A curious email sent to various fashion and art outlets recently, inviting them to a discussion — to be held during New York Fashion Week — of disposable diapers by Emporio Armani for the Russian market, was made all the more preposterous by the attachment of an apparent advertisement. It showed babies crawling around a palace of some sort, clad in black diapers emblazoned with the Emporio Armani logo. Surely this was a hoax. It had to be. But the more outrageously fake it looked — as did the baby section on the Armani Russia website from whence it came — the more likely it seemed. After all, crazier things have happened in fashion, right?
Well, yes. But as it turns out, the diapers were satire, dreamed up by the deranged mind of the artist Petro Wodkins. The faux ad went semi-viral across an incredulous blogosphere (less so in Russia, where it looked normal?). But Wodkins wasn't just mocking and shocking the fashion set. Living in Russia, he's all-too-familiar with the lengths to which the still-blossoming oligarchy is willing to go to display their newfound wealth — even a baby's behind. "There's always been outside pressure on people to serve the community or society," he told BLOUIN ARTINFO by email. "People sacrifice and abandon what they deep down think is right, for a higher purpose, to belong and to find shelter and comfort. Fashion magazines are the new religion."
Wodkins says there is a method to the madness, a purpose to the puerile pranksterism. "I hope that I managed to get people to reflect on the topic of consumerism. That they got a chance to laugh, but also questioning why they actually believed in this. I'm trying to make people see, not necessarily what I want them to see, but at least open their eyes. And maybe make people realize that what they wish for might come true. There's a cruel logic to the golden iPod with diamonds sold at Harrods for $1,000,000."
The artist knows his way around a guerrilla stunt, having previously replaced the beloved statue in Brussels' Manneken Pis fountain — its cherubic boy peeing freely into a clamshell pool — with a golden statue of himself. Childish and fatuous, yes, but also effective. For the record, Wodkins does in fact think "there will be luxury diapers in the future," though probably not from Armani — probably.