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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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COS x Frieze Art Fair : the come back of Al’s Grand Hotel

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COS is supporting a very interesting project which will happen at Frieze Art fair: the tribute to Allen Ruppersberg’s Al’s Grand Hotel.

The legendary temporary hotel was realized 1971 in LA. Open for six weeks, the hotel gathered artists, hosted performances and parties. Guests could also spend the night.

As En-Chia Tsai explains:

He has turned a two-storey house at Sunset Boulevard, Los Angeles into a hotel, as an artistic experiment. Although it was not a commercial undertaking, Ruppersberg treated the seven guest rooms seriously. He named the rooms individually- the Jesus Room, the Al Room, The Bridal Suite, the Breakfast Room, and Day Room, the Ultra Violet Room and the B Room; each one themed and built with vernacular materials. What’s more, Ruppersberg has made it possible for visitors to stay for a night with $30 forthe Suite, and $15 for other rooms.

COS also commissioned a film by director Simon Elephant; the analogy of the phoenix is very well executed as you’ll see. A subtle bridge between fashion and contemporary arts.

A good move from COS as the brand is attacking the US market starting from June…

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& Other Stories capsule collection PE/14 with Richard Braqo

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At the very beginning of & Other Stories, I was septic: again a copycat of a mass retailer trying to sell fake arty fashion pieces.

The thing that I was very wrong. & Other Stories multiplies interesting collaborations with rising designers, highlighting fashion with meaning.

Richard Braqo, born in Ghana, is famous for his daring shoes. He explores strange forces by “collating ideas in unexpected ways“. The collaboration with & Other Stories is loaded with this tension. Whims challenge abstraction, sexyness dares rebellion.

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O’Neill reminds us that today is perfect

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We like beaches, surfing and rock’n roll. And when it comes to style x surf, we become very hungry…
O’Neill has decided to start an original road-trip starting in the UK:

Sit back, relax and fasten those seat belts, the O’Neill Today is Perfect Road Trip is about to commence. No longer a rumour and far more a reality, the Californian lifestyle brand has finally revealed its unique tour bus that’s geared up and ready to take to the streets early next week. Making those surfing dreams a reality, the original wetsuit brand has packed its map and pencilled in one hell of a road trip.

Decked out from boot to bonnet, the new look surf wagon has been ‘madeover’ using recycled and upcycled materials giving it a cool new look with an old school vibe. Boasting reclaimed wood flooring, hand crafted tables, eco showers and wetsuit inspired seats, the O’Neill Tour Bus is every wave lover’s dream.

Starting its busy British schedule in mid-May the bus will make its first scheduled stop in the sunny, surf town of Newquay. Meandering its way along Britain’s picturesque southwest coast & hitting up a selection of the best surf spots, the diary is stacked with pro coaching sessions, product testing, onboard DJ’s and plenty of time in the water.  Set to cause a stir at some legendary UK festivals this summer, the bus will also be pulling up the handbrake at O’Neill Electric Beach Festival, Leopallooza and Boardmasters. Set to cause a stir at some legendary UK festivals this summer, the bus will also be pulling up the handbrake at O’Neill Electric Beach Festival, Leopallooza and Boardmasters.

Like every great surf trip, where there’s decent swell you have to put the brakes on, so rest assured the O’Neill Tour Bus will be stopping wherever the waves are good. Of course a trip like this wouldn’t be complete without boards and action cams so O’Neill have kindly invited Firewire Surfboards and iON Camera’s along for the ride!”

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Shortlist for BFC / GQ designer menswear fund 2014: Lou Dalton and Christopher Shannon on the rocks

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The British Fashion Council today announces the shortlist for the BFC/GQ Designer Menswear Fund supported by Vertu.

Christopher Raeburn, Christopher Shannon, E. Tautz, Lou Dalton and Richard Nicoll are the happy few.

We’re really happy that Lou Dalton gets into this brilliant shortlist. Using roots, playing with history, we lover her inspiring way of doing menswear. Suits with stories, denims with culture: fashion a it should be.

Richard Nicoll (who’s also the new Jack Wills creative director) is not a newcomer: spotted several times before, multi-awarded, the designer keeps his skyrocketing pace in fashion, reinventing modernity, playing with hybrid influences, from street to preppy.

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“The shortlisted designers are testament to the extraordinary array of talent in the menswear industry in Britain right now. The current generation of British menswear designers might be the best ever, as they not only have creativity in abundance, but also a keen business sense. Our young designers know that without a solid business background, success can be tough, which is why it is so heartening to see such strong business plans from these shortlisted designers. I wish them all well.” Dylan Jones, Editor of British GQ and Chair of London Collections: Men

 

The Fund will provide one designer with a bespoke, high level mentoring support programme over a twelve month period, as well as a £150,000 grant to provide necessary infrastructure to take them to the next stage in their business and £50,000 value in kind services. The Fund is aimed at businesses that have been trading for a minimum of three years, with UK and international stockists and have graduated through the existing BFC talent support schemes or are at a similar stage in their business. The winner of the fund will be announced a week before London Collections: Men 15th – 17th June www.londoncollections.co.uk/men.

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The limits of Vogue and why Lily Allen question was right

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So yeah, fashion circus had another reason to get a grip this week. Alexandra Shulman was interviewed on BBC Radio 2, by guest presenter and singer Lily Allen.

And of course came the question about the size – of models that Vogue (and fashion magazines in general) cast on covers.

