Luxury: What We Need Is Perspective
Dec 22 2008
Can we all please just take a deep breath? I know the current economic situation seems bleak and many of us wake up in the morning with a low level of anxiety in the pit of our stomachs as we wait for the other shoe to drop. But it would help to remember that what we're currently experiencing is a recession, not armageddon. It's not the first and it unfortunately won't be the last. Perhaps for this reason, I find the chorus of "experts" declaring the end of "conspicuous consumption", the end of luxury, the end of this and the end of that particularly grating on me. It's quite literally like fingernails on a chalkboard.
For the most part, many of these so-called experts are doing nothing more than pointing out the obvious. For instance, the return of a certain restrained aesthetic in both luxury goods and fashion (a trend sometimes referred to as "stealth wealth") began to emerge as early as 2006 - one full year before the fall of Bear Stearns in August 2007 (which rightly or wrongly marks the unofficial start of the current state of affairs). To attribute the emergence of this trend to the current economic climate is at best misleading if not just plain wrong. As for the newly popular practice of hiding your luxury purchases in plain brown or white bags, I find it frankly silly. Unless you're funding your luxury habit via stolen funds (which I concede may indeed fall in a murky gray zone in the case of certain Wall Street executives), I don't think anyone should be made to feel ashamed for it.
More importantly, all of this chatter about the end of "conspicuous consumption" is counterproductive. By reinforcing the notion that everyone should stay home and save their money because it would be in poor taste to do otherwise is not helping anyone. In fact, the very last thing we want is to discourage people who can in fact afford to shop from doing so by telling them that it is now in poor taste or that their purchases are somehow "conspicuous", unfashionable or otherwise socially unacceptable. On the contrary, the wealthy should continue to spend in accordance with their means. The housekeepers, nannies, gardeners, personal trainers and other staff they employ all need a job as do the salespeople in their favorite boutiques and the waiters who serve them in their favorite restaurants. The same goes for luxury goods - the artisans and craftsmen who uphold time honored skills and techniques need to continue to perpetuate these traditions lest we lose them forever. For this reason (and many others I won't get into now), to make the wealthy feel bad about spending their money is thoroughly misguided.
The Luxe Chronicles