What Right?

By Tobin Gibson

Jils 2

In navigating the contemporary retail environment, appropriation appears as a by-product of production. My first interaction with Jil Sander’s infamous shopper was in Selfridges one grey London afternoon, with the sac carelessly thrown under a thick pane of glass that composed a surface for other Sander merchandise. Its casual, slumped nature seemed to pose a threat to its regal shopping environment. As I held the bag, admiring its gentle details—a leather strap around its handle, insignias placed and branded—I came to realize that this threat was comprised of a larger conversation to do with the status of commercial by-products. It seemed that the plastic bag had made an entry into the arena of fashion fetishism.

Jils 1

Iterations from Jil Sander by Raf Simons in 2012 further relieved the plastic bag of its original context. In an online article titled Milan Shopper, Minus Vegetables (2010), the former New York Times Fashion Critic, Cathy Horyn noted: Jil Sander had totes in its collection based on the common plastic grocery bag. The idea can’t be new (I believe Miguel Adrover once did a version), but it turned up in both leather and vinyl, and was shown with handbags. The shopping sack will come in different sizes, and the company has produced a small leather strap to loop through the handles so you can make a shoulder bag.[1]This display of appropriation can be traced well beyond Sander and Simons, to unnamed forces who questioned the notion of the bag and its social legibility. The conversation must continue.

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The Enzo, resulting as an alternative solution to the overwrought canvas tote many galleries seem to brand, rests on the terms of cultural appropriation and its cunning techniques to manipulate, and diversify. The production of this sac presented an object slightly more permanent and everlasting: a rarified object carved out of common consumerism. The use of a transparent yet functional object not only resonated as a testament to contemporary fashion—with its general focus on material development and juxtaposition—but was used as a way to display specific imagery that referenced its producer, Presentation House Gallery, through its publications and editions. Trolling through Simons’ own brand mandate, his minimal website was signed with this affirmation: “(t)he most important message Raf Simons wants to communicate is: pride in individuality.”[2]I suppose some have truly moved past the terms of originality.

Presentation House Gallery originally launched The Enzo in November, 2013. The shoppers were handmade in Canada as an edition of 380, and are currently available at Blim, Neighbour, Presentation House Gallery, and Satellite Gallery ($25.00)*

* Available worldwide, shipping charges vary depending on location

[1] Cathy Horyn, Milan Shopper, Minus Vegetables, The New York Times Runway Blog, September, 27 2010. 11.03.2014.

[2] Raf Simons. Curriculum. 20.04.2014.

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