Gucci or Garbage? Haute Couture’s Permission to Throw Everything Away

Dank Memes for Chifley Screens

Elizabeth is a Canberra native studying a very rarely seen degree at the ANU – LLB/Arts. Her column seeks to incorporate hard truths (common in the legal world) and dank memes. Not wanting her memes to be dreams, Elizabeth hopes to be a pioneer in the art historical study of memes.

In 2017, Gucci launched a new line of watches. Featuring motifs of red and white snakes – conspiracy theory: Unilodge owns Gucci, so it’s well worth investing in some Lodge merch – the glamorous timepieces were promoted in a meme advertising campaign operating under #TFWGucci. Although new Gucci is always something to be excited about, there was something sinister lurking behind the nihilistic captions (think ‘when you have Aquagym at 3pm but you need to accessorize your existential angst eternally’): Planned Obsolescence.

Of course, Gucci is a capitalist enterprise; it depends heavily on cashed-up sugar daddies (and sugar mommas – we don’t discriminate) purchasing glittering products for their acolytes. However, high end fashion houses are not accustomed to encouraging waste, breakage, or outmodedness. Rather, haute couture is presented as something to be cherished, and passed on. Of everything I have read in Time magazine, my recurring memory is of advertisements for Patek Philippe watches, with the caption: ‘You never actually own a Patek Philippe. You merely look after it for the next generation.’ Even more disturbing, is that this obsolescence refers not only to clothing, but to people.

To take a step back, what we see in the series of 55 memes designed for Gucci’s campaign  is a battle between the ephemeral and the permanent. The commonality of wispy moths and wilted or flaming flowers attests to the fact that these are memes depicting things not long meant for this world. In one meme, a man’s suit is ripped to better expose his new Gucci accessory. Ragged fabric frames the solid glass and metal of the watch. The ongoing destruction of the jacket (symbolised by fraying edges) sits harmoniously with the ticking of the watch as time passes. For a moment, perhaps the moment of buying, time stands still. The rush of an approved purchase causes such elation that the buyer is willing to violate other worldly possessions. The faceless, infallible business man immortalised in pieces such as The Son of Man by René Magritte – clad as a worshipper at the altar of capitalism in a suit jacket – pivots towards consumerism. Yet, as soon as that moment has passed, time will continue passing as the watch itself moves towards obsolescence.

In a consumer culture where we are increasingly comfortable with throwing away anything ­ from a $10 top bought from Supré in year nine, to grandmama’s pearls – we have seen a resurgence of a Japanese art form which rebels against wastefulness. Kintsugi (or kintsukuroi) is a method of repairing broken ceramics with a lacquer made with precious metals, such as gold and platinum. It is linked to the philosophy of wabi-sabi, which espouses embracing flaws and imperfection. Cracks in ceramics are highlighted by kintsugi, rather than hidden – healing after damage is something to be celebrated, rather than obfuscated.

Contrast this practice pioneered in the late 15th century with the Kon Mari method, and the wave of consumerism (which also carries Gucci’s advertising department) is right before us. Of Japanese origin, the organising consultant who designed the method, Marie Kondo, espouses a mantra of ‘if it doesn’t bring you joy, throw it away.’ Indeed, she has been described as conducting a ‘war on stuff’ by the New York Times. She has described her practices of decluttering and reduction as a way of giving dignity back to objects. However, this is at odds with the conception of dignity alive in kintsugi. Why throw away what has value, that which may be imperfect, but can be fixed?

But what is more disturbing than the disposing of objects, is the discarding of people. In another meme, flowers, held by a man wearing a new watch, die under the caption ‘When your girl doesn’t notice your new watch.’ In another, a woman adjusts the strap of her watch, holding a burning rose, accompanied by the statement ‘When he gets mad at you for being 3 hours late but you’re too fire to deal with that kind of attitude’. Ruptures occur between people when they become accustomed to throwing things away. It may be true that there are many fish in the sea, but that doesn’t mean you should abandon a lovely salmon.

There is value in learning not to throw things away, whether they be ceramics or boyfriends (it’s 100 per cent fine to call them things – Gucci implicitly endorses it). To turn to more timepiece-related news, in 2017 Phillips Watches auctioned off a 1940s Rolex (albeit one of only 12 made) for approximately $1,648,465. Now that may be an asset worth ripping a suit to show off. However, if we take a Gucci meme’s word as truth, the watch should have been in the bin as soon as a newer model came out.

Just like the hands of a clock, things have come full circle. From a watch which encourages over-consumption, to one which suggests retention is wiser, we can come to two conclusions. First, Lodge probably doesn’t own Gucci – we know how loathe they are to update facilities. Retention is their middle name. Second, and having regard for the fashion house’s complete disregard for human relationships, we can summarise thus: #TFWGucciBecomesObsolete.

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