In case you haven’t heard: White shirts are in for fall 2009. (Citation, high and low.) On the one hand I am thrilled, as I am a big fan of white shirts and own several, so even though I don’t follow trends, it’s nice to have a trend follow me from time to time.
On the other hand I am disillusioned. Here’s why: A few years ago Alan and I went to New York and saw the Mingus Big Band one night, at a club called Fez. It’s a dense basement space, and all the tables are the same size — six-tops, I think. If you don’t have that many in your party, you share your table with strangers. The woman we sat across from was very nice, also a journalist — what are the odds? As we talked before the show, she said she covered the garment industry for a trade journal so far inside I’d never heard of it, and was based in Los Angeles. She’d come to New York in hopes of finding a job closer to the creative end of the business, as she was tiring of covering the nuts-and-bolts part. What do you write about? I asked.
“Textiles,” she said. Hence the L.A. location — textiles are an industry of the Pacific Rim.
“So,” I asked, “is brown really the new black?” She looked puzzled for a minute, and then said she didn’t really know, as she was so far from the consumer end of the business, she couldn’t even say anymore. The textile industry, she informed us, is two to three years ahead of what you see in stores, and whatever arm of the industry is looking for that sort of thing left the brown/black question behind literally years ago, and had moved on to whether orange was the new pink, or whatever. Industrial looms can’t be changed on a whim, and it takes time to set up raw materials and dyes and supply chains and shipping and whatever else is involved in getting you a new white shirt for fall.
I guess I wasn’t that surprised — the auto industry is the same way, and one of the frustrating things about the discussion of it in recent months has been the public’s ignorance of what exactly it takes to take a car from the imagination stage to the showroom floor. The length of the lead time seemed a bit much — it’s fabric, not a Prius — but who am I to question the mighty Asian textiles industry? I’ll take her word for it.
Like a lot of information, knowing this bit of it both spoiled and deepened my appreciation of fashion. Now, when I see white shirts everywhere, I think that two or three years ago there was a bumper crop of cotton on the world market, not a single simultaneous idea across the entire creative end of the industry. (I don’t know what the return of the ’80s shoulder means, but I’m sure shoulder pads are manufactured and supplied under much the same market conditions.)
The older I get, the more interested I am in commercial and utilitarian art. You could argue that all of it is, but I especially like art that we touch, use, work with or see every day, art that does a job other than entertain or hang on a wall in a museum. It’s interesting to think about the great convergence of market and creative forces battling for the upper hand. Plus I love great design, and the feel of a well-turned handle is a real pleasure. Almost as much as a great white shirt.
And now a pause for Meryl Streep’s great speech in “The Devil Wears Prada.”
You go to your closet and you select, oh I don’t know, that lumpy blue sweater, for instance, because you’re trying to tell the world that you take yourself too seriously to care about what you put on your back. But what you don’t know is that that sweater is not just blue, it’s not turquoise, it’s not lapis, it’s actually cerulean. You’re also blithely unaware of the fact that in 2002, Oscar De La Renta did a collection of cerulean gowns. And then I think it was Yves St Laurent, wasn’t it, who showed cerulean military jackets? …And then cerulean quickly showed up in the collections of eight different designers. Then it filtered down through the department stores and then trickled on down into some tragic Casual Corner where you, no doubt, fished it out of some clearance bin. However, that blue represents millions of dollars and countless jobs and so it’s sort of comical how you think that you’ve made a choice that exempts you from the fashion industry when, in fact, you’re wearing the sweater that was selected for you by the people in this room. From a pile of …stuff.
Bloggage? Sure, we got some:
I’m not crazy about anthropomorphizing work animals, but this was an interesting story, with a great slideshow — about the King’s Troop Royal Horse Artillery, which every year around this time takes a break from ordinary training and goes to the seashore at Cornwall for few days of galloping on the beach.
The long-awaited sequel to “Pride and Prejudice and Zombies” is here — “Sense and Sensibility and Sea Monsters.”
A great Detroitblog piece, from the Metro Times (but I’m linking to the blog, because of the extra pictures), about the city’s small troop of outdoor sign painters. That’s one thing I noticed immediately after I moved here — how much of the city’s signage is painted. Paint is cheap, even when you use an artist, and many don’t. I love them for their odd punctuation: We do not buy “stolen” tires or rims. Well, I hope not.
Now I have to read a big chunk of “Walden” — the great-books reading club starts today.