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November 30, 2000

From Our Correspondent: Hirohito and the War
A conversation with biographer Herbert Bix

From Our Correspondent: A Rough Road Ahead
Bad news for the Philippines - and some others

From Our Correspondent: Making Enemies
Indonesia needs friends. So why is it picking fights?

AsiaweekTimeAsia NowAsiaweek

MARCH 3, 2000 VOL. 26 NO. 8

Live It Up In Style
Minimalism has been overdone. The new fashion message is about exuberance.and Asia is ready

F. Maillard
Call it what you will - post-Crisis celebration or millennium light-headedness. Whatever it is, spring and summer fashions going into stores across Asia show women are tired of tailoring and utilitarian dressing. The emphasis is on juicy colors, embroidered surfaces, relaxed silhouettes and quirky, offbeat items. Rock chicks will have more than their usual quota of flashy, wickedly sexy clothes from Versace. Celine has a glamorous St. Tropez look - described by designer Michael Kors as "Jennifer Lopez meets Jackie O." (You have to see it to get the meaning.) Cyber-futuristic touches give a whole new dimension to Chanel's classically refined suits and little dresses, while, as wonderfully unpredictable as ever, Jean Paul Gaultier sticks his tongue firmly in his cheek with some trademark provocations.

For Peter Harris, vice president of merchandising in Hong Kong for Lane Crawford's men's and women's fashion and accessories divisions, the choice of what to stock for spring and summer was straightforward. He explains: "We were going through racks of samples and noticed very little in terms of tailoring and constructed pieces." In the case of jackets and suiting details, the only really constructed pieces are in leather, he adds, citing as exceptions those brands - Cerruti among them - for whom tailoring is a signature.

His colleague, Sarah Rutson-Pang, senior buyer for women's collections, says the Asian workplace has changed, with the insistence on suits declining. "So even if some designers do still make suits, they are broken up - a jacket with a softer skirt or softer pants," she says. That view is echoed by other high-end retailers. "The decorative influence in clothes is something Asian customers seem to still be going for," notes Sarah O'Donnell, chief operations officer of Seibu in Hong Kong. "The trend is still very much away from tailoring." Dark colors, somber textures, pantsuits and skirt-suits - for so long vital components of the Asian corporate wardrobe - have given way to one-piece dresses in sorbet hues and perhaps a delicately embroidered light cashmere cardigan.

Cover: The Scapegoat?
Blamed for the riots surrounding the fall of Suharto, controversial ex-general Prabowo Subianto tells his story
- Investigation: No single "mastermind" was behind the May 1998 turmoil. There were many players, and many plots
- Insight: Re-examining Prabowo's record in East Timor
- Insider: How the general and son-in-law benefited - and was compromised - by being part of the First Family

Editorial: The Internet is the most compelling agent of economic reform
Editorial: A good year for Kim Jong Il - but watch out

Malaysia: The real campaign for national leadership heats up
- Anwar: A decision on Mahathir's testimony is put off again
- Shadows: A play looks at Malaysia's troubled political soul

Hong Kong: The former colony is starting to trust the motherland

Taiwan: Beijing demands unification talks - or else

Japan: Obuchi raises (but doesn't fire) the starting gun for polls

Cambodia: A culture of violence and impunity undermines justice

Fashion: The spirited new styles suit Asia's mood
- Accessories: The rule is - there is no rule
- Menswear: Casual, chic - and inspired by womenswear
- Kenzo: The Japanese couturier bids farewell to the catwalk Investors rush for a piece of a Hong Kong company with no history, few employees and lots of hype

Kosdaq: Korea's over-the-counter stock market soars

Scandal: Can Manila recover from the BW Resources fiasco?

