29 11 / 2011

…and you have a weak stomach, are epileptic, or make less than six-figures, stop dead in your tracks. This is a spoiler alert. It will make you vomit and convulse in frugal indigation. So instead of wasting a subway swipe on a big letdown, I’ve covered it here. Last week, a few friends and I made a pilgrimage to Barney’s to visit the retail temple of Gagaloo after a mess of fashion-blog hype. The very night before, Barney’s hosted a midnight-ribbon cutting ceremony for the beautiful people who can afford the displayed inventory and the dedicated little monsters who just couldn’t wait to shop the hallowed floor of Gaga-branded glory. While, thanks to an advanced preview, we knew there would be absolutely nothing reasonable at the Gags’ high-end pop-up, we expected a spectacle worthy of the Lady herself. The bloggerati set expectations high, forecasting a display that incorporated life-size replicas of Gaga’s boudoir constructed from her recycled wig hair, and overall, making it sound like a theme park of the pop absurd. Reality is always a letdown, and the same was true for the shop of our first lady of fantasy. An arrangement of vaguely Tim Burton/Seuss-esque installations read more “Toys R Us” than avant-garde theme park. The main statue is a pink-chain barricaded giant GaGa statue surrounded by black shards of glass and crystal, large enough to invite fantasies of coming alive and wreaking havoc on Midtown New York, Godzilla style.

(Scale of me and Sam to Gag-zilla; Photo Credit, Neil Chiragdin)

The journey began with Gaga’s sweetshoppe, a collection of haute couture-priced edibles. And none of them contained pot, sadly. But for the prices, you could be fooled.

(Photo Credit, Neil Chiragdin)

15-dollar Philip Treacy Telephone Hat cookie. Just gonna take a shot in the dark and say it looks better than it tastes. 15 bucks down your esophagus. But it pales in comparison to the crown jewel of the sweet section…

(Photo Credit, Neil Chiragdin)

95-dollar lobster-claw shoe inspired by the prolific Alexander McQueen heels worn in Bad Romance. Some filthy rich little monster is gonna have the coolest chocolate bunny on the block. And then it is destined to melt into 95 dollars of chrome-colored sugar. While perusing these nuggets, this piece was of particular interest to fellow shoppers. Middle-aged women with Macy’s bags and midwestern blowouts exclaimed over the craftsmanship of these, and then caught sight of the price sticker, quickly shooing their teenage daughters away to avoid any admonition for a stocking stuffer.

Onto the apparel. I strongly caution those who are thinking of taking Acid and going to Gaga’s workshop not to do so because of the following. You are walking into a bad trip. Behold the terrifying display racks:

(Photo Credit, Neil Chiragdin)

Something for each member of the family— leather jackets for men, women, and children, and onsies for the innocent newborn little monsters. Because it’s never too early to introduce your child to disco sticks and leather. Speaking of leather, I tried on a jacket, attempting to pick up one piece of Gaga-phernalia in each section of the store and take a master picture at the end. I was thwarted by sales people that asked me too many questions, instilling poor-guilt in me. This is essentially as far as I made it: a bandana and a jacket.

(Photo Credit, Neil Chiragdin)

The bulk of the floor is populated with tchotchkies of Marc Jacobs accessory store quality for Barney’s prices. That pouch is 65 dollars, and I’m pretty sure I saw the same thing on Bleecker street, and something similar as a game prize on the Seaside Heights boardwalk. But onward we trudge…

(Photo Credit, Neil Chiragdin)

Now to the books and novelties. Here I am showing my best side with one of the items that is actually kind of a justifiable purchase— if it were twenty dollars, which it is not. And while I’d relish in the freedom to dress up magnet gaga in anachronistic, mismatched ensembles, I feel like I couldn’t really make her look much more out there than Nicola Formichetti does. So wha’eva, 65 dollars saved.

Moving on, we came to the most pricey department of Gaga-land. This part involved glass cases, and made its message clear— stay back, plebs. One of the encased goodies is a white hoof boot, identical to the ones that Gaga wears all the time. While the salesperson was adamant about letting me know that they were “handmade and shipped from Japan,” not to mention in incredibly limited stock, they cost $4,000. Thus, my initial zeal to try on a pair of shoes that I have gazed at and wondered about from afar for years was snuffed out like a cigarette in dirty water. Although I usually have no qualms about trying on out-of-my-pricerange things with no intention of buying them, these items felt more inaccessable if it makes any sense. I would’ve anticipated a flat out “no” if I had asked to try them on.

And that is what the problem with Gaga’s Workshop is. It takes a genre of product that should be accessible and affordable and makes it aspirational. Lady Gaga, despite her musical chops or talent for “pop-cultural performance art”, has an obligation to her demographic as a mainstream artist. The teenage girls I saw snapping pictures of themselves in hairbows and spiked sunglasses weren’t taking the items to the register because her product isn’t affordable to her audience. And while this fanbase may range in socioeconomic status to those who can, she and her team have a duty not to rip off little girls and boys and Zeds(however you identify). Because if Gaga is being real when she admonishes everyone to love themselves “whether you’re broke or evergreen” she would stand up for her little monsters in the middle class. The amount of profit being made off of the product in Gaga’s workshop is egregious. Even if a quarter of the proceeds are being given to The Born This Way Foundation(which supports victims of bullying, a noble cause, but one that is very difficult to monetize) the 75 percent of revenue left over still means that the enterprise is shwimming in money. Even if Barney’s is the main profit-garnering entity behind this vomitrocious rip-off castle, Gaga has a responsibility to conscientiously object. Because if the goodies in her workshop are the ones on the playground being used to arbitrate the elementary school pecking order, it’s likely that her self-esteem message could become the very instrument of oppression.