Thursday, October 9, 2008

Have We Seen The End Of Bling?

Christina Binkley in the Wall Street Journal:
The Billion Dollar Question: Is Bling Over
How Luxury Executives are Handling the Crisis; Selling the Yacht

Francesco Trapani, chief executive of Bulgari Group, is cutting back on the fixed costs of his jet-setting lifestyle. The jewelry, luxury-goods and hotel magnate recently sold his 137-foot yacht, the "Christianne B," and he's holding off on buying any more homes. Even his bespoke Micocci shirt was slightly frayed at the collar last week -- a fact he acknowledged with an apologetic smile.
Wow...selling the yacht...not buying anymore homes....he's really cutting back there. Kind of reminds me of how Richard Fuld of Lehman Brothers is keeping his four homes but sending his art collection to auction....That's some serious economizing!

Not even the richest people are feeling untouched by our current financial crisis. In their personal lives, as in business, the purveyors of luxury are sizing up what it all means. Some of the questions: Is it unseemly to spend money publicly? Will people still shop for the all-important holiday season? Is this the end of bling?

Ralph Lauren Ricky Bag in Alligator $16,995

At the opening of its new women's store in Paris last week, Ralph Lauren upped the ante on its notoriously expensive Ricky bag: It will now be available made-to-order in 20 shades of alligator skin, including platinum, "vibrant cherry" or cobalt, and priced from $12,995 to $28,995.
But unfortunately for the Ralph Lauren brand, carrying a $30,000 handbag isn't just a question of money, it's become a question a good taste.
It's not necessarily a good thing to show up at the tennis club with a new $30,000 crocodile handbag when your friends' net worth has been halved and the Federal Reserve is spending billions to keep the banking system afloat.
The rising tide of anti-wealth sentiment could well affect how conspicuous the rich want to to be.
Let's face it, conspicuous consumption has become totally ingrained in our culture, from the luxury cars that we drive, to the handbags that we carry, to the clothes that we wear...with an increasing focus high end brands...why carry a $300 Cole Hahn handbag when you can carry a $3000 Nancy Gonzalez bag, why wear $20 Levi's 501 jeans you found on sale, when you can wear $200 Rock an Republic jeans... and on and on.
Is this the end of conspicuous consumption? I just don't know.
But, as the ultimate anti-conspicuous consumer and proponent of buying quality fashion for less money with vintage clothes, accessories and estate jewelry...I kinda hope so.
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