A couple of weeks ago I had dinner with some new acquaintances. It was a very pleasant evening and in the course of the conversation (which did not include the subject of long sleeved evening dresses) , it transpired that they were old friends of Katherine Hamnett. A name , I suggested , that doesn’t come up that often nowadays.
I was curious to know if she was still in business. Indeed she is. I gather most of her business is web –based ( this is the link)
I recalled her campaigning for organic cotton, and her anti nuclear stance in the eighties. Her web-site shows that her campaigning continues with vigour. Including Concentrated Solar Power, which I confess is news to me.
Of course I remember most vividly her encounter with Margaret Thatcher in the 80’s when she was famously photographed with the T –shirt that boldly proclaimed ‘No to Pershing’. A coup of a very high order. And an understanding of the dynamics of slogan T –shirts that nobody has bettered.
Ms Hamnett is still marketing similar shirts. But it occurred to me that I don’t see any slogans on the streets any more.
Shirts often seem to be ‘decorated ‘ with type, but it’s usually decoration with no content.
I asked my daughter and a friend ( 20) whether I was missing something. Apparently I’m not. The slogans they are aware of came from the likes of Topshop and are merely modish cultural references. Even if they appeared to have some content they were explicitly superficial and, as is often the case nowadays, ironic.
I don’t believe I am lamenting the demise of the slogan so much as I am bothered by the absence of seriousness and originality. Which has been elbowed out of the way by the trivial and a form of consumer idolatry ( half the population are apparently fulfilled by turning themselves into walking billboards for Diesel and Abercrombie and Fitch and their ilk).
But then…. who am I to talk?
Way back , in early teenager-hood , I was a big fan of satire, exemplified by the esteemed magazine Private Eye. They produced their own merchandise and I coveted it. I saved my pennies and bought a t shirt by mail order. They were amongst the first ( as far as I am aware ) to create such cultural artefacts.
When it arrived my joy was unconfined. In big black type it proudly proclaimed: 'Death to Sir Albert Strume'. I thought it was hilarious . (Sir Albert was , of course, entirely fictitious.)
At the earliest opportunity I wore it when I next played tennis.
After half an hour the club secretary ( a diminutive woman with massive thighs and a powerful forehand) appeared on the court in a state of high officiousness and promptly ordered me off. It wasn’t just that I was in contravention of club rules , but she was visibly agitated and outraged.
I had no idea it would be so provocative.
And of course I was delighted that it was.