Friday, November 28, 2008

The Irrelevance of Fancy Stuff

Before Thanksgiving, I went to the Natick Collection one afternoon and was surprised to see that the newest part of the mall, the shi-shi part, was practically empty. As I headed to the store that carries my favorite makeup, I passed store after store where the only people inside were bored-looking sales clerks, a couple of them talking on their cell phones. Later that day I called my dad, who thinks turning the mall into the "Collection" was ridiculous, telling him the place looked like a ghost town. My dad, who was born and raised in Framingham, bemoans the front of Neiman Marcus, and nearly every other part of the new mall, almost every time we drive by. The wavy structure, with patches of tan, white and gold, is strange-looking; is it supposed to look like fabric? An upscale version of camouflage maybe? No one seems to know.

As I read Yvonne Abraham's column last Sunday in the Boston Globe, it was like she had read my mind. She too had gone to the Collection, only to find the new section all but deserted.
"This part of the mall looks like a giant diorama, documenting an opulent, archaic culture," she wrote. "Developers spent gazillions on this place so they could charge luxury retailers ridiculous rents to sell pricey fripperies to suburban status seekers. Only it turns out there aren't enough customers here to keep the place hopping, their slim ranks falling away as the bottom drops out of the economy."

Reading about how one sales clerk at Burberry showed her a $2,350 handbag made me think back to when I coveted designer bags. So much so that on trips to New York and Boston, since I couldn't afford the real thing, I bought fakes spread out on sheets on the sidewalk. Once, in New York City's Chinatown, my mother, sister and I were approached by a woman who led us into a store that sold hair accessories. After a quick look around, the woman pushed on the back wall, revealing a kind of trap door that led to two good-sized rooms stuffed with faux Gucci, Chanel and Prada. And even though I was gripped with a kind of paranoid notion that my family and I were about to be caught in the middle of a sting operation, I bought a fake Chanel bag for $60. For some reason, wearing it afterward didn't give me the same thrill designer bags (even the knock-offs, because who knew, right?) had given me before.
I don't plan on buying another. And, even if I could afford a "real" designer bag, I wouldn't buy one of those, either. When the line to get into the food pantry in my own city snakes down the block, carrying around a bag with big ol' "LV"s smeared all over it is embarrassing.

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