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I am out of my hibernation.  The reason: The cruel, barbarous, brutal mutilation of a $100,000 Hermes alligator bag!   For a worshipper of FAME (fashion, art, music and entertainment), the act is as abhorrent as the destruction of the 6th century Buddhas of Bamiyan in Afghanistan by the Taliban.  Okay, maybe not of that magnitude, but still a destruction of a beautiful piece of art!

Nevertheless, the annihilation did wring my heart and make my knuckles white.  Oh the horror!  For those of you who have not heard of it, the act was performed by Clint Eastwood’s daughter on the reality show, Mrs. Eastwood and Company (the specific use of the last name obvious for rating purposes).  In the show, Eastwood’s daughter cuts and burns an alligator Hermes bag with a ferocious beastly expression on her face, in the name of performance art. Really, destruction of art in the name of art, justified? (An idea to be explored at a later time).

 

The heinous act performed on the reality television show stirred the following thoughts in my brain:  First, what is it that attracts a person like me (with discriminatory tastes and a reasonable level of intelligence, to watch reality television); second, what are the limits/parameters that reality stars have to cross week after week to get viewers like me return.

Between the Kardashians, Shahs of Sunset, Jersey Shore and now Mrs. Eastwick and Company, there is an overdose of reality television.  They have become part of a pop-cultural phenomenon.  The shows have high ratings, so even if we are closet watchers, the fact remains that a good number of us are watching.  In an intellectual tete-a-tete, most of us decry the social evils that such shows are breeding, yet we watch them.

One reason is voyeurism.  It is titillating to spy on the intimate behavior of others.  A spy-like feeling is evoked while watching such shows-their highs and lows, their make-ups and over-dramatized break-ups, entering their homes and boudoirs, seeing what they eat or not, how they look like with gobs of mascara running down their cheeks while crying, hearing the profanities they use, Bentleys they drive, mansions they live in etc.

Vicarious living is another reason.  An average person’s life between work, chores, home responsibilities, running errands is bound to take a tone of monotony, no matter how hard one tries to spice it up.  It becomes rote living.  There is no way around it.  Reality TV provides that dose of glamour, excitement, enchantment and razzle-dazzle that an average person lacks in day to day life.  It is the same as buying a Tattler magazine to get a peek inside the lives of the “oh-so-exciting” crowd.

Yet another reason for such viewing is because it makes us feel good about ourselves and our relationships.  Most of the reality shows have a high level of disfunctionality (rightly so, otherwise why would I watch it!!) Despite all the wealth, fame and glamour, there is angst, anger, treachery, heartbreak and a degree of mental retardation (not from a medical standpoint of course!)  This makes us feel good about ourselves and for some of us even provides hope.  After all, if a dysfunctional, limited intelligence person can reach the pinnacles of success, why not me.

 Such shows, also provide a certain amount of social interaction in our very isolated, heavily dependent on the World Wide Web, modern lives.  The stars invite us into their drawing rooms and bed-rooms and there is an element of reel human interaction, even if for a fleeting moment.

Whatever the reason, reality TV is here to stay.  There is certain stickiness to it.

Now, the question is how far do the reality stars have to go to create the stickiness.  What do they have to do or more appropriately “out do” in order to get me back on that couch week after week?  What boundaries do they have to cross?  In fact, are there any boundaries?

Mere providing of glamour, hot surgeried-up botoxed bodies, designer clothing, long fluttering stick-on lashes is not enough anymore.  The ante has been upped, the stakes are higher.  Gone are the chaste days of MTV’s Real World.  The audience needs bombshells, hysteria, shock and awe and the studios are ready to dole our dollops of it.  Extravagant weddings are broken up in less than 3 months, a gay Jewish Persian man is united with his conservative Islamic father, paternity issues are raised and resolved.  Over the top tactics such as the mutilation of a $100,000 Hermes bag get the necessary notoriety necessary for a hit reality show.

In the case of the Eastwood show, other than Mr. Eastwood who even knows or cares about the other members of his family.  If they portray themselves as a normal (synonym for functional) family, why would we want to watch them.  There will be no ratings and in turn no renewal for the next season.  So, the demolition of the Hermes bag provided the necessary shock and awe element for a hit reality show.  Proof is in the pudding, I am writing about it, even though I am least interested in Mrs. Eastwood or her Company.  The studio execs used the obliteration of the Hermes bag as a  perfectly strategized move to Bite me with this Reality!

Perfection is not instantaneous, not exigent and not speedy.  It is a laborious, tiresome and toilsome journey.

