Yesterday, my friend Ellen sent me a link to an article about Anthropologie in the New York Times last week called "Peter Pan Collars in a Vintage Never-Never Land." I read it and then looked down to make sure I had clothes on -- I fully expected to be stark naked. I felt that the target customer described me to an embarrassed, gulping, wistful tee -- I had no idea that my personal longings were simply a very well-understood profile circumscribed in corporate offices by the Anthropologie marketing department. I feel played like a fake vintage viola.
Alex Kuczynski, the writer, describes the new 12,000-foot Anthropologie store on Rockefeller Plaza, and discusses the general aesthetic of the brand in a way that makes me cringe with recognition and admission. She says:
On a philosophical level, there is something about Anthropologie that is well intentioned but makes me profoundly depressed. The old bicycles, the old-fashioned Marvis toothpaste, the etched-glass candleholders, the calico pajama sets, the teacups and saucers -- all are the trappings of a grandparent's or a parent's home.
But the 30-something generation that shops at Anthropologie, among the first to be widely defined as children of divorce, no longer has access to those homes, which have long since been dispersed. There is no longevity in their parents' houses. The romantically weathered chests of drawers and stacks of pristinely aged National Geographic magazines were all put into storage, sold or dispersed among the various interested parties.
This is where Anthropologie steps in: It helps the shopper create the illusion of household continuity by allowing her to reimagine a place where Grandma might leave out her pre-fluoride tooth powder, to simulate a life in which Mom and Dad still live together in a house with European teacups and flocked bedspreads. In a world of Anthropologie furnishings and clothing, the consumers can reclaim lost childhoods, lost marriages, lost virginities. The store's philosophy takes the colloquial and sad world of regrets and realities and wraps it up in a swath of vintage calico, tied with a satin bow.
Lord! What I'd thought was simply my own personal motivation for my aesthetic preferences -- admittedly a little precious, self-consciously twee, flush with a manufactured nostalgia for a past that was only vaguely ever mine, haunted by homesickness and longing for the butler's pantries of my old neighborhood -- is actually just a corporate brand, a brilliant marketing campaign! That is depressing. And it's manufactured overseas and can be bought for the (too high) price on a computer-generated Urban Outfitters-ish pricetag. Crap. How irritating! But man they've done it all so well that I sort of, in spite of myself, want it anyway!
Nevertheless, I insist that, whatever else I am (and come on, you love/hate Anthropologie, you [maybe] are, too), I'm not longing to reclaim my virginity. It was overrated anyway. Peter Pan collar or not, I'm glad that's long gone. And my vintagey bicycle works great and I think mountainbikes are just plain ugly and I ALWAYS WILL. So there. Hrumph. (Cringe. Hide. Laugh. Back to sew some calico flower pins.)