Desmond Tan is wearing a very floral hoodie. And he'd like you to know that he's man enough to rock it.
“Lots of guys think florals are too feminine, but my advice is to go bold. If you’re wearing a floral print top, pair it with plain trousers and shoes so the floral print really pops, while the rest of your look is understated and masculine," he told CNA Lifestyle.
"I wouldn’t recommend pairing florals with another print such as stripes. But if you want to go all out, pair florals with other florals!”
The Mediacorp leading man, who turned heads in his poppy print velour hoodie, and other Singapore celebrities got together at Marina Bay Sands last Friday night (Jan 25), as the glass-encased Louis Vuitton Island Maison was transformed into a twinkling rainbow prism.
The occasion? To celebrate the launch of Virgil Abloh’s debut collection as Men’s Artistic Director for the famed French luxury fashion house.
FOLLOW THE YELLOW BRICK ROAD
Guests who showed up for the party found the Island Maison decked out as a fairy-tale environment that brought the world of Oz to life.
They followed a winding, yellow brick road that meandered past displays of the latest apparel and accessories, video screens showing visuals from The Wizard Of Oz, and footage from the collection’s runway show that took place at the Palais Royal in Paris, pausing to take selfies against neon and LED backdrops featuring LV’s famed monograms.
Then, they ascended a flight of rainbow-hued stairs to the party zone, where a DJ and handsome waiters bearing trays of canapes, champagne and rainbow-hued shots cranked up the mood.
“I like the collection for its mix of luxury, street and comfort – and the bags are crazy, too,” said Tan. “My favourite one is the iridescent rainbow hologram monogram Keepall bag. I like how it combines shine, colour and transparency with classic LV elements such as the monogram and the bag design.”
Other items in the collection include parkas, sneakers, the Millionaire sunglasses, shirts and sweaters featuring the four main Wizard Of Oz characters or poppy prints, cargo pants and day suits in 50 shades of “greige” – that’s grey plus beige, for the uninitiated – making a reference to Abloh’s own label, Off-white.
PHILOSOPHY OF A NEW GENERATION
News of Abloh’s appointment, which took place in March 2018, attracted its fair share of controversy.
Abloh is the first African-American to design a collection for Louis Vuitton. He grew up in the American Midwest, which isn't exactly known for its high fashion. As a teen enamoured with Air Jordans, he used to mail unsolicited shoe designs to Nike. But he received no formal training in fashion — instead, he obtained a degree in a civil engineering and a Masters in architecture. Along the way, he somehow became a DJ, then Kanye West’s right-hand man. In 2013, he set up high-end streetwear label Off-white.
This resulted in hordes of fashion-conscious youths queuing overnight for the privilege of dropping hundreds or thousands on clothing that looked just like normcore athletic gear – well, to older folk, anyway.
In 2017, Abloh was finally invited by Nike to re-imagine 10 of its most iconic sneaker designs.
And now, here he is, introducing his street sensibilities to the world, via what is considered to be one of the world’s most venerable luxury marques.
It’s an irony that did not go unnoticed by Abloh himself, who created a lexicon called “The Vocabulary According to Virgil Abloh” to accompany his debut with Louis Vuitton. In it, “Irony” stands for “the philosophy of a new generation. The presence of Virgil Abloh at Louis Vuitton”.
Other concepts? "3%: the exact ratio needed to twist a normative object into something special”; “Accessomorphosis: a portmanteau describing the transformation of an accessory into a garment, effectively evolving its functional form”; and the motto “Good style is always off-putting”.
Inspired by 1939 movie The Wizard Of Oz, about a Midwestern ingenue who is transported to a fantasy land by a tornado, the collection is as much an allegory of Abloh’s rise to fame and a metaphor for change, as much as it is about celebrating diversity and maintaining an optimistic outlook on life.
Motifs that appear in The Wizard Of Oz, such as Dorothy, the Scarecrow, the Tin Man, the Lion, the yellow brick road, poppies and rainbows, are silk-screened onto shirts, knitted into oversized sweaters, handflocked onto hoodies and translated as iridescent monogrammed bags.
And, of course, Abloh’s penchant for sneakers remains strong as ever, with a collection of footwear inspired by old-school high-top basketball sneakers and running shoes.
STARS DESCEND ON 'OZ'
Singer and Singapore Idol alum Tabitha Nauser was every inch the rock star in a white Taurillon Monogram leather utility vest, a cropped white tee and white leather cargo pants, worn over chunky, black heeled boots.
“My favourite piece is the vest I have on. It’s street, yet luxe, and incorporates certain pieces of LV’s small leather goods. The story behind it is that when Virgil Abloh was much younger, he would save up to buy himself LV’s small leather goods such as card holders and coin pouches," she told CNA Lifestyle at the party. "It’s super practical too – I’ve got gum, my wallet, my phone and my earphones, all in here.”
Her advice for women wanting to rock menswear? “I’ve always been a bit of a tomboy and I’ve always been into hip hop street style, incorporating oversized menswear pieces for a tough girl look. You can pull up your T-shirt to create a short midriff-baring top and add heeled boots.”
Local style star Mae Tan was Lolita-dangerous in a Yellow Brick Road sweater over a Wizard Of Oz photoprint shirt, completing her bottom-less outfit with thigh-high, black leather sneaker boots.
“I’ve always been fond of wearing oversized menswear pieces," she said. "I like the sense of whimsy and optimism conveyed by the Wizard Of Oz."
The Sam Willows’ lead guitarist and vocalist Jon Chua went for an all-white ensemble comprising a mesh LV monogram tee over a shirt, paired with cargo pants and sneakers, accented by a black monogram leather clutch with orange chain detail.
“I’ve been a fan of Off-white for some time, and for Virgil Abloh to come aboard a brand like Louis Vuitton changes the equation for younger people like me who’re in their late 20s," he said.
Still, our eyes came back to Tan in his red poppy hoodie. “The 3D effect, which was created using a special weaving technique called fil coupe and shaved down bit by bit by hand, is amazing," he said. "It makes the flowers look like they’re alive and breathing.”