The object of my desire popped up on the screen when I saw the pictures of the new Martin Margiela collection for H&M were finally available. Nearly simultaneously, I happened upon a Patti Smith live session on KCRW – the voice sounded extremely familiar but I did not recognize it immediately. It had been a long time since I had listened to a Patti Smith’s record.
Very few in my generation didn’t fall under the spell of Patti Smith’s “Horses”, the album with the iconic Mapplethorpe’s photograph of the singer in a white shirt, suspenders and a man’s blazer thrown over her shoulder. No make-up and messy hair. There is an angular, androgynous and sexy beauty shining through that Ms. Smith has never lost. She stuck to that style even after money and fame entered her life, a style that designers like Rei Kawakubo of Comme de Garcons, Dries van Noten and Martin Margiela have made famous: essential, androgynous, never overtly highlighting the shape of a woman’s body but enhancing it with straight lines, often dark colours and stark whites and asymmetrical cuts. In short, the opposite of Dolce & Gabbana.
While Ms. Smith’s full bodied and deep-throated voice went through a set of stunning songs from her new(ish) recording “Banga”, I coveted a cashmere oversized turtle neck sweater with extra long sleeves that I could see wearing with skinny jeans and pencil skirts (the sailor jacket also looked like a good buy while the wide jeans and the skirt/pants combo left me wondering who in the world….).
Then I discovered on the H&M site the rules I had to follow to get to the object of my desire: check out the list of the few stores where the collection is available, items cannot be bought online, queues are expected before store opening and bracelets will be distributed on a first come first basis. Talk about taking the joy out of shopping. I had visions of a stampede in Century City, snatching clothes from much younger hands than mine, elbowing my way to the fitting rooms and I considered that, given the impending rain and the risotto cakes I had planned for lunch, I was much better off at home, in my sweat pants.
As I can’t even remotely afford anything from my favourite designers, I do appreciate the (self-serving) efforts of large chains to bring the crumbs of couture to the masses. I really do. But these limited editions, heralded through costly advertising campaigns in order to create expectation, simply put me off. I happened to be at Target the day after the Missoni collection went on sale (a designer, incidentally, I do not care for in the least). In the still empty shelves the clerks had no time to replenish, there stood a sad pair of scuffed pumps and a couple of hair barrettes, leaving me to imagining the frenzy of grabbing that went on, probably with the sole intent of reselling on e-bay. I am pretty sure I can find my sweater on e-bay in a couple of days, highly marked up. But I decided to download Ms. Smiths’ music instead. And for warmth? A cup of cocoa.