our brand could be your life

This is a blog post that I’m writing mostly because the title popped into my head and I wanted to use it. I love non-fiction books about music - preferably focused on anything angsty, rebellious, and catchy from the last 40 years. Our Band Could Be Your Life is one of 'em, hence the title. I devour these books like they’re trashy romance novels, and some of them totally are trashy romance novels. Right now I'm re-reading Please Kill Me (like I do) and I'm totally fine with revisiting everything I loved as a teenager instead of broadening my horizons.

That isn't what this post is about, however. I am here today to muse on my favorite subject to devote too much time/energy to... FASHION!
Here is a photo Miley Cyrus posted to her Twitter account in which she references Kanye West's Maison Martin Margiela reference.  
I spend a lot of time looking at clothes that are available for purchase (mostly online and thrift stores), but It’s pretty rare for me to actually buy something these days; my only wearable purchases in 2012 have been a pair of shoes and a ring. Which isn’t to say that I plan my wardrobe and any additions to it obsessively like Dead Fleurette; I’m a total impulse shopper; it just takes a really, really good deal (the kind you can't plan for) to get me to part with any part of my (currently pathetic) income.

So in terms of brand loyalty in fashion, mine exists on a weird (mostly) fictional plane because I don’t have much experience with the labels I admire - if (big if) I own one of their products, it’s probably the only thing by them I have and so I can only speak to the quality that particular item. However, there are a couple notable exceptions of brands that I feel okay having strong opinions about, because sometimes lightning strikes twice (or, er, five times.) I do own two pairs of shoes by Rachel Comey that have made me a believer in comfortable heels. I also have a weirdly high number of APC things in my closet, but one of them is a striped t-shirt that totally bled (really, APC? Forever21 can make cotton t-shirts that don’t bleed and you can’t? I guess there's a reason why it was on The Outnet...ouch.) So while I aesthetically dig APC, I don’t know if I’ll ever buy anything by them again unless it’s like crazy cheap and cute. Or just moderately cheap and crazy cute if I'm feeling reckless. 
Okay, APC, you've made your point...
Still, I have “favorite” brands - including labels that make clothes I have never even seen in real life, and it typically isn’t just the actual look of the collection that sways me one way or the other. It’s all about selling the lifestyle, man. 

Like on Project Runway how they're always asking, "Who are you designing for? Tell me who this girl is!" Invariably, the designer gives a really earnest response about designing for their mom, who was very stylish and tragically died during childbirth, and Michael Kors snarkily chimes in with something that makes no sense whatsoever like "she looks like a lobster who just fell off the plate on an Elizabeth Taylor themed cruise" and everyone laughs, except the designer, who is crying. Now, Project Runway (to me, anyway) is pretty rarely spot on when it comes to fashion and mostly just a reason for Heidi Klum say cute things and wear sequins on camera...but that question is totally spot on: I like certain brands because I want to be that girl that they're designing for. Her life seems better than mine, and their clothes can help bridge the gap between our worlds ... or so it seems.

Isabel Marant Mindfreak
Isabel Marant is a pretty good example of really creating the entire world of the Isabel Marant woman - and for that, I think she's an evil fashion genius. Here is something she said once:
It's easy to make magic on a red carpet - except just how many of us live that life? But how do we make it happen every day on the sidewalk? That's why I love to design.
Which I think is weird coming from someone who purposely makes her work inaccessible.   Even if you had all the money in the world to buy her clothes (and trust me, you will need all the money in the world) ... you might not be able to, because she's very particular about the quantities of her clothes that are available and where they can be sold.

