Friday, June 09, 2006

Nothing Lasts For Long

Inspired by Alicia, who commented on the below article by Alex Kuczynski from The New York Times, which talks about the new Anthropologie store in Rockerfeller Plaza, NYC.

On a philosophical level, there is something about Anthropologie that is well intentioned but makes me profoundly depressed. The old bicycles, the old-fashioned Marvis toothpaste, the etched-glass candleholders, the calico pajama sets, the teacups and saucers -- all are the trappings of a grandparent's or a parent's home.

But the 30-something generation that shops at Anthropologie, among the first to be widely defined as children of divorce, no longer has access to those homes, which have long since been dispersed. There is no longevity in their parents' houses. The romantically weathered chests of drawers and stacks of pristinely aged National Geographic magazines were all put into storage, sold or dispersed among the various interested parties.

This is where Anthropologie steps in: It helps the shopper create the illusion of household continuity by allowing her to reimagine a place where Grandma might leave out her pre-fluoride tooth powder, to simulate a life in which Mom and Dad still live together in a house with European teacups and flocked bedspreads. In a world of Anthropologie furnishings and clothing, the consumers can reclaim lost childhoods, lost marriages, lost virginities. The store's philosophy takes the colloquial and sad world of regrets and realities and wraps it up in a swath of vintage calico, tied with a satin bow.

I love this article. We don't have Anthropologie here in Australia (I believe) so I really have no frame of reference in determining the validity of this article or how accurately it paints of a picture of the Anthropologie customer (see Alicia's blog for that) but I miss reading articles that analyse such seemingly trivial things. The "philosophical tone for the store"? Drawing some sort of link between the longing for vintage things and the children of broken homes?

I'm a child of divorce, but I was also born in the 80s and even my grandparents are too young to have had the original versions of the vintage items I crave. I propose that my yearning comes from wanting to create a sense of nostalgia that never truely existed in my family, at least not in the sense of vintage furnishings. The "vintage" of my childhood isn't old bicycles (though I have one of those - a red one) or crystal chandeliers or etched-glass candle holders. It's bright yellow seersucker table cloths, Care Bears, a blue plastic tricycle and fast food. Even my mum's "vintage" is brightly coloured wall-papered rooms, platform shoes and the Bay City Rollers. My grandparents are still together, but all they have to tease me with is a plasma TV, DVD/VCR machine and cable. Hell, Poppy can navigate the internet and Grandma uses phone banking.

Perhaps this is why I do collect things from the 60s and 70s, and not earlier. I'm trying to replace the things they never kept. The things that in the early days of consumerism could easily be replaced without a thought to any nostaligic value. I like your florals and your laces, but I surround myself with an eclectic mess of miss-matched colours and over the top patterns.

Anthropologie sounds lovely, but I much prefer searching through piles of vinyl records in a dirty, overcrowded thrift store in excited hope of one day coming across Surrealistic Pillow.


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