It’s uncanny that I’m writing this just hours after having watched Chanel’s Metiers d’Art show live, this time at the Met in New York. For a long while now, the French luxury maison has been presenting this extravagant annual collection in a destination close to Mademoiselle Gabrielle Chanel’s heart to celebrate the crafts of the speciality ateliers it owns (the costume jewellery/button maker Desrues and embroidery house Lesage, for example). Similarly, that’s what we’ve set out to do with this fourth edition of our Art & Design Issue that’s out every January: recognise the work and beauty of the human touch, and a reversion to the anti-digital.
The small but thriving zine community that writer Keng Yang Shuen discovered here in Singapore (pg 76) was the catalyst. The irony of featuring a scene practically antithesis to us as an established fashion and beauty magazine – the publications are small, often photocopied and handbound, and personal to the point of random – is not lost on us. But if you think about it, a zine is not unlike a blog: a thoroughly free space for self-expression. That millennials and Gen Zs are embracing the medium despite the easy access to social media is a heartwarming sign, while the world debates on the creative and psychological fallout of excessive digital content.
Elsewhere in our 72-page special (it starts from pg 42), some of the city’s most thought-provoking contemporary artists walk us through their “slow” mode of operation. The thing that intrigued me most is how their resulting works are so complex and detailed, it’s hard to tell if they were made by hand or technology. Visual artist Stuart Chen and Sandi Tan, newly minted queen of the local film industry with her hypnotic documentary Shirkers, rely on both (Chen’s contribution starts on pg 52 and Tan’s interview, pg 90), though their works tend to possess a ’90s lo-fi quality.
This Issue is not an attempt to lambaste the digital age. The team and I would not be able to find half of our newsmakers and creative inspirations without Instagram, and you would not have been able to read a thing I’ve said here if I had handwritten this. And neither is it meant to be nostalgic. As we enter the new year (and it’s going to be a big one for us – keep your eyes peeled, especially on our digital platforms), we simply thought it apt to remember “the basics”. The medium might influence the message, but it all starts with what you have and want to say.
The magic of artisans on full display at Chanel’s Egyptian-inspired Metiers d’Art 2019 show at the Met’s Temple of Dendur exhibit last month