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San Art Gallery – Saigon Contemporary Art

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Sàn in vietnamese means ground. Sàn Art Gallery is a unique space in Ho Chi Minh City that has provided a platform for art and creation for 6 years. Yesterday was the opening for a group exhibition called Mind, Flesh, Matter.

We have been impressed by the rich atmosphere offered by the space – formerly a reading space / library, but also with the diversity of works and the precision of curation by director of gallery Zoe Butt.

Mind, Flesh, Matter is the work of 3 vietnamese artists: Lai Dieu Ha, Le Phi Long and Nguyen Van Du and was part of a process called Sàn Art Laboratory. The residency program allowed the artists to exchange and find talking partners to further their research, resulting in quite an achieving set up.

Materials and ideas seemed to collide in a very subtle way. Installations were meant to provide depth to paintings and drawings, echoing how Mind, Flesh and Matter coincide. In a reserved way, we could think performance art would have in some way contributed to deepen the experience.

In our very specific way, we have ended up stumbling into hints of pop culture here and there, most probably unintentional or better totally unrelated.

Organic side cuts reminded us of recent imagery from Hannibal (TV version with Mads Mikkelsen), when the man in the wood somehow reproduced the post-apocalyptic post-human postulate of Danny Boyle heroes Di Caprio in The Beach or Cillian Murphy in 28 Days Later. There was also this distant memory of Six Feet Under’s legendary tree…

Art and design are making their way into the hectic life of the fast-growing metropolis. We Boulevardiers could not love it more.

 

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2 days in Ho Chi Minh City

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Vietnam is scoring higher and higher points in coolness these days while things heat up at its borders. While China and Vietnam go head to head on territorial claims in the South China Sea, the country took the scene in 2 world-leading media to show its fascinating new lifestyles.

First on May 7 – Louis Vuitton released its refined Travel Book – Vietnam, subtly edited and drawn by Lorenzo Mattotti. The introduction video makes the exploit of showing all the famous traits of Vietnam without an ounce of cliché-ness. Residing in the country for a little less than a year now, I can certainly appreciate even more that a fresh eye such as Mr Mattotti’s has brushed up the overloaded motorbikes, the tacky alleys, the incredible sights of Ha Long Bay in a poetic way. As he says, all these symbols can be looked at in a quite abstract way. Shapes are key to his vision.

See the video:

 

 

Then on May 8 – the New York Times took its famous 36 Hours In… series to Ho Chi Minh City. The well-documented article does walk through the hottest places of modern Saigon. I’d certainly +1 on designer Linda Mai Phung’s works (see our french column last summer in L’Express Styles), vouch for the artistic new wave led by Gallery Quynh, San Art and L’Observatory, and yum in on Cuc Gach Quan’s foodie delight.

But I could not help bring up the happy few spots and people overlooked by the article. So here’s an additional 48h you can add to your stay in Ho Chi Minh City with its extra recommendable experiences. Welcome to the exciting contemporary Saigon: authentic and futuristic, mostly at the same time.

The Street Treat – Unconspicuous Pho joints where you get to taste the unavoidable national dish include Pho Thai Son on Le Lai street, a short park-walk away from the backpacker area. Next comes Tan Dinh Market, a place to find an immense choice of weird to cool fabrics – the street food court there is highly cool too. By night time, join in a street quan nhau (literally binge eat-drinking joint) on Ham Nghi street to enjoy watered-down beers and grilled seafood.

The Liquor Tour – Saigon offers a still confidential taste of quality drinks. The best Negroni can be found at the Purple Jade, while great wines are curated by a team of passionates at Wine Embassy. Last but not least, drinks are usually more enjoyable with a cool musical scene. Venues such as Cargo Bar (Q4) – a huge warehouse turned into concert spot hosting international gigs of rock and electronic music (Onra, Poni Hoax among others in 2013) – or the hip and kinky Broma, and the experimental street-culture spot called Saigon Outcast (where contributors organized a Flaming Lips experience gig last winter) are all worth the visit.

The Shopping Spree – As we all love to explore local options, the fascinating thing about Saigon is how it opened to the most avantgarde cultural scenes lately and allowed subsequent shopping options. The most curious of them all would be Runway Concept Store, located in an otherwise uncharming Vincom mall. International contemporary designers like Helmut Lang, Phillip Lim, Alexander Wang or Acne Studios have found their place there for a cultured generation of vietnamese and expats, among luxury brands including Saint Laurent Paris, Givenchy or Maison Martin Margiela. VIPs looking for a more glamorous outfit could also turn to a more fancy cocktail dress at Luala, another local concept store offering Victoria Beckham, Azzedine Alaia and Elie Saab.

