The most challenging of concepts that continue to fox us even today is the definition of luxury. What constitutes an idea, material or intangible, that can be paired to a product or notion that inspires us to achieve something which is as much a joy to own as it is to display. Something that you covet and want, but don’t necessarily need. Somewhere in that realm is where luxury dwells. But with luxury, as with art and other similar abstract definitions, these too can take on myriad meanings, many of which may not quite translate to whatever our prior perception was.
This industry has become adept at taking something normal, even banal, and making it a thing to be coveted like no other. Often it seems these ‘ideas’ amount to nothing but the ludicrous being cross-bred with the ridiculous.
1. Balenciaga was among the first to push the luxury fashion envelope and they did so by digging up something so quotidian and average that even the staunch believer would have had to look again to see just what design aspect it was that they were flaunting. The first was the laundry bag, reimagined by this fashion behemoth, except that they didn’t embellish it in anyway except by putting their brand name on it.
2. Balenciaga IKEA-inspired Arena tote They went on to launch the iconic blue tote - extra wide with a reduced height. It almost looks disproportionate and has no reinforcing supports within, is rather floppy and hard to, well, tote around. Noticeable is its unmistakeable resemblance to the IKEA bags which the DIY store hands out to consumers at a nominal charge of 99 cents, insignificant when compared with the $2,000 price tag for the Balenciaga version. Instead of suing them, IKEA cashed in on the goodwill, launching their own “How to identify an original IKEA FRACTA bag” print campaign. I feel sorry for the heads at the French fashion house who didn’t see this coming (or, did they?), but sorrier still for those who shelled out that kinda’ dough for it.
3. Vetements’ DHL tee The same person who designed the Balenciaga oddities came up with this piece of genius. Demna Gvasalia, the Georgian-born designer, is either too early for the times or one rivet short of the Eiffel Tower. This $300 item was nothing more than the bright yellow uniform-issue tee that the delivery brand’s staff sports. Nothing special at all. And yet, it sold out faster than the time it took you to read this!
4. Moschino’s Cape Sheer Overlay dress One would be forgiven for mistaking this fancy garment from the annals of haute couture for a simple dry-cleaning bag. Talk about a clean look for the evening!
5. Balenciaga’s (again!) platform Crocs or Christopher Kane’s rhinestone embellished Crocs seem a lot less zany by comparison now. Maybe I should have cited them to start with, warm you up before plunging in headlong. Ah well…
6. Louis Vuitton Woven Leather Plaid Laundry Tote: Clearly bitten by the Balenciaga bug, this purveyor of luxury brought out this quirky bag, a drastic departure for the brand from its regular body of work.
This reminds me of the (questionable) genius of Marcel Duchamp, who submitted a urinal as his entry to the 1917 meeting of the Society of Independent Artists simply labelled as Water Fountain. Perhaps all these luminaries knew exactly what they were planting and envisaged the intended effect of their actions. In which case, these are the most defining moments in the history of 20th century fashion. Else, a case of high-price ripoffs!