February fashion update

The Legacy of Personal Artifacts
by Cathy Rae Smith founder of Culture Magazine

Oprah once said that our environments lend evidence to who we are (paraphrased here, of course). Not all of us can afford to acquire, or have access to, pieces once owned by royalty. However, there are several grades of gray between the black and white of royal style versus slum digs. Reading over details of an amazing auction event led me to ponder the concept of how we communicate who we are, both in the immediacy of the clothes we don daily and in the environments we create to inhabit.

Christie’s held an auction this year touted as “The Sale of the Century.” It was to sell the personal effects of haute couture designer Yves Saint Laurent and his partner Pierre Berger. It took place in the 13,000 square meter main exhibition hall of the Grand Palais in Paris. The catalog of items, a beautiful manuscript detailing pieces ranging from Brancusi sculpture to Eileen Gray furniture, sold out long before the event took place. Connoisseurs, collectors, and the enlightened curious packed the event to clamor over the 733 pieces of personal artifacts from this fashion legend. The result was sales of over half a billion dollars.

My environment, and wardrobe for that matter, speaks of a love of variety (from French antiques with silk brocade upholstery to hand tied Oriental wool rugs), quality of materials (from gold gilt chairs to antique crystal chandeliers), and some international influence (from Armani Italian wool slacks to classic American denim jeans). Hopefully it says I love artistry. It also says I do not (yet, one can dream) shop among the stratosphere of royalty (I have some lovely strands of pearls, though they have not adorned anyone of royal bearing). What does your environment (and wardrobe) communicate about you? What could be surmised about our culture in generations to come by evidence of what you have assembled? Let’s share some of our ethnographic insights based on our accumulated goodies, shall we? If you don’t know provenance of items, who cares, just make something up that tells of what you feel it could communicate. Let’s have fun!

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