It Can’t Be Japanese
You would think, as I also did, that Superdry claiming to be in some way a Japanese company but based in the UK or somehow British design but in the ‘spirit of Japan’ would also stock a lightweight version of their tracksuit bottoms – the trouser ersatz they display en masse in their shop – seemingly overflowing with goods but mostly with more of the same thick padded and fleecy heavy duty air-holed leg cushioning swaddling clothes. As a Japanophile I was drawn to that certain air of Japan which the store/brand projected – without really noticing what was particularly Japanese about it. The store interior is very dark and throbs with a mind-numbing soundtrack – here and there the word Tokyo flashes up out of the piles of textile. But surely a truly Japanese fashion line would include minimalist fragile haiku style clothing, that je ne sais quoi Japanese butterfly street chic – and not just these faux Japanese British lumberjack numbers. I asked a sales girl slotting some of these carpetbag wide elastic waisted bottoms into a cubicle lit by a blinding spotlight which merely intensified the all pervading darkness of the shop – if they had such trousers in a lighter version for the warmer seasons or if for Superdry there was only one season of snowed in deep winter, in chilly drafty scantily heated houses - never-ending winters as fierce as the one in Kubrick’s Shining? She showed me a rack of floral or patterned short tight fitting leggings – which were probably lighter, much lighter but we both agreed it was not the same sort of thing or cut as these futon like pants, an exemplar of which I already owned. The Asian girl was petite in all places except her broad cheeked Eskimo face and large bust.
Bu where does this chunky ‘Japanese’ style come from – is it an unfamiliar side of the oriental garment repertoire – this cross between a duvet and a piece of body armor? An offshoot of Sumo culture? But Sumo wrestlers mostly wear loincloths. I thought I had discovered a clue in a barely decipherable newspaper photograph of a model purportedly wearing a ‘hooded dress’, which bottoms out in a duvet like flounce. The hood is a full-face mask with only slits for the eyes, no nose holes – it is so garishly floral, a red and orange tropical camouflage print, one can only guess where the eyes might be. In effect the dress is just a euphemism for a fitted burqa – now less provocatively re-named a ‘hooded dress’. The fashion show was in China.
No wonder Superdry is in the throes of a corporate identity crisis.
The Rothko Fetish
Why do the rich have a Rothko fetish? The neotenic billionaire currency dealer holding audience in his stretch limo in the film Cosmopolis is obsessed with the one thing he apparently cannot buy – the Rothko Chapel. In between blandly humping his art consultant (played by the frowsy somewhat grubby looking French actress Juliette Binoche, hardly a rich man’s jouissance) he repeatedly demands that she tell whoever the keepers of the Rothko Chapel are – that he wants to buy it in total with everything in it. She tells him over and over again “they won’t sell”, - an answer the billionaire won’t, can’t accept. “They say the Rothko Chapel belongs to the world”, she says. But the billionaire is about to lose his world anyway. Something to do with the fall of the yuan – he hadn’t heeded the warnings of his anatomy – the prophetic asymmetry of his prostate should have given him the key to the volatile market in yuan.
Rothko also subtly radiated from the cover of the Financial Times’ “how to spend it” supplement. An impeccably groomed mocha colored gentleman presumably posing in his own ambient, sits on a stool in front of a black Ikea style bookshelf. He is himself a gentleman’s tailor, a ‘couturier’, someone whose taste can be utterly trusted, as the magazine says “an aesthete”. (His knees are spread slightly too far apart on the photo, but he covers up his crotch discreetly with his large clasped hands.) Behind him on the shelf numerous tomes are piled up – among them two very prominently display the name ROTHKO in big letters on their spine. Books are not usually the preferred objects of a rich man’s wallet – more a decoy – the Rothko volumes are just hints, reminders of the ultimate art investment luxury.
In the same week Germanwings Flight 9525 endured mass ‘burnout’ – a FT lifestyle journalist urged readers who might be “burnt-out high-flyers” to indulge in Indian style therapeutic retreats in France. For 3595 GBP one is put on a juice diet for at least half of the 6 day retreat – beginning each day with hot water and lemon – which I do almost for free at home. For another 2495 GBP the two gurus – the O’Shaughnessy brothers from London – will have your saliva tested for its genetic properties – so that your diet, Yoga and Ayurvedic therapy can be scientifically tailored to your genetic peculiarities – a marriage of ancient healing methods and modern genetic science. The health brothers’ procedure for obtaining your saliva sounds very much like the ‘spit parties’, which were the rage amongst the über-rich such as Ivana Trump and the Murdochs some years back. While at the party you had to spit into a paper cup and some weeks later you would receive your results for only 400 US dollars. The wife of one of the Google founders ran the parties and the testing company – so they could afford to test the spit of their fellow rich at a discount.
It would appear that the FT spending consultant and her Harley Street self-taught gurus lag years behind New York. But the London retreat therapists serve up their spit party with a high degree of medico solemnity. They are missing the Great Gatsby fun factor – falling in love with someone’s spit.