Fashion Victims

My distaste for fashion labels, brands, icons and whatnot has more to do with my distaste for being told what to do, than anything else. Even as a child, if someone said to me, “you have to wear a dress,” I would immediately go put on a pair of pants and heaven help the person – no matter how big or “authoritative” - who tried to tell me to take off the pants.

So when I see people spending thousands of dollars on designer clothes and handbags and jewelry I tend to scoff, and think to myself, “really? You can’t think for yourself?” It’s just my nature. Don’t get me wrong, if I find an item truly beautiful, then I don’t care who made it, I will want it. So although I tend to live in my red converse sneakers, I coveted and purchased a pair of Pucci Hi-Top sneakers too. I assure you, I am not a “life off the grid hippie” by any stretch of the imagination.

Beyond my refusal to let Madison Avenue tell me what to wear, I also really question any value system that places a logo on a handbag as being somehow more important than all of the other things we could do with that money. I will not own something that has a big logo on it – I am not a billboard – but more than that, I refuse to evangelize for a value system that I find destructive and misleading. I would no more carry a Louis Vuitton handbag than I would wear a giant cross – it represents a value system that I think is very destructive and needs to be questioned.

But how do we begin to dissect media and marketing messages that have permeated our culture so pervasively that we don’t recognize them any more?

Sometimes we have to do it really REALLY graphically. Which is why I am currently in love with the Simple living t-shirt that artist Nadia Plesner created to raise awareness and funds for Divest for Darfur. The t-shirt shows a naked and starving African child carrying a Louis Vuitton handbag and a little Chihuahua. This clash of superficial values and ironic icons simply asks, “which one do you value more?” We know more about who Paris Hilton is having sex with than we do about the nature of the human catastrophes happening by the thousands in Darfur as we speak. As individuals, we are more consumed with fashion icons and the acquisition of status symbols than we are the nature of human suffering with entire populations of people who are not photographed by the Paparazzi. By bringing attention to our consumptive habits, she is helping us to look at them, which is a perfect match for the mission of Divest For Darfur.

The idea behind Divest for Darfur is interesting.

Divestment is the sale of stock in companies most culpable of funding the genocide in Darfur. Divestment also includes a commitment not to buy stock in these companies until the genocide ends. There are about 25 such companies. Almost all of these companies work in Sudan’s oil sector. Without the revenue from the companies operating in the oil sector, Sudan would not have the resources it uses to carry out the genocide.

They suggest that most of us don’t know where our money really goes when we spend it on everything from handbags to mutual funds. They have put together a Divestment Guide to help you choose carefully.

Fortunately, the government has made this easy on everyone also. Without saying anything good about the current administration, I congratulate them on the creation of the SADA act:

On December 31, 2007 the Sudan Accountability and Divestment Act of 2007 (SADA) became law. SADA is vital legislation that protects the states’ and investment firms’ rights to divest from companies with connections to the government of Sudan. SADA also prohibits federal contracts with such companies.

Other noteworthy efforts include:
, which works to end child labor used in making “oriental rugs” that are so coveted while also raising money for education and other efforts to support children in South Asia.

Ethical Shopping is a site that helps consumers keep up-to-date on issues related to child labor and other destructive manufacturing around the globe. Part news, part resource, it’s a good place to start.

But, back to the US and the streets that I walk down every day. I am not a communist or socialist or anything else. I am a hard core capitalist and believe that people can spend their money on whatever they want. HOWEVER, I wish that we wanted to do more with our financial and human capital than simply acquire things.

When we define “success” and “value” by the acquisition of material items that are out of the reach of most people, we devalue those who don’t have them and can’t get them. Yes, it’s subtle, but it is pervasive and creates a system that is hard for all people to fell valued and respected.

Every day I see people standing in line at the food bank by my house. Young mothers, still children themselves, with babies in strollers and a fake Louis Vuitton handbag slung over their shoulders. They know what we value as a society. They can’t afford food, but my god the acquired the fake status symbols that we require for someone to be valued. But I don’t expect anyone to put that on a t-shirt.

My other blogs on this issue:

Please Don't Buy Me Diamonds Any More

A Very Cherry-Table Christmas

This dancing girl has lots

This dancing girl has lots of dresses to wear during h Even as a child, if someone said to me, “you have to wear a dresser dancing lessons Dresses Shop For prom dresses, formal dresses, evening gowns, cocktail dresses and more


I went to the artist's page that you linked to, and the LV bag has been removed from the child's arm!

Simple Living lawsuit

I liked your article and went to check out the Nadia Plesner link.

Seems Louis Vuitton is sueing her and she has been advised by her lawyer to cease offering her Simple Living products (100% of the profit went to Darfur) or making any comments on the case while it is in litigation.

In her product description she only mentions designer handbags and ugly dogs; there is no singling out of Louis Vuitton.

In the drawing, the logo is similar but obviously different as well - it is a parody. If you can be sued for parody, you might as well sue every political cartoonist as well in every newspaper or magazine.

Any person or product that has a public image is fair game for ridicule and commentary. It is the flip side of being in the public eye. Attempts to control damage through the violation of civil liberties is always disturbing, and it is always accomplished by people with lots of money and big guns.

There is a link on her website if you'd like to send her a donation to help pay her legal fees against these fashion thugs.



Louis Vuitton will not win

Louis Vuitton is wasting their money. This is art. Just like Warhol used the Cambell's soup can, artists are legally allowed to use logos in their art.

The Devil Wears Prada

I take the words of Nigel in "The Devil Wears Prada": Halston, Lagerfeld, de la Renta -- what they created was greater than art because you live your life in it."

And if that Rothko painting goes for $22.4 million, then why shouldn't a Jean Paul Gaultier creation command its price.

That's all.

P.S. 60 Second Style: Art Attack

Fashion Victims

I too can't stand designer fashion culture. I find myself mystified that people find it so important to stay up to date on fashions by whomever when whomever's whole job is simply convincing you to buy more of their stuff. The idea that I'd pay not just extra but premium prices in order to act as a walking advertisemnt seems ridiculous. If any thing they should be paying me to wear their logos. That said, I assiduously avoid brand-logoed clothing and can't even set foot into places like Old Navy without wanting to run screaming. The idea that whatever is *in* this season so you have to go get it is just crazy to me. The idea that you must buy this line of things because someone who's job is to sell you stuff says so. 

I have a cousin who's.. er.. 24 maybe. He's an artist and the last time I saw him he made a comment about how he loves painting in Versace jeans. I was too perplexed to even ask him about it, but it's a topic I'd like to take up with him. He and his step-sister are both very fashion conscious (Gucci sunglasses? you'd better believe it) in a way that I just totally fail to understand. Then again I also am perplexed by people who actually care about sports teams in any meaningful way. Part of it is that I hate following the crowd but mostly I just can't fathom why anyone would care.

Time to watch Zoolander again. as it, oddly enough, gets right into issues of brand responsibility towards the conditions where the brand's products are produced.