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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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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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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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Why Saint Laurent dumped Colette

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Yesterday, Sarah Andelman – cofounder of legendary concept store Colette (213 rue St Honoré, Paris), announced that Saint Laurent Paris severed their EUR 400k-worth-per-year business for an anecdotic story of merchandising and hip ironic tees. Fortunately, we are not that dumb to gobble up the “these parody tee-shirts make fun of our brand and destroys its value”. Moreover when it’s obvious that the commercial relationship was better than fine and lucrative for everyone until the drama. So what’s really happening behind these smokescreen business talks? Why did Saint Laurent really trashed their output with Colette?

Saint Laurent creative & marketing teams seem to have gone reckless in their fight against resistance to their “beliefs”. Appointing Hedi Slimane looked like a good decision back when it was confidential and heavy suits clinked champagne glasses to celebrate their ingenious transfer. It sounded like the signing Zinedine Zidane at Real Madrid. But it also meant putting the brand in the hands of a cultural guru / rock star. Mind the words, you’ll get my point soon enough.

Kanye West

Kanye West

In the wake of recent controversy, no sane mind can really believe the fallout between Saint Laurent and Colette is only the result of some merchandising feud. The fact is Hedi Slimane is at war with Kanye West. And rock and roll culture is clinging to life as it can, confronted to the tide of contemporary hip-hop culture now flooding the floors and runways (Alexander Wang, Riccardo Tisci’s Givenchy, you feel me?)

The silent war has started a few months ago, but no serious fashion editor seems to have picked up on it yet. Most of our dear professionals have been doing what they’ve done for a long time: praising designers when necessary, ignoring them in other cases. Here we are looking at the big picture and a chain of events that should have triggered some experts’ curiosity:

1) Hip hop stars started wearing contemporary designer clothes – including slim pants, yes, these same skinny jeans brought back to the market by Hedi Slimane at Dior Homme.

2) Kanye West decided to try his way in Paris Fashion Week, challenging a very conservative milieu tolerant to culture only when it means “celebrities wearing our designs”.

3) Freshly appointed Hedi Slimane moves his studio to America, acknowledging a superior tide of trends coming from there, but keeps his nod exclusively to rock culture.

4) While Lady Gaga crossed minds with Nicolas Formichetti, Jay Z performed in a contemporary art gallery head-to-head with Marina Abramovic and a bunch of children of the rock and roll decades (Jarmusch, Apatow…)

5) As electronic music has had its way with rock music to finally blossom into a mainstream electro-pop industry (hello Calvin Harris, New Order, LCD Soundsystem), it’s now having a huge party of fun with hip-hop influences (hello trap music and dubstep fans)

6) Kanye finally clashes with Saint Laurent over a presence-at-show deal when SL allegedly asked mr West to attend exclusively to their event (thus demanding him to chose sides between them and Givenchy or Balenciaga whom he’s close to already). Which climaxes with a public slap on BBC to Hedi Slimane, basically claiming he’s now way behind. “Rap is the new rock and roll. We’re the culture.” // “Yeah, it’s been like that for a minute, Hedi Slimane!” // “We’re the real rock stars and I’m the biggest of all of them”.

Hedi Slimane

Hedi Slimane

So there we’re back to Colette. In Paris and New York, fashion followers still allow themselves to lean into rock culture but have overlooked the growing influence of street / hip-hop culture. Except Colette, who with always a step ahead has been a super stronghold of street culture x luxury for a while already. Regulars can testify they’ve seen Pharrell Williams and Kanye West hang around there consistently. The sneakers department of the parisian concept store has inspired a whole industry to move forward, and Nike has never been more powerful since the Jordan age.

Now who’s going to act surprised at the schoolboy retaliation played by Saint Laurent Paris and Hedi Slimane? You play with the wrong crowd, we can’t be friends anymore. That’s what it’s been all about.

People of the fashion industry, brace yourselves. War may have just started and these guys are going to take no prisoner.

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Why U.S. Hip Hop has become relevant (again)

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A few months ago, tracking down my mate Rudibell‘s music picks, I started picking up interest for U.S. Hip Hop after years apart – my last solid fond memories would go back to 2004′s N*E*R*D’s Fly or Die album. By that time, I used to listen repeatedly to the groove of Chad Hugo and Pharrell Williams on CD, in my young expat room in Vietnam. 8 years later, here I am in the very same Saïgon thinking about how Hip Hop has been a contributing force in contemporary creative industries.

As a cruising fashion contributor, I must say these past few months have been a blast for the Hip Hop scene. After years of reconfiguration with basement work from heavyweights Timbaland (who’s to thank for JT’s unchallengeable Futuresex/Lovesounds), Jay-Z and Kanye West, the industry has found a second breath, if not a second life.

