Mundane materials belie an eye-popping price.
As someone who buys most of his clothing at always-affordable Uniqlo, and usually when there’s a sale going on, I have to admit that some of the finer points of high fashion elude me. All the same, I realize that there’s a certain enjoyment fashionistas derive from owning the latest styles and expressing themselves through their wardrobe choices.
However, I’m having a lot of trouble wrapping my head around a new offering from Italian luxury brand Gucci.
The front of the Japanese-style uchiwa fan has an owl staring knowingly out at the world and the word “loved” written on its wooden handle. Flip the fan over and you’ll see “Gucci” written in gigantic Japanese katakana script, and also in Latin letters on the handle.
On the company’s website, the description for the product, officially called the “Owl and Gucci print fan,” reads:
“A paper fan that was presented on the Spring Summer 2017 runway. One side depicts an owl and the other side has ‘Gucci’ written in Japanese. This fan was made by specialized artisans in Japan based on ancient Japanese designs.”
While the construction of the uchiwa is indeed traditional, calling its underpinnings “ancient” is sort of like making that claim about a spoon or a pair of socks. The fan isn’t so much a throwback to eras of the past as it is a simple, effective design that hasn’t required updating over the centuries. What’s more, the font for the katakana is decidedly modern-looking, and would be more fitting on a box of candy at the convenience store than a samurai lord’s calligraphy sample in a museum.
▼ Gucci’s U.S. website lists only the white version, but the Japanese site (which contains the same passage about being based on “ancient Japanese desgins,” also has a blue owl uchiwa.
Still, the owl is eye-catching, and the katakana is cute, so if one were looking to add a bit of playful Japanese flair to an ensemble, this made-in-Japan uchiwa wouldn’t be such a bad choice. So how much does Gucci want for this fan, which, once again, is made of paper?
Granted, as with most traditional Japanese accessories, the prices for uchiwa can rise to stratospheric levels depending on how old-school the production techniques are and how much cachet the craftsmen or their workshops have. Still, 250 bucks is a lot of money to drop on an uchiwa with a font that looks like something the local drugstore would use for promotional freebie fans to be handed out to passersby in the summer.
If you are going to spring for the owl uchiwa, though, I’d say choosing the blue one is a no-brainer. Not only does it add an air of exclusivity, it, like the white version, is listed for 28,080 yen on Gucci’s Japanese online shop (orders can be made here). At the current exchange rate, that works out to US$248.80, and you can put the $1.20 you save towards buying yourself a cold drink, lest you risk tearing the ultra-expensive fan’s paper by actually whipping it back and worth to cool yourself off.