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As kinky as it gets

Top luxury brands are pushing the edge with all manner of oddities

 

Just who exactly does "The Man Who Has Everything" think he is? And does he know how much he has to answer for?

It must surely be this most consummate of consumer who haunts the minds of the designers du jour as they toil in the ivory towers of the luxury brand houses - especially when their fancies take flight to the farthest shores of brand extension and all manner of oddities, objets d'art and arcane artefacts are emblazoned with luxury's sacred seals.

What do you get The Man Who Has Everything? Why, the Versace Bondage Bench, of course, as unveiled to a coterie of cognoscenti by Donatella Versace at Salone del Mobile, part of Milan Design Week 2013, recently. It is the work of the Haas Brothers, the prodigies who also gave us the Stud Club Chair, Honeycomb Side Table, and - cue chorus of cherubim and seraphim, god rays and gratuitous lens flare - the Donatella Chair.

The Brethren Haas are very much in the House. Very now. Their stuff is name-checked in Mario Testino shoots and devoured by Peter Marino, the uber-interiors architect and ur-leather queen whose rubbery touch can be felt in the Big Apple's swankiest luxury flagship stores.

Your Honour, might we approach the Bench? It looks too frail to unleash any seriously kinky stuff upon, and its oiled black leather, vestigial studs and taut straps look far too expensive to risk staining.

Perhaps its sole purpose is simply to invite contemplation, comment and the occasional choked double entendre from the green-faced unfortunates who don't have one. An opiate of the bosses. To paraphrase Morrissey, another redundant luxury item: "Why ponder life's complexities when the leather runs smooth on the Bondage Bench?''

It's a dangerous game these brands are playing, however. No one really knows where the edge is, because those who went over it aren't around to tell us their tale. One minute you are the toast of cool hunters who look like The Village People, the next, you are jumping the Damien Hirst shark.

Louis Vuitton's wheelchair for Lady Gaga packed its valise for the outer banks of political incorrectness, while the luxury behemoth's US$8,000 skateboard case must surely let rip with an ironic cackle every time it's opened. Aston Martin went potty with a baby stroller; Harrods went one better with a line of "posh" pot noodles.

Even Hermès, the luxury fashion and leather goods titan named for the cleverest of the gods, trotted out a "magazine strip chair" cobbled from floor scraps and cast-offs, teetering on the smart side of Spinal Tap's famous "fine line between clever and stupid".

I'm prepared to give the Bondage Bench a pass, even if this from the Brothers Haas makes me want to bang my head against its buttery hide: "The process is very important to us," Nikolai and Simon tell style.com apparently in unison. "It starts with a spark of inspiration and then becomes a tangible form. Donatella was the spark, and this furniture collection is our interpretation of the legend and the house of Versace."

Spare us the spiel, boys, stick to furniture.

The Aristocrat

 

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