In 1999 the Marxist academic collective Krisis Group published an essay entitled “Against Labor, Against Capital”. In it the authors argued that due to increasing automation a society based on labor was quickly becoming obsolete. Instead of looking to free workers from their oppression, as traditional Marxism espoused, the goal should be to end the labor society entirely. The only reason the world had not yet realized this was because of the economic and political elite, who have pacified the masses with “Silly fancy goods, designed to create the illusion of a full life”.
Eighteen years later, this phrase has appeared as a recurring motif in T-shirts, jackets, and hats in the Spring/Summer 2017 season of the streetwear brand Cav Empt. At first glance, it seems to be nothing more than another example of capitalism’s ruthless drive to commodify even the thoughts and actions of its opponents- just a more advanced version of a Sex Pistols shirt at H&M, in other words. Yet a closer look at Cav Empt’s history reveals that while garnering praise for their alluring graphics and uniquely cut and sewn garments, designers Sk8thing and Toby Feltwell have embedded a radical critique of consumer society into their clothing from the beginning. Cav Empt’s Spring/Summer 2017 season is the apex of a project that has been inherent in their clothing since its inception; an attempt to challenge the wearer into thinking seriously about the act of fashion fandom, desire and consumption under late capitalism.