31 December 2015

Flashback: Look Back At Men's Fashion In 2015 (Part 4)

Look back in wonder at the year in men’s fashion trends and themes in this flashback. By Daniel Goh
Givenchy look embodies the new untraditonal suit

Dandy No More
Tailoring has finally gone over the pedantic Mad Men phase when everyone who wore a qiuff wanted a suit with all its period trimming (pocket square anyone?); entire streets crawled with what looked like heavily-sweating, badly-dressed extras in some poorly-researched period drama. We are glad to see the “sartorial” period RIP. Men’s tailoring has gone more innovative with surprising new twists to the suitings genre, with classics kicked up, mould broken, taken-apart, reconsidered, re-decorated into an entirely new beast.
Riches are piled on riches in a wealth of technique (intarsia, slashes), a riot of prints (lace, glitter) and ideas.
(FALL/WINTER: Burberry FW 17 18 19 24; Dolce FW 21 27; Comme FW 30 31 32 33; Dries FW 16; McQueen FW 7 8 9; Dior FW 37)

Raf Simons mashup of office and kindergarten
Everyone Needs a Hobo
The defining style of this era is the miss-match and contrast of genres, a post-modern mashup we had a first inkling of when street went luxe (the embellished sweatshirt is a key example, or the hybrid brogue/trainer, or pin-striped jogging pants). The more extreme the mashup the better: Think academic tweedy mashed up with slouchy denims, or grandpa mashed-up with jock, to become the new royalty of the coolly rumpled.
(FALL/WINTER: BV FW 35 15 2; Comme FW 3 4 8 16; Dunhill 4 24)

Dries Van Noten's East/West mix
The New Silk Road
The New Silk Road isn’t just China’s infrastructure investment (USD 200 billion) in trade and diplomacy projects across the globe through Iran, Pakistan, Russia and Asia – and neither is it a new hotpot restaurant. Fashion has simply opened up its notions of beauty to embrace Asian forms and decorations – and not in a simplistic or shallow way. Traditional East Asian shapes, colours that pack heat, ethnic minority embellishments and a certain unbuttoned, wrapped over volume is proposed in modern, surprisingly elegant new ways of dress, a (literally) seamless hybrid of East and West.

(FALL/WINTER: Burberry FW 10 11 12 13 15; Comme FW 6; Dries FW 14 8 18 27 28 40 30 35; Etro FW 2 6 9 40; Givenchy FW 25 26 27 36 41 48 55)

Punk Grunge Love
Gucci grunge
And just when you thought everything was going swimmingly rich and fatly irrelevant in this world of constant chaos and natural disasters, a spike of aggression and anger is both expression of and antidote against the tough new world in which we live. Think seedy and rough leathers, vests and a violent attitude.

(FALL/WINTER: Gucci FW 2 6 13 31; Etro FW 14; Givenchy FW 5 35 37) 

Part 4 of 4 - End

30 December 2015

Flashback: Look Back At Men's Fashion In 2015 (Part 3)

Look back in wonder at the year in men’s fashion trends and themes in this flashback. By Daniel Goh
Prada went dopey for denim in an almost-all denim collection
Dopey For Denim
Very much of this new Youthquake is the importance of denim. Jeans are here to stay. Perhaps it recalls the time when fashion was still young and innocent (1950s), perhaps it is nostalgia for a time when work was physical and visceral rather than taking a selfie and posting to Facebook or pretending to be a celeb with a slyly-plotted OOTD. Prada, which is as avant-garde and thinking as they come, and always social commentary, devoted its entire collection to denim.
(Spring/Summer 2015 examples: Prada SS 1 4 24 25 etc; SL SS 52; Gucci SS 28)

Talk Nerdy To Me
Did you notice the trend for nerdy/studious glasses this year? It replaced the hipster Ray-Bans as the de rigueur frames, and celebrate the perks of being a wallflower: Standing out in a We-fie. When everyone around you is being a total glamazon-influencer, you need to be a total nerd, just, you know, to stand out?

