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Karl Lagerfeld, is the true Head of Chanel and the “Head” around my neck.

During my trip to China I saw this necklace at a store.  It was lying right next to the necklace with the face of Lady Gaga.

It was love at first sight. To be precise, it was lust at first sight.  I was so mesmerized by the necklace, that even though I did not have my credit card with me, I had to borrow my friends’ for payment.

Talk about the epitome of satisfying the Id-True Instant Gratification.

What was this force beyond my control that compelled me to buy the necklace?  Such a potent force that I had to resort to borrowing (thank goodness my shopping compulsion has not reached a level of begging and stealing yet, as in the expression “beg, borrow or steal.”)

What was it about this man with the silver-haired pony tail, high collars and glasses that captivated me?

In this instance, it is the bewitching rock star appeal of Lagerfeld. He has become deeply embedded in the strains of pop-culture and acquired iconic status.

Such cultural domination of fashion designers is a reflection of the changing times of fashion. Take for instance Marc Jacobs or  Alber Elbaz of Lanvin or Miuccia Prada. They all have their signature trademark personalities and styles.

marc jacobs

The recently sculpted body, with the day old beard is the signature of Marc Jacobs.

alber elbaz

Alber Elbaz is high on the cuteness factor, with the  moon-face, bow tie and round glasses.  Alber Elbaz brands Lanvin.

prada

The shy, head-band wearing Miuccia Prada is the stamp of Prada.

In the past designers used to be mostly behind the scenes. They had an aura of mystery, a certain je ne sais quoi.  Sure, we heard their names such as Bill Blass, Oscar de la Renta or Dior and may have even seen an occasional photo of them attending a benefit, but their personas were not ingrained in the public psyche such as the ones in today’s times.

In current times, simply designing beautiful clothes is not enough. It is mandatory for designers to acquire an “X” or now a “Y” factor for branding purposes.  It is essential for the designer to have a flamboyant, autographed personality.

The modern consumer is global, smart and savvy. They shop all over the world.  With the advent of web-shopping the globe has become one giant Mall accessible to all, at any time.  There is laser sharp competition.

With a whirlwind of choices at the fingertips of the consumers, what motivates them to opt for one brand over the other?  Is it the quality, the stitching, the tailoring, the pricing or is it owning a product designed by a pop-culture icon.  It boils down to the “extra” that a brand has to offer.  The minds of the modern consumer, especially the younger ones is complex.  They grew up in the web surfing age and jump from one “icon” to the other.  Why should they then not choose a product designed by a famous pop culture “icon.” Nine out of ten times they will opt for an item with some pop-culture value, even if it is just a t-shirt with a silhouette of the designer imprinted on it.  Or in my case a necklace with the “Head” of Chanel.

That my friends is the power of pop culture branding!

Just read a line on style icon Carey Mulligan: “She’s got great taste; carefully avoiding anything above the knee, tight…” Buck, Joan Juliet. “The Talented Miss Mulligan.” Vogue. 2 September 2010. http://www.vogue.com/magazine/article/the-talented-miss-mulligan. 30 September 2010.

As a lawyer, it set the wheels of my analytical legal mind in action as to what exactly is the definition of “good taste.” Is it subjective or objective? Can it be loosely interpreted by each individual’s own sensibilities, or do certain established standards apply to define good taste? Are being sexy and having good taste synonyms, antonyms or both? Is the good taste of one the obscenity of another? After all, there can be art form in pornography as well.

For some, an above-the-knee short (or very short) dress is taste. For others a tight fitting (even better if skin tight) dress is taste. For yet another demographic it’s chest-baring dresses, and for others if a woman wears all the above rolled into one it is the epitome of style and sex appeal. Conversely, for some (not necessarily the puritanical ones) it could have the opposite “turn off” effect.

Believe it or not, there is law on the issue of interpreting what I will call “good taste,” for the purposes of this blog. It is outlined in a 1973 Supreme Court case, Miller v. California. No, I will not belabor you with the case as we are on to something more important and interesting here.

The Court analyzed whether a certain form of art (style/fashion are forms of art) would be offensive to an “average person” applying “contemporary community standards.” I question the test, as the definition of “contemporary community standards” has significantly changed from 1973 to 2010. As a lifelong observer and student of style and fashion I have observed that any style that is not form fitting or body baring to some extent is not appreciated by the “community.” Loose clothing, no matter how stylish, is considered matronly and homely. (Right about now I can hear Stella McCartney, Alber Elbaz and Nicolas Ghesquière scoff!)

As a personal observation, and nothing against the opposite sex, I have noticed the tighter and shorter my clothes are the more admirable glances I get from my darker halves. I could run around in the most stylish and tasteful Balenciaga or Prada dress but somehow fail to pique the interest of men.

So, if we follow the above logic is it appropriate to deduce that our “community standards” adhere to a blatant exhibition of a woman’s curves? Unless a woman succumbs to such exhibitionism will she not be considered stylish? Is that in keeping with “good taste?” Has there been such degeneration in our society that style and taste is all about body-baring sex appeal?

The sad part is that we are talking about “community standards.” Most of us human beings are gluttons for approval and such approval will obviously come from a “community.” And to please that “community” we will continue to comply with the “acceptable standards of the community,” i.e. body baring tight clothing, conformity and lack of imagination!