Last minute cheongsams for VD and CNY!

Valentine’s Day is just round the corner, followed closely by the Chinese New Year. If you haven’t gotten your dresses yet, you should consider a cheongsam especially for VD. Since this is my last post on cheongsams before the festivities begin, I like to feature dresses from retailers whom I haven’t been showcasing lately as well a couple of new ones.

I can’t believe I forgot about Miz Apparels until recently. I have been too engrossed with the choices available in department stores. So I made a trip to the One Raffles Place outlet to see what are available. Just like previous collections, MA does the Mother-Daughter set very well. The dresses go for less than S$200 and the top is retailed at S$99.

On Friday, I went to the pop-up store of The Girl’s Kaksh where I finally got to check out the designs. Actually, I had encountered the dresses some years back when Audrey started selling her cheongsams. I was intrigued by the eclectic prints, but I didn’t get anything then. Subsequently the brand came up in my radar again, and I started followed it on FB. That was how I found out Audrey was holding a 2-day pop up store at International Plaza.

I had previously requested to showcase the dresses on my blog, but was declined politely. Finally this time, Audrey acceded. So here we have a piece with cat print and to add a whimsical touch, Audrey designed a fish along the side slit.

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If you like the interesting designs from TGK, and every piece is unique, do contact Audrey for an appointment to check out these whimsy cheongsams. Most of the dresses are slightly more than S$200, and they run a little larger than usual . If you want a custom made piece, it will be at least S$250 depending on fabrics.

A new brand I like to introduce here is Qiqing Qipao. I chanced upon this label on FB a few days ago, and was intrigued by the cheongsam designs. Many available in the market usually come in bright floral prints with embroidered buttons; but for those from Qiqing, they have a clean cut and contemporary look. These are very suited for the professionals.

I approached the designer, Josephine Ho, to ask if I could feature some of the dresses on my blog and she was very accommodating and even sent over pictures for me.

The dress  below with simple print and a V-shaped back, is known fittingly as “Backview”, and retailed at S$288.

The range below, Linear Twist, is retailed for S$329. Check out the scalloped collar.

Qiqing offers tops as well, like these which are inspired by the Vietnamese ao yai. They go for S$179, and if you want it with floral prints (available for the CNY occasion), it is S$219.

Josephine has a showroom at 780 Upper Serangoon Road. If you are interested to go for a fitting, do contact her for an appointment.

Next, we have Mama & Misse, another brand which I haven’t been featuring for quite some time. M&M’s cheongsams are unique as well, but they are mostly in the traditional cut and go for more than S$300. For those with UOB credit cards, there is a 10% discount during this CNY period.

And how could I not include Blum in this post. It turns out I was wrong to think that the label is not launching many cheongsams this time. It’s just that they are launching it a little later than most other brands. Expect to pay in the range of S$350 for the dresses.

Finally, we have Hana where you can get a cheongsam that makes you look like a million dollar, at a price of more than S$1,600. With such elaborate embroidery, I must say it is worth it. I mean, seriously, look at this dress!

With so many different designs available, shoppers are really spoilt for choice. So do check out and get yourself a cheongsam and shine during this VD or Chinese New Year!

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Check out the cheongsams from Monica Quen (updated)

(Note. Monica Quen has kindly provided me with photo shoot of the dresses for a better view, and so I have replaced a couple of those I took and included a few more.)

I was in Penang last week, and I took the opportunity to visit Monica Quen boutique to see the cheongsams for myself. I first heard of her from a colleague who wore her dresses during CNY last year. She told me she bought them from the shop at the Eastern & Oriental hotel in Penang. I then went online to do some research, and found out Monica is a Malaysian fashion designer who focuses on oriental wear. Her stores are available in Kuala Lumpur and Penang.

I don’t have any plan to visit KL, and was wondering when I would even go to Penang, even though my husband has relatives there. It turns out we made the visit before this CNY.