(Spring/Summer 2015 examples: JW Anderson SS 29; Prada SS 35 36 44 47 8 12; LV SS 5 7 18 33 35 37; Gucci SS 6)

Part 3 of 4 - Part 4 will be posted up later

29 December 2015

Flashback: Look Back At Men's Fashion In 2015 (Part 2)

Look back in wonder at the year in men’s fashion trends and themes in this flashback. By Daniel Goh

The Teenager Is King
Of course it all started out as Normcore last year, but what stuck, when people realized that Normcore just didn’t photograph very well and didn’t scream “I wore it there!” loudly enough, were the youth-centric tropes. Fashion is Youth: All hail the resurgence of all-white trainers, the skate-everything, the backpack, the ripped jeans, the shorts and the varsity blouson and the backwards-worn baseball cap. Try typing that litany without your eyes rolled back, why don’t you?

(Spring/Summer 2015 examples: CKC SS 6 10 12 18 21 34 36; Dolce SS 49 50 51 26; Hermes SS 27 29 36 42 7 10 20 24; Lanvin SS 19 32 21 27; JW Anderson 31 1 2 3; Gucci SS 17)

Part 2 of 4 - Part 3 will be posted up later

28 December 2015

Flashback: Look Back At Men's Fashion In 2015


Look back in wonder at the year in men’s fashion trends and themes in this flashback. By Daniel Goh

This has been a big, dramatic year in fashion; Not only did men’s fashion thrust forward decisively in looks that completely broke from the past, it zoomed ahead without nostalgia or sentimentality for eras past, and menswear is finally freed to move into the 21 Century. 
Doherty, whom no fashion can now save, looking very much like Stephen Fry.

If Only Pete Doherty Was Slim
There was a sense of déjà vu when Pete Doherty, now a pudgy uncle at 36, appeared at Saint Laurent’s show in Paris last October. The former rake thin Rimbaud of rock (and former squeeze of Kate Moss), who was the “thin-spiration” behind Saint Laurent’s seminal Spring 2015 collection, appeared to be twice the size (and age!) of his former self (albeit still sweaty, unwashed and clutching a pack of cigarettes like a ball of used tissue). Nonetheless, the skinnier than thou models, squashed into frayed jeans and stovepipe leather leggings, a flail of beaded chiffon or a shrug of shrunken jacket recalled the poet/punk of The Libertines in his fey days. If only he were thin again.
In this hit collection for Saint Laurent, Hedi Slimane seemed also to be citing his own gloriously slim self, and by the way celebrating the marginalized, the freak, the fragile, the queen, the poet, making a case of relevance for the disagreeable, disgruntled, and preternaturally sour. That such a stance actually strikes at the heart of, and is a comment on, the happy, shiny hordes of Instagram, the hordes that have clicked their approval in waves of “Likes”, seems to be lost on the Social Media generation. This can only prove that the Social Media generation is dumb and lost and that Slimane is beyond cynical.
(Spring/Summer 2015 examples: Saint Laurent SS 1 8 16 17 38 46 53 61 65; Lanvin SS 8 10 14 23 38 43)

Part 1 of 4 - Part 2 will be posted up later

27 December 2015

New Year's Note: What The New Year Means To Me

Let’s all think of the New Year as the greatest gift of all. 
By Daniel Goh

In its newness, the New Year is something sparkling clean and elegant, because so blank and new, like a freshly unboxed diary for you to fill in with all the business of the year to come. There’s nothing like crisp, new paper (the smell of it, the feel of it) to make one feel cleansed and ready to do something good. If Christmas is that gaudy, cheaply cheerful commercial item, store-bought, slightly shop-worn, sloppy with drink and eating, glittering with the vulgarity of ostentation and materialism, then the New Year is pristine, freshly-laundered, optimistic. This year, you will get it right; This year, you will finally shed those negative vibes, those dark days and sally forth with energy and luck.

