et tu, A.P.C.?
I love my new shirt. I like the hefty yet soft cotton, the lack of a placket (I've read that no placket = more formal but actually it reminds me of pajamas, which I find charming), the hidden top button which created a neat look when fastened, the shape of the collar, the muted colours that remind me of a 70s kitchen. I loved that the shoulders fit mine perfectly, and that it was lean but roomy. I liked that it had real mother-of-pearl buttons, cool when you touch it to your lip (the things you learn from GQ).
I wish this post was just that, about a pretty new shirt, but it's not.
I don't own a lot of A.P.C. even though I've loved the brand since my university years (that's about 8, 9 years now?). It's expensive for me, and much as I love the aesthetic I know in my heart it's not always worth the money. Still, I like the branding, I like the style, I like that it hasn't had to change its style too much and it still thrives as a business. And the shirts, for me, have always been nicely made and worth the splurge.
When I bought my shirt in Paris, I noticed the label said "Made in Tunisia", and decided to Google around and see if I could find more about A.P.C.'s manufacturing practices. I know it's too simplistic to judge by the "Made In XX" label alone (there are sweatshops in Italy staffed by illegal immigrants too), but I was curious, and these days it's always interesting to see what turns up.
Well, I didn't anything, so I'm unenlightened on that front. But I found this interview of A.P.C. founder Jean Touitou, which left me with a bad taste in my mouth.
Some parts, I found myself nodding along -
"I do not belong to celebrity culture. If people only knew what actresses are paid to sit in the front row at the shows in Milan or Paris, they would want to kill somebody. If they only knew 10% of what's going on, like brands that give bags away to young actresses and tell them to go in that restaurant on that day and leave the restaurant at 15 past 2:00, and hold the bag up for the paparazzi that will be there. This is a fact."
"If you're a young actress, it's now expected that once you start making it you'll receive a bag from Chanel. It's become a rite of passage. And it works, it's huge publicity for them. But at some point what's sad about it is that the very famous Chanel bag 2.55—which I really love, my grandmother had one and my mother had one—is all over the place. I can't look at them anymore."
Other parts, I did not -
"I don't know why designers want to show big spectacles in China. You go there and you get so depressed. There's no culture, nothing. The streets are ugly and people do not know how to dress themselves. You go to India and you find all these inspiring people to look at. You go to China and want to kill yourself. That's not very nice to say but those people are taking over the resources of the planet and we cannot do or say anything because they have all the cash. I'm a bit hysterical over China, but I'm sure I'm right. I'm committed now to wearing Scottish knitwear. I consider it a political statement. It's not even that much more expensive than Chinese knits and it lasts a lot longer."
The ignorance and lack of sensitivity behind this statement upsets me. To say something like that, without even seeming to consider the reason behind WHY people "do not know how to dress themselves", is breathtakingly offensive. I take it he has no idea that Mao Zedong killed a millenia of Chinese culture with his brutal regime and turned into a wasteland of poverty, corruption and artistic death.
And his response is to wear Scottish knitwear. When he manufactures in China, India, Tunisia, Poland, Romania? Has he ever listened to himself speak?
There are cities in China that are grim and depressing - I remember passing through Taiyuan, a heavy industry city and being shocked by the pollution and the poor urban planning. But he seems to be putting down an entire country based on aesthetics, and that is distasteful, without appreciating the socio-political context in the first place. And what does that comparison with India even mean?
If Jean Touitou wants to make statements about globalisation and capitalist economics, he has to do better than this. As such, he's just left me feeling depressed that I spent all these years admiring his brand and his business, and paying good money for his clothes.
What happens when you love the clothes, but can't reconcile that love with the creator and his beliefs?