 

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When did Miley become more real than a Fashion Blogger?

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For the sake of our ecosystem we had to cry this out. Our darlings and colleagues from the fashion blogosphere have gone too far. We’re not talking about these buffoons roaming the sidewalks during Fashion Week, but really about those delicate creatures that made boys and girls just like us dream of an eternally and integrally beautiful street, populated with muses and characters.

But then Kristina Bazan just released her new version of KAYTURE. As the pinnacle of her later trajectory, it showcases the most surreal shots of a young talented blogger ever. We’re feeling the brands and all these “amazing projects” they’ve submitted to her have alienated the idea of what we used to love about K: a sophisticated spontaneity. She embodied how cool yet charming and level-headed one person could be when it came to fashion perception.

Kayture Collaboration with Louis Vuitton

Now she looks more plastic than any over-the-top luxury campaign. Fake glows and shopped auras have covered the homepage. Thank you Louis V.

And then we watched Miley Cyrus’ music videos again. And somehow it felt more real. Proof that posterizing an icon is a delicate art that even the greatest brands on Earth still have to master.

 

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Vietnamese celebrities embracing international brands

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For the past 6 months I’ve spent in Vietnam, I’ve been quite surprised at the level of integration of international brands in people’s minds. Research used to state that Vietnamese people were very brand sensitive – thank you Burberry and Gucci fakes. But as far as red carpets are concerned, only local designers are still proving to make an impact. Check these shots taken by Saigoneer at Am Muu Giay Got Nhon “How To Fight in Six Inches Heels” Premiere (latest local production that could be Vietnam’s Devil Wears Prada).

Their names are Anna Vo, Cong Tri, Do Manh Cuong, Phuong My… and they are showbiz favorites.

But change is coming. A few models and celebrities have been spotted sporting contemporary international designer brands, from Chloé to Balenciaga and Dior. Spearheading this trend are model Mai Phuong Thuy – seen at Chloé and Dior events, and celebrity Ly Nha Ky, seen at Paris Fashion Week and featured in street style shots by Vogue, making the pride of local media.

Supporting this broadened attention for international brands, concept stores Runway are keeping up with the sharpest selections worldwide, bringing in hot and confidential The Row, Proenza Schouler, 3.1 Phillip Lim, Acne as well as french darlings Tara Jarmon or Vanessa Bruno in the past months.

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Elle Fashion Show SS14 (Vietnam)

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Elle Magazine is an institution everywhere it has settled in the world. Thanks to that status, the publication is now setting new standards of creativity in a new and unexplored market: Vietnam. Following the recent launch of a new web platform, the first media with a decent design (check these major news hubs for a bloodtearing benchmark) has raised the bar of its pionneering Fashion Shows.

Designers with inspirations connecting them to an exciting worldwide new turn in fashion (including hints to Givenchy, Balenciaga, Alexander Wang and Mary Katrantzou) showcased their work under a reversed garden, through sets of electro-pop and even more modern: trap music.

While some professionals are only starting to complain about indistinct trends on the street and lack of general fashion culture, this event showed that things were happening in Vietnam, and as we’re currently observing from the middle of there, we can tell you this: they’re happening fast.

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South East Asian Luxury Conference INYT Report

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A week ago, we were in Singapore for the International New York Times SEA of Luxury Conference (#INYTLux). Gathered in a refined venue on Sentosa were top actors of the industry as well as a crowd of entrepreneurs with young luxury brands, investors looking for a coup, and of course the usual spin doctors accompanying their speaker (such as your author here) as well as the troop of perfect Italian men.

Highlights of the conference were a subtle speech peppered with french-esque punetry by Grégoire Blanche (Cartier SEA+Australia Director), a humbling story about Luxury Fashion marketing by Jedi Master Domenico De Sole (Tom Ford and former Gucci Marketing Director), an inspiring manifesto about Vogue China by its editor in chief Angelica Cheung, a top-notch market study by Andrew Keith from iconic Lane Crawford / Joyce stores, and some expert insight from digital gurus Federico Marchetti (Yoox Group founder and CEO) and Thomas Crampton (Ogilvy Social Media Director in SEA)…

VQ’s CEO and founder of Runway concept-stores in Vietnam also took the stage along with regional colleagues including Chandra Widjaja from Club 21 or Eman Pineda from Adora (Philippines). Talks about retailing strategies for multi-brand concept stores were led by journalist and consultant Robb Young who definitely hit our right buttons about cities, their spirits and their future developments.

