Bag Bumming

My new daily driver is Lanvin’s “Hook” Bag. It is large and structured, so that I can load it with all the necessaries of a full day out, yet also flexible enough for a tight space; between people or car seats. It is also thrillingly unisex, with a sturdy, comfortable strap that can produce purse, tote, and even backpack effects. Adjusting it is a pleasure, since it fastens with a tasteful loop stamped with the Lanvin text logo. The hardware has discreet house logos, too, and the eagle-eyed (a rep at the local Loewe store not among them; she thought it was one of their own) will note the “JL” stitching of the strap. 

The bag is elegant and luxurious, but not too “cutely” shaped. It serves very well on days we haven’t the strength to trade in “well, men’s bags aren’t pretty-deal with it!” defiance.

On receipt of it from Lanvin’s K11 Musea Hong Kong store, I didn’t think of reviewing or filming it. I just wanted to cram our things in it and use it. That process was a relief, too, as I transferred my cards to the attached wallet. For years now I’ve used a Valentino rockstud fold wallet. A pleasure to use and pretty, the studs nevertheless required careful attention to avoid scratching other leather accessories in a shared tote. The (permanent?) retirement of the Valentino and the personal revelation of the attached wallet-how many discarded bags have misshapen, abused, royal like the currency they nobly carried, these little flags separated from their bodies, waving in surrender?-gave me a delightfully carefree feeling. 

Perhaps too carefree. After a midweek lunch I stepped into a local Whole Foods grocery store for a single item: peanut butter for post-exercise smoothies. 

Whole Foods stores in this area resemble nothing so much as a singles bar. Shopping expensively, in their sexiest athleisure wear, the no-longer-quite youth here describe the very kernel of their souls by the food they (don’t) eat. There has always in this location been bouncers, too. They have since it opened nearly a decade ago had a preoccupation with imagined theft (of what?), and employ patrolling security at all hours.

So it was, dressed thus

that we entered for a precision grab of organic peanut butter. I picked from the shelf the nearest container and brought it to my chest before, superstitiously, remembering to replace it for an “untouched” container at the back of the shelf, no matter that I already handled the “dirtier” one. 

Quarry in hand I made for the checkout. But first, I made to extract the attached wallet from the Hook bag. Pulling on the leather strap it was rapidly reeled to the surface. My hands though, were still damp with hand sanitizer from entering the store. Concerned, unnecessarily, with the leather finish, I attempted to unzip the wallet while exposing it to the minimum surface area of hands and fingers.

Although I have long since lost any shame at the public display of “women’s bags,” I also feel no need to advertise this little gender rebellion in a “conservative” (that is to say, anti-cosmopolitan) locale. I half-turned for privacy, still by the peanut butter, to learn the best use of the wallet, struggling in a pinched chicken wing posture, sawing ineffectually at the string zipper.
Card in hand I waited in line behind a family of three, the father, trim and outdoorsy, negotiating with his daughter, whose head reached just below the terminal, about who should conduct their card transaction. 
“I can!”
“You will-one second.”
The father inserted the card, rather unsportingly I thought, while the girl stood with furrowed brow, her two hands poised around it. 
“Okay, take it.”

I gave a “wasn’t that nice” smile to the checker, a woman in her 30s. In my left hand the peanut butter; in right, shouldered bag and credit card. 

As I extended my arm to hand her the peanut butter she asked, “Is that all?”
“Yep,” I said, automatically, in the way a parent might affirm a newly speaking child’s identification of a passing object. 
“Is that all?” she said again, this time with a low tone to the final word.
“Yeah,” I said, with an apologetic chuckle, unsure whether she hadn’t heard us, or if she thought a single item unusual.
“Is that all?” she said, this time taking time over each word. 
“Oh. You think I’m shoplifting?!”
“I don’t know what you’re doing.”

I immediately understood why I was being accused-it was the fussing with the bag and the peanut butter swap. Nevertheless an unedifying scene followed.

*

Of the hand-wringing threats to the fashion industry-sustainability, diversity, retail/resale-the least threatening to us is the big resale websites. What is the benefit, when a live-feed of a purchase broadcasts our individual credibility, of buying a used bag at 80% of retail on the TheRealReal? Overproduction and year-round sales from all but a couple of the conglomerate labels mean it is possible to buy these items new for less than on consignment, where the buyer has to pay for two sellers. 

TheRealReal is useful as a well photographed archive, however. Searching for the proper name for our Lanvin Hook bag, a used version was advertised to us by Google. TheRealReal called it a “leather Hobo bag” (1125.00 USD). 

After our experience trying to buy peanut butter with it, we thought this an accurate description.

Or: was it to do with that double waisted Prada trouser? Does the sight of it anger people? You be the judge:

Commodity Fetish Hot Potato

Available now on our new (!) Youtube channel: a pilot episode for an innovative new unboxing series. We—well, health protocols mandate that a solitary associate intern shares—the thrill of making runway dreams a reality. 

Our intern reports strange sensations in the course of filming these productions. We expected to feel a diminished pleasure from the staging for public consumption of the private, neurotic pleasures of collecting. This has to a certain extent proved true: that furtive first unwrapping, in half-lit, not yet repossessed rooms, of objects half-forgotten in the journey home, has been held off, the amateur’s impulse deferred for a professional stoicism.

The pleasure is no longer our own. It must wait, for the calculated angles of daylight, camera, and sound equipment. Our private reification—the attribution to things of qualities and relationships usually reserved for human beings—has been displaced, transferred, to the viewer. 

