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The year in fashion: Lows and highs

Trends and events that made the news this year

1. DESIGNERS SPLIT WITH BIG LABELS


Raf Simons quit as creative director of Christian Dior. PHOTO: AFP

The fashion industry took some big hits this year, with five high-profile designers parting ways with major labels.

It started in January with Italian fashion designer Frida Giannini, 43, leaving Italian label Gucci after 12 years at the company, nine of which were spent as its creative director.

She left the brand with her partner, Gucci CEO Patrizio di Marco, amid declining sales and lukewarm reviews of the brand's recent collections.

The label's head accessories designer Alessandro Michele took over Giannini and has since been credited with bringing Gucci back into the spotlight.

In June, Donna Karan, 66, founder and chief designer of Donna Karan International, announced that she would be stepping down at her eponymous company.

While still an adviser to the company she helmed for more than 30 years, she now spends most of her time focused on her Urban Zen brand, which has a ready-to-wear line as well as artisanal goods such as jewellery and tableware.

In July, French luxury goods conglomerate Kering announced that designer Alexander Wang and Balenciaga had made a joint decision not to renew their contract.

Wang, who joined the brand in December 2012, worked as its creative director while still heading his own eponymous brand. The spring 2016 Balenciaga show in Paris on Oct 2 was his last.

The biggest shock, however, came in October, when both Raf Simons and Alber Elbaz left Christian Dior and Lanvin, respectively, within a week of each other.

Simons quit as creative director at Dior on Oct 23, after more than three highly lauded years with the label.

"It's a decision founded on one hand by my desire to concentrate on other centres of interest in my life, notably my own label, as well as the passions that motivate me beyond my professional activities," the Belgian designer said in a statement.

Elbaz's departure from Lanvin was less amicable. A spokesman for the French label announced on Oct 28 that "Lanvin and Alber Elbaz have ended their collaboration after 14 years". The 54-year-old Moroccan-born Israeli released his own statement later that day, saying he was dismissed from his position.

According to reports, his dismissal was due to growing tensions and disagreements between Elbaz and Mrs Shaw-Lan Wang, 73, the Chinese businesswoman who bought Lanvin from L'Oreal in 2001.

The designer wrote in a letter to the press that his leaving was "the decision of the company's majority shareholder", referring to Mrs Wang.


2. HOME-GROWN LABELS FOLD


Designer Jo Soh (above) of Hansel discontinued her label to focus on her role as head of fashion for Laura Ashley Asia. PHOTO: ST FILE

The local fashion scene saw two well-known home-grown labels fold this year, both under different circumstances.

Fashion chain M)phosis, once considered one of Singapore's top local labels, closed down because of "severe cashflow problems", according to director Hensley Teh, 53.

The label, founded in 1994, shut its last outlet in Singapore, at VivoCity, on Aug 25.

The closure stunned many in the industry - at the height of its success in the early 2000s, M)phosis was Singapore's most widely exported fashion label, with distribution in nine Asia-Pacific countries.

In an interview with The Straits Times in November, Mr David Wang, 52, chairman of the Textile and Fashion Federation, said: "I was shocked. M)phosis is a beloved local institution. It is like someone telling me BreadTalk or Raffles Hotel is closing."

In November, Singaporean designer Jo Soh revealed that she would be discontinuing her 12-year-old label, Hansel, to focus on her role as head of fashion for Laura Ashley Asia. The 39-year-old had built a loyal following with her quirky and whimsical prints, but she felt it was time to move on.

As she told The Straits Times in a previous interview: "Laura Ashley has more resources and the brand has such a long history. Professionally, for me, it is a leap upwards and a great opportunity."


3. NEAR-NAKED DRESSES


Beyonce (left) and Jennifer Lopez (right) left little to the imagination. PHOTOS: AFP

Celebrities heated up red carpets this year in dresses that left little to the imagination with their sheer panels and revealing cut-outs.

American singer Beyonce attended the annual Met Gala in May in a custom-made see-through gown by Givenchy's Riccardo Tisci of Givenchy. Crystals were strategically placed to cover her vital bits, but it was still so revealing that a swimsuit would have offered more coverage.

At the same event, reality star Kim Kardashian and little sister, model Kendall Jenner, also went dangerously underdressed in their gowns by Cavalli and Calvin Klein.

At the Vanity Fair Oscars After Party in February, models Gigi Hadid and Irina Shayk flashed other guests in their revealing get-ups. Hadid was in a swirly black papercut of a dress from the Atelier Versace Spring 2015 collection, while Shayk flaunted that she was not wearing underwear - the entire left side of her dress was see-through.