Perfection can be achieved in any field by giving it enough time, patience, perseverance and that “one more thing” as per Steve Jobs that is always required even when you think you are almost there.

Steve Jobs recent demise made me think of how everything that is perfect or even comes close to perfection takes time or that “one more thing.”  There seem to be no short-cuts to perfection and no quick schemes.  Interestingly, it does not matter what you are trying to perfect.  It can be a small thing such as whipping up a perfectly risen delicate soufflé or a colossal and complex project such as inventing and designing the revolutionary Apple gadgets.  It all takes time and massive effort.  The question is what mettle are we made of?  Strong enough to withstand failures and defeats, with only a steel drive propelling us to move forwards towards perfection.  Or do we want to chuck the whole thing after a few tries as it is “just too hard.”

As a confession, in most instances I probably will take the easier or the latter path, only to be burdened later with a heavy sense of regret for having forsaken the sweet taste of perfection and my goal.  Hopefully, writing this blog will be a cathartic experience and will steer me to strive towards perfection in achieving my goals in life, no matter how big or small they are.

Steve Jobs is an example of perfection.  He was a drop-out from college, co-founded Apple Computer only to be ousted nine years later from the extremely lucrative company he founded.  It was not a deterrent for him, but an opportunity to further hone his craft.  He came back with marvels such as the iPod, iTunes, iPhone and iPad creating a revolution not only in technology, but a cultural revolution that changed the way people listened to music, read books and used computers forever.

His designs are not only highly efficient but an example of style and elegance.  He enabled the world to discard the clunky obsolete gadgets and replace them with minimalistic, highly efficient, utterly cool gadgets.

He can be analogized with pioneers such as Edison or the Wright Brothers.  He was a visionary who with his intelligence, years of toil and hard-work, built a company that consumers cannot get enough bites of.

Hermes is another company that takes extreme pride in perfecting its craft.  It is a rare company in this day and age of mass produced, assembly line, sole focus on “filling-the-quota” kind of products.

Yes, you do pay a premium for Hermes products, but perfection should not come cheap.

Thierry Hermes started the company 74 years ago with a vision.  He brought his vision to fruition by using unsurpassed quality materials, attention to detail and hard work, lots of hard work.  The Hermes bags are a superlative example of quality.  Each Hermes bag is cut by hand, piece by piece with individually inspected materials.  Each artisan works only on three to four bags at a time.  They are made-to-order in the true sense of the word.  Each bag is made by hand, inside and out!

Even the saddle stitch used by the artisans has been in use since the 19th century.  In fact, nothing much has changed in the technique of the design and manufacturing since the inception of the company.

Along with quality, Hermes has been a visionary in marketing and branding.  When celebrity endorsements were unheard of and a rarity, Hermes introduced the Kelly and the Birkin bags, an homage to Princess Grace Kelly of Monaco and the uber stylish Jane Birkin (trivia, she is the mother of Charlotte Gainsbourg.)  The bags have acquired iconic status and cultural eminence.

What about a perfectly scrumptious, delicate, fluffy soufflé?  It is not a dessert that you can order “off a menu” and expect it to be delivered instantaneously.  No, it takes time and patience to make it.  It has to be coddled, delicately whipped and baked for at least a good 45 minutes for it to rise to a cloud of warm, sweet perfection.  You have to order the dessert even before you order the appetizer in order to enjoy it.  It takes time to make a perfect soufflé!

So, to conclude and a note to myself-Keep working towards perfection.  It takes time to perfect perfection, assuming that there is a Utopian point of perfecting perfection.

Karl Lagerfeld, is the true Head of Chanel and the “Head” around my neck.

During my trip to China I saw this necklace at a store.  It was lying right next to the necklace with the face of Lady Gaga.

It was love at first sight. To be precise, it was lust at first sight.  I was so mesmerized by the necklace, that even though I did not have my credit card with me, I had to borrow my friends’ for payment.

Talk about the epitome of satisfying the Id-True Instant Gratification.

What was this force beyond my control that compelled me to buy the necklace?  Such a potent force that I had to resort to borrowing (thank goodness my shopping compulsion has not reached a level of begging and stealing yet, as in the expression “beg, borrow or steal.”)

What was it about this man with the silver-haired pony tail, high collars and glasses that captivated me?

In this instance, it is the bewitching rock star appeal of Lagerfeld. He has become deeply embedded in the strains of pop-culture and acquired iconic status.

