the medina. No need to make that a conscious decision, as with over 9,000 streets and alleyways to explore it’ll happen surely enough anyway, and regularly does to Fassis (Fez residents) too. As you gradually find your way back out of the labyrinth, make the most of the opportunity to absorb a way of life and a location in many ways more medieval than anywhere on earth.
SEE Further afield, and if you’ve got time, visit any or all of Volubilis, Moulay Idriss Zerhoun and Meknes, a nearby excavated Roman city, holy town and walled former Moroccan capital respectively, which make for a fascinating educational day trip.
A modern Moroccan fine dining dish from the tasting menu at Nur, which means ‘light’ in Arabic.
W H AT TO PAC K
Cream Pablo canvas espadrilles, SGD130*, by Castaner @ Mr Porter
UV plus anti-pollution SPF50 sunscreen, SGD60*/100ML, by Clarins
Fashion Eye Morocco travel book, SGD78*, by Louis Vuitton
Just the business Exuding prestige and luxury, the Lexus LS500h seals the deal.
LS500H Engine Power Acceleration Top speed Economy Price
3.5-litre V6 full hybrid petrol/electric 359BHP 0–62MPH in 5.4SECS 155MPH 43.5MPG From SGD133,874*
equivalent of dossing down on the sofa. The cabin crew were now ignoring me but I soon got their attention by inadvertently knocking over a glass of red wine, provoking loud gasps from nearby passengers, and a hand-onmouth reaction from one stewardess, as if she was the first to arrive at a murder-suicide. While I was hiding in the aircraft’s toilet during the extensive cleanup operation, a series of texts began notifying me I’d been roaming the networks of Eastern Europe, accruing a SGD461 data bill in the process. I thought that I’d been taking advantage of my free business-class WiFi. (In the interests of fairness, I should say the herbed chicken was excellent.) In some ways, it was an appropriate way to arrive for the trip’s ultimate purpose, driving the new LS, the fifth generation of Lexus’s flagship limo. The very first one launched the idea of the Lexus brand back in 1989 as a new wave luxury saloon, oozing Japanese techiness and refinement. And 30 years on, this fifth generation is trying to make the same kind of statement. First up on the gadget list—which on the top-spec Premier trim reads like the Yellow Pages—the door handles and seat belts electronically move to meet your hand as if to greet you, apparently in the tradition of Omentashi hospitality. Doorframe 1; cabin staf 0. The 28-way adjustable seat has five massage settings, front and back, which proved particularly efective in shiatsu mode. Hand-pleated door linings and Shimamoko wood panels look more like an art installation than a place to rest your elbow. Even the inside of the door panels sparkled like the window of a jewellery shop. The kind that has doorbells. Something called Climate Concierge uses infra-red technology to actually monitor the body temperature of everyone inside and adjusts accordingly. There’s also a neat ‘ottoman’ function which adds an extra metre of legroom to one of the rear seats. The cabin is oficially described as “whisper quiet” to a standard that babies in business class just wouldn’t understand. It might just be the closest a car interior has ever got to a spa break.
Limo scene: its stealthy silhouette and tech-packed cabin give the LS500h presence and panache.
Words by Will Hersey
If the two most terrifying words in the English language are “rail replacement”, closely followed by “ITV drama”, then “business class” must be two of the sweetest. When you’re pinned into an economy class seat trying to spread a mini bread roll with one elbow and jockeying for seat-rest supremacy with your other, it’s hard not to consider your own career mistakes up to now while imagining what’s happening up front. The clink of cocktail glasses, the gufawing of cabin staf, a pianist playing light jazz. Imagine you—the you that once hid in a train toilet outside East Croydon to evade a ticket inspector—up there now, deciding on the pinot or the cabernet franc, throwing out the full length of your blanket, pretending not to look too pleased with your miniature salt and pepper pots. However, on a recent trip to Oman, once the stewardess’s welcome smile disappeared and the novelty of being trusted with full-sized cutlery began to fade, I saw that bad things happen in business class, too. First, the controls of my seat broke, so I was ushered back to a spare that was so close to the toilet I wondered if my headrest might double as the hand-dryer. This seemed to be the family section, too, with two babies behind me, and what seemed to be a boozy school reunion well underway to my left. It was the business class
Photograph by Hearst Studios
A view to a grille: the car’s handbuilt front-end spindle design takes up to a fortnight to complete.