Kanye West tried his way in the fashion industry alone then with cult brand A.P.C., from which the very posh Givenchy brand has recently invited young gun Dominic Lord onto the row, while Jay-Z shared the scene with Marina Abramovic and Pusha-T mentioned Philip Lim and Derek Lam in Trust You lyrics. Not to mention the thing with Alexander Wang (New Slaves).

The reason why Hip Hop has become so… Hip – is simple: this bunch of artists are the only ones in the world with such an interest in their Lifestyle, and have a unique way of talking about it, creating around it.

A$ap Rocky’s Fashion Killa:

Her attitude Rihanna, she get it from her mama
She jiggy like Madonna, but she trippy like Nirvana
Cause everything designer, her jeans is Helmut Lang
Shoes is Alexander Wang and her shirt the newest Donna
Karan,
 wearing all the Cartier frames

Jean Paul Gaultiers cause they match with her persona

A$ap Rocky (c) Mark Pillai for L’Express Styles

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Wearing caps: yay or nay?

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This is a controversial topic, especially in London: is it OK to wear baseball caps if you want to look stylish with your friends?

I’m going to be honest: for ages, I thought that the guys who could wear caps were part of very few crews.

- gangsta rappers: I still don’t get the point to keep the stickers saying it’s an original cap. I mean come on, you’re no longer sharing cards in kindergarten with your friends

- your dad when he takes care of the barbecue, most of the time in Texas or Nevada

- the no-style men, who wear caps…for no special reason

I was wrong. Caps are now one of the most interesting accessories for men, like ties and belts. It’s just that we don’t have any good education about it that we’re afraid of wearing them.

Let’s take one example: Patrice (the afro-German superstar) wears caps and hats regularly. It gives a structure to the overall outfit; it’s a fashion statement that tells a lot about one individual.

It’s not a come-back of the nineties, as many magazines wrote last year. It’s far more subtle, and the reasons why caps are now on the edge of fashion are very new:

- workspace has changed a lot; London or NYC are the new paradises for the tech or arty businesses. With this fundamental shift (remember that agencies are now buying spare desks in the City!), men can now wear whatever they want. The suit is still key for special events or in particular corporate cultures, but we now need more imagination. Flat caps are too related to certain laborers’ imagery, while hats can be considered as too sophisticated. Caps are a more discrete twist of personality that you can expose without being considered as “you know THIS fashion guy”

- you know have decent collections for caps: New York Yankees were for a while the only option if you wanted to get rid of Nike, Reebok logos. But now, a lot of indie brands have interesting caps, like Religion.

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- you can wear caps with a lot of outfits; a bit like a clock, your cap can be a daily companion

 

So guys: go for caps. They should be not too big nor small. They should have this strange balance between statement and discretion.

Let’s see if in the coming years, you’ll be allowed to wear them in formal clubs. After all, we got rid of too formal shoes, why not free our heads?

 

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Will pick-up trucks become the next big trendy cars?

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One might ask: is this really a fashionable question? We actually believe pick-up trucks will become the next trendy cars. Known to be reliable vehicles in the countrysides of America, the pick-up truck can easily transport: a freshly hunted deer, decapitated zombies, a bunch of mujahidins, a motorcycle or an ill piece of cattle…

Ford F150 – a legendary american pick-up truck.

Although it’s not common in Europe, the pick-up truck still has a few customers: people in the mountains or on the coasts, mostly. Cities are not a really pleasant territory for these massive vehicles.  700 000 pick-up trucks are sold every year in South America, whereas only 100 000  find takers in Europe, that’s a way for us to say emerging avant-garde lifestyles have now moved from Old Europe to the new promising lands of economical growth.

Why do we think the pick-up truck is becoming that cool?

1) Because cities are overwhelmed and saturated with traffic: western metropolae (NYC, Londres, Paris, Tokyo) et emerging cities (Bombay, Sao Paulo, Jakarta…) can’t breathe anymore and are trying delicately to get rid of intense traffic. Cars might well become privileged transportation outside of the cities. The pick-up truck is perfect for a more rural circuit. 

2) Because citizens think they are some kind of post-redneck deerhunter wannabes. Menswear is more and more exploring the traditional workwear and outerwear pieces. From classic american shirts by Gitman Vintage to old school french made clothing by Arpenteur or the numerous homages to Barbour and its community, brands now go frankly for reliable and essential pieces of clothing. So these bobos might soon become the best customers for trucks to park at their mountain safe house.

Waxed cotton coat by Etudes (via ledixieme.com)

3) Because the pick-up truck is one of the most reinsuring offer to consumers to fight back at their irrational insecurities. To survive the end of the world or a bad psycho trip, that’s the promise made by Toyota for their latest NZ Hilux. Now that cars are not needed permanently, it’s all about having a little fun, escapism, and a jump back to the core values of car industry: performance, reliability and a certain idea of freedom.

