Good design, it is said, should render an object invisible. Until you whack a designer logo on it, at which point it becomes the opposite: a talking point, a must-have, and (in this instance) the only Prada item that you could conceivably afford.
That, we’ll hazard, is the thinking behind its oversized silver paperclip, a snip at $185 (£145), and the latest in a litany of designer accessories inspired by the mundane and the everyday. In fairness, it’s a money clip with a logo, but everyone knows money clips are for rich people (people who deal exclusively in notes) so the irony is still there.
The Prada paperclip has a ring to it, but it’s not the first of its kind. Fashion has long found beauty, humour and profit in designing familiar objects in an unfamiliar way. We saw Jil Sander’s £185 coated-paper “Vasari” bag in 2012 which was just that – an expensive paper bag, cannily designed with coated paper so it didn’t go sodden in the rain. Then there were the £45 leather stickers by Anya Hindmarch, and carrier bags that were embellished with sequins at Ashish for £275, as well as appearing on models’ heads at Christopher Shannon (the subtext was thought to be a commentary on the reality of being a new designer with little disposable capital). Most coveted was Supreme’s logo’d $30 (£23) red clay brick from last year, an absurd item in itself, but then you find out it followed a crowbar, a boxing bag, a Bible, a fire extinguisher and nunchucks.
Christopher Kane’s $30 (£23) neon cable ties in mint, cobalt, and lilac, were used as hairbands and chokers on the spring/summer 2016 catwalk and were perhaps the runaway success stories of this strand of quotidian luxe. Floridly caveated by the Scottish designer as something that “controls and constrains objects and materials, eliminating chaos and mess”, it presented a new kind of fashion, pruned of glamour. It was also quite funny. They also sold out and became a meme, with fashion heads trotting down to Wickes.
The greatest shoutout goes to Balenciaga which, under the eye of Demna Gvasalia of Vetements, have made this their shtick. Regularly flipping the context of an item – say, turning a lighter in the heel of a boot, or recreating the famous blue Frakta Ikea bag and selling it for £1,600 – Gvasalia routinely challenges what makes something fashionable, disrupting the luxury market like a fox in the henhouse of taste. The weirder the item, the more likely it will sell.
Accessories, especially handbags, have bigger margins than ready-to-wear, and generally turn the biggest profits. These are also gateway pieces, ways of buying into a brand without spending too much, of showing you’re in on the joke and advertising that fact to your pals on Instagram. They also almost always sell out, so it works both ways. For us, things such as the Prada paperclip are the only thing we can afford, bar their socks. Now to figure out who’s the bigger fool here.
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