|Young Versace store in Milan - not my|
photograph and I'm too disgusted to care
I went to Milan on Tuesday. I had never been there. Visiting one of the supposed fashion capitals of the world, I had expectations of being surrounded by beauty, art, and awe-inspiring textiles. I think I expected something along the lines of Paris, where art is around every corner, buildings are gilded, and luxurious textiles are about as common as cracks in the sidewalk. What I found in abundance was commercialism. Excess. Rude tourists. Greed. And very little art.
I was quite taken aback by the fact that I found four Prada stores within a five block radius of one another. It seemed unnecessary. The tourists hobbling like weeble-wobbles because they had so many shopping bags hanging from each hand were comical in a Tim Burton-esque sort of way, rushing down the sidewalk to get to as many stores as possible before they expired. What I found most distressing was the number of designer label children’s clothing stores I came across – Versace, Moschino, Blumarine, boutiques with D&G. The fashion houses are not creating museum quality garb for wee ones. They’re hocking status symbols for mum and dad. To quote Helmut Lang, “Not every fashion is great fashion; not every art is great art.”
When does art stop being art? The line blurs when commercialism and the laws of supply and demand are mixed in with anything artistic. Is it the act of putting a price on something that diminishes the art? Is it mass production? Or is it the change of mind of the artist from “This is my passion.” to “This is my job?” True art evokes feeling. The inside of the Duomo was evocative, whether it be art or spirituality could be debated. For the most part, Milan left me feeling empty and the abundance of commercial luxury for children was the most repulsive piece of all.
I keep coming back to thoughts of the recent suicide bombing outside NATO headquarters in Kabul (Sept 8 ’12). An old friend of mine is there teaching music and has been posting stories about the children who died in the blast, yes, children. Innocent children – as innocent as they could hope to be growing up surrounded by war. These sweet souls will never grow up to know what it is to live away from bombs and guns. And the children of visitors to Milan will, perhaps, grow up dressed in Versace. The victims of this “act of courage (so say the jihadists)” sold trinkets for food while these other children wear clothes that cost more money than I have in my bank account.Children are supposed to play, laugh, learn, and get dirty. They are not supposed to know fear, war, terror, or hunger. Sadly, those things are a bit beyond our control. Elitism, greed, bigotry, prejudice, ingratitude, and entitlement: these are learned behaviors. Dick and Jane don’t care who made their clothes. They’ll only care if someone tells them to. Children learn these from their parents and those that surround them. In teaching these ideas, we also contribute to the theft of innocence.