green luxury: the changing face of possession

Do you remember a time when things got old, rust, scratches and moth holes? Try to think of the appliance in your home that has been around longest. Now think of the brand new shiny thing you will despise until you figure out how it demands to be handled. Yet, our resistance is waning. With apologies to the garbage tip, we are learning to become detached from our everyday things. Indeed, the purchase of a mobile telephone is a small percentage compared to the amount of money we pay monthly towards the service. Telephone companies have tried to come up with ways of dealing with the guilt: Leave your phone in the recycling bin and you’d be green whilst being able to keep up with the trends. Right?

Hmm. Not entirely so. If you are able to afford it, buyers are beginning to prefer to buy luxury, yet longer lasting hardware for the home. It is better to invest in a high-end washing machine if it will stick around for a couple of decades. Despite this preference, more and more products are being designed to be expendable. Since the speed at which technology is racing does mean that a decent computer setup will become obsolete in a couple of years, we prefer to invest in the best of its time in order to try and beat the sell-by-date. And when the time has come, prop it up, add some fancy lighting and have it exhibited at your nearest design museum. Jean Burgess' commentry on our love for obsolete mechanical technologies argues that perhaps the perpetual quality of our long-forgotten gadgetry is a pat on the back to a new history of accummulated knowledge 'of the rare and forgotten as well as the new and undiscovered.' Their cogs and switches can be exposed, with their unilluminated screens only staring back at you blankly. They can be prodded and probed like a carcass in medical school and then reassembled, not as a caricature, but as a shrine to itself. As I glance over to my last mobile phone, which only lasted me three years... and that was a stretch... I doubt whether it will share a similar fate.

And yet, a noticeable link between product design, architecture and fashion has been around for a few seasons now. ID Magazine has announced the decriminalisation of ornament. Who’d ever thought wallpaper would grace our walls again? William Morris must be in a frenzy! The transition was incredibly smooth – the modern aesthetic was initially appeased gently by contrasting black and white. Completely in line with what happening on Vogue, Nokia introduced its fashion phones which feature elaborately designed casing, wallpaper and screen savers. Colourful stripes and patterns have hit our shop windows, and later, living rooms, with little warning.

In 1996, James Ogilvy launched a series of publications called Luxury Briefing. The project responded to the general need to inform and challenge the luxury industry on matters of responsibility. It quickly established itself as a critical resource for the booming industry. In 1999 the team organised its first conference and has since held 10 of these events at which many of the industry’s key figures have spoken. The Luxury Briefing Awards of Excellence are also held in London annually; these are designed to recognise outstanding achievement by brands or individuals. Based on the above principles of longevity, reconciling 'luxury' whose gaudy excess was effortlessly explained by Sofia Coppola's 'Marie Antoinette' (2006) with barefoot tree-hugging hippies could not have been an easier feat.

Contrary to popular belief, going green won’t pay the rent – these days renting out will pay going green. Booming service industries prove that it needn’t be all about having the capital. Indeed, the fashion industry has caught up on the idea that we are constantly on the look out, and thus, willing to pay, for new experiences rather than possessions. Why pay for a Gucci bag when you’d only like to use it for a day? For 10-15 percent of the retail price, BorrowedBling and NYC Wardrobe have just the service for you. There’s no reason to hide your source – renting your Jimmy Choo's is seen as an environment conscious step in the right direction. Plus, it looks like ‘green’ will be in fashion for quite some time.

That may work very well for fashion and technology yet think of the average Sagittarius, who, tormented by wanderlust, refuses to let his parents sell his old beat up car even though he or she has not stayed with them for longer than three weeks in the last five years. Yes, some things, like our passports, are appreciated for bearing the marks and scratches of our travels. They are proof we have existed and to be collected as an illustration of, or perhaps a support to, our own deficient human memory.

‘Returning to the Scene of the Crime’ from 'love and the mechanical sublime' from ‘Future Luxury’ from

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