The Rebel Queen
Impeccable dressed in a salwar-kameez, Punjab’s traditional attire, and accessorized in emeralds and rubies was the Sikh Empire’s last queen, Jind Kaur, youngest wife of the first king, Maharaja Ranjit Singh.
Rather than narrating a whole history lesson of Punjab’s history, of the wars waged and of Great Britain’s reign and dominion, let’s just say, Jind Kaur was lauded for her gallant self. Some brandished her as the Messalina of Punjab while others saw her as the Rebel Queen. Whichever the term, she was one heck of a lady in those times.
So though I essentially do not have a wardrobe dripping with luxurious threads, I do own a chock load of traditional pieces that only see the light of day (or night) at weddings. Instead of relegating them to the deepest pits of a closet, I took them all out and reworked individual pieces into outfits I would wear as I would a pair of jeans.Fashion is remarkably cyclical where crop tops and jumpsuits invaded with a furor so strong it was hard to avoid and then to decline with only the most hardened battling on, regardless of fashion’s forward momentum but then to rise out of the ashes, like a phoenix, at some point inevitably as it all comes full circle, with the circle getting wider and having more points to jump towards if one is not inclined to roll along on a carousel-like route. Got that? Yes.
The same goes with traditional wear, hemlines oscillate up and down and the bottoms either get skinnier or increased in pleats and drapes to induce greater volume. Very much aligned to the skinny and flared pants of the Western world.
And hand-me-downs work beyond wonders here - this salwar (i.e. bottoms) was sewn by my mom for herself when she was in her 30s.
Cultural Appropriation or Appreciation?
The last time I wrote about a designer borrowing cultural elements was for Jean Paul Gaultier’s Mens SS13. At that time, it was a moment of glory that the Sikh turban was being given the rightful spotlight and appreciated along with other cultural bits - from kilts to mandarin collars.
Looking back, I’m not so sure it’s appreciation as much as it’s blatant appropriation. Considering the Sikh turban is worn as a religious symbol, to then popularize it as a trendy must-wear item of clothing in the exact shape becomes contentious.
More so because it perpetuates the idea that if non-Sikh were to don it, they would look ineffably cool but perceptions toward Sikhs who wear it on a daily basis remain unchanged. Sikhs in turbans are still seen as backward or even unkempt. Sikhs are still being targeted as potential terrorists and ridiculed for wearing ‘balls on their head’.
So should the very simple act of a fashion designer ‘borrowing’ an item of clothing from a culture be applauded or shamed? Especially when the said article of clothing is traditionally worn as signifier of the Sikh faith.
It’s great that the turban is receiving the attention, it is one step closer to understanding the Sikh culture. But it deserves rightful appreciation, extended to the wearer as well.
There exists a fine and rather blurry line between what is cultural appropriation and cultural appreciation. After all, where would fashion be if not for the vast variety of cultures, with their own traditions and why should they not have their voices expressed in an increasingly Westernized world. Many designers have used this and created brand new works and stunning designs but others have not.
Just recently, my news feed imploded with Paul Smith’s Robert Sandals. To the uninformed, the shoes may be a stroke of genius, with its classy neon piping and rather unique form. Everyone else who have been to our neck of the woods will know that the ‘Robert’ sandals are essentially Peshawari Chappals which were given a western makeover. Very much like the Outside-of-India Born Indian.
Here’s where the issue gets tricky because while it could be cultural appreciation, it wasn’t appreciated right. I would have been contented if Paul Smith named the shoe Peshawari Sandals. Or gave some form of recognition to where the idea came from (they did eventually after a concentrated attempt via social media and South Asian press), even if I believe an argument can be made for ‘inspired’ and ‘rip-off’.These are essentially shoes that Pashtun men have worn for the last 200 years so it’s most definitely not new.
The fashion industry has always been snarky to manufacturers who produce fakes and now we’ve got a luxury brand doing the exact same thing. So just because the Peshawari sandal doesn’t belong to any one brand, does it then become a free-for-all for designer brands lacking creativity, to re-appropriate something for themselves?
Casual, the new Practical
Somewhere along the lines of day to day dressing up, ‘clowning up’ during fashion weeks and general attempts at looking remotely stylish, efforts began diluting to just being casual. Countless event invites now have the dress code emblazoned as, ‘casual smart’, ‘casual chic’, ‘casual formal’ - is that even possible? Casual and Formal? On which part of the continuum do we pinpoint casual formal?
