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The revolution will be commercialized

Posting in Design

A little reflection on a Monday: Remember the 60s? The early 70s? The Summer of Love? Flower Power? Hippies?

For you millennials, maybe you've read about them in a book, or more likely, seen pictures of them on a smartphone app. Or perhaps your mom or dad or your weird Aunt Stardust have bored you to tears with stories of how they used to make their tie-dyed t-shirts rather than buy them for an inflated price from a chi chi boutique or even a tacky souvenir shop.

You might see where I'm going with this story: Capitalism has beaten the old counter cultural revolution. Co-opted it. Sucked it right up. Bought it out. Not a bad move really, but still one to contemplate for the history tomes and the business books.

Most of us have known this for a while. It became clear to me when I lived in San Francisco in the 90s. By that time, the beaded, bearded, bellbottomed corner of Haight and Ashbury - the epicenter of the whole 1960s thing -  featured a Gap chain store and a Ben and Jerry's ice cream outlet, now part of the giant Unilever corporation, otherwise known as purveyors of Brylcreem, VO5 shampoo, Dove soap and Hellman's mayonnaise. 

I was reminded of all that this morning when I was reading Women's Wear Daily and I spotted this headline: Haute Hippie Opens on Sunset Blvd. (I have no idea why I was reading WWD, other than the Internet takes us to places we've never been before).

Haute Hippie is a budding New York fashion house that has now made a West Coast foray with its new digs on the world famous L.A. street in trendy West Hollywood. I wasn't familiar with them, so I checked out their website, which tells me that they are "the articulation of a global nomad's mindset and lifestyle," whatever that is. I also learned that they make "instantly wearable" clothing. Instantly wearable? What a great breakthrough! I hate it when I buy a shirt that has to age six months before I can thrust my arms through its sleeves.

But what really catches my attention is the name. "Haute" and "Hippie" go together in the same way "Haight” and "Gap" do. Once upon a time the combinations would have been a juxtaposition. Today they reflect how counter culture is hardly counter at all, but is all business in our global economy. I've always associated "haute" with "pricey" – haute cuisine, haute couture and now, presumably, haute hippie. 

There's an old Black Power song from Gil Scott-Heron that said The Revolution Will Not Be Televised. Well, at least one revolution has been commercialized.

Make money, not war!


Photo: David Yu

— By on December 2, 2013, 9:39 AM PST

Mark Halper

Contributing Editor

Mark Halper has written for TIME, Fortune, Financial Times, the UK's Independent on Sunday, Forbes, New York Times, Wired, Variety and The Guardian. He is based in Bristol, U.K. Follow him on Twitter. Disclosure