Feb 272012

In my recurring theme of form versus function, I noticed these images from Paris designer Juri Zaech, which I think of as a kind of inkblot test. If you think the image above is generally pretty cool, you might tend to prioritize form over function. If, on the other hand, looking at that “bike” is the visual equivalent of listening to Nickleback for you, then you must have the same visual compulsive disorder that I do. I don’t necessarily “dislike” the image above. It’s more accurate to say it “bugs shit out of me.” I believe the technical term is “gives me the willies.” Disturbing. I don’t know why, but something about completely disconnected bike tubes floating around really bothers me. Would it have been so tough to maybe add paint to the frame and fill in those structurally missing sections? It might make these “word bikes” less “whimsical,” but at least I wouldn’t want to hunt down the artist and force him to weld something.

Here’s another one. Check out this photo:

Fashionable young woman on a fashionable bicycle, or pre-sparkling hippie Nosferatu for a new HBO “True Blood/Sex in the City” crossover project? It just so happens you’re looking at the first bicycle by fashion house Dolce and Gabbana. You’re welcome. Clearly nothing stood in the way of Yo Gabbana Bana’s pursuit of fashion on this bike, including taste and what I can only describe as “bike-ness.” If ever there was a bike for people who frequently get shit caught in their chains, this is it. According to the author of the article, the Editor/Test Rider was quoted as saying, “This bike is absolutely gorgeous! I’m totally besotted! I want one!”

Besotted, indeed.

Quick tip for you fashionistas out there who just have to have it, but can’t pony up the suspected $1000k premium upcharge for a bike made by people who specialize in making sunglasses for muppets: go to Wal-Mart, buy a bicycle for under $100 and some sweet leopard print yoga pants. Everybody knows DIY is the new black, and exactly nothing is more DIY than artisanally resewn animal print yoga pant bicycle tubing covers. So much cheaper than the custom paint applied to this garbage scow of a bike, plus you might be able to find florescent green leopard print (the “Holy Grail of leopard prints). Sure, the Dolt Cabana mobile can technically “function” as a bicycle, but it’s the form here that will clearly be moving units, so to speak.

Finally, ponder your own feelings about this device, which takes the raw functionality of a bicycle and a desk and, in combining them, renders both completely useless.

That’s sort of a brilliant triumph in the particular strain of fashion known as “function deconstructionism.” Not since the combination bathtub-meat locker have two otherwise distinct things commingled so successfully. Still, I’m holding out for the IKEA model, which I hear is translucent green acrylic and filled with live fish.

If I seem a little snarky and function-obsessed this week, it could be that I spent the last few days in Portland, which, compared to most places I’ve been, seems genuinely designed to accomplish stuff. Not only are Chris King and Zen–two of the only places still producing quantities of bicycle components and frames in the U.S.–based here, but so are an endless stream of small builders and blue collar entrepreneurs doing things to make money without first securing a round of VC funding. If you build stuff or want to, Portland really is a little like an amusement park disguised as a city.

Good meetings there, too.

Maybe best of all, I got to endure the company of my old friend, Jason, who was kind enough to put me up during my stay and show me around, and who once again casually dropped a piece of wisdom so profound that I’m still processing its full implications. Cruising through the “Bizarre/Mystical” section of venerable bookstore, Powell’s, Jason went out on a limb and declared, “Hitler ruined high boots for men.” Fashion isn’t often discussed in a city where many women choose not to wear makeup and “business casual” works five days a week, but when it is, it’s pretty good.

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