The prevailing jeans and t shirt combination is no longer saved for casual fridays or described as the quintessential American style, the pairing has gone global. Runways have been strewn with sporty attires, sweatpants and there’s even office-appropriate yoga pants. Yep, the industry went there alright.
Casual is appropriate and ideally comfort dressing should be the norm. There’s no need to dress up for the supermarket (as much as Chanel wants to) or to run errands. But is it appropriate to be casual all the time? That’s the real concern because can we truly eradicate gowns, fancy poofy dresses and suits from the streets?
Normcore thinks so.
Us, milennials have not particularly grown up seeing large members of society impeccably dressed, no matter what the occasion. Thus seeing those who do - in this age - results in brandishing them to an elite group. A group that lives within their own bubble and is hard to break into. In that sense, we could thus view dressing down, whether amongst friends, at dinner or at the office, as signaling inclusivity (rather than elitism from dressing up) with just about everyone. Essentially, any form of dressing is in itself not an issue other than the meanings conveyed through it. The kerfuffle is simple:
Dressing up = belonging to an exclusive group of ‘well-dressers’
Dressing down = creating a comfortable atmosphere for inclusivity
Yet, style and comfort need not be mutually exclusive. So while supporters work around the ‘style’ factor, it’s safe to say the casual phenomenon will continue to reign.
Fashion weeks are not helping casual dressers with their exorbitant price tags, fast fashion is. Fast fashion has created a global craze for low price points and convenience over quality resulting in the 'I can wear once and throw it away without feeling guilty' mindset. But at the same time, appear casual and to some point stylish. Case in point: this outfit features apparels from fast fashion stores bought at a discount (Cotton On, Uniqlo, ASOS, New Look), except for the denim vest (Rachel Roy) but was similarly bought at 90% off. Glory to North America for boxing day sales.
As much as clothes make the person and creates an expression, the person makes the clothes. If we can change our self perception towards the clothes we wear then perhaps, casual will cease to mean sloppy or slovenly and formal will cease to mean superior. Meanings and senses of what we see are constantly changing - as much as trends are. One simply takes far longer and far more effort.
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Circulating around CC Creams | Bourjois & Beauty Biotics
By now you would be sick of literary’s alliteration device but bare with me here - it was (a tad) obligatory.
The beauty industry imploded when BB creams surfaced. Getting your manicured hands on them were all the rage and now we have CC (colour correction) creams. Sure, they’ve pretty much been relegated to old news but out of all the ‘cleverly titled’ products (by that I mean, AA, BB, CC, DD, EE), CC stood out for its efficacy. BB creams never made it into my beauty cabinet for their blatant disregard to darker-than-ivory skin tones. When CC creams rolled around, brands somehow had a lightbulb moment and began introducing a variety of shades. So personally, as a freshman into these word play creams, I’ve only tried Bourjois’s newest kid, the 123 Perfect CC Cream and Beauty Biotics BB/CC Cream.
Bourjois’s thinner, more fluid consistency meant it was easier to work with and blend into the skin - whether by getting messy with your fingers or with a brush. It provides medium coverage, is readily buildable and has lasted me up to 10 hours with minimal powder room trips. Ahh if only we still had fancy powder rooms…
Beauty Biotics on the other hand has a thicker consistency that takes a little more effort to blend but results in medium coverage as well. It stays on relatively well without touch ups. In terms of sun protection, this one fares better with its broad spectrum SPF 40/PA +++ as opposed to Bourjois’s SPF 15. However, with only 2 shades to choose from, this universal suitability may not be its strongest suit. Additionally Beauty Biotics, as the name may already suggest, champions itself for delivering skincare benefits with their makeup range. Taking heed from the needs of a modern woman’s lifestyle, the products are created to shorten beauty routines with multitasking products. If makeup could double up as skincare then hello 10 extra minutes of sleep every morning and mind you that is precious.
Wear your heart on your nails.
Unfortunately, I came late to the party. The (heart-shaped) balloons had fallen, champagne had been popped and kisses had been exchanged but my nails were definitely early to the party or rather they had a party of their own. They were a happy bunch, in all of their xoxo and lip smacking fun - VDay or not.
Valentine’s Day is where you’d be cocooned into a dome of highly saturated, saccharine shades of pink everywhere - from your outfit choices to hearts to roses to gift wrappers - not quite the sight for those who run for the hills when so much as a stripe of pink adorns their dress.
