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Thread: Interesting quote from a furniture designer

  1. #1

    Interesting quote from a furniture designer

    Got bored today and was reading back issues of FWW. Issue 51 (March 1985) has a story on Ruhlman's work. It says:

    "Sixty years ago, jacques-Emile Ruhlmann's furniture was the star attraction at the Exposition Internationale des Arts Decoratifs in Paris. A World's-Fair-size show, the 1925 Expo popularized the group of styles we now collectively call Art Deco after the exhibition."

    It quotes Ruhlman as stating in 1920 that..... "A clientele of artists, intellectuals and connoisseurs of modest means is very congenial, but they are not in a position to pay for all the research, the experimentation, the testing that is needed to develop a new design .... Only the very rich can pay for what is new and they alone can make it fashionable .... Fashions don't start among the common people. Along with satisfying a desire for change, fashion's real purpose is to display wealth."

    I thought that was an interesting observation. What do you folks think?
    Last edited by Frederick Skelly; 08-18-2019 at 7:09 PM.
    "All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing."
    - Sir Edmund Burke

  2. #2
    I think it explains my lack of fashion.

  3. #3
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    That is interesting Fred. I think he has a point.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Frederick Skelly View Post
    Along with satisfying a desire for change, fashion's real purpose is to display wealth."

    I thought that was an interesting observation. What do you folks think?
    I think for a lot of people, the purpose of fashion is to display the appearance of wealth. I know lots of folks who drive cars they really can't afford or wear clothes they really can't afford or have houses they really can't afford - in the name of fashion.

    From the seller's perspective, I think fashion is a way of selling something when people don't really need it. Back when I was in the working world, neckties got wider, then narrower, then wider again - same with the lapels on my suits. I had to buy new ties and suits, or look out of place. There was nothing wrong with the old ones, but if we didn't change the "fashion," the apparel makers wouldn't make much money.

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    Hard to argue with M. Ruhlmann. As I recall, the same FWW article indicated that his furniture design was underwritten by a large family decorating firm employing painters, plasterers, wallpaperers and the like.

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    “Along with satisfying a desire for change, fashion's real purpose is to display wealth."

    Obviously things are way different now than in the 20’s. Perhaps the most iconic fashion of the last 70 years is based on what anyone could wear from the cheapest of cheap. From James Dean, Brook Shields, Cindy Crawford, to any current famous actress, model, or musician, the basic blue jean and t-shirt is KING. If anything, I would say trying to look wealthy is NOT fashionable

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    Consider the era. What defines popular culture for one age is different for another. Can you imagine your great grandfather‘s reaction to plastering selfie’s all over the planet :-)
    She said “How many woodworking tools do you need?”
    I said “Why? Do you know someone who is selling some?”


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    Quote Originally Posted by John Sincerbeaux View Post
    “Along with satisfying a desire for change, fashion's real purpose is to display wealth."

    Obviously things are way different now than in the 20’s. Perhaps the most iconic fashion of the last 70 years is based on what anyone could wear from the cheapest of cheap. From James Dean, Brook Shields, Cindy Crawford, to any current famous actress, model, or musician, the basic blue jean and t-shirt is KING. If anything, I would say trying to look wealthy is NOT fashionable
    Well, the thing is, you can't wear just ANY ripped-up pair of jeans. The jeans have to be ripped up in just the right way, with the right labels, etc., or people won't know that you spent $15,000 for them – which would defeat the whole purpose of wearing ripped-up jeans in the first place: to display wealth (if not taste).

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    Judging from my own business I would say it still rings true. Human nature has not changed. I love working for "normal" people, but it just doesn't happen much.

  10. #10
    Fashion is driven by people selling stuff, so they can't stop coming up with newness. But people possessed of a real sense
    of what is good are not separated from their things by salesmen. The worst new idea I've seen in a long time is men's
    suits with too short coats.

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    I read Ruhlman's quote to mean furniture, et al, in his reference to fashion. In that context I think it's as true today as it was when he said it. People pay ridiculous amounts of money (to me, anyway) to have the latest kitchen, bathroom, whatever, fashion trends. Do I really need a wine fridge, a dishwasher in a drawer, or a six way shower that I can program from my cell phone? Even stuff that doesn't cost all that much becomes a must have. Every Fixer Upper type show has worn out barn doors, waterfall countertops, and a host of other too often repeated ideas.

    John

  12. #12
    John ,I read it same way ,but it applies to a lot of things. I see convieniences as being fine if they really make use
    easier. But there have always been "pickers" who sell to make people think " These carved 18th century chairs look kind
    of dated. Time to modernize!" Many a car salesman has tried especially hard to sell a car to certain people. Like the old
    lady who says her '66 Corvette is too small for the charity work she does.

  13. #13
    IMO that quote is a product of its time. Think roaring 20's, the Great Gatsby, i.e. a time when there were fewer strata in society and delineated much more obviously than today. People were either private club members wearing top hats and living in mansions or they were basically blue collar near-illiterate peasants (or perhaps farmers). I think his comment was very valid coming from a furniture designer who needed to find a way to make a market for his innovative designs. He certainly wasn't going to make that market among hot dog sellers, factory workers and domestic servants.

    There might be elements of his quote that are true today, but not with the blunt accuracy it held at that time.

    The optimist in me would like to think there are people who buy things of quality for personal satisfaction and not just to showcase their wealth. And I'd like to think that fashion is not solely dictated to us by the uber wealthy.

    Just my opinion (and not even certain I've properly understood the context of his quote anyway).

    Edwin

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    Quote Originally Posted by Mel Fulks View Post
    John ,I read it same way ,but it applies to a lot of things. I see convieniences as being fine if they really make use
    easier. But there have always been "pickers" who sell to make people think " These carved 18th century chairs look kind
    of dated. Time to modernize!" Many a car salesman has tried especially hard to sell a car to certain people. Like the old
    lady who says her '66 Corvette is too small for the charity work she does.
    Hey my mom would not give up her Corvette till she was 83, and that is just because it was worn out. She looked at buying a new one, but she paid $5k for the 66, and refused to pay $60k for a new one! She uses her Caddie for charity work. Still runs the food pantry at 86 years old.

  15. #15
    Hey ! Larry, I was trying to protect her identity! She is an inspiration to a creaky old guy; and that's good work ,too !

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