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“Beauty vs Specs”, Seth Godin

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Seth Godin, marketing living legend, wrote a very interesting thought this week:

There are two kinds of users/creators/customers/pundits.

Some can’t understand why a product or service doesn’t catch on. They can prove that it’s better. They can quote specs and performance and utility. It’s obvious.

The other might be willing to look at the specs, but he really doesn’t understand them enough to care. All he knows is that the other choice is beautiful–it makes him feel good. He wants to use it.

Acura vs. Lexus, Dell vs. Apple, New Jersey vs. Bali…

You can have both specs and beauty, of course, but only if you work at it.

It has never been that true when it comes to lifestyle products: most of the items we buy are highly complicated to understand. In male cosmectics, most of the time, I don’t even know what I’m buying, except when you ask a seller or a beautista (thank you bloggers!).

In the meantime, even when you’re not expert in cosmetics, you “know” when you buy something good. It’s a difficult mix between perception and rational facts.

I just wonder what will last more: I bet that Specs will win at the end. Aleppo Soaps will keep rocking in bathrooms for the next centuries; and beautiful paintings will be celebrated because the Specs are the Beautiful.

Very inspiring, Mr Godin

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G-Dragon: K Pop has its icon

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We are fascinated with the Kpop phenomenon that is starting to radiate on large Europeans communities. We asked Claire Solery, passionate follower of Korean culture, to tell us about current star G-Dragon. Claire is the author of Out of Korea, where she shares visual and artistic observations from Korea, especially if they have a link with France. Contemporary art, photos, cinema and Kpop are her main interests. She currently is in Seoul and you can follow her tumblr “One month in Seoul” and on Twitter (Out_Of_Korea).

The post is originally in French, but has already been translated in Vietnamese, Spanish and English: what a community!

Let’s go.

On June 28th during the men’s fashion week in Paris, a mini hunt happened on Twitter. Photos of G-Dragon (aka GD), leader of South Korean boys band Big Bang, attending fashion shows of Rick Owens, J. Juun and Yohji Yamamoto were posted on social networks. These attracted a handful of young girls and very young women, motivated to get a glimpse of his pink hair in Paris.

G-Dragon, whose real name Kwon Jiyong, 23, is not known to ‘people’ authorities and fashion experts but he has attracted the attention of a few online publications with his style. In Asia, he is one of the most famous male personalities, one of the headliners in Kpop or Korean Pop, the current worldwide purveyor of boy and girl bands that is slowly but surely penetrating the tweens market. An idol for teens who are in search of a stature in haute couture. Paris is a trophy for any respectable fashionista. Music will wait, make way for fashion.

G-Dragon is a fashionista and what comes closest to a diva in the Korean pop world. Kpop systematically establishes  “idols”, backed with a concept, hair color, looks, and fits them into predetermined boxes [stereotypes]. A narrow world, where the body no longer belongs to the owner.

G-Dragon was only 8 years old when he became a “trainee” at SM Entertainment, the largest idol agency in the kingdom of Kpop. He left at 13 to join YG Entertainment who are known for promoting their artists’ individualities a little more. He was made leader of a team of 5 boys “with strong personalities,” among which he is the most flamboyant and  logically became the group’s dynamo.

G-Dragon also rolls in style: partnerships between YG and creators, who have well understood the importance of positioning in an environment where idols are overexposed to the media and imitated by their fans, have granted him an opened closet to Givenchy, Balmain or Comme des Garçons. He’s a brand with his own trademark. He controls his aesthetics as much as possible and refines his connections in the West.

G-Dragon was also involved in some troubles that may seem trivial to us: marijuana, controversy over his compositions, picture of a flower made with a 50,000 won bill.

More interesting is his sexual ambiguity can trouble us, European people.

G-Dragon is not a drag, not a second Lady Gaga or a Daphne Guiness. Other idols can fall under this label, but he is the perfect embodiment of the triumphant androgyne. His cat’s eyes, his slender silhouette which naturally fits women’s clothes, and his brat voice effortlessly places him at the gender crossroads.

G-Dragon has been able to navigate in a world of restrictions to build himself an image of an icon. An idol is a work on which everything can be projected, and that sends you its light back; the perfect recipe to overheat the sexuality of young debutants. On the eve of the release of his next album on August 25, G-Dragon truly is the Kpop icon for he is full of assets: man,woman, blond, brown,pink, individual, group member. He is at the image of Kpop, very aggressive in his visual impact, all the more forthright, protean and experimental, like Kpop itself, in a sort of glorious and eccentric adolescence.

Credit: Ouley_Soleil @ Twitter for the translation!