This idea of the New Year was formed when I was still little (so many decades ago!) and going to school was a huge to-do. In great ceremony, the weeks in December marked shopping sprees with mother. Bundles of new textbooks from a growing forbidding list, which we bought from a mission bookstore in Coleman Street, still un-dog-eared, the edges still sharp, filled with things to be learned (I would quickly flip through the books uncomprehendingly when I got home, in awe that I would be learn those things before the year was up). Then, new uniforms were bought from a shop that specialized in school uniforms in Peninsula Plaza, snowy white new shirts with the collars still stiff, and the always too-long blue shorts (I was a precocious dresser!) and down the road new canvas shoes from Bata, new socks with too-tight elastic that caused red welts around my legs for weeks until they grew slack and slightly grey. Handkerchiefs (yes, we used those in the good old days), water bottle, schoolbag were all bought in People’s Park; and this I enjoyed the most, because I got to exercise my fledgling taste for cutesy stuff: I would be entranced with my haul of new matching sets of stationery (pencils, pencil case, eraser, sharpener, notebooks, sketchpad – one year it was all yellow smiley faces, another year all My Melody).

My taste changed with each passing year, and you could see it in the stationery style. I suppose that is called growing up, or growing old. Each subsequent New Year, until today, remains a marker of change for me. Each New Year sees the letting go of old aesthetics and old ideals and ideas, and an embrace of new ones. Each New Year is a chance to shed the outmoded, the tried-but-untrue, the feckless, the negative, the weak (both people, and things). Each New Year, we put on a new moral crisp collar, and pull up new psychological socks. We arm ourselves with a year of new knowledge, we grow taller, we reach new heights.

And that is the real magic of the New Year. Not another round of champagne or fireworks or shopping; Not another holiday, not another calorie spree. The New Year is the greatest gift of all for being another chance to fill your days with meaningful, positive, constructive, beautiful, creative new work, and fill your mind with new ideas and inspiration, and your life with nice, interesting people.
Beginning right here, right now, with this.

26 December 2015

Helena Bonham Carter Reading A Passage From Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice

Pride and Prejudice, Chapter 56

 She entered the room with an air more than usually ungracious, made no other reply to Elizabeth's salutation than a slight inclination of the head, and sat down without saying a word. Elizabeth had mentioned her name to her mother on her ladyship's entrance, though no request of introduction had been made.Mrs. Bennet, all amazement, though flattered by having a guest of such high importance, received her with the utmost politeness. After sitting for a moment in silence, she said very stiffly to Elizabeth,
``I hope you are well, Miss Bennet. That lady, I suppose, is your mother.''
Elizabeth replied very concisely that she was.
``And that I suppose is one of your sisters.''
``Yes, madam,'' said Mrs. Bennet, delighted to speak to a Lady Catherine. ``She is my youngest girl but one. My youngest of all is lately married, and my eldest is somewhere about the grounds, walking with a young man who, I believe, will soon become a part of the family.''
``You have a very small park here,'' returned Lady Catherine after a short silence.
``It is nothing in comparison of Rosings, my lady, I dare say; but I assure you it is much larger than Sir William Lucas's.''
``This must be a most inconvenient sitting room for the evening, in summer; the windows are full west.''
Mrs. Bennet assured her that they never sat there after dinner, and then added,
``May I take the liberty of asking your ladyship whether you left Mr. and Mrs. Collins well.''
``Yes, very well. I saw them the night before last.''
Elizabeth now expected that she would produce a letter for her from Charlotte, as it seemed the only probable motive for her calling. But no letter appeared, and she was completely puzzled.
Mrs. Bennet, with great civility, begged her ladyship to take some refreshment; but Lady Catherine very resolutely, and not very politely, declined eating any thing; and then, rising up, said toElizabeth,
``Miss Bennet, there seemed to be a prettyish kind of a little wilderness on one side of your lawn. I should be glad to take a turn in it, if you will favour me with your company.''
``Go, my dear,'' cried her mother, ``and shew her ladyship about the different walks. I think she will be pleased with the hermitage.''
Elizabeth obeyed, and running into her own room for her parasol, attended her noble guest down stairs. As they passed through the hall, Lady Catherine opened the doors into the dining-parlour anddrawing-room, and pronouncing them, after a short survey, to be decent looking rooms, walked on...

