Buy one big mouth and get a few feet free.

Posted by JSYL on Sunday, November 16, 2008 in
It was the day of the annual Glebe Street Fair and boiling hot. We were walking up a really looong street lined with market stalls manned by young fashion designers, artists, antique collectors, jewellery makers and kebab stalls, amid stacks of people aimlessly milling about. Throw in some random tap dancers dressed in school uniform and girls doing the hula in grass skirts every 20 metres for good measure. Sort of a cross between Portobello markets and the Notting Hill Festival on a much smaller scale.

Anyhoo. After much ooh-ing and aah-ing over some interesting necklaces and searching for any non-kebab foods (nothing against kebabs, I just wasn't really in the mood), I spotted out the corner of my eye the hottest mini black something- I wasn't sure what it was yet, but I still knew it was worth checking out. I rushed over to take a closer look. Haphazardly splashed with bright colour, the dress, possibly made out of a pair of jeans, was indeed amazing. But then I looked at what hung up next to it, and realised that everything in that stall was from the family of those...fads? Concepts? Post-modern trends?...call it what you will, but whatever it is, I haven't completely made up my mind yet whether I love or hate it.

Let me explain. There were t-shirts displaying prints labelled with graffiti-style font, cutesy faux rebellious catch phrases like: "Graf yo mamma" and "cruising for a bruising", or black and white photo prints newly adorned with a retro patchwork of colours, and illustrations of animals brooding...do you see what I'm getting at here? Kind of? The thing is, those kinds of clothes are eye-catching, sure. And at first glance you think, 'How cool is that? I HAVE to have one. How ironic, how witty, how utterly taking-the-piss-out-of-the-era-but-still-blissfully-a-90s-child...that's me to a tee!' Then you look at the astronomical price tag and are forced to walk away, somewhat puzzled about why you have left empty-handed.

That day was no exception. I snagged the price tag and gaped at the- get ready for this- $250 damage that hot little dress would cost me. Two hundred and fifty dollars! Granted, the day in question was some weeks ago and my memory may be a little hazy on exactly how much over 200 it was but COME ON. That's more than I earned in the part-time job I used to have in a whole week. Think of the heinous profit the guy would make after spending what I imagine to be maximum half of the cost, to wit: the same amount of denim used in an average sized pair of jeans, some thread, some paint-like clothing dye, and the level of mannual labour expected of anyone who could cut up a pair of jeans and stitch it back together in a tube dress.

Fashionistas, put down your scissors for about two more minutes. I GET what you want to say: "Fashion is art man, stop being one of those populist morons who go to abstract art exhibitions and say 'I could've painted that', because you couldn't. You're paying for the design, the concept, which is invaluable and more inspired than anything you could ever put a needle to."

See? I get it, I really do. That's the 'love' part of this particular 'trend'. But here's the 'hate': Even if we assume for a second that this kind of retro-90s-hip hop-loving-streetwear, in essence, pop culture, has a place on the 'high fashion' shelf, can this concept, which is not an original one, be considered so revolutionary and creative as to warrant such a high price tag at a market stall, no less? Herein lies the contradiction. In its heyday, this stuff would naturally appeal to young people. The young, ne'er do well, middle class bunch of us that like wearing casual clothes with a little edge in comparison to the norm. Kids like us can't afford to spend hundreds of dollars on a dress, or a t-shirt, on a Sunday afternoon stroll without batting an eyelid. So clearly, they're aimed at people who are a little more well off.

People who are well off are not middle class. Meaning that the people who end up wearing such clothes are in actual fact, upper class, pretentious former preppies who want to be seen as 'down' with 'Jenny from the block'. People who justify slumming it by waving the hundred dollar price tag in the face of all who might question their integrity. People who are not really 'slumming' it at all.

You have to wonder in all of this madness: 'who designs this stuff?'. Is it someone from the former, trying to cash in on the demand as a way of sticking it to the man, or is it someone from the latter, who got bored after years of arts degrees, soul searching on first class airplane seats to exotic South East Asian destinations, was one day lying on an inflatable mattress in the pool with his wayfarers on and decided to 'do' something with his life. He saw a couple of interesting photographs online, mass produced t-shirts blazing coloured reproductions of them, doodled a label and called the series a 'line', all his own. Is it inspired or soul-less? Witty creativity or unecessary exploitation?

Gross exaggeration, I know. Public school complex? Probably. But you gotta admit, the thought does cross your mind.
So in the instant it took for my hand to flick away the (to me) unacceptable price tag, my too-big mouth had almost unconsciously uttered the words: "$250? For that much money, I could make it myself!"

I'll pause for the well-deserved cringe that will naturally take place here.

I turned away, prepared to get on to the next stall, only to take greater notice of the man who'd been standing in the middle of the road, awkwardly swinging his arms back and forth in what I thought was an impatient way of passing the time he was spending waiting for his girlfriend to please be done shopping. He had a trilby (of course) and some wayfarers (double of course), some shorts and trendy sneakers, and didn't miss a beat, barely looking at me walking past him as he said chirpily: "Great! Maybe you can start a store too then!"

Fuck. Fuck. Fuck.

And again-- fuck.

I dragged my friend away from that stall faster than you can say "What a wanker" and tried to avoid that side of the road when I made my way back down it again later to get to my car. Immediately the previous image in my head was replaced by the hard-working fashion school student, a little pretentious but scraping by on what little he had to put together a stall, take all the photographs, market his designs- his ego and his pride all on the line for a few measly hundred bucks: not even enough to pay the rent and utilities. What an insensitive jerk I was. But I couldn't help but feel somewhat unfairly abashed for what would otherwise (i.e. not in those exact words, or at that exact time) be a perfectly valid statement to make. After all, if fashion is art, you have to be prepared for , nay, expectant of, some criticism.

I kept the brand in my head so I could google it later, and was pleasantly surprised when SOTOSMITH turned out to have some amazing pieces that, say what you will about their origins, are probably well worth their price. This would all probably make a lot more sense if I could waive the copyright infringement fears and just post photos of the damn things. You can see more of it all on the label's myspace.

I don't know if this post served as a justification for my actions or an apology to the underdog designer/out of touch wank I offended that day. But hey. No press is bad press. If anyone asks- that's my excuse for it. Good night, friends.



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