It could be the closest a car interior has ever got to a spa break.
Oman has an eerie, empty quality. The first leg was all rocks and roads and big skies, where the emptiness was only broken by a hardware shop-cumtakeaway, and later by huge, ornate and identikit mansions which Liberace might have passed up for being too showy. Every building seemed just fractionally unfinished, which at least helped explain the popularity of the hardware store. The LS’s petrol-electric hybrid 3.5-litre V6 continued to glide through the scenery, without any backchat. On the road, its stealthy silhouette and eyemelting spindle grille (which apparently takes one person 14 days to make) gives it presence without shouting too loud. We stopped of at a castle for cofee and a Bedouin tent for lunch without outrage or international incident. The 23-speaker Mark Levinson audio system kicked in as the mountains became more dramatic. The air suspension coasted us a full 460KM through a long day. There’s no denying that German competition in this class is fairly savage, but Lexus will be hoping its all-round novelty factor—only 100 have been earmarked for the UK—will work in its favour. Normal service resumed the following day on the flight home. The entire airline computer system went down as I was checking in. I was also stopped and searched by two security men who would have been deemed too sinister for Banged up Abroad. The cabin crew eyed me in a way that they sensed trouble ahead. But at least I’d had my true business class moment. lexus.co.uk
Versa for all No one is the same, not even twins. There are bound to be diferences such as the placement of birthmarks or the gait of one’s walk. It is the mark of individualism that mars the concept of ‘one size fits all’. But that’s not stopping people from trying to create products that fit a predetermined mould. That’s what Fitbit is trying to do with Versa, the lightest smartwatch in its range that has a competitive price point with the relevant health and fitness features. With a simplified dashboard, users can track their heart rate and sleep, access their health and fitness data, wallet-free payments, and so on; the sort of stuf that are prerequisites to today’s smartwatch, though by Fitbit’s standards, any of its proprietary health and fitness features are a touchstone. The Versa model may not be everybody’s cup of tea but it’s pretty damn close. Fitbit Versa retails from SGD318 and is available at authorised retailers like Challenger, Robinsons and Lazada.sg.
Words by Wayne Cheong
Is Fitbit’s smartwatch for you?
Words by Wayne Cheong
While there’s the glut of boxing gyms out there, here’s one that punches above its weight. The aptly named boOm Singapore (the stylised ‘o’s resemble jabs) is the brainchild of ex-Olympic swimmer, Bryan Tay and Victoria Martin-Tay. Along with shower facilities, changing rooms and a studio which can accommodate a 24-person group, participants can also opt for an intimate one-on-one in another space as well. A 45-minute session holds 10-rounds of punching a water-filled boxing bag and weight training. With its pulsating lights, thumping beats
boOm Singapore, 62 Cecil Street, #B1-00 TPI Building
A knock-out It’s time to throw that devastating sucker punch.
and sweating bodies, a typical sesh at boOm Singapore feels like a Saturday night at a Thai discotheque… and that’s not a bad thing. But there are two things that floored me: one, was the enthusiasm of the instructors. It’s equal parts encouragement and command that can nudge an exhausted spectator into throwing one more punch. Two, the curated playlist that pipes through the speakers for each session; there’s something about whaling to the rhythm of a techno dance tune on the cusp of a beat about to drop that can motivate one to go far beyond the limits.
For more information, go to boomsingapore.com
Top of your game How to shred fat and build muscle for a T-shirt-toned body.
THE TRAINING PROGRAMME Workout one P E C T O R A L S A N D D E LT O I D S 10 reps of each exercise, resting for a maximum of 60SECS between (unless otherwise stated).
Workout two BACK AND ARMS 10 reps of each exercise, resting for a maximum of 60SECS between (unless otherwise stated).
1. Dumbbell flyes and push-ups (superset: no rest between). 2. Handstand push-ups (not for the faint-hearted; anything over five reps is good). 3. Incline bench press. 4. Military press and lateral raises (superset: no rest between).
1. Close-grip pull-ups and tricep dips (superset: no rest between). 2. Lat pull-downs and bicep curls (superset: no rest between). 3. Wide-grip pull-ups and lying cable curls (superset: no rest between). 4. Heavy hammer curls.
