Urban Outfitters' Faux-Local NYC Storefront Isn't Ironic It's Pathetic
Un-ironic NYC, photo: David Trawin via flickr
This all just leaves me shaking my head before it falls into my hands: Urban Outfitters is opening three new stores in New York City this year (as if they need another branch, to join the Flintstone's background of Chase Bank, Duane Reade and Starbucks...) and the one at Broadway and 100th Street on the Upper West Side will get a faux-local treatment--the facade of the outlet being divided up to look like a hat shop, a hardware store, a bar and a bodega. Which all would be painful enough but is made all the worse when Ron Pompei, the creative director of the agency which designed the concept, opened his mouth:
The whole idea was to do this kind of ironic statement of lining the building with storefronts that would be reminiscent of independent businesses. It's the story about the streets of New York as they once were. (Wall Street Journal)
Plenty of places in New York City (even in Manhattan) still have local businesses. Maybe not too many hat shops (I can think of a few), but independent bodegas and bars are going strong, and though they aren't on every block there are enough local hardware stores.
This isn't about what once was, it's about what is and what only declines with the expansion with the increasing mall-ification of more and more places in the city, of which though Urban Outfitters may not be the height it is certainly solidly a symbol.
It's uniformity masquerading as diversity and then putting on a new costume to hide it, all of which fools nobody who pauses for more than a moment to consider it.
Suburban housing developments named after the thing that they replaced (The Pines, Watson Farm, Oak Glen), outdoor private shopping malls pretending to be functioning public town streets (Town Commons), chain store facades paying homage to the very thing they are destroying and then, essentially gloating about it.
It's Orwellian, or at least Bush-Cheneyian: We must destroy your country to liberate you. War is peace. National is local. A palm oil plantation is really a forest. A field of corn is prairie.
So maybe there is irony in this. Maybe in this case it's a tangled hierarchy of irony. A great retail swindle, with the creative agency pulling one over on the big corporate chain store, which is pulling one over on the public but not pretending to do otherwise, which then maybe means the agency is getting played too. At the end of the day we all get paid, right? Maybe that's really it.