The End of Fashion: How Marketing Changed the Clothing Business Forever

The time when “fashion” was defined by French designers whose clothes could be afforded only by elite has ended. Now designers take their cues from mainstream consumers and creativity is channeled more into mass-marketing clothes than into designing them. Indeed, one need look no further than the Gap to see proof of this. In The End of Fashion, Wall Street Journal, reporter Teri Agins astutely explores this seminal change, laying bare all aspects of the fashion industry from manufacturing, retailing, anmd licensing to image making and financing. Here as well are fascinating insider vignettes that show Donna Karan fighting with financiers,the rivalry between Ralph Lauren and Tommy Hilfiger, and the commitment to haute conture that sent Isaac Mizrahi’s business spiraling.

De gustibus non est disputandum

In the former Soviet Union, cognac was the expensive booze of choice, while whiskey was relatively unknown. Technically, you can only call cognac the brandy from Cognac in France, but the Soviets did not care much about that, already abusing Appellation d’Origine Contrôlée with Soviet Champagne.

In any case, high end Armenian brandy was considered the ultimate drink. Armenians were one of the first to invent the alcohol distilling technology, and Armenian brandy, by the way was the very same drink that Odysseus used to knock out the Cyclops.

The reason I remembered all this, is because two news articles reminded me of a Russian saying: to a pessimist cognac smells like bedbugs, to an optimist – bedbugs smell like cognac. Good cognac has a rather peculiar smell, and some say that it smells exactly like squashed bedbugs. Although I smelled cognac often enough, I’ve never smelled squashed bedbugs. Thus I can’t really say if the saying is true, or just an artifact of crappy Soviet cognac.

Consider the contrasts:

In Zimbabwe people are eating rats:

“Twelve-year-old Beatrice returns from the fields with small animals she’s caught for dinner.

Her mother, Elizabeth, prepares the meat and cooks it on a grill made of three stones supporting a wood fire. It’s just enough food, she says, to feed her starving family of six.

Tonight, they dine on rats.

“Look what we’ve been reduced to eating?” she said. “How can my children eat rats in a country that used to export food? This is a tragedy.””

Zimbabwe’s ambassador to United States, Machivenyika Mapuranga, told CNN on Tuesday that reports of people eating rats unfairly represented the situation, adding that at times while he grew up his family ate rodents.

“The eating of the field mice — Zimbabweans do that. It is a delicacy,” he said. “It is misleading to portray the eating of field mice as an act of desperation. It is not.” “

It’s hard to be optimistic about rat eating, but I guess it’s not as difficult for Mr. Mapuranga.

On the other hand, it’s probably pretty hard to be pessimistic about gourmet food served in some Manhattan soup kitchens:

“The multicourse lunch that Michael Ennes cooked in the basement of Broadway Presbyterian Church last week started with a light soup of savoy and napa cabbages. The endive salad was dressed with basil vinaigrette. For the main course, Mr. Ennes simmered New Jersey bison in wine and stock flavored with fennel and thickened with olive oil roux.

But some diners thought the bison was a little tough, and the menu discordant.

“He’s good, but sometimes I think the experimentation gets in the way of good taste,” said Jose Terrero, 54. Last year, Mr. Terrero made a series of what he called inappropriate financial decisions, including not paying his rent. He now sleeps at a shelter. He has eaten at several New York City soup kitchens, and highly recommends Mr. Ennes’s food.”

The gourmet soup kitchen chef is an optimist though:

“Despite the care he puts into his cooking, he doesn’t mind a little criticism.

“They’re still customers, whether they’re paying $100 a plate or nothing,” Mr. Ennes said. “One thing we do here is listen to people and let them complain. Where else can a homeless person get someone to listen to them?” “

I grew up with the Soviet media feeding me horror stories about life in America, and I know that indeed, looking at the world through the eyes of reporters is “looking through a glass darkly“. I trust the CNN reporter over the Zimbabwian politician because the latter has a much keener interest in misrepresenting the reality. But on the other hand, the efforts of the New York Times reporter to find the several homeless critiquing the free gourmet cuisine seem a little artificial. I bet 99% of them were rather grateful for tasty meals. But then, I don’t doubt that the New York City homeless can be rather picky — I’ve seen some refusing and even throwing offered food at the would be Good Samaritans.

Blinking Tema’s Stuff

Thanks to the wonders of the WaybackMachine Lebedev watchers can track what everybody’s favorite Russian designer has in his office at temporal markers A B C and D. If you open these links in different tabs of your Firefox browser (you are not using IE still, are you?) you can use a technique that astronomers call “blinking” to see the changes in Tema’s fine equipment.

The most puzzling change is from B to C to D. It looks like he didn’t like the new Herman Miller Mira and went back to good ol’ Aeron.  I am surprised that he isn’t using dual monitors yet. 

Also notice how the picture on the monitor does not reflect the changes up to D.

