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GREATEST: The Culture of Aspiration

From symbols of Western luxury to the desirable kitschiness of bootlegs, cultural critic and StyleZeitgeist founder Eugene Rabkin deconstructs the secret messages contained in Julien Boudet’s new photo series.


Eugene Rabkin is a fashion and culture journalist based in New York City. Reconnecting with longtime friend and creative collaborator Julien Boudet, Rabkin breaks down the hidden cultural references in Boudet's 'The Power of Logos.'

I witnessed the slow lifting of the Iron Curtain while growing up in Belarus in the early ’90s. Cultural artifacts started to trickle in, from rock records to MTV music videos, soon followed by big brands. To Westerners, Coca-Cola may have been a barely noticeable fact of life, but to us, it was a romanticized symbol of a vastly richer world with infinitely more color than ours. 

People lined up for hours when the first McDonald’s opened in Moscow’s Pushkinskaya Square. Awareness of clothing brands eventually followed, driven by bootlegs. As my town’s local state-owned department store began leasing space to private peddlers, the first thing I remember being excited about were T-shirts with logos embroidered on them. They had no rhyme or reason to them; fake Gucci was next to fake Reebok and cost the same. Genres that we don’t think twice about today, like luxury and sportswear, were anathema. These fakes represented the same thing: symbols of Western cool and aspiration.

Nike TN and Shox "sculptures" as part of Julien Boudet's 'The Power of Logos'   
Swoosh Porsche Cayenne as part of Julien Boudet's 'The Power of Logos'   
Left: Chanel BMW X5 / Right: Wrapped Three Stripes Scooter   
Louis Vuitton Jet Ski as part of Julien Boudet's 'The Power of Logos'   
Swoosh Bentley as part of Julien Boudet's 'The Power of Logos'