How far can one go with brand obsession?

The unhealthy pursuit of a treasure that does not exist.

by Ryvka Adda

Nothing new under the sun, the brand sells. The mythical luxury brands sell a lot. A simple logo, the subtlest evocation of a name, a pattern that we recognize from a thousand places… It would be enough to write a double C on a Tati bag for it to be snatched. Me first.

We are so influenced by the brand in terms of what is beautiful and what is not. Last week, I saw a woman on a terrace in Paris wearing an outfit that made no impression on me; not particularly tasteless but certainly not a feat.

She was wearing light brown flat boots that reached mid-calf, faded blue denim tucked inside the boots that seemed too big for her, and a sort of camel-colored cape coat.

When she stood up, I noticed (as did all the other customers) her XXXXXL Céline tote bag and an avalanche of luxury followed as she passed me on her way out.

The boots have a small Céline logo on the back band, the jeans are embossed with the recognizable “triumph” bracelet at the waist, and her cape coat is actually a gigantic Hermes pattern. 

Immediately, this discovery operates a clear modification of my opinion concerning this banal outfit. “Those boots are still gorgeous. “These jeans are really well cut. Nonsense…

Well no, not “nonsense”, that is most certainly true. These brands have exceptional craftsmanship, exquisite taste, great art directors and the best materials. 

But how do I identify the line between my personal taste (what I REALLY like) and this imposed taste that pushes me to dream about pieces that I wouldn’t look at twice if the same model was reproduced identically at Zara for example. (I’m not getting into considerations of quality, intellectual property and creativity, I imagine that the exact same piece, in the same materials, would be in some random, unbranded store). 

I write these words in light of a personal experience with the Courrèges brand that illustrates this quite well. 

For more than a year, I have become (like many) obsessed with this brand with its dazzling renaissance. So I started a quest for affordable vintage pieces on the internet. It started with a small black bag (bought 30€ from a friend) with a small Courrèges logo.

Then, a few months later, a very small jacket with ¾ sleeves in improbable colors (white and red), found on Vinted for about 50 euros

Then, it was a Men’s shirt with Vichy patterns for about ten euros.

Then, a pink sweater that was apparently machine washed (20€) with huge “Courrèges” written on the chest. 

And finally, my favorite piece, a hard-negotiated jacket and pants set in light camel wool. Mythical. 

If this last purchase fully satisfies me despite the higher investment it implied, I think back to the previous crap (we’ll agree that there is no other word) that the obsession with the brand had made me buy. The same questions plague me. Did I really think these pieces were pretty? Would I have bought them if I had seen them in any store? When does my free will in terms of taste come into play?

I know that not everything is good to keep in sublime brands revered by all. I have said to myself many times when passing in front of certain shop windows that I could be given the whole collection and I would not want it.

I think this issue of brand obsession, at least in my case, is to be circumscribed to the vintage craze. Especially since the arrival of a lot of second hand stores, more trendy than thrift stores, with pieces selected beforehand and especially washed and put on nice hangers. In these stores, one gets lost in the game of brand treasure hunting.

Everything that is relatively well known is immediately more expensive than other pieces with the same style and quality but unknown brand. I once remembered browsing the hangers of a rack with several t-shirts of the same style. All for 15€, except one, Jean-Paul Gaultier, 85€.

No, it wasn’t better looking. But it was Jean-Paul Gaultier. A reason enough to bias a neutral look when he innocently went to the wear in question. 

So there you have it, consuming better, consuming smart, that’s good. But having your own taste is better. Buying a mini bag with pink, green and blue stripes just because it’s Gucci is not trusting your own taste…

In a society where we only deconstruct myths (patriarchal, capitalist…), we must also take the time to stop on ourselves, our own tastes and try to determine what we REALLY like and thus try to detach ourselves from the yoke of luxury. I say that but I am still far from it…