Ones to Watch

Youths in Bal­a­clava, Avi­teur and Hon­ayda fig­ure among an in­ter­na­tional crop of new ad­di­tions to the week.


Three la­bels to keep an eye on dur­ing Paris Fash­ion Week.

Youths in Bal­a­clava

Known for its decades-long eco­nomic suc­cess, and more re­cently, the hit film “Crazy Rich Asians,” Sin­ga­pore is a big lux­ury spend­ing pow­er­house. But rarely does a fash­ion brand from the trop­i­cal city-state make it to Paris Fash­ion Week.

This sea­son, Youths in Bal­a­clava, a brand launched by a group of young adults, will be show­cas­ing its spring 2020 col­lec­tion from Sept. 29 to Oct. 3 in a show­room at 6 Place Vendôme un­der the aus­pices of Adrian Joffe, pres­i­dent of Comme des Garçons In­ter­na­tional and chief ex­ec­u­tive of­fi­cer of Dover Street Mar­ket. The brand fea­tures Gen-Z-friendly prices on T-shirts, hood­ies and badges start­ing at $10.

Tau­fyq Iskan­dar, cre­ative di­rec­tor of the brand and leader of the col­lec­tive, who is serv­ing na­tional duty as a fire­fighter, will be go­ing to the fash­ion cap­i­tal for the first time dur­ing his ser­vice break.

“I am a first-re­spon­der and res­cuer. If there is a traf­fic ac­ci­dent, a fire call, or a sui­cide call, we are the ones to at­tend to the case,” he ex­plained. Since 1967, all male Sin­ga­porean cit­i­zens are re­quired by law to do a pe­riod of com­pul­sory ser­vice in the uni­formed ser­vices.

Iskan­dar started the brand five years ago with five of his close friends, with­out any pro­fes­sional train­ing, at the age of

17. “When we were in high school, we couldn't find what we wanted in shops.

So I gath­ered some of my friends from my high school, and slowly we formed a team, and then got my brother into the team as well, and that's how it all be­gan,” he said. The brand now em­ploys 13 peo­ple.

“We were all work­ing part-time jobs try­ing to save up for this whole thing. I didn't even go to any de­sign schools. I just learned a few de­sign skills from YouTube un­der­stand­ing how the fabric works. I was also work­ing at a re­tail store back then. I was ob­serv­ing how the cus­tomers were and what kind of fabric they used, and then I picked up the tech­ni­cal stuff, like op­er­a­tions and lo­gis­tics,” Iskan­dar added.

Asked about the brand name, Iskan­dar put a pos­i­tive spin on the bal­a­clava, of­ten equated with anti­estab­lish­ment sen­ti­ments, or vi­o­lence. But not al­ways.

In 2012, Pussy Riot per­formed a song in Moscow's Red Square, ti­tled “Putin Zas­sal,” wear­ing bal­a­clavas. Al­though the band was ar­rested for al­leged hooli­gan­ism, they some­how made the head­wear fash­ion­able.

“I just like that whole en­tity of a masked look,” Iskan­dar ex­plained. “If you pull the neg­a­tive as­pect out of it and put in the pos­i­tive as­pect of it, it's just like they're do­ing some­thing great, some­thing big, whilst their iden­tity is anony­mous. And that whole anonymity was in­spired by Margiela and how he chose to be anony­mous.”

On head­ing to Paris and fac­ing the in­ter­na­tional fash­ion crowd, Iskan­dar feels re­ally ner­vous. “We never thought we would end up there. Most of us don't even have any back­ground in de­sign or art school. Out of all the kids here in Sin­ga­pore, we made it out,” he said.

“We are a very small brand. No one knows us and you can ask any­one from a Euro­pean coun­try on where Sin­ga­pore is on the map and they'll prob­a­bly point at China. But face it: We are a coun­try with four dif­fer­ent races liv­ing to­gether with har­mony and peace. The brand also por­trays the coun­try that we are, how we are liv­ing to­gether and work­ing to­gether dis­re­gard­ing the col­ors of our skin.” Born to an In­done­sian mother and a Sin­ga­porean fa­ther, Iskan­dar iden­ti­fies him­self as a Malay-In­done­sian.