Words by Harry Jameson. Illustration by Raúl Soria
This process is all about getting lean, and for that to happen you’ll first need to lose the beer belly. Dr Sabine Donnai, CEO of Harley Street health management specialist Viavi, recommends intermittent fasting (IF): “IF improves our clients’ insulin sensitivity and blood sugar control. As a result we see a decrease in body fat.” With IF, I follow a 16:8 regime; fasting for 16 hours and eating in an eight-hour window (between noon and 8PM). Do this four times a week combined with my training programme (below) and watch the fat drop of.
H to the Izz-O, V to the Izz-R You better run home Speedy Gonzales.
Men’s UA HOVR Phantom running shoes.
Men’s UA HOVR Sonic running shoes.
Words by Wayne Cheong
Many shoes claim to own the air— Nike’s Air Jordan, Adidas’ Adizero—but lighter means that you’ll have to use thinner materials and compromise on stability and resistance to wear-andtear. So, you’ll have to rethink the shoe, like Under Armour did, and return with new tech in new designs like its running shoes, HOVR. It comes in two models — HOVR Phantom and HOVR Sonic—for two running styles. Both models have the same specs, such as the knitted exterior for ventilation and comfort and the proprietary UA HOVR cushioning platform that absorbs shock on a foot strike and returns energy with every uplift. HOVR Sonic is for longdistance runners, while HOVR Phantom is for runners who want all-around cushioning thanks to its knitted collar and 3D folded and perforated chamois. It would seem that HOVR owns the air and the road as well.
Under Armour HOVR Phantom and Sonic retail for SGD229 and SGD179 respectively and are available at all UA outlets as well as online at www.underarmour.com.sg.
A glass of class Champagne Bollinger releases its long-awaited 2004 RD vintage.
Words by Rachel Fellows. Photograph by Aiala Hernando.
“I think of Bollinger as being ermine-lined, frankly,” says Tom Harrow, wine director of Honest Grapes in London’s Brixton. “It has a sense of opulence and the RD is the best expression of that.” Standing for ‘recently disgorged’, RD refers to a technique the Bollinger family has employed since the ’60s whereby certain bottles of its champagne are imbued with extra flavour by resting for longer than normal while laid down with yeast collecting in the neck (or ‘on the lees’). Last month, the house released its 2004 RD vintage, which was disgorged in November. “The 2004 has been anticipated with great keenness,” Harrow says. “There is a lovely autolytic ripeness on the nose, with just a touch of papaya. The moment you let it breath, there are more candy tones and preserved ginger.” Eminently drinkable now, it would equally benefit from another five to 10 years’ ageing… but who can wait that long? I couldn’t, and enjoyed it in a proper wine glass (not a flute) paired with cheeses. “A Gruyere or a Comté younger than one would normally want to eat it,” suggests Harrow, “because you’ve got this fantastic umami character in both the cheese and the wine.”
Champagne RD 2004 12% ABV, SGD333*/75CL by Bollinger; champagne-bollinger.com
Bringing in the sheaves Get ready to be born again at HRVST.
Here’s an old joke—how can you tell if someone’s a vegan? Don’t worry, they will tell you. Joke’s over but brother, do I have a vegan restaurant to tell you about. Called HRVST because of the shortage of vowels (haha, I kid), this vegan establishment is helmed by chefs Addis Tan and Dylan Choong, who are on a mission to dispel the social stigma of being vegan with a menu that even a carnivore will appreciate. From bar snacks like the twice-cooked spuds (crispy outside and moist middle) to the mains like the orange-glazed grilled tofu on a healthy spread of peanut butter on sourdough bread, the dishes were not boring, I’ll give
Hay salt-baked celeriac, onion puree, veggie jus, charred kale, tempura shimeji chunk, pufed wild rice, shaved shiitake.
it that. The pumpkin gnocchi in tom yum broth really clinched it for me; the broth gave it enough of a kick with a sweetness that doesn’t overpower, but the texture of the gnocchi was slightly of. It was chewy with a middle that didn’t yield much, but that didn’t become too much of an issue as I cleared the bowl. Vegans get a bad rap for their proselytising. While they do have a point that eschewing meat and animal products can be beneficial in the long run, the focus of the food is the flavour—make it tasty and the morality of not eating meat will follow on its own time. If the meals at HRVST are anything to go by, I wouldn’t mind converting.
Words by Wayne Cheong
Purple cabbage steak, confit cherry tomatoes, garden salad, fried chickpea and green wasabi puree.
