Monday, August 24, 2009

Return of old fashion and comfort food!

Fusion of foods from different cultures will always continue as cultures live side by side in the same neighbourhood. Their flavours will blend together creating new dishes as a form of evolution in a sense. This process will be ongoing forever. Look at the Peranakan food - a fusion of Malay and Chinese culinary worlds resulting in a unique breed of cuisine. The end result is exquisite. I highly recommend those who have no idea about Peranakan food to try it out whenever they have a chance to visit Malaysia or Singapore.

The latest rave though in the last 6-7 years has been molecular gastronomy with the popular demand for restaurants like The Fat Duck, El Bulli - where to get a table was a 6 months wait or so. Personally fine dining/molecular gastronomy is almost a culinary adventure that is 'fun' to take on once in a while but what I always come back to with fondness are good old fashion food, rustic with wholesome goodness possibly cooked by the matriachs of the family and the occasional patriarchs or some very good young upcoming chefs.

I think the main reason for the return of the old food is very much linked to comfort food we once knew when we grew up. Food that always invoke a sense of belonging and wellbeing - and being heartily fed! The food we share with our love ones and no pretensions! Times are now changing and soon the clinical, minimalistic stye modern cooking will not appeal as much as those from old rustic kitchens. I see a return to home cooking possibly in a slightly more modern setting but the main theme will still be good old fashion food. For instance, I see first of all a return of traditional French cuisine will make a big comeback metro cities like London and New York. We are seeing too many Italian/Asian fusion headlining the new restaurants these days or Nobu like Japanese food offerings.... we are overwhelmed now. Give me Kaiseki over THAT!

The only area I do see room for more modernising and up market dining experience is in the realm of vegetarianism! In addition, has anyone thought about 'healing foods' or ayurvedic dining?

Most restaurants run like Walmart will also start to lose its appeal - we have gone through too many conveyour belt like experiences either shopping or dining and I strongly feel there will be a return to shops where they know what they are selling/serving and particularly those who can create the lasting relationship with you as their customers, listens to you and also undestand there is a new breed of diners that care more about the fresh produce, rather the exoticness of it. Also those restaurants who respects the relationships they have with their supplies and vice versa.
As for the crisis, one lesson is, do we really need all these excesses in life - 5 litre Cokes or XXL size chips. I see the crisis as a much needed correction on how we have been consuming and all the wastages we see around us. Think about it, the planet cannot survive if we continue to exploit it and waste it. Do we really need those extras we seem to end up buying be it clothes, food or cars? Not to mention going into debts for this extravagant lifestyle? Food for thought. I for one have started to be more conscious too about many things around me not just the environment, but really thinking twice before I go out and buy anything.. do I really need it?

Anyways with the economic crisis though some fast food joints like McDonald's with the right price will continue to draw people due to cost and time. Although at the other end of the spectrum we will also witness a rise in dining and cooking at home.

Personally I confess, I may be biased - as you would have guessed - my preference has always been meals in a trattoria or rustic homey restaurant run by people who cares about what they serve and enjoy sharing their passion for food with you. Don't you just hate sometimes you get into a fancy restaurant where the waiter will assume to know more about your food than you do, nor are they sympathetic enough to adapt to your needs and too prententious to listen to your requests and engage passionately about the food being served and where they come from.

Not forgetting too, I truly admire and honour the many home cooks out there. They are outstanding cooks, do it for love and have many good old age secrets to share which we risk of losing if they do not pass on this knowledge they have to the younger generations. We can only hope such cooks will share their secrets and keep the tradition going. Another trend in the making - for such cookbooks!

Monday, July 13, 2009

Fashion Cool for 2010 - Look East

Junya Watanabe

Where to look for cool fashion for 2010? I say - JAPAN! Well Tokyo has been the mainstream for fashion and cool for a long time. Japan first made an impression in the world stage in 1982 with 12 designers showcasing their contemporary ready to wear collection in Paris. Collectively they were the mode Japonaise: Rei Kawakubo (of Comme des Garcons), Yohji Yamamoto, Issey Miyake, Kenzo and Hanae Mori.

Aguri Sagimori

But the world still look to other places like London, New York, Madrid and Milan for inspiration. The west still dominates the fashion world including fashion tastes, I supposed in summation they also have higher purchasing power than the east collectively. But Japan has been a fashion powerhouse mainly as a consumer but conducive enough the last 3-4 decades to breed brave new fashion designers who are ready to make their mark globally if not some have already done so. They are already amassing fans back home in Japan and the neighbouring Asian countries however, many young designers in Japan and other parts of Asia still suffer from the lack of funding infrastructure hence limited global impact.

WGSN mentioned in their report recently:

While Japanese fashion retail is loaded with
potential, its young, independent designers failing to live up to their
promise. “Japan’s vibrant culture and focus on creativity means that running their own label is the inspiration for many fashion graduates,” says Halliday. "But funding is hard to find and young labels struggle to
attract the investment and backers that support young European and US
labels. Financial pressures mean the safe haven of a job in a retail-based
design studio, brand or wholesale company is becoming a more popular
option despite the creative frustrations. With no internationally
recognised fashion event and retailers focusing on building their own
brands, the situation for young designers is unlikely to improve.”

