Weekly Link Roundup

+ How Hermès Turned a Dog Collar Into a Bag (The New York Times): “In 1923, the house … introduced a collection of dog collars, which were elaborately decorated with leather studs, metal looped rings and fringed trimmings. They became so popular that women began wearing them as belts Now, Hermès is looking back to those archival collars with the launch of its new Mini Médor Crin bag. Cinched like a sheaf of wheat, the tote is layered with blond horsehair shaped by a master wigmaker, while palladium-finished metal cabochons accent its calfskin belt. (It also comes in a black version with golden pyramid studs.) With its sensible leather strap and fringelike adornment recalling a flapper’s dress, the carryall encapsulates the Roaring Twenties while also paying homage to the brand’s equestrian roots: After all, as the company has noted, its first client was a horse.”

+ Why Luxury Brands Are Pivoting to Athletes (The Business of Fashion): “Looking to broaden their appeal in the all-important market and mitigate the risks associated with scandal-prone celebrities from the world of entertainment, brands see athletes as more wholesome and disciplined alternatives … sports stars typically promise brands enviable physiques to show off their clothes, shaped through hard work, grit and determination, and are also usually from more relatable backgrounds than performers … With so much institutional investment in sport, China is producing a greater number of high-calibre sports stars.”

+ Erewhon’s Secrets (The Cut): “Something has been worked out here, some mystery solved, in the 57 years since Erewhon came into being. Someone has seen past what we say we want to whatever it is we will actually buy, a process of discovery that began with Japanese utopians and progressed to $40 jars of sea-moss gel … it is not, and has never been, just a grocery store. It exists within, and has always occupied, a space between commerce and cult … Every Erewhon is different, but they are all deeply comforting, sanitized simulacra of their respective neighborhoods.”

+ No, I Don’t Want to Join Your Book Club (The Wall Street Journal): “Though traditional book clubs have been a fixture of American social life for decades, some bibliophiles think they have lost the plot. These bookworms don’t want to read books that don’t interest them. Even worse is recommending a book the rest of the group hates. They dread the scheduled dinners where they feel bound to dish up smart-sounding hot takes, along with a side or dessert … More people of all ages are gathering to read silently or discuss books they’re reading on their own.”

+ Meet The Gentle Parenting Dropouts (Romper): “Gentle parenting, aka intentional, mindful, or respectful parenting, is a set of principles and practices … more clearly defined by what it is not than what it is. Gentle parenting is not shouting, bribing, or threatening. It is not being heated or reactive in response to a child’s behavior. It’s not rushing a child through the firestorm of emotions that trigger a tantrum in order to, say, convince them that an unfamiliar pasta shape will not harm them … The gentle parent is supposed to be more curious about the motivations and emotions underpinning an obnoxious behavior than in only curbing the behavior. Simply tearing the forbidden iPad from their little hands will not help the child learn to tolerate the uncomfortable feelings surrounding the end of screen time … Gentle parenting can also be very, very tiring. Add a rigorous layer of self-regulation to the task of nudging a kid toward socially acceptable behavior and now the work never ends. When the tantrum ends, you play back the tape, see how you did. The mental browser tab never closes … When it comes to how we raise kids, two things can be true: Gentle parenting is a tender, thoughtful way to parent, and it’s just not for everyone.”

+ How Can ‘Absurd’ Luxury Prices be Justified? (The New York Times): “… average luxury prices are up by 25 percent since 2019. Many brands attribute their increases to everything from inflation and the balancing out of regional price disparities to the fallout of the pandemic and impact of the war in Ukraine. But for many luxury fashion brands, the uptick has been taking place over a longer timeline … the top 5 percent of luxury clients now account for more than 40 percent of sales for most luxury goods brands. As wealth inequality increases globally, luxury brands are doubling down on an ever smaller slice of their clientele … quarter of a trillion [dollars] … have been wiped off the value of Europe’s seven biggest luxury businesses since April, and sales are generally down across most fashion groups. That is the aspirational middle class stepping away from the credit card machine.”

+ Would Higher Wages Break Fast Fashion’s Business Model? (The Business of Fashion): “Though the modern apparel industry has helped lift millions out of poverty in sourcing hubs like Bangladesh, it also rests on a pyramid of exploitation with low-paid workers at its base. Brands squeeze factories to produce new trends as quickly and cheaply as possible. Factories in turn squeeze workers on wages. Historically, when prices rise, brands jump to another manufacturing location where costs are lower … The issue is particularly fraught at the moment because of the gloomy global economic backdrop and a tense run-up to national elections in Bangladesh early next year. The garment industry accounts for 16 percent of the country’s GDP and manufacturing and politics are tightly bound. Last month, the country’s apparel exports fell 14 percent compared to a year earlier … there is room for price increases that would support better salaries; worker pay still only accounts for a relatively small proportion of production costs, making up one to two percent of a garment’s total retail price … Materials, marketing and retail are much more significant … high wages wouldn’t break the fast fashion model, but it would need to bend, redistributing the balance of power and profits along the value chain.”

