VAINER THAN THOU

In case you haven't heard, I am now one of the main contributors on Jane Pratt's latest baby, xoVain.com

Even during the launch and until now, it's a serious mindfuck. I mean, c'mon. I was 18 when I saw my name in print, and all I wanted to do then was have my name in a publication that lived and breathed NYC... and here I am. I'm the only person in the contributors list that doesn't live in North America, which is kinda cool, and kinda my USP as well.

It has been a little bit stressful because most of the time, I'm going between 'who the fuck cares about what I think?!', and 'am I being funny enough?!'... most because unlike this blog, or the Singaporean/ Asia Pacific publications I've written about, one thing I love about their sister mag, xoJane.com, is how vocal readers get. So far, I've gotten very interesting comments on my articles, and one negative tweet, which I've just let slide down my back.

No use sweating the small stuff... and the small people who want to make you feel small.

Like my Page on Facebook and I'll let you know when more stories are up. I can't wait for them!

AN INTERVIEW WITH UTT

Last month, one my my favourite people, and the editor at Designaré HOMME, Jeremy Gopalan, assigned me to a series of five interviews that featured the winners of their Men of the Year Awards. I've been doing interviews for eight years now, right from the very beginning when I interviewed Anita Kapoor and the cast of the Vagina Monologue on the third day of my internship. I love and loathe interviews. There are those, like the ones I did with Utt below, the one with Anita when I was an itty bitty intern and a particular one with Mika I did a couple years ago, that leave me pumping with adrenalin, inspired to write up a storm. And then there are others, [I won't mention which ones] that I will have me physically hold myself back from rolling my eyes at the interview.

When you meet people who have an avenue to inspire change, who have a platform to make their thoughts heard, it gets terribly disappointing when they haven't got much to say other than things I can already read on the Internet.

All that said, Utt's was the first interview I did of the series. I remember coming home from school as a teen and switching on the telly [after I was done reading the eight The Babysitters' Club books I'd borrow from the library at one go every Saturday without fail] and watching Utt on MTV. So funny how I've gone from watching him on the goggle box to sitting down with him while he chowed down on a fresh crepe in a random cafe on Tanjong Pagar.

It's a pity I had a word limit to adhere to. Utt had a lot of things to say, and he came across genuine, intelligent and inspiring. What a nice guy!

Click the image to read the interview. ;o)

NO FOREIGN LANDS

For the February issue of Designaré HOMME, my editor told me to write a narrative travel piece - and it's probably one of the very handful of assignments I've had a lot of fun writing, and rewriting [I usually get bored of a piece after I'm done writing it - rewrites for me take a lot of motivation] - waxing lyrical about almost nothing, and everything. Here's the unedited piece I sent my editor. For the outcome, you just have to pick up the latest copy.

Faz Abdul Gaffa waxes lyrical about the good, and the bad about traveling with someone you love; and why no matter the place, it’s always nice to sleep next to familiarity.

There is sand in my pyjama pants. And on my scalp, on my pillow, in every crevice of my bed. It is not comfortable. Next to me, my partner, J, bathed in the morning sunlight, in his worn-to-death Philly tee, is sound asleep. I maneuver myself in the comfortable nook between his torso and his arm and the world is right again; no amount of sand can bother me. I fall back into slumber with the sound of the high tide crashing onto the stilts of the wooden shack we’re calling home for a week.

Until sixteen months ago, I’ve always been a solo traveler. All it’s taken was a little bit of delirium from a good night out, a memory that selectively retains information [like credit card info] and a really good deal on an airline website that I constantly window shop on and I’d have found myself wandering through the cobblestoned streets of Brugges, trying to sneak my way backstage at a music gig in New York, or flirting my way into not forking out cover charge in some club in Barcelona. Traveling solo’s one of those things people have on their bucket list, but until they bring themselves to do it, they’d realize it’s not really a big deal.

Aside from the fact that the chances of you getting bumped up when flying is much higher when you travel alone, one of the things I love most about it is the people you end up meeting: a Korean-German classical pianist who took me up to her apartment and played for me, just because she wanted to, a documentary film maker who was the first black woman to ever be on German television and had Nazi groups writing hate songs about her, a cross-dressing hippie couple who wanted to tour the US in a $2,000 van. These were characters right out of a Woody Allen movie – and I’ve actually managed to make them friends in my travels. Of course, then, I thought traveling alone was the best of situations one could ever find themselves in, until I found myself a partner I love, and I love travelling with.

