I grew up in Ajaccio, a small seaside city in Corsica. There is an avenue that runs through the middle of it — Napoleon Avenue, which is where we went out on Saturdays to see and be seen.
We would walk very slowly, stop for coffee, and say hello to friends. It’s where you’d go to take your new car for a spin, or to show off your new bag, or your new dog, and make sure everyone had seen them.
It was kind of like a real life Instagram, in fact.
You got “likes” by looking at people’s faces. Did they turn their heads or whisper something in their neighbor’s ear as you walked by? Mission accomplished.
The only difference from Instagram, actually, is that it was super difficult to make people jealous with anything other than material things.
Fortunately, the 80s and tanning arrived, and as long as we were careful to come back Valentino orange both in the winter (“Wow, skiing in Val D’Isère was so great! What about you, what did you do for winter vacation?”) and in the summer (“Wow, Mykonos was so great!”) we were sure to strike up a few conversations.
But, in general, if you wanted to parade yourself around, the ideal was still to have some kind of visible material item to show off.
So in Ajaccio, we have the expression: “He drives a Porsche, but eats potatoes at home” or “everything on the outside, nothing on the inside”. All very superficial, in other words. What about a person’s inner life?
At the same time, I have a soft spot for all of that.
First of all, because it was fun to get dressed up and go out on the town with friends and have a chance to maybe run into the boys who made our hearts beat a little faster.
And plus, I’ve always thought the culture in Mediterranean countries was very chic — people go out and socialize and try to look their best for each other.
I could spend hours watching people go by in Italy… Taking pictures of them…
That’s why after a moment of doubt where I was debating the concept of Instagram, I ended up just deciding to have fun with it and to see how fun the medium is. And plus, when I really thought about it, I realized it was starting to completely change the way we measure wealth.
It’s still just as superficial (why measure wealth?), but it’s a lot more interesting.
Because the fantastic part about social media is that we can share our experiences there. It’s much less materialistic than the Napoleon Avenue of my adolescence. You can share your talent as a cook, share your travels, your apartment, or your latest kite surfing experience.
It still centers on what other people think and how they see you, but it changes everything.
By the way, apparently there’s already evidence that it’s changing the way we behave as consumers. We don’t buy things for what they are anymore, but for what we can do with them.
It actually started with technology itself. Remember the Gossip Girl years when we all compared our mobile phones to see who had the coolest one? When the things we had were supposed to be a way to express our personality? (I had a Nokia Sport, since I’m such an all-terrain type of girl — and my best friend’s phone was all pink, because she was a girlie girl).
If someone had told you back then that one day we’d all be thrilled to have exactly the same phone, you never would have believed it.
But today we express our personalities with what’s inside the phone. Photos, conversations, interactions we have with people.
All selfie hysteria (and alarming increase in plastic surgery) aside, it seems to be a super interesting progression, and I wonder what it’s going to mean for fashion.
The concept of ownership is slowly disappearing. Remember the friend who used to brag about his wall covered in CDs? We all had one.
All that is over now. Things don’t need to belong to us anymore. Music — we’re just happy to be able to listen to it. Cars — you can rent one. We’re dematerializing, I guess ;)
What’s important now is the destination. The experience.
I already know lots of girls who use sites like Vestiaire Collective to buy and resell their clothes so they can always be well-dressed without ever really getting attached to anything.
If I were a little bit more organized (and if the service was as fast and easy as Seamless or Net-à-Porter, for example), that’s definitely what I would use to get clothes.
This is kind of an extension of my post last week on simplicity: I’d have my basic items, and then I’ll add in a few things I really like, but I don’t necessarily want to own things. My it-items of the season. A bag, a piece of jewelry, a dress for going out. I’m done with overflowing closets!!!
A lighter life, where things don’t weigh us down, and where we concentrate on enjoying the experience those things allow us to have. It’s a new way of being rich that I like a lot. Experiences instead of possessions.
Not a bad concept.