Sunday, 2 August 2009

The cute war

This weekend I received the debut catalogue from The Allotment Shop, which sells retro-inspired gardening tools and home accessories. The creative really hews to its theme of War War II nostalgia, with spreads labelled “Digging for Victory” and “On the Home Front” and “We’ll Meet Again”, and there’s a standalone flyer inside designed to look like a ration book.

The merchandise itself, while seemingly of top quality, is not unique. The canisters, for instance, would fit right in with a Pedlars catalogue; Wiggly Wigglers carries similar bird boxes. What really ties everything together and makes The Allotment Shop a distinctive brand is its theme: the best of British, inspired by Britain’s shining moment, when it kept its upper lip stiff and showed the Jerries what they were made of.

This theme is in keeping with the current “make do and mend” zeitgeist, though with some of its offering (the replication ID cards, the seed packages made to resemble ration cards) and creative (the models made up and posed to resemble ‘40s pin-up girls), The Allotment Shop catalogue and website are more blatant than most.

Now, maybe this is because I’m not a Brit, or maybe it’s because I just read a novel about the siege of Leningrad (City of Thieves, by David Benioff, which I cannot recommend enough--buy or borrow it asap). But glamourising what was a horrific war in order to sell upscale versions of everyday items (is spending £18.95 for a cute metal box to hold your seed packets really in keeping with an era of austerity?) seems a little tacky to me. Wouldn’t it be more of a tribute to our parents and grandparents who endured the Blitz and evacuation and D-Day, and more in keeping with their own no-nonsense spirit, to store our seeds in a shoebox that we would otherwise throw away?

It’s apparent, and ironic, that The Allotment Shop makes no effort to target older consumers. The T&C copy on the back of the print catalogue, for example, is printed in what must be seven-point type, if that big. Which is just as well. I’m sure my grandparents would have rolled their eyes and snorted if they’d lived long enough to see the deprivations they lived through dressed up so adorably.--SC

No comments:

Post a Comment