Pop Friday: Precious Metal Meets High FashionJuly 13th, 2012
This January, when I read that fashion designer Jean Paul Gaultier was producing a limited edition of 5,000 1-ounce gold bullion bars bearing his design, I thought, “Finally someone big is catching on to this!” I had already known for over a year about a young twenty-something Italian-American from Long Island who had quit his family’s autobody business to run his own business full time: making fashion items using silver bullion bars. His business, called “The People’s Bailout,” was predicated on the idea of feeding off of and simultaneously adding fuel to the fire of renewed public interest in precious metal in the aftermath of the 2007-2008 financial collapse. Gary figured he could educate young people about gold and silver by making it cool to buy silver bullion bars. How do you make something like that cool? Turn it into a fashion statement. That’s what Gary did:
Fashioning necklaces, belts, and wrist cuffs with silver bullion bars mounted to them, Misner has created a line of fashion items which is certainly flashy, opulent, and appealing. They are at once crudely ostentatious in an MTV hip hop video sort of way that might grab the attention of consumer-driven youngsters, yet pedantically anti-consumer, grinning ironically at self and society, sporting the answer and solution to the glossy-eyed, debt-driven consumerism of the paper economy– the narrow-eyed, production-driven saving and investment of surplus value in a hard commodity like precious silver. The items, marked far above the actual spot value of the silver they contain, speak of investment and argue for saving, but they are not investments or vehicles of saving themselves. They are art. The buyer is paying extra for an idea in physical form.
When I first heard of The People’s Bailout, I thought the concept was brilliant– cross the world of high finance with avant-garde fashion. I wondered when a big player would swoop in with the reputation and resources to take the idea mainstream. I would have my answer this January when an LA Times piece that seemed a bit skeptical and dismissive reported the production of Gaultier’s gold bars:
‘You’ve got the haute couture outfit and designer jewelry. So, what’s next?
How about gold bullion bars designed by the enfant terrible of French haute couture, Jean Paul Gaultier?
The fashion industry bad boy has been in vogue for decades — he designed Madonna’s much-ballyhooed cone-shaped bra, a line of skirts for men and outfits for rocker Marilyn Manson.
Now he’s reworking one-ounce bars of gold, charging about $1,830 (along with a $25 handling fee) for each. The going rate will change to reflect the spot price of the precious metal, which at the moment is about $1,660 an ounce.
The onetime Hermes creative director paired up with Dallas-based Dillon Gage Metals to create the items, which feature Gaultier’s moniker over a heart that has lines emanating from it like stylized sun rays.
So you would be paying about a 10% premium for what seems like a very yellow, very heavy nameplate. Designed as a collectible item, only 5,000 bars will be made, according to Dillon Gage. And no, they won’t be available in the new vending machines that dispense gold.’
I’m not certain, but a 10% premium for the designer’s name sounds to me like an awful lot less than people probably pay for a famous designer’s name on purses or clothing sold to wealthy people for more money than the average laborer makes in a month out of materials that are worth orders of magnitude less than the retail price. Who knows, this might be the smallest markup you would ever have to pay for something authentically bearing a designer’s mark. And while the purse is unlikely to appreciate against the paper economy, if gold hits $2000 or higher like many of its proponents are suggesting, then a fashionista could even profit from the purchase.
In the fantasy world in my sick and twisted libertarian mind, a wealthy couple are dining outdoors at a restaurant in Paris, perhaps not far from the Hotel D’York on 56 Rue Jacob where the Treat of Paris was signed by John Adams, Ben Franklin, and John Jay, formalizing peace between Great Britain and the new united States of America. Sitting on the table by the lady’s wrist is a gold bar she got from her “eccentric” husband that works in finance. It bears a heart with shining rays emanating from it and the name, “Jean Paul Gaultier,” on a banner.
A young libertarian tourist is walking down the sidewalk, taking in the sites and sounds of one of the world’s most beautiful cities. A flash of gold catches his eye. Casually, he passes close to the table, which is situated by the sidewalk. His eyes rest on the gold ingot. He sees the name. His eyebrows raise. Noticing him, the diners raise their eyes to meet his. In a light French accent, the man asks, “Can I help you, sir?” The young libertarian answers, “Yes sir… Who is Jean Gaultier?”
Ba ha ha ha ha ha! Sorry, I couldn’t help myself!
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