With Kanye West, you never know. This time, apart from attracting half of Coachella's total assistance (50.000 out of 100.000 people) to the foot of a hill last Sunday at 9 a.m. to offer a performance crowned as "Sunday service", Kanye West managed to form an infinite queue of people waiting to buy ridiculous overpriced "Church Clothes" merch. The collection was composed of basic, neutral-coloured items, each of which contained several God-fearing slogans, including "Holy Spirit," "God of Trust," and "Jesus Walks". Sweatshirt prices range from 130£ to 215£, and the socks cost 40£.
Even though all sorts of criticisms were made in which jokes abounded, a bunch of people was more than willing to pay an exorbitant amount for the simplest of t-shirts. What's wrong with us? It's not possible for humans - the creators of space stations - to get carried away so easily. Is it? Well, bad news, it is and we'll explain why;
The more expensive something is, the more exclusive and therefore more desirable it becomes. In the eyes of designers, there does not seem to be a shortage of consumers who believe they can buy personal power with what they are wearing. They want the item in the first place, they want items that are scarce or are made in limited runs, and they are willing to pay a lot of money for that to happen.
In many cases, designers raise the price of their products simply to get an added shine of prestige and exclusivity. So, the short answer to why designers charge so much for their products is as simple as; because they can.
It's the price, as much as the product itself, that makes an item remarkable. The price, and the fact that most of the world cannot afford to buy such an item which has the reverse effect of empowering the buyer. In this society, no matter how little we like it, the reality is that personal power is synonymous with purchasing power. And it's not just a marketing tactic, it's a psychological condition that top designers count on
But, what is the real price of clothes?
The gross margins of fashion companies tend to be around 65 per cent, which seems a lot, but it's what the shareholders expect. It also means that a 3,500£ bag costs approximately 1,225£ to produce and bring to market, from materials to sales.
There are many steps along the way that contribute to the final price. There are the costs of raw materials, design, manufacturing and compliance. Then, in retail, there is the cost of prime real estate and sales staff. And finally, there's marketing. Yeah, those brilliant fashion ads cost a lot of money to produce, and much more to place.
That is why, in order to minimize costs with the excuse of boosting exports, increasing economic growth and creating employment in depressed areas, some trade barriers are eliminated in free trade zones that are located in impoverished countries in order to be able to produce their products in countries where the expense of paying workers is minimal.
In Bangladesh, for example, the average pay of these employees is 35£ per month, equivalent to a minimum wage that is among the lowest in the world. This allows firms to lower point-of-sale prices to levels that, if they had to bear the costs of first world wages, taxes and safety conditions, would not be "competitive".
So, do they take their factories to the third world to lower costs or do they do it to further increase their profits?
The underlying problem is to assume that the only way for cheap clothing to be available is for it to be produced in unworthy conditions. In today's interconnected and exposed world, companies take maximum care of their image and one of the reasons why they do not face a strict change is the great social and legal premise that they would suffer if they exposed the "how" of their textile productions.
For fashion companies to stop ignoring what we all know as an open secret, legal reform is needed, as well as an imposition by consumers, who are complicit in the faults of the companies, since in general the concern falls on being able to buy cheap clothes rather than on the conditions of the workers who manufacture them and the climatic consequences that this entails.
Transparency and education are the first steps and the sustainable way to relate to what we wear, the ultimate solution.
Frederik Heyman, a young and visionary Belgian multidisciplinary artist who graduated from the Royal Academy of Fine Arts in Antwerp with a Master in Graphic and Illustrative Design and a Master in Photography, has exhibited is one of a kind work internationally and has build an exclusive data base that counts with notable clients such as Y/PROJECT, Iris Van Herpen, Gentle Monster, Dust Magazine, Dazed and Confused, Vogue Japan, Nowness, Nike and Kenzo.
But what makes him so special?
Using his art as a path of activist manifestation, Heyman exposes both social and political critiques without taboos and combines his illustrations, ideas and concepts in the most perfect way possible.
Placing him at the highest level of the creative graphics of the fashion world, his work, humorous and surrealistic, is impregnated with the desire to abolish the boundaries between photography, graphic design and the configuration of space. Through photogrammetric techniques and 3D scans to insert real-world subjects into staged digital scenes, Heyman introduces us to an unstructured and fascinating universe, where each element of each image is carefully designed and defined in advance.
Clearly from a new generation of photographers, his goal seems to be to encourage a new form of collaboration between the arts, decidedly modern and complex.
The reason why we want to dedicate a space in our blog to this one of a kind artist, is because of his remarkable and recent work with one of our favorite brands, ROMBAUT. This time the amazing Belgian artist has worked with the ROMBAUT team, who represent a cross between haute couture conceptual design and environmental responsibility, creating a series of 3D video portraits showing the designer Mats Rombaut and his team members (including his lovers) in intimate positions. Faithful to his style, Heyman creates a surreal dimension where nothing is left to chance with images that despite being commercial, remain strong.
Giving a different and unique perspective, Frederik Heyman overcomes each creative challenge, turning his work into something exciting, opening the doors to a balance between cryptic, slightly twisted and private things, keeping the aesthetically striking of his still photography as the key signature of his work.
We all know that a key part of the success of a brand or product has a lot to do with how it is presented, that is why we believe that the choice of working alongside an artist as exclusive and original as Heyamn, by Rombaut, recognized for its structural design qualities of contemporary architecture and the use of the best eco-materials, has been a definite success, worthy of capturing the attention of all those lovers of design and fashion.
Judi Werthein is the activist Argentine designer behind the polemics Brinco sneakers, designed to help illegal immigrants cross the U.S.-Mexico border along with the organizers of inSite (a "cross-border" art exhibit that economically supported the project).
The sneakers, in the form of boots, feature the colors of the Mexican flag. On one side, the hologram of "Made in Mexico" with the Aztec eagle and on the heel, the image of Santo Toribio, patron saint of immigrants. They also bring a small bag to carry money or medicine and a compass that guides those who enter the desert. Include a flashlight since most people usually cross at night and on the detachable sole of the shoes, there is a map detailing the Border Strip that runs from Playas de Tijuana to the Arizona desert and the most popular illegal routes to get there.
Made in China, at a cost of $17 a pair and having been personally given away by the designer to those who needed it, the shoes are sold over the border in the US city of San Diego as 'limited edition' art objects for over $200 a pair. Werthein donated part of the money she raised to a Tijuana shelter helping migrants in need.
"The main problem people have at the crossing is their feet. Since people are going to try anyway, at least this will make it safer."
Today, the sneakers are in a display in Tate Modern and due to the controversy created around them when they were presented, the exhibition includes responses to the project, such as media reports, online reactions and threatening messages received by the artist, who was accused of defending and promoting illegal immigration.
Judi Werthein's intention was to draw public attention to the drama of all those who flee from the misery and hypocrisy of a political system that needs cheap labor from immigrants, but hides their rights and considers them politically invisible.
The sneakers reflect an uncomfortable reality about the dangers of illegally crossing the border. A reality that we prefer not to see, and it is just that, what an artist reveals. Presented as a product halfway between a work of art and an article of first necessity, this tool allows all those fleeing from misery in the limits of Mexico and the U.S. to travel between the First and the Third World.