The company had amassed an impressive pool of talent for this: the best makeup artists, stylists and photographers in the business, ready to work their magic on the magazine's monthly subjects. The stylists were authorized to borrow fashion paraphernalia from high-end stores and have these items used by our subjects for pictorials. Our end of the bargain was to make sure the brands were credited in the published pages. Fair enough.
One day, we had to dress up a couple of male models to build up our library of stock photos for generic articles. The editorial assistant and stylist went out to pull out clothes for the pictorial, and came back with two sets of shoes, socks, pants, polo shirts, ties--a complete wardrobe each for the models. I looked at the prices of the items, and nearly fainted. One pair of pants cost P30,000+. The ties were around P5,000 each.
I freaked out and asked why we had to use such expensive stuff for generic photos. It's common practice, I was told--it's how they did it in the fashion rags. My worry wasn't only about the ostentatiousness of the items in a magazine about hardworking, oftentimes struggling, entrepreneurs, but about the more immediate task of ensuring that the clothes got through the pictorial without so much as a crease. We'd have to pay for any damage in them, after all. P30,000+ for a pair of pants! I just had to plant myself in the studio and instruct the models to be extra-careful and, please, not to move too much (to the annoyance of the photographer). We finished without a hitch, but I went home that day with a headache.
There's a point to this very long introduction, and it is this: Even as I work in the Lifestyle section of my paper, the ways of beauty and fashion still seem quite strange to me many times. Me, who recoiled in shock at a pair of ordinary-looking pants worth more than double an ordinary employee's salary--well, imagine my consternation a few days ago when, preparing the weekly fashion issue, I came across a photo of a Kate Spade hairband worth P7,450.
Seven thousand-plus friggin' pesos for a prissy red hairband. To be fair, the gift guide spread where it appeared tried to cater to all kinds of customers. Side by side with the hairpiece were sunglasses that cost P129.75 and a belt at P695. Reasonable enough choices, I suppose.
Still, the ridiculousness of it all so disturbed me. I mean, who buys a hairband worth nearly P8,000? What makes it so different from one bought in--oh, I don't know--Marcella's? Does it emit ions or infrared waves, perhaps, that massage the wearer's brain and make her more intelligent (in which case, she'd surely end up ruing her purchase)? Does it impart an instant aura of irresistible beauty, a la Blusang Itim? And how does one wear it and make sure the others notice how expensive it is? With the price tag blinking at one end?
Mind you, the hairband isn't even one of those special commemorative pieces that the fashion and beauty houses love to create for special occasions (say, a pair of Havaianas na binudburan ng Swarovski crystals, natch), which are trotted out for the paparazzi and then sealed away for good in a vault or a museum. No, from the looks of it, the Kate Spade hairband is an off-the-shelf item, right up there with face creams and toothpastes and nail cutters (all high-end ones, of course). Now, if this invitation to conspicuous consumption is in local stores and is actually being bought, what is that saying but that the rich of this country are simply on a brazen roll at a time of great and unrelenting misery for everyone else?
It's in times like this that I wish we have our own Bastille Day. God, now I have a headache...