The room was abuzz as the glitterati made small talk amongst themselves about all the big projects in which they were involved.
Once again, anyone who was anyone at the North Pole was in attendance for the unveiling of Oswaldo’s annual Christmas stocking design.
Oswaldo was the North Pole’s premier avant-garde fashion designer, and his stocking design unveiling was an event. These weren’t your average red and green and white hand-knitted stockings with a likeness of Santa stitched into them (except for the year, of course, when Oswaldo’s stocking design was, in fact, a hand-knitted red and green and white stocking with a likeness of Santa stitched into it–until you got closer and noticed that the image was actually Santa nailed to a crucifix).
Yes, Oswaldo’s stockings were in no way utilitarian or practical. They did not exist to be receptacles for “stuffers”. As Oswaldo and any of his entourage would tell you, his stockings were objets d’art, created to convey a holiday message Oswaldo felt driven to communicate to the masses (a message the designer’s critics hastened to point out was equal parts pretentious and “shocking” for shock’s own dumb sake).
No matter one’s feelings about Oswaldo or his work, though, one thing was undeniably true: People talked about it.
And he definitely gave them stockings to talk about over the years: The aforementioned “Santa Christ” stocking (Oswaldo’s commentary on the conflation of the sacred and secular aspects of the holiday). The obviously phallic stocking, sheathed in a giant latex condom (Oswaldo’s message about HIV/AIDS awareness). The stocking made of a crudely stitched together reindeer hide (one that Oswaldo claimed was that of “the original Rudolph”, which incensed Rudolph’s family; it was his commentary on the “abuse” suffered by Santa’s reindeer). The one made entirely of mirror shards (Oswaldo’s take on the self-indulgence of the season).
And, probably most (in)famously, his 2001 design. It was the only year his design consisted of more than one stocking–specifically, a pair of stockings in the shape of the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center, in flames. Depending on one’s bias, it was a design that was either movingly and boldly provocative and honest, or shamelessly exploitative and callous. (Opinion trended overwhelmingly towards the latter, as Oswaldo received a number of death threats that year. Reclusive by nature, Oswaldo never publicly responded to the outcry but was rumored to be delighted to be the center of so much attention–good, bad, or otherwise).
The lights dimmed and the crowd scrambled to their seats. The phalanx of waiting photographers readied their equipment in order to capture that year’s model and immediately send images of it to the media conglomerates for whom they worked.
A spotlight came up and the curtains slowly parted to reveal the familiar faux hearth on whose mantel each year’s design was hung.
The crowd gasped as they stared at the center of the hearth. There, from a simple hook, hung a plain loop of fabric, attached to…nothing.
Nothing at all.
Over the loudspeaker, a woman’s voice read Oswaldo’s artist statement on his design in dulcet, vaguely European tones. Some barely coherent thoughts about how the absence of a stocking was symbolic of those in need or something.
The crowd quickly called bullshit on that.
The photographers half-heartedly snapped only a frame or two, then up and left. There were murmurs of discontent, and more than a few boos, some even coming from among Oswaldo’s biggest fans. The room was completely cleared in two minutes flat–unheard of for any Oswaldo premiere, especially the stocking unveiling.
And three days later, it turned out that what some had been whispering about the night of the premiere was true: Oswaldo’s management sent out a briefly-worded press release confirming that Oswaldo had entered an undisclosed treatment facility, for reasons also left undisclosed (the rumor was cocaine).
There was no stocking the following year, as Oswaldo was still deep into his twelve steps at that point.
He came back the year after that, but the consensus was that the Oswaldo stocking reveal had lost its edge; the word “underwhelming” was bandied about quite a bit. One disillusioned fashionista was overheard to lament “That looks like a stocking my Nana would hang!”
The only person involved in the spectacle who didn’t seem to care about its “edge” or lack thereof was Oswaldo himself. He was happy–happy to be alive, healthy, and sober. He was happy just to be around for another Christmas.
So the people moved on–there was an up-and-coming designer who called herself Androidia who was doing interesting, transgressive things with elf hats–and those pretty much became the new stockings. Oh, Oswaldo kept making his stockings–people just stopped showing up to see them.
But it didn’t matter. Oswaldo was happy, the fashion crowd was happy with their new designer who they either loved or loved to hate. Everyone was happy.
Everyone, that is, except for Oswaldo’s cocaine dealer. He did not like all the turns of event. Not one bit.
Then again, he ended up moving to California and opening up a nightclub on the Sunset Strip, and “business” (both the legitimate and not-so-legitimate kinds) was good. So he ended up happy, too.
[CUE MUSIC (“CIRCLE OF LIFE”). FADE TO BLACK.]