Friday, April 21, 2017

Balenciaga’s $2,145 Ikea Bag

Open Post: Hosted By Balenciaga’s $2,145 Ikea Bag

April 20, 2017 / Posted by:
Since we’re on the subject of ridiculously overpriced shit for the rich

Balenciaga has finally made a bag for the richies who want that fresh “just coming from Ikea” look, but don’t want to taint their $3,300 calfskin leather jacket with disgusting polyester straps! Balenciaga’s $2,145 (or 7 Klippan loveseats in Ikea currency) Arena shopping tote looks like Ikea’s 99 cent FRAKTA bag. Well, if Ikea’s 99 cent FRAKTA bag married a rich plastic surgeon, got its plastic skin replaced with fine leather skin, started speaking in a snobby accent and held its nose up to the Swedish meatballs it used to eat. Balenciaga’s Arena bag is basically a new money FRAKTA bag.
Today asked Ikea for their thoughts on Balenciaga doing a rich bitch version of their legendary cheap shopping bag, and they’re not mad at all.
“We are extremely flattered to seemingly be an inspiration for the latest catwalk designs for Balenciaga. Our IKEA Frakta tote is one of our most iconic products which are already owned and loved by millions – now the many people truly can get the designer look for less.”
Designers doing luxurious versions of cheap stuff isn’t new, and Balenciaga did it with a few of their bags this year.
You know those bags that the comforter or sheets come in at Bed Bath & Beyond or Macy’s? My abuelita would use those bags as luggage. Well, Balenciaga made a $3,670 version of that.
And you know those Mexican market bags you can use to carry groceries or laundry? Balenciaga did a $2,550 version of that.
I, for one, can’t wait until Balenciaga does a $4,500 version of the wrinkled-up brown paper bag some of us are going to drink Thunderbird vodka out of in between selling our ass under a bridge after spending all our money on $2,145 bags and $400 juicers.

Thursday, April 20, 2017

Are foreign luxury brands innocent?

By Park Jae-hyuk

While writing a series of 10 articles highlighting operations of foreign luxury brands in Korea, this reporter received a lot of feedback over the past few weeks, not only from the global companies but also from many readers of The Korea Times. Most of the feedback defended the operations of the foreign firms and were not that favorable to the articles.

But are these foreign luxury brands really innocent enough to deserve this defense? For our readers' information, this reporter felt an obligation to check whether they really are, throughout writing the articles, and that is still the case.

After criticizing Bulgari's stinginess in Korea, one of our readers wrote that Korea does not require money from the Italian company, as the country lacks "needy" children. He said, "All Korean kids have access to good medical care, schools, good food and housing," which is actually wrong, considering children with poor parents, without parents and victims of abuse.

Moreover, Bulgari's donations even benefit children in wealthier nations, such as Australia, Japan, the United Kingdom and the United States. Also, given that Bulgari has yet to list Korea among its charity beneficiaries on its official website, a Bulgari spokeswoman was highly suspicious about prevarication when asked whether the money contributed to Save the Children Fund is spent on Korean children.

After pointing out the poor customer relations of Hermes requiring a long lead time for buying its bags, Michael Tonello, an author of "Bringing Home the Birkin," wrote that there never was waiting list, because Hermes opened a lot of stores in recent years and greatly increased production by hiring more craftsmen for the new assembly line.

The author's words which conflict with explanations of salesclerks and the experience of many Korean consumers, however, foster doubts that there is a pecking order in getting Hermes bags in Korea. Some suspect that high-profile figures get them early, while ordinary people will have to wait quite a long time. And still, Hermes remains reluctant to comment on the issue

Some readers argued that the overall series was biased, but this reporter tried to reflect explanations from each brand, even after the articles were published. The accusations of bias may have been a result from insufficient explanations from the companies.

Comparing Korean firms to foreign companies, some said that the former are also stingy in countries where they are doing businesses. If they really are, this reporter truly hopes journalists there, who are well-informed about laws and economic situations in each country, highlight the matter.

Although the series is over, this reporter and The Korea Times will keep watching the management of foreign luxury brands, including those dealt with in this series and those that have yet to be highlighted.

The amendment of a law, which was expected to enforce limited companies to unveil their financial statements, failed due to the removal from office of former President Park Geun-hye and the resulting presidential election. Thus, foreign luxury brands in Korea are highly likely to continue their practice of stingy donations, inconsistent pricing policies and the mistreatment of retailers and employees.

One consolation is that this apparent attitude may face a backlash from Koreans. Although some people still argue that Koreans will continue to be obsessed with luxury, signs of changes are appearing slowly but steadily.

