About a month ago, I was in Shanghai with my father. We met there on my way home from Australia. On one of our days in Shanghai, we ended up at a wild place known as the Fake Market. I never expected it to be what it actually was—an entire mini-mall full of stalls selling unbelievably high-quality knock-offs and faked goods. Names like Marc Jacobs, Burberry, and Chanel flew past us at high speed from the mouths of sellers advertising their stalls to us in very well practiced English. While I was uninterested in purchasing anything from a black market, my dad insisted that we leave with a “Chanel” purse as he’d scored an incredible deal and wanted proof of the ridiculous ordeal we had just been through to get to the room where the “real good stuff” was being held. I’m literally talking tiny doors, walkie talkies, and long dark hallways… a story for another time. So now this Chanel bag lives with me here in America, on my floor, or sometimes beneath a pile of laundry on my big chair
I feel bad for the bag. I feel guilty for supporting a rip-off industry (for many reasons) but now with the bag in my presence, I feel even worse for not using it. After all, it’s a perfectly good bag. Yet daily I leave the house with my canvas Amoeba Music tote swinging from my arm; a bag whose all-but-lost functionality depends entirely on a series of well positioned safety pins.
When it comes down to it, I simply cannot bring myself to wear the Chanel bag because I don’t see its point. I’ve never understood the purpose of high-quality fakes. All fashion is essentially knock-offs but at least there is some dignity maintained in being upfront about that rather than aspiring towards full fledged fake-dom. Why not just make a cute leather bag and leave the logo off? Or spend your money supporting an up-and-coming designer with equally inspiring stuff. While a real designer bag may run you upwards into the thousands, a good fake can actually still cost a couple hundred. Essentially what you are paying for is the brand. To get further down into the nitty gritty— you are paying for status. You are paying for the image that you have the money to afford a high caliber of luxury, when really you don’t. This to me is like people who spend all their money on a nice car but have no place to live! I just cannot wrap my head around the point.
Then again, this kind of mentality seems common with my generation right now. Movies like Project X and Spring Breakers celebrate excess, as do videos like the one for Miley Cyrus’ new single “We Can’t Stop.”
The whole video is a pointless in narrative but perfect as an omage to everything that looks cool. She’s there with a giant teddy bear bouncing on her back and gold caps over her teeth. It seems fun. The images on screen have nothing to do with the song, but admittedly I am transfixed. The video leaves me pumped, but with a twinge of something else—anxiety. Suddenly the chill Friday night I had planned with doesn’t seem like enough. I’m feeling like I should go to the mall, blow my money on a new outfit or a crazy colored lipstick, and then go somewhere to rage all night with my fakey Chanel hanging from my arm. I mean, YOLO, right bitches?
Now it would be a lie to say that I haven’t been to plenty of parties like the one in Miley’s video. But when you see a guy jump off of a roof into a pool screaming “I am a golden god” for the millionth time whilst thirty people capture it for Instagram, the whole thing starts to feel a bit jaded. We begin to lose ourselves when “YOLO” starts to mean less about living life for the moment and more about living life for the story and image later—and that is the difference, written in fine print. That is the difference between buying a fake Chanel bag because it works and because it looks good.
So I leave you with this. Lorde. I like Lorde for the same reasons I like my Amoeba bag. She is fresh, open, honest, and real. I appreciate Lorde singing to us in her plain white tee. Suddenly my heart is breathing easy as I begin to feel pumped again about my chill Friday night with friends. I don’t know why I was even fooled for a moment into thinking that I wanted anything more. The Chanel bag may have its moment eventually; after all it is a perfectly good bag. For now it sits on my floor, a beautiful menace, reminding me that life is a dichotomy between having actual substance and a well-calculated image. When we get the balance right, the result tends to be aspiration, and that is a good thing. So dress for success and fake it till you make it, my babes, but don’t ever forget how to keep it real.