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I just love the whimsical leather genius of Roman pelle-maestro, Claudio Sano (www.claudiosano.it), whose briefcases and bags are instantly recognizable for their absurdist touches: huge ladies’ lips topped with a moustache worthy of Gianmaria Testa, or a gusseted “bite” munched out of the side of a case, or a huge key-hole opening through the front panel of a valise.

My current fave is his “Fatto in Cina” (MADE IN CHINA) series which features portraits of Mao, and Chinese women, in leather applique.  He describes it as a cry for Italian manufacturers and designers to fabricate their own stuff in the their own country.

We all talk about never buying Chinese goods again, but let’s get real. Unless you’re willing to live under a piece of bark and make your own butterfly-cocoon and moss ragout for supper, slurped out of a pinecone (I did know some hairy hobbit-women in Northern California who do this…), there’s no escape. China rules retail.

(As for the photo: documentation of my brief “excruzion”, as  in excruciating, with props to my sis Victoria Rosenthal, into organic gardening last year. Yes, these are baby radishes I grew myself. They had to be thinned often, and these teenies were a couple of the thousands I had in my fridge. Crisp, refreshing, and definitely not worth the trouble. From the acid-washed, frayed evidence, you can see that I needed a denim intervention:)

AND, because I’ve recently dumped a bunch of weight upon returning to cosmopolitan life in Los Angeles, I needed new jeans. The cheapest cute ones I could find are online, via the delightfully downmarket mail-order catalog Metrostyle.com. They’re lightweight denim with a little spandex for the bootylicious, and have cute ankle zippers so I don’t look like a big stupid hick.

Here’s the thing, though: they stink.

I mean, they literally stink. I remembered this when they arrived– same thing when I bought a pair a few years ago.

The fabric of these Chinese-made jeans smells like a slaughterhouse, by way of a thousand “developing world” cities belching acrid industrial fumes into an already-burdened global sky.

The smell hits you the minute you rip the plastic open. A smell that could blister your skin like the afterglow of an atomic blast. It’s not a rich organic funk, like an unwashed armpit or a chicken-coop or a neglected catbox. It’s steely. It’s the cold, smooth, machined stink of progress.

So, I washed them. Twice. No change.

I laid them outside in the sun, doused them with Febreze. Also a pass with the Lysol room-freshener.

No change.

Get this: so powerful is the Sino-fumery embedded in the very fabrication of these extremely affordable and flattering denims that, when I foolishly tossed my trusty fleece hoodie on TOP of the jeans one night upon retiring, the next morning, the hoodie, too, had taken on that chilling, existential, post-Thunderdome, post-Bladerunner, apocalyptic reek of Metrostyle.

I’ve heard that, when encountering ugly Americans, ethnic Chinese people and other Asians often say white folks smell like meat. Or cheese. Hardly surprising. But — does the manufacturer not smell this whiff of Armageddon when they sew and pack these jeans? Of course, they wear disposable surgical masks in the factory. I’m thinking I need to do the same in order to wear these.

The conundrum of cheap, market-savvy Chinese goods which jeopardize global health could not be more real. I’m wearing the conundrum. Only because I think I figured out how to kill the smell.

Get the jeans completely wet, either in the washing machine, or with the garden hose, or in the tub. Take an entire box of 12 Satya Sai Baba NAG CHAMPA  Dhoop incense cones (joss sticks may also work), and layer the incense between the folds of the wet denim. Roll up the whole thing tightly, like a jellyroll. Allow to dry, which may take more than 24 hours. The oily, perhaps cloying to some perfume of this classic waterbed-store incense seems to negate the vile, cynical olfactory despair of the Chinese jeans.

Sad to say, my butt has never looked perkier.


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