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Posts Tagged ‘Fashion’

I had a visitor in town a few weeks ago and we decided to head to the Art Science Museum. It’s such a lovely piece of architecture and having it situated right on Marina Bay makes it’s hard to resist.

Currently there are two free exhibits on display, Hermes Leather Forever (until December 13) and The Nobel Prize: Ideas Changing the World (until January 2016).  We decided to check these two exhibits out and pay to see the Collider exhibit if we had time and energy afterward (spoiler alert: we did not.)

Unfortunately, I think we should have skipped the free exhibits and forked out the money for the Collider instead. Or better yet, made it to one of the ArtScience Late sessions where the museum is open for free in the evening.

I wasn’t all that impressed with the Nobel Prize exhibit and the Hermes exhibit felt like an overt advertisement. It’s not like I didn’t learn anything though- I got some historical perspective on the Nobel Prize and learned a bit about the beginnings of the Hermes brand. Did you know they got their start with horse riding?

We met Shanna for a drink at Overeasy on Collyer Quay after the museum session. She was surprised to hear that I was less than impressed with Hermes Leather Forever, but then again she attended a Champagne premier of the exhibit. Looking at luxury goods you can’t afford is always better with a glass of Champagne in hand.

One thing I can say is that the Hermes exhibit was artfully crafted. But you wouldn’t expect less, would you?

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Hermes Motorcycle Gear VROOM VROOM

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Can you spot the Birkin Bag??

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My first experience in an office in Asia was as a freelance science writer. I negotiated some desk space alongside regular freelance work and subsequently came into the office in the central business district (CBD) two to three times a week. It was nice to have coworkers again and gain some insight to working environments in Singapore. It was even nicer to have the flexibility to come in or work from home as it suited my productivity.

But enough reminiscing about flexible schedules.

There were other things I gained from that experience aside from the obvious paycheck and magazine bylines. Like a friend or two, an understanding of the motorcycle parking availability in the CBD, my first tastes of mooncake, and a better understanding of the range of acceptable officewear in Asia.

A week or two into the gig I did a double-take when I saw a girl wearing  an off the shoulder sequined dress. Was she going straight out night clubbing after work or did she stay out so late she had to come straight to work?

Photo - not mine

Photo – not mine

I mentioned the wardrobe choice of my colleague to a fellow expat friend.  She told me that some of the girls in her office dressed like that too.

So I asked my friend Andy, who spent several years living in Beijing and he confirmed this as norm. “It happens a lot in China. The women sometimes wear nightclub type clothing to office jobs. It’s not always seen as weird or unprofessional.”

I smirked obnoxiously as I relayed the story to a friend living in the US. “I wouldn’t meet my coworkers and clients dressed like I was headed to a party,” I claimed.

“Are you kidding??” she replied. “It’s brilliant! You wouldn’t need two sets of clothing! Instead of a work wardrobe and a party wardrobe, you’d just have one wardrobe. You wouldn’t even have to stop at home and change clothes after work. This is genius.”

And you know what? She’s right. How could I be so silly to assume that in the west we’re the only ones doing it right? Don’t get me wrong, I’ll stick with multiple wardrobes because that’s my culture, it’s the system I’m invested in and that’s what I’m comfortable with. However, the next time I see a girl in an off the shoulder disco number I’ll hold the snark, tell her she looks nice and pass her my slice of mooncake. Because honestly, mooncake’s not really my thing either.

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I know Singaporeans like to shop and the climate lends itself to sundresses and the like, but I truly find it bizarre how some shops choose to diversify their portfolio.

For example, the picture below. Don’t the clothes just end up smelling like last night’s dinner?

Cute top, though.

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Arthaus, East London

A view from the top floor of Arthaus, a mixed-use development in the east end near Hackney and London Fields. The development houses several business including fashion designers, Garnish School of Sound and Galerie8, where Jarek Piotrowski exhibition of hand-cut PVC mats titled The Soft Machine is currently on display.

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If you’ve been around London and paying any vague amount of attention, you’ve probably heard something about the Designs of the Year exhibit at the London Design Museum. What? You’ve never heard of the London Design Museum? Well I guess neither had Justine when I suggested we go one afternoon, so scratch that first sentence.

It’s in a slightly undesign-y looking building near Tower Bridge on the Thames. In fact, it is housed in a former 1940’s banana warehouse, but this all to change with a slated 2014 move to the former Commonwealth Institute building in west London. The museum covers product, industrial, graphic, fashion and architectural design and was a brainchild of Terence Conran, who coincidentally has an exhibit dedicated to him on the entire first floor. The museum costs £10 for adults to enter, which feels a bit expensive in a city full of free museums, but is totally worth it if you are a design geek. Being slightly artsy with a background in product design, I felt like I fell well into this category. As for Justine, she had an upcoming date with a design and art book publisher, so naturally this would aid in the development of dinner conversation material.

Along the River Thames near the Design Museum

The current museum consists of only two floors, but to be honest this was perfect for my museum attention span. When I find myself at places like the Victoria and Albert or the British Museum, I try to see to too much and end up heady and overwhelmed. The Design Museum with a cup of coffee in the cafe and a peruse in the gift shop can easily be done in 2 hours.

