Wednesday, April 1, 2009

It's appropriate dammit. It's individuality; I shake my controversy stick.

Oh how I love Sandals. Love love love. Love and envy. Because of course I'm bitter and flat broke at the moment, and saving up for a bike for Paris, and saving up for living in Paris. Because, it would probably be tragic if I became the bag lady with 100 pairs of Marni lucite heels in my bin bags. Actually- shoes make the outfit, so I suppose I would be a styling bin lady. And I could live in one of these.
Oh Tyra. oh the insensitivity. Loves it.

My sandal envy is rather insane though. it's getting out of hand.

Sea of Shoes' Jane's beloved Ann Demeulemeesters

Louis Vuitton sandals- Amber Rose on Jak and Jil

I do realise that we are in the midst of dire economic (..environmental, socio-political, culture-changing) circumstances at the moment. But, one still finds the eye drawn to vanity and fripperies and very nicely made shoes. And anyone who says they aren't to anything, that is to art, or literature, or nice pots and pans, perhaps rugs, curtains, boat gadgets, music; I believe that those people are one o two things. And that would be 1) liars, or 2)robots.

Why else, in the middle of the blitz, would people painstakingly dye their legs with tea and then attempt to draw seams up the back, to make it look like they were wearing silk stockings? Why was there even a black market in silk stockings? Naturally, darlings, it is because people always want to be able to identify themselves. It's a basic human instinct. In the age of internet, you see people trying to "unique-ify" themselves in every which way. Joining forums about collecting tea-cozies, tracking down obscure 20s speakeasy singers and idolizing them- its all the search to be independant. In our parents time, they didn't have this. There were 4 television channels, everyone had the rubix cube, the yoyo. These phases. They still had them, sort of, in the 90s. But not touching everyone. Not to the same extent as say, 60s/70s.

My mother remarked the other day, when she went to look around Chelsea (the art school), that what was odd, was that everyone was trying so hard to look different; all these teenage girls (and boys) trying to hard to be unique, that they all looked the same. Like gossip girl characters or something. That made me laugh. We're all the same, aren't we, this generation. Some succeed; look at susie bubble. But then, they will invariably have copycats. (Sienna miller, Cory Kennedy, we've seen it all before....)

Yes, OUR trend is individalism. Rather, its not a new trend, but its one that the age of multiculturalism and technology has liberated. It's always been there, this impulse. This strange psychology and wish to make a mark on society.

Ah, sweet individuality. How wickedly you evade us.

One of the reasons that my (veryshortlived) filler-in blog was called red lipstick and macaroons? I shall share a story with you. Putting on lipstick is something I rarely do. More than lipgloss, I'll give you that, but still. Rare. But there's something about lipstick that reminds me, even amid waxiness and clown-like smudges, that I am a girl (Albeit not one good at putting it on herself. Other people's makeup? I'm fairly whizzy. Mine? Oh dear god someone call an ambulance, a clown escaped). But anyway, reminds me that I am a woman. Female. There's something romantic about good old-fashioned red lipstick. My grandmother, my mother, my maternal grandmother whom I never met. They all wore it. Perhaps I have a crazy great great uncle somewhere who did too? But reading this, I guarantee, to any female, it's the lipstick that hits you. I can't put myself in these women's shoes, but the lipstick? The soap? Yeah. It gives a connection. A point of empathy. I present an extract, in fact, from the diary of Lieutenant Colonel Mervin Willett Gonin DSO who was amongst the first British soldiers to liberate Bergen-Belsen Concentration camp in 1945...

I can give no adequate description of the Horror Camp in which my men and myself were to spend the next month of our lives. It was just a barren wilderness, as bare as a chicken run. Corpses lay everywher, some in huge piles, sometimes they lay singly or in pairs where they had fallen.

It took a little time to get used to seeing men women and children collapse as you walked by them and to restrain oneself from going to their assistance. One had to get used early to the idea that the individual just did not count. One knew that five hundred a day were dying and that five hundred a day were going on dying for weeks before anything we could do would have the slightest effect. It was, however, not easy to watch a child choking to death from diptheria when you knew a tracheotomy and nursing could save it, one saw women drowning in their own vomit because they were too weak to turn over, and men eating worms as they clutched a half loaf of bread purely because they had had to eat worms to live and now could scarcely tell the difference.