So while all the lovely fanfare is over, let’s look to dressing up our nails beyond February 14 and that too in all of amor’s transient glory. Both ncLA and Gummi Nails came up with charming designs that are bound to get noticed whenever a hair flick is in order. Whether youthful and vibrant or classy and sophisticated, ncLA and Gummi Nails are rather spot on in getting your nails covered.
Gummi Nails changed the formula of their wraps and now feature real polish on the thin film-like adhesive. A hoot to apply and they last for 12 days at least, without a hitch. These are just perfect for lackadaisical, nail enthusiasts, me and me - done. Facebook | Twitter | Instagram
The Big Fat Indian Wedding - Here to Stay…or Not?
"When is wedding season?"
"Like all the time. Someone is getting married every other weekend in Singapore, the temples are booked months ahead."
So, yes, there is no wedding season here in Singapore and when the community is that small, you can be banking on your parents getting invited all the time and of course you will see the same people at every wedding. And if you did not already know, Indian weddings are lavish affairs that span for days. Joy.
The best part though, hands down, are the clothes (second to the glorious food of course). This is the only time where you will get to see all of India’s best tailoring and craftsmanship congregated in one place. Heavily saturated, embroidered, embellished, sequined and in varied silhouettes, an Indian wedding is one big royal fashion parade.Yet, the air of a celestial bridal being indubitably lies in the assortment of jewelry she adorns - from the nathli (nose ring) to the mathapatti or tikka (headpiece) - always the regal centerpiece. And while most of the attention would be on the bride’s attire and her several change of wardrobes, her guests are not far behind. They too would be dressed to the nines. Weddings are where aunties will sit and marvel at her companion’s salwar kameez while she secretly plots her next grand outfit to one up that very companion the next day. Weddings are after all, the only time to flaunt one’s traditional attire without sticking out like a sore thumb.
This opulence behind the ‘big fat Indian wedding’ was succinctly captured in Vogue India’s November issue. Though the spread mimics weddings of higher net worth individuals, the dream and fantasy-like ambience is no stranger to any Indian wedding. We may not have elephants and horses at our weddings in Singapore but the fanfare is not spared in terms of decorations and the extravagance of traditional attire. Just to put things into perspective, a Sabyasachi Mukherji (leading luxury bridal wear designer) lengha may cost upwards of S$28,000. It is also said that a wedding lengha is valued for its weight, so the heavier it is, the better its quality.
However, the billion dollar wedding industry in India is likely on its way to a slowdown as the younger generation turn a high nose to flaunting wealth. After decades of excess, the search is on for a newfound sobriety in weddings. The search ultimately lies in a wholly different form of sophistication, a sophistication beyond shimmer and diamante. Similarly, the fashion industry at large is headed towards minimalism, although sometimes so simple, the eye is left uninspired.
Nonetheless, simplicity as an aesthetic proposition is delicately creeping into the bridal industry. The change in sensibilities resulted in brides no longer gunning for the theatrics surrounding a flamboyant wedding. Instead, the desire is for a cosy and quaint celebration of love with those that matter rather than with an extensive guest list of business associates or distant, distant relatives they never knew existed.
The big fat Indian wedding persists - week long celebrations, a bottomless pit of food and multiple (ostentatious) outfit changes - for it’ll be some time before we relegate bling and adornments on lenghas as mere frippery but the grass on this newly discovered path may wear out soon enough. It would be a shame to see years of decadent tradition give way to bare minimalism but I suppose the trick here lies in achieving a level of understated elegance, at smaller price points. Till then, money will continue to roll for couture level bridal designers in India.
Vogue India images from Fashion Gone Rogue
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Goodbye, Zits | Benzac
Zits plague everyone and when they creep up on you, it’s always on the worst possible timing. It’s like they have a secret alliance that tells them exactly when we’re heading out on a date and bam, hello zit.
So now, it’s either pop them and face possible scarring (definitely) or cover their pesky faces up with layers of concealor and foundation. Either way, goodbye flawless complexion and goodbye perfect first impression. Never getting the second call again.
See what I did there with the hello and goodbye?
