The internet went into hysterics after pictures surfaced of actress India Menuez sporting a cream-cheese bagel as a purse at the premiere of Baz Luhrmann’s Chanel No.5-inspired film, The One That I Want. It was not the carb couture itself that elicited intrigue, but the Chanel medallion dangling from the strange bag. Several magazines and blogs heralded the item as the newest of Karl Lagerfeld’s genius creations including Racked, who published an article with the headline, ‘How Can we Buy This Chanel Bagel Clutch Right Now?’ Bloggers and Chanel enthusiasts would be disappointed to learn that this bagel bag they have come to admire and covet is not in fact a bag, but a sculpture by Canadian artist Chloe Wise.
Entitled, Bagel No.5, a satirical reference to the iconic perfume Chanel No.5, the cream-cheese bagel exists as part of Wise’s sculptural series that integrate various forms of bread with different designer hardware. Included in the series is a challah with two large straps on either side, stamped with a triangular Prada label called, Ain’t No Challah Back(pack) Girl. Wise’s intriguing sculptures tackle the themes of banality and frivolity often ascribed to designer items. The concept of a food item as an accessory turns from outright absurd to utterly magnificent with the mere addition of a notable logo. Wise’s duping the Internet demonstrates the way the credulous masses will flock towards anything because it is branded – a literal stamp signifying high fashion’s metaphorical stamp of approval.
Wise’s work further comments on the commodification of identity. Her choice of synthetic bread as an artistic material underscores her commentary on high-end fashion products operating as status symbols. Upon contemplating the medium, one thinks of the concept ‘breadwinner’, the money-earner, as well as ‘dough’, a slang term for cash. In a similar way that her bread bags highlight the commodification of women’s status and identity, her ‘Irregular Tampon’ series speaks to the commodification of female individuality. A satirical spin off of tampon adverts that tout a variety of tampons catering to different types of girls, Wise creates non-functional tampons out of various materials. Wise presents the quinoa tampon for healthy girls, along with a slew of other inane varieties.
While commodification is a ubiquitous phenomenon, Wise’s oeuvre is distinctly focused on conventionally female products, such as purses and tampons. This is hardly surprising given the fact that fashion, consumerism and frivolity have been gendered female. While both females and males have been guilty of falling into consumerist traps, as well as participating within the field of fashion, the vain woman shopaholic stereotype persists, while men remain virtually free from such derogatory depictions.