Is New York Making Me Materialistic?
In the city that never sleeps, there never seems to be enough.
Prada, Gucci, Chanel, Balenciaga, Bottega Veneta.
Fendi, Louis, Thom, Carolina… it just keeps going and going!
There’s never enough, and once you enter into that world, you’ve only just scratched the brushed leather surface.
Let’s rewind a bit. I don’t remember being this aware of labels when I lived in LA.
Perhaps my newfound awareness of luxury fashion is rooted in the fact that it’s #trending. A friend who works in fashion forecasting mentioned luxury clothing is having a major moment ever since Americans began emerging from lockdowns, getting vaxxed and re-entering the third place during the first summer of the rest of our lives. Perhaps my materialism (or more specifically…luxury brand hyperawareness) stems from monograms getting dubbed one of 2021’s hottest trends. After a few years stuck inside with major life disruptions, maybe we want to be out and about - and seen only in our best.
Perhaps it’s my age. As I settle into my 30’s, I want to continue building a wardrobe with clothes I love. If it’s not a hell yes, it’s a hell no. This means less impulsive microtrend purchases from the usual fast fashion ateliers, and oftentimes, more expensive items that will last me through the seasons.
With all these variants in mind, I still can’t help but think my slight preoccupation with clothing, fashion, and designer brands is because I’ve relocated back to New York City, where money, labels, and people, are all on display. It’s an exposed, exhibitionist city. I sometimes walk around and notice 10 Chanel bags within 1 block. I wonder, are these real? Where the fuck am I? Do I live in a #mall #simulation? Does #everyone have #Chanel but #me?
I noticed this increase in labels all around me when I moved here last April. I told my therapist and she assured me assimilation is normal/healthy when moving to a new city. But I felt preoccupied with this observation. Would I become desensitized and think the whole world was like this? Did we just live in a world of labels, and that’s it?
The straw that broke the camel-colored Fendi baguette’s back was when I went to a few events carrying a tote bag when all the other girls wore purses. I could feel myself de-assimilating. I had to get a purse.
“You’re 31, it’s time to grow the fuck up and get yourself a nice purse!” I told myself.
I decided I’d get a Prada bag. I spent a few weeks researching which exact one, looking into new vs. vintage, built a spreadsheet on dimensions, pricing, different models.
A few weeks later, on a fateful warm Sunday in October, I walked into Prada to buy the bag. There was a line outside, and I waited, patiently. This was my first time at a luxury store buying a purse. It felt momentous for me. Was I dressed right? Did I look the Prada part in my gym shorts and old tee? I felt like I was dressed too casual for such a big day, but it was too late. I also didn’t want people to think, “Oh, this is her first time”, but also, why did I care?
At Prada, as soon as you walk in, you are assigned a salesperson. My saleslady had a short haircut, gelled back to reveal her strong features. She said hello and I showed her the bag I wanted to buy. I told her it was my first Prada purchase. She congratulated me, but I had a feeling she couldn’t care less. As she went to get the bag from “the back”, I looked around at all the other shoppers. My heart was racing and blood was pumping through my ears.
Who are all these people? Is it everyone else’s first time buying something in Prada, too? Do these people do this all the time? Do they come in every weekend?
I watched people buy cross body bags, headbands, shoes and scarves. I was enamored and simultaneously confused by the whole experience.
I walked home feeling spectacular - and painfully aware that this was not to be a habit to get used to; but something to relish in and enjoy. I told myself, no more luxury items for a long time.
A few weeks later, maybe even days, I had my eyes set on the Prada loafers.
It seems like the more I acquire, the more I want. Will I ever be satisfied? Between the streets of New York City and good ‘ol social media algorithms, there is always someone who will have more than you. I dislike compare and despair, and I swear to God as soon as I got that Prada bag, my TikTok feed was filled with girls showing their collection of designer handbags, different bags for each day of the week.
When I first wrote this post, I titled it, “NEW YORK MADE ME MATERIALISTIC”. But then I changed it, because a place can’t change you, I think it just brings something out in you, right? I was always this way. LA must have just put it in dormant mode. Who needs Prada when you have rolling hills and farmer’s markets. But coming to New York made me want to feel more polished, more refined.
I’m heading out to dinner tonight, and plan to wear a black leather Ganni dress, black tights and my black loafers. Maybe I’ll bring my Prada bag, too. We’ll see.