Saturday, September 13, 2008

These Are Our 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 house (the Two-Fer), where the digital cable and booze flow 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.

Anyway... whilst reconnecting with Nick Arojo, Carmendi and judging (sequined hammer pants, really?) along with my besties Stacey and Clinton, I kept on seeing 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, right?

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 East Coast Ivy league orgy clothing company. That vintage polo shirt you bought for $59.50 isn’t just a polo shirt that looks like your mom spilt bleach on it; by committing to Abecrombie's Moose you’re saying that you too could play a game of pick-up football with shirtless tight ends. You mean your McGill experience wasn't full of pillow-fights and erotic touching? Mine was(n't).

Lifestyle retailing has become so pervasive in my life, that in a perhaps pathetic admittance of guilt I realize that I tend to live my life vicariously through retail establishments. Witness my two-month love affair with J. Crew cover model Kelly Rippy, whom I actually tracked down in New York City. The bubble burst when my friend who knew who admitted that the Kelly in tweed from the catalogue wasn't the real Kelly who preferred Brooklyn, tattoos and skateboarding to Upper East Side, polo shirts and car services. (Also he prefers women, but that's a whole other issue).

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 somewhat 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 and its the annex people... ain't nothing low-rent about it. 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, an amorphous Amoeba travelling down Bloor aimlessly running into friends and ex boyfriends alike. There was no real genre to my Annex-lite lifestyle. Perhaps it could be: Aromatic? After the hours I’ve spent willing away time sipping mint tea at Aroma Espresso Bar?

Or how about: "Over extended?" Or “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 that of my friends. I pictured a "Wonder Years" voiceover: "The good people at the Bank of Nova Scotia had given me a line of credit. My mother commented about their stupidity.."

But then with that 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 are Downtown Aristocrats! Suddenly I felt so much better about myself. I had an identity again. It was as if I had a reason to live again, no longer was I lost in the abyss as an aimless twentysomething. Aimless? But I'm a Downtown Aristocrat. Don't you get it? I take one part uptown snottyness and mix it up with two parts downtown je ne sais quoi and bam! one downtown aristocrat in a cashmere blend v-neck.

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 so successfully and succinctly rebrand my lifestyle.

Thanks Lipshitz. Here’s a big ole L'Chaim (of a mint-green Aroma tea) to our Downtown Aristocrat years.

No comments: