Yesterday I alluded to the wonder cabinet aesthetic of retailer Anthropologie. I love that store, though I can't afford to patronize it (not that insolvency always stops me). But I'm sometimes ambivalent about their use of science as marketing tool.
Here's a screenshot from their latest web ad campaign, "It's elemental":
Ok. . . the "science behind our March outfits?" What does that even mean? And what do any of these outfits have to do with their respective elements? A few do use the "right" colors, but I feel like this collection was compiled by the contestants of Project Runway: "Your assignment this week is to create an outfit based on. . . . the periodic table! I know none of you remember high school chemistry, but we don't care! Make it work!"
I guess I'm glad chemistry is officially sexy and desirable, at least until the end of March. But is this kind of "science" - sugary, nutrient-free visual frosting - helpful or harmful to the larger cause of science literacy? I'm not sure. This ad campaign is yet another example of the accouterments of science dressing up* a visual arts project to give it a certain art-science credibility, without any substance whatsoever to the interface. And that does bother me. What do you think?
*no pun intended!
Oh, how I love the hyperbole of ads - this could have come right out of one of the 1950s ads I was looking through this morning to feature on the Dime Museum. Science and those clothes - that's rather a big leap. A quantum leap?
OK, yes, it is silly -- but so is all fashion. Yet it informs the way people think. I love that Anthropologie thinks that science is a marketing plus. That people would actually be MORE LIKELY to buy something if it has some connection with the periodic table. (Although what the link is supposed to be, only Anthropologie's marketing division knows). Given the amount of hostility shown towards science, and scientists, in popular culture, this seems like a positive step to me. I fancy Carbon, myself.
Yeah, I like Carbon quite a bit! Even though the only connection I can see to "carbon" is that it's made of ecologically sound materials. (Apparently black didn't fit their spring color palette.)
I got their email and saved it since I'm a science freak.
It said the following: Elements of Style -- In March, higher hemlines and pops of coral display great chemistry.
I think it does make sense when all together.
The association does seem pretty random... mind you, at least they didn't accidentally undermine their own point like this designer t-shirt did:
I don't think fashion interpretation of science needs to be literal, per se, but why slap on some labels and not talk about the inspiration? I think we're mostly left with the inference that their choice of terms was loosely based on color (cobalt = blue, etc...) but who really knows.
carbon could be clear if it were covalently networked correctly (i.e diamond), but I suppose transparent clothing wouldn't be very effective . . . durable though.
I can't wait until they find the wonders of organic compounds. The inspiration for my fall line? Benzene!
It does make me squirm just a little, even as a humanities person. While I appreciate that the gimmick is kind of a fun new twist on the old "elemental" marketing (earth/water/air/fire, that sort of thing), the reckless exploitation of the periodic table seems just a little more pretentious than truly creative. Besides, it reminds me of some of the Vogue articles I've read where the writers throw in classical allusions for color, at once demonstrating that their understanding of said classical material is completely superficial, and they really don't care. Oh, and I'll never forget that one where the writer made gratuitous reference to Keats's "negative capability," which she more-or-less defined as the ability to be negative, i.e. grouchy. (Thanks for giving us a cool phrase for that, Keats!)