There were the usual zit busters, anyone remember Oxy or Seba Med? Boy, were they our companions during teenage years. They were family secrets passed down from generations. Today though, we have Benzac, an acne-clearning solution for all skin types - not just for those with oily/ combination skin because acne does plague those with dry skin. Dum, dum, dum.The line of cleansers come in foam and liquid formulas and contain herbal plant extracts like Calendula and Aloe Vera to sooth your highly irritated skin (zits are never hunky dory). The formula contains Benzac AC Gel, loaded with Benzoyl Peroxide - an antimicrobial that has keratolytic action to unblock pores - keeping you well equipped to banish zits from the surface of your skin.
While I’ve hardly been a victim of acne, the occasional zits were no stranger. And post Canada, my skin exploded in zit glory, one zit down, one zit up, the cycle was ruthless. So I took a chance and worked with the range of Benzac facial care for 5 days. While the scrub can only be used twice a week, the gel was to be applied every morning and night on troubled areas.
The result? Clear skin where all the little bumps were gone. That too, without any harsh scrubbing or literally bloody popping. Quite honestly, I was already sold when I heard zit busting at the press preview.
Zit buster? Sign me up.
For a little bit more about zits - causes and if you should apply makeup to cover up, we had Dr Hazel Oon of the Singapore National Skin Centre to provide answers over at Marie France Asia (where I’m also writing mostly on fashion and beauty and my face has tried too many products in the last few months - that can’t be good…or is it?)
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Manicure for your lips | Clio Lipnicure
If there is one thing the beauty industry is doing a damn good job of, it’s churning out new products with new innovations every few months. Some make it, others are relegated to the depths of beauty cabinets but Clio made a home run with this manicure-for-your-lips thingamajig.
Clio saw a problem with lip products in general - they do not stay on for the entire day even if they promise long wear. Then we have our nifty beauty tricks passed down from moms, mostly along the lines of dabbing on translucent powder and reapplying the shade. Repeat process several times to ensure maximum length of wear (before you know it, it’s time for bed).
It was time. The strong, impending need for a long wearing lipstick drove Clio’s gears into high speed and here we are now with a varnish-like lip product. If you want to put this on though, there are additional steps that are very much similar to getting a manicure done. Hence the name, lipnicure, get it?
I’m sure you do, all you smart ladies.
Essentially, you’ll need a primer, the actual lip colour and a top coat to get the magical staying power of ‘all day’. But it’s completely worth it because you get to bid goodbye to middle of the day touch ups and it’s also impervious to eating, drinking or kissing - a small price to pay for 24/7 pristine lips.
Me being me, I attempted to be smart(er) and shaved off on the extra steps. While the red shade worked beautifully without the primer or top coat, the lighter shades suffered in dull translucency. Akin to how your manicure would suffer without a top coat, your lipnicure would bear the same consequences. Don’t risk it.
So far, the long wearing department goes without a hitch. The highly pigmented lip colour did not budge no matter the amount of air kisses, glasses of champagne or meal time. This bugger stayed on as though it had a life and its life solely depended on being on my lips. To remove it, you would need a good waterproof lip(colour) remover and follow with due moisturizing as the product may be a tad drying.
Right now, there is close to no other alternative to achieving a highly pigmented pout for 12 hours other than a lipnicure, convert now or forever hold your lipstick in your hands. There are of course OCC Lip Tars but price wise…you make the call.
Clio Lipnicure - SGD19.90 at Watsons
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London Men’s Fashion Week 2014 | The Good & Eccentric
Yes, men’s fashion week began with a big hurrah, starting 2014 with more colours, trends, slick depictions (or dreams) of the perfect gentleman and of course a moment of escapism from the real working world. We may well be into Paris now but London truly brought the world of fashion down with its carefully stirred pot of eccentricity and sartorial knack. London was a real conversation starter, not at all like the girl who tells you about her new diet plan at a cocktail event.
Burberry presented in London but the collection was akin to Italian painters who would be perched by the street, painting as the world passes them by. The floral shirts and trenches barely buttoned to reveal a mesh tank creates an air of painterly nonchalance and unrestricted boundaries to their imagination. And with Burberry, leather is never absent. When coupled with a draped scarf around the shoulders, even the leather loses its tough, biker guy persona and adopts an insouciant vibe.
Similar to how a painter carries his arsenal of tools in one bag, the models toted a a large fabric bag spacious enough for every single brush and canvas, ready to paint their lives, in wispy strokes of art.
McQueen maintained its sartorial dark edge in a bevy of suits and coats where rebellion seeped through easily with military style domination. In a bout of counterculture or punkish notions though, tartan kilts came into the forefront in a furor of pink, black and white. As though gender boundaries have not been questioned enough, you’ll see why it continues to be a feature in London.
