“first lady of fabulous”
Object: Mighty Michelle Shopper ($11.99)
Location: Essene, 4th b/t Bainbridge and Monroe sts.
Background: The bag is made by Blue Q, a Pittsfield, Mass. novelty designer/manufacturer that produces bags, tin banks, lamps, hand sanitizer, and lots more, including a pack of “I Kissed A Republican” gum which probably should not be paired with the Michelle Shopper. Blue Q’s bags are made from 95% recycled post-consumer material.
British illustrator Fiona Hewitt created this image of Michelle on a play set, holding onto a swing with her signature buff arms while birds, butterflies, poufy clouds, and — wait a second, are those bubble tea beads? — float around her Disney-style.
The L.A. Times quotes the co-owner of Blue Q as saying, “We wanted to give [the bag] a fantasy feel, to have it embody the feeling of the country being on the upswing.” It’s true when you think back to 2008 that everything seemed rosy — Obama won the election and the Phillies won the World Series (after Lehman Bros. tanked, but even as late as November it was possible to believe everything might still end happily ever after).
Context: The branding of campaigns has become part and parcel of the political process in America. Accessories from Obama’s campaign bus to Rick Santorum’s sweater vest take on significance. A candidate’s staff scripts every nuance, and every nuance is combed for meaning.
But what about the novelties and souvenirs surrounding the campaigns? They seem to tell a different story — one that’s more authentic and reflective of the actual mood of a time period. The Michelle Shopper, an unofficial tchotchke with a heavy overlay of kitsch, gives a pretty realistic view of January 2008. I think it’d be interesting to compare the semiotics of the rogue design relating to a campaign to the campaign’s official branding and cultural markers.
A year after the inauguration (according to the LA. Times post), this bag was still one of Blue Q’s top sellers. I don’t know about today. On the verge of another Obama campaign, will Michelle get a second wind? After a rough four years, are we as attracted to kitsch or does the image of a carefree First Lady seem more off than campy? There were fewer Michelle Shoppers available at Essene than there were Shoppers decorated with inconsequential patterns. Of course, the deck is stacked at Essene.
I’d like to see what Fiona Hewitt and Blue Q might do with a Romney bag.(Does the Union League have a gift shop?)Pin It