Psss...Blog Secret #1

Sometimes I wonder if I went to the right college. Don't get me wrong, I'm enjoying my time here, but I think it's always good to question yourself a little now and then to not get complacent/too comfortable. I have say I love my school now...after discovering that they got a campus license to Lynda. HOW FREAKING AWESOME IS THAT?! After discovering Lynda through Katrina I've always been dying to learn HTML/CSS and everything else properly since everything you see here is self-taught from Xanga days (oh how far I have come). 

In honour of my blogniversary I've decided to share a few tips of the trade I've learnt through the past two years of blogging. I know there are some VERY good sites that are already offering such coding tricks (like Katrina's Pugly Pixel) but I want to share things that are so basic you'd be hard pressed to find them easily. I learnt the hard way by digging through a lot of sites before I found the stuff I'm going to share with you guys. 

Happy 2nd Birthday

THE BLOG IS TWO NOW (as of yesterday)! Isn't this so crazy?! I believe this is the first time I've stuck with a personal project for this long. EVER. It's awesome to how the blog has developed over the years – at first I was just sharing random stuff/ thoughts about things – I never intended to actually write longer detailed pieces. What further boggles my mind is that people actually read them, let alone leave such thoughtful and insightful comments.  The blog has become a full blown creative outlet in terms of making me push my boundaries as a writer, amateur web/graphics designer, amateur photographer and most importantly, as a consumer. Maintaining the blog has at times been taxing and even grueling on top of academic responsibilities, but it feels incredibly rewarding every step of the way.

Writing about the curating process and the general economics of retail and luxury goods has fundamentally shifted my entire perspective on fashion. I pay much more attention to the 'how' and 'why' people around me shop as oppose to what they bought in the past. Similarly, it consistently surprises me to see how drastically different my shopping habits have become not only in relation to myself before but also to the people around me. Learning their motives behind their purchases and comparing it myself is utterly fascinating. It's not about how I am better than thou by accumulating less things; instead, it's more of observing and documenting the huge variety of what makes people tick, of what trickles into the mainstream subconsciousness in the realm of retail and fashion. What makes ME tick even: the constantly yapping about Uniqlo, find the perfect basics, classic pieces, the Ivy/Trad (PITA) aesthetic rah rah rah...two years later and I'm still hopelessly obsessed with all of the above. Beyond this, it's also interesting to this play out on the larger scale, in the context of modern day globalization and in terms of ecological impact.

My brain is awash with topics to add to my much neglected series of "Curating + Collecting." If only I could find enough time and energy to pen them as fast as I can! Future topics I can't wait to write about very soon: the change in the pace of consumption pre- and post-curating, mall culture in Hong Kong, basics vs. classics (or if there is a difference at all), how the womenswear industry is friendly (or unfriendly) to curating the wardrobe, whether high fashion is shifting away from regurgitating trends from the runway etc. etc. Apart from this particular series, other topics include researching and writing about Uniqlo (I have already downloaded all the relevant PDFs from their parent company Fast Retailing Co.'s corporate website), talking about Chinese luxury goods market and more. So many topics but so little time. Let's not get ahead of ourselves shall we by tackling things one at a time...starting with sharing some blog tips of the trade I've picked up over the year(s) for this week. It's my way of giving back to the blogging community and to my lovely readers ;)

Thanks to everybody who has been reading the blog, no matter how long ago or recent (that includes you mum and dad), from all over the globe. I've been slowly coming out of the blogging closet (so to speak) by sharing my blog more with people I actually know in real life, which is pretty scary but at the same time, at least now they know why I need to shut myself off from the rest of the world for hours at a time. Thanks again for the great two year run so far and let's toast to a great third round this time eh? I hear the third time's the charm!

Stanley, Hong Kong

After yesterday's grittier post of artist studios in Hong Kong's industrial district of Fo Tan, here's one to show you the more relaxed peaceful side of HK. It's nice to escape the hustle and bustle of the big city. Due to the expensive real estate, most of the land is developed by real estate tycoons to build shopping malls after shopping malls to quickly and easily recoup their investments, even if there are WAY too many in existence already. Worst still, the malls are all filled with the same brands and in many cases, even the same restaurants. Even though it's a cosmopolitan city rich in culture, it's actually hard to find something interesting to see or do, hence our making a trek way out of the way down to the southern tip of the island.