Ominous and foreboding but done with impeccable tailoring proves that the McQueen reign isn’t over.
JW Anderson is well revered for his androgynous designs and cuts; always seeking to break conventionalities and social constructs, without so much as batting an eyelid. If Oliver Twist had a long-lost rich flamboyant uncle, I would have though that very uncle cleaned Oliver up and gave him a new lease of life, with clothes that were re-imagined from his wife’s closet.
Yes, I’m completely for there being no gender boundaries in fashion, men can wear skirts, dresses and heels - after all what is gender other than a social construct? Gender can be bent and perception can be changed, albeit it would take years, decades even.
So I give props to JW Anderson for constantly standing his ground and going against the very ingrained, stuck in stone, social construct by giving the male sex boat necks (something Jackie Kennedy might have worn in a fitted version), one shoulders and skin tight floral tops.
Together with MAN, Astrid Anderson and Lee Roach, consider the masculine/feminine debate fired up into a wild-fire-blaze-a-path-of-glory future.
Kay Kwok here took futuristic elements one notch further and envisioned a whole Tron like universe with his blacked out face shields and vertical lines blazoned in gold on suits. Nonetheless, his vision of a future strays away from the usual silver foil/ Jetsons direction, which is a relief. Instead, it appears his future is a picturesque galactic vision filled of men in floor sweeping gowns painted with galaxies.
One unfortunate man has a shard of a galactic spaceship going through him and he still retains mobility - the future is boundless!
Throughout it all, fashion weeks are always a visual treat and it genuinely brings a moment of relentless excitement (& witty candour), seeing how designers put forth a collection. It goes beyond me to try and decipher what their thought processes were but the end results are always a depiction of how mysterious and extremely riveting their mind is. By far, London has the most creative and eccentric bunch of designers amongst the 4 capitals.
For the Sake of Love | iRoo - GIVEAWAY
Do you hear the clicking of the hooves or the stinging sound of an arrow? The overly commercialized, capitalized, pink ‘holiday’ is riding along on its pink chariot ready to inflict ‘love’ on those who crave love showers. Love is such a profound concept that many shy away from purely because in today’s time it carries a whole lot of expectations. Expectations to do things because you love someone. When did love become a worrisome and feared burden? Can I say love again? Love.
Instead of all that chummy and complicated love, let’s divert our keen attention to loving ourselves, this one is simple and innocent and pure. In the larger scale of things, the power of individuality and the power of loving (yourself) trumps any other worldly desires, aspirations or ideals.
And iRoo, a Taiwanese brand, is leading the charge to celebrate love and individuality. With their limited edition Love Power T-Shirt, iRoo is bang on encouraging consumers to make the t-shirt uniquely theirs - cut the sleeves, cut the length, drown in it embellishments, the world is your oyster!
Of course, you can wear the t-shirt as is but it’s always a thrill to slash up a t-shirt with a trusty pair of scissors and then jazz it up with glitter. And more glitter, especially if it’s your secret poison and gets you all hyped up then definitely throw that glitter on.
Seeing how cropped tops are seeking a revival, the 90s kid in me wanted to have a go at revealing mid-riffs. So there you have, my Love Power t-shirt is now an angular cropped top with a pink and purple trimming adorning the length of it. Yes, this is entirely minimal customization but it reflects me as a person, who is not at all a fan of excessive embellishments. I would run for the hills if there is one too many ribbons or rhinestones on my clothes. Literally shut my eyes and run, I kid you not. The Love Power t-shirt is unfortunately not for sale but customers do receive it as complimentary gift when they spend a minimum of SGD288 (till 15 Feb 2014). Another way to receive this t-shirt and not fork out a dime is if you do the following steps:
1. Like iRoo on Facebook
2. Like Fashstash on Facebook
3. Email me (firstname.lastname@example.org) with your Name (& Facebook name) and contact number with iRoo Giveaway in the subject line.
Easy! Giveaway ends on 29 Jan 2014, Wednesday at 11:59pm SGT. *Giveaway is only open to those residing in Singapore. Get inspired and do up your plans because you might just be needing that glue gun when you win this - just in time for Chinese New Year too!
Takashimaya Shopping Centre, Ngee Ann City,
Unit B1-52-55, 391A Orchard Road, S(238873)