Kilter Avenue, #05-01 OUE Downtown Gallery, 6A Shenton Way
For reservations and inquiries, call 6920 7500.
Words by Joe Dunthorne. Illustration by Harriet Lee Merrion.
The Shanghai Soup Dumpling Index Where can one find the world’s fourth-best xiaolongbao: in the city named Shanghai or at the restaurant named Shanghai? And does it really matter?
Before I moved to Shanghai, I spent a lot of time in Shanghai, a restaurant in east London. My favourite dish was the gooey, soup-filled dumplings, which looked like popped-out eyeballs. The first time I tried to eat one, I spilled a slick of hot gravy down my shirt, the liquid so fatty it made the fabric transparent, my nipple suddenly visible in the middle of the restaurant. Then I arrived in Shanghai for a twomonth writing residency. The first thing I did was search “best dumplings in Shanghai” and discovered a document called The Shanghai Soup Dumpling Index. It “applies a quantitative framework to the existing qualitative descriptors” of the city’s most beloved dish, the xiaolongbao. The author— an American named Christopher St Cavish—took scales, scissors and Japanese digital callipers to more than 50 restaurants and, according to his findings, the fourth-best soup dumplings in the whole city, and therefore, probably, fourth best in the world, were in a bland mall’s basement food court 50M from the door to my apartment. At the time, this seemed like good news. I learned that, if I got lucky with the elevator, I could get from my desk in my room on the 19th floor to the xiaolongbao counter in less than a minute. It took perhaps 30 seconds for the owner to take my money and my order: middle picture, set menu three. Then five minutes to cook, half a minute to cool. So seven minutes from the thought—“I would like to eat the fourthbest soup dumpling in the world”—to feeling it implode on my tongue. I remember the first bite. The chef took the steamer’s lid of with a magician’s flourish, a veil of vapour rising between us. I was too afraid to use chopsticks so, with my fingers, I lifted a dumpling by its pursed top, let it breathe in the air, craned it onto my tongue, held it a moment then pressed my teeth to the pastry, felt the skin tear, the almost too-hot soup filling the gullies of my mouth, a flush of pork fat, the undertow of crab meat, every tastebud vibrating. What I remember most was the sense of surprise. Like finding an old SGD20 note.
I ate the other five and ordered more. This time I used chopsticks because I wanted to become embedded in my new culture. Straight away, the pastry ripped and spilled its insides. It was interesting to see what was in the soup: tiny baubles of fat and what looked like fingernail clippings. I think, by that point, I was so in love that even if they had been real human fingernail clippings I would have trusted that they added texture and ordered more. I brought my face closer and realised, with shock, that they were minuscule prawns. Each one with many hair-like legs tucked underneath the body. I would never have expected to find, in this small pocket of soup, a large family of decapod crustaceans, more than 100 legs between them. I immediately wrote a poem. That was, after all, the reason I was in Shanghai. I was going to write one every day, responding to the city. At that moment it seemed entirely conceivable I might write another 59 poems about soup dumplings. Luckily, I did not. In my first week, I roamed the city on foot, led by instinct alone, wrote about retirees line-dancing in the park, and street karaoke, and the nimble, spidery fingers of the virtuoso bass player in the all-female house band of a North Korean bar. The second week, starting to use my guidebook, I wrote about the water sluice museum, which must count as Shanghai’s most hard-to-love tourist attraction. I took a three-day round trip to sit on top of the Great Wall and wrote a poem about walls. The third week, I was flagging a little and spent a day indoors when the pollution was bad. I wrote a poem about me and my sister going climbing, back in London. All the while, I ate an average of seven xiaolongbao a day. Some days none, some days 18. One poem for every seven dumplings. If they had been sonnets, that’s a dumpling per couplet. By the sixth week, I was staying in for days at a time, leaving the apartment only to eat the same meal I had eaten every day since I arrived. I wrote poems about my grandmother, about Yuri Gagarin, about the texture of
Mark Hamill’s torso in the nude scene of John Carpenter’s 1993 film, Body Bags. I was not embedded in the culture. It was becoming clear that the only thing I could claim any expertise over were these particular dumplings from this particular counter. Soon I would be going home and it felt vital to imagine ways in which my trip had been worthwhile. Then I realised: although I had little knowledge of the city or its people, although my poems were largely forgettable, I was one of, if not the world expert on the world’s fourth-best xiaolongbao. And that was valuable. It had to be. Otherwise I was a terrible person. I came back to London and people asked how my trip was. “Fascinating,” I said. “Just a fascinating culture.” “Get much work done?” “Sixty poems.” I booked myself and my wife a table in Shanghai and, when we got there, I didn’t even use the menu. “Er, xiaolongbao, xie xie,” I said, using, in one sentence, most of the Mandarin I had learned. The steaming basket came out. According to the objective criteria of the Shanghai Soup Dumpling Index, they were not doing well. The pastry was thick and leaking. My wife ate one and said it was truly delicious. This was the moment. If these dumplings tasted horrendous, then I had become a connoisseur who’d spent his time abroad well, gaining a deep, specific knowledge of something at the heart of the city. If these dumplings tasted delicious, I was a self-deluding fake, determined to dignify his laziness as depth. I lifted a dumpling with chopsticks. It was one of the worst things I have tasted. That was a wonderful relief. My wife ate one more, making an audible pleasure noise. “These are disgusting,” I said. “Get over yourself,” she said. “Write a poem about it.” And I did.