Here you can see what was basically my uniform the whole time I was in HK: basic neutral tee + jeans + sneakers/loafers depending on location/weather/mood + Barbour jacket, which turned out to be perfect for the cool breezy winter weather. 

I'll be sure to follow up later with the a post solely dedicated to the "mall culture" of Hong Kong and the resulting homogeneity of choices because it's an interesting phenomenon that's little seen outside of Asia (where the population density is high and little land is available).

2013 Fotanian Open Studios

Before I hopped on the plane back the US, I made a point to go to this year's Fotanian Open Studios, where you got to visit the studios of local artists. It was quite reminiscent of Shanghai's Tianzifang. On the whole, the Fotanian event was spread over several industrial buildings that made it harder to navigate around than the much more tourist friendly Tianzifang, however it much more of an underground feel as a result.

From all the massive promotions throughout the city while I was there, I can tell there is a definite effort to further promote homegrown artistic talent. You should check out their posters because I love the graphic design done on the promotion materials. There was a decent turn out too on the random Sunday afternoon that I went, judging by the traffic of people and the long lines for elevators. To be honest, I wasn't too impressed by the kind of art shown here. None of the works felt fully developed. Nothing took my breath away. Yet I feel, given time, the kind of art produced in Hong Kong today may someday (hopefully) rival those produced at Beijing's 798 or at least on the a commercial front, closer to that of Shanghai's.

On a slightly different note, if you have time take a look at a local art magazine, TrendsOn, that I've seen distributed for free across the city in many cafés that I have come to enjoy reading.

Dior Spring Couture 2013

It's been a year since I last talked about couture.The photos of the latest couture shows this season are almost all out. As this is only Raf's second couture show (his first being last fall), I had to check it out. I'm not head over heels in love with it, but I do find some of the details he incorporates within his pieces are quite nice. It will be interesting to see if he will continue to keep up with his signature clean silhouette as he continues to work under the name Dior. I find myself missing the theatrics of past Galliano collections but I do welcome the new change in landscape for the world of couture. It does feel like going back in time when couture WERE wearable. All of the pieces in this collection adhere to that approach and I'm sure we are bound to see many of these gowns on the red carpet in the future.

Relevant Readings:

Adventures at the Bookmill

Yesterday my friend's brother came up from New Haven to visit his sister (aww) so we decided to spend MLK day at the local Bookmill instead. I have never been to the Bookmill before myself and I absolutely adored it. I could have spent the entire day here. There's amazing food (the brie, jam + apple sandwich above was divine) with great coffee and huge array of books for you to pick from and read. It's a hipster/nerd paradise. I left my DSLR at school and didn't bring it back with me to HK so I truly enjoyed rediscovering it again. The weight of it feels good in my hands.

I feel bad for not having any HK updates even though I had a great time. Those just require a little more writing and I'm feeling a little lazy as of late. :P

A Very Pea Update

I finally got a wool blended pea coat that I'm absolutely head over heels in love with from...*drum roll*...UNIQLO. Bet you were SO surprised that I would find something at Uniqlo for my liking. I managed to squeeze in a few hours of shopping time before I had to board the bus back to school, so I got to visit their North American flagship on 5th & 53rd and it is glorious. I spent two hours there trying on everything. I love every aspect of the coat:
  • there is enough weight in the material that it feels substantial
  • good structure 
  • well tailored to my body
  • in a gorgeous navy blue
  • on sale
To be honest at first I was trying to find the wool blended cocoon coat that I had my eye on already in HK but there was none in my size. In comparison it was a bit more trendy Isabel Marant-esque and I'm sure I would have loved the coat, however I'm glad that even though I wasn't able to get it, it led me to this wonderfully divine traditional coat that basically is now the cherry on top of my über PITA (preppy-ivy-traditional-americana) wardrobe. Dead Fleurette wrote about sticking to what works in terms of her relationship with APC, I have to say I have the same with Uniqlo (only the NYC stores though sadly). It's funny because I think it all began with my overzealous pursuit for great basics even though I have hardly your model petite Japanese woman body except now I have convinced they scale things very differently for their North American market. I do hope to learn more about Uniqlo as a business operation in the future as I think as a regular customer I should learn more about the origin of my purchases. Being an informed consumer never hurts.

*if you were wondering why the photos are so overexposed it is because it was taken by a good friend who is, alas, not so experienced (if at all) with photography. At least she's fabulous at organic chemistry?! For all intents and purposes they serve to showcase the coat well enough though in the future I will be sure to find opportunities to photograph the coat better.

