Friday, August 14, 2009

Maybe the Interlocking Cs Should Stand for Conspicuous Consumption?

This is an open love letter. My object of desire? A Chanel handbag, a Grand Shopping Tote in black caviar leather to be exact. No, a fake would never, ever do. This purse costs more than an average Bay Area monthly rent. And in these hard times where frugality is the new black, I realize it seems insensitive - even vulgar - to crave such a luxury. I can’t rationalize it, and I certainly don’t deserve it. I hear some women talk about Chanel bags as investment pieces. Nice try, but I have yet to see a designer handbag deliver the same rate of return as, say, a bond fund.

I have a reoccurring fantasy about how I would acquire this Holy Grail of bags, and like many fantasies it happens in Vegas. I’m playing roulette at the Wynn, and I bet it all on 16 straight up. It hits, and my (non Chanel) wallet becomes much fatter. I walk – make that gleefully run – over to the Chanel boutique, conveniently and thoughtfully located just a few feet from the casino floor. The sales clerk lovingly swaddles my new bag with logo tissue paper and ribbon. I grip the package with my life, and take it back to my hotel where I open it like a little girl on Christmas morning. To me, from me. And if you think I’ve spent a lot of time dreaming up this scenario – you have no idea how much.

While I’ve never attained this beloved bag, I do indulge in smaller, more affordable luxuries emblazoned with those coveted interlocking Cs. The sunglasses are the best, and like one of my style idols says “big sunglasses hide a multitude of sins.” I’m convinced that wearing Chanel sunglasses makes me look thinner, richer, more mysterious, and altogether fiercer. Let me enjoy my delusion, please.

The woman behind the brand, Coco Chanel, overcame a difficult childhood to attain fashion greatness. She was poor. She was unfashionably skinny. She resided in an orphanage. Born in the Auvergne region of France in 1883, she opened her first dress shop at the age of 30. By 1931, Samuel Goldwyn was paying her one million dollars to dress his leading Hollywood ladies like Grace Kelly and Elizabeth Taylor.

The adorably French actress Audrey Tautou stars as Coco in a new biopic hitting American theaters next month. If you have any little aspiring fashionistas in your life, introduce them to this iconic woman with the picture book biography Different Like Coco by Elizabeth Matthews. It's never too early to impart upon them an important lesson taught by Ms. Chanel herself - "A girl should be two things: classy and fabulous." Carrying a nice purse never hurt, either.

posted by spb