Daniel Greenberg, the head of commerce at MSCHF, said that he was sold on the New York art and design collective’s latest drop after testing it on his own Instagram account. “I only have about 300 followers, all just friends of mine, and when I post a story I get, like, no responses,” he told VICE. “Then I posted that I was at Carbone last week and got 19 replies from the 120 people who viewed my story.”
One of the easiest ways to flex on social media is to post a story from the kind of restaurant that serves $20 sides to go with their $60 steaks. MSCHF, Greenberg explained, wanted to find a way to let those of us whose budget is more Carl’s Jr than Carbone score social media clout, too.
“Something that was fascinating to us was just determining what it really means to flex your wealth on social media, whether it’s posting from a private jet or on vacation, posting a photo of your Rolex, whatever,” he said. “We wondered how to give away the ability to flex without spending any of the money, and what we landed on was this idea of Instagram Stories. I wouldn’t say we did any user research, but just anecdotally, when you post yourself at a fancy restaurant, everyone replies [to your story] like ‘Oh my god, amazing.’”
That anecdotal evidence was convincing enough. MSCHF’s latest drop is called “Stolen Stories,” and that’s exactly what it is: vertical videos straight-up stolen from other people’s Instagram accounts that you can post as your own stories. “We looked at people who were tagging the restaurants, and then we just full-on screen-recorded them from Instagram,” Greenberg added.
You might be a washed adult, eating store-brand shredded cheese straight from the bag, but your followers will see a bowl of Osetra caviar from Masa in New York, where diners need to drop $650 just to get in the door. Or you can share a pic from the tasting menus at Thomas Keller’s acclaimed French Laundry in the Bay Area; from Alinea, Chicago’s only three-Michelin star restaurant; or from 50 other high-dollar eateries in a dozen different cities.
Stolen Stories is MSCHF’s gloriously devious way of pointing out that flexing on Instagram is just a performative thing anyway, so it honestly doesn’t matter if you had a real experience or not. “It’s obviously really enjoyable to pull one over on your friends, but there’s also this subversive aspect, almost like a “fuck you” to the people that actually spend that amount of money for, like, one scallop on a 20 inch plate for $100 bucks,” Greenberg said. “You might as well just use our assets and go get yourself a burger.”
This idea also stems from MSCHF’s interest in democratization—“stealing from the rich,” as Greenberg put it—and a desire to simultaneously undermine and ridicule the importance society places on fine dining and other elite enterprises. MSCHF, which was founded by Gabriel Whaley in 2016, has taken the piss out of the upper classes before: Previous drops include “Severed Spots,” where they bought a $30,485 Damien Hirst Spot painting, cut it into 88 individual pieces, and sold them for $480 each; or MasterWiki, which turned 20 of Masterclass’ $180 courses into free WikiHow articles.
The “Stolen Stories” concept also works because, well… people post a lot of made-up bullshit on their Instas. “I know people that have literally taken photos of Rolexes on their wrists at a store, and continue to post it throughout the year,” Greenberg said. “Most of what you see on social media is just pure performance. I’d say 10 percent of the stories I see on a daily basis probably aren’t real. It’s so funny and sad. I won’t use the word “pathetic,” but there’s some element of, ‘Why are you even doing this for your followers when you could actually enjoy a day in the park with your friends, and you can post that?’”
This is MSCHF’s ninth new concept since March, when they went insanely viral for putting drops of their own blood inside their MSCHF x Lil Nas X “Satan Shoes.” The 666 pairs of Nike Air Max 97s they released scored dozens of headlines, spun the heads of conservatives, and got the attention of Nike’s attorneys. (The sneaker giant sued them for trademark infringement, and the lawsuit was settled in April.)
“A lot of people have asked whether anything has changed [since the lawsuit,] but in reality, no—it’s just business as usual for us,” Greenberg said. “It hasn’t affected what we do, or what we put out.” The company has been thriving on the publicity they received from the Satan Shoes—Greenberg said that even his eighty-something grandparents heard about them—and they seem more confident than ever.
“I don’t know what I can say about our next drop,” he said. “I don’t want to use the word ‘dangerous,’ but when you see it, you’re gonna be like, ‘Those guys got sued by Nike, and they’re still doing this?’”
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