Here is a quotation from a Huffington Post piece on her, which is (hilariously) titled "All the Cool Girls Love Isabel Marant"
Isabel Marant combines femininity and edge in a way women crave today - effortless, chic and wearable. According to Trina, customers love Isabel Marant because they can incorporate her pieces into their existing wardrobe. Here's what interesting - women who buy Isabel Marant pieces are downtown urban, bohemian and career women that want to look sophisticated but not stuffy. They are moms who want to be comfortable, but not at the expense of sacrificing their style to sweats. Style is what these women share in common.
Fashion can be bought, style one must posses yadda yadda aside, can we just talk about how scary cool Isabel Marant is? Not because I'm into Parisian street chic or whatever...I currently do not give a fuck about Parisian street chic.  If you wanna spend a lot of money to not look you spent a lot of money except to a select few people who will worship the ground your Dicker boots walk on, please do your thing, but that isn't what I, personally, get from her...I just think she's rad because she controls minds.  I don't know what it's like to wear her clothes, but I'm also not sure that I know what it's like to feel cool...and the fact that those two actions are linked to so many people is no small feat.

Oh, and the best part is that she just goes off to a cabin in the woods with her cute little family every weekend.
Isabel Marant's cabin: you aren't invited.
A lot of brands go for the opposite strategy, though (particularly new, hip-to-what-the-kids-are-blogging ones) and use accessibility as a tool. Capsule collections and partnerships with major retailers are huge these days, and, at the very least give a sense of perceived luxury . That isn't to say, however, that making a brand lifestyle "accesible" has to be synonymous with polyester and waiting on line for Target to open, though.  Like music before it, fashion's gone digital, and the industry is changing as a result. 

Blogging and social media provide a lot of label-to-potential-customer interaction without either party necessarily dropping any cash; it comes in a lot of forms, from highly-stylized lookbook videos to behind-the-scenes Instagramming. I mostly think it's great, because as a potential customer, I can dip my toes in the water, think about how it would feel to maybe one day be "that girl" and at least feel really smart because I'm enjoying dresses without buying them, which is something I can't do with, say, a cup of coffee, which I physically need to have at least twice a day to function. Once the relationship is built, though, and I promise you, eventually, some of the many Twitter followers/blog readers/Facebook fans/whatever gives in ... the 21st century version of Chinese water torture.  

I know this phenomenon isn't fashion specific, though, and obviously not a new thing in advertising (totally underrepresented on Mad Men, where they seem gloss over most professional sliminess in favor of personal sliminess), but as someone who is youngish, possibly intelligent, and definitely tech savvy, the idea of social media using me instead of the other way around is not an easy pill to swallow. 

My favorite variation of all this fashion lifestyle branding business is what Acne has done with Acne Paper - cool brand, cool magazine.  You can own something by them (even get, yes -  cool packaging) that is high quality without spending what you would on their clothing.  Maybe not as satisfying as a sheer gray floral blazer, but certainly kinder to my bank account.

Acne S/S 12

Uh, I don't really have a conclusion to all this exactly, except that I'm really fascinated by fashion marketing, I guess.  I have to find some way to justify going to college and studying psychology, don't I?


  1. I really enjoyed this post and I totally agree with your take on Isabel Marant! Clearly she is an evil genius. Bad luck about your APC shirt - it's so much more frustrating when an expensive item is crap quality. It ruins the precious illusion that you're paying for quality. x

    1. Thanks! Yeah, I mean, the other stuff I have by them that maybe should be in worse shape (a secondhand dress and a couple pieces from their Madras line) have totally held up with no problem, so I wasn't expecting it.

  2. Mmm I loved this post. I agree with how buying a luxe brand magazine or a luxe magazine is almost like buying an affordable piece of so & so designer. Its so sleek!

    1. Thanks!
      Fancy magazines are such a treat.

  3. This is great, you're dead-on about the Acne thing. Acne are amazing at selling the lifestyle in little bits via Acne Paper and i think prob their outlets online/in Stockholm etc too. And look at CDG with the Play stuff and the little cheap wallets and stuff... it allows us all to join in for a small fee while giving them the $$$ to do the 'avant-garde' stuff that keeps us wanting more of dat lifestyle

    1. ooh i never thought of it as like, investing in them. i'm going to give myself credit where it may not be due!

  4. i went to bookpeople the other day and saw they had acne paper! we need to go magazine shopping soon there and at domy + check out that new little shop in the back of domy.


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