With such a high level among speakers, we could not help but note and note and note down key trends. The whole conference was about South East Asia but here and there gloomed the shadow of China and its unavoidable media weight. A few speakers managed to avoid the elephant in the room altogether, but the shift of focus is only slowly coming to the rest of Asia. The region really offers very various market situations: Singapore is a crazy market for watches and jewelry while Hong Kong is the trendy and fashionable destination. Thailand, Indonesia and the Philippines form a second tier while Vietnam seems ready to join the club although off-the-record discussions said it was the most difficult market to read. As a new pionneer to the market, we can’t do but agree.

While a few years ago the very euro-centered Luxury Industry would focus on patrimonial assets, it appears that conquering the Far-East has now pushed every company towards more efforts in catalyzing creativity and supporting cross-channel actions.

The cycle ended with a touching milestone moment celebrating our host Suzy Menkes’ 25 years in activity.

Catch up with the best quotes by following us @fashionistoblog as well as @INYTLuxury for the whole show.

Bonus: VQ posing with Phillip Lim / VQ posing with Bryanboy

Our selection of pics from INYT Luxury’s photo stream on Flickr.

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“The world can be saved through design” – Kanye West

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We’re amazed at how the auto-proclaimed “biggest rockstar of all” Kanye West has managed to make a move on the whole media-sensitive creative sphere. As reluctant as the so-called underground scene might feel, Ye is smartly sharing his point to the world. After crying out loud on general media, M. West also took the discreet and subtle time to talk to the ones he says he defends: the creative minds.

Here he is, having a sweet talk to the ears of Harvard Graduate School of Design, waivering some subtle humor: “I’m not a politician, I am – at my best – politically incorrect”, and keeping his cool. No Rant For Once!

Creative genius? Who are we to judge. But Marketing genius? Definitely.

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Miley Cyrus is a Springbreaker

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As late adopters, we took Miley Cyrus seasonal story backwards from all the fuss since the VMA 2013 performance, and just went on to watch her “We Can’t Stop” music video. The least we can say is that our perception flipped all over.

The buzz explosion literally buried the whole story behind this new personae of hers. “We Can’t Stop” proves that commentators and other outraged trolls have no idea what this is all about. Miley Cyrus goes on a so-called scandalous trip that has nothing more shocking than Harmony Korine’s Springbreakers. By the way, the whole imaginarium behind “We Can’t Stop” seems sensibly inspired by last year’s most wicked youth manifesto.

Curiously enough, when a legit indie filmmaker drops a bunch of Disney girls into a bath of blood and acid, critics and people alike put a fist under their chin with an interested frown. But when a popstar goes down the stream, she gets slut-bashed. We’re now convinced Miley has all the rights to twerk her way through freedom, whatever Lily Allen may think of it.

Our video of interest, with all its soulful blunt youth aspirations:

 

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Les Parisiennes

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As we’ve left Paris for quite some time now for cosmopolitan horizons in London and Ho Chi Minh City, we forgot what a Parisienne was like. And we’re sorry but our beloved Paris Fashion Week crowd is not Parisienne at all. While Isabel Marant is blowing her concept worldwide with H&M, we’re feeling refreshed with this music video from S-Crew called Les Parisiennes.

 

 

Far from a naive fragrance commercial cliché, this video packs real charm. Parisiennes are not Kate Moss or Carine Roitfeld knock-offs. They’re cosmopolitan. Blonde, brunette, Asian, Mediterranean. They are natural and even the naturalist take of the video does not fall on the hipster side of raw posing that all indie pop bands are nowadays showing.

Our dear Parisiennes are described as admirable for their adventurous lifestyle, their cocktail pick, but also take a dent because they’d be inaccessible. Like many New-Yorkers and Londoners, she’s become cynical. But S-Crew knows where the fault is: from us guys first-time heartbreakers. “The first boy did not love them” / “They see passion just as a game”.

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