Travelling with someone you love could easily be Vespas and gelatos and frolicking in fountains like Audrey Hepburn’s Roman Holiday, or on the side of the spectrum, it could turn to an episode of the Kardashians. It was a little daunting when J suggested us traveling together after dating for only four months – it was over a weekend, but it would either make, or break us. And thankfully, it did the former. Suddenly, traveling with a partner supersedes all the things I thought was best about traveling alone. Yes, I could stop and smell the roses whenever I wanted to when I flew solo, but smelling the roses with someone you love somehow made everything more fragrant. So did jumping hand-in-hand off a cliff into the sea, or kicking back and watching the stars after a day of swimming with turtles in the ocean. Traveling with my partner didn’t stop us from meeting people – we’d still meet the most random of travelers on our long walks, and this time, when I ran out of things to say to yet another new-age hippie, J would take over.

Long walks through old cities become a breath of fresh air when he notices things you never do, and he navigates maps so you never have to stress your pretty head trying to, and the things that usually annoy you just glaze over as your thoughts are shrouded when you’re caught between love, the moon, and New York City.

There’s going to be disagreements, and there are going annoyances: my tendency to be overly-bossy, and his moving at a glacial pace in the morning. But it’s not so bad. Traveling with your partner, especially one whom you don’t already live with opens more of their world to you. What responsibility they take on before the trip, how they react when something unexpected happens, or in cases where your girlfriend [like yours truly] is a royal klutz and breaks her toe on the second day of a week-long holiday; how you kiss her and hold her hand while the both of your make your way to the village clinic on the back of a rickety horse carriage assures you that he’s the best person for you.

It all comes together when you travel.

If you live in Singapore, there’s always spots like Bintan, or Bali to test the waters: romantic enough for a couple, yet close enough for your to come back running with your arms flailing if your partner proves to be too high maintenance.

If you’re setting your sights further than just our friendly neighbours, look up Hotel La Residencia in Mallorca, where you can bask in the Spanish sun, drink your weight worth of vino and even have the hotel organise a mountain picnic with your lover [with the help of a donkey - no, I'm not kidding, and no, I'm not calling your partner an ass].

It’s the perfect amalgamation of the romance of a foreign land and language, copious amounts of indulgences in the form of food, drinks and even a luxurious spa, and the perfect company. You couldn’t ask for a better vacation. Alternatively, seek the help of Mr & Mrs Smith for luxurious boutique hotels coupled with insider tips that you can’t go wrong with. Even if things do go wrong, it’s just part of travel – grin and bear it. At least this time, you have someone’s hand to hold.

After all, in a foreign land, no matter how luxurious the hotel or how picturesque the sights, it’s comforting to know you can curl up in bed and find yourself at home.

FETISH x FASHION: DESIGNARÉ HOMME NOV 2011

I was assigned this story last minute, before the magazine went to print, but I writing it made me realise how much I've missed writing for a living. Not banal, PR-ish writing that I do on a daily basis [which I can't find joy in doing, and I have to give a lot of credit for people who do it well, and enjoy it just as much] - and what's even better is that the story made the cover! Yay! Eight years on and I still get tingles in my toes seeing something I've written in print. If this ain't love, I don't know what is.

In case you're still wandering about Orchard Road not sure which magazine stand you can hang out at and read my article since Borders has closed, I'll do you a favour and post it up here:

When you refer to your partner as the ole’ ball-and-chain these days, it may not just be figuratively anymore. Sure, you or your better half may not be literally walking around dragging a heavy metal ball secured to your leg by the means of a chain and manacle, but chances are, you might actually be wearing mainstream interpretations of “toys” commonly used in BDSM (bondage, domination, sadism & masochism) activities.

While latex catsuits, mouth gags and whips come to mind first at the mention of fetish gear, kink wear goes beyond than just that. Some may argue that it’s costuming, but Japanese schoolboy and girl outfits, tough biker guys clad in leather and even itsy-bitsy flashy-flashy French maid costumes can be categorized as fetish wear. In general, fetish wear takes a sexual fascination and pushes it to the extreme, making it more provocative and erotic than it usually is.

Some serious fetish wear purists argue that the use of corsetry and hobble skirts back in the late 1700's can easily be considered as the first mainstream indication of fetish fashion, particularly since the majority of society did not have access to such clothes. Others claim that smutwear’s rise to mainstream started as a part of an underground movement in London after World War II with the "leather-wearing" culture of homosexual men. During this period, gay men began wearing rarely-worn leather clothing publicly and in large orders with the intention of identification and separation from the norm.

Fast forward more recent times, fetish style has taken its claim on the mainstream since the TV show the Avengers in the 60s, Punk and Vivienne Westwood’s influences in the 70s, and the big explosion of fetish fashion innovation in the 90s. Fetish weave in and out of style, much like a lot of everything in fashion.