Joe Dunthorne’s new novel The Adulterants (Hamish Hamilton) is out now.
Wes Anderson has made a film about dogs. Admittedly, these are Andersonian dogs: stop-frame animation canines who live on an island of trash outside a fictional Japanese city called Megasaki, banished there by a corrupt mayor because of a fictional doggy disease, and who speak with the soft, wry delivery of some of the director’s most frequent collaborators— Ed Norton, Bill Murray, Jef Goldblum— because those are indeed the actors who voice them. This is Anderson’s second foray into stop-frame animation after 2009’s exquisite Fantastic Mr Fox, and as usual he is leaving no corner uncut: the crew for Isle of Dogs numbered 670, with 70 of those alone on puppets. The sets, inspired by Edo-period woodblocks, are stunning; the costumes—teeny-tiny space suits, sailor-girl school uniforms, kimono-cum-lab coats—are adorable. Even the rubbish dump on which the dogs live in rabid squalor is a little bit divine. And while the makers of the forthcoming Avengers: Infinity War might be crowing about their star haul (Iron Man! Dr Strange! Black Panther! Spider-Man! Groot!), Anderson’s is also pretty cosmic in hip Hollywood terms:
Love of hounds Wes Anderson’s new movie pays tribute to canines and Kurosawa.
alongside Norton, Murray and Goldblum you might also catch the dulcet tones of Scarlett Johansson, Greta Gerwig, Harvey Keitel, Tilda Swinton, Ken Watanabe, Liev Schrieber, Frances McDormand and Yoko Ono (though you probably won’t catch Anjelica Huston, who plays “mute poodle”). And this being a Wes Anderson film about dogs, it is both a film about dogs and also a love-note to the Japanese film-makers by whom Anderson and his band of co-writers, Roman Coppola, Jason Schwartzman and Kunichi Nomura, are fascinated; even the fact of being a band of co-writers is a nod to the script-creating habits of Akira Kurosawa. But just when you’re steeling
yourself to work your way through the catalogue of pertinent Kurosawa films that aren’t Rashomon or Seven Samurai (Drunken Angel, The Bad Sleep Well, High and Low and Stray Dog), before moving on to the monster movies of Ishirô Honda and the post-war works of Yasujirô Ozu, remember that this is also a sweet film about a little boy looking for his lost dog. And that can be enough.
Isle of Dogs is out on 10 May.
King (Bob Balaban) and Boss (Bill Murray) with new pal Atari (Koyu Rankin) in Isle of Dogs.
