Monday, 1 December 2008

Sensory Pleasures

It’s no secret that I’m a cheap-skate…but not in the traditional sense. If Nooj, KS or MJ or anyone else for that matter (Non-Stalker/Non-Paedophile types) had to proposition a 3 week bloggers back-packing holiday to Greece or Mexico, I’d be the first one on that plane, no questions asked. I wouldn’t even care if it costs R20k to get there and would even take un-paid leave from my job. But I will never, I repeat NEVER buy something for R700 when I can get it for R50.

I’m not particularly brand conscious either. As far as I’m concerned, the “brand” is one of the biggest lies told to mankind. The premise of a brand is that you are only worth something if you own it. It’s absolute rubbish because they’re all produced in the same factories in Taiwan anyway, and I have seen proof of this. But this doesn’t mean that I don’t like that turquoise Adidas tracksuit that has been on sale at the Adidas Factory shop since like January this year, even though it still costs a fortune after being marked down thrice. I like it because it’s pretty, not because its a resident in the House of Adidas. I still won’t buy it on principle though…because I see no sense in paying R800 for a label and stripes. And I’m sure if I really wanted to, I could get the knock-off that was made in the same factory for R120. My philosophy behind my attire is that I wear my clothes and my Eau de Toilette…they don’t wear me. My clothes and my possessions do NOT define who I am as a person. I'm sure my personality carries enough weight so I don’t need names to enhance who I already am.

I do have standards though. I don’t buy pirated DVD’s…especially if I like the movie and since I only ever buy movies that I have already watched and really love, I NEVER buy pirated DVD’s. I’d rather wait for 3 months when the retail price of the original DVD goes from R150 to R80. And if all else fails, I will fly to London and go to HMV on Oxford Street or Virgin in Piccadilly Circus and buy 6 DVD’s for £30-00…on principle, just because I won’t pay R150 for a DVD.

That said, we were invited to the ASCO perfume sale recently. The VIP pass didn’t prevent us from rushing to get there after work before they closed for the evening, and because the place was packed, we had to park around the corner which meant that Azra had to run up a street that resembled Kilimanjaro and could rival Everest…and in record time…and in stiletto heels. I wouldn’t have worn the stiletto’s had I known that an unscheduled installment of Wrestle Mania was waiting for me, but we had planned to go out later that night and home is not exactly around the corner. Now I like perfume as much as the next person…it entices my senses and is delicious and refreshing and all that but again, I have principles. Needless to say, I was astonished when I saw how over-zealous and ballistic some consumers can become.

I’m a Davidoff girl, so naturally I was drawn to the counter housing “Echo Summer Fizz” and “Cool Water Wave” but on my way there I was knocked out of the way by some Speedy Gonzalez who thought that she was the only one entitled to buy anything there. Regaining my balance, and taking one step at a time I found it amusing that most of the men and women there had luggage…huge bags brimming with everything from Escada to Lacoste. I walked past a woman who was harbouring two huge carbon boxes (intended for purchasing) like they were fugitives…her eyes never leaving the coveted merchandise. I wanted to grab the bottle of Givenchy “Very Irresistible” on the top of the pile just for kicks, to see her reaction, but I got distracted by the lady behind the counter thrusting a bottle of Hugo Boss “Deep Red” into my hands. I put the bottle down and moved on to the next counter.

An olfactory sensory overload and what seemed to be hours later, I selected my purchases for the evening…just two bottles…waited for Tweety to get her two bottles and headed for the checkout counter. As we waited in the queue to pay, I looked at the carnage around us. Tweety informed me that the perfume and cologne industries are fast becoming the most profitable in the retail sector. Celebrities who endorse a scent are likely to make more money with their endorsements then they would make from their movie or music sales. I looked around and there were people strewn everywhere, counting their gems…guarding them like little cubs in the wild…it was hilarious. What is it about a scent that can make even the most civilized people act like animals? The perfume/cologne industry is the second biggest farce in the world…being a subsidiary of the farce known as the “brand”.

