So You’re Thinking of Buying The Triple S


January 11, 2018

by Gracia Ventus


Issey Miyake Beetle Coat

When it comes to sneakers, I prefer to be the benchwarmer than a key player. Watching the game from the sidelines allows me to observe the industry without getting too entrenched in the consumption habits. Clunky lego sculpture assembled by a kindergartener is usually my go to choice for them. My relatively modest collection comprises mostly of Adidas tubulars - for exercising - and various collaborations with Raf Simons and Y-3. However I do find the game itself quite interesting, from a consumerism and capitalism perspective.

The sneakers industry is a behemoth. A sought after pair can command multiple times of what they retailed for in the second hand markets. The most anticipated ones are now only available for purchase by winning raffle tickets. Some menswear stores have set up safeguards to prevent bots from swiping their entire inventory within seconds of a sneaker release. Every year, the creme of the crop are ranked by sneakers news outlets Complex, Footwear News, Hypebeast and HighSnobiety. They have panels, they have discussions, they argue back and forth, but it is not science. It will never be science, because noone can quantify all the variables that they have taken into consideration. Footwear News, HiSnob and Hypebeast look at various factors such as rate of engagement on social media, polls since the beginning of the year (may I remind you that memories should never be trusted completely), and extent of influence across industries (I assume that means how many copycats were spawned). Complex simply asked a few selected people, no numbers no nothing. Basically everything comes down to hype.

Issey Miyake Beetle Coat
Wearing: Issey Miyake iridescent coat (shorter version available here), Issey Miyake Pleats Please trousers, Raf Simons x Adidas sneakers

What goes on offline in my neck of the woods is a completely different story. Here in the trendy city of Shanghai (as opposed to the more sartorially-informed city of Beijing), the most visible sneakers on the streets today are Nike's VaporMax, and Balenciaga's Triple S, that is, if I'm not counting the leftover carnage that is the Yeezys. Perhaps their high visibility could be attributed to their distinctive designs. However what's more noteworthy is that the Triple S cost four times as much as the VaporMax, yet they're both equally ubiquitous. Even my hairdresser wears the Triple S.

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Fig. 1, Girl on Shanghai subway in Balenciaga Triple S, authenticity unknown, photo taken by me

When the Triple S was first featured on the runway, I fell head over heels in love. I waited for its release like a squirrel eager for a ripening chestnut. As the scheduled launch was slated for autumn, there was a gap of several months. In between, a stylist friend of mine living in Shanghai showed me a Taobao listing for the much-awaited sneakers. At a cost of under US$100, I suspected it would only turn out to be a terrible replica. After all these factories only had images for references, unless they had an insider leak that is. I did not think it will have much of an impact considering the Triple S were widely available months before the shoes were even released. I had this idea that the shoes would be far too difficult to knock off completely, especially when compared to the Yeezys.

Well I was wrong.

Some weeks after the release of the shoes, I decided to check up on the Taobao situation, feeling rather smug with my prediction.

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Fig. 2, The endless offerings of the Triple S on Taobao

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Fig. 3, Sellers doing comparisons to showcase the quality of their reproductions

There are now hundreds of Triple S on Taobao, each outdoing another on who makes the most authentic-looking pairs. At an average cost of 300-800 yuan(US$50-$125), they are a lot more accessible than the real deal, especially considering that the real ones were sold out during pre-orders in February. The result is that I am seeing them almost every other day, on both men and women. It only goes to show that fashion consumption has become a daily sport for young Chinese consumers. Taobao has the best shopping algorithm in pushing what consumers might want - and end up purchasing - even if many of them weren't aware of the existence of the Triple S to begin with, nor of Balenciaga. While it has a terrible interface on the desktop, its mobile version is extremely addictive and almost idiot-proof. Don't speak Chinese? It allows searches with the use of image reversal, photos or bar codes. The e-commerce logistics is so efficient that anyone who lives in major cities can receive their parcel the next day. Most offer free shipping, and return shipping can be as low as $2. As a result, I am seeing reviews of people who claimed to have tried and tested several pairs from different retailers with the hopes of finding the most authentic-looking pair. Due to the discerning tastes of these consumers, many manufactures are pushed to be even more innovative with their reproductions in order to garner the most sales, so much so that I can no longer differentiate what was real or fake. It is late-stage capitalism at its finest.

