Dumber and Dumber (and Dumber Still)

March 15, 2012 § Leave a comment

The other day a friend (I won’t shame them) referred to Snooki as a pop culture icon…

If such a person could possibly be put into that category, she most likely also sits somewhere between The Hills and Robert Pattinson’s hair on the List of Things That People Shouldn’t Care About.

If organised religion is the biggest threat facing the development of human society, then Reality TV is fast becoming the biggest threat to the evolution of human culture. Today while doing a morning browse I discovered that those ‘clever’ (and I mean clever, they did after all manage to brainwash pretty much the whole damn world) television exec’s have released yet another reality TV show titled “Fashion Star”.

Out of pure curiosity I watched the pilot episode. 15 minutes in (and probably a few million brain cells lighter) I realised I’d actually chanced upon something even more destructive to my particular industry than the show it attempts to emulate (Project Runway), and if it was even possible, even more stupid.

They must have offered Elle Macpherson a small country to get her as host.

For years there has been a steadily growing opinion that reality television is dumbing down society. And I have to agree, from Jersey Shore to Masterchef, this breed of easy programming has spread into humanities cultural psyche like some particularly noxious STI. They portray a dark future for not just the creative arts, but society in its entirety. How and when did such incredibly stupid people become such regular fodder for viewers? I am guilty of indulging in the occasional moment of the Rachel Zoe Project (‘Having a moment’ has recently popped up in my vocabulary like a case of verbal herpes) and even Project Runway, if only to massage my own ego. But I am increasingly disturbed by the number of these shows appearing each season.

Who cares about those sad people who live in squalor because they can’t throw away a single thing? Yes its great that the show helps them get over their hoarding, but do they really need to project it across the world? And don’t even get me started on the Kardashians. They only function they serve is as a celebrity buffer. Let’s face it, with Kim, Kourtney, and Khloe around the real celebrities are safe from ever appearing on a tabloid cover ever again.

This is what your kids are going to turn into…

But apart from the cultural wasteland that these shows have turned the entire realm of television into, and the fact that I’m  I find myself increasingly concerned by the risk that these shows pose to some of the industry’s they dabble in. The Music, Fashion, Interior Design, and whatever other profession the networks have goo ten their claws into, have enough problems without being completely devalued and diluted by not just the shows themselves but the contestants they then give a whole lot of money to and send off into the world.

Tell me Christian Siriano (the winner of the fourth season of Project Runway, and probably the most talented so far) has done one thing with any real value or dialogue on Fashion and I promise to never rag on the show again. But he hasn’t, and he probably won’t because as far as I could tell from however many episodes of the show I watched, he, like all the other contestants, has no understanding of what fashion is beyond some misguided preconception of glamour and magazines and parties. Frankly young designers have enough competition coming into the industry without some talentless fool being given thousands of dollars to churn out endless silk satin cocktail dresses. I still remember an episode where not a single contestant knew how to draft a basic pair of pants, something a first year uni student has no trouble mastering.

And I fail to understand how some of the top chef’s in Australia can take part in Masterchef, a ‘phenomenon’ based on the idea that in twelve weeks you can go from being someone who cooks at home for fun, to working in and opening your own restaurant. Because of cause, we all know chef’s don’t train and work themselves into the ground under despotic bosses to reach the pinnacle of their industry. Secretly it’s just a twelve week short course and they’ve been fooling us all for decades.

I’m pretty sure Auguste Escoffier (if you don’t know him then google) is spinning somewhere subterranean.

I can quite easily imagine the whole art world in a furore when they bring back Art Attack. Hosted of course by some model/B-grade actress looking to cash in on whats left of their career, and featuring twelve contestants all carefully casted to maximise the on-screen drama.

The crux of it is, apart from the imminent threat it poses to pretty much every aspect of human culture is the scary fact that there is an entire generation growing up on a diet of this, and worse, possibly thinking that the behaviour exhibited on such shows is normal. When you look at your children one day and wonder how sweet little Susie went from playing fairies in the garden to a Twittering, self obsessed, sociopathic Oompah-Loompah with a coke addiction, or how Johnny ended up with balls the size of peanuts from steroid abuse, switch on your TV and you’ll get your answer.

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Call Yourself a Designer?

February 29, 2012 § 1 Comment

What makes a Designer?

According to the fount of all knowledge Wikipedia, ‘a designer is a person who designs’.

Really… you don’t say…

More formally, a designer is an agent that “specifies the structural properties of a design object.” Traditionally the main areas of design were Painting, Sculpture, and Architecture, which were understood to be the major classical arts. The creation of clothing, furniture, and other such artefacts or objects, was left to artisans.

But things change. I’d hardly consider Architecture a classical artform any more, the masses of hideous high-rises and identikit suburban homes, not to mention pretty much anything built in the 70’s, have managed to basically drain any artistry from that discipline and also far outnumber the buildings that could be considered works of art.

Fashion too has changed, no longer an artisanal craft, but rather an industry that churns out millions of products (and dollars) each year. Most of which products, like 70’s Architecture, are damn ugly. It has become the sad truth that in the face of consumption designer’s no longer truly design, but rather recreate or restyle what already exists.

When I walk through a store, or look at the designer collections on the runway each season, a softly nagging doubt plagues my thoughts. There is something wrong here it says to me. And then recently, I realised what that ‘something wrong’ was.

Nothing was new. There were no challenges being made by most of the designers, no questions asked or statements made. I hate to point this out, and it may just be the obvious, but deciding to do cropped cable knits in “citrus” is not designing. It barely even falls into the realm of styling. If anything it’s the sort of decision that the consumer can make, without paying a bomb to do it.

Of course it’s mostly high street and lower level brands that are guilty of this sort of methodology, which in some cases is fair enough, their customers aren’t looking for exciting, interesting, or particularly creative or innovative clothes.

Though they aren’t looking for landfill either, or are they? do they even know what they are looking for? would they know a garment destined for landfill if it hit them in the face?

That said there are definitely “Designer” labels who are guilty of just endlessly producing the same wardrobe in different colours and fabrics. Just because the fabric is nice, and that particular shade of mint green is so ‘in’ this summer, does not mean your customer needs the same pair of jeans she already owns. Especially not considering said customer has probably already been sucked into buying more than one pair already. (Thats right, I’m looking at you Mr Jacobs).

Of course it doesn’t help that there are people like Anna Wintour breathing down designers necks to make sure they’re making what the retailers want to be selling.

Of course customers are smarter than we think in most cases, and the industry and consumer in my opinion are equally at fault. The designers make to meet demand, and the consumers create the demand. However the demand is something else altogether. who tells the consumer what they need is the guilty party. It’s a vicious cycle, and  if The September Issue told us anything, it’s that Ms Wintour is in control of just that, telling us what we need, which translates into demand, which translates into pointless trend and fad products produced by inspired-less designers, which in the end adds to landfill.

I guess what I’m trying to ask, is what happened to the days when designers just did what they wanted and if people didn’t like it then too bad, they could go somewhere else.

I guarantee if Wintour had told the Coco Chanel that her collection seemed a little too heavy for the season, she would have copped some heavy to the face. Why do we now allow what we do to be dictated by trends and sales? And more importantly by business? It seems almost worse that the true driving force of the Fashion Industry is now a group of faceless CEO’s and investment bankers who understand only bottom lines and profit margins.

That’s business baby

Fashion, in fact, ALL Design should be fearless and groundbreaking. If the ‘right’ people don’t like it, is it fair enough to say that there is sure to be someone else who will, somewhere…

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