Monday, February 23, 2009

Sticker shock and (perhaps) its purpose

Style Spy, who dissects runway shows and award ceremonies with a shrewd and unsparing eye, commented after reviewing a recent Carolina Herrera show:

"... my usual soundtrack... is news programs where lately the talk is inching toward apocalyptic. Perhaps that's seeping into my consciousness to the extent I can't even look at pretty clothes without thinking,'Whoever wears that? Not worried about making her mortgage payment.' "

I picked up The New York Times' T Magazine, studded with goodies like a $4, 420 Revillion intarsia mink gilet, a Rodarte cobwebby cardigan, $2, 760 that "needs to be loved and cared for almost like a pet", and Balmain palm-print jeans, $3, 415.

Who buys these pieces? We all have
a fair idea; if we don't exactly rub elbows with the lady, some of us have seen her waiting for her car. A few of my friends work for executives draped the exquisite armour of Armani and Lanvin.

I'm frustrated and annoyed when editorial content presents unremitting high-end choices. OK, I don't have to read them, and mostly I don't, but
why can't they intersperse Valentino with Vince?

The $14, 000 Balenciaga alligator and agate pochette is a work of art, and also show me a $400 leather bag I can sling o
n and feel great in.

And a $2, 995 white calfskin replica of a Chanel shopping bag? My annoyance veers into disgust.

I did flip for the cheeky $960 Comme des Garcons black and white pleated jacket in "The New Collectibles"* story, and found myself thinking it was a good buy.

Maybe that's the sky-high prices' job: to inure me to the nearly thousand-dollar price point for a jacket.



* The splash page may change; find "The Goods" in menu and select "The New Collectibles" from the drop-down menu.

7 comments:

Frugal Scholar said...

I ask the same question! Most of my high-style students are carrying fake LV bags. But I teach at a school where most students are from working-class backgrounds.

Last week we attended a college look-see to which 50 students were invited with parents. At a reception (at which DH and I were definitely at the lower end economically), I spotted 3 18 year olds with Chanel bags. Ditto their moms. Next day, all had Guccis. The rest of their clothing looked equally equally expensive, but I didn't catch the labels! So--that's who. It depends on your social circles, I guess.

Deja Pseu said...

One of the things I like about InStyle and Lucky magazines is that they showcase items from all price ranges. I'll spend a bit more if I feel that something is really timeless (I have two very classic Chanel bags, purchased second-hand) but won't blow the big bucks on the trendy stuff. I'd bet that some designer bags you see on women who aren't otherwise well-off are either good fakes or rented from bagborrowsteal.com.

materfamilias said...

just once, I'd like to see the magazines that feature these items as attainable run an interview that asks the tough questions most of their readers wonder, at least occasionally: What does it feel like to casually own items worth as much as your fellow citizens' cars? Are you ever troubled by a discrepancy that allows you to wear earrings that represent two years' wages for someone? Honestly, I don't resent anyone spending their hard-earned money on beautiful items, but I puzzle over how comfortably we can accept an economic system that spreads wealth so inequitably and then flaunts the difference.
Oh dear, never meant to go on a rant, but it's hard sometimes to understand . . .

Mardel said...

I agree that there should be more of a mix, and I will spend more if I think I will get a lot of mileage out of something.

Still, I am uncomfortable at times when I have or wear something I know my friends can't afford and I am no where near to being in the kind of league that can afford those pieces, and am loathe to drop brand-names or stores in that company.

And yet I don't think all that many are conscious of the discrepancy in income. If your income is in the millions, these prices are not that significant. I think that kind of money can't help but change your perspective, unless you work very hard to fight it, and probably most don't bother, or feel they deserve it anyway.

I was shocked in the new Harper's Bazaar when Sarah Jessica Parker said she cut herself out of an Alexander McQueen dress because her husband wasn't home to let her out of it. I am shocked by the casualness, partly of the money, but not so much because I assume she can afford it, but because I also admire the designer and the workmanship of the dresses. It is just a dress, if one can't be casual about wearing it, one can't afford it. So perhaps I am too attached to my own dresses, because I would not want to cut myself out of them, and would not wear a dress I could not extract myself from if I knew my DH was going to be away.

I think I am most shocked that such beautiful things can be treated so casually.

WendyB said...

I was so psyched the magazine had a ring by a designer carried by Barney's for over $50K, because my stuff is so thrifty by comparison! :-)

Imogen Lamport said...

Mmmm for people with more money than sense perhaps?

Is it worth that much more than the regular stuff? Is it that better made?

There is definitely a quality difference (usually) between the $200 suit and the $1200 suit, but after that it's all about marketing.

Duchesse said...

WendyB: Perhaps you mean Sevan's inverse carved rock crystal intaglio of Zeus, surrounded bu diamonds, for 57K? He's a ture innovator- known for using unusual materials and one of a kind cuts. He's already being knocked off by plenty of folks- I bought a Sevan style ring in India.

Pseu: I like the mix of these magazines but often find the clothes very "upscale mall American". The best magazine used to be Marie Claire's "Bis" editions, now discontinued.

Fugal: IMO an 18 yr old carrying a Chanel or Gucci to a college look-see just looks like a parvenu.

Mardel: The SJP anecdote describes decadence. And we wonder why some cultures revile us for our consumption.

Imogen: Marketing trumps quality (except for a tiny handful of global brands).

materfamilias: One person's splurge is another's staple; I resent being shown only the extremely high end, and no only for me, for thousands upon thousands of NYT readers.