I was shocked by Alexandra Shulman’s answers; not because of the sort of business cynical attitude but because of the lack of understanding of her own business.

“People always say ‘why do you have thin models? That’s not what real people look like’ But nobody really wants to see a real person looking like a real person on the cover of Vogue (…) I think Vogue is a magazine that’s about fantasy to some extent and dreams, and an escape from real life. People don’t want to buy a magazine like Vogue to see what they see when they look in the mirror. They can do that for free.”

It’s a traditional answer from magazines that don’t want to change. But the argument is very strange: “thin” models would then generate more fantasy than other sorts of bodies? How about the dozens of actresses that are picked on Vogue’s covers? Are they all members of the thin-club. It’s also strange for a Vogue ambassador to put the responsibility on the readers: if Vogue was really THE trendsetter, THE institution, it should be able to generate change, impose new faces…and not lag…Maybe Vogue could have a look again to All Walks beyond the Catwalk that a lot of its own “Bible” editors supported?

It’s seriously misunderstanding the new usages of Vogue’s readership (average age: 33…). Let’s talk about Instagram. Instagram is all about reality and the fantasy of this reality: filters are new creative enablers. Starring people in their whole diversities, just made of more with these effects. Rising stars with very diverse bodies and styles generate more engagement than the full circulation of Vogue per month. Just to say.

I am a bit disappointed because Vogues does not surprize me anymore. Sparks of creativity are now very rare; we still find them when external contributors or new editors are scouted and are allowed to write few lines.

 

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Life is a beautiful sport with Lacoste #livebeautifully

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You know how much we love the new Lacoste. The iconic French brand is slightly becoming a cultural movement, diving into subcultures and niche inspirations. You can have a look at our last collaboration with them, featuring the famous Lacoste polo. We've been asked to promote their last video called "Life is a beautiful sport", but we've sincerely been moved by the simplicity of the story. Enjoy now:




 

Directed by Seb Edwards and produced by Wanda (I used to work with them ages ago!) and BETC France. the film is much more than a tagline, it’s a new promise from Lacoste that establishes its founding values. Lacoste’s founder, Rene Lacoste considered sport as a proof of tenacity, engagement and panache. The video shows an epic story of a first kiss and of a man overcoming his fears to show a woman he loves her… Discover yourself here.

What's even better is that instead of focusing on nostalgia, Lacoste makes a celebration of the NOW. That's good because  Lacoste can then become our preferred baggage instead of focusing on its past. Exciting

The film displays a wonderful tribute to everyday unexpected encounters: the mights and magics of people falling in love, the transformation of a street which suddenly becomes a theatre for extraordinary  random people.

In that case, “Life is a beautiful sport”

 

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Adidas Skateboarding Copa Jersey: cultural preparation for World Cup in Brazil

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That’s another genius move by Adidas; few months before World Cup (yes, THE World Cup), the brand decided to engage skateboarders all over the planet. The guys wear a Skate Copa jersey which matches local deck brands. And it rocks.

Benny Fairfax with Palace for England, Lucas Puig with Cliché for France, Mark Gonzales with Krooked for the USA, Raul Navarro with Western Edition for Spain, Rodrigo TX with DGK for Brazil and Lem Villemin with Cliché for Germany.

It’s pretty smart for Adidas as “soccer” (yes, in the US, you guys call it SOCCER, come on :p ) is not yet #1 sport in the US whereas skateboard is a massive business. It’s also very original as it creates strong ties between universes that use to not communicate. Things have changed with street football performers but still…

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Brooklyn We Go Hard (BWGH) Hermosa Spring/Summer 14 collection

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We’ve been following BWGH for few months now; launched in 2010, the brand provides a very dense cultural universe, thanks to its young photographers crew, the multiplication of great collaborations and the publication of bi-yearly magazines. With Hermosa, the Parisian duet David Obadia and Nelson Hassan dive into a positive nostalgia, taking back the codes of surfers and riders of the 70s. As explained, the “surfographers” were born on a beach called HermosaThe fabrics come from Japan, Scotland and Italy. Wearing BWGH is already a journey.

 

 

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SIMONGAO: “It’s all about confidence, all about the language you want to tell to people”

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Chinese designer Simon Gao was definitely one of the biggest sensations this year at London Fashion Week AW14. The show was packed and it was trending in social networks. SIMONGAO won the Mercedes-Benz China Young Fashion Award, 2013, which is one of the reasons why we had a chance to attend his show in London.

His collection shows a very “zen” attitude: colors are mostly playing with shades of greys, whites and blacks, with blue or brown fantasies. SIMONGAO played in a very subtle way with materials: draping and folding embrace dresses; belts and accessories might refer to a modern Geisha; this oriental inheritance matches with contemporary “street” influences we can see in London or NYC: models were walking with New Balance sneakers.

“I’ve done some research for different civilizations. I mixed them together to make Urban Chic.”

It was basically the best of Opening Ceremony machine without a too aggressive fuss: Beyoncé was not in the air (vs all the other shows I’ve attended) and Simon Gao was suggesting a more balanced vision of “women”.

“I want SIMONGAO girls to do sports, to experience different lives, to meet different cultures, to eat different foods, and run an optimistic attitude for life. It’s all about confidence, all about the language you want to tell to people.”

We had a chance to catch up backstage with the rising talent; discover more about Simon Gao now:

 

Film by Flavie Trichet Lespagnol
Photos by Lilzeon

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