Of course, most recently, Jean Paul Gaultier has teamed up with French champagne house Piper-Heidsieck to launch bondage fizzies – that’s right, champagne bottles wrapped in ready-for-danger Gaultier fishnet stockings and sealed with a latex and a boudoir-worthy red eye-mask – you realise that these paraphernalia of perversion are things not necessarily adorned behind closed doors.

Bondage-inspired wear has taken over pop culture – Adam Lambert is known for his signature his Mad Max-inspired styles mixed with some harnesses and heavy chains, Rihanna practically made a career wearing latex and let’s not even start on the gold leather harnesses Lady Gaga’s male backup dancers have on all the time.

The fashion runways have not be spared – Gareth Pugh encased his models’ head in muzzles for his Spring/ Summer 2012 show; burlesque phenomenon Dita von Teese unpeeled the opulent swathes of the Gaultier frock she was wearing on the Jean Paul Gaultier runway to revealed to Paris’ fashion bigwigs a dominatrix-inspired leather corset, but also her fair, bare bottom. Marc Jacobs squished models into shiny black bustiers and Eyes Wide Shut wife-swapping masks, model Karlie Kloss opened the Hermes Spring 2011 show in Paris by trotting out in a black leather bustier and over-the-elbow leather gloves, with a ringed equestrian harness around her neck. Fetish fashion is dominating the runways – and quite literally.

Men are not let off the hook, of course. The late Alexander McQueen created headlines during his Autumn/Winter 2010 show, An Bailitheoir Cnámh, when male models strutted the catwalk donning weird masks and netted headgear that alluded to sadomasochism or bondage, and one of the suits was printed with human skulls and bones.

Granted, fetish-inspired menswear is not as extreme as womenswear can be. It ranges from the tame all-black ensembles that rock many-a-runway including Prada’s and Givenchy’s to more blatant interpretations of the style: Dolce & Gabbana’s studded boots and leather suspenders, reminiscent of harnesses you’d see on a gyrating bare body in an S&M club in Berlin.

What is interesting is that the more mainstream the black-and-studded smutwear has become, the more neutral and desexualised these S&M gear seem to become – what was once unquestionably subversive has become mainstream and banal. Not that it’s necessarily a bad thing, of course, unless you really are bondage fan and all these faux BDSM gear barely even grace mild bondage to you and you’re left scoffing left, right and centre at Britney’s circus whips and Katy Perry’s latex cotton candy-coloured dresses.

But on the other side of the spectrum, when smutwear is readily available off the shelves, it makes you wonder whether we’re a mere flogging away from buying nipple clamps and sex swings at Barney’s.

Women.

photos by Julius Yang

'The chief custodian said,

'But, your royal highness, the women have not told you of their benefits. They have special festivals, feast days, cults, mysteries and rituals. They are the ones who choose, in secret, the superior custodians. Don't let them deceive you into thinking that they have no power. Nothing happens in the land that doesn't have their spiritual approval. More than that, they are the secret movers of the kingdom.

Men rule by day, women rule by night. Men perform deeds in public, women undo them in private. Men make history, women make legend. Legend lasts longer. Men conquer bodies, women conquer hearts. Hearts feel longer. Men think, women dream. Dreams create the future. Men fight, women bring light. Men think they rule the world, but find the world has turned to water. Women understand that water. Men make laws, women make ways. Men build, women make the building live. Men know death, but women know life. If men make mistakes thousands die, if women make mistakes a whole tribe perishes.The folly of men ends in fighting, the folly of women leads to death. The folly of men is a stupid thing, the folly of women is a historical significance. Men can be stupid and the world will not fall down; but if women are stupid the world comes to an end.

The responsibility for women to be wise is truly great.

The greatness of a people is a tribute to the wisdom of its women. If a kingdom is hopeless it is because its women are foolish. Show me a kingdom, a village that is collapsing and you will find that its women have been slack. The strength of women is the backbone of the land. God help us if women should fall into lazy ways and get foolish thoughts in their heads and forget their ancient greatness, their powerful responsibilities, for then the kingdom will turn to dust and be scattered to the four winds. A kingdom cannot afford its women to lose themselves, to lose their vision, and have nothing significant to do, and forget how their ancestors held up the world.Sometimes I see visions of a world gone mad because women have abandoned their shrines and lost the wisdom of their goddesses and become wild and too free. Such a world as I saw was a world without sense, without belief, a world of suicide and despair, folly and madness. Such a world is a world already curse by the departure of the gods. An empty world. So, your royal highness, there are two sides to this. Much labour on the one hand, great invisible power and blessings on the other.

It is women who bring happiness to this world, through their mysteries.'

- An excerpt from Ben Okri's Starbook.

Thanks to Julius Yang for highlighting this excerpt.