Alternative Realities and Parallel Universes

by George Hatjoullis

Ever since I was a child I have been hearing the pejorative expression ‘what planet are you from?’. In my third age years I now follow up such comments with the thought’ I don’t know but I hope the mother ship comes soon to take me home. This planet is peopled by crazies’. I have always had the sense that I live in a sterile no man’s land between other realities. I can see these realities but I cannot exist in them. They do not touch me and I do not touch them. The media offer portals into these realities and it was a shock glimpse through one of these portals that has sparked this strange blog.

The FT’s Helge Rieder informs me that there is a ‘fashion house’ called Vetements and that it is offering a yellow print cotton blend T-shirt with the red DHL logo blazoned across the front for a mere £185. This apparently is a ‘fashion’ item! But hold, it gets worse. You can buy an oversized blended cotton hoodie (oversized clothing seems to be part of the Vetements ‘fashion statement’) with a Titanic logo from mytheresa.com for a mere £495 (form an orderly queue, only one per customer). The style guidance is:

Inspired by James Cameroon’s 1997 blockbuster ‘Titanic’, this printed hoodie from VETEMENTS is an ode to a classic. Crafted from a cotton blend, this piece comes in an oversized fit for a cool, nonchalant silhouette with elongated sleeves. Let yours add graphic appeal to downtime looks.

(Yes, they have misspelled James Cameron’s name!)

Who, I ask myself, buys such items? Why do they buy such items? (and where the hell is that mother ship?). There are people in London that are fighting to get a so called living wage, which is better termed an existential wage. Living alongside there are people that can afford to pay £185 for a DHL T-shirt and that think it is meaningful to do so. This is not a new phenomenon but it is a persistent phenomenon in what we laughingly call human history. In an odd way it seems to sum up all the problems of human society. In this one juxtaposition I can see inequality, waste, delusion and indifference.

I am for individuals expressing themselves but why do they need to be led in such expression by a ‘fashion house’. Can you not just buy a cotton blend T-shirt from M&S (a size too big) and print DHL on it? I doubt DHL will mind! Does this ‘fashion house’ now own this idea? Why not print Royal Mail on it? No brand will mind free advertising I would have thought. I am thinking of buying a black T-shirt (I like black) and printing where the f*ck is that mothership on it.

Joking aside there is something very wrong in a society that diverts itself with trivia in order not to address the issues that really frighten. Social psychology has a lot to say about this, some of it contradictory. It may be time to merge some realities, not by compulsion, but by focused alternative narratives. The big obstacle is the corporate and industrial machine that needs such trivia to keep itself alive. Buying such items is not that different to digging holes and and filling them from a macroeconomic perspective. It serves a similar role. Society needs to be reorganised so that pointless and wasteful activity is not necessary to keep the production and employment machine ticking over. There are bigger issues to concern this planet.

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