The com­pul­sory ser­vice in­forms the fashions. “The kind of clothes we are do­ing are in­spired by the clothes that we wear in our na­tional ser­vice, how they are prac­ti­cal and how they are es­sen­tially help­ing us in our ev­ery­day op­er­a­tions,” Iskan­der said.

The brand's stu­dio is based in Tan­jong Pa­gar, a his­toric district lo­cated within the cen­tral busi­ness district in Sin­ga­pore. The col­lec­tive stood out among the of­fice work­ers. “Then I thought, why not cre­ate some­thing that will blend in to­gether with the crowd yet stand out?” he said.

“Es­sen­tially this whole col­lec­tion is based on the changes that we are fac­ing in our own life ex­pe­ri­ences to the things that we are in, and the lo­ca­tion that we are al­ways around in. Us and some others only started our na­tional ser­vice a cou­ple of months ago. Some of us ended up in the mil­i­tary, I ended up as a fire­fighter, an­other as a po­lice of­fi­cer. These kind of things are very Sin­ga­porean, it's key for every man. It is a turn­ing point for boys to turn into men,” Iskan­dar sum­ma­rized.

Youths in Bal­a­clava was just a lit­tle ex­per­i­ment un­til it was dis­cov­ered by

Joffe af­ter Dover Street was opened in Sin­ga­pore in part­ner­ship with Christina Ong's Club 21. Iskan­dar was as­sist­ing with the store's open­ing and his unique style caught the at­ten­tion of Ryan O'Toole, a pho­tog­ra­pher who was sup­posed to take photos of the Dover Street Mar­ket Sin­ga­pore open­ing.

“He re­ally liked our style and started tak­ing photos of us. The whole project sud­denly shifted to us. When Ryan pre­sented the photos to Adrian, he liked our style and Ryan in­tro­duced us to him. Ev­ery­thing hap­pened dur­ing those two days and here we are in DSM,” Iskan­der said.

Yong Yang Hoon, mer­chan­diser at

Dover Street Mar­ket Sin­ga­pore, said: “In a so­ci­ety where fash­ion re­mains largely syn­ony­mous with the lux­ury houses that line busy shop­ping streets — main­stream is cel­e­brated; local de­sign­ers frowned upon — YIB rep­re­sents the voice of a young gen­er­a­tion ask­ing to be heard. They are far from be­ing fash­ion de­sign­ers, yet con­tinue stick­ing to what they be­lieve in — not go­ing against so­cial norms for the sake of be­ing rebels — and their Paris de­but may just be the start of some­thing ex­tra­or­di­nary.”

Iskan­dar, ini­tially in­spired by mu­si­cians such as David Bowie, Jimi Hen­drix and Mick Jag­ger, later got into brands like Comme des Garçons and Un­der­cover.

“They are my he­roes,” he said. “Asia is not re­ally pre­sented in the fash­ion industry, but these brands are the ones that rep­re­sent us. They rep­re­sent how we have a dif­fer­ent mind-set. That is some­thing that I'm very proud of. Be­ing an Asian is very dif­fer­ent than be­ing a Westerner. And that's why I got even more in­spired to do it. They paved the way for us and we should do the same.

“In Sin­ga­pore, it's re­ally mun­dane. No one sup­ports the cre­ative industry. And if we would ever ap­proach a gov­ern­ment body to have some fi­nan­cial sup­port for the cre­ation of a col­lec­tion, we would be turned down. We want to prove that from a no­body you could be a some­body and from a no­body, you could do what­ever you want,” Iskan­der said.

Like Honey F–king Di­jon,

Youths in Bal­a­clava comes un­der a new um­brella com­pany named Dover Street Mar­ket Paris. Wholly owned by

Comme des Garçons, it will do things like nur­ture orig­i­nal prod­ucts, then take care of brand developmen­t, pro­duc­tion and dis­tri­bu­tion.


