You cannot deconstruct unless you know how to construct. - Alexander McQueen

Designer To Dealer: The Transition From Boutique to House of Ill Repute permalink

The “Dior Addict” marketing campaign for cosmetics and perfume (weren’t there the shirts as well?) launched a few years ago, peddling luxury goods and the accompanying addiction. Christian Dior doesn’t use the “Admit It” tagline anymore, but that’s just as well. Don’t admit it. In fact, don’t even have a paper trail of the purchase. Shivani Vora’s “Money Doesn’t Talk” is an article in the New York Times about the growing trend of paying cash for luxury goods among women in order to avoid justifying purchases to husbands, boyfriends or parents. Women are doing this, Vora says, even when it’s their own money that they are spending. Of all the reasons cited for the increase in cash payments at luxury boutiques, hiding an addiction is conspicuously absent.

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attacked by a perfume craving on her way to the local needle exchange: Liberty Ross for Christian Dior, circa 2002

“‘Traditionally, women are supposed to be altruistic and put others first and aren’t supposed to lavish on themselves,’ said Kathleen Gerson, a professor of sociology at New York University and an author of “The Time Divide: Work, Family, and Gender Inequality.’ Women hide their personal purchases to cope with this labeling, she said.” This theory recalls Depression or WWII-era thinking and it applied to both men and women. Though the social script of putting others first may have lingered on through the Baby Boom, it doesn’t apply today. In fact, I’d say that this theory is apologist crap. I have known men who blew irrational amounts of money and tried to hide it, too. This simply suggests a spending problem.

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a wartime poster advocating conservation

Last summer my sister found out that her receptionist, Déjà, was using company money to buy stuff on the internet. Clothes, mostly. When she was confronted she burst into tears, admitting that her purchasing was out of control and that she was trying in earnest to deal with the problem. The theatrics worked, I’m sorry to say, and Déjà was never prosecuted for her crime because my sister felt the publicity might ruin the career of her high-profile husband. I believe that Déjà’s addiction is in its advanced stage: insistence of guilt or regret was a show she’s probably put on before and I’m confident she will lock on to another target now that she’s left town. Guilt, in other words, is a healthy sign that you know it’s wrong to have succumbed to an urge, to have been so easily played. While putting others first doesn’t define my gender role anymore, it was and still is batshit crazy for anyone to spend $2000 on a tote.

I confess that in the past I’ve collectively laid down an obscene amount of cash for clothes and felt guilty about it. I don’t have those cravings anymore because I’m confident I can make much of what I see in store windows, and the exercise of browsing is more about admiring craftsmanship than purchasing. When I know how a garment is constructed, I’m better able to tell the difference between an arbitrarily high price and the item’s actual value. Recognizing the high value of superior craftsmanship ensures that I won’t be casting off the article as soon as the next season’s ad campaigns launch their full-scale assault.

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soon to be a must-have: Burberry’s s/s 2007 “Supernova-check bag”

Addiction, however, is hardy and adaptive. It has an insatiable appetite, hijacking common sense in order to run rabid. In the end it doesn’t matter whether the goods are on the internet, hanging on a basement sale rack or are cleverly presented in an architecturally significant building. The cycle of buying goods then hiding traces of the purchase is the same old Déjà vu trip no matter how it’s packaged.

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One Response to “Designer To Dealer: The Transition From Boutique to House of Ill Repute” 

  1. Emma Says:

    In London at least, I also notice an obscene sort of price escalation for ‘luxury’ accessories, particularly bags, which have suddenly more than doubled in price, all at the same time - and because such grotesque prices are now the norm, women are led into going along with this. Superior craftsmanship is one thing, but there’s something else going on here - a well made, expensive bag or pair of shoes would have been £300 two years ago. Now they are all £800 . I presume at least partly as a result of designers realising that an addiction to It bags etc means that women will pay apparently anything, and squeezing them accordingly.

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