Soutiques in this street address the upper strata of society, fhere are fewer people here than in fiegent Street, fhe first boutique with striking sales decoration works with an intuitive image, which can be easily related to sacrificial rituals:
378 The posture is ambivalent, but the interpretation given here would be shared by most of the spectators. It Imitates the graphic design of sex shops.
379 Liessmann (2000:159).
380 Baudrillard (1990:67).
<• fhis little boutique has just one largish show window. Two mannequins wearing winter clothes are placed in it. Each piece has a large price tag indicating that the price on it is the seasonal sale price, fhe tags haye an orange frame and bold lettering saying "SÄLE", fhe surprising detail in this window is a large poster behind the mannequins. It shows a flaming inferno. "SÄLE" is written on it in bold black letters.
It appears to us as if the mannequins are being sacrificed in the fire, fhe intention of the graphic design may of course haye been slightly different. Perhaps the idea was burning the prices, but burning down the mannequins along with all the fashion items is a more seductive interpretation, which takes us back to the archaic origins of sacrifice. James George frazer described in his Golden Bough numerous rituals based on the concept of sacrificing the corn god.381 fhe corn god is sacrificed at the beginning of spring and his resurrection magically awakens "Nature, who had been symbolically transformed into a yictim before. So there is a link between "Nature and the god. With the resurrection of the god, "Nature will start its new life in spring, frazer's way of describing this philosophy of magic was the main point of Wittgenstein's critique:
"frazer's account of the magical and religious notions of men is unsatisfactory: itmakes these notions appear as mistakes."382
Wittgenstein pointed out that dealing with symbols does not rest on any opinion, and error is a matter of opinion.383 He concludes by saying:
"Just how misleading frazer's accounts are, we see, I think, from the fact that one could well imagine primitive practices oneself and it would only be by chance if they were not actually to be found somewhere, f hat is, the principle according to which these practices are ordered is much more general than frazer shows it to be and we find it in ourselyes: we could think out for ourselyes the different possibilities."384
fhe seasonal sale uses a symbolic yisual language with many references to "primitive" sacrificial practices, fhere is no articulated magical belief on the surface, but it would be possible to introduce it. It could be said, if we follow frazer's idea of the corn god, that the new fashion receives its power through the sacrifice of the old. fhe mannequins, and the fashion pieces sacrificed in the fire will be reborn in spring with the spring
381 Frazer (1993). Hubert and Mauss (1981:77-94) dedicated a chapter of their classic study of sacrifice to this mythology
382 Wittgenstein (1979:1).
Death of collection and endowed with new power, fhe fashion system acquires the power for the new collection from the death and rebirth of the garments. Sut maybe this notion is a mistake. &nd so, we walk on and stop again in front of the next boutique:
<• fhis fashion boutique is on a street corner. One of its windows shows a mannequin in a white dress and pink belt. On the show window is the discrete message in the same shade of pink: "Sale I final Seductions", fhe show window is partly covered with a yellow transparent film. & photo covers the entire surface of the window's backdrop: a black and white photo of a workshop where hundreds of female workers are sewing clothes.
It seems as if everything is possible during the seasonal sales, fhis window's decoration points out that the origin of couture is often in sweatshops that exploit human labour, fhis is a problem of the fashion industry, which has not change until today:
"fine, individualised and hand-done work was carried out in appalling sweated labour conditions in the late eighteenth century and in the nineteenth century, both in Sritain and elsewhere. Although the original tailors had been men, by the time of the industrial revolution there were many dressmakers making the delicate clothing now in vogue for women, and Engel's description of the working conditions of these young girls in the 1840s would have applied for many years, both before and afterwards."385
fhe idea of relating merchandise to its place of production was already born at the beginning of the twentieth century. Here is a suggestion for a cotton fabric retailer to attract attention with the show window:
"A small reproduction of a small cotton wool plantation in full blossom and the seeming diligence of mainly black plantation workers. While we may have some problems with this reproduction, many other similar scenes have greater appeal and are easily staged in a show window."386
fhe next window does without the context of the sweatshop. It is a retailer for children's clothing:
<• fhe show window has no backdrop. We have an unhindered view into the store, four child mannequins are placed on the frame of the window. Each of them is wearing a white dress with a red letter on it. fhe letters form the
385 Wilson (2003:72-73).
386 Austerlitz (1904:1)*.
word "S-A-L- £". A handmade poster next to the entrance says: "50% (off)".
We haye the feeling that the upper classes do not really welcome the seasonal sale, following the theory of class imitation, the purchase of the unfashionable would not be a good idea for a class which defines its social status by buying the latest trends. A friend in China recently told us a story about a friend who works for a European couture brand in Seijing. This store also reduces the prices during the seasonal sales. One day a woman came in, found a dress and wanted to pay for it. When she was informed at the cash desk that the price of the piece had been reduced, she was furious. She wanted to buy the dress at the original price and explained to the sales person that she could afford to buy it at any price. In the end, she went out after paying the original price instead of the reduced one. The customer saw the reduction as a kind of gift. Marcel Mauss explains the power relations based on the concept of gift giying:
"To giye is to show one's superiority, to be more, to be a higher in rank, magister. To accept without giying in return, or giying more back, is to become client and servant, to become small, to fall lower (minister)."387
Thus, the customer had the feeling that the salesperson, who was not her equal in status, had acquired power oyer her by reducing the price. She was giying a reduction, and a customer who accepts this gift also accepts degradation with it. The "poor" sales person had thus acquired power oyer the "rich" customer of European fashion couture. The next window belongs to a show boutique:
<• This show window is not featuring any information about reductions. Sut on second glance, we discern a bag in the corner of the window. The dates of the seasonal sale are written by hand on paper bags in red, printed frames: "29th ©ecember 2003 I 31" January 2004".
The shopping bag is an importantmedium for advertising. People who walk through the city with shopping bags are liying advertisements. We observed that during the sales, special bags are printed to announce the sales of the retailer. The fetish of the bag is turned into a container of sacrifice for the period of sales. What is in the bag is out of fashion. The telltale plastic bag announces to everyone on the street that we have bought for a
387 Mauss (2002:95)
Death of lower price, and where. What could be a thing of shame during the seasonal sale turns Into a thing of pride during the year:388
"fhe notion of paying extra because of where a shop Is, or for a particular name and address on a plastic bag, may seem to be the most extreme and delusional form of commodity fetishism."389
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