The Exquisite Unnoticeableness of Slatwalls and Wire Racks

Ever heard of a slatwall trend-setter? When you’re out in a big store shopping for perfume, or something slightly more obscure, like kid gloves, it’s only understandable that you would image that the only things found inside with the ability to influence fashion trends, and paradigmatical shifts in what society deems to be acceptable or desirable, are the cotton, silk, and polyester garments hanging from the racks — if not the purple gator high-heel boots and purses. But the designer ready-to-wear items that make it into Italian Vogue, or into a chic Mexico City edition of Vanidades, are not the only discrete entities present to work influentially on fashion trends. Perhaps you’d like to take a closer peek at those apparently ordinary-looking retail shopping bags in which your exquisite cream-colored gloves were placed.

Of course, above, the compound term “fashion trend” should be understood to refer to “fashion” in its most general sense and use. The fact of the matter is that every single thing that meets your two good eyes, if you have them, has been influenced by previous trends and, as it presents itself to you, is in the midst of influencing the objects and arrangements that are yet to be. To write it out with a bit less periphrasis, the wire racks from which the luxurious garments hang are just as important as the smartly dyed and cut blouses, and other fine raiments.

Observable adornment comes in all imaginable forms, and if it goes unnoticed it is not because it is lacking, or because one is looking with insufficient care — although that does occur, sometimes — but because its very unnoticeableness is the culmination of a well-accomplished design purpose. That purpose would be retracting from the foreground in order to provide exquisite relief to things like silk handkerchiefs, or hand coverings made of the fine and variegated skins of slaughtered animals. It is by no means a haphazard occurrence that specialty boutiques and other mindful merchants spend so much time thinking through the semiotics of an apparently simple bulletin sign holder — both the sign and the holder present a message in the way they adorn one another.

Sam Walters is a writer living in Los Angeles. Her writing appears in print and online.

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