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February 17, 2021

Birkinstocks — 'The most exclusive sandal ever made'

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I so love this: "We're just sort of fascinated with destroying expensive things and creating something new out of them." — Daniel Greenberg, head of strategy for MSCHF   

Long story short: MSCHF's Birkinstock is a Birkenstock-like piece of footwear with an official Birkenstock cork-and-rubber sole, but with a leather upper made from purposefully chopped-up Hermès Birkin bags.

From a New York Times story:

On the second Monday in February, the Banksys of consumer culture struck again.

MSCHF, the Brooklyn collective that created the "Jesus shoe" (Nike sneakers with soles filled with holy water), "88 Holes" (a Damien Hirst spot painting with all the spots cut out and sold separately) and MSCHF X (an "impossible collab" wherein the group chopped up T-shirts from 10 streetwear fashion brands and patchworked them back together) has dropped its latest piece of social media catnip.

If Marcel Duchamp and Tom Sachs had a baby who was raised by Jeremy Scott of Moschino, this is what it might look like.

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The "Birkinstock" is either a raspberry to the high-end fashion world and its sudden obsession with the outdoor rec world; a pointed commentary on the cult of the Birkin, which has been labeled a better investment than gold; or a piece of performance art that gives new meaning to Joseph Schumpeter's concept of creative destruction. (There's a manifesto on the group's website to go with the shoes, full of high-minded meditations on resources, commodities and luxury.)

Or it's a cynical stunt calculated to break the internet, mocking hypebeast culture and profiting from it at the same time.

Maybe all of the above.

In any case, it is sure to put MSCHF, which thus far has made more noise in the art-technology-streetwear space, on the high-fashion radar.

They're trying to move beyond viral jokes into the meta-pop-pundit-sphere.

The shoes will be made to order and available while the supplies last.

Which, despite costing $34,000 to $76,000, depending on the size of the customer's foot, will probably not be very long, judging by both history and the availability of the raw material.

The Jesus shoes sold out in one minute, the Hirst spots even faster.

MSCHF bought only four Birkin bags [below, before and after]

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to serve as raw material, and three pairs of the shoes have already been sold: to Future, who is modeling his on his Instagram feed; Kehlani; and an unnamed art collector.

Plus MSCHF is planning to keep one for itself.

There may be only four to six pairs left.

(For all of its posturing as a sort of guerrilla band of merry pranksters, the collective has a V.I.P. list of celebrities and art collectors who get early access to the products when they are "at the expensive end of the spectrum," said Gabriel Whaley, 31, the chief executive.)

As to why they settled on a Birkin for their first entry into high fashion, aside from the obvious wordplay, Lukas Bentel, 28, one of MSCHF's creative directors, explained: "Birkin bags are like a cultural meme, a symbol for a certain kind of wealth." By "mashing it into a really accessible object," they wanted to force people to perhaps question that symbolism.

Plus, the wordplay really is kind of funny.

MSCHF was founded in 2016, and is normally based in the Williamsburg neighborhood of Brooklyn, though employees are now scattered around the boroughs.

It does drops the second and fourth Mondays of every month, ranging from abstract ideas like paying people to criticize companies it deems evil (Amazon, Facebook, Tesla) to concrete products like the Birkinstocks.

And it has developed something of a rabid following on social media as well as among a handful of celebrities like Drake.

Who, as it happens, is so obsessed with Birkins that he has multiple shelves devoted to the bags, which he collects for his future wife.

The Birkin, named for the actress Jane Birkin, was created by Hermès in 1984 and famously holds its value; one of the most expensive bags ever sold at auction was a white Diamond Himalaya Niloticus crocodile Birkin 30 with 18-karat white gold and diamond hardware, which went for more than $370,000 at Christie's in Hong Kong in 2017.

They are made by hand, take an artisan a minimum of 18 hours to make, and demand generally exceeds supply, meaning there are waiting lists in Hermès boutiques for the bags.

MSCHF, however, did not bother with a list.

Instead, the group bought four bags via resale sites for about $122,500, as well as some cheaper copies, which were used as practice to figure out how to take the bags apart so they could be remade as sandals.

At least two leather workshops in Brooklyn turned the team down when contacted about the project, as they were so horrified by the idea of cutting up a Birkin.

"We know some people are going to react with, 'What is wrong with you people?'" Mr. Greenberg said. "But we're OK being hated. We just don't want apathy."

Kevin Wiesner, 28, another creative director, added: "We really think nothing is sacred in our material choices. Normally, no one would touch a Birkin."

February 17, 2021 at 04:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (3)

Tag-team reading of 'In Search of Lost Time' to be completed in 2050

Veronique Aubouy's project, "Proust Lu" ("Proust Read"), began in 1993.

From the Economist:

Sitting in her pink living room in Tahiti, Natti Tumahai reads in French from "In Search of Lost Time" as her family eats lunch: "I cannot say, looking back, how much of Albertine's life was overlaid by fluctuating, fleeting and often contradictory desires...."
 