All in his strides Trainspotting author Irvine Welsh has revisited the characters that made his name—and adorned the bedroom walls of any self-respecting teenager in the mid-90s thanks to Danny Boyle’s film adaptation—before, in the excellent 2002 sequel Porno, the ambitious prequel Skagboys (2012) and, most recently, The Blade Artist (2016), in which only Begbie—the most terrifyingly familiar psychopath in modern British literature—returned, having undergone an unlikely rehabilitation as a successful artist living in LA. Dead Men’s Trousers, the sequel to the sequel to the sequel, picks up with the whole crew now deep into middle age living through the time of Brexit, with the jacket cover promising—somewhat cynically you might argue—that this time, one of them won’t survive to the final page. For fans to whom Renton, Begbie, Sick Boy and Spud matter, it’s an irresistible premise, and, for that reason, one that demands Welsh put in a big match performance. Largely, he does. While Dead Men’s Trousers sufers from the same flaws that dogged The Blade Artist and much of
Welsh’s later work: specifically, a plot that stretches incredulity to breaking point (a storyline involving organ harvesting and an underwritten gangster in particular), at other times, such as when the old frenemies witness Hibernian’s Scottish Cup Final victory of 2016, the years are rolled back for characters and author alike. On his day, no one captures the competing afections and resentments that underpin lifelong friendships like Welsh, and the original lads—Sick Boy and Spud in particular—still bring out the best in him. There are fleeting moments in Dead Men’s Trousers that reach the heights of his three true masterpieces Trainspotting, Porno and 2001’s Glue. Even where it does not, his new book still achieves what almost all Welsh’s novels do by keeping you gripped and choking on bursts of shocked laughter. Like Begbie, Welsh has softened with age but can still find his edge when he needs it.
Dead Men’s Trousers (Jonathan Cape) is available at Kinokuniya Singapore.
Words by Sam Parker
Irvine Welsh reanimates the Trainspotting gang—maybe for the last time?
The kitchen spitfire Reading these culinary books may incur the wrath of the designated home cook.
Prepare for a fiery scowl if you ever utter the word ‘cookbook’ to your family chef: “You don’t need a cookbook when you have someone preparing your favourite homecooked dishes.” Yet our adventurous taste buds crave the flavours described by reputable food critics and celebrated chefs in cookbooks. Sorry love, your Kung Pao chicken is delicious, but we’d like to have the step-by-step instructions to cook it ourselves one day. The Plagiarist in the Kitchen Jonathan Meades When the food world is obsessed with creating the next tasty Instagrammable dish, amateur chef Meades challenges culinary originality and proclaims most dishes are simply new takes on classic dishes. The book contains popular and familiar dishes that have been elevated and improved on by Meades. Why fix something when it isn’t broken? SGD52.95
Salt, Fat, Acid, Heat: Mastering the Elements of Good Cooking Samin Nosrat Flavour is a deciding factor in determining the tastiness of a dish, and Nosrat emphasises that salt (enhances flavour), fat (delivers flavour; generates texture), acid (balances flavour) and heat (determines texture) contributes heavily to that. Have a good grasp of these four elements and anything you cook will be scruptuous. SGD62.95
Stir Crazy Ching-He Huang Of all cooking methods, stir-frying is one of the quickest, healthiest and easiest. But mastering it takes time. TV chef and food entrepreneur Huang explains the mechanics for a good stir-fry and focuses on fuss-free, timesaving recipes. Just don’t burn your favourite wok. SGD41.62
The Wurst of Lucky Peach: A Treasure of Encased Meat Chris Ying and the editors of Lucky Peach From Ying and the editors of the now-defunct quarterly food journal Lucky Peach, the world’s sausages, weiners and their equivalents are welldocumented in this firm read. Beefcake aficionados will be disappointed as stufed dogs and chorizos fill the pages. But if you love bulging meat, this irreverent cookbook will satisfy your wurst desires. SGD46.45
Words by Derrick Tan
All cookbooks are available at Kinokuniya Singapore.
Michael Symon’s Playing with Fire: BBQ and More from the Grill, Smoker and Fireplace Michael Symon Celebrated Iron Chef and co-host of The Chew, Symon taps into his carnivorous side to produce his first cookbook that’s focused on the proper techniques of meat barbecuing and live-fire grilling. Perfect for charred protein lovers who frustrate the family with erroneous wood smoking and incompatible marinades. SGD52.95
Death sentences Daniel Kalder spent almost a decade reading the books written by history’s
examples of dictator literature (diclit?).
