The Shopaholic Returns

There has been a fair bit of shop talk the past few days. And I literally do mean shopping. Mall-shopping, store-hopping and of course, it is the sale season. My current book is “Shopaholic in Manhattan” among the other Shopaholic books and my inbox is flooded with offers from online retail sites I signed up for a while ago.

And in the midst of this hoopla, I came across an article in Conde Nast Traveller, which states “how we shop, where we shop and how far we are willing to travel to shop is redefining our economic stature, as it is re-imagining our cultural identity.”

Most of the statement is nothing new. How, where and how far obviously define your economic stature. Cultural identity – now that is a different thing.

I was one of Bangalore’s recent malls. The mall is not yet fully functional but there were enough mall rats on a Sunday. What I found surprising was the fact that the most crowded store is actually a mini-mall by itself. People head to these stores but their comfort zone has already been defined by these stores that have ingratiated into our cultural sense by being the first ones. As Indians, we are strongly resistant to anything new… but once we get used to it, we are fierce loyalists too. Photocopy machines is still Xerox, a cold drink is often still a Frooti and a chocolate is still Cadburys in many parts of the society.

The retail outlets like Zaras, Steve Madden and more are often places to browse through rather than buy. During the sale season, I surprisingly did not find much a price difference, give the style quotient between the so-called Elite stores like Zara and the ‘commoner’ Central.

We aspire to be stylish… a little bit of a fall out from reading too much Shopaholic is all the brand names float in your brain, taunting you.

But I’m not a brand person. I’d happily pick up a jacket regardless of the brand if it looks good on me and fits me. But brands and season trends are defined so bizzarely, in my mind. Winter Collections should be bright and colourful and Summer should be soothing and pastels. Or whatever catches your eye.

A simple search for a short jacket turns into a debate of  “That is no longer fashionable, madam. Can I offer you this shapeless shrug instead?”

How can a shapeless shrug ever and I really do mean ever replace a smart, short jacket? And yet people buy into this mass hysteria, going by what they read, what they see someone else wearing and end up like clones.

Is our cultural identity really being re-imagined here? Sure, we have the opportunity to, with curtains from Dubai and shoes from Milan and jackets from… wherever. Bringing a little bit of the Middle Eastern, Italian, Australian and other cultural thought frames into you. And i’m sure it helps when you are visiting these other places and absorbing a little bit of the culture there.

But when all these cultures come to your doorstep, removed from context and you blindly ape someone, are you really re-imagining yourself or destroying yourself?

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