So I posted a rant about so-called ‘custom’ skullwork and skulls in general creeping into the mass-market stuff at the more-than-capable hands of high-priced designers – specifically the incoming death star that is the Fall 2011 Alexander McQueen lineup which is absolutely rife with skulls and skull-like imagery.
My sister – who is a Manhattan-based editor with…let’s call it ‘experience’ in all things hi-fashion (evidenced by shoes, bags, and dresses worn in impeccable combination with a few of my custom pieces to give her that extra badass edge)…..she writes this retort to my bitch-session which I’ll offer up below. She makes a ton of excellent points and I wanted to post the thing unedited for your consumption. Munch, munch….
All things considered, I actually agree with 99% of this. It doesn’t really change most of my points from the original post, but it does illustrate that I should make a distinction between a guy like McQueen designing truly custom, individual, one-of-a-kind pieces (nothing wrong with that, obviously) and McQueen’s people or ANY high fashion juggernaut carelessly offering off-the-shelf mass market stuff to people willing to pay custom prices for non-custom work.
Think about Wolfgang Puck making dinner for you and your ladyfriend versus going to the supermarket and picking up one of his frozen pizzas. Now imagine paying 25 bucks for that frozen pizza because Puck’s name is on the pucking box. Meanwhile, there’s a great mom and pop pizza joint down the street that’s selling fresh pies for the same price, but nobody wants one because they don’t come with a Puck photograph. Yeah, that’s what fashion is doing.
To keep working with this pizza metaphor (getting hungry) and to work to what my sister is saying, I’d rather have people watch Wolfgang Puck on TV saying “look at my amazing fresh pizza” and then go out for an amazing fresh pizza…like the kind served at that mom and pop shop. Instead, they watch him make a fresh pizza and say “let’s go get a shitty frozen pizza with that guy’s picture on the box!”
What do we admire about McQueen? The creativity, the boldness, the originality, the personal touch. So seek out THOSE THINGS. Find it in McQueen (if you can afford it) or find it in that fabled dog house I speak of.
Anyway, enough yappin. Here’s my awesome sis’ response:
McQueen lives in your doghouse
Ugggggggg why did you have to choose McQueen to make this argument? Christian Audigier would have hit this home flawlessly (read: Ed Hardy’s douche-mover). But you did, and now I feel obligated to write. I have very mixed feelings about your post and I think that by the end of this argument, we may come to the same bottom line. Just not by way of McQueen.
On the one hand, there is obviously no denying that a custom, solid piece of jewelry wins over the crap-looking images from anyone’s mass market collection. But you will never find anyone who can mass market that kind of art and keep quality. Now it’s time to learn you. Here’s some real McQueen for you:
You know what those are? Fucking razor clam shells. The second one is thousands of feathers the size of your pinkie fingernail. The third is about 40 lbs of hand-embellished lace. The headpiece alone is about $7,000 worth of lace torn open with a prop. My point is that you’re not going to find these puppies on their website. That’s because neither you nor God can afford this kind of stuff. You can’t compare your custom rings to his mass market stuff. You just can’t. He does custom too and we humble earthlings will never get to own any of it. All we can do is hope to own a part of McQueen via mass market.
Yes, more commonly in McQueen’s mass market collections, you will find skulls. However, you have to understand that McQueen is designed around three genres, all of which overlap with the school of thought behind skull jewelry: Naturalism, Gothicism, and Romanticism. All of his shapes, textures, etc. are based on these ideas, and he does it differently than any other designer. So they’re going to put a shell on a dress and a skull on a scarf. Tough. They’ve been doing it for years, and it’s not a departure from the line’s basic principles. Since I can’t afford or even wear the silver hand crafted jaw bone accessory:
I’m going to buy the shoe/scarf/hat if they’ve got one. Hence:
And McQueen is counterculture. He started out on welfare, grew up pretty hard in a skinhead area in England, and actually was drawn by their look and attitude. As for the line, McQueen is what you want to wear when you don’t want to look like everybody else, when you want to make a statement. His shapes and materials are unusual, and almost a ‘fuck you’ to the straight edged designers who have run fashion houses going back for decades. Many of his shows made the audience question what they know about fashion and what they consider to be beautiful.
Moving on, that model you post may look like someone just stole his last batch of meth, but isn’t saying that skull rings are only for certain people contradictory? Skulls being the tie that binds, commonality in all, etc etc.? If anything, putting skull jewelry on guys like this is an improvement and probably something you can write off on your taxes. Your rings aren’t only for the tough, or the artistic, or the blahblahblah. My favorite time to sport my massive ring is when I’m wearing an ultra-feminine cocktail dress, nails done, hair done, makeup done. To anyone looking, it says ‘don’t think you know me’ and I love it. Maybe shithead in your picture there is wearing one of your rings already. Can’t judge by the pic.
So lay off McQueen. They’re doing this shit right. Peacefully coexist with the skull mass market because you’re not playing in the same ballparks so there’s no real need to worry. You can both ride this wave together.