As this reporter wrote in previous articles, Louis Vuitton has begun to lose its luster in Korea, and duty free operators did not participate in a bid for the luxury fashion brand and accessories slots in the second terminal at Incheon International Airport. Also, more Koreans are turning their eyes to rental shops, rather than buying luxury items.

Saturday, April 8, 2017

The Handbag's Tale

Medieval or modern, handbags reveal their bearers’ secrets more than they hide them. An Object Lesson.
A diamond-encrusted Birkin bag at an auction house in California Mario Anzuoni / Reuters

I was a handbag newbie, an unpaid writer, an impartial observer hired as a ghost memoirist for the CEO of a luxury-handbag resale site. Having grown up in Los Angeles, I had a cursory sense of the major brands: Chanel, Louis Vuitton, Hermès—but like many of my bookish friends, I had dismissed such flashy handbags as frivolous.
Working in the startup, I was surrounded by stacks of bags, fielding questions from visitors who could not contain their awe. I became intimately acquainted with their proper names (the Kelly), their exorbitant price tags (last year, Christie’s HK sold a matte Himalayan crocodile-skin Birkin for $300,168), and the reverence they command.
I narrated the CEO’s personal story in vignettes developed around her most memorable bags. It was a tale of empowerment, a progressivist narrative from imitation to high-end. These bags were the synecdoche of the whole woman. They marked a leap in class, but also a spiritual triumph—one that mystified me. Where did the mythos of this curious handbag species begin?  Where does it end?
The word “purse” comes from the Medieval Latin bursa. In the Middle Ages, these leather bags were strung around the neck or waist. They were utilitarian—and unisex. But the unisex sack of leather did not evolve into the handbag until the 19th century. And the seasonal flux of the fashion handbag didn’t arrive until even later. Even so, their purpose has remained surprisingly steadfast: to expose their wearer’s social station.
* * *
As someone who always carried a backpack instead, I had started with the belief that there was no supreme purse, no one bag to rule them all. But handbag aficionados would soon inform me I was wrong. There was an end-all-be-all bag: “Haven’t you heard, darling, of the Birkin?”
I knew Jane Birkin from those black-and-white boudoir pictures with Serge Gainsbourg, but what I didn’t realize was the bag made by Hermès in the chanteuse’s honor was not something one just buys. This bag was about competition. As a rule, even a wealthy woman cannot simply walk into a boutique and leave with a Birkin. First she must be placed on an indeterminable queue. The wait time is inconsistent and mysterious. Status can reduce it, as can the illusion of status. Take for example Mr. Tonello, the clever fashion buyer and Birkin reseller who would first pile up on scarves and accessories and request a Birkin at the last minute. BRIC nations can’t get their hands on enough bags, and in Hong Kong a luxury bag is valuable enough to qualify its owner for a loan on the spot.
Handbags signified a privileged status long before Jane Birkin spilled her straw bag on a flight next to Jean-Louis Dumas, the CEO of Hermès. In the late 19th century, women wore chatelaines—belts or clasps with attached chains for storing household items. They marked a woman’s domestic status, signaling who was the lady of the house and who was just a servant. Precious metal chains signified a wealthy woman, and the chatelaine with the most keys revealed who had total authority via access.
As industrialization took hold, travel picked up too. The train case emerged, a prototype for the modern handbag, and became an outward sign of mobility. Handbags also started to signify the freedom of a woman’s body. The layers of fussy underclothes and petticoats common before the late 19th century also allowed stowage of carrying bags underneath. But once women freed themselves from those garments, exposing more of their physical form, they lost the space for pockets. The external bag offered a practical solution.
And this new result of fashion emancipation—called the reticule, a small bag on a chain—could be marked as the beginning, too, of its homophone, ridicule. The external bag quickly became a constraint, a source of admonition. As Theresa Tidy, the ever-proper author of Eighteen Maxims of Neatness and Order, wrote in 1819, “Never sally forth from your own room in the morning without that old-fashioned article of dress—a pocket. Discard forever that modern invention called a ridicule (properly reticule).”

The shame of handbags is not limited to the physical object imposing space.

