In my book, the holiday market at Union Square is to be avoided by any and all means necessary. The one exception to this, as I discovered today, is when one’s child desperately needs gloves immediately because it’s freezing out. Only in this instance is it safe to move quickly and decidedly into the chaos of tourists and the shopping dispossessed. Anyway…
There was this one stall… a slavic woman is selling big fluffy alpaca hats. They look great. And alpaca is a great material– being wool it causes relatively little harm when sheered and its typical finish requires little processing. But that’s not the point– gosh I’m really stuttering this one out!– the point for this blog (!!) is that the booth had a clever design. To drive home the material, the whole booth was lined in faux white fur. Floor to ceiling. Wall to wall. Wrapped around the pipes. And the fluffy hats hung off the fluffy wall. Very smart. You stepped inside and you were in the hat, in the fluffy white warmth of the product. It’s not a sophisticated design solution– it’s wall to wall white faux fur– but given the product, it’s one of the most simple and effective display choices I’ve encountered.
I came across the above photo some time ago while reading a post on Rookie.com. (That’s Tavi Gevinson on the right I think.) Anyway, this photo conveniently illustrates something I’ve been wondering for a while now, and that is what are the reasonable parameters of scale within which the pattern we know as gingham can indeed be referred to as such and when does it become too big or small to continue to be known as gingham? At its essence, gingham is the graphic representation of unbending, transparent ribbons in a basic criss-crossing weave pattern wherein each ribbon is distanced from the next parallel ribbon by a distance equal to its own width. This weave pattern is totally ubiquitous, appearing way more frequently in 3D basket, furniture and textile production way more than it does in 2D graphic abstraction. The weave pattern is shown below and then with a color overlay, rendering it gingham.
Do we call a simple basket woven from flat material gingham so long as the negative space equals the width of the ribbon? No. Do we call a simple weave of threads in textiles gingham? No. That pattern is too small to perceive. Ok, so then when does gingham kick in? Well first of all it has to be a printed pattern I think. But how big does the pattern need to be to become gingham? Maybe at around 0.0625″ or one-sixteenth of an inch in the case of J.Crew’s “micro-gingham.” From there, J. Crew, the most heinous abuser of poor gingham’s gentle reputation for the past few years, moves through their gingham scale:
Peri gingham. Ha! Peri being latin for “too big to wear out of the house.” Which brings us to the other end of the spectrum. When does peri-gingham become what is better known as “table cloth?” And when does “table cloth” give over to “lumberjack” and then finally to “buffalo plaid?” And then what after that? Where does it all end?!?!?!
These are the things that keep me awake at night. Thank you Tavi and everyone else at Rookie for posting that photo so I could finally write this critical contribution to the web and fashion at large.
I don’t usually blog about fashion. The apparel industry is a whole other can of worms. And while fashion should in my opinion be considered alongside product and architecture as parallel subsets under the modern rubric of industrial design, it is not yet, and so I leave it at that and stay largely away.
But today my wife sent me a Sartorialist post with a marvelous photo of a woman riding a bicycle. She so often sends photos of bikes and chic cycling that I almost missed what makes this photo shine– the woman’s right prothetic leg. It’s easy to miss graphically: the color seems an extension of the bag in the basket; the axis of the prosthesis coincides with the axis of the basket’s stay. I really thought her right leg must be out to the left preparing to dismount. Anyway, what makes this photo so special to me is the fluid connection between the subsets of human design and ingenuity. We augment our bodies in textiles and machines, mechanically concealing and gracing ourselves with protection and advantage over the earth and elements. And it’s hard in the information age particularly to tell where we stop and our tech starts. It’s a cliche of blurred lines often explored in allegory and fable. But I love that this photo explores those lines in color and line. Her vermillion dress is a part of her red bike. Her prosthetic leg is an extension of her chic purse. And of course the leg and bike collude to propel her with grace and efficiency inspite of her unique and common human handicaps. Clunky masculine mechanical fixes and colorful feminine grace. It’s a wonderful photo. And it’s getting a lot of attention.
The image above is by photographer Annabel Clark and featured in the NYTimes Lens piece, A Most Intimate Bond, about the conjoined twins, Carmen and Lupita Andrade. The photographs are stunning. The challenges of living presented in these otherwise quotidian incidents raise interesting design questions about alleviating the struggle of having two heads and chests and four arms.
We’re all very accustomed to the efficiency and arrogance of having a new product presented to us on a white pedestal, against a white background, as if its behavior, function and context should be evident by its titanium doohickey. But I’ll take Marc Jabobs’ train set over that any day. Is there any question just what he has in mind for his new collection? Watch this…