Move Over Downton for Parade's End

I still remember how excited I was for season three of Downton Abbey. I've only written about that not too long ago. Sure season two kinda sucked, but overall it was good television. Seeing as it has only started airing now in the US, I feel compelled to say I completely ditched it after episode five. I will not reveal what exactly happens then, but the poor suckers who are watching it as of right now will be in for a nasty surprise. Last week, I was contemplating whether to watch it again despite hating Julian Fellowes for what he did in episode five when I was then promptly informed of what had happened in the Christmas special. For what happened in both episode five and the special, FUCK YOU JULIAN FELLOWES BIG TIME. HOW COULD YOU, YOU EVIL EVIL MAN. And with that I have forever abandoned all thoughts of tuning in to Downton again, except for maybe reliving the glory days of season one someday down the line in the future.

Now that Downton is gone, something has got to sate my need for a good historical drama. Enter Parade's End, which comes highly recommended by all my good British chums from back home in Hong Kong as well from many sources on the internet. I managed to catch episode one on Friday and while I have yet to fall head over heels for it (give it time now), the period piece is COMPLETELY GORGEOUS. It based on Ford Maddox Ford's tetralogy published between 1924 and 1928 that begins at the start of WWI. I might start reading the series myself. It's close enough to the time period of Downton in season one I suppose. This also conveniently fills up the gap that Sherlock has left in me, what with both Martin Freeman and Benedict Cumberbatch being busy with the Hobbit I, II and III. The female suffragette Cumberbatch's character Christopher Tietjens falls looks like if Michelle Williams and Carey Mulligan had a baby. I also couldn't recognize Rebecca Hall, who plays Tietjens' bitchy wife without her trademark brown locks. 

I'll be sure to update on any good fashion in film finds as I progress throughout the series, which won't be too hard judging from these promo stills from the first episode alone. It's a breath of fresh air for the aesthetics of Downton. It's rather hard to find screen caps for now but I won't let that stand in the way of getting good fashion inspiration. 

Parade's End will premiere in the US on HBO on February 26th. But who can wait that long? Pas moi.

Fei Fei Sun x Vogue Italia

Welcome to the newly spruced up Of Stranger Sensibilities, version god knows what. I know better than to constantly change the layout, for fear of alienating longtime readers, so I have held my hand back to not change too much by keeping the same motif of thick black borders only with the edition of better fonts. I suppose the timing is apt since its a) a new year b) almost my blog's second anniversary and c) I've just purchased a domain!! The final push to get my own space (err minus hosting) was seeing Amanda getting her own. It just seems so clean and professional...even if I am not one. I just got the domain so it will take a while for servers to redirect my blogspot to my own domain. The cool side benefit is that I get to have a cool new email account, which is updated for the e-mail icon under 'Find Me Here.' I will forward all the emails I have currently from that old account to this new one, but I can't promise that if you send me email to the old account in the future that I would be 100% guaranteed to get it. Just email me using my new account ok? I used Playfair Display for the post title, gadget headings and tabs, which I discovered via Google Web Fonts (hey Sam here is the link) and Gentium Basic for the body, which I found through graphic/web designer Breanna Rose, on whose blog I've first saw using it and LOVED it. I'll end all the boring blogger talk here and more fanfare plus blogger treats will come when my blog-niversary is here on the 27th.

Back to fashion news, the reason why I HAD to share this editorial, not only because it's fantastic and beautiful and I love Fei Fei Sun to death (after Liu Wen), but because it is a historical moment in which there is finally a Chinese model on the cover of Vogue Italia for the first time EVER on their January 2013 issue. This is a big deal since to my knowledge, this is the first time a Western Vogue had a solo East Asian (or maybe even Asia in general) model on its cover. I remember Vogue US doing the 'Asia Major' spread photographed by Meisel (too!) back in their Dec 2010 issue, but I thought it was more of a token gesture of "D-I-V-E-R-S-I-T-Y" more than a genuine appreciation for massive strides the models have carved out for their themselves (ugh how I've come to loath that term). As much as I love seeing mah home gurlz get represented in the big fashion glossies, I really hope magazines would stop doing Asia model issues, but rather treat these models as just models on their own right. Except that their ethnicity just so happens to be Asian, the same the way I hope plus size models will lose their plus size label and just be normal models themselves, even if there is a clear physical difference between the two. The reason why I dislike such labels is that it turns everything into a kind of a gimmick. I want these models to be successful not because they happen to be *insert label* model but get blue chip contracts and editorials by virtue of their own merit, by werking it like any other Brazilian or Russian in town.

