No Holds Barred: The Great Diversion

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Remember the expression “When the going gets tough – the tough go shopping?”  So how does that work in the recent retail apocalypse?  With institutions like Abercrombie and the Gap and even Lands’ End and T.J.Maxx are all taking a dive. 

Not only is shopping no longer THE great diversion but look at this summer’s projected horror of travel with the loss of all those 737 max jets, instagrammably record-breaking long security lines (now everyone is a TSA Pre-VIP!), and the redeployment of thousands of Customs and Border protection officers to the southern border.  Not to mention the typical overbooked and delayed flights.

A typical airport scene.

Remember the days of Sinatra singing:

Let’s leave our hut, dear
Get out of our rut, dear
Let’s get away from it all …

Oh, Yeah?

Nowadays getting away from it all looks like some gal performing a suicidal yoga posed selfie off the Himalayan peaks or high flying from a Chicago Hilton hotel balcony. What is the point of the “bucket list” craze of traveling to exotic and remote locations for a once in a lifetime giant “experience”?  The “experience” of traveling there and back is so traumatic, it’s just not worth it.

Last year more people died taking yoga selfies than they did of shark attacks!

It is now clear that “staycations” (meaning your own living room — not at a local hotel) will become even more desirable.  After all, nowadays you can purchase 5-star hotel bedding and towels and even order in all ethnic and gourmet meals.  There are great “in home” spa services like hot rock and Tai massage and “gong meditation” sessions.  If you miss the drop-dead scenic view, order a remote island setting on your blue screen app and project it on your TV and selfie all you want.

This is so much better than the travel treachery of airport lines, gate agent rudeness, and ultimately being trapped on a tarmac for a sweaty three hours. Or how about being seated next to a person in bare feet and body odor with a screaming infant?  Welcome to global luxury travel. It doesn’t’ matter if you are First, Business or Tourist – you are trapped.

Personally, I never got the concept of bucket listing my life.  For me,  just getting up in the morning and making it to the bathroom is enough of a life fulfilling triumph.  And as for trains, planes or automobiles … I say if you can’t drive to your destination, DON’T GO.  So best to make your own home your sanctuary and be done with the fantasy of a “get away” reboot when all you end up feeling is that you were part of an awful border immigration trial.

Besides, where can you actually go nowadays to “get away” from a tech connect?  And if you can, you still have to “come home” and face reality and that re-entry becomes more depressing than anything.

But let’s get back to the other great escape of “shopping therapy.”  Experts say the plunge of retail is obviously because of online shopping and the increase of a lot of resale and rental outlets. Plus the vast amounts of discounted inventory and large returns.  And now add the impending peril of increased tariffs.  Oh, and then throw in the cooler rainy weather (do shopping addicts actually care about weather?)

I look at it all differently.  First of all, older people are not shopping as much (okay, they were never a major market consideration).  They have everything they need and love their older wardrobe of better-quality fabric and “vintage” designs.  Things used to fit better; now it is the era of one size fits all and everyone looks like a meatball.

Younger people already have too much, and they are sick of overspending on cheap throw-away chic.  It was fun for the last 5 years, but now the thrill is gone.  How many shoes and bags and rayon Spandex t-shirts can you stand?  We are all drowning in the “too much stuff” syndrome.  It’s why Goodwill (now online!) is being picky about all “drop off” contributions.  Enough is enough.  Only the Asian kids are continuing to consume tons of Louis Vuitton everything.  Tariff or no tariff.

As for online shopping, I am waiting for the day when Siri or Alexa become recognized as true “stylists.”  I think that actually may have already happened and it doesn’t appear to have helped at all.

Personally, I’m just sick and exhausted from the sport of shopping. Whether it be in the presence of an actual store cash register or double clicking on some Instagram account.  I don’t get the “buzz” of the “get” anymore.  Shopping doesn’t grab me emotionally (admittedly, I am too old) anymore, and most of the current design community lacks a level of quality or even integrity.

Enter Rihanna, who recently became the highest paid LVMH luxury designer.  Here I thought the role of an actual fashion “designer” was a creative person who knew the process from fabric resources to cutting and sewing and tailoring and even creating buttons and zippers.  Now all you need is the name of a star — one who kind of represents an idea but doesn’t have to actually design it.

It’s all about the public image and red-carpet hopping.  Less about the clothes, more about the sales force and “entertainment quality.”  Who cares about “craft” when you have a rock star celebrity with a “brand.”  Apparently, Rihanna’s “Fenty Luxury” line was “dropped” two weeks ago and has already sold out.  (“dropped” as opposed to “shown” gives you an idea of where we are going today in luxury line distribution).

Savage X Fenty, a new line of intimates by Rihanna for every body?

As for the actual future of retail – there are some glimmers of “life” on the horizon.  The New York Times calls it the “Disneyfication” of fashion!  Lady Gaga is opening her “Haus of Gaga” at Vegas’ Park MGM.  It will sell some souvenirs of her Vegas shows as well as Gaga’s own designs in a theme park setting. Kind of like a museum of her merchandise and her own costumes.

But how about the plan called American Dream from Triple Five Group now under construction in the  New Jersey Meadowlands.  What a Mall!  It promises an indoor ski hill with real snow, Dream Waterwork park, Legoland Discovery Center, giant Ferris wheels, indoor garden with real bunnies and aviary, Gucci, Saint Laurent, and Tiffany and the largest Zara store – plus tons of dining (high end and fast food) and deluxe movie theatres.  I am nauseated already just thinking about the parking, let alone surviving that entire scene.

American Dream creative officer is Ken Downing (fashion director of Neiman Marcus for 28 years) feels “there’s so much fear right now that people are afraid to do something bold.  But what retail lacks right now is creativity, theatre and the ability to get people to come in just to see what’s going to happen.  It all lacks “The Avengers.”

I thought my daily life was already “The Avengers.”  But I will hand it to Mr. Downing to end the 1980’s wasteland of malls with this new concept of actual shopping as “amusement park souvenir excitement.”  Ah yes, the fake feeling of happy times and a charge card to pay for the memory of it all.  I guess it beats being alone in your bed and shopping by your iPhone light at 3 AM.

So that may be the future of fashion. But last week I saw where the CFDA awarded Mattel’s “Barbie” for her influence on fashion, though the actual Barbie clothing designer for 30 years — 86-year-old Carol Spencer — was not present to receive it.  However, I applaud the historic nod to a real iconic “influencer.”

Barbie looking good at 60!

And frankly while we are on the subject of current fashion statements: let’s all get over our political rants and give a cheer for the way Melania Trump looked on her recent visit to Britain.  This is a First Lady whose real platform is her perfect style and her body, hair, makeup and manicure (you can forget her “Be Best” children’s campaign). She has risen above all the fashion flack and the many designers who wouldn’t dress her or acknowledge her.  She has done just fine on her own with Gucci, Burberry, Dolce & Gabbana, Carolina Herrera and many more.  So There!

Melania’s “Be Chic” campaign!

And take THAT Meghan Markle.  No matter the news commentaries, more people took note of Melania’s visual and the D-Day tribute than anything else that week.  And though Michelle Obama did fine in her FLOTUS days, in the end she became more Beyoncé than First Lady.

But the personality I am waiting to see explode on the style scene is Boris Johnson — the so-called British version of Trump.  Now he is tan, rested (125 pounds lighter) and ready to go after the British Prime Minister gig.  He even has a new haircut and much younger gal pal.  Whether the job goes to him or Nigel Farage or whomever in the end it will be all about who makes a better giant “baby blimp.”

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