There are 3 boutiques in Penang. To maximize my time spent, I contacted Monica to ask which shop would have the full collection, and she suggested I visit the one at Straits Quay (Add: Lot No. 3A-G-29, Block A, G Floor, Straits Quay, Jalan Seri Tanjung Pinang, Tanjong Tokong, 10470 Penang, Malaysia). This is an upmarket mall by the Marina with apartments above shopping center.

When I communicated with Monica, I took the chance to introduce my blog to her and to request for permission to take photos. She very kindly obliged, and even suggested I visit the shop on the Friday when the designer would be present. Unfortunately, I would leave Penang by then and had to miss this opportunity.

The boutique is situated next to the mall entrance, which is a pretty good spot. It is fairly large and spacious, and tastefully furnished with an oriental interior, befitting of the clothes it sells.

Now, let’s check out the clothes; and I only focused on cheongsam dresses and tops. We have here a cheongsam muumuu in silk for those who prefer something comfy.

Personally I feel that a cheongsam should be fitting, though originally it was a loose dress. But never casual! Always proper! So I am not in favor that cheongsam should go casual. So we have a couple of dresses here that adhere to my view of how it should look like: a couple of pink dresses in jacquard woven cotton blend with elastane (MYR229.90) and a pretty turquoise one in stretchy cotton with geometric print (MYR169.90).

Next, we have a series of cheongsams in light fabric: the first one is a loose fit dress with blue chinoiserie print in chiffon (MYR269.90); while the other two are figure-hugging dresses (called the “netting” range by the boutique). I understand the latters are very popular because they adhere to any body shapes. They are going for MYR229.90.

For a formal look, there is an embroidered organza lace cheongsam in lavender at MYR499.90.

Finally, for the cheongsam tops, you can pick from different fabrics, such as this below in blue embroidered thick cotton-linen (MYR299.90) as well as a red one in a light polyester blend (MYR129.90).

So, what do I think of the cheongsams? To be honest, if I want to compare with Clothier or even Peter Kor, the workmanship is not as fine though it is acceptable. However when I take into account their prices, I must say they definitely give the Singapore brands a run for their money.

At the current exchange rate of MYR1 to about USD0.257 and SGD0.338, I’m sure you realize even the most expensive embroidered dress is below S$200. This make the cheongsams really value for money. If you are making a trip to Penang or Kuala Lumpur, do check out the stores.

(More photos below)

The CNY cheongsam launches continue

The Happy Cheongsam has launched its 2018 collection after a long hiatus. In fact, it has been a year since we last saw its designs, which was for 2017 CNY. When I checked in with Ming a few months ago on the radio silence, she told me she was preparing for the new year designs.

So, here we are, some pictures of the collection you can expect from THC. To be honest, I thought last year’s dresses were prettier.

There is a familiar look this time – a design that appeared in the first collection, the peacock dress below. It also comes in black, the color that was launched previously.

For the young ladies who prefer something comfy, you can opt for the cheongsam top and shorts set. I thought it might be a little too casual. But it seems that the younger Singaporeans have a tendency to dress down.

Finally a Mother-Daughter set. Again, the mama cheongsam reminds me of the Thai silk pleated dress from the first collection as well.

Another retailer, which has launched a new collection, is Sissae, and it’s aptly named as “Opulence”!there is a focus on embroidery and brocade silk fabric. The designs are more suited for formal occasions or as special wear.

When I was at Robinson Raffles City Mall to look at Peter Kor’s collection, I took the chance to check out the other designs. The departmental store has been offering more cheongsam selections over the last 2 years, which I presume to mean that there is increased demand for the dress during CNY. Here are some of what you can expect at a cheaper price range.

Over at Parkway Parade, I spotted a pretty batik cheongsam from Utopia Apparels. I like the juxtaposition of the different prints, and I think it would make for a fun casual piece!

Getting ready for CNY with Peter Kor’s cheongsams

As mentioned in my previous post, Peter is launching a big collection for the Chinese new year with amazing fabrics and prints. Other than his boutique at 222 Queen street, the collection is also available at Metro and Robinson department stores. Though the dresses are not exactly the same in these stores as there are certain items exclusives to Metro or Robinson. You will get to see most of the designs at the boutique.