We were discussing it and came to the realisation that most people derive a sense of self-worth from the names and labels they acquire on their clothes and bottles of fragrances. Sure the smell is enticing and adds to or enhances their personal value, but the names and labels they purchase validates their existence in some odd way. A few squirts of Aqua Di Gio by Giorgio Armani on the nape of the neck is as good as 6 months of therapy for some. Self-esteem in a bottle. It can make one feel beautiful, special, worthy, elegant and a whole list of other adjectives that only a shrink can prescribe for you in the form of Prozac or some other related drug. I feel like a million bucks every time Davidoff’s “Cool Water” touches my skin…I’m a sucker too.

The concept of the brand even extends to what we eat. Look at MacDonald’s for example. Any person with regular healthy taste buds (that are still alive) will tell you that MickyD’s is shite…glorified cardboard…tasteless…
And I can hear the onslaught of dedicated customers who swear by their Big Macs but I have to pose this question…is it really the burger made from soya products, or is it the novelty of the brand working it’s consumer psychology by making you believe that it has to be good because it’s “MacDonalds” and comes all the way from America and that it’s one of the most popular brands on earth? You decide.

I still prefer some original products over their generic counter-parts though…not because of the name but because some things just taste, look, feel or smell better than the knock-off…and I’ll take quality over quantity any day. But I still won’t pay through my backside for things…because I have principles :D


  1. ha so funny you posting about this now, cos a week ago, i was prowling around looking for specials on perfume (the end of the year is the only time i buy perfume, cos its cheaper!) and i realised how crazy i am for liking perfume so much. what has the market done to me! oh and im a Davidoff girl too. I wear Cool Waters, when i go out. But now, after that shopping spree, i got enough scents to last 2-3 yrs! Pft :P

  2. I agree most people these days are becoming "McDonaldised". Its sad that people find their identities thorugh the perception of self mirrored in others eyes. Whats even more sad is that these brands offer a sense of uniqueness but as a result conformity takes place. the irony...

  3. theres a lot of concerns here that i want to touch on but i'l sink my teeth into it a bit later (spur calls tonight :)

    for now - i just want to tell you something funny - your blog is open up on my taskbar and its kinda cut off so it looks like its called Azras Wind.

    my favourite scent is Hugo Boss Bottled. I used to Like Lacoste Grey - not so much anymore. Its a bit strong.

    I want to touch on the Mcdonalised bit... aargh! to be continued :)

    By the way - I had greek food yesterday - so the Kajee express should go to Mexico first (wait - im having fajitas tonight)

    Its a sign!

  4. My favourite scent is Madinah Rose for twenty rials a pseudo-emerald-encrusted vial

  5. NK - The perfume I buy range between R50 and kidding...granted they don't always come in the box because its wholesale items @ the staff discount...last year i bought Echo by Davidoff for R70 and Gucci Rush for R50...these were the 100ml bottles. This is proof that you don't need to have family in parliament or cabinet, Perfume wholesalers will do :D

    Sameerah - We are all unique in that we are the same...or we are all the same in that we are unique lol...something like that.

    MJ & Nooj - Mexico it is...the Kajee express can do practice runs at Mochachoes...although I can't guarentee that the fajitas are any good :D
    PS. I'm sure the greeks have chips...seriously, no one can mess up chips...

  6. Brand names/Trademarks are standards,the maker of those brands standby behind their products,you can trust them even return them with full refund,if you have some problems.

    Its all about affordability, whether you can afford it or not?

    Secondly,what makes you happy?
    Go for if,life is here to be happy!

  7. For me price places a very distant second to convenience and need... if I like something I buy it if its a little bit more expensive but it saves me a drive or the pushing and shoving of a herd of people then I dont mind paying the little bit extra. But like you travelling is always first on my list when it comes to extravegances just a shame that I havent been anywhere interesting for the past 18 months :(

  8. Azra

    you are my sister from another mom and pop.

