Thursday, December 25, 2008

what's in a name?

Autumn 2003.  Zach and I had just visited l'Arc de Triumph and were strolling down the Champs Elysees when we were stopped by a couple of very sweet Koreans.  So I threw out a little "anyong-haseo" and that made them smile and I think then that they knew they had picked the right suckers.   They had a big favor to ask.  They needed us to go into the Louis Vuitton store, that we were standing right in front of, and purchase for them, with their money, a handbag and a wallet.  They showed us a huge wad of cash.  This was all very confusing at first. It took us about 5 minutes to try and figure out exactly what and why they needed us.  Turns out Louis Vuitton puts a limit on how much one can buy at that store in a day.  So they asked us  to walk in, pick out their specific items, pay, and meet them outside to give them their goods.   It all seemed very shady, but we somehow felt like we'd be doing a good deed.  Fact is, Zach and I have a hard time saying no,  and this couple looked so innocent and desperate, like they had been turned down by so many before us.  So we took their cash and walked through the giant golden door with rocks in our guts and lumps in our throats.  

The store was packed.  The steely eyes of the sales people pierced right through us.  They could see we didn't belong in there.  I remember feeling very hot with my coat and scarf still on.  We had a bad photo copy of the handbag and wallet we were to buy.  What if we got the wrong one, what would happen to us?  Wow, we were holding a lot of someone else's cash. What had we gotten ourselves into?   Could the salespeople see right through us?  We didn't look like your average Louis Vuitton shopper, maybe a couple of hippies at best. Surely they could see the sweat pouring down our temples. Had they seen the whole interaction with the Koreans?  Was it on tape?  Would they scream, "No handbag for you!!" or would we go to jail?  It was really stressing us out, but there was no turning back.  So we browsed, pretended to be interested, oooed and ahhed over some of the merchandise.  There were guards everywhere.  It was a very surreal scene.

So to make a short story even shorter, Zach did all the talking, we got the goods, hearts pounding, no problem.  Full of adrenaline we exited the store half expecting to be pounced upon from behind by massive security guards.  But instead it was the Koreans who appeared as if out of nowhere as soon we were three feet out the door, demanding to see their stuff.  We gave them their bag and their change.  I think they were afraid that we would take the money and run, but we didn't.  They were happy and thanked us profusely.  It was all very weird, but kind of a rush.  

So the memory of this event, one fall day in Paris,  popped into my head today.  I got to thinking about how there are some people crazy for a label, a name.  Those who simply buy Louis Vuitton (or Prada, or Chanel) for the name, for what it says about them.  That for some the design, pattern, or color of the bag is not as important as having LV stamped all over it.   Are they hoping to say, "I have great style," or " I have a lot of money to throw down on posh accessories"... maybe both?  As for myself, the LV look is not for me.  The classic line in particular with the brown and gold, the one you see knock offs of in downtown, I find it the least appealing.  But I have to admit that this cool photo on their website almost made me like it... just a little.  It's all in the marketing...

In case you're wondering, that seemingly kind couple that we helped out in Paris... did not give us a tip.  We felt a bit used.  Used and abused in Paris.


Peggy Ray said...

What a great photo to illustrate your wonderful story. Zach looks a little bit guilty! So true too, how some people care about brands and status. The only time I cared about that was in high school when we had to have Bass Weejun shoes and eagle pins and belts or you just weren't cool. I remember when Zach was going through that phase in junior high and I tried to convince him it was much cooler to wear thrift shop clothing because I didn't have the money to buy the expensive name brand stuff. He just wasn't buying it though.

rachel said...

I remember in 6th grade having Guess jeans was very important!