I had featured some of the new dresses previously, and here are the rest. (I admit I did not get to take pictures of all the dresses as some are already in-store, and this is a huge collection!)

As is Peter’s style, the cheongsam has been transformed from a traditional dress to work wear for the modern women. Many of the dresses come in Japanese cotton fabrics for comfort and easy to clean. If you like something more luxurious, there are cheongsams with beautiful silk or tweed fabrics.

To start, we have here a simple dress if you are not into embellishments and prefer a subtle look. Despite the absence of buttons or embroidery, the gold collar gives it an elegant touch.

For a youthful look, there is a wide selection of cheongsams in youngish prints like checks or daisies. The checkered dresses come with interesting tassel embellishment at the front slit. Otherwise, opt for the embroidered floral buttons instead.

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Similar to last year’s collection, Peter has again launched a couple of dresses in kimono prints. These would be perfect for those who love colorful floral designs. These Japanese cotton cheongsams are priced at S$249.

Here are a couple of dresses which I swoon over. I first spotted the below white dress with embroidery at Robinson store, and I thought it was absolutely gorgeous. It reminds me of a Monet painting! The silk organza fabric has a luxurious feel to it, and the embroidery covers the back as well. So you can imagine how amazing it looks! Though it comes at a price of S$599.

The other dress is a bright red, Indian-inspired cheongsam which would be perfect for both CNY and Deepavali (the Indian Festival of Light).  The fabric is a thick cotton-blend paired with sari material. Some might find that it looks like a wedding dress (since it’s customary for a Chinese bride to wear red during her wedding, other than CNY). But I wouldn’t mind going to work in it to brighten things up. You can find this dress at Metro Paragon or Centrepoint at S$349.

When I first saw this furry dress, I was bowled over by how interesting it looks. But, I must admit, after trying it, I thought I wouldn’t be out of place in a Flintstone cartoon. I looked like I was wearing a colorful fur dress. It’s just not for me.

For the traditionalists who wants something that screams “Chinese New Year”, you have the option of either an appropriately red cheongsam with large peony flowers or the imperial yellow with peony and birds.  These silk dresses are priced at S$329.

Peter has designed a pleated cheongsam dress with side pockets and belt. The whimsical print shows different patterned bowls of rice and reminds me of the dresses from The Happy Cheongsam. This will certainly appeal to the younger ladies.

Finally, we have a tweed dress with faux pearl buttons. This is strictly not part of the CNY collection, but was launched a few months earlier. However, given that it is in red, I must say it makes an elegant wear for the festivities.

If any dress catches your eyes, do check them out at the boutique or department stores. Each cheongsam comes in only a few sizes.

The launch of the CNY cheongsams (updated)

Happy 2018 to everyone!

I received an email from Ping Ping of Clothier before Christmas, and she invited me to her boutique at Tanglin Shopping Center, #B1-07, 19 Tanglin Road, where she has just launched the CNY collection. I was under the weather during the Christmas weekend, and only managed to make the trip last week.

Ping Ping was not in the shop but a staff helped me to contact her, and I managed to speak to her about the collection. As is now seem to be Clothier style, Ping Ping is sticking to the classic design and fabrics. Nothing overly fancy, elaborate or ostentatious even. Still, the collection has something to offer for those who want a luxurious look, like these dresses below in fully embroidered silk chiffon that come in dusty pink, dark grey, light grey and navy blue colors that go for S$398. I find the stitchings pretty alright, though I must say the dull colors and the sleeve length do make the cheongsams look rather matronly.

If you prefer a dress with a vibrant look and yet has similar luxurious embroidery, here is one with cap sleeves at S$328.

For more brighter and festive wear, check out the 100% silk cheongsams below which are going for S$298. They are slightly cheaper without the embroidery.

For the price-conscious shopper, there are cheaper cheongsams in cotton/polyester mix fabrics at S$148. The design is catered to the young ladies with its  high shoulder cut and youthful prints and colors.