So far the only exact matches to my equipment is the chair and the wastebasket. My Intuos2 is a smaller 4×5, my Griffin powermate is black, not silver, my camera is a cheaper but better Digital Rebel, instead of post-its I use a police memo binder with a reporter’s pad inside, my keyboard, trackball and mouse are made by Logitech, the dual screens are Viewsonic VP171b, the computer is a Shuttle XPC. My cigar ashtray which gets used only a few times a month is made out of radium glass. My cellphone is cheap and looks like a brick, but thanks to all those Verizon towers that irradiate everyone around, has awesome reception. And for pens I use whatever is left from my office supply therapy.

Dreamblog : Deadprogrammer Takes A Picture Of Respected Leader’s Wife

Saw this dream yesterday morning :

I was walking by Kim Jong Il, who looked rather silly. I really wanted to take a candid picture of him, but did not want to be thrown in jail for that. I saw a Japanese reporter photograph him, and decided to ask for permission. Respected Leader did not want to have his picture taken, but said that I could take a picture of his wife. She started walking through the palace. When passing through a dungeon she was overcome by a pain in her leg. I thought that the ghosts of women killed by her husband were causing her that pain. Finally we made it outside. She sat down on a brick parapet. The Sun and the Moon were in the sky at the same time. Also in the background was the spire of the AIG building. I started to take the picture, but the camera lens fell apart in my hands.

Although, to me the AIG building is the Ace Of Swords, not the Tower.

Some pictures I took today on my way home.


One thing I noticed upon reading the text that accompanied Lee Friedlander’s photographs in the awesome, awesome and ultra rare “Cray at Chippewa Falls” (some photos from which I scanned and posted earlier) is that Friedlander often made tiny visual jokes or puns. These details are very hard to notice. It’s also very hard to tell if the pun was intentional or not. Once explained, these little jokes make the image much more special and enjoyable.

The special thing in the previous photo is very hard to see. The traffic cop has a little sticker of an American flag on the cover of his ticket book. A 911 remnant.

I actually keep my notebook in a leather binder like that. My 911 reminder is a little flag button on my bag.

In the speech class that I took last semester I chatted a bit with an intern from New York Post. He told me that the tabloid format of newspapers was influenced by the fact that blue collar workers liked to keep a newspaper in the back pocket of their pants. He also gave me a blank New York Post reporter’s notebook (which is actually the same format as the aforementioned ticket book).

Kids playing in Brooklyn.

Hey, you never know. The New York State Lottery guy is out of a job. Strangely enough I can’t find any information about him online.

More of Deadprogrammer’s Aspirations

I want to become rich in one of the most honorable ways possible – by inventing something. The first step that I took in that direction some time ago is writing down ideas into a notebook.

The notebooks is kind of special. It’s an NYPD style memo binder that I bought from DeSantis. Interesting to note that the NYPD binder is 4×8, but regular one is just 4×6. It took me a while to find correct paper that would fit the notebook, but I found out that the reporter’s notebook available in all stationary stores fits. I just had to remove the wire spiral. You know, the most amazing thing about this notebook is that cops manage to stuff it into the back pocket of their pants. I thought about buying some uniform pants (they look like dark dress casual pants, but are probably very comfortable and durable) but it turns out that you can’t buy them without a cop’s id.

But I digress. Inventing. Right. Well, sometimes I stumble upon companies that are already doing what I was thinking about. Maybe some of my ideas are actually not without merit.

I had an idea bout billboards beaming advertising to PDAs. I made a note in my log about making a cheap beaming module that could be used in subway ads. A blinking light would attract one’s attention, and if the passenger would point a palm pilot towards the ad, a coupon would be beamed down. I did a bit of searching, and it didn’t seem that any company was doing that at the time. That was a few years back, when I got my Palm III. The first company to actually do this (I think, I am not sure though) was Streetbeam. Today there are many more companies that make beaming booths, beaming nodes, etc. Wide Ray is just one of them.

Later I was thinking a lot about wireless power transmission after reading a book about Tesla. Tesla had his lab illuminated by wirelessly powered fluorescent lights. Why not power devices that don’t need that much juice, like cell phones and PDAs wirelessly, I thought? I was also thinking about magnetic fields in trains. Could it be possible to recharge a Palm Pilot or a cell phone from an induced current somehow? My hate of wall warts (12 volt transformers) is also well known. I was thinking for a while about a system of modules that would allow using one power cable to charge multiple devices. The system would involve a modular “multicradle” that would allow to store all devices needing powering neatly on the desk. This Friday I’ve read about a British startup that is going to produce a very cool wireless charging solution. That is going to be so cool.

When morons write about technology

There was an article in free newspaper called “Brooklyn!” (very creative, putting an exclamation mark into the name) about some school kids who participated in a robot building competition.

I bet those kids did not explain to the reporter what red boxing really is :) Uh, and the box that really brought some prominence to some kids was blue (One Steve made them, the other Steve sold them).

Boxes also come in all colors of the rainbow.

By the way, I really hate those robot competitions, like Robot Wars. They are nothing but glorified RC cars. If there was a competition of autonomos robots, that would be a bit more interesting, but probably also not watchable.

Junkyard Wars, on the other hand, is a great show. The original British version was even better.