Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Good-taste Bling. The middle-classes’ secret obsession

Own a Moleskin Notebook? Read the ‘sneak peek’ pages of Design Sponge? Stay in boutique hotels in Brighton or rent a minimalist holiday cottage in Devon with stripped wood floor? Crave a wardrobe full of Jil Sander? Drink out of a Pantone mug?

Then you’re probably a little bit guilty of what The Future Laboratory has recently coined as ‘Blingamalism’. What started as a way of spending mega-bucks without looking like P. Diddy, has now gone into over-drive with the advent of the credit crisis. Suddenly the ‘haves’ are being forced to find a way to show their support for the ‘have-nots’, without (god forbid!) changing their opulent lifestyles.

Judging by the homes of various family friends, and people watching on the streets of Chelsea and Notting Hill, the new ‘socially-aware’ veneer is carefully engineered. Blingamalism nirvana seems to be reached via ‘found’ objects, inherited and renovated furniture, and classic vintage clothes. What no-one admits to is that the tasteful driftwood was found on the beach near their second home in St. Tropez, the furniture is actually 1930’s Heals from their parent’s pile in Sussex, and the vintage clothes were bought the week before in Relik. A couple of terracotta pots and a swish of Muslin and the guise is complete.

Naturally, the world of luxury retail is only too happy to have a new insecurity to nurture in their wealthy clients. Timberland are one of a number of brands offering to off-set the guilt of spending upwards of £120 on a pair of boots by becoming carbon neutral. Waitrose has added free-range chickens to their ‘Essentials’ range, subtly enabling shoppers to justify spending £7/kg. While in Paris, new concept store ‘Merci’ sells donated items for designers and gives the profits to a children’s charity.

And where are the blingamalists if they can no longer be 'seen' at The Ivy? They retreat to play out their luxury lifestyles in the privacy of their own (£1.2million) homes.