Here is a dress with a beautiful print that reminds me of an oriental vase. The fabrics are carefully sewn to ensure symmetry on both front and back. It looks rather expensive but is reasonably priced at S$168, and that’s because the fabric is a mix of 65% polyester and 35% cotton.

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Ping Ping has included a series of cheongsams using the rare and expensive Xiang Yun Sha (香云纱) silk, literally translated as “fragrant cloud organza), also known as tea silk or Chinese Gambiered silk. It is made in a town in Guangzhou province, China. The silk is dyed using the juice of the local plants, and the entire production is very laborious as everything is done by hand. However the efforts show in the quality, which is apparently much better than the usual silk and the fabric can retain colors for many years. According to Ping Ping, a distinctive feature of this sort of silk is that the underside is a dark brown color.

Due to the limited quantities of this silk fabric the price is also much higher. Like these two designs below are priced at S$688 each.

(I have since found out from Ping Ping that the purple dress is made from a plain woven jacquard, while the brown dress used a printed fabric.)

The below dress is, however, more expensive at S$788. I’m checking with Ping Ping on this and will update my post once I get a reply from her. (Update: this dress required more workmanship and details, hence the higher price point.)

I must admitted I am not fascinated with the Xiang Yun Sha designs, which are loose and flowy at calf length and the sleeves are too long for my liking. They remind me of the traditional cheongsams worn by ladies in the 1920’s, which seem more appropriate for the older women (like those in their 60’s and above).

Clothier cheongsams are also available in pop-up stores at the major departmental stores such as Tang, Isetan and Takashimaya in town. Usually, these stores will offer discount for the CNY dresses and you may want to take advantage of that if you plan to shop for a cheongsam.

A preview of the New Year cheongsams

2018 Chinese New Year is more than 2 months away, but already boutiques are preparing for launches. In fact, Peter Kor of Studio 55 started his creative process some months back. He didn’t want to repeat the mistake of last year when he had to rush through the designs at the last minute. The fact that the next CNY falls on mid February will help the retailers, in the sense that it provides a breather for shoppers after Christmas.

I was at Studio 55 a couple of days ago and Peter had kindly allowed me to feature some of his new designs, and I can tell everyone that the collection is huge! (Actually I had a sneak preview a couple of months ago of some of the dresses, but of course I couldn’t take any pictures then.) I have to say that I am pretty excited about this range.

So, here are some beautiful cheongsams you can expect from Peter.

Starting off is one of the pieces that I love: an oriental print silk fabric from Italy, which is absolutely stunning! A simple dress that lets the print does the talking.

The below design with the flamenco pleat is the same as one that was launched for CNY last year. The difference this time is the polka-dot print with stone buttons, giving the cheongsam a playful spin that will appeal to the younger crowd.

Peter has again incorporated Japanese cotton print into the CNY cheongsams, which you can wash gently in water. To make the cheongsams interesting, he used interesting trimmings for the collars and the embroidered buttons.

Here’s another piece that I like, the fabric that is reminiscent of a Klimt’s painting.

Look at the French lace covering the collar. It adds a touch of elegance. Another simple cheongsam that stands on its beautiful print.

For those who prefer a modern dress without the high collar, you can opt for this with embroidered buttons. Personally, I wouldn’t consider this a cheongsam though.

Now, the two dresses below are not part of the CNY designs but from the previous collection. I thought I would feature them here in case anyone is interested in something that is not in the red category or something appropriate for work (not that I consider any of the CNY cheongsams as inappropriate).

From Studio 55, let’s move on to other cheongsam retailers. Here we have Hana, with its unmistakable ostentatious embroidered dress that would be very fitting at a wedding.

Blum boutique has started releasing some new designs and here was what I spotted the other day at the window display.

As usual for Shanghai Tang, it offers both the classic and the modern looks, including short collars for those who are not used to having their necks hugged.

If you are looking for an edgy-looking cheongsam, I must say Shanghai Tang does it well, like this blue dress with zip below.

For those who want to look like a million buck even in a casual cheongsam, this is the dress for you.

I can understand if the price tags of the above retailer would put off many women. For something that would be within reasonable budget, you might see something you like from Joli Pretty’s latest collection for 2018. The range of dresses and jumpsuit is priced between S$169 to S$189.

