Because you can't have depths without surfaces.
Linda Grant, thinking about clothes, books and other matters.

Thursday, 20 November 2008

Some words on how to behave in the current economy

Over at the Bag Snobs, Kelly wonders if she should buy a Banana Republic Bag which looks to be a knockoff of a Balenciaga.

OK, the Banana one does not have the cool stingray medallion but is that really worth $835? I mean, to be perfectly honest, the Banana clutch is nice and cleanly made. But am I so much a snob that I can't "lower myself" to using a Banana Republic bag? I mean, I wear the clothes, I have this orange silk dress that gets more compliments than I ever did for any of my Balenciaga dresses. In the end, I could not get myself to compromise, not even to the extent of getting the actual Balenciaga knowing that the other one is out there. The difference is slight yet it is separated by a vast pretension that I cannot bridge.
Several readers point out that it is more likely to be a knock off of the Anya Hindmarch Lautner (I have one of those) but some who signs herself RC responds:

who do you think you are esp at times like this when people can't afford basic needs anymore? "lower yourself" because you were considering a BR product?? you should be thankful that we even click on your site so that you can get your monthly income to be wasted on your stupid HIGH END bags or do you use your husbands money. i cant tell.

To this, mq cb, whose moniker I recognise from comments over here, adds what I regard as a definitive rejoinder:

OK, this is a bit much. You may not agree with Kelly but she was honest and as it's her site and it's a free country, she's at liberty to give her opinion on a purchase that she was considering making. This decision affects no one other than her and her family. So why be abusive? If you don't like what she says, then click away. No one forces you to come here.

And on the subject of what a client of mine recently called with masterful understatement the "current challenging economic climate", it's up to each of us to decide how we respond. I see no reason why your rationale for making a particular purchase should not be decided by the same criteria that should always have applied: whether you can afford the item and whether you want it at that price. What does anyone else have to do with it?

You may consider that people are having trouble with meeting "basic needs", but there is a vast difference between what constitutes a "basic need" in the US and affluent West and that which might apply elsewhere in the world. Some people have never been able to meet their basic needs. Maybe I am thoroughly selfish, but I have never once considered not buying something because in India, there are children whose parents can't afford to allow them to attend school, or elsewhere people are starving. Why should it make any more of a difference that someone who never considered themselves poor before may now have difficulty buying petrol and instead may have to take the bus or suddenly can't afford a cellphone?

You could look at it the other way and say, buy the bag and take a cab home and at least you make sure that it is more likely that the sales assistant and the cabbie keep their jobs a while longer. Or not, as you please. Once you've paid your taxes, and made whatever donations to charities you consider appropriate (including perhaps those ones that supply food and/or schooling to those who can not afford it), whatever else you do is up to you. To me, a more relevant consideration is whether you get into debt because of how you spend such that you become a burden to others, than whether your spending offends someone who has less disposable income than you do since I don't really see why it's any of their business in the first place.

In the end, however and whatever you spend, a little more generosity of spirit and tolerance for each other's differences can not go amiss, don't you think?

To which I have nothing much to add, except that the last time I looked (and contrary from what you might be led to believe by Fox News), I live in a capitalist society which is based on consumer spending, and if everyone suddenly stops spending, then large numbers are thrown out of work.


Meg said...

I don't think the real problem is how much money Kelly spends on a bag. It's her money to use as she wants. It's her attitude that bugs me and probably the RC, that she says that she won't "lower" herself to buy a certain brand -- a brand that isn't exactly cheap (except maybe in comparison).

That sounds awfully judgmental of people who do buy other, less expensive brands. Personally, I'm a Ross and T.J. Maxx shopper. The brands there are decent, but they're not Balenciaga. Does that mean that I've somehow "lowered" myself in her eyes? I guess I should be thankful that I rarely make it over to Walmart!

Now, she's probably a nice person and would say that she didn't mean it that way. But that would still sound like a skinny gal who complains to her curvy, averaged-sized friend that she feels like a fat slob because she's wearing her size 2 "fat" jeans.

Linda Grant said...

It's worth checking out what Kelly says herself about the use of that phrase in the comments.

gigilui said...

I really don't see the point of "a brand that isn't exactly cheap", or not as "lowering standards". Standards are a person's perception and emotional connection to brands/products, not necessarily related to price tags.

Gi said...

whoops, used my work account for Google Analytics...

madame suggia said...

Personally, my fashion purchases(mainly shoes, bags and things I can't or don't want to sew for myself) are based on-can I afford it? do I love it? (and I mean L-O-V-E love it) and will I get loads of use from it? Is it well made, from decent materials and not from a sweatshop-difficult to ascertain but I try. After that, it's no-one's business but my own. I work hard, I earn my own money and once the bills are taken care of-including the babies' goodies-I'll spend-or not- what I want as I wish. Don't really care about the 'label' and I hope I'd refrain from judging someone for their labels or lack of.

Arabella said...

Follow your heart if you can afford it and sometimes even if you can't or it (bag, shoes, dress etc)will end up being sent back.
Nothing ever calls to me at BR, but that's just me. I get most of my bags from vintage and thrift stores and estate sales with the occasional splurge out in the real world.

Duchesse said...

"Standards" is just a screen for the judgment we or others mske about what is good, correct, or desirable.

When anyone talks about their 'standards" listen closely, they are telling you the story they have written themselves about what's "right".

Meg said...

Hi Linda,

I did read her comment:

"That is why I put "lower myself" in quotes because I don't think it is actually lowering myself but I am just using it as an expression.

I am aware of the current situation but this has nothing to do with wealth but rather preference. As to where I get my money, you will just have to keep guessing."

The fact is, quotes or no quotes, she still chose that expression. I'd be less concerned if she said that she didn't want to settle for something that wasn't exactly what she wanted. That would be a judgment about the bag. When she talks about "lowering" herself, that's a personal judgment on herself and, yes, others. I can definitely see why others felt offended.

California Dreamer said...

What to wear, and what to pay for it: choices fraught with emotional baggage and oodles of room for offense giving and taking. What Kelly pays for a bag, and what she considers beneath her, has no bearing on RC's life, and I hope RC can move on to something that will soften her mood. Perhaps she could philosophize that Kelly pays dearly for her feelings of self-worth, and then do some Christmas shopping at T. J. Maxx, which is a fun place to shop and should cheer her up enormously.

In this "current trying economic climate," if someone can afford to buy at the pricier shops, and help a shopgirl keep her job, I say go for it and enjoy your purchase in good health.

Mardel said...

I don't see the entire point of resenting or criticizing others for purchasing or preferring to purchase things one might not be able to afford. It is a free society, and one should have the right to spend one's money as one chooses. Once the necessities are taken care of, and hopefully the purchases don;t lead to the entire debt situation. Buy what you love and don't feel guilty about it. Kelly doesn't really explain her standards even in the comment, so we don't know if to her "standards" indicates a certain quality of materials and construction, or indeed refers to a designers name or label.

If we start criticizing other people's standards, taste, or even feelings about their own size, are we really criticizing them or revealing our own psychic dissonances.

Rollergirl said...

I haven't read the whole hoo-ha at Bag Snob, only what's been said here but the funniest thing is that the site is called BAG SNOB so doesn't it figure that Kelly is going to write about being a snob? Indeed she does kind of own up to it when she talks of 'lowering herself' in inverted commas, as in, she realises people will pick up on that. To me, her whole post is admitting she is a bag snob and debating it.

(Actually, I have just read it and I think my understanding is correct!)