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Fig. 4, Don't let the spelling fool you. Brand names are often misspelled in photos for legal purposes. The products themselves bear the original logos

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Fig. 5, Reviews from buyers

As of 2016, China has surpassed all the other markets in footwear consumption, over 3 billions pairs in total, while the US and India trailed far behind with over 2 billion pairs. The former will only increase over the years as young urban Chinese consumers are growing more affluent and their thirst is unrelenting. Considering that sneakers are de rigueur amongst the youths from all social classes, it would be a folly to come up with a yearly list of 'Top Ten' sneakers without taking into account the purchasing power and behaviour of the Chinese market. I would suggest that HiSnob and Complex etc send a team into China with clipboards to do primary research on the streets, while surfing Taobao during their breaks.

In the meantime, I will leave you with this.

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Fig. 6, These are so rare I saw them first before Balenciaga even thought about them


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The Tale of Tony Takitani – Part 2


January 10, 2018

by Gracia Ventus

Read part one here.

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As the summer heat gave way to the cool breeze of autumn, Tony Takitani grew more eager every day. Perhaps it wasn’t an exaggeration if I were to describe his high spirits as one that an expectant mother would have towards the birth of her child. Every morning he would wake up and look out of the window to see if there was any progress. Any fine gardener would tell you that chestnuts are only ready to be harvested when the burrs have fallen off the tree.

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Though the trees around Tony Takitani’s dwelling had turned red, the spikes of the burrs remained stubbornly closed, and most importantly, still hanging on the branch. There was nothing he could do but to wait patiently. His excitement was not eased by the fact that his other chestnut tree had remained barren. He could not remember any other occasion when he felt this surge of strong emotions, other than the first time he laid eyes on the only woman he had ever fallen in love with. Many years had passed, yet he was still able to recall the first time she visited his office. He could feel his heart beating faster and the small beads of sweat forming on his temples. It was a perpetual adrenaline rush involving trips to hell and back that barely subsided through the subsequent dates and eventual wedding. That rush evolved into contentment as the couple settled into their marital bliss. Even when he was disturbed by her clothing addiction, he loved her so much that he built a new wing in their house to make room for her ever-growing collection. He still blamed himself for talking her into dealing with her addiction - she had enough dresses to change outfits twice a day and still not repeat herself for two years - though any one would be able to see that her behaviour was not normal. He had always been alone for most of his life - his mother had died giving birth to him, his dad was perpetually absent - but he never knew loneliness until she came into his life. If he had known of the crippling sorrow that would befall him like the everlasting mists of Sleepy Hollow, he would have built a new mansion just to house her clothes. He would have done anything to prevent that single moment in time from happening. But he also knew life does not work like that.

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Tony Takitani was putting on his trusted grey jumpsuit for his usual weekend trip when the phone rang. A villager was at the other end of the line, distraught while spewing a torrent of earnest apologies before begging him to come to his house urgently. It seemed that his pregnant wife was on the verge of giving birth - a few weeks earlier than expected - but his car had refused to start. The workshop was closed and the ambulance would take some time to come. He could not think of anything else but to call up Taki-san who had been so kind to the villagers. Naturally the reliable hermit-slash-odd-jobber was already in his car before the man hung up.

As Tony Takitani pulled out of the gravel path on to the tarmac road, he gave his chestnut tree a quick glance out of habit, not expecting further developments from the tree. This time however, he spotted the burrs on the ground. He wasn’t sure whether his eyes were playing tricks on him. In the split second between wishing to get out of the car to pick up the precious chestnuts, and helping out villagers in dire need, he decided that he could get back to his chestnuts later. His compassionate spirit urged him to get to the distressed family as quickly as possible. And it was also this compassionate spirit that kept him in the car, on the verge of stepping on the accelerator, when a squirrel scampered in and stole the chestnuts away.

Tony Takitani’s feet met the pedal. As he drove away, watching the squirrel run off with his long-awaited fruits of labour, he could only muster a bittersweet smile.