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There will more launches, especially in end of December and beginning of January. I will try not to get distracted by Pogo, and showcase as many as possible in my blog,

 

Lunch at Bar-Roque Grill

Last week, I celebrated my belated birthday with husband and Buddy at BR Grill, a French restaurant that is recommended by TripAdvisor members for its steak.  We were initially deciding where to go, and my husband even checked out the review for Wolfgang Steakhouse at Robertson Quay (the restaurant opened by Wolfgang Puck). But I wanted a place that serves a more varied menu, and we also had to consider Buddy’s liking for pizza and pasta as well. So I looked around and found BR.  It offers a very reasonably-priced 3-course set lunch at S$38++, though for the steak there is an additional S$18. My husband was attracted by the positive reviews on the steak. There are many compliments on the excellent service as well. Then there is the cheesy flambé on the ala carte menu, which we marketed to Buddy as pizza. So, I booked a table for lunch for the three of us.

The restaurant is located on the first level of Amara Hotel facing Tanjong Pagar road. The interior has a dim warm lighting, with a bar close to the entrance. There were a few tables at the side, and more tables at the lower level, where the kitchen is located. The feel is that of a high-end bistro. We were given a corner table at one end of the small dining room.

For the appetiser, I ordered a baby spinach salad with pine nuts and goat cheese while my husband requested for the tomato salad with mozzarella and rocket. I managed to take a picture of my salad, below. My husband, who tried both appetisers, felt mine was more tasty. Personally I thought it was alright, nothing amazing.

When the flambé arrived, it smell good, and my husband and Buddy started reaching out for a slice. So there is a missing corner by the time I took a photo. The crust is rather crispy, and it does taste like an Italian pizza minus the tomato paste. Buddy likes it, but kids love pizza anyway. Thought it is tasty, it still pales in comparison to the pizzas in a good Italian restaurants like Etna or Bruno. Perhaps this is not an Apple to Apple comparison.

For the main, I had the roasted snapper with root vegetables. It comes with a slice of rye bread, baby octopus and a couple of mussels. Unfortunately the fish was a little over cooked though the rest of the dish was fine, but of course the fish is what should matter.

My husband loves the steak, which is one of the best he had eaten. It was done medium rare as requested and cooked to perfection.

For dessert, I ordered a raspberry sorbet for Buddy, and a separate chocolate fondant for myself. Yes I know I am allergic to gluten, but I decided to throw caution to the wind since I hardly have any cakes, even gluten-free ones. As you can see from the picture below, the cake comes with a couple of fruits and a raspberry sorbet too. The slightly tart sorbet cuts away the sweetness of the fondant. But I gave Buddy my sorbet since he slurped down his in double quick time. He really loves sorbet! As for the fondant, it was alright, doesn’t blow my mind away because it doesn’t seem any different from the one offers by Beard Papa’s, a Japanese puff pastry specialist.

My husband had initially wanted the lemon tart, but the restaurant changed its menu that day and the tart was no longer available and so he had the cheesecake instead. He thought it was not bad, but a little too subtle for his taste.

So, would we return? Maybe not since the food didn’t wow us. Besides the service was not as excellent as what I read in the reviews. I had to ask for refill of water. Maybe because there was only one guy serving the lower area. We had a much more fabulous dining experience at Etna Italian restaurant. My husband thought that perhaps it was because we went for the lunch special and so the food was nothing to shout about.

Quick peek at Laichan cheongsams

The other day, I was at Paragon for lunch and decided to grab a quick peek into the latest designs at Laichan boutique. Eddie was not around and I met Lai Chan attending to a customer. Spoke briefly to him about the official opening of the shop, and he said he was fine with not having any since the shop is considered open for business. But it looks like he has to have an official one as many regulars are asking about it. Right now he is busy with the fashion show at Singapore Fashion Week in 26 October. In fact Laichan is opening the show!

