A couple of weeks ago, I read an article on Prada’s latest accessory to hit the market; a sterling silver accessory which measures only 6.25 cm by 2.25 cm, is made in Italy, and costs a whopping INR 11,000 approx. Any guesses on what this relatively cheap Prada accessory is? The latest in the catalog of designer Prada accessories is a paper clip, designed to hold together your money.
And this isn’t the first time that offerings from a design house have surprised me. There has been a clutch made with human hair from Ines Figaredo, and a USD 2000 dollar Karl Lagerfeld Fendi charm (a 600-person waitlist at one time, people). Even with less expensive fashion purchases you can go the incredulously silly way with hairy chest-depicting swimsuits, denims with cut outs at the butt, fringe caps, and also, the god-knows-why-but-oh-so-popular crocs.
And the ludicrousness does not stop with just the clothes or accessories that are available. There are also runway shows that stretch the definition of the absurd like the Rick Owens’ human backpacks show in 2016, which was meant to be a comment on sisterhood, motherhood, and the feminine strength, but raised eyebrows for the visual display. Or the Jana Nedzvetskaya show in 2015 where the models, dressed in elegant gowns, hurled themselves into a pool at the end of the runway.
Is there a reason why fashion takes pride in baffling and confusing viewers and lay consumers? Is it truly an expression of art or is it a way of grabbing eyeballs? In some cases, they are ideas that provoke us and get us to think. They cause a change in the way our brain responds to new ideas and images. This change can be subtle but over the years, profound.
The bigger question here though, is do we consider some of these things ridiculous only because we have been conditioned to consider some things acceptable and others not so? And if that is the case, then wouldn’t the same logic be applicable to fashion from yesteryears that we now snigger at (remember M.C. Hammer pants anyone)? We are more than happy the make truly confounding art a part of our home décor but fashion in being utilitarian is never granted that same status. What we need to understand is the difference between clothing and accessories, and fashion. While the former two are functional, the latter is an expression of idea.
Yes, fashion needs to, at times, tone it down. But don’t preposterous clothes, at times, give us tons to talk and laugh about? Aren’t the eccentricities a pursuit of the delightful? And sometimes, when you see the most absurd of combinations, doesn’t it take you back in time, to childhood, when wearing clothes and mixing polka dots with stripes and purple and tangerine was a question of happiness, and not about what was permissible in a social setting?
Okay, I am still not buying a INR 11,000 paper clip, nor will I ever be caught anywhere close to a hairy chest swimsuit, but the fact that these things exist is the reason why this piece got written; that I am having this conversation with you. And for that, I will always be game for some more ridiculous fashion coming my way.