09 August 2013

a$ap, leather, and a reframing of luxury


When I go to sleep at night (or more accurately, 4:33 A.M on most nights), I'm at my most  delusional from sleep deprivation but also most active when it comes to things I want to talk about. Something about being incredibly loopy makes my mind break open a little bit and I see things a lot clearer in terms of the big picture. Like, the other night, it struck me that most people's idea of "luxury" is pretty outdated, and it's causing some strange hypocrisy and more than a little racism and classism (not that this is new, pft) when it comes to the 'new' luxury consumer. By this I mean -- there are a lot of amazing designers who cater exclusively to the kind of hyper-aware consumer who doesn't buy often, but buys very loyally to a handful of brands, and their aesthetic is deeply based in streetwear, but strangely, these consumers think it's ok to scorn the people who inspire the designers they're buying from. Listen -- luxury is not a static thing, it's no longer a Chanel 2.55 and some YSL heels and Tom Ford lipstick. It's also the limited edition Supreme t-shirt, it's also your leather laser-cut mesh shorts you wear when you're pretending you're exercising (but really just scoping out babes on the High Line), it's paying hundreds of dollars for a fashion sweatshirt. 

 

You don't need to have a lot of material things to be living in luxury. Luxury is about options, quality, choice, not quantity, you know? For example: minimalism is very luxurious. When you're poor or working class, I/you never try to throw things away because you always want to find a use for them. Fixing is more of an option, so you'll keep something even if it's broken for a little while. You don't know when you can get something better so you keep all things mediocre. And the stuff piles up. You might end up hoarding. To intentionally practice minimalism, you have some kind of understanding you will probably always be able to buy whatever you need when you want it. Space is the ultimate luxury: Comme des Garcon's ultimate status symbol is their incredibly sparse store spaces in Tokyo, a place where square footage is rare and prestigious. And Comme is not your traditional purveyor of luxury, with it's boiled and  intentionally torn wools and strangeness, but it's still luxury. Luxury is just as much about the rejection of traditional status items as the appropriation of more 'lazy' items like sweatshirts and sneakers, and the appropriation of pedestrian fabrics and unusual things like manmade plastics. Anti-fashion is still fashion, after all. The language of luxury is the same as the language of privilege. Denying status symbols of what you have doesn't mean you don't have it. It's the same with privilege. They both operate in terms of economics, and capitalism, and identity. When we don't bring these things into a discussion on fashion trends & marketing, we're choosing to ignore the importance of these things to how consumers treat one another. You can argue that brands shouldn't have to care about that stuff, but I am a romantic and I want to believe brand culture at it's best extends to build a community that takes care of one another. I've seen it first hand and have had it myself, so I know it exists, and I know brands are aware of the culture they create or aspire to create. I definitely feel kinship to other black crows of CDG, and I know my lolita friends feel community within loli. 


Which brings me to my real point: no one has the final say in what a brand should mean to someone. Just because you know a lot about this one brand doesn't mean a newcomer isn't any less worthy of wearing their stuff. We're all buying into a personal experience of a universal projection. Hypebeasts making fun of A$AP Rocky for wearing Rick Owens or whatever, and fashionistas making fun of Riri at Chanel Cruise, I see you. And the masculine goth dudes dressed in Rick Owens like to forget Rick is (inarguably) a huge kinky queer dude who loves hip hop (Zebra Katz 4ever) and doesn't take his work very seriously (pony play tails on the runway, goth metal bands suspended in air, photoshoots of him cumming in his own mouth, come on) and he probably loves A$AP Rocky. And people who idolize Coco Chanel seem to conveniently forget she was also married to a Nazi, sold people out to the Nazi Party, and fled to Switzerland because of it. I personally think it's hysterical that now Chanel is best friends with WOC, because it would utterly upset Coco, and anything that upsets a Nazi makes me super satisfied. Basically: all your faves would probably surprise you. There's always more to know about a person and a brand. I don't enjoy taking things at face value -- I'm insufferable that way. 


 Just because you own an item from a brand, doesn't mean you have the rights to dictate your personal experience with the brand to other people who want something from them too. People experience clothes very differently, you know? When I say I love fashion, my love for it is bound up for it in many different experiences, and books, and personal journeys with clothes. I like very specific aesthetics in a handful of designers, and I spend a lot of time researching them and their inspirations and  little to no time reading fashion magazines or trend watching. When someone else says they love fashion, they might mean they love buying fashion magazines and they really like Coach bags and collect them. We're saying the same words, but the stories behind them are a lot different. And both are completely legitimate and neither negates from the other. 

