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Gray Area Exhibition

Gray Area: Authenticity, Value, and Subversion in Fashion  Exhibition, New York, NY. January 2019.

Gray Area: Authenticity, Value, and Subversion in Fashion Exhibition, New York, NY. January 2019.

About

Co-curated by eight M.A. Costume Studies students, Gray Area: Authenticity, Value, and Subversion in Fashion featured a series of case studies that explore the complexity of the fashion system, and the ways in which clothing and accessories are deemed to possess—or lack—the intangible traits that foster desire and cultural value at any given moment. The stories that were presented are indicative of the layered and nuanced narratives that have always been inextricably linked to the study of fashion.

Aanchal’s curatorial contribution to the exhibition, Off The Brandwagon, focused on the work of the artist Ari Saal Forman, with a vignette exploring sneaker culture, brand subversion, and crossover between fashion and fine art.

In addition to being the co-curator, she was also the Digital Media Manager and was responsible for the website, social media platforms, and other collaborative tasks.

For more information on the exhibition, please visit https://grayareanyu.com/

Off The Brandwagon

Although sneaker culture has existed for decades, it has become a pervasive force within contemporary fashion. Lines to score coveted new sneakers form overnight, and the desire for exclusivity creates an innately competitive market. Designer Ari Saal Forman rightly notes that today’s logo-clad sneakers are a significant form of advertising for many brands. In 2006, Forman’s astute observation led him to create the Menthol 10 sneakers. The shoes, which capitalize on the intrinsic similarities between Nike and Newport’s respective “swoosh” and “spinnaker” logos, are modeled after Nike Air Force 1s, and possess a color scheme and packaging that echoes Newport’s white and green menthol cigarette packages. After the sneakers launched, Nike and Newport sent cease and desist letters to Forman. Now, only 252 pairs of the Menthol 10s are in existence, yet they continue to draw attention and highlight fascinating paradoxes. “The package costs way more than the sneaker did, and intentionally so,” Forman stated. In making this choice, Forman highlighted the current state of brand marketing and pervasive lack of conscious consumerism, while implicitly asking whether customers value brand recognition above all else. Today, a pair of Menthol 10 sneakers can cost up to $9,999 on the resale market—far more than an authentic, and even rare, pair of Nike Air Force 1s, which in one recent case cost $4,900. The Menthol 10s are not just a Nike bootleg. Instead, they are a social statement capable of sparking an important conversation about how value is ascribed within fashion.

Menthol 10s Sneakers and Box , Ari Saal Forman, 2006. Courtesy of Private Collection. Photographed by Aanchal Bakshi for NYU Costume Studies, 2018. Image © Aanchal Bakshi.

Menthol 10s Sneakers and Box, Ari Saal Forman, 2006. Courtesy of Private Collection. Photographed by Aanchal Bakshi for NYU Costume Studies, 2018. Image © Aanchal Bakshi.