Wednesday, October 28, 2009

A woman in a man's store.

I visited "Gander Mountain" and posted an entry on my other blog.  It serves as an interesting follow up to my thoughts on “glamping”.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Apiece Apart? Apiece of crap.

I was eating a pile of fried chicken while browsing some of the videos on when I discovered a short film embedded in their blog. The description sounded promising, an intellectual smoothie of cultural references including Lawrence of Arabia and color theory.

Now, I took a few film classes in college and have consumed my fair share of bite sized film chunks dripping with text book examples of “good” cinematography and seasoned by cheap metaphors.  Those experiences did make me grateful for one aspect of Apiece Apart’s “spring short”: that it was short.

My first instinct is to make a comment like “the fashion industry should stick to fashion”. But you know, that’s not the problem here. Fashion definitely influences other art forms. As an “artistic” photographer I have always listed fashion photography among my primary influences. And fashion incorporates many artistic mediums, from music to painting. Besides, a fashion designer didn’t make that film. Clearly there was a legitimate director being credited at the end. Of course there’s the chance that the director was merely a patsy, carrying out the brand’s desire to manifest its’ own convoluted self images.

But all this is besides the point. That video was the most cliché, contrived, artsy-fartsy piece of crap that I have seen in a very very long time. I know pathologically lazy college drop-out stoners who could’ve whipped up something better using the video capabilities of their cell phones. In fact, lower production quality might have actually improved the film by giving it some texture and character. It was so trite and conceited it could’ve passed as one of those fake commercials on Saturday Night Live. It’s like someone put a metaphorical tree up the metaphorical butt of that film.

If you don’t believe me, watch it for yourself.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Hick-Chic in Milan?

If I were living my perfect life I would’ve spent all of September gorging on front row runway footage and blogging from my living room about my excitement and delight.  Sadly I work a real job, and get distracted by real problems, so my observations trail behind.  But I can’t let this season pass by without rambling on about what Dsquared2 did for hick-chic.

I am going to start with a personal diatribe.  I am from Wisconsin, a state best known for its football team and its dairy products. I live in its’ largest city, but I grew up in its second/third largest: Green Bay. Green Bay is a big town trying to be a little city. It is a middle class oasis of suburban sprawl amongst an Eden of verdant fields and healthy soil. Green Bay dutifully provides the rural population of northern Wisconsin with cultural services like shopping malls and stadiums. But despite a university, more than one performing art center, and handfulls of appropriately trendy coffee shops and used book stores, the only people who think Green Bay is a big city are people who live on farms.

I want to get the politically incorrect terms out of the way, because I can’t write this without them: hicks, rednecks, and white trash. In my youth I tried to reclaim the term “white trash” as a term of pride, like some feminists did for bitch, and my gay friends did to fag. And although my clique of clever adolescent friends appreciated the irony, my mother definitely did not. It was hard to find an acceptably incendiary way to claim pride in a heritage that included many hardworking, undereducated, poor farmers of European descent.  I have many Wisconsinite friends who understand.

My childhood contains all the prescious gems of midwestern "low" culture.  Growing up I spent a lot of time at my great uncle’s bar: Party Marty’s Polish Palace in Pulaski. The adults drank cheap beer and the kids ate cheese curds. More than a few of my uncles sported Mullets long after the hairstyle passed out of style and into comedic infamy. Neon orange was not a gift of eighties revival, but a consistent presence in the wardrobe of rural men who killed animals, ate the meat, and put their carcasses on their living room walls (as long as their wives consented).

The thrift stores of Green Bay are still an overflowing cornucopia of Americana and kitsch. And middle age soccer moms evolve their fashion sense slowly, so that vintage items will arrive at the local St. Vincent de Paul just as they come back in style after decades.

That miniature memoir is, in fact, totally relevant to fashion now.  All that personal history is precisely why my reaction to the Spring 2010 collection of Dsquared2 is totally effing different than every successful fashion journalist who reported from that runway in Milan. I could replicate that entire collection by spending a few hundred dollars in the thrift stores of my hometown.

Now don’t get me wrong, I love the creativity and vision of the Dsquared2 collection. There’s something deliciously subversive about rich people paying to look like white trash. And although most of this season’s looks made me want to bathe in chiffon, this collection inspired me in a totally different way. My boyfriend has been hot on the “hick-chic” thing for a while, and local hipsters are no stranger to the trend. Dsquared2 wielded a fad already present on fixed-gear bicycles, in smoky dive bars, and on the often referenced “streets”. And what can I say? It feels good to know that I liked this stuff before it was cool.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Wait, is that... a fanny pack?