Anyway I didn’t stay long in the boutique as there were more customers coming in, and Laichan had to handle them on his own. I managed to take pictures of some new designs, and found that there were more Japanese cotton fabrics this time. So, here we have some standout cheongsams for formal occasions including wedding.

 

 

Below is a cheongsam with Japanese print. A youthful looking dress that is cheery as well!

I like the geometric print of this cheongsam below.  It has a retro feel and yet is beautifully contemporary.

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If you remember that Laichan has designed a cheongsam with pockets since end last year, and this time he added overlapping front pleats and using gingham print.

A beautiful and elegant white cheongsam for the big day!

There are not many cheongsam tops available though. Here is one with zipper instead of the signature stone buttons.

While I was there, Laichan pointed out a kimono-style jacket to me. This regal outerwear is a showstopper!

A black flamboyant long jacket for those who want to make a statement.

I am very honored that Laichan invited me to his show at Singapore Fashion Week, but unfortunately I couldn’t make it. I like to wish him all success, and look forward to checking out new designs in the near future.

The love for Pogo

It has been more than a year since Pokemon Go was launched, and I am still playing the game, better known as Pogo for Trainers. I have steadily rose through the levels, currently at level 34 (with the highest being 40).

If you are wondering, this is my pogo avatar, styled by Buddy, because this account is originally created for him.

Honestly, I have never stuck to a game this long, and in fact, you can even consider me being addicted to it. Last week, the game server was down for a few hours, and I started feeling jumpy, and kept checking the app if I could login. It’s like a drug addict ransacking the drawers for cocaine or even weed. (I can understand how a drug addict feels.) I remarked to a group of trainer friends that if the downtime was to take more than a day, I seriously had to check myself into rehab, otherwise I might turn crazy. One of them remarked, “we need Pogoholic Anonymous!” (But I doubt if any of us will sign up.)

Despite news reports on the contrary, the game has a lot of active Trainers, at least in Singapore. Sure there was some fatigue during the first half of this year despite the launch of generation 2 pokemons in February. But when Niantic (game developer) launched the reworked gym in June with the appearance of the raid bosses, that got Trainers excited again. (Raid boss is a powerful Pokemon which hatches from an egg that has taken over a gym or dojo for an hour and Trainers are encouraged to come together to battle it.) That also heralded the arrival of the legendaries in July, starting with the birds: Articuno, Zapdos, and Moltres, mascots of the 3 teams of Mystic (blue), Instinct (yellow) and Valor (red) respectively.

The birds have since left when September came, and we are now facing off the beasts: Raikou, Entei and Suicune (L-R).

Legendaries, by their status, are extremely rare and are mostly powerful Pokemons. They do not spawn in the wild unlike the ordinary ones, and instead they only hatch from raid eggs, i.e appear as raid bosses. The only way to capture them is to participate in the raids, or battles. Once Trainers defeat the boss in battle, we get to go to the bonus challenge of capturing it using special premier balls. Basically the whole raid thing is a little like a martial art or boxing fight.

The legendary frenzy has caused a big surge in interest among Trainers who have to come together to defeat them, because it is just not possible for a trainer to do it alone. They are spawned from tier 5 eggs, the highest as well as most difficult level. You need at least 6 high level Trainers with the right powerful counter mons to battle them (and even then it may be a close shave). This is in line with how Niantic has envisioned Pogo to be – a cooperation-based game, and the various gym reworks were geared towards making Trainers work together, although some changes have the opposite effect.

Still the raids, especially those for the legendaries, did produce the desired behaviours. Even among reticent Singaporeans, more are stepping out of their comfort zones to start organizing team-based groups to battle raid bosses. This is because the number of premier balls given depend on the damage your Pokémons inflicted on the boss, the number of fellow team members in the battle, as well as which team controls the gym (during the battle.) So the more same team members in battle, the more balls given, and so best to form same team battle group.

Though organizjng on the ground can also be as simple as getting enough people to battle the boss regardless of teams. Each day, trainers are given a raid pass to participate in a battle. Once you throw in the pass to enter the gym lobby, you cannot get it back even if you decide not to battle. This had happened to me when I raided a Tyranitar (tier 4) boss and was dismayed to find only 3 Trainers, me included, standing by for battle. Despite trying numerous times, we just couldn’t defeat the boss and my pass was wasted.

