A bag of chips, anyone?
As the world reels from the effects of war in Ukraine amid a new crisis unfolding in Iran, not to mention the brutal winter that awaits Europeans, sparking interest in a jaded industry like the fashion requires creative framing. The recently concluded Paris Fashion Week, weighed down by this season of impending disaster, was well received after models from Spanish luxury brand Balenciaga appeared on the ramp clutching their latest handbags – which were carbon copies of large packets of Lay’s crisps (with white zips). Sold in red, yellow, green and blue colors, rather all flavors of the legendary snack, no one knows how many will be willing to shell out around $1,800 (Rs 1.48 lakh) to throw a designer chip on their shoulder . The Lay’s Bag arrives in Balenciaga stores in summer 2023.
This isn’t the first time that popular fast foods have been immortalized in fancy clutches; Judith Lieber’s crystal-encrusted evening bags come in quirky shapes like McDonald’s Big Mac, cupcakes and glitter fries. Chanel made a whimsical statement by converting a milk carton into a trendy shoulder bag. The Lay’s Bag can be deciphered as an intelligent and populist movement since it points to the mundane joys of all our lives; like Coca Cola, potato chips are a common factor for humanity as a whole – as an accessory, their conceptual power breaks down the artificial barriers between social hierarchies and classes. To paraphrase Andy Warhol, style is all you can live without and indeed the everyday can be fashionable. That’s why embellished sneakers sell for thousands of dollars. Just because they’re functional shoes doesn’t mean they can’t be works of art.
On the other hand, does Balenciaga (subversively) mock the pretensions of the rich who pride themselves on refinement? Hell, some people will buy anything, as long as the price is high enough. It’s true, only those with cash to burn will casually flaunt a bag of chips for a purse, as it goes completely against what is considered conventionally beautiful. Whether we know it or not, our tastes are influenced by references, like the elaborately embroidered but entirely forgettable half-naked dresses that have flooded red carpets for decades. Thus, an instinctive reaction to the bag of chips is a sneer; really, that? The world is so out of ideas, humble fry has become haute couture. Anyone remotely self-aware can’t help but harbor a sneaky suspicion that they’re being played – falling, desperately, for what a big brand insists it’s cool, when it’s so obviously ridiculous.
If something is good enough for the Kardashians, it’s good enough for me, or so they think. Groupthink, the psychological phenomenon when large numbers of people (irrationally) ignore hard facts because they are too afraid of being the only ones dissenting, insidiously drives decision-making. Return to Hans Christian Anderson’s cautionary tale The Emperor’s New Clothes. Two shrewd weavers make a fantastic promise to the king that their magical, finely spun garb from nothingness is invisible only to the most stupid people in the kingdom. The Emperor, fearful of being exposed as the fool he has always secretly suspected of being, parades naked, but none of his subjects show his stripped body either, anxious that this would suggest they are also fools. Applied to fashion, we fear we lack the discernment to identify beauty, making it much easier to manipulate social media and AI, which push expensive celebrity-endorsed products our way.
So how do you think about those who push the boundaries of creativity and push the boundaries of originality? Consider them shrewd racketeers trying to make a quick buck on shock value? Or, consider the possibility that beyond formal dress and a fascination with precious jewelry, it’s possible to look at ordinary objects, like the ubiquitous bag of crisps, and use it in entirely different ways. .
Writer is director, Hutkay Films