Anyway, that's my super dense fashion feels post for now. Broke it up with pictures of my take on the eponymous "fashion person" outfit I see on old-school industry insiders, the ones who don't dress up for street style photographers -- they slip in and out of the shows to get what they want, and they invariably do it in leather. I really do love this outfit, and the fact you can replicate it throughout all price ranges. I've included links to similar looks, though my take is all vintage. I am not wearing shoes in these photos, because I'm at home and I don't do that because these photos were taken on my bed -- and I'm not wearing shoes on my bedding for the internet. No shoes allowed. Anyway, thank you for reading this wall of text! I hope you leave a comment.



27 comments:

sugoi-punk said...

wow I love this outfit!!!

Christian Ford said...

This article is very eye opening

Ethan Cox said...

remain insufferable, i enjoy your sleep-deprived epiphanies

Mana said...

Thanks. Fashion feels abound.

martha said...

This is really interesting. I love the ideology of shopping being a totally personal experience and that everyone has their own experience with clothes and brands.

Eat.Style.Play said...

You're such a strong writer! I hear you though, I think that I tend to be a fan of a brand no matter what the cost if it fits my style i'll go for it. I'll save up for a pair of $500 boots but I will have those boots for years. I actually love that A$ap is into fashion, to me is shows that he's not just some run of the mill rapper. I think it says a lot about a person who can appreciate fashion past "it's clothing and we have to be clothed". But I can say that people gave him a hard time because it is the type of community he appeals to. I say this because I grew in that community. Some people are still stuck on on definition of what it means to be a "man and manly" and A$AP having a favorite designer like Rick Owens and maybe not wearing Jeans and a T allt he time says something else to them in their eyes. I don't agree with it one bit. In fact those are the people you have to worry about. The ones who are so concerned about this man loving his fashion and designers the way he does.

Garen said...

I'm really in love with how aware you are that the words/concepts of fashion and luxury mean very different things to different people. maybe it's BECAUSE we experience clothing and style so personally that we fixate on what another person is doing with the same lipstick/brand/pair of shoes that we forget the personal and miss out on all the interesting perspectives to be had from other people.


and i know you must be sick of hearing this (or maybe not :P) but your hair always looks on. point. I'm super jealous of your green hair; I didn't carry off the forest-y, true green colour nearly half so well.


good on you for not wearing shoes on your bedding. it's the one thing that never fails to infuriate me in films.

jan9 said...

"Luxury is about options, quality, choice, not quantity, you know? For example: minimalism is very luxurious. When you're poor or working class, I/you never try to throw things away because you always want to find a use for them. Fixing is more of an option, so you'll keep something even if it's broken for a little while. You don't know when you can get something better so you keep all things mediocre. And the stuff piles up. You might end up hoarding. To intentionally practice minimalism, you have some kind of understanding you will probably always be able to buy whatever you need when you want it. Space is the ultimate luxury: Comme des Garcon's ultimate status symbol is their incredibly sparse store spaces in Tokyo, a place where square footage is rare and prestigious. And Comme is not your traditional purveyor of luxury, with it's boiled and intentionally torn wools and strangeness, but it's still luxury. Lxury is just as much about the rejection of traditional status items as the appropriation of more 'lazy' items like sweatshirts and sneakers, and the appropriation of pedestrian fabrics and unusual things like manmade plastics. Anti-fashion is still fashion, after all. The language of luxury is the same as the language of privilege. Denying status symbols of what you have doesn't mean you don't have it. It's the same with privilege. They both operate in terms of economics, and capitalism, and identity. "

loved this bit in particular. the personal is political. everything is political.
oumsass.tumblr.com

Arabelle Sicardi said...

aw thank you! i'm sure you look lovely with green hair too. i wasn't really into this shade at first, and it fades quite fast, but i like it a lot now.

Arabelle Sicardi said...

aw thank you! saaammeeee. i'd much rather save up for one thing i absolutely love than spend my time and money on things that i don't have as much of a connection to. totally agree with you on the shady people hating on a$ap.


isn't it great?! i got it on ebay blind buy. i'm lucky it fit or i would have been out $40. haha.

Eat.Style.Play said...

Wait....I thought you said $40? ..............SERIOUSLY that is a STEAL!

Arabelle Sicardi said...

yeah! probably my best ebay snatch ever. :)

-clara said...

that was super interesting to read. and so true. i like how you insist
on the fact that fashion is a different experience for everyone, and
that you, or a random person somewhere, is not doing it "better" than
anybody else since there is no one way of doing it. i always had issues
with fashion & me; as in - i never thought i was fashionable. but
just because i don't buy vogue or those magazines doesn't mean anything.
i am interested, and i am more careful with what i buy. this past year
i've bought very few things but i was always super into them. in the
past i'd buy things that i knew i wouldn't wear. i think now i'm much
more confident too, and aware of what i like/don't like. i also try not
to think too much about what is trendy or not; i will buy it if i love
it, regardless of it being something everybody wears, or hardly anybody
does.
anyway - i love reading your posts. i'm learning a lot too. so thank you!

Kaetlebugg said...

