Saffy says she’s always wondered why fashion retailers in Singapore bother with their whole spiel about their spring/summer and fall/winter collections.
“For starters, we’re not American. So, it’s ‘autumn’, not ‘fall’!” she said the other day as we trailed Amanda around Louis Vuitton like beggars who’d accidentally wandered onto the set of Crazy Rich Asians.
“Unless you’re a Singaporean radio DJ with a fake American accent,” I pointed out.
Saffy’s bosom inflated with enthusiasm. “Yes, that’s a very good point. I mean, we’ve discussed this since forever, but really, what is with that accent? And they can’t even keep it up consistently. I was in the taxi yesterday? And the radio was on, and this DJ was rolling her ‘r’s like she was from East LA but she kept slipping in a Singaporean ‘right’?”
By then, I’d lost interest in the conversation because I suddenly remembered where I was. “Oh God, why are we here?” I moaned, my entire spine going soft as I looked around for a place to sit. “We can’t afford a button in this shop!”
Just at that moment, Amanda sailed past with an armful of clothes, heading for the changing room. “Please behave. You guys are embarrassing me!”
Saffy eyed the pile of clothes. “Seriously, you’re going to buy all that?”
“Not buy. Try!”
“But why?” Saffy pressed. “Thick coats and sweaters. Where are you going to go in them? Katong Shopping Centre?” At which she and I fell about laughing.
Amanda floated up closer to us, her head barely visible over the pile. “Seriously? If you guys can’t behave, you should go!”
Saffy perked up, swivelled on her heels and headed for the door. “We’ll be at Muji! C’mon, Jason.”
“But I want to have ice-cream!” I whined.
“The café there has cake!”
Later, as we wandered the pristine, calm setting at Muji, fingering the cotton T-shirts and stroking the spines of the lovely notebooks, Saffy said she just didn’t understand how Louis Vuitton made any money.
“I mean,” she began as she ran her fingers over the soft fabric of the bedsheets, “who buys anything there? Everyone I know who has an LV bag and wallet has just come back from Bangkok, so we know where their stuff came from. I don’t know anybody who buys their books. So, what does that leave us? The clothes and shoes. How does that even pay their rent?”
“I think Amanda pays LV’s rent,” I said.
“And Prada’s, I think,” Saffy said. She bent over to sniff the scented vapour of the diffusers. “Last weekend, she came back with three huge shopping bags. She buys all this stuff, but all she ever seems to wear or carry is Gucci!”
“She’s paying their rent too,” I told her.
“One of the things she bought was this gorgeous sweater, but she’s not going anywhere cold,” Saffy went on.
Which reminded me of one my aunts, Su-ling, who spent so much time in Switzerland as a child that she only ever felt comfortable if the ambient temperature was below 12 degrees. So, you can imagine how trapped and suffocated she felt when she returned to Singapore where the only time the temperature hits 12 is in the cinema, or on the 105 bus to Toa Payoh.
One day, when she was at Fendi in Rome and was so taken by the fur coats on sale that she bought a full length mink sable and then spent the next 20 years trying to hide its existence from her husband.
“How did that work out?” Saffy asked.
“She kept the coat in a commercial cold storage facility.”
“That’s a thing?”
I shrugged. “If you have enough money, anything is a thing.”
“Well, it seems like such a waste to keep something so expensive locked away,” Saffy said.
Not so much, as it turned out. Her husband, my uncle Raymond, was always away for work. The minute the chauffeur drove him out of the driveway towards the airport, Auntie Su-ling would get the maid to collect the Fendi fur, crank the air-con down to the lowest setting and then spend the next few days walking around her Binjai mansion rugged up in ̕70s chic.
And when she died a few years ago, she was buried in the Fendi. “It was an open casket as well!” my mother reported after the funeral. “I felt hot just looking at her!”
“She looked fabulous, though,” Aunti Wai-ling said. “That woman always had style.”
Saffy says I’m not to repeat this story to Amanda. “It’ll give her ideas.”