To our surprise, the handling of clothes during filming, the consideration of how they are best placed before a camera, to demonstrate their features and different uses, all create in us a far more materialist relationship with the pieces, one that is closer to the ideal proclaimed by good designers: of repeated, creative, much-handled and thoughtful use.   

In our traditional processes of purchasing and not-at-all taxonomic addition to the wardrobe labyrinth, we rarely reached this level of practical relationship with new items, particularly when registering more of an already well-represented item (leather jackets). So that, what might appear, to the casual viewer passing the thumbnail frame, just one more example of our all TV must be an infomercial moment, is, in fact, someone unexpectedly working their way out of commodity fetishism.    

Our first episode looks at two pieces from Celine.

CELINE HOMME FW 2021

The upheaval of the runway calendar would seem to suit Hedi Slimane. The glamour and theatre of his tightly focused runway shows, known for their near martial discipline in look and organization (no cameras, please!) only just contain the obsessive collector’s impulse: to be left alone alone with their art. “Have a look by all means” they seem to say, “But don’t touch that. Actually, you know…maybe we shouldn’t…” 

His men’s clothes, brilliant snapshots of Western pop subcultures, are products of a similar privacy, recursive variations of the antiquarian’s most cherished possessions. Critics and consumers split over this intimacy: on the one hand devoted followers with enough pride in “getting it” to buy clothes that don’t look good on most of them. On the other, observers possessing greater familiarity with the references on which the collections are based, who encounter the single-mindedness of Slimane’s work with some embarrassment, like opening the door to the room that wasn’t the bathroom and finding the secret pursuits of an acquaintance. All rather his thing, isn’t it? 

Of his early poetry Auden wrote: “…my sacred world was autistic, that is to say, I had no wish to share it with others nor could I have done so.” The genius of Slimane is his combination of this uncompromising ethos—or its very packaging—with sales.

The imposed film debuts of 2021 collections are a logical format for the controlled and personal inspirations of Slimane’s work, and indeed, his last two collections have deepened, if possible, the viewer’s immersion in Slimane’s clothes as period pieces. Traditional runway perspective has been replaced, in these films focused on youth, with oblique camera angles and fleeting images of the models, suggesting the greedy adolescent desire for both visibility and anonymity.    

“Teen Knight Poem,” Slimane’s winter 2021 collection for Celine, follows spring’s “The Dancing Kid,” also digital, and the two together mark a shift, in contrast to Slimane’s first three men’s collections for the label, to more youthful and casual designs. Spring was goodbye for now to the streetwise artist boy-men of Slimane’s physical runways, whose fitted, pointy hips we viewed frontally, as a besotted fan might gaze at their indie rocker idol. Oh, that ahem, belt! Instead we have a digital presentation with drone footage, the methods and looks signaling Slimane’s reckoning with the new app idols. Less formal, improvised, unabashedly revealing and yet profoundly, sexily, inexperienced.

It is something of a surprise given his long relationship with fashion and film that Slimane’s winter collection is unwilling to leave the catwalk behind; in this case, the dramatic catwalk of the sixteenth-century gothic Château de Chambord. The setting, between the pointed arches of the Chateau is typically striking, and a tantalizing context for one of Slimane’s deep archival dives. Would he joust head-on with the present standard-bearer for fashion gothic, Sarah Burton’s McQueen, whose structured tailoring, historical fabrics, and crusading leather delights in sinister formality? 

Not quite. Uncharacteristically, the clothes and styling were something of a mash-up, perhaps because the term “teen,” if it meant anything at all in the sixteenth-century, probably didn’t mean what it does today. Rather than teenagers from the Middle Ages, we are presented with what a jock in an American high school of the last 30 years might call a “Goth.” In this case, a Curehead. Blown out and coloured hair, lots of eyeshadow, maximalist jewelery, and layers of boyfriend outerwear covering androgynous shirts and knitwear. The result is a show which, instead of offering a single focused look, gives us either several or a preposterously specific one, of a 1980s adolescent on holiday visiting a castle, waiting to get back to the hotel.

Slimane diehards will grieve at the sloppiness that results from the unlikely combination of contemporary streetwear culture and the two types of Gothic on display here. Military references are confused: desirable chainmail influenced pants, jackets and jewelry; but what’s with the camouflage? Logos, as they tend to do, sit uneasily in the collection. We have both Gothic script t-shirts and Slimane’s all-caps sans serif “CELINE” logo. Slim, caped ecclesiastical figures in all black will titillate the Hedi old-guard as much as the hoodied, logoed, denim jacket and sneakers model will plunge them into despair. 

The inconsistencies matter because at his best Slimane is the master of encyclopaedic lateness. His interpretations of period clothing for Celine, from fit to fabric to deliciously weird looking models, sell the idea that another time and place would have suited us better than this one. He offered a wardrobe for adolescent longing. This show, however, gives us a great deal of what a typical and unadventurous teen has always uncomfortably worn. Instead of a remedy or conduit for teenage angst, contemporary teen culture is livestreamed for us. Rather than a creative fan sharing an antique labour of love, Slimane has simply opened his phone camera.  

There are here fewer of the explosive Hedi moments, when the consumer sees their proper selves in the runway model and, by extension, must have every piece of a look. The Winter 21 model—in cape, hoodie, logo beanie, and jeans, is much more an a´ la carte proposition.

gyun gyun’s take:

A confused story means fewer hits. But as ever, Slimane doesn’t hit singles. These are the home runs:

BUY: the opening look, in toto

Chainmail pieces!: metallic trousers; long jackets esp. metallic lapelled coat ; the (thin) jewelry

Frilled shirts +/- fitted knitwear

All the leather footwear–an excellent and attractive departure from slim/angular shapes of H.S.’s Celine.