The passage comes from volume five of Marcel Proust's roman-fleuve, and Ms Tumahai is the 1,262nd person to appear before the camera.
 
From Bali to Paris, the readers in Véronique Aubouy's huge project, "Proust Lu" ("Proust Read"), have been captured in bedrooms, offices, supermarkets, factories, and beauty spots.
 
Farmers, schoolchildren, businessmen, even the French director’s doctor have participated.
 
"It's a slice of life," Ms Aubouy says; "a reading about time, in time."
 
The cast is as diverse as the novel's, brought together by their own web of connections and coincidences.
 
Proust's seven-volume masterpiece runs to more than 4,000 pages.
 
Each participant reads just two of them, so at the current rate the project will not be completed until 2050 — 57 years after filming began.
 
It is already 150 hours long (much of the footage is available to watch on YouTube).
 
By contrast, Proust took a mere 14 years to write the book, finishing it in 1922, shortly before his death.
 
Tracing the narrator's life from childhood to old age, "it offers a singularly accurate depiction in fiction of how consciousness works," says Patrick McGuinness of the University of Oxford. "His writing forces you to inhabit time. It doesn't do the normal thing of compressing narrative into chunks — it makes the narrative more like life."
 
Ms. Aubouy set out to make a screen equivalent.
 
Instead of condensing the text into a conventional plot, thereby losing its rich detail, she divided it into filmable snapshots.
 
Trusting in happenstance, she finds and recruits interesting people.
 
Readers then recommend friends.
 
She likens the project to a locomotive, "each new person adding a wagon."
 
They have declaimed from bunk beds and stairwells or standing in the sea.
 
Some are wreathed in cigarette smoke.
 
A curate with a pigeon on his shoulder is silhouetted against the stained-glass window of his abbey in Combray, where the novel begins.
 
A straw-strewn cowshed is coldly illuminated by strip-lights: "Madame Swann," a young woman intones, "seeing the enormous proportions that the Dreyfus affair was assuming, and fearing that her husband's origins might be used against her, had begged him to no longer speak of the innocence of the convicted man...."
 
Differing accents and proficiencies generate a dream-like rhythm that swings between the theatrical and the prosaic — just as the novel combines the mundane and profound.
 
Actors such as Kevin Kline, Annie Girardot, and Mathieu Amalric feature alongside inconnus who have not read aloud since school.
 
"In 2001 one girl chose to rap," Ms. Aubouy recalls.
 
Now 65, Marie Benoît contributed in 2007 from her Normandy smallholding, accompanied by two donkeys.
 
The experience "was very moving, because reading in this way, at home, showed that anyone can enjoy Proust."
 
Each scene is one continuous shot, preceded by a slide stating a name and location.
 
Then comes a brief silence, as if the new reader has been listening to the previous one.
 
Like the novel, the clips are portals into lost worlds.
 
Over the decades the images become sharper; fashions, haircuts, and the timbre of speech evolve.
 
Even during the pandemic, "Proust Lu" has marched on.
 
Ms. Aubouy let some participants film their readings on their phones.
 
And the disease itself has echoes in Proust's life and writing.
 
His father, Adrien Proust, was an epidemiologist who tracked a cholera outbreak in 1869 and proposed a cordon sanitaire to slow its spread.
 
Marcel's own squeamishness about germs surfaces in volume four, when the narrator relates his discomfort at sharing a lift with a man who has whooping cough.
 
Today, as lockdown time has seemed to blur, when days feel long and months short, Proust's mesmeric work has found its time — again.
 
Ms. Aubouy says readers often believe they have been handed an extract for a reason: though ostensibly concerned with a different era, Proust's story seems to reflect the precise moments they have reached in their lives. "And yet in reality, it's just the moment we've arrived at in the book."
 
The sensation arises, she thinks, because "the persistence of memory, and the feeling of having wasted time, are universal. "
 
Perhaps never more than now.

February 17, 2021 at 02:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)

Spiral Staircase

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This magnificent spiral staircase was carved from a single tree dated to 1851.

You can see it at Lednice Castle in the Czech Republic.

February 17, 2021 at 12:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)

'Half World' — Scott O'Connor

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He did it again, with a shimmering fictional reconstruction of the CIA's MK-Ultra program from its 1950s beginnings.

For sure this will be one of the ten best books I read this year.

Oh!

Published in 2014, it's his second novel.

I thought "Zero Zone," (2020), his latest, was as good as it gets, but this one's even better.

February 17, 2021 at 10:01 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)

Shark Drain Strainer

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From the website:

We all approach the kitchen sink dreading what might await us there.

Add some playfulness to your daily chore with this Sharkfin strainer that will appear out of the deep as the water drains.

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Features and Details:

• Fits most sinks

• Silicone

• 4.3"Ø

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$12.

February 17, 2021 at 08:01 AM | Permalink | Comments (1)

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