The example shows a turning point, when a bag began to signify not only status but also shame. Whatever men carried was tucked away out of sight in their trousers; whatever women carried was, by virtue of being exposed, flaunted.
Today still, handbags impose conflicting rules of etiquette. Even the most compact handbags seem to impose themselves in all sorts of social scenarios. A quick Google search will yield conflicting results for the etiquette, with people astounded how long they’ve been getting it wrong. What does one do while sitting on a stool if the bar doesn’t have a hook to hang it? When out to dinner is it preferable to hang your bag on the back of the chair, set it on the table, on the seat behind your back, on the lap, or on the floor to your right? Is it gauche to hand it to the person sitting next to an open seat? At dinner parties, do you hang it on a coat rack in the entryway, or house it on the bed with the coats, or keep it on your person?
* * *
The shame of handbags is not limited to the physical object imposing space. It also produces metaphysical weight.
At Yes Lady Finance, the mortgage broker that writes short-term loans against Birkins, bankers lend up to half the value of the bag. The CEO, Byron Yiu, told Reuters that almost everyone who takes out a handbag loan will come back to retrieve the bag. People imbue their bags with meaning, the loss of which would be traumatic.
The same sentimentality that ensures Hong Kong ladies’ creditworthiness also underlies handbag hoarding. Women admit to the excessive number they own and their attachment to each, often for the memories they evoke. Some women I met confessed to loving some more than their own children (not to mention others’ children).
Working for the handbag start up, I learned that attachment was the greatest challenge of luxury-handbag resale. Finding Birkin owners was easy. But getting them to let go of their bags for resale was a complex endeavor involving nothing short of emotional manipulation.
I met with a handbag-inventory expert. She was a Birkin sleuth, scanning long client lists, making inquiries, calculating a client’s likely emotional resistance. She drove her Mercedes all over Southern California, hoping to bag bags in wealthy women’s homes. I wondered if women resisted her intrusion, or if they expected praise for their collections. And how did she convince women who clearly did not need the money?
As it turned out, success came by negating any meaning the women had ascribed to the bag. As soon as a woman became sentimental she would interrupt them and declaim those old memories. “You will get a new one. You will make new memories.” Selling a bag was a chance to erase the past.
During the four months I wrote the memoir, I was physically surrounded by luxury handbags. When women came to drop them off, I told them about my project and asked if they had any bag stories they wanted to share. Herschel backpack hanging from my desk chair, I was trusted as an unthreatening outsider. Without fail, the regret they had initially felt handing over their beloveds would clear in the act of sharing their stories with me.
Unlike the Birkin sleuth, I indulged their emotions. A Birkin priest hearing confessions of obsession, of greed, of guilt—especially the old relationships and bad choices that had facilitated the bag’s acquisition in the first place. Even the expensive Birkin, with its implications of wealth and therefore choice, might just as much imply imprisonment. Just as an onlooker might question a young woman coupled to an old man, a Birkin on the arm can say, “the bag chose me, not the other way around.”
Sitting with these women behind a fortress of handbags, I synthesized the obvious truth of the handbag: From chatelaine to reticule to designer bag, the handbag has always offered both freedom and yoke. It encapsulates a fact about its owner, and reveals that fact as much as, or more than, it conceals her belongings.

Friday, April 7, 2017

WINTERTHUR MUSEUM Treasures on Trial: The Art and Science of Detecting Fakes

Frauds. Fakes. Trickery. Deceit! Put on your CSI hat and investigate some of the most clever and costliest deceptions of our time in the captivating exhibition Treasures on Trial: The Art and Science of Detecting Fakes. Read the New York Times article on the exhibition, "Winterthur Exhibit Offers Insight Into Detecting Art Fraud."

Buy your tickets now to view more than 40 forgeries and counterfeit objects of all types, from art to wine to fashion. Learn the beguiling tales behind these fakes— many of which have been at the center of major scandals and court cases! See how science is deployed to reveal the truth behind these clever shams, and how the experts answer the question, “Is it real or fake?”

Plan you visit today
! Discover those infamous objects whose stories of trickery captured sensational headlines around the world! Did you know:

  • A fake Babe Ruth baseball glove sold for $200,000
  • One of the oldest and most reputable art galleries in New York shut down after selling $60 million in forged paintings
  • A “super fake” Hermes Birkin bag made it all the way through Spa Hermes for cleaning before it was discovered to be a fraud
  •  A fake 1787 Château Lafitte bottle of wine purportedly owned by Thomas Jefferson was sold to wine collector Bill Koch

Learn tricks of the trade from master forgers, what gets faked and why, how scientific methodology assists in spotting fakes, and more! Compare real and fake works, and then ask yourself, “Do you see what you think you see?”

Enjoy related programming, including fascinating lectures with experts, our documentary film series on famous forgers, and Winterthur After Hours.

Interested in reserving a group tour? Please call 800.448.3883, e-mail, or visit the webpage for tickets

For updated information on Winterthur’s programs, events, and exhibitions, connect with us on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram @winterthurmuse and on SnapChat @winterthurmus.

For more information or for further assistance, please call 800.448.3883.

Treasures on Trial: The Art and Science of Detecting Fakes is included with admission. Members free.


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Bag Man