Such cultural domination of fashion designers is a reflection of the changing times of fashion. Take for instance Marc Jacobs or  Alber Elbaz of Lanvin or Miuccia Prada. They all have their signature trademark personalities and styles.

marc jacobs

The recently sculpted body, with the day old beard is the signature of Marc Jacobs.

alber elbaz

Alber Elbaz is high on the cuteness factor, with the  moon-face, bow tie and round glasses.  Alber Elbaz brands Lanvin.

prada

The shy, head-band wearing Miuccia Prada is the stamp of Prada.

In the past designers used to be mostly behind the scenes. They had an aura of mystery, a certain je ne sais quoi.  Sure, we heard their names such as Bill Blass, Oscar de la Renta or Dior and may have even seen an occasional photo of them attending a benefit, but their personas were not ingrained in the public psyche such as the ones in today’s times.

In current times, simply designing beautiful clothes is not enough. It is mandatory for designers to acquire an “X” or now a “Y” factor for branding purposes.  It is essential for the designer to have a flamboyant, autographed personality.

The modern consumer is global, smart and savvy. They shop all over the world.  With the advent of web-shopping the globe has become one giant Mall accessible to all, at any time.  There is laser sharp competition.

With a whirlwind of choices at the fingertips of the consumers, what motivates them to opt for one brand over the other?  Is it the quality, the stitching, the tailoring, the pricing or is it owning a product designed by a pop-culture icon.  It boils down to the “extra” that a brand has to offer.  The minds of the modern consumer, especially the younger ones is complex.  They grew up in the web surfing age and jump from one “icon” to the other.  Why should they then not choose a product designed by a famous pop culture “icon.” Nine out of ten times they will opt for an item with some pop-culture value, even if it is just a t-shirt with a silhouette of the designer imprinted on it.  Or in my case a necklace with the “Head” of Chanel.

That my friends is the power of pop culture branding!

 

louis vuittonchanelguccipradaversacehermes

 

Psychology was my major in college.  I was quite mesmerized by the Freudian theories of Id, Ego and Superego.

The Id theory is the part of the personality predicating on the pleasure principle.  Instant gratification.  

Speaking of instant gratification, I was passing by the Louis Vuitton store the other day and saw a horde of people inside.  There was commotion and chaos.  Kids were running around and adults looked frazzled.  The first thought that crossed my mind was oh my goodness; there is a mob inside the store!  

Usually one does not expect to see droves of people inside stores with LV kind of exclusivity factor.  You expect to see a select few carousing the products in their well-heeled soles and under the very watchful eye of the security guard.  The tones are hush and the sales staff move around stealthily in the background in their dark sleek uniforms and perfectly gelled hair.

So why the radical change?  Why do I hear sounds of babies howling rather than hush mellifluous tones?  Why do I see baby bottles on the counters rather than strategically placed trinkets to lure the buyer to buy add-ons “just because” along with the other hefty four-figure purchases.

Such swarms are seen in and expected to be seen in more “mass friendly” stores.  Curiosity got the better of me and I peeked inside.  To my utter shock what did I see?  A line, yes a queue of people waiting patiently to pay for the “exclusive” four figures and up monogramed bags!  There was surrealism to the moment.

I was befuddled, confused and perturbed.  Aren’t we going through the worst global economic crisis of all times?  Isn’t the employment rate in the U.S. the highest since the Great Depression?  Isn’t the crashing Greek economy threating to cast a dark shadow of doom over the entire economy of the European continent?  But here, right before my eyes, straight in my ocular field I was witnessing a long queue of people clamoring to have thousands of dollars charged on their credit cards for a few alphabetic symbols.

Were these people simply succumbing to satisfying their Id personality?  Seeking instant gratification.  Or were they endorsing their status in society via the monogrammed letters, giving them a feeling of success and a sense of having arrived? 

Most likely it is a mixture of both, satisfying the Id and an endorsement of societal status.  After all, aren’t the two interchangeable?

While in the Western world, there is an economic crisis, in the remaining parts of the world there is an economic boom.  The BRIC nations, Brazil, Russia, India and China are going through an unparalleled monetary upward swing.  The buying power of the so-called middle-class is rising exponentially.  Such amassing of wealth has given rise to a heightening in the Id personality.  And how is the Id gratified?  On a base level, by an acquisition of Brand products.

On one of my recent visits to India, I was amazed to see the power of the Brands on the psyche of the masses.  The worth of a person is judged according to the Brands he or she is wearing.  For example the Brand of purse she is carrying or the wallet he is whipping out.  There is plenty of disposable income and the Brands are happily obliging by rushing to satiate the deep hunger of masses with increasingly deep pockets.

