Laden with bags, she walked in with the haste of someone desperate to go to the loo. When she found her table, she plonked what she was carrying on three chairs. Usually, I wouldn’t observe fellow customers at the Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf, but this woman was different: a window display come alive. In the twenty minutes she spent (without spending) in the café, she availed the following for all to see:
1 Gucci backpack
1 Gucci thermos case
1 LV notebook case
1 LV iPad case
1 LV iPad Mini case
1 LV organizer
1 LV watch
2 LV paper bags containing purchases
1 Prada iPad case
1 Prada cosmetic pouch
As soon she was seated, she dislodged from her 500 by Gucci GG Imprimé canvas backpack a matching thermos case from which a black flask was pulled out, and then placed on the table, which, by then, was already occupied by a neatly arranged pile of communication devices sheathed in their LV Monogram Canvas sleeves, and stacked with the largest at the bottom so that they formed a three-story stepped pyramid. Discreetness, I realised, is like manners: it is not quite enforceable.
Reaching into the LV shopping bag, she fished out an envelope, one typical of those in which proof of payment from luxury fashion houses are properly concealed, and removed the receipt that was as large as an A4 letterhead, with the immediately identifiable LV logo behind. She read silently without indication of satisfaction or regret, returned the paper to its home, and sent the latter back to the paper bag.
She stood up, and from within the backpack, withdrew an iPad protected by a Prada Saffiano leather case. She removed the tablet as if pulling a sword from its scabbard. From the backpack again she took out a Prada nylon cosmetic pouch, in which she extracted a silver stylus. Seated again, she tapped on the iPad, causing the left sleeve of her jumper to hitch up, revealing the LV Tambour Medium Quartz Brown Dial watch with Monogram strap.
Until this woman’s arrival, I caught sight of two guys seated opposite her. Both had bleached blond hair, wore spectacles, but were dressed quite unlike the other. One could be a disciple of Rick Owens (cowl neck tunic and all-black), the other a Roberto Cavalli groupie (leopard-print blazer and all-pimp). These two, like me, were drawn to the woman; their overwhelming fashion presence suddenly diminished.
There’s a life-reflecting-screen moment here. Just a short while ago, I was in Lido watching Sofia Coppola’s The Bling Ring, a film that is an orgy of consumption—celebrity consumption: the stars who consume and those who consume the stars. The crimes perpetuated by the girls (and one guy) are less about the transgression than the partaking of helping oneself to the excesses of others. Excess is the point here: the overload of luxury goods and the surfeit of temptation.
The woman I was observing had finished busying herself with the iPad. She clothed it and placed it aside. From the pile on her left, she took the topmost piece, and revealed the iPad Mini. She fiddled with it for a short while, and retired it. From what I could see, there were altogether three Apple tablets. The need for three of essentially the same gadget (not to mention the hidden notebook, possibly a MacBook Pro) is puzzling. And the visibility! I suppose conspicuous consumption has to be followed by conspicuous display, so well propagated by the Narcissus-spawning app called Instagram. But this is not a post by someone in another location; this is real time. Such a sight could only excite the envy of those inspired rather than disgusted by The Bling Ring!
She started to pack up to leave. Just as I thought she was done with her exhibition, the woman reached into the backpack once more, dug out an LV Monogram Canvas agenda cover, examined its content, returned it to the bag, and hobbled out of the café, as weighed down as when she first walked in. Carrying things, as I saw, really reveals how we carry ourselves.