Thursday, August 27, 2009

Faux is foe!

I encounter it all the time. Say it’s a dainty teacup with elaborate crazing and a blurred emblem with letters that look like they might be from a French restaurant long past. I think, “Why, that’s darling!” I am so enraptured by the prospect I fail to note the finish is a bit too shiny, the style too modern. I turn the teacup over to see that cursed Made in China sticker stuck to the object like a canker sore devaluing it and my confidence that I can sniff out a fake. I feel infected.

Why do we have an entire retail movement dedicated to presenting a vintage appearance to NEW products? Isn’t vintage earned? Fading and crazing often accompany use. Add a slight chip to represent honest use. Now that’s a real treasure, a piece of history. With age, don’t we chip and craze? Many cultures place a high value on scuffs and tears; signs of wisdom and experience.

I like to imagine that these items, products, have little souls. Take that fake vintage teacup I referred to and serve it at high tea. THAT teacup, with no experience, would shout, “Help! I’ve never done this before! Quick, I need Valium! Oh, I’m starting to shake and hyperventilate!” Who wants a shaking teacup? While, an old, experienced teacup would lovingly say, “How many lumps of sugar, dear? Milk? Lemon?” The aged, experienced teacup provides comfort.

The fact that manufacturers attempt to create vintage in factories in China is a complete head-scratcher. Add in that people actually buy this stuff and it gets troubling. Now, think about the prices people pay for these new, old-looking items! Is having something that looks old in pristine, new condition a sign of a refined style? I don’t think so. I've fallen prey to this before but those days are gone thanks to the thrift store.

In many ways, thrift stores are a mere reflection of the new product market but with a wonderful dash of estate goods. The fakes run out onto the field but at least there is competition from the originals. In thrift stores we have level playing field and the shopper is referee. I blew an “Out of bounds!” whistle at that fake teacup.

I’m not writing about furniture found in alleys and thrift stores brought back to life by painting and refinishing and sold in boutique home stores. That’s reuse or repurposing. It’s imaginative; art. I’m talking about massed produced furniture that is made to look like its distressed and 100 years old. Good gracious!

I guess it’s somewhat parallel to the American ideals of preserving physical youth. We can’t fight off age. So we suck in Botox and attempt to surround ourselves with objects that look old (like we are) but are new in origin (like we are not). Perhaps we are trying dictate what is agreeable and stylish when it comes to signs of age in both plastic surgery and product manufacturing. Perplexing, no?

If I could wave a magic wand on women and I'd convert crow's feet to peacock feathers. Frown lines would become endeared frauleins to keep your spirit young. Frolicking frauleins to accompany you wherever you go making you laugh and smile, getting richer with age.

How a woman ages is not based in plastic surgery, it is based on her ancestry (genetics), her choice of her lifestyle, the scars from mistakes…In the end shouldn’t our bodies be a part of the book of our lives? I agree that trauma deserves help, but everyday living should be celebrated.

Put an end to this madness! Celebrate age! Say, “No to faux! It's off to the thrift store I go!" Acquire originals and be an original.


Saver Queen said...

I also notice styles from antiques or vintage housewares being recreated. I recently noticed a bunch of kitchen products being sold in stores and advertised in magazines that have the "hobnail" look. I wonder why anyone would by modern hobnail items when this style can be found on vintage items that are easily gathered from garage sales or thrift store. For example, hobnail milk glass vases are a dime a dozen.

Rebekah said...

"If I could wave a magic wand on women, I'd convert crow's feet to peacock feathers. Frown lines would become endeared frauleins that keep your spirit young. Frolicking frauleins to accompany you wherever you go making you laugh and smile, getting richer with age."

I can't tell you how much I love this mental image! :)

Shopping Golightly said...

Rebekah, I'm glad you enjoy the image. Now you can slowly aspire to it through time. Me? I love my frauleins. They make me giggle. You wouldn't believe the things they say!

Saver Queen, your example is EXACTLY my point. Next thing they'll be marketing mismatched china and flatware for big bucks!

Anonymous said...

Faux and frump. Styles that weren't a good idea at any time. Fabrics that grow tired much too quickly (or melt before they burn). Still, through it all, I shop the thrifts because I want real quality. At these outlets, I can afford Ann Taylor, ?Ralph Lauren, and Banana Republic (not that those mfgs. don't produce second-rate items too. Still, they are holdouts for real cotton, real wool, and real classic style.


What about the other side of the coin?...the side reflecting the notion that pricers in many thrifts are now setting aside choice pieces to be sold via the internet. That sweet vintage tea cup might never make it to the shelves of our local thrift ..because savy thrift shop CFO's know it will bring a better price on ebay..I don't doubt that there are still "finds" on the shelves..just fewer because now of the huge ebay draw.

Anonymous said...

Ditto for books. While we donate so the thrifts can sell, I don't think most people want to subsidize the thrift's antiques business. There's something quite secretive about it to, but the bottom line is that things are taken out of the local market, which isn't many a donor's intent. In this area, a major thrift tried a boutique/ consignment combo. It was short-lived, though, because of location and poor promotion. There have got to be lots of ways to get more out of items that can command a higher price but still keep things local. One no-brainer would be for the thrift to consign the items through a private shop.

Shopping Golightly said...

Dear Lonely Rivers,
(Wow. That has a poetic ring to it, no?)

I understand your frustration with the charitable thrift taking a product to Ebay. Remember where the profits for Goodwill, Salvation Army, ARC and DAV go. It's understandable that they should want to maximize profits. I don't know how far this testing period will go.

So far, I've not seen a drop in treasures in Denver thrift store. Keep in mind the VOLUME they deal in. Denver has a heavy, healthy donation system - something I want to push more for in ALL communities to boost re-use. I'd like to see a no sales tax law on the purchase of charitable reused goods. (That's another post and a long term strategy to pump up this market.)