Sunday, August 27, 2006

Button up, button down.

I don't typically look at the NYT women's fashion magazine, but when today's issue, almost a half-inch thick, fell vertically on my foot, it got my attention. At least long enough to read a little talk-back piece to the Merryl Streep movie that I haven't seen. In "The Devil Knows Nada," Eric Wilson takes issue with the movie's assumption that fashion flows from the top down: "The bald truth is that for 20 years, the direction of fashion has been inverted: it now stomps its way up from the street; from athletes and celebrities to designers."

Sixty percent of the world's buttons are made in Qiaotou, China, according to an NPR report earlier this week. Fashion has everything to do with what the buttons are made of: plastic, shell, wooden, metal? Copper buttons are currently in high demand, but the profit margin is low because copper is a commodity whose price, worldwide, has gone up--thanks to Chinese consumption. And sure enough, trends in buttons aren't entirely dictated by the top designers: "These fashions are formed far away on Italian catwalks or even perhaps on the streets of Iran. That's where buyer Asham Bastou [ph] and his partners sell most of their buttons." Mr. Bastou has an interesting political theory about buttons: "the more closed a society, the better buttons sell there. More open societies, he says, favor zippers and Velcro fastenings. But buttons sell particularly well in places where women wear the chador, a full-length black robe that buttons up the front."

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