If there is one good thing that came out of the huge buying power of the Chinese, this is it. I can still remember the days when there only Asian model out during the baby doll era of Gemma Ward was Du Juan, then along came Hye Park and Daul Kim (girl I miss you so much RIP) and joined later by Lakshmi Menon. It's so satisfying to see Chinese models almost everywhere you go now. I can't wait till the proliferation of Chinese models develops so that you will begin to see different kinds beauty other than the current preferred aesthetic of monolids plus insane bone structure (+/- pouty lips), since there are at least 56 officially recognized ethnicities in China alone.

This editorial is well done if a bit trite in being all studio shots, but if there is a bone I had to pick with it, it would be the heavy make up on the cover. I understand the difference between everyday make up and editorial/haute couture make up, however Fei Fei loses some of her character underneath the heavy contouring and eyeliner. Though what can I say, this is a great coup for Fei Fei and will sure be a career milestone in propelling her modeling career to stratospheric heights. It would AWESOME to see her in a big brand's beauty campaign. Holy cow I didn't expect I would write so much – it was supposed to be a simple pic sharing post. The full editorial is under the jump.

Menswear Heaven at Popcorn

It's a really good time to be a guy in Hong Kong right now. Or a menswear lover like me. Either way there are plenty of options and eye candy abound everywhere you go in the city, from the more edgy urban Japanese style to preppier Americana stuff that's still so popular stateside. I came across Popcorn while wandering around town after dinner with the parents and it's soooooo good. I like how they have adapted Americana to more Hong Kong tastes, what with the incorporation of sneakers, lending a streetwear edge for an audience that has yet to don chukka boots with the same gusto as Brooklyn hipsters.

Kowloon Walled City Park

Ever since I entered college, I have travelled less and less frequently to Hong Kong. In part to save money and in part because I have come to detest flying 19 plus hours. It's rather sad only being able to see my parents once a year at most and becoming a stranger in my homeland. On the flip side however, I've become to truly appreciate any opportunity to fly home to HK and, of course, to see my parents (and not take them for granted!). More so, I can look upon and explore HK with fresh eyes with the insatiable curiosity of a tourist imbued with an established understanding (of the language, culture etc.) as a longtime resident beforehand. It's a rather trippy experience as HK is stuck in my mind in the limbo between being home home and completely foreign.

Today I got to be all touristy and visited Kowloon Walled City Park (九龍寨城公園). I don't think I have been here since I was very very young. The history of the place is incredibly fascinating – parts of it dated from Song and the fort as a whole from 17th century Qing – but the walled city was most interesting in the 20th century after it became a legal grey area being neither in control by the Chinese nor the British. I made a point to visit after seeing it appear in the 99% Invisible Podcast. You can read more about it the walled city itself (九龍寨城) and city park here. I find it a shame that I never got to visit since it was torn down around when I was born (early 90s). My dad did manage to go visit in the early 70s and said it was a surprisingly functional (and not as scary as it seems, but then again I am a big wuss) place.

Hong Kong: The City of Luxury Goods

I found this sitting around as a draft as I never got round to fully fleshing it out. I wrote this way back a few months after the Prada IPO (so tail end of 2011 to early 2012) so some of the information is rather out of date, however I hope this will serve as background info to later Hong Kong-heavy posts to come.

Resolutions Old and New

MpBk5i on Make A Gif, Animated Gifs

I stayed in to rest after the insane craziness of NYE in Hong Kong, which consisted of counting down (no ball drop but the fireworks make up for it) atop IFC and later bar hopping around Lan Kwai Fong. It's not that I have to nurse a giant hangover, but I get tired much more easily now and need to "recharge my batteries" after going all out. Or it could just be that I'm getting oldddd. Yep that sounds about right. At least I got round to finishing A Storm of Swords and now moving on to A Feast of Crows?

Since I got back to HK on the Dec 24th, I have been super busy running around like a headless chicken catching up with family and friends, celebrating both Christmas, Boxing Day (Canadian alert) and NYE and never got the time to catch my breath. As I result I never got round to reflecting on last year's resolutions and I'll make a few for 2013 in this post.