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All garments are available on ROSEN-STORE.COM


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The Tale of Tony Takitani


December 20, 2017

by Gracia Ventus

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Tony Takitani was by no means a remarkable man from his outwardly appearance. He lived simply, ate simply, dressed simply. It was his choice of dwelling that usually raised eyebrows whenever his name passed through the lips of villagers. Not that they knew his full name to begin with. There’s too much mystery surrounding himself. He didn’t need to add another one or he’d have to keep explaining why he had an English first name despite being completely Japanese. They simply knew him as Taki-san.

Tony Takitani lived on his own on a hill above the village. His simple wooden dwelling stood in a large clearing. He had found it abandoned some time back on one of his explorations. After a round of investigations in the village he concluded that noone had lived in it for a while, and due to its inconvenient location, noone had desired to inhabit it. He asked the head of the village for permission to take over it. No objection would be raised as long as he promised to keep the grounds tidy. Not a difficult promise to deliver since Tony Takitani just wanted to build a secluded home away from people. He then proceeded to fix the crumbling wooden structure and its various sheds.

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Tony Takitani was a sharp, logical man. Combine that with the technical nature of his previous profession, he had the knowledge and skills for carpentry that would impress an Amish. Slowly but surely, he rebuilt the wooden house and furnished it simply. A single bed, a portable gas stove, a record player, and a shelf for his books. He hired a contractor to rehaul the plumbing in the outhouse. Though he desired to be a hermit, Tony Takitani would like to maintain a basic level of hygiene. As they worked, he asked the contractor some questions so he could fix simple plumbing issues that might surface.

Tony Takitani also had the foresight to grow a vegetable garden before moving in so he would be less reliant on village supplies over time. He even bought two chestnut trees - yes two, any gardening enthusiast will tell you no nuts will bear from a single chestnut tree - from a nursery not too far outside the village. He loved chestnuts dearly and thought he might give himself the little bit of luxury of watching his favourite trees grow and bear him sweet chestnuts as he got older.

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For the most part, Tony Takitani’s hermit life went on uneventfully, just the way he had planned it. Ever since his wife’s unfortunate sudden death, and his father’s passing soon after, he didn’t have anyone tying him back to the city life. If anything, he felt repulsed by it. He had no energy left to form new friendships nor relationships. Besides, he had always been alone most of his life, with a brief punctuation of his marriage with a woman he had loved dearly.

Every morning at sunrise, Tony Takitani would don a simple tunic and wide leg trousers to tend to his vegetable garden. Once done, he would go on an hour-long uphill run. It was his chosen method to empty his mind and focus on his physical self. He enjoyed the simple meals he cooked with the ingredients he had grown himself. In the evening, he would retire listening to old jazz records, the only influence from his estranged dead father . You and I might feel that this is the most boring life anyone can ever lead, but that was exactly the way he wanted to live the rest of his life.

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Tony Takitani’s routine passed seamlessly, day after day, with the exception of occasional phone calls from the villagers seeking his help. His old school Nokia brick was the only form of communication with the outside world he had retained, just in case there was an emergency. But over time he found it ringing a little more often than he would like as fellow villagers wanted to make appointments with him to see them over the weekend. Ever since they found out he was good with his hands, he became the village’s favourite odd-jobber. It all started when he helped to fix a car that had stalled down the hills as he was heading towards the village. Soon after he started receiving calls for help. One or two at first, usually during the weekend when the village’s car repair workshop was closed. Then they started to ask for gardening advice, woodworking, and even ikebana - something he had to profess ignorance for it was verging on the creative arts. As long as the task involved concrete technical process, he could logically deduce the problems and find a solution.

Although Tony Takitani lived his life mostly as a hermit, he didn’t mind his weekly expedition to the village, especially since he had to procure supplies for himself. He also thought it might be better this way than being known as a complete recluse that everyone would speak of in hushed tones. The less mystery surrounding himself, the better, though he would never really reveal much of his past to the villagers no matter how nosy they could get. Besides, he was a kindly man who loved to offer assistance. Every Saturday morning he would put on his faded grey jumpsuit ready to help a villager in need, before picking up some rice and gas canisters at the supermarket.