Though Niantic has recently tweaked the gym systems to allow Trainers to check the number in the lobby before committing the pass, it is still flawed – the number is inaccurate. Many times, the number shows only one when in fact there are several waiting inside lobby. So, this forces trainers to be proactive in interacting with each other. But it’s actually a good thing because it gets the Trainers to socialize with each other which is the purpose of the game.

Like last week, I rushed to a gym near my home for the Raikou raid, but realized many were already battling when I arrived. By the time I entered the lobby, there were only 2 of us waiting, which is a sure defeat. I noticed there were a couple standing nearby and asked them if they were raiding. Together, we rounded up a few more and managed to get 8 pax. It was a close shave since Raikou is a pretty tough Pokemon to take down, but luckily everyone used the correct counters.

As expected, I am part of the Pokemon Go Singapore community in Facebook, and that is a big source of entertainment and information for me. Anyone can put up posts in the group as long as they don’t go against the guidelines (at least in theory). And so there are posts from people who keep asking questions which had been answered countless times before (like “when is this legendary appearing in Singapore”). Then there are those who wanted to show off their Pokemon catches, like the number of legendaries caught; as well as the expected complaint kings and queens (Singapore being a complaint nation).

As mentioned earlier, certain gym reworks had caused the ire of Trainers. Previously, the gym system allows trainers to level up or train up their own gyms, from level 1 to 10, as well as attack opponent gyms. The higher the level, the more mons are placed in it. Every time you place a mon in gym, you get 10 pokecoins in the bag. The current system has done away with levelling and there are only 6 slots for Pokemon placement. So once the slots are taken by your own team, you cannot add in any and will have to look for opponent gyms. And when a trainer takes down an opponent gym, his/her selected mon is the first defender, which means an opponent will take down this mon first. Every 10 minutes spend in gym entitles to 10 pokecoins, but trainers can only get them in the bag when the mon is kicked out of the gym, and there are maximum of 50 coins a day. So there are a number of trainers who found ways around this. They create multiple pogo accounts of different teams, and use an opponent team account to battle first mon inside the gym, basically targeting only the first one. Once it is kicked out, there is an empty slot available and the trainer then log into the account of the team (that controls the gym) to place his or her mon into the gym. This is called “shaving”, and it has pissed off a lot of Trainers. It takes a lot of effort to take down the entire opponent gym, and yet the first defender is also the first to get shaved out, which is rather unfair. (Easier to target one than all 6 mons.)

Anyway, I have learned to live and let live, and not get worked up over things like this despite being addicted to pogo. It is important to enjoy the game as it is, and I have had lots of fun, and make new friends too. In fact it was because of the wasted raid pass from the Tyranitar raid that I came together with a couple of trainers, whom I got to know through FB, to form a WhatsApp group to battle the raid boss together. Within a few months, it has grown to a sizeable group, comprising of a mix of genders and teams, where most of us work in the CBD areas. Whoever can make it during lunch time or after work will meet up to raid Tyranitar boss or the legendary mons. I’m a little embarrassed to say I have been socializing with them more so than with other friends. Initially the chat was about game info and tips, and as we got comfortable with each other, we start sharing and venting about work, family, and health. There is no rivalry among the different team members and instead there are lots of encouragement.

Now, you may still wonder what’s the big deal about Pogo and why do I love the game so much? Well, my behavior has certainly changed because of it. After I had Buddy, I didn’t get to exercise as much as before, but because of Pogo I walk a lot more now, especially during lunch time. I have slowly learned to get out of my comfort zone and to interact with strangers. But, I do admit, because of Pogo, I’ve also neglected my passion in cheongsams, which I know I should get back to. I have to learn to balance my interest in both.

The different styles of cheongsams

A few weeks ago, a reader sent me a CNN link of the recommended cheongsam boutiques in Shanghai. Though her intention was not to introduce the boutiques but to alert me to one which claimed to have made the dresses wore by Maggie Cheung in ‘The Mood For Love’ (and it wasn’t Linva of Hong Kong). The boutique in question is Han Yi (瀚艺).