Singer Jennifer Lopez, hosting the American Music Awards last month, also showed off her enviable 46-year-old body in a custom-made sheer gown by Lebanese-designer Charbel Zoe. The sequinned bodice and sheer train revealed much of her curves.

We say this is one trend that verges more on crass than class.


4. PEDDER GROUP TAKES BOLD STEP


Pedder On Scotts takes up the entire second floor of Scotts Square and stocks shoes, bags and accessories for men, women and children. PHOTO: ST FILE

In the face of lacklustre sales by luxury fashion retailers in the Orchard Road area - due to falling tourist numbers, the strong Singapore dollar and the popularity of online shopping - multi-brand footwear and accessories retailer Pedder Group made a bold move in October by opening a 20,000 sq ft store at Scotts Square.

Pedder On Scotts, which takes up the entire second floor at the mall, stocks more than a hundred designer and mid-priced brands of shoes, bags and accessories for women, men and children. Around 40 per cent of the offerings are exclusive to the store, including American high-street label Sam Edelman, British milliners Lock & Co Hatters, as well as British shoemakers George Cleverley and Foster & Son. At least 10 labels are new to the market.

In a previous interview with The Straits Times, the Hong Kong-based Pedder Group's president, Mr Peter Harris, said that the rocky local retail climate was actually the best time for On Pedder to expand. He said: "It is an interesting time to secure retail space, not only based on cost, but also availability.

"Our group has always used challenging times in the retail market to expand our retail footprint, like what we did in the one to two years post-2008 and 2009 when the regional market was depressed."

To offer shoppers more than just merchandise to buy, Pedder Group has included a cafe in the premises, The Coffee Academics from Hong Kong, and organised in-store meet-and-greet sessions with international designers such as British shoe designer Nicholas Kirkwood, who was here for the store's opening. New York-based designer Paul Andrew is slated to make an appearance next month.


5. STAR DESIGNER


Alessandro Michele has enchanted critics as creative director of Gucci. PHOTO: RONAN GALLAGHER

Though he started off as a relative unknown - just one of Gucci's many behind-the-scenes designers - Alessandro Michele has spent this year making big waves in the fashion industry.

Since taking on the role of creative director at Gucci, he has been credited with reinvigorating the Italian luxury label with his eclectic mix of abundance, vintage-inspired patterns and androgynous geek chic.

The 43-year-old has been with the brand since 2002. He was head accessories designer until former creative director Frida Giannini left in January this year and he was promoted to replace her.

Though his appointment came as a surprise to many in the industry, his first year on the job has won him accolades and propelled his name to the forefront of fashion.

His new Gucci aesthetic of whimsical bows, layered prints and delicate lace shirts for both women and men has been seen on the likes of Vogue editor-in-chief Anna Wintour, street style icon Anna Dello Russo, American actress

Elle Fanning and One Direction singer Harry Styles.

Gucci CEO Marco Bizzarri told website Business Of Fashion that the Michele-designed collections, which went on sale in stores in June, have been flying off the shelves.

"We're seeing a lot of new clients, a lot of new customers - different, younger, more fashion-forward - buying the collection, but not losing the previous ones," he said.

To cap a successful year, Michele received the prestigious International Fashion Designer of the Year award at the 2015 British Fashion Awards last month.

We cannot wait to see what he throws out next.


6. DOVER STREET MARKET TO COME TO SINGAPORE

Fashion fans were thrilled to hear the news earlier this month that multi-label concept store Dover Street Market will open here next year. The store, created in 2004 by Rei Kawakubo of Japanese fashion brand Comme des Garcons, is known for its edgy and daring curation of high fashion and street wear brands, as well as its creative visual merchandising.

It is will be brought to Singapore by Como Lifestyle, a subsidiary of Singapore fashion doyenne Christina Ong's Club 21, and will be located within the Dempsey cluster of Tanglin Village.

Kawakubo opened the first Dover Street Market in London with her husband, president of Comme des Garcons International Adrian Joffe. Two more outposts were opened later in Tokyo and New York. The designer is very involved in Dover Street Market, designing the overall architecture and interior spaces.

The store here will be part of Como Dempsey, a complex which will also house restaurants, including one by renowned New York-based restaurateur Jean-Georges Vongerichten.

Dover Street Market is certainly a welcome addition to the retail scene here, which is largely made up of the same designer labels and fast fashion brands, repeated in mall after mall from Orchard Road to the suburbs.

Shoppers can look forward to the brands that will be stocked at Dover Street Market here and how creatively they will be showcased within the retail space.


7. THE UNSTOPPABLE JENNER SISTERS


Sisters Kendall (left) and Kylie Jenner (right) are making waves. PHOTO: REUTERS

Their stepsister Kim Kardashian may be the second most followed person on Instagram after pop star Taylor Swift, and their dad Bruce came out as Caitlyn in Vanity Fair magazine in June.

