As chubby kids, my twin brother and I enjoy taking the piss at each other that borders on domestic violence. Yes, shocking, I do have a twin. And just as sibling stupidity goes, it can cross the line.
The line we particularly enjoy crossing is when the other, face flushed red and is noticeably about to erupt in anger, explodes when the antagonist raises a simple thumbs-up. This isn’t like any ordinary thumbs-up, dear thumb aficionados. It starts with the fist hovering over the navel and the erected thumb is excruciatingly extended out to the victim’s face. This is a flagrant disregard to the bro’s, already, negative chakra. He loses his shit. Win.
My brother and I unknowingly rebranded the thumbs-up in our vast, meaningless world. We just reduced it to a PR value of minus-whatever. Unlike other thumbs-up with a PR value of, say, 10, it was so easy to cut the positive notion of a thumbs-up down to size. This was our design.
But have you ever wondered how the act of raising a thumb symbolises approval? Neither have I. Really now, how did a meaningless gesture become universally meaningful? Come on, it’s a thumb.
I consider two key ingredients when creating meaning from otherwise meaningless things: a pronounced experience and, its catalyst, emotions.
Just like how the design of a thumbs-up and -down came to form—reportedly to end or spare the life of gladiators in Ancient Rome—works of art are judged by our relation to it. Remember that painting by South African artist, Irma Stern, which was purchased for SGD4.8 million by an auction house in the Middle East? I don’t. But then why does the Mona Lisa make us feel these things inside of that thing? Visceral stuff.
In our By Design issue, we take a look at the world’s most familiar design industry, fashion, to discover how it impacts our culture and, ultimately, itself. And who better to teach us about this complex terrain other than, international male model, Mr Zoolander himself. To delve deeper into the reality of it all, Ben Stiller takes us behind-the-scenes of how exactly out of control the world it satirises is. Bonus: see how local thespian Shane Mardjuki takes on the Blue Steel.
But we aren’t sitting by idly watching the fashion world, seemingly, changing course while becoming more self-aware. We were part of it. Our Stylist, Eugene Lim, headed to Milan for an exclusive photo essay on Ralph Lauren’s private palazzo. I also had the opportunity to head to Milan, but this time for Dolce & Gabbana’s haute couture show that ended up with Domenico Dolce in tears. From Milan to Paris and New York, we scoured the fashion capitals of the world for the latest in today’s style.
There’s more. A lot more. I’ll leave the thumbing to you.