Monday, August 25, 2008

The Downtown Aristocrat Years

My apartment doesn’t have cable, but as I’ve spent the better part of the past month at my parent’s, where the digital cable flows freely, I’ve been able to reconnect with my good friend Stacey London. Nothing says a hot Friday night in my provocative life then a “What Not to Wear” marathon.

Whilst reconnecting and judging (sequined Hammer pants?) along with my besties Stacey and Clinton, I came across a commercial for the Discover Credit Card, wherein the announcer declares that, “We are a country of consumers; but that’s ok. The difficulty is choosing what to buy.” This is an ok motto, unless you’re one of the thousands of Americans who are living off of credit card debt and whose mortgages are precariously close to default. But sure – spend away. Get some Discover Points and pay really high interest rates on crap from target. That’s the American way.

There is, however, a modicum of truth in the Discover Card commercial (truth in advertising, egads!). Consumer consumption is a major economic driver and one of the definitive characteristics of our fun capitalist society. Consumer confidence, in the crapper of late, due to high oil prices, and mortgage foreclosures (what one economist called a perfect storm), drives a significant portion of our service economy. The enclosed shopping centre, that purely American invention, perfected for the cold Canadian climate, (Yorkdale Mall in Toronto is one of the top grossing malls in the continent by square foot), are odes to our society’s plethora of choice. You don’t like the 100% t-shirts at the Gap, well American Apparel is right next door, and if not there, then Club Monaco probably has some sassy v-necks in muted hue’s.

One of the most pervasive trends in shopping these days is lifestyle retail. No longer are we buying simply a couch, or a t-shirt. We’re buying a story. Mike Jeffries, CEO of Abercrombie Corp, perfected lifestyle retail model by revamping Abercrombie and Fitch into what it is today – some sort of sexed up least Coast Ivy league orgy. That polo shirt isn’t just a polo shirt – by committing to the Moose you’re saying that you too could play a game of pick-up football with shirtless tight ends. Hollister, Abercrombie’s sister chain, isn’t just selling board shorts and polo shirts – its selling the southern California beach lifestyle. Lifestyle retailing has become so pervasive, in a perhaps pathetic admittance of guilt that even I tend to live my life vicariously through retail establishments. Witness my two-month love affair with J. Crew model Kelly Rippy (there’s a photo of us just lying in bed together, spooning). I don’t feel the need to get married anymore – I’ve already relived my wedding through the monthly J. Crew wedding spread.

So imagine my pleasant surprise when I got a recent email from Club Monaco announcing the arrival of their fall collection, conveniently entitled “Downtown Aristocrat”. The tag line: the downtown aristocrat is chic and cultured classic and urban. They give uptown refinement a downtown edge.

Like a beacon of light the geniuses at Club Monaco instantaneously enlightened my bleak life. Truth-be-told I had been feeling a little bit glum of late. I was no longer a resident of Faux Hill, my till now defining claim to fame, and my boho-chic annex apartment, was just that: boho chic, with an empathis on chic, not on bohemian. The pretty Restoration Hardware throw pillows on my couch say faux-hemian. Admittedly the whole look is miles away from my undergraduate apartment, a loft, which was conveniently located above an Indian marketplace and had a darling view of Montreal’s needle exchange bus.

So what was this new, twentysomething lifestyle I had acquired for myself? It had, up until recently, been nameless. There was no genre to my annex-lite lifestyle. Aromatic? After the hours I’ve spent willing away time sipping mint tea at Aroma espresso bar? Over extended? Or how about “The Waugh Years”, as I had taken to signing letters with the name “Daddy Waugh”, as Rick Waugh, CEO of scotiabank, and his lovely student line of credit was funding my lifestyle. And then with one statement the head honcho’s of Club Monaco had distilled my life, and the lifestyle of most of my friends, into one clear statement. We were Downtown Aristocrats! I felt so much better about having an identity again. Praise you Club Monaco. Praise you indeed.

And then I thought to myself that of course Club Monaco, owned by the arbiter of re-invention himself: Ralph Lauren (real name: Ralph Lifshitz), he who had moved downtown from the Bronx and re-tooled himself as a downtown aristocrat for the polo set, would be able to successfully rebrand my lifestyle succinctly.

Thanks Lipshitz. Here’s one mint-green Aroma tea to our Downtown Aristocrat years.

No comments: