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When Belgian designer Raf Simons sent models down the runway during his label’s Fall-Winter 2017 menswear show, critics fawned over it, focusing at times on the use of an unlikely home object: duct tape. And someone on the Simons team decided it was an opportunity not to be wasted, as the duct tape just became available for purchase, for roughly $200.
It’s perhaps not all that surprising since, as is typical, commentary attempted to assign larger meaning to, well, duct tape, after the February show. Vogue editor Luke Leitch said the duct tape was “absolutely the standout detail,” before connecting the dots between Donald Trump’s America vis-à-vis Raf Simons’s collection and the “DIY subversion of British punk under Margaret Thatcher.” Dazed said the collection’s details “seemed to hint at the notion of security and protection.” (Yahoo Style has reached out to Raf Simons’s team for a firsthand explanation and will update as we hear.)
Scoff if you will; it is duct tape, after all. Still, consumers — whether earnestly or in jest — decided then that they had to have Raf duct tape.
can i wrap my coat in duct tape and pretend im wearin raf simons
— juck (@JShanks123) February 2, 2017
I, for one, would buy Raf Simons duct tape.
— Jian DeLeon (@jiandeleon) February 2, 2017
The brand takes a cue from other buzzy design houses that have marketed kitsch-cum-commodity: Balenciaga sold Ikea look-alike tote bags for $2,145 and, at a more accessible price point, coffee mugs, sleep masks, and travel pillows with a Bernie Sanders-inspired logo. See also: Moschino cardboard couture, lowercase c, courtesy of one Jeremy Scott.
And the idea that fashion literally meets function is not terribly novel. Versace used safety pins in the mid-’90s, after all. But there’s something particularly shocking about selling $200 duct tape, distinguishable from the average silver roll only by the words “walk with me.”
If the Raf Simons menswear show was meant in some small way to reflect the current state of American democracy, as Simons suggests to Leitch, then it’s tone deaf, at best, to sell a cheap material that resourceful, cash-strapped designers might use in their own exercise in fashion democratization.
That is, Raf Simons duct tape isn’t selling for $200 because it’s worth that much after factoring in things like cost of production. It’s selling for $200 because it can, thanks to Raf-mania evolved from cult status as it permeates a more mainstream fashion consciousness.
And so, behold the new class system, measured by whether you can afford $200 tape or create your own knockoff version for $6 — keeping in mind that paying $200 for glorified packing material affords you the luxury of owning a designer product you will quite literally destroy and discard after one use.
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Alexandra Mondalek is a writer for Yahoo Style + Beauty. Follow her on Twitter @amondalek.