Katie struggled out of a black vintage high-waisted Vivienne Westwood skirt, cringing when she heard the sound of the zipper pop as she shimmied the silk-lined velvet garment past her fleshy hips. She wanted to wear something archival to impress Claudia, but her face was already showing her anxiety, and a tight skirt would only make it worse. Besides, no-one would even know it was Vivienne Westwood unless she told them, or if they examined the tiny orb etched into the button on the side of her waist. She tossed the skirt on her unmade bed, readjusted her amazon.com thong, and made her way back to the closet.
As our real-life identities become blurred with those of our online avatars, so do our notions of work and play, and nowhere is this more apparent than within social networks like Instagram and on the resale platforms that mimic them. To many, influencer markets are essential to selling clothes, and the best way to tap into them is by making shopping networks feel more like social media. But beyond likes, shares and friendly copy inspiring users to ‘join the community,’ social commerce isn’t really all that social. In an era where trends proliferate faster than the seasonal shows that once spawned them, recommerce apps have the power to both dictate trend cycles and undermine them too. If you keep that Balenciaga City bag in your RealReal wishlist for long enough, you might forget why you even wanted it, especially if you couldn’t really afford it in the first place.
Today’s most savvy cultural producers know that we’ve begun to feel helpless in the face of climate catastrophe, rising fascism and, more recently, global pandemics, and are capitalising on that vulnerability. The clothes may be a tongue-in-cheek critique of those who wield the most power in society, but when designers like Marine Serre are selling gilet jaunes (made to mimic the vests worn by French protesters in 2019) for over $1000, and Balenciaga dresses are being worn by an avatar (who represents the girlfriend of billionaire Tesla founder Elon Musk), dressing for the end of the world becomes an inside-joke, afforded only by the rich.
When you order a silicone sex doll online, a giant, coffin-like box arrives. Inside, a headless doll lays naked, skin gleaming and perky breasts pointing upward. Her head is likely to be wrapped up in styrofoam, cushioned gently in between her knees. To the average person she appears corpse-like, an immobile piece of human-like plastic teetering just beyond the uncanny valley. But to iDollators, doll owners with an imagination, she’s a blank canvas for a fantasy world.