There is most likely minimal to zero knowledge regarding the rich history, the origin, the culture or the value of the Brand, but there is definite knowledge of the power the Brand wields in society.  Such consumer may mis-pronounce an elite Brand such as Hermes and de-value it by rhyming it with a viral genital disease, (you know what I mean) but hey everyone recognizes the giant lock on the bag which will lead to the unanimous verdict of having arrived, thereby satisfying the Id.

Such consumers use their Brand possessions strategically.  The monogrammed Brands usually “come-out” during group gatherings such as parties, swanky club get-togethers, ladies lunches etc.  The Brands are not used for solitary occasions.  I mean, why use a Brand when nobody can see it. 

This makes me wonder.  Was the Brand purchased solely for display?  Is the value of the Brand solely to exhibit ones status in society?  Does the Brand have absolutely no worth to the user as an individual?

If such is the case, in my opinion the Brand is de-valued.

The symbols are meant for enjoyment-the LV, the H, the two G’s, the two C’s, the EA.  They most certainly satisfy the Id.  But let’s move to a higher level of Ego and leave behind the superficiality of merely the possessory and display value of the alphabets.  How about exploring the history and origin of the alphabets.  Learn how a poor cobbler in the remote village of France started the business, one hide at a time, hand stitching each bag to the point of utmost perfection.  How an empire was built from a mom and pop owned family business.  Learn the vision of the brand, its culture, its ethics. 

Use it for your own enjoyment and think of its rich history while carrying it to the supermarket where you don’t expect to meet any one from your social circle. 

Then you will truly derive “added-value” from your Brand possession.  You will satisfy not just the Id but the Ego.

Trav-el: To move, to go, to transmit, to transport, to journey, to proceed. All forward moving acts…and for me all done with style and elegance.

I was at the airport today and as is my true nature, I observed. I surveyed harried travelers pushing their U.S. 20 dollar unsightly brown, red and black Rexene suitcases tied with equally dull ropes, tapes or cords on metallic trolleys. I observed travelers dressed in their ungainly worst in sweat pants, the most worn (surely comfortable) t-shirts, drab exercise shoes and nylon bags.  They were ubiquitous and omnipresent!!

It was a lacklustrous sight and definitely did not invoke any glamorous feelings such as “wanderlust.” In fact, I was saddened by the lack of care, thought and style put into traveling. It made me think, has traveling become so cumbersome for us as a society that we try to look and dress our very worst? I mean taking a 23 hour flight to another continent does take a toll on one’s hair and skin, but can’t we make it somewhat of a pleasant experience by infusing some style, grace and flair to it?  Can we halt the dullness in an already dull journey?? The suitcases below invoke supreme images of drab.

Ubiquity in motion

I perfectly know and understand that all of us can’t afford a 4,000 dollar luggage set. But, at least we can be inspired by it. So here we go, picture and imagine this on your next trip and start building your travel kit. Less or more money…does not matter. What matters is the taste you have!

Too bad travel by ship is obsolete, otherwise who can resist the beautiful Louis Vuitton trunks? A truly regal sight to behold!

In modern times at least go for stylish, soft luggage infused with a pattern or color.

On a long flight nothing feels so good against your tired and dried skin as cashmere. The comfort you will derive from your own soft and clean blanket will far outweigh the cost of it.

Pamper yourself with a few extras to add swagger and verve to your mood! (In fact, you will brighten the day of your fellow traveler as well.)  My bag always consists of a good soft lotion that smells divine. I love the Shea butter in the L’Occitane lotion (just the word butter makes me go ummmmm!)

loccitane.com

A hydrating spray for the face not only softens the skin, but wakes up tired eyes, without using the germy loo!

drugstore.com

A lip salve in an old-fashioned tin smelling of roses to moisten the lips in the arid airplane air.

sephora.com

An Italian hand blended perfume that refreshes not only you, but brings a whiff of pleasure to your fellow passenger as well. Inspired by original 16th century secret formulas commissioned by Caterina de Medici, “i Profumi di Firenze” perfumes.

beautyhabit.com

Okay, you hipsters might scoff, but I am an old-fashioned girl and love to keep myself fresh with talcum powder. I know you may say it is a grandmotherly product and sooo outdated, but try it on a long flight to freshen not only your intimate parts, but to luxuriate in its softness and freshness!! Can you resist the old-fashion charm of the Italian talc, “Boro Talco”?

barclaycrocker.com

Buon viaggio my friends and may the style be with you always!