The Beholder Depicts the Meaning

Joan Miró once said ‘Blue is the colour of my dreams’. According to Bob Melet, blue is the colour of his memories (Milk 2015). Attending the opening of Melet Mercantile’s exhibition at Colette on a spring eve reminded me how beguiling Paris can be. With the likes of Jeremy Scott amongst the many invitees, it was an alluring gathering of people. But what was most impressive was Bob Mercantile’s collectanea shown in Paris’ famous cult store. An enriching array of artefacts and at first glance, frivolous objects, arranged in an aesthetic display placed amongst the Celine’s and Watanabe’s of Colette’s first floor. Mercantile, who used to be the director of vintage buying at Ralph Lauren, has established a jaw-dropping assemblage of items. His SoHo showroom, accessed by appointment only, contains a meticulous gathering of vintage clothing and objects he has collected in his journeys around the world. His pieces always have a story to tell, derived from important historic events wether it’s a finding from the American Revolution or a piece by Willem de Kooning.

His intuitive eye practiced through his years of globe trotting has turned his findings into gateways to new associations and possibilities (Jacobs 2006). He refers to himself as a conduit, a seller of precious miscellanea. As an aspiring ethnographic researcher, I can appreciate Mercantile’s methods of collecting and showcasing. With every starting point, whether a new collection or theme, he has epitomised an important research element from which every fashion practitioner can learn. The objects he holds serve as iterations for new collections and developments by prominent, albeit disclosed, designers and stylists in the fashion industry (he never kisses and tells). Mercantile has served as a catalyst for some of the most influential trends and collections. He once stated “a walk through his space is a front-row seat on trending” (Kane 2009). Mercantile has always brought others inspiration, alongside the idea to sell his findings as visual vignettes. Susan Sontag described photography much in the same manner. The way these objects are used can never secure their meaning, they become evocative accounts wherein the meaning lies in the use of the objects (Sontag 1977). Often photographs, and visuals in general, are treated this way. It is up to the holder to find the link, and through creative storytelling, offer a new take to inspire

others. We are continuously bombarded with just as many images of things as things themselves. “The flood of images has increased our access to wonders and at the same time lessened our sense of wonder” (Cole 2015 p.2). Within this surfeit, Blue Print serves as an example of how we can find stimulation in other ways.

Bob Mercantile Blueprint Colette

What I truly appreciate about Mercantile’s treasures is that it is far from what one associates with fashion. It does not scream retail, nor does it offer direct associations with clothing. It acts as a cultural depiction of something that once existed, through someone else’s story, that can be re-lived again.


T. Cole (2015) Pixel Perfect: A Visual Remix, International New York Times, 18th-19th April, p.2.

F. Kane (2009) New Vintage Store: Melet in Montauk [Online] in-montauk/ [Accessed on 10th of April].

Milk (2015) L’Esposition Blue Print Chez Colette [Online] colette/ [Accessed on 10th of April].

S. Sontag (1997) On Photography. London: Penguin Classics.