An interesting thing happened to me this morning at Starbucks. In the dreaming time between waiting for my coffee and checking my messages, a man complimented me on the shirt I was wearing. Not so weird, but then he started telling me how he prefers the drape and fabrics of women's blouses and buys his shirts in the women's section at Zara's. Now he had my full attention and we chatted about our favorite collections at Paris Fashion Week. About how Riccardo Tisci at Givenchy really gets menswear and has been liberating it from the tyranny of overt masculinity in his last couple of shows. I was appraising Chatty Stranger the entire time and he was wearing Very Nice Clothes. An hour or so later as I was shopping for something completely unfashion related at Simons Department Store I almost bumped into a pop up clothing installation someone had put up in my path. On closer inspection and reading the captions I felt a fritz of coincidence traveling down my spine: Unisex Fashion Collection. And on the racks...an assortment of gender neutral pants and skirts, dresses and t-shirts. Now that unisex clothing has hit this retailer does it mean it will finally go mainstream?
Golden Goose recently rolled out the Distressed Superstar sneaker and it is causing a lot of fuss on the internet. Golden Goose, the high-end sneaker company from Italy, is being accused of poverty appropriation. Something about the claim irked so I decided to think more deeply about it and started by looking up appropriation in the dictionary. I found the following definition: Appropriation- to take (something) for ones own use typically, without the owners’ permission i.e. "his image has been appropriated by advertisers".
Presumably it wouldn’t be appropriation if Golden Goose had received the owners’ permission? But who owns poverty? Poverty is a condition and not a thing that can be owned like a car or a pair of $500.00 sneakers. Thus to say Golden Goose is stealing or even appropriating poverty is patently absurd. So maybe the sticking point for the advocates against poverty appropriation is not about outright ownership (how could it be) but the choice of the symbols used by Golden Goose to create the Superstar Distressed sneaker; which they claim are “Insulting to homeless and poor people”. These symbols include distressed, ripped, torn, stained, dirty and duct tape as embellishment. Golden Goose’s response is that these symbols were chosen as an homage to the west coast skateboard culture. Regardless of who says what–no one owns these symbols and they will be used. The bigger problem is in the assumption that these symbols a) represent poverty and b) that the homeless and poor would be insulted. This is where poverty appropriation argument falls apart at the seams.
To argue that worn material with tears and stains represent poverty takes us back to over one hundred years ago when anti-poverty groups moralized that the poor were the dirty, unwashed class, and they were poor because of their laziness and moral turpitude. Since when are traits like laziness, and the state of being dirty class specific?
In fact the so-called signifiers of poverty: dirt, stains, wear and tear, and duct tape, might just as easily be converted to signify the lost arts of macGyvering and re-cycling; where re-using, re-cycling and re-purposing with duct tape are an antidote to our disposable world. There is something intrinsically important and satisfying in trying to stretch out the life span of an item instead of relegating it to the bin after a couple of seasons.
Instead of tearing a piece out of Golden Goose’s corporate hide for appropriating these symbols from the poor and selling them back to us at 585.00 a pop, we should be thanking them for providing an alternative representation of the meaning of wearing worn and used goods. So Golden Goose go ahead and keep producing sneakers that look like they were run over by rolling train stock; and Barneys–continue to show them off in your great cathedral of consumption and finally consumers: if you have $585.00 to spend on a sneaker, then good for you. The fact that you can is another conversation–but for now I am wondering if we need to be talking more about the value of re-using, re-purposing and recycling and the amazing uses of duct tape? I think Golden Goose may be having the last laugh on us.
Eri, short for Eleftheria, is happy to sell you antique coin rings, amber beads or the red capped marionette you see hanging on the wall behind her, in this cubbyhole of an antique store located off a skinny little side street in the sunset capital Oia on Santorini. But what Eri truly excels at is being able to tap into the zen of fashion. "What exactly is the 'zen of fashion'?" I ask this 5'11, gorgeous Greek Aphrodite whose dating one of Oia's hottest hoteliers.
La Spezia is best known as the jumping off point for the jeweled Ligurian coastline and Cinque Terre but it boasts another, lesser known pair of jewels: le due sorelle, or in english, the two sisters. The two sisters own and operate a long and deceptively deep clothing shop in a seedy, run-down part of town, close to the autostrada.
I expected to find quaint streets and cafe bars in this quaintest of Ligurian towns but I did not expect to find Carla. We found each other. She, quintessentially elegant in her purple fur lined coat and head scarf, and me, well, lost in the moment of small discoveries. "Let me see your palm," she demanded, after a brief introduction. I tried to hide it, fearful that she would tell me something I didn't want to know...
There's a little shop in the Ligurian city Sarzana, filled with treasures. These were one of the pairs of handmade shoes I drooled over.