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We get that a lot.
To “reference” means to use information in order to ascertain something.
To “have references” means to have proof that you know what you’re talking about—that you are who you say you are.
The actual Wikipedia page on “Reference” defines the word as “a relationship between objects in which one object designates, or acts as a means by which to connect to or link to, another object.”
We’re going back to the basics now because that feels appropriate for a post like this—but none of this was explicit in our minds when we decided to name our project “References.”
In fact, the inspiration was a lot more lowbrow.
1. Fun fact: The Wikipedia page with the most references is 2019 in home video.
When we started this project we explored all the possible ways to go about giving it a name.
Our background in tech didn’t help. Every known method to come up with a cool, appropriate name was triggering. Made-up words a la Google is (still!) the rule of the land, and unique-identifier word mashups a la Netflix seems to be the go-to route these days. Think of Facebook, Pinterest, Squarespace—or, to talk about the clothing space, look at ThredUp, Depop, or even Farfetch.22
The problem with this approach is, we thought: what if your “how it started” is Google but your “how it’s going” turns out to be Quibi?
Not that we didn’t try: there was a point in time when we seriously considered names like LESSENDS, FOREVERED, and NEXTLIFERS…
At first we went with STRING NYC; because it literally means “thread,” the duh reason, but mainly, the High Concept reason, as a reference to “Ariadne’s Thread.” The Greek myth of Ariadne and her ball of string that she gave to Theseus so he can navigate an impossible maze and be the first person to come out alive. An obvious-but-genius solution to a complicated problem. That’s us!
Turns out that name was taken—so we quickly COMMAND-Z’d the situation and, as we were deep in back-to-drawing-board mode (LESSENDS! FOREVERED! NEXTLIFERS!), on a Friday night, while watching RuPaul’s Drag Race and hearing drag queens break down their runway inspirations, one very familiar fashun term kept sounding more and more appealing:
“Tonight on the runway I’m referencing…”
“My outfit is a reference to…”
Ding ding ding.
THE CERULEAN SWEATER SPEECH
In one of the most famous scenes in fashion movie history, “The Devil Wears Prada,” Anne Hathaway’s
Vogue Runway Magazine intern giggles at an in-her-eyes bizarrely serious conversation about the difference between two belts that look almost the same.
“I’m still learning about all this stuff,” she says when her boss calls her out.
1 – Clothes are not just ‘stuff.’
2 – How things come to be and what happens to them matters, even if we don’t realize it, even if we never find out how. References matter.
The hashtag version of our mission is this: Know What Happens.
Know what happens in the designer studios where clothes are conceived, know what happens in the factories where clothes are made, and more literally, for us: know what happens to your clothes once you decide to get rid of them—because you gained or lost weight, because your style changed, because you’re ready to make money back from your investment pieces, or whatever may be.
There’s a lot of vague, hard-to-verify claims being made in today’s fashion55—and this project is above all a reëxamination of what we do with our ‘piles of stuff’ and how they affect the world around us.
Everything in fashion is a reference—from a Uniqlo undershirt to a Dior saddle bag.
To ‘speak’ those references means to know what to do.
So, again—to reference our own homepage:
We know what to do with your clothes 😉
1. Fun fact: The Wikipedia page with the most references is “2019 in home video“.
3. From The New York Times: Why We Cover High Fashion— “The ‘Devil Wears Prada’ argument does hold true: In a world where everything goes into the Instagram soup and from there seeps into the cultural digestive system, what might appear on a runway in the Musée Rodin (where Dior holds its shows) in July will affect what H&M does in August.”