- The only story that matters is YOURS. What’s going to manifest—who are you going to BECOME—once you obtain it? How will it make you FEEL?
- How many hands does it take to weave enough bags and stock over 260 stores internationally? I also have to wonder, who are the supply chain workers that aren’t being accounted for?
- What kind of identity is being sold to males who are driving this peer-to-peer platform? The Grailed bro, let’s call them.
There’s no argument to the fact that image-making is what makes the fashion world go round. In the business of dream-selling, it behooves brands to keep an inventory of aspirational visions and promises of the consumer’s yet-to-be-realized potential to pair with every product being sold. A new story for every season. But merchandisers don’t always tell you the real origins of a product, nor its demographics, let alone the working conditions of the people who assembled it or the sales associate who’s psychologically trained to open up your wallet. The only story that matters is YOURS. What’s going to manifest—who are you going to BECOME—once you obtain it? How will it make you FEEL?
I think of the time I was flooded with endorphins late at night in bed after a seller on Poshmark accepted my offer on her Bottega bag. I’d anticipated its arrival for the rest of the week, replaying images in my head of running into friends—soft, intricately knotted leather hobo in tow, them questioning how I got the money to own one. It emulated a sense of rich downtown-LES-cool-girl-acceptance, however delusional… like I could be anyone, even maybe à la Anna Sorokin. All I knew about their brand is that they started in the ‘60s, they’re expensive and were bought by Gucci in 2001. Trying to pull research about where they’re made now, I can’t find anything beyond their proud “handcrafted in Italy” advertorials yet here’s a fun math problem I can’t solve: how many hands does it take to weave enough bags and stock over 260 stores internationally? Certainly more than just the artists and designers—I also have to wonder, who are the supply chain workers that aren’t being accounted for?
The history of macramé as it’s known today, originates from 13th century Arabic weavers, whose tradition (thanks to invasion and crusades) was brought overseas to countries like Italy. While aesthetics of this origin might be considered “hippie”, “boho”, or “crafty” if not slapped with a prestigious label, brands like Bottega are able to claim it as heritage for themselves. In fashion anthropologist Angela Jansen’s piece “Decolonising Fashion, Defying the White Man’s Gaze” for Vestoj, she writes: Although all designers (including European ones) consciously or unconsciously reference their cultural identity in their work, only designers outside the established fashion capitals are considered accordingly as a means to differentiate and exclude them from ‘mainstream’ fashion. For example, while Dolce & Gabbana might build their brand by referencing (a cliché of) Sicilian heritage/identity, they are still considered as ‘real fashion’ – a Moroccan, Indian, or Kenyan designer referencing his or her (clichéd) cultural heritage are typically thought of in terms of ‘reimagining tradition’ (or some such nonsense), which in turn is, consciously or subconsciously, pitted against ‘real’ fashion. ….For Europeans, the rest of the world never reached the state of producing art, literature, or fashion; it is stuck producing ‘arts-crafts,’ ‘myths’ and ‘costume. As someone who isn’t a die-hard fan of Bottega Veneta, its value had been sold to me not through the brand but through PR. Peer-to-peer reinforcement. One day I saw their bags on my feed, and the next I bought into being a Bottega bitch.
A friend once relayed an anecdote about the influence of the church over monarchies since ancient times, because rulers revered their power and use of imagery to control the pleb’s beliefs. Now, religion has been replaced by advertising. And to this point, what’s in a name… but that which goes by Grailed? The vintage e-commerce company lends itself as the largest online designer marketplace for… men. So we must ask, what kind of identity is being sold to males who are driving this peer-to-peer platform? The Grailed bro, let’s call them. Much in the way dominant Eurocentric fashion upholds mainstream standards for taste (or victims like me, the self-chastising Bottega bots), the gleaning of HYPE streetwear culture reinforces stereotypes of masculinity that are all too massified and approached by male consumers. And this isn’t personal at all, I love finding curated designer vintage from strangers. While we can rejoice about the stance that global resellers take on diversity and sustainability, sometimes the problem with recycled designer vintage (on such a massive, targeted scale), is that old issues can be recycled with it—be it appropriation, exploitation, cultural, racial, or financial—which largely remain unaddressed. What’s a way to improve this? I don’t quite have an academic or scientific answer to this, but maybe one way is we can all spend less time picturing and obsessing over “manifesting our best selves” and more into “manifesting our best world.” PS. If anyone is interested in buying a pre-loved Intrecciato hobo bag, I’ll be putting it up on Grailed.com.