Saturday, April 4, 2009

Playing along with the fascinisti of style

(First published in the Curmudgeon column, Dominion Post, March 31.)

THERE CAN be few expressions more irritating than the phrase “fashion crime”, as used recently by the clothing designer who created a range of T-shirts based on the home-knitted jerseys worn by David Bain at the time of his original trial for murder.

Robert Ewan, criticised for capitalising on a tragic event, told journalists he wanted only to comment on – for which read “make fun of” – David Bain’s “crime of fashion”. But the real criminals are people who use this offensive term, which implies the existence of a fashion priesthood to whom we all anxiously look for guidance on what we should be wearing.

We frequently hear the term “fashionista” used to describe these style-meisters but perhaps fascinista would be more appropriate, given their obvious intolerance of people who dare to dress in a non-approved manner.

Sadly the media often buy into this nonsense. A One News reporter played along with Ewan by referring to Bain’s “notorious” jerseys. This assumes the entire populace is party to a running in-joke.

I was reminded of the snooty disdain with which some political journalists condemned former prime minister David Lange’s first wife Naomi because of her fondness for cardigans. It’s surprising how easily petty snobbishness can assert itself in a supposedly egalitarian country.

The phrase “fashion victim” is a different matter. Now there’s an expression that has some validity, especially when applied to the countless men and women who so lack confidence in their own taste that they allow themselves to be enslaved by whatever is currently deemed “cool” (which of course can never be cool again next year, meaning that the dictators of style laugh all the way to the bank).

Having said all that, I must confess I quite liked Ewan’s T-shirts.

* * *

IN MY peregrinations around the Wairarapa I see a lot of big, shiny new buses. But I have yet to see one carrying more than a handful of passengers and many are empty, save for a lonely driver.

These buses have appeared on the roads over the past year or two because the Greater Wellington Regional Council is determined to promote greater use of public transport, whether people want it or not.

The Wairarapa, unlike Wellington, has virtually no history of public transport patronage. It’s a rural area where people are accustomed to getting around under their own steam.

I understand this was pointed out to council officials, but they chose to ignore the advice. Reality must not be allowed to intrude on the utopian visions of the planners and bureaucrats.

So the buses resolutely trundle back and forth, at God knows what cost to the ratepayers and taxpayers who subsidise them. I have yet to count more than five passengers; more often there are two or three, or none at all.

You’d think the council would at least consider downsizing from full-sized buses to the cute little ones that are used on Wellington and Hutt feeder routes. Then the low level of patronage wouldn’t be quite so painfully obvious.

* * *

I NOTE that the international insurance group that used to be called Norwich Union is now called Aviva. This is another triumph for the fraudulent industry that has built up around rebranding.

Everyone knew what sort of business Norwich Union was. Aviva, on the other hand, could be anything – a fashion label, a cosmetics brand or a cute Toyota convertible.

The new name is meaningless. It is an invention, just like Kordia, Fonterra, Axa and all the other nonsensical corporate names created by branding consultants.

I suspect the costs of such a name change far outweigh the benefits, once all the downstream feeders – stationery and website designers, ad agencies, PR firms, printers et al – have shared the spoils.

I read recently that the Aviva rebranding campaign cost £9 million. For that money, you’d think they could at least have got bigger names than B-listers like Bruce Willis and Alice Cooper to promote the new name.

To make matters worse, rebrandings provide an excuse for advertising campaigns that drip with nauseating insincerity. A recent full-page ad for Aviva in a British magazine went like this:

“Financial companies are not exactly well known for putting their customers first. We know how frustrated that makes you, because we asked you. So we’re going to be making a few changes. This is not business as usual. This is a company being built around you.”

Aaaargh. Do they really think anyone believes this ingratiating bullshit?

* * *

HAS ANYONE else, ah, noticed that TV3 political editor Duncan, ah, Garner has taken to, ah, inserting the word “ah” between, ah, every few words in his, ah, live reports? Is this, ah, an affectation picked up from, ah, sports and racing, ah, commentators who are in the habit, ah, of doing the same thing? In our house he’s now referred to as Duncan-ah Garner.

1 comment:

JC said...

What you are advocating for Wairarapa busses takes me back a bit..

In 1957, at the age of 12 I was put on a bus to take me to my new boarding school in Masterton. I travelled from Napier or Hastings in a shiny big bus to Woodville or Pahiatua and then we got on a little bus carrying about 15 passengers.. the old Martin Smith line down through the Wairarapa. The driver was an old brown faced man wearing a black suit and a hat that was close to the Texan Ten Gallon hat of the Westerns.

Even then I knew I was looking at history and not too many years later when I read Lester Master's "Tales of the Mails".. about the old stagecoach days of the Taupo and Taihape runs I instantly recognised the Martin Smith driver as the type in those old photos of the coach drivers of the 19th century.. little weatherbeaten men perched on their stagecoaches with reins in hand.

So yep, bring in those little Martin Smith type buses, but put in a new engine as the 1957 job boiled over twice on the run down to Masterton.