25 December 2015


It’s hard to be positive when the world economy is in the doldrums and promises to be bearish for next year. Gold is down, and property prices are falling in Singapore, as they haven’t been in a while, always a bellwether for how things are going. Just look around you – people aren’t shopping even though it’s strenuously promoted at this time of year, and the beautiful malls, decked up for a budget Christmas, are empty.
The year woke up to the passing of Lee Kuan Yew, the defining Big Daddy of Singapore, and thence ensued a long period of mourning and a collective pall. It reflected a global gloom, a sense of the world slowing down, growing old and infirm. The China Boomtown seems to have faltered (if not actually stopped), inspiring a sense of foreboding and uncertainty. Political refugees East and West are being made homeless and stateless, towed out inhumanely, to sea. Not satisfied with systematically destroying a trail of 3,000 year old monuments of human creation in one shocking weekend of barbarity, ISIS followed that up with killing sprees in Paris. In the region, the barbarity of massive forest-clearing goes unchecked, a shocking crime against nature and humankind: global warming ignored, endangered flora and fauna wiped out forever. Then there is the specter of the rise of religious hysteria – in Aceh, gay sex is punished by severe and public whipping; Bangkok is bombed by terrorists. Closer to home, the scandals of City Harvest Church and 1MDB are riveting precisely because of their all-too-human, all-too-close nature.
The wisdom of Buddhist dharma would have us take all this in our stride and accept the realities with optimism. How? Each of us must stay positive and move ahead, work on your causes, fight the good fight, for if you give in to negativity, then all truly will be lost. There is still hope in every situation, but only if you work actively as a living example, a lesson, and a guide. Surround yourself with positive people, people with love in their hearts and clarity in their heads. Don’t give in to the stupid, the morally lazy, and the materialistic. Most importantly, focus on the present and release the past into the past. Learn to live in the present moment.

The haze is gone. 

24 December 2015

Singapore Diva Tracy Huang Sings Again

One of Singapore's earliest pop successes, Tracy Huang has survived the vagaries of the industry by shrewdly shifting her act to the right places at the right time. 
Daniel Goh  fathoms the woman and her image.

"Fat, fat," says Tracy, slapping her thighs. "Fat, fat. I've put on weight,. Three pounds. Fat, here," she says, cupping her cheeks. She lifts her arms and flaps them, making the flesh on her alabaster-white upper arms jiggle. "Fat, fat, do you see?"

Tracy's preoccupation with weight, her looks, her age is understandable. After all, her feminine and fashionable image has always been a strong selling point for her albums. As such, these vanity concerns, inherent in most women, must seem even more vital to Tracy. But today, just for the moment, Tracy, relaxed and light-hearted jokes, "I'm 28, two years older than Alan Tam!" Later, she would give me her age as 39.

Tracy Huang is folded neatly onto a black sofa in the photo studio. She's just completed a photography shoot, part of her efforts to promote her new album Traces of Love, but talk is not about the album. There is nothing so crassly commercial about Tracy.

Even relaxing, her legs are elegantly crossed, ending in pointy, stiletto-heeled ankle boots. She's wearing a two-year old Azzedine Alaia: A black stretch one-piece with a white patent leather belt. "It gives me the illusion of height," she says.

Her hair is straggly now, and is loosely tied back; her eye make-up has run a little, there are black smudges; her lipstick has bled into a crooked pout. Plumes of smoke from her cigarette surround her like an aura.

Tired and slightly dishelleved, even while chain-smoking Virginia Slims, Tracy Huang still exudes a glow. Her skin is not only just fine and creamy white, it has a translucent, jade-like glaze, like rare Song china.

As Tracy talks, her small, white hands flutter about her in arabesque, like twin doves. "Hands are important," she says, flipping through the lyric pages for her new album cover until she finds the illustration of her silhouetted hands, reaching for a bird on a branch. "Look at this picture, I like this very much. Hands can express so much. You don't see my face here at all. But it's me."

Her small, flower-like hands. They are not money-grabbing hands, nor dish-washing hands. No, these are the hands of a princess. I tell her so. "Oh, but I'm not a princess!," she says, laughing. "More like a Cinderella. My father was from Guangdong, a military man, a colonel, so he didn't earn much. My mother was from Shanghai. When they came over to Taiwan from the mainland, they had absolutely nothing, not even a roof over their heads. We were very poor.

