May 7, 2013

What is luxury?

The fashion world has been always too comfortable with the definition of luxury and the connotation it brings. Soft silk and cashmere, supple lambskin or ostrich, exotic alligator, 24-carat gold or ideal-cut diamond jewelry: these items are luxury in their own terms. It's undeniable that fashion is a business-based sphere and to steer away from overt use, or sometimes, misuse of the L word is somehow too farfetched an expectation - luxury is the pinnacle of fashion and it's understandable why consumers easily fall into the perceived luxury, all thanks to many brands' marketing strategy that succeed in creating that illusion of exclusivity.

I'm not saying that all of the products out there are downright phony in their luxuriousness. Notable leather accessories houses like Hermés, Moynat or Bottega Veneta, for example, provide top-tier products and personalised services, and are very well known for their exceptional workmanship and hence the right to brag about the fact that they ARE the epitome of luxury.

What I'm trying to say is that sometimes a person's certain brand obsession (which is somehow strongly associated with the Asians) clouds the judgement to properly appreciate the item at hand. We all know too well what kind of luxury powerhouses I'm talking about. There's a flawed logic going on in this situation: if a certain brand is deemed luxury, then all the goods they offer is luxury, even though that the consumer does not really like the item in the first place.

Such experience had unfortunately happened to me when I bought a product from the esteemed, refreshed LVMH-owned Céline. It was a Trio crossbody bag (had too actually Google for its official name). Don't get me wrong, I do love Céline leather products under Phoebe Philo creative direction, especially their strapped Bi-Cabas (I like it for the apparent design genius, and the suppleness of the lambskin - a quality that I find synonymous with luxury).

But in this case I have mistakenly convinced myself that a small, feminine bag in ecru with a tiny strap could 'work' for me. I confidently felt that I could carry off the seemly chic accessory, even for my comparatively small build. In addition, being clouded by the fact that it was the last piece available at the Milan store, doubled with a reminder that Céline stuff (or any other brands from the LVMH conglomerate) are more expensive in Malaysia had blurred my conscientious shopping thoughts even more so.

The lining is just a fabric, even though the outer lambskin is what makes the bag special.

I do feel good initially about the purchase. At that moment I felt like I just had my very own piece of luxury, just like those Parisian fashion editors and those New York bloggers. But somehow it did not feel right. That feeling escalated to a buyer's remorse, especially when I saw countless other versions in a more appealing, and perhaps, masculine hues in several Céline boutiques and department stores across Paris.

To add salt to injury, my so-called luxury moment was tarnished during the tax-free claim at the Charles de Gaule airport in Paris prior to our return to Kuala Lumpur. The queuing line was considerably long, beelining till outside of the designated claim area. Most of the people lining up are of Asian descendant, just like me. Everyone perhaps had a similar logical thinking when they bought those Longchamp pliage bags at half price or that Chanel 2.55. We waited patiently and much to our amazement, we faced a rather harsh Parisian customs officer. And on top of that we also had a problem with extra baggage. As a consequence, we almost missed our flight!

This incident made me really think about justifying the buying of something luxurious, and the extent one would reach to achieve their purchase. Honestly I'm sensing that I'm beginning to fall into the traps of the clichéd label-whore category, made ever more apparent with the purchase of this slice of luxury. This is a lesson that I have learnt from making a rushed decision, that is, a lesson that cost a few hundred Euros.

But looking from another perspective I probably have to live with the mistake and might as well try to love this new piece of accessory instead of lamenting...

wearing Raf by Raf Simons t-shirt, Peter Jensen capri pants, random sunglasses

Words by Hafidzudin Zainal
Images by Arman Shahril


thompsonboy said...

Celine is gorg and still to an extend understated. I believe you will be able to use it for many seasons to come because it's just so timeless unlike those whores with their LV, Longchamp and loud CC chanels. Thats the thing about taxes, even if you dont claim it, still cheaper than KL. As long as its cheaper then you did the right thing. Congrats and enjoy your beautiful Celine. I know I would.

gunmetal said...

If you really love the bag, you can dye it or use shoe polish to give it a different colour

naboonies said...

Thompsonboy, Celine is still relatively understated in Kuala Lumpur but I'm afraid it will slowly transform into one of those predictable labels that you mentioned. But I always hope the aesthetics stay as long as time would allow, well, as long as Phoebe Philo's vision is still valid, for that matter.

gunmetal, thank you, what an interesting suggestion you got there. But maybe I won't jeopardize the lambskin with a possible botched up attempt to dye the leather. I think I'm beginning to love the bag more and am planning to wear it longer until a certain patina appears...

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