Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Who needs a house out in Hackensack?

Louis Vuitton in Times Square (Hong Kong)

The other day I took a look at www.thesartorialist.com, and he made an interesting observation. He had photographed what we in the West would consider a poor man in Morocco, who had accidentally or on purpose put together an outfit with a quite sophisticated matching color palette. In the commentary someone dismissed the man's style, saying he probably found his clothes on a trash heap somewhere. The Sartorialist got cross and made an eloquent argument about style and poverty and why no one should assume that poor people are any less interested in or capable of style.

I haven't been able to stop thinking about this. Income inequality has been a hotly debated topic in the United States of late (read more HERE) - the rich are said to be growing much richer while middle classes are shrinking and becoming poor. The resulting social inequality or social isolation could very well result in rich people believing that the poor do find their clothes in the trash.

When I was in school and before I had any money I was a way more creative dresser. I picked up colorful cheap things in flea markets and discount shops. There used to be a fabulous place in New York called Daffy's where you could buy discounted clothes a few seasons old, high end or low end. Now that I have some more means at my disposal I am often disappointed when I am in front of the holy grail. Yesterday I went to Times Square (Hong Kong) for instance, and took a good look at a Louis Vuitton SC bag, and it was perfectly nice, in the way that many small duffels in grainy leather are nice, the hardware was solid, the zipper zipped smoothly, the stitching was evenly spaced, but even the small size cost more than 30,000 Hong Kong Dollars (more than 3,900 US Dollars). 

Who needs a house out in Hackensack, is that all you get for your money? The sounds of Billy Joel singing Anthony's Song flooded my brain in that very instant standing there facing the sales girl in her little white gloves. The store was full of people, probably from the mainland, people who may appear pretty poor to western eyes in ill fitting clothes made from cheap fabrics. I have often wondered why buses full of people come from the mainland to queue in front of Louis Vuitton, Chanel, or Hermès and spend their hard earned savings on a silly luxury brand fashion item. But you know what? Maybe they have already realized that this is what it takes to be noticed, to be seen, or, to not be dismissed, by the rich people who rule their world.

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