‘Ikea sofas are like H&M trousers’: the potential of sensuous signs

  • Pauline Garvey


What makes Ikea sofas similar to H&M trousers? Clothing and furniture retail are increasingly aligned, as both follow fashion trends and seasonal change. Because of the transience that shifting trends imply, clothing is often read as a signifier of superficial or frivolous expression, masking more important realities that lie elsewhere. In this article, I follow Webb Keane in asserting that when treating clothing as a sign of surface adornment, as a mere communicator of meaning, one not only dematerialises the sign but foregrounds meaning over action. In focusing on the sensuous qualities of signs (qualisigns), I view Ikea goods as sites of potential and compare how adorned surfaces are more than semiotic vehicles, but also material things that have effects.