+ I’ve read this story before: Industrious Chinese immigrants “sacrifice” their own interests so their child may assimilate more easily into American culture, then act dismayed when the child grows into an adult who is detached from their cultural heritage. Every character in Paper Names, Susie Luo’s debut novel, is an archetype: a good-on-paper 1.5 gen offspring who never connected with her parents’ culture; an incessantly critical (and occasionally abusive) immigrant tiger dad; an enabling, acquiescent Asian mom who mostly exists in the background (and is always cooking); a white savior figure (actually, there was more than one)…

Paper Names bills itself as a book that explores what it means to be an American, but to have one of three main perspectives come from a predatory, avoidantly-attached scion of a Madoff-esque family is a curious choice. The book takes on weighty subjects like identity, family ties, and generational trauma, but fails to create compelling relationships that allow for those themes to be meaningfully explored: Every interaction is stilted, and every vignette exists in isolation. The “main” relationship between the immigrant father and daughter leaves the reader feeling cold, which makes the “shocking” plot point at the end ineffectual.

But the book really jumped the shark for me about 3/5 of the way through with the reveal of the (SPOILER!) February-May romance (ick). A lesser annoyance for me is the randomly-placed pinyin throughout the book (e.g., “jing jiang pork shreds”… why not “Jingjiangrousi or just say sautéed pork in sweet bean sauce). Why make the reader work for something so inconsequential?

If you are looking for a book to be mad at, try Paper Names.

+ Why DTC Companies Should Avoid Venture Capital (The Business of Fashion): “When venture investors take control of your company, the power balance changes and they can push you to do things that might not make sense for its long-term viability. They are incentivised to push companies to grow at all costs, even if it means pushing them to the brink. Their model works even when just one in ten of their investments achieves a billion-dollar exit as that rare, outsized return makes up for all of the losses on many more failed investments … an entrepreneur … [has] a portfolio of exactly one company and your return is based on the success of that company alone. You can’t afford to gamble the entire future of your company.”

+ ‘We Do Not Want to Deal With Customers Like You!’ (The Atlantic): “… the majority of reviews provide no ‘actionable’ information, and many are just noise … Dragon Lee doesn’t slam all reviewers. As far as I could tell, the restaurant is selective about going on the offensive against Google reviewers whose complaints lack coherence or credibility. More measured critiques tend to receive apologies, even gratitude … reputation-management companies unsurprisingly recommend a more measured response.”

+ Body Horror (The Cut): “By her own estimates … Grawe performed around 1,100 surgeries a year. Inevitably, several of these patients eventually found each other. After a 2019 breast lift and failed revision surgery … 37-year-old Jessica Calcara … co-created a private Facebook group for fellow former patients titled, ‘Enough is Enough. Have You Been a Victim of Dr. Roxy?’ The group began in December 2022 and quickly gathered about 2,500 members. Some were just curious rubberneckers; some were self-identified medical professionals who apparently wanted to spread a little information about what was ‘normal’ and what wasn’t. Several more were patients who felt heartsick and betrayed.”

+ Confessions of a Viral AI Writer (Wired): “… writers … brought up a problem they’d encountered: When they asked AI to produce language, the result was often boring and cliché-ridden … ChatGPT’s bad writing was probably a result of OpenAI fine-tuning it for one purpose, which was to be a good chatbot … a good chatbot’s purpose was to follow instructions. Either way, ChatGPT’s voice is polite, predictable, inoffensive, upbeat. Great characters, on the other hand, aren’t polite; great plots aren’t predictable; great style isn’t inoffensive; and great endings aren’t upbeat … If writing is my attempt to clarify what the world is like for me, the problem with AI is not just that it can’t come up with an individual perspective on the world. It’s that it can’t even comprehend what the world is.”

+ How to Hijack a Quarter of a Million Dollars in Rare Japanese Kit Kats (The New York Times): ” ‘strategic theft,’”’ a growing corner of the criminal world that the F.B.I. has said accounts for some $30 billion in losses a year — with food being among the top targets … The Bokksu Kit Kats are just one instance of an increasingly common computer-based form of fraud that some experts call ‘fictitious pickups or ‘strategic theft.’ It’s part identity theft, part extortion. The freight, sometimes called a ‘hostage load,’ can vanish if the extortion demands are not met … strategic cargo theft is up 700 percent this year.”

+ One City’s Surprising Tactic to Reduce Gun Violence: Solving More Nonfatal Shootings (The Marshall Project): “Police generally clear about half of homicides by arresting a suspect … But when the victim survives, departments in some cities make an arrest in fewer than 1 in 10 shootings … Denver … has set out to end the disparity between how police treat homicides and near-homicides. And other cities are taking notice … Inconsistent policing of gun violence also undermines any role the justice system plays as a deterrent, since evidence shows the certainty of punishment is more important than its severity for discouraging reoffending.”

+ Recently purchased: guyueqiqin Lace Shirt, Sunday Best Virtue Dress, Topshop Oversize Cable Knit Sweater, Sézane Melvin Jumper, J.Crew Cotton Turtleneck Sweater in Stripe, J.Crew Cable-Knit Crewneck Sweater, Amazon Essentials Knit Henley Sweatshirt Dress, UGG Seamed Shearling Lined Gloves, Varley Demi Half-Zip Knit Pullover, Old Navy Long Sherpa Parka, Banana Republic Trueno Pleated Skirt, and Nike Free Metcon 5 Training Shoe.

Have a good week, everyone!

Hi, I am Elle!

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