Pa­tri­cia Gucci knows a thing or two about hand­bags. As a child, she would visit the lux­ury brand's stores with her fa­ther,

Aldo Gucci, who trans­formed the fam­ily busi­ness into a global phe­nom­e­non. “I was al­ways sur­rounded by this in­cred­i­ble smell of lux­ury leather,” she re­called. “It molded a lot of my stan­dards.”

It comes as lit­tle sur­prise, then, that Pa­tri­cia Gucci is un­happy with the state of air­plane lug­gage. She hopes to el­e­vate the cat­e­gory with the launch of Avi­teur, her own line of lux­ury carry-ons, at Paris Fash­ion Week. The name was in­spired by the Latin word for “bird” and is also a nod to her three daugh­ters: Alexan­dra, Vic­to­ria and Is­abella.

“Look­ing at travel, which un­for­tu­nately also has be­come much less el­e­gant, I thought there was def­i­nitely a void for my­self,” she said. “I felt it was very generic. The stan­dard is that very prac­ti­cal look, and then there's the logo brands, that have not re­ally evolved, as far as I'm con­cerned, with some­thing that's even more beau­ti­ful, which they could eas­ily have done.”

Gucci, who lives in Switzer­land, em­barked on the project 18 months ago and set about cre­at­ing a hand­made case, made of the high­est-qual­ity ma­te­ri­als, with her man­u­fac­tur­ing part­ner in Varese, in north­ern Italy. “I rein­vented ev­ery­thing in the carry-on that can be rein­vented. There was noth­ing that is the same on the mar­ket,” she said.

The re­sult is a lux­u­ri­ous ob­ject made of trans­par­ent poly­car­bon­ate cov­ered in Ital­ian calf leather, with smooth pan­els al­ter­nat­ing with a wo­ven Paglia di Vi­enna can­ing mo­tif. The silent wheels are cased in brushed alu­minum, but Gucci's fa­vorite part is the han­dle: a clear poly­car­bon­ate slab, which she com­pared to a “ray of light” giv­ing the trol­ley a fu­tur­is­tic touch.

“Most carry-ons, you want to just unpack and put them in a cup­board and get rid of them. You don't want them stick­ing around your house be­cause they're not par­tic­u­larly at­trac­tive-look­ing. This par­tic­u­lar bag, in my opin­ion, is not some­thing that you want to im­me­di­ately store away, be­cause it, in it­self, on a de­sign level, is quite el­e­gant and beau­ti­ful,” she said.

The carry-on, avail­able in black, beige and gray, costs $5,000, plac­ing it at the very top end of the mar­ket. It will bow on Sept. 26 at Thomas Er­ber's Cabi­net des Cu­riosités con­cept store at

Hô­tel de Cril­lon in Paris, which will of­fer an ex­clu­sive black ver­sion with black alu­minum hard­ware.

The line will launch on Moda Operandi in Oc­to­ber, in ad­di­tion to Avi­teur's own web site this fall. Gucci hopes to work with just a dozen top re­tail­ers world­wide in the first sea­son. “We want it to be a very ex­clu­sive prod­uct,” she ex­plained. Go­ing for­ward, she plans to ex­pand the range of col­ors and to add match­ing week­ender bags.

The 55-year-old, who de­tailed her com­plex fam­ily his­tory in her 2016 au­to­bi­og­ra­phy, “In the Name of Gucci,” felt she had to tell her story be­fore launch­ing a ven­ture of her own.

“If I had tried do­ing this maybe 25 years ago, I don't think I would have had the dis­ci­pline and even the ma­tu­rity and the fo­cus that I have right now,” she said. “I'm ready for it in every way. I re­ally, re­ally feel my fa­ther is around me.”


When So­phie Turner cel­e­brated her sec­ond wed­ding with Joe Jonas this sum­mer, Louis Vuit­ton wasn't the only brand that en­joyed a blast of me­dia ex­po­sure. Over the three-day event, guest Priyanka Cho­pra wore two dresses by Hon­ayda, a Saudi Ara­bian la­bel that is fast be­com­ing a celebrity fa­vorite.

