Try These Brands For Elevated Basics

By Marcus Lee

I recently realised more than half my closet is Uniqlo. As an exercise of sartorial discovery, I decided to hunt for other brands that deliver quality staples. At that time, a PR friend introduced me to the luxuriously priced Brunello Cucinelli. They invest heavily in R&D for fabric and fit, both iconically identifiable when I tried on one of their dress shirts (which cost upwards of $700!). Unfortunately, that is not a brand I can buy into, given my current income.

Nonetheless, they’re a ton of other cool brands, in Singapore and online, whose quality I admire. These are the ones that count:


cotton t-shirt £15, layered resin cube necklace £45, merino round-neck sweater £55, on COS

Through osmosis, I’ve developed an interest in Scandinavian style: minimalist heavy, weather-proof basics, often with abstract silhouettes or design tweaks that say, “I’m ‘creative'”. A few seasons ago, a version of COS’ plain tees had nylon inserts in their hems. Not visible from afar, its texture was unique and facilitated sleeve-rolling. I like their seasonal shirts and jackets; they’re pieces to throw on and feel good in.

Ralph Lauren

cotton-blend sweatshirt dress $259, STRIPE COTTON MIDI DRESS $295, cotton-blend knit dress $255 on MyTheresa

Forget braggy logomania. Ralph Lauren has been an American icon of some 51 years. From his easy-to-buy-into baseball caps to oxford shirts that symbolise golf courses, tennis courts and beach houses, the RL store is a one-stop-shop for the coming-of-age man on the weekends. I have a few RL shirts and a sports jacket. Because of company structure, there are many lines within RL; Polo is the more accessible, day-to-day collection. Nonetheless, they make effortless status clothing.


Slim fit jeans with eyelets US$295, polka dot suit jacket us$520denim and quilted dual fabric jacket us$390 on sandro

You don’t quite understand what fashion editors mean by brands having “great cuts and fit” until you wear Sandro. They’re pieces that’ll look great 10 years on, occasionally with a hint of now. I recently bought a light-wash denim jacket (on sale) online. When I wore it, there was something about the shoulder that was cut perpendicularly, for a moment I felt sexy! The shade of denim looked so quintessential, it was the best colour I’ve seen, and I hoard jeans. I also visited their MBS branch, and am definitely looking forward to investing in more staples.

Club Monaco

Shell Bomber Jacket £249.66Slim-Fit Button-Down Collar Printed Cotton Shirt £83.33Slim-Fit Shawl-Collar Merino Wool Cardigan £145.83 on Mr Porter

I’ll let you in on a little secret: Club Monaco. While in plain sight at Ngee Ann City, I only recently discovered what I was missing out on when I walked in on their EOY sale. Their shirts were so fibrous and soft and jackets so plush I had to try on most things in different colours even after I found my size. Granted, their pieces retail high normally, which is why I didn’t pick up anything then even when 50% off; but I’ll definitely be back.

John Elliott

Black Replica Lounge Pants USD310, alma hoodie, nike air max dia

Thinking of a Hypebeast starter pack without flexing your spending power? John Elliott’s passion for vintage, menswear, and the fashion industry propelled him to produce a line of his own athleisure basics. You’ve seen his slimming longline tees, jeans that feature the pronounced higher back than front, and his breakout star, the skinny sweatpant. Perfect for throwing on for a lazy-chic Friday or grocery shopping for a frat party.

Anine Bing

Cropped Moto Jacket USD 1099, SALLY LEATHER SKIRT US$399, DEEP V NECK TEE US$99 on Anine Bing

Pronounced “Anina” Bing, the Scandinavian singer, model and blogger began her line of luxury absolutes in 2012, with an LA twist. This means they’re outfits to last from getting avocado toast at 12pm to dancing in the club at 12am. While she’s leveraged on her influence in previous careers to succeed in business, her brand today has a patina of a great vintage leather; quintessential must-haves that cost months’ salaries but are so worth their wears!