21 June 2007

"fashion is not a luxury" (?)

embarrassing admission: i occasionally read the nyt style section, and i more than occasionally check in on cathy horyn's blogamajig. this week, a conversation with sarah jessica parker about her cheap-ass and relatively cute new clothing line is actually worth a little bit of comment.

bitten, as it is known, is sold in sizes 0 to 22; it is not marketing to teenagers or to soccer moms; she claims there's an interest in quality construction; it's cheap as hell (think $10 handbags, $20 coats). the populist marketing rhetoric is pretty intense -- note the cheese-a-riffic flash animation leading off her site. "fashion is not a luxury. it's a right."

the times style section has been pushing "rights" like this for a while now. prior to parker's line it was a puff piece about forever 21, which sells to a younger crowd at similar prices. but the question that never gets asked is...who's making these clothes? with what sort of materials? six-year-olds in hot rooms, with factory farmed and chemically treated fibers, i'd wager. this is populism in name only -- the move being made here is just to replace "fashion is for the rich" with the even more dangerous (sometimes implicit, sometimes explicit) "ethical consumption is for the rich."