As I’ve said before, Tony Takitani was an exceptionally sharp man. Even if he didn’t possess all the necessary technical knowledge in his head, he could easily comprehend complicated instructions available on the Internet, accessed through his old brick of a phone. Ever since he moved into his new dwelling years ago, the lights in his house never flickered, the plumbing never clogged, the garden flourished. But there was one thing that he was still not able to do. Try as he might, he could not coax the chestnut trees to bear fruit. Both had refused to show any signs of the green spiky burrs, despite the fact that he had followed instructions religiously. Well-spaced trees, check; blight-free, check; patience, check. Still, the chestnuts refused to give him what he had hoped for. Being a magnanimous man, he did not hold any grudge towards the trees. After all, life had hurled giant lemons at him. Two barren chestnut trees could barely compare against the tragedies that had befallen him. Perhaps he was simply unfortunate to have picked these infertile trees. Slowly, he let go of his wish for chestnuts and remained grateful for the leafy foliage that provided shade for him in warmer months.

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On the eighth day of the eighth month of the eighth year of his semi-hermit life, Tony Takitani took a rest under the foliage of the chestnut tree nearest to his vegetable garden. He tilted his head upwards to admire the sunny blue sky through the leaves, when suddenly he spotted a small bunch of prickly green burrs. He stood up to get a closer look, not daring to hope, but sure enough, there were two clusters of chestnut burrs hanging from a branch.

Now Tony Takitani was not the sort of man who got excited too easily. But this was not the sort of occasion in which one should remain reserved. He could feel the elation swelling up faster than the summer heat rising from the ground. He entertained all the myriad of possibilities he could do with these precious chestnuts. He didn’t see too many burrs - two at most - which meant there were less than ten chestnuts. No matter. One could do plenty with that amount, especially for one self. Perhaps two to make a kuri gohan, two more in a wagashi, and the rest roasted over a fire. Just imagining its fragrance alone put a smile on his face.

To be continued.


All ROSEN garments are available on ROSEN-STORE.COM

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Sirens’ Song


December 1, 2017

by Gracia Ventus

Kamo River Kyoto

The train whisks us past Osaka. It’s the end of autumn. Beautiful green foliage is giving way to ambers and tangerines. Smoke-stacks in the distance, puncturing the clear blue sky. Past grimy - well grimy by Japanese standards - houses with rusted steel gates and darkened wood, not without their charms.

The allure of having a crush on someone lies not in the virtues of the recipient of our sentiments, but in our ignorance of their inner demons and shortcomings. The overwhelming emotions can lead to disastrous consequences. Every trip to Japan feels exactly like that. Its visible charms obscure the problems that one does not face until one lives here. The call of the sirens is strong.

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A lone figure stood by the train tracks, cigarettes between his lips. We locked gaze for a split second. I liked his navy blue jacket.

Jackets. Many of the Japanese blue collar uniforms are so well-designed I had to stop in my tracks to study them. Discreetly of course. Cerulean blue paired with midnight, separated by strips of silver hi-vis tapes. A Japan Airlines mechanic bent down to pick up the change from the vending machine, revealing panels of elastics hidden by overlapping fabrics at the lower back of his jumpsuit. A cleaner in an aqua coat; dissected in the middle by a matte waterproof zipper. A beautiful shade of aqua, I might add, but no more noteworthy than the sound I’m imagining that zipper will make as it glides smoothly up to the collar.

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+ A Short Digression

As someone who prefers rice to breads, I don't usually eat sandwiches. But when I do give them the occasional try, they are made of milk bread and stuffed with persimmons and a generous dollop of homemade whipped cream. We were taking a break from our shoot as it started drizzling and decided to try this quaint looking cafe in the vicinity; completely unaware of the popularity of the place. They roast their own beans and the sandwiches they made was superb. We sat by the kitchen bar so we could watch them slice every sandwich with precision, filled with egg mayo and ham, or sweet slices of seasonal fruits. Our accidental find turned out to be our breakfast favourite. We enjoyed the sandwiches and coffee so much that we came back twice more. More information on Ichikawaya coffee can be found here.


Hills and mountains. Surrounding this valley of a city. Orange, greens and reds. The train is slowing down. Wonder what it’s like to live in this city as the evergreen leaves turn into warm hues slowly and surely everyday. We often take the things we see everyday for granted. The lamp post outside our home. The bus stop we walk by everyday. The gaggle of grandmothers congregating in the park. The vending machine that never fails to replenish itself. The home we live in. The partner we live with. The life we lead.

