Thursday, September 25, 2014

Addendum to: Avant-Bland versus Normcore!

In response to the last post about average-looking clothes being all the rage nowadays, our friend Ben down in Australia mentioned a supportive magazine article I want to share with you tonight.

Entitled "You Say You Want a Devolution" by Kurt Anderson, the article appeared in Vanity Fair in 2012, and early on sets the stage as to why Normcore and Avant-Bland might have arrived on the scene in the first place.

Anderson's premise is that fashion, music, architecture, even interior design have become stagnant, and have changed little during the past twenty years compared to the explosive, revolutionary changes in the twenty-year period before that, and the twenty years before that.

His entirely plausible explanation is that during these past twenty years we've all become so addicted to our laptops and notebooks, to our smart phones with their endless apps, not to mention a multitude of social media, that we're focusing less on individual creativity and style these days. With all of us being so busy, we have willingly yielded to major corporations like Ikea, Old Navy, and the Gap to tell us how to live and dress. In our online distractions, sameness has seemingly taken over and radical change has more-or-less been rendered dormant. This is, of course, welcome news to those corporations who don't want their cages rattled.

In Anderson's words, "The things we own are more than ever like movie props, the clothes we wear like costumes, the places we live, dine, shop, and vacation like stage sets." 

Beyond fashion and design, the article goes even deeper into music for example, saying that Lady Gaga is nothing new or original, just an update and replacement for Madonna, and that Adele has simply replaced Mariah Carey.

All said and done, it's not a far leap to understand how Normcore and Avant-Bland fit into the overall premise of Anderson's argument.

It's a fascinating eye-opening article and if you have a few minutes, here's the link to "You Say You Want a Devolution". You'll not find it disappointing.

Thanks again, Ben, for remembering it and bringing it to our attention.



  1. That article was fascinating and thank you for sending it. I'm living in Hamburg now, but lived in America for many years. I understand what you are saying and I think this same thing seems to be happening in Germany right now. We seem to be all the same now, nothing like twenty years ago when things were changing so quickly .

    Best to you,

    1. Thanks for telling us that, Jurgen. I try to keep up with the spring and fall fashion shows in Milan, Paris, and New York and keep thinking that nothing much changes from year to year. I've visited your country and several others in Europe many times, and have noticed that tourists from all over the globe are similarly dressed.

      Thanks for your comment, and please do stop by anytime.

  2. I'm flattered by the attribution, and you're right, it's a really good article and the fact that it's just as relevant today only strengthens the message.

    It should be really interesting to see how fashion and tech might merge a bit more with the 'wearable' revolution on our doorstep. There are those who say Apple is planning a very conscious transition into a high-end fashion brand with the introduction of their watch. Speculation of the gold versions price range into the $5-10k range. You'll have to be on the look-out for the first super-rich to wear one to a function!

    1. Always nice to hear from you, Ben. Yes, I'm aware of the new wearable techy stuff headed our way, and it'll be interesting to see how it all plays out.

      But will the rich (even the hip new rich) really take off their $250,000 watches to wear a cheap $10,000 watch from Apple? We'll have to wait and see, I guess. Apple may have to come up with something a little more impressive and palatable to suit this crowd.

      I'll definitely keep my eyes open and give a shout out to you and all if I ever spot one around here. But I have a feeling that techy-equals-tacky might be the initial reaction around here for quite some while. As it stands now, no one would dare show up at a function in this house with an iPhone in hand. It just doesn't happen. Maybe a cheap watch from Apple would be a little more discreet, but I somehow doubt it. We'll just have to wait and see.

    2. Good point. It's actually fascinating that you don't see iphones (or other smartphones presumably). Certainly these people are not living without them entirely?

      When it comes to something like a $250k watch, it's purpose is really more status symbol than timepiece. So, which is more ostentatious? A $250k heirloom that can last generations, or a $10k symbol of the cutting edge that will be obsolete in a year?

      You might say people value the 'heriloom' aspect of their jewelry; but then why are they willing to spend so much on couture dresses they only wear to one function? It seems to me, these things could change. (forgive me, I've been having this watch debate a lot lately, so tend to go on mini rants whenever I can. :)

    3. Well, I didn't take into account (or realize) the short lifespan of a $10,000 Apple watch before it becomes obsolete and needs to be tossed out like a cheap Swatch watch. That would make a HUGE difference in it's acceptability and respectability, I would think--at least among the new and near rich, who understand this kind of thing. The old guard, who don't know how to use technology very well anyway, may not understand, and I seriously doubt they are Apple's target audience to begin with.

      Sorry for the confusion, but yes the rich (even the old man I work for) are very dependent on their smart phones, like all of us. At social functions however, you'll NEVER hear any dings or rings coming from their purses or pockets, nor will you catch them checking their texts and emails every few minutes--like a nervous tick that we see everywhere nowadays. Among the rich, taking your attention away from your host and other guests to check your text messages would absolutely be grounds for ostracism! Ha!

      Thanks for your enlightening rant!

    4. P.S. Being unreasonably sober this evening and having reread my reply above, I'm not at all sure if I made myself clear. But having the bragging rights to wear a $10,000 watch that has to be discarded a year or so from now would seemingly appeal to the inflated egos of the new rich, which I think is what Apple is counting on. Arrogance, egotism and self importance have no limits among a certain crowd. (We can hope these people will give their obsolete watches to a charity, to be melted down for the gold and exchanged for food. Or is that too much to hope for?) Good luck to Apple. I'm sure their research departments have this all figured out.