April 30, 2008

In Times Like These, My Faith in Capitalism is Tested

WHAT'S THAT? Oh, no no no. This hasn't anything to do with the state of the economy, the speculative bubble in commodities, interest rates or anything like that. No, my faith in capitalism is tested because of an alarming story I read in the New York Daily News.

Apparently, one apparel company (the "Juicy Couture" division of Liz Claiborne Inc.) has sued another apparel company (the Victoria's Secret segment of Limited Brands Inc.), and news reports say the former has charged the latter with stealing particular facets of its clothing design and marketing schemes: most notably, the former's practice of stamping logos on the asses of its pants.

No, I am not kidding.

I don't know why this should test my faith in capitalism. It sure seems like a win-win on the face of it. After all, here you have a company selling -- dear God! -- velour tracksuits and other mindless frippery that must have insane gross margins. Not only that, they're selling to an impressionable and uncritical market, where buyers spend great amounts of money on the stuff in desperate attempts to look "hip" and "with it," and apparently do so without recognizing the finance guys are playing them like an accordion. Why, it's almost enough of an investment opportunity to warm even my cold, grasping heart -- except I vowed long ago never to invest again in fashion.*

Yet it tests my faith, nonetheless. I guess I just can't see why anyone would voluntarily sell (or voluntarily buy) clothing that demeaned the wearer so. I mean, the logo's on the ass. That's just fundamentally wrong on so many levels. Then again, perhaps it bothers me, because we clearly have a money-making business here and I don't get it. Perhaps I'm just getting old.

In fact, maybe that's just it. I'm getting old. My all-time favorite reaction to the foibles of modern youth came from a teacher of Chinese, who when asked about the social habits of Chinese youth, said with a somewhat perplexed look on her face: "Ah, the young people. They go crazy." God knows that with each passing day, I'm more inclined to think she was right.

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* The story of why I will never invest in fashion again will have to wait, but I took the loss about as well as Emperor Augustus took losing the Battle of the Teutoberg Forest. ("St. John Knits! Give me back my $1,300!")

Posted by Benjamin Kepple at April 30, 2008 10:20 PM | TrackBack
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