I fear I may be doing the same every time I fantasise about uprooting my life in Shanghai and living in a city like Kyoto.

The Haruka train draws into Kyoto station. I step out of the train, swallowing the sights and sounds of the hubbub. It’s all so familiar. Almost like home. Again.

The song of the sirens grows louder.

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I'm wearing ROSEN's upcoming collection that will be released in the next few days.


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A Look Into Our Design Mishaps


November 8, 2017

by Gracia Ventus

ROSEN Hakamas

At ROSEN we don't make overly complicated clothing. Despite that we do encounter problems in translating our vision into reality. We started off with the idea of making pleated hakamas - a beautiful pair of wide-legged trousers with knife pleats. However we didn't want them to look too close to the traditional Japanese garment, nor too Yohji-esque; both characterised by inner pleats folded inwards towards the inner thighs. Our first iteration looked like sailor trousers with a removable central front overlay which we came to dislike. After several rounds of discussion we decided not to obstruct the bifurcated frontal view of the trousers. We folded the removable panel and pinned it on one leg to show the tailor what the final outcome should be.

Now here's where I should point out that the tailor has seen enough of our wonderfully weird designs to not question our judgment. So he took back the hakama - crude revisions and all - without so much as clarifying what the final result should be. On the other hand, we trusted our tailor so much that we forgot what was obvious to us but not to others. Imagine the shock we had when the trousers came back with the revision done on just one side and not the other - pretty much verbatim. It was such an honest yet hilarious mistake we couldn't help but to laugh. The end result was strangely appealing, so we stuck to it.

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We are now proud to introduce ROSEN's Hanzo Hakama - a wide-legged trousers made of imported Japanese wool with knife pleats at the back. It has a side slit to showcase the inner layer that is made of our favourite sandwashed silk in dark grey, which is removable. The trousers are equipped with side pockets and back pockets, hidden under the pleats, as well as a slanted waist button flap. Lastly, the front of the trousers is attached with a front overlay on the right side, in keeping with our asymmetrical design element of our collection. And as always, these trousers are meant for all genders.

Hanzo hakama is available here.

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ROSEN’s FW2017 Collection: An Exploration in Spacetime & Androgyny


November 1, 2017

by Gracia Ventus

ROSEN FW2017

“Please, you go first," the woman said. "The water will get all cloudy if we put our hands in. You'd think it was too dirty after us women.”

Excerpt From: Kawabata, Yasunari. “The Dancing Girl of Izu and other Stories.”

It was less than a century ago when gender discrimination was the norm across the world. Kawabata's descriptions of how women were regarded in his short story was no less apalling from the sexism that Victorian women endured in early 20th Century, though they manifested in differing ways. Fast forward almost a hundred years later, most women in most nations have the freedom to craft their own future without the fear that their presence will tarnish the quality of objects through their touch. It is with this awareness in mind that I am happy to introduce ROSEN's Fall/Winter 2017 collection. Continuing with our pursuit of genderless fashion, we have made garments in all new colours and new fabrics, from Italian wools to sashiko linens.

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Plato shirt in rust sandwashed silk; Plato trousers in khaki grey sandwashed silk; O-Ren coat in sashiko linen

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Bronte shirt in moss green velvet

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Epicurean robe in Italian double-faced wool

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Earheart jumpsuit in Japanese wool twill

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Plato overshirt in taupe wool cashmere; Ingvar trousers in Japanese wool twill and sandwashed silk

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Totoro trench in moss green wool cashmere; Epicurean robe in Italian double-faced wool

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Bronte shirt in fatigue green sand washed silk

In this 21st Century, most men and women live, work and travel abreast, no longer segregated by outdated gender norms. In the realms of fashion, androgyny isn't just a one way street anymore, ie. women wearing men's t-shirts and suitings cut for female bodies. We have now embraced a two-way conversation, taking elements from both sides of the spectrums to create garments that transcend fads, befitting curious adventurers of the universe.

All featured ROSEN garments and more are available here.


“Won't you at least have a bite with us? It's not very appetizing now that we women have put in our chopsticks, but maybe this could be the makings of a funny story." The woman took a bowl and chopsticks out of the wicker basket and asked Yuriko to wash them.”


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