"When I was young, I had to help my mother do all the chores. I was the oldest, I had to take care of three baby brothers. All I can remember of my mother from those days was that she was always cooking, cleaning. She'd give me some money and I would have to go to the market to buy vegetables. And I had to cook after school.

"I still found time to play, somehow. I ran around barefoot. I have memories of a little barefoot girl, piggy-backing one of my brothers – maybe that's why I'm so short and all my brothers are so tall!

"I remember one day, while out in the open fields, an aeroplane flew over. At that moment, I made a promise to myself that I would be on that plane someday. I would fly out into the world. And it was a big wish, for a little country girl like me."

She continues in a rush of words; she is enjoying the reminiscences. "Singapore put me on that aeroplane. I was discovered by a talent scout from Neptune Theatre. Here I was, a Taiwanese singer singing English songs – wow! What a novelty, you know. I was billed as 'Angel from Taiwan' at the Neptune!"

That was in 1969. The Angel from Taiwan took flight. Tracy appeared in countless TV variety shows and eventually recorded her own albums, mainly sentimental ballads and cover versions of Olivia Newton-John hits. Over a 43-album career, Tracy established herself as a major star in Singapore, Hong Kong, Taiwan and China. Now she has set her sights on Japan with her album, consisting of English songs by Dick Lee.

Not only was she a major recording artiste, Tracy was also a style icon of the 70s. The image conscious artiste embraced every 'look' that emerged – from frosty purple eye-shadow to padded sweaters, from tattooed eyebrows to cowboy shirts.

The correct 'look' no doubt contributed to her enduring popularity, but she attributes her success to a determination to better herself. "I want to learn something new everyday – then that day is not wasted." And indeed, there were many occasions during my meetings with her when she whips out a little electronic organiser and enters all sorts of information, with a great urgency: names, numbers, movies to see, authors to read, phrases, ideas.

"When I was in school, I only studied music and Chinese folk dance – these were subjects thought to be more befitting to a girl. I learnt to read only after I left school. When I first came to Singapore, I had no friends or family. There were long spaces of time when all the friends I had were magazines and journals and books. I read so much during this time. And all those English programmes on television here. Education is the world around you. It does not mean that if you go to a university you become educated. A lot of people don't realize that experience is so important – you can learn from the people and the environment. I feel that my education is still going on, never stopping."

But something that Tracy feels she has not learnt enough of is studio production and other technical aspects of recording. So last year, she formed her own production company in Taiwan called Inner Music. "I'm at a turning point now – or rather – I'm in a period of flux. I feel that Tracy, as an artiste, is fading out and Tracy, the producer is fading in."

Her energies, and her accumulated knowledge and contacts in the music industries, are now concentrated in production. "It is not that I don't want to perform anymore. Working behind the scenes on a recording is also like performing. What's on show is what you produce, is how Tracy sees it. Inner Voice is where she put together her last three albums – of which two became award winners and hits. Tracy is also casting about for new talents to groom, record and promote.

Next year, in her role as producer, she will launch a 17-year-old Singapore girl, Gina Tan. There are several uncanny similarities between Tracy and her protégé : Tracy herself started her musical career at about the same age (at 16, Tracy was already singing at the American Club). Gina has the same sort of demure, feminine beauty that has served Tracy well; she sounds remarkably like Tracy. They sing like they look: all peaches and cream. There is tinkling clarity in their singing, there is a breathy languidity.

"Also, I really want to act. I really feel like making a movie, something meaningful. Maybe it's a bit late. But I was really inspired by my experience doing the music video which Wong Kar Wai directed."

The video for her Mandarin number entitled Making You Glad has generated more than the usual attention because it features Tony Leung, the star of The Lover.

"All the reporters keep asking me about it, as if Tony Leung was the main thing. At my press conference a reporter asked me if I felt flattered and thrilled that I had Tony Leung to act with in my video. Just imagine.

"I replied, 'How so?' Tony Leung should be the one to be flattered and thrilled."

First published in 8 DAYS Nov 28 – Dec 5, 1992 edition, as a cover story