    I love cool water to the extent that if i had that kind of money, i would give it everyone around me so that they can smell like a million bucks as well.

  9. Ah the brand! I hate marketing...because they dont market the product. they market the perception!

    Besides perfume I love Addidas. Dont know why, maybe its good marketing? but I can tell if it is an original or not - the material is soft, and the cut is comfortable. When I put on an addidas trakie - Impossible is nothing.

    I’m liking Escada – but anything that makes me smell like I took a dip in a tropical waterfall filled with flowers, is good for me.

  10. I lost concentration after the bit about 'Greece' :P

    Oh but then the Davidoff wafted into my space... Coolwaters, yes... but I;m addicted to Valentino Ete. Identity stuFf with fiZz ;)

    I see a blog to book happening with this here your writings, m'lady. Your one of the most charming writers i know!

  11. Mine's gotta be anything Hugo Boss except the pink one (the name escapes me now) but my family know perfume's and handbags are always great gifts. Cannot remember when last I went perfume shopping

  12. I'm not really into the brand name clothing either...
    Now perfume...I love perfume! Just wish they weren't so damn expensive!
    My faves are Hugo Boss and Lacoste...I received Versace Red Jeans for my birthday and liked it for a while, but then got tired of it and gave it to my sister.

  13. I';m not into brand name clothing either. I'd buy something that looks nice and worth its price. Its not that I can't afford it- but I find it ridiculous to pay THAT much for a clothing item knwing that the material used is about R30 (depends on the material and quality. But generally the clothing item doesn't cost more than R100 to produce and they sell em for R500. I mostlt shop overseas esp in dec/jan (dubai's shopping festival where everything is going for next to nothing) so during the year I hardly buy clothing items.
    Though i only wear 2 different brand of jeans due to my height they are the only ones that has the perfect fit.

    However, when it comes to luggage, i prefer the quality, and ill buy the branded ones. the problem is they stop me at customs due to my luggage brand.

    Perfumes I love to buy during Christmas- The gift packs are most reasonable. Besides the EDT itself, there's also either a towel or hand cream etc. Thank god edgars has those red carpet events!

    Unfortunately durban does not have such factory outlets. Because really I rather get 4-5 different kinds of perfume rather than 1 perfume for that price.

  14. Brands are lame.
    When I feel like rebelling against perfume consumerism, I wear the perfume my Cuban neighbor gave as a gift. It's a tacky, light blue Cinderella shoe bottle, where the heel bit is the lid :D it smells yummy though.

  15. Word!!

    Shite, I feel young saying that. ANyhow you hit the nail on the head. Thanks for expressing most cogently what i've been grappling with for a while now.

  16. I just want to clarify...there is nothing wrong if people genuinely love McDonalds, we are all entitled to our own opinions...I'm just merely saying ask yourself WHY you like McDonalds.

    Daanish - Not all Brands set a standard. Some of them are crap with a name attached to it. I have nothing against anyone who prefers them though as per my statement above, everyone is entitled.

    EOW - The fact that I'd go all the way to London to buy 6 DVD's for GBP30 instead of paying R150 for one here proves that I'm more than willing to travel for a bargain :D

    Tazeen - If I ever win the Davidoff jackpot I'd be sure to share it with you :)

    Trinity - Adidas, like most brands is marketed very make you believe that you're a sports star and that Impossible is really nothing.

    KS - I have some Valentino too...its lovely. Maybe you could edit my book :D

    MPD - Ah the handbag...another branded item in demand :D When I was in Syria, the markets there had every brand you could think of (and some really stunning ones too) for like R30 each. They were all fake of course :)

    TCQ - I'd be sure to let you know of the next ASCO sale :)

    Safiyya - I only buy necessary stuff here...but I love shopping in London during the sales...I always pick up stuff for like 2 or 5 pounds...good quality, branded stuff.

    Samina - That Cuban perfume sounds lovely...and how unique.

    Saaleha - Thanks :)