The titled eminences at Louis XIV’s court at Versailles loved to run off and play at being shepherds and shepherdesses. Today’s fashionistas similarly deny wealth and status by adopting workingman’s denim, and the more beat up and distressed the better (and the more expensive).
Judith Thurman tells us all about it in the New Yorker.
[A]ccording to an article on the British Web site the Conversation, that jeans savaged by wild animals are a trend in designer sportswear. A Japanese denim brand had the bright idea, at least for raising its profile, of sewing indigo-dyed cotton fabric around rimless tires, sausage-shaped bolsters, and fat rubber balls, and throwing the objects to the inmates of the Kamine Zoo, in Hitachi City. In an accompanying video, the beasts bound from their cages and fall upon their novel chew toys with such relish that you have to wonder if there isnâ€™t a little catnip involved. The scene reminded me of toddlers on Christmas morning, tumbling down the stairs, unable to contain their excitement, and tearing into the neatly wrapped parcels under the tree.
When the fabric has been properly â€œdistressedâ€â€”i.e., mauledâ€”it is retrieved from the enclosures and made into trousers that are sold under the label Zoo Jeans. (The Japanese are avid consumers of premium denim, the funkier the better. The national obsession with jeans started during the postwar occupation, when teen-agers became smitten with the dungarees worn by their conquerors.) But, â€œrather than simply being a marketing gimmick, there is actually value in this from an animal welfare perspective,â€ the article explains. â€œInvolving lions and the zooâ€™s other large carnivoresâ€â€”tigers and bearsâ€”â€œin the activity is part of whatâ€™s called environmental enrichment. This is the provision of stimuli to help improve well-being. Itâ€™s a win-win activity for many zoos, who can make alternative profits from their animals, which tend to be used to provide extra facilities for them.â€
Notice the caveat: â€œtend to be.â€ Three pairs of the jeans were auctioned, on July 7th, at a benefit for the zoo. The bidding on â€œT-1,â€ a model â€œdesignedâ€ by the tigers, reached twelve hundred dollars. There were, inexplicably, no takers for â€œL-1,â€ pawed and gnawed at by the lions, or for â€œB-1,â€ a tag-team effort by two chubby bears (which, I thought, had the most artful lacerations). The destination of the other jeans seems to be upscale department stores, although a buyer at Selfridges, in London, complained that the rips were â€œtoo sporadic.â€
Read the whole thing.