I'm really glad you mentioned the coach bags/fashion mag type of fashion, because I know that some fashion bloggers (myself included, back in the day!) would scorn that type of taste in favor of rick owens/lanvin/~fashion week~~ etc. THAT SAID I think all conspicuous consumption, whatever stereotypes are tied to it ("soccer moms" or "high fashion type" etc) is rather negative. I hope that all made sense.

Kaetlebugg said...

wow I think you hit the nail COMPLETELY on the head with saying "BECAUSE we experience clothing and style so personally that we fixate on what another person is doing with the same lipstick/brand/pair of shoes". so. true.

Ponyroux said...

[Slow clap]

I was just over at R29 where people are freaking out about Phillip Lim for Target Pashli Bag going at $34.99 And I quote, "The fact that Lim would have his name associated with a cheaply made "knockoff" of the original is ridiculous." Lolz aside I think there is a degree of elitism in luxury fashion that can't be matched by any other industry. At the core of it, the people making these type of comments are the ones who feel they need to preserve the exclusivity of luxury fashion and ensure it continues to serve as a status symbol. I don't think Lim gives a shit though, which is nice.

Now that traditional luxury fashion is becoming more accessible, I see bloggers on twitter like, "stretch denim is disgusting" etc. but I think it's just another way to create exclusivity in an environment that's really just intrinsically democratic, namely fashion blogging. Loved hearing your thoughts on this!

Arabelle Sicardi said...

hi cutie! can you explain more? i am v curious to know more of your thoughts on conspicious consumption -- why is it bad? are labels bad? why are they bad? lemme pick your brain please!

Arabelle Sicardi said...

hahaha i hate stretch denim too but anyway


I think my views were probably aligned with those people for a long time but then the margiela collaboration happened and i thought a lot about it and i loved that collaboration, even though it was a flop commercially. i think these brands are so interesting because as couture and high end luxury brands they use lowbrow fabrics, you know? they are constantly breaking barriers but staying in a high price range, so when they are able to bring those techniques into a lower price range i think that accessibility is wonderful and also true to their manifestos as postmodern brands.

Carly said...

I like this post a lot. I used to not "get" fashion at all. I thought that all designer things were the same boring basic items sold for 100x more. I thought all nice clothes were like that. I just didn't understand. Now I know that it's more than just the fashion magazines and Coach bags that you mentioned and there really is something for everyone. I still don't know a lot about the brands that you mentioned but it's interesting to read because you are so passionate about them.

I definitely feel you on not taking things for face value. I am the same way, particularly about music, and people think it makes me pretentious. I just like a story, an experience, and an inspiration and it doesn't mean people who aren't interested in that are wrong.

I hope this makes sense. I feel like I haven been falling asleep while typing it.

Ross Schartel said...

I always think it's funny when people forget/or don't know, that Balenciaga was also a Nazi sympathizer, when they condone Chanel.

Arabelle Sicardi said...

people have really short memories and they're very selective!!! mentioning problematic aspects of a person is not exactly the top of PR priority lists MEH

Jamee Dyches said...

You are one of the best writers I've ever read. You're one of the only people whose posts I read from start to finish, every time, because I know it won't ever be a waste of time. You're so smart and insightful, especially about two of my favorite subjects: feminism and fashion. Thanks for sharing your thoughts, it always expands my horizons.

Jenny Shumpert said...

"We're all buying into a personal experience of a universal projection." That is perf perf perf, esp. because I'm trying to get to the root of my desire for luxury/designer items, part of that being trying to figure out who I'm buying it for-- one of the most immediate answers I can come up with is belied by the term "status symbol", that it signifies yr financial status and ability to drop that much money on something, but who's the intended audience for those signals? Maybe someone with a better eye could call bullshit on this but it seems to me like most of the really high end stuff doesn't look too drastically, immediately noticeably different from more readily available versions of the same item, and chances are you could find dupes of a lot of designer goods (barring the really luxe & unique pieces, or those with obvious branding like Coach bags) at places like Zara and H&M that the layperson isn't going to be able to distinguish from designer pieces. So if part of the appeal is that statement of status, how does that mesh with the probable fact that society at large (or at least the people/strangers I interact with) is oblivious to the presence of the symbols that convey that status? And obv doing things solely for your enjoyment/pleasure is a v. valid reason, but what's the significance of a statement of social status when society doesn't pick up on it? If it isn't communicable to others then these goods declare my high social status solely to myself, which seems weird to want?

Arabelle Sicardi said...

Aw that is one of the nicest things anyone has ever said to me, thank you so much cutie!

Arabelle Sicardi said...

That is such a sweet comment, you make me want to write more and that makes me happy. Group hug.

Caoimhe V said...

Arabelle, you are so interesting and intelligent. I loved this post. You always manage to develop in such a unique way so many of my thoughts and issues and opinions xx

Lex said...

you lovely, smart thing. your insights on culture and brand and the idea of luxury is now written in a diary to be celebrated forever. xx