Anyway, after a little research, I think it was very likely the costume designer for the movie approached more than one tailor to make the cheongsams. But what piqued my curiosity is the list, because I want to know why are these the best, and how they distinguish themselves from the rest, especially compared to those in Singapore.

However the article didn’t even provide representative pictures of the cheongsams from each of the shops, and even the descriptions of the designs say very little about them. What does it mean by colorful, unconventional, decadent fabrics? The pictures featured don’t seem to have any relations to the ones offered by the boutiques.  The only boutique I’m familiar with is Shanghai Tang, and I had checked out Qipao by Jane some time ago (and strangely the website has been taken down). I tried to search online for them, but pictures were few and far between. Notably absent is also mention of the workmanship and service.

Now you might be wondering since these are said to be the best in Shanghai, the workmanship would be assumed to be good? Yes, especially since they offer customized cheongsams. So I am curious as to whether they accommodate women with odd physique and the ability to downplay the flaws. I have not seen it for myself, but Eddie of Lai Chan boutique assured me that they do not turn away customers who do not have the typical body shape. He recalled a lady who had really flat bums and Lai Chan designed padding on the dress for her. I have also seen for myself how Gary Lau of Kang’s boutique can make a cheongsam (for a friend) which accentuates the curves and camouflages the flaws.

Anyway, this got me thinking that I should write a post on how the cheongsam designers in Singapore differentiate from one another. Now, this is not a comprehensive list but is based on my knowledge of the designers and the dresses.

Hana

Hana’s designs tend to be a little opulent, even loud or flashy, and looks like something a middle aged or older socialite would go for. The dresses are in the usual classic fit since I suspect that is what its clientele feel that this is what cheongsam is supposed to be.

Laichan

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What else but its distinctive semi-precious stone buttons running from the collar down to the hip? Sure, occasionally there are deviations such as the modern qipaos with backzips, but the row of buttons is uniquely Laichan. It’s no surprise I have a soft spot for the cheongsams because of the beautiful prints and fabrics (sometimes with a dash of whimsy), the amazing workmanship and attention to details, and the good customer service. Despite the classic look featured here, Laichan is capable of ultra modern cheongsam designs.

Peter Kor (Studio 55)

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Peter’s dresses are geared towards the working ladies, with hidden back zips for easy wear, stylish designs and good workmanship for a professional look. Yet they retain the soul of the cheongsam. There are other designers who make cheongsams for the working women, but Peter’s dresses stand out for the rich and quality fabrics and prints, which are mostly sourced from France and Japan. However, I have to add that the onsite alternation is not up to my expectations because the dress wouldn’t fit nicely even after the work, and I had to send it to my regular seamstress to get it fixed. This is a pity since many times the alteration also affected the original excellent workmanship.

Clothier

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Clothier’s qipaos are typically in oriental floral prints with simple fabric button accessories in traditional design. They have reasonably good workmanship and prices are not crazy expensive. Despite the classic look, the dresses have hidden back zip for wearability.

Mama & Misse

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M&M incorporates local cultural elements into its cheongsams, like the use of sari and batik fabrics. The cheongsams are usually in classic design as well, and have a mix of those with back zip or side zip. M&M offers both formal and casual cheongsams to customers, in either silk or cotton fabrics. The prices are similar to those from Peter Kor, but fabrics are not as luxurious.

Lark & Peony

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L&P cheongsam designs are semi-casual and modern. The collars are shorter than usual, there is the shift cut, and even culottes. Fabrics are mostly cotton to accommodate the humid weather here, and the prints have a touch of ethnic or Japanese aesthetics. The traditionalists might not endorse the designs but the brand has its fans.

Jolli Pretty

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JP’s collections have a mix of casual and work wear. The fabrics do not have the interesting prints of L&P, and instead there is an ordinary feel about them. But for those who want affordable cheongsam work wear, below S$200, JP would be the place to get them.