Photograph by Getty
worst tyrants so that you wouldn’t have to. Here he selects five of his ‘favourite’
Culture 1. Colonel Gaddafi “Freedom of expression is the right of every natural person, even if a person chooses to behave irrationally to express his or her insanity.” Many dictators proclaimed their support for freedom of expression. Of course, they were only interested in their own freedom; anyone who deviated from the norms they established would be punished. Gaddafi’s articulation of the principle, from his infamous The Green Book, is masterful— especially when read as a statement of personal intent. 2. Mao Zedong “It [materialist dialectics] holds that external causes are the condition of change and internal causes are the basis of change, and that external causes become operative through internal causes. In a suitable temperature an egg changes into a chicken, but no temperature can change a stone into a chicken, because each has a diferent basis.” This gobbledygook comes from Chairman Mao’s ‘philosophy’ On Contradiction. It was reprinted in Quotations from Chairman Mao Tse-tung, the most widely circulated book in history after the Bible. The mania surrounding Mao’s quotations was such that Chinese newspapers attributed miracles to them. I read On Contradiction while sufering from a fever. It made me feel worse. 3. Saddam Hussein “Even an animal respects a man’s desire, if it wants to copulate with him.” Zabiba and the King is a “romance” by the Iraqi dictator which blends political metaphor and discourses on leadership with rape and a soupçon of bestiality. According to Saddam, man-bear sex is a thing in northern Iraq. Fortunately, lady bears understand that the path to a man’s heart is through his stomach and they steal “cheese, nuts” and “even raisins” for their human partners, apparently to make the impending bout of interspecies sex more palatable. 4. Adolf Hitler “It is truly miserable to behold how our youth even now is subjected to a fashion madness which helps to reverse the sense of the old saying ‘clothes make the man’ into something truly catastrophic.” In addition to being a genocidal megalomaniac, Hitler was a style guru. In Mein Kampf he strongly denounces “stovepipe trousers” and excessively modest clothes. The rules of Nazi Eye for the Straight Guy (and gal) are: Aryan youth ought to wear revealing garments so that Germany might become one giant meat market where beautiful bodies gravitate to one another, thus improving the national stock. 5. Joseph Stalin “American eficiency is that indomitable force which neither knows nor recognises obstacles; which with its businesslike perseverance brushes aside all obstacles; which continues at a task once started until it is finished, even if it is a minor task; and without which serious constructive work is inconceivable.” Although Stalin was dedicated to the downfall of capitalism, he also saw some good in the United States— as this excerpt from his The Foundations of Leninism shows. Henry Ford even built a Ford factory in Russia in the ’30s. Stalin’s hope was that by importing “American eficiency”, the USSR would cut down on “fantastic scheme concocting”. It didn’t work, and fantastic schemes led to ecological catastrophe, mass murder and immeasurable human sufering.
Above: Soviet leader Joseph Stalin in his Kremlin ofice, Moscow, circa 1939.
Dictator Literature: a History of Despots Through Their Writing (One World) was published on 5 April.
Poster power A new book celebrates the iconic artworks of graphic designer Milton Glaser.
The work for which New York artist, illustrator and graphic designer Milton Glaser is second-best known is a poster that was included with Bob Dylan’s 1967 greatest hits album, one of the 450-plus posters he has designed since 1965. (His best known? The “I Heart NY” logo, designed in 1976 in the back of a taxicab.) The image shows a black silhouette of Dylan in profile, his curls swirling into psychedelic rainbows, but, as Glaser reveals in a new book, Milton Glaser Posters, it was in turn heavily inspired by a 1957 self-portrait by Marcel Duchamp. “The diference between influence and plagiarism is not always clear,” he writes.
It’s this kind of mildly sardonic, selfdeprecating commentary that makes Milton Glaser Posters an enjoyable read, though, of course, we’re here for the pictures, which range from posters for Stevie Wonder and Mahalia Jackson concerts and the Newport Jazz Festival to an advert for dog food. Glaser, who co-founded New York magazine in 1968 and was awarded the National Medal of Arts by President Obama in 2009, is now 88, still at work and, as the poster he designed in the wake of 9/11 shows, very much at the top of his game. Milton Glaser Posters (Abrams) is available at Kinokuniya Singapore.
© 2018 Milton Glaser
Pop art (clockwise from top left): ‘Dylan’, 1966; ‘50 Years of Vespa’, 1996; ‘I Love NY More Than Ever’, 2001.
Clockwise from left: metal sunglasses, by Carrera; metal sunglasses, by Prada; metal sunglasses, by Dolce & Gabbana.
Learn the rules Esquire Singapore invites a personality each month to complete an acrostic using our website address: esquiresg.com. This issue, singer Tabitha Nauser shares insights about her new single, Rules, that drops 18 May.
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