moderne living, or how to be an outcast in your own home
Sunday 13 October 1996
This time I've been sent reeling by a publication thoughtfully filed on the Real Life office floor. Groping for a contact lens among the discarded fash-mags, ashtrays and half-drunk bottles of champagne, I discovered the launch issue of Wallpaper* (*the stuff that surrounds you), "interiors - entertaining - travel" with a cover photo of two "urban modernists" straight off the lyric sheet of "Drive in Saturday".
Removing it from the indifferent, basilisk stares of the Lifers, I've been haunted by it ever since. To say that Wallpaper gives you solutions to problems you never knew you had would be too generous. Wallpaper fills vast reservoirs of undrainable cultural anxiety. Flicking its glossy pages, the reader is catapulted into a world of strange new imperatives and totems. Don't leave home without - a pounds 60 leather-bound world atlas by Tiffany! Daywear Super Anti-Oxidant Complex moisturiser! And "Europe's hottest new fashion mag" D (it's in Italian).
It gets worse: "You probably haven't visited some of Australia's more progressive kitchens lately" (how did you guess?). "Nowadays it's hard to remember life before Samsung" (with journalists like that, who needs ad men?).
Design snobbery is the new class prejudice. "Everything we do at Squire is about being correct," says the owner of the menswear shop. "Miss Minimalism", an architect who designs for Calvin Klein, appears under the strap "Intelligence", which is not quite how I'd file her on the strength of her aphorisms. "I'm sick to death of Shaker ... it's a relief to come across something as beautiful as a simple light-bulb ... the more things you buy from the Calvin Klein Home Collection, the more you have to hide other things." (Uh, neat product placement, Miss M.) The Next Big Colour is apparently green, but steady on - not "Prada green - that's too pistachio". I always thought Prada were the black nylon handbag people - now there's a green? And they didn't even tell me?
"You know," opines Miss M, "at the moment I really like going to non- place kind of places, where there are non-people, who are doing non-fabulous things." Move on from this serene democratic spirit and you find an encomium to the revamped Clarence Hotel in Dublin: "There were fears that the Temple Bar classic would be turned into yet another 'designer hotel' combining ugly vulgar architecture with even uglier, more vulgar guests." The beautiful and tasteful will enjoy the hotel's "special range of moderne toiletries for the bathrooms". Moderne? Well, "il faut etre absolument moderne," as the poet said, but somehow I don't think Rimbaud was the presiding spirit here. A spokesman for the hotel says: "We're very conscious about the fact that if we jack our prices up we exclude a lot of the cool, creative people." So it's pounds 135 to pounds 1,000 a night. Helloooo? Are these people on planet earth?
After what seems like months of decorating, my flat is still covered in oh-so-moderne pieces of plank awaiting conversion into cupboards, and all my possessions are stacked in tres chic, minimalist cardboard boxes with the neat typographical device "Office World" stencilled wittily on the side. But hey, non-fabulous, non-people need magazines too. If you believe the best thing to do with pistachios is stuff great quantities of them into your mouth, not use them to co-ordinate your wardrobe, you should check out an alternative publication. Unskinny* (* Tune in, sign on, pig out) is a comic created, not by a team of pallid metropolitans with a collective obsession about kitchenware and pale blond floorboards, but by lone genius Lucy Sweet of Glasgow.
The heroines of her strip cartoons feast on lard and beans, live in squats and on the dole, but still manage to pull passing pop stars and the likes of Ewan McGregor ("Lucy, I've got something I need to ask you when you've finished stuffing yourself"), who are not at all put off by their rolls of flab and unruly digestive systems (all those beans). There are beauty tips ("Wipe the jam off your face with a bit of wet bog roll and get in the bath, not forgetting to remove your pants"); free gifts ("Win a bloke! Craig has the muscular physique of a Greek god and works in the lucrative building trade"); and product placements for Heinz, polyester and Lambert & Butler. Unskinny costs pounds 1.50 (cheques payable to Lucy Sweet) from 9 Athole Gardens, Hillhead, Glasgow G12 9AZ, which is a jolly sight cheaper than Wallpaper for pounds 3.
Diving in at the deep end is no excuse for shirking the style stakes
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