12 January 2014

An Orange Ghost Of Fashion Week Past

Appropriating a symbol can really be risky business---especially when the appropriator (Is that a word?) doesn't understand the symbol in question.

I think now of how the Navy contacted a certain musical group that had just scored a runaway hit.  They wanted to use the group's newest song in a recruitment video.  The Navy provided an actual warship and its crew, as well as production assistance, at the San Diego Navy base on the condition that the men in blue could use the song for free.  The group's manager agreed and production started.  Things were going swimmingly until one of the brass actually listened to the group's other songs.

If you know your popular music history, or are around my age, you might know that the group in question is The Village People, best known for their anthem YMCA.

A few years later, someone on President Reagan's re-election campaign had the brilliant idea of using a song with what seemed to be the perfect title.  From what I understand, a commercial containing the song was produced but wasn't aired because someone realized that the politics of the man who wrote and performed the song were almost the exact opposite of Reagan's.

That song, of course, was none other than Born in the USA by Bruce Springsteen.

The world of bicycling is not without similar faux pas.  One was committed around this time six years ago by fashion designer Donna Karan (DKNY).  In advance of Fashion Week, the company chained bikes to trees in the vicinity around Bryant Park, where the models walk down the runway.  

Possibly for the first time in her career, Ms. Karan's design team did something just about nobody liked.  The bike-haters (or, more accurately, those who hate cyclists) were predictably outraged.  But cyclists (including yours truly) were, probably, even more upset.  Some of us felt that DKNY was mocking (or, at least, didn't research) the Ghost Bikes.  

Perhaps the worst part of DKNY's gaffe was that they locked their bikes to trees.  By then, the Parks Department had posted signs and waged campaigns to discourage the practice, as the locks and chains sometimes damage the trees.  

To people like me who lived through the '70's Bike Boom, this spectacle was sad and ironic:  Many cyclists, in those days, took to cycling as an environmentally-friendly alternative to driving for commuting and errands, if not for longer trips.

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