Once upon a time I had a friend with a serious boner for all things kitschy nineties vintage. Amongst the most ardent of her obsessions was the insatiable lust she had for fanny packs. One day I wore a cute little neon colored fanny pack, a perfect homage to the burgeoning late 80’s revival happening at the time. As soon as she saw it her whole complexion was flooded with a deep envy green. She told me she had nightly dreams of wandering the 7 mile fair, suddenly discovering the very same object I know casually draped around my hips. She coveted it so powerfully she would not relent in her pursuit of it until I finally agreed to trade for it.

At the time, I thought the fanny pack would be one of those items that remained firmly in fashion history, its usage revived only by those whose eccentric tastes put them on the fringe of even the most rebellious fashion cliques. It’s location proved unflattering to most body types, and then there were the tourist connotations… Let’s just say the bulk of my fanny pack memories include herds of overweight Caucasian Americans in sickeningly bright Hawaiian shirts shuffling around eating stale nacho chips drenched in gooey toxic cheese and guzzling overpriced novelty cups filled with corn syrup at the epicenter of American tackiness.  Disney World.  I’m not going to pretend those memories aren’t some of the best of my childhood, but sometimes the past is best left in the past.

So imagine my surprise to discover a fanny pack elegantly resting on the almost non-existent hip of a model marching down the runway of a Marc Jacobs show. I immediately breezed through the other 52 images that I’d downloaded of the show, and there again! And again! Of course these fanny packs were in tastefully quilted luxury fabrics and on models whose clothing hanger bodies could make anything look attractive. And I’d seen a few stores carry “hip purses” that nodded to the ghost of kitsch past without actually qualifying as bonafide fanny packs. But this was a Marc Jacobs show, and that was definitely a fanny pack, and gosh darn, was I surprised.

Beautiful madness is delicious...

My favorite fashion designer is the love child of a gay Captain Hook and Peter Pan, who has been raised by a glamorous French courtesan, and endowed with a super human ability to make the weirdness of life both beautiful and luxurious.

And if you haven’t already guessed, I’m talking about John Galliano, with his delightfully naughty little moustache and his chewy caramel voice. Here’s the understated cliché of the year: the man is a genius. He turned the French revolution into a bloody haute couture spectacle in 2006 and I’ve been madly in love ever since.

Now to be true, I do enjoy the work Galliano does with the epic majesty of the Dior house. But his own work, given his own name, is free from the expectations of honoring legacy. Although this season there was a thread of genetic material running through both the couture and ready to wear Dior collections, right into his own Spring 2010 collection, I can’t deny that the latter was what really won my soul.

I first saw still images of the collection on my trusty little iPhone and I couldn’t quite discern if the floating white bubbles were glass or plastic. Then I read the review, and immediately ran to the least often used bathroom in the office where I work and covertly downloaded footage while hiding crouched in a stall next to a (thankfully) clean toilet. And my god, I don’t want to be vulgar, but his gift for the theatrical is positively intellectually aesthetically orgasmic. Floating bubbles filled with smoke, bursting on the runway, surrounding these tall chiffon swathed sirens with yet another layer of ethereal gossamer. It was delicious.

I’ve often thought if I had only a year to live, what would most certainly be at the very top of my bucket list would be to see a Galliano show live. Forgive my morbidity, but I’ve often wondered what a good sob story earns these days, if a well written letter and a multi-syllabic disease could get me a front row seat.

I am sharing the video of the show (I love that website; it’s like an endless source of free fashion pornography for couture obsessed computer monkeys, thank you Vogue). I hope it tickles your fancy as much as it tickled mine.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

The beginning stages of a new shop on Etsy...

I have officially decided to open a second Etsy shop for handmade items. I think a more focused approach will make each shop more successful, especially when it comes to advertising.

I am deeply attached to the “Revolution is Sexy” brand identity. I’ve tried to “own” the phrase as a part of my online presence in as many ways as possible. It’s not easy to find a phrase that is unused as a “user name” on any of the usual websites: Flickr, blogger, deviant art, Etsy, gmail, Myspace, etc…

And I don’t want to lose that brand identity, but I feel I should begin an exploration of the wild untamed jungles of my creative potential. My new Etsy shop should embrace concepts that connect it to the first shop. It should evolve from the same primordial ooze of surrealism, imagination, absurdity, and irreverence.