Piles of corpses, naked and obscene, with a woman too weak to stand propping herself against them as she cooked the food we had given her over an open fire; men and women crouching down just anywhere in the open relieving themselves of the dysentery which was scouring their bowels, a woman standing stark naked washing herself with some issue soap in water from a tank in which the remains of a child floated.

It was shortly after the British Red Cross arrived, though it may have no connection, that a very large quantity of lipstick arrived. This was not at all what we men wanted, we were screaming for hundreds and thousands of other things and I don't know who asked for lipstick. I wish so much that I could discover who did it, it was the action of genius, sheer unadulterated brilliance. I believe nothing did more for those internees than the lipstick. Women lay in bed with no sheets and no nightie but with scarlet red lips, you saw them wandering about with nothing but a blanket over their shoulders, but with scarlet red lips. I saw a woman dead on the post mortem table and clutched in her hand was a piece of lipstick. At last someone had done something to make them individuals again, they were someone, no longer merely the number tatooed on the arm. At last they could take an interest in their appearance. That lipstick started to give them back their humanity.

Heartbreaking. No?

This will sound heartless and, in actuality, it suppose really is. (But not out of any malicious intent, Lord no.)
But normally, I have to stop listening when people start talking about these things. It's a form of self-protection I suppose; you can never really comprehend the magnitude of such horror. In history lessons and the like, it's quite common to detach, to talk about these things in abstract terms and euphemisms that couch the travesties that have passed so that they are not quite so soul destroying. Selfish, Human nature, isn't it? And it becomes so that few situations could actually put the horrific tragedy of Holocaust in scope because we're so used to hearing about it in numbers, statistics and euphemism. It's only when you see those shoes piled up at the Holocaust Museum, when you see something so mundane, but in such numbers, that the soul crushing comes to me. Because that makes these people from generations past, well...human to me. That sounds disgusting. But that's what made it hit home. So, this lipstick story really stuck with me. I realised just how important and integral a sense of individuality is to us, and from that, design, self expression. These women had been living as numbers. And that was my little ode to them. To their individuality.

The macaroons part was less emotional. Really, it was because I really, really, really like macaroons. Yummy, huh?

So I challenge you to say that our appearance is meaningless. Frippery. It's not. Not to us. This credit crunch is certainly changing the Fashion Industry, giving it a 'conscience' as it were. But it will survive. We need it to. Change? Certainly. Years of inflation have, well, inflated the ego. But now we have adaption. Global fashion executives (e.g. MaxMara) are forging ties with artisans in East Africa, trying to provide an upswing in employment in the Nairobi slums; and the ethical conscience is costing them; credit lines don't work in Kenya, where interest is so high that its standard to pay in cash, and the slum women are to savvy to accept a deal which says "I'll pay you when I get paid". Look to other brands like Suno for up and coming fashion grads partnering with local development projects in Kenya.

Suno Graphic print dress.

They don't want pity-buying. They're proving themselves, these artisans. They're showing that with training, they can match any country in the world for quality. They're working their own way. Isn't that the best kind of help we can give then? Because I know that I want that dress no matter where on god's green (turning brown and blue) earth it was made.

So yes. I will lust over my shoes (Or, rather, not my shoes, Jane's shoes.) And I will continue to do so, way down the line, till the point where I'm corrupting my small granddaughters to love ruby red shoes, and the young boys to steal grandpa's cane.

I will do so, whatever the weather. Unless, of course, the world explodes. Famine, overpopulation, overfishing, war, climate change. I would say 50/50 we survive the end of the century? Aparently, Martin Rees - Lord Rees - President of the Royal Society and Astronomer Royal, agrees with me. (or I with him?)


Kay said...

This is such a good post, you write really well!

An (ex) alien in new york said...

Here I was berating myself for allowing myself to tangent and write a small dissertation. Thanks!