In the consumer press these days you’ll find murmurings of a new trend: That flaunting one’s very ability to afford new trends has become decidedly unchic. According to Kristin Tillotson writing in the Minneapolis Star Tribune, New Yorkers are buying scarves at Hermes and asking for generic bags in which to carry them home. “Sashaying down the street with a telltale Tiffany-blue box . . . could get you arrested in the public court of opinion. Flaunting is out, shame shopping is in.”
“Luxury goods are the new porn, things that must be hidden behind plain brown wrappers,” she adds.
Tillotson quotes Milton Pedraza, CEO of the Luxury Institute, which bills itself as “the global voice of the high-net-worth consumer”: “The shame of Wall Street casts a negative shadow on Main Street wealth. All the executive excess and Ponzi schemes have created this atmosphere that no one who’s wealthy has earned their money. . . .”
And therefore, goes the reasoning, the apparent ability to spend big bucks on items of conspicuous consumption is just not chic.
But when even the bricks-and-mortar stores of designers such as Prada, which traditionally never hold sales, shock the fashion world by placing sale signs in their windows, and reportedly only Versace bucks the designer trend of slashing prices on ready-to-wear in this global recession, suddenly the hoi polloi can find and perhaps even afford bargains where they never shopped before.
So really, doesn’t it make sense, that because the public can purchase certain luxury items at 50, 60, 75, 80 percent off, that they don’t really count as luxury purchases? There’s significantly less cache in carrying a shopping bag from a store discounting 80 percent.
Under this reasoning, it seems that the status quo remains undisturbed.
Tillotson concludes that the trend away from luxury logo purchases is cyclical and adds: “Word to the wealthy: Just admit you have it, and continue spending it to make up for those who can’t.”
The bottom line is that beautiful, well-made goods – logo or not – are always going to be desirable, no matter the shopping bag into which they are placed.