Brian Lichtenberg Sweatshirts and Tees: Is BL Kidding? Is He a Genius? Both??

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If you happen to be shopping at Kitson…or at some other ultra-trendy boutique on Robertson or Melrose in Los Angeles…you’ll sneak a peek at Brian Lichtenberg’s iconic sweatshirts and tees. These come emblazoned with provocative one word mantras…often puns on designer labels…like “Homies,” “Ballin,” “Cannabis,” “Bucci”, “Caniné,” “Feliné,” and “Burrrr: So Icey.”What’s going on? Is Brian Lichtenberg playing mind games with all of us? These sweatshirts, T-shirts, hats, etcetera are obviously riffing on “the language of the street.”  But is “BL” (as he is affectionally known in the fashion world) poking fun at designers who use street lingo in their creations? Is he mocking the folks who buy pricey designer duds? Or is he simply “playing it straight” and just trying to make cool stuff? Whatever he’s doing, it’s working.  390334_in_l

According to an article in WWD.com, BL’s parody Hermés gear “has been among [epic fashion store, Kitson's] bestsellers.” “I haven’t seen anything in seven years selling like that,” said [Fraser] Ross [the owner of Kitson]. “The women carrying Céline and Hermés bags are buying it. They are mixing and matching street with designer.” Fashion augments our best features and masks the “stuff” we don’t like about our bodies. In this sense, it also offers a template for us to “work out” our cultural issues. The conversation can lead to curious, even paradoxical, fallout. For instance: upper class women who pay a lot of money to knowingly buy clothes that may be making fun of them! brianlichtenbergFLA2013_3_20_00

This recursive nature of our fashion conversation is very American. We relentlessly pun on ideas like “street couture” and “designer couture” — mixing and matching them in endless iterations — and find ourselves overwhelmed with the meaningful meaningless of it all.

A passage from Don DeLillo’s White Noise comes to mind: “Several days later, Marie asked me about a tourist attraction known as the Most Photographed Barn in America … we counted five signs before we reached the site. There were 40 cars and a tour bus in the makeshift lot. We walked along the cow path to a slightly elevated spot set aside for viewing and photographing. All the people had cameras; some had tripods, telephoto lenses, filter kits … “no one sees the barn,” he said finally. A long silence followed. “Once you have seen the signs about the barn, it becomes impossible to see the barn… they are taking pictures of taking pictures.”

No doubt Jonathan Franzen or David Foster Wallace (if he were still alive) could write a killer essay on this topic and drill down to figure out what BL’s “real” intentions are and what his clothes “really” mean. Until then, we have very little choice but to indulge in the genius of these provocative creations!

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