As I mentioned before, the entire first floor was dedicated to Terence Conran. At the time, I had no idea who this bloke was, but turns out that’s because his contributions are so woven in to the London experience that I had been influenced by him without even knowing it. The  designer, restaurateur and retailer promoted a whole new style of interior design simplicity that reverberates today across the globe. Looking at his designs, I started wondering what things had looked like prior to this ubiquitous genre. “Like an old Granny’s house,” Justine had to remind me. In my head I tried to contrast clunky wooden furniture with heavily upholstered thick florals next to sleek clean lines and curves. Obviously I’ve spent too much time in London and not enough time at my Granny’s.

Clean Lines at the Design Museum

Teapots

In 1964 Conran opened the first Habitat and later went on to develop Heal’s. He was revolutionary in his displays as they were set up like actual living rooms, which not only taught people how designs could be arranged, but also allowed them to wander in and out of possibilities imagining them as part of their everyday life. I’m reminded of this scene from the movie 500 days of Summer.

And while we are here, shouldn’t we mention Ikea? Being founded in 1943, I can’t say that they’ve necessarily taken from Conran’s concepts, but clearly they must have influenced each other. Ikea, however, being more disposable and therefore a further step away from Granny’s living room.

Justine and I compared back and forth which Terence Conran restaurants we had been too. Most were a bit too expensive and highly appealing to the West London set. Nice area, but not quite what I consider innovative. But then again, there was a day when the King’s Road was full of Mary Quant innovation and Vivienne Westwood appeal. Funny how things evolve.

We next headed upstairs to view the 2012 Designs of the Year where my definition of design continued to expand and expand until I wasn’t quite sure what a designer is or does anymore. There was everything from a bicycle helmet that activates and extends only upon impact to a computer software program that mutates an image of your face into a creepy facsimile. Also included were an electric car, DIY design jelly shoes and elements from Kate Middleton’s wedding dress. In April, judges will chose seven winners from Architecture, Digital, Fashion, Furniture, Graphics, Product and Transport categories and one overall category winner.  I couldn’t even begin to guess who the winner would be. I left with my head spinning from so many ideas.

The Design Museum is located at 28 Shad Thames, London SE1 2YD and is open daily from 10am – 5.45pm. Last admission is at 5.15pm.

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Since my move to London, my wardrobe has had to go through a harsh adjustment. The winter months were tough as I was  always cold and absolutely clueless on winter fashion. The summer months are difficult for another reason. The ladies are out in their spring dresses and flowery clips while I am still in full trousers and a jacket. Yet again, I am always cold.

In Texas, I developed a summer uniform. 60 consecutive days of 40° C will drain the effort out of you about the same way that too many days of dreary 5°C weather will. All you want is a short hike and a lovely cold spring to jump into. Hence, you travel light. Black tank, bikini, Reef flip flops. Before you leave the house, you check your pocket for your wallet, phone and keys. Sunglasses rest on your head. You are out the door headed to Barton Springs.

Let’s compare that to London spring/summer fashion. All of a sudden I’m not travelling very light anymore.

Rachel, a fellow former Austinite, was visiting a few months ago and commented on London street fashion. “It looks great, but there’s no way I could even think of putting together some of those outfits. It’s like they just keep adding things and somehow it works.”

And indeed, I believe that’s how it’s done. That dress is beautiful, but it’s way too cold to be wearing it. Let’s add some tights and a jacket. Also- those shoes? Impractical for commuting. Let’s put a spare pair of flats in your humongous bag. What else is in the bag? Well, first of all the sunglasses you aren’t wearing. An umbrella, because you never know when it is going to rain. Then your oyster card, a book for your commute, plasters (bandaids) for when your shoes give you blisters, your gym clothes because there’s no way you are making it home and then back out again after your day, a snack, and of course, phone wallet and keys. This is a minimum.

It’s taken a while for me to get this down and to accept the fact that the window for summer wear is so short. I think I’m finally getting there. Now if I could only figure out how to lug this bag around without having to see an osteopath later.

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If you’ve been reading this blog, you know that I’ve been wanting to see Shoes since my first Sadler’s Wells experience, the Electric Hotel.

Judging from the reviews out there, people really hate this show. I hoped that Shoes might be more than a nod to Sex and the City, but I was well prepared for a fun mindless girly few hours if it was not.

The show was made of different sketches. Some were funny, some weren’t meant to be. Some promoted consumerism, but not all were label and shopping focused. The impracticality of high end blister inducing shoes and enormous wads of cash spent chasing them was given more than a fair nod. A great scene focusing on trainers highlighted the sporty practical side of shoes. Jesus, Imelda Marcos and your mother all make an appearance in the show, as does Kate Miller Heidke and her operatic voice. The choreography was mostly fantastic with a few skits that I wasn’t into.

Did I enjoy this performance as much as I enjoyed Electric Hotel? Maybe not. Electric Hotel was more intellectual. Did I have any regrets? Yes, sitting too close to the stage. I had to sit up extra tall to see the stars of the show – the shoes. Other than that, I thoroughly enjoyed it and left with a very large grin on my face.

A little bit too close to the stage.

As they say in the opening number ‘If you don’t like shoes, it’s going to be a very long evening.” Heed that advice or enjoy.

Shoes runs until April 3rd and plays at the Peacock Theatre in London.

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