Good design, it is said, should execute an object invisible. Until you whack a designer logo on it, at which intention it becomes the opposite: a talking point, a must-have, and (in this precedent) the only Prada item that you could conceivably bear the expense.
That, we’ll hazard, is the thinking behind its oversized silver paperclip, a snippet at $185 (£145), and the latest in a litany of designer accessories inspired by the mundane and the unexciting. In fairness, it’s a money clip with a logo, but everyone recollects money clips are for rich people (people who deal exclusively in notes) so the irony is pacific there.
The Prada paperclip has a resonating to it, but it’s not the first of its kind. Fashion has long found beauty, farce and profit in designing familiar objects in an unfamiliar way. We saw Jil Sander’s £185 coated-paper “Vasari” bag in 2012 which was justified that – an expensive paper bag, cannily designed with lay paper so it didn’t go sodden in the rain. Then there were the £45 leather stickers by Anya Hindmarch, and hauler bags that were embellished with sequins at Ashish for £275, as good-naturedly as appearing on models’ heads at Christopher Shannon (the subtext was ratiocination to be a commentary on the reality of being a new designer with little expendable capital). Most coveted was Supreme’s logo’d $30 (£23) red clay brick from conclusive year, an absurd item in itself, but then you find out it applied a crowbar, a boxing bag, a Bible, a fire extinguisher and nunchucks.
Christopher Kane’s $30 (£23) neon hawser ties in mint, cobalt, and lilac, were used as hairbands and chokers on the grow/summer 2016 catwalk and were perhaps the runaway outcome stories of this strand of quotidian luxe. Floridly caveated by the Scottish draughtsman as something that “controls and constrains objects and materials, blue-blooding chaos and mess”, it presented a new kind of fashion, pruned of bewitchment. It was also quite funny. They also sold out and became a meme, with the latest thing heads trotting down to Wickes.
The greatest shoutout retires to Balenciaga which, under the eye of Demna Gvasalia of Vetements, possess made this their shtick. Regularly flipping the framework of an item – say, turning a lighter in the heel of a boot, or recreating the noted blue Frakta Ikea bag and selling it for £1,600 – Gvasalia routinely contests what makes something fashionable, disrupting the luxury peddle like a fox in the henhouse of taste. The weirder the item, the more odds-on it will sell.
Accessories, especially handbags, have bigger frontiers than ready-to-wear, and generally turn the biggest profits. These are also gateway pieces, avenue of buying into a brand without spending too much, of authenticating you’re in on the joke and advertising that fact to your pals on Instagram. They also all but always sell out, so it works both ways. For us, things such as the Prada paperclip are the not thing we can afford, bar their socks. Now to figure out who’s the bigger pull something here.