It was with great sadness that we learned in recent days of the death of Ed Hardy Australia after a long illness. Today we mourn, and wear black. Born in 2004 in a top secret mountain lair somewhere near the border of France and Switzerland, Ed Hardy was the love child of Californian tattooist and artist Kenny Howard and French fashion designer and evil genius Christian Audigier. Ed Hardy burst onto the American fashion scene in 2005, when its hideous, overpriced t-shirts and hats featuring gaudy tattooed patterns of flaming skulls and toothsome mammals began appearing on b-grade Californian celebrities’ tanned and protein-enhanced torsos.
Seeing all the ingredients required to fleece giant money bins of cash from the emerging bogan class, Australian businessman Gary Berman secured franchise rights to Ed Hardy and opened a store on Melbourne’s Chapel street in 2006. Bogan royalty like Lara Bingle, Mick Gatto, Sonny Bill Williams and Ben Cousins were instantly attracted to Ed Hardy’s garish designs, pithy slogans and ludicrous price tags, leading bogans around the country to fork over exorbitant sums to mimic their heroes. By 2009, Berman’s vermin had expanded to 14 stores around Australia, stocking a nauseating array of useless products festooned with blazing, angry animals, generating around $20 million a year. With plans to go to 35 stores and expand into Asia, the Ed Hardy juggernaut appeared unstoppable.
But tragedy was to be around the corner. While the bogan enjoyed using Ed Hardy to loudly state its undesirable characteristics, it was also simultaneously driven to conform. This is one of the great internal inconsistencies of the bogan, and occasions where its need to fit in clash with its need to be maxtreme can be very traumatic. When some bogans joined anti-Ed Hardy Facebook groups started by poofter intellectuals, the Ed Hardy brand commenced its transition from bogan trophy to bogan atrophy. Its t-shirt featuring a crowned panther jumping over a love heart and a shit slogan started spending more time in the wardrobe, and the bogan realised that it might need to find a new product to loudly consume. Even Fred Durst was taking the piss out of Ed Hardy.
In this, Ed Hardy’s electric rise and gradual fall closely mirrored that of its deceased cousin, Von Dutch. Dutch, another of Audigier’s illegitimate progeny, experienced a briefer, less dazzling life and career as a bogan tour de force, yet undoubtedly laid the groundwork for Hardy’s eventual stunning success and equally spectacular flame-out. Where Dutch failed, however, Hardy succeeded, embossing its label-ness in pure pigmentary loudness, while eschewing particularly prominent name tags, for which its cousin was renowned. And abandoning trucker caps.
In July 2010, after having fallen behind on their rental, all 6 of the Ed Hardy stores in Westfield megamalls around the country were shut down. The company put on a brave face, touting some sort of proactive corporate repositioning strategy. While this only fooled the bogan, the entire Australian operation was placed under administration surprisingly soon after, with further store cutbacks announced. Part time financial analyst Mick Gatto explained this confusing sequence of events to the bogan thusly: “the way the government charges taxes I’m surprised a lot more people haven’t gone broke”. The bogan, wary of being seen to be on a sinking ship, hardened up and pretended it was not emotionally affected by the news.
Ed Hardy is survived by its father Christian Audigier, a synthetic muscle-bot that resembles Madonna, and, inexplicably, Ben Cousins. A memorial service will be conducted at 2pm on Tuesday August 17, at the Ed Hardy site at 401 Chapel Street, South Yarra, Victoria. Through the tears of the mourners, it may look as though this store, being still open, will survive. It will not. It is dead.