Brand Oversaturation

(Giorgio Armani Cafe. I didn’t know M. Armani knew all about coffee and croissants!) Istanbul, Turkey

Brand saturation: When The Going Gets Greedy; how much is too much? Opinion, open to comments and suggestions and opinions! 🙂

Brand saturation. We all know it, even if we don’t realize it. This can also fall under “excessive licensing” to those who are more industry savvy. It’s a topic I find fascinating, and will be doing several posts in regards to it.

You know it. Most people think that Ralph Lauren dreamed up the exact combo of lilies and roses to make his perfume, or that he is just a jack of all trades and knows how to make a watch move. And now look, he has bed linens and plates and picnic baskets! You can go from the cradle to the grave, all day long, using Ralph Lauren.

Not so fast. It’s all licensed. It amazes me, when I bring this up to people in casual conversation, either they’re showing off their new bracelet or admiring the Dior mascara, and I remark about the profits of licensing. Really? He doesn’t design these flip flops? Sorry to burst your bubble about him being your dream guy (designer). I guess my FIT education did me some good after all.

It’s a win win. I do the work, but I get to borrow your name. You don’t do the work, but take less profit and trust me with your name. I personally feel the brand gets the better bargain, but hey, then again, the designer worked their butt off to be in the position where people would PAY them to slap John Smith on their OWN design, so I guess it all is good.

Many designers of course thus take advantage of brand licensing, but isn’t there too much of a good thing? Yes, you might get excited that your favourite designer is now making sunglasses or something of that elk that you can actually afford without surviving on stale saltines for a month, but then all of a sudden, you’re seeing his products everywhere. And I mean everywhere. People of all. It’s nice when everyone can maybe afford a taste of a designer, or is it? Personally it leaves me with a bit of a rotten taste…if everyone can have it, if it’s that accessible, why do I want it?

It’s not that you don’t want people to be able to afford things. Some people save and save to buy a designer bag that they’ve coveted for years. It harkens back to being a child on the playground. You were the first one to have red sparkly Dorothy shoes, and everyone admired them. You ruled the sandbox. But soon word of where your mom got them got out, and then there were a million little Dorothys running amok. You grew bored, and looked for the pink power ranger hi-tops as your next fave thing.

This mentality has not changed much, although instead of Payless Dorothy shoes it might be Valentino, with a 5 inch taller heel. If everyone has an item, you don’t feel unique, and in this day and age, people want to stand out, make a statement, not blend in like sheep. Sometimes you can’t help but to look similar- for example, an outfit of skinny jeans and black booties and a slouchy sweater- but you certainly don’t want to spend top dollar and the exact bag that everyone and their grandmother is carrying.

You start to question, a designer who became famous for perfect fitting blue jeans, do they REALLY know about cups and bowls? About bicycles? About stationary and pens? They start to lose your trust, as you question this superhuman ability. You see the name EVERYWHERE. It’s like your favourite record or CD- eventually you get tired of hearing “hit me baby one more time”, no matter how much you loved it.

Often, the brand loses sight of their original mission, their 20/20 vision becoming as blurred as a 92 year olds. They lose focus on what made them famous. Weren’t they all about the fit of flares, not health food!? So you’ll move on, to greener, un-mowed pastures, forgetting all about your once beloved, coveted item.

Or, you just go to www.etsy.com/shop/japonicanyc to buy unique, vintage porcelain tableware that I can’t find anywhere else!

 

Next up: branding in the sense of basic; to wear it or not to wear it (because everyone else is) how to determine

 

But I Totally Could Have Made That…

 

(All this takes is some yard sale finds and some glue…) Armory Shows, New York, New York

Short musings of art and peoples perception

But..I could make that! You think, shaking your head and muttering at the last art fair you attended. Sometimes, it just seems so absurd. A bunch of Instagram-like party shots of wasted 22 year olds going for thousands of dollars. Maybe I should try to frame mine and give it a go, you think, swirling your non-alcoholic beverage straw. Next up, a bunch of ….whirring Evian bottles?! Has the world gone mad? This looks like a ten year old boy-genius science project.

Yes, I’m sure you can tie a motor to an Evian bottle and call it a day.

But would you? You haven’t yet, have you? Maybe that’s the difference. Some people are more impulsive then others, and whether or not it is easy as pie or as detailed as a Rubens is not, in fact, the important factor. The factor is the act, deciding to make the move.

It’s true that maybe not a lot of thought goes into a plain navy blue canvas that has a smiley face stuck in the top corner.

When I was five I definitely could have painted a canvas blue and stuck a sticker on the top, albeit the brush strokes would not have had that distinct pattern, and …wait. Now suddenly something that seemed so simple, is actually not.

Whether it is simple or not, I feel that the main purpose of art, when it boils down to it, is not simply just decoration, or to add beauty or colour to a room, but to elicit some sort of emotion. Whether it is surprise, disgust, delight, . Art can make you pensive, it can make you incredulous. It just has to make you think something.

It is a conversation starter. The best kind of first date is actually at a museum- and you can learn a lot about someone from what they have to say about art, whether they appreciate it or not.

It can improve our mood. Looking at a mural of kitties definitely would brighten my day.

It can add beauty, colour, life, to an otherwise dull room. Personally, my mood plummets if I am in a bland, ugly space, and I would think that applies to most humans.

Another world to enter when yours is not to your liking. Getting lost in a wildflower field is much preferable to a windowless cubicle.

It can provoke inspiring thoughts and ideas. Your mind opens up while observing, almost like you are the artist. What would you change?

I myself am a fan on Monet and Renoir, the beautiful detailed yet abstract mixture of colours, the soothing scenes that I feel I can enter. I like the precise detail of a Rubens, the mood of Vermeer. I like things that are realistic, that blatantly take hours to produce. Time is money, precious, you can’t buy it. But it doesn’t mean that something that doesn’t take 4 years to produce can’t be just as appealing, does it?

That being said, there is something appealing about modern art, the art that we are referring to, a bunch of geometric triangles suspended from a fish hook. Each piece is for a different setting.

An office, a restaurant, a theatre lobby, a private school, over my toilet, my living room fireplace, a subway passage, a hotel room. Certainly the bronzed poop emoji statue I saw the other day would be much more appropriate at a comedy club then a bunch of Cezanne grapes.

A time and a place for everything.

So yes, I could have ripped that Persian rug that I stapled to a board, but I haven’t. And it would look pretty damn cool, simple or not.  Does everything have to be so detailed, extravagant? Sometimes life simplified is all we need. Soothing. To the point. Direct. Like an all white room. Zen. See? I’m feeling relaxed just writing about it, I can’t even construct a proper full sentence. Buy vintage porcelain pieces and other unique items on www.etsy.com/shops/japonicanyc

The Trip-Ups (literally) Of Living Urban, With Pinterest Dreams

(just hit my elbow on that antique rocking horse again, ugh!)

Since discovering the floral-filled world of Etsy and Pinterest for my shop, I have been blown away buy the variety of merchandise for sale. There is a never ending supply of things that you could outfit your house with that even Martha Steward would raise an eyebrow at. Retro ice cream maker! Antique library stamp (to stamp my kindle?) The inner mom in me found me with a super modern tee-pee in my shopping cart- meant as a kids toy. At 5’7” it’s half my height. For where? The fire escape?

While some of these items seem blatantly unnecessary (I can just squeeze the lemons myself, really, I need to keep up these arm muscles), I’ll have to admit, I stare in wonder and think about going and unfreezing my credit card from that 20 pound block of ice to go on some wine fueled shopping spree. I would definitely be the hostess-with-the-mostess (forgetting that the friends I do have always adamantly refuse to come to Brooklyn, despite it being the place du jour. Thanks Lena Dunham!).

Then I remember, that I DO live in Brooklyn, and although my apartment is more spacious then a studio on York and 75th,  it is still not quite conductive to creating the amazing spreads that feature a different cloth napkin for every type of holiday imaginable that I see all over Pinterest. “I want this!” I cried ecstatically, only to meet the furious glare of my sister. “We downgraded my bed to a twin kid sized bed, and you want an antique television BAR?!” There goes the dream of literally watching bottles like the dancing wineglasses in Beauty and the Beast.

What should I do? Move to the country, or some suburbs where rent is affordable (certainly not Long Island, where the prices are mostly on par with Manhattan) so that I can make my Pinterest Dream Home? Am I missing out, while women my age in Wisconsin have their own craft rooms where they create hand knit owls for their kids playmates? I tried to make my bedroom my own art studio, and the one cat decided that the boxes of supplies were her new bed, and the other one decided the recycled metrocards looked better flying around the room. Dreams of a studio vanished.

Should I trade in my shoebox? When I could be living a Pinterest Paradise elsewhere, not tripping over your bed or your coffee table or shoeboxes (since the shoes cost as much as your rent and you insist on keeping them pristine, even though technically you wore them out in that blizzard the other night). Sometimes I wonder. I look wistfully at those accounts, those large homes with dining rooms! Living rooms! Dressing rooms! Basic, hallways and coat rooms and closets! But where would I buy batteries (don’t ask) at 2am, and find every cuisine in the world?

In life there are certain trade-offs, you get this, but you don’t get this. I guess you just have to decide which means more to you personally, at that moment. The motto now is, acquire what you need, survival way, not what you want. I will have to quell my desire for vintage porcelain cats after all, and maybe just squeeze the living, breathing ones I have.

Not quite ready to (ever) leave New York, so  I guess I’ll just have to stick with my tiny collectibles and admire the holiday spreads and handmade feathered wind chimes from afar, and just sell them on http://www.etsy.com/shops/japonicanyc

Tchochke Nation

Forget about Fast Food Nation. As Americans, we are a consumer nation. A hoarding nation, in less delicate terms. What’s with all the teacups? Yes, perhaps due to our (well, once) growing economy, we have over the years amassed a staggering amount of tchotchkes. I recently opened an Etsy shop, (closeted avid porcelain tableware collector) and realized just how far down the rabbit hole we have gone in terms of acquiring “stuff”. Is it called hoarding if each piece is not take-out containers and old balls of string? Hey, that….mug from MSG has a story I swear! I’ll go ahead and call it organized hoarding, to take some pressure off of myself and my treasure trove.

The term tchotchke is derived from a Yiddish word, which means a pretty, useless woman; in blunt terms: a trophy wife. Which is vaguely disturbing, but we Americans obviously shanghaied it and used it pretty much for the same purpose (useless decorative trinket), only in softer, less offensive terms, as we refer to inanimate, porcelain cats as tchotchkes, not living breathing humans. So have you. I’ve always been fond of the term, not sure what that means about me.

Maybe we should start with the history of human life and possessions. As nomads, cave people, for years, we moved from place to place. If you couldn’t carry it, it was not coming with you. Point blank. Also, being a primitive ‘society’, very few items were made. It was only when humans transitioned, staying put to plant and harvest crops, that we could begin to acquire more then we needed. However, during those times, humans did create the cave art that has been found, the little carved statues.

Tchotchkes are perhaps popular because originally they were a sign of wealth. As a person, you had the items you needed- pots, knives, dresses, hammers. Not even that. Immigrant families often shared silverware and such, just like in Bread Givers, a novel about Jewish immigrants in 1920’s New York. People on the Oregon Trail eventually abandoned their mementos, their heirloom grandfather clocks, as the oxen gave way, leaving behind an American Pickers wildest dreams, a trail of stuff. They survived with the bare minimum, because they had to.

If you had a porcelain doll, such as the popular Dresden dolls (from Dresden Germany- I couldn’t resist the lure and bought one when I visited), it meant that could afford items that were unnecessary, it was a sign of stability, a sign of at least minimum wealth (wealth being used as money, not as we use it generally). Then factories and technology to mass produce came along, and, at least in Europe and the United States, economies grew and people had more discretionary income to spend on whatever suited their fancy. That Virgin Mary statue? Sure go right ahead- add it to your collection of 50 others. Guinness!

Tchochkes often hold memories. A trip to Bosnia, I purchased a brass cat, which I eyeball on a daily basis, looking into those green eyes and thinking about how I was sweating in the 100-degree dry summer, touring mosques. Other tchotchkes are family heirlooms from a beloved grandmother, or perhaps a gift from a close friend. They can be useful- such as elaborate photo frames, clocks or pencil holders, salt and pepper shakers, even awards. But mostly, a true tchotchke has no purpose; it is just “a thing“ that we place high importance of.

They say that “home doo-dads” and Etsy stuff, are the things that women buy when they no longer care about impressing a beer belly husband, or their appearance. When they’ve given up on little dresses, either for themselves or for their children. Or when they’re single, and have nothing else in their lives to hold onto, lest that Tinder date, they fill up their homes with little porcelain angels, crosstitsch pillows and enough “Live Laugh Love” handcrafted signs,o army a gang of teenage girls (who also, interestingly, seem drawn to those inspirational signs). Quotes that they don’t even live by, but stare at wistfully.

Why not men? Men don’t seek out home décor, at least not in the same way that females do. Sure, I’ve met men who love antiques and vintage items, maybe an old tin firetruck, but they’re not out there purchasing potpourri containers and Sea World Memory Plates.

They decorate our homes, add a bit of colour to our office cubicles. They are the solution to what to give Aunt Birdie as a Christmas Gift. They make us smile, they are there if we need to throw something, and there when it’s moving day and you’re suffering a broken ankle. They’re art, they can even make us think. Just because things don’t have a crucial purpose, maybe that’s why we like them. We need something that just relaxes, that reminds us that the world is not so go-go-go all of the time. Maybe we hoard them because we don’t have to, that’s the beauty of something you don’t need. A frivolous want we can indulge in for 99 cents on eBay.

On that note, I’ll keep collecting my vintage plateware, I’ll not ship my heirloom antique makeup containers to Staten Island (dump), and I’ll keep smiling nostalgically at my paintings from Spain. Vive le tchotchke! Visit JaponicaNYC shop on Etsy to see my obsession.