I have been brainstorming for new shop ideas, but I feel to really ensure that I am as committed to the new brand name as I am to the old one, that I should use a phrase that I already have a relationship to. Three phrases definitely show a lot of potential:

Deus Ex Machina: It means literally “god in the machine” but often translates as “ghost in the machine”. The original term comes from Ancient Greek Theater, but I was introduced to it during my Shakespearean studies. Essentially it is the plot device that differentiates comedies from tragedies. It’s when something (or someone) comes “out of the blue” to make everything better. Although I am personally very attracted to the meaning, I am also fascinated by the mystery and provocation of the phrase itself. Ghost in the machine. What a fabulous juxtaposition of words, and gosh do I love juxtaposition.

The Lunatic and the Swan: This is the only phrase in the running that isn’t borrowed from another source. It was the title of a memoir that I began to write. It is also another delightfully juicy use of juxtaposition. I just like the idea of madness mixed with beauty, incoherent weirdness mixed with loveliness and grace. However this phrase has a similar problem that I have with my first brand identity, Revolution is Sexy. The juxtaposition of the word “revolution” with the word “sexy” is edgy and thought provoking, but is it too edgy and thought provoking? In this case, it is less the action of the juxtaposition as the action of the word lunatic. It definitely aims at a specific customer group, but is its’ aim too specific? Are there enough people out there who are going to be intrigued by my dangerously whimsical frivolity?

Curiouser and Curiouser: This phrase had won the competition in my mind until I discovered a blog on Word Press by the same name. As many of you may already know, “curiouser and curiouser” is a quote from Lewis Caroll’s “Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland”. I think it definitely conjures surrealism, whimsy, absurdity, and cultural literacy for a large group of people. But as every choice has its downfalls, so does this one. People may be too familiar with this phrase and its original context to really shift their associations to my brand.

Although I am beginning to lean toward my own personal choice, I am going to try and post a poll to hear from others what they think my new brand name should be.

Feedback is always appreciated!

Thursday, October 1, 2009

What does “Revolution is Sexy” mean?

The phrase began as the title to one of my student films, in which beautiful women were dressed as famous male revolutionaries. I played Che Guevera, and although my face was covered in the patchy beard of a guerilla soldier, my legs were still exposed beneath a camouflage mini skirt. Images of these hermaphroditic creatures, half super model, half dirt caked warrior, were layered with text from a manifesto that I had written for a cultural revolution. The initial concept had been inspired by the use of Che Guevera’s face to sell t-shirts to frat boys. Though at first it seemed ridiculous and frustrating, I realized that Che himself had begun his life as a clean cut son of the bourgeoisie. Maybe the recruits for the next cultural revolution are right under our noses.

My personal favorite cultural revolutionaries were the surrealists. They believed that art could be, and should be, created by all. They believed that art could change the world. And if none of that is revolutionary enough for you, they were just plain strange. They were weird and people noticed. And that changed things. Now nearly everyone has become culturally literate in the dream language of surrealism. As Jung might say, our collective unconscious has seen it all.

More than the startling curves of Dali’s surreal moustache, there was Kerouac’s hobo-chic. There was Warhol’s soup cans, and there was MTV. And now there’s this.

This revolution self published its manifestos using library copy machines and sharpie markers. This revolution dressed itself in its grandmother’s hand me downs. This revolution elected a black president with the help of graffiti artists. This revolution blogged, knitted, biked, designed, uploaded, downloaded, forwarded, recycled, repurposed, screen printed, and educated itself into existence.

We made the revolution, now all we have to do is sell it. Maybe all we have to do to change the world is be interesting. Maybe all we have to do is be cool.

And maybe use the internet.

Computers not only made nerds cool, they reinvented everything. The internet gave millions of people access to their 15 minutes of fame. Viral content spreads among us simply by the strength of its own virtues. Some of the richest and most powerful people in this world got to where they are not because they inherited their status from their ancient aristocratic blood lines, but because they had a really good idea and it worked. Bill Gates. Enough Said.

So here I am on the good ol’ world wide web, trying to sell my little piece of the cultural revolution pie. It’s nutritious, delicious, and pretty darn cool. Maybe even a little sexy, too.