Yet, Kendall and Kylie Jenner managed to hold their own in the spotlight this year.

Kendall Jenner, 20, has become one of the most in-demand models. She walked the runways for major brands such as Chanel, Diane Von Furstenberg and Balmain, fronts the jeans and underwear campaigns for Calvin Klein, and is the face for make-up giant Estee Lauder's perfume Modern Muse Le Rouge.

Last month, she cemented her status as bona fide model with her debut as a Victoria's Secret Angel at the Victoria's Secret Show.

While Kendall is known for her fashion cred, younger sister Kylie, 18, has become more of a beauty influencer. Much has been made of her pillowy pout (courtesy of lip fillers), and her beauty routine and tips are shared on her app and website, TheKylieJenner.com.

She launched Lip Kit by Kylie, a tightly edited collection of lip glosses and lip liners in nude and brown shades, last month.

She only announced the collection 24 hours before its launch on Instagram and it sold out in minutes.

In October, she was named as one of Time magazine's 30 most influential teens of 2015. She has 45.7 million followers on Instagram while Kendall has 44.9 million.


8. DESIGNER COLLABORATIONS


The Balmain x H&M (above) and Nike x Sacai collections. -- PHOTO: H&M


The Balmain x H&M and Nike x Sacai (above) collections. -- PHOTO: NIKE

Perhaps the most eagerly awaited one this year was Swedish fast fashion giant H&M's collaboration with French brand Balmain, which sold out within hours of its launch on Nov 5 in Singapore.

Pieces from the collection ended up selling on eBay for as much as Olivier Rousteing's designs for the label, which on average, are in the region of four figures.

Another highly anticipated launch - sportswear giant Nike tapped on the design aesthetic of Chitose Abe, designer of Japanese label Sacai, to come up with two collections this year.

They featured sporty separates with Abe's signature drapes and pleats and have been a critical and commercial success. Sadly, they are not available in Singapore and are sold only at NikeLab stores, nike.com/NikeLab and select multi-brand stores like Colette in Paris.

While American rapper Kanye West's Fall 2015 collection with Adidas was a miss because of its blah-looking flesh-toned body stocking looks, his sneaker designs have been a hit since he signed on to collaborate with the German sportswear brand in 2013. Even celebrities such as Swiss tennis player Roger Federer and English singer-songwriter Ed Sheeran have taken to social media to brag about owning a coveted pair or two.

West's sixth and final design for this year, the Adidas Yeezy Boost 350 sneakers in tan, was launched worldwide on Tuesday. Like previous editions, this one is expected to sell out.

Finally, Uniqlo collaborated with French label Lemaire and ex-French Vogue editor-in-chief Carine Roitfeld on two sought-after collections in October. They did so well that Uniqlo will once again collaborate with the two on Spring/Summer collections for release early next year.


9. RETURN OF THE CHOKER


The choker has been seen on South Korean rapper G-Dragon (left) and British model and actress Cara Delevingne (right). PHOTOS: YG ENTERTAINMENT, REUTERS 

The fashion accessory from the 1990s - made popular by pop stars such as British girl group Spice Girls - returned to necks this year.

Famous fans included K-pop stars such as singer IU, Suzy Bae of girl group Miss A and rapper G-Dragon from BigBang; as well as British model and actress Cara Delevingne and reality star Kim Kardashian.

The choker sas also seen on the Fall 2015 runway of French luxury brand Chanel.

But unlike chokers of the 1990s, usually fashioned out of plastic or black ribbon, the ones this time around are a lot more interesting. New York jewellery label Pamela Love crafts minimalist and modern brass chokers plated in rose gold or silver, while Swedish fashion brand Cos gave a more feminine take on the trend, with an abstract metal centrepiece tied around the neck with a pretty pink grosgrain ribbon.


10. BUCKET, THE NEW IT BAG


The Saint Laurent Emmanuelle bucket bag from the Fall 2015 collection. PHOTO: .SAINT LAURENT

It might not have the most stylish sounding name, but the bucket bag was the tote to have this year.

The style, first popular in the 1970s, made a comeback in 2012, when New York label Mansur Gavriel debuted its highly coveted drawstring designs.

But it was only this year that the style really became popular.

Brands such as Saint Laurent, Proenza Schouler and Alexander Wang released their own versions, as did many fast fashion brands.

Its popularity can be attributed to how versatile it is. Whether you are a biker chic kind of girl or free-spirited bohemian, there is a bucket bag to suit all tastes.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on December 31, 2015, with the headline '(No headline) - MHYEAR31'. Print Edition | Subscribe