The Gap has recently rolled out its springtime collection -- skinny, ankle-zip pants, patterned shoes, oversized oxfords and pale, shaker-knit sweaters. I really liked everything I saw, and I didn't quite realize why until a Facebook friend of mine pointed out that she had been wearing these clothes in 1986. The pieces fell into place: I remember being very happy in spring 1986, and the idea of buying all the things I'd never have been able to swing on 1986's babysitting wages thrills my inner 14-year-old.
The subsequent Facebook discussion had me thinking about the potency of brands. In 1986, I had papered my bedroom wall with posters of New York City and Lufthansa travel ads, and I'd look at those pictures of far-off places and at United Colors of Benetton ads, and deep in my reptilian retail brain, I'd think, "Benetton is for people who are citizens of the world!"
(This probably explains why I fell hard for the Body Shop in 1993, when Anita Roddick was constantly explaining how she used passionfruit cleansing gel in the types of places where Anthony Bourdain's forced to eat pig anus.)
Brands can be totemic. Brands can also force uncomfortable confrontations between our internal conceptions of who we are versus the external perceptions. Case in point: Eileen Fisher.