Tuesday, April 28, 2009

R.I.P. Shabby Chic

Salon.com article here


That's right, Shabby Chic has gone belly up. And it's true, I am mostly writing this because I couldn't resist that play on words, but I do think it is an interesting development in the bankruptcies that have come with this recession.

For those of you who don't know, Shabby Chic was not just a nation-wide movement, it was an actual brand, started by a woman named Rachel Ashwell.

Shabby chic style was great if you had ovaries and liked comfortable furniture in which to appreciate your superfluous post-graduate degrees. But while the end of Shabby Chic, Inc. is blamed mostly on ill-timed expansion, I have to wonder if it isn't reflective of a deeper cultural trend.

Sure many home furnishings companies are going through tough times, but Shabby Chic was all about comfortable, new furniture that looked and felt like it was really old. Stuff that maybe you got at a flea market or conned your French grandma out of in exchange for some Julio Iglesias CDs and a bottle of California cabarnet.

It is because of Shabby Chic that words like "tea-stained" and "patina" are part of our vernacular and why you can use "sour cream" as a color while maintaining a straight face. Well . . . maybe just I can.

Shabby Chic was all about purchased history. Much like distressed, "antiqued" jeans, funky graphic tees from Urban Outfitters, and The OC Season 1 Soundtrack--it made you seem cool, like you had a rich life with colorful, obscure interests, while investing minimal time and energy.

But there is something really messed up about buying that. While we have always tried to co-op cool, what does it matter if you buy an Empire-era inspired secretary desk if you don't understand which Empire that desk is referencing?

We are departing from an era of excess, where we didn't mind spending top dollar for shabby chic and a gleaming SUV in the driveway to allegedly lug those charming treasures (although home delivery is nice) and I have heard throughout the previous months that Americans are returning to comfort foods and more traditional fashions, that thrift, rather than plush indulgence, is becoming a badge of pride. I retain a tentative hope.

We do know distressed jeans are dying, Shabby Chic is dead, and I think (I hope) that from now on, if we want to get something commercially produced we will embrace it completely (like Lady Gaga) and that if we want something with history, we will drag our collective asses away from Hulu/TiVO and go out live substantive enough experiences to fill our homes with things that really mean something to us. You know. Make it an actual home.


Billy Reano said...

smart critique. Do you think this thrifty lifestyle is only a part of a cycle or something that could be permanent?

Serena said...

Love this!

John Quintana said...

I take a long view of human history. Nothing is ever permanent. Human history always goes in cycles.