Hopefully this report serves as a warning rather than a harbinger of what will become of Japanese designers. JFW (Japanese Fashion Week) invests heavily now on young upcoming Asian designers. It is supported by the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry, and in turn JFW subsidises fashion shows and helps share the costs for participating designers. Being part of a concentrated fashion week, that also guarantees media and buyers from around the world showing up. But JFW is costly, and it has yet to turn a profit. They have 6 years to make that cut to be independent from government support.

The good news is in San Francisco, the newest permanent Japanese pop culture attraction – NEW PEOPLE – is opening August 15th in the city’s historic Japantown. The 20, 000 sqft structure will house edgy fashion labels like Baby, The Stars Shine Bright and Black Peace Now . In addition to the permanent attractions, a part of the short-term rotating retail program will include 6%DOKIDOKI and SOU • SOU.

Black Peace Now

The gothic/punk/rock look may not be the look for everyone (although Gwen Stefani digged it)but it has always managed to appeal continuously amongst Japanese youth. That is what Cyberpunk, Gothic Lolita and Cosplay have got most of us outside Japan , thinking their look to be synonymous with Harajuku fashion today.

Sou Sou - funky Japanese boots

Indeed happily to note also, Uniqlo and Commes des Garcons already made waves in the UK.


My personal favourite is Tomorrowland. At the moment you cannot get their items outside Japan or buy it online. Tomorrowland has a reputation for paying special attention to every last detail. Not renowned for their celebrity following or endorsements, this tasteful label excels at creating basic yet beautiful apparel that are both wearable and timeless. For the Men's line I am totally in love with Bedwin's coming up Fall/Winter 2009 collection.

Bedwin & the Heartbreakers

Some of the other note worthy designers are :

1) Naoaki Mizuno 2) Aguri Sagimori 3) Yoshiyuki Ogata 4) Junya Watanabe 5) Hidenobu Yasui 6) Takehiro Nagasawa and Shintaro Fujikawa... to name but only a few bright sparks from Japan.

Nuj Novakhett

And not forgetting Asia altogether, there are many upcoming Asian designers to look out for. One cannot but adore the ruffles/origami like patterns of Ying Gao and the romantic look by Nuj Novakhett.

As the godfather of Denim once said - Adriano Goldschmied who works with about a hundred denims, mostly Japanese."I use Japanese," he says, "because they go very deep into the fabric. They will spend two months just under-standing the weave, the dye, and the construction of one denim". I supposed the Japanese do, do it better!

Fashion constantly changes and the idea of cool is evasive, so not surprisingly there should and would be the direction the global fashionistas are heading - EAST for inspiration and a little something unusual (aka cool)!

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Bourgeois Punk by Party Noire

Romanian couterier Alina Cosma just launched under her label Party Noire her latest collection called Bourgeois Punk. And I like it!

Well with the current preoccupation with vampires, I am convinced (since as legend goes vampires originated from Romania, thanks to Bram Stoker) Romania should be the IT place to travel to this year! And all things Romanian should witness a sudden surge of interest from their fellow brothers and sisters abroad! The country still has vast nature reserves and agricultural produce yet unexploited. People are warm and friendly.

Back to Bourgeois Punk, the new collection, was conceived with a strong focus on the 24-hour dress to suit the lifestyle of the modern woman. Cosma says that the main source of inspiration were her own needs: “My genuine appreciation of time, quality and comfort, longevity and individuality in design was the driving force behind the creative process for Bourgeois Punk. I experimented with clean, even sober silhouettes, and bold yet functional details such as rolled in shoulder straps that continue for the length of the dress or dress sleeves ending in cufflinks. These are dresses to work in and have fun in while still retaining a cool sophistication and a bit of daring that makes them very desirable.”

According to InStyle magazine, Cate Blanchett, Jessica Alba and Anne Hathaway are already fans. For more information check out her website

Rock & Roll Chic Handbags

Check out these latest retro music inspired handbags , from Living Dead Souls’ shoulder guitar bags to Momaboma’s vinyl record shape handbags.

Momaboma's vinyl record handbag

Living Dead Souls is known for their punk music, 50s/60s glam rock inspired fashion while Momaboma an Italian household name - famous for their mixing and matching of different materials like old army bags to pages of old magazines printed on canvas to create 50/60’s look to their designs. I don’t know about you but these retro fashion items sure look cool to me!

Monday, June 15, 2009

Colour Up Your Accessories

What's Hot Now? "..Bright colours and old fashion colourful jellies and lollies strung into a necklace!" . Must be the economic doldrums hanging around us that has inspired me to search for colours and the brighter they are the better.

Why are we so drawn to candy stores? Besides the sweet offerings inside, it is also the visual stimuli we get - seeing the colourful wrappings, candies and the fond memories they invoke in us when we were children.

Above photo is a candy store closest to where I live, and going in there, I was like a kid in a candy store literally - took me about 10 weeks to go through 20 different types .. and I still have a few rounds to go (grin!)

Inspired by the candy store, making lolly necklaces is not something new, it has been a popular fun activity in children's birthday parties as long as I can remember. However they don't last, either the temperature gets to them, or the kids! Besides necklaces, you can make cufflinks or bracelets whatever that takes your fancy. Be creative.

Instead of real candy, our alternative will be to use colourful glass or wood or plastic beads that resembles lollies to make these accessories. Check out this image, taken from a bead shop here in Venice and one of their creations on display. And I am off to make one of my own now.. ciao!