Investing: Betting on the New India

The Net:
The freebie formula gets tested in Singapore

Cutting Edge: A keyboard you can fit on your Palm

Newsmakers: Japan's crown prince vents his anger

Viewpoint: To fight corruption, reform China's politics

If it's in Asia, it's in Asiaweek


Analysis and commentary from the Asian Edition of TIME Magazine
Asia's most comprehensive source for latest breaking news and information

There is a new subtlety to beading and embellishment, with tone-on-tone work dominating. "After a few seasons with beading, it might be seen as stale, but everyone has managed to make it fresh again," says Lane Crawford's Harris. In many collections, threadwork, mirrors, sequins and beads give way to a new frivolity - ruffles. Designers from Italian Alberta Ferretti through American Marc Jacobs keep their clothes simple and clean, with the exception of a gentle flurry of ruffles here and there. The focus is also on individual pieces, with interesting items that can lend a spin to existing wardrobes. And fashion's revolving obsession with ethnicity - the mood has been South Asian for some time - has resulted in collections strongly influenced by the colors and craftsmanship of India. For spring, that translates into caftans and tunics and embroidered skirts, teamed variously with stovepipe pants and fitted tops for contrast.

Hermès is one house that has never harbored any desire to hit the front page of newspapers with outlandish shows and wild styles. But it stepped into the limelight three years ago when it hired avant-garde Belgian designer Martin Margiela to give the brand a new ready-to-wear edge. Margiela and Hermès proved a perfect match. This season, he has not veered one inch from cool, unperturbed, gently luxurious clothes. That translates into breezy linen pants, butter-soft elongated coats and light-as-air knits. And the colors? Margiela goes for sand, putty, white and a smidgen of baby yellow. Spacious handbags and soft flat loafers continue the suggestion of Zen purity that runs right through the collection.

Even the most established designers are pushing creativity to new levels. Michael Kors, the American now in charge of creative development at Celine, gives classics a racy new look with his sexy, deluxe-holiday-inspired separates that included sheer cashmere T-shirts over bikinis and crystal-beaded shirts. Paris-based Yohji Yamamato is presenting full-skirted trench-coats, elongated and linear strapless sheaths that cling softly to the body, and gently draped dresses.

"Some of the top designers have done something quite different for spring or have evolved their collections to another stage," says Adrienne Ma, managing director of Joyce Boutiques, which has stores around the region. The spirit of regeneration seems to have inspired Ma's buyers. "We've bought a lot for spring," she says. "But, basically, what we're doing is balancing our purchases, shuffling the money around to buy more of the stronger lines and spending less on the more experimental collections." Ma believes the jazziness seen for spring and summer - in Dolce & Gabbana's wild animal prints and hot pants, for example - will be well received in Asia. "Overall, there are a lot of lines that customers will find appealing," she says.

Emanuel Ungaro, one of the stalwarts of the old guard, presents a collection that is all about color - hot, bright shades of yellow and green done in wild prints. Check out his uptown vixen look of rhinestone-studded bra tops worn with skinny pants. Alexander McQueen at Givenchy has been reinventing that label for some time, and this season is no exception. He adheres to tailoring - one of his great strengths - but makes his suits super-sleek by replacing traditional jackets with soft-shouldered leather windbreakers. Also bound to turn heads: leather track pants worn with too-tight sweaters.

Leather is big news all round - Asian climates notwithstanding. Loewe, which has its roots in leather, goes for butter-soft jackets and easy pants. From Victor Alfaro comes supple leather turned into knee-cropped pants tied on the sides and worn with a billowing, ruffled white shirt. It's a look that gives a slightly harder edge to the femininity and bohemia of the season. Other contemporary designers choose dresses made from chiffon and crepe with slivers of leather worked into them, or incorporating elaborate patterns burned into soft leathers. In some cases, the skin is treated to look like stiff wax paper. Celine has hand-sewn lace onto leather, while American brand BCBG Max Azria adapts the current mania for ponyhair by doing patches of it on burlap, instead of all-over ponyhair pieces. The result is skins that are cool enough to be worn even in Southeast Asia.

Brights are going to be big - with vivid shades of turquoise, pink and yellow. Silhouettes remain free-flowing, but sharper than the ultra hippie-esque themes of the past couple of seasons. "The spirit of the 1970s is still evident in terms of the long silhouettes, skirts ruffled to the ankle and peasant tops," says Lane Crawford's Rutson-Pang. American designer John Bartlett goes further back - to the 1930s for inspiration for a line in dark plum and nude beige. Talking of nude, there is also plenty of transparency - often layered for modesty, but sometimes worn over nude slips fashioned to look like the body. If those styles appear at lunchtime on Singapore's Orchard Road or Hong Kong's Queen's Road Central, we'll know for sure the Crisis is behind us.

This edition's table of contents | Asiaweek home


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