Hon­ayda Ser­afi, who founded the la­bel in 2017, said the ef­fect was im­me­di­ate. “Just see­ing Priyanka wear­ing one of my out­fits made my day and I think it has a great ef­fect on the brand,” she said, adding that she's snowed un­der with re­quests from celebri­ties and their stylists. “I'm try­ing to find a way to make them all happy.”

In­deed, it's been a busy few months for the Jed­dah-based de­signer. In Au­gust, she was fea­tured in Forbes Mid­dle East's list of 60 prom­i­nent “Women Be­hind Mid­dle East­ern Brands,” along­side Huda Kat­tan, Reem Acra, Ingie Chal­houb and Noor Fares.

Hav­ing pre­vi­ously shown her clothes in pri­vate venues such as art gal­leries in Saudi Ara­bia, Ser­afi be­lieves the time has come to test the wa­ter in Paris. Her col­lec­tion can be seen by ap­point­ment from Sept. 26 to 30 at the Westin ho­tel near

Place Vendôme.

Her de­signs are in­spired by strong fe­male fig­ures rang­ing from fic­tional char­ac­ters like the Queen of Sheba to the Bedouin la­bor­ers she would see dur­ing child­hood trips to the coun­try­side. The lat­ter in­spired her spring col­lec­tion, fea­tur­ing long tops over wide pants, with eth­nic em­broi­dery mod­ern­ized with Plex­i­glas petals.

“I used to see them work­ing by them­selves on their dresses and do these beau­ti­ful em­broi­deries,” she re­called. “They were shep­herds as well, handin-hand with men. It was just a nor­mal, beau­ti­ful life.”

That proved a com­pelling sight for a young girl who al­ways ques­tioned the re­stric­tions placed on women. “I al­ways longed for equal­ity,” she ex­plained. “Now you have #MeToo. I be­lieve that women in gen­eral have to fight to live just a nor­mal life, not to be sup­pressed by any rules.”

Born into a prom­i­nent fam­ily with strong links to the art world, Ser­afi read fine art at univer­sity and later stud­ied fash­ion at Par­sons Paris. She went to work for her fam­ily busi­ness, Al Sale­hat Hold­ing, plac­ing brands within the group's re­tail prop­er­ties. But her road to in­de­pen­dence was bumpy.

“It wasn't easy for me to start my own busi­ness. They wanted me to be a house­wife,” said Ser­afi, who has three chil­dren from her first mar­riage and is step­mother to an­other four. “I had to take on so many roles, I had to prove that this is not go­ing to af­fect my life as a mother and as a wife, and here I am.”

The de­signer has con­tin­ued to push bound­aries. Pre­vi­ous col­lec­tions have fea­tured a print of her mother's face, some­thing of a taboo in a coun­try where women are veiled, and she cre­ated a cap­sule col­lec­tion last year to cel­e­brate the lift­ing of Saudi Ara­bia's ban on women driv­ing.

Ser­afi plans to launch on­line sales world­wide at the end of Septem­ber, to be fol­lowed by her first flag­ship in Jed­dah next year. With only 11 points of sale at present, she ex­pects the brand to log rev­enues of 10 mil­lion Saudi Ara­bia riyals, or nearly $2.7 mil­lion, by early 2020 com­pared with 3 mil­lion riyals, or about $800,000, in 2018.

As the sole owner of her brand, she's aware that the dif­fi­cult part is just be­gin­ning. “Some­times suc­cess makes my life dif­fi­cult. Now all eyes are on the brand and watch­ing, it's very hard. It's not as easy as I thought it was go­ing to be — ac­tu­ally, it's more dif­fi­cult and it's more chal­leng­ing. I like chal­lenges, so I'm up to it,” she said.

Here and be­low: Vi­su­als from Youths in Bal­a­clava.

An Avi­teur carry-on.

A look from Hon­ayda’s spring col­lec­tion.

Hon­ayda Ser­afi

Pa­tri­cia Gucci with a carry-on.

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