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The Crasstige Manifesto


A day will come when people will pay more -- by an order of magnitude, I expect -- for things that are not only well made and technologically sophisticated and desirable in the marketplace, but also intentionally crass and funny and ironic and over-engineered and technologically overblown and completely painful to look at.

I'm not talking about vintage revival, chuckle-inducing wagon-wheel coffee tables and 100-dollar torn t-shirts emblazoned with witticisms that elicit stares from fashionistas as they paw through the clothing racks at the upscale boutiques. I'm not talking about fashion shows where people parade down the runway with outfits that look like they're cobbled together with urinals and clothing dredged from dumpsters. I'm definitely not talking about gangsta styling with mass appropriation of high-value items that are then paraded through high-production-value videos on MTV to sell albums full of cringe-inducing props to Dom Perignon and Courvoisier.

For starters, I'm envisioning those who drive cars inspired by the Edsel or the Delorean, because it's crass enough to be cool. I'm envisioning people who spend vast quantities of money for clothes that are just so ugly it's like you're looking at a train wreck. I'm envisioning big hulks of stereo technology that completely dominate your living room, like modern sculpture on crystal meth.

In short, I'm envisioning people standing on the very edge of popular fashion and technological innovation, leaping off of it, landing flat on their face in the mud, rolling around in it, and making sure that everyone knows they paid through the nose for it.

This future trend would come to be known as crasstige. I've Googled the term and it hasn't appeared on the Internet -- until now. And as I'm the one throwing my stake in the ground, let's venture a real definition of the term:

crasstige (n., adj.):

1) a high-cost product that intentionally goes against the grain of popular taste and fashion in its design. Example: Wow, that $2,000 hat he bought is so ugly... It is completely crasstige.

2) a category of products that, when consumers purchase them, immediately broadcast their frustration with traditional notions of luxury. Example: Bob is a real crasstige sort of guy. He bought the Scion xQ with the argyle pattern.

But here's the twist -- the little quirk that makes the idea of crasstige so interesting and of-the-moment:

3) a mashup of attributes between different product categories, creating a new item that seems on the surface to lack functional utility. Example: That's some crasstige handbag you've got there... Yep, it's hip, it has a refrigerator compartment, a clock radio, it checks my stock prices, and I can plug in a little doodad that checks my blood sugar.

The idea of a mashup is so popular in digital culture, it's inevitable that it will bleed into manufactured objects. An item denoted as crasstige would cross boundaries between convenience and utility and product categories for no real reason other than to be crazy. There is no single utility from a truly crasstige item. It's the inverse of the orderly universe of an iPhone.

This is not the kind of trend that will just appear on the street in one year, fully baked. I'm thinking this is the kind of snowball-becomes-an-avalance thinking that will surface when we emerge from recession, as a kind of conspicuous consumption gone haywire, fed by small artisans and then major corporations who smell a trend and dive into it with ferocity.

Like most trend predictions, I hope this one falls by the wayside, never coming to pass. But if it does, let us be ready for the ferocious parade of scary manufactured goods that further contribute to the clutter of the world, and vote with our pocketbooks as designers for items that connote elegant form, utility and function, meaning and sustainability, and some measure of grace.

As designers that seek order and polish, this is a trend that we will passionately hate. So don't shoot the oracle.


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