Saturday, August 14, 2010

Baffled by brands: Or is Louis Vuitton pulling a fast one of us?

Grand signature design: Mud brown with LV squiggles?
When the lady at her little shop in Portobello Market pointed at the Elspeth Gibson London label on the nice tweed skirt, she expected my eyes to light-up. Never having heard of Ms Gibson from London, I only stared back in incomprehension. Unfortunately, I don’t think the fact endeared me to her and I suspect she bumped the price up of by another £5 just to punish me.

But here's the thing: why should I have heard of Ms Elspeth Gibson from London? She only makes skirts – nice skirts, I agree, but skirts nonetheless. She doesn’t set the tax rates, and she doesn’t decide how my taxes will be spent. And yet, it is socially unacceptable for me to admit that, no, I had never heard of her before today.

Perhaps, it is my legacy of growing up in a socialist India that I don’t know, understand or care for brands.

I like to buy things, nice things. But I want to buy them because they are well-made, and look good on me or my house. Not because cleverly-made advertisements - with not just a little help from feminist icon Carrie Bradshaw - tell me that they are fabulous, my life is worthless without them, and that just to own them will prove to others that I have fabulous taste, or at the very least, lots of money.

Unfortunately, most people are buying into brands precisely for those reasons. And I can't help but feel sad for such people.

Even if I bought into the whole advertising spiel, I still don’t get the obsession with Louis Vuitton, the luxury leather goods brand. Its grand signature design comprises mud brown backgrounds with LV squiggled all over it. From my perspective, that is ugly and somewhat loud. Sid says the idea behind having such an obvious signature design is instant recognition. No one should miss that you are carrying a Louis Vuitton accessory.

But what I can’t miss is that everyone is bloody carrying a Louis Vuitton. In cars, buses, shops, streets, I see men and women flashing their mud brown LVs: young women, old women, fat women, thin women, gay men, straight men, and white, brown and black men and women. So either the market is glutted with clever fakes or this exclusive club is bursting on its seams.

Agreed it is ugly, but at least there are no squiggles
If it is the former, it’s the brand’s fault fair and square. Instead of trying to sell itself on genuinely clever, hard to copy, detailing, Louis Vuitton tried to sell itself on the basis of its one loud, easily recognisable – and thus equally easy to reproduce – patent design.

And if it is the latter, than it has hard-sold itself so much that I am no longer setting myself apart by spending my money on Louis Vuitton.

Either way, from my perspective, this brand is pulling a fast one on us. 

But then again, what do I know. I am just a hick little child of socialist India.

Who says it better than Jennifer Saunders in Absolutely Fabulous - "Lacroix? Fabulous. Thank You!"


Girish Shahane said...

I guess you're not going to shell out 10 grand for a limited edition Louis Vuitton Murakami handbag, then.
Maybe it's a bit unfair to hold the brand responsible for the flood of replicas in the market (yes, most of those mud brown bags are fakes). After all, the hard-to-copy detailing you speak of is only visible at very close range.

globalbabble said...

No. Louis Vitton Murakami handbag will not make the cut for me ;-)

I have been given up, close and personal views of the handbags from some proud LV-totting people / friends - it didn't have much more than those standardised squiggles...

I did visit a Hermes store recently - it did not have one standardised design, but a lot of variety and really great craftsmenship. (And the hermes brand was hidden somewhere on the handbags.)

I guess, the idea is that people who REALLY know their brands would recognise it. And those who don't - well, you don't want to impress them ;-)

That is a club, I wouldn't mind joining.

antywong said...

The Louis Vuitton Delightful Monogram MM will be a gooood choice for all kinds of girls.^-^

parul said...

Loved this!Scrap Louis Vuitton.In India,its more high street, than luxury.Or so it seems. :)

globalbabble said...

Hi Parul,

Yup, I couldn't agree more..