What does a run on Missoni say about us?

  • Article by: JAMES LILEKS , Star Tribune
  • Updated: September 15, 2011 - 8:35 PM

Target announced that it would sell Missoni and sold out in a day. Do you have any Missoni? No? Some possible reasons why you are Missoni-deprived:

1. You got to the store too late. Thought you could waltz in at 9:23 a.m. Everything was gone, purchased by shoppers who camped out at Target at 5 a.m., threw a few elbows when the store opened to winnow out the halt and infirm, flattened three clerks on the way back to the Missoni section, threw as much as they could in a cart, and pushed their way to the checkout singing "Ride of the Valkyries" from Wagner's opera.

2. You went to Target.com along with several million other Missoni-seekers and crashed the site. Panicked technicians watched as the site was bombarded with traffic: It's the mid-level price point sale on Missoni we've all feared! We've run simulations, but this is way beyond anything we expected! Look out, lads, she's gonna blow! Two servers in Oklahoma did explode, scattering e-mail addresses within a three-mile radius.

Too bad about the site crashing, but it was so frustrating for you! Everything was sold out. Even the Missoni theoretical faster-than-light subatomic particle ($29.99, instant shipping) -- sold out. The Missoni dental floss: Forget about it. The rugs, the vases, the throw pillows, the deliberately placed pillows, the pillows you put on top of the other pillows you put on the bed in the morning and take off at night -- sold out. It's enough to make a person do a Web search for "Fake Missoni" and buy something that looks identical, but then if someone asked "is that a Missoni?" you'd have to lie, or say "well, it's inspired by Missoni," and your friend would nod, sad that it has come to this for you.

3. You have no idea what Missoni is. A car? Some new kind of yogurt? You're just adjusting to the fact that all yogurt seems compelled to point out it's Greek, for some reason. They say Greek yogurt is noted for creaminess, but you know, it's not like ordinary yogurt is like chewing cold taffy. You think it's just marketing. Anyway, Missoni what?

4. You have seen these things that bear the Missoni name, and you think they're hideous. Colors that haven't spoken to each other in years, in zigzag patterns that look like bathroom wallpaper from a 1978 disco, or a dress Mary Tyler Moore wore in that episode where she threw a bad party and Johnny Carson showed up. Did we learn nothing from the '70s?

The Great Missoni Panic of 2011 probably says nothing about our times at all, but this is the point where the columnist attempts to extract Deep Meaning from it all. Possibly even a Troubling Implication. This is where someone from the U of M's Department of Overthinking Things enters the column, and says "the pursuit of brand-name goods in a period of economic contraction speaks to our need for status recognition at a time when the traditional markers of class identity have been eroded by a decade of stagnant -- say, did you say Missoni? For how much? Get out."

There is no deeper meaning, except perhaps A) popular stuff is more popular if you knock the price down, and B) our beloved home-grown retailer has positioned itself so perfectly over the years that trendy things do not lose their cachet if they're hawked down the aisle from Market Pantry Breaded Cod Wads.

I went to Target to check out the aftermath, expecting the place in shambles, a clerk cowering under a cart for safety, muttering that they were more like beasts than humans, National Guardsmen protecting the empty shelves from people who just wanted to touch the spot where The Holy Missoni had been kept. But no. Retail, like nature, abhors a vacuum, and the shelves were full of other things. I asked a clerk where the Missoni was, expecting a brief flare of panic in her eyes, but I think she misheard me, as she pointed back to electronics. My Sony, your Sony, whatever.

It's like it never happened. I wanted to see a mom with a young kid: Here's where the Missoni would be, if they had any. Remember this day, my child. Will it ever come again, Mommy? Will we ever see Missoni? Yes. I have faith. Is that what you named the new baby after, Mommy? Ashely Missoni? Yes. Now let's finish our shopping, Michael Graves. Life goes on.

jlileks@startribune.com • 612-673-7858 More daily at startribune.com/popcrush.

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