What’s This? Comics and Designer Fashion?

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I’ve noticed this as I’ve walked around downtown the last couple weeks, but yesterday I finally thought to bring a camera. The setting: the ground floor of the Fox Tower in Portland’s shopping district, an upscale building that includes the Ringside steakhouse, a Regal Cinemas specializing in foreign and independent films, a Banana Republic, a fancy delicatessen, and Mario’s, a designer clothing store with two locations in Portland and one in Seattle. The deal: the two sides of the building with Mario’s display windows are suddenly filled with DC Comics, specifically pages from Paul Levitz’s 75 Years of DC Comics: The Art of Modern Mythmaking.

As you might imagine, the first time I saw it, it stopped me in my tracks. Designer fashion and superhero comics, or any comics for that matter, is not a pairing that I can recall ever being confronted with. It’s sort of a weird mix, one I’m not sure I know what to make of exactly. On the one hand, I suppose it casts comics as a generic pop-culture backdrop, a colorful splash of nostalgia against which gray suits can stand out, your mileage may vary. On the other hand, it does posit this $200 book as an upscale item for sophisticated people who drop lots of money on clothes. In any event, it makes a pretty bold and eye-catching display which surprised me on more than one encounter. See for yourself:

As I was taking photos, a store employee named Michael came out and asked me if I’d like a better view of the setup. Showing me into the display case, he explained that Mario’s always aims for unusual window displays, utilizing unexpected elements to offset the clothing. Having the book available, the store decided to run with 75 Years of DC Comics and build a display around it.

It wasn’t clear to me if Mario’s was actually selling the book, though there were several copies throughout the store. However, Michael showed me a box of postcards with vintage DC art on them, which was for sale.

All in all, it was a weird experience walking past aisles of clothes I can’t afford and glimpsing images of DC Comics of yore. I still haven’t decided if Mario’s is using comics as ironic kitsch or cool bits of culture, but either way it was fun to see them outside of their usual context and imagine people walking down the street wondering what Mister Miracle or Doom Patrol are.

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3 Responses to “What’s This? Comics and Designer Fashion?”

  1. maka Says:

    That’s strange. :)

  2. Comics: ironic kitsch or cool bits of culture? | Robot 6 @ Comic Book Resources – Covering Comic Book News and Entertainment Says:

    […] editor Brendan Wright noticed that Mario’s, a designer clothing store in Portland, Oregon, is using art from Paul Levitz’s 75 Years of DC Comics in its window displays. It’s an interesting juxtaposition of comics and fashion, made more fascinating by […]

  3. Patrick Angus Says:

    Brendan –

    Hey there, this is coming to you from Patrick Angus; I’m the Creative Director and book buyer – another weird mix – at Mario’s. Your blog entry was just sent to me from a contact at Taschen. I thought I would offer you my explanation as to how the worlds DC Comics and high end fashion collided in the windows at Mario’s. I’ve been responsible for the windows here at Mario’s for more than 10 years and even though a great deal of our clothing has serious prices we try not to take ourselves too seriously. Though our economic circumstances might vary, much of our pop culture backgrounds have the same foundation. This is especially true for Baby Boomers, of which I just barely can call myself. This pop culture past figured into my windows from the start when I teamed up with EC Comics to showcase Alfred E. Neuman and Mad Magazine through the decades. In the intervening years we’ve showcased The Beatle’s Yellow Submarine, Love is.., vintage records, classic candies, Andy Warhol’s soup can dress and everyone’s sentimental favorite toy, the sock monkey. We believe that we are a part of each city’s downtown landscape and we enjoy sharing our windows. No doubt that many viewers see DC and the like as kitsch. Those that took the time to look over the covers on display would quickly see how our world was indeed reflected in that amazing artwork – from the Second World War to the late 1960’s counter-culture. Our clothing is equally as ephemeral, but it to can say volumes about our society and how we both see and present ourselves. I’m glad we got your attention and you made it into the store. And just in case you haven’t obtained a copy, the book is indeed available for purchase. All the best.

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