What does that mean? (That is, assuming that it actually means something.)
What does that mean? (That is, assuming that it actually means something.)
Recent events and certain political campaign rhetorics reminded me of something by which I was bemused a couple of years ago. It’s still a bit of a mystery to me.
Earlier that year, I engaged a public relations consultant to give a couple of my non-marketing colleagues some media training. Whilst he was previously the regional head of a global, generalist PR agency, his private practice focusses on issues and reputation management. As he and I both cycle, when an intellectual property spat between a small Canadian bicycle retailer and a large American bicycle brand erupted, I sent him a link to an online article about it because I thought it would be interesting to see how the Americans will handle the situation. Legally, it was a fairly clear-cut case. Actually, it wasn’t even worth discussing. However, on the public relations front, the case called for a comfortable chair and a large tub of popcorns as it unfolded in the court of public opinion. It was a textbook case of both sides doing everything wrong: the ignorant, naïve, self-righteous shopkeeper and the big, bad, arrogant corporation. What made the case more interesting is the fact that a bike brand that is very adept at marketing was cocking it up like amateurs. Over the years, the purveyors of bikes mass produced in Taiwan have managed to develop and nurture, with the use of a very clever tag line, a very loyal clientele by making them feel like a rare breed of cyclists despite, in reality, rendering each customer merely One Of Countless Many. And here they were, making a mess out of a situation that could have been avoided in the first place.
In reply, the consultant told me about a case that a large British general merchandiser had experienced about 4 years prior when just about every business was feeling the impact of the Great Recession. They are known for value-for-money product assortment and have long enjoyed a reputation for supplying quality underwear at reasonable prices. They tweaked the pricing structure of women’s undergarments (big booby surcharge on DD cup and larger), and the members of public were outraged by that move, with the media egging them on whilst rivals gained market share. Under pressure, the retailer retracted the change. In doing so, they made a brilliant move in launching an advertising campaign to apologise for the offending move. The advert featured a model with her E cup assets encased in a pair of their previously premium category bras. The public was so taken by the model (and presumably the campaign message as well) that everyone forgot about the retailer’s offence and took their custom back to the retailer.
I knew about the outrage but didn’t know about the apology campaign since I didn’t follow the saga back then. Because he didn’t tell me who the model was (and obviously, I wanted to know), so I asked him who she was. What happened next had me perplexed.
He sent me a link to a thread in a well known internet forum founded and managed by a former Ku Klax Klan Grand Wizard, for white nationalists, white supremacists and neo-Nazis. The forum has sub-fora in various languages for members around the globe. In the thread, UK-based forum members were chatting about the model, and some members had posted a photo or two of her. Her photos explained why the campaign was a hit, but I simultaneously entered Bemusement Park quite unexpectedly.
Bemusement 1: These forum members were saying positive things in a polite manner about a British subject of Sudanese extraction. To say that the thread content was incongruent with the forum profile is perhaps an understatement. I wonder if the reputation of the thread participants amongst their peers suffered as a result.
Bemusement 2 (more important): Of all the places on the internet where photos of her can be found, the consultant sent me a link to a thread in that forum. If you do a web search on her name, the thread is unlikely to come up in the first few pages, not least because certain search engines in certain countries have excluded the forum’s URL from their index. In other words, you don’t come across the thread by accident if you enter her name in a search engine. You have to be in the forum first in order to find that thread, that is, unless someone sends you a direct link to it. So, is he a forum member?
I never asked albeit I still wonder whether it’s something that might hurt his reputation.
Guangbiao Chen recently making the headlines again also reminded me of something else, as his trade is controlled demolition. Whenever I saw the video of the World Trade Center buildings collapsing, I wondered how they all came down so fast and in such an orderly manner, just like in an Hollywood film, a controlled demolition. The science-based hypothesis presented by Architects & Engineers for 9/11 Truth seems very persuasive, especially in the case of Building #7 which an aeroplane did NOT strike. However, it in turn raises countless questions about the US government, the US intelligence agencies, the number and identities of people that were involved in the attack, the attack’s real timeline that includes preparatory work, the logistics of planning and execution, etc. It boggles the mind.
I just figured out what the above represents. I had thought that it was something else. Then, I noticed that the context sometimes didn’t gel with what I thought it represented but thought to myself, ‘horses for courses’. I didn’t think much of it until I realised recently that many women use it too, and I thought, ‘That’s odd…’
They have not grasped the fact that an escalator keeps moving at least as long as people are on them, that it does not stop moving people forward unless it breaks down or the emergency stop button is pressed.
They do not keep walking or step to the side when they get off an escalator. They look like they just entered a twilight zone as they got off the escalator, perhaps wondering about which way to go, now that they actually need to propel themselves, or they are just in awe that something just carried them forward, upward or downward.
I am in awe that there seems to be so many of these virgins out and about unsupervised. Please, someone put a collar and fixed length lead on each of them.
Glass half full…
People sometimes say strange things. They are usually of no consequence, but one such inconsequential comment has stuck in my mind. It left such an impression on me that I find it as strange as the comment itself. Bizarre all round.
I think it was late spring this year. We were in Paris for a day and headed towards the Marais. I wanted to stock up on tea, and the Brunette wanted to have a nose round the Alaïa outlet shop. When we got to the latter, there were a few customers browsing and trying on some wares: a 30-something French woman, an American in her early 20s and another American in her late 40s with her husband and daughter. There were two shop assistants. And then the three of us walked in. The shop is just about big enough to fit an old Mini Cooper, so let’s just say that the air was getting a bit thin when we walked in.
The young American was clearly on a mission to buy loads of shoes. The older American was determined to buy a dress. Alaïa is not exactly what you might call a democratic label. The outerwear and accessories can have a relatively broader market. However, the dresses, tops, skirts and trousers are for very specific market segments: they can either flatter your assets or accentuate your flaws. You do not need to be young or slim to wear them, but you do need to have a certain firmness and shape, not to mention personality, to pull it off. In fact, a voluptuous woman can be a screaming siren in Alaïa, provided that the body has curves and firmness that house a certain attitude on life. Shapeless bodies need not apply. There are plenty of other labels that suit a broader range, or a different type, of bodies, so there is really no need to insist on wearing an Alaïa dress. But some people do insist on the wrong choices — we have all been guilty of this from time to time — and their spouses or lovers just go along lest they incur Hell’s Fury. (‘Does my bum look fat in this?’ ‘Of course not, love. It’s perfectly juicy.’) So it goes in a circle. A vicious circle. A really vicious one, actually. You can hear Lucifer rolling on the floor laughing and holding his stomach in delicious pain.
A body that resembles a cross between a 2-week old Lincolnshire sausage and a marshmallow that has been left uncovered in the garden for a few days really should not be clad in an Alaïa dress. Ever. But shit does happen. The husband is happy that the wife is happy, so round and round it goes. The spectacle is like a roadkill. Even though you are repulsed by the sight, you cannot help but look at it, ironically because it is a repulsive sight. There is something really perverse about such a reaction. You say ‘Eeuwww’, turn your head away 30° and still have your eyes firmly fixed on it, and the only words that come to mind are ‘Hucking Fell’.
Americans have a tendency to befriend other Americans when they spot them in a foreign land. A very sociable lot. Whilst trying on their respective wares, the two American women, strangers until a moment ago, were chatting away at an impressive decibel level. Their nasal twangs filled up every cubic inch of the physically unoccupied space in the tiny shop. Starting to feel an audiovisual overload coming on, I decided to step out into the courtyard and leave the Brunette and the Little Brunette to themselves to browse the footwear inventory.
Once out in the courtyard, I realised that it has been about 10 years since the last time I was standing there, at Yohji Yamamoto’s book launch party. Optimism was in the air that evening, almost everyone was dressed in black, and I remember how the rather ordinary, flavourless ‘light’ cigarette tasted better than usual. Somehow I thought of the fact that, in the intervening 10 years, the rag trade has seen its fair share of turbulence. Alaïa was given a financial lifeline by Prada and then sold off to Richemont. Yamamoto went bust and was picked up by a private equity firm. Galliano fell from grace. McQueen died following Blow’s death. Valentino hung up his sketch book. Margiela and Sander have left their respective eponymous labels. An eventful decade in the trade…
And then, the American family emerged from the shop and headed towards the pavement. As they were about to go through the arched passage, the husband said rather enthusiastically to the wife who appeared well pleased with the purchase, ‘Congratulations on the dress!’
Congratulations?? For what? Why? There was no sarcasm or irony in his voice, but rather, it seemed sincere. Congratulations? Really? There must be a critical piece of information that I’m missing. Of course, the important thing is that they all seemed rather happy with the purchase. Congratulations.
I lost count how many times I have heard American women, especially those of a certain age, say that. I came across one recently.
Thanks for letting us know. So, are